Thursday, December 29, 2016

Celebrate with bubbly in Sonoma County, California

If your idea of a perfect celebration involves the sound of a cork popping, a trip to Sonoma County, California, should be on your bucket list. Sonoma is an ideal grape growing region for California “champagne” and produces delicious sparkling wines in red, white, and rosé. To taste some of the region’s best bubbly, sign up for a Sonoma champagne tour.
Private Tours

Champagne is perfect for
toasting special occasions.
Sonoma Wine Tours offers a variety of private wine tours as well as a fabulous champagne tour through Sonoma County’s hidden cellars. Guests can enjoy a 4-5 hour journey through J Vineyards, Iron Horse, Korbel, and Roderer and sip some great bubbly along the way. Sonoma Wine Tours will customize your tour to fit your specific preferences and tastes.
Public Tours

Korbel Champagne Cellars: Korbel is well known for their sparkling wine. Visitors can take a free 50-minute tour through the historic champagne cellars in Sonoma County and then enjoy a tasting of Korbel’s finest products. The winery offers private guided tours by appointment.
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards: Gloria Ferrer is a Spanish-style winery that produces sparkling Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It was the first sparkling wine house in the Sonoma Carneros AVA and now has over 335 acres of vineyards. The winery offers public, private, and group tours of their caves and sparkling wine facility. After the tour, order a glass or flight of sparkling wine to enjoy by the fire or on the veranda.

Vineyards in Sonoma County, CA grow grapes for a variety of
wines, including champagne.
J Vineyards: This winery is located in the Russian River Valley AVA and was named the “Best Winery Tasting Room in the West” by Sunset Magazine. Guests can enjoy a one-hour vineyard tour followed by a tasting of sparkling and varietal wines. You’ll visit the fermentation room, barrel room, bottling areas, and the Crush Pad where grapes are pressed. Tours are $30 per person and begin at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily.
Iron Horse Vineyards: Iron Horse is a beautiful family-owned winery that’s situated on a hilltop in Sebastopol, CA. The sparkling wines produced here have been served at the White House for over 30 years. Stop by the outdoor tasting room to try five estate wines against a stunning backdrop of Sonoma and Mt. St. Helena. Or, sign up for the VIP tour and tasting for a behind-the-scenes look at the sparkling wine production process.

Stay at Honor Mansion

Honor Mansion in Healdsburg provides guests with elegance,
comfort, and wonderful breakfasts.
While visiting Sonoma wine country, stay at Honor Mansion, a luxurious Healdsburg bed and breakfast. Following your wine tour enjoy late afternoon refreshments sampling an assortment of delicious local wines and scrumptious hors d’oeuvres each day. In the morning, you’ll wake up to a delicious gourmet breakfast—and be ready to take on California Wine Country all over again. 
Information courtesy of Honor Mansion, Healdsburg, California

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Lassen Volcanic National Park is a study in changing natural environments

We love America’s national parks, so it’s not surprising that we managed to visit three in one day on a West Coast road trip.
After visiting Yosemite National Park in California, which we believe is one of the most beautiful places in the world, we headed towards Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. Along the way, we stopped for a couple of hours at Lassen Volcanic NationalPark in northeastern California.

Mt. Lassen reflection in Lake Helen in Lassen Volcanic National
Park in Californa
 A lesser-known destination, this park clearly shows how the earth’s surface is constantly evolving. It provides an area for geologic study of ever-changing thermal areas as well as showcasing long-ago volcanic activity and subsequent recovery of nature.
Mud pots boil with steaming
sulfur-infused water in Lassen
Volcanic National Park.
First-time visitors will want to take the 30-mile diving tour on the main park road as we did. Along the way we stopped to view hydrothermal features like fumaroles, boiling mud pots, steaming sulfur springs, and three of the four types of volcanoes in the world. At Sulphur Works we watched superheated ground water bubbling to the surface. Boardwalks lead to many of the ecological sites, and it’s best to stay on the trail since these molten regions have been known to collapse.

Clear, sparkling water of shallow Emerald Lake, a glacial U-shaped pool at the base of a mountain, gets its green color from algae growing at the bottom.  It makes a wonderful photo opp.
Emerald Lake sparkles in Lassen Volcanic National Park.
A little further down the road, we stopped to admire the gorgeous azure water of Lake Helen. A true alpine lake, it is 110 feet deep and frozen most of the year. During our July visit the ice had melted, but given the cold temperature of the water, we enjoyed colorful mountain reflections and resisted the temptation to wade in. And there was still snow on the ground in places—an ironic sight for shorts-clad visitors like us.

Snow in July!
Hiking trails scattered throughout the park attract visitors who come to learn about, explore, and appreciate the unusual landscape.  Some trails lead to hidden lakes, but lakes like Emerald and Helen are easily accessible from the road. Since our time there was limited, we stuck to sights near the main park road.
Lassen Peak, at more than 10,000 feet tall, provides a beautiful backdrop for a landscape created by volcanic activity.  Seeing what remains today, you can muse about Lassen’s eruption in 1915 which blew a mushroom cloud of ash seven miles into the sky.

This park may not “wow” you with gorgeous scenery found in other national parks, but it’s worth visiting to observe the interesting geology and geography that is being preserved. And take a hike if you have time. Meadows filled with wildflowers are lovely in spring and summer.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

5 tech tips for international travelers

Today's guest post is by Adam Ferraresi, a Dallas-based web developer at

Holiday traveling may seem like a nightmare today, but a hundred years ago, it was truly a horror. As the Daily Mail reports, if a UK traveler wanted to make a trip to Australia or New Zealand, the journey would take at least 40 days. Things have dramatically changed in the 21st century, and it only takes a couple of hours to travel to a different continent. So it is no wonder that, according to the 2015 UNWTO Tourists Highlight Report, a staggering 1.1 billion people traveled overseas just last year.

Just ten years ago, most of us were looking forward to spending time from our homes unconnected, but in 2016 technology is a vital part of every trip. Therefore, it has become essential that we can access the Internet wherever we are and whenever we want. But many questions pup up in your mind when thinking about using technology overseas: How much will everything cost? What are the risks? What plans do I need? So here are six tips that hopefully will help you get the most out of using your favorite devices on the road.

1.      Put Your Phone into Airplane Mode

Your smartphone is your biggest hassle when you are out of the country, simply because it can load you down with international roaming bills. And when you are overseas, everything from calls to being connected to the internet comes with a huge price tag. In order to save money, put your phone into airplane mode as soon as you get on an airplane. Turn off roaming and cellular data for the duration of your trip.

2.      Pick up a Local SIM As Soon As You Land 

If you have an unlocked phone, and it’s not essential for you to have your exact number during the course of your vacation, you should pick up a local, pre-paid SIM card. Do some research before you choose your local provider, but don’t worry about it too much because you will probably be able to pick a SIM up right at the airport.
3.      Be Careful with Wi-Fi

We love free Wi-Fi, but you have to be alert at all times, because cybercriminals set up “rouge hotspots” all over the world with the sole purpose of stealing data. Most of them have names that mimic well-known Wi-Fi networks like McDonalds or Starbucks, so they can fool you into connecting. Once you establish a connection, criminals can collect your data without you even knowing that it is happening.
4.      Download a Ton of Offline Apps

Your phone might be limited if you don’t have 24/7 Internet access, but you can still carry a lot of helpful information that will be a huge asset on international trips. You can easily download and load up Google maps before you go, and maps will stay in memory for 30 days. However, the offline version is only available to Android users. If you’re an iPhone user, there are other apps like MapsWithMe that provide everything you need without an Internet connection.
5.      Pack a Power Adapter

If you're carrying multiple high-tech gadgets on your trip, remember that some locations will not have the same kind of power outlets you have at home. So pick up a power adapter designed for the country you are visiting, or if you plan on doing a lot of international travel, pick up an adapter that works in multiple countries. If that is the case, the Ceptics Grounded Adapter is great choice.
Remember--if you cannot find the right hotspot or be sure that your private information is safe at all times, your smartphone will be nothing more than dead weight in your pocket.

Photos supplied by Adam Ferraresi

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Holiday lights and Rudolph at Sea World San Antonio

5 Million Sparkling Lights Create the Largest Christmas Illumination in Texas

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer leads the way to Christmas joy under the glow of five million holiday lights at SeaWorld San Antonio’s Christmas Celebration.  Through Jan 1, SeaWorld San Antonio has been transformed into a winter wonderland with the largest lighted Christmas display in Texas.

Holiday lighting vignettes will be held throughout the 250 acres of the park including Tower of Light, Christmas Cove, Snowman Village, and Caribbean Christmas. Holiday entertainment will feature Clyde & Seamore’s Countdown to Christmas, the Merry Mariachies, Christmas Navitity Story, and Dolphin Christmas.

New holiday programs include Dine with Rudolph and Rudolph’s Christmas Town. SeaWorld will be adorned with carolers, holiday treats and traditions like Home for the Holidays with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and Shamu Christmas Miracles.  For a detailed activity list and to purchase specially priced Annual Passes, visit  

“No one loves Christmas more than Texans, and we intend to make this the biggest and brightest Christmas the Lone Star State has ever experienced,” said Carl Lum, park president.  “This year we are lighting up the night sky in a way that’s never before been seen by expanding from one million to five million twinkling lights and bringing back our signature lighted flagpole to make this the most festive and family focused holiday destination throughout Texas.  The SeaWorld elves are already hard at work creating magic around the park,” added Lum.  

As a part of the holiday celebration, SeaWorld and its hotel partners are offering guests benefits, including the Kids Stay and Play Free Christmas package. Priced from $89 per person, per night, guests enjoy one night of accommodations at a SeaWorld partner hotel and park admission valid for up to seven days.  For each adult purchasing the package, guests may also receive a free child ticket (ages 3-9) valid for up to 7 days.  Other perks include 20-percent off all-day dining, 20-percent off merchandise and a free game at the Games Center.  

For an additional charge guests can add a dining experience with Santa Claus or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This Christmas package is valid through Dec. 31, 2016. Reservations can be booked online at

SeaWorld San Antonio is open weekends through Dec. 17, as well as Christmas break, Dec. 17 through Jan. 1.  

Information courtesy of Rachel Pinner Trevino, De Berry Group, San Antonio, Texas . Photos:

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Christmas in Granbury, Texas

Granbury,Texas  (near Fort Worth) has kicked off a series of special Christmas events to make this holiday season one to remember.  Over the next couple of weeks you can experience yuletide nostalgia with favorite traditions, twinkling lights, winter festivities and special appearances by Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
“It’s a magical time of year for all of us, and the historic charm of Granbury provides the perfect setting to make memories with your loved ones,” said Teresa Anderson, CEO, Visit Granbury. “From live Christmas concerts to our annual Night of Lights Parade, there are many opportunities to get into the spirit of the season.” Events include:
Granbury's restored 1886
Opera House

 “Meet Me in St. Louis” – The Granbury Theatre Company presents this timeless holiday musical at the Granbury Opera House Nov. 18 – Dec. 23. Show times are Friday 7:30 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. and Sunday 2 p.m.Tickets start at $25.
Santa’s Workshop – No Christmas is complete without a visit to Santa’s Workshop. Bring the kids for photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus inside a hand-painted, holiday-themed wonderland in Granbury’s historic downtown square gazebo Nov. 25 – Dec. 17. Event times are Friday 6-8 p.m., Saturday 2-5 p.m. & 6-8 p.m., Sunday 2-4 p.m.

 “Away in a Manager” Nativity Displays – View Granbury resident Faye Landham’s impressive collection of over 1,000 nativity sets from all over the world at the Dora Lee Langdon Center Concert Hall Dec. 2-11. Event times vary.
 “Christmas Has Come: The Sounds of the Season” – Granbury’s Big City Music Revue plays Christmas favorites Dec. 2 – 17. Show times are Friday 7 p.m., Saturday 3 p.m. & 7 pm. Tickets start at $22.

Courthouse in Granbury's downtown Historic District
Granbury - A Candlelight Tour - Set amid the ambience of Granbury’s Historic District, the 33rd Annual Candlelight Tour will showcase Granbury’s architecture, history and culture. The tour provides attendees with a rare opportunity for guests to go inside some of Texas’ most beautiful historic residences. The tour will be held Friday, Dec. 2nd 5-9 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 3rd 12-9 p.m. Tickets purchased before November 30th are $20. After that date, tickets are $25.
Historic markers can be found on most downtown
buildings in Granbury
The Granbury Living Christmas Cards –Hand-painted by nationally-renowned artist James Spulock, these beautifully themed Christmas cards come to life with performances by actors, dancers and singers in Granbury’s historic downtown square Friday, Dec. 9th and Saturday, Dec. 10th at 6 p.m.

Several live Christmas concerts and performances will be free to the public throughout the month of December. For complete information about upcoming Granbury Christmas events, visit
Information courtesy of Mary Lester,
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

For more information about Granbury, click here:
and here: