A Travellerspoint blog

All Aboard for the Nashville Wine Train

Nashville, TN

rain 82 °F

When I first discovered the "Wine Train" I was extremely excited. What could be better than spending a day sipping wine on a train while enjoying the countryside? But right after I pressed "purchase" and bought our nonrefundable tickets online, I began to worry. This was either going to be a glorious day of fun or a nightmarish ride with us trapped on a speeding train full of unruly drunks. What was I thinking??

I decided to keep my fears to myself. Eric is always a great sport when it comes to some of my trip ideas but he wasn't overly excited about this one and had reluctantly agreed to go. I didn't want to give him any reason to back out.

Boarding occurred at 8:30am and, being unsure of what type of food would be available on the train, we got up extra early for breakfast at our downtown Nashville hotel before catching Uber to the station.

Eric is definitely not an early bird.

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The wine train excursion is hosted by Tennessee Central Railway which uses restored historic trains for the 3 1/2 hour ride to Baxter, TN where the Delmonico Winery is located. We arrived at the station to an overcast day and as we settled into our seats, a group of 12 women wearing matching "Women gone Wine" t-shirts boarded and sat in the seats behind us. Other people were dressed in 1950's attire which was fun.

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As we pulled out of the station, the skies opened up and the downpour of rain began. It felt pretty cozy to be on the train.

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The "Women gone Wine" group belted out a shaky rendition of Deana Carter's "Strawberry Wine" as Eric looked at me with a raised eyebrow. I laughed it off, excited for the day ahead.

The snack car had the usual fare along with breakfast biscuits, coffee, and cracker and cheese packs. Loaded up with necessities, I was eager to get started on the 14 wines we were about to sample.

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Seeing the countryside along the way was very relaxing.

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The tasting concluded about 30 minutes before arriving in Baxter. We got there around noon and exited the train right at the Delmonico Winery.

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The grounds were set up nicely with several food trucks outside, a BBQ buffet and band inside, and various game tents outside around the perimeter of the main building. After eating lunch, we found a spot on the covered porch to relax and enjoy more wine.

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On our return trip to Nashville, we brought the bottle of wine we had purchased at the winery to finish along with fried pies from "The Pie Lady."

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Oh, and the "Women gone Wine" group? Well, let's just say they were feeling pretty good on the way back. A couple of them lost their bras (luckily not their shirts) on the train ride back to Nashville but most were subdued by the time we pulled back into the station.

Other than the rainy weather, it turned out to be a great day.

The next morning on our way out of town, we stopped to take a quick look at The Parthenon which is a replica of the original in Athens, Greece.

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Posted by tammy_b 23:00 Archived in USA Tagged train tennessee winery nashville tennessee_central_railway wine_train delmonico_winery Comments (0)

Day trip to Arrington Vineyards

Arrington, TN

sunny 85 °F

Located about three hours from Memphis and 40 minutes from Nashville, Arrington Vineyards was the perfect place to spend a beautiful spring day. The property is set on 75 acres of picturesque rolling hills with plenty of space to stretch out. There are several bands that play on the weekend and the reviews online said that this place gets pretty crowded. Wanting to avoid the crowds, Eric and I took off from work on a Friday to head up early and enjoy the day.

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We splurged on the AV Premier Experience which included a tour of the wine production facility and a private wine tasting paired with small bites in the Wine Loft.

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Before the actual tour started, our hostess, Ana, served their Firefly Rose paired with strawberry, goat cheese, and mint.

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Our first stop on the tour was the barrel house where we sampled a cabernet made with California grapes straight from the barrel. Later in the tasting, we tried the same cabernet that had been bottled to note the differences in flavor between the two. The wines here are made with grapes from California, Washington, and Tennessee.

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Next, we walked over to the wine production facility to learn how they process the grapes and bottle the wine.

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We ended the tour at the Wine Loft for the best part...the tasting!

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As Ana poured each of the wines for us, she provided tasting notes and described the food pairings.

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Upon entering the tasting room, everyone was pretty subdued. By the end of the tasting, everyone was laughing, talking, and having a great time. I don't think the generous wine pours had anything to do with it at all.

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Afterward, we found a shady spot in a small grove of trees, unpacked the picnic that we brought, and enjoyed the afternoon.

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Posted by tammy_b 21:37 Archived in USA Tagged tennessee winery nashville arrington_vineyards memphis_day_trip Comments (0)

Ghosts and Goblins at the Woodruff-Fontaine House

Memphis, TN

The Woodruff-Fontaine House is a beautifully restored Victorian mansion built in the 1870's along what used to be known as "Millionaire's Row" in downtown Memphis. Its name was derived from the two prominent families that used to own and live in the house...the Woodruffs and the Fontaines.

The home is open for historical tours and, throughout the year, it is decorated for various themes such as "Timeless Romance" in the Spring and "Mourning Memphis" in the Fall. The home has beautiful architecture and furnishings and has an extensive collection of Victorian clothing with over 4,000 pieces. Some of these pieces are displayed throughout the year to correspond with the different themes.

On this particular night, Eric and I went on a ghost tour of the house hosted by Historical Haunts. What better way to celebrate Halloween than by going to an actual haunted house? It was even featured on SyFy channel's "Ghost Hunters" several years back.

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We arrived to a dimly lit home decorated for mourning with cloth-covered mirrors and black sashes over portraits of the deceased.

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Always the jokester, Eric makes friends with a ghost.

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Our host was a seasoned paranormal investigator who recounted the various stories as we moved through the rooms. There are incidents of women's perfume or cigar smoke that regularly wafts through the house. Disembodied voices carry on conversations in empty rooms and call out employee names when no one else but that person is around. There have even been sightings of a ghost cat.

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The mannequins throughout the house donning mourning attire only added to the creep factor.

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The spirit of Mollie Woodruff is often seen on the second floor sitting on the bed in her room, The Rose Room. When she vanishes, there are impressions left on the bedspread where she was sitting. She did not die in the house but she's believed to be here because this is where she was said to have been the happiest in her life.

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Since there is usually a lot of activity in the room, our guide set up an EVP unit and proceeded to ask questions of the spirits which answered back with a word or two here and there. Several different voices came through with various male and female names. Our guide asked how many spirits were present and the answer "seven" came through.

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Next to The Rose Room was a little room filled with old dolls...more creepiness!

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Mrs. Virginia Fontaine lived and died in the house and her spirit is also seen on the second floor. She has made it known that she does not like strange people in her bedroom so, out of respect for her, it is roped off.

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Lastly, Mrs. Fontaine's son, Elliot, is regularly seen on the third floor. He died at the age of 34 during the influenza outbreak of 1918. Our guide did a little investigating in his room but nothing really came through.

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Elliot loved to read and also kept diaries. Some of these have been graciously donated to the house by his descendants. They give interesting insight into the daily lives of the Fontaine family.

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After the tour concluded, we were allowed to wander around the house a little more on our own. I took pictures in various rooms just in case an orb or something else showed up but we did not have any earth shattering paranormal experiences.

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Overall, we thought it was a fun night.

Posted by tammy_b 19:39 Archived in USA Tagged ghost_tour historical_haunts woodruff_fontaine_house Comments (0)

Yosemite National Park

California

sunny 84 °F

While in Fresno for work, I had one free day to fill with an adventure. Luckily, I found a day tour with Crossroads Tours & Limos. I was picked up at my hotel at 7:00am for the two hour drive to Yosemite National Park. Once inside, I was chauffeured around the crazy hairpin turns and winding mountain roads by my gregarious guide, Richard, in a comfortable suburban. All I had to do was relax and enjoy the gorgeous views.

Our first stop was at the historic Big Trees Lodge for a look around its grounds and then a walk across the covered bridge to Pioneer Village next door.

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Driving toward Glacier Point, Richard pointed out this forest fire that has been burning for three months. Since it was initiated by a lightning strike and is not endangering lives or property, it is left alone to burn naturally. It's considered Mother Nature's way of thinning out the forest and returning valuable nutrients to the soil. It will continue to burn until the snow finally falls and puts it out.

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We proceeded to see many of the highlights within the park.

Views of Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls.

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My obligatory "Y" picture at Glacier Point

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Yosemite Valley

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Bridalveil Falls. All the falls within the park were down to a trickle because of the time of year, but they were still pretty impressive. They are at full capacity in the spring when the snow melts.

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Richard pointed out this interesting rock slide that occurred recently. It left lighter colored rock behind in the shape of "Snoopy".

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The leaves were just starting to turn so the scenery was breathtaking.

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We stopped at Yosemite Falls and had a really nice picnic lunch provided by the tour company.

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The lower falls.

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Sitting on a boulder.

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Richard is in the park almost daily with tours and said he hasn't seen a bear in about 6 weeks but we still looked for them. These deer were hanging out near the picnic area so I was thrilled to get pictures of them.

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El Capitan. Using binoculars, we watched active rock climbers up there. That rock is so big that even with binoculars the climbers were small and hard to spot.

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Our tour ended at Fern Spring which is naturally occurring. My picture doesn't do it justice but it looked like it was right out of a storybook. Richard provided a plastic water bottle for me to keep and fill with the coldest fresh water that I have ever tasted. Hours later, at the hotel, the water in that bottle was still cold.

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On the way back to Fresno, Richard joked that he'd wake me when we got to the hotel. I laughed it off but then proceeded to doze off not too long after leaving the park. It had been a long day with an early start but so very worth it. Yosemite was full of awe-inspiring beauty.

Posted by tammy_b 22:07 Archived in USA Tagged california yosemite_national_park fresno Comments (0)

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque, NM

sunny 50 °F

Attending the Balloon Fiesta has been on my bucket list FOREVER. I was so excited to finally attend when the opportunity presented itself this year.

Saturday

We purchased the Gondola Club tickets for both the morning and evening sessions and felt it was well worth the price. The tickets included a special parking lot with shuttle service to Fiesta park, entrance to a private area away from the crowds with plenty of seating, private bathrooms, open bar, band, and catered buffet meals (breakfast in the morning and dinner in the evening). Plus, there were snacks like nuts, fruit, chips and salsa, icecream, cookies, coffee, hot chocolate, soda, and water.

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For the morning session, we left our hotel at 5:00am which gave us plenty of time to get to the park and settle in just in time for Dawn Patrol at 6:00am. This is where about a dozen balloons inflate and ascend to check wind speeds and direction before all the other balloons go up.

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Mass Ascension occurred from about 7:00am to 9:00am and was a flurry of activity all over the field. During this entire time, 500-600 balloons were all in various stages of being unrolled, inflated, and launched. The excitement was incredible and each balloon launch garnered loud eruptions of cheering and clapping from the crowd. No matter where we turned to look, there were balloons in all different shapes and patterns continuously going up all around us.

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This trio of bumblebees was my favorite and it seemed like we waited forever before they finally went up.

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The actual event surpassed any expectations that I had. It was absolutely incredible! There was definitely sensory overload and by the time it was over, we were exhausted. It felt like it was noon but when Eric checked his watch, it was only 9:15am.

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Walking back to the car, we saw balloons over the city that would be landing where they could...parks, back yards, etc.

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After leaving Fiesta park, since it was still so early, we decided that 2nd breakfast was in order. We stopped at Rudy's BBQ for the most awesome breakfast tacos before heading back to the hotel for much needed naps.

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The evening session should have started at 6:00pm with the Night Magic Glow. Balloons don't ascend at night but are tethered and illuminated by their burners. They look like giant glowing Christmas ornaments. Unfortunately, since it was windy, they couldn't inflate due to the danger of catching their balloon fabric on fire. Instead, they did a Firefly Burn where they all lit their burners at the same time sans balloons.

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While it was a little disappointing, it was still neat to watch. Plus, the atmosphere in the Gondola Club made for a great night with delicious food, flowing drinks, and a band that kept us entertained until the evening ended with a beautiful fireworks display.

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Sunday

We really lucked out with the weather yesterday because if winds are higher than 8 mph then the balloons can't go up. That's exactly what happened this morning when the Farewell Mass Ascension was cancelled due to the winds. Some advice for the balloon fiesta would be to give yourself a couple of days in the city as a back-up in case the session you want to attend is cancelled due to weather.

With all the balloon festivities behind us, today was a free day to explore the city.

For him:

We went to the Unser Racing Museum. This is a really great museum showcasing the Unser family racing legacy. It was very well organized with friendly and knowledgeable docents. It is spread across two buildings and the second one houses both race cars and antique cars as well as the trophy room. The trophy room alone was mind boggling.

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Eric with his favorite car.

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I loved the antique car side and each car was being "driven" by a stuffed animal or doll which was cute.

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Just for fun.

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Lunch was at Sadie's for our last great New Mexican meal. I started with the pomegranate margarita and we munched on chips and their legendary salsa. It was easy to tell who all the out-of-towners were because we were all sniffling from the heat in the food.

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Eric and I both had some variation of the "small" combination plate special. Eric had tamales and a taco and I had the carne adovada and chile relleno. The plates came smothered with red or green chiles, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and cheese with sides of potatoes and beans. There was so much food that I don't think I even finished a quarter of it.

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We finished off the meal with soft, pillowy sopaipillas drizzled in honey.

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For her:

We went to the Casa Rondena Winery. I haven't made it to Italy yet, but stepping out of the car, I felt like we were transported to the Tuscan countryside. The grounds were beautiful. We tried a few samples in the tasting room before buying a bottle to enjoy out back in the serene courtyard. There was a musician playing with groups of friends hanging out and enjoying the day.

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It was the perfect ending to our time in New Mexico.

Posted by tammy_b 16:53 Archived in USA Tagged albuquerque new_mexico albuquerque_international_ballo gondola_club unser_racing_museum casa_rondena_winery Comments (0)

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