Eating Our Way Through Istanbul, Turkey

We enjoyed several wonderful meals during our time in Istanbul and even took a food tour where we ate food in both the European and Asian sections of Istanbul. In addition to the food, we also had a local drink called Raki as well as several local beers and wines. One of the most popular dinner choices are the dinners cooked in clay pots over an extremely hot, open fire. They bring the fire pit next to your table and put on quite an extravagant show as they cook your meal and then crack the pot open and pour the contents onto a plate for you to enjoy.

One of Our Dinners
Food Galore During Our Food Tour
Turkish Raki
Dinner and a Show
The Meal Cooked in the Clay Pot

Coffee and tea is also quite popular and we even tried an orange tea made with fresh orange rinds. We love taking food tours as they provide you the opportunity to try many different varieties of dishes, but it is also way more food than the two of us could possibly eat. We started our tour with breakfast, which is not something that we normally eat, but it was a really enjoyable way to start our day. We ended our tour in the shopping district of Istanbul and then took the ferry back to the area near our hotel.

Stuffed Mussels
Honey and Cheese
Local Beer
Orange Tea
Fresh Fish

You will find street carts with stuffed mussels near many of the attractions and in shopping areas and it is definitely worth trying as they are very tasty. Overall, we couldn’t say that one meal was better than another as we found each of them to be completely interesting with unique tastes. What we can say is that the staff at every restaurant where we ate were extremely friendly and very proud of the cuisine that they had to offer. At some point we’ll try to replicate some of the meals that we had, but obviously we’re not going to be cooking in a clay pot over an open flame.

Workers Getting Lunch
So Much Food
Making Sandwiches
Roasted Lamb
Cloche Being Delivered to Our Table
Unique Dinner

The Charming Village of Carlsbad on the California Coast

If you are looking for a relaxing stay along the Pacific coast in California, then visiting Carlsbad might just be the perfect choice for you. Located about 30 miles north of San Diego, Carlsbad is a resort town with many restaurants, public beaches, and a very walk-able downtown area which is called Carlsbad Village. We spent close to a week there and enjoyed walking the beach, watching sunsets, and even went on a wine tasting tour. On Wednesday’s, the heart of the village shuts down to allow for a farmer’s market with a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, art work, and other local items for sale. We also happened to be there the weekend before Halloween and the local shops provide candy and a safe environment for families to go trick-or-treating.

Beach Style Architecture
Vineyards in Temecula
Farmer’s Market
One of the Sunsets
European Style Architecture

Carlsbad Village is certainly charming with a variety of architecture from typical beach-style buildings to some old-world type buildings. There are many different shops offering boutique clothing, beach clothes, gift items, as well as unique artwork. There are as many restaurants as there are shops offering a variety of meal choices. Although you can certainly find any type of food that you might want, the majority of restaurants offered seafood, Mexican food, and Italian. We had some wonderful meals during our stay.

Busy Beach on the Weekend
Fresh Vegetables at the Farmer’s Market
Another Sunset on the Beach
Shopping Area
Town Sign

Clearly the beach is the highlight of going to Carlsbad and if you are a surfer, you won’t be disappointed. It was a little too cool while we were there to swim in the ocean as the fog rolled in every morning and didn’t always burn completely off keeping the temperatures low. That didn’t keep us from walking along the beach though, watching the surfers, and making sure to catch some beautiful sunsets. Even in the off-season, the town got quite busy on the weekend as people from the surrounding areas come to take advantage of their beach properties.

Surfers on the Beach
Walking the Beach
Not Too Busy During the Week
Fresh Seafood at the Farmer’s Market
Tropical Flower

We took a wine tour in Temecula where we visited four different wineries and tasted a wonderful variety of wines. Napa Valley certainly has the best known reputation for producing quality wines, but Temecula certainly has a right to be proud of their growing reputation. Not only do they have a lot of vineyards currently, the hillsides are being covered with new ones as the city has approved additional vineyards to be started. Although you can certainly drive yourself on a wine tour, it is best to let someone else do the driving. We tasted up to six types of wine at each vineyard, which even in small amounts is a lot of wine.

Temecula has a Tuscan Feel
Vineyard About a Month After Harvest
Wine Casks
Looking Up the Hillside
New Vineyard in the Distance

Carlsbad Village is definitely an enjoyable destination with a relaxing atmosphere. Beautiful beaches, friendly people, and all of the food and shopping make staying their a wonderful experience. There is also a train called the Coaster that will take you into San Diego if you want to spend some time their and go to Sea World, the world famous zoo, and other museums. Legoland is also a highlight of Carlsbad for those with children or just a child at heart.

People Out for Halloween
Kids and Candy
Last Glimpse of the Sun
More Architecture
Just Another Day at the Beach

Our First Overseas Wine Tasting in Ronda, Spain

We have had the opportunity to enjoy wine tastings in several countries, but our very first experience was in the wonderful town of Ronda in Spain.  We took a tour from Estaponia, which is located in the Costa Del Sol, to take us from the beach to the mountain town with it’s historic bridge.  It was an amazing time travelling throughout the region and exploring the many sites that the area has to offer.  We rented a car while we were there, but when we visited Ronda, we hired a guide to drive us and take us to an organic wine vineyard as well as one of the many olive vineyards that dominate the hillsides.  It was probably a wise decision not to drive that day as the wine tasting was rather generous.

Wine Tasting
Wine Tasting
Gorgeous View of Ronda, Spain

We traveled to Spain in November, so it was the off-season as far as tourists goes, so we ended up with a private tour and tasting at the Joaquin Fernandez Vineyard.  The wine was amazing and the views from the vineyard were spectacular.  The vineyard was completely organic and at the ends of each row of vines were a variety of plants that attracted bees and insects that were natural predators to insects that could harm the grapes.  After the tour was the tasting.  For each wine, we were poured a full glass and the owner explained which grapes were used and why.  In addition to the wine, we had a meat and cheese tray as well as bread sticks to help cleanse our palate.  The owner would not continue on to the next wine until we finished our glass, so we were feeling quite good by the time we finished several glasses of wine.

Wine Tour
Wine Tour
Joaquin Fernandez Vineyard
Joaquin Fernandez Vineyard

From there we were off to visit an olive vineyard where they still hand press the olive oil.  It is a slow process where they continuously add pads to the press as they slowly crush all of the oil out of the olives.  Tasting freshly pressed olive oil was amazing, there is truly nothing like it.  It is truly a labor of love, but at the same time, it is definitely labor intensive.  In addition to pressing their own olives, the surrounding vineyards would sell their olives to them to be pressed and sold by them.  Everywhere you go in southern Spain, you are surrounded by olive trees and we were tempted several times to just pull our car over and grab some fresh from the branches.  After being spoiled by having such fresh olives, we have found ourselves to be very picky about the olives that we eat here in the States.

Olive Presses
Olive Presses
Dona at Olive Vineyard
Dona at Olive Vineyard

Ronda, itself, is a beautiful town with an incredible bridge that connects the old and new parts of the city.  It is home to the oldest bull fighting ring in Spain, although it is much smaller than ones that you can find in Seville or Madrid.  Sitting high upon the cliffs, the views from Ronda of the surrounding area is unbeatable.  It is certainly worth making Ronda a destination to visit if you’re in southern Spain.  It has all of the charm one would expect of a village, but has the amenities of a small city.  We sat and had coffee in one of the hotels and simply soaked in the atmosphere.

Bridge at Rhonda
Bridge at Ronda
Bullfighting Ring in Rhonda
Bullfighting Ring in Ronda

There were many things about our trip to Spain that were remarkable, but visiting Ronda and doing the wine tasting was definitely one of the best experiences of the trip.  Living in Colorado with all our mountains, it was surprising to us how similar the terrain of Spain was to much of the southwest.  The drive to Ronda, through the rugged mountains, was an adventure itself, but well worth the effort.  The wine tasting in Ronda was a perfect introduction to tasting wines during our travels and we look forward to our next opportunity to sample wine and tour a vineyard in another exotic location, it is an experience that can’t be beaten.

Lake Near Rhonda
Lake Near Ronda
View from Vineyard
View from Vineyard