Biltmore

During last summer’s trip to Asheville we took a day to explore the Biltmore estate. It was a great way to spend the day and the weather couldn’t have been better (most of the day anyway). I thoroughly enjoyed touring the house; my favorite was touring the server’s quarters and the kitchen area. Sorry no pictures inside were allowed (although I was just about the only one following the rules). The estate area is vast and has magnificent views of the mountain range nearby. While you are there be sure to tour the gardens and greenhouse at your leisure. It was a real treat as well.

After touring the grounds we drove over for our Biltmore winery tour and a free wine tasting. Most of  the wines made there are drinking wines. There weren’t too many that I wanted to purchase but the ones I did were in the $30-50 range!! We did pick up a couple mid-range bottles to take home and I since I wasn’t driving Itreated myself to the Biltmore premium wine tasting :).

 Later on we met up with our friends and had dinner at their local mexican joint Nachos and Beer (yes that is the name). The tacos and side salad I ordered was delicious and a great size for the money. They also have local craft beer on draft. I can see why this is one of their favorite places to take the family.

My friends husband was nice enough to watch the kids for the evening so my friend could come with us to try some local breweries. More about that later……

Night in Barcelona

We did get quite ill at the end of our Barcelona trip but before we were hotel bound, we had a nice evening stroll around the city. It was quite beautiful at night.

The streets were preparing for the Barcelona marathon for the following morning.

Plaça d’Espanya

Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

Magic Fountains near Placa d’Espanya

Luckily we were there on a night that they had a musical light show at the fountain. We wandered around the fountain and enjoyed the show.

It was Whitney Houston tribute night. Here is a video of the end.

We enjoyed our last real evening of the trip. The rest was mostly hotel room bound. After this trip we have discovered the art of probiotics while traveling. Probiotics have saved us from illness on many other trips since. We even survived a couple weeks in India!!
The illness has put Barcelona back on the list to must visit because there was so much more to see there. I hope one day to visit again.

Khajuraho

After our visit to the holy city of Varanasi we flew to  Khajuraho to learn about Jain religion and a whole other side of Hinduism.

This little bitty Spicejet plane we took to Khajuraho from Varanasi was one of the nicest forms of transportation that we experienced in India. The one hour flight was very comfortable. We were pretty much the only English speaking tourists on the plane.

After our comfortable flight we had another long car ride to our hotel in Khajuraho. Everything in India is a long car ride away. The scenes on the way are quite like the pictures below. Most Indians are poor and have a very hard life. They lack what we would consider basic necessities like a toilet and sewage system. You will see many men relieving themselves on the side of the road (number 1 and number 2).  Visiting there was a very eye opening experience. We really don’t know how great we have it in the United States.

Also typical, cow dung is saved into round “plates” and used as burning fuel. 

Soon we are back to the luxury of our 5 star hotel again since we are rich Americans. (Note: We are not really rich but nice hotels like these are cheap to stay at for us but unobtainable for most in India)

Our hotel overlooks the temples we are able to see later.

The temples in Khajuraho were built by the Chandela dynasty from the 10th to 12th century. The dynasty eventually fell and the temples were “lost” until rediscovered by the british in the 1800’s.
The artwork on the temples is quite amazing. The western group of temples are most famous for their erotic images. We started with a smaller temple and worked our way around.

Vishnu’s Varaha Temple (boar)

We then explored the other temples with all the detailed images. Each depiction had a story behind it.

We then moved on to view the exterior of the other temples. We notice stories being played out in stone like the one below where a man looks like he is being torn apart.

And this very voluptuous woman.

Ganesha is everywhere.

Scene after scene appears on the walls.

One of the smaller temples nearby.

This lady is showing this little man or doctor the splinter in her foot.

Soon things get interesting. We get to see what the temples are really famous for. They are know for their erotic religious scenes. It is believed that this sect of Hinduism used sexual energy to bring them closer to god.

The time of day was great to watch the sunlight drape over the temples. All in all it was a great day to visit. We did later visit a group of Jain temples but they were soon to close and we rushed through them. I unfortunately did not get any pictures. I will say that the Jain monks have very strict diets and a sect of them spend time naked. You can read more about it here.

Later on that evening we returned for a light show of the temples.

London – Kensington Palace

During our last visit to London we stayed near Kensington Palace. Since we were so close I decided to add it to our itinerary.

The palace has housed royals since the 1600’s and now contains residences for current royals. Unfortunately they keep the tourist areas far from the royal apartments so no royal sightings for us.
The palace has a lovely garden that I am sure is even more beautiful in the spring and summer (we were there in the winter).

As part of the exhibit one gets to see many rooms of the palace but what I found more interesting was the dresses and royal items that they had for display.

The walls were filled with beautiful paintings as well.

Also great about this museum is the history of Queen Victoria’s reign on display here. She spent her whole life in the palace. A good amount of the exhibits were about her and her life in the palace.

These interesting dolls were on display as well.

Rooms were dedicated to childhood fantasies of the royals. This particular display was interesting.

Around the entrance there is a touch of modern art as well.

Gold is abundant in the decor and artwork throughout.

There was much more to see throughout so it is definitely worth a visit. I thoroughly enjoyed the house and the lessons in history that it contained. I hope to visit again to view the gardens in their glory.

A Wedding Tasting

Two good friends of mine are getting married in less than two weeks. I am very excited about the wedding. The wedding is local but we are choosing to do a stay-cation at a local resort and spend the weekend hanging out. Many of these friends I have known for many many years. It should prove to be a fun weekend. As part of the wedding preparation my friend had a wedding menu tasting at the resort and she invited me along for the fun.

For the tasting we met with the coordinator and she took us back to a tasting room in the kitchen to meet the kitchen manager, the sous chef, and all the other chefs responsible for the different dishes.
They carefully explained each part of the menu. We learned how the dishes were prepared. For this wedding they have to cater to vegetarians/vegans, provide choices for those with gluten intolerance, and accommodate many food allergies. The menu was customized to accommodate these needs as well as provide dishes for discriminating tastes. It is a very well thought out menu.

Prior to the food tasting we were provided with some bubbly and bread and butter.

The bread was good but the butter was where it was at. The butter had a story!! The chef met a lady in Maine who made her own butter from the cows on her farm. The grass is irrigated with the salty air from the ocean. The cows graze on the grass and the end result is this salty tasty butter. The chef liked it so much that now she provides butter for all the hotels. Her farm has grown considerably as a result. I love food with a story.

We started by tasting the hors d’oeuvres that will be passed around during cocktail hour. We got to try all in the list but were tasked to narrow it down to our four favorites.

On our first pass we tried the Edamame Hummus on a plantain crisp, the grilled vegetable bruschetta, and the chicken salad Gougere.

All of the preceding group was good but the hummus was the standout. Such simple ingredients but so much flavor. I would love to steal this hummus recipe.

For the second group of appetizers we sampled the braised beef over polenta, bacon wrapped date, corn fritter, and a chicken arepa.

Of the second group I loved the bacon wrapped date and the braised beef over polenta. Blue cheese was used in both those appetizers. While I am not a blue cheese fan I found it palatable in these flavorful appetizers. The huckleberry jam that accompanied the bacon date is made in house.  (I was pleased to find out later that they sent us home with samples of both the butter and the jam!!!)
The corn fritter was good but I couldn’t see myself eating more than one of them and I always find the “arepa” breads to be too filling as well.  I did enjoy the chicken on the arepa.

Next we got small samples of all four salads on the menu. I love salads, especially when they are made of lettuces other than iceberg and romaine. I can tell I will be chowing down on these salads at the wedding.

Finally we move on to the main dishes. I am so full already but I muster up the space for these risottos…

and pad thai ….

and this chicken taco and rice ….

Finally we move on to the finale. We got to sample 4 different cakes.
The first two were gluten free. I am not a cake person but I might be a fan of gluten free cakes. I prefer my cakes more dense than spongy so these were perfect. My favorite was the yellow cake with lemon curd, limoncello, and raspberries. I might be able to eat a couple pieces of that wedding night!! I am glad my friend chose it as one of her two choices.

During the tasting they spoke to us about the farm on site and how it is used to provide ingredients for many of the dishes in the hotel. I really get excited about farm to table so this was up my alley.
Finally they talked about the new brewery and restaurant that was being constructed currently. Not only is beer brewed on site but the hops are grown on the farm!! I am excited about checking that out soon.

The wedding will be at the JW Marriot Grande Lakes in Orlando. If you are looking for a venue for your upcoming wedding, the JW Marriot would be a great choice. The food is magnificent and they will take care of you.