Chocolate Heaven

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Chocolate Heaven in Irvine, California

ChocXo Bean to Bar Chocolates is heaven on earth. Who doesn’t love chocolate? Add in a wall with 2 spigots, push the button, and watch beautiful creamy chocolate flow into a little cup for you to sip; now you know you are in heaven.

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I stumbled upon their chocolate a little over a year ago at a gourmet culinary store and loved the quality and richness of their bars.  Soon after my disccovery  I am hear they have a coffee bar open  in Costa Mesa, California. A cup of coffee with chocolate added, yum!  The coffee is fantastic, smooth and flavorful not bitter, add in flavors and chocolate, it just raises the drinks above the bar.  In talking to the staff they advised that the Irvine factory offered tours,  sign me up.

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Stepping into the factory store, it is spotlessly cleaned, warm and inviting and smelling of deep rich chocolate.  The tour walks you through their Bean to Bar process. The staff explains the history of the cacao tree, harvesting the pods by hand and the process of removing the beans, drying, fermenting and taking them all the way to processing.
During the tour, you  have the opportunity to taste the pulp from inside the cacao pod, it is fascinating and has a unique and pleasant flavor, you will be surprised.

ChocXO imports their beans from South American, mainly Ecuador and they are processed in Irvine, CA.

At the end of the tour,  guests have the opportunity to choose from their extensive list of truffles and soft centers and have 3 pieces bagged to take home.  You will find flavors such as Raspberry, Hazelnut, Mojito, Apple Jack, Maple Whiskey, Vanilla Chai and Lemon Meringue just to name a few.

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As you wander the store, you will find large bars and mini bars varying in percentages of cacao, and you can taste the differences along with the cacao nibs.

If by now you haven’t had enough chocolate, pull up a chair at the tasting bar, and order ChocXO’s version of a peanut butter cup.  They serve fresh made peanut butter in a small plastic cup, topped with that creamy, rich chocolate.  Dive in and lick the cup clean, it is amazing!

You must have reservations for the tour and  tickets can be purchased on their website. The cost is $10 per person.  You can also check with Groupon and see if they have any offers as well. Happy touring and tasting.

http://www.chocxo.com/

The chocolate factory is a unique and fun experience in Orange County.  Take the kids and discover some amazing chocolate.

Enjoy,
Terri

 

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Tea Time in Costa Mesa, California

royal-tea-and-treatery

If you look you can find some little treasures in your own backyard. Royal Tea and Treatery in Costa Mesa, California is one of those little treasures in more ways than one.

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O.C Brews Part 2

beer flight

How time flies, back in April I posted about some great Orange County, California breweries and promised to review the rest of them soon.  Here we are in August and I’m just getting around to sharing a few more fun breweries.  Just when I think I’ve hit them all, more seem to be popping up.

When you think of Anaheim, California, let me guess Disneyland comes to mind?  While Anaheim is home to the mouse, it is one Orange County city that has become alive with breweries.

Let’s get started,

Phantom Ales, Anaheim, California
www.phantomales.com
https://www.facebook.com/AlesCiderCellar

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Phantom Ales is located in an Industrial area, nestled on a cul de sac.  The brewery is not only a microbrewery, they also have a kitchen which serves some really nice appetizer’s and snacks.  For the home brewer, they have kits and plenty of supplies.  Phantom Ales also offers home brewing classes.

The beers are quite nice.  The brewery is making some meaty, full bodied coffee stouts, IPA’s and the double IPA is light, and hoppy.

The brewers are making some great ciders.  The ciders are barrel aged and some taste like a  fine sparkling wine, perfect for a warm day and easily drinkable.

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Phantom Ales has a kitchen on site and they offer some tasty dishes to help soak up the beer.  The mac and cheese is the ultimate in comfort food.  The saucy is cheesy and creamy and overflowing with chopped Applewood bacon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noble Ale Works, Anaheim, California
http://www.noblealeworks.com/

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Another great Anaheim Brewery tucked in to an Industrial area not to far from Anaheim Stadium and a stones throw from Honda Center; a great spot to enjoy a beer before a Baseball or Hockey game.

Noble Ale Works has a good size tasting room with a few tables and a long bar in the side room which overlooks the tank room.  They have a huge big screen TV perfect for watching a sporting event with a beer or two.

The beers are unique, some quite hoppy,  the dark beers have a nice texture and thickness.  You will certainly find a favorite here.

The tasting flights give you 5 beers, of your choice.  Their Nose Candy beer is a 2015 Bronze Medal winner, is a Session IPA, light bodied and will remind you of a mix between pink Nerds, Airheads and a melted Big Stick popsicle.  Man’s Milk is Noble’s version of Milk Stout.  It is served on Nitro which gives a different taste.  The beer is black and gives notes of dark chocolate. The Naughty Sauce beer is a creation in partnership with Portola Coffee.  The beer is creamy, yet full-bodied and gives a hint of pecan pie.

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They do have food trucks pop in if you are looking for food.  We found the staff to be friendly and more than happy to explain their beers, flavor profiles and tastings that fit your wants.

Bottle Logic, Anaheim, California
http://bottlelogic.com/

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Bottle Logic, another Anaheim treasure is not far from Phantom Ales if you want to give them both a try in the same day.  It is a really cool spot to hang out and enjoy some great beer.

The brewery is a cross between Big Bang Theory and Nerdy chic.  The staff is really friendly and very efficient.  This brewery gets packed.  The day we visited, the line was out the door and it stayed that way our entire stay.  The staff manages to serve guests at the bar and keep the line moving.

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They have a nice outdoor patio, a good size indoor bar and tables along with a few communal tables in a side alcove.  They are going to be expanding in the near future.

You will find two tasting path options, The Constants and a Specialty Beer list.

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The Constant flight gives you 5 tastings, starting with their Blonde Ale, which is fruity and just a good smooth everyday beer.  Common Knowledge is a tad sweet and very smooth.  It is a traditional steam beer giving it a high carbonation.  The Lagerithm is a Dark American beer, while really tasty it is not as dark as a porter, but nutty and delicious.  The Calf Life is a Milk Stout and finish with the Double Actuator a Double IPA.  We added in a few extra’s, the Cobaltic Porter is a Baltic Style Porter.  It is a nice coffee flavored beer and very smooth.  The Neighbor of the Beast is their Black IPL.  Looking for something unique, the Teacursion is extremely popular and is their West coast IPA, blended with Earl Grey and Jasmine tea.

Bruery Terreux, a new one in Anaheim, California
http://www.brueryterreux.com/

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Bruery Terreux is the sister brewery to the Bruery in Placentia, California, but these two sister’s couldn’t be more different.

Bruery Terreux is rustic, yet trendy and a really fun spot to be for a few hours.  The tasting room is fairly large and roomy and they also have a fantastic patio with plenty of seating.

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The Bruery opened on July 8, 2016 and is pouring wilds and sour ales, all barrel aged in the barrel room.

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You will find 20+ beers on the flight sheet.  A tasting flight will give you 5 2oz pours and each pour ranges in price from $1.00 to $3.50.  You will have decisions to make from the Jardinier, a Belgian Style Pale Ale to the Berliner Weisse an oak aged sour blonde Saison to an Imperial Wit with notes of raspberries.

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The Jardinier is a nice sour beer, but fruity.  If you don’t love a real hoppy beer this one is a great choice. The Loakal Red is a hoppy American red ale aged in oak.  Random Summer is a barrel fermented Saison.  This beer is good and has a soft finish.   Beret is an Imperial Wit, it tastes like a sour but not bold and not real tart.

Share This, a sturdy Imperial Stout with coffee, nice and full bodied.   They are even pouring a Cordial BBLS, tastes just like a cherry cordial.  A stout beer blended with cacao nibs, cherry and vanilla.

Check their website and calendar for their food truck schedule.  Bruery Terreux is something new, exciting and a great addition to the Anaheim Brewery scene.

Again, just when I think I have hit the end of the OC Breweries, more pop-up.  It looks like there will be a few more posts to cover the other breweries.  There are still 8+ breweries to go and I look forward to sharing them with you in hopes you will find your favorite.

Drink Responsibly,
Terri

 

Wine Country ~Lodi, California

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I got some funny looks recently when I said I was heading to Lodi, California to do some wine tasting.  You may be wondering the same question, so let me explain.

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National Parks 100th Anniversary ~ Hidden Gems

The National Parks are celebrating their 100th Anniversary this year. The National Park System protect some of the most special places in the United States and each one is a treasure.

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Cavallo Point ~ Historic Luxury

San Francisco, the city by the bay is a vibrant city and so much fun to explore, but sometimes, you want to get out of the city and breathe.

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Morro Bay Getaway

morro bay at dusk

 

 

 

 

Do you ever feel the need to get away for a day or two?  A short change in scenery and quick getaway can renew the soul.

For those that live in California, Morro Bay is one of those destinations that is peaceful,  quaint  and perfect for a weekend away.  If you are visiting the coast of California, Morro Bay is a must see.

Where to stay, the Anderson is in my opinion the best place to stay on the bay.  This tiny boutique property is right on the Embarcadero.  The Anderson family is friendly, really fun and helpful in offering places to eat and things to do. Mollie works in the front office and runs the Inn with both of her brother’s and they are fantastic people.  After meeting them, you will know why this Inn is so special.

The Inn has 8 rooms, a few with full bay views and the remainder have partial bay views.  The rooms are spotlessly clean and really bring the bay and beach indoors with the hues of the ocean.  While staying here you can easily walk the entire Embarcadero and enjoy the activities the bay has to offer. The rooms are contemporary, yet comfortable and spacious.

http://www.andersoninnmorrobay.com/index.html

Along the Embarcadero you will find little eateries and shops.   A few steps away from the Inn is Chateau Margene tasting room.  We discovered this winery in Paso Robles and they now have a tasting room in Morro Bay.  This beautiful tasting room is bright and comfortable with a fun staff, so pull up a stool and the only choice you will have to make is which wine path to take.  Taste either the El Pistolero wines or the luxurious Chateau Margene wines.  Personally, I love the El Pistolero and their Pinot Noir has a beautiful smokey taste, yet it is smooth with many layers of fruit and leather.  I know leather doesn’t sound good when tasting wine, but it is the only way to explain the richness and smokiness of this beautiful wine.

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From Chateau Margene, wander, stroll or walk towards Morro Rock just around the corner you will find Stax Wine Bar.  A really cool spot to sit up at the bar, soak in the many wine varietals on the menu.  They have some fantastic appetizers to pair with the wines.

Having skipped lunch, I needed something a bit substantial before dinner and their appetizer menu has some excellent choices. Finally settling on one of the many Crostini choices, Crostini ala Filet Mignon.IMG_20160610_171558The bread was toasted to perfection, topped with shaved Parmesan cheese, fresh Arugula, tender strips of Filet and a fresh basil aioli.  The dish was scrumptious and the perfect accompaniment to the red wine.

http://www.staxwine.com/#/home

 

 

 

 

After hanging out, eating and savoring a glass of wine, it is time to move on to dinner.  Directly below the rooms at The Anderson is The Galley restaurant.  The restaurant came highly recommended and I understand why.  Most of the staff have been working at the Galley for many years or have had family employed for a long time, they love the restaurant and take pride in the food and service.

The Galley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The staff could not have been more friendly and knowledgeable.  Each dish was explained in detail and in a way that makes you want each and every one.  Finally making a decision, the scallops and crab cakes were amazing.  The scallops had a nice sear on the outside, yet tender on the inside. Served with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh grilled asparagus.

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The dungenous crab cakes are some of the best I have had.  How many times have you ordered crab cakes and they come with a little bit of crab and a lot of breading and filler, not so at The Galley.  These beauties, had a bit of breading on the outside and filled with pure sweet and juicy crab in the middle.

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The red pepper and herb coulis was spicy and creamy and had a fresh herb flavor that elevated the crab to pure perfection.

http://www.galleymorrobay.com/welcome

The next morning, I was headed to Sausalito and needed a quick bite of breakfast.  Stopped into Crills II, a little candy shop, with salt water taffy, but they also make huge Cinnamon Rolls, and who can resist an Cinnamon Roll?  You will have choices to make, plain or covered in freshly chopped nuts with cream cheese icing on the side.

IMG_20160611_101304 Drove down towards Morro Rock, parked overlooking the bay, watched all the boats, paddle boarders and kayaker’s play in the water and savored my sweet treat and feeling sad to be leaving Morro Bay.

Next stop, Cavallo Point, Sausalito.

 

Travel Safe,
Terri

 

Safari; A Memoir of a Worldwide Travel Pioneer by Geoffrey Kent

Safari by Geoffrey Kent

Safari; A Memoir of a Worldwide Travel Pioneer by Geoffrey Kent is a well written book by the brilliant businessman who with his parents created and built the luxury travel tour company Abercrombie and Kent.

I don’t typically review travel books on the blog, but this one I really want to share with you.  If you are a an armchair traveler, you will enjoy the stories.  If you are looking for an adventure and inspiration to get out to somewhere new this book will do that for you.

Safari is not only a book filled with many of the adventures of Geoffrey Kent as he has traveled the world creating and building unique and one of a kind journeys for clients, but one of a man’s dream to build a luxury tour company that gives people something new and different.  He started with virtually nothing and drained his parents accounts to buy the supplies necessary to start his first African Safari.

Not only does he tell of the African Safari trips, but his worldwide travel, building a business and his personal life. While building a camp at Chief’s Camp,  he goes to bed and is suddenly awakened by the load noises of an animal nearby.  He climbs out of bed to see a hyena chewing it’s way into his tent to get at him, scared and panicked he throws items at it and ultimately he chases it off.  The story raised the hair on my arms, it was so vivid I felt I was a silent observer in the corner of the tent.  His adventures flying over Iguazu Falls, backcountry trips into Alaska and his encounter with David Niven as he was in Egypt filming Agatha Christies “Death on the Nile, bring you along as though you feel you are seeing it with him.

Geoffrey is lucky enough to board the paddle-wheeler, Karnak as it is called in the movie, outside of the movie it is the SS Memnon, owned by a wealthy Egyptian man.  Geoffrey loves the boat and contacts the man who owns it to enter into a business contract to start offering his clients cruises on the Nile before they were popular.  The first trip is a disaster with no working toilets and smoke billowing out filling the boat.  Geoffrey offers his clients refunds and flights home, promising them that when he irons out the kinks, they are first to travel with A & K again.

Safari brings you along on all of his travels around the world without having to leave your home if you choose.

Yes, he does do some name dropping of celebrities and dignitaries that he has traveled with.  To some it may be a little off putting, but for those without that type of travel budget it is fun to see how the other half travel.

After Princess Diana’s tragic death, Prince Charles asks Geoffrey Kent to plan and take Prince Harry on another safari.  Hoping to help him death with the tragedy in his life, he plans the perfect trip and brings much joy to a brokenhearted young man.

Abercrombie and Kent is a company concerned about the environment and Geoffrey Kent has worked tirelessly to not leave a footprint in the areas they travel and he has created animal refuge’s in Africa.

I thoroughly enjoyed the business side of the book, the travels and learning more about what they do for my clients when traveling with them.  Some of the adventures he tells about are on my bucket list, while others I won’t see in my lifetime, but hope you do.

After reading the last page, I was inspired to pack my bags and just go, get out there and have another adventure.

The most important effect of travel is that it does in fact change a person’s life and their perspective on the world.  I don’t think he could have said any better.

If you choose to read the book, I hope you are inspired or at least love the travel adventures.  I am grateful he was encouraged to write the book and chose to share his passion with the reader’s.

Travel Safe,
Terri

 

 

 

 

 

O.C. Brews

Cheers!  After having explored quite a few Mom and Pop BBQ joints around Orange County, I thought it would be fun to share with you some favorite microbreweries in the O.C to go with the Q.

I have to admit, I am not a beer drinker, so what qualifies me to write about the micro brews you may wonder?  I visit with beer connoisseurs and many of these micro breweries offer more than beer, which should make you non-beer drinkers happy.

So let’s hit it,

The micro brewery culture has been around for a long time and they seem to be popping up everywhere and  Orange County, Ca has some great places to visit and try the local beers.

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Surf City, Huntington Beach has several and I haven’t been to them all, so watch for updates. ****See an Update on this brewery below.
Beach City Brewery is a fun spot and is the first brewery to land in Huntington Beach.  You won’t find ocean views, but a very cool spot with ocean breezes and no sand.  Located in an Industrial area about 3 to 4 miles from the beach, the microbrewery is a very relaxed, kickback, urban place to hang out.   The have a nice bar with picnic tables spread around the brewery where you can hang with friends.  The staff couldn’t be nicer and they are extremely helpful in guiding you to pick your favorite brews to try and maybe some you don’t typically drink, but will find you like.

The beer selection is really nice and they offer a variety of IPA’s, dark brews a few saissons and limited runs.

Follow them on Facebook to see Food trucks that may be partnering for an evening or fun event.

The brewery only serves beer, no wine and unless there is a food truck, they don’t have a kitchen to supply food.

Find them at http://www.beachcitybrewery.com/about-us/

Next stop is Barley Forge in Costa Mesa, Calif.

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Barley Forge is a hidden gem of sorts, located in a small industrial area off of Baker and Randolph St. in Costa Mesa,  you will find the craft brewery at the end of a building with limited parking, but don’t let that deter you.  They have a really nice tasting room and some very cool beers.

 

Grab a bag of popcorn  to help soak up the suds, water for those that prefer or house-made soda and wine for us non-beer drinkers.

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Barley Forge has a really nice food menu too, which makes it easy to spend a few hours.

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While the brewery is not a BBQ joint, let me tell you they have the best pulled pork sliders that compete with some of the best around the county.  You get 2 sliders per order and they are served on a nice soft roll, with tender, smokey pulled pork, a nice fresh crunchy slaw and a beer mustard sauce.

The Chili is pretty darn good too, and pairs perfectly with a nice dark ale.

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Pulled Pork Sliders

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Chili

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barley Forge:  http://barleyforge.com/

Heading on in to Inland Orange County, our next stop is The Bruery in Placentia, CA.

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The Bruery is another spot that is a bit  hidden in an industrial area, but is right off the 57 freeway and Orangethorpe, on Dunn Way.  You can’t miss the silo with The Bruery painted on the top.

The Bruery has a nice size tasting room and it fills quickly.  There are a lot of tables and nice long bar.  The room is filled with barrels, tables, and a lot of dark woods to warm up the joint.

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First head to the bar to make your selections and take your tasting tray to a table and settle in for a few hours. They have some nice beer and at the time we were there they were offering a few limited brews which were nice and smokey and aged in bourbon barrels.

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They do bring in Food trucks on weekends, check their schedules online or Facebook. My only disappointment was the lack of enthusiasm with the bartenders, they didn’t seem to want to interact, explain their beers or care about what you preferred.  This is the first time we have encountered this type of staff, it’s a bummer.

The Bruery:  http://www.thebruery.com/

Our last stop for today is Bootlegger’s Brewery in Fullerton, CAIMG_20160416_100240 IMG_20160416_100245

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Located near downtown Fullerton on the outskirts of the SoCo district, on Highland Ave., off Commonwealth, this microbrewery has some fantastic beer.  The urban area has lots shops, little cafe’s and eateries nearby in downtown Fullerton.  The outdoor patio space is perfect for a warm summer afternoon, of lounging and enjoying a cold one.

The Black Phoenix Stout is one of their most popular beers and is offered year’round.  It is a nice thick dark coffee and chipotle stout and pairs perfectly with grilled or smoked meats, brie and Gouda cheese. Buy a few bottles, head home and grill yourself a burger with brie cheese and you have a great summer meal.

They don’t serve anything other than beer, and no food.  However, right next door is Two Saucy Broads Pizza.  You can call on your cell phone and order a pizza and they will deliver, or get yourself up and walk or stumble across the parking lot and pick up a slice or two.  I can tell you the beer with the pizza, yum!!  The Pizza by itself is pretty amazing too.  Voted one of the best pizza places in Orange County.

Bootlegger’s:  http://www.bootleggersbrewery.com/

Two Saucy Broads: http://www.twosaucybroadspizza.com/

I hope that gives you a few to try and have fun.  There are quite a few more on the list and over the next month, we are going to set out again, try them and I will add more for your list.

Until next time, Cheers!
Terri

*** We went out brewery hopping today for the next blog post.  Got to talking to a couple of people and learned that Beach City Brewery is now closed permanently.  A bit of a disappointment, it was a cool spot.  It has been purchased by Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach.  Great BBQ by the way.  They are going to use the brewery to brew only, there won’t be a tasting room.  So check this one off your list, it is to late to visit.

 

5 Books to Inspire Travel

Happy April!  Spring is here and I don’t know about you, but I have the travel bug.  I need to go somewhere.

I am going to break with tradition a little today.  Usually I am writing about destinations, museums, great food, restaurants and beer or wine spots; anything travel related.

Today, let’s chat a little about 5 of my favorite books that have inspired me to travel and I hope they will help you too.  Let’s get started….

All the Light We Cannot See 1. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This beautiful novel is set in Saint-Malo, an ancient walled city on the coast of France.  The story takes place in France during World War II and in 2015 it won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Andrew Carnegie medal for excellence in Fiction.  Living in Paris during the war; a father takes his blind daughter and flees to Saint-Malo to a big house by the sea; Her path crosses the path of a German boy and they struggle to survive the destruction of the war.  A visit to Saint-Malo is off the beaten path, interesting and full of history.

Saint-Malo, France

Saint-Malo, France

My Life in France2.  My Life in France by Julia Child
When one thinks of France many images and thoughts come to mind.  For me, it’s food, wine and French Chef’s.  Julia Child broke through many barriers and writes of her time in France, arriving with her husband Paul in 1948.  She spoke no French and knew nothing of the people or the culture.  Yet, Julia dove head first into the French lifestyle and immersed herself into the lives of the people and their culture.  She bought from local markets, meeting and getting to know the local merchants, she studied at the prestigious Cordon Bleu, changing her life forever, and bringing her love of France and French cooking to us all.  As you read her story, you can’t help but fall in love with France, and the food. 

Coffee with croissants against Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society3.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I loved this book and I hope you do too.  After reading this book, it has inspired me to add Guernsey to my bucket list. 
The book is set both in London and Guernsey, an island in the Channel Islands off the British Coast.  These are the only British territories that were occupied by German soldiers during the war.  Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is written as a series of letters; where you will learn of the people and their struggles with the German soldiers and the island they call home.  Walking in Guernsey and following Juliet’s footsteps will bring the book to life.

If you are on a cruise in the British Isles and St. Peter’s port is one of your ports of call, read the book on a sea day and then experience the beauty of the island.

Saint Peter Port, Guernsey

Saint Peter Port, Guernsey

4.  No Reservations, Around the World on an Empty Stomach, by Anthony Bourdain

Okay, this book was published back in 2007 and really was written as a companion book to the TV show by the same name.
Love him or not, this is a great book showcasing his sarcastic personality which I love.  No Reservations really gives you a front seat to hit the road with the man himself.
From New Zealand to the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S and all points in between, this book is full of photos to capture the destinations and the food devoured along the way.  You  learn so much about a country and it’s culture through the food and people and that is what Anthony Bourdain does best.  Travel and Eat, the two best things in the world.

Safari by Geoffrey Kent5.  Safari by Geoffrey Kent

I am reading this book now and let me share with you, I am now ready to head out on safari after reading Geoffrey Kent’s descriptions and experiences.

The book is written by a Travel Pioneer and adventurer.  The Kent family started the luxury travel company, Abercrombie and Kent and Geoffrey Kent still serves as the CEO. The story he writes is of his childhood running through the African bush, packing up and heading across the continent as a kid on a motorcycle and the adventures and the people he meets along the way.

The stories of his travels while creating a luxury travel company is fascinating and you feel as though he is bringing you along on the adventure.  Having worked with Abercrombie and Kent, their trips are life changing.  They offer one of a kind experiences that will take you to the wild edges of the world.  I have so much respect for the company that Geoffrey Kent built and am enjoying the book.  If you read it, you are going to finish it with wanting to pack your bags and go.

I hope this gives you a few fun reads whether you are reading them sitting on your balcony overlooking a crystal clear ocean, sitting on your balcony while on a cruise staring out at an endless ocean, sitting by the pool or on an adventure, let them inspire you to get out there.

Safe travels,
Terri