Friday, November 28, 2014

North Carolina is for Winos

Shelton Vineyards at sunset. Photos by Marcia Biggs
So many travels, so little time. The Getaway Girl  has some catching up to do! On a long summer weekend I found myself back in North Carolina to explore the wine region of the Yadkin Valley. Just a few hours northwest of Raleigh in the Appalachian foothills, the Yadkin Valley is gaining recognition  as an up-and-coming wine region. Some 40  (and growing) vineyards and wineries are now in operation year-round in the valley. Most are open to the public on weekends for tastings; some even have restaurants offering everything from five-star dining to pizza.

Actually, across the state of North Carolina, wineries have been multiplying steadily in the last decade in three viticultural areas which provide ideal climate, elevation and soil for growing grapes.  Savvy entrepreneurs are taking a leap of faith and turning farms and former tobacco fields into vineyards, creating a wine industry and attracting tourists at the same time.

The scenery around Round Peak looks like Napa Valley!
 Touring Yadkin Valley wineries can be a fun and relaxing weekend getaway and a chance to explore the many charming towns, arts and culture of Surry County.  No need to be a wine connoisseur to plan your own Yadkin Valley Wine Trail. Make your home base in Dobson, NC, at the modern, centrally located Hampton Inn & Suites at Shelton Vineyards. If it's fall, you'll  be able to enjoy the wine harvest and those famous North Carolina fall colors!

 All of these wineries are within an hour’s drive:
  •   Just a few miles up the road from the Hampton Inn lies the venerable Shelton Vineyards. Considered the godfathers of area wineries, the Shelton brothers, Charlie and Ed, opened the valley’s flagship winery in 1999. It’s now the largest family owned estate winery in the state. Plan to take a tour, enjoy a walk along the lake and treat yourself to an amazing dinner at the Harvest Grill. Ask for a table on the patio to enjoy an exquisite sunset over the vineyards.
  •   Head over to historic downtown Elkin for an afternoon of browsing the quaint antique shops and a stop at Brushy Mountain Winery located right on Main Street. With its jazz club ambiance, this intimate wine bar is all about charming –  and a delightful surprise for its knock-out wines.
  • At Elkin Creek Vineyard you’ll find yourself in a modern tavern surrounded by vineyards. On the grounds are an historic mill, cabins and meandering river. Brick oven pizzas are served on weekends from an authentic wood fired oven.
  •      You’ll think you’re in Napa Valley with the rolling vineyard views from  Round Peak Vineyards in Mount Airy. Gorgeous vistas from the back patio, outstanding wine (and craft beer) selections, and lots of locals who gather here on weekends to hang out and sip make this one stop you won’t want to leave. 
  • The tasting room at Jolo Winery
             Plan to stay a while when you visit the beautiful JOLO Winery and Vineyards in Pilot Mountain. Set in a gated estate on a small lake with a view of the mountain, JOLO entices with an outdoor patio perfect for relaxing and a comfortable tasting room with a view of the open kitchen. On weekends, the intimate End Post restaurant offers prix-fixe gourmet dinners prepared by executive chef Brian Brown. 

    Wineries are open year-round, however may close for a few weeks during winter season. Be sure to call before you go. For more information on Yadkin Valley wineries and traveling to this area of Surry County NC, visit


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rocky Mountaineer: Seattle to Banff Canada via Luxury Rail

Come along with me on a train ride along the Puget Sound north of Seattle and east from Vancouver into the Canadian Rockies ... all in 4 short minutes.

For more information on the Rocky Mountaineer, go to

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cayman Islands: In Love With Sea Turtles

Breeding Lagoon
The Getaway Girl and her family took a cruise to the Caribbean this spring, landing in Cayman Islands one day. Since I love being one with nature and wild critters, the highlight of the trip was on Cayman Islands where we visited the CaymanTurtle Farm and the famous Stingray City sandbar for some uno-y-uno with the giant stingrays. (See Stringray City posting).

Nesting Beach
I am glad to say the Cayman Turtle Farm is not an accurate name. Thinking it would be a big pond full of turtles in someone's backyard (hey, it's the islands, mon), I was surprised to find the "turtle farm" is actually a large, 23-acre modern marine park and research center  dedicated to sea turtle breeding -- along with a marine  education center, an aviary, a nature trail ... and the largest swimming pool on the island. It's owned and managed by the Cayman Island government, which obviously helps with funding and establishing this facility as a world-renowned sea turtle research center.

Upon entering the park, I was astounded by a massive lagoon filled with hundreds of sea turtles! Across from the viewing area is a long, sandy beach for the females to lay their eggs. Our guide said this "breeding pond"  holds several hundred female green sea turtles and about 100 males. The staff monitors the beach each morning to see if there are any new nests. If so, they remove the eggs, they are incubated, and within a few months new baby sea turtles are born.

Cute little guy!
Each year, thousands of hatchlings are tagged and released back into the warm waters of the Caribbean. This tagging method is tremendously significant as it is the only method whereby a tiny sea turtle hatchling may be identified as a 300 pound adult more than 15 years later on a nesting beach. This tagging may allow scientists to discover whether or not sea turtles actually return to the beach from which they hatch to nest.

In addition to the green sea turtles, the farm has a large collection of holding tanks where they have rescued and care for loggerhead and even rare kemp's ridley turtles. There's even a "touch tank" where visitors can hold young sea turtles ... guaranteed to give  a  warm, fuzzy feeling.

For more information, on the Cayman Turtle Farm, go to