Los Angeles

La Brea Tar Pits – Did you know that there has been a big archeological dig in the middle of LA? The La Brea Tar Pits is the location where ice aged animal fossils have been found. Research has shown that animals got stuck in tar, and the archeologists have been able to recover their fossils. My husband was excited to go, and my children thought it was “pretty cool.” Surrounding it is a very pretty park. http://www.tarpits.org

Warner Brothers Studio Tour – I researched all of the possible movie studios, and this one was the most appealing to me for the price, and the shows and movies that have been filmed there. I am not a big movie buff, but I do love the television shows such as Friends, Big Bang Theory, and Two and a Half Men. The $60.00 priced ticket seemed like a lot to me, but when we left four hours later, I realized that it was so well worth it. You get to walk onto actual sets, and get a lot of the Hollywood movie making and television secrets. The tour guides and staff are enthusiastic and make the experience a lot of fun. The highlights of the tour for me included sitting on the actual set of the Friends “Central Perk” set, and the very cool batman cars, motorcycles, and toys.

ETIQUETTE TIP: Do not speak while the tour guide is speaking, and try to refrain from commenting on every single thing during the tour. Remember that others are trying to enjoy the tour too.



Batman exhibit

Batman exhibit

Batman exhibit

Batman exhibit

The Central Perk recreated from the Friends set

The Central Perk recreated from the Friends set

Los Angeles area

If you like history, politics, or presidential trivia, then I highly suggest the Nixon Library & Museum.


The only negative I would give you is that there is not a lot to do geographically around the library.

The library is currently under reconstruction, so we only saw part of the library. They have a lot of interesting artifacts and pictures from the Nixon years in the White House. They was also an interesting film to watch on the history of Nixon’s whole political career. You can also go to the original house that President Nixon lived in as a child, as well as the Presidential helicopter he flew off in after leaving the White House. I would love to go back when the whole reconstruction is finished. It is scheduled to be fully reopen in October 2016.

One thing that is close by is the Angels Stadium.  The stadium is old, but it was fun watching the game. If you are a baseball fan then you can go and check it off of your list. Otherwise, I do not think there is anything so spectacular to see.

Hollywood, CA

My main objective of this trip was to do dorky “touristy” things. This included the Walk of Fame near the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. While looking on the ground at all of the “Stars” we passed by the Disney Ghirardelli ice cream shop. Best place ever to wander into! They have Disney character toys and accessories, and AWESOME ice cream sundaes, brownies, etc… My kids were so happy stopping there, I cannot even tell you – and they are teenagers! So, I am sure young children (or any aged person) would think it was great.  And seeing the entertainment people’s stars was fun too!

Venice Beach in Los Angeles, CA

Venice Beach, aka “Muscle” Beach is a great place to take your children (or yourself) if you feel like you have lived a sheltered life. From the homeless tents, to the different types of people, you will find it very eye-opening. It is called “Muscle” Beach because there is a section with outdoor weight lifting, basketball, hand ball, skate board park, etc… We rented bikes, and went up and down the strip.

ETIQUETTE TIP: When biking, if you are going slow, stay to the right. If you need to pass people, please do so on the left. Also, people are not aware of their surroundings, which I consider a breach of good etiquette – a lot of people were walking in the bike lane. It made it a lot harder to bike since you had to dodge pedestrians.

There are also a lot of little t-shirt type shops, and vendors set up selling unusual items. And yes, you can actually lay out on the beach and enjoy the water and sunshine.

San Diego and Mission Beach

Day 2:
Mission Beach – We headed down to Mission Beach around 10:00 am, and it was already getting crowded, since it was a Saturday. We rented bikes and enjoyed biking up and down the strip along the beach. We needed to eat lunch early since we had to get to America’s Cup boat by 12:30. One thing I noticed about San Diego is they are really into breakfast, and eat it late. We had a hard time finding a place that served lunch at 11:00. Very fun beach with a lot of activities to choose from for people of all ages.

America’s Cup – Dennis Conner is the sailor who dominated yacht racing for over a decade. A few retired men bought one of the “America Cup” boats, called Stars and Stripes. You can pay to get on the boat, and have a cool experience of being one of the crew, or just relax and enjoy sailing. Our boys thought getting to do some of the things that the crew does is cool. I was glad that they now have had a little experience sailing. They said it was “a lot more fun that they expected.”

San Diego and LaJolla California

Day 1:
USS Midway Museum – If you like World War II facts, or any kind of military experiences, then this will be a lot of fun for you and your family. I am not into either one, but I was pleasantly surprised how cool it was. It is a giant ship that has fighter planes on the deck, and like a “little city” below in the living quarters. What was interesting to me was where people actually slept, and how they lived on this ship. It has not been part of the military since the early 1990s, so you can get a docent tour, audio tour, and just walk around and read all of the interesting things about the ship and our history. http://www.midway.org/

LaJolla Beach – We had every intention of going snorkeling and kayaking, however we arrived to to helicopters overhead, and everyone lined up looking in the water. There was a missing diver, and no one was permitted to participate in any water sports for the rest of the day. There are a lot of quaint boutiques and shops in the area.

Restaurants: We ate at a restaurant called The Spot, which had great service, and a variety of food such as salads, burgers, etc…

Petco Park baseball stadium – home of the San Diego Padres
We ended the day with a baseball game at Petco Park, and watched the San Diego Padres defeat the San Francisco Giants. The stadium was pretty nice, but nothing really stood out architecturally. But the fans were awesome, and the music and atmosphere was rocking. A lot of fun.

London, England

London, March 2016

We arrived very tired, since it is hard to sleep on the plane. We never like to go to sleep during the waking hours of where we arrive, so we tried our best to stay active and awake. Our first activity was a double decker bus tour. There are several around, and it was nice to get a lay of the land while sitting back. They also have ear phones that you can plug in to hear the tour information. We went to bed early, and hoped to get an early start the next morning.

Parliament – Check to see when tours are available. You cannot tour it when Parliament is in session. We were able to get a guided tour on a Saturday, and it was very interesting and informative. Our teenagers did not LOVE it, but they stayed engaged. A lot of moving around and walking. I think this kept our children’s interest. The building is beautiful to look at, and the history of everything was fascinating. This ended up being my favorite activity.

Restaurant – The police officer who was at the exit of Parliament, suggested the Marquis of Granby pub and restaurant. He said we would, “not be disappointed,” and we were not.

Westminster Abby – We are Episcopalian, so attending a Church of England service was a treat. Even if you are Episcopalian, attending this church service may be enjoyable. The 10:00 service is mostly all sung by the famous Westminster Abby choir, so if you are uncomfortable with going to a church that you are not familiar with what to do, this is the service for you.

The London Eye Ferris wheel – A great view of the city. There is no need to do the “fast pass.” It looked crowded, but we got through the line pretty fast. 21 pounds, or 31 pounds for the “fast past.” For those who do not want to go, there is a café with food and beverages, including a Champagne Bar.

Victoria and Albert Museum – This is a very impressive museum, which you could spend a month in to see everything. From jewelry, to furniture, to sculptures, stain glass, paintings, and more, you will get a lot of enjoyment out of this free museum. They have some interactive things to do, such as create your own family crest on the computer, and your own stain glass design, which my teenagers really enjoyed. There is also a really good café, with a lot of stations and eating choices. I highly recommend this museum to anyone.

Windsor Palace – Fun place to visit. You learn a lot about Queen Victoria and her husband Albert. You visit their private apartments, as well as a couple other royal couples. The most elaborate one is the King’s Apartment, so I would do that last. While There is also a special exhibit going on right now with fashion from Princess Diana, Princess Ann (the current Queen’s sister), and Queen Elizabeth. Fun to see old pictures of Princess Diana, and her actual outfits. You can tour the outside gardens, which includes a Princess Diana memorial. Their café is just okay. Very expensive for adults to get in, but children 15 and under are free. A great place to take a picture is in front of the elaborate gate.

Harrods – This famous department store did not let me down. Being from Dallas I was not needing to purchase anything from the many designer options, so I went straight to the gift section. There are so many Harrods bags, bears, and accessories to choose from, that I had a hard time deciding. A great place for fun souvenirs and gifts. Also if you love shopping and live in a city that you cannot see all the great designer clothing, china, cosmetics, fragrances, etc… then you will be in shopping heaven!

Oxford University – Monday we went to visit Oxford University. I pictured us walking around the campus, like you would any other university campus. I naively did not realize all of the amazing things that they had to offer. They have organized tours of all sorts, and activities that could keep you busy for a few days. We bought tickets for a bus company called CitySightseeing Oxford Hop on Hop Off, where you could hop on and off all day. They had a map that gave you information on what you could get at each stop. For example, we started at Stop 3, which had a lot of restaurants. We then went to Stop 7, which was Christ Church, which was not only a beautiful church to look at, but had an art museum with traditional religious art. They will give you a list of places to go, and you can see what interests your group. I would say the highlight of our tour was seeing the dining hall that was the inspiration for the Harry Potter movies. I was holding out to go to the University bookstore, picturing it like a huge bookstore in the states, with sweatshirts, etc… However, there were just books, and a small selection of fun apparel and logo items. I suggest finding any other store close by for a bigger selection of logo items.

Tower of London – From crowned jewels, to seeing where Henry XIII kept prisoners, such as several wives before they were beheaded, I highly recommend putting this on your list. We reluctantly took a tour at the beginning, and we were pleasantly surprised at Dave, our very fun Beefeater tour guide. He was very animated in telling us everything that was on site to see. You could spend a lot of time here, and I think every moment of it was worth it.

Westminster Abby Verger led tour – A verger is a lay minister of the church. He is always extremely knowledgeable, and at a church as important and famous as Westminister Abby, he gave a lot of history about the church, and the interesting people buried there. If you are not familiar with European churches, know that in the old days, wealthy people paid a lot of money to have a space to get buried in nice churches. Often it is a side room with a sort of shrine to the person, or sometimes a spot in the middle of the church. We were most surprised to learn that Charles Darwin was buried in this church. This is the church where coronations are held, and where Prince William and Kate Middleton got married.

Churchill Museum – If you have ever visited a presidential library, think of that, times five. The Churchill Museum has the original rooms where Prime Minister Churchill and his staff hid out and worked during World War II. In the middle of the 30 Audio Tour stops, there is a museum, which is so detailed, you may not retain all of the information. You could visit this spot several times, and learn something new each time. There are some cool high-tech and interactive things that my sons enjoyed. I will say that I wish that was the only thing that we did that day, because it was great, but mentally draining.

My son is a huge soccer fan, so my husband was lucky to get tickets to an important Liverpool (his favorite team) game. He and my son took a train to Liverpool, and my dad and step-mother went with them, so they could take a Beatles tour. My husband is not a huge Beatles fan, but he said it was interesting to get a tour. That left me with my two younger sons to do what we please. My middle son is a “sneaker head,” so he located every Nike in London, and begged to go. I thought this would be a good day to do it. We went to NikeTown, which is the largest Nike store in the world. He did not find anything unique, but I think it is cool that he got to see the largest Nike in the world. Luckily for me, NikeTown is close to a well-known department store called Selfridges. Both are on the Oxford Circus street.

Selfridges – An historic department store that I was so glad that I saw. It is not quite as nice as Harrods, but still very fun to go through. A lot of designer clothing, but more affordable ones too. Two of my sons and I spent some time in the large chocolate section. They gave out amazing samples of chocolate, and we ended up buying some delicious chocolates and macaroons.

Hampton Castle – This took us a little over an hour to get to by train, but it was worth it. I have read the The Other Boleyn Girl, and seeing where Henry and all of his six wives spent most of their time, was really exciting. The elaborateness and beauty of the castle and the grounds is what you picture when you think of a castle. I would definitely put this on my list.

Buckingham Palace – We did not get to tour inside. If the Royal family is currently residing there, it is not open to the public. (They move from castle to castle.) However, it is worth going to the front of the gates to take a picture, and see the balcony that they wave to the people from.

Windsor Palace – A castle that the Royal Family lives in part of the year. This will not disappoint if you like castles. Very elaborately decorated, you can see where Queen Elizabeth hosts various important dignitaries from around the world. They also have a cool doll house that one of the queens was given as a gift. It is a replica of the palace.

London Etiquette
Small things to note if you visit:
• We took the subway everywhere, and in the subway stations are a lot of escalators. Escalator etiquette in London is stand on the right side if you are going to ride it without being mobile. People on the left side will walk up or down.

• Tip around 12% in restaurants.
• At restaurants, they will not take your drink order right away, bring your drinks, and then come back to take your food order. They will delay getting to the table, and will take them both at once.
• I was very surprised that men and children did not offer their subway seat to ladies. There was a woman who offered her seat to my step-mother. I thought that was very impressive. If you have children with you, I think this is a great teaching moment in telling them to hop up from their seats, if ladies or older people get on the subway.

To our surprise, the Indian food is what London has become known for. Ask around your area to see what people suggest. Being with three non-adventurous children when it comes to eating, I do not have a lot of great restaurants to recommend.

The two places that I would suggest is:
Dishoom; 3 Stable Street; London; NIC 4AB; 02070420-9321
It is amazing Indian Food in the King’s Cross area. It tooks us 3 times to get in. It was an 1 ½ hour wait the first two times. We finally got smart and went at 5:00 pm. We were lucky to get in at that time. Apparently it is the hot spot to get Indian food!

The second place is Grain Store. It is next to Dishoom, and so we went there because it was the only choice next to Dishoom. We saw the menu, and had to read it and re-read it for something that we liked. It is super healthy – all organic, a lot of vegan, etc… I tried the chili, and it was amazing! My husband, dad and stepmom all loved what they had too!

Accommodations: My father and step-mother always rent an apartment from this website: https://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p1131362
We have always had a great experience with them.

Napa, California

Napa, California is one of our favorite places on earth! Daniel compiled these notes, and I think they are great for those who are visiting the Napa area for the first time, or for the 10th. Before you go, I suggest watching the movie Bottle Shock. It will let you know the history of Napa, and how they got on the map. Cheers!

Since Napa offers such a relaxing atmosphere, we prefer to stay at a less expensive hotel versus a nicer, high end hotel. Most of our time was spent driving around to the various wineries or at restaurants, so we spent very little time in the hotel. Two that are convenient (both are right on Hwy 29) are:

Hilton Garden Inn Marriott
3585 Solano Ave. 3425 Solano Ave.
Napa, CA 94558 Napa, CA 94558
707-252-0444 707.253.8600

Car Rental
The weather in Napa can be absolutely gorgeous….therefore we prefer to rent a convertible. However, reserving a convertible is expensive. Here’s how I get around it – Get a reservation at 2 or 3 car rental agencies at the airport (we usually fly into San Francisco) for a standard or intermediate size car. Once you check in, ask the agent if they have any convertibles available….they usually do, and will typically upgrade you for only a few dollars more than for the one you reserved (and much less than if you had reserved a convertible initially).

The reason I have reservations at 2 or 3 agencies are for several reasons…..once you arrive, occasionally an agency doesn’t have a convertible available, so move to the next available agency. Secondly, the SFO airport can be extremely busy, and I’ve seen one agency with a huge line, while another had no waiting.

However, if you do not have a designated driver for the days you are doing a lot of wine tastings, I suggest parking the car at the hotel, and downloading the Uber app. The Napa police have gotten very strict about drinking and driving.

We usually drive the western route through San Francisco to go over the Golden Gate Bridge and through downtown San Francisco.

This also takes us to the splitting point for roads that go to Sonoma and Napa. Our first stop is at Gloria Ferrer, a sparkling wine vineyard. Sit on the patio, enjoy the sparkling wine along with their spicy almonds. It’s a great start to your time in the wine country!

Another stop just down the road is Domaine Carneros, another sparkling wine vineyard. The grounds and building are gorgeous, and worth the stop for another drink. Hey….that’s why you are here, so drink up!

Helpful WebsitesNapa Valley Wineries – an interactive map that has links to every winery. This will allow you to plan out your tastings. It helps to have tastings in the same general area so you are not crisscrossing all over Napa.


My personal preference is red wine….specifically Cabernet and Bordeaux-style blend, so my suggestions are biased toward wineries that primarily produce these types of wine. As for white wine, my theory has always been – “The best white wine is a red wine.” ☺

Highly Recommended
Cliff Lede
Elyse – ask for Rick, and tell him the McVeigh’s sent you!
Chateau Montelena

Joseph Phelps
Nickel & Nickel
Robert Mondavi (for first timers only)

Cult wineries, go just to say you went and get a souvenir
Stag’s Leap
Silver Oak

Don’t Bother
V. Sattui
Robert Mondavi (unless this is your first time visit)

Sparkling Wine – aka, Champagne!

Highly Recommended
Gloria Ferrer

Domaine Carneros
Domain Chandon

It’s hard not to find a good/great restaurant in Napa. Some of the best chefs in the world have opened operations here, and many of the places use fresh, locally grown ingredients. With great wine must come great food. Pick your palate – French, Italian, steaks, seafood, or yes…..even burgers or an old fashioned made-to order deli sandwich.

Highly Recommended
6525 Washington St.
Yountville, CA
6534 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94599
738 Main St.
St. Helena, CA

Gott’s Roadside (Burgers)
933 Main St.
St. Helena, CA 94574

587 St. Helena Hwy South
St. Helena, CA 94574

Oakville Grocery
7856 St. Helena Hwy (Hwy 29)
Oakville, CA 94562

Cook (St Helena)
1310 Main St.
St. Helena, CA

Martini House (closed)
1245 Spring St. (@ Oak)
St. Helena, CA 94574

Don’t Bother
-none yet

Heard good reviews, but haven’t been here
Bistro Don Giovanni
4110 Howard Lane (St. Helena Hwy)
Napa, CA 94558

The French Laundry
6640 Washington St.
Yountville, CA94599

Carpe Diem
Downtown Napa


Winery Notes (Alphabetical)
Baldacci – small, family owned winery across from an old red schoolhouse. Very friendly staff. Their IV Sons Cabernet is a great value, especially if you buy it on at close out prices (I’ve gotten it for as little as $15/bottle)

Boyd – Small winery, wine is good, kinda off the beaten path. Stan is building a good reputation for his wine, and tastings are on his front porch. He and his wife live on the winery grounds, and enjoys a good cigar if you are inclined to share one with him!

Buehler – Family owned. Page Buehler met us at the door as we arrived, and walked us around the property and had a 1-on-1 tasting with him. Since they are such a small operation (10-15 employees, including family), don’t be surprised if they cannot accommodate a tasting or tour, as they run a very lean operation. Great history of the property, and an absolutely great value wine as noted in Wine Spectator.

Chappellet – Gorgeous property at the top of Pritchard Hill, and the drive back down the mountain after the tasting is probably one of the most scenic in Napa. Great wines, and their staff is unbelievable friendly and helpful. The tasting is with a small group, and is in the storage area, so the temperature will be cool…..dont worry, they have jackets/light coats for anyone who needs warmth.

Chateau Montelena – This is the winery that put Napa on the world wine map. Historic property. Be sure to watch the movie “Bottle Shock” before going to Montelena, as it is the story of how they won the 1976 wine competition in Paris that sent shock waves around the wine world.

Cliff Lede – Beautifully landscaped property with topiaries, and a great art collection. Their covered outdoor tasting area is scenic and relaxing.

Darioush – Too over the top and commercial for me. The manse of a structure seems out of place in Napa. We signed up for a “Private Tasting with artisanal cheeses” of their reserve wines @ $50 a person, and were shocked to see that we were being joined by approximately 30 other people. We bolted and got a refund.

Elyse – One of our absolutely favorite places, and not just because my name is Elise! Small and family owned, tasting room is no frills, but they make consistent, very good wines. A great place to start your tastings as you are heading up Hwy 29.

Garjuilo – Subtle property from the road, but opens up to a wonderful view from a small hill once you are at the house. Wines are great, and the staff is very helpful. Screaming Eagle wine is supposedly sourced from the grapes on the other side of the fence from Garjuilo.

Girard – Love their wines, but their tasting room is in town, so you don’t get the ambiance of tasting their wines on the vineyard. Great wines, good value.

Hall – Two separate properties and tasting opportunities. The main property is for the general public. The other property is at the Hall’s house and is used for small private tastings ($50). Great wine produced by a couple from Dallas.

Joseph Phelps – Icon of Napa. Wines are great, but expensive (you buy the name/reputation), the back of the property for the tasting overlooks a valley and is very scenic. Staff seemed to be a little snotty/arrogant.

Kuleto – A unique, breathtaking property at the top of the Hennessey Basin mountins. The drive up/down the mountain is not for the faint of heart – a narrow, winding road takes you up to the estate. The tour is not your typical wine tour, but of the property to see the spectacular views and hear the history and significance of the estate. The wines are very good, and the tasting is done with cheese and crackers. Staff is very energetic and knowledgeable.

Mai(s)onry – A tasting room for a consortium of wines.

Merryvale – A bit more ‘commercial’, but not too much. Tasting room people are very fun and engaging. Wine is good all across the board. I actually bought a Savignon Blanc (I RARELY buy white wine). They have a gift store with lots of wine-oriented trinkets for purchase.

Miner – On Silverado trail just north of Oakville Crossroad. I wasn’t impressed with the wine or the staff.

Peju – The tasting room guys are absolutely hilarious….Scott Neumann was our guy. Very engaging, and he even sang to us. The winery is a bit commercial and has a good-sized store trinkets. Wine is ok, but worth the ‘fun factor’ due to the tasting room guys.

Plumpjack – Small tasting room and the staff was friendly. Wines are really good.

Robert Mondavi – If you have never been to Napa, this is the best place to start, as they give one of the best tours of how wine is made from ground to glass. After that, it’s another Wal-Mart of wineries. They have some good reserve wines, but you have to fight the masses during your visit.

Silver Oak – The “Mecca” for uninformed wine people. Wine is ok, but they are still pricing it based on their past accolades. It’s a tasting factory there, as everyone wants to stop by Silver Oak, so you will be one of the masses, and there is little personal interaction with the staff, as they are too busy trying to accommodate everyone pouring into the tasting room.

Stag’s Leap – Another cult winery that has good wine, but albeit overpriced based on their past accolades. Tasting room staff were arrogant and seemed as if we were bothering them. Not worth the $25 tasting fee.

V. Sattui – The Wal-Mart of tasting rooms. They have a ton of different wines, along with a good food market, but you will be there with the masses.

Sparkling Wine Notes (Alphabetical)
Domaine Carneros – Could be your second stop from SFO to Napa just after Gloria Ferrar. It is located in a beautiful French chateau building with gorgeous landscaping. Order the sparkling wine flight on the patio, and imagine you are in France.

Domain Chandon – The most commercial of all the sparkling wineries. Tastes really good, but you are part of the masses.

Gloria Ferrer – A wonderful place to stop on your way from SFO up to Napa. The patio overlooks the beauty of the vineyard. Great staff, and their seasoned almonds are to die for!

Schramsberg – I was initially put off by the fact that we were required to take a tour in order to taste the sparkling wines…….trust me, it is worth it! Completely different than any wine tour, you go down into the caves, and see the sparkling wines in storage.

Mumm’s – A great place to end the day, as they stay open later than most. Stop by for a drink before heading off to dinner or passing out at your hotel. It has a very fun atmosphere.

Restaurant Notes (Alphabetical)
Bottega – Italian. A fun and casual atmosphere. Chef Michael Chiarello does a fantastic job with Italian fare. Great place to relax and have comfort food after a long day of wine-tasting. Relaxing outdoor patio. Located in Yountville.

Bouchon – French. Tom Keller’s elegant, white-table cloth restaurant, and a notch down from the fru-fru French Laundry cousin in town, and you’ll swear you are in Paris. Romantic. Staff was very attentive. Extensive list of French wine (along with Napa wines) as well as a long list of fromage choices. Located in Yountville.

Cook – Italian. Simple restaurant. Good, solid rich Northern Italian cuisine. Relaxed atmosphere. Located in St. Helena.

Farmstead – Seasonal American. You feel like you are back home in the country, with large portions, and hearty food. Most (if not all) ingredients are grown locally and organic, making everything very fresh and delicious. Lively atmosphere, can be very casual. Great outdoor seating area, and they make a very strong cocktail! ☺ Located in St. Helena.

Gott’s Roadside – Burgers. Oh. My. God. There will be a long line, and yes, it’s worth the wait. Don’t worry, the line actually goes pretty quickly. Don’t be surprised to see people having their burger with a $100 bottle of wine next to you. That’s how Napa rolls. Located in St. Helena.

Oakville Grocery – Sandwiches/refreshments. You’ll step back in time when you walk through the doors. Everything is fresh, made to order, and the proportions are usually more than you can eat in one meal. Stop by to grab a sandwich in between wine tastings, and find a picnic table at the next winery to enjoy your meal. It’s the oldest continual grocery store in the state of California. Located in St. Helena.

Press – Steak/Seafood. If you are looking for a staple, this is about as close to a Dallas steakhouse as you will get. Atmosphere can either be fun and noisy, or elegant and quiet, depending on the time/day you are there. Located in St. Helena.


No need to tip the people who pour you the wine. If you pay for a tasting, do not feel obligated to buy any if you do not like it. If you do not, then buy at least a bottle, or a trinket in the gift shop. Also do not feel obligated in any circumstance to join a vinyard’s wine club.

Barcelona, Spain

March 2015, my family was fortunate enough to travel to Barcelona, Spain. The great thing about Barcelona is that there is a lot to do, but it is not overwhelming like a lot of countries can be. For example, in Paris, just visiting The Louvre could take a month to go through. The people of Barcelona are very friendly and nice, and laid back. It was a great place to travel for our family.

Places to See
Sagrada Familia by architect Gaudi   Sagrada Information
La Sagrada Familia is one of Gaudí’s most famous works in Barcelona. It’s a giant Basilica that has been under construction since 1882 and it’s not expected to be completed for some time yet. Definitely purchase tickets ahead of time.

Aquarium – Price $24.00   Aquarium Ticket Information
L’Aquàrium de Barcelona is one of the most important marine leisure and education centers in the world relating to the Mediterranean. 

A series of 35 tanks, 11,000 animals and 450 different species, an underwater tunnel 80 metres long, six million liters of water and an immense Oceanarium, the only one in Europe, turn this Center into a unique, reference leisure show that has already been visited by more than 14 million people. 

The combination of information, entertainment and education characterises L’Aquàrium’s programme. 

Important information : 
- Opening hours: July and August: 9:30 am to 23:00 p.m. June, September and weekends: 9:30 am to 21:30 p.m. Rest of the year: 9:30 am to 21:00 p.m. (Admissions until 1 hour before closing) 
- Children under 3 have free entrance. Child prices apply for children between 4 and 12 years. 13 years and older are adults
Soccer Game

Montserrat    Montserrat Information
The city of Montserrat its very scenic with beautiful hills and mountains. Things to see include the old Monastery and the wine country. There is an amazing church at the monastery that has a statue of Madonna and Child that has turned black. You can see it up on the altar of the church, and do not have to stand in the long line, unless you want to touch it. The other interesting feature to notice at the church is all of the chandeliers. Different people and companies have designed their own and donated them. For example, FC Barcelona (the soccer team) has one.
Wine Tour   Wine Country Tour Information
Even for a minor, the wine country is interesting. A tour guide walks you through the process of making wine, and you get to taste it at the end.

Picasso Museum   Times and Address
The Museum Picasso in Barcelona is a key reference for understanding the formative years of Pablo Picasso. The genius of the young artist is revealed through the 4,251 works that make up the permanent collection. Furthermore, the Museu Picasso, opened in 1963, also reveals his deep relationship with Barcelona: an intimate, solid relationship that was shaped in his adolescence and youth, and continued until his death.
The Picasso museum is very rich in regard to work from the formative years in the life of the artist; it is practically exhaustive up to the Blue Period. The Museum also houses an important representation of works from 1917, and the series Las Meninas (1957) as well as a comprehensive print collection.

Cooking Class   Barcelona Cooking Class
One of our favorite activities as a family was to take a cooking class while in Barcelona. The cute instructor first took us to the market across the street, and gave us a tour and tips of how to navigate the large market. He told us that the locals buy their food in the back of the market. We purchased what we needed, and then we went back to the cooking school, and were each assigned a certain portion of preparing the meal. We had a family of 12, so we were our own class. My husband made the reservation, so the school gave him several choices of what we could prepare. They even served us wine with the meal at the end. It was a great experience.

Market    Rambla, 91 08001 Barcelona Monday to Saturday from 8:00 am – 8:30 pm

Market Information
The La Boqueria food market is colorful, vibrant and fun to walk through. It is where the locals gather to buy food and greet one another. The front has a beautiful display of candy and treats, and you will go on to see large and colorful fruits and vegetables. The locals use every part of an animal (I mean EVERY body part), and you will see them displayed in the various stations around the spacious market. From seafood to fruit to nuts and smoothies, you will find it all there.

Park Guell    Park Guell Information
The Park Güell is a public park system composed of gardens and interesting architecture located on Carmel Hill. Like everything else in Barcelona, there you can see the “Works of Antoni Gaudí.” It was not one of our favorite things to do. The kids ran around a little bit, but it was a lot of walking uphill, and not enough to see. Also, you have to purchase tickets to get in. They are very strict at checking them at different check points within the park. One thing we did do is climb up a hill where there was a cross on top. The view was amazing, and you could see a lot of the city. There were also some interesting (but safe) characters lurking around. Throughout the park there are musicians playing for coins. If you have a free day, then consider going, but I would not go out of my way.

Magic Fountain of Montujic   How to get there
The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc first spouted on 19 May 1929 during the Great Universal Exhibition and continues to delight visitors to Barcelona today.

The fountain delivers a spectacular display of colour, light and water acrobatics with musical accompaniment every Thursday to Sunday in the summer months and every Friday and Saturday during winter. The presentation is about 20 minutes long, and it is first come first served to secure a place to sit. We spent the day in the area, and wandered into the Miro Museum of Barcelona. The museum houses a lot of Miro’s modern art, and includes other artists interesting modern and interactive paintings and sculptures. It was a little bit of a walk from the Fountain, but not a deal breaker. A lot of other museums are available to go to in the immediate area.

Soccer Game    Official Website
If you love soccer or any kind of sports, then you will enjoy seeing the Futbol Club Barcelona. The club is housed in the largest futbol stadium in the world. The fans are passionate, and the stadium rocks while Barcelona plays with world renowned futbol stars such as Lionel Messi. Don’t forget to visit the large Barcelona gift shop.
TIP: Look outside the gift shop a few feet away at one of the kioskis before you stand in the long line on a game day. As we passed it to go home, I noticed they had the exact same items that we had just bought. There are also little FC Barcelona apparel stores around the city. For dates and ticket information check out their official website

Places to Stay
We stayed at an apartment for the week. We went through HomeAway.com and were very pleased with the location and quality of the apartment. We stayed right on the Rambla strip, and had easy access to everything, from the Market, to shops to a Starbucks.

We did not find a restaurant that we did not like. The kids were not crazy about the local cuisine of paya and all of the topas (which are basically appetizers), so we found an Italian restaurant that they really liked. Their favorite thing was to find a stand with crepes for dessert.
Wine – We are wine lovers, and were amazed at how delicious and inexpensive the wine is. You can get a great bottle of Spanish wine for 9 euros!

A large tip is not expected in Spain in any instant. When we got there my husband got into a large discussion with the taxi driver about the fare. The gentleman did not understand why Daniel was trying to tip him. Daniel was wondering if he misunderstood and short changed the man, and so he got one of my sons involved, who has taken four years of Spanish to talk to him. The man apparently did not want Daniel to over-pay, and was being very nice. In restaurants, most locals will leave their change, but do not dig into their pockets to give them extra money.