Jesus was all about wine and so am I

Okay, so the Bible never really specifies whether Jesus drank the miracle wine he created but either way, he knew how to keep a party going so I raise my glass to him.

Virginia is pretty well known for its vineyards. Isn’t it? Maybe I only think that because I live in Virginia and can visit any number of them in a 45-minute drive. But I feel like Loudoun County wines are a thing.

My husband and I have visited quite a few of said Virginia wineries (side question that does not need to be answered: what’s the difference between winery and vineyard? I think something to do with grapes grown on site versus shipped in — which sounds like that is technically cheating, but what do I know).

His favorite (until recently) was Stone Tower. It is a gorgeous vineyard with rolling hills and a pond and a separate barn for kids and pets so people can bring their family OR people can enjoy adulthood without screaming kids and slobbering dogs. Choices. There’s a huge patio overlooking a second patio (which is usually closed — at least when we’ve been — for a wedding), and tons of seating that is always almost all taken.

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This vineyard is lovely and well worth a visit, but it is crowded and if it’s a weekend in the summer, there’s a wedding closing down part of the grounds. This is why — after the third or fourth visit — even my husband admitted defeat and agreed we could go elsewhere (after waiting 20 minutes in line for a bottle of wine that is decent but…I’ll just say we go for the scenery).

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Stone Tower does lend itself to some pretty great photo backdrops

My favorite is Paradise Springs in Clifton. Part of this is because we can’t go to Paradise Springs without also stopping in the town for some ah-mazing crepes at the Clifton Cafe. I think the wine is pretty good here, too, but full disclaimer: I’ve only recently begun to develop any sort of “palate” for good wine vs. less good. Wine is wine, amiright? No, I know I’m wrong. I guess I’ll just need to keep up the wine tastings until I’m able to discern between the complexities of a merlot and the subtleties of a chardonnay (or even if those descriptions could even apply to those wines. I’m hopeless!).

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So excited for Paradise Springs! (Photo stolen from my sister’s Instagram)

I’m still trying to find my husband a new favorite vineyard near here, but since visiting Sonoma on a spur of the moment trip last time we were in California, he’s become something of a California wine snob. Still, we have a date this afternoon to visit Quattro Gumba, so fingers crossed!

Now, Missouri isn’t known for its wines, but apparently there’s a Missouri wine country very similar to Loudoun County and not too far outside Saint Louis, so we can keep exploring and improving our wine palates even after the move.

 

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The Rock

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That is not Alcatraz, just the view from the ferry TO Alcatraz

So my husband and I were in the Bay Area for Thanksgiving, and there was no way I was going to be just outside of San Francisco and not visit Alcatraz. I’ve always been a big fan of historical tours, fascinated by criminals like Al Capone, and hated ferry rides. That last one doesn’t really fit, but the sentence needed a third thing and it’s the truth. Damn you, Block Island Ferry!

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I also have a weird obsession with touching history. Those home tours with the ropes and signs that are all “Do Not Touch” are the literal worst (and I do what I want and touch stuff anyway). Before anyone freaks out too much, I mostly just touch parts of doors/walls/window frames that probably haven’t been touched by anyone since the historical figure who once resided in said home.

At Alcatraz, you can go inside cells and rooms and run your fingers over everything. Actual conversation between my husband and me afterwards:

Me: “I just love going in historical places that let you touch everything!”
Him: “I know. You should wash your hands.”
Me: “I might have picked up Al Capone’s syphilis and you don’t just WASH THAT TYPE OF HISTORY AWAY!”

He was not impressed.

He gets impressed by things like great views, which luckily, Alcatraz has. This place has everything: history, views, possibly syphilis…you know, fun for the whole family.

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It seriously has the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge

We learned that while there were three break-outs, no one ever successfully fully escaped from Alcatraz. They ended up immediately re-imprisoned or dead (though I suppose one might argue death is the ultimate escape… #philosophy).

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One of the cells tunneled out of using broken spoons.

Alcatraz Island was also a home for the Indians of All Tribes — a group of Native Americans who occupied the rock during the early 70s in an attempt to claim it as their own land. Fun fact: all federal lands that are retired/abandoned/out-of-use are supposed to be returned to the Native Americans it was taken from. The Occupation of Alcatraz didn’t end well, but it did positively affect federal Indian policy so it’s considered a win in the longterm.

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There are really spectacular grounds, too, which are open to the public in the winter – when it’s less wet, I guess. I wasn’t really paying attention to the why it was open for us…

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And those views. If nothing else, a trip to Alcatraz is worth it for the views. I’m sure it was a glorious sort of torture for the inmates who had cells with window-views of the city. The prisoners could even hear laughter from parties in San Francisco.

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Alcatraz is the most popular tourist destination in the United States, seventh most visited in the entire world. This might turn some people off to a visit. I get it. I hate crowds, being stereotypically “touristy”, and ferries.

This. Is. Worth it. I promise. Once you’re off the crowded ferry (you can huddle outside to see the views while avoiding the worst crush of people — it’s really windy and pretty frigid so bundle up if you so choose), the island is pretty large and you can kind of wander at your leisure. The audio tour means people lump around the halls, but if you don’t like crowds, come on, you know how to navigate around the oblivious masses. You’ll be fine.

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The kitchen, where they fed prisoners better than I feed myself (because you’re not trying to revolt en masse during 20 minutes of culinary bliss)

Or skip the tour (but if you like touching history, don’t skip it) and just go look at San Francisco from a unique vantage point. It’s seriously all winning. Even the ferry ride is only 15 non-horrific minutes.

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