Where can you find medieval castles, world class wine, mud baths, and redwood forests within a weekend trip? The one and only Calistoga, California of course! Calistoga is about two hours north of San Francisco and we explore the region with the Calistoga Wine Passport which grants us access to the numerous tasting rooms. We visit the winery that helped put Napa on the map, Chateau Montelena and a medieval Tuscan style castle winery called Castello di Amorosa. The natural scenery around Calistoga includes the breathtaking redwood forest of the Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve.
Weekend in Calisotoga Vlog:
Castillo di Amorosa - Medieval Tuscan Castle and Winery
Chateau Montelena - Historic winery and chateau. This wine estate produces the famous sauvignon blanc which won the 1973 Judgement of Paris blind tasting competition, an event that put Napa on the map.
Wineries featured in this vlog:
Calistoga Wine Passport:
Travel is all about stepping out of your comfort zone and this year pushed us to a new level. We traveled to 13 countries, saw wonders of the world, and reached over 1M views on our YouTube channel. It's truly astounding that we can share our travels with millions of people around the globe - thank you for joining the adventure!
It's the end of 2018, so time to reflect on this jam-packed year of travel. Here's what we learned during our adventures this year:
1. January - Mexico - Yucatan y Tulum
We spent New Year's in Mexico again - this time to see the Wonder of the World: Chichen Itza. There's no better way to spend New Years Day than by swimming in Mexico's warm Caribbean waters and visiting Mayan archeological ruins. We return to this country more than any other country because of its endlessly inspiring regional cultures, cuisine, and archeology.
2. February - Ireland and Northern Ireland
We crossed the invisible border between the UK and Ireland to visit a once foreboding capital city of Belfast. Here, we learned about how a city known for its religious conflict is moving on from its past to a bright future.
Two hours away is Dublin, where we spent the the rest of our trip. In fact, our Dublin vlog ended up being our most popular video of the year on YouTube!
3. March - Greece - Athens / Paros / Hydra / Delphi / Olympia
We visited one of the oldest cities in the world and Cradle of Western Civilization: Athens, Greece. Many of the pillars of modern society like democracy, philosophy, and the Olympic sports all began here. It truly changes your perspective of time when you view sites from 2,400 years ago that are still standing. Coming from California where the oldest standing buildings are from the late 1700s, seeing these ancient cites were especially mind blowing.
4. April - Spain (Barcelona / Ibiza / Formentera)
This was the most surprising travel destination of them all - Ibiza. It's portrayed in the media as Europe's party island, but in April - the island is chill, magical, and free. Here, we competed in our first international race: the Ibiza half marathon and 12K.
Next, I returned to Barcelona after a whopping 15 years. My first trip was so brief (half a day), that I knew I had to return and spend more time here. What made this trip special was that it was my first official solo international trip. I relied on my Spanish for a week and found the city to be a blast of a travel partner.
5. May - Canada (Vancouver / Victoria), Colombia (Cartagena / Bogota)
On our second trip to South America, we visited the vibrant country of Colombia. For much of the 80s and 90s, Colombia was a challenging country to travel due to the drug cartels, and now it's undergoing a chapter of peace and rebirth of tourism. What surprised us most is that the people here are joyous, full of warmth, and don't let their past get in the way of their present day happiness.
I had wanted to travel to the Isles of Scilly since 2004, when I studied abroad at Cambridge University and I heard tales in local magazines about how wonderful the islands were and started to dream of going. Well-traveled colleagues also spoke of a group of islands off the Cornish coast with beaches like those of the Caribbean and life with a laidback, almost Mediterranean island vibe. Yet, I pondered whether the tales were accurate and was unfortunately not able to travel to the Isles of Scilly then.
I needed to see it for myself finally and made that dream come true, traveling through 3 of the 5 inhabited islands in 48 hours. I have now verified the tales. The Isles of Scilly are truly special.
For people like me, caught up in a frenetic pace filled with technology and a busy lifestyle, going to the Isles of Scilly was the perfect escape. It is welcoming, safe, and easy-going. You can unplug and unwind. When you go to the Isles of Scilly, you make your own experiences, and I want to share some of mine, and some of my thoughts, with you.
The Isles of Scilly offers freedom. Swap your daily commute for a boat trip. Step off the treadmill and step onto a rugged coast path. Ditch schedules and get lost in hedge-lined lanes that are not even on your map. Go sea swimming, trail running, kayaking, gig racing, cycling or horse riding.
First Impressions of the Isles of Scilly:
You simply have to smile when you arrive at a place where your every step is through picture-postcard villages bounded by sweeping green hills and along unspoiled coastline is filled with birdsong, surrounded by wildflowers erupting into a kaleidoscope of color and butterflies, and under big, blue skies. It is no wonder that every inch of the Isles of Scilly was declared an Area of Outstanding Beauty in 1975.
It is also an ancient land rich in mystery, heritage, and legend that stays with you long after you leave for home.
In terms of legend, the Isles of Scilly are the remains of the Lost Land of Lyonesse, to which King Arthurâs men retreated after their leaderâs last fatal battle. Archaeological remains found in burial mounds found all over the island show that the islands have been inhabited for at least 4,000 years. In fact, the islands have the greatest densities of archeological sites anywhere in Britain. The Phoenicians and Romans traveled to the islands, and later a famous abbey was centered on the island of Tresco.
The islands were the frontline of Englandâs defenses and were fortified during the late Elizabethan age, became a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War, and were closely guarded during both World Wars. Later, UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson often elected to vacation on the islands and is buried beachside on St. Maryâs, perhaps because the Isles feature such a rich heritage, and deliver so many soul-lifting rewards.
Where else in the world- in a single day- can you sight a Bronze Age burial ground 3,000 years old, explore a ruined castle, run and swim across an entire island, sunset sail to another isle passing rare birdlife on the way, grab freshly caught lobster, and then stroll across a beach all to ourselves to enjoy the feast?
Sunshine and Island Life:
Despite the fact that tourism has become a big part of the islandsâ economy, this has not destroyed the importance of farming and fishing. This is because the islands are located at the end of the North Atlantic Drift and are gifted with a unique climate. Frosts and snows are rare, and the gloriously long summer features exceptional hours of sunlight, sometimes from around 6am until almost 10pm. We went in mid-June, which saw warm weather, and long light evenings as we explored secret coves, shimmering bays, and plummeting cliffs.
Outtakes of the food and adventures:
I want to warn you though, the islands have a few wineries, a brewery, a distillery, and a few pubs. These are not the sort of islands that feature theme parks or raucous nightclubs. Island activities focus on seeking peace and inspiration from clear blue water, golden sands, rugged heathland, wild flowers and dramatic rock formations. You would be hard pressed to breathe cleaner air, and at night you look up to unpolluted darkness and observe the magical Milky Way, planets, and stars in all their splendor.
Each island has its own unique personality, features and natural beauty, and each can be walked- top to toe- in just a few hours. Because the isles offer so much diverse and unique experiences, this may sound a touch daunting but have no fear- we have some special tips for you in terms of getting there and getting around!
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We are two adventurous young professionals who turned our passion for travel into a blog to help others travel more.