Everyone knows that Napa Valley or Burgundy France are wine traveler’s destinations of choice, but there are plenty of other fantastic regions. A true wine connoisseur will tell you that the soil and environment are just as important as the type of grape used to make wine. The world has embraced wine making and excellent booze is now being produced all over the map. Let’s explore and see where these hidden wine gems are located and what makes them so special.
Wine producers are spreading their wings and growing some superior grapes in some unexpected places.
I’m not talking about Georgia in America; I’m talking about the one that straddles Europe and Asia. This former Soviet country has excelled in producing some really interesting and delicious varieties of grapes. Wine production is nothing new to this region as archeologists have found winemaking equipment dating as far back as 6,000 BC.
One unique thing that wine makers in Georgia do is they ferment their wine in clay jars instead of the standard wooden or steel barrels. The clay gives Georgian wine a distinct sweet taste and earthy after tones.
Douro Valley, Portugal
Known as the birthplace of port wine, the Northernmost region in Portugal is a wine lover’s heaven. With panoramic views of the rolling hills and beautiful vineyards, wine has been produced in this region for over 2,000 years. The golden colored hills and the divine port produced here will make this a favorite among port snobs from around the globe.
Finger Lakes Region, New York
White wines flourish in this Northern New York region, specifically Rieslings. The expansive landscape is dotted with waterfalls, 11 glacial lakes and one great lake, giving the region miles and miles of beautiful coastlines. With well over a 100 wineries, the Finger Lakes region is the largest wine-producing region East of California in the USA.
Tenerife, Canary Islands
Grown in rich nutrient volcanic soil, Tenerife produces exquisite reds and whites. The largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife features grape varieties that were completely wiped out of the European mainland in a mid-1800s epidemic. The rare varieties create distinct flavor profiles and memorable aftertastes. The island views and abundant sea life compliments the island’s white wine collections.
Avoid the rush that happens in Napa and head just an hour North to Healdsburg wine region. Producing similar quality wines, Healdsburg is Napa’s red headed stepchild. Born out of the need t have more wine tasting locations, Healdsburg boasts over 200 wineries and multiple award winning varieties. California has some of the best weather and soil combinations in the world, so it’s no surprise that he wine here is fantastic.
Door County, Wisconsin
If you are a fan of fruit wines, Door County should be your next stop. Located in the Midwest, Door County has eight wineries and is famous for their tart cherry wine. Specializing in fruit wines, Door County has plenty of grape varieties as well, so a little something for everyone.
Franschhoek, South Africa
Nestled just 45 short minutes from Cape Town, Franschhoek was originally known as Elephant’s Corner for the huge elephant population that roamed here. Now known for their impressive wine, the area is the best in South Africa and possibly all of Africa. Enjoy a hop-on hop-off style tour that stops at every winery and you can get a real taste of the region.
Enjoy these of the beaten path wine regions and taste some of their specialties, to see what all the hype is about.
Enjoy the full list here
Guide to Eating in Austin
I’ve been living in Austin for two months now, and in that time, I’ve consumed a lot of food. After all, Austin is home to an incredible food scene — from BBQ joints to food trucks to healthy, organic outlets to (of course) Mexican restaurants. As more and more people move to Austin (close to […]
I’ve been living in Austin for two months now, and in that time, I’ve consumed a lot of food. After all, Austin is home to an incredible food scene — from BBQ joints to food trucks to healthy, organic outlets to (of course) Mexican restaurants. As more and more people move to Austin (close to 160 a day at last count) and the city balloons with a more diverse population, Austin has expanded its dining fare to include more varied and higher-quality food.
Part of the reason Austin’s food tastes so delicious is because of the locally-sourced ingredients. As the birthplace of Whole Foods, Austin has always embraced organic food, and it was one of the frontrunners in the farm-to-table movement.
Moreover, to meet the needs of the expanding population, nearly 200 new food trucks and restaurants open up each year! With so many eateries opening all the time, you’re going to get hugely increased variety, selection, and quality.
While I still have much more exploring to do and food to eat, I want to share some of my favorite places to eat in the city for your next visit:
If there is anything I dislike about Austin, it would be the lack of good Asian cuisine, as it is my favorite in the world. When it comes to Asian food, it has a lot of those fusion joints that serve Chinese, Thai, sushi, and Korean all at once. Most are simply acceptable; they won’t blow you away. However, there are a few restaurants worth eating at:
- Bar Chi (206 Colorado St., (512) 382-5557, www.barchiaustin.com) – Decent sushi but an unbelievably affordable happy hour (5-7pm each day). My friends and I come here because it satisfies the sushi craving on the cheap!
- East Side King (1618 1/2 E. 6th S., (512) 407-8166, www.eskaustin.com) – Located in The Liberty Bar (also a kick-ass bar), this is best Asian-Thai fusion food truck in the city! Be sure to get the pork buns, tori meshi, or the chicken buns.
- Lulu B’s (3632 S. Congress Ave., (512) 921-4828, www.facebook.com/LuLuBsAustin) – I found this place thanks to Jodi from Legal Nomads. I’m not the Vietnamese food expert she is, but this place was delectable. I’ve only had the beef pho, but it was a flavorful broth.
- Piranha (207 San Jacinto Blvd. #202, (512) 473-8775, www.piranhakillersushi.com/piranha-locations/austin) – My all-around favorite sushi joint. The sushi here gives you the most value for your money, and it’s always fresh and of high quality. I particularly love their yellowtail.
- Thai-Khun (1816 E. 6th St., (512) 407-8166, eskaustin.com/v2/thaikun) – As a Thai food snob (ever since I lived in Thailand), I’m always disappointed at Thai restaurants because I never think the food is as breathtaking as in Thailand. This place in Austin is the closest to true Thai food that I’ve found so far.
- Uchi (801 S. Lamar, (512) 916-4808, uchiaustin.com) – The fanciest high-end sushi restaurant in the city. They also have a sister restaurant called Uchiko. Both live up to their reputations and are good date places. Reservations recommended!
- Wu Cho (500 W. 5th St. #168, (512) 476-2469, wuchowaustin.com) – This is one of the best Chinese restaurants in the city. They serve a very popular dim sum brunch on Sundays. Be sure to come early as it gets packed during dinnertime and Sunday brunch, and the wait for a table can be up to an hour.
If there is one thing Austin does well, it’s “Americana” food. I define that as a fusion of multiple cuisines: burgers, fries, steaks, seafood, and the like.
- Launderette (2115 Holly St., (512) 382-1599, launderetteaustin.com) – Located in an old laundry store, this restaurant is one of the hottest spots in town and serves an amazing menu of Americana and seafood, as well as a decent selection of wine. Some of my favorite dishes include crab toast, burrata, okra, brussels sprouts, and grilled octopus. If you’re coming for dinner, come early, as it fills up fast.
- Truluck (400 Colorado St., (512) 482-9000, trulucks.com) – This is my favorite steak restaurant because it’s one of the few places where you can also get fresh seafood (crab, oysters, lobster). It’s not cheap, but if you want a upscale steak house, try this.
- Péché (208 W. 4th St., (512) 494-4011, www.pecheaustin.com) – A New Orleans–inspired restaurant serving Bayou food, and it has a very friendly staff, tasty cocktails, and an extensive whiskey list.
Austin is world-famous for its BBQ, and you can’t walk down the street without running into a restaurant that serves it. The title for Austin’s best BBQ is hotly contested among fans, and I don’t claim to know who’s right — to me, BBQ is either good or really damn good. But these are among my favorites:
- Franklin Barbecue (900 E. 11th St., (512) 653-1187, franklinbarbecue.com) – This is considered the top of the top of the top BBQ joints in the country. Even the president ate here! It’s open from 11am until they run out of food (usually in a few hours). Lines start at 8am, so it’s best to go midweek in summer when most people don’t want to wait in that line and you don’t need to line up until 9 or 10am.
- La Barbecue (1906 E. Cesar Chavez St., (512) 605-9696, www.labarbecue.com) – BBQ is a matter of perspective. A lot of people say Franklin’s is the best, but La Barbecue is #1 to me. It opens at 11am. Expect two-hour waits during lunchtime, so get here early.
- Iron Works BBQ (100 Red River St., (512) 478-4855, ironworksbbq.com) – Located downtown, this restaurant serves above-average BBQ with large portions and hearty helpings of side dishes. I come here for the lunch brisket plate.
- Micklethwait Craft Meats (1309 Rosewood Ave., (512) 791-5961, craftmeatsaustin.com) – An awesome food truck on the east side of the city. I’m in love with its ribs, brisket, and BBQ sauce. While it’s very popular, the line here isn’t as long as the other places listed.
Tacos are serious business in this city. I have yet to fully experience much of the wonder that Austin has to offer on this front, but I do like a few of the big names:
- Veracruz (1704 E. Cesar Chavez St., (512) 981-1760, veracruztacos.com) – The best food truck in town (conveniently located across the street from my hostel). It makes wonderful breakfast tacos, and the migas was voted #1 in the country. There is never really a line, but service is slow.
- Torchy’s (multiple locations, torchystacos.com/in/austin) – World famous (and another spot where the president ate), this taco place has multiple locations in the city. It lives up to all the hype! I’m a big fan of the fried avocado and trailer park tacos. Every location is always packed, so expect a wait, especially on the weekends. The food here is pretty spicy, too.
- Taco Deli (multiple locations, www.tacodeli.com) – Another delicious eatery serving mouth watering breakfast tacos.
Mexican & Tex-Mex
Like tacos, there are a lot of world-class Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants in Austin! There are plenty of people who can dissect their finer points — I am not one of those people, however. But these establishments will never steer you wrong:
- Vivo (6406 N. Interstate Highway 35, (512) 407-8302, vivoaustin.com) – Solid Mexican with huge portions, spicy dishes, and friendly staff.
- Benji’s (716 W. 6th St., (512) 476-8226, benjiscantina.com) – Amazing margaritas, huge portions, and an outdoor patio area. Their incredible guacamole is made tableside.
- Tamale House East (1707 E. 6th St., (512) 495-9504, www.facebook.com/tamalehouse.east) – Located in East Austin, this hole-in-the-wall is only open for breakfast or lunch. It’s famous for its tacos, but like the name suggests, get the tamales!
There isn’t a lot of good Indian food in town, mostly because there just isn’t a lot of good Asian food in general. I’m not an Indian food expert, but these two are my favorites:
- The Clay Pit (1601 Guadalupe St., (512) 322-5131, claypit.com) – I order from this spot through UberEats all the time since it often has fast delivery. I love the samosas and jasmine rice, and their naan is just perfect!
- Masala Dhaba (75 Rainey St., (512) 665-6513) – A higher-end, sit-down restaurant with a flavorful chicken tikka masala!
Some other of my favorite must-eats:
- P. Terry’s (multiple locations, pterrys.com) – This is the best burger bar in the city. It’s delicious and cheap (you can get a burger, fries, and a drink for $6 USD), with filling portions. This is one of my all-time favorite spots in the city, and since it’s close to my house, I tend to eat here too often!
- The Onion (408 Brazos St., (512) 476-6466, onionbaby.com) – Coming from NYC, I’m spoiled for pizza — you can buy tasty dollar slices anywhere you go there. That’s not the case in Austin: slices are around $4 USD and not as good, but if there is one pizza place I do like, it’s this one.
- Gus’s Fried Chicken (117 San Jacinto, (512) 474-4877, gusfriedchicken.com/austin-texas-location) – The sister restaurant to the famous location in Memphis, this place has juicy, moist chicken with battered skin that bursts with flavor in your mouth. It’s freaking amazing! They also serve mouthwatering fried green tomatoes and pickles.
- Leaf (115 W. 6th St., (512) 474-5323, leafsalad.com) – This new lunchtime salad place is incredible (also the line is long). Its gigantic salad bar has anything and everything you could ever want to put in a salad. It’s one of my favorite places for a healthy meal in Austin.
- True Kitchen (222 West Ave. #HR100, (512) 777-2430, truefoodkitchen.com) – This new restaurant is incredibly popular with people after work. All its food is natural and organic. You’ll find healthy wraps, salad bowls, sandwiches, and fresh and flavorful seafood, as well as an incredible selection of wine and cocktails.
Austin’s growing food scene means that there are still plenty of places I haven’t eaten at yet — and a few locations I probably left out, as a result — but during your visit to Austin, you’ll find yourself with more than enough choices by using this list as your guide!
Where Can Americans Vacation Internationally Right Now?
Following the surge in COVID-19 cases in the U.S., one of the top trending questions among Americans today is, “Where can Americans internationally travel to now?” At the moment, only a few countries and territories are open to travelers originating from the United States.
Fortunately, several places in Mexico and the Caribbean are opening their borders to U.S. tourists. As a result, new reports mention a surge in flight bookings to Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.
The border between Mexico and the United States remains closed to non-essential travel until at least the end of August. Nonetheless, U.S. tourists are allowed to fly to some of the country’s reopened locations including:
- Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo (Los Cabos)
- Puerto Vallarta
- Riviera Maya (includes Playa del Carmen and Tulum)
- Riviera Nayarit (includes Punta Mita and Nuevo Vallarta)
For these places, masks and temperature checks are mandatory upon arrival at the airport. Tourists are also required to fill out a risk factor questionnaire both during arrival and departure. A COVID-19 test is not needed, however.
Caribbean and its Nearby Islands
U.S. tourists entering Aruba are required to take a PCR test. Those coming from certain states with COVID-19 cases on the rise, a PCR test must be taken 72 hours before a flight and uploaded together with the filled out embarkation/disembarkation forms. A PCR test must be taken 72 hours before a flight and uploaded with the same embarkation/disembarkation forms for tourists originating from all other states. However, for this second group, an option to be tested at the airport is a given option, which requires a separate payment of $75.
Also, tourists must pay for the compulsory Aruba Visitors Insurance with premiums varying depending on age. Visitors between the ages of 15 to 75 must pay $15, allowing them to remain in Aruba for seven days. The said insurance policy can solely be purchased online and must be accomplished 72 hours before a flight.
Besides mandatory face masks, health checks, and border interviews, visitors must take a PCR test 72 hours before a flight. The said test results must be submitted electronically, and a copy of the same test must be brought during embarkation.
COVID-19 testing is required. Travelers must have a negative testing result that should be taken no longer than seven days before the flight. Second testing is done upon arrival, and a quarantine period of typically 24 hours follows while waiting for the results. Besides that, tourists must accomplish a Bermuda Travel Authorization plus the payment of $75, covering COVID-19 tests done while staying in Bermuda. Testing is done after 4, 8, and 14 days. Masks are mandatory in public places as well.
Aside from the areas mentioned earlier, Americans are also allowed to travel to several other locations. Note that specific requirements must be accomplished, as well, prior to ticket reservation.
- Dominican Republic
- Puerto Rico
- St. Lucia
- St. Maarten
- U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix)
- United Arab Emirates (Dubai and Abu Dhabi)
The rapid rise in COVID-19 cases must be noted when planning a trip abroad. American need to check developing updates regularly to know the current regulations set in place by the different areas they plan to visit before buying a ticket and embarking on a trip abroad.
Which Countries Suffered the Biggest Losses in Tourism Revenue Due to COVID-19?
The Official Electronic System for Travel Authorization (Official ESTA), the Visa Waiver processing agency, releases a report enumerating the countries that suffered the most massive losses due to the present COVID-19 pandemic.
Jane Forrester, the Official ESTA Director of International Development, asserts, “As travel came to a standstill for many months, countries around the world that rely on tourism for their economy and jobs are now seeing significant drops in revenue and GDP.” She adds that when we take “…into account how travel and tourism contribute $8.9 trillion to the world’s GDP alone, it is devastating to see a total loss of $195 billion worldwide in the first four months of 2020 alone.”
Below are the top nations that took the most massive tourism revenue blows due to the said crisis.
The US currently has the highest number of COVID-19 cases, amounting to 6,135,598 as of writing. The country tops the list with $30,709 million losses for tourism revenue alone during the first four months of the year. On March, 31 US states were placed on lockdown with the State Department issuing a Level 4 ‘Do Not Travel’ restriction that prohibits international travel while urging residents traveling abroad to return immediately.
It reported a massive tourism revenue loss of $9,741 million in June due to the said pandemic. Almost as soon as COVID-19 transmission slowed down and foreign travelers were allowed to re-enter the country, the United Kingdom placed a quarantine restriction on British residents originating from Spain. This further deterred British citizens from traveling to Spain in the hopes of enjoying the summer.
Another country that suffered significant tourism losses is France. The country reported an $8,767 million tourism loss, making it the second European nation to suffer such great damage.
The country was able to halt COVID-19 transmission, reporting no new cases during the last 87 days. Nonetheless, the government announced its intention to perpetuate its closed borders until 2021. During the first four months of 2020, the nation lost $7,822 million tourism earnings due to the crisis.
Germany closed its borders in March, resulting in a tourism revenue loss of $7,225 million. The country recently reopened its doors to tourists originating from the European Union, Iceland, Britain, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Norway.
The country became the center of the pandemic back in March. Because of this, fluid movement across the nation was halted during this year’s first four months, which resulted in a tourism income loss of $6,187 million.
One of the few nations that did not immediately impose a travel ban against travelers coming from abroad, the country’s COVID-19 cases quickly escalated. Thus, numerous countries placed restrictions on people originating from the country and on those planning there. As a result, the UK reported a $5,816 million loss in tourism revenue.
Due to the massive wildfire that occurred during the start of 2020 and the rise of the on-going pandemic, the country’s tourism industry was heavily affected as well. The Land Down Under reported a loss of $5,674 million.
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