Girls’ Getaway to America’s Oldest City, St. Augustine

Cuisine Noir Magazine. April 2019.

Best known as the oldest European settlement in the United States, the charming town of St. Augustine, Fla., is a well-kept secret. It’s rich history, Spanish-style architecture, European-style promenades and beautiful Florida bay, make it idyllic to treat your mom or escape with your girlfriends this spring or summer.

St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument in the plaza
Pictured: St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument | Photo credit: St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau

Getting to St Augustine is easy. Just fly into Jacksonville and take a 45-minute cab ride to the city. Once in St. Augustine, you don’t need to drive. The 144-block city filled with B&B’s, restaurants, museums, shops and homes, is accessible on foot and by the Red Train trolleys that stop at major attractions.

Stay at the family-run Bayfront Marin House Inn, a cozy home with porches and hammocks to relax and enjoy a view of the gardens and the bay. Mingle with the owners and other guests over a free cocktail hour offered every evening. Alternately, splurge at Casa Monica, a luxury hotel set in a Moorish Revival-style building built in 1888 in the heart of the historic district. Even if you are not staying at the hotel, stop by for a glass of chilled sangria and spicy Kessler calamari at the Mediterranean restaurant, Costa Brava. The Moroccan inspired interiors and artwork spread throughout Casa Monica are worth looking around.

The Birthplace of African-American History

St. Augustine is the birthplace of African-American history. Fort Mose (two miles north of St. Augustine) is the site of the first free African settlement legally sanctioned by the Spanish in what is now known as the United States in 1738.  It is also the headquarters of the first Black armed soldiers commanded by a Black officer, who actively engaged in military combat with English colonists from the Carolinas and Georgia. St. Augustine was one of the few places in Florida to enforce emancipation during the Civil War. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. traveled to St. Augustine and was arrested on the steps of the Monson Motel (now the Hilton St. Augustine Historic Bayfront). It is believed that King’s arrest along with demonstrations he organized are what led to Senate passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

St. Augustine is also the longest European inhabited city in the United States where you will find descendants of its original European settlers still running establishments. As a result, excellent quality restaurants are serving international cuisine with a Florida twist. Taste the best Majorcan clam chowder at Catch 27, French escargot in white wine at Cafe Alcazar, Polish pierogis at Gaufre’s & Goods Inc, authentic Cuban sandwiches at La Herencia Café and fried green tomatoes at The Floridian Restaurant.

Fried Green Tomatoes at The Floridian Restaurant in St. Augustine, FL
Pictured: Fried Green Tomatoes at The Floridian Restaurant | Photo credit: Sucheta Rawal
Eat and Drink St. Augustine

Have a southern brunch of Mayport shrimp and grits on the porch of Preserved Restaurant, located in a Victorian home, once occupied by Thomas Jefferson’s great-granddaughter and ran by James Beard-nominated chef Brian Whittington. Head a block over to see the first stop (#101, 79 Bridge Street) on the ACCORD Freedom Trail in the Lincolnville neighborhood, which was settled by freed slaves and played a significant role in the Civil Rights movement.

Take a tour of Florida’s first distillery set in a former ice plant from 1917. Here you can learn about the process of making spirits and taste bourbon, gin, rum and vodka at the St. Augustine Distillery. Make sure to check out The Ice Plant, a cool bar upstairs known for its handcrafted cocktails and a breezy patio overlooking the city.

Guests at the Ice Plant in St. Augustine, FL
Pictured: Guests at the Ice Plant | Photo credit: St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau

Award-winning San Sebastian Winery, celebrated for their premium, sparking and dessert wines from muscadine grapes offers complimentary wine tasting tours. A great way to round up the afternoon is by learning how to make chocolate during a Whetstone Chocolate Factory tasting tour.

You may not find any “magic water” at the Ponce de Léon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, but it’s a good place to indulge in some history and nature. Stroll through the lush 15-acre park among majestic peacocks and stop at the open-air exhibits featuring Timucua civilization and the Spanish conquests.

Perhaps a better way to detox your mind and body is by spending time in a sensory deprivation floating tank at the St. Augustine Salt Spa. Inspired by the world-famous Polish Wieliczka Salt Mine, this is the first 5-star halotherapy (salt therapy) health resort in Florida featuring a salt cave made with imported Polish and Himalayan salt, infrared sauna and float tank therapies. Plan to spend approximately three hours to enjoy all the amenities.

The Lightner Museum, housed in the former Alcazar Hotel, has an eclectic collection of items including art from Africa. The interior of the hotel once had the world’s largest indoor swimming pool in 1888 and is now used for weddings and events.

African Art at the Lighter Museum
Pictured: African Art at the Lighter Museum | Photo credit: Sucheta Rawal

An entire weekend is not enough time to visit St. Augustine’s many museums, art galleries, and boutique shops. A guided tour of the Flagler College, former Hotel Ponce de León, known for its Spanish Renaissance architecture and a prestigious guest list, is a must. Tours are usually sold out so book in advance.

For more information for planning your trip to St. Augustine, go online to www.visitstaugustine.com and follow the city’s adventures on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram.

~ Written for and published by Cuisine Noir Magazine.

This Is How to Do Your Weekend Getaway at Yosemite

For One Travel. May 2018.

Whether you are a thrill-seeking mountain climber, long-distance biker, or just like to relax outdoors with the family, chances are that you will be able to find an amazing vacation that will satisfy your mind and body in the expansive 1,200 miles of Yosemite National Park. While the best time to visit Yosemite is during spring when the snow is melting and the waterfalls are at their full gushing glory, its massive granite mountains covered with glaciers, ancient giant sequoias, and vast meadows are spectacular year-round.

Continue reading on One Travel….

 

4 Must-Visit Neighborhoods in America’s Finest City

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As seen on The Huffington Post Travel, June 2014

San Diego often does not receive the attention it deserves as a tourist destination. Yet with beautiful beaches, perfect weather, friendly people, fresh food and a lively downtown, it’s easy to see why San Diego has been named “America’s Finest City.” This summer provides an excellent opportunity to explore the diverse neighborhoods of San Diego and to discover for yourself why this West Coast paradise is an ideal place to visit. 1. Downtown San Diego The San Diego International airport is one of the most conveniently situated airports in the world, as it is located right next to the city’s downtown district. With hotels, restaurants, nightlife and attractions, Downtown San Diego is a good place for business travelers to hang their coats at one of the Convention Center or Harbor View hotels. An easy way to become familiar with the city’s attractions is by climbing on board the San Diego Trolley. The tour allows you to hop on and off at any of the trolley’s stops: Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, Seaport Village, Gaslamp Quarter and William Heath Davis House. Once you have learned about the Mexican-American heritage in the area, get out and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. Embark on a whale watching expedition or attend a Padres game. Be sure to set aside plenty of time to visit the World Famous San Diego Zoo as well as the museums and gardens of Balboa Park.

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Balboa Park. Photo by Sucheta Rawal

In the evening, check out India Street, home to Little Italy, a neighborhood rich in Italian culture with a chic urban flavor showcased in both its culinary and housing styles. Eat at the hip and hearty Prepkitchen and pay a visit to one of the watering holes around the corner. List of events in downtown San Diego

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Little Italy. Photo by Suchet Rawal

2. Coronado Island Catch a ferry and cross over the picturesque Coronado Bridge, an ideal place to take in a view of the downtown skyline and sailboats in the San Diego Harbor. Get a feel for this charming small town within a big city as you stroll through the island’s boutique shops, restaurants and cafes.

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Coronado Bridge. Photo by Sucheta Rawal

Next, check in at the most historic hotel in the city, Hotel Del Coronado. Built in 1886, the property has been renovated with modern amenities and spacious guestrooms while preserving landmark architectural elements, including the original Otis elevator. The Del (as it’s called) has hosted many famous visitors, including U.S. Presidents Harrison, Taft, Carter, Roosevelt, Reagan, Nixon and Ford as well as famous authors and Hollywood actors. It was also the backdrop of the movie Some Like It Hot starring the ravenous Marilyn Monroe. The resort is equipped to meet every need of a relaxing family vacation. The on-premise spa, salon, fitness center, swimming pools, restaurants, coffee shop, ice cream parlor, candy store, shopping arcade, history lane, gift shops and children’s activity center give guests no reason to leave the property. In addition, Hotel Del’s sandy backyard was named “America’s #1 Beach” and is the perfect place to build a castle, search for seashells or swim in the sea. Yoga, surf and paddle-boarding lessons are offered right at the beach.

2014-05-23-DSC06141.JPGHotel Del Coronado. Photo by Sucheta Rawal

After some pampering with a signature Shell Coronado massage, enjoy a romantic seafood dinner by the outdoor fireplaces at 1500 Ocean. Finish with the decadent molten chocolate cake with poached cherries, toasted almonds and vanilla ice cream.

3. La Jolla Drive north for thirty minutes to arrive at the quiet residential area of La Jolla. This is where you will find California’s famous bluffs and caves that harbor hundreds of seals and sea lions. Stay at Grande Colonial Hotel, a historic boutique hotel located on Prospect Street with direct access to quaint neighborhood shops and restaurants. Completed in 1928, this European-designed hotel has received countless accolades for its preservation efforts and has been affectionately named “La Jolla’s Jewel.” Large and sophisticated rooms overlook the Pacific Coast and take you back to an era where only the finest crystals, glass and mahogany were used to create an intimate and luxurious ambiance.

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Lobby of Grande Colonial Hotel. Photo by Sucheta Rawal

Don’t miss a California sunset and dinner at NINE-TEN. Since opening, the restaurant has garnered numerous awards for featuring America’s best food and wine. Modern California cuisine led by award-winning Chef Jason Knibb and Pastry Chef Rachel King emphasize a market-driven, farm-to-table philosophy with locally made cheeses, artisanal breads and an award-winning wine cellar. Every dish is crafted with extra attention to wow diners with visual and textual finesse.

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Beet salad at NINE-TEN. Photo by Sucheta Rawal

The hotel is a step away from lovely beaches, including La Jolla Cove, the Children’s Pool (named by TripAdvisor as one of the “Top 10 Wonderfully Unique Beaches” in the world), La Jolla Shores, Windansea Beach and Black’s Beach.

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La Jolla Shores. Photo by Sucheta Rawal

Since San Diego enjoys crisp sunny temperatures yearlong, alfresco brunch is popular any day of the week. Try the lobster rolls or strawberry pancakes at Cody’s La Jolla or any of the fresh Californian-Mexican specialties at The Cottage.

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French Toast at Cody’s. Photo by Sucheta Rawal See events in La Jolla

4. Del Mar Del Mar is located near the coast in northern San Diego, adjacent to the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve where open spaces and rolling hills nestle Spanish-style luxury villas. Rated as one of only ten triple Five-Star resorts in the world by Forbes Travel Guide, The Grand Del Mar is a Mediterranean estate and a grand attraction. Drawing on inspirations from Italy, Spain and Morocco, the architectural elements of the pavilions and gardens create a magical ambiance for weddings, honeymoons and romantic getaways. Spend a few days at one of the suites or indulge at the Brisa Villa, equipped with a secluded terrace, climate-controlled patio, sunken Jacuzzi tub, expansive gourmet kitchen and state-of-the-art media room. Bask in the warm San Diego sunshine by one of The Grand Del Mar’s four heated pools. Sip expertly crafted cocktails at The Lobby Lounge and take elegant high tea at the handsome Library. The resort also boasts a championship Tom Fazio golf course, Five-Star spa and exquisite dining. Savor Mediterranean-influenced dishes using only the finest seasonal ingredients atAmaya, the casual restaurant at The Grand that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Catalan-style shrimp floating in chile and lime broth served with fresh grilled baguette and roasted baby beet salad lightly dressed with basil-pistachio butter, Comice pear and warm goat cheese make for refreshing summer appetizers while enjoying the picture-perfect views from a shaded terrace. The Grand Del Mar’s signature restaurant, Addison, features Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef William Bradley’s contemporary French creations paired with a Grand Award-winning wine list of nearly 3,600 selections.

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View from Amaya Terrace. Photo by Sucheta Rawal

No need to leave the kids behind. The Explorer’s Club engages children and teens with visual media, creative outlets and environmental endeavors while you indulge at The Grand Del Mar To read more about my trip to San Diego, visit Go Eat Give

Disclosure: I was a guest of Hotel Del Coronado, PrepKitchen, Grande Colonial Hotel and Amaya, but my reviews are based solely on my own experience.

blackberry farm

10 Reasons to Spring Break at The Blackberry Farm

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As you consider a spring getaway, make sure to take note of one of the country’s best-kept secrets, The Blackberry Farm located in East Tennessee. The 4,200-acre private estate in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains is surrounded by lush green scenery, unparalleled luxury, Southern hospitality and gourmet cuisine. The Blackberry Farm is actually a family home that opened its doors to vacationers and foodies about 30 years ago. Since then, the luxury resort has gained accolades from Bon Appetite (#1 Resort for Food Lovers), Travel+Leisure (#1 Resort in the Continental U.S. and Canada), and Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report (#1 Food & Wine Resort in the World), among many others. As the season shifts to warmer days and blossoming gardens, families can enjoy nature’s bounties with serene atmosphere, outdoor adventures, and farm to table dining.
Here are ten reasons to visit The Blackberry Farm this spring.
1. Hike in The Smoky Mountains: Sign up for a guided hike at the concierge desk that will take you through Blackberry’s forests that backs up to the Great Smoky Mountains. Here you can see the vibrant colors of the park, wild waterfalls and enjoy its great diversity of plant and animal life. March is when migrant birds return home to East Tennessee’s cool forests. Bring your binoculars and camera, as bird experts guide you through the misty cool morning.
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2. Romance in Luxury: The Farm’s rustic looking private cottages are decorated in modern American design complimented by regional influences. Classic furniture, heavenly feather beds, sumptuous linens, oversized soaking tubs, personal fireplaces, and exquisite in-room wine bars create a warm ambiance. Spend some quality time sipping champagne with your loved one, while lounging in your open-air patio surrounded by the fresh mountain breeze, followed by a romantic horse drawn carriage ride across the property.
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3. Eat the Bounties of The Season: Blackberry prides itself at being a working farm, which means many of the ingredients you see on the menu are sourced from right outside the dining room window. There is a bakery, butchery, dairy, creamery, salumeria, honeyhouse and a preservation kitchen on premise. James Beard award nominee for Best Chef Southeast, chef Joseph Lenn, leads the Barn restaurant, which serves seasonally inspired Foothills Cuisine — classic southern dishes that are refined with modern twists, along with an impressive collection of limited editions, vintage wines.
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4. Find Your Balance: The Blackberry Farm offers ongoing Wellness Boot Camps that include guided hikes, Earth walks, workouts, and yoga and meditation classes with personal trainers. For those looking for a more pampering experience, try the invigorating exfoliation, four hands massage or hydrotherapy at the Wellness Center and Spa.
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5. Canoe The Mountain Lakes: Spring is a great time to abandon those long johns and step into a canoe or kayak with a paddle splashing through cool waters. The waters of Panther and Abrams Creek, and the wetlands of Citico are great for an easy canoe while closely observing osprey and bald eagle hunting for prey.
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6. Play in The Living Room: A perfect family vacation is when you can do activities together and enjoy each other’s company. The Blackberry Farm’s Main Living Room was designed strictly with this in mind. It is a place to gather, grab a drink, read a book or play games. And if you need a little more motion, swing from deep-rooted trees or rock in old white chairs while soaking in the views of the manicured gardens, feeding pond and hills beyond.
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7. Get Your Green Thumb On: Whether you are looking to start your own garden, or just want to get your hands in the dirt, Garden Manager, Jeff Ross is always welcoming of guests getting involved with the Farm’s ongoing planting, seeding, weeding and harvesting. He can be found tending heirloom variety of beans, pickling cucumbers and preserving okra seeds for the next season. He is enriched with deep knowledge of Appalachian farming and can tell you practically anything about origins of cuisines.
8. Rock Climb For an Eagle’s View: If you ever wanted to start rock climbing like a pro, take a rope safety and climbing techniques class, or join one of the challenging courses. The adventures take you to the high cliffs of Chilhowee Mountain from where you can enjoy peaceful mountain scenery.
9. Become a Food And Wine Epicurean: The culinary journey does not stop in the kitchen. The Blackberry Farm offers daily cooking, preserving, wine tasting and beer making classes. The Barn boasts a cooking school facility where a number of epicurean events take place throughout the year. Learn to prepare a farm-to-table meal, spend time with a renowned cookbook author, or get inspired by distinguished guests from the culinary and wine world. The food and wine events at Blackberry are rated some of the best in the country.
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10. Tour De Smokies: Take a journey through the scenic byways and mountain climbs of the Smokies on Tour de Smokies Spring, a special event that will takes place from March 30 to April 2, 2014. It features former pro and top cycling Coach Robbie Ventura, TV personality and former professional Cyclist Bob Roll and Wine Importer Todd Mathis. Along with cycling, you will also get to enjoy educational seminarsand special meals featuring rare wine pairings.
~ Story and photography by Sucheta Rawal. All rights reserved.   

Country Luxury at Blackberry Farm

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As seen in Cuisine Noir magazine Spring 2014 print edition

Picture yourself at a 4,200-acre private estate in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains surrounded by lush green scenery with unparalleled luxury at your fingertips. You have arrived at Blackberry Farm where Southern hospitality, gourmet cuisine and cherished experiences await you.

Blackberry Farm is actually a family home that opened its doors to vacationers and foodies about 30 years ago. Since then, the east Tennessee luxury resort has gained accolades from Bon Appetite (#1 Resort for Food Lovers), Travel + Leisure (#1 Resort in the Continental U.S. and Canada) and Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report (#1 Food & Wine Resort in the World), among many others.

Upon entering manicured pastures with backdrops of private cottages, resident guardian llamas – George, Little Joe, Ben and Hoss – will keep a watchful eye while you make your way to the main reception area. Adorned with a burning fireplace and oversized chairs, the space is welcoming and sets the tone for the rest of your stay. Here, you can schedule your daily activities with a private concierge and take a property tour to get your bearings.

blackberry barn

A quick ride on a golf cart takes you through meandering streets, stopping at the Main Living Room which is a place to gather, grab a drink, read a book or play games, as the name aptly suggests. This is also where breakfast and lunch are served while guests enjoy a view of the pond and swings hanging from deep-rooted trees. Soaking in views of the Smoky Mountains while sipping lavender tea in a white rocking chair is the perfect way to begin your dream vacation.

After familiarizing yourself with where the spa, restaurant, lounge, chapel, farmhouse and walking trails are, it’s time to retreat to your room. While the farm’s cottages look rustic from outside, their interiors make you feel as if you have stepped into one of the pages of Southern Living magazine. The Blackberry Farm design team creates a warm ambiance with modern American design complemented by regional influences. Classic furniture, heavenly feather beds, sumptuous linens, oversized soaking tubs, personal fireplaces and exquisite in-room wine bars are just a few elements that aid in making your stay memorable.

blackberry cottage

DINING

Blackberry prides itself in being a working farm which means many of the ingredients you see on the menu are sourced from right outside the dining room window. Garden Manager Jeff Ross can be found tending heirloom variety of beans, pickling cucumbers and preserving okra seeds for the next season. Guests are invited to join him and lend a helping hand. He has a deep knowledge of Appalachian farming and can tell you practically anything about origins of cuisines. Ross also likes to cook what he grows and can be found in the kitchen teaching cooking classes. “I like to preserve fresh food when it’s in season and use it to create interesting dishes year round,” he says while breading and frying large capers before adding them to a carefully prepared shaved Brussels sprouts salad with grapes poached in chicken jus.

Guests often say that Blackberry Farm’s breakfast is the best they have ever had. The chefs are easily able to live up to this accolade when they are working with ingredients such as Farmstead cheese and yogurt, fresh eggs, homemade pecan butter, house made sausage and wild blackberries picked right off the farm. On the premises are also the farm’s bakery, butchery, dairy, creamery, salumeria, honey house and a preservation kitchen where artisanal food products are handcrafted for the restaurant and gift shop.

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Blackberry’s impressive wine list reveals a weighted interest in wine styles that complement Foothills Cuisine as well as owner Sam Beall’s passion for specific wine-producing regions. Limited editions, vintages and smaller producers are some of the factors considered when introducing a label onto the farm’s menu. The wine cellar located at The Barn is the perfect place to host a wine tasting or a private dinner.

WELLNESS

Do not feel guilty while indulging in delicious cuisine and fine wines during this getaway. Blackberry Farm strongly believes in a holistic approach to wellness that focuses on creating rejuvenating environments, nutritious cuisine, pampering spa, as well as a fitness regimen. The proprietors claim, “We recognize fully that things like butter, sugars, cheeses and wine aren’t inherently bad. They’re simply different kinds of energy that, when thoughtfully consumed and balanced, can fuel various levels of exercise and activity.”

Guests can enjoy a Wellness Boot Camp series that include guided hikes, Earth walks, workouts, and yoga and meditation classes with personal trainers. There are series of picturesque trails on the property that call for exploration and being one with nature. Recover and relax with invigorating exfoliation, four hands massage or hydrotherapy at the Farmhouse Spa. Blackberry’s new Wellness Center and Spa scheduled to open in Summer 2014 will offer even more seasonal, farm-inspired spa treatments, steam rooms, quiet lounges, one-on-one consultation areas, a classroom and a juice bar.

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ACTIVITIES

Brian Lee, director of guest relations, maintains that a visit to Blackberry Farm can be designed as a “physically and mentally challenging vacation for the entire family.” What he suggests is that generations of travelers reconnect during one of many outdoor activities offered at the farm such as fly-fishing, clay shooting, canoeing, paddle boarding, kayaking, biking and hiking. Outdoors enthusiasts can pay a visit to the horses at the stables before enjoying a day of horseback riding, fox hunting or simply a romantic horse drawn carriage ride across the countryside.

Ages 10 and up can embark on guided Adventure Quests, Mountain Discovery and Farmstead Life. Practically every interest is organized on the property itself and there is no reason for guests to leave.

Lee also talks about the importance of “learning new skills” while on a holiday. Consider enrolling for unique experiences such as Natural Horsemanship where you can gain a better understanding of the human/horse relationship, Life on The Farm where you can work and observe some of the Farmstead artisans around the property or Day in the Life of a Chef where you can apprentice with one of Blackberry Farm’s esteemed chefs.

The Barn offers a cooking school facility where a number of epicurean events take place throughout the year. Learn to prepare a farm-to-table meal, spend time with a renowned cookbook author, or get inspired by distinguished guests from the culinary and wine world. The food and wine events at Blackberry are rated some of the best in the country.

Blackberry Farm is the perfect hideaway for those looking for a relaxed and indulgent, yet balanced approach to travel. They have created an ideal destination to facilitate the appreciation of modern designs midst natural beauty, rustic cuisine with refined palates, and physical health equalized with spiritual and mental stimulation.

To book your luxury getaway in Tennessee, visit www.blackberryfarm.com or call 865- 984-8166.

Photo credits: Beall + Thomas photography

How to Plan the Perfect Road Trip This Summer

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Summer is the perfect time to take a family road trip and explore the majestic landscapes of the U.S. From canyons and glaciers, to beaches and national forests, road trips are a fun way to experience nature and countryside in all its glory. No matter where in U.S. you live, there is always a scenic highway, back road or trail waiting to be discovered.

You may think planning a road trip involves less work and money, but that depends on many factors. A well-planned road trip involves a little research beforehand.  Here are a few tips to help you get started.

1.  Deciding on the route. A road trip is usually not about reaching the destination, but about enjoying the journey and the many sights you will get to see along the way. Often times, when we are driving we tend to take the fastest highways, thereby missing lesser-known spectacles. You may want to look for scenic roads along your route by visiting the website of the National Scenic Byways Program.

2.  Choosing your transport. Depending on the size of your group, you may want to rent a RV, car or minivan. If you plan to add a lot of miles, it may be cheaper to rent versus drive your own car. Having a fuel-efficient vehicle will save you a lot of money too. Make sure to check your insurance policy and roadside assistance coverage before leaving home. Keep an extra set of keys, tires, basic repair tools and safety kit. Take your own GPS to avoid an unnecessary rental fee.

3.  Where to sleep. Now is the time to call up your friends in small towns whom you could not visit for these years. Homestays, travel exchange programs and campgrounds are fun and affordable ways to spend the night during your road trip. If you prefer more private dwellings, look for vacation rentals by owners, bed and breakfasts or motels. Since you will not be spending a lot of time in your hotel room, your main criteria when choosing your accommodation should be comfortable clean bedding and a hot shower.

4.  Feeding your belly.  While passing by hundred of signs for fast food and highway restaurants, you may get tempted to eat more burgers and fries on this trip. Keep in mind that eating healthily while on the road is even more important especially if you are prone to carsickness. Some people eat more purely out of boredom of being stuck in the car. It’s best to visit a grocery store and pick up fresh food, sandwiches and snacks. Instead of the usual road trip munchies, stock up on granola bars, carrot sticks, grapes nuts, and water.

It is always fun to stop at roadside farm stands and farmers’ markets for lunch or snacks. You may want to sample what the vendors are selling as they are part of your road trip experience. Often times, you may come across apple orchards, strawberry fields and peanut farms that let you pick your own for a minimal price. If you have time, try it out as a group activity that will allow you to get moving, enjoy the outdoors, and gather farm to table snacks for the road.

Of course you still want to visit restaurants and diners frequented by the locals so you can get a real taste of the town. Avoid going to branded and chain establishments and seek out locally owned businesses so you can support them along the way.

5.  Technology on the road.  It’s best to carry a cellphone with car charger in case of emergencies and to call for reservations. You can carry a separate GPS or download Maps (free) or Tom Tom ($30) applications on your phone. Carry a fully charged Bluetooth device if you plan to talk on the phone while driving. If you have an iPod, create a music playlists for your road trip beforehand.

These days there are hundreds of smart phone applications created specifically for road trippers. From finding the cheapest gas station, nearest national park, highest rated hotel or restaurant to interactive maps, you can end up spending more time looking at your device than through your window. Just be careful not to text while driving.

If you are looking for ideas for your next road trip, here are the top 10 drives in the U.S.:

1. Pacific Coast of California stopping at Big Sur and Carmel
2. Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park
3. Seward Highway in Alaska
4. Napa and Sonoma wine country in Northern California
5. Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana
6. Road to Hana on the Maui island of Hawaii
7. Red Rock Scenic Byway in Sedona, Arizona
8. Mount Rushmore, Badlands and the Black Hills
9. Route 66 from Arizona to Chicago through the Grand Canyon
10. North Carolina’s Outer Banks Highway

Lastly, you may encounter traffic delays, untimely stops or severe weather. There may be friction among the group sometimes. Allow yourself to be flexible and stay calm, reminding yourself that you are on vacation. Be spontaneous, have fun and enjoy the uniqueness at each stop of the way.