Travel: The Rocks – Sydney, Australia Pub Crawl

You’ve had a long day of sight seeing around Sydney, Australia.  You’ve seen the opera house, the harbor bridge and ate a great lunch at one of the many fine restaurants in Circular Quay harbor.  Or perhaps you’ve spent the day surfing (or trying to at least) at Bondi Beach.  Either way, it’s time for a break and you are now ready to unwind in a very fun and unique way – a pub tour of The Rocks!Sydney Australia pub tour 11-8-2011 3-21-06 AM

Come along then mate – let’s meet at Cadman’s cottage, the oldest house in Sydney and then just go for a bit of a stroll.  C’mon, don’t worry about the rain, you’ll be inside soon enough!  Look our guide has even brought us some fashionable rain ponchos – only thing is, the worst of the rain is now over!  Wait, this is not a whine tour, it is all about beer.

Our first stop is an Irish pub.  Why Irish?  Why not!  It’s just to get you situated.  On tap we have a good selection of well known Irish beers.  Our tour guides gives us an overview of what to expect on the tour and tells us about The Rocks.  The Rocks was established shortly after the colony of Australia was formed in 1788.  Original buildings are made mostly of local sandstone from which The Rocks gets its name.  From the Sydney Australia pub tour 11-8-2011 3-20-59 AMbeginning, this harbor side neighborhood had a reputation as a slum, frequented by sailors and prostitutes.  However, today we won’t see much of either during our pub tour.  Many times in history, the plan was to demolish the and redevelop the area, however in the 1970’s politics came into play to renovate and not demolish.  Now The Rocks is very popular with tourists, featuring a variety of craft and souvenir shops as well as many historic pubs.  The Rocks are very close to Circular Quay (Sydney harbor area) and have great views of the Harbor bridge. 

Sydney Australia pub tour 11-8-2011 3-28-19 AMOur next stop is the Hero of Waterloo.  It’s been here for 160 years or so, waiting for us to arrive – however the beer is definitely much more recent.   You can see the sandstone walls both inside and out.  There are many beers on tap at the Hero, but let’s focus on James Squire, named after the convict brewer, James Squire, who it is claimed created Australia’s first commercial brewery.  On tap today we have the Nine Tales Amber Ale, The Chancer Golden Ale, One Fifty Lashes Pale Ale, Four Wives Pilsner and Jack of Spades Porter.  You pick whichever you like, but I’m going for the One Fifty Lashes!  It’s an excellent Aussie style Pale Ale, with 3 varieties of hops, including the New Zealand grown Nelson Sauvin, which is also now being used by several American craft breweries.

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The beer is great, the atmosphere is conducive to tipping a few pints and the setting is absolutely historic.  But you have to go to the basement to get the ultimate tale of this bar!

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From the Hero of Waterloo website  

“There are many stories surrounding The Hero. The best known is that of the tunnel which runs from the cellars of the hotel to the Harbor. The tunnel was used for rum smuggling and involuntary recruitment of sailors. A young man might find himself drunk at the bar, dropped through a trap door into the cellar, dragged through the tunnel, to awake next morning at sea shanghaied aboard a clipper, and so legend goes.  A maze of stone cellars under The Hero bear silent witness to its nefarious past. This Historic Australian landmark is classified by the Heritage Council and The National Trust.”

Sydney Australia pub tour 11-8-2011 3-49-39 AMThe tunnel is cemented over, so we cannot use it today, but if this happened to you, you certainly would never forget your visit to the Hero of Waterloo!  We paid for our beers, but if you go and are offered a free brew by a comely wench, you are on your own.

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Now it is off to my favorite stop on the tour – The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel.  Everything you could need – food, beer and a place to sleep!.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s also the only Brewery in the world with a beer named after former United States Vice President Dan Quayle.  Made famous in the states for not knowing how to spell “potatoes”, Dan is even less famous here (other than the beer of course) – go ahead search the web – you can find links to Quayle Ale, but nobody seems to know why it is called by this name.  You can find out, but only if you go on the tour!  Just because I don’t tell you why now, does not necessarily mean that I had too good of a time on the tour drinking the other fine beers at Lord Nelson, that I forgot the story.  No does not mean that at all.

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Look – here is a picture on the wall of Dan drinking beer at Lord Nelson’s.  Can’t you just picture him spouting out one of his famous (mis)statements “What a waste it is to lose one’s mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.”  or  “The future will be better tomorrow.”  Again, how true for sure.

We will make one more stop on this tour at the Australian Hotel.  The great thing about this place, is that if it were not raining we could sit outside.Sydney Australia pub tour 11-8-2011 4-41-51 AM

Also – they have largest collection of Australian beer cans I’ve ever seen.  OK, it’s the only one I’ve seen, but it is still large.  The Australian hosts an annual Australian Beer Festival in October of each year.  You may be thinking, when exactly is a good time to go to Australia?  The seasons are opposite of what we have here in the states, so maybe go during the US winter.  OK that could be a good idea, but really October sounds like a good time to go to me.  The winner at the festival last year for best overall beer was Holgate Chocolate Temptress.  Man that does sound tempting.

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Now it’s the end of our tour in The Rocks.  If you are reading this and looking for a special beer tour, please consider our travel agency exclusive custom tour “Microbrews & Other Tastes of Wisconsin”.  For less than the cost of an average air ticket you can have an all-inclusive Wisconsin vacation in March of 2012.  We hope to see you there!


Travel: Sydney Australia and the Sydney Bridge Climb

Only a quick 14 hour flight from Los Angeles, is the truly amazing city of Sydney Australia.  Sydney is the most populous city in Australia, but allows the visitor so many opportunities for intimacy that even if you are one that normally avoids cities, it is definitely a must see. 

Sydney was established in 1788 as the site of the first British colony in Australia.  Part of the reason, was Britain seemed to like to export its criminals, and with lengthy sentences for even petty crimes, instead of filling prisons in Britain, why not ship the prisoners some where else and let them build their own prisons.  You’ll notice that 1788 is after the date of American independence.  Britain could no longer sends its criminals to North America so it had to find a new location: Australia.

Sydney had a lot of issues like any new colony would, but by the 1820’s it improved from its basic beginnings into a much more cosmopolitan city.  British (and Irish) convicts had been busy constructing many roads, wharves, bridges and buildings.  The city now had banks, markets, and a police force (or more correctly – constabulary).  Now it is worth noting the convicts did not stay prisoners forever.  Once their sentence was up they could either go home or stay and assimilate into Australian society.  To go home however, meant many months on a ship at sea and the government would not pay the return fare.  So, they typically stayed.  In the 1850’s they were also joined by folks from all around the world as the first of several Australian gold rushes began.

Everything was going great, but in 1929, the Great Depression hit Sydney bad.  Being extremely dependent on exports of agricultural and industrial items, means Australia was one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.  Unemployment reached 29%.  Work was hard to come by, except for some of those lucky folks who had jobs building the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  The bridge was built to connect the Sydney city center to the north shore.  The southern end is in The Rocks section of Sydney (watch for blogs on our pub tour of the rocks). Here is how it looked when finished in 1932


According to the good folks at Guinness (good book for records, great beer), it is the world’s widest single span bridge.  It carries rail, pedestrians, bicycles and 6 lanes of cars.  The bridge measures 3770 feet long  and is 440 feet high measured from the very top to the water level.  Construction began in July of 1923 and the bridge was opened for business in March of 1932.  For more details on the bridge history you can go here

Here’s a few views of the bridge we took on our recent trip to Australia.

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What’s particularly amazing is the bridge is now open to public for climbing!  Starting in 1998, the company BridgeClimb has made it possible for millions of tourists to climb the southern half of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  Climbers are provided with protective clothing and safety gear.  After a brief orientation, they are secured to the bridge by a wire lifeline and they simply go for a supervised 3 hour walk.  I was recently in Sydney and had to give this a try.  A friend of mine from Down Under Answers made arrangements for me to be a part of a night climb.  Her words were it would be scary yet exhilarating.  I am not a big fan of heights, but also don’t want to miss out on truly momentous tour opportunities.  Let it be said, I am not a mountain climber, not a bungee jumper, and have never strapped on a parachute in my life.

Can you see the people on top of the arch? Sydney Australia 11-7-2011 8-45-10 PM

Here is a close up

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First you have to take a breathalyzer test to be sure you were not hanging out in the local bars just before your climb.  This is a tough one, because the BridgeClimb383673_2224598735192_1254456758_32264116_1701357611_n office from where you begin is in The Rocks area of Sydney and has lots of great pubs.  If you pass the breath test (yes I did!), you then lock up all your valuables and change into the Bridge Climb Suit.  You are not allowed to take any personal items on the climb – no phones, no cameras, no emergency beers.  Here is the last picture from my blackberry – all suited up and ready to orient.  One Facebook friend remarked that I looked a criminal caught in a security camera.  It’s true – I was a bit nervous.

During orientation they give you all the safety gear, show you how to use it and walk you through a mock-up climbing section.  Just to be clear, there are steep stairs, but most of the BridgeClimb is walking.  Walking up and walking down, but not what you typically picture if you think of mountain climbing.

It is high.  It felt high and it made my earlier snack of a greasy empanada want to jump out every now and then.  Probably just nerves and bad grease, but still. 

However, I did climb to the top.  I  loved it every step of the way.  I really wanted to do it to prove I could and to be able to tell people I did it.  There was one particular area I did not like.   I was not a big fan of where you cross over from the span you came up, to the one you go down.  It’s a narrow walkway looking down at 7 lanes of traffic, but with railing and of course you are cabled in.  I don’t think I ever felt that I was not safe, I was constantly however just a little bit apprehensive. The fear of heights is not the fear of falling and dying.  It’s just the fear of the fall.  You know while it will be fast it will still take a second or so, just long enough for you to realize what a stupid thing you did and now you’re going to make the news, but you won’t be able to see it yourself.  As far as I know, nobody has ever fallen from the BridgeClimb and that now includes me.

Sydney Bridge climb

Here I am – at the very top!   Honestly, no photo shop involved.

You can do it to.  Sue and I are both Aussie Travel Specialists, and can help you plan your trip to Australia (and the BridgeClimb if you want).  This is really a bucket list type trip, so whether you use our agency or not, be sure to find an Aussie specialist to work with to help maximize your experience.

Next time I promise to blog about other options in Sydney that will definitely make you fail the breathalyzer test.

Grace: Dogs

I have been a dog owner for many years.  Currently my wife and I have 2 soft coated wheaten terriers and like proud parents, we take a lot of pictures (and videos) of them.  We also have children we are quite proud of as well, but alas, this post is not about them.

Here is Fergus as a puppy – shortly after he first came home .  You can see all the fun energy he has.  While he is currently several years older now, he still has that same energy and puppy play in him.

Fergus as a puppy


When Fergus was about 2 years old, someone (my wife) decided that he could really use a companion, so we got Feena.  Well if he was lonely at all, he is not anymore – in fact nobody is.  Feena is almost 2 years younger to the day than Fergus, and they are related – same mother, however different father.  They have different hair coats Fergus is American coat, and Feena is Irish coat.  Neither of them sheds, as there is no undercoat.

Once again in the snow – here is Fergus and Feena shortly after she came to live with us.  It was a brutally cold week in February, and with a different type of hair coat than Fergus she needed a little sweater to help stay warm. 

Fergus and Feena in the snow.

Maybe you don’t want to think about the snow.  It is mid November here in the land of cheese and not a topic we want to focus on.  Here is a fun video of the dogs playing in their pool. This video started out with a hole Feena dug in the yard.  Fergus loves water, Feena not so much.

If you dig a hole, then you need a bath.

Maybe you’ve already seen enough, but if not you can see more pictures of our dogs and their other wheaten friends at blogspot.

All right, dogs are fun and friendly, but what does this have to do with grace?  Well my dogs seem to love me no matter what.  If I go on vacation for a couple of weeks, they welcome me back with no strings attached.  If I treat others badly during the day, the dogs don’t care that I’m an insensitive jerk, but still love me.  If I cannot feed them on time, they simply forgive me and just eat without complaining.

OK maybe you don’t have a dog and don’t agree or understand that a dog can love someone. Ask a dog owner however, and they know in their heart how true it is. Perhaps they cannot always put their finger on exactly how they can tell you it is not just affection, but really love. However, they absolutely, without question, know that their dog loves them. Not only that but their dogs make them happy and bring them great joy. It’s the same way that I know God loves me. Maybe I cannot always give you tangible proof that you’d agree with, but I know it is true.

I cannot fully understand God’s grace for me, but it’s certainly a lot like this.  What’s truly amazing is that too often I behave quite badly (like Feena can!), use foul language (especially when driving), insult people, act rudely and perhaps even look dirty and smell bad at times (like Fergus AND Feena). Despite this I hope it is also very true that my God is always happy with me and that I bring Him joy too. He loves me (and you) no matter what.  It does not matter where I go or what I’ve done, I cannot be separated from His love.  While I don’t know how to forgive people for everything, He still forgives me for everything (including any confusing and poorly written blogs).

Time to go feed the dogs!

Drink: Redeye Brewing Company

redeye brewing company 9-4-2011 11-26-38 AMIf you have not heard of Redeye Brewing Company, than it’s only because you have not been to Wausau, Wisconsin lately. 

Redeye is a brewery restaurant geared around artisan food and handcrafted beer.  The food focuses on fresh ingredients, locally sourced whenever possible, and you certainly can’t get more locally sourced than the gardens right next to the sidewalk as you enter.  While we were there, we opted for a snack on the lighter side – a chicken asiago pizza that was really quite fantastic.The pizza dough is made fresh, stretched by hand and cooked in a wood burning brick pizza oven, using locally sourced hardwoods!  The ingredients on the pizza were top quality and assembled in gourmet fashion.  Only crumbs remained when we finished.  You can view their outstanding menu here.

The handcrafted beer really shines.  While there, we tried a sampler and found all the beers to be quite impressive.  Flavorful, good body, lots of structure all around.  Our favorites:  Scarlet 7 – a Belgian Dubbel and the Black IPA coming in at 73 IBU.  This  IPA balances out the aggressive hoppiness with mellow notes of roasted malts.  We had a couple of “light beer” drinkers with us (you know the type!), during this trip who also ordered a sampler.  They had some challenges with the IPAs, and I gladly helped them put away their Black IPA sample.  The beer was top notch and obviously brewed by folks that love real beer.

redeye brewing company 9-4-2011 11-29-15 AMHere is a terribly blurry shot of the Redeye beers that were on tap during our recent visit. Unfortunately, I had recently dropped the camera and had not quite realized I had broken it.  However, I was able to patch it together well enough for a better shot in the brewing room, where all the crafting begins.  A beautiful marriage of stainless steel and copper!

Once he noticed me taking pictures through the glass window – Head Chef David Lorio was gracious enough to give me an inside tour of the brewing room.redeye brewing company 9-4-2011 12-07-53 PM

David explained the  barrels are for a special wood barrel aged edition of Scarlet 7.  We hope to be back in time to sample them when ready! redeye brewing company 9-4-2011 12-07-37 PM

In March 2012, we are planning an exclusive Micro-Brews of Wisconsin tour.  Current plans are to have Redeye as one of our featured stops.  You’re going to love this place.  Check out the website for updates on the tour.

Grace: Love all, Serve all & Joy

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If you’ve ever been to a Hard Rock Café, then you probably know about one their mottos – “Love All, Serve All”.  Personally, I’ve sought out Hard Rocks’ at many destinations:  Chicago, Orlando, San Francisco, Venice, Fiji, Mexico and Jamaica.  The restaurants are outfitted with tons of Rock memorabilia, which is different at every location.   The food seems to be pretty consistently good no matter what country you visit and the atmosphere is always fun.

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I honestly don’t know the origination of the Love all, Serve all theme, but it certainly is a worthy way to go.  Hard Rock also has other Mottos:  All Is One, Save The Planet and Take Time To Be Kind.  Simple words, all of them, but certainly quite inspirational. 

Now, the main reason I go to Hard Rock is not because of the food, the rock and roll music, memorabilia or the inspirational themes.  I go to get the hat. 

Maui Haleakala National Park paul3 Here is my Hard Rock Hawaii hat on top of the world in Maui.

DSC_0051  Here is another Hard Rock hat in Utah – (with apologies to all of my many Packer loving friends – nah!)

Garden of the Sleeping Giant Fiji 2-2-2011 3-09-38 PMHere is another Hard Rock hat in Fiji.

OK – several things are obvious from these pictures.  I like to go places, I like to wear hats and I need to lose a few (or more) pounds.  I must also add that the hats come in handy on very sunny days when you have thinning hair – which by the way is not my fault, it’s a genetic thing after all!

OK – but this is not strictly speaking a travel post, as I put it under the Grace heading.  Seriously, I enjoy travel, especially travel with my wife.  The biggest part of “enjoy” is “joy”.  For me, travel with Sue (and wearing Hard Rock hats) is definitely one of life’s many joys.  I don’t know that I ever thought much on how Joy and Grace actually go together until recently.  Author John Ortberg wrote “Joy is at the heart of God’s plan for human beings.  The reason for this is worth pondering awhile:  Joy is at the heart of God himself.  We will never understand the significance of joy in human life until we understand its importance to God.  I suspect that most of us seriously underestimate God’s capacity for joy.”  He goes on to add “We are invited to rejoice in every moment of life because every moment in life is a gift.”

I sincerely hope this blog finds you joyous.  Even trying to implement simple sayings such as Love All Serve All, can spur us on to a more joyous frame of mind.  Jesus told his friends that his aim was they should be filled with joy, not that they should be just a bit joyful, but filled with joy – filled to capacity.  It’s not always easy, but I can always try harder for it to be more of who I am, more often.

Travel: Destination Weddings

Our agency has proudly and enthusiastically helped many dozens of couples get married at vacation destinations over the last 14 years.  Here is a very small sampling of their weddings at our website.  ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) recently published tips for planning a honeymoon, which is summarized nicely on the MAST Travel Network blog.  Many of these tips are worth reading as they also apply to destination weddings.  m&m bride and groom on grass

The focus of this blog article though is destination weddings and holjromanticw you can get help.  First off, what exactly is a destination wedding?  If you do a Google search, you’ll find over 13 million results for “destination wedding”.  Wow that is a lot to look at!  Basically a destination wedding is a wedding that occurs at some type of vacation or resort destination.  That certainly seems simple enough, however the challenges are really in the details.  Where to go?  How to get married there?  What if this is a second (or third, or …) marriage?  How do I make all the arrangements?  What are the legal requirements for a destination? Who do I invite?  Do we need passports?  What if grandma has an artificial hip – can she get through the airport screening to fly to my wedding?  Who can help me with all of these questions? Well you are starting to get the idea that there are lots of things to consider, and lots of potential for questions.

Let’s focus on the last one – “Who can help me with all of these questions?”.   Destination wedding JM1kiss2_jpgorganizers are really in the travel business.  You need to travel somewhere to have a destination wedding, so who better to check with than some type of travel consultant?  You can work directly with a resort, but the problem is the only options you get will be ones that work best for that specific resort, and you will not know if that really is the best option for you.  If you want to check on multiple locations, you need to make multiple contacts.  That is where a travel agent (or as we prefer, consultant) comes in.  They will do all the work for you.  Now there are many great travel agents out there, but just as in other businesses, they do not all specialize in everything available.  Be sure to find someone who will consult on your travel AND knows destination weddings.  Get recommendations from friends if possible or ask the travel agency for references of destination wedding clients they’ve worked with. n7947445_37761267_8366 The thing you are most looking for is an agent or agency that you can have a relationship with, where they are most interested in getting to know you and discovering what your needs are.  Do not be drawn in by flashy web sites, or sales gimmicks.  This is your wedding and it needs to be focused on who you are and what you want to do.  Discovering what you want for your wedding and honeymoon is a very personal thing – a web site cannot do this, only a real live destination wedding travel consultant can.

So let’s take a brief look at tips and some basic items you should consider:

Tip #1:  Work with a great travel consultant who has destination wedding experience and many satisfied clients.  This person will help you discover what you want in your wedding, how to get it done, where to make it happen, and provide all travel arrangements to make your dreams a reality.  They are an agent – which means they work for you,  representing your needs. dena and amier2

Tip #2:  Go back to Tip #1 again and again.  While we can certainly come up with a catchy top 10 list of tips, really tip #1 is the most important thing to focus on.  A great consultant will know all the right questions to ask of you, and will help come up with all of the right answers that meet your needs.  The process takes time so you need to develop a relationship with your consultant.  There is no magic formula that works for all couples. 

Tip #3:  Ok this is not really a tip at all, but just a common question that comes up – How much does it cost to use a travel consultant?  In some cases, it may be free.  Not all travel agencies charge for consulting, as they figure they will make all their money back when they book your travel.  But think for a moment, if it is free – how much is it really  worth?  How invested are they in really working hard to meet my wedding needs?  Most professional consultants in many professions charge you for a consultation, so why is that?  They are professionals and they have a lot of time, training and effort invested in becoming professionals, so therefore when they consult it is really quite valuable and worth charging for. 

b&aWedding 061Our agency is GetAway Travel Service and Sue (email: is the best destination wedding travel consultant that I know.  OK I admit I’m just a bit biased as I happen to be married to her.  Oh wait, I haven’t mentioned it yet, but our wedding was also a destination wedding, 14 wonderful years ago.  You can check out Sue’s latest blog posts at

Also very important to note:  The pictures you see here are all from our clients and their destination weddings – which of course we helped arrange.

Travel: Napa Valley, California

File:Napa Valley CA Photo D Ramey Logan 01.jpgWell you-know-who has left yours-truly behind while she goes off gallivanting in beautiful Napa Valley this week.  Well I was in on the decision to not go with, but that does not mean I have to like it. 

Here are my top 10 reasons why I want to visit Napa Valley as well.

10.  There are over 450 wineries in the area.  You don’t have to work hard to find something you’ll like and many wines you taste can only be obtained at the winery and are not available in your local area.

9.  It’s not just Napa.  Napa Valley is only one of the regions in the California North Coast AVA (American Viticultural Area).  6 counties fall into this area:  Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma.  Within the 6 county area are some 44 AVAs.  What does this mean to us?  Really unlimited opportunities to go places, meet people and sample their wines.

8. This is undoubtedly one of the worlds premium wine growing regions.  Not just California, not just the US, but the world.  Dare we say it could also be one of the universes’ premium regions?  I think it is safe to say so.

7.  Sonoma.  The larges production of wines in the North Coast is actually from Sonoma.  Sonoma is considered the birthplace of the California wine industry.  Napa is hip, Sonoma is cool.

6.  Zinfandel. File:Zinfandel grapes.jpg I’m not talking about the pink stuff your great grandmother likes to drink.  Zinfandel is a unique (mostly) American robust red wine.  High sugar content in the grape creates wines with high alcohol contents.  There are only 2 other areas in the world of note, growing this grape – in Italy it is known as Primitivo and in Croatia it is the Crljenak Kaštelanski grape (don’t ask me how to pronounce this!).  I’ve had Primitivo and can say it is certainly a similar tasting style.  Some day I hope to go to Croatia for the final comparisons.  Zinfandel is planted on about 11% or more of California vineyards.  Zinfandel is described as tasting intense: spicy, peppery, plummy, red berry fruits, notes of cedar and vanilla.  It is higher in alcohol than many other grapes, so tastes best if well balanced with tannins, often from American Oak.  My favorite red?  A big jammy Zin.

5. Boutique wineries.  Don’t worry about visiting the fanciest or trendiest wineries, visiting the smaller mom & pop or boutique wineries provide an intimate and satisfying trip.  Visiting with the folks that actually make the wines is preferred to visiting a sterile tasting room.

4.  All the wine.  Ok, not just Zinfandel, but Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc & Sauvignon Blanc, just to mention a few.  Sometimes only 1 grape variety is used in a given wine, but frequently other grapes are blended to add more body, flavor or structure overall.

3.  Brewpubs.  There are some new brewpubs that I would certainly like to try.  I can’t list them here, as I don’t know them well at this point.

2.  Breweries.  Lagunitas Brewing Company is located in Petaluma, CA – only about 10 miles from Sonoma.  They make a fantastic IPA and have a dog on their logo – 2 things I look for when picking breweries to visit.

1.  I’m missing a nice trip with my best friend.  OK and I’m a bit jealous.  I’m stuck in the office blogging about it and she is out tasting wines as I type.

Just a plug, if you need help planning your wine tasting vacation anywhere.  Contact GetAway Travel Service –  For some of our wine-centric postings, visit us on Facebook at

Grace: My Back Yard

Despite immense pressures in his life, Jesus took time out periodically to find quiet places to pray.  It’s a good example for us.  At a recent men’s church group meeting I attended we had lots of discussion about this.  The verse for the weeks’ lesson was from Psalm 46:10.  The first part of the verse is “Be still and know that I am God..”.  Perhaps the point is that during our often busy lives, the best way to seek God is to stop everything, close our minds to the outside world and open our hearts to God.

DSC_0167It is not an easy thing for me to do.  It’s very easy to think of praying and seeking God’s advice when things are going really really bad, but what about when I just need to hear his voice, for some guidance.  John Ortberg wrote in The Life You’ve Always Wanted ”Today, as best I can, I am going to be still.  I am not going to chatter thoughtlessly.  I will remember that I don’t have to defend myself or make people think of me the way I want them to.  Today I don’t have to get my way.  Today, before I make decisions, I will try to listen for God’s voice.  Today I am not going to be tossed around by anxiety or anger – I will take those feelings as prompts from the Spirit to listen first.  In each of these situations I will ask God, “How would you like me to respond?  I will live in stillness.” 

Today I don’t have to get my way?  I definitely want to get my way every day.  I want to think the world will meet my needs, listen to all my complaints, and fix everything I think needs fixing.  In fact I’m rather impatient about it too.

Occasionally however I can take time to stop and smell the roses, to bask in the glow of the creation.  One of the best places I find is my own back yard.  I have not seen any sand hill cranes this year, but they were constant visitors last year.  Maybe if I just spend some more time being still.


Drink: Tyranena

tyranena 9-18-2010 7-45-40 PMWhat’s the most important tourist stop located between Milwaukee and Madison?  Thanks for asking – the answer is Lake Mills of course.  Now I’m sure that Lake Mills has all sorts of redeeming qualities: gas stations, libraries, restaurants, etc. –  but the one I am most focused on is its own hometown brewery of Tyranena. 

One of the most popular beers, found on tap in multiple locations throughout where I live near Milwaukee is Bitter Woman IPA.  Coming in at 5.75% ABV and 68 IBU, it’s a well balanced hoppy and floral tyranena 9-18-2010 7-37-37 PMbeer with serious citrus going on.  Beer Advocate rates it as A minus.  Personally I think the only thing holding back the Bitter Woman IPA from a full A or an A plus is the Scurvy IPA, which is a seasonal brew released between spring and summer and containing a real dose of Oranges.  It’s an A+ in my book in that it takes Bitter Woman to a fruitier, more rounded place.  Certainly, she is still bitter, but now she’s wearing a twinge of a smile.

tyranena 9-18-2010 7-41-28 PMTyranena has lots of great events to check out during the summer, as well as live music on most Fridays and Saturdays year round.  You can check out their website at

Photos are courtesy of GetAway Travel Service, Hartland WI –  For some of their beer-centric postings, you should check out

Music: Didgeridoo

I first saw William Barton during the YouTube Orchestra 2011 live broadcast on New Years.  He played the closing number on the Didgeridoo and it was absolutely mesmerizing.

Here he is in his studio playing didgeridoo and guitar at the same time. I think it sounds awesome, Sue thought she heard a dog in pain!

Didge Fusion

Here is another video featuring William, from Melbourne opera house with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.  I strongly suggest scrolling ahead to the 2 minute 30 second mark to skip the intro and get right to the music.  Notice the artist creating projections onto the roof of the Sydney Opera House.  Wish I was there.  Could have stayed an extra week and head out to Australian wine country!

William Barton

Apparently the instrument is made by first having termites hollow out the desired wood