Iceland – The Black Church

On the south coast of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes peninsula – The Black Church at Budir

On our 11th day of traveling around Iceland (counterclockwise), we came across The Black Church. In recent years, this church has become a photographers dream. Built in 1703 by a merchant and reconstructed in 1987. The sign tells of a woman who fought to have the church built after the parish at Búðir was abolished in 1816. In 1848, a new church was built with a quote of the door ring that says “This church was built in 1848 without the support of the spiritual fathers” in memory of this woman.

London Never Disappoints

London Never Disappoints

Always good to be in London in March. Flying from America, excitement builds quickly arriving in London Heathrow. With so much to see, it is easy to find something of interest in London (Photo).

Our family had a mission! Our family mission: travel, entertainment, dine, and shop.

Travel from Airport to Hotel can be a challenge, but with Oyster Card the Heathrow Express ( is a quick trip to Paddington Square. For £25 or $34, Heathrow express will get you from Heathrow Airport (Terminal 2,3,4,5) to Paddington Station in 15 minutes. Always consider a London Taxi or Hackney Carriage on the 17 mile journey on the M4 Motorway to London. We chose a London Taxi for our return travel from Park Plaza Hotel (Plug: to Heathrow Airport. Cost of a London Taxi to Heathrow Airport can be negotiated for a flat fee around £68-£78. Great to see the Buckingham Palace by London Taxi on our way to Heathrow Airport!

For entertainment, I always recommend West End London. With over 240 theaters in London, the Harry Potter play at The Palace Theatre (Plug: is one to see and is a two part play: Part One, 2 hours and 40 minutes and Part Two, 2 hours and 35 minutes with each a 20 minute intermission.

Dining is always special in London. Between Part 1 and 2 intermission of Harry Potter we hiked to Wahaka in Soho to have Mexican Street Kitchen Tacos. After shopping at Harrods, we go to Zia Teresa’s ( The pizzas and Spaghetti alla Carbonara are always good and paired with an Aglianico from their wine list.

Shopping, for us, is at Harrods and across the street from Zia Teresa restaurant. We found, for kids, toys and books are reasonably priced and often toy pricing is better than other well-known toy stores in London. Be certain to register for a Harrods Reward Card, free and it pays you back in pounds for future purchases (Plug:

It was a great quick trip. We did see friends that were in Charing Cross by coincidence and exchanged stories of sightseeing and travels.

Keep traveling and exploring!

#heathrowexpress #parkplazahotel #harrypottertheplay # ziateresa #harrods

#travel #wine #shopping #dining

Confidence will come. Focus on the moment. Courage begins now.


Looking out over the city of Porto, my son has a great way of ‘taking it all in’. Our first family trip to Portugal had us touring though all areas of the city of Porto. We are travelers and love to explore.

Through our travels, opportunities to be courageous always present themselves. Performing courageous acts means doing the right thing when there is peer-pressure or a pressure to do something else.

Courage is the act of now and a choice we make in the moment. What is courage and how can we gain confidence from the actions we take…

As a child, you know your environment and you know the environment is safe. You are protected and supported by those around you. The support and care you feel from others allow you to take courageous acts. Many courageous moments over time allow us to become confident.

Now, fast forward to adulthood, look at your relationships. Who believes in you… Who supports and cares for you… Who do you know that knows you will succeed at your goals….

Every courageous moment you have will help others to become more courageous. Like a smile, when you smile your serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins are released and others smile too.

Act on a courageous moment today.

Tulips are here!

Tulips 2018

Riding by road-bike from Wassenaar to Noord Wijker Hout, I was witnessed amazing fields of color. TULIPS are growing, maybe a little late this year! Looking at the photo I notice how symmetrical the flowers are and is the national flower or Afghanistan and Turkey. However, The Netherlands is the largest world producer of tulips with over 3 billion bulbs sold annually.

When the botinist Carolus Clusius was made director of Leiden University’s Hortus Botanicus (small garden behind University of Leiden), Carolus asked the Dutch East India Company (VOC) to collect various species of plants. In 1594, the first tulip was planted in the Hortus Botanicus. This was the start of the tulip in The Netherlands.

Puerto Rico!

San Juan Puerto Rico

Such a wonderful island and beautiful people.

This is La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site built between the 16th and 20th centuries to protect the city and bay. Interesting story of invasion and defeat of the Dutch in the Battle of 1625.

We had dinner with friends and spoke about hurricane Maria and PR’s recovery. Speaking with local business people, they say recovery is slow and many are donating locally to help areas not receiving aid.

We spent money with local businesses and had a wonderful time. Our hope is Puerto Rico will recover and grow stronger!

Park Güell Barcelona

Spain! A visit to Barcelona

The world of wine opens up while strolling La Rambla or visiting a 300 years old vineyard. Take note! This city does not sleep and when you stay off La Rambla bring your earplugs. Several places we visited and events we attended in and around Barcelona:

Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour

La Rambla

Park Güell

Palau de la Música Catalana (concert hall)


Vineyard Tour – Located in the city area of Manresa, Spain called Pla de Bages is the 1,000 year old vineyard named Oller del Mas. Oller del Mas is surrounded by and near the mountain area of the Montserrat monastery. Also, nearby is the 23,000 acre Natural Park of Sant Llorenç de Munt.

Oller del Mas uses only grapes from its estate for wine production. The vineyard seems to maintain great respect for the soil and the area. The “third-party” tour-guide walked us through the Oller wine making process and toured the vineyard.

In the castle we sampled Bernat Oller Picapoll Blanc and gazed upon the castle. One interesting note is seeing the long narrow windows. These were used for the archers as the residents protected themselves against any intruders.

The cellar and storage areas were beautiful and displayed age-old beauty barrels and caves.

Wines produced at Oller del Mas are named: Especial Picapoll (2015) with 2,500 bottles and 100% Piquepoul Noir, Arnau Oller (2014) with 7,400 bottles and 90% Merlot/10% Piquepoul Noir, Bernat Oller Picapoll Blanc (2016) with 12,600 bottles and 50% Piquepoul Blanc/50% Piquepoul Noir, Petit Bernat Negre (2016) with 35,400 bottles  and 40% Cabernet Franc, 25% Syrah, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 5% Picapoll Negre.

La Rioja and Spains Rioja Wine

The Middle Ages had pilgrims who traveled on the Route of St. James or El Camino de Santiago experienced Rioja wines. The eighteenth century laid the foundation and expanded the Rioja wine industry. However, it was not until the nineteenth century the Rioja wine developed into the most recognized Spanish wine.

In 1782, Manuel Esteban Quintano from Labastida was ordained as a priest. As Quintano’s career grew, later Dean of the Cathedral of Burgos, so did his contribution to Rioja winemaking. Around 1785, Quintano traveled to France to study techniques of winemaking in Bordeaux. Returning home to Spain, Quintano brought back with him technical learning on the use of French oak barrels and grape destemming techniques1.

1795, Quintano had good success and was authorized to ship to the Spanish America. ‘Quintano made his first 10 barrels and over 1000 bottles.’ Challenges happened and resistance of change by local growers (Villa y Vecinos de La Bastida) forced Quintano to approach the Royal Council of Castile, in 1804.2

The 1860’s French wine industry was nearly devastated by the phylloxera bug threatening over 2.5 million hectors of grapes. The French botanist Jules-Émile Planchon and American entomologist Charles Riley made great discoveries on how to remedy losses caused by these little bugs.3

Since April 1991 Rioja wines are protected under Spain’s DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada); Spanish wine highest level of classification.4 The DOCa governs marketing and quality control of Rioja; further providing consumers with confidence within the consumer product. If you find Rioja appealing, you can always purchase a vineyard in the La Rioja region.




2 Rivera Blanco, Antonio (Historia de Alava)

3 Gale, George (Dying on the Vine: How Phylloxera Transformed Wine)


Wine and Food

People react differently to smells, tastes, and sensitivities to smells and tastes of wines and foods. Six different tastes are present while eating various foods: sweet, umami (savory), acid, salt, bitter, and spicy heat.

WSET mentions sweetness in foods increase bitter, acid, and “burning” effect of alcohol and decrease body, sweet, fruit taste in wine. Pairing sweet foods with dry wine can rid fruit taste and increase acid taste. The rule of thumb is to select a sweeter wine than food.

Savory flavors in foods cause wine to taste bitter with acid and “alcohol burn” taste. Savory foods decrease a wines perception of body, sweet and fruitiness.

Salt in foods increase body of a wine and decrease bitter and acid taste of a wine.

Acid in foods increase body, sweet, and fruitiness and decrease acid in wine.

Bitter food taste increases bitter taste in wine.

Spicy heat in food increase bitter, acid, and “alcohol burn” taste in foods and decrease body, richness, and sweetness and fruitiness in foods.

WSET describes other factors to consider including “flavor intensity,” “acid and fat,” and “sweet and salty.”


High risk foods include sugar, savory, bitter, and spicy heat.

Low risk foods include salty and acid tasting foods. Note, WSET mentions to match high acid foods with high acid wines to prevent loss of structure.

High and low risk wines

Evaluate, Select, and Recommend Wines

By looking, smelling, tasting, and drawing a conclusion about wines we drink we can better evaluate, select, and recommend wines. Discovering the balance, finish, intensity, complexity, and expressiveness of wines will help us enjoy a good bottle of wine. Below are definitions defined by WSET.

Balance: Good wines have a balance between acids and tannins and fruitiness and sweetness. Acids and tannins alone result in a hard tasting and unpleasant wine.

Finish: An enjoyable finish of flavors lingering within the mouth for several seconds.

Intensity: “Extreme intense flavors” can disrupt balance.

Complexity: Empresses many different flavors.

Expressiveness: Match by characteristics of grape variety and region of good wines.

Wine selection: Selection helps us pair wines with events and occasions. When selecting a good wine for an occasion it is good to know preferences and tastes of those drinking. As mentioned by WSET, wine should not be the center of attention, but appropriate quality for the occasion. A “premium-quality” wine is always a good idea for very special life events.


Tasting Wine

I always take several actions when sipping on a nice glass of wine paired with a good meal. It is funny really and like that of a tennis player bouncing the ball before a serve or a baseball pitcher gripping the ball inside a glove before the pitch or a golfer strategically adjusting a stance before the drive off the tee-box. The WEST “systematic approach” to tasting wine has me looking, smelling, tasting, and drawing a conclusion about wines I drink.

Colors: We tend to see bight and bold colors and when we think of wine we usually think white and red. Wait; there are more colors on the color wheel of wine with ruby, purple, garnet, lemon, gold, and amber. Do not forget the rose colored wines with pink, salmon, and orange. Described as “brown and hazy”, newer wines are susceptible to faults if colors are brown and hazy. However, this may not be true for older wines. Red wines with brown, orange, and amber colors are an expression of age while purple is the color of more youthful wines. White wines with yellow-green (lemon) or yellow-orange are youthful in nature and orange and brown express age.

Smells: Smelling the wine or “nose” tells us the aromas within the wine. Ask, what does this varietal smell like? Challenge yourself to put a name to the various smells you smell. A healthy wine will have intense aromas while other aromas may be less understood. Reading about aromas on wine bottle labels may give you a hint. However, as WSET mentions, some wine writers use “chemical compounds” to describe smells and you may find this useless. Make sure you swirl your glass (draw small circles on the table with the stem of your wineglass) to increase the aroma of the wine.

Taste: “Palate” is the taste of the wine in your mouth on your tongue. The taste of sweetness, acidity, and tannin is possible with sweetness on the tip of your tongue, bitterness in the back, and acidity on the sides of your tongue. Allowing the wine to stay in your mouth for a couple of seconds, the “body” can be determined. Body is also known as “mouth feel” and a tasting sensation is created when sipping the wine with air through your lips.

Conclusion: Finally, the end of the tasting process is essentially a question of liking the wine or not. This is a simple process taking 1-2 minutes to determine if the wine is enjoyable to you or not. WSET suggests a good quality wine balances sweetness with fruitiness with tannins and acidity. So, let the tasting begin and now you have a nice systematic approach to use when tasting wines with friends and family.