Monthly Archives: May 2013

Visit New and Familiar Places During Connecticut’s Open House Day June 8

If you’ve grown up in Connecticut, it’s most likely that you visited the state’s major attractions through family outings. You went to landmarks and museums for a homework assignment or with your classmates on a field trip. Even more so, you probably explored a state park, nature preserve or family-owned farm.

Yet there are still many hidden gems throughout its regions that deserve a second look.

OpenHouse150_lg_130131118233619201Each year, the CT Office of Tourism organizes Connecticut’s Open House Day, a marketing promotion that encourages CT residents to stop by or spend more time at the diverse public offerings across the state. This year, the open house falls on Saturday, June 8.

As of this writing, 188 locations are providing free or discounted admission, gifts or special activities. From Coastal Fairfield County up through River Valley, long-time favorites and local names are scheduling tours or sample tastings, offering giveaways or unveiling new exhibits.

With attractions suitable for many ages and personal interests, here are some spots worth a visit (or revisit):

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo: From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., admission will be free for the first 100 visitors. Bridgeport, (203) 394-6565.

Spa at Norwich Inn: From 7 a.m. until 8 p.m., the Spa is offering a 15 percent discount on day spa treatments and dining. Also, free tours of the historic property are scheduled. Norwich, (860) 886-2401.

Westford Hill Distillers: From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., this distillery, which is not generally open to the public, will offer free, guided tours. Ashford, (860) 429-0464.

Lime Rock Park: Open from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., each visitor get a free hot dog and Coca-Cola drink. Come in the morning to watch Lime Rock Drivers Club travel over the tracks and the afternoon, the Eastern Motor Racing Association. Lakeville, (860) 435-5000.

The Glass House: Visitors will receive a complimentary hard cover coffee table book, “Modern Views,” and can explore the interior of this iconic house and its 47-acre landscape. The two-hour tours leave at 9:45 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:15 a.m., noon, and 1:30 p.m. Advance reservations are required. New Canaan, (203) 594-9884.

To get a full list of participants in Connecticut’s Open House, visit As for me, I’m going to hit up the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport and Stamford Museum & Nature Center.

From Coastal Farming to Current Wineries: Exploring Stonington, CT

photo-16 Whether driving by via I-95 or following the northeastern part of Connecticut’s Wine Trail, Stonington is worth making a car stop. This town still reflects its agrarian days with lush green fields and colonial era houses lined with stonewalls, with its founding dating back to the mid-1600s as a trading post. With two lighthouses, Stonington encompasses a number of villages including Pawcatuck, Stonington Borough, Lords Point, Wequetequock, and the eastern halves of Mystic and Old Mystic.

Speaking of Connecticut’s Wine Trail, a few wineries are found in Stonington. With the right timing and planning, it’s possible to visit them all in a single day. Last Sunday, I trekked up to join an afternoon group meeting at just one of them: Saltwater Farm Vineyard.

photo-9Like its name, Saltwater Farm Vineyard has both unique surroundings and just as interesting back story. Upon arriving at its location, it’s understandable to think at first whether or not you’re at the right place or if your GPS led you astray. It’s fine and appropriately fitting. The 100-plus acre vineyard borders the tidal marshes of Wequetequock Cove, a saltwater field that provides a nice backdrop setting against an inlet.

The exterior also has a link to Stonington’s past, as a portion once used as farm land until the early 20th century. Here’s also where the winery’s story gets neater. In the late 1930s, a small commuter airport opened on the grounds, with a hangar built there, and had operated until the U.S. entered World War II.

After the war ended, the airport became a flight school for a few years. Over time, the hanger turned into a restaurant, a warehouse, and a manufacturing facility, and then eventually became abandoned.

Its new life as a winery came in 2001, when the property was bought by a lawyer and converted. The former photo-8aluminum-sided hanger now houses an open-air tasting room/reception hall with large stainless steel tanks on the ground floor and a second level for bar service with a walkout terrace for overheard views of the vines and surrounding marshland. Here you can also picture what the sight was previously: the airfield.

Though its airport days are long gone, the venue still has a grassy landing strip. A server told me that it still is used on occasion. Perhaps for guests flying in?

photo-13The winery also hosts live music performances on Sundays with a vendor providing fresh-shucked oysters. During my time, tasting notes included a Manager’s Choice, with the selection of the day being a Rose; a 2011 Chardonnay aged in the steel tanks; a 2008 Merlot; and a 2010 Cabernet Franc/Merlot Blend. The later two wines are aged in French oak barrels. Also note: glasses are sold separately.

While in Stonington, definitely visit nearby wineries such as Stonington Vineyards, about 10 or 15 minutes from Salt Farms, and Jonathan Edwards Winery, which is in North Stonington and about a 20- to 30-minute ride.

Delta’s NYC ‘Pop-up’ Lounge In Flight Until May 22

In celebrating the upcoming opening of its JFK Terminal 4, Delta invites the public to visit T4X, a pop-up lounge in Soho until May 22.

In celebrating the upcoming JFK Terminal 4, Delta invites the public to visit T4X, a pop-up lounge in Soho until May 22.

With airports, the average person’s experience consists of the rig moral of check-ins, security lines, and gate departures. Delta is doing a neat thing in giving the general public the chance to see what lounging is like.

Until next Wednesday, visitors can stop by T4X, a “pop-up” space in New York City’s Soho district. And, just hang out.

Since May 1, Delta has been hosting this experimental setting in a three-story building, at West Broadway and Broome Street, to celebrate and promote another recreation that’s more permanent. The major carrier’s newly transformed Terminal 4 at JFK will open on May 24, complimented with a 24,000-square-foot SkyClub and a SkyDeck!

T4X, or in using its full name Delta T4 Xperience, gives off a sneak peek. Upon entering, Delta representatives take you to show you neat offerings and goodies to choose from. For example, you can pick a travel-related knickknack (a passport holder, mirror, cold drink cup or luggage tag) from a vending machine.

At T4X, order a boxed lunch inspired by an international destination.

At T4X, order a boxed lunch inspired by an international destination.

Visitors can register for a chance at winning giveaways like a set of beauty products. A kiosk allows for Delta passengers to check on or adjust itineraries on spot. There’s even a countdown clock anticipating Terminal 4’s debut. (I’ll be seeing it firsthand this summer, with my flight to Reykjavík.)

As meals and airlines go hand in hand, T4X provides four daily lunch selections that go beyond traditional serving options.


Lunch in a little suitcase!

With the new Terminal 4 centering on only international flights, T4X’s daily changing menu reflects top world destinations. Edible options inspired by London, Rome, Mexico City, Athens and Istanbul feature sandwiches or salads with flight treats such as cookies, pretzels, fruit and a choice of water or soda. Decide on your meal by viewing a flight information screen listing the day’s choices.

Grabbing lunch has a baggage claim approach as a conveyor belt setup has suitcase-looking boxes circling around. Each lunch is priced at $4; credit card payments only.


Outlets and plush setting enable visitors to recharge their batteries, physically and electronically.

Head upstairs and hang out in T4X's lounge section.

Head upstairs and hang out in T4X’s lounge section.

Go upstairs to the second level, and here is where to find the lounge. In one area, there is café-style table seating. Across from this section, a more of a sit-down room has plush chairs and tables with nearby outlets for charging up laptops and smart phones. Free Wi-Fi is also provided.

True, T4X is a cool marketing setup. Yet it’s a little treat for those who don’t fly continuously or never had access to an airport lounge before, or perhaps whose travel budgets really have been tightened up. Or, maybe they just work in SoHo and are heading out for their lunch break.

T4X is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays until May 22. For maps, the street address is 376 West Broadway. Check it out!

Wine and Yoga in Washington Crossing, PA


Washington Crossing is a historic town in Pennsylvania.

Day trips are fun and recently I went on a Saturday afternoon outing to Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania (a new place to visit) whose itinerary merged together two of my (long-time) likes: wine and yoga.

Heading to the Hells Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan – and a last minute shopping dash to and from a sporting goods store upon realizing I left my yoga mat at home – I boarded a bus with about 35 others for a day of stretching and sipping.

Roughly about a two-hour ride from New York City, our group reached Washington Crossing, a small village in Pennsylvania’s Bucks County. It’s a rural and quaint town with significance in U.S. history.

For our first stop, we arrived at Washington Crossing Historic Park in Upper Makefield Township for an outdoor yoga session. The park is a lovely outdoor venue, based on the banks of the Delaware River. There are opportunities for strolling, jogging, and yes, even yoga by the water.

Washington Crossing Historic Park has an important link to the American Revolutionary War.

Washington Crossing Historic Park has an important link to the American Revolutionary War.

Though my group’s time there just lasted an hour, I got to learn a bit more about this park. As you may have guessed, the park gets its name and fame as the site where General George Washington crossed the river around Christmas 1776 during the American Revolutionary War. He and his troop surprised Hessian troops stationed in what is now called Trenton, N.J.

On the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the park contains a number of buildings that give glimpses into Washington Crossing’s past: 18th and 19th-century homes, a former general store/post office (used when the town was known by its previous name, Taylorsville), and a replica of a boathouse used by Washington and his men. Also, find there an inn/tavern run during Washington’s time. Of course, our future first president ate and planned his military strategy there.


Crossing Vineyards and Winery, located on a 200-year-old estate, produces a number of whites, red and specialty wines.

Moving onward, the day’s part two led us to lengthen our taste buds at a winery less than a mile away.

Crossing Vineyards and Winery is located on a 200-year-old estate, where the current vintner grew up as a child, and operates on modern sustainable practices and with state of the art technology. For example, a computerized weather station records data on rainfall, temperature, dates of frost, and hours of sunshine to help with determining grapes that will grow best in the microclimate. Laser planting has been used in planting 10 acres of Vinifera winegrapes to help budding vines get a better and safer growth start. Today, grape varieties grown here include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Vidal Blanc and Chambourcin.

With its focus on handcrafting subtle yet refined wines, Crossing Vineyards and Winery produces a variety of whites and reds as well as specialties including Sangria and Chocolate Cherry Truffle, a Port-style dessert wine. My group enjoyed a late afternoon tasting with 10 wines paired with various cheeses and chocolate. Samplings including Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Merlot and Sangria. A fan of Sangria and flavors of chocolate and cherry, I purchased two bottles to take home. Definitely make a day trip to Washington Crossing!

Exploring Vienna through Sights, Sounds and Tastes

For me, Vienna is magical. Please don’t mind that I use this cliche, but this Austrian capital brings visitors back in time. Baroque castles and gardens lining the Ringstrasse are strong reminders of the city’s royal past, as the central point of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And a musical legacy inspired by Mozart, Brahms and other composers can still be heard today. During my visit last July, I explored Viennese attractions that I could see, taste and even listen to.
Learn about Royal Living 

Austria was once ruled by a dual monarchy, which lasted from 1867 until the end of World War I in 1918. Two grand palaces that housed many rulers belonging to the Habsburg dynasty still stand, and are worth visiting.

The Hofburg has housed members of the power Habsburg dynasty.

The Hofburg has housed members of the powerful Habsburg dynasty.

At the Hofburg, a winter residence, get a glimpse into the Imperial Family’s daily royal living. The Imperial Apartments were home to Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife, Empress Elisabeth, their children and the entire royal household.

The Sisi Museum focuses on the life of the beautiful Empress Elisabeth, also known as “Sisi.” Her story is unique. She was big on beauty and fitness. A free spirit, she apparently shied away from decorum. Her life ended tragically with her 1898 assassination in Geneva. Artifacts range from dresses to portraits, and jewelry.

On the grounds of the Hofburg, horse lovers will enjoy the Spanish Riding School, where they can view Lipizzans, a special breed that is trained to perform haute école, a classic style of equestrian skills. Guided tours include visits to their stables. I got to catch glimpses of these lovely horses when they came out to graze for their afternoon lunch.
During the summer months, the Habsburgs ventured from the city center to Schönnbrunn Palace, an elaborate 1,441-room getaway. First built as a hunting lodge, this UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site was transformed into a marvel of Baroque architecture during the reign of Maria Theresa, the mother of Marie Antoinette. Its landscape is graced with formal gardens, sculptures, a zoo and a labyrinth. If you plan to visit, it’s best to get here in the morning before the crowds arrive.

Concerts and Composers

Catch a performance inside the opera house, Staatsoper.

Catch a performance inside the legendary opera house, Staatsoper.

In Vienna, music plays on. A great way to experience its culture is by attending a performance in a concert hall or opera house. The 200-year-old Musikverein is a concert hall known for having great acoustics and is the residence for the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. Works by legendary classical composers from Brahms to Tchaikovsky were introduced here. About 800 concerts take place annually.

If like me, you’ve never had a night at the opera, consider buying tickets to a concert at Staatsoper, Vienna’s opera house which dates back to the 19th century. I attended a performance here, and had a great time. Dress up too!

Among composers, Mozart carries quite a reputation here. Out of his 14 addresses throughout the city, Mozarthaus Vienna is Mozart’s only surviving residence. Though he lived at this place for only three years, the composer seemed to have had a lot of ambition. One of them he penned was his opera, The Marriage of Figaro.

Satisfying Coffee and Sweets

Coffee drinkers and dessert lovers can indulge at Vienna’s legendary coffeehouses. It’s a fun, culinary activity.

Enjoy cake, coffee and streudel inside one of Vienna's coffeehouses such as Cafe Sacher.

Enjoy cake, coffee and struedel inside one of Vienna’s coffeehouses such as Cafe Sacher.

A piece of cultural heritage, Viennese coffeehouses date as far back as the late 1600s. Legend says when Turkish forces retreated from a surge in Vienna, they left behind bags of coffee beans. Fact or fiction, their start is associated to Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, a soldier who is said to have opened the first coffeehouse.

Best in the sense of the traditional style, Café Sperl has a plush setting. I enjoyed sitting at a marble table, with the waitress bringing over not just a menu but the day’s newspaper for me to glimpse through while enjoying my meal. The coffeehouse is also featured in the film “Before Sunrise.”

My cake cravings led me to check out another venue. Inside the Sacher Hotel, Café Sacher’s claim to fame is Sache Torte, a famous Austrian chocolate cake with an apricot jam filling invented here. Its recipe remains a well-kept secret, yet the cake is labeled with a trademark: a chocolate logo. The café’s red walls and cushioning made this café a relaxing place.

Can’t resist chocolate. Another good stop is at the legendary Demel, a confectionery that once provided sweets for the Imperial family. And to top off food finds in Vienna, go the popular Naschmarkt, an open-air marketplace with shops and food stands touting fruits, nuts, and spices from around the globe. Enjoy!