Salzburg's Hellbrunn Palace and Gardens

Fancy and fun in Salzburg – The Hellbrunn Palace and Gardens

The Hellbrunn Palace and Gardens are one of the most visited attractions in Salzburg.  Sure, there are palaces all over Europe, each one filled with opulent rooms and surrounded by grand gardens but this one has a secret (and a very fun one at that). Schloss Hellbrunn was built from 1613-1515 by Archbishop Markus Sittikus and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful Renaissance structures north of the Alps. Built solely for the purpose of entertainment the Hellbrunn Palace and its gardens were used to host extravagant parties as well as musical and theater performances. The palace is still quite popular today and hosts a festive Christmas Market as well as a number of events and weddings throughout the year.

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butternut squash and pear salad  with pumpkin seed oil viniagrette

Inspired by Salzburg- butternut squash and pear salad

Prior to visiting Salzburg last fall I had few preconceived notions of Austrian cuisine beyond schnitzels and strudels. During my trip I did have the requisite Wiener schnitzel washed down with a glass of Eggenberg and apple strudel accompanied with the whipped cream topped café melange (all of which were delicious), but I soon discovered there was much more to Austrian food. Autumn in Austria means one of two things: wine harvest and all things pumpkin.Unlike the United States where the craze is for pumpkin spiced everything (and many times with no actual pumpkin) Austria’s love for pumpkin is more understated. On menus all over from small family run taverns to high end restaurants you find all manner of dishes from soups to risottos featuring not only the sweet orange pumpkin but also laced with with Austrian gold- pumpkin seed oil.

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kayak winery tour, Eastern Shore of Virginia

Kayaks and wine on Virginia’s Eastern Shore

I’ve driven through the Eastern Shore of Virginia countless times en route to points north. Rolling past roadside farm stands, historic rural churches and one stoplight towns I’d mentally note that one day I needed to stop and check things out but, as with many things in life, my attention and time were pulled elsewhere. Connected to the rest of Virginia only by the 20 mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, the Eastern Shore is a rural area that’s retained much of its own culture heavily influenced by the farmers and watermen that have called this area home for centuries. Vacationers flock to the the tourist heavy beach resorts of Ocean City, Maryland to the north and Virginia Beach to the south leaving the charms of the Eastern Shore a relatively untouched secret. After hearing of the natural beauty and relaxed way of life from a good friend I resolved to start exploring these secrets for myself.

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Melk Abbey www.casualtravelist.com

Melk Abbey- Austria’s golden shrine

Austria’s Wachau Valley is a popular destination for river cruises or as a day trip from nearby Vienna. Situated on the winding banks of the Danube River, Melk has all the elements that make for any charming European town.

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Penobscot Narrows Bridge www.casualtravelist.com

Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Fort Knox- A tale of new and old in Maine

Maine’s Coastal Route 1 meanders past quaint towns, sleepy seaside fishing villages and more antique shops and lobster shacks than you ever imagined. As we left the postcard perfect town of Camden for the rugged beauty of Acadia National Park our innkeepers gave us advice on some interesting sites along the way. With typical New England modesty and reserve we were directed to go to “that cute little blanket shop”; this happened to be Swan Island Blankets, whose handmade items are given to visiting dignitaries by none other the The White House. No big deal.

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Chai peach popsicles

Chai peach popsicles and the Big Apple

A few months ago I was lucky enough to be sent to New York City for work. I was even luckier to be working less than half a block from Madison Square Park and its seasonal popup market, Madison Square Eats.Over thirty of NYC’s best restaurants and vendors are featured here and I was spoiled for choice. Tasty,tasty choice.

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The new and improved Casual Travelist-now with recipes!

Now just wait a minute, isn’t this a travel blog? Why on Earth is she giving us recipes?

I’ve been toying with the idea of adding a recipe section to this blog for quite some time. I have a full time job, which means I’m a part time traveler. A few big trips a year with a sprinkle of day and weekend trips leaves me at home more often than not. According to my friends I’m fairly decent in the kitchen and I’m always perusing blogs and magazines for new recipes and once in a great while if I’m feeling particularly creative I’ll let my imagination loose and something tasty ends up on my plate. I love to explore a destination through its food and these flavors are often inspiration for what I’m cooking at home.

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The Hartstone Inn, a gourmet getaway in coastal Maine

Hidden in the small town of Camden, Maine the Hartstone Inn is perfect for a weekend foodie getaway.Housed in a converted Federal style home built in 1835, Chef Michael Salmon (a former recipient of Caribbean Chef of the Year) and his wife Mary Jo run their inn with a focus on comfortable luxury and gourmet cuisine. Rooms are comfortably appointed with sumptuous linens and french provincial touches while the common spaces retain a Victorian feel with a nod to the building’s historic charms. During my travels through Maine I became increasingly convinced that all Maine residents have a sixth sense when it comes to gardening and the Hartstone was no different. Hydrangeas, with their white fluffy blooms greet me at the entrance while cheerful lilies and demure daisies line the path to my room. Mary Jo’s love of orchids is on also display with the delicate flowers gracing nearly every space.

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A toast to Maine’s first vineyard at Cellardoor Winery

With the rolling green hills of mid-coast Maine as its backdrop, the setting of Cellardoor Winery looks like it belongs to Virginia’s popular Piedmont region. Don’t be mistaken though, this winery is 100% Maine and very proud of it. Owner Bettina Doulton purchased the property in 2007 and transformed a 1790s farmhouse into the winery and tasting room with a rustic luxe touch in order to keep the character of the original building. Maine’s rocky soil and harsh winters have not usually been kind to grape vines in the past but with ingenuity, a classic New England work ethic, and I suspect a dash of Maine stubbornness (coming from a long line of Mainers myself I can say that) the winery had a successful harvest in 2012 that will be used in making future vintages.

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Why I’m personally banning Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte

Let me start off by saying I have been a long time Starbucks fan. I am a card carrying gold card member and make at least a weekly Starbucks visit. I also love everything about fall: cooler temps, the crunch of leaves under my feet, and bringing tall boots into my wardrobe rotation. But the one thing I love about fall most of all are the warm, comforting flavors of the autumn harvest. I adore the days of fresh, orchard picked apples and pumpkin flavored everything.

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