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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Travel Confessions: I went to Mexico City and Ended Up Getting Starbucks and Pizza www.casualtravelist.com

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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A taste of Portland with Maine Foodie Tours

Portland Maine is a vibrant harbor town with a creative spirit and a gritty, working class past. Access to some of the freshest seafood on the East Coast( including Maine’s succulent lobster) and scores of small scale farms and artisan food producers has attracted a new wave of forward-thinking chefs eager to showcase some of Maine’s best culinary offerings. Recently named the “Foodiest small town in America” by none other than Bon Appetit magazine I knew I had to sample some of Portland’s goodies for myself but I was only stopping in the city for one day. Maine Foodie Tours to the rescue!

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Exploring Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is the crown jewel of America’s east coast and it’s rugged beauty attracts millions of visitors every year. Granite peaks give way to pine covered forests that transition into dramatic cliffs and rock strewn shores, the surrounding bays dotted with emerald green islands are the picture of tranquility. Bar Harbor, located on Mount Dessert Island in northeastern Maine, is a bustling tourist town that serves as the gateway for Acadia and can be quite crowded during the summer or whenever a cruise ship pulls into town but you’re never less than thirty minutes from finding solitude once you veer from the well worn tourist paths. The park occupies not only a good swath of Mount Desert Island but also parts of the nearby Schoodic Peninsula, and the more remote Baker Island and Isle de Haut. Mount Dessert Island served as a summer getaway for the well heeled in the mid 1800’s transforming the once sleepy island of farmers and fisherman into a popular tourist destination. Charles W. Eliot and George B. Dorr were instrumental in preservation efforts that eventually led to Acadia becoming the first national park east of the Mississippi River in 1919 and John D. Rockefeller Jr. helped created the park’s 45 mile carriage road system, originally designed to navigate parts of the island by horse drawn carriage that now serves as popular hiking and cycling trails.

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Summer sailing around Camden, Maine

Summertime in coastal Maine evokes images of searching for the perfect lobster roll, exploring tide pools along the rock strewn beaches and sailing among bays and summer isles. Verdant hills tumble into the deep blue of the Atlantic forming over 3,000 miles of rocky coastline and to properly experience it you must take to the water. On a gorgeous 75 degree day filled with sunshine and gentle breezes we made our way down to Camden’s postcard worthy harbor to sort out our seafaring options. Kayak? Not a great option for us this time with Steve’s mom in tow. Motorized catamaran? Eh, not feeling it. A four-sailed, beautifully restored historic schooner? Now we’re talking.

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The Ice Caves of Werfen, Austria

The ice caves of Werfen are a frozen subterranean world that lie deep within the Austrian Alps. Perched high above the tiny hamlet of Werfen, Eisriesenwelt (German for “world of the ice giants”) is the world’s largest ice cave and is a popular day trip from Salzburg. Austria’s efficient train system will deliver you to the town of Werfen from Salzburg in just over an hour but once you get to the town you have to go up. Way up. A shuttle will brought us up a windy 3.5 mile road to the visitors center where we continued our uphill climb on foot. I was looking forward to pristine alpine views of verdant valleys giving rise to gray limestone peaks set against an azure sky however the  weather had different views in store for us.

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My first experience renting from Airbnb

Airbnb is an online service that connects people looking to rent their homes with people who are looking for accommodations.Hosts list their available properties on the website which allows them to promote their spaces with photos and descriptions, they are also able to set their own availability and prices. Guests can search through the database and refine searches by room type, neighborhood, price, amenities and host language. Each user will have a profile with reviews from previous interactions and is a great way to get to know who you’ll be dealing with. There are currently over 550,000 listing available throughout 192 countries and spaces can range from a spare couch in someone’s basement to private villas and yachts. If you’re feeling royal there’s even a castle!

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The two sides of Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park features the best of Alaska’s natural beauty within its rugged expanse. Located at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula the park is crowned by the Harding Icefield which gives rise to 38 glaciers that carve out bowl-shaped, forested valleys on one side and slowly crash into the bays feeding the Gulf of Alaska on the other. You’ll need at least  two days to get a taste of what this diverse area has to offer.

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I’ve been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award!

Once again I’m humbled to have been honored with a nomination for the Versatile Blogger Award by not just one, but two awesome blogs!  The Vesatile Blogger Award was created to feature recognize blogs that have unique content and fantastic photos. A huge thanks to the awesome pair of Ashley and Alex from In Pursuit of Adventure and  the lovely Stephanie Mayo with her two blogs The World as I see It and Lady of the Zoos.

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