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Claudia Austin Travel is a luxury travel agency that specializes in executing personalized travel itineraries. Our trips are tailored to client's tastes and requests. We understand how important your time is and therefore eliminate the stress of research and planning. We want you to focus on the amazing experience ahead.

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3 Days in Napa Valley

 


One hour north of San Francisco you'll find a world of relaxation, fine dining, wine, spas, and beautiful landscapes.  Welcome to Napa Valley, one of the world's top destinations for wine.  

Napa Valley is a place you can visit year round mostly because of its mild climate but August through October tend to be the most popular due to it being the region's harvest season.  Right before Spring is also nice because the landscape is filled with the blooms of yellow mustard flowers.



Napa Valley is 30 miles long and includes the towns: Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, and Calistoga.  Each has it's own uniqueness.  Napa's downtown is filled with small tasting rooms, restaurants, and boutique shops.  Head up to Yountville and you enter a world of fine dining.  Keep going north and you'll be passing by some of the top name wineries in the area.

While I like to create customized itineraries based on preferences and taste, this here is a sample itinerary of what you can do in three days.  Something to inspire you to visit this wonderful area of California.





Day 1

Arrive in downtown Napa and take a walk along the riverfront.  Make sure to stop by at Oxbow Market and browse through many dining options.  You can find a glass of wine, oysters, sushi, chocolates, fresh produce, and desserts!  My favorite stop, Five Dot Ranch for one of their deliciously juicy burgers.  Once you've filled your belly you can browse around town and choose from many options of tasting rooms.  If it's a rich Chardonnay you want, take a seat at Alpha Omega Collective.  If it's a velvety red you're looking for, WALT Wines offers a range of tasty Pinot Noirs.

  


If you want to experience Napa like a local, Kim at Paper Napan Walkabouts will take you on a guided tour to see public art, historic homes, or to have a unique wine tasting experience at a boutique winery tucked away in an unexpected place.  I joined her on the Rail Arts District (RAD) tour which highlights the large murals painted along the Napa Valley Wine Train tracks.  These are stunning pieces of work, each unique in its own way.  We ended our tour with wine tasting of course and I learned that there are so many cute little places near my home that I never knew existed!  That is the value of having the perfect guide.






Day 2

Explore the smaller towns.

Continue up north of the Valley and enjoy breakfast at the popular Bouchon Bakery.  Most of the time there will be a line but it moves quickly.  Once you've picked up your pastry and coffee, head to Van De Leur Park and find a bench to enjoy your meal.  This quaint little park is filled with roses and named after one of Yountville's early residents.




There are many popular wineries to visit but the boutique ones will offer you a personalized experience and more time to enjoy your tasting.  If you love a little photography with your wine then make an appointment at Turnbull Wine Cellars in Oakville.  While drinking your Cabernet Sauvignon take a stroll through their garden or browse over their exhibit.



Before dinner, stop by Silver Trident Winery for The Potato Chip Extravaganza!  This unique tasting pairs potato chips with your wine and you'll learn the inspiration behind this idea.  It's a small tasting room decorated by Ralph Lauren Furnishings with some outdoor space which makes it quite intimate and a fun time.  Perfect appetizer before your dinner plans.




Day 3

Yes, there is a castle in Calistoga that you can visit.  I've been in real castles and I must say, this one is nicely done.  Castello di Amorosa is inspired by 13th century Tuscan castles and made by imported brick from Europe.  It's a beautiful visit for everyone.  


Make this day extremely relaxing by spending some time in a spa or taking a mud bath followed by some shopping on Lincoln Avenue.  


WHERE TO STAY




Napa Downtown:

Andaz Napa - Boutique hotel in the middle of Napa's downtown, walking distance to restaurants, art galleries, and tasting rooms.

Book with Claudia Austin Travel to receive the following Prive benefits:

  • $25 - $100 property credit, per stay
  • Room or Suite Upgrade confirmed at time of booking, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast for two at hotel restaurant
  • Welcome amenity
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Yountville:

Hotel Villagio at The Estate - In the heart of Yountville within walking distance to some of the most famous restaurants in the area.  Wake up early and you'll see the hot air balloons taking flight.

Book with Claudia Austin Travel to receive the following Virtuoso amenities:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Napa Valley Breakfast daily for two guests per bedroom served in the lobby
  • $100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Complimentary Bottle of Champagne
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
*Tip: The $100 Resort Credit may be utilized at Bottega Napa Valley, Coqueta Napa Valley, Perry Lang's Steakhouse or The Spa at The Estate. Signature Experiences may be curated for guests by our Concierge.


Calistoga:

Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection - The perfect getaway surrounded by mountains and vineyards with an award winning spa.

Book with Claudia Austin Travel to receive the following Virtuoso amenities:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Complimentary full breakfast daily for two guests per bedroom
  • $100 USD Resort credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Complimentary bottle of house Napa Valley Cabernet
  • Early check-in and late check-out upon request (subject to availability)











 


One hour north of San Francisco you'll find a world of relaxation, fine dining, wine, spas, and beautiful landscapes.  Welcome to Napa Valley, one of the world's top destinations for wine.  

Napa Valley is a place you can visit year round mostly because of its mild climate but August through October tend to be the most popular due to it being the region's harvest season.  Right before Spring is also nice because the landscape is filled with the blooms of yellow mustard flowers.



Napa Valley is 30 miles long and includes the towns: Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, and Calistoga.  Each has it's own uniqueness.  Napa's downtown is filled with small tasting rooms, restaurants, and boutique shops.  Head up to Yountville and you enter a world of fine dining.  Keep going north and you'll be passing by some of the top name wineries in the area.

While I like to create customized itineraries based on preferences and taste, this here is a sample itinerary of what you can do in three days.  Something to inspire you to visit this wonderful area of California.





Day 1

Arrive in downtown Napa and take a walk along the riverfront.  Make sure to stop by at Oxbow Market and browse through many dining options.  You can find a glass of wine, oysters, sushi, chocolates, fresh produce, and desserts!  My favorite stop, Five Dot Ranch for one of their deliciously juicy burgers.  Once you've filled your belly you can browse around town and choose from many options of tasting rooms.  If it's a rich Chardonnay you want, take a seat at Alpha Omega Collective.  If it's a velvety red you're looking for, WALT Wines offers a range of tasty Pinot Noirs.

  


If you want to experience Napa like a local, Kim at Paper Napan Walkabouts will take you on a guided tour to see public art, historic homes, or to have a unique wine tasting experience at a boutique winery tucked away in an unexpected place.  I joined her on the Rail Arts District (RAD) tour which highlights the large murals painted along the Napa Valley Wine Train tracks.  These are stunning pieces of work, each unique in its own way.  We ended our tour with wine tasting of course and I learned that there are so many cute little places near my home that I never knew existed!  That is the value of having the perfect guide.






Day 2

Explore the smaller towns.

Continue up north of the Valley and enjoy breakfast at the popular Bouchon Bakery.  Most of the time there will be a line but it moves quickly.  Once you've picked up your pastry and coffee, head to Van De Leur Park and find a bench to enjoy your meal.  This quaint little park is filled with roses and named after one of Yountville's early residents.




There are many popular wineries to visit but the boutique ones will offer you a personalized experience and more time to enjoy your tasting.  If you love a little photography with your wine then make an appointment at Turnbull Wine Cellars in Oakville.  While drinking your Cabernet Sauvignon take a stroll through their garden or browse over their exhibit.



Before dinner, stop by Silver Trident Winery for The Potato Chip Extravaganza!  This unique tasting pairs potato chips with your wine and you'll learn the inspiration behind this idea.  It's a small tasting room decorated by Ralph Lauren Furnishings with some outdoor space which makes it quite intimate and a fun time.  Perfect appetizer before your dinner plans.




Day 3

Yes, there is a castle in Calistoga that you can visit.  I've been in real castles and I must say, this one is nicely done.  Castello di Amorosa is inspired by 13th century Tuscan castles and made by imported brick from Europe.  It's a beautiful visit for everyone.  


Make this day extremely relaxing by spending some time in a spa or taking a mud bath followed by some shopping on Lincoln Avenue.  


WHERE TO STAY




Napa Downtown:

Andaz Napa - Boutique hotel in the middle of Napa's downtown, walking distance to restaurants, art galleries, and tasting rooms.

Book with Claudia Austin Travel to receive the following Prive benefits:

  • $25 - $100 property credit, per stay
  • Room or Suite Upgrade confirmed at time of booking, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast for two at hotel restaurant
  • Welcome amenity
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Yountville:

Hotel Villagio at The Estate - In the heart of Yountville within walking distance to some of the most famous restaurants in the area.  Wake up early and you'll see the hot air balloons taking flight.

Book with Claudia Austin Travel to receive the following Virtuoso amenities:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Napa Valley Breakfast daily for two guests per bedroom served in the lobby
  • $100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Complimentary Bottle of Champagne
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
*Tip: The $100 Resort Credit may be utilized at Bottega Napa Valley, Coqueta Napa Valley, Perry Lang's Steakhouse or The Spa at The Estate. Signature Experiences may be curated for guests by our Concierge.


Calistoga:

Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection - The perfect getaway surrounded by mountains and vineyards with an award winning spa.

Book with Claudia Austin Travel to receive the following Virtuoso amenities:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Complimentary full breakfast daily for two guests per bedroom
  • $100 USD Resort credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Complimentary bottle of house Napa Valley Cabernet
  • Early check-in and late check-out upon request (subject to availability)











Continue Reading

 



Looking at my travel bucket list, it's mostly all international destinations but during these Covid times I have become more aware of how much the United States has to offer.  This is a large country which means you have a variety of activities available for all kinds of travelers.  While I have crossed off a few items on my personal list, such as watching the sunset at Haleakala and catching a show at the Grand Ole Opry, here are 10 places I look forward to experiencing one day.




1. Yellowstone National Park 

Do you love wildlife and awe-inspiring nature?  Me too!  Yellowstone has one of the largest concentrations of mammals which include moose, elk, bison, and bears so I'm sure you won't be disappointed if it's animals you're looking forward to seeing.  And I've heard if you're lucky you may even spot the elusive lynx.  
The natural landscape looks almost out of this world with its geysers, hot springs, and Old Faithful.  Yellowstone also has a strong Native American history, something I would love to learn more about while visiting such an iconic place.



2. Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

If you've been on a hot air balloon then you know how exciting it is to see it blown up and then to take off.  Depending on where you are, you may see a few other balloons flying around you, so imagine being surrounded by hundreds!  Not only does this look otherworldly, it's during my favorite month of October when the skies are super blue and the morning air crisp.  



3. Charleston, NC

History, cuisine, boutique hotels, arts & culture, this city has it all (at least for me).  This is a great place to explore by foot or by horse carriage while taking in the sights of large colonial homes.  There are many fun tours to choose from based on your interests such as culinary tours, haunted homes tours, pirate tours, and nature tours.  

Where I would stay: Zero George Street Hotel

Luxury boutique hotel where you are welcomed with a glass of bubbly before checking into one of their 16 suites.  Pick up one of their complimentary bicycles to ride along the cobble stone streets.

 

4. Alaska

I know, Alaska is HUGE but it has so many things I want to do from visiting Denali National Park in the north to seeing the Kenai Fjords and Glacier Bay in the south.  I've also become quite obsessed with this state from planning trips for my clients.  You can choose to travel by land or water...or helicopter!  There are so many ways to explore depending on your plans and luckily I work with some great suppliers to assist in this.  A few more things on my list for when I finally get there are: dog sledding, looking for moose, whale and orca watching, kayaking to a glacier, seeing the Northern Lights, and taking a rail tour.  I may need a couple of trips...




5. Savannah, GA

I've always been intrigued by Savannah.  I don't know if it's the rich history, the squares, or the stories of haunted places.  I don't think I've come across so many ghost tours while researching a city!  One of these tours would definitely make it on my itinerary but much of my time would be dedicated to museums and the many historical sites.

Where I would stay: Perry Lane Hotel

Tucked in a quiet area within walking distance to the Historic District.  There is a destination amenity fee which includes curated touches like daily fresh cookies, bike rentals, and a car service in the Historic District.



6. Lenox, MA

My number one reason for choosing this location, Fall Foliage.  I know that's pretty vague but just driving anywhere throughout New England during this time is magical.

Where I would stay: Blantyre

This is a Tudor-style mansion built in 1902 known for its impeccable service.  For you wine lovers, such as myself, they have an award winning wine cellar.




7. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Walking on sand is not the easiest but I'm told the hike up these dunes is completely worth the effort.  Being the tallest dunes in the country, by making it to the top you will be rewarded with endless panoramic views of these dunes.  




8. White Sands National Park, New Mexico

I remember learning about this place while watching a documentary and thinking how exotic and faraway it must be, only to learn it's in New Mexico!  Since then, this place with the beautiful white sand has been on my mind .  From what I've read it seems to be a place most people stop to visit during a road trip, with El Paso being the closest main city.  

One tip that was consistent in everything I read: wear sunglasses!




9. Saratoga, WY

A luxury dude ranch situated on 30,000 acres of Rocky Mountain wilderness?  Sign me up.  The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek is a perfect getaway for those looking for that classic Western experience.  Choose from many activities such as horseback riding, rock climbing, fly fishing, hiking, ATV adventures, cooking classes, and archery to name a few.  I would easily spend a week at this all-inclusive ranch.





10. New Orleans, LA

I'm surprised I have not been here yet especially since it's considered one of the most international cities in the U.S.!  While I'm sure Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras are a good time, I would love to attend a few jazz concerts and the architecture and historic buildings are a photographers dream.  For a little detour, why not do a swamp tour?

Where I would stay: The Roosevelt New Orleans, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel

New Orleans is a city that calls for a stay at an historic hotel.  The Roosevelt, which is located in the French Quarter, has been around for over 100 years.  A tip I learned is to try the world's first mixed drink at the Sazerac Restaurant.


Interested in these destinations?  Make sure to sign up below to receive my newsletter and keep up with the destinations I'm checking off my list.

Loved my hotel choices?  Book your Virtuoso hotel with Claudia Austin Travel to receive the following:

-Room upgrades (if available)
-Daily breakfast for 2
-Dining, resort, or hotel credits
-Early check in and late checkout (if available)
-Exclusive amenities and experiences









USA Travel Bucket List

  Looking at my travel bucket list, it's mostly all international destinations but during these Covid times I have become more aware of ...
Mexico City is a great combination of history, delicious food, great museums, and amazing people.  It had been on my travel list for some time and now that I'm back, I can't believe I waited so long to visit this amazing city.  Here is how I spent my days getting to know this wonderful destination.

Day 1: Arrived in Mexico City and was met by my Airport Concierge outside of customs and was introduced to my driver who would be with us during our stay in the city.

I got in early so I was prepared to not be able to check into my hotel room.  But what a surprise it was when I was given keys!  Because I took a red-eye from San Francisco and was surrounded by kids kicking my seat, I did not sleep and was exhausted.  Thank you Four Seasons Mexico City for letting me get some rest before meeting up with my colleague.


Usually on Day 1 of a trip I like to relax.  The biggest plan for that day was dinner at Quintonil.  And what a fun experience that was!  I highly recommend the tasting menu with drink pairings if you can handle it all.  This place was my favorite dinner from this trip.



Day 2: Time to explore the city with our private guide!  We were picked up at the hotel in the morning and started with a visit to Chapultepec Castle where we learned about Mexico's historical heritage through times of the conquest, the Empire, the Independence, and the Revolution.  Did you know that Chapultepec means "at the grasshopper hill"?  So don't be surprised when you see a fountain with a grasshopper in the middle!

After our tour I was craving some tacos!  Our guide Daniel took us to a casual place in the city centre and I had my favorite, tacos al pastor.  A must try if you're here.



We made our way through the busy pedestrian streets of the historic center and ended up at El Zocalo, one of the biggest squares in the world.  This is also a place of historical significance; it is in this square where the Aztec sun stone was buried after the Spanish conquest and later discovered during the reparations of the Cathedral.  The Aztec sun stone can now be seen at the National Museum of Anthropology.

We stopped by the Palacio Nacional to take a look at one of Diego Rivera's famous murals which tells the history of Mexico from his perspective.  There is a lot to look at and our guide gave us a great explanation and breakdown of it.



Ended our day with dinner at Merkava, a great little Middle Eastern restaurant in Condesa.  Start with one of their many hummus dishes.  Great spot, mostly locals, make a reservation!

Day 3:  I'm not a morning person but I will be ready by 5:30am for a hot air balloon ride!  Our driver Alfonso and our guide Daniel were waiting for us and we headed to Teotihuacan.  It took about 45 minutes to get to our location, nice time for a quick nap.

The moment I learned that you can take a hot air balloon over the Teotihuacan pyramids, I knew I had to do this.  It's such an amazing experience and worth the early morning wake up call.


While having some coffee, you can watch all the balloons getting ready for take off.  There were quite a few in the area with take off locations all around us.  A couple of people were nervous but once you're in the basket, it's such a smooth ride.

How amazing is this view?!

Teotihuacan
Temple of the Moon


Landing was smooth and we celebrated with sparkling wine followed by breakfast.  It was the fuel we needed to continue our touring of the pyramids.  This time, we were up close and personal.  I was not prepared to actually climb up the Pyramid of the Sun!  But I did my best and almost made it to the top.

The name Teotihuacan was given to this area by the Aztecs when they found the city in the 1400s.  It means "the place where the gods were created".  In 1987 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Teotihuacan
Pyramid of the Sun


 

After all the stair climbing we ended our visit with a glass of pulque.  Pulque is an alcoholic drink made from fermented sap from agave that goes back to the Mesoamerican period.  It was used in many different festivals and I learned it was given to sacrificial victims to ease their suffering.

Now it is not a highly consumed drink.  The production of beer was a cause in the decline of its consumption.  But I still felt I needed to at least try it!  You can have the original drink or have it infused with a fruit such as guava.



Tonight ended with dinner at Pujol!  I sometimes feel that this trip was based around having dinner at this popular restaurant which is ranked as the 20th best in the world.  Can you blame me?

I went with the Mar tasting menu.  There are two choices: Mar or Maiz.  My friend went with Maiz because she prefers a vegetarian menu.  Favorite dish for me was the baby corns that looked like carrots!  And the octopus served with pickled carrots and a carrot puree.  All delicious.  Overall, the whole dining experience was fun.  Especially while we anxiously waited for our next dish to come out.





Day 4:  Today we headed to Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo's House Studio Museum.  I had been looking forward to this day trip.  If you're a fan of Frida and loved the movie, you can see some of the filming locations here.  Diego and Frida are known for their tumultuous relationship so it made sense that they each had their own studios next to each other but separated by a bridge.


 


Our wonderful guide Daniel, Deanna, and me!

We then headed to the pretty colonial neighborhood of Coyoacan where Frida's childhood home is.  The Blue House is now dedicated to her life and works and you can also see some great family photographs.  It is one of the most popular museums in Mexico City.  You should definitely have tickets in advance.  We were able to walk right in without any wait, thanks to Daniel with Journey Mexico!

If you want to take pictures while inside, you do need to pay an additional fee.

Coyoacan
Skip the line with a private guide!
Frida's brushes.

Frida Kahlo
Frida's last painting.

Coyoacan is a charming neighborhood and one that you should take your time to explore.  We wandered through the market, had some churros, tried quesadillas, and did a little shopping. enjoyed sitting at a cafe, and ended up at the Fuente de los Coyotes.  The name Coyoacan means "place of coyotes".


The original quesadilla.  One of these was with carnitas and the other with chicharron!

After our lunch we headed to Xochimilco.  This area is known as the place where flowers grow.  It's filled with canals and "floating gardens".  Some people compare it to the canals of Venice!  It's easy to see why.  You can take a colorful trajinera (gondola) and glide through the canals which are filled with food vendors, musicians, and other groups of people just having a fun time.  It's such a great way to entertain or celebrate with a group of friends and family.  All I could think of was how to bring back a group next year to celebrate my birthday on one of these trajineras!  We passed by groups of people celebrating birthdays, groups of teenagers having fun, families having a meal; so much was going on!  It's a place that is extremely popular with locals during the weekends.

Xochimilco
Trajineras



Xochimilco
Mariachis

This was a full day of fun!  We actually cancelled our dinner reservations because we were so tired.  And there's nothing wrong with just going to your room and enjoying room service!




Day 5:  This was my last day.  My colleague Deanna had an early flight to catch.  I had the whole day before my evening flight so I slept in.  At noon I had plans to meet up with Daniel and a couple of his friends for a tour of the Museum of Anthropology.  I loved how convenient the location of the Four Seasons was.  You're right on Paseo de la Reforma, minutes away from the entrance to Chapultepec Park, and super easy for me to get around on my own.

I met Daniel at the museum and spent 2 hours seeing the highlights.  It's quite a large place and you can easily spend half a day in there!  The great thing about being with my guide is that he showed us the most important pieces while explaining what everything meant.  And here is where you get to see the famous Aztec Sun Stone, also known as the Aztec calendar.



This was a great way to end my trip!  Mexico City is amazing and I can't wait to send clients there.  I know a few people have concerns about safety but I felt safe the whole time.  Part of that is having the right guides and having a driver.  A great thing that the Four Seasons offers is a car service that will take you to your dinner reservations and pick you up!  We never had any issues with having our servers call the hotel to arrange for our driver to pick us up once dinner was over.  And the fee was not crazy!  This was a service I took full advantage of.

Exclusive Preferred Partner Amenities with Four Seasons Mexico City:
*Daily full American breakfast for 2, served through in-room dining or the hotel restaurant.
*Food and beverage credit of $100
*Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in.


CLICK HERE TO PLAN YOUR TRIP TODAY!


5 Days in Mexico City

Mexico City is a great combination of history, delicious food, great museums, and amazing people.  It had been on my travel list for some ti...