kristen reNae

travel

My first trip to… Mexico.

Entering Mexico
Entering Mexico

Living in Southern California for almost two years, I only visited Mexico twice. With that being said, my first trip was to Ensenada. A little south of T.J… a.k.a. Tijuana. Like, lock your doors before the border Tijuana. A group of friends and I loaded up in our cars and headed down south for a day of cheap beers, beach, and lobster. My first tip: when driving past the border… do NOT trust Google maps. We ended up in a construction zone, on a bridge, that wasn’t complete. By the time we finally found our destination, we decided to grab some tacos and margaritas. Oh, and did I mention that not one of us could speak fluent Spanish?! Yah, we were the true “gringos” in Mexico.

mexico and tacos

After a decent meal at a local catina, we decided to head over to the beach. We stopped at a convenience store, bought some Mexican beer, and headed to the sand. We attempted to surf, but it wasn’t the best. Not to mention we were the only white people and the only people going in the water. Needless to say, the beach was a different crowd, but it made the experience that much better!

sand and surf

With the evening upon us, we decided to hit the road and drive back, making a stop for the famous lobster village in Puerto Nuevo. Here you will find the true Mexican culture. It is a small village with little shops, tons of authentic Mexican food, and of course, fresh churros to finish the night.

lobster

The day trip was definitely successful. And then, I spoke too soon. We thought going into Mexico was bad… the directions to get back into the U.S. were even worse, not to mention the line of cars. It took us a good 2.5 hours to get back into the U.S. Pure madness. But thankfully we all got back safe and it is definitely a memory to put in the books. Mark that off the bucket list.

U.S.A.

 

Note: when coming back to the U.S., there are will be a ton of people trying to sell you things while you are in traffic. Be prepared to say “no gracias” about one hundred times!

Cheers!

Santa Barbara Weekend Getaway

With Santa Barbara only four hours from San Diego, we were able to have a couple weekend getaways to yet another amazing California wine region. Santa Barbara alone is beautiful, but then you add the wineries… winning!

We stayed at this adorable place called the Brisas Del Mar Inn, at the beach. The area is small, but the location is ideal. An old acquaintance suggested we try Brophy Brothers. This was our first stop, both times we visited, and with a spectacular view, it is definitely worth it. The place was packed around 2 pm, but we were able to belly up to the bar. We stayed for a couple glasses of chardonnay and an appetizer while talking to a local who gave some great advice on places to try.

Brophy Brothers View
Brophy Brothers View

After a quick bite, we ventured back to the Inn to grab a couple cruisers (offered to guests at no additional charge!). We ventured off along the boardwalk and then back into downtown. We rode as far as the shops would take us, and then on the way back we stopped at the Mexican restaurant, Sandbar, for some margi’s and Chips and Salsa.

Cruiser

Arriving back at the inn, the concierge was having a cheese and wine happy hour… for free! So, of course we saddled up, poured a couple glasses of white wine and gathered a small cheese plate, and took to the patio area to enjoy the gorgeous day. This concierge event was a great way to meet other guests, which happened, and created friends for life.

Our dinner plans each visit were both in the downtown Santa Barbara area. One restaurant was suggested and another happened to be whoever didn’t have a wait. The area has so much to offer, that we will end up trying a new place every time.

Our first weekend getaway involved the above, and the second day we enjoyed wine tasting at a few wineries. The second getaway involved another visit to Brophy Brothers, a lazy day by the pool, followed by the concierge happy hour. The second day, again, we found ourselves wine tasting all new wineries from our previous visit.

Overall, the Santa Barbara weekend getaways have been gorgeous, eventful, and full of memories. Would definitely recommend to those far and close. Cheers!

Santa Barbara

 

 

10 Wineries to Visit in SoCal Temecula

 

temecula vineyards.
temecula vineyards.

As many of us here in the U.S. are becoming more infatuated with wine, the more we want to try and learn. During college I tried wine here and there, but it never appealed to me. Growing older, I have learned the art of how to enjoy and appreciate wine. I first fell in love with the deep reds, Merlot and Cabernet, then the lighter reds, and finally whites. I am constantly intrigued by everything wine has to offer.

When I first moved to California, the mecca of U.S. wines, I was beyond excited to try the growing list of wineries. Let’s just say there were many, many trips to Temecula, being only an hour away from San Diego.

Here is a list of my top 10 Temecula wineries worth trying, in no particular order:

  1. Hart Winery
  2. Robert Renzoni Vineyards & Winery
  3. South Coast Winery
  4. Ponte Winery
  5. Leoness Cellars
  6. Doffo Vineyard & Winery
  7. Oak Mountain Winery
  8. Longshadow Winery
  9. Wiens Family Cellars
  10. Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyard

Each winery is unique with their wine, service, building, and ambiance. My personal preference is to have a tasting and be able to walk on the grounds or patio to enjoy the fresh air. Some wineries offer an outdoor area; others feel like a cellar, with barrels stacked on barrels, huge ceiling, and dark quarters. Remember to ask questions and make friends with those that pour that fine grape juice – more times than not, if you are interested in a new or special wine, they will give you an extra pour.

Be prepared to pay $10-20/tasting, this cost will add up. It is also very easy to purchase many bottles after a few tastings, so be careful. For those that make the trip fairly often, the memberships offered at each winery are definitely worth looking into.

When planning a trip, I become very detail oriented. So, my suggestion would be to prepare ahead of time. Retrieve a Temecula map and look at times each open and close and go in the order that makes the most sense. If you already know what you like, then start with the best first for your fresh palate. If you do a tour/shuttle, they usually have a set schedule, but they welcome suggestions – just remember, majority rules.

I would recommend attending three, maybe four wineries and doing lunch in Old Town or one of the few winery restaurants. You can save money by bringing your lunch and having a picnic at one of the wineries.

NOTE: DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE! There are many opportunities to tour Temecula by a shuttle, jeep, even horseback!