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Super Bowl Boulevard is Open

If you know New York City, you know it’s got energy and excitement all its own but with the first Super Bowl in 42 years just four days away, the buzz is even more palpable. 

Broadway between 34th and 47th Streets has been transformed into a pedestrian-only thoroughfare, called Super Bowl Boulevard, where football fans who have registered, can join in the revelry which started on Wednesday.

Even though I love the parties and the commercials, I never got into American football. Learning 30-odd years ago that the football that I grew up watching in Jamaica, and playing recreationally, wasn’t the same game that’s played here made me lose interest, I think. But walking through midtown on Monday, I couldn’t dismiss the excitement in the air over the match up between two stellar teams – the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos.

So despite the cold – it was in the 20s when I left yesterday morning and with the wind chill, it felt like 8 F — I grabbed my camera, bundled up as warmly as I could and headed out to Super Bowl Boulevard.

Though it wasn’t as windy as the previous day, I knew I should limit the time I left my fingers exposed so I switched the settings on my I set my camera to automatic and started snapping quickly, trying to get in as many shots as possible. I did fine for about 10 minutes, then the cold began to chill my fingers. Note to self: need to find thin and warm gloves.

At least I could move around or go into a store to get warm up. The crew that will be managing the Boulevard will be out in the open working 12-hour days. And the people who have to stand on line to register for all-access passes can’t move around or they’d lose their place. Still, it’s no fun when your fingers are so cold you can’t sense the shutter button. 

Are you ready for some football? 

Linking to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

On the Warren County Winery Train to Villa Milagro Vineyard

I was researching vineyards in the northeast online a few weeks ago and discovered the Warren County Winery Train, a steam locomotive that takes wine lovers to a vineyard in New Jersey. I was excited.

I’d taken diesel trains in Jamaica but a steam train was an entirely different thing. Just the mention of a steam train immediately transported me back to a time long before I was born.

I could hear the sound of the steam as it escaped the chug, chug of the engine. I saw women dressed in hats and gloves, men in suits followed by uniformed porters carrying trunk suitcases. I imagined myself there and more than anything, I wanted to be on that train.

I emailed some friends, proposed a day when we should go and booked tickets online. As the day drew closer, I was as excited as a child waiting for Christmas and prayed anxiously for good weather.

The Warren County Winery Train operates on weekends only from May to October by a volunteer crew. It is one of the trips that the Delaware River Road Excursions organizes each year. (They also do other themed excursions like the Easter Bunny Train, the Corn Maize Train, and the very popular Polar Express).

We woke up to a cool, overcast morning on the day of our excursion, loaded up the car and set off on the 90-minute ride to Phillipsburg. It was beautiful to see that the leaves on some of the trees that line the highway were already begun turning yellow, orange and red.

About an hour into the drive, the clouds suddenly gave way to brilliant sunshine as if someone had flipped a switch. It happened that quickly.

Phillipsburg is a quaint little town, which was pretty easy to find. The trouble came when we tried to find the train station. We drove right past the turn on to Elizabeth Street and ended up in Pennsylvania.

Thankfully, we had enough time so we doubled back and found it. We’d noticed signs as we pulled into town but missed the one directing us to the station. They could definitely be placed more prominently.

Winery Train

A few cars on the train

After days of daydreaming about the steam train, I was disappointed when it didn’t arrive. The conductor said there had a problem had developed so they had to take it out of service. We were sent on a regular (diesel, perhaps?) train.

I had also imagined a small train — they sell only 45 tickets — but when the train arrived I realized that the Winery Train is only one car of several. The other cars take riders for pumpkin picking, and panning for gemstones at the Ol’ Susquehana Mine. Despite my disappointment over the steam train, the vintage cars with antique suitcases that rest on racks above the seats made me think of the time when women wore pencil skirts and men suits and everyone smoked.

The Winery Train leaves Phillipsburg, NJ at 11:00 a.m. and takes a leisurely 20-minute ride along the Delaware River to the end of the line. From there, a yellow school bus makes the 15-minute trip to Villa Milagro, a vineyard that spreads over more than 100 in Finesville, NJ.  

Villa Milagro Vineyard

The location of the winery, in the Musconetcong Valley, where the Musconetcong River flows from the Delaware River, also offers spectacular views of four counties in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Steve and Audrey Gambino are the proud owners of Villa Milagro, House of Miracles. A family-run operation, they produce about 12,000 cases of wines each year. They spent the first three years following their purchase of the vineyard turning it organic. They don’t use pesticides or herbicides and provide a sustainable habitat for native species of birds, animals and wildlife.

We spent about an hour at the vineyard learning about the different grapes they produce, hand harvesting, blending, aging, bottling, and even labeling. Audrey Gambino or Dr. Audrey, who led our tour, showed us how painstaking it is to apply labels to the bottles – they must be placed in the same position on each.

When it was time for the tasting, Dr. Audrey ushered us into the tasting room. We tasted six wines – from a light white to deep red. Each was paired with foods that blended superbly – a mild cheese to meatballs. I liked them all and found it difficult to pick a favorite.

The hour passed too quickly. Before we knew it, we were back on the bus and train heading for Phillipsburg.

Villa Milagro does tastings, cooking classes and offers a dinner with the vintners. They’re also open for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and other events.

Ol’ Susquehanna Mine and Corn Maze

We stopped for an hour for lunch at the Ol’ Susquehanna Mine and Corn Maze on the way back.  We spread the foods we had brought – cheese, crackers, grapes, sandwiches, saltfish fritters, and salads – and opened a few bottles of the wines we’d purchased on a few of the picnic tables

After lunch, a few of my friends checked out the corn maze. There was also a bounce-about for the little ones.

Soon we heard the whistle and the rumbling of the train. We didn’t have time to pan for gemstones, like rose quartz, rubies, amethyst, emeralds, crystals and arrowheads.

The train stopped a second time so we could pick pumpkins. We returned to Phillipsburg around 4 pm.

Warren County Winery Train Particulars

Round trip tickets: $35

Departs 100 Elizabeth Street, Phillipsburg at 11:00 a.m. The wine train has a capacity of 45 seats. If those seats sell out, they’ll run another train at 12:30. The train picks returns around 2:00 p.m. The train operates from May to October only.

Villa Milagro is located at 33 Warren Glen Road in Finesville, NJ. The vineyard is open on weekends for tastings from 11am to 5 pm, daily from 9-6 for sales, and by appointment.

Linking up with Travel Photo Thursday, Oh, the Places I’ve Been. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

At the Jersey Skyline Wine Festival

Blue skies, with tufts of puffy clouds, and the New York skyline in the distance created the perfect backdrop for the inaugural Jersey Skyline Wine Festival which took place this past weekend at Overpeck Park in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey.

Jersey Skyline Wine Festival

Tents at the Jersey Wine Festival

My friends and I arrived at a little past 2 p.m. After we paid the entry fee, the attendant gave us each a wine glass etched with the New Jersey Wine Growers Association logo, a pencil and a list of the 13 participating wineries. They told us to hold on to our glasses as they would replace them only if they were broken and we had proof.

Jersey Skyline Wine Festival

At the wine festival

The wineries occupied tents on the edge of the large field; vendors selling a variety of products took up the tents in the middle. We moved from tent to tent, tasting several fruit-infused wines, varieties made from hybrid grapes and Chardonnays, Merlots, Pinot Grigios, Cabernets, Rieslings, and Shiraz.

By the time we got to the fourth tent, I could feel the wine was already going to my head and I realized I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. We headed to a stall for lunch. What we lacked here was variety in the offerings. It would also have been great to have food that matched the wines that were available. I ended up with something that called itself jambalaya which only filled the space in my stomach.

Jersey Skyline Wine Festival

Band at the wine festival

By now, the band had warmed up and when they started playing the Hall and Oates classic, Sarah Smile, my friend noticed a couple who had temporarily abandoned the tasting and were canoodling, first outside then under a tent. Blame the wine, the great weather and yes, the music.

Jersey Skyline Wine Festival

Tasting at Tomasello Winery

Stomachs now full, we resumed tasting at Tomasello Winery. I was intrigued by their Broomstick Brew and decided to try it. According to Tomasello’s description, Broomstick Brew is a blend of red wine and mulling spices, and is served warm. The winery’s server used something that looked like turkey baster to pour the wine into our glasses. Broomstick Brew is really mulled wine with a fancy name.

Jersey Skyline Wine Festival

My glass of Broomstick Brew

On our way out, my friend noticed a pepper vendor, Rosetta Farms and since we both love pepper, we headed over. I decided on a Chipotle Habanero mix that I can’t wait to try. Like the wines, it had several tasting notes – a bit salty at the beginning, flavorful in the middle and kick of pepper at the end.

Jersey Skyline Wine Festival

Pepper Vendor

The Jersey Skyline Wine Festival was a wonderful introduction to the varieties of wines produced in the Garden State. Although I don’t like fruity wines, I tasted strawberry, peach, blueberry, and apple but wasn’t bowled over by them. The varieties that were made from hybrid grapes like Vignoles, Chambourcin and Traminette that were produced here in the US were more to my liking. My other favorites were a Cabernet Franc, a Riesling 2010, a White Merlot, and a few of the desert wines. Even with all the notes I took, it was still hard for me to decide what to buy.

I’m looking forward to attending a few more wine festivals before the weather changes. If you’re a wine lover in the northeast, it’s a great time now to enjoy wines produced locally. All the wineries ship to other states as well. 

 

Linking this week with Travel Photo Mondays that Noel at Travel Photo Discovery organizes.

 

 

Weekend Getaway: Lambertville, Antiques Capital of NJ

“We discovered this new place that I know you’ll love,” Zoraya said to me. “It’s just as quaint as Cape May, with beautiful historic houses and lots of antique stores — and a lot closer. Let’s pick a weekend and drive down to Lambertville.”

I had never heard of Lambertville before but she had my attention when she said quaint, historic houses and antique stores.

Lambertville, NJ train station

Train station, Lambertville

Lambertville is situated on the Delaware River in Hunterdon County, New Jersey and is an easy hour or so drive from Manhattan. The small community, less than 2 square miles, it is home to about 4,000 residents. Its many 18th and 19th century houses give it an old-world appeal.

We were bubbling with excitement like under-aged schoolgirls who had just gotten the keys to the family car as we planned our daylong jaunt. We had hoped for a sunny day but the clouds couldn’t dampen our spirits.

Arriving in Lambertville, we browsed several stores and were tempted by antique silverware, vintage Gucci and Coach bags, an old world lace dress (that I could see myself wearing as I sipped lemonade and nibbled on finger sandwiches), jewelry, vintage perfume bottles.

I could have bought much more than the notebook, lavender sachets, soaps and clothes I came away with but just looking at the chandeliers, lamps, garden furniture, furniture, books, postcards, etc., I began to feel my brain shutting down from visual overloaded.  When that happens, I can’t see anything else no matter how beautiful. We decided to pause for lunch. But I plan to return later in the spring and fall – I’m sure the foliage here will be spectacular.

Here’s a taste of what Lambertville has to offer –

Where to Stay

Getting There

From Manhattan: NJ Turnpike South to 78 W, then 287 South to 202 S to Flemington, then Route 202 to Lambertville.

So if you’re in the Northeast and feel the need to get away for a day, think of Lambertville. It’s worth the drive.

Next post: New Hope, PA

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