Hanley Ramírez entering Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 Town Hall at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut

Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend: What’s it really like?

For the past few years, before the Red Sox have headed off to Florida for spring training, they’ve hosted a weekend get together for the Fenway Faithful at Foxwoods Resort and Casino. Back in November, we hit the “sign us up!” button for the Red Sox Winter Weekend the day tickets became available. We weren’t alone – the 2018 event, which was held on January 19-21, sold out very early, with reports of close to 7,000 in attendance.

We signed up for Winter Weekend because it sounded fun and interesting, but honestly, we had no clue what Red Sox Winter Weekend would be like. Sure, we’d read the schedule, but we still wondered who would be there, if this was really just a “kid thing” or if there was something for all ages, and ultimately, would it be worth what we’d sunk into the weekend? The event itself was only $65 per person, but staying at Foxwoods is a little pricey. Even with the Red Sox hotel discount, our two tickets and two hotel room nights put us back a total of $745 – and that didn’t include the cost of transportation to the event and dining at Foxwoods, which can also be pretty expensive.

Winter Weekend Prep

A couple of weeks prior to the event we received an email to sign up for our preferred sessions – one guaranteed autograph signing/photo session per attendee and one panel discussion per attendee. We made our selections and pre-registered for the events and, on Friday the 19th, we headed to Connecticut for our first Red Sox Winter Weekend.

For autographs, we purchased two MLB balls in advance and brought a game ball Greg had snagged last summer at a Sox game in Toronto. However, after arriving, we found balls and other memorabilia were available for sale in the gift shop in the Winter Weekend Fan Fest center (but we got a much better deal on the internet).

While some attendees came equipped with cameras, we decided to leave ours at home and just went with iPhone shots for the weekend. We did make sure to bring comfortable shoes, a necessity as the hotel is sprawling (we walked 8 miles the first day, 6 miles the second).

Boston Red Sox, Connecticut, Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Winter Weekend
Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Redsox Winter Weekend 2018

Arriving at Foxwoods, we were engulfed in a sea of Red Sox fans – young, old and everywhere in between. We’d booked our rooms through the Red Sox website and were quickly checked into our room in the Fox Tower. We had a nice king room with a western view overlooking the forest.

Our welcome package included tickets and wristbands for the Winter Weekend events we’d chosen, some general event information, and two grandstand tickets for a game at Fenway in April.

Winter Weekend: Redsox Town Hall

Kim Hull with Wally at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut
Kim Hull with Wally at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After an early dinner, we headed over to line up at the Grand Theatre entrance for the opening night event, the Red Sox Town Hall. During the wait to enter, Wally and Tessie, the loveable Fenway mascots, hung out with the fans, giving hugs and taking photos.

Kim Hull with Tessie at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut
Kim Hull with Tessie at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Red Sox Town Hall was open to all Winter Weekend attendees. Upon entering, we found aisle seats in a general admission side section a couple of rows behind the seats reserved down front for season pass holders.

Hanley Ramírez entering Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 Town Hall at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut
Hanley Ramírez entering Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 Town Hall at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Kicking off the Town Hall, the 2018 Red Sox coaches, team members, and a few former players were introduced individually, making a dramatic entrance from the back of the auditorium, high-fiving fans as they made their way to the stage.

Christian Vazquez entering Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 Town Hall at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut
Christian Vazquez entering Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 Town Hall at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Providing a high-energy start to the evening, the players seemed to have as much fun as the fans as they made their way through the roaring crowd.

Chris Sale entering Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 Town Hall at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut
Chris Sale entering Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 Town Hall at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Once everyone was on stage, Winter Weekend attendees had their first view of the 2018 Boston Red Sox team and coaches, with the exception of a few players not in attendance and, of course, any that may be acquired in the final few weeks before spring training.

Boston Red Sox at Winter Weekend 2018 Red Sox Town Hall at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut
Boston Red Sox at Winter Weekend 2018 Red Sox Town Hall at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Red Sox chairman, Tom Werner, Red Sox President and CEO, Sam Kennedy, Red Sox President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowski, and the team’s new manager, Alex Cora, were joined by fan favorites, David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez, for an entertaining roundtable discussion and a fan Q&A. The Town Hall was excellent, providing an evening of excitement, humor, insight and fun for all attending.

Tom Caron, Tom Werner, Sam Kennedy, David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Dave Dombrowski, Alex Cora at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 Town Hall at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut
Tom Caron, Tom Werner, Sam Kennedy, David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Dave Dombrowski, Alex Cora at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 Town Hall at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

NESN was on hand to emcee and record the Town Hall and other activities throughout the weekend, with the Winter Weekend broadcast available for viewing by Red Sox Nation multiple times in the weeks following the event.

Winter Weekend: Fan Fest and Trophy Room

Golden Gloves and Silver Sluggers at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut
Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Winter Weekend Fan Fest was a huge area with a multitude of activities for fans of all ages including pitching and batting cages, Wiffle Ball, the NESN Zone, the VR Dugout, Ballpark Eats, a beer garden (with more than beer), and a merchandise area. While visiting, we picked up some Winter Weekend gear and four of the special offer half-price $50 gift cards good for merchandise back at the Red Sox Team Store in Boston.

Winter Weekend memorabilia and Red Sox Team Store gift cards
Winter Weekend memorabilia and Red Sox Team Store gift cards at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the highlights of the Fan Fest zone (and I think missed by many because it was very low traffic whenever we stopped by or looked in) was the trophy room next to the main Fan Fest room. Visitors could view the Silver Slugger awards and Gold Gloves that have been won by Red Sox players and fans could take a photo with the 2004, 2007 and 2013 World Series Trophies. Amazing!

Kim and Greg Hull with 2004, 2007 & 2013 World Series Trophies at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend
Kim and Greg Hull with 2004, 2007 & 2013 World Series Trophies at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut

Winter Weekend: Ticket Town

The Fan Fest area was also the site of Ticket Town, where attendees could purchase June, July, and August single game tickets prior to the tickets being made available to the general public. We purchased tickets for 18 summer games at Ticket Town and got great seats. The purchasing process was quick and easy, working directly with the helpful Winter Weekend Red Sox ticket staff. After adding the tickets for those 18 summer games to the 10 spring and fall games we’d purchased back in December, we are set for 1/3 of the 2018 home games.

Winter Weekend: Meeting players, getting autographs and taking photographs

One of the things we were most curious about prior to attending was how much the team, management, and former players would mix about the crowd. Our question was quickly answered.

On Friday night, we spotted countless team members around the hotel and casino. Upon returning to our room that evening, we found an autographed photo of Red Sox catcher, Christian Vazquez, had been slipped under the door to our room. What a cool surprise!

I went down to get takeout coffee Saturday morning and Dave Dombrowski was in line behind me. We chatted briefly about the Town Hall and, as we waited, if a staffer walked by, he called them over to buy them a coffee or breakfast. He’s a very nice guy.

Dennis Eckersley signing a ball for Kim Hull, Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut
Dennis Eckersley signing a ball for Kim Hull, Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When we walked off the elevator later to start our Saturday events, Hall of Famer, Dennis Eckersley, was standing in the lobby near the elevator. He signed for those of us in the lobby and graciously took pics as he texted with someone and took a couple of calls about his schedule that day.

As far as the autograph and photo sessions, this was the one area of the event that suffered from the fatigue of hosting nearly 7,000 guests. The autograph and photograph sessions are essentially a lottery – you sign up for a room number and a time and are guaranteed one autograph and one photo during the session – but you have no idea who will be there until you enter the room.

Even though we had a specific time and room assigned with our pre-registration, we first waited in a line of hundreds of people in the hotel hallway, to then advance to one of four different holding areas, to then wait in line for the autograph and photo.

Heath Hembree and Deven Marrero signing autographs at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018
Heath Hembree and Deven Marrero signing autographs at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

So, who’d we get? My room had Heath Hembree and Deven Marrero signing and Craig Kimbrel taking photos.

Craig Kimbrel and Kim Hull, Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018
Craig Kimbrel and Kim Hull, Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut

Greg’s room had Andrew Benintendi signing…

Andrew Benintendi signing autographs at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018
Andrew Benintendi signing autographs at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

and Ben Taylor taking photos.

Dan Taylor and Kim Hull, Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018
Ben Taylor and Greg Hull, Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut

The entire process took over two hours and, quite honestly, was one of our least favorite parts of the experience. I realize it is the most challenging part of the event to manage with only a limited number of players to sign and 7,000 autograph seekers, but it was a great deal of waiting and chaos for an autograph and a photo.

Autographed baseballs from Winter Weekend 2018
Autographed baseballs from Winter Weekend 2018. Lower left ball: Dennis Eckersley, Lower right ball: Andrew Benintendi, Top ball: Rafael Devers, Rick Porcello, Heath Hembree and Deven Marrero. Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Winter Weekend: Panel Discussions

The panel discussions were our favorite part of the entire event. The first session we attended was the one we’d pre-registered for: “On the Mound” hosted by NESN’s Dave O’Brien with Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, and Chris Sale.

Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, Chris Sale, Dave O'Brien at the On the Mound Panel Discussion at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut
Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, Chris Sale, Dave O’Brien at the On the Mound Panel Discussion at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It was really, really good. When you see the players at the park, they have their game faces on and are understandably distant. Having been on the media side of pro cycling, we’ve shot enough press conferences to understand why athletes have to be a bit wary of the press and again, typically remain a bit distant. Which is why the panel discussions were so entertaining, providing a glimpse into the human side of the players. The players were open, taking question after question from the audience, sharing stories and bringing the crowd into their world.

David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, Tom Caron at the Teammates for Life Panel Discussion at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018
David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, Tom Caron at the Teammates for Life Panel Discussion at Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend 2018 at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We liked “On the Mound” so much we decided to wait in the standby line for “Teammates for Life” and were lucky enough to snag seats for the session. The panel consisted of David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield with Tom Caron “moderating,” but with Papi and Pedro in attendance, Caron’s role was more like herding cats. The stories were hilarious and it was the perfect ending to the day and, for us, Winter Weekend.

While we stayed on until Sunday, we skipped the Saturday night movie “Sandlot” and the Sunday morning Wally and Tessie breakfast.

Overall, Red Sox Winter Weekend was well worth the money, although next year (yes, we already plan to attend), we will most likely head back to Boston on Saturday evening. For us, the Town Hall and panel discussions were the highlights, but that was us – with so many varied activities, attendees can arrange their own Winter Weekend schedules to match their personal preferences.

It was also spectacular to see families sitting at tables in restaurants talking to each other about the players they saw and the things they’d done that day, instead of just staring at electronic devices. There’s quite a bit of competition for the minds of that next generation of baseball fans, but it just goes to show you that quality entertainment and engagement, like Winter Weekend provides, can hold the attention of the young (and the old) – and that’s definitely a “W” for the sport of baseball.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.


 

Christmas in Athens, Greece

Cover: Syntagma Square in Athens at Christmas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


After visiting so many wonderful places over the last year on the road, we wanted to return to one of our very favorites for the holidays – Athens.

Greece in December? Yes! It is lovely. We were in Athens the entire month of December and most of the days were sunny and in the mid 60°s F (16C). On a few days the cruise ship tourists descended on Plaka for a few hours (usually on Tuesdays), but soon they would be on their way and the quiet December life in Athens would return.

Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation on a sunny December day, Athens, Greece
The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation on a sunny December day. Also, known as the “Mētrópolis,” it is the cathedral church of the Archbishopric of Athens and all Greece. Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

98% of the Greek population is Christian Orthodox, so Christmas and Easter are the two big holidays in Greece. We were fortunate to be in Athens for both in 2017.

What is the Christmas season like in Athens? It’s much like celebrating in other locations with eating, shopping, gift giving, decorating, events, festivities and gathering with others. However, as with all cultures, the Greeks have some of their own traditions and customs and learning those makes celebrating the holidays abroad an even more special experience.

Greek Christmas traditions and decorations

Christmas tree at Syntagma Square, AthensWhile Christmas trees can be spotted around Athens, including in the giant one at Syntagma Square near Parliament (there’s really no tree, it’s constructed of poles and lights), Greeks also decorate small boats with lights and place them over the fireplace,  on a shelf, or in a store window.

Decorated Greek Christmas boat
Decorated Greek Christmas boat in a store window. Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A nod to the significant role sailing, the sea, and the islands play in Greek life, decorating small boats in Greece during the holiday season is an old tradition that has been revived in recent years. About mid-December, decorated Greek Christmas boats began to appear throughout Athens. We saw them in shop windows, in bars, in restaurants, and in homes.

Greek Christmas boat
Traditional Greek Christmas boat. Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For a bit of Christmas in Athens any time of the year, Noel the holiday bar is a spot in central Athens with creative cocktails that will put you in a merry spirit. Over-the-top festive, it’s always Christmas at Noel. We popped over on the 23rd of December to get into the holiday mood and it was beyond crowded, lively and quite beautiful.

Noel the holiday bar, Athens, Greece
Noel the holiday bar, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Christmas shopping in Athens

Shop windows decorated for the holidays in Kolonaki, Athens, Greece
Shop windows decorated for the holidays in Kolonaki, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

I decided I wanted to send my great niece a collection of made-in-Greece items for Christmas, so we hit the ground shopping the first week of December in order to get her package in the mail with hopes it would arrive before Christmas. (It did, yay!)

Athens has a wide selection of shopping options ranging from worldwide-known labels to local Greek brands to specialty stores. Along Ermou Street between Monastiraki and Syntagma, you can find American Eagle, Sephora, Marks and Spencers, and H&M and countless other large stores. In Kolonaki, high-end, luxury labels, such as Baccarat, Dior, Prada and Louis Vuitton, and Greek designer boutiques are in abundance.

The Monastiraki markets and the tourist shops in Plaka are both fun areas for a stroll and also a good spot for finding an eclectic item or two. Both areas also have countless places to stop for a coffee, a meal or a wine and, if one is craving soy chai or a holiday beverage, a Starbucks can be found in Monastiraki at Mitropoleos 80.

Monastiraki Starbucks in the holiday spirit
Monastiraki Starbucks in the holiday spirit. Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

December dining and Christmas treats in Athens

Greece is a paradise for food lovers any time of the year, but in December, Athens restaurants are quiet during the week, making dining especially pleasurable at the slower pace. Feasting on multiple courses and lingering over coffee and conversation amidst the holiday decorations is an absolute delight.

Santa Claus and Christmas decorations in Athens, Greece
Santa Claus and Christmas decorations at a Plaka restaurant in Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While quiet during the week, Athen’s restaurants and bars come alive in December on the weekend as Athenians gather with family and friends for pre-holiday parties and gatherings.

On the Sunday before Christmas weekend, we happened upon a large party at one of our favorite restaurants in Plaka, Stamatopoulos Tavern. We arrived just as the group was finishing dessert and had turned their attention to dancing. Different groups danced to each song – it was a priceless experience!

In addition to the fabulous food found in restaurants, the bakeries begin to add Christmas delicacies to their offerings.

Kourabiedes, which are also called kourabiethes, (shortbread sugar cookies with almonds covered in powdered sugar) and melomakarona (spiced, honey cookies) are two traditional Greek Christmas cookies – we’ve had way too many of both and they are delicious!

Christmas baked goods at Takis Bakery, Athens, Greece
Christmas baked goods at Takis Bakery, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Christopsomo is a Christmas bread with a cross on top that is traditionally made on Christmas Eve and shared by the family on Christmas Day. We headed to our favorite bakery in Athens, Takis Bakery (Misaraliotou 14 near the Acropolis Museum), on Christmas Eve to purchase a Christopsomo for our Christmas table.

Christopsomo Christmas bread from Takis Bakery in Athens, Greece
Christopsomo Christmas bread from Takis Bakery in Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Christmas events and festivities

Christmas tree reflected in balloon at concert by Greek Air Force Band, Athens, Greece
Syntagma Square Christmas tree reflected in balloon at concert by Greek Air Force Band in Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Greek holiday season continues through Epiphany on the 6th of January with Christmas events and festivities occurring all around Athens. Finding events is easy as the City of Athens publishes a pdf calendar of Athens holiday events (English is in the back half beginning on page 32).

We enjoyed multiple free concerts at Syntagma Square including performances by the Greek Air Force Band and the City of Athens Philharmonic Orchestra. Combined with the glow of the Syntagma Square Christmas tree and the bustling holiday crowd, the Christmas music created a joyous spirit in Athens.

Greek Air Force Band Christmas Concert at Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece
Greek Air Force Band Christmas Concert at Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Spending December and celebrating Christmas in Athens has been a wonderful experience! καλά Χριστούγεννα / Kalá Christoúgenna! (Merry Christmas!) and καλές γιορτές / Kalés giortés (Happy holidays!) to everyone!

Plaka decorated with Christmas lights. Athens, Greece
Plaka decorated with Christmas lights. Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Eating our way through Athens

Eating our way through Athens

Cover: Dining in Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


I really don’t know how Athenians don’t weigh 1000 pounds. After spending three months in the gym following our month-long visit to Greece in April, we were determined that during our return in December, we’d avoid gaining weight. Our determination lasted about as long as our Uber ride from the airport. You see, the apartment where we stay in Athens is above a gelato shop.

Gelato at Davinci Gelato, Plaka, Athens, Greece
Gelato at Davinci Gelato, Plaka, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

I thought maybe they would be closed for the winter. Nope. Oh, my – well, best-laid plans and all…

Eating our way through Athens

Having already seen the sights, visited the monuments, and toured the museums during our April visit, we planned on a month of simply living in Athens enjoying the culture, the people, and the food.

The food in Greece is simply delicious. I could exist on Greek salads alone and, as my Greek-American friend Paula says, “Everything’s betta with feta!” But there is so much more. From tzatziki to souvlaki to the seafood, the Greeks have mastered the craft of cooking. And, we in turn, did quite a bit of sampling and eating in Athen’s restaurants – and here are some of our favorite finds…

Stamatopoulos Tavern

Greek salad, or Horiatiki, at Stamatopoulos Tavern, Athens, Greece
Greek salad, or Horiatiki, at Stamatopoulos Tavern, Athens, Greece. Tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, red onion, capers, feta cheese, olives, bell peppers, oregano, and olive oil. Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our first stop upon arrival was dinner to celebrate our anniversary and we chose one of our favorite restaurants in Plaka, Stamatopoulos Tavern. Located at the foot of Lisiou Street (the stairs in Plaka with the restaurants and bars), in the summer the restaurant has a large, lovely outdoor dining patio and in the winter, the indoor restaurant is full of charm and warmth. With music and good food, we visit Stamatopoulos Tavern once a week when we are in Athens. Yes, it’s a bit touristy, but yes, it is enjoyable. Our go-to menu selection: octopus and a Greek salad. νόστιμο! (Delicious!)

Stamatopoulos Tavern is located in Plaka at Lisiou 26, Athina.

Octopus at Stamatopoulos Tavern at the foot of Lisiou Street in Plaka, Athens, Greece
Octopus at Stamatopoulos Tavern at the foot of Lisiou Street in Plaka, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Mama Roux

Meza Sampler with Moutabal at Mama Roux, Athens, Greece
Meza Sampler with Moutabal at Mama Roux, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Eclectic and relaxed with a wide range of cuisine options, we visited Mama Roux multiple times during the month. We highly recommend the Meza Sampler – the Moutabal (smoked aubergine purée, we had it vegetarian) is amazing. We also always get the quesadillas, which are tasty and the pico actually has a kick.

Quesadillas at Mama Roux, Athens, Greece
Quesadillas at Mama Roux, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Mama Roux is located near Monastiraki at Aiolou 48, Athina. From the Starbucks, walk up the street with the home goods and cloth stores.

Eat at Milton’s

Prosecco at Eat at Milton's in Plaka, Athens, Greece
Prosecco at Eat at Milton’s in Plaka, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We’d dined at Eat at Milton’s when we were in Athens in April and it was definitely on our must return list for our December visit. A lovely, upscale restaurant in Plaka, Eat at Milton’s is the place to go for a little bit of luxury. On this visit, we began with a bottle of Prosecco, which we leisurely enjoyed as we watched the frantic holiday crowds bustling about outside.

Greek salad at Eat at Milton's in Plaka, Athens, Greece
Greek salad at Eat at Milton’s in Plaka, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Next up, the Bio Greek salad which is an art form at Eat at Milton’s – so pretty, you almost don’t want to eat it – almost. The salad was fresh and tasty with an innovative spin on a Greek classic. For our main courses, we had the shrimp ravioli and the fettuccine vognole. Both were fabulous and the shrimp sauce on the shrimp ravioli is amazing.

Shrimp ravioli in shrimp sauce at Eat at Miltons in Plaka Athens, Greece
Shrimp ravioli in shrimp sauce at Eat at Milton’s in Plaka Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While one of the pricer restaurants in Plaka, a lunch or dinner at Eat at Milton’s is definitely a luxurious treat. Eat at Milton’s is located at the corner of Adrianou and Nikodimou Streets in Plaka at Adrianou 91, Athina.

The Greco’s Project

Vegetable Souvlaki in a pita at The Greco's Project. Athens, Greece
Vegetable Souvlaki in a pita at The Greco’s Project, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A very busy spot near Syntagma Square, The Greco’s Project delivers true value, serving super tasty fare for very reasonable prices. As we don’t eat meat, souvlaki is normally out of the question for us, but The Greco’s Project does a vegetable souvlaki in a pita with the yogurt sauce that is fabulous. As far as the other items we sampled… skip the pasta – not enough sauce. The Greek salad is interesting, using caper leaves instead of capers. The Greco’s Project salad is quite good and the bean soup is really tasty. The pitas are divine.

The Greco’s Project is located at Mitropoleos 5, Athina.

Cherchez La Femme

Small plates at Cherche La Femme
Small plates at Cherchez La Femme, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We must have walked by this restaurant 100 times before a friend recommended we give it a try and he was so correct. Located on Mitropoleos across from the cathedral, Cherchez La Femme is the perfect spot for a lazy afternoon of wine and small plates. We had the smoked mackerel, portabellos, octopus and a few other delicious dishes. Well worth a visit!

Cherchez La Femme is located at Mitropoleos 46, Athina across from Mētrópolis, the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation.

Mani Mani

Mani Mani dining room, Athens, Greece
Dining room at Mani Mani, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Mani Mani, or Manh Manh, came highly recommended by an Athenian friend (yep, the same one that recommended Cherchez La Femme – the guy knows food) and Mani Mani did not disappoint. Serving creative food in a charming atmosphere with stellar service, we loved Mani Mani. We began with the Mani Mani salad, greens in a sun-dried tomato dressing and topped with grilled goat cheese. Spectacular.

Mani Mani salad, Athens, Greece
Mani Mani salad with lettuce, rocket sun-dried tomatoes, and goat cheese at Manh Manh in Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Next up, balsamic glazed octopus on a bed of fava bean purée (yeah, we rarely pass up the octopus in Greece). The octopus was tender and flavorful and the fava bean purée serves as an amazing dipping sauce for the delicious bread.

Octopus on fava bean purée at Mani Mani, Athens, Greece
Balsamic octopus on fava bean purée at Mani Mani, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For the main course, we opted for the special, a seafood orzo in a sauce accented with fennel. It was superb. The presentation was excellent, the atmosphere is lovely with great music and, for the price, Mani Mani is a must visit. It’s just a couple of streets over from the Acropolis Museum at Falirou 10, Athina.

Seafood Orzo at Mani Mani, Athens, Greece
Seafood Orzo at Mani Mani, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Psaras in Plaka

Happy hour in Plaka, Athens, Greece
Our perfect perch for happy hour in beautiful Plaka.
Plaka, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When we were in Athens for the month of April, we spent many afternoons on our perch on Lisiou on “the stairs” sipping vodka at Psaras. This December, we moved inside for dinners, still amazed by the view, but enjoying the good food in the warmth of the glass-enclosed patio. We typically partake of the octopus or the sea bass. Both are excellent choices and enjoyed with a stunning view overlooking Athens.

Psaras Traditional Restaurants in Plaka are located at the top of the Lisiou Street stairs at Erotokritou ke Erechtheos 16, Athina.

Dining at Psaras Traditional Restaurant in Plaka, Athens, Greece
Dining at Psaras Traditional Restaurant in Plaka, Athens, Greece in December
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Bel Paese Pasta al Momento

Rigatoni al Tonno at Bel Paese Pasta al Momento, Athens, Greece
Rigatoni al Tonno at Bel Paese Pasta al Momento, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We first saw this restaurant when headed to the market/grocery located next door. Beautifully decorated, Bel Paese Pasta al Momento is one of those restaurants that hits on all points without appearing to try too hard. The decor is upscale comfortable, the music selection relaxing, the service friendly and thoughtful, and the food spot on. The Bel Paese salad is splendid – fresh, crisp lettuce, dried cranberries, onion, avocado, orange, almonds with orange-honey-mustard dressing. Both Rigatoni al Tonno and the Tagliatelle Alla Puttanesca were tasty and, on another visit, we had Capricciosa pizza, which was delicious.

Bel Paese Pasta al Momento is located near the Acropolis Museum subway station at Athanasiou Diakou 6, Athina.

Harvest

Eggs Benedict with salmon at Harvest Coffee & Wine
Eggs Benedict with salmon at Harvest Coffee & Wine, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We’d passed this spot several times on the weekend and it was always crowded, so we decided to pay a visit on a weekday afternoon and managed to grab a table. We opted for the eggs benedict with salmon and the avocado toast with poached eggs and jalapeño sauce. The eggs were cooked perfectly and the coffee was aromatic.

Harvest Coffee & Wine is located on Evripidou, Athina. From the Starbucks, walk up the street with the home goods and cloth stores. It’s on the corner of Evripidou and Aiolou.

The Pasta Shop

Pasta at The Pasta Shop in Athens
Pasta at The Pasta Shop, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If you are looking for some homemade pasta and sauce at very reasonable prices, this is the place. Everything is made on site from fresh ingredients. We loved the rosa and the Arrabiata sauces. Inexpensive (6-7€ each) and cooked to order.

The Pasta Shop is located just a couple blocks around the corner from the Starbucks in Monastiraki at Kalamiotou 9A, Athina.

Αιόλου 68

Caesar salad with smoked haddock at Αιόλου 68, Athens, Greece
Caesar salad with smoked haddock at Αιόλου 68, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At Αιόλου 68 in central Athens is a great spot with a large seafood selection, very tasty food, great service, and a wonderful atmosphere that makes for an excellent dining experience. We sampled multiple dishes including the Santorini fava bean purée, the octopus, and the fish soup – all which were quite good. Our favorite though was the Caesar salad with smoked haddock – absolutely delicious!

Αιόλου 68 is appropriately located at Aiolou 68, Athina.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

"Just in case you forgot something" Airbnb supplies

10 things every Airbnb needs

Article by Kim Hull

Living on the road full time for the last year, we’ve spent the majority of our time in Airbnb apartments – 62% of the time or 227 days from December 2016 through November 2017, to be exact. In the last year, we’ve rented Airbnb apartments in England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Italy, Malta, Greece, Canada and the United States, and some have been great, some okay, and a couple of spots – well, we left and went to a hotel.

Airbnb

At the top of our Airbnb annoyance list –  #2 would have to be receiving instructions advising us to hide from the condo staff or apartment building personnel because running an Airbnb is a violation. Notification usually occurs far after booking and paying, in a subtle statement along with the address and directions which we receive a day or so before we get there. Upon arrival, it gets more direct and places us in a very uncomfortable situation.

Sign in elevator at Airbnb Toronto
Sign in elevator at Airbnb in Toronto

If that is #2, what is the #1 Airbnb issue? The apartment actually needs to be at the place where the listing says it is. That happened in May in the U.K. – the owner apparently didn’t want to change the listing address, even though he’d actually moved because he would have lost his Airbnb ratings. We found out when we showed up to the address in the email sent by Airbnb and the owner was at a different address about a half mile away. He must have gotten the new place for quite a bit less and seemed to no longer find it necessary to use a quality cleaning service. Yep, that was fun.

This wasn’t our only encounter at a place of questionable cleanliness. We only rent entire homes, typically in the range of $125-$175 per night (daily rate), and there are certain things we consider to be table stakes (the minimum required) for every rental: kitchen with fridge, TV, working internet, decent sheets, and the apartment should be professionally cleaned. The unit should also be well maintained with repairs made to issues caused by former occupants.

If someone drops nail polish and it splashes on the wall, remove it and repaint.

Nail polish on Airbnb bathroom wall
Nail polish on Airbnb bathroom wall in Canada

If the toilet seat has issues, buy a new one – don’t paint it.

Painted toilet seat in Airbnb
Painted toilet seat in an Airbnb

Fortunately, there’s been much more good than bad, but almost all missed something that would have enhanced the experience – things that would elevate the stay to truly deserving a five-star rating. I’ll reserve speaking to the failings of the Airbnb rating system for a later article but, let’s just say that a great stay isn’t about showing up to greet the guest with water or wine and cookies (it’s a popular thing in Europe). That’s nice, but there are other things far more important.

With this roaming lifestyle, you learn to adapt and flexibility is key, but there are certain things that, if every owner would provide them, would make life as a guest easier and more enjoyable. And, to any Airbnb guests out there – if your host provides these items, don’t steal them. If you break them, pay to replace them. Let’s keep it working for all of us.

So, to all of the Airbnb owners out there, this is to you, and here’s our list of….

The 10 things every Airbnb needs

1. A supply of essentials

Toilet paperArriving to find no toilet paper or soap is so annoying. Sure, we will be heading to the market soon after arrival, but if it is late afternoon or evening and we’ve been on train or plane all day, drinks and dinner sound far more appealing than finding a store for soap, shampoo, and toilet paper.

We always carry a small bar of soap, shampoo, and conditioner and, if space permits, a roll of toilet paper but, most people don’t do this, so come on owners, add an extra five bucks on to the cleaning fee or rate and make people’s lives easier. And, with that, throw in some rolls of paper towels (not 4 sheets leftover from the last cleaning), adequate hand soap, a bottle of shower gel or a bar of soap (new in the box), dishwashing detergent, and, if there is a washer, laundry detergent.

Best essentials array we’ve seen – an Airbnb townhouse in Boulder, Colorado’s  “Just in case you forgot something” stash Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

2. Cleaning supplies

Airbnb cleaning supplies
Airbnb cleaning supplies Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If you want us to keep the apartment clean, you need to leave some cleaning supplies –  a broom, Windex, paper towels, toilet brush, trash bags and new sponge at a minimum. Even for a rental of just a few days, we want to keep the place clean, but you really shouldn’t expect us to go buy a broom to do so.

hangers and fan3. A fan

Nothing fancy here – just a fan. They can typically be purchased for the equivalent of $15-$20 USD (we know, we’ve purchased and left them as we went). If the apartment doesn’t have air conditioning, then get at least two – a fan is all that is needed sometimes to circulate air when it is still cool outside, which will save you money in the long run and makes guests more comfortable.

4. Hangers

We travel light and try our best to find a place with a washer, minimizing the clothing we carry with us, but we do tend to bring more than a couple of shirts between the two of us and like to hang them up. Do people steal the hangers and that is why so many places have so few? You don’t need to spoil us with wooden hangers – just get 20 inexpensive ones and replace them if they disappear.

5. A kettle and a coffee maker

Nespresso & kettleOne of the best things about staying in an Airbnb is having the option to prepare some meals at home in the apartment. Even if guests don’t want to get their Julia Child on, nearly everyone likes to have coffee and/or tea in the morning before going out. That said, the coffee maker and kettle are key items to an Airbnb guest’s happiness.

For a kettle, the electric ones predominantly found in Europe are great. For coffee, a Nespresso or K-cup is perfect, providing no need for the guest to figure out how to use a Moka pot or which filters to buy. While Nespresso pods can be a bit harder to find (so, leaving a pack of them is really nice – hint, hint), they make such a great cup of coffee, it can really add a luxury feel to the experience.

6. Power supplies and power adapters

Monster Outlet to Go power supplyWe’ve been in 15 countries in the last 10 months, so we carry multiple power adapters and have a couple of small, power strips we found on Amazon and take them with us everywhere we go.

However, most people don’t bring power strips and many forget their adapters, so having a few commonly used adapters and a couple of power strips on hand would be helpful to guests. People have phones, tablets, camera batteries and laptops to charge and fighting over outlets is no fun.

7. Kitchen supplies beyond the pots and pans

Items for the kitchen that are an absolute minimum – clean pots, pans, dishes, glasses, wine glasses, mugs, silverware, cooking utensils, a baking tray, coffee maker, kettle, and at least one larger bowl (for salad, chips, etc). Most (not all) Airbnb owners provide these items.

Corkscrew wine openerBut, the other kitchen supplies that are frequently missed are a corkscrew/wine opener, can opener, ice trays, scissors, aluminum foil, and plastic bags. The foil allows baking without requiring extensive cleaning of the tray. We also buy or bring a Brita water filter pitcher for locations where we’ll be a week or more so that we don’t have to carry bottles of water home and that would be amazing to find in a rental.

To the European Airbnb hosts – Americans love ice. Ice trays are cheap Ice trayand you can usually fit one, if not two, even in the smallest of European fridge freezers.

However, finding ice trays in Venice or Athens can be a little challenging if you are staying in an area that doesn’t have many home goods stores. I carry two ice trays with us everywhere we go but would love to free up space in my luggage by knowing ahead of time they were waiting for us upon arrival. And, if you have the extras, please add the details to your listing so we know ahead of time – it may be the reason we book with you.

Last, in the kitchen items area, some reusable shopping bags and a discount/loyalty card for the nearest markets would be great additions. We generally leave these items behind after time in month-long rentals (as well as the Brita pitcher and other kitchen items) for the next guests to use.

8. Big, fluffy white towels and bath accessories

Towels in many Airbnbs passed the well-worn phase before Airbnb was founded (FYI- that was in 2008). More often than not, the towels are small, a mish-mash of colors, and look like they were the towels discarded by the owner when they bought themselves new ones.

white towelsEver wonder why you see big, white fully towels in photos of the baths of high-end hotels? It’s because guests love them. They are sumptuous. They exude luxury. Why white? Pure white means clean and spa-like (and they can be bleached to stay that way). If Airbnb owners want to compete with hotels, they need to match the things that people like/love about hotels, and then exceed in additional areas. High-quality towels – they’re a big deal.

Those plush bath towels will last longer if they aren’t laundered every day (as well it cuts down on utilities and water usage), so towel hooks can more than pay for themselves in the bathroom. Hooks are better than towel bars as it is easier to hang and keep track of multiple towels for multiple guests. The bath also needs a hair dryer and, if you want to knock our socks off, add a bath scale. We once went six months without weighing ourselves. You typically only see a bath scale in a high-end hotel and it would be a most welcome addition.

9. Make sure the keys and locks work

It sounds like a no-brainer with people coming and going all the time, but the keys and the locks need to work well. We’ve had locks where you spent five minutes every time you left and returned to get the door locked and unlocked. We’ve had doorknobs fall off in our hands. The locks need to be good and they simply need to work well and, if there are two/multiple adults renting, two sets of keys are always appreciated.

10. Apartment, building and neighborhood instructions

Nearly every Airbnb owner has house rules on their listing – don’t have parties, no smoking, and no occupants beyond those listed on the rental. Some hosts will provide local tourist information, but many miss the details of actually living in the apartment – where and when to take the trash out, how to operate the TV and cable or cable-like programming, how to operate the heating and air conditioning, and if the building has a gym, common area, or pool, where it is and how to access it.

Next, where’s the closest transit station, the best grocery stores, and a nearby pharmacy? If the building doesn’t have a gym, is there a fitness center close by that offers short-term or day pass memberships? If dogs are allowed, where’s the closest green space for walking them? Are there any farmer’s markets nearby? What are the best nearby happy hours, restaurants and coffee shops? Is pocket wifi available in your city? If so, who are the carriers and what is the approximate cost?

There are thousands of travel websites and blogs to tell you about the tourist attractions in practically any city, but those sites don’t know about your apartment, your building, and your neighborhood. Write out the information, print it and laminate it, leave it in the apartment and then send a digital version upon arrival. That would be truly helpful.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Rockaway,Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California

The Rodney Strong Vineyards Master Blender Experience

Cover: Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


When one of our favorite wineries, Rodney Strong, called a couple of months ago to see if we’d like to come out for a few days to learn more about the winery and attend a blending seminar, we only had one question – when? Whatever the date, we would clear our calendar to attend such a unique experience.

Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our Master Blender experience was scheduled for the first week of February and when we received the final agenda the week before – wow! Amazing food, wine tastings, luxury accommodations, visits led by the winery’s viticulturist to locations few get a chance to ever see, sessions with Rodney Strong’s winemakers to learn about the winemaking process, and a blending seminar led by Rodney Strong’s head winemaker, Rick Sayre.

Head Winemaker: Rick Sayre, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Head Winemaker: Rick Sayre, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Vineyards Master Blender Experience Day 1: Arrival and welcome dinner

Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We arrived early in the afternoon at the Vintner’s Inn in Santa Rosa where we would be staying during the event. A four-diamond luxury hotel, the Vintner’s Inn is the epitome of wine country elegance, with stately rooms, elegant gardens, and one of our favorite restaurants, John Ash & Co.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With such a beautiful Sonoma afternoon at our disposal, we set out for a hike on the two-mile trail around the property while a bottle of Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay chilled in the fridge – the perfect post-hike refreshment upon our return!

Luxurious accommodations at the Rodney Strong Master Blender experience in Sonoma County, California
Luxurious accommodations at the Rodney Strong Master Blender experience in Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Our welcome dinner was at John Ash & Co. with winemaker, Justin Seidenfeld, Rodney Strong’s social media manager, Laura Perret Fontana, and the four additional event attendees, Marlynn Jayme Schotland, Jana Seitzer, Annabelle Pericin and Robert Larsen.

Winemaker Justin Seidenfeld, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Winemaker Justin Seidenfeld, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we worked our way through savory courses accompanied by Rodney Strong wines, Justin provided the background and details on each of the wines. Originally from Colorado, Justin graduated from the University of California, Davis in 2006 with a B.S. in Viticulture & Enology and has been making wine in Sonoma county since 2005, and at Rodney Strong since 2010.

Off to a great beginning to a fascinating week, we were eager to explore the vineyards and learn more about the winemaking process.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Vineyards Master Blender Experience Day 2: Vineyard tours, barrel tasting, and an abundance of spectacular food & wine

Winegrower relations manager, Ryan Decker, was our guide for vineyard tours for the morning of day two. Our first stop – Chalk Hill in Windsor.

Chalk Hill

Kim Hull, Winegrower Relations Manager: Ryan Decker, Robert Larsen, Social Media Manager: Laura Perret Fontana, Annabelle Pericin, Marlynn Jayme Schotland, Alexander's Crown, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Kim Hull, Winegrower Relations Manager: Ryan Decker, Robert Larsen, Social Media Manager: Laura Perret Fontana, Annabelle Pericin, Marlynn Jayme Schotland, Alexander’s Crown, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we enjoyed a delicious breakfast prepared by Rodney Strong Winery Chef Tara Watchel amidst the vines, Ryan explained the unique properties of the Chalk Hill area, where the soil appears “chalky” due to ash deposits from a long-past volcanic eruption.

An excellent start to the day – learning about the vines that produced the very Chardonnay that was in my hand just the afternoon before.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Alexander’s Crown

Alexander's Crown, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Alexander’s Crown, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

First released in 1974, Alexander’s Crown was Sonoma’s first single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, quickly gaining acclaim, including being named the highest rated Cabernet Sauvignon in Robert Parker’s first issue.

Alexander's Crown, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Alexander’s Crown, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Situated on hills that rise 360 feet above the valley floor, 66 acres are planted at Alexander’s Crown, with Block 1 at the top of the hill producing the prime, most intensely flavored grapes. Listening to Ryan describe the meticulous grape growing processes, it became obvious there are no shortcuts in creating a spectacular bottle of wine.

Alexander's Crown, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Alexander’s Crown, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Each detail is constantly analyzed in an effort to gain even a fraction of improvement. Grapes are picked in 1/2 ton sections to isolate the best blocks or sections of vines. Cross arms were added to the stakes a few years back to “add shade with dappled sunlight” as overexposure can result in too much tannin. And the list goes on, in pursuit of producing an even more perfect bottle of wine.

The Alexander’s Crown property is also the home of Rodney Strong’s owners, the Klein family, and the location of a former home of Rod and Charlotte Strong. Ryan explained that Charlotte bred Bull Mastifs and would frequently take the dogs down to play in an area between Alexander’s Crown and the Russian River. That same area, where she spent so much time, now produces a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, called Charlotte’s Home.

Rockaway at Rockaway

Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we drove through the back roads of Sonoma County on our way from Alexander’s Crown to our next destination, Rockaway, Ryan would point out highlights along the way. Given that his family first settled in the Alexander Valley in 1858, it’s understandable that he knows the area like the back of his hand.

Along the way, Ryan explained that the Pine Flat vineyards next to Sausal Creek produced some of the best Merlot of all the vineyards and it was one of the few that could be dry farmed, meaning no supplemental water was required. Dry farming requires a high vigor, deep rooting stock.

Rockaway,Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Entering the Rockaway vineyards, we began to climb up through the rolling, vine-covered hills which rise to an elevation of 750 feet. Rodney Strong purchased the property, which grows mostly Bordeaux varietals, in 2003. It produces the grapes for the single vineyard Rockaway Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

As we passed a few olive trees, just barely visible from the road, Ryan explained there were more – he’d found an olive orchard on the property. Following his discovery, he’d torn out the brush and pruned the trees and, in 2014, they produced their first batch of oil from the orchard.

Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Arriving near the top of the hill, we left the car and climbed to the summit, where sweeping views of the Sonoma Valley and a bottle of Rockaway awaited our arrival.

Such an appropriate ending to our morning vineyards tour – sipping an amazing wine at such an amazing place. Standing atop Rockaway, gazing out over the Alexander Valley with its many vineyards, farms and ranches, it re-emphasized the importance that Rodney Strong places on location in artisan winemaking.

Greg Hull, Winegrower Relations Manager: Ryan Decker, Social Media Manager: Laura Perret Fontana, Kim Hull, Annabelle Pericin, Jana Seitzer, Marlynn Jayme Schotland, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Greg Hull, Winegrower Relations Manager: Ryan Decker, Social Media Manager: Laura Perret Fontana, Kim Hull, Annabelle Pericin, Jana Seitzer, Marlynn Jayme Schotland, at Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From such a vast amount of potential spots to grow grapes, narrowed down to the very place where we stood, then artfully created into a spectacular wine that made its way back again to this spot to be enjoyed with this stunning view – Rockaway at Rockaway is not your average morning.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lunch at Catelli’s in Geyserville, California

Catelli’s in Geyserville, California, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Catelli’s in Geyserville, California, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lunch was just a few minutes down the road at Catelli’s in Geyserville. Originally opened by Santi and Virginia Catelli in 1936, the restaurant is now owned and operated by third generation Catellis and siblings, Domenica and Nicholas Catelli, and specializes in local and organic creations served in the historic location.

Catelli’s in Geyserville, California, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Catelli’s in Geyserville, California, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A variety of appetizers, salads, and bottles of wine quickly appeared at the table, including our first sampling of a Davis Bynum wine. Rodney Strong acquired the Davis Bynum winery in 2007, and the commitment to preserving Bynum’s passion for quality winemaking is apparent throughout Rodney Strong.

David Bynum wines, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
David Bynum wines, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Ryan recommended the kale salad with blood oranges, which was delectable, and then we selected the award winning 10-layer layer lasagna with the slightly spicy Domenica’s sauce. Pasta perfection. For dessert, Catelli’s delivered “grown up” root beer floats to the table. One taste and Annabelle exclaimed, “That will put chest on your hair!”

Grown up rootbeer float at Catelli's, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Grown up rootbeer float at Catelli’s, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

An afternoon wine tasting touring with Winemaker Justin Seidenfeld and Ron Washam

Arriving back at Rodney Strong Vineyards after lunch, it was time for a winery tour and some wine tasting. Our guide for the afternoon was Ron Washam, whose 35 years in the wine industry have included twice being named Sommelier of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers’ Association and who also judges at the Sonoma Harvest Fair, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

Kim Hull, Annabelle Pericin, Jana Seitzer, Ron Washam, Marlynn Jayme Schotland, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Kim Hull, Annabelle Pericin, Jana Seitzer, Ron Washam, Marlynn Jayme Schotland, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Each step of winemaking at Rodney Strong is a combination of art and science, with industry-leading techniques deployed where appropriate to assist in crafting world-class wines. Meeting up with winemaker Justin Seidenfeld in the tank room, Justin walked us through the conversion process that brought square fermentation tanks to the winery.

Rodney Strong Vineyards
Rodney Strong Vineyards Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The square tanks allow more wine to be stored in a given space as compared to traditional cylindrical tanks. The tanks can be monitored and controlled by an app on a smart phone or tablet, complete with alerts, from anywhere in the world.

Winemaker: Justin Seidenfeld, Kim Hull, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Winemaker: Justin Seidenfeld, Kim Hull, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Additionally, the interior surface of the square tanks is easier to clean, reducing water waste, which supports Rodney Strong Vineyard’s commitment to protecting the environment. Rodney Strong Vineyards operates the winery with a carbon impact of zero, making it the first carbon neutral winery in Sonoma.

Ron Washam, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Ron Washam, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Next stop, the barrel rooms and barrel tasting of the Symmetry 2014 and the 2014 Rockaway. Barrel tasting is like getting to open a present before it’s actually your birthday. Sampling from a barrel provides a glimpse of the future wine  –  a glimpse in that the wine changes as it matures and the winemakers may adjust the blend as well. While the primary purpose of barrel tasting by the public is for purchasing futures, a private barrel tasting in the warehouse is an entirely different experience and a great chance to learn more about the winemaking process.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Following our barrel tasting, we headed to the tasting room to do some finished works sampling, which culminated with a side by side tasting of the three 2012 Rodney Strong single vineyards wines: Alexander’s Crown, Rockaway and Brothers.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 2012 having been an excellent vintage for Sonoma County, all three are remarkable wines. Which was best? As head winemaker, Rick Sayre, would comment the next day – it’s about taste preference. Describing a side-by side tasting, he stated favorites were nearly always split 1/3, 1/3, 1/3.

Tours and tastings at Rodney Strong
Tours and tastings at Rodney Strong Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dinner at Jackson’s Bar and Oven with Winemaker Greg Morthole

After an hour’s rest at the hotel, our ride picked us up for a dinner at Jackson’s Bar in Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square.

Social Media Manager: Laura Perret Fontana, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Social Media Manager: Laura Perret Fontana, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Owned and operated by Chef Josh Silvers, Jackson’s is a casual, wine country eatery, serving comfort food crafted from seasonal, organic Sonoma ingredients. Our winemaker host for the evening was Greg Morthole, who oversees the Reserve and Single Vineyard wine making.

Dinner at Jackson’s Bar and Oven with Winemaker Greg Morthole
Dinner at Jackson’s Bar and Oven with Winemaker Greg Morthole, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The evening was a wonderful blend of wine, food and conversation, ending with amazing beignets served with chocolate sauce, vanilla anglaise, and a fresh raspberry sauce.

Rodney Strong Vineyards Master Blender Experience Day 3: Blending seminar with head winemaker, Rick Sayre

Just when you think it wouldn’t be possible to eat or drink anything ever again, the next day dawns and breakfast sounded pretty good.

The group met at the Vintner’s Inn Café for a healthy start to the day, then it was off to the winery for a blending seminar with head winemaker, Rick Sayre, who joined Rodney Strong Vineyards in 1979 and Rachel Voorhees, director of education for the winery.

Morning blending seminar with head winemaker Rick Sayre and director of education Rachel Voorhees

Head winemaker, Rick Sayre, Greg Hull and Robert Larsen, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media
Head winemaker, Rick Sayre, Greg Hull and Robert Larsen, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Heading into the blending seminar, we had no idea what a cool morning we were going to experience. Rounding the corner to the room, each place was set with tasting glasses of each of the varietals used in the 2012 Symmetry, and a glass of the actual 2012 Symmetry. Historic vintages of wines lined the walls of the room, including some bottles with hand written labels by Rod Strong dating back to 1970.

Handwritten label by Rod Strong, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Handwritten label by Rod Strong, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Symmetry is a Meritage (pronounced like heritage), with the wine being crafted like a Bordeaux blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. A Meritage must not contain more than 90% of any one single grape type.

Annabelle Pericin, Director of Wine Education: Rachel Voorhees, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Annabelle Pericin, Director of Wine Education: Rachel Voorhees, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rachel and Rick walked us through a brief overview of Rodney Strong Vineyards, the history of Meritage, and the properties each grape brings to the blend. Then it was time to blend some wine.

Head Winemaker: Rick Sayre, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Head Winemaker: Rick Sayre, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Armed with bottles of the varietals, beakers, and pipettes, we each set out to blend our own version of the wine. When finished, Rick tasted our creations, commenting on our blends, and awarded an overall winner.

Robert Larsen, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Robert Larsen, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

I called mine “A Secret.” As in, “What are you drinking?” “It’s A Secret.” I went with the 80/20 rule, as in 80% Cab and 20% of the others (it donned on me later that I should have named it Pareto). My blend consisted of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot.

My blend ended up 2nd runner up, with Annabelle’s winning the day. The experience was fun, educational and truly a cool adventure!

Lunch prepared by Rodney Strong winery chef Tara Watchel with head winemaker Rick Sayre

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our time at Rodney Strong ended with a lunch with Rick Sayres in a dining room above the tasting room.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Head Winemaker: Rick Sayre, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The lunch, prepared by winery chef, Tara Wachtel, was exquisite, served with perfect wines and some of the olive oil from the orchard Ryan had discovered at Rockaway. The group chatted about fishing in Alaska, Sonoma county, and Rodney Strong’s history, savoring the time remaining in our amazing visit.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Huge thanks to Laura Perret Fontana, Justin Seidenfeld, Ryan Decker, Greg Morthole, Ron Washam, Rachel Voorhees, Tara Wachtel, Rick Sayre and everyone at Rodney Strong Vineyards for such a wonderful experience.

Mustard in the vineyard, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Mustard in the vineyard, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Twitter chats - #hikerchat

Let’s get chatty about Twitter #Chats

You may have seen a tweet go by on Twitter similar to the one above that contained a hashtag (#) and a description that ended in chat (example: #HikerChat) and wondered what it was all about.

It’s a Twitter chat going on – one the fastest areas of growth on Twitter.

What is a Twitter chat?

Join a twitter chatLet’s pretend you are walking through a hotel lobby and see a sign outside a meeting room that says, “Come on in. We are all here to talk about hiking for an hour. Everyone is welcome!”

So, you go in and a leader asks some questions over the next hour themed around a specific area of hiking.

For some of the attendees, this is their first time attending. Others have been coming for years.

People answer the questions and comment on each other’s answers. No one tries to sell you anything –  everyone just enjoys an hour of talking about a topic they love.

Now, make that a virtual experience on Twitter and you have a Twitter chat.

What makes a great Twitter chat?

Having attended a multitude of Twitter chats, the best ones have similarities.

So, what makes a great Twitter chat?

Twitter-chats-Q: question 1Organization: Whether the chat is large or small, a good Twitter chat has a moderator/leader (or leaders), a theme for the day, and coordinated questions.

The moderator will send a reminder tweet the day of the chat to round up attendees for the chat.

Twitter Chat theme

The moderator asks numbered questions throughout the chat in tweets (Q1, Q2, Q3, etc.).

Twitter chats-organizationPeople answer back by beginning their tweet with A1, A2, and so on and so forth.

Twitter chats: #SnowChat answersEveryone follows the questions and the answers by searching for the hashtag.

Twitter chats: Follow along with twitter chats

Can a chat occur without the Q&A format? I’ve attended some chats that were an hour of rambling with no format – they don’t work.

The chat invariably is reduced to a few people tweeting back and forth and that’s not a chat, that’s Twitter.

Consistency: With the exception of an occasional week off for holidays, the chat needs to occur each week at the designated time. Attendees plan on that time and their schedules should be respected.

Twitter chat schedule

If the leader has a conflict, finding a guest moderator ensures the chat continues on.

Twitter chat -Guest moderator

Broad, on-topic theme: Themes are great and needed, but if the topic gets too specific, attendees may have no experience or interest and they’ll not feel included and simply fade away.

Minimized marketing: Some chats are sponsored each week by a different vendor, which is understandable if the chat is run as a business.

Chat attendees understand the occasional plug, but it can’t overtake the group with marketing messages.

Twitter chats-Minimize marketingFriendly attendees: Since attendees are there to discuss their favorite topic, most Twitter chat participants are friendly and happily welcome new members.

There are, of course, exceptions. A very large travel chat comes to mind whose leaders and top attendees appear to be in attendance more to get their name out than to actually share and interact.

Fortunately, this is the exception and not the rule. If you try a chat and it just isn’t working out for you – there’s probably another chat occurring in 60 minutes – so keep searching until you find a great group.

What are some of the best Twitter chats?

Here are some of the chats I attend on a regular basis.

These chats are well-organized and well-attended by friendly people who always welcome newcomers.

1. #HikerChat

Time: Fridays at 9:00 am PST / Noon EST

Topics: #hiking, #camping, #exploring

Hosts: @TETONsports and @BackcountryTees

Twitter chats: #hikerchat-hostsOne of my favorite chats, #hikerchat, is a chat with a group of super nice people who get together every Friday morning to talk hiking and backpacking.

Teton Sports and American Backcountry pitch the questions to the group and the hour always flies by too fast.

Fortunately, the group continues to share and converse throughout the week, hashtagging their tweets #hikerchat as they do.

Twitter chats: #hikerchat throughout the weekI recently had a chance to ask Shawn from Teton Sports a few questions about their experience hosting #hikerchat:

1.  How did you come about starting #hikerchat and how long have you been hosting it?

Twitter chats: Teton Sports-Host of #hikerchatAmerican Backcountry Tees had a previous social media manager (Eva) who actually started the chat and at that same time TETON Sports was going to start a chat, I saw the hikerchat tag and reached out and from there we’ve formulated a working bond on growing the community.

We have lots of give and take, what I mean by that is Eva started the hashtag, but together we built it and TETON designed the logo and helped to bring an awareness.

From there AB and TS kept the #hikerchat tag as an open community instead of an advertiser platform. It started about 2 years ago in December and has been going strong since then. It’s the longest running and largest outdoor chat on twitter.

2.  What do you like best about #hikerchat?

Twitter chats: Teton Sports-Host of #hikerchatI love getting to know other adventurers, we don’t push any type of ads on #hikerchat because we want it to be an open community where people go to learn more about the outdoors and to get excited about the outdoors.

We’ve created a fun little side project we call #YourLead where we go on a road trip and meet up with awesome friends we’ve created via #hikerchat. We can almost literally go anywhere in the world and have people to hike with. It’s fantastic!

3.  As a host of one of the most successful chats on twitter, what advice would you give others about hosting chats?

Twitter chats: Teton Sports-Host of #hikerchatKeep it legit and fun, second to that DO NOT PUSH ADS! Make the chat a fun and comfortable place for people to join. We’re also doing the same thing with #campchat, it’s growing quick and is already ahead of other prominent twitter chats out there.

Also innovate! We have a lot of fun things happening in a few months the will clearly define #hikerchat and #campchat as the leaders in outdoor digital chats. Notice I didn’t say Twitter 😉

Teton Sports also hosts a related chat, #CampChat, on Tuesday evenings at 6:00pm PST / 9:00pm EST with a great group of outdoors enthusiasts talking camping, hiking and sharing their love of the outdoors, so be sure to check it out as well.

Twitter chats: #Campchat2. #SnowChat

Time: Wednesdays at 6:00 pm PST / 9:00 pm EST

Topics: #skiing, #snowboarding, and all things snow

Hosts: @KristenSkiMom and @KristaParry

Twitter chats: #Snowchat hosts-Kristen Fox Haaijer and Krista Perry#SnowChat is the chat I’ve attended the longest – at this point I can’t remember when Wednesday evenings didn’t mean it was #SnowChat time.

#SnowChat brings together an outgoing group of people across North America that share a love of skiing and the mountains.

I’ve met some great friends at #SnowChat. It is a very fun, approachable chat, so if you like talking snow things, definitely join on Wednesday evenings.

Twitter chats: #Snowchat3. #Foodiechats

Time: Mondays at 5:00 pm PST / 8:00 pm EST

Topics: #food, #foodies

Host: @steveGOgreen

Twitter chats: SteveGoGreen- #Foodiechats founderFoodies come out in full force on Monday nights for #foodiechats.

Founded by Steve Green, #foodiechats is a huge 90 minute chat that is sponsored by manufacturers and/or restaurants each week.

How big is #foodiechats? In 2014 #foodiechats saw over 300,000 tweets from more than 40,000 attendees.

Twitter chats: #Foodiechats stats#Foodiechats is a good example of a chat run as a business that balances sponsorship and chat topics.

The sponsor may send out a few questions, they have their plug and the theme is related, but the chat isn’t completely focused around the sponsor.

Twitter chats: #Foodiechats sponsorsQuestion 2 is a good example. The question is about stir fry – a related but not directly sponsor-focused question.

#Foodiechats is also a very visual chat, so when you join, come on a full stomach or you’ll never make it through the entire 90 minutes without a run to the kitchen.

Twitter chats: #foodiechats feb 9 The #foodiechats foodies are a very passionate group and continue to share long after the chat has ended and throughout the week.

Twitter chats: #foodiechats Iron Horse VineyardsHow do I find a Twitter chat?

Twitter chats: Finding a Twitter chatThose are examples of three chats that won’t disappoint, but what if your topic of interest isn’t hiking, skiing or food?

Well, first off, we seriously need to talk.

Kidding aside, there’s probably a chat out there waiting for you  – you just need to find it.

Like #travel? #ExpediaChat at 11am PST on Wednesday is great.

I also asked some #travel tweeters and their recommendations included:

Twitter chats: #Travelchats

Twitter chats: #luxtravelchat

How about #wine?

#WineChat is good (but it’s at the same time as #SnowChat), so you may want to try #SonomaChat right before #SnowChat.

Twitter chats: #winechat

Twitter chats: #virtualvines

There are also a few sites that list chats, such as Travelogx, TweetReports and Twubs, but none of these list all the chats & I haven’t found one true master list or website.

One way to find a chat is to search by topic on Twitter and then scroll through tweets to see if you notice any chat hashtags.

Probably the easiest – find some prominent tweeters on a subject. They most likely attend chats in their area of expertise or interest, so you can always tweet them and ask.

Should I start a new Twitter chat?

That depends.

If…

  • You have a topic that is not being covered well by an existing chat
  • You understand the workings of Twitter chat
  • You have a large enough following to build the chat following
  • You can commit to the schedule

then perhaps.

Brands that do it, and do it well like Teton Sports, gain favorable brand recognition and loyal followers.

For most people though, it may be best to find an existing chat and simply participate.

Have fun with it and chat with you on Twitter!

Laurens ten Dam talks training like Rocky, suffering like Jens & Amgen Tour of California

Laurens ten Dam talks training like Rocky, suffering like Jens & Amgen Tour of California
Photo by Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Laurens ten Dam is considered by most to be in the small group of top contenders to win the overall Amgen Tour of California this week, but the Dutchman is playing down the possibility. With 2012 race champion, Robert Gesink, out with heart issues, Ten Dam will be leading Belkin Pro Cycling this week on the 720-mile route from Sacramento to Thousand Oaks.

“There’s a little bit of doubt, of course,” said Ten Dam. “So far, my season has not been that good, but I hope to start going really good now. All the pieces are there, but they just have to fit in.”

Ten Dam, who has achieved top ten finishes in numerous races, including an 8th place finish at the Vuelta a Espana in 2012, is known for his tenacity and sheer determination on mountain ascents.

Ten Dam is personally ready for this year’s Mt Hamilton and Mt Diablo climbs on Stage 3 and the Mountain High finish of Stage 6, and he believes young sprinter, Moreno Hofland should do well in Stage 1 and Stage 4, both which are probable sprint finishes.

“I am a climber, so Mountain High and Diablo are my stages. I hope not to do too bad in the time trial and then we’ll see. Moreno should do well in the sprints. Stage 4 should be perfect for him.”

Ten Dam continued, “Robert Gesink had a minor heart problem. He is doing well. He’s been operated on and doing really well. Of course, he is a really big star and a great rider and otherwise, I would be here in support of him. If he was here, the team would be a lot stronger. But, that is the case and sometimes you get injuries.”

Post race training like Rocky Balboa

Following the race, Ten Dam plans to spend a some time near Lake Tahoe for some altitude training and a bit of fishing.

Laurens-Ten-Dam-Belkin-Pro-Cycling
Laurens Ten Dam, Belkin Pro Cycling Photo: Greg K Hull ©Chasing Light Media

“I want to do a lot of training, a little bit Rocky Balboa style on my own, not with the team, just some real training. In the afternoon, I’ll try to catch some fish in the lake and maybe have a nice barbecue. It’s more or less based on really focusing for the next goal of the season.

It’s nice to be in a great area over there. Truckee is nearby, so I can go down for a coffee or a breakfast and enjoy my time in the U.S. for the month.”

Suffering and Jens Voigt

Amgen Tour of California asked the twitterverse earlier this week:

Amgen-Tour-of-California-suffer-faceThe choices:

Jens-Voigt-suffer-face-photo
Laurens-Ten-Dam-suffer-face-photoTen Dam took it all in good stride. “We were here for four days to get ready, so we had time enough to enjoy ourselves. Jens and I talked to each other and he said, ‘We were really suffering at that time.’

Jens is a good example for me. I am 33 and he is 42 or something and maybe I can stick around for a few more years and be the new Jens Voigt in the future.”

Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California 2014 kicks off on Sunday at 10:50 in Sacramento with a 120-mile race in and around the Sacramento area. The Belkin team will consist of Laurens Ten Dam, Jack Bobridge, Lars Boom, Moreno Hofland, Thomas Leezer,  Nick Van Der Lijke, Dennis Van Winden and Maarten Wynants.

Laurens-Ten-Dam-bike

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.