A Picnic at Hamilton Pool

A picnic at Hamilton Pool

Since Jack and I first moved to Austin, we’ve loved exploring all of the local natural springs and watering holes. The heat here in the summertime is no joke and the best way to beat it is by getting around some water.

A few weeks ago, we took the day off and spent a lovely afternoon hiking and picnicking at Hamilton Pool. For this post, we’re partnering with Bota Box to share our little local adventure. Hamilton Pool is SO beautiful.It’s a natural pool with a gorgeous 50-foot waterfall. It’s about a 40 minute drive outside of Austin – an easy half-day trip.

A picnic at Hamilton Pool

There’s a quarter mile hike down to the pool. It’s scenic, but be sure wear decent walking shoes that will probably get a little muddy. Another quick tip: pack a lighter picnic than I did above unless you have as nice a husband as I do who will carry it all. (note: glass containers actually aren’t allowed, as we discovered later. Bota Mini’s are perfect to bring along since their alternative packaging contains no glass). 

Here we go!

A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX

The pool was naturally created thousands of years ago when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to massive erosion. It’s fun (and totally safe!) to hike around the massive limestone formations. Be sure to grab a walking stick at the beginning of the trail, it was surprisingly helpful.

A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX

The day we were here, swimming wasn’t allowed, but that didn’t hold us back from enjoying our picnic on the small beach. I packed my favorite picnic sandwiches, hummus & veggies, a lemony chickpea & radish salad, and these vegan chocolate chip cookies. We brought Bota Minis because what’s a picnic without wine? The Bota Minis are so convenient and easy to pack. Because the weather was warm, I packed their Mini Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay white wines.

A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX

I just loved spending this day with Jack. It really reminded me that we should get away from our computers and go explore something new, yet nearby, more often.

A couple of tips before you go: be sure to make a reservation, they only let a certain number of people in at a time and, especially in the summer, it gets full. If you can take off a weekday afternoon, I highly recommend it!

This post was created in partnership with Bota Box. All opinions are my own!

My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II

My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II

Last week, I spent six days in the Rhone Valley(!) The trip was so packed that I decided to break this into two posts. If you missed part one, click here. If you’re planning a trip to the south of France, I hope you find these posts helpful!

My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II

Day 4:

After a lovely breakfast at Hotel de la Villeon, we headed to Maison Chapoutier which is a short walk from the hotel. This area, the northern part of the Rhone Valley, produces more complex wines that are less fruit-forward than the wines I tasted further south. Maison Chapoutier is a great place to taste a big variety. I also learned more about biodynamic wines and I found it fascinating how they use the moon as a guide to grow and harvest the grapes.

We then walked to the Valrhona Chocolate museum. If you’re traveling with kids, put this one on your list and come with a sweet tooth.

As if I hadn’t overindulged enough, we had a fancy lunch at Vineum Paul Aine Jaboulet. It was one of my favorite meals of the trip. We had the 3 course lunch menu with wine pairings – the one I loved most was the lemon curd & strawberry dessert pictured at the top of this post, although the menu changes based on the seasons.

After lunch came the vineyards of Domaine du Tunnel. This place was really different because their cellar is stored in an old train tunnel (hence the name). It was really neat to see. The cool, humid space is the perfect temperature to store wine barrels.

My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II

Day 5

This was my favorite day of the trip. In the morning, we headed to Domain de la Croix Blanche and visited the vineyards (and a tour of the area which includes a massive scenic canyon area) in a vintage car.

I had a leisurely afternoon lunch with the family – they made homemade tapanade using olives from their olive tree, olive oil that they produce, and garlic and basil from their garden. They also served stuffed zucchini, meats, and cheeses. We sat outside for hours, eating fresh food and drinking amazing wine. Before we left, we strolled through Aigueze, which was named “Most beautiful village in France” in 2016:

My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II

Before ending the day, we visited Laudun Chusclan Wineyards and drove to the top of their vineyards which was where I captured this amazing view (all photos are taken on my iPhone, btw):

My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II

That night, I stayed at Domained des Clos, an 18th century wine estate that is now the most chic & peaceful boutique hotel. The grounds are so gorgeous and I loved my modern-provencial style apartment. I wanted to move in! I’ll definitely be coming back here with Jack one day.

My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II

Day 6

The very last vineyard we visited was Château du Mourgues du Grès. We hiked to the top of the hill, tasted wine and ate peaches and plums from their nearby trees.

We ended the trip back in Avignon with a fancy lunch at L’Agape, which was another one of my favorites (be sure to make a reservation for lunch or dinner).

My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II

Special thanks to Atout FranceAir France & Rail Europe for sending me & to my new friends at Inter Rhone for taking me around!

My Guide to the Rhone Valley – Part I

The Rhone Valley, France

Last week, I spent a whirlwind 6 days in the Rhone Valley. I loved meeting many of the winemakers, hearing their stories, walking through the vineyards, and driving to the tops of (so many) peaks. There was so much to see in addition to the wine – olive trees, lavender, cherry trees, apricot trees, wild vegetables, and herbs growing everywhere. It’s a heavenly place to visit if you love fruit, vegetables, and wines as much as I do.

All of the vineyards listed here are open daily for tasting. If you call in advance you can schedule a more personal tour or another activity (segway tour, picnic, etc). To get around in the Rhone Valley, I suggest you rent a car with a navigation system in Avignon.

The Rhone Valley, France The Rhone Valley, France

Day 1:

I spent the morning on my own in Avignon, after arriving on train from Paris the night before. It’s such a charming city that I had fun just wandering the streets. I walked through the Les Halles d’ Avignon covered market before heading to brunch at L’ Amuse-Bouche, a cute cafe that serves their food on shareable boards. I started my trip with croissants & chocolate mousse.

In the afternoon I took a tour of the Palais des Papes. I recommend getting the helpful audio guide, which is available in a few different languages.

The Rhone Valley, France The Rhone Valley, France

In the evening, my guide drove me to Domaine des Peyre in Luberon. It’s a gorgeous vineyard with 5 newly renovated apartment-style rooms and a beautiful infinity pool. I was surrounded by cherry trees, almond trees, and olive trees. My room had a view of the vines – it was basically heaven. We tasted the wines before the winemaker Patricia took me to her home for dinner where they served ratatouille – which I love – and apricot cheesecake with chocolate. I was pinching myself the entire time.

The Rhone Valley, France The Rhone Valley, France

Day 2:

We visited Domaine de la Citadelle in Menerbes. The winemaker took us through his corkscrew museum (with over 1200 unique types of corkscrews!) After that, we visited his gardens (hike up a little bit and the view is amazing) and tasted the wines.

I then went to Cafe Fleurs for lunch. It’s a lovely spot in the Isle sir la Sorge. Their menu changes seasonally – everything was delicious, especially the gazpacho with savory tomato sorbet. I skipped dessert but regretted it later when I took a photo of my guide Clemance’s cake (pictured above) with lemon curd and strawberries. After lunch, we walked around the town and visited some of the many antique stores.

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Later in the afternoon, we went to Vacqueyras to the Rhonea Winemakers club of Beames, Venise and Vacqueras wines. You can take a tour in a 4×4 of the nearby villages and vineyards (about 2 hours total). Because I’m a wimp, skipped that and drove straight to the top of Beaumes de Venise to taste the wines on top of the mountain.

The Rhone Valley, France The Rhone Valley, France

Day 3:

After spending the night in Vaison la Romaine, I woke up and visited the big street market that takes place every Tuesday morning during the summer. Whenever I travel, visiting markets is one of my FAVORITE things to do and this one didn’t disappoint. I took pictures of pretty vegetables and bought a few olive wood cutting boards.

The Rhone Valley, France DSC02944

We then drove to Domaine Rozel (one of my favorites). The family has been making wines for 22 generations! The winemaker Matthieu walked us through the vineyard showing us the farmhouse where he grew up as well as the lavender field, olive trees, wild asparagus, wild fennel, and wild honeysuckle. We were supposed cover this ground on Segways – but alas, I’m still a wimp, so we walked. Afterward we tasted wines – I especially loved their rose.

We had lunch at a cute cafe in the village of Valaurie. (I can’t remember the name, but it was the only cafe you see see walking up to the village – pictured below).

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After lunch, we had a tour of Suze la Rousse, a medieval chateaux which is now a wine museum and also a wine university. The photo below is the view from the castle. Driving in this area was one of my favorite parts of the trip because there are lavender fields everywhere.

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Later that night, we drove further north to Tournon-sur-Rhône and stayed at Hotel de la Villeon which I LOVED. It’s a very very nice boutique hotel in an 18th century building that was recently renovated. My room had a view of a castle, and we had dinner outside in the garden. They had a lovely breakfast in the morning too.

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Stay tuned for more!

Special thanks to Atout France & Air France for sending me & to my new friends at Inter Rhone for taking me around!

hello from France!

Rhone Valley France / Love & Lemons Rhone Valley France / Love & Lemons

Hello from France!

This past week, I’ve been in the Rhone Valley touring vineyards, tasting wine, taking in amazing views and of course eating great food. I’ll be back later this week with a new recipe, but for now here are some photos from my trip – of course, follow along on Instagram to see more!

Au Revoir!

Rhone Valley France / Love & Lemons

Special thanks to Atout France & Air France for sending me & for my new friends at Inter Rhone for taking me around!

A Trip to Sonoma

A trip to Sonoma / loveandlemons.com

I love my job more than anything, but working from home can sometimes get a little isolating. So when opportunities like this come my way, I’m all in! Last month, I spent an amazing few days with Williams SonomaFortessaThe Fairmont, and a group of lovely bloggers in Sonoma. We were wined and dined and wined some more… Here’s just a quick recap!

A trip to Sonoma / loveandlemons.com

I’m a sucker for kitchen gear so it was fun to visit the original Williams Sonoma store. It just reopened this year – many of the charming details were replicated from the store that Chuck Williams first opened in 1956. If you’re in Sonoma, check it out. We were also treated to a pasta-making class:

A trip to Sonoma / loveandlemons.com A trip to Sonoma / loveandlemons.com

Isn’t it fun to watch other people cook? Chef Thomas McNaughton of San Francisco’s Flour + Water Restaurant made handmade pasta for us. I’ve eaten a lot of pasta in my life, so this is a big statement: his pasta was the… best… ever. (It was even tastier on this beautiful dinnerware!). Check out his book, it’s a stunner. He also made a darn good kale & roasted squash salad too. I wish I had gotten the recipe:

A trip to Sonoma / loveandlemons.com

I wanted one of everything from these gorgeous wall displays:

A trip to Sonoma / loveandlemons.com A trip to Sonoma / loveandlemons.com

After lunch, we took a tour of Silver Oaks Winery – I especially loved their vegetable garden. I had major meyer lemon tree envy, and their kohlrabi was especially beautiful:

A trip to Sonoma / loveandlemons.com A trip to Sonoma / loveandlemons.com

Our group! (bloggers from: What’s Gaby CookingWaiting on MarthaSugar and CharmThe House That Lars BuiltStyle Me PrettyOnce WedSnippet and InkCoco + Kelley, Green Wedding ShoesIntimate WeddingsWedding Chicks)

A trip to Sonoma / loveandlemons.com

The trip ended with a beautiful dinner at the Fairmont. Below Chef David Blum plates up chocolate soufflés for dessert.

A trip to Sonoma / loveandlemons.com

Thanks to Fortessa, Williams Sonoma & The Fairmont for a lovely trip! This post was created in partnership, and is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Fortessa. The opinions and text are all mine. (Some photos by Mark Poss).