Showing posts with label tennis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tennis. Show all posts

Monday, September 12, 2016

Arriving in Madison, Wisconsin

It’s not often I get to combine both tennis and travel into one trip. I was happy when the opportunity came to do just that in Madison, Wisconsin.

I had been to Madison only once before, and that was quite a long time ago for the Celebration of American Distilling.

I only stayed for one night and didn’t get to see much of the city.

This trip was scheduled for three nights: two at the Graduate Madison and one at The Edgewater.

They are totally different accommodations and I was looking forward to seeing Madison from these completely different angles.

My friend Roberta came along with me.

Our first stop in the city was to check in at the Graduate Madison .

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it definitely wasn’t what we got.

The Graduate brand has truly unique hotels. They are very welcoming with large open lobbies.

They are also each uniquely remodeled to the (college) town they are located in.

Although my first instinct was modern, retro is probably a better explanation.

Everything was colorful and bright, but contemporary in the sense of convenience in connecting devices and getting work done.

I loved their open table set-up for Portage Pie, the coffee shop-like restaurant in the lobby.

Even the front desk was not like any other I had seen.

I also liked the furniture and artwork that had been chosen specifically for this hotel.

The rooms at The Graduate Hotel are also themed on the local college, the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

They are set up a bit like dorms, but certainly more spacious and convenient

Madison is a big college town. Having lived in Champaign, home of the University of Illinois, for eight years, I am not only used to the concept, I love it.

I went down to the university for a while to check out the tournament before Roberta picked me up and we headed downtown for dinner with Curt from the Visit Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Dinner was at a highly popular restaurant in Madison, Cento. It was warm and comforting, with a thoughtful cocktail list.

I began to wind down from the day of travel with a Mule Romano, made with Tito’s Vodka, Ramozzatii Romero, ginger beer, and mint. It was served in the traditional copper cup made for mules and stayed nice and cold.

We began with salads made with fresh, local ingredients. The main courses were equally well-prepared. The short rib was tender and delicious, and the gnocchi with butternut squash was amazing.

We managed to also save room for some sweet concoctions from their pastry chef.

After dinner, we walked around the beautiful downtown.  The capitol building in in the center and it is architecturally beautiful.

We went past the Elephant Chocolate Café and I made a note that I needed to stop by there before I left town, but we were ready to head back to

The Graduate Madison and rest up for another day in Madison.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Chosen to Join and Share Istria!

It was 2006 and I was ready to take my first trip to Europe by myself. I had only been once before at that point and, as a single mom, I hadn't thought about going back.

Just as my daughter was about to turn 21, the opportunity presented itself to cover a tennis tournament . I also had enough miles for a first class ticket to Europe. It didn't take me long to make the decision.

The tournament was a special one. It was the Smirkva Bowl, a competition in Pula, Croatia, for 10 and under kids. They had teamed up with "Little Mo," a similar organization in the United States founded by the family of Grand Slam champion Maureen Connolly Brinker, to bring four players from the U.S. to Croatia for an exhibition event.

I planned to spend time in Paris and Rome too, but it was Croatia that would take most of my time and attention.

Three weeks before the trip, I developed shingles. If you've seen the television commercials for the shingles vaccine and wonderfed if they were exagerating about the seriousness of it, I can tell you they are not.

The pain was bad, but I was determined to go on this trip. I loaded up with steroids, antiviral, and pain medicine and basically slept for three weeks.

I made it to Rome and then to Trieste, Itay. I was picked up and driven through Slovenia and into Croatia. Tournament Director Miodrag Bozovic not only welcomed me into the event, but he and his family welcomed me into their home.

During my week in Croatia, I not only covered this special tournament and got to see some of Pula, but I made relationships that have remained through the years.

Among the players that attended, I have continued to stay in touch with Christina Makarova. I watched her go from a little girl sharing Nutella with me at the dining room table in Pula, to seeing her play as a top junior player at Wimbledon and discussing with her where she wanted to go to college (she's now playing at Duke University).

Miodrag Bozovic and I have also kept in touch, though I never did return to Pula and have since focused more on travel writing than tennis.

Earlier this year, Miodrag told me about a contest for writers to come to Istria. Share Istria was about finding the socially connected travel writers to bring in for a trip to visit the Croatia region. I immediately entered.

It's been a busy few months with my daughter's wedding and I had forgotten about the contest until I received a notice that I had won! I was chosen as one of three U.S. journalists (six other countries were being represented).

Soon after I was told about the details, I realized there was a lot more to it. I could bring a friend along AND I would be competing with the 17 other journalists for a grand prize of 10,000 Euros. That would also be based on stories, shares, likes, retweets, favorites, etc.

The fun begins on June 12, 2016. Follow along with @SpiritsTraveler. My tag for all posts is #ShareIstriaUSA1.
Or, google and share #ShareIstriaUSA1

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Longines Finale and Grand Slam Completion

It was the final day of the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament and I was ready to see the championship match. I was also more than ready to complete my own personal Grand Slam.

Even though the American Adam Neff had lost in the first round, he was excited to be able to watch the match with Longines Rising Tennis Star Ryan Harrison. He also felt better knowing that the player he lost to, Rudolf Molleker of Germany was the winner of the tournament.

In addition to Harrison, tennis stars Sabine Lisciki (who would reach the finals of Wimbledon a few weeks later), Arnaud Clement and Fabrizio Santoro gave out prizes and did exhibitions before we left for Roland Garros.

I have covered the US Open nearly every year in the past three decades. I have been to Wimbledon and I’ve been to the Australian Open, but I’d never been to the French Open. Roland Garros, the fourth major, had eluded me – until this day. I was finally getting to complete my Grand Slam, at least as an attendee.

Before the matches, we had lunch in the Longines Pavilion. It was even better than expected, with a salad of various artichokes to start. It was served with a light and fruity 2012 Chateau La Tour a L’Eveque Blanc de Blanc.

I couldn’t wait to get out to the courts so I left the group right after dessert was served. It was quite crowded, with narrow walkways that seemed to go off in all directions. 

I tried to make my way to see a match between four players I know well (Mike & Bob Bryan vs. Eric Butorac & Jack Sock), but couldn’t get near the packed court.

Instead I went over to the press room to say hello to some friends and ironically ran into Bob, Mike and Eric, who were just getting off the court (the Bryans won and would go on to win the tournament).

I watched the Rafael Nadal vs. Fabio Fognini match. It was a good one, but I was much more interested in exploring the grounds of Roland Garros.

I tried to get in to watch the match of Jamie Hampton, a player I’ve known since she was a child who is having a lot of success on the tour, but the line was too long and I reminded myself that I had a ticket, not a press badge, at this event. The same was true for the John Isner vs. Tommy Haas match, which went on to a tiebreaker in the fifth set before Haas prevailed.

I walked around for a while before settling in the circle, where a crowd of spectators was watching matches on the big screen, next to the Longines official watch and the plaques of past winners. I found pretty much the same scene at the other stadiums.

We took the bus back to the InterContinental Paris Le Grand in the evening to get ready for our dinner cruise on the Bateaux Mouche. I sat with the Longines PR reps and had a wonderful time (I’m sure the endless bottles of chablis helped).

Despite the fact that it was my fourth trip on Bateaux Mouche, I felt like a first time sightseer. My camera was snapping every angle of the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and every other site we saw along the Seine River.

The group was going out after the boat ride, but I knew I had an early flight back to the U.S. so I went back to the room for my final night’s sleep in Paris – at least for now.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cool Paris for a Longines Filled Day

The weather was almost winter-like as we bundled up for a full day of tennis at the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament in Paris.

I was up early for a quick breakfast at the InterContinental Paris Le Grand. We boarded the luxury bus to the Hotel de Ville, where a beautiful red clay tennis court was set up. There was a screen for those who also wanted to keep up with the action at the French Open.

Though rain in Paris is not unusual, it was nearly snowing so we went into McDonald’s to warm up with some coffee while we checked our email. It was a McDonald’s like no other I had seen, with a full coffee bar (they even had French macaroons and croissants!) and kiosks you could use to pre-order food. I was quickly reminded that I wasn’t back in Champaign.

We headed back to the courts for a while, enjoying the tennis live and on the screen with the marketing group from Longines before walking to Pamela Popo for lunch.

The appetizer was scallops so they instead gave me a good foie gras, though my memory is still focused on the rest of the meal.

Tender duck was served with a chestnut and pumpkin puree that was unusual and wonderful. It was only topped by a chocolate caramel molten dessert.

We watched the rest of the matches and returned to the hotel in the evening. I was cold and tired and decided to skip dinner (which turned out to be mostly seafood anyway). Instead, I indulged in what I was craving on this cold, wet day – French (yes, they called it that) Onion Soup from the Intercontinental Le Grand room service.

The soup was delicious, with just the right amount of cheese and lots of onions. It was served with a freshly made warm baguette.

I was exhausted and drifted quickly off to sleep, knowing that my next and final day in Pariswas going to be a big one as the Longines junior tournament would end and I’d finally get to complete my Grand Slam. 

Friday, January 8, 2010

Traveling through the Wine and Spirits

After many years as a (magazine, web and book) tennis writer, I found myself without full time work in that field in 2008.  I was lucky enough that I had the experience and opportunity to continue my work as a writer, but I needed an additional niche to fill my schedule (not to mention my pocketbook).  I stumbled upon the obvious one purely by accident.

Let me begin with the beginning. I have been a writer for as long as I can remember, working for magazines even while I was a “kid” in school.  One of the things I did to push my career forward was to join the staff of the C.W. Post Pioneer.   It was a wonderful experience to be on the newspaper staff then (where I worked my way to Managing Editor), but it led to an even more exciting opportunity now.

In January of 2008, there was a reunion at C.W. Post of past editors of the newspaper and magazines.  I hadn’t seen anyone in years so I thought it might be fun.  It was by chance that I met former fellow Pioneer editor Frank Coleman, who was living in the D.C. area and just happened to be in New York that weekend.  Frank is now the Sr. Vice President of Marketing for Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS).  He overhead me mention to someone that I was a freelance writer at a crossroads of looking for an additional writing subject to focus on. It just happened that he was for another journalist to go on an upcoming trip to Cognac, France.

When I obtained an assignment and agreed to go on the trip, I was focused on the travel – something that was always a part of my life.  My love of travel was born before I was as my father believed vacations were a necessity in life. In the early days, it was just car trips, but it later grew into adventures that led to the Caribbean, Europe and even Israel.  I would continue to travel as much as I could over the years. As a tennis writer there was always a tournament somewhere to go to and I did my best to build trips around them.

The interest in wine was another one of mine. It was on a tennis trip to Croatia that I stayed with a family who had their own vineyard.  I found it fascinating to take the tour through the grapes just outside the door of where I was staying.   I remember photographing it endlessly and thinking about all the places that were starting their own small vineyards.

I always loved visiting Napa and the wineries in my longtime Long Island home. I remember the smells as I strolled the Bacardi factory and the aromas at Busch Gardens.  It had never occurred to me that I could combine my love of travel with a desire to learn more about spirits -- until that college reunion.  There I was offered the opportunity to go to Cognac and learn about the drink and the town at the same time.   Even then I didn't imagine that I would step off that high speed train into a new career.

It took just a week of watching, drinking and photographing to know I found my new niche was as a Wine and Spirits Traveler.  I've been the Wine And Spirits Travel Examiner for six months now.  I've found myself writing for additional publications (Travels Golflink, Trails & EHow for Matador ) with more assignments added recently (GoNomad, GirlsGetaway, Gadling).  It seemed only appropriate that I have my own place for the personal experience of my recent travel and the many trips to come. So, welcome to Wine And Spirits Travel!