|Where's Amazing Debbie? Temecula Valley|
Hi! I'm Debbie Cloyed- travel writer for JohnnyJet.com. Pleased to make your acquaintance. I'm a photographer and writer in Los Angeles. I have lived in or traveled to more than 20 countries, and was on CBS' The Amazing Race, so living the JohnnyJet way of life fits me like a glove! I'm so excited to be traveling with all of you. Please send any feedback to Debbie@JohnnyJet.com. Here we go!
Amazing Debbie explores . . . locally.
First, I'm speaking to all you Californians out there. What are you doing this weekend? No plans? Laundry and yard work? Aw, come on. I've got a better idea.
Get thee to Temecula. Halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles, it is a world away from the city life. Take a breather. I insist.
Now, visitors to California, wine aficionados, and travelers near and far . . .
Get thee to Temecula.
Whether you're in need of romance, solitude, golf practice, a girls' getaway, a guys' weekend away, or some wholesome family bonding, Temecula is the ideal place.
Myself, I did a two-night trip to the Temecula Valley. It was nothing short of magical. An easy, wonderful weekend trip if you drive down Friday evening.
Temecula Creek Inn
I checked in around dinner time at the Temecula Creek Inn. I made myself at home in my spacious, tasteful room, ordered gourmet room service and bundled up on the back patio, stargazing. I went to bed early and slept late. When's the last time YOU said those last three things in the same sentence- gourmet room service, stargazing, and a full night of sleep? You see what I'm saying, guys?
The Temecula Creek inn has 130 beautiful guestrooms overlooking the mountains and a 4-star, 27-hole championship golf course. The Temet Grill is a first rate dining pleasure, with live jazz on the weekends. The friendly staff is available to arrange for a variety of local activities such as hot air ballooning and wine tasting, or your conference and/or special event needs. Online special rates start at $129/night. (Temecula Creek Inn; tel.: 1(800) 698-9295. )
Speaking of wine tasting, it's almost time for our Grapeline Wine Country Shuttle tour. But first, let's brush up on a little history about the Temecula Valley, from the native Indians to the Wild West to Wine Country.
Pre 1800's, the area was inhabited by the Luisenos, the Indian tribe that gave Temecula it's name- the Luiseno word Temecunga translates to "place of sun." Just prior to the 19th century, Spanish missionaries arrived. In the early 1800's, however, the Luisenos and other local tribes became involved in the Mexican-American war, bringing a number of battles to Temecula. After the war, more settlers moved in. A post office was established, and later a railroad. Temecula came to resemble a typical Old West town, complete with cowboys, sheriffs, and saloons. By the turn of the 20th century, Temecula was a well-known cattle ranching town. It wasn't until the 1960's that the tide turned from cows to avocados and vineyards. Early in the 1990's, people were still moving to Temecula for inexpensive real estate. By the end of the decade, though, the wineries were earning acclaim and Temecula became much more upscale. Today, it is growing into a charming beautiful tourist retreat as well as a grand place to call home.
Wine Tasting Time
Okay, so let's go sample some of those wineries for ourselves. It's an all-day affair, let me warn you. It begins when the Grapeline Shuttle picks you up at your hotel at 10:30 a.m. Air-conditioned, comfy, and equipped with a jovial tour guide, it is THE way to do the wineries. There are many different packages available on their website. Mine included a picturesque tasty lunch (a turkey avocado wrap) at the Wilson Winery and front door service to a number of local wineries for $98/person. Sing along to "I heard it through the Grapevine" (trust me, you WILL after your third or fourth winery!). Drive past orchards, vineyards, and soaring hot air balloons on your way to sample Wilson's famous Almond Champagne. Or take Leonesse Cellars' winery tour. It's good, clean, completely worry free fun. (The Grapeline Wine Country Shuttle; tel.: 888-8-WINERY.)
If you do like I did, you'll head straight for the casino. If I may make a suggestion, my dear friends, GO TAKE A NAP. Pechanga Casino is an adventure unto itself, and is best tackled, in my humble opinion, with a full belly and a clear head! That being said, Pechanga rules! It is fancy, huge and impressive. California's largest casino, it boasts a newly renovated 200,000 square foot casino with all the glitz and luxury of Vegas. In addition, Pechanga houses a first rate concert arena, a swanky night club Silk, and delicious dining from buffets to white linen. I feasted on salmon and beet goat cheese salad at Paisano's- an Italian favorite at Pechanga. It was delicious and artfully prepared. (Pechanga Resort and Casino; tel.: 877-711-2WIN).
After such a full day, I tucked in early, eager for the next day's activities- Sunrise Hot Air Ballooning!
Up, Up, and Away!
Did you catch the "sunrise" part? That's right- rise and shine. You have to be at California Dreamin'/La Vindemia Vineyard at 6:00 a.m. It's dark and chilly, but you'll warm up nicely on the patio of this stunningly beautiful and charming winery villa. Your gracious hosts, Gail and David, will steer you towards a lovely spread of hot tea, coffee, and delicious little treats to munch on. They're pros, gently waking you up and ushering you into the van to go look for your perfect launch spot. Then, if you haven't woken up by then, they fire up the jets and blast fire into the balloon to blow it up. Minutes later, it's time to hop aboard. Mimosas are packed at your feet and you spend the next hour or so gently gliding over the orchards and vineyards, sipping your champagne while the sun rises over the mountains. It was breathtaking, the highlight of the trip. Rides start at $138/person. (California Dreamin'; tel.: 800-373-3359).
Mosey On Down To Old Town
After touchdown and receiving my certificate and the photo of my Hot Air Balloon experience, I was advised to head to Old Town for lunch. Old Town is a very special place. The look is still Old West, with countless antique shops, restaurants, and boutiques. This is also where you'll find the Old Town Temecula Community Theater and the amazing Imagination Museum - a delight for children and adults alike. I bought myself some ostrich beef jerky and sat down to a gigantic burrito at Rosa's before hitting the road for my short trip back to La La Land.
There are good weekends and there are great weekends. For anyone and everyone looking for the perfect weekend, may I say to you:
Get Thee to Temecula.
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