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Agritourism & Romantic California

Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Sketchandtravel.com and Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as a guest, Karin Leperi, freelance writer & photographer.

One of Karin's expertises lies in the field of agritourism - a celebration of food, fiber, festivals and aquaculture.

Karin is here to pass onto us some of her knowledge pertaining to agritourism and romantic getaways in California.

Good day Karin and thanks for agreeing to participate in this interview.

Norm:

Karin, please tell our readers something about yourself, your educational background and your writing experience.

Karin:

For starters, I should mention that when I was in 6th grade, I won first prize for a school essay I wrote on what courage meant to me. That same essay went on to win first place in the District competition. Somewhat emboldened by this premature success, I went on to win first place for essay submissions in both 7th and 8th grade. I guess the outcome of this, was that I realized I might have a knack for writing.

After graduating with a B.A. in Political Science from Cal State L.A., I went on to earn my M.S. in Public Administration. This led to a career as a public servant, and with me relocating from my home in San Gabriel Valley, California to Washington, D.C.

While doing my dutiful time as a federal employee, I got tired of suppressing my thoughts and ideas, and realized I needed to rediscover my voice. So, I combined my new focus on writing with my love for travel. A result of this is that I have become somewhat of an expert in agritourism. I suspect this is because I spent over 15 years working at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, learning a lot about aquaculture, food supply, and natural resources.

Norm:

What is agritourism and how popular is it today?

Karin:

While some people may only think about farm or ranch stays as agritourism, it is really much more than that. When you think about the land and sea, about food crops and seafood, and about natural resources and the outdoors, you cover much of what is agritourism. It is also about organic food and the slow food movement that started in Italy, where the emphasis is on enjoying native and seasonal foods. Farmer's markets, trail rides, U-Pick operations, cattle drives, gardens, hikes, walks, festivals and fairs, these are all agritourism, too. Whether you chose a romantic Bed & Breakfast stay at a vineyard or an adventurous birding weekend at the Outer Banks in North Carolina, both involve agritourism.

Agritourism can be for enjoyment, education, or active experiences and usually involves rural communities and small farms seeking supplemental and sustainable income. It is also about people seeking connection with the land and sea; for those seeking solace from the stresses of urban living.

One thing is for certain; demand continues to increase for agritourism experiences. Whether for individuals, couples, or families, agritourism has something to offer everyone.

Norm:

If couples were contemplating combining an agritourism experience with a romantic getaway in California, which would you suggest and why?

Karin:

I can think of no better agritourism and romantic getaway than a weekend stay at a vineyard. La Belle Epoque is considered the best B&B in the Napa Valley wine country and also as offering the best breakfast. To experience a vineyard stay is to truly drink of the vine, smell the earth, and breathe fresh air; it is intoxicating to the senses.

A very unique, desert experience can be had at the China Ranch Date Farm & Inn in Death Valley near Tecapa. Here you will learn all about dates, and have the opportunity to try different products with dates, including baked goods and their famous date shakes.

Or become a cowboy for a day. Try a stay at a cattle ranch in Monterey County the V-6 Ranch in Parkfield. Here you can experience the thrill of a cattle drive on 20,000 acres of land.

Norm:

Very often couples choose wedding venues and destinations that are quite unique such as museums, farms, public buildings, mountain peaks, yachts, etc.

If you had to choose unique venues in California that would be ideal and different for a wedding ceremony, which ones would they be and why? I notice that you did write an article about Yacht cruises among the vineyards of the California Napa Valley.

Karin:

Wow a fabulous dream wedding venue would definitely be aboard an American Safari Yacht Cruise to Napa Valley. What a great place to have a wedding and reception, all on a yacht as you travel to boutique vineyards and enjoy exclusive art tours and fine wine.

Along the same line, I always thought getting married at a vineyard would be totally charming. Many are now offering exclusive wedding/honeymoon packages, so check around. As mentioned earlier, La Belle Epoque B & B in Napa Valley has been voted as best in the wine country and as offering the best breakfast. They host many weddings as well.

The Brewery Gulch Inn in Mendocino is a lovely place for weddings, too. Built from eco-salvaged redwood timber, they are all about organic. Meals include fruit that is picked from their own trees and organic eggs from their own chickens. (They were recently voted California's Inn of the Year.)

For those who love the sea, you can't beat a wedding at the Seven Gables Inn in Pacific Grove. With a view overlooking Monterey Bay, you will likely spot sea otters, harbour seals, and whales. Afternoon tea adds a nice touch. (Voted as one of the Top 10 California Inns).

For mountain and snow ski lovers, the Black Bear Inn at South Lake Tahoe offers secluded romance amidst the pines, along with a vegetarian breakfast. Fishing and hiking are seasonal options as well. (This too was voted as one of the Top 10 California Inns).

For honeymooners, Wine & Roses was selected as one of the top 10 Most Romantic Inns. Located between San Francisco and Los Angeles, it is located in Lodi, California. With a reputation for excellent food, lodging and service, it is no wonder that past guests have included the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Martha Stewart.

Further south and inland is Temecula Valley, which I have written about before. I find that everything in this area is about value since it is waiting to be discovered.

Something quite different is what my sister did. She was married on a boat in San Diego harbor. After the vows, bride and groom ripped off their clothing to reveal wet suits, whereupon they jumped overboard and sailed away on their jet skis into the sunset.

California offers just about any type of setting for weddings; from islands, the coast and mountains to the inland empire, mountains, desert and redwood forests. Venue can include yachts, airplanes, hot air balloons, vineyards, bed & breakfasts, country inns, ranches, farms, historic lighthouses and castles, resorts as well as luxury hotels.

Norm:

If you were to choose five of the most romantic restaurants in California, which ones would they be and why?

Karin:

That is a tall order since there are literally hundreds of romantic restaurants in California. However, probably an all-time favourite is the French Laundry in Napa Valley (French) although recent rumours have it that it can take up to a year to get reservations. Others include Wente Vineyards Restaurant in Livermore (Contemporary), L'Orangerie in Los Angeles (French), Star of the Sea in San Diego (Seafood), and Granita in Malibu (Eclectic).

Norm:

From reading about you on the Internet, I noticed where you state that travelling to Baja California is like coming home-to a second home. Could you tell us something about Baja and if you would recommend it as a romantic getaway?

Karin:

Baja California is a passion with me because it is so pristine, natural, and friendly, that I feel like I am suspended in paradise when there. And for a world-class destination, well, you just can't beat it for luxury, charm and beauty.

My absolutely favourite place to stay is Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Cabo San Lucas. If I were to get married, I would choose this place. This is fabulous luxury with a million-dollar vista, offered in surroundings that are organic that blend in with the local environment, with design, shape, and color that soothe and renew those seeking a peaceful and soothing place to recreate.

Another front-runner is Marquis Los Cabos, Beach, Golf, Spa & Casitas Resort, also in Cabo San Lucas. The open-air lobby is a masterpiece as is the 36-ft. waterfall crowning a massive swimming pool.

For stunning sunsets and great whale watching, my pick is Pueblo Bonito at Sunset Beach, a wonderful place for romance, weddings, and honeymoons.

However, if you are looking for a small luxury B&B with Old World Mexican charm and colonial atmosphere, try Casa Natalia, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Located on the quieter side, San Jose del Cabo, it was recently ranked as Best in the World among the Top Latin American Hotels by Conde Nast readers. Besides offering a distinctively Mexican experience, it is located virtually footsteps from the town square, and with-in walking distance of fabulous local shopping.

Norm:

Is there anything else you wish to add about romantic getaways in California as it pertains to agritourism or otherwise?

Karin:

I often find that a romantic getaway is as much about going somewhere new and doing something different, about sharing special moments together, as it is about sipping champagne in hot tubs or sunbathing on the same beach each year. Don't get me wrong, though, because I like that, too! But when I think about my most romantic getaways with my husband, they involve adventure, nature, and celebrating good food and fine wine. It is all about agritourism.

Thanks once again Karin for participating in this interview.

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