Category Archives: Travel

Dinner in London Soho

Sitting at the bar at Bibimbap in Soho, drinking an unexpectedly delicious Korean root tea (ordered off the drinks menu at random), I’m glad I made it out of my hotel room. Bibimbap is named after the restaurant’s specialty, a traditional Korean dish, and I picked it out days ago after a recommendation from a friend, plus a few write-ups in “Where to eat alone in London” articles.


After my flight, with too little sleep and too much caffeine,  I didn’t think I was going to make it out of my hotel room, let alone the 45 minute walk across London to Bibimbap. But I wasn’t going to start off my year of adventure by wimping out on the very first one, so I changed out of my travel clothes and went out to find some food. And I’m so glad I did; the fresh air revived me after 9 hours of recycled plane air, and the food is excellent.


My meal is the dol sot bibimbap, rice topped with vegetables and an egg, served in a hot stone bowl. A welcome change from airplane food, that’s for sure. The restaurant is filling up quickly; I showed up promptly at 6, when they opened, and all the tables are already full, although there are still spots left at the bar.


Up next; a bus ride to Oxford, where I’ll be for a week, visiting a friend and pretending I’m at Hogwarts.


How to Apply to a French School

As you may have noticed, this blog has been on a very long hiatus as I’ve been figuring out where to go from here. And the answer has turned out to be…France!

In September, I will be headed back to Bordeaux for my third stay in France (after a study abroad in Paris and a year teaching English in Normandy), where I’ll be doing an MBA in wine marketing in the beautiful city (and wine destination!) of Bordeaux. The business school is INSEEC, and their Bordeaux campus offers a specific MBA in Wine Marketing. The program is two years, during which I’m hoping to learn a lot about French wines and wines from every region, travel as much as I can, and brush up on my French language skills.

Applying for a French school as an American is a process, and it helps to be very organized about it. The last two times I went to France, I was flying by the seat of my pants, getting on buses and hoping they were the right ones, learning as I went about French culture and etiquette. This time has been very different: checklists, schedules, paperwork, planning in advance.

If you’re thinking about going to school in France, here are the basic steps that I took to do it:

1. Before you apply directly to the French institution, you have to apply to CampusFrance, the branch of the French Embassy that facilitates international studies. Create a PASTEL account and start uploading all your documents: proof of previous studies, jobs, internships, language ability, etc.

2. Send a money order of $100 to CampusFrance for your application fee. This process has a lot of fees, and this is just the first. If people are interested, I’ll write a post on the cost of doing (and applying to!) a master’s program in France.

3. Once your money order has been received, you’ll get a CampusFrance representative to guide you through the process. I already had my application pretty much finished, but my rep was able to answer a few questions I had. Save both the receipt and the confirmation email. You’ll need these for the visa application.

4. Some French institutions are “connected”, and your CampusFrance application is your application to the university. Mine was “non-connected”, so I applied directly to the school, which meant another application form and essay questions.

5. I did a phone interview with my CampusFrance rep as well as a Skype interview with the business school.

6. If you get in, then the real fun begins! Send your acceptance letter to your CampusFrance rep, who will validate your acceptance in PASTEL and give you the go-ahead to apply to your visa! Save that email, too.

7. Time to start the visa application! For a French visa, you have to go in person to your nearest consulate, no sooner than 90 days, but at least 2-4 weeks before you leave. My closest consulate happens to be in San Francisco, so I will be making a whirlwind, one-night trip to SF this week. The consulate website will have a checklist of all the documents you’ll need for the visa application; bring them all, plus anything else that might seem useful.

8. Packing. My least favorite part, but I did a test run last week, and everything fits in a medium-sized suitcase, around 42 pounds, plus one box that I’ll have shipped!

This blog has been on my mind lately, and I’m hoping to revive it as a wine and travel blog. I started it as a way to focus my wine learning and my exploration of Walla Walla, and now it’s time for something new!


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Exploring Sonoma: One Winery at a Time

Last month, we took a weekend to escape from cloudy Walla Walla for a trip to 65-degrees-and-sunny Sonoma! I’m going to be honest- I’ve never actually been tasting in California before, and the astonishing amount of wineries and AVAs in the state kind of boggle my mind.  I like to keep my eye on what’s going on in California wineries through blogs and Wine Spectator, but the idea of narrowing our options down to just three wineries to visit made me realize how much I don’t know about California wineries! Luckily, I had a few tasters come into the winery in the weeks leading up to the trip, and I managed to wrangle some recommendations out of them. And by “some”, I mean a whole page full of winery names, so I had to do some digging to figure out which wineries would be the most exciting for us.

MacLaren Winery was the first winery we went to, and I think it ended up being our favorite of the trip. Cool-climate Syrahs, several single-vineyard offerings, and really elegant food wines. Steve Law, the owner and winemaker, is from Scotland, but spent 10 years in France learning to love wine before moving to Sonoma to make it himself. He doesn’t make much, 1000 cases at most, and it’s almost all Syrah. I love how different these Syrahs are from hot weather Walla Walla; it’s amazing how much climate impacts the taste of wine.

Next, we went to Loxton Winesrecommended to us by some Sonoma wine folks who we ran into in Walla Walla. Also a small winery, Chris Loxton focuses on Syrahs and Zinfandels; we liked the Zin the best (partly because we almost never see it here in Walla Walla). After MacLaren’s wines, these seemed really fruity and almost unbalanced compared to the high acidity of his Syrahs.

Our last stop of the day was Kunde Family Estate, a much larger winery than the first two we stopped at. The tasting room was crowded, and it was harder to get the attention of the tasting room staff, but eventually we got settled at the bar. Kunde owns a lot of vineyard, and their wine was very pleasant- maybe not special occasion wines, but very drinkable.

We also had lunch at The Girl and the Figwhich was super busy (a good sign, right?). I had their Moules-Frites (delicious!), and everyone else’s food looked great, too.

We’re headed back to Sonoma in two weeks; what is the one winery we should definitely not skip?