STAY IN YOUR OWN PRIVATE TENT CAMP IN THE SAHARA

[THE SAHARA, MOROCCO] — I was sitting there polishing off my second Negroni — a Negroni in the frickin’ Sahara Desert — watching the blazing sun rapidly sink over the darkening horizon when here comes Ahmed, barreling over the lip of the nearest dune, in bare feet (!). Huffing, he says “Monsieur Dan, we have one more surprise for you tonight. Please come. Oh… and bring your camera.” As if I needed more surprises that day… we start charging off through the sand towards the quickly setting sun.     We follow a path along the dune ridges, lanterns illuminating the way, the darkness arriving freaky-fast, almost like a light switch. We top the lip of the ridge and I shriek like a little girl. Ahmed giggles with

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AN AMAZING KASBAH IN A MOROCCAN DESERT OASIS

[SKOURA, MOROCCO] — After a long, bumpy slog over the Atlas Mountains from Marrakesh, I got out of the dusty Mercedes van in an indiscriminate parking lot outside a great mud-walled compound. Walls up to the sky. This is it? I wondered under my breath. This is the place I’ve heard so much about? And then, with silent porters in linen tunics grabbing my bags, a great wooden door opened from the thick walls. A donkey groaned downed by the road we just passed. “Hello, my name is Florent. You can call me Flo.” a slight, chicly-dressed young Frenchman with up-turned collar addressed me. Peeking inside, everything became clear. “Oh, this is it. This is definitely it.”     I follow Flo through the thick

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GO BALLOONING HIGH ABOVE PORTUGAL’S ALENTEJO REGION

[ALENTEJO, PORTUGAL] — The ancient town of Monsaraz sits high on a hilltop in Portugal’s Alentejo regio, the tallest point for miles around. Just miles from the Spanish border and surrounded by thick castle walls, it overlooks one of the most beautiful parts of inland Portugal, including the giant Alqueva reservoir — the largest manmade lake in Europe. Some consider Monsaraz one of Portugal’s most picturesque villages and it is one of it’s oldest. People have been living in this region since pre-historic times, with ancient monoliths strewn all over the land. Then the Romans came and took over, then Visigoths, the Jews, then Christians, then Muslims again… everyone wanting a piece of this strategic hilltop. Surrounded by thick protective walls, the castle goes back

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STAY IN A CHIC APARTMENT HOTEL IN LISBON

[LISBON, PORTUGAL] — Here’s a great boutique design hotel to stay in Lisbon. The Lisboans. When I got out of the taxi, I noticed the small, discrete sign out front, The Lisboans. I rang the doorbell and was buzzed in. A gregarious Mario welcomed me like a brother “You’re Dan?, we’ve been waiting for you, welcome to The Lisboans“. He brought me through a small door into a room full of six or so people at open desks, working on their computers. “Everyone, this is Dan.” “Hi Daaan.” they all replied, with smiles. “Welcome to our Nerve Center where everything happens’”.  Everyone goes back to clacking away. Reservationists. Web people. Housekeeping. All right there. So refreshing. On the wall was a big grid on a whiteboard,

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TWO MUST-VISIT RESTAURANTS IN LISBON

[LISBON] — There are lots of great restaurants in Portugal, but I’m just going to talk about two must-visit restaurants in Lisbon that I recently went to. Restaurante Prado and Horta dos Brunos. Two fantastic and completely different experiences. When I was in the beach town of Comporta, Yasmine, a very tasteful Belgian Instagram friend direct-messaged me this tip:   And then, when I was in the far rolling hills of Alentejo, my friends Neil & Lisa texted me:  “We went to that Horta dos Brunos your friend recommended. Wow. Fantastic. So full. Can’t walk.” When I finally arrived in Lisbon, I knew I had to go and made reservations.  When I got in my Uber and the non-English speaking driver saw the destination on

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THE PERFECT BEACH VACATION IN COMPORTA PORTUGAL

[ALENTEJO, PORTUGAL] — Driving out of Lisbon airport in your rental is absolutely crazy, with GPS or not. After an overnight flight (or two) you exit the terminal into the bright Portugal sun all bleary eyed, you get your car and just go.  The GPS is playing catch up, while the traffic is not, bearing down on your tail like a dog in heat. The roads are like a plate of dropped spaghetti, turning off in every crazy direction, with signs that don’t match what the GPS is telling you.  After a couple of roundabout orbit corrections, you finally break free of the tangle and head south for the Tagus River. Suddenly, the bright blue sky opens up, the traffic disappears and you’re back to

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THE PERFECT VILLA TO RENT IN COMPORTA PORTUGAL

[ALENTEJO, PORTUGAL] — It’s the pine trees that get ya. They are everywhere in Comporta. Big billowy umbrella pines that quietly sway in the breeze.  Besides the rice fields, Comporta is known for its pines. And because development has been strictly controlled, the remain its dominant feature. There are no massive hotels or major housing estates, just slivers of streets carved out of the trees, often with protective easements that protect the privacy forever. When I first saw this villa on Airbnb, I thought “Oh wow, this is nice…” and kinda like finding a puppy at the pound, I knew this would be the place we’d rent.  Wasn’t quite sure of the area at first — had a hard time figuring out distances on Google

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WHERE TO EAT IN COMPORTA PORTUGAL

[ALENTEJO, PORTUGAL] — We’d spent our first day in Comporta at Pégo Beach, one of the best beaches in the area. Still a little jet-lagged after arriving the night before. We rented chairs and lulled ourselves to sleep with the waves while quietly reading/not reading  our books. The sun was high, it was the end of June, but the steady breeze kept the temperature in the 70s. Unbelievably perfect. Families played beach games as we shake-and-baked in the soft warm sand — so opposite from the rocky beaches of France and Italy. Around about noon, my stomach growled. “I believe it is time for us to eat,” I said, knowing that one of the best restaurants in Comporta sat not 70 meters from where we

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STAY IN A STUNNING KASBAH IN THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS OF MOROCCO

[KASBAH TAMADOT, MOROCCO] — Pulling out of the crazy busy dark corners of Medina of Marrakesh, the sky suddenly opens up. Endless palm trees paint the sky like clouds. Vast estates with long pink mud walls line the highway for miles.  And that’s when you first see them, the Atlas Mountains, snow capped even in the 80 degree spring heat. Beckoning from a distance to come up to the cool crisp air. Soon the road thins out, the estates give way to small hamlets, dirt orange mud-walled buildings stacked like books up the hills. Traveling fast in the air-conditioned wifi-enabled van, I spy an old man on a donkey pulling livestock like it was a Christmas Card, which is kinda jarring when you’re in a

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THE FINEST HOTEL IN THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES

[SAN CASSIANO IN ALTA BADIA, ITALY] — When I checked into the luxury boutique hotel Rosa Alpina,  a man was standing there off to the side, bouncing a baby in his right arm, baby projecting out like a cat. “Oh Hi, we’ve been waiting for you. I’d shake your hand… but the baby…” and reached out his left hand. And so it started like that. ________________________________________ It had been almost two years to the week since I was last in San Cassiano in Val Badia, the Ladin-speaking lush valleys that make up the heart of the Süd Tirol area of the Italian Dolomites. An area where everything is listed in three languages. Ladin — an ancient language that goes back to Roman times, spoken only in

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THE PERFECT HOTEL TO EXPLORE THE BRENTA DOLOMITES

[BRENTA DOLOMITES, ITALY] — During the ski season, Madonna di Campiglio attracts people from all over the world. During the “off season” — which I can’t relieve believe they call it that, it is such a gorgeous time of year — it is uncrowded and the scenery is just jaw-dropping. And the view from the boutique luxury BioHotel Hermitage in the Dolomites of Italy is about as great as any I’ve seen. Stunning. _________________________________________________ We were sad to leave Milano, but we were jonesing for the next stop. After a quick lunch in quaint medieval Bergamo, finally we went, up into the Dolomites. Spindly little roads needling through small mountain towns, we threaded our way up the spine, chuffed by a long rough patch, waiting

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THREE GREAT HIKES IN ALTA BADIA IN THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES

[ALTA BADIA, TRENTINO] — After a four hour hike down the mountain, it was finally time for a late lunch. Stanky and sweaty, I rolled into this cute little rifugio out in the woods, accessible only by foot or the brave souls driving up the narrow less-than-one-lane path — so tight the cars forced the hikers to lean their butts and packs over the wood rail fence lining the lane as they passed. I was hangry by then 👹 so hearty venison medallions in a juniper sauce, grilled mushrooms and rustic polenta seemed just perfect. And a couple of glasses of Lagrein to wash it all down.  About as good of a meal as it gets, especially in a place so inaccessible. The sun casting

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TWO GREAT HIKES IN VAL GARDENA IN THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES

[VAL GARDENA, BOLZANO] — We were on a long gondola ride heading up a long valley of undulating hills outside of the beautiful town of Ortisei, no doubt perfect ski runs in the winter. But it was summer, off season, so everything was super lush and green, hardly anybody around. The lift pauses at one skier drop-off then continues on, up up up and over a steep massive wall of granite, still shaded by the stark morning sun, darkening the interior of the gondola so much that you had to take off your sunglasses.  Suddenly, you pop over the ridge and you’re thrust into the bright summer sun. Stammering to get your bearings again. We scrambled off, the hustling gondola nipping at our heels like a

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The Brazilian paradise nobody really knows about

[FERNANDO DE NORONHA,  BRAZIL] — It had rained all morning.  I was driving like a mad man in my bumble-bee colored dune buggy, down a rutted muddy road to a clearing on the edge of a steep cliff. Not intentionally crazy, mind you, but out of necessity. The little dune buggy was so small and my legs were so long that my knees straddled the teeny rubber steering wheel. I had to steer with my arms between my legs, crab-like. 🦀 Nearing the edge of the cliff, I had to slam on the brakes with all my power to slow down, not just because of the slippery mud, but because they brakes had as much grip as if I was rubbing a Teva sandal directly on

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A HALF-DAY TOUR OF MUSCAT

[MUSCAT, OMAN] — When I told people I was going to Oman, they first nod, then shake their head. “Wait, Oman?  Where’s Oman?” I felt that too when I first saw pictures of the incredible hotels in my previous posts. But Muscat, was a great surprise to me, as well. I was just planning to be in/out of the city in a short time, so really didn’t expect to see much. But once there, I realized that I hadn’t planned well — I had booked the trip just ten days prior. _________________________________________________ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Oman ranks right up there with Singapore as the cleanest and safest country on earth. No crime, no graffiti, no trash, no car honking. No discussion of politics or religion. If your

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A LUXURIOUS OASIS IN THE MIDDLE OF MUSCAT

[MUSCAT, OMAN]   — Thursday afternoons in Muscat are busy traffic days. Like in most Muslim countries, where the “weekend” consists of Friday and Saturday, Thursday is everybody’s Friday afternoon and they’re itching to get home to their families. I’d arrived after a long but luxurious 13 hour Emirates flight from JFK to Dubai — that after taking a midnight redeye from Denver to JFK and a five hour layover — then, another five hour layover, then a quick forty minute flight into the sparkling clean, gleaming white city of Muscat. I was beat. I’d only booked this trip two weeks before, so I wasn’t quite as prepared as normal. I was tired, in need of a shower.  The hotel had sent a driver, who

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A STUNNING BEACH RESORT ON OMAN’S MUSANDAM PENINSULA

[MUSANDAM PENINSULA, OMAN] — When you land in crazy Dubai, the Six Senses driver is there to great you. A kind Indian man from Kerala, as seemingly every helpful service person in this region is, dressed in a nice black suit and tie. As you weave your way through Dubai’s twenty lane highways, the skyscrapers disappear, the highway gets successively narrower, the gigantic 200 foot-long real estate billboards become faded and empty. Sand dunes start to appear. Camels start to pop up, randomly, in the dunes on the side of the road. Your blood pressure drops a hundred points as you realize “Ahhhh, this is what I came for.” We’re on the Road to Paradise.     Heading towards Oman’s famed Musandam Peninsula,  the sand dunes soon turn

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AN ADVENTURE HOTEL PERCHED ON THE EDGE OF A CANYON

[AL HAJAR, OMAN] — When I first saw a photo of this hotel a couple of years ago I just stopped and went “Wooh, where the hell is this???” Oman. Oman? Where’s Oman? “I gotta go there. And stay riiiiiiight here.” And that’s how this whole trip came to be.     Months later I saw another picture of a stunning hotel on a barren sandy beach and the article said you could either drive down the zigzag road… or paraglide down to the hotel Reception and check-in.  (You’ll see that in the next post)  And I thought: “Wow, where is that?” Oman. Oman?  Man, I gotta go to this place.  And started a travel file named “OMAN” that included article after article of incredible photos

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STAY IN A PRIVATE DESERT TENT CAMP IN STUNNING OMAN

[WAHIBA SANDS, OMAN] — We’d been driving all day when we pulled into the scruffy desert town of Bidiyah.  My guide Zubir pulled off to the left side of the road and rolled to a stop in a small gas station, a cloud of dust chasing us to a stop. Two dark Indian men had been waiting for us, squatting against a wall. They knew we were in a hurry, so when he rolled in, they were quick to tackle each tire, twisting off the caps to the air valves and immediately started letting air out of the tires.  SSSSssssssssssss.    “The tires work better in the sand if they are flat” Zubir said. We’d covered a lot of ground that day, Zubir had picked

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EXPLORING THE ENDLESS SURPRISES ALONG THE “CIRCLE ROUTE” IN NORTHERN OMAN

[OMAN] — Such a fascinating place, Oman, with the nicest people I’ve run into, across the board. Omanis are known for their gentle souls, peacemaking and equal support of friend and foe. People so nice that even when I arrived at Passport Control, I walked up to the stern looking passport-checker dude. “From where are you?” “The States” “Really?? We don’t get many Americans here. What is your purpose? Where are you going? And for how long is your visit?” “For tourism. Two weeks, all over. Muscat. Mountains. Beach.” Smiling broadly “Ahhhhh, I hope you will like Oman. You must, simply must, visit Jebel Shams, the highest mountain in Oman. Very beautiful. The car only goes so far, but you must walk to the top. The

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HAMBURG IS HAPPENING

[HAMBURG] — Ha-Ha-Hamburg. Man, what a city. If you asked me a year ago if Hamburg was on my wishlist of cities to visit. “Ummmmm, no.”   But, I didn’t know. I just thought Hamburg was just a big industrial port city in northern Germany. But through the marvels of Instagram, I kept seeing these beautiful shots of this remarkable city, Germany’s second largest and its major business hub, with all of its media, design and shipping headquarters here. Airbus, Unilever, broadcast networks, all here. Like Berlin — which I covered in recent posts — Hamburg has been undergoing a huge Renaissance. Not just updating, but reinventing itself. With massive cool new developments and stunning architecture, sympathetically blending into to its prestigious older parts. Ask a German about

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