BOAT THROUGH CORSICA’S AMAZING SCANDOLA NATURE RESERVE

SCANDOLA NATURE RESERVE | CORSICA

[SCANDOLA NATURE RESERVE, CORSICA] — Okay, who’s been to the Scandola Nature Reserve in Corsica? Non?  Strap in. You’re about to see something really amazing. You gotta gotta go do this. A huge natural preserve in the northwest of Corsica, with the most dramatic rock formations, canyons and wildly shaped rocks you’ve ever seen, plunging right into the sea. Dwarfing everything in their midst, namely you. Scandola is like being in a one-armed Grand Canyon, with the deep blue Mediterranean sea on the right side, and every color and shape of rock you’ve ever seen on the left.  The Scandola peninsula was created from a collapsed volcano that fell into the sea, so you feel the earth opening up before you. This is a protected nature reserve, both

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BRANTÔME–A GREAT BASE TO EXPLORE DORDOGNE FRANCE

Brantôme is a sleepy little village in Périgord. A gorgeous little town on a u-turn bend of the river, originally built on an island, surrounded on all sides by the calm rolling waters of the river Dronne — which is why it’s called “Venice of Périgord”. This would be a great fort. It’s a great central base to explore Dordogne. Here’s a giant related post I made on exploring Dordogne. It really is one of the cutest list villages in France, I loved it. There’s only about two thousand people that live here and the immediate surroundings. Walking into town in the morning to pick up the International Herald Tribune and a cafe au lait and sit by the river. It has all the water

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EXPLORE THE RIVERS, SCENIC VILLAGES AND PREHISTORIC CAVES OF DORDOGNE, FRANCE

DORDOGNE | FRANCE

[DORDOGNE & PERIGORD, FRANCE] — You don’t read much about Dordogne in the U.S. travel press. But the French & English know about it, almost keep it all to themselves. In fact, this was one of the great battlegrounds of the Hundred Year’s War between the nobles of France and England.  Now wealthy Brits have snapped up a lot of the incredible houses and chateaus. I spent a week there several years ago and these are what I found to be the best things to do in Dordogne. Are there other places? Certainly. But this what I found in a little less than a week in an early June. I just want to give you a taste of what it looks, feels and tastes like.  I

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STAY IN ALAIN DUCASSE´S GOURMET HIDEAWAY IN A FAIRYTALE VILLAGE IN PROVENCE

Moustiers-Ste-Marie | France

[MOUSTIERS-SAINTE-MARIE, FRANCE] — Moustiers in eastern Provence is the gateway to the great Gorges du Verdon, The Grand Canyon of France. (see my post on the Gorges du Verdon here). It’s an Adventureland of fun, with trekking, boating, canyoning, climbing and just plain gawking at all the natural beauty. Here’s my review of Alain Ducasse’s incredible gourmet Michelin-starred hideaway La Bastide de Moustiers in the beautiful town of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, high in the  Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Bathe in Lavender on the Valensole Plateau Driving up from southern Provence, you first drive over the high and flat Valensole plateau, home to some of the largest and most stunning lavender fields in France.  Miles and miles of sweet purple flowers, as far as the eye can see. If you’re in Provence

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A LONG WEEKEND IN MILAN

[MILAN, ITALY] — When I was going to school in Rome, I was obsessed with Old Things. We zoomed all over Europe every weekend, compartments loaded up with beer, on our unlimited Eurail Pass looking for cool old stuff. The only thing I knew about Milan was our midnight stop at the train station, jolted awake from a drunk sleep each time by the same old man hawker each time, with a raspy smoker’s voice outside our drawn shades: “Birrrrrra. Acqua Mineraaaaale. Chocccolaaato. Orangiiiiiina. Aranciatttt-a. Coca Cooolaaaa.” repeated over and over until the train departed. Then again the next time we flew through. Anyone who passed by Milano Centrale in the 80s knew that voice. When someone would ask “Should we go to Milan?” “Why?

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TWO GREAT DAY-TRIPS FROM MILAN

[BERGAMO, ITALY] — If you’re flying Ryan Air or other discount airline to Milan, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve noticed the name Bergamo only after landing in Bergamo, the airport deceptively named Milan Bergamo Airport. Most airport arrivals people spend their time just trying to actually get to Milan, but the old city of Bergamo is gorgeous, beautifully-preserved, cultural and manufacturing hub about an hour northeast of Milano. It’s worth spending a day exploring, or even overnight. Bergamo and Lugano. Just an hour or so from Milano. Here’s the lay of the land of the two cities I’m suggesting for out-and-back day trips from Milano, or to slip into on your way to or from that amazing city. Bergamo and Lugano. Just an hour

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TWO NIGHTS IN TURIN

Turin (also called Torino in Italian, everyone seems to use it interchangeably, even Italians) is a city I’ve always heard italophiles rave about, but I’d never been. After spending a week tasting tons of Barolo and Nebbiolo in Monforte d’Alba, I added on a couple extra nights inn Torino before flying out to scope it out for future visits. I didn’t have any time to do any advance time to do much research and was short of time, so I just spent a couple of days walking its endless piazzas and colonnades, Wandering Around Until Stumbling On Something Cool (WAUSOSC™️). There are lots of great guides available, many I’ve linked at the bottom of this post, so I won’t go into too much detail, just

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YOU SHOULD GO HERE IN POSITANO

POSITANO | ITALY

[AMALFI COAST, ITALY] — The whole Amalfi Coast is a string of towns south of Naples, roughly starting from Sorrento on down.  Each town has its own charm and personality. Not a big fan of Sorrento, more of a modern city that cruise ships and tour buses visit and it’s the last train stop, so that’s as far as most people go.  Keep going down farther, starting at Positano.  This is my guide to Positano and the Amalfi Coast and why you should go here in Positano and and all the best things to do in Positano. You Should Go Here In Positano — I consolidated several posts into one comprehensive guide in one place, so it’s a giant post and dense with information. I’ve

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LIVE LIKE A MOVIE STAR ON THE COAST OF TUSCANY

IL PELLICANO | PORTO ERCOLE, TUSCANY

[PORTO ERCOLE, TUSCANY] — Driving through the hills and ravines of western Tuscany, you find yourself in the little known coastal area of wild and woolly Maremma. The road rolls down to the sea, you drive across a causeway and lagoon to Monte Argentario, a hump of an island and now basically a peninsula connected by two bridges. Looking out at fishing boats and people bobbing along the shore, you wind through tiny Porto Ercole, pop up and over a hill, see the tiny pelican logo and pull into an ivy covered parking area. As the bellman grabs your things you glide through the lobby and head towards the sun on the terrace. It’s the view that hits you in the gut. Gah! Down a tumbling

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AN ODE TO THE MOST PERFECT BUILDING IN THE WORLD

The Pantheon | Rome, Italy

[ROME, ITALY] — The Pantheon, one of the great wonders of the world and certainly my favorite building of all time. Every time I come back to Rome, the first thing I have to do is to go and see and touch this magical place. I’ve been inside The Pantheon at least fifty times and it never gets old. Even though… you know… it’s really old. Started by my friend Emperor Augustus and rebuilt after a fire by Big Builder Hadrian in 126AD. Most other big domes are actually made of stacked stone, using gravity to hold them in place, like on a Roman bridge, or supported by metal or other reinforcements. This is like poured concrete, way ahead of its time and continues to

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YOU GOTTA GO TO VERONA

VERONA | ITALY

[VERONA, ITALY] — Verona was never on at the top of my list, I always heard it was just a place where bus tours stop to all stand under the Romeo and Juliet balcony. Boy was I wrong. When my buddies were flying out of the Verona airport we spent a day and a half checking it out. I loved it so much, I came back by myself the following week. I was blown away how gorgeous, clean and manageable this Italian city is. Here are all my best things to do in Verona. The city has so much history beyond Romeo & Juliet. From Dante to the big Veronese families to the football team. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the whole city,

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A QUICK OVERNIGHT IN ATHENS

This is from a trip I took several years ago for an overnight in Athens. My sisters and brother just went through Athens after a Greek Islands charter sailboat trip and I realized I never made a post so I could share my tips. So here it is, my tips for a quick trip to Athens, including when is the best time avoid the crowds at the Acropolis and a review of the New Hotel. Whether on purpose (smart) or randomness, most flights and ferries coming back from the the Greek Islands invariably end up with a forced overnight in Athens. On my last trip coming back from the beautiful island of Folegandros (my posts on that trip are here), this stop was shorter than

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36 HOURS IN BOLOGNA

BOLOGNA, ITALY

[BOLOGNA, ITALY]  — Bologna was about 237th on my list of places I wanted to visit, but when a Rome school buddy of mine suggested we meet there to eat one long weekend, I jumped at the chance. We’d planned for a long weekend of eating, but unfortunately I caught a fierce bug on the plane that progressively got worse and worse until I was forced to spend several days in my hotel room with the cold sweats, swollen throat and was about as sick as I’ve ever been. So here is an abbreviated 36 hours of my visit to Bologna, long on pics of the beautiful city but short on restaurant recs. 😅 Man oh man what a gorgeous city. Almost every block is covered

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COOL PLACES TO GO IN LANGUEDOC IN SOUTHWEST FRANCE

LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLION | FRANCE

[LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLION | FRANCE] — I first came to the Aude region in Languedoc, never having heard of it before, nor that I was even going there! But realized I was in Aude during a four day stop at a cool friend’s place outside Carcassonne. I thought I was in greater Languedoc, but turns out Aude is the appropriate subregion in Languedoc. I spent most of my time hanging at my friend’s super cool gîte, so I didn’t get everywhere, nor get to spend great bits of time, but these are the coolest places I found in the southwest of France. And now that I have the lay of the land, I can’t wait to go back. The Aude Region This area used to be called

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SAN CASSIANO, THE PERFECT BASE TO EXPLORE VAL BADIA IN THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES.

Hotel Rosa Alpina | San Cassiano, Italy

[SAN CASSIANO IN ALTA BADIA, ITALY] — Wednesday nights are Festa Nights in San Cassiano in the summer. People come from kilometers away, tasting great foods from local restaurants, local craft beers (doesn’t everywhere have local craft beers nowadays?) and watching Ladin craftsman hone wood objects like they’ve done for centuries. (Cutting boards are big sellers.) And, perhaps appropriately, a country music band. Nothing like a little Hank Williams to make your strudel even more fun. Plus, you can waltz to it. You should have seen it. A girl in a cowboy hat introducing each song in Italian, old couples and waiters all beebopping all happy up and down the street. It was a little surreal, sitting outside on the terrace of the restaurant at

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ON TOP OF THE WORLD AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD IN PATAGONIA

[PATAGONIA, CHILE] — Going to Torres del Paine in Patagonia was always  one of my lifelong goals, well, at least for the last 25 years. Then, I finally bit the bullet and decided to go, paired with a visit to the Atacama Desert in the northern half of Chile — the driest place on the planet (you can see that part of the trip here). These are some of the best hikes in Torres del Paine. This is a summary of all the best hikes in Torres del Paine that I was able to take. Patagonia is a region that actually straddles both Chile and Argentina at the very tip of South America and I could never figure it out or decide which side to go to.

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EXPLORE THE DRIEST PLACE ON EARTH

[ATACAMA DESERT, CHILE] — The Atacama Desert. Good lord. Nestled in the upper right corner of Chile — one of the longest and skinniest countries in the world — is this freak of nature, the driest place on our planet.  It’s only a few hundred miles from the Pacific, but has some areas with no registered rainfall since they started measuring such things, over 400 years. It’s also the oldest desert on earth, been rainless for close to 3 million years. I love this line from Wikipedia “Studies by a group of British scientists have suggested that some river beds have been dry for 120,000 years.” Dry. It’s dry here. I’ve read about it, saw films about it, including this remarkable one, and was just totally consumed with

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THE PERFECT ADVENTURE HOTEL TO EXPLORE THE ATACAMA DESERT

[SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA, CHILE] — Chile is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, that few people know about. Dramatic, jaw-dropping landscapes and massive natural parks.  Chile has been the leader in preserving their amazing natural wonders and packaging them up with adventure tour packages, made easy with outstanding hotels like the Tierra, Explora, or totally luxe Awasi, which is more for millionaires.   All three brands have sister hotels in both the Atacama Desert, Patagonia and other regions (like the Lake District or Easter Island).  I chose the Tierra hotels for my trip in 2013. This is my review of Tierra Atacama, one of the easiest vacation I’ve ever booked, in the most remote locations on the planet. No matter which hotel

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THE WORLD’S BEST BEACH TOWN

[JOSE IGNACIO, URUGUAY]  — There. I said it. Jose Ignacio is it. Jose Ignacio is the World’s Best Beach Town.   This is my favorite place in this world. If you’ve followed me for some time or talk to me over Negronis, THIS is the place I always talk about. This is a huge post, combing multiple visits over ten years into a single comprehensive guide. Here is your guide to the best beaches in Jose Ignacio. The best restaurants in Jose Ignacio and the best hotels in Jose Ignacio. All the reasons that make this the world’s best beach town. Jose Ignacio is my favorite place on earth. A half hour north of the Miami-like Punta del Este is a small peninsula that juts just right

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VISIT A FAIRYTALE CASTLE OUTSIDE LISBON

[SINTRA, PORTUGAL] — Sintra is not just a single town, but an entire wooded (unusually so in these arid parts) nature preserve about an hour and a half outside of Lisbon. It’s the perfect daytrip from Lisbon or the perfect day trip from Cascais. Definitely well worth the drive and easy to find — all the roads and signs in Portugal are outstanding.  Pena Palace is the center attraction. It’s a big riot of color and architecture, surrounded by hundreds of acres of gardens and forests. Plan a half a day, at least, or preferably a whole day, to make the loop through the forest and the half dozen towns and castles and sites within the preserve. It is very busy. Very touristy. But very

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THE PERFECT LONG WEEKEND IN CASCAIS, LISBON’S BEACHY SUBURB

[CASCAIS, PORTUGAL] — About a half-hour outside of Lisbon, Cascais is a great little beach town along the coast and the perfect long weekend base to explore the entire Lisbon coast. What to do in Cascais. Where to stay in Cascais. Where to eat in Cascais. It’s hard to picture such a cool little beach town as a suburb of Lisbon; it feels like a world away.  Where Lisbon opens onto the Targus river, Cascais is further out on the peninsula, just past the Monaco-like wealth enclave of Estoril. Out here, you are more open to the blue waters of the Atlantic. [Note:  a lot of people think that Portugal is a Mediterranean country, but it actually doesn’t even touch the Mediterranean Sea, it opens

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