April 2012

OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF URUGUAY’S ESTANCIAS, A JEWEL BOX

(Garzon, Uruguay) — About 40 or so miles inland from the surf of Jose Ignacio is a sleepy little town called Garzon.  There, in the middle of gaucho country and home to Uruguay’s famous grass-fed beef, Francis Mallmann (my favorite restauranteur in the world) has created a true destination place, El Garzon. I first ate at his famous restaurant Los Negros in Jose Ignacio several years ago and was immediately hit over the head with his incomprable design style, intense focus on every detail and his complete dedication to cooking with fire. Los Negros was built around a horno, a large clay oven, where nearly everything was cooked around the high temperature wood fire. He has since closed Los Negros, but I’ve sought out his other

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IT’S LIKE BEING IN YOUR OWN DREAM SEQUENCE

[JUJUY, ARGENTINA] — Play the voiceover from the Voice of God dude in movie trailers: “In a world where…” and you’ll get a feeling what it’s like to make the trip to Salinas Grandes, a well-worth-it side detour from traveling up the Humahuaca Gorge in Jujuy province. Taking a steep and windy left from the main road, you go up and over the switchbacks, often through the clouds, into a high arid plain, with the Salinas Grandes (salt flats) looming as a mirage at the distance. You see it and you keep driving. It seems close, but it is far away. Cranking great Salteno music on the stereo and chomping on cocoa leaves, it is like descending into the dream sequence of your own personal movie.

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A HOTEL WITH THE BEST VIEWS OVER THE ENTIRE AMALFI COAST

[RAVELLO, ITALY] ––  Years ago I finally realized what I really like: cliffs, overlooking a distant ocean, preferably with a pool clinging to a steep hillside. From then on, it’s been my focus on choosing where I go on vacation. (You’ll see this as a common theme throughout this site!)  Palazzo Avino fits all of those criteria. Plus, small, quiet and really expensive. After a recent remodel, it is on almost every Top Ten list of all hotels in the world. They have some rock star-great rooms and terraces, with prices to match. Sitting high on a hilltop in Ravello, dubbed one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, sits Palazzo Avino.  When I was there in ’04 it was called Palazzo Sasso, also famous in its own right.

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A POSTCARD PERFECT TOWN HIGH OVER THE AMALFI COAST

[RAVELLO, ITALY] — A few thousand feet up the mountains over Positano and the sea is the town of Ravello. Often voted one of the prettiest villages in Italy, it shows it. They’ve done a great job at preserving this little mountaintop town. No modern stores or chains. Just a quant little piazza, with hotels and restaurants spanning out to the edges of the cliffs. The views are stunning of the distant water, the shimmer of the sun. Extremely relaxing place with just a few hotels and restaurants. A couple days is all you need unless you just want to unwind with a book by the pool and feel the breeze.  Here is a great website about Ravello, including resources on hotels, cafes, etc. An

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THE BEST TERRACE IN POSITANO (AND BEST PRICE)

[POSITANO, ITALY] –– Stayed here years ago, it was like 80 bucks a night, very mom & pop B&B and more like a private guest house. Spartan but super clean. Low services. 186 steep steps up from the beach or down from the road, so have little luggage, although they’ll send a porter. One of the best terraces in Positano. You see it on postcards all over. It’s a great place. http://www.casacosenza.it/ Sorry, these pics aren’t the best. Had to scan these from film…and from a not very good camera. Before digital! But the views remain pristine today!

LE SIRENUSE — THE BEST HOTEL IN ITALY, IF NOT EUROPE

[POSITANO, ITALY] — If you’ve never been to Le Sirenuse in Positano, put it on your list. One of the best, and best-run, hotels in the world. Nothing compares to sitting in the grandstands (the pool) overlooking one of the prettiest views in the world. A cascade of villas, hotels and restaurants tumbling down to the sea. That’s why it is #1 on my World’s Best Pools List. And why the hotel itself is at the 🔝 of nearly every World’s Best list and if they shoot a movie in Amalfi, it’s usually here. Pinch me. Nothing can beat the style of this hotel, or location, hanging on the edge of a cliff with all those pretty houses climbing up the hills. It is on nearly every

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EVERY DAY’S A NEW ADVENTURE IN THIS BRAZILIAN PARADISE

[FERNANDO DE NORONHA] — Fernando de Noronha is a true adult Adventureland. The whole island is built around exploring, swimming diving, surfing, snorkeling and beaching. Not to mention chasing wildlife around.  Every day is a new adventure. The beaches are the best, but definitely you should take a boat tour around the island. Everything looks different from the water.  You leave in the morning or afternoon, and they take you on a great tour of all the major beaches. You see things you can’t see from land. And because it’s Brazil, there’s nice music, friendly people, snorkeling stops long the way and even a nice buffet spread they put out, cooked from scratch right on the boat.            

THIS MEAL CHANGED MY LIFE

[PRAIANO] —  A teeny little restaurant right on the water underneath the Onde Verde, we avoided it at first…just some bamboo and plastic chairs clinging to the rocks right on the water. It was one of the best meals all of us every had. While we were eating, a fisherman pulled his boat right up to the railing and whistled. The cook comes out of the kitchen and the dude hands over a few octopuses and a sea bass of some sort. Not a tourist in site. Doesn’t get any better than that. Simple stuff, like muscles. bruschetta and pasta. This was the first meal that made me realize the importance fresh ingredients can make in a dish. Before, I always thought “more was better”. But this meal taught me that

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