April 2016

THREE GREAT HIKES IN THE STUNNING MIDI-PYRÉNÉES IN FRANCE

[GÈDRE, FRANCE] — I always wanted to go on some great hikes in the French Pyrénées, but I could never figure out where. As I finally figured out after all these years, the Pyrénées aren’t just a single group of mountains, but a bunch of groups of Pyrénées spread all along the French/Spanish border. So when you think, as I stupidly did, “Oh I’ll just go hike in the Pyrénées” you’re instantly in over your head when you finally try to Google it and figure out where to go. There’s the Pyrénées-Orientales in French Catalonia (which I wrote briefly about in another earlier post), the Pyrénées-Atlantiques in Basque country near San Sebastian, the Midi-Pyrénées, the Haute-Pyrénées and several other subparts. And then there’s the complementary Spanish Pyrénées on the very other side and

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THIS IS THE PRETTIEST HOTEL I’VE EVER STAYED IN

[EUGENIE-LES-BAINS, FRANCE] —  I had the best intensions… Looking to break up my random drive across France, I decided to sneak in to the famed Les Prés d’Eugénie hotel for a taste of what made Michel Guérard world famous — one of the pioneers of Nouvelle Cuisine that changed French cooking forever. 🍽 Chef and his wife Christine built this magical spa hotel in the country as a destination for his 3 Michelin star restaurant. We’re talking 3 stars for 30 years! I’m a food icon idiot, I just like to eat. But I learned about Les Prés d’Eugénie when I was staying at Le Chateau de Riell, their sweet little sister hotel in French Catalonia. (Scroll down a little on my page and you

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EXPLORING THE ROLLING HILLS, CHATEAUX AND PREHISTORIC CAVES OF DORDOGNE

[DORDOGNE & PERIGORD, FRANCE] — It has been since high school I’ve wanted to see this exact spot. Madame Zemkuznekov’s High School French Class, to be exact. She was super hot, no doubt made hotter because she was probably the first non-nun (or non-former-nun) teacher we had. And in an all-boys school, at that. She had us all at “Bonjour” (and the sexy way she wore linen). Her French class was the only class in school that was absolutely pin-quiet. All 44 of us big-nosed and pimpled boys rapt with attention, hanging on every Imparfait thing she’d say, because she was… plus-perfect. Anyway, back to the video below. It started out as a picture in our French text book, a prominent chapter page, I think. I

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STAY IN A ROMANTIC HILLTOP CHATEAU IN FRENCH CATALONIA

[MOLTIG-LES-BAINS, FRANCE] — So, here I was last April sitting in Skoura, an oasis town in Morocco, and I had to make a choice. Fed up with my stupid job, I’d quit and left for a little sabbatical for a month in Portugal and Morocco. My plane to the States left the next day, but I wasn’t ready to go back. So I cancelled it. I flew back to Barcelona, walked up to the Hertz desk and asked “Can I rent a car for a long time? Like two months?” “Si!” So they hooked me up with a sweet little upgraded BMV and I headed towards the Pyrénées. I had no plans, no goals; just no big cities, only small towns. Places I’d never been. My compass

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A WINTER WEEKEND IN PRAGUE

[PRAGUE] — This is going to be a pretty easy post for you, more of a postcard travelogue. I think I am the last guy to visit Prague, but I slapped it on to a Christmas trip to Brussels just to see what it’s like and have some beer. Pretty city. Too many tourists for me. I feel sorry that it was so overrun. But it definitely is pretty. These are the best things I’ve found. Click to open the slideshow and follow along.   Last visited Christmas 2015

CHRISTMAS IN BRUSSELS

[BRUSSELS] — Trying to do a Mileage Run at the end of the year to top off the tanks, I found a cheap flight to Brussels, perfectly timed between Christmas and New Years, back by the end of the year. The sad terrorist attacks had just occurred and I wanted to show my support but not letting those acts change our world. Plus, my hunch was right that the airfares and upgrades would be cheap with a lot of cancellations. I left on Christmas Day, went to Brussels, a day trip to Antwerp at some of my Instagram followers on-the-ground suggestions, then shot over to Prague for a couple of days. After all these years going to Europe, I’d never gone to either country, so

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A QUICK DAY TRIP TO ANTWERP

[ANTWERPEN, BELGIUM] — So I was posting live pics of Brussels on my Instagram and someone who follows me shot back “You should go to Antwerp.” Hmmmm, never thought about going there. And this whole trip was a last-minute. “It’s a quick train ride and cooler, smaller and more artsy. Not boring like Brussels.”  Really? I’d never even communicated with her before, but her IG name @devils_food_made_in_heaven was intriguing enough, she’d been to amazing restaurants all over. “Yes, you should definitely go to Antwerp!” commented another person I’d never communicated with… a very stylish hotel owner in France (who just happened to be eating in San Sebastian, Spain just right then.) Wow! Two people I’d never spoken with/written to, now telling me to go to

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YOU SHOULD STAY HERE IN BRUSSELS

[BRUSSELS, BELGIUM] — This is the third Rocco Forte Hotel I’ve stayed in (and 7th time overall). I think it is just an exceptional little boutique hotel brand. They each have their own personality, don’t feel like a chain at all and totally cool design. Just like the Hotel Savoy in Florence and the Hotel de Russie in Roma (my fave), the Hotel Amigo in Brussels is right where you want to be, but just enough away from The Crazy that you’re in your own little cocoon. Just a block from the center gathering place in Brussels — the gorgeous Grand Place — you just can’t get a better location. You can walk everywhere, find a train or subway. It’s just perfect. This is where you

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