[LISBON] — Portugal was never really high up on my list, but over the last couple of years, the more and more I read about it, the more it moved up. Conde Nast Traveler, Monocle, Travel & Leisure, AFAR, they all pointed to the rise of Portugal. Despite its government tenuous position, all pointed to the rise in living standards, infrastructure and standard of living…and that it was somewhat undiscovered compared to the rest of Europe. This article by Frank Bruni in the New York Times sold me…as he was sold on Lisbon. That moved Lisbon to the top. I used his article as a virtual tour guide. As well as these others. They obviously have been running press junkets due to the recent influx
[LISBON] — High overlooking Lisboa, is the Castelo de São Jorge, one of the coolest forts I’ve seen. Lots of excellent shooting points, areas of properly dispersing hot oil and other general harassment. It’s a great thing to do in the morning or sunset. You can take the trolly up, or walk the zigzag streets. Excellent views of the red roofs of Lisbon.
[LISBON] — In a tucked away corner of Lisboa, in the no-man’s land between the core of Lisboa and Belem, is the bustling new design and arts district, the cornerstone of which is the LX Factory. Set on movie-set looking ground of an old manufacturing district, the LX Factory is a great place to get away from the more tourist parts and hang out amid the design firms, production studios, restaurants and shops — all having a design-centered focus. Very cool retail and restaurants, even a hotel, all tucked under the constant roar of the off/on ramps to the Big Bridge. It’s a destination place, so don’t do what I did and try to walk there from Barrio Alto on a 98 degree day! The
(Cabo San Lucas) — Always on the tourist shots, riding horses on the beach is one of the sexiest things one can imagine. And it’s easy to do. Lots of freelance horse companies on the beach, but we did a couple of rides through the Cuadra San Francisco Equestrian Center, just across the highway on the big wide beaches south of Cabo. You can take the desert inland tour or divert directly to the beach. We did both in two hours. Very nice people, very professional Horse People vs. someone just trying to make a buck off you. Ask for Felix. Funny and talented and good with a lasso. I’d suggest a two hour ride, starting at 4pm, go inland through the brush and cacti,
(Cabo San Lucas) — There are lots of ways to get out on the water to tour the rocks and beaches along the tip of the Baja Penninsula — party cruises, whale watching boats, tour groups — you’ve seen a million pictures of them, but I highly recommend you splurge a little and just charter your own boat, a sailboat even. For about $300-400 — whether its two people, two couples or six — for just a little bit more you can get your own ride and not have to deal with a bunch of drunken Spring Breakers woo-wooing and pounding beers and bumming your mellow. We chartered through our hotel through CaboSails, very professional, very attentive crew that left the itinerary up to us.
(Lake Travis, Austin) — If you’re looking to get out a little bit, check out the zipline at the leaky Lake Travis. Nice little company with great people, with a great course over the coves and peaks of Lake Travis.
(Austin) — Austin keeps going and going. And growing and growing. I know all my local friends bemoan the influx of new people, Californication and other bad elements, but really, there is so much cool stuff going on here, it puts most of the rest of the country to shame. Celebrate it. Make sure you check out the South Congress retail strip, uhhhh along South Congress. So many cool shops to browse and buy. Dip into the housing stock around there, some of the best in the country. From the food truck yards to the shops to the restaurants, a great place to kill a half a day and walk away feeling good about what’s goin’ on. And humble your own neighborhood. Everyone’s friendly, the
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(Madrid) — Perched high on a hill in Parque del Oeste is a true Egyptian temple given to Spain as the Aswan High Damn was about to swallow it up. Now it sits in a perfect park overlooking the hills of Madrid and the Royal Palace. Go at night when it and the Palace are both lit up. Also, there’s a chairlift contraption that takes you further into the parque, which is 2-3 times the size of Madrid itself and is Right There.
(Madrid) — I’d read about this redevelopment project a while ago and always wanted to check it out. Long abandoned and gone to seed, several years ago the massive redevelopment transformed the whole river. Over the last several years, it has really come together. What used to be sludgy is now sparkling, with walkways and bridges intertwined along the river, with kids playing, people jogging and chatting. A great place to get away from the crowds, even in the winter. Go at sunset so you can watch the lights of the city come on and the moon rise. Start on the south side, by the new Matedero arts center and move your way up north to the Royal Palace. Delightful way to spend an early evening.Here’s
(Madrid) — Take time out of eating, drinking and shopping to take a long stroll or do some eating or drinking in Madrid’s Parque del Retiro. Beautifully laid out, with different sections that beckon you to keep going on to the next site, there’s lots to see, summer or winter. (These shots are from winter, just imagine what summer looks like.)
[ROME, ITALY] — When you get sick of all the tour buses and streets clogged with tourist groups, head up to the top of the Via Venato to the Villa Borghese Gardens, one of the most tranquil parts of Rome. Vast, sprawling acres of grass, trees and cool little features, like a picture perfect rowing lake….with its own temple of course. And because it’s high up, great views of the city and Piazza del Popolo. Here’s a great little secret way to get there: save walking a thousand steps as you climb the hill by taking a series of free escalators from the Piazza de Spagna Metro stop. Go into the entrance, but instead of buying a ticket, look for the escalators opposite the entrance
Got a chance to take my first ride on the new double-decker Airbus A380 on a Lufthansa flight from JFK to Frankfurt. One of the cool things I’d never read about is the new Tail Cam video you can watch from your seats, looks like a video game. You can watch from taxiing to all the sunsets and sunrise. Didn’t sleep at all….
(Barcelona) — Not much more to report here, just a nice surprise I ran into while walking along the waterfront over Christmas time. I don’t think Spielberg’s set designers could have come up with a more perfect looking Old School circus.
[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.
(Paris) — It’s a river, so nothing ever gets old. The scenery floats by. And the light changes by the hour. Instead of taking a nap, start around dusk, when the grey Paris skies turn pink and the lights come up. Get down on the water, it’s almost your very own Paris.
(Paris) — One of Paris’ booming neighborhoods is the Canal Saint-Martin. You can’t miss it on the map, it’s the big gash right over there on the right. Go for a mid-day stroll, up and down the foot bridges. I was there in November, but I hear it’s jammed with sunbathers and walkers during the summer. Stop for lunch at the Hotel du Nord, extra cool little boutique hotel and restaurant. Some great small shops and cafes. Or pack a lunch, sit and watch the scruffy world go. Here’s a great article in Conde Nast Traveler. Last visited: November 2011
(Paris) — You can go in the day and watch all the walkers, kids and dogs. But I like to sneak into the Jardin des Tuileries at night and walk wide-eyed and watch the silhouettes that change every 50 meters and bring statues to life. Hardly anybody else around but some runners and the occasional dog that scares the heck out of you when he comes up to you out of nowhere.
[London) — A perfect cloudy afternoon thing to do in London is to go walk among the stalls of Borough Market. Tucked under a viaduct and carved out of various nooks and crannies, the Borough is just a great place to while away a morning, then head out to see other sites around central London. Go early and beat most of the crowds. And make sure you check out Monmouth Coffee, some of the best coffee I’ve had. The lines are long (for a reason) but their system moves you fast. Grab a cup, have a walk ’round.