[PORTO, PORTUGAL] — The Bridge. The Bridge is everything in Porto. It looks like the Eiffel Tower on its side crossing the lazy Douro River — which makes sense since it was designed by Gustave’s company. It’s hard to believe that this beast has been carrying traffic since it was built in 1886. At that time, it was the largest bridge span in the world. Such a stunning setting, which is why, when looking where to stay in Porto, I found a hotel that had the above amazing view on TabletHotels, my favorite go-to hotel site. This was literally the view out my window of the Pestana Vintage Hotel. Can’t ask for much better. You can see why the city’s core is a UNESCO World Heritage
[Outside Santa Cruz, Portugal] — It’s the smells that hit you first… After pulling into a sparse car park, no sign of life. You walk up to the huge, heavy wood doors — all big and Asian-y and intimidating, makes you feel like a bible salesman at Larry Ellison’s house — and they’re locked. Oh no, are they closed? Did I get the date wrong? Then you notice the small buzzer. And buzz. A big clanking noise and the antique rusted door latch opens up for you and the big door swings open. And that’s when the smells hit. Wood fire. Strong rosemary. A waft of lavender. A swirling stiff breeze of scents that coarse through the gap and wallop your nose with calm. Okay, this
[TOURRETTES-SUR-LOUP, FRANCE] — I was on my way back from nine blissful days in Greece, heading toward the southwest of France. Having already done most of the coast, I wanted to find a new place to explore. I opened a new travel website I kept hearing about i-escape.com and started scouring pictures for something that grabbed my eye. And then BOOM. This is what I saw. That was it. This is in France? Looks more like Italy, or maybe Corsica. An ancient village perched high above the Côte d’Azur in the mountainy Alpes-Maritime region of France. I’ve always heard about this region, but had never been. So that’s where I pointed my car as I hopped off the plane in Nice. It’s really not far
[FOLEGANDROS, GREECE] — The naturally-formed port on Folegandros is pretty and humble at the same. It’s pretty sleepy, with just a handful of restaurants serving fresh fish and smiles. There are a couple of cheap hotels, one really nice one (Anemi Hotel, shown below) and many rooms to let. But it’s great base to take dayboat tours around the island. Not to mention getting all busybody as you succumb to the rhythms of the arriving ferries, like a Greek cat, and saunter on down to see what mice get on and off. It’s that peaceful. You succumb to the rhythms of the arriving ferries, like a Greek cat, and saunter on down to see what mice get on and off. The Anemi Hotel — all peachy in
[MONTRÉAL, LANGUEDOC] — Finally. Finally I’m here. For over a year I’ve been following Annie Moore on Instagram, the amazingly talented owner/renovator/designer/chef of the remarkable Camellas-Lloret B&B in France. A voyeur peeking through an IG peephole into a glorious life in a quiet village in Languedoc. I flew to France just to stay here. Along with her Zen Master husband Colin (more about him later), they welcome adventurous people into their five bedroom maison d’hôtes they’ve spent the last five years restoring with love. Every single corner of the place is an elegant and evolving tableau of findings from their daily hunts through the local brocantes, put together in ways you could never think of, but are works of art. Little dioramas. Like a magazine spread in Elle Decor
[FOLEGANDROS, GREECE] — A video and music overview of the best beaches, hotels and restaurants of the under-the-radar island of Folegandros. For more details, visit the Folegandros page on my website.
[MOUSTIERS-SAINTE-MARIE, FRANCE] — Moustiers in eastern Provence is the gateway to the great Gorge du Verdon. The Grand Canyon of France. And an Adventureland of fun, with trekking, boating, canyoning, climbing and just plain gawking at all the natural beauty. 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. After driving across the plateau, you dip down into some of the most luscious, golden wheat fields you’ve ever seen. Picture perfect, dancing in the breeze Moustiers is freakishly cool. Surreal. Almost looks like painted illustrations in
[SARTÈNE, CORSICA] — I was having dinner by myself the first night in Corsica at Domaine du Murtoli — one of the most exclusive resorts in France — sitting back and grinning at all the natural wonder before me in this candle-lit treehouse of a restaurant hidden under the maquis trees. Barefoot waitresses in linen frocks darted under the leaves, bring drinks, appetizers and cute smiles. Around the corner came a vision, the most perfectly tanned specimen on this planet. Valérie, the proprietress of this magical haven (and a former model and mother to four beautiful children). She floated on a cloud up to my table and I gulped. “Bon soir, my name is Valérie. How was your dinner? Did you see your little friend?”
[CORSICA, FRANCE] — You know when you’re in a rental car in a foreign land and you’re on a steep impossible skinny one lane road with dropoffs of hundreds of feet and wondering “what the hell am going to do if another car comes the other way???” I was in exactly in that situation, on a steep rocky road, barely wider than my car, pointing downdowndown on my way to the a sleepy fishing village I was told was a gem. The crazy road was a bunch of zig-zags all the way down to the sea, each turn more precarious than the last. My clutch skills failing on the steep hill, killing the car as I rounded the tightest bends. When you’re traveling with someone else, you kinda
[PYLA-SUR-MER, FRANCE] — I didn’t even know this beast was here. Never heard a squeak of it before. I actually came here in search of a beautiful hotel which mentioned its prime location next to the Dune du Pilat, about an hour south of Bordeaux. Okay. So can I get room? But when I pulled up, holy cow ! My dumb fortunate luck led me to yet another amazing natural phenomenon — the largest sand dune in Europe. Almost 3km long and about 110m (300 ft) high, this giant Gibraltar of sand stands between the shimmering Atlantic and an inland pine forest, with fierce winds that add to its height every year, shoving it inland, swallowing up houses and forests in its path. In the 1700s, maps show
[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
[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
[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
[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
[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
[JOSE IGNACIO, URUGUAY] — It’s 3pm, the day after Christmas. It’s 82 degrees and sunny, with a light breeze gently flapping the white canvas awnings, fanning the cool shade underneath. The place is packed, everyone’s knee-to-knee. Cool pitchers of Clerico — the local Uruguayan version of a white sangria — are flowing past above the heads of the crowd, headed toward an antsy, thirsty table. There’s a DJ tucked in the back, but affecting moods in the front; like the breeze, causing everyone to gently sway along with him in a cool, mellow vibe. The smell of woodsmoke wafts out onto the beach. The best smell there is. Large wood cutting boards burdened with a grilled whole smiling fish swim by, browned at the edges, flaky
[JOSE IGNACIO, URUGUAY] — I was reading in the New York Times about this sweet little under the radar beach town, in Uruguay of all places, and the picture at the top of the article had a photo of one of the most magical restaurants I’ve ever seen. A restaurant out in the beach bush, sand floors, no roof, open to the stars. Lit only with with candles and fire. All the food, cooked with fire. It was called Marismo. The more I read about this town and about this restaurant, I knew I had to go. So I booked a trip immediately. A restaurant out in the beach bush, sand floors, no roof, open to the stars. Lit only with with candles and fire.
[MILANO, ITALY] — You’d never think there’d still be an old farmstead smack in the middle of Milano, but there is. Cascina Cuccagna is an old forgotten complex that a group of food lovers got together, hauled away the junk and turned the place into a cool food-centric hangout. After reading about it in Maisons Côté Sud, I made a special side trip just to check it out. It’s a restaurant, an event center, an educational urban garden, meeting place and even a 16 bed hip hostel, all in the delightfully crumbling ochre walls just down the street from Porto Romana. Un Posto a Milano — “A Place in Milan”– is the groovily elegant restaurant and cafe part of the complex and what I specifically came
[MARRAKESH, MOROCCO] — It is the drums that get you first. A full-frontal, heart-fibrillating pounding of Berber rhythms. So intense and staccato-firing that Buddy Rich would have a hard time keeping up. And the flutes. The ear-piercing, high pitched whine of the flutes, constant, taunting cobras to dance on the hot stones. And the people. The rush of endless people. Of every shape, size, color, religion, sunburn, clothing, shape, shoe-type/non-shoe-wearing. And the breeze. A steady wave of warm air that makes the palms, the long robes, the billowing smoke from the merguez grilling in the food stalls all harmonized and flowing like caught in the same current of a river. “Heeeeyyyyyy” he says in an eerily friendly Americanized accent, scaring me from behind. I jumped.
[MARRAKESH, MOROCCO] — It was midnight on a full moon in Marrakesh. A late flight from Barcelona after transferring from Casablanca. The driver pulls over on a very busy, unremarkable street, next to a gas station, an LP gas depot and about the world’s most frenetic bus stop and taxi stand, drivers wailing and waving, engines gunning. Everyone looked to be in charge. Buses, trucks and loud scooters screamed by, drowning out the shouts of the cab stand. The van stopped in the middle of the street and the door swung open. A nondescript wood door lay before me; no sign, no grand entrance, just two guys in muted brown tunics. “This is it?” I asked. “It’s Marrakesh, there’s always a surprise behind the doors.