[FOLEGANDROS, GREECE] — On the quiet island of Folegandros, there are no cruise ships. There’s no airport. No big hotels. No hoards of tourists. They only got electricity a about 30 years ago. At wasn’t until the last 20 years that the island’s one road was paved — all 18 kilometers of it — and the first gas station arrived. There’s only one bus driver. Only a single taxi driver. And only 785 people live on the island. You can only get here by ferry, either from other islands, or Athen’s Piraeus port, or you can fly into over-popular Santorini and get the hell out, taking a quick 45 minute ferry. That’s probably what saved Folegandros. No major developments like the other big Greek islands in
[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.
[GATEWAY, COLORADO] — Okay, where the hell did this place come from? Gateway Canyons Resort. Out of nowhere this over-the-top resort has popped out of the blue over the last couple of years. Once the private ranch of the founder of the Discovery Channel, he has slowly built this from a small, in-the-know conference center with a handful of rooms into a full-on resort, adding chunks of rooms and facilities each year until it is now one of the best resorts I’ve been to in the U.S. This is Colorado?? I thought it was all about mountains and skiing? Yup. But then there’s here. Gateway Canyons. Western Colorado is a blurred line into the canyony parts of Utah. An hour south of ridgy Grand Junction
[CANYON POINT, UTAH] — This is a nice easy hour hike, right off the highway just north of Amangiri on Hwy 89. The Paria Rimrocks Toadstool hoodoos are just a hoot. It’s like the background for a Road Runner cartoon. You park the car and hike up through deep rust colored stratified rocks that are fun just to ramble up and over and discover great niches of rock formations. Continue further up and off the trail and the canyon walls form a great amphitheater. Keep poking around and one alcove will open up to the most magical little isolated bowl with dozens of toadstools. The all white coloration is almost vertigo-inducing in its refection of the light. And with hardly anyone else around (we only had
[SALAR DE ATACAMA, CHILE] — Only miles from the driest valley on the planet is the Salar de Atacama, the great salt flats of the Atacama Desert, a salty oasis in the middle a great pan of caked soil…and a calm resting place for flitting, sipping and slurping Andean flamingos. At about 7,500 feet above sea level, the air is clear and the sun strong. This is the third largest salt flat in the world, and it sits in its own chunky basin, ringed by a great string of volcanoes in every direction. You literally can set a string line for miles and miles and the elevation barely changes — it’s about 1,200 square miles. Out of the dried flaking cakes of mud, pops pockets of
[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. Definitely well worth the drive and easy to find — the roads and signs in Portugal are outstanding. Plan a half a day, at least, to make the loop through the forest and the half dozen towns and castles and sites within the preserve. From Moor forts (damn Moors were everywhere!) to ornate castles to other follies; the sites are mind-blowing. The must-see is the Castelo da Pena featured a lot in these pics. You can stop and have a nice tourist-clogged lunch in Sintra before heading out and a nice castle there, too.
[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.
(Barcelona) — If you’re going to Barcelona, you’re going to see a lot of Gaudi. After all those schoolbooks and tests, never really got him. Walking around Barcelona with my head up for a week, I do now. These are some shots of two favorite houses along Passeig de Gracia. Casa Mila and it’s rooftop where you can kill hours — make sure you go right at sunset. Just a block or two away, Casa Batlló Here’s a great article in the August 2012 Conde Nast Traveler called 5 Perfect Days in Barcelona and Girona. And another good article in the August 25, 2012 Wall Street Journal called Insider’s Guide to Barcelona.
(Lufthansa) — On a quick Lufthansa transfer flight from Frankfurt to Paris one November morning, looked out the window at the socked in clouds. Of course, since it’s Germany, so all the planes flew on time.
Here’s a great great blog I subscribe to called HiP Paris blog. And there’s a great post on The Best Places To People Watch in Paris. Check it out.
(Paris) — I remember during my first backpacking trips in France in college and every town we’d pull up to had a glorious building right in the middle of town. My buddies and I would remark: “Man, that Hotel de Ville chain has some really fancy hotels…and they’re all over!” Took us a while to figure out that every town has one…a City Hall. Paris has one of the best, a perfect square for events, protests, beheadings, and spectacles going year ’round. Just don’t ask if they have any rooms.
(25,000 ft) — Not a big story here, just a nice ride along the edge of the Swiss and French Alps on the way to BCN. On a crystal-clear morning, it felt like you could just reach out and touch ’em.
Porto Cervo, Sardinia) — The Hotel Cala di Volpe is consistently voted one of the world’s top-rated (and most expensive) hotels. Incredible architecture, great restaurants and incomparable people watching. When you see pics of stars on vacation in Sardinia, they are usually staying here. It’s a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel, so you know it’s good. Great beach that a launch takes you to around the bay. The waters and beaches of Sardinia are the best Italy….none of those pebble-strewn beaches, pure, pure sand, ice blue water…you can see clear to the bottom. The architecture is really something unusual: James Bond meets Planet of the Apes. Kindofa Arcosanti in the sand. They actually filmed a James Bond movie here.