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THE WORLD’S BEST BEACH TOWN

[JOSE IGNACIO, URUGUAY]  — There. I said it. Jose Ignacio is it. Jose Ignacio is the World’s Best Beach Town.  This is my favorite place in this world. If you’ve followed me for some time or talk to me over Negronis, THIS is the place I always talk about. This is a huge post, combing multiple visits over ten years into a single comprehensive guide. Here is your guide to the best beaches in Jose Ignacio. The best restaurants in Jose Ignacio and the best hotels in Jose Ignacio. All the reasons that make this the world’s best beach town. A half hour north of the Miami-like Punta del Este is a small peninsula that juts just right out into the ocean, able to capture the best

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THE PERFECT LONG WEEKEND IN CASCAIS, LISBON’S BEACHY SUBURB

[CASCAIS, PORTUGAL] — About a half-hour outside of Lisbon, Cascais is a great little beach town along the coast and the perfect long weekend base to explore the entire Lisbon coast. What to do in Cascais. Where to stay in Cascais. Where to eat in Cascais. It’s hard to picture such a cool little beach town as a suburb of Lisbon; it feels like a world away.  Where Lisbon opens onto the Targus river, Cascais is further out on the peninsula, just past the Monaco-like wealth enclave of Estoril. Out here, you are more open to the blue waters of the Atlantic. [Note:  a lot of people think that Portugal is a Mediterranean country, but it actually doesn’t even touch the Mediterranean Sea, it opens

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ON THE LISBON COAST, ONE OF THE TOP BEACHES IN THE WORLD

[CASCAIS, POTUGAL] — Only an hour or so outside of Lisbon and just 5km and 10 minutes from the sunny Lisbon beach suburb of Cascais, Praia do Guincho. Guincho Beach. Rated as one of the best beaches in Portugal and on top ten beaches in the world, it’s a dream.  Strong winds, perfect sand — a contrast to the rocky beaches of France and Italy — large waves and incredible sunsets, it just all adds up.   It’s easy to get to, with parking along the road and multiple coves (I’m actually not 100% if there is one single Guincho, or a bunch) you can just drive, park and burn. If you’re staying in Cascais, you can rent a bike and it’s an easy flat ride,

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A FOUR DAY D-DAY TOUR OF NORMANDY

[Caen, France] — The cold morning wind was biting our faces as we walked up to the big bronze plaque. Our incredible guide Mathias Leclère of D-Day Guided Tours, whom we just met ten minutes ago, pulled us over to chat in the protection of a wall dug into the hill. “Over along that ridge, German troops lined the tree lines, all the way to that bell tower in that village over there. Below us, all of these fields had been flooded by the Germans in anticipation of an invasion.” Mathias calmly shouted amidst the blowing winter wind, a little sleet stinging our faces. “Just behind us, 13,000 U.S. paratroopers had just landed in the middle of the night. It was pitch black, no moon.

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THREE PERFECT DAYS IN ESSAOUIRA MOROCCO

[Essaouira, Morocco] — “Will we be able to see the goats in the trees?” I’d read about them for years, had seen picture and always wondered: “Why are the goats in trees?”   Now I wanted to see them. The drive from the Atlas Mountains was long and a little painful, you basically have to drive back through Marrakesh, then two and half hours driving across the barren plains to Essaouira on the coast. But as we were getting close to Essaouira, the driver quickly pulled over to the side of the road. GOATS! After the initial fun reaction, we soon realized this was a tourist sham. The reason why the goats were bleating was because they were put up there by the guys standing

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THE PERFECT BEACH VACATION IN COMPORTA PORTUGAL

[ALENTEJO, PORTUGAL] — About an hour south of Lisbon later, after crossing the broad bays of the swollen Targus river, the road flattens out into lowlands. You start to see familiar names you’ve read about on the autostrada exits. Setúbal. Estuário do Sado. Alcácer do Sal. Yup, we’re on the right path. Bright yellow signs indicate the Algarve to left.  But we’re not heading there this trip. And then you see it. Comporta. That’s us. You pull off the highway and head for the salty air. Suddenly you’re dunked into a sea of pine trees, thick and dark green as kelp. Umbrella pines, just like in southern Italy, as far as you can see. The sandy floor below them carpeted in pine needles and not

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YOU SHOULD EAT HERE IN COMPORTA PORTUGAL

[ALENTEJO, PORTUGAL] — We’d spent our first day in Comporta at Pégo Beach, one of the best beaches in the area. Still a little jet-lagged after arriving the night before. We rented chairs and lulled ourselves to sleep with the waves while quietly reading/not reading  our books. The sun was high, it was the end of June, but the steady breeze kept the temperature in the 70s. Unbelievably perfect. Families played beach games as we shake-and-baked in the soft warm sand — so opposite from the rocky beaches of France and Italy. Around about noon, my stomach growled. “I believe it is time for us to eat,” I said, knowing that one of the best restaurants in Comporta sat not 70 meters from where we

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THE BRAZILIAN PARADISE NOBODY REALLY KNOWS ABOUT

[FERNANDO DE NORONHA,  BRAZIL] — It had rained all morning.  I was driving like a mad man in my bumble-bee colored dune buggy, down a rutted muddy road to a clearing on the edge of a steep cliff. Not intentionally crazy, mind you, but out of necessity. The little dune buggy was so small and my legs were so long that my knees straddled the teeny rubber steering wheel. I had to steer with my arms between my legs, crab-like. Nearing the edge of the cliff, I had to slam on the brakes with all my power to slow down, not just because of the slippery mud, but because they brakes had as much grip as if I was rubbing a Teva sandal directly on the

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A HIP HOTEL ON AN OCEAN CLIFF, RIGHT NEXT TO EUPOPE’S TALLEST SAND DUNE.

[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. 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 it was actually way off-shore, now

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A LUXURIOUS OASIS IN THE MIDDLE OF MUSCAT

[MUSCAT, OMAN]   — Thursday afternoons in Muscat are busy traffic days. Like in most Muslim countries, where the “weekend” consists of Friday and Saturday, Thursday is everybody’s Friday afternoon and they’re itching to get home to their families. I’d arrived after a long but luxurious 13 hour Emirates flight from JFK to Dubai — that after taking a midnight redeye from Denver to JFK and a five hour layover — then, another five hour layover, then a quick forty minute flight into the sparkling clean, gleaming white city of Muscat. I was beat. I’d only booked this trip two weeks before, so I wasn’t quite as prepared as normal. I was tired, in need of a shower.  The hotel had sent a driver, who

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A STUNNING BEACH RESORT ON THE COAST OF OMAN

[MUSANDAM PENINSULA, OMAN] — When you land in crazy Dubai, the Six Senses driver is there to great you. A kind Indian man from Kerala, as seemingly every helpful service person in this region is, dressed in a nice black suit and tie. As you weave your way through Dubai’s twenty lane highways, the skyscrapers disappear, the highway gets successively narrower, the gigantic 200 foot-long real estate billboards become faded and empty. Sand dunes start to appear. Camels start to pop up, randomly, in the dunes on the side of the road. Your blood pressure drops a hundred points as you realize “Ahhhh, this is what I came for.” We’re on the Road to Paradise. Heading towards Oman’s famed Musandam Peninsula,  the sand dunes soon turn into rugged

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THREE GREAT BOUTIQUE HOTELS TO EXPLORE SPAIN’S RUGGED COSTA BRAVA

[COSTA BRAVA, SPAIN] — This is a big, long, gnarly post of a whole region. But hopefully, a great overview to start planning your trip here. I haven’t spent a lot of time on the Costa Brava, but passed through here two different times over the span of three months on the way to other places, each time just for a few days. Once for a travel blogger conference in Lloret-del-Mar, another time to return a rental car on the way back from France, slowly picking my way along the coast for a week.  So I just got a chance to dip a toe in and explore this beautiful coast. Here’s the best I found for you. Actually, each trip through I didn’t really get a chance

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IN SEARCH OF THE BIG WAVES IN PORTUGAL

[NAZARÉ, PORTUGAL] — I’m not a surfer, obvs, but I’ve always been captivated by stories of Big Wave surfing, where weather-watching, nicely-tanned people drop everything and fly across the world to try to catch big swells. I’m fascinated by waves. Even have read awesome books like The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean (which I highly recommend). And most recently, this awesome new book on waves and water: How to Read Water. (more highly recommended, so enlightening.) One place that is almost always on the list is Nazaré on the west coast of Lisbon, where nearly every year there’s always some small article in the media with amazing pictures of  beastly waves crashing high above the heads of huddled masses on

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A SEXY DESIGN HOTEL ON PORTUGAL’S LISBON COAST

[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. And that’s

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IN SEARCH OF THE BEST BEACHES OF PORTUGAL’S WESTERN ALGARVE

[Lagos, Portugal] — The winding two lane highway runs all up and down the western coast, tucked just under a constant high berm of low hills that act like a windbreak from the coast. The car weaves in and out of clumps of wooly cypress trees, their wide trunks like the fuzzy legs of a herd of mammoths, crossing small bridges and dodging farm trucks heaving from the local fields. It’s kind of weird, actually. The sun is bright as can be, yet you’re in shadows most of the time in the early afternoon. You can feel the salty ocean breeze but that long forehead of low hills casts long shadows across the road, it’s hard to even get a view of the beaches you’ve read so

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A STUNNING CLIFFSIDE HOTEL ON A QUIET GREEK ISLAND

[FOLEGANDROS, GREECE] — 20 hours, three planes, long layovers and a zippy ferry straight from Santorini, I arrived in the port of Folegandros after 9pm, in the pitchdark. The owner of my hotel, Dimitris was waiting for me at the port and drove me the short 3kms up to the town of Chora in his Jeep Cherokee. In minutes we were zig-zagging through the crooked streets of Chora, headed for my home for the next couple of days — the Anemomilos Apartments. A slow cool breeze, a couple of Mythos and music from the local tavernas conked me out for twelve straight hours. Set the phone for 6am to catch the sunrise, didn’t work… woke up at 10. Nine days I was on this island. A mellow

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A SLEEK HOTEL OVERLOOKING THE MELLOW PORT IN FOLEGANDROS GREECE

[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. Like a Greek cat, you succumb to the rhythms of the arriving ferries and saunter on down to see what mice get on and off. The Anemi Hotel The Anemi Hotel —

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THE PERFECT UNDER-THE-RADAR GREEK ISLAND.

[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

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NINE GLORIOUS DAYS ON THE MOST PERFECT GREEK ISLAND

[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.

A SECRET HIDEAWAY IN CORSICA THAT IS HEAVEN ON EARTH

[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 — and 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, brining 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?”

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