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BOAT THROUGH CORSICA’S AMAZING SCANDOLA NATURE RESERVE

[SCANDOLA NATURE RESERVE, CORSICA] — Okay, who’s been to the Scandola Nature Reserve in Corsica? Non?  Strap in. You’re about to see something really amazing. You gotta gotta go do this. A huge natural preserve in the northwest of Corsica, with the most dramatic rock formations, canyons and wildly shaped rocks you’ve ever seen, plunging right into the sea. Dwarfing everything in their midst, namely you. Scandola is like being in a one-armed Grand Canyon, with the deep blue Mediterranean sea on the right side, and every color and shape of rock you’ve ever seen on the left.  The Scandola peninsula was created from a collapsed volcano that fell into the sea, so you feel the earth opening up before you. This is a protected nature reserve, both

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EXPLORE THE RIVERS, SCENIC VILLAGES AND PREHISTORIC CAVES OF DORDOGNE, FRANCE

[DORDOGNE & PERIGORD, FRANCE] — You don’t read much about Dordogne in the U.S. travel press. But the French & English know about it, almost keep it all to themselves. In fact, this was one of the great battlegrounds of the Hundred Year’s War between the nobles of France and England.  Now wealthy Brits have snapped up a lot of the incredible houses and chateaus. I spent a week there several years ago and these are what I found to be the best things to do in Dordogne. Are there other places? Certainly. But this what I found in a little less than a week in an early June. I just want to give you a taste of what it looks, feels and tastes like.  I

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COOL PLACES TO GO IN LANGUEDOC IN SOUTHWEST FRANCE

[LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLION | FRANCE] — I first came to the Aude region in Languedoc, never having heard of it before, nor that I was even going there! But realized I was in Aude during a four day stop at a cool friend’s place outside Carcassonne. I thought I was in greater Languedoc, but turns out Aude is the appropriate subregion in Languedoc. I spent most of my time hanging at my friend’s super cool gîte, so I didn’t get everywhere, nor get to spend great bits of time, but these are the coolest places I found in the southwest of France. And now that I have the lay of the land, I can’t wait to go back. The Aude Region This area used to be called

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ON TOP OF THE WORLD AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD IN PATAGONIA

[PATAGONIA, CHILE] — Going to Torres del Paine in Patagonia was always  one of my lifelong goals, well, at least for the last 25 years. Then, I finally bit the bullet and decided to go, paired with a visit to the Atacama Desert in the northern half of Chile — the driest place on the planet (you can see that part of the trip here). These are some of the best hikes in Torres del Paine. This is a summary of all the best hikes in Torres del Paine that I was able to take. Patagonia is a region that actually straddles both Chile and Argentina at the very tip of South America and I could never figure it out or decide which side to go to.

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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. Jose Ignacio is my favorite place on earth. A half hour north of the Miami-like Punta del Este is a small peninsula that juts just right

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TAKE A TOUR THROUGH THE TERRACED VINEYARDS OF PORTUGAL’S DOURO RIVER VALLEY

[DOURO VALLEY, PORTUGAL] — I see all these Instagram peeps hitting Porto taking pictures of the big bridge, climbing up its steep hills, drinking some port and then bolting. But really what they’re missing is a day trip (or longer) up the Douro River to visit the incredible, hilly stair-step vineyards of the Douro Valley, one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been. I dunno, I’m over wine tours, once you see a few, they’re all the same to me — “Is that French oak or American? How long in stainless??” — poke me in the eye with a stick…but that’s just me… But the Douro Valley is different. Hilly. Steep. Flinty mounds of luscious green heaven pouring down to a mellow meandering river. Each

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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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VISIT ONE OF THE PRETTIEST HILLTOWNS IN PORTUGAL

[Alentejo, Portugal] — From this hilltop, the highest in the region, you can see forever. That’s why this little town has been important throughout history. And not just history, but pre-history.  Monsaraz in Alentejo is the site of one of the oldest settlements in Portugal, going back to neolithic times when people were tilting stones to the sky and calling it home. Or temple. Or tomb. There are some of the best neolithic sites in the world scattered all over this region. This was such a strategic location that it has been fought and won over many many times by the conquering hoards. First, the pagans, then Romans, then the Goths came and slaughtered, then the Arabs, then another collection of Arabs, then Jewish conquerors, Christians

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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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COOL THINGS TO DO IN MARRAKESH

[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.

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MONFORTE D’ALBA — THE PERFECT BASE FOR EXPLORING PIEDMONT

[PIEMONTE, ITALY] —  Mid October is a busy season here in Barolo. Most of the grapes have already been picked, but because of recent rains there’s more to go. A couple of hot days of sun and we’re good to go. Laying down for a jet-lag nap, I can hear gargling tractors drive by on the famous Via Ginestra, their rattling trailers rushing to the crushing. This is also the beginning of truffle season, here in the white truffle capital of the world, everyone securing their stash like drug dealers. I walked into Monforte d’Alba for a quiet lunch in the busy piazza. After shaving luscious white truffle tubers like pencil fines, Alberto, the owner of the wonderfully named Grappolo d’Oro hotel (The Golden Grape)

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HARVESTING GRAPES IN PIEDMONT ITALY

[PIEMONTE, ITALY] — Two hours off my overnight flight, I was still goating and my Terrier hair was going in every direction. My GPS had inexplicably sent me through a frantic detour through the Centro of the Turin on my way to the land of Barolo and I was running late. Pulling down the gravel road and into the parking, my friend and host Jon and his 8 year old son greeted me as he sprinted down the steps of his house, La Casa Gialla. “Oh man, glad you’re here. I was just heading to a wine tasting, want to come along?”  “Certo.” We raced across the ridges of the steep hills, the sun bouncing off the crazy quilt patterns of vineyards filling every hilltop,

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GO BALLOONING HIGH ABOVE PORTUGAL’S ALENTEJO REGION

[ALENTEJO, PORTUGAL] — The ancient town of Monsaraz sits high on a hilltop in Portugal’s Alentejo regio, the tallest point for miles around. Just miles from the Spanish border and surrounded by thick castle walls, it overlooks one of the most beautiful parts of inland Portugal, including the giant Alqueva reservoir — the largest manmade lake in Europe. Some consider Monsaraz one of Portugal’s most picturesque villages and it is one of it’s oldest. People have been living in this region since pre-historic times, with ancient monoliths strewn all over the land. Then the Romans came and took over, then Visigoths, the Jews, then Christians, then Muslims again… everyone wanting a piece of this strategic hilltop. Surrounded by thick protective walls, the castle goes back

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STAY IN A CHIC APARTMENT HOTEL IN LISBON

[LISBON, PORTUGAL] — Here’s a great boutique design hotel to stay in Lisbon. The Lisboans. When I got out of the taxi, I noticed the small, discrete sign out front, The Lisboans. I rang the doorbell and was buzzed in. A gregarious Mario welcomed me like a brother “You’re Dan?, we’ve been waiting for you, welcome to The Lisboans“. He brought me through a small door into a room full of six or so people at open desks, working on their computers. “Everyone, this is Dan.” “Hiiii Daaan.” they all replied in unision, with smiles. “Welcome to our Nerve Center where everything happens’”.  Everyone goes back to clacking away. Reservationists. Web people. Housekeeping. All right there. So refreshing. On the wall was a big grid on

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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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THREE GREAT HIKES IN ALTA BADIA IN THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES

[ALTA BADIA, TRENTINO] — After a four hour hike down the mountain, it was finally time for a late lunch. Stanky and sweaty, I rolled into this cute little rifugio out in the woods, accessible only by foot or the brave souls driving up the narrow less-than-one-lane path — so tight the cars forced the hikers to lean their butts and packs over the wood rail fence lining the lane as they passed. I was hangry by then so hearty venison medallions in a juniper sauce, grilled mushrooms and rustic polenta seemed just perfect. And a couple of glasses of Lagrein to wash it all down.  About as good of a meal as it gets, especially in a place so inaccessible. The sun casting a

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TWO GREAT HIKES IN VAL GARDENA IN THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES

[VAL GARDENA, BOLZANO] — We were on a long gondola ride heading up a long valley of undulating hills outside of the beautiful town of Ortisei, no doubt perfect ski runs in the winter. But it was summer, off season, so everything was super lush and green, hardly anybody around. The lift pauses at one skier drop-off then continues on, up up up and over a steep massive wall of granite, still shaded by the stark morning sun, darkening the interior of the gondola so much that you had to take off your sunglasses.  Suddenly, you pop over the ridge and you’re thrust into the bright summer sun. Stammering to get your bearings again. We scrambled off, the hustling gondola nipping at our heels like a

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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 HALF-DAY TOUR OF MUSCAT

[MUSCAT, OMAN] — When I told people I was going to Oman, they first nod, then shake their head. “Wait, Oman?  Where’s Oman?” I felt that too when I first saw pictures of the incredible hotels in my previous posts. But Muscat, was a great surprise to me, as well. I was just planning to be in/out of the city in a short time, so really didn’t expect to see much. But once there, I realized that I hadn’t planned well — I had booked the trip just ten days prior. _________________________________________________ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀Oman ranks right up there with Singapore as the cleanest and safest country on earth. No crime, no graffiti, no trash, no car honking. No discussion of politics or religion. If your car

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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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