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STAY IN A PRIVATE DESERT TENT CAMP IN STUNNING OMAN

[WAHIBA SANDS, OMAN] — We’d been driving all day when we pulled into the scruffy desert town of Bidiyah.  My guide Zubir pulled off to the left side of the road and rolled to a stop in a small gas station, a cloud of dust chasing us to a stop. Two dark Indian men had been waiting for us, squatting against a wall. They knew we were in a hurry, so when he rolled in, they were quick to tackle each tire, twisting off the caps to the air valves and immediately started letting air out of the tires.  SSSSssssssssssss.    “The tires work better in the sand if they are flat” Zubir said. We’d covered a lot of ground that day, Zubir had picked

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EXPLORING NATURAL WONDERS ALONG THE “CIRCLE ROUTE” IN NORTHERN OMAN

[OMAN] — Such a fascinating place, Oman, with the nicest people I’ve run into, across the board. Omanis are known for their gentle souls, peacemaking and equal support of friend and foe. People are so nice that even when I arrived at Passport Control, I walked up to the stern looking passport-checker dude. “From where are you?” “The States” “Really?? We don’t get many Americans here. What is your purpose? Where are you going? And for how long is your visit?” “For tourism. Two weeks, all over. Muscat. Mountains. Beach.” Smiling broadly “Ahhhhh, I hope you will like Oman. You must, simply must, visit Jebel Shams, the highest mountain in Oman. Very beautiful. The car only goes so far, but you must walk to the top.

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HAMBURG IS HAPPENING

[HAMBURG] — Ha-Ha-Hamburg. Man, what a city. If you asked me a year ago if Hamburg was on my wishlist of cities to visit. “Ummmmm, no.”   But, I didn’t know. I just thought Hamburg was just a big industrial port city in northern Germany. But through the marvels of Instagram, I kept seeing these beautiful shots of this remarkable city, Germany’s second largest and its major business hub, with all of its media, design and shipping headquarters here. Airbus, Unilever, broadcast networks, all here. Like Berlin — which I covered in recent posts — Hamburg has been undergoing a huge Renaissance. Not just updating, but reinventing itself. With massive cool new developments and stunning architecture, sympathetically blending into to its prestigious older parts. Ask a German about

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WHAT TO DO OVER A LONG WEEKEND IN BERLIN

[BERLIN] — It’d been a looong time since I was last in Berlin. So long ago, it’s scary. Back when I was in college in Rome, when the Wall was around. When Checkpoint Charlie was a real checkpoint. The city just seemed to be numb then, both sides. Mostly old people on the streets, not many. Can’t remember anyone young. Everything seemed grey and colorless. Eerie. You could roll a 🎳 down the main strassens and not hit a soul. The only shops around seemed to sell Bavarian beer mugs and cuckoo clocks, not sneakers. Stating the obvious, today is so much more different. Alive. So many kids and cute moms with strollers, everywhere, Third Wave coffee shops and colors in faces now. Everyone smiling. Streets bustling.

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FOUR GREAT BOUTIQUE HOTELS IN BARCELONA

[BARCELONA] — I know I’m in the minority in being a steadfast fan of boutique hotels these days, whilst the rest of you are Airbnb’n, but I still am bullish on the whole hotel experience. In fact, I usually book my vacations around the hotel, often traveling far and wide just to visit a special place. Barcelona has been almost overrun by Airbnbs, so much so that whole apartment buildings are being converted by investors into full-on apartment rentals — much to the scorn of local residents, pushed out by reasonable growing rents. But just before the HomeAway trend hit BCN, a flurry of boutique hotels were built, high on style, funky design and cool restaurants, dramatically increasing this great city’s inventory of cool places

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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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HIKE THE CATALAN PYRENEES AND THE VAL D’ARAN

[CATALONIA, SPAIN] — So I was sitting in a cool hotel on the edge of the Sahara one day before I was scheduled to fly back to the States. I’d been on the road for a month in Portugal and Morocco, but I wasn’t ready to go back quite yet. So I cancelled my return flight, flew to Barcelona, walked up to the Hertz desk and asked “Can I rent a car for two months?”  “Si! Si, Señor!” I didn’t really have a plan or destination in mind, but I looked at a map and the towering mountains of the Spanish Pyrenees and just headed in that direction. Didn’t really know anything about this area and, with little time for research, I just looked on

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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 CLIFFHANGER VILLAGE, HIGH ABOVE THE CÔTE D’AZUR

[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

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A DREAMY GUESTHOUSE THAT’S LIKE STAYING AT A FRIEND’S HOME IN FRANCE

[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 design hotel in France. Like 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 design hotel 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

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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. 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

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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.

HIKING AND BOATING THROUGH FRANCE’S GORGE DU VERDON

[GORGE DU VERDON, FRANCE] — All along the skinny serpentine road that follows each side of the Gorge due Verdon canyon rim are cool slot canyons to explore. Canyons like this awesome hike below the jaw dropping Point Sublime.   I wasn’t planning on this hike. Just stumbled on it and kept going. The path descends to follow along the water, climbing up ladders and disappearing into cool dark tunnels, emerging on the other side. When I say tunnels, I mean pitch black tunnels. “Signs warn you should have a headlamp. “Hahaha, we don’t need no stinking torchiers.” I mumbled to myself as I entered that last and longest tunnel.” Okay, click this video, turn your sound up and then start reading:   Well, they were serious.

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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

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EXPLORING THE HILLTOP VILLAGES OF NORTHERN CORSICA

[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

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BOATING THROUGH THE JAGGED CLIFFS OF CORSICA’S 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. It’s 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 northwest corner of Corsica, you can really only see it from a boat, dramatic jagged cliffs of every shape and size and color, changing from cove to cove, none of

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EXPLORING CORSICA’S STEEP GORGES, CLEAR STREAMS AND RUGGED MOUNTAINS

[CORSICA, FRANCE] — “Emmm, Monsieur Dan, please be careful. The water is deep enough, but there ees a big rock down there. So you must jump out from the cliff to not hit it, but not too far. Or you will hit the beeg rock.” That was my super-cute young French guide, shouting above the roar. I was canyoning in Corsica for the first time.  We were standing on top of a huge stack of elephant rocks, a swift stream was zooming under our feet, funneled into a torrent off the edge of this cliff, crashing twenty feet five below. We were high, high up in the raspy mean mountains of inner Corsica, a lush island in the middle of the Mediterranean, that thrusts out of the

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THE KILLER BEACHES OF SOUTHERN CORSICA

[CORSICA, FRANCE] — Smack in the middle of the deep blue Mediterranean Sea are two big islands, Sardinia and Corsica. Almost like twins, ripped apart, both jut out of the sea like breeching whales, with huge mountains in the middle and some of the best beaches in all of Europe, if not the world, ringing their rocking shores. Corsica is a magical adventure land, with an infinite amount of sporty things to do. Hiking. Climbing. Canyoning. Snorkeling. Sailing. Boating. Or just sit on the beach. The middle is spiked with enormous shark-toothed mountains, some as high as the Alps, often dotted with snow year-round.  It’s only 200km long, but with a wild spread of geography that would rival entire countries 100x its size.  And we’re talking

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EXPLORING THE ROLLING HILLS, CHATEAUX AND PREHISTORIC CAVES OF DORDOGNE

[DORDOGNE & PERIGORD, FRANCE] — It has been since high school I’ve wanted to see this exact spot. Madame Zemkuznekov’s High School French Class, to be exact. She was super hot, no doubt made hotter because she was probably the first non-nun (or non-former-nun) teacher we had. And in an all-boys school, at that. She had us all at “Bonjour” (and the sexy way she wore linen). Her French class was the only class in school that was absolutely pin-quiet. All 44 of us big-nosed and pimpled boys rapt with attention, hanging on every Imparfait thing she’d say, because she was… plus-perfect. Anyway, back to the video below. It started out as a picture in our French text book, a prominent chapter page, I think. I

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A WINTER WEEKEND IN PRAGUE

[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

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