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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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VISIT A FAIRYTALE CASTLE OUTSIDE LISBON

[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. It’s the perfect daytrip from Lisbon or the perfect day trip from Cascais. Definitely well worth the drive and easy to find — all the roads and signs in Portugal are outstanding.  Pena Palace is the center attraction. It’s a big riot of color and architecture, surrounded by hundreds of acres of gardens and forests. Plan a half a day, at least, or preferably a whole day, to make the loop through the forest and the half dozen towns and castles and sites within the preserve. It is very busy. Very touristy. But very

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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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A ROADTRIP THROUGH ARGENTINA’S SALTA PROVINCE AND THE NOTORIOUS RUTA 40

[SALTA, ARGENTINA] –You probably haven’t heard much about Salta, in the far northwest quadrant of Argentina and its famed Ruta 40 highway, but word is starting to spread. This is one of the great roadtrips in the world. While everyone knows of Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Patagonia, it seems like Salta has just barely opened up. You take a two hour flight from Buenos Aires to the city of Salta which you can use as a base, driving around the region — there are a number of road tours you can take from there — driving north to Jujuy province and the salt flats of Bolivia or West into the mountains and high altitude altiplano, or South through the red canyons to the Salteño wine town of

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WALK ACROSS ONE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST SALT FLATS IN ARGENTINA

[JUJUY PROVINCE, ARGENTINA] — Play the voiceover from the Voice of God dude in movie trailers: “In a world where…” and you’ll get a feeling what it’s like to make the trip to tour Salinas Grandes in Argentina, one of the largest salt flats in the world.  A well-worth-it side detour from traveling up the Humahuaca Gorge in Jujuy province. My trusty guide Augustin, who I’ve known only for an hour says, “But first we must make a stop.” pulls over to a skanky strip center off to the side of the road and comes back to the truck with some coca leaves and some unnamed Bolivian snuff. “This will make the altitude better, it’s legal here…and necessary, because ‘The Altitude.’ We do a bump and take a

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TOUR THE COLORED HILLS OF JUJUY PROVINCE IN NORTHWEST ARGENTINA

[EDITOR’S NOTE:  THIS IS AN UPDATED AND ENHANCED PREVIOUS POST AS I IMPROVE MY WEBSITE] [JUJUY PROVINCE, ARGENTINA] — Northwestern Argentina is one of the most surprising and under-visited part of the country. Right on the Salta/Jujuy provincial borders are two must see stops: the muddy Andean town of Purmamarca and just around the corner, the incredible Paseo de los Colorado, a two mile amusement ride of colors that wrap around behind Purmamarca. Stop in for a lunch in town, dominated by the stratified colors of the Hill of the Seven Colors — you’ll see why they named it that. When I read about this place in the NYTimes, I knew I had to go there. You should, too. Here’s a great article in the Wall Street

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HOW TO SPEND 36 HOURS IN MUNICH

[MÜNCHEN, GERMANY] — If you’re flying in/out of the ultra cool Munich airport — which looks more like an Apple store than airport — make sure you take a long overnight in Munich. Rated one of Europe’s most livable cities, you can see why when you walk around. Clean. Everything works. Nice Bavarian people. Gorgeous trees and parks all around. Here are some cool things to do if you have 36 hours in Munich. The last time I was in Munich was waaaay back in the early 80s when I was a backpacker making the wet slog to Oktoberfest. I don’t remember much besides the massive beer tents, sleeping in a down sleeping bag in the rain without a tent and spending the night cuddled

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VISIT THE LEAST-VISITED U.S. NATIONAL PARK

[PORTAL, ARIZONA] —   Chiricahua National Monument is one of the least visited national parks in the United States. When I heard that fact I said “I am definitely in.” You can see why, tucked into this vast, barren southwestern corner of the US, you’re not “going through” here on the way to somewhere else, you came here for a reason. And so did we. This is the high desert down here, with elevations starting around 5,000 feet and going up to 7500 ft inside the park, so it’s a lot cooler than the surrounding flat desert. Refuel in Portal Arizona Portal is the gateway to the southern side of national monument, with its own funky lodge/grocery store/bar/restaurant right at the foot of the park’s

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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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WHAT TO DO AND WHERE TO STAY IN NORMANDY

(Normandie, France) — You can spend a day, a week or a month in Normandie and never get enough. We only had a couple of days on our own to explore the province after taking a D-Day tour, so didn’t get to see a lot, but here are my favorite finds. Normandie is really really old. Certainly there were neolithic settlements, but it was settled by the Vikings long ago –“Northmen land” is basically what the name translates to — who in the 800s rowed up the Seine in their longboats all the way up to Paris — long before the Viking Longboats were even conceived — pillaging along the way and eventually seizing the province from France. Then the Celts, William the Conqueror, the

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AN ADVENTURE HOTEL HIDDEN IN COLORADO’S CANYON LANDS

[GATEWAY, COLORADO]  — 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. Western Colorado is a blurred line into the canyony parts of Utah. An hour south of ridgy Grand Junction — Colorado’s Orchard slope, also known as The Western Slope — sits the teeny town of Gateway, nestled in high-hipped canyon ridges that make 80’s Meg Ryan mom jeans look low-cut. And this resort

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STAY ON A RENOVATED FARMSTEAD IN PORTUGAL’S ALENTEJO REGION

[ALENTEJO, PORTUGAL] — Leaving the pine-canopied coastal lands of Comporta, you drive straight across the heart of Portugal’s beautiful Alentejo region. Covering 30% of the country, this is Portugal’s bread basket. 10,000+ square miles of endless fields of cork, olives, wine and wheat.  When you read any article on Alentejo, you will undoubtably see bright photos golden wheat and dark green cork trees, mine will be no different. I’m here to visit one of Alentejo’s best boutique hotels. It almost feels like a movie filter, everything all gold, dark green and brown. The pounding sun almost making everything a little fuzzy. The uniform bright white architecture of Portuguese house of buildings, starkly contrasting with the golden fields and green hills. Driving Across Alentejo Driving up

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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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A ROCKIN’ HOTEL IN LONDON YOU NEVER WANT TO LEAVE

[London] — You could feel the early Christmas season in the electric air. It was 4:30 on a Friday and the place was packed in every direction you turned, shoulder to shoulder in most places, everyone dressed up a little more festive than other weeks of the year, smiling, toasting success. It was dark in center of the great grand lobby, ninety four green marble columns rising thirty feet into the air, each with a top hat of shiny acanthus leaves, in a Corinthian way. The whole place felt Corinthian. The whole place was buzzing, swaying to the silky jazz singer. It felt like pre-war London. In the center of this laughing mass rose a band stage, 360 degrees round and trimmed in thick wood

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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 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) said,

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STAY IN YOUR OWN PRIVATE TENT CAMP IN THE SAHARA

[THE SAHARA, MOROCCO] — I was sitting there polishing off my second Negroni — a Negroni in the frickin’ Sahara Desert — watching the blazing sun rapidly sink over the darkening horizon when here comes Ahmed, barreling over the lip of the nearest dune, in bare feet (!). Huffing, he says “Monsieur Dan, we have one more surprise for you tonight. Please come. Oh… and bring your camera.” As if I needed more surprises that day… we start charging off through the sand towards the quickly setting sun. We follow a path along the dune ridges, lanterns illuminating the way, the darkness arriving freaky-fast, almost like a light switch. We top the lip of the ridge and I shriek like a little girl. Ahmed giggles with excitement. We’re

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AN AMAZING KASBAH IN A MOROCCAN DESERT OASIS

[SKOURA, MOROCCO] — After a long, bumpy slog over the Atlas Mountains from Marrakesh, I got out of the dusty Mercedes van in an indiscriminate parking lot outside a great mud-walled compound. Walls up to the sky. This is it? I wondered under my breath. This is the place I’ve heard so much about? And then, with silent porters in linen tunics grabbing my bags, a great wooden door opened from the thick walls. A donkey groaned downed by the road we just passed. “Hello, my name is Florent. You can call me Flo.” a slight, chicly-dressed young Frenchman with up-turned collar addressed me. Peeking inside, everything became clear. “Oh, this is it. This is definitely it.” I follow Flo through the thick passageway, then

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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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