French cuisine and wine are two of the main motivations of travelers vacationing in France. Whether you’re tucking into a freshly baked croissant alongside your morning café au lait or sitting down to a gourmet supper, every bite will leave its impact.
There are 11 exquisite wine regions in France with Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and the Rhône and Loire valleys being the most well-known. Gastronomy varies from region to region although cooking is associated with rich meat dishes accompanied by seasonal vegetables and one of the French Mother sauces. Naturally, seafood and shellfish play a pivotal role in coastal kitchens. Let’s take a look at what food pairs best with the classic wines of France.
Commonly known as “Burgundy Red” the Pinot Noir crafted in east-central France is considered the finest of its kind. These complex, medium-bodied wines carry earthy notes and undertones of cherries and raspberries plus a hint of mushroom. It’s the wine of choice for chefs preparing Burgundy’s classic boeuf bourguignon and thus pairs to perfection with a glass.
For many, Black Friday can be overwhelming. The countdown is on to secure the best opportunities, fast.
Italy experiences all four seasons and is a joy to visit at any time of year. Ultimately, the shoulder seasons provide the best conditions to visit most destinations however summer and winter do carry certain benefits. Here’s where to go in Italy for every season.
Spring in Italy
Early spring yields cooler temperatures that increase significantly from the start of May. Unless you opt to visit Venice during the annual carnival, spring is the best time to explore the Floating City. The crowds lull in early spring before gradually trickling back on the approach to summer. As the evenings draw longer, you’ll enjoy al fresco cicchetti (Venetian tapas) and spritz overlooking the canals. Look for risi e bisi on the menus; this rice dish is tastiest with fresh spring peas.
Cinque Terre is one of the prettiest destinations on the Italian Riviera. These five fraziones are linked via hiking trails and express train. Riomaggiore is the largest and liveliest with a variety of activities while Corniglia is the sleepiest of the quintet. Monterosso has the sandiest beaches and fewer hills. Vernazza appeals to history buffs whereas Manarola is best for sampling the local dessert wine, sciacchetrà. Visiting the Five Lands in mid-late spring is ideal for avoiding crowds and experiencing Easter events or the Monterosso Lemon Festival.
The Cotswolds is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in central southwest England. This breathtaking region of rolling hills, untamed wolds, and idyllic villages is spread across the five counties of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, and Warwickshire. As one of the most luxurious destinations for a British getaway, the Cotswolds offers exceptional gastronomy and upmarket accommodation inclusive of charming vacation cottages and spa hotels.
You can connect to the larger towns of Cirencester, Cheltenham, or Bath by train from London. Once there, it is wise to hire a car to get around the various villages. Let’s take a look at some of the most beautiful towns and villages of the Cotswolds.
Castle Combe, Wiltshire
Awash with honey-colored cottages overlooking a babbling brook, Castle Combe is the definition of a postcard-pretty English village in the Cotswolds. The main attraction is to simply roam the streets with your camera with a stop for coffee and cake before following the brookside paths or venturing into the woodlands. The faceless clock inside St Andrew's Church is thought to be one of the oldest in the country while the village hall occasionally hosts craft markets.
The immensity and diversity of the United States are reflected through its architecture, natural scenery, and cuisine. Global immigration has contributed to the varied cuisine scene where award-winning bistros jostle alongside gastropubs and gourmet food trucks. There isn’t a single place in the nation where you’ll struggle to satisfy your hunger but these are the best US cities for culinary travel.
New York City, New York
As the largest city in the US by population, New York City’s dining scene is an assortment of North American and international eateries across hole-in-the-wall joints and upscale restaurants headed up by master chefs. NYC claims the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants with many establishments carrying three stars. These include Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare where shellfish and meat are prepared according to Japanese and French techniques. Thomas Keller’s nine-course tasting menu at Per Se mingles New American gastronomy with French haute cuisine while Central Park views complete the luxury experience.
Welcome to Budapest, the captivating capital city of Hungary, where history and royalty intertwine with rich culture, hidden gems, tantalizing cuisine, and exceptional wines. Join me as we embark on a regal journey through Budapest, tracing the footsteps of kings and queens, including the prominent Habsburg royalty. Get ready to immerse yourself in history, explore hidden gems, indulge in exquisite food, and savor the finest Hungarian wines.
Budapest's illustrious history unfolds like a storybook, with the influence of various dynasties leaving their mark on the city. Marvel at the grandeur of Buda Castle, a testament to the Habsburg era, which houses the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery. Explore the Royal Palace complex, where you'll find the enchanting Matthias Church, the symbolic coronation site of Hungarian kings.
Only a fraction smaller than the state of Texas, the island of Madagascar comprises rainforests, arid deserts, mangroves, white sand beaches, and the compelling capital of Antananarivo. Baobab trees and lemurs are the emblems of Madagascar but that’s not all you’ll find in this African country. Let’s take a tour of Madagascar’s highlights.
Flora and Fauna of Madagascar
Also known as reniala (the mother of the forest) baobab trees thrive in environments where few other living species can. These gigantic succulents are native to the African savannah and six of the nine genera grow in the arid south of Madagascar. They can exceed heights of 30 meters and act as a source of water and shelter for reptiles, birds, and mammals.
As the ‘island of lemurs’ Madagascar is home to over 100 different varieties of its endemic primate. Ranomafana National Park provides a habitat to around 20 species including the rare golden bamboo lemur and Milne-Edwards' sifaka lemur. These arboreal lemurs are so acclimatized to leaping through the canopies that they are unable to walk on all four legs. Instead, they bound upright as though using a pogo stick. Berenty Reserve is a prime spot for sighting ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) and Verreaux's sifaka while Aye-Aye Island harbors an endangered species of long-fingered lemur.
Whisky with no “e” refers exclusively to Scottish, Canadian, and Japanese grain spirits distilled from corn, wheat, or barley whereas whiskey with an “e” is used for these types of spirits crafted in the United States and Ireland. Producing single malt, single grain, and blended whiskies, whisky is one of Scotland’s finest exports and a driver of tourism. According to law, Scotch whisky must be distilled and matured in Scotland in oak casks for at least three years in order to earn the designation.
As the setting of over half of Scotland's malt whisky distilleries, Speyside is known as Malt Whisky Country. In fact, this area in the northeast of Scotland is just one of its five premier whisky regions. The Highlands, Lowlands, Campbeltown, and the Scottish Isles claim the other four. Travelers who enjoy visiting wine regions around the world may be curious to explore Speyside in tandem with other scenic whisky regions of Scotland.
The philosophy of slow travel has roots in slow cooking. This concept originated in Rome where the Italian journalist Carlo Petrini staged a movement against the arrival of a major fast food outlet in the historic center. Petrini hoped to inspire travelers to relish their meals and celebrate traditional customs over a quick fix. We see also slow travel beautifully represented in Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, where the journalist commits to longer stays in Italy, India, and Indonesia.
How you choose to interpret the slow travel trend for yourself is flexible: there are no set terms as to how long or how little you should spend in a given place.
Slow travel might translate into staying closer to home on your next vacation and getting more acquainted with your own backyard. It may mean adopting sustainable practices such as committing to journeys by rail or taking a river cruise. You may opt for a backcountry hiking expedition or a cycling vacation. Slow travel may mean packing your laptop and splitting your time between work and exploration or seeking volunteering initiatives that give back to local communities.
Let's embark on a journey up the Rhine River, exploring the charming towns of Ludwigshafen and Heidelberg in Germany. Join me as we delve into their rich history and exciting culture and uncover hidden gems tucked away in these picturesque destinations!
Docking at the industrious Ludwigshafen provides us the opportunity to venture inland towards the quintessential German city of Heidelberg. Deemed as one of the most beautiful cities in Germany, Heidelberg lies nestled in the Neckar River Valley, embraced by lush forest, and along Germany's famed Castle Road.
As we continue our river cruise journey, we embark on the charming Neckar River, winding our way to the medieval marvels of Ladenburg and Speyer, Germany.
We start in Ladenburg, where time seems to stand still. A stroll around its cobbled alleys will take you back to the Middle Ages, with half-timbered houses, an ancient marketplace, and the breathtaking Martin's Church. Don't miss the ancient Roman ruins and the beautiful Ladenburg Castle. Ladenburg's beauty radiates from every corner, highlighted by its classic German architecture.
Find your way to the captivating Ladenburg Marktplatz, a marketplace that has been the town's pulsating center for hundreds of years - a charming spectacle you simply wouldn't want to miss.
Summer is drawing to a close which means it’s time to dig out your salopettes and plan this year’s winter getaway. The ski season in Europe is dominated by the Alps with high-altitude, high-end resorts concentrated in France, Austria, and Switzerland. Beyond the slopes, these picturesque villages offer a rich après ski experience of fine dining, spa treatments, and upscale shopping.
Val Thorens, France
As one of the highest-altitude ski destinations in the French Alps, Val Thorens is always one of the first resorts to open for the season while skiable snow is guaranteed. The resort sits at 2,300 meters while runs reach 3,230 meters. Skiing is available to beginners but intermediate and advanced skiers will get the most out of this particular resort.
Val Thorens is one component of the Three Valleys (Les 3 Vallées) area; the world’s largest alpine ski domain. The majority of the traditionally built luxury chalets in Val Thorens come with a Jacuzzi and ski-in/ski-out privileges. If you purchase the full ski pass, these amenities make all the difference.
Finland’s capital city sits at the south of the country overlooking the Gulf of Finland and towards Tallinn. This Nordic city is somewhat overlooked in favor of its Scandinavian neighbors of Copenhagen and Oslo. As a tourist destination, Helsinki offers thought-provoking architecture, beautiful green spaces, exciting seasonal cuisine, sauna bathing, and close proximity to Finnish nature.
What to See in Helsinki
Start your Helsinki exploration in Market Square. This harborside market brings together artisans and food vendors with treats and souvenirs to reflect the season. From here, you can wander into Esplanade Park where musicians perform during summer and locals loll beneath the sun. To the east stand the Uspenskini and Helsingin cathedrals.
There is an impressive supply of museums and galleries in central Helsinki covering maritime history, contemporary art, and the unique Finnish postal system. The National Museum of Finland takes you back to the Stone Age. All artifacts are annotated in English and you should anticipate spending a minimum of three hours.
Although we instinctively summon thoughts of Big 5 safaris, the African continent is also well-endowed with glorious beaches and compelling cities. Of 54 African countries, 38 nations lay claim to a coastline that accounts for 18,950 miles. These are the best beaches on the East and Southern African coast to complement any travel itinerary.
Diani Beach – Mombasa, Kenya
One of the best places to visit in Kenya for white sand beaches, Diani Beach sits to the south of Mombasa. Beachfront resorts put you at arm’s length from the Indian Ocean where a full roster of water sports are available. When you’re not swaying in a hammock, take your pick from jet skiing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, paddleboarding, snorkeling, and scuba diving. The Shimba Hills and blue and white-painted city of Mombasa are easy day trips from your hotel in Diani Beach.
Nungwi Beach – Zanzibar, Tanzania
Zanzibar, the gem of the East African coast, is fringed with alabaster-white beaches. Nungwi Beach stands out for its placid swimming conditions unaffected by the ebb and flow of the tides. Bring a snorkel and you can swim with reef fish right off the beach otherwise scuba excursions depart from the town. A turtle rehabilitation sanctuary is located at the east end of the beach and it’s possible to take a tour or witness the release of the sea creatures. After a day of snorkeling and sunning, you can watch the sunset while tucking into the catch of the day at one of the beachside eateries.
Have you ever dreamt of unwrapping the hidden gems of picturesque Europe, wandering along the ancient, cobbled streets, and diving into rich cultures that have stood the test of time?
Let's set sail along one of mother nature's most revered creations - the charismatic Rhine River - with our much-anticipated stops in the colorful, fairytale landscapes of Riquewihr and Freiburg in Germany.
Our first stop is the charming village of Riquewihr. Often described as a jewel within a vineyard, this colorful village looks like it has stepped straight out of a storybook. Its medieval walls and romantic half-timbered houses provide the perfect setting for a serene stroll.
But the Dolder Gate steals the show. Serving as the fortified guard of Riquewihr since the 13th Century, the Dolder Gate stands tall, telling tales of the olden times and enticing countless history buffs.
Extraordinary trips for exceptional travelers, where the details make all the difference