Singapore – I fell in love with Singpore: its people, its culture, its architecture, and its food.  It is, unsurprisingly, more expensive than anywhere else in southeast Asia but it is worth the experience at least once in your lifetime.


If money is no object, you must stay at the Raffles Hotel ( with its iconic colonial architecture like no other.  Or, if you want something a little more modern, and so much larger, the Marina Bay Sands Hotel ( may just be to your liking.  (At the time of this writing, a new tower was approved and construction to begin shortly.)

But both of those were a little too expensive for this traveler’s budget so we stayed a little further away from downtown – halfway between the Marina Bay Sands and the airport to be honest – at the Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong.  And it was perfect!  Located in one of the original communities of Singapore, and a short walk to China Town, or an easy Uber ride to wherever you wanted to go, this hotel offered a lovely pool, an amazing breakfast at their sister restaurant, and a welcomed respite from the bustle of the city.


You will not suffer for places to dine in Singapore.  But if I only had one night, which is nowhere near enough time, I would head straight to Osteria Mozza ( Yes, it’s in a hotel and it is also part of a small chain of restaurants from Chef Nancy Silverton, AND it is Italian, but it is shear perfection, from the food, to the drinks, to the service, to the décor.

If hotel dining isn’t your thing, which I certainly get, then you must go to Joie Vegetarian (  Located on the top floor of an office building, the restaurant offers excellent vegetarian food without relying on mock meats and excessive use of rice and pasta. 

A trip to Singapore is not complete without having at least one Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel. Get there early, and don’t plan to come for cocktail hour because everyone else comes then and you’ll stand in a queue for a good hour or so.

Not exactly a bite, but if you have the chance, you must visit the Atlas Bar (, a stunning art deco establishment that will transport you to 1920 New York.


For a wonderfully unique food tour, I can’t recommend enough Veg This City (  Part walking tour and so much a food tour, our guide introduced us to things that we never would have tried, let us attempt to make local spring rolls, and provided a lunch with so many options that it was difficult to have dinner that evening.

Let’s Go Tours Singapore offered a wonderful walking tour, as well as an outstanding bike tour (, that we did on a whim.  And both were worth the experience and the moderate cost.

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Kuala Lumpur – Kuala Lumpur is a country in the midst of change: old norms and racists cultures are changing with the younger generation who are more respectful and adaptive to race, sex, gender, and nationality.


Kuala Lumpur has a wealth of options available, in all price categories, but I opted for the Shangri-La ( which I can’t recommend enough.  We opted for the Horizon Club room which offered an abbreviated breakfast (compared to the larger restaurant version), coffee, tea, and soda all day long, and evening cocktails and snacks (which some people used as their complete evening meal).  And the rooms were spacious with views upon the bustling KL neighborhood.


Sadly, there weren’t any outstanding restaurants in the city, but if you venture toward the central market, which is also next to China Town, you’ll be able to find street food, small restaurants, and hotel restaurants that will keep you nourished, if not salivating over your next return.


A trip to Kuala Lumpur must include a visit to the Batu Caves.  I read umpteen articles about how to get there (train or guide), what to do, and why you needed a guide but, to be honest, simply hop in an Uber (its super cheap) and wonder at your own pace, climbing the stairs to stunning caves at the top.  Beware of the monkeys who are scavenging for food, and will aggressively steel food from you if you’re eating on the steps (which you shouldn’t, as this is a temple).  And when you’re finished, call an Uber to pick you up and wait outside the gates with the throngs of everyone else waiting for an uber: it is literally what everyone does.

And if you do nothing else, a visit to the Petronas Towers, if even just from the outside, is a must.  Gorgeous in their design, viewing the twin towers during the day as so much different then viewing the hotel at night.  And with proper planning, book your tickets to visit the sky bridge, and the upper floors with breathtaking, and heart-stopping, views of the city.  (This is not for the faint of heart, dear reader.)

And right around the corner from the Shangri-La hotel is the original high rise of KL, the Menara Tower which like it’s much taller sibling, the Petronas Towers, offers gorgeous views over the city.

A short uber ride out of the city is the FRIM Skywalk (, a suspended walkway among the trees that offers gorgeous treetop views while also supporting the research of FRIM.  Tickets are required, in advance, and you may be charged to actually enter the park to get to the walkway, but the park is gorgeous and well-maintained and, if you’re lucky, you’ll see families of monkeys running around.

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Phuket, Thailand – A trip to Thailand really must include a stop in Phuket, at least once.  Yes, it is touristy and pretty crowded for such a large island, but with the right guidance and investigative work, it really can be a wonderful experience.


Wow.  The Slate ( is truly one of the most gorgeous resorts I’ve ever experienced.  The rooms are gorgeous, with extra large bathrooms and large balconies with tables and chairs and an outdoor tub.  And yet everything is quiet solitude and I would return here in a heartbeat.  (Oh, and the breakfast buffet in the morning is insane with all of the choices!)


If you only have one night in Phuket, and I don’t care where you are staying, you must experience Black Ginger at The Slate ( This is an experience unlike anything that you will ever have the chance to indulge in.  Upon arriving at Black Ginger you will check in as you would at any restaurant.  The hostess makes a quick call, presumably to ensure that your table is ready, but NO, it is to let the restaurant know that you will be arriving.  Because you directed to a pontoon that is pulled across a small lake, whereupon, on the other side is Black Ginger.  And the food, you ask?  Stunningly divine.  A tasting menu with paired wines and dessert is really the only way to go.  This misty, tiki torch-lit restaurant is worth every penny (and it wasn’t that expensive, I swear).

If you have a second night, which likely you will, I would run to Jampa (  I can’t adequately describe where this restaurant is located, other than to guess that it is in new development of stately homes, but when your Uber driver can’t find it to drop you off, and the restaurant has to speak to your Uber driver to go home, so they know where to go, I think you’ll agree that it’s hard to pinpoint.  (And it is honestly for this reason that I say to run here, because in order to survive, I think it will have to move to a place more easily found.)  But dear reader, the food was gorgeous, and the wines were well chosen and each enhanced the food, and vice versa, that only a chef and sommelier who work well together can achieve.  We were fortunate to basically have the restaurant to ourselves and when my friend really didn’t like orange wine (not many do, in my humble opinion), they asked what type of wine she liked and brought her that.


A trip to Phuket really isn’t complete without a full-day tour and I would highly recommend the LetsGo tours ( Not only do they take you to all of the must-see sites, and give you background details, but the comfort of the transportation and the time allotted for each activity was just perfect.  And although they promote that this is a “no shopping” tour, which it is not, the guide kindly took us to an authentic fabric store where we could buy printed fabric.

And if you haven’t had the chance to get up close to elephants, or just need more time with elephants, a short drive from The Slate (longer for hotels in the city center)  is the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (  Staffed by very kind people with a wealth of rescued elephants, the opportunity to feed them and take pictures of these majestic beasts is always a joy.  (A note for my readers: they offer the opportunity to swim with the elephants, something that I wouldn’t personally recommend doing as it looks a bit murky.  If you really want to swim with elephants, please go to Chiang Mai and read my post there.)

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Hua Hin, Thailand – Hua Hin, the former beach escape for folks from BKK is a smallish town that has focused more on residential than being the in-place for tourists and commerce.  But if you’re ever after locally produced sea salt, this is the place for you as the drive into and out of Hua Hin, as well as the local morning market and night market, has salt of every kind.


I’ve followed The Standard hotels for years (see my Bangkok post for proof), and knew that the only place I wanted to stay was The Standard Hua Hin ( and it did not disappoint. The Standard rooms aren’t ginormous, but the balconies, all of which overlook in courtyards of some sort, added to the charm, not to mention the traditional yellow and hidden contemporary art throughout the grounds.  But the real charm of this resort – aside from the contemporary art – are the common areas: the pool, the outdoor lobby, the sitting areas dotted around the property, and the helpful but nearly invisible staff who always appeared when you needed something.


In the center of the original beach community, is a small commercial area with a handful of places to eat.  They fit the bill, but truthfully, none are worth writing home about.  Closer to the night market, you can of course find street food and small restaurants but I think that Hua Hin has intentionally avoided the touristy sort of attractions so that it can stay a quiet community.


For the same reasons that there’s not a lot of outstanding restaurants, there aren’t a lot of sites to see which cannot be missed.  When I visited, I did a tuk tuk food tour which, kid you not, took us to the newly opened train station where we spent a good thirty minutes.  But the beaches and the pool at The Standard were more than enough for this tired traveler at this point in the journey and both are well worth the price of sunscreen and a good book.

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Chiang Mai, Thailand – When asked about Chiang Mai, the only phrase that ever comes to mind is “college town”: not because it is raucous and rowdy but because it has a young, modern sensibility, and everyone seems to help everyone else.  It was my favourite, by far, and I can certainly see why there is a growing expat community growing here.


You must stay at the Ping Nakara Boutique Hotel and Spa (  There really is no place else, and no place better.  I chose the Grand Deluxe which was on the top floor (there are only two floors), overlooking the back of the hotel.  It had a spacious room, separate bath and shower area, and a wonderful balcony to sit outside, listen to the sounds of nature (and not traffic), reflecting on this wonderful gorgeous city.


If you only have one night, I would actually tell you to do the Chiang Mai Foodie Tour ( I know, it’s strange, but this was honestly one of the best foodie tours I’ve ever done.  We started in the night market where I was able to sample things that I never would have tried on my own, then we went to a local restaurant where my guide orders probably 6 different types of food that were specific to Chiang Mai and some vegetables that I had never tried.  It was incredible.

But if you want a proper restaurant, you must try Blackitch Artisan Kitchen (  Only available as a tasting menu (and they will do vegetarian), this is an experience that cannot be missed.  Service was a little spotty for me, but I’m certain that is because they were doing a vegetarian option rather than the standard seafood and meet tasting menu.  (I overheard presentations to others and they were much more informative so I understood).


Literally, if you only had one full day in Chiang Mai, you must, must, do the Tuk Tuk Northern Thailand all day tour  It is amazing!  I was picked up by guide and driven into the mountains to begin my tour.  But even as we were driving, he was telling me about life in Thailand, what’s the norm, and pointing things out before we even got to their camp.  You have two options – you drive the tuk tuk, which requires about 30 minutes of training, or you are driven which allows you to visit an old temple in the forest which was gorgeous – so I chose to be driven (you’re allowed to bring beers if you want to drink along the way).  The experience was liking nothing I could have ever dreamed of: I saw people working in rice fields (which double as onion fields for the second half of the year), I saw temples and monuments that you would never see if you stayed in the city, and I was able to float down the river on a bamboo raft, and, most excitedly, I was taken to an elephant rescue center where I had lunch, and then fed and walked the elephants down to the river.

Another thing that you have to do when in Chiang Mai is spend the day with elephants.  I chose the Elephant Freedom Project ( We spent the morning preparing food for the elephants, and then feeding them and taking pictures in their enclosures, before taking them into the wood to graze naturally.  But the real highlight was the second half of the tour – which only four of stay for, which was shocking – which was walking the elephants down to the river, which is more of a natural environment for them, and then bathing them (which I’m still not sure is totally ethical) but it was incredible to watch the elephants bathing and rolling in the river, unprovoked.

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Bangkok, Thailand – This larger and largely populated city boggles the mind: the number of people, the sheer number of scooters and cars, and the various forms of public transportation should mean that it will come to a halt. But it works. And it works wonderfully in a shocking and surprising way.


Bangkok does not suffer from a lack of hotel options and if the Banyan Tree Hotel (, which I chose, is any indication, which I am sure it is, these affordable five-star hotels will provide a welcome respite from the chaos that is the streets of Bangkok.  Opting for the Horizon King, the sitting room with desk was spacious, the bedroom comfortable with tons of closet space, and the large bathroom a true oasis.

Two other hotels that I would recommend, based solely on their hospitality and price are the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok ( and the newly opened The Standard Hotel (


If I only had one night in Bangkok – which would be crazy for no other reason than I have two stunning restaurants that I need to visit – I would run straight to Restaurant Gaa (  It is not cheap street food that may bring you to Thailand, but it is a stunning tasting menu that will challenge what you think you know about ingredients and recipes in the most imaginative and glorious way.  Chef Garima Arora is a mastermind of flavours and techniques and deserving of her two Michelin Stars.  And be sure to request a seat in the Baan Ruen Thai Dining Room: the architecture is breathtaking.

On my second night, and it would be such a close and truly difficult decision, you must go to Issaya Siamese Club ( The food is a refined interpretation of traditional Thai street food from the creative mind of Chef Ian Kittichai.  The outdoor space is lush, the veranda overlooking the herb garden my favourite, and the upstairs private rooms made me long for the opportunity to host a party there.

And last, but certainly not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage you to dine at the Banyan Tree’s own stunner of a restaurant, Vertigo (  The views over the city are stunning – and the added joy of watching a lightening storm way off in the distance made everything that much more magical – and the food truly outstanding.  To know me is to know that I typically avoid hotel restaurants but this one is a keeper.


I’m not sure BKK can be done on foot – you can try, but the traffic really is that chaotic – but a well organized tour will help you navigate the chaos and introduce you to a city that must be insane to live in on a daily basis.

CO Van Essel is the only company you should consider.  Their bike tour is incredible and such an experience that part of my desire to return is based solely on this tour.  Lasting about half a day, you will ride bikes through China Town, be transported along water ways, and get to see some of the suburbs and local life that you would be exposed to in bustling city.  And with lunch/dinner included, at a small nondescript restaurant that was truly lovely and welcoming, I assure you that you’ll leave with a smile on your face and a new appreciation for BKK.

I also did the CO Van Essel walking tour through China Town which was enlightening and informative.  If possible, I would encourage you to do both tours in a day: they kindly allowed me to sit in their air conditioned offices in between tours (I brought lunch) and they even offered me a soda while I waited.  Their kindness was immesurable.

Because there is so much to see and do in BKK, a tour will also help you navigate things in the most efficient way to see the highlights.  Believe me, it can be overwhelming and there is so much to see.  I don’t really have a recommendation on which tour to take, I would just encourage you to do it in order to maximize your time.

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Santa Teresa, Costa Rica – a surfer’s paradise, full of board rental shops, surf schools, and (somewhat) affordable restaurants

Santa Teresa is a surfer’s paradise, full of board rental shops, surf schools, and (somewhat) affordable restaurants (or numerous options for supermarkets for the economical option).  It is the place that most embraced the “pura vida” approach to life.


There aren’t many 4-star options in the area – but I do see adverts announcing forthcoming openings, so this could change – but there are tons of hostals, bungalows, and privately owned accommodations.  What you won’t find is your typical chain hotel anywhere in the area.

I stayed at the newish Selva Boutique Villas ( which really are stunning.  The rooms all offer something different, and some have their own wee pools which, when it is hot and humid as it is apparently here most of the time, these might be the room for you.  I opted for the Villa Ivory, also lovingly referred to as the treetop, villa and I must admit, the views are stunning and the sounds of nature very relaxing.  But there are some things to be aware of, and prepared for, if choosing the Selva is right for you: 1, the entrance to the hotel is up a steep incline behind motorized doors so be prepared if driving a stick for the first time in a long time; 2, the steep incline continues up to the villas; 3, many of the villas are up numerous flights of steps so this is not for the faint of heart and they are not for persons with disabilities; 4, the front office opens at 9.30 and closes at 16.30 and can only be reached via WhatsApp; and 5, there is no place for breakfast on the property.  The rooms come with kitchens (outdoor, for the most part), but I don’t want to cook for myself when I’m paying this amount of money.


There are tons of places to eat along the main street of Santa Teresa, in all different price ranges.  For my short stay in ST, I can recommend Katana, a fusion sushi restaurant or Drift, a cool Mediterranean inspired place.  Both places – like many, but not all – are outdoor seating so you’ll be reliant on fans and nature’s breezes to stay cool.      


It’s the beach.  Everyone comes here for the surf and there really isn’t any more to do here, other than to eat and drink. Remember, ST really is a bohemian paradise.

I did do a tour to Isla Tortuga with Zuma Tours which wasn’t crazy expensive, and was a fun outing for the day.  The day started with pick-ups in ST, and then transport to the other side of the tip of the peninsula to Montezuma from where we departed on a large speed boat.  We stopped at tow very close places for 45 minutes (each of snorkeling), followed by lunch on Isla Tortuga, before leaving the island back to Montezume at 15.00.  The tour had plenty of fresh fruit, drinks, beer, and vodka and fruit juices so libations were definitely free-flowing.  There’s nothing to do on Isla Tortuga as it is a protected island so you can rent a lounge chair, lie on the beach, or rent any of the over-priced “sea adventure activities”.  Just come prepared.

WHAT I WISH I KNEW IN ADVANCE: the roads in the Nicoya Peninsula region are unpaved and may be worse than anywhere else that I drove in CR.  I found the roads to be stressful, especially as I tried to avoid the various car-destroying holes and ravines everywhere. In Santa Teresa, the primary means of transport is the 4-wheeler, followed second by the moped.  You have to go slow and take your time, and if it were me, I’d avoid driving at night: it should come as no surprise that with unpaved dirt roads, there is a serious lack of any street lights.  There are some sidewalks in ST, but there is also a lot of uneven roads (ankle injury, waiting to happen) and a lot of mud so this is not the place for nice shoes or, arguably, open-toed anything (but everyone wears flippies 24/7.)

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Nosara, Costa Rica – the “pura vida” lifestyle like no other

Nosara embodies the “pura vida” lifestyle more than any other place that I experienced in Costa Rica. Things move at their own pace, it is a surf and nature community, and everyone honestly seems to be very earth-friendly.


Like many places in Costa Rica, you will find accommodations of every price and ilk, so it will be a matter of what you want and what you want to pay.  I chose to stay at Tierra Magnifica (, a hotel perched high above Playa Guiones and the Nosara coast. The staff are incredible, the common spaces so well thought out and considered, and my goodness, the food truly divine.  Whether or not breakfast is included, it is worth the price: although slow paced, so don’t be in a hurry, the fruit salad, coffee, and “mains” are so well prepared and bountiful that I wasn’t hungry for the rest of the day.  That said, I will say that the room left something to be desired.  I stayed in Vista 2, which is below the rooftop terrace and restaurant and although you could hear some noise, it wasn’t bad.  But the room is just average and with a bit of effort, could be so much more, and definitely more inviting.  (Oddly, it really bothers me that there are no bedside tables and the left side of the bed is a foot from the wall.)  I know we only sleep in the room and are meant to get out and about, but with a balcony that looks toward Playa Guiones, and over the trees, I wanted better.  So, if you don’t care about the room, this is the place for you.  But if rooms matter – which they do for me – you might want to look elsewhere.  And remember: the hotel is on a hill top so it will take a bit to get down to the village of Nosara.


Huacas Restaurant at Tierra Magnifica is gorgeous!  If I only had one night, I would honestly eat here, whether staying at the hotel, or taking a $10 tuk tuk up from the village.  And if you can dine at sunset, just to see the view, bonus points.  Like much in CR, the restaurant isn’t cheap, but the food is truly tasty and well thought out.  There is one vegetarian option available on the menu, but the staff told me that the chef would happily swap out the meat or fish with tofu or mushrooms.

Another place that I would recommend for the view alone is La Luna (located at the Nosara Beach Hotel  At sunset, this place was crowded as the restaurant sits right on the beach with virtually unobstructed views of the ocean and the sunset.  Service was pretty slow and I did have to get up and beg for a pitcher of water before I melted, but the food was good and there were a couple of options for this vegetarian.


The beaches of Nosara are gorgeous and I particularly loved Playa Guiones, as it is a protected beach which means not beach clubs, or restaurants, just nature, white sand, and surf.  Play Pelada, closer to the “town” of Nosara, has more going on and a natural surf break so the waters are little more calm and beach chairs are permitted (but no beach clubs, just what you bring with you).

I was trying to find a tour to see howler monkeys but none exists, as far as I can tell.  You will hear them, and if you pay attention to that above you – especially if something unexpectedly falls near you – you’ll see them.

WHAT I WISH I KNEW IN ADVANCE: for some strange and baffling reason, many of the roads in the Guanacaste region are unpaved.  Yes, dirt roads with all their pits, potholes, and washed out gullies.  The initial rental car I rented would have fallen in some of the smaller of the potholes that you try to navigate to miss the bigger potholes.  Thankfully, I upgraded to something a little bigger, which was better, but still not enough.  It may be expensive, but a 4-wheel drive car is the way to go.

I found the roads to be stressful, especially as I tried to avoid the various car-destroying lumps and bumps everywhere, and not a lot of parking, perhaps because most people here seem to either ride mopeds, 4-wheelers, or use tuk tuks in order to save the suspension of their own cars.  You have to go slow and take your time, and if it were me, I’d avoid driving at night: it should come as no surprise that with unpaved dirt roads, there is a serious lack of any street lights.  (And don’t even ask about sidewalks, but I guess with the roads being in such horrible condition, you’ll be able to dodge any cars that are coming your way!)

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La Fortuna, Costa Rica – a magical, stunning, town with the most gorgeous, professional, and hospitable hotel in Central America

Like much of Costa Rica, La Fortuna seems to be a mix of wealth and poverty, tourists and locals, and every possible type of accommodation that one could want.  But hands down, this was my favourite experience in Costa Rica, even thought nowhere near a beach as it is central and next to an active volcano.


Long ago, I read an article about the Nayara properties in la Fortuna, at the base of the active volcano and knew that one day I had to experience this 5-star hotel.  The Nayara Tented Camp is the most exclusive (and expensive), followed by the Nayara Springs (for romance) and the Naraya Gardens (for the rest of us).  Nayara Gardens ( are a stunning collection of casitas and villas.  This is truly a stunning property and one that I would recommend that you experience, knowing that it is rather expensive.  LHW members receive a cute free gift, along with a breakfast which is buffet style but classy and wonderful.  I staying in Casita 08 which was near the foot bridge to Nayara Springs.  Thankfully, there is so much vegetation everywhere that privacy was never an issue and I literally didn’t want to leave my room.


I chose not to dine at the Nayara Gardens (or any of the connected properties) simply because I wanted to explore La Fortuna, small as it is, and see what they had to offer.

If I only had one night in La Fortuna, I would run to Don Rufino (  Although open air, like every restaurant that I saw throughout Costa Rica, the ambiance was outstanding, the bar and drinks incredible, and the food truly wonderful.  And bonus points to the staff who suggested that I order the rigatoni, even though I’m vegetarian: they’d take out the bacon and added small diced beets which was an amazing addition!

Another place that I would highly recommend – and may be justification for staying an extra night if the Nayara Gardens wasn’t enough of a reason (which it should be) – is Kappa Sushi (no website but you can find them on FB and Insta).  I had read waffling reviews online but I honestly have no idea what they were experiencing because the sushi was outstanding and just like I have at home or in NYC.  I’m not sure I’d recommend fish, that central in the mountains of Costa Rica, but the vegetarian sushi was outstanding (the grasshopper remain fondly in my memory).


I hadn’t planned it, but upon arrival at the Nayara Gardens, I learned that they offer a sloth tour on the property, twice a week (Saturday and Tuesday, I believe).  And it was free!  This was the best thing I experienced in La Fortuna and cannot recommend it enough: not only is the guide professional and incredibly knowledgeable, but she had top notch equipment to not only help us see the sloths (and birds, and monkeys, and an iguana), but she was able to help us set our mobile phones to take pictures through her telescope that were like nothing I experienced elsewhere.

There are also lots of day, and night, trips on offer in La Fortuna.  I met a couple of groups who had done night tours to see the poisonous red frogs, snakes, and other nocturnal creatures and they all raved at the experience.  I did learn, dear reader, that not only do sloths not really move that much, but they are more active later in the day, than in the morning, so if it is possible, do a sloth tour in the afternoon.

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San Jose, Costa Rica – the capital of Costa Rica with much to be admired (and some things to be avoided)

San Jose is a fascinating city with little pockets of history that has obviously grown with the times: as things expand, another bit of history would be incorporated, but the city continued to grow.  But thankfully, if you can stand the heat, it’s all walkable.


San Jose has it covered when it comes to chain hotels so if you’re using points, or trying to gain points, I’m fairly certain that you’ll find what you’re looking for.  But as I tend to go for the more unique and boutique options, I went with the Grano de Oro Hotel (, a former Victorian residence that has expanded over the years and now has roughly 30 rooms.  The breakfast is worth the added cost (if not included in your rate) if for no other reason than to sit in the dining room or the open courtyard. The hotel is lacking in some of the amenities that I would expect of such a property (slippers, for one, as I don’t walk on hotel carpets, but I also travel with flippies just in case) but the free mini-bar is a lovely little touch.  In retrospect, what I thought was a rather small room turned out to be a good size, with a really comfy bed and a lovely large bathroom.


Restaurante Silvestre ( is a stunning find and if I only had one night in San Jose (which is really all you need), this is where I’d go.  There is a tasting menu that I observed next to me and it looked divine.  But as a vegetarian, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be the trouble so perhaps next time.  The food was Costa Rican-influenced with international touches added, and that staff were perfection: attentive but not intrusive. And when you go, if they have the “Fiesta del maiz” on the menu – which they should have at all times, if you ask me – don’t even think twice: the celebration of corn, and it’s heritage to the land is stunningly outstanding (and drool-worthy!)


I had read that you really only needed one night in San Jose but thought I couldn’t come all this way for just one night.  One night is enough.  There really isn’t a lot to do or to see here, and although everyone will tell you to visit the Central Market, I really didn’t see the attraction.  I considered doing some type of “hop on/hop off” tour but it honestly didn’t feel like it was worth it.

WHAT I WISH I KNEW IN ADVANCE: getting to Costa Rica from Panama is rather easy, and can be accomplished via a flight or taking a shuttle.  I opted for the latter and used Caribe Shuttle which was perfect, they offered stops along the way, and you do get to see parts of either country that you probably wouldn’t see otherwise.  Just know that, crossing the border from Panama into Costa Rica will cost you $4 and you will have to cross the bridge that spans the Sixaola River (it’s not a covered walkway so be prepared if it is raining or if the sun is burning).  (A traveler said that going from CR to Panama cost $8 on the CR side and $4 to enter Panama so just be prepared.)

Ubers are popular in CR and depending on who you speak with, they’ll either tell you they are legal or not, but given that you use the Uber app, there must be some level of acceptance.  But know, in advance, that Uber’s would take about 10 minutes to arrive, after a 5 minute wait for them to be located.  So don’t wait until the last minute: plan in advance, be early, and most of all, be patient.

Another interesting thing is that, apparently, Uber’s are not permitted at the airport.  When taking an Uber to the airport, I was asked by the driver to sit in the front seat, as though I was a friend, as she said that she would be ticketed by the police if stopped.

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Panama City, Panama – a stunning blend of modern high rises and traditional Central American culture

Panama City is a stunning blend of modern high rises and traditional Central American culture that welcomes you, but also stuns you with all of its variations.


Every level of accommodation can be found in Panama City but if you’re here in the high season, or just seeking to get away, a hotel with a pool is probably a must.  Because this was my first time to Panama and because I needed a gentle introduction to the city, I chose a hotel where I knew what to expect and was certain my Spanish recall wouldn’t be in high demand immediately: the W Panama.

The W is a new entry into the hotel market here and has the funk and charm that you would expect from the W hotels.  Higher floors either have city views or ocean views but reader beware: the ocean view rooms aren’t directly on the ocean – the hotel is not on the ocean like the Hilton or the Intercontinental – but rather you need to look over and between buildings so, personally, I didn’t think it was worth the added cost.  I love watching a city come to life, and slowly go to sleep so the city view rooms were best for me.


It was a short stay in Panama City but if you have the chance, I would highly recommend Azahar (, which also happens to be a short walk away from the W Hotel (and right next door to the Hilton).  A fusion restaurant of Mediterranean and Asian influences, the staff here was outstanding and the food even better.  But here’s the fun part: when you get to the address, there’s a sign that says to go to the 7th floor.  And that is all.  It takes a while to figure out that the restaurant is meant to reflect a speakeasy and you enter the restaurant through a functioning flower shop and “their” refrigerator door!

On my second night, I did try Panamanian food – how could I not, right – but sadly it was underwhelming.  On the upside for this vegetarian, I haven’t seen any place that focuses on “mock meat” and very few with even tofu (and no tempeh or seitan, so far).  I tried the hojalda (a fried dough that accompanies many dishes but was very bland to my taste buds) and the tamal da olla, a mix of tomatoes, onions, garbanzo beans, and some spices that was interesting, but felt like it needed something to go with it (like rice or maybe I should have used the hojalda).  The restaurant was highly rated so I figured it was worth a short: I mean, I didn’t come to Panama to have American food right?


You really only need two nights and one full day in Panama City and that’s to do a tour of the Panama Canal.  I was honestly skeptical of doing a tour of the Panama Canal at first but I am so thankful that I did this and experienced this truly magical and wonderous engineering feat.

In my research, I found a lot of companies that offered tours and many seemed to take you to the museum on the canal (where there is a viewing deck, for the record).  But if this is what you want to do, I don’t think you actually need a tour: take an Uber out to the museum and take things from there. 

But I found Panama Marine Adventures ( who offer half day tours north (from Panama and the Atlantic to the Pacific) or south (a drive from Panama to the north and then to boat south through the locks back to Panama) and this was perfect.  The MC on the boat was informative the entire way, and entertained questions of all sorts.  It is a bit boring, to be honest, getting from the launch to the first lock – I think it takes a good two hours – as there’s not much to do and you do get a little tired of looking at the sides of what is, in effect, a giant river (but it’s a canal), but once you get to the first lock and see how this engineering feat works, and to learn about the process, it is truly wonderful.  And that’s not all because there is a second set of locks that you go through: a set of three, at varying levels, to see the water levels change to accommodate going from fresh water to sea water is stunning.  (Lunch is included.) Another site that I would recommend, but did not go, is the BioMuseum of Panama (  Why recommend something that I did not visit?  Because the BioMuseum is the only Frank Gehry-designed building in Central America and it is unlike any Frank Gehry design I have ever seen.  You will see this from your Panama Canal tour (above) if you do that one, and the colours and structure are simply amazing.

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Jerusalem is a city of change, and growth, and opportunity, while retaining its heritage and culture for the wider world to see and experience. 

Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem is a city of change, and growth, and opportunity, while retaining its heritage and culture for the wider world to see and experience.  There were many aspects that were almost contradictory to other aspects that the city kept me on my toes: at one minute, I could be ensconced in religious history and in the next, learning new things and new beliefs as the city evolves. 


You will have no problem finding a hotel in Jerusalem, it’s just that few will be cheap.  The Brown Hotel Group is an up-and-coming boutique brand in Jerusalem that offers unique and boutique accommodations throughout the city.  I chose the Villa Brown Moshava (, a gorgeously converted villa in the German Colony of the city.  I booked a Superior Room but was upgraded to a Superior Room with balcony which was the perfect way to begin my day with a Nespresso coffee, or to end the day with a cocktail at night.


If I only had one night in Jerusalem, you would find me Chakra Restaurant (  Located close to the Old Town and the Mamilla neighborhood, this outstanding and gorgeous restaurant is not to be missed!  Offering both outdoor dining, as well as indoor, the service was divine, the design hauntingly gorgeous, and the food seriously top notch!  If you know me, you know I don’t like polenta or risotto – it’s a texture thing – but I had both at Chakra and have not stop raving about them and wishing I could return for more, that’s how wonderful they were.  Oh, and the cocktails – deserved after a long day of exploring and hiking – were out of this world!

A very close second – and the reason why I would ensure that I never have just one night in Jerusalem – is The Eucalyptus (, located in the artists colony just outside the Old Town walls near the Jaffa gate.  Outdoor dining was must and the food sublime and well considered.  What also endears me to this restaurant is that one, they offered to make just about anything vegetarian (including the fish falafels that they made as artichoke falafels!), but also that the chef came out and personally spoke to every table that evening, asking where everyone was from and thoughts on the food.


You cannot come to Jerusalem without exploring inside the Old Town walls: the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and the various quarters and souks.  But Jerusalem is more than that and was such a joy to experience.

But if you only want to do one tour while you are in Jerusalem, please make it the tunnel tour.  I was skeptical to be honest, but to see the Western Wall from the inside, and below, and within is unlike anything you are likely to experience.  And if you have a good guide, it will be even that much better.

For the adventurous, pay the overpriced fee to walk the rampart walls.  Starting just inside the Jaffa gate, the walk along the top of the wall can take a couple of hours and offers stunning views down on the city and outside of the Old Town.  There are no bathrooms up there, and if the sun is shining bright, there’s no respite, but I would still recommend it.

A food tour should definitely be on your agenda and the Machane Yehuda Market is not to be missed.  The market is huge and can be insanely busy and crowded on Thursdays and Fridays before the Sabbath as well as Sundays, so a guide to help you orient yourself and understand where to go and what to seek out can be very helpful.

And lastly, and for the truly adventurous, a trip to Bethlehem in the West Bank is unlike anything you will ever have the chance to experience.  I would only recommend doing a certified tour as the uprising between Israel and Palestine remains rather contentious, even if Bethlehem is largely overlooked in this regard: better to be safe and not sorry.

Bethlehem is only about 15km away from Jerusalem but the checkpoints in and out will be many, and you may be required to show your passport.  But to see the Church of the Nativity and the birthplace of Christ, , as well as his manger, is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  And as an added bonus, to see Banksy’s 2003 work “The Flower Thrower”, “Flower Bomber”, “Rage”, or “Love is in the Air” is incredible.

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Tel Aviv is the Middle Eastern seaside resort that I didn’t know I needed, nor was missing!

Tel Aviv is the modern Israel that I wasn’t prepared for, and was so pleasantly surprised to experience.  If I lived in Europe, this would easily be a place to visit for a long weekend, and it not just a place to invest in for the future.  It reminds me so much of San Diego, CA that I kept making correlations in my head as I was passed by surfers, tattooed coffee drinkers, and exercise enthusiasts along the boardwalk.


Tel Aviv certainly doesn’t hurt when it comes to accommodations!  There are some stunningly gorgeous hotels right across from the beach but as you can imagine, you pay for the view, and you will pay dearly.  There are other hotels a block or two or more off of the beach which would definitely be worth considering, but if you are looking for something “just off the beach”, I can highly recommend The Savoy Tel-Aviv Sea Side (  A smaller, more boutique offering than the larger scale hotels on the beach, The Savoy is well-appointed, has excellent bath products, and the breakfast in the morning is wonderful.  2 rooms on each floor face the street which offers a view to the beach to your right (in most properties, this would be called a partial view), whereas the others look at properties on either side of the hotel.  But most outstanding are the staff who are so very helpful and considerate and welcomed you back each day, without every feeling intrusive.


Tel Aviv is a foodie’s paradise!  If I only had one night in Tel Aviv, without a doubt, I would go to Meshek Barzilay (, a stunningly gorgeous vegan restaurant about 15 minutes’ walk from the boardwalk.  Located in a funky old neighborhood, Meshek Barzilay has indoor dining, a lovely bar, and outdoor dining on both sides of the building.  But it is the food that is outstanding!  Often, I find that vegan food (or even vegetarian food), is not well thought out and creative: they either try and reproduce “meat foods” or just put various veg on the plate.  Not here.  Literally, I am still dreaming about the dosa with tofu and coconut chutney that was unlike anything I’ve ever had before.  Put me on a plane right now!


For me, Tel Aviv was all about the beach and eating.  Old Jaffa port was a fun venture before and after dinner at Mashya restaurant, and I’m sure there are other places to explore, but the need to relax on an insanely hot day, and swim in the Mediterranean.

The one non-beach thing we did was an excellent and informative tour of the Bauhaus style that is prevalent in Tel Aviv.  After a short video at the Bauhaus center (, our guide took us on a 2 hour stroll through the residential neighborhoods of Tel Aviv to see various examples of classic Bauhaus design, as well as some new, modern endeavors based on the classic style.

And although I didn’t appreciate the Carmel Market simply because it was mostly clothing and home goods that the local were searching out, the Levinsky Market was pure joy and resulted in my coming home with a bunch of spices that I wouldn’t otherwise typically seek out.  (If you’ve never had dried lemons [which are actually dried limes], you must get some and use them in your next soup, or rice, or other dish that would benefit from the bitter fruitiness that dried lemons provide.)

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Wadi Musa and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra is an experience like few others  

Wadi Musa and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra is an experience like few others and I would highly recommend visiting.  I honestly waffled on the appropriate number of nights to stay and ultimately settled on 3 nights which I think was the perfect number: I wouldn’t recommend anything less and anything more might leave you searching for things to do.


Every room type one could need is available in Wadi Musa: there are the 5-star Movenpick Hotel and Petra Moon, as well as the Bubble Luxotel to a couple of hostels and everything in between.  Ultimately, I chose the Petra Guest House ( which is now managed by the IHG group but still independently owned.  The PGH is located right next to the Visitors’ Center and the entrance to Petra but honestly, many of the other hotels are no more than a 5-minute walk to the entrance to Petra so don’t let location be your guiding reason.  We were upgraded to a chalet room which was spacious and lovely, and the breakfast, although chaotic, had all the various options that one would need to start the day.

Note to my readers: be careful when choosing your hotel and be sure to confirm that the hotel is located in the center of town.  Wadi Musa and Petra are located in the mountains of Jordan so things are very hilly, and rather strenuous when walking around.  For example, there are two Movenpick hotels: the Movenpick Petra is close to the entrance to Petra whereas the other, the Movenpick Nabatean is located on Kings Highway well outside of Petra so walking isn’t feasible and a car rather useful.  (The Movenpick Nabean does have a pool, which I don’t think any hotels in the center do.)


There aren’t a lot of options in Petra and most hotels probably offer a Half Board or Full Board so that is one option to undertake.

The Al Ghadeer Rooftop restaurant at the Movenpick Petra was gorgeous.  Although definitely not cheap – you are in the mountains and once you get to Petra, you will see how challenging it is to navigate deliveries and supplies – the food was lovely, the local Jordanian wines good (not award winning but still potable), and the staff truly outstanding.  And because the nights cool down very quickly once the sun sets behind the mountains, the staff provides blankets for those who didn’t come prepared.

Another options, but more on the fascinating front, is My Mom’s Recipe (  We were initially to dine elsewhere but after walking 30 minutes and still hiking up hill, we decided we’d never make it and since we had passed Mother’s, and read about it, we decided to try.  It is nothing fancy but the food is good, the staff great, and the views over Wadi Musa beautiful.  As this is a Muslim run restaurant, alcohol is not available,


You come to Wadi Musa for the sites and I assure you that you will not be disappointed.  But reader beware: it’s hot, and can be crowded, and you will be pushed just to see the top things on your list.  That’s said, there are two entrances to Petra, the primary being that located next to the Visitor’s Center.  I would recommend planning on two days to explore Petra simply because there is a lot of walking and things are not flat, so you will be challenged.  On your first day, start at the main entrance next to the Visitor’s Center.  Tour Guides can be arranged for varying tours, but the typical tour to the Treasury and the Great Temple will cost you 50JOD at the time of writing.

The walk through the Siq to The Treasury is a truly stunning walk and depending on the time of day, the variations in colours will astound you: the colours will change between the walk in and the walk out so be sure to take your time and marvel at this pathway that leads to The Treasury (made somewhat famous as the final scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade).

After the Treasury, your guide will take you the Great Temple, an archeological site still under excavation, and then leave you to explore on your own.  There are numerous hiking trails available and I would encourage you to do those which your fitness level can accommodate. 

On your second day – AND THIS IS MY FAVOURITE AND RECOMMENDED HIKE – start from Little Petra and hike to The Monastery and then hike out through the main entrance.  Opened in September 2022, this is a new approach to the archeological site of Petra and definitely worth the effort.

To get to Little Petra, take the free shuttle from just outside the Visitor’s Center.  The shuttle begins around 7am and goes approximately every 30 minutes until about 2.30pm.  The shuttle will depart only when it is full so be patient and plan accordingly.  When you arrive at Little Petra, you can either walk 5km to the start of the official trail, or pay 5JOD for a shared “jeep” to the start of the trail.  Take the “jeep”!  That 5km trail is very sandy and will feel like more than 5km before you even begin your actual hike.

The hike will be challenging but the approach to The Monastery worth it: not only will it save you walking up 950 steps to get to the Monastery, but the views on this hike are not to be missed.  But be prepared: you may not walk up 950 steps but you will definitely walk up A LOT of steps on this hike so it is not easy in any stretch of the imagination.  But from everything that I’ve heard, this is a more doable hike than that coming from the Treasury.

And starting this hike early in the morning means that you will virtually have the Monastery to yourselves before the crowds coming from the other direction arrive.  And trust me when I say that it is absolutely breathtaking.  (Oh, and that walk DOWN 950 steps is so much easier, especially as you see other struggle up and up the steep climb.)

If you want to learn more about Jordanian cooking and the use of spices, I can highly recommend the Petra Kitchen cooking classes (  Knife skills aren’t really that important as it is more about the experience and learning about foods and typical mezze can be.  But more importantly, at least to me, I appreciate the ethical approach that Petra Kitchen takes to their food: you will make far more than you could ever hope to eat, but rather than wasting the food, the food is donated to local communities in need, something near and dear to my heart.

Note to my readers: everything that I read in preparation for my trip to Jordan said that there would be an exit fee of 10JOD upon crossing the border into Israel.  To my surprise, and delight, there were no fees when we crossed the border: I don’t know if things have changed, or if this was because of our Jordan Pass, but when we asked, they just smiled and said that there are no fees.

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Dead Sea, Jordan is an experience unlike any other that you will ever experience.

Many people around the world believe in the restorative properties of natural elements – going to hot springs, retreats to fresh mountain air, and yes, even seeking the benefits of the Dead Sea mud and salt treatments – and I have always been somewhat skeptical.  But the feeling of your skin and the calm in your soul after floating in the Dead Sea, then a “mud treatment”, followed by another soak in the sea, and then a rough but restorative salt scrub is unlike anything I have ever experienced before.  For this, alone, I would return to the Dead Sea.  Add to this the kind people, and the wonderfully simple foods, and Jordan truly is a not-to-be-missed experience.


The Jordanian side of the Dead Sea is purported to have the better resorts than Israel and, in my research, most seemed to be 5 star and very affordable.  The major chains are represented, along with a few local brands that I wasn’t familiar with but at least from the outside, they looked nice but at the end of the day, they all have the same view.  I chose the Crowne Plaza Dead Sea ( and after arrival, it really was a lovely resort.  The rooms were clean and all appeared to come with some sort of balcony: whether or not you could see the Dead Sea, of course, depends solely on what you pay for.  Half Board and Full Board plans are available but I opted for the Bed and Breakfast plan as I don’t typically eat both breakfast and lunch: in retrospect, I probably should have done a half board plan since there really is nowhere else to eat other than at the chosen resort (unless you have a car of course).

Note to reader: many Jordanians will often tell you to “relax sir”, with a calm, no urgency approach to things and this wasn’t more true than when trying to communicate with the resort via email.  But if you plan early, and patiently wait for their reply, they will get back to you.


Because the only options for food are pretty much what the resort has to offer, you will be limited but that’s not to say that the service isn’t outstanding and the food pretty good.  (If you do opt for the half-board plan, dinner appeared to be a buffet in the same place where breakfast is served.)

Bourj Al Hamman was probably my favourite: Lebanese in style with a large variety of options for this vegetarian, it was well appointed and the service on par.  There is an opportunity to sit on the top floor with views out to the Dead Sea, but the combination of high heat and gusty winds, we chose to eat in the comfort of air con, but still with views out to the Dead Sea.

The other option we tried was the Rabble Lounge, which is an interesting combination of hotel bar with dining off to the side, along with a separate outdoor, covered area.  Rabble Lounge was more European in style and the pizza absolutely divine (even if not intended to be a “starter”).


If you have a car, there are some day trips that might be worthwhile.  Unfortunately, without a car, and as the Crowne Plaza doesn’t offer any excursions for guests, your time will be spent relaxing at the resort.  There is an adults-only pool that becomes more of a night club mentality in terms of music levels and drinking, as well as a rather large central pool that also has an adults only part (not strictly enforced).

Note to my readers: Jordan has few direct flights and is therefore reliant on connecting flights to other parts of the world.  As such, many flights in and out of Jordan happen rather late at night.  My flight from the States connected through the UK which meant that I landed in Amman at around 00.30 and didn’t get to the hotel until about 3am.  Because of this, it is recommended that you reserve a room the day before you arrive so that you are guaranteed a room when you ultimately arrive at the resort: there is very little space to wait around for your room otherwise.

And one more thing: the Jordan Pass is essential as it really does save you money especially if you will head to Petra or any other locations.

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Orosei is located on the Gulf of Orosei, part of the Tyrrhenian Sea on the east coast of Sardinia.

Orosei is located on the Gulf of Orosei, part of the Tyrrhenian Sea on the east coast of Sardinia.  Larger than its neighbor Cala Gonone to the south, it’s a lot less “sea town” and more of a community with homes, jobs, shops, and restaurants.  Like Carbras, it’s in a bit of a revitalization and still has some improvements to go, but it really is a gorgeous town, on the sea, with lovely buildings, streets, and the kindest residents.


The proximity of Orosei to the Bay of Orosei and the near-prerequisite to do at least one boating trip on the sea means that there are a lot of options in Orosei.  We chose to stay at the Mannois Albergo Difuso (, a lovely collection of rooms peppered throughout the centro storico, all comfortably designed and accommodated, and just like a traditional hotel, with varying room types.  A lovely buffet breakfast is served every morning at reception.  (Note: there are some rooms in the building that also houses reception and the morning breakfast so if you’re a late-sleeper, you might want to ask for a different building when making your reservation.)

AN IMPORTANT NOTE TO FUTURE GUESTS: Although I loved the Mannois Albergo Difuso hotel, there are some much-needed improvements that the management really needs to implement.  By not doing so, they will be passed, and passed quickly.  So before you go, and before you book, just be aware.

When I booked my reservation, there was nothing on the website that indicated the access to the hotel beach club – a short trainino ride from near the hotel, down to the sea – was NOT included in the price of the reservation.  In fact, my confirmation email listed everything that was not included EXCEPT, apparently, use of the beach club.  I am confident in this recollection, but when complaining to the hotel, it was their word against mine.  SO TRAVELLER BEWARE: access to the Mannois Beach Club IS NOT INCLUDED and is insanely expensive.  In September 2022, first row lounge chairs and umbrellas were €40 per day (for 2 people), the second row and back was €30 per day, and the back rows were €20 per day.  Sure, there was access to a bathroom, and they had a bar (but you paid), so ask yourself why?

And although the Mannois Beach Club appears to be part of the hotel, it is a rather long walk (40 minutes) there, and another 40 minutes back, or you have to take the public Orosei trainino for €2.50 each way/€5 round trip.  The trainino is great, but if you’re going to pay that sort of money for access to their beach club, not to mention the price per night for a room, they could serve their clientele with service to the beach. 

INSIDER TIP: right next to the overpriced Mannois Beach Club is Peppe’s Bar.  For €5 each, you can rent a sun bed!  Okay, the staff at Peppe’s is pretty non-plussed about things, so you’ll have to carry your sun bed to the beach but that just means you get to sit where you want.  And shhhhhhhh, it’s a little known secret: if you head left, closer to the Mannois Beach Club – but not so close that you can hear their piped music, guests of the Mannois Albergo Difuso will have wifi access, but not pay their crazy prices for the same beach and ocean access.  But shhhhhhhh, don’t let on.

And one last thing: the Mannois Albergo Difuso will NOT make dinner reservations for their guests.  I wrote to the hotel asking for a number of reservations and they wrote back saying that wouldn’t be possible.  Thinking I misunderstood, I wrote back asking for clarification, and they said that “they have had too many problems making reservations for their guests, because when the guests show up, the restaurant says they have no booking.”  In all of my years of travel, I’ve never had a hotel say this.  And when many of their guests are non-Italian speaking, they are in trouble.  I set about making each of the reserved tables noted below in bites – some in English and some in Italian – and I had not problems.  Again, the hotel management needs to radically improve their offer or get left behind by hotels under development in Orosei or neighboring villages.


If I only had one night in Orosei, I would be in a serious pickle as I have two favourites and wouldn’t know which to choose!  They are both truly that great, both for their views and their food.  But I guess, if I was forced to choose, I would first go to Ristorante Lungomare (  An unabashedly fish restaurant located on the Spiaggia Marina di Orosei, the views are stunningly gorgeous, the lighting divine, and the food truly outstanding.  And if you follow me, you know I’m vegetarian so how did I make out?  Outstandingly!  With a note upon making a reservation, and a reminder a few days in advance, there was never a problem.

And because Orosei and the beaches really are stunning, I’m hoping that there will be at least one additional day on your visit and you’ll be able to visit Ristorante Belohorizonte (  A sturdy hike uphill, the views and the food at this lovely restaurant are outstanding.  Their website shows indoor pictures but if you’re lucky enough to dine here, request outside seating on the piazza that overlooks the valley below, out to the sea.  It really was breathtaking.  And the food and service sheer perfection.  (How can you not love a hostess who greets you with “hello my lovelies!”)

Another find that I truly cannot stop thinking about is the Agriturismo Gollei (no website).  I honestly don’t remember the blog post that I read that lead me to this find, but what a lovely evening of great food is on offer at this Agriturismo.  Outside of Orosei, it will require either a car, or a car service – as Orosei, oddly, does not have taxis – but it really is worth the price of a car service because, not only is it difficult to find, but then you can enjoy the wine and after dinner drinks that are included in the insane price of €40.  There is only one sitting at 20.00 and everyone is served at the same time a multi-course feast that is truly representative of an Italian meal.  Allow 2 hours for your meal, and be sure not to snack before going because the food is plentiful and although simple, truly outstanding.


Not trip to Orosei or the west coast of Sardinia is complete without an excursion along the coast of Sardinia.  There are multiple companies along the port offering everything from private hire dinghies to larger boats with near 100 of your closest friends, and all at slightly varying costs.

I was fortunate enough to stay at the Hotel Costa Dorada in Cala Gonone ( years ago, and did such a trip.  I loved it so much, I contacted the hotel this time, explained that I we were staying in a different village, but that I loved my previous experience so much that I wondered if I could do it again, even though I was not a hotel guest.  And they said Yes!  So we boarded the Marlin with about 8 other people and spent the day cruising up the coast, jumping off occasionally, and just enjoying the crystal turquoise waters of the Gulf of Orosei.

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Located about 100km south of Alghero, the tony village of Cabras is charming and in a state of regrowth and development

Located about 100km south of Alghero, the tony village of Cabras is charming and in a state of regrowth and development.  There is a sense of pride and community here that reinforces my love of Italy.  It was eerily quiet on my many mornings, and even evenings, which wasn’t something that I was prepared for but sometimes you just need a place to recharge and unwind.


There’s something of a new movement in Italy, and perhaps especially Sardinia: the development of “hotels” that are referred to as an “albergo difusso”, a collection of buildings and structures peppered about the city, fully remodeled and run as a hotel.  The structures are often varied in theme/design, or size, or even location, but each typically comes with the same amenities as your four-star hotel.  One such place in Cabras is the Aquae Sinis Albergo Diffuso (, a lovely collection of rooms who, very obviously, are trying to contribute to the jumpstart of the village and the economy.  I stayed in the Pontis building which had a lovely interior garden that was private, lovingly tended to, and even had the occasional cat stroll by during even cocktails.  Other buildings had a small pool, a smaller interior courtyard, and all were serviced by the main building where a small, but adequate breakfast was available each morning.


Everything in Cabras is a short walk away, but unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of options for dining.  The options that do exist, however, really are lovely.

Osteria Il Gastronauta (no website but they are on FB) was a lovely restaurant with outdoor seating.  The staff were great and we even spoke to one of the chefs about options available to us as vegetarians.  The fried mushrooms were divine, and the pasta dishes outstanding.  It was so good that I wanted to return the next night!  The orecchiette with cacio e pepe sauce was to die for!  It was so lovely that we wanted to return the following night, so suffice it to say: if I only had one night in Cabras, this is where I would dine.

In the centro storico, there are more restaurants, most of which appeared to be pizzerias, but there was the Sa Bell’e Crabasa (, a personal favourite of mine.  Set in a modern building meant to appear old like the village, the tables were well spaced and they had indoor and outdoor seats available.  The food was never rushed, and like normal in Italy, the service was slow but measured, but I’d return here in a heartbeat if I could, if for nothing else than the fresh fava beans in lemon and oil or the culurgiones, pillowy pasta filled with potato and mint

And although its nothing fancy, but the pizza divine, you must go to Il Buongustaio Pizzeria (no website but they are on Instagram) in the centro storico.  They only do pizza, and it’s a dance of choreographed steps to turn out the perfect thin crust pizza with just the right amount of sauce and toppings, even now it makes my belly grumble! 

And if you have a car – because the busses would be a bit of a challenge – you must go to Trattoria Portixedda in Oristano (no website).  Oristano is a larger, and more lively village, and appeared to be where people tend to live and shop.  And, of course, that means that there are more options of where to dine.  I found Portixedda in Oristano in a blogpost while doing my research for this trip and I am so thankful that I did.  From the outside, it looks like your typical little trattoria, but upon entering, you are met with a shock of bright orange chairs, white walls, and turquoise accents, and thumping house music.  But don’t let either turn you off: it all works (and yes, the house music was turned down as more and more people arrived).  But better yet was the owner who proudly took our order, loved that we were vegetarians (he was as well, years ago), and seemed to relish in the opportunity to create outstanding dishes that weren’t shown on the menu and were deliciously mouthwatering.


It was all about the beaches for this part of the trip.  Spiaggia di San Giovanni di Sinis, Is Arutas, Portu S’Uedda, and Mari Ermi are 4 of the favourites and they did not disappoint.  Mari Ermi was probably my favourite as it was more remote, the beach was wide and long, and there was the opportunity to rent beds and umbrellas for a totally reasonable price.  The more family friendly Portu S’Uedda was a more shallow beach, with more shallow waters (thus family friendly), but they also had access to more restaurants for lunch if you weren’t able to bring your own water and snacks.

And should you need a break from the beach, I cannot recommend enough the Area Archeologica di Tharros.  Sturdy walking shoes are a must, but what a pleasure to walk amongst the ruins imagining what life back in the day was like: how the houses were arranged, the saunas, the churches, and the placement of the Torre Spagnolo which is worth the added price of admission for the views over the tip of Sardinia.  After strolling through the ruins, follow the “road”, and the beach-goers for an extended walk along the coast.  Bring your swimsuit, and water shoes, and do as the locals do and walk down to the water and take a swim.

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the best hotel in the world is in Alghero if you ask me

(updated 23 Sept 2022)

It’s a tough choice between Cagliari but if I have to choose, I’m going with Alghero.  (Sorry to some of Sardinian friends.)  There is something about this town that I just love: the centro storico, the strolls, the water, and the fact that it seems a bit removed from the rest of the island and tourist destinations.  And I must admit, the cross-cultural aspect with Spain is really quite cool in this lovely town!


If you ask me, there is only one place to stay in Alghero: the Villa Las Tronas (  I first stayed here years ago, and then again 10 years ago, all before they received their 5 star rating and since then, they have only improved.   Set on a private outcrop away from the hustle and bustle of the city behind it, this stunning property offers old-world charm and privacy like few others.  The hotel doesn’t brim with modern design elements – if you’re looking for glass and steel, look elsewhere – but everything you need is here, along with the highest level of professionalism.  It’s gotten more expensive over the years, but I still think it is worth every penny for the tranquility alone.  (And this is an adults only property.

Views from the Villa Las Tronas are some of the most gorgeous in the world.

I can’t vouch for either of the following, but over the years, I have gazed in awe at the Villa Mosca Charming House ( whose placement along the coast and views nearly rivals that of the Villa Las Tronas.  And new to the hotel scene is the Hotel Carlos V & Spa, set near the Villa Las Tronas with views over the ocean and a more modern vibe and architecture than either of the hotels mentioned.


I don’t usually choose a pizzeria as my “if I only had one night” restaurant but hands down, the Pizzeria Al Vecchio Mulino (no website but they are on FB) in the centro storico was a stunner!  It was so good that we actually changed plans during our stay and returned on a whim to try two more pizzas and everything was just as outstanding as the first night.  Reservations are imperative, especially on weekends as we constantly saw people being turned away when they had no rezzie.

A very close second for me was Trattoria Lo Romani (  They didn’t have a lot of options for vegetarians but the pasta dishes were divine.  They weren’t overcomplicated, but just good ingredients, with amazingly made pasta, in a lovely atmosphere full of locals and tourists alike. Again, reservations are imperative here.


The centro storico is a lovely place to stroll in the morning and at night.  During the day, most everything is closed and, remember, it’s hotter than hades in the summer so who wants to be shopping any way.  Unlike other places in Sardegna, Alghero offers the requisit tourist shops but also “regular” shops should you forget something.

The churches in Alghero are some of my favourite on the island.  Please remember to be respectful when you’re in the church: some of them are still run by nuns who you will see in prayer when you enter.  They don’t mind you enjoying the beauty of the church, just be quiet and dress appropriately.

The towers of Alghero, along with the fortified wall, are all pretty cool to see but you won’t need to go out of your way to see them:  you can’t enter, so you’ll just see them during one of your inevitable passeggiata.

I hope that the above gives you a bit of insite in to the wonderful city of Alghero.  It’s such an amazing and lovely place, just like all of Sardegna, so go, wonder, and take in the various smells, sights, and even sounds of Alghero!

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Isle of Harris, Scotland

For the sort of calm and awayness that only the north of Scotland can afford, the Isles of Harris and Lewis are like few other places on earth.  You can experience every type of weather throughout a single day, and you will always be met with a kindness from the locals that is, at first, slightly surprising but then completely enveloping.


When you visit the Isles, you will readily see that most people visit to camp and hike and bike.  As such, there aren’t a lot of hotel options, and definitely no chain hotels that I could say.  Located on the southern part of the island is the Scarista House (, a lovely Georgian Mansion with 7 rooms.  Breakfast is included and Flora definitely has a wee kitchen which is ideal given how remote the guesthouse is, and how limited restaurants are.

If I only had one night, I am certain that I would stay in one of the self-catering apartments in Lews Castle!  In none of my research did this appear so I had no idea it was even possible until visiting the castle one day.  Based on the website, the rooms look comfortable and modern and I can only dream of staying here if even for just one night.

Situated in Tarbert, not far from the Isle of Harris Distillery and the docs is the Harris Hotel (   A hotel from the start, it has a long and storied history and looks like a lovely place to stay for a relaxing vacation.

If you’re arriving by ferry and want to stay in Stornoway – the largest populated area with shopping, sites, and restaurants – I would suggest The Royal (  I didn’t stay here but when walking around Stornoway and I peered in the windows, it definitely looked like a place that I would want to return to.


You don’t go to the Isles as a dining destination.  That doesn’t mean that the food isn’t good, and if you’re in to seafood and meats, I’m sure you’ll be very happy, but as a vegetarian, there weren’t a lot of options.

Most “hotels” offer food but at what appeared, to me, to be at a bit pricey levels.  That said, I had hoped to try The Royal hotel’s Boatshed restaurant ( as they did offer a few vegetarian and vegan options. 

Also part of the Royal, but in a more casual, less formal environment, is HS-1 Café (  The menu looks identical to its sister restaurant, just a tad cheaper.

And although neither of the following are restaurants, I love their concepts and encourage everyone to visit if you can.  They are located on the same street, even further south on the Isle of Harris, but well worth the adventure.  Croft 36 ( is a wee “shed” of an establishment that opens at 11am, offers a variety of sustainably prepared breads, sweets, soups, and hot foods, that closes when everything is sold.

Temple Harris, described as a “hobbit house” looks amazing.  They have outdoor seating that looks over an inlet leading out to the sea where you can enjoy preordered food in a truly relaxing atmosphere.


The entire island is a site to behold so be sure to reserve that rental car well in advance.  There are not chain rental agencies on the island so you can’t just rock up.

Any trip to the Isles must incorporate a sea tour.  We did the Shiant Tour with the Isle of Harris Sea Tours company and they were outstanding.  A 6 hour boat tour that departs from Tarbert and heads due west is an absolute joy and an incredible opportunity to see puffins, razor bills, shags, grey seals, and if your lucky (which I was), sea eagles.  There’s a 1.5 to 2 hour layover on Eilean an Taighe, an island with a 150 year old bothy where we were treated to a coffee to accompany the sandwiches that we brought for lunch.

If time permits, you must also visit the 3 accessible lighthouses on the Isles: the sadly named, but stunningly gorgeous Butt of Lewis Lighthouse (which is really the head of the island, for the record), the mid-point Tiumpan Head Lighthouse (not accessible to visitors as the accommodations are now privately owned and appear to be a dog and cat kennel), and the southernmost, and harder to reach after a more or so trek, the Eilean Glas Lighthouse.

And last but not least, Stornoway is great just for the return to an inhabited center but also because the Lews Castle, and the parks/grounds surrounding it are absolutely lush and gorgeous.

And a final note:

Getting to Stornoway and the Isle of Harris can be a challenge.  We found that Logan Air frequently changed flight times between booking and actual departure so be sure to stay aware of your flights.  But more importantly, I think it fair to guess that weather can wreak havoc on flights: the plans are small – from wee propeller planes to the more common short-haul but still small Embraer planes – which would not be pleasure, and perhaps not even possible, during some of the high winds and storms, and dense fog, that the Isles experience.  I understand the ferry crossing from Ullapool (near Inverness) is an option in a pinch but, thankfully, we didn’t have to investigate that!

So enjoy.  And explore this wonderful remote island in the north of Scotland.  It really is worth the adventure!

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London – trouble waiting to happen in this inviting and charming city

You can get in to any number of types of trouble when you visit London: lord knows I do every time! That trouble could be shopping, over-eating, drinking, or even just wondering and getting lost. But that’s part of the charm to London so come prepared – and leave that credit card in the room if you have no self-control (note to self) – and start exploring this truly wonderful city!


The number of options in London is truly staggering and I am still trying to find the cool, funky, non-cookie-cutter options, all without spending a fortune (the latter may not be possible I fear!).

I don’t typically rave about chain hotels but I have to make an exception for the Hotel Indigo Paddington (  For those of transiting through London Heathrow, the worst thing ever is to stay at an airport hotel, with nothing to do, and sub-par food at the very best.  But what to do and where to stay in London for just one night?  Take the Heathrow Express directly to Paddington Station (yes, it costs 47GBP but do you really want to stay at one of those boring airport hotels?!), walk out of the station, straight down Sussex Place for about 5 minutes (my max with luggage), and the Hotel Indigo is on your right.

Blakes Hotel ( in South Kensington is definitely a charmer and as part of the “Design Hotels” group, it gets added points for style and creativity. The hotel is located in a small residential area, but easily walkable to everywhere so I really do love this hotel. But affordability is a relative terms so be prepared (and stalk those sale sites!)

Another option that I just tried was the Andaz London ( which, although part of the Hyatt chain, was really quite nice.   The hotel itself is a bit cookie-cutter – and although I love minimalist designs, the rooms were just plain which didn’t exactly scream “come and stay again” – but it’s proximity to the Liverpool tube stop makes it a great place from which to navigate most of the city so that gets plusses from me.


It’s not fancy, but if in that quick overnight in London, I can highly recommend The Mughal’s Indian ( on London Street.  The food is affordable, was packed until closing, and the staff are really attentive and care about what they make.  I am literally salivating as I write this, wishing I would return tomorrow!

The Gate Restaurant ( was a fantastic suggestion from a friend and although it’s a vegetarian restaurant, be prepared to make a reservation and don’t be late. (We were 15 minutes late and nearly lost our table!) The food was amazing and the wine list, although small, was brilliant and, for the most part, affordable. The décor isn’t much to write home about but I must admit that the large windows that look out over rooftops was a smart touch.

Another find, this time over near Covent Garden, is Nopi London ( Part of the Ottolenghi chain of restaurants, this restaurant has a formal dining room, that I loved and can’t stop thinking about, and a more “family style” environment downstairs that, the night I was there, was actually fitted for a formal and private banquet. The food was divine and the options for every food type extensive, and I bet, amazing.   Big kudos to the restaurant for the following: we ordered desert but it was late in arriving. Because we were sitting there just chatting and not eating, and they explicitly say you have 1.5 hours to eat (not something I like and find somewhat offensive), the manager came over and politely asked how we were doing. When we said that we were just waiting on desert, he disappeared and quickly returned with our desert. Cool. He then followed up and when we raved about the desert, he took us to meet the pastry chef who then gave us the recipe for his chocolate confection. I’d return just because of this.


I’m still in search of those sites and experiences that you can find outside of your typical guidebook so stay tuned…

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Rome, Italy – My home away from home

[updated 008 April 2022]

I will tell anyone who asks:  Rome is to me what the sun is to Superman.  It is my home, my love, and my return.

If you must, take a map but “flying blind” really is part of the fun of Rome: getting lost, finding little cafés, little shops, or just watching people go about their business.  There is so much that I can tell you and suggest for you, but below are my highlights and where I go every time I return to Rome.  I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.


The number of hotels opening in Roma are truly fascinating.  There are some old standbys that I still love, and some new players that have joined the scene.

The Hotel Ponte Sisto ( has fond memories for me and is often a place I find myself drifting back to.  The staff have not changed in YEARS and given that the hotel is a short walk from either Trastevere on the other side of the river or the Campo dei Fiori, the Piazza Navona, and everything else you will want to see makes this a fantastic place to start and stop from!

Ponte Sisto at night

If, however, you are a fan of Roman history and architecture, you must stay at the Hotel Donna Camilla Savelli hotel ( at least once.  A former convent (or monastery depending on what you read) designed by the renowned Borromini, the architectural influences are stunning and some of the remaining religious touches are breathtaking (there’s a small set of steps with an alter by Borromini that is breathtaking).  Located in my favourite neighborhood of Trastevere, the hotel is relatively quiet but still close enough to everything that you could want to do.

Hotel De’Ricci ( is a lovely new find located not far from the Piazza Farnessi (with the lovely tub fountains!) and within close walking distance of everything you could wish for.  Designed with a classy art deco feel, the staff are amazing and the rooms spacious.  Because the hotel is in a residential building there is no restaurant so breakfast is served in your room, with multiple add-ons if required (but rather expensive to be honest).  Reader beware: the outside lights that illuminate the façade of the building are rather bright and brighten the jr suites which are located on the first floor: if you can afford it, opt for something higher.  (Disclaimer: I can’t sleep in total darkness so closing the curtains is equally as disruptive as the light flooding in until the lights go off at 6am.)

Relatively new to the hotel scene is Chapter Rome (  Like many of the other new hotels that are taking former residential space and renovating it, the Chapter Rome is not really much different.  But what I loved about the hotel is that it is close to Campo dei Fiori, Piazza Argentina, and thus everything you could ever want.  The one recommendation I would make – at least until Chapter Rome double-glazes their windows and adds sound-proofed windows – is to request a room on the 3rd floor, the highest floor; you’ll still hear traffic and pedestrian noise at night but having stayed on the 3rd floor, I can only image how loud rooms on 1 and 2 might be.

And although I can’t vouch for the hotel, I can tell you that a new place has opened in the neighborhood where I lived: in fact, it is right down the street!  Horti 14 ( is tucked away in a quiet neighborhood of Trastevere.  You won’t roll out the door and have a restaurant at your feet, but none are so far away that the solitude may just be a welcomed respite.

Near Rome

If seeking a bit of calm and respite from what can seem like the constant cacophony of motorini (scooters), you should seek out the Castello Orsini Hotel in Nerola ( The castello is a converted 10th century castle about 30 miles north of Rome and although a challenge to reach, I promise that, once you are there, you won’t want to leave!  (A spa has opened, but I haven’t tried it.)


Now, as it regards the food – the fun part of the trip –  I can make a couple of suggestions.  If you want to treat yourself just once, which I highly recommend, ask the hotel to make a reservation for you at “Ristorante Tullio” (  This is the restaurant that is known for their pasta with white truffles.  It’s not cheap, but worth every savory bite.  And if you like meat, you must get the Bistecca alla Fiorintina

My favourite restaurant and it’s been in Rome for ages, what some would call an institution!  Da Enzo ( reservations imperative) is sheer perfection and unpretentious.  Indoors, there are less than 40 seats, all situated quite closely but don’t let that put you off; the food is outstanding, the service efficient but not rushed nor achingly slow, and wine selection not too shabby.  One of my favourite pasta dishses is cacio e pepe and this was, by far, the best cacio e pepe I have ever had.  I want to go back right now!Da Enzo interiorA close second to my new favourite restaurant is Flavio al Velavevodetto (  reservations suggested) a 30 minute walk to Testaccio if you are staying in the center of Rome.  And I promise, it is worth the trek: the restaurant appears to be underground and the dining rooms look as though they are located in former wine vaults that have been painted white.  The service was immaculate and the food simply outstanding.  On the night I dined, I had a duo of carciofi – artichokes – one fried (carciofo alla giudia) and the other cooked in lemon and oil (carciofo alla romana) and they were outstanding.  The pasta was an amazing ricotta filled ravioli with salt and oregano and although I’m not normally a fan of oregano, this was delicious!

Da Cesare (, in the Casaletto neighborhood is a charming and affordable restaurant specializing in traditional Roman cuisine.  Easily reached via the 8 tram in Trastevere – it’s the last stop so you don’t even need to worry about missing your stop – the restaurant is understated with wonderful service.  And on the night that I was there, I heard locals, as well as English and German tourists so at least 3 languages are covered.

Another discover, albeit having existed for nearly 100 years, is Felice a Testaccio (  Not too far in fact from one of my favourite restaurants, Flavio Velavevodetto, this is a larger restaurant that can accommodate many more guests than many of the restaurants listed above.  The presentation of their cacao e pepe is a bit of show – mixed at the table much like truffles are shaved table-side in Piemonte – and I could have done without it, but it was divine so overlook the flash.  But the real stand-out here was the Carciofi alla Romana – the steamed artichoke with garlic and lemon.  It was insanely good!  There was the taste of a bit of char, which I have never experienced before, yet the texture was firm and only lightly salted.  I would literally return there for the Carciofi (in season, of course) in a heartbeat.

Another small place that always puts a smile on my face is Trattoria de Gli Amici, also in Trastevere in Piazza Sant’Egidio. I have never been here for dinner but as a place to stop for lunch, especially on a sunny day looking at the piazza and everyone walking around, it is close to sheer perfection.   And why this restaurant as opposed to others in Trastevere? Because they employ people with special needs and the money goes toward the ongoing support of the Roman special needs community.

Another restaurant that I must mention, and am embarrassed that I have forgotten all these years, is Dar Poeta (, one of the best pizzerias in Rome, located just across the river in Trastevere.  If memory serves, and as the lines out the door will attest, Dar Poeta doesn’t take reservations but I assure you, it is worth the wait.

And if you seek an affordable, yet traditional Roman meal, you must seek out Trattoria da Lucia ( reservations suggested).  Even smaller than Da Enzo, the atmosphere is typically Roman as is the food.  On the night was I was there, a table asked what was good and the waiter listed the classics like pasta arrabiata and tripa alla romana.  The staff aren’t known for the congenial demeanor, but the food and wine are worth the trek and when the restaurant is filled with non-tourists, you know you are at a good standard place.

And arguably my favourite, despite what I said above, is Sora Margherita (  (Yes, my faves change every time!) Located near the Jewish Quarter and although very small, and somewhat rustic, is an absolute must!  I am embarrassed to say that it has taken me this long to find this outstanding restaurant with probably the best fettuccini, with cacio e pepe, that I have ever had!  If I only had two nights in Rome, this would be one of the restaurants that I would have to return to.

Roma Sparita ( may actually be the new champ when it comes to the best cacio e pepe in Rome!  Tucked away in a quiet piazza in Trastevere, this restaurant has two floors, and outdoor seating (which I opted for on a glorious early Spring night).  At first glance, the cacio e pepe prices seemed a little higher than I’ve seen elsewhere but when the plate arrived, it all made sense: a heaping portion of cacio e pepe served in a fried parmigiano bowl (that I swore I wouldn’t eat, but I did).  The staff were kind, even when folks walked up without reservations, and were always happy to help.  I heard multiple languages other than Italian and English so don’t fear, but go!

And although not exactly a “bite” in the sense used here – although it’s been lunch numerous times – right around the corner from the Pantheon is what I consider to be the best gelato place in all of Rome: Giolitti (


You will see the Coliseum, the Piazza Navona, the Palatine hills, and do many other picturesque things that I won’t repeat what your guide book tells you.  Instead, I will tell you my 3 favourite things that you must see on any trip to Rome.

First, you must go to San Luigi dei Francesci; here are 3 original Caravaggios painted on the walls of the church so they can never be removed.  This is how art was meant to be viewed and the solitude of the church, even though teeming with tourists, is sheer tranquility for me.

Caravaggio at San Luigi dei Francesi 02Secondly, if it is open or you can convince someone to let you know, go to the Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte (on the via Giulia near the Hotel Ponte Sisto) which is the oddest and most bizarre church in Rome: it is full of bones and skull that have been made in to crosses, light fixtures, etc.  And this is no stunt or shock-value church.  It is the real thing.

Thirdly, you must cross the river and go to Trastevere and wander and get lost and have a coffee and stop for lunch at an outdoor café.

And if you find yourself near the Colosseum (really?!), San Pietro in Vincoli is one of my favourite churches, due in many parts because it is hard to find, and thus the church is not overrun with tourists, but most importantly, because of the sculpture of Moses by Michaelangelo that is one of his greatest works.  And a bit of Trivia: the story goes that Michaelangelo was so consumed by this massive sculpture that when it was finished, he was certain that it was real and would come to life and thus threw his hammer at the knee of Moses to make it rise.  (It didn’t.)  And the horns on this head: they were meant to be rays of light but due to a translation issue (sic!) of “keren” for horns was used instead of the intended “karan” for rays.

The Mausoleo di Agusto ( is a must-go item on your next trip to Rome.  Newly opened to the public, it offers a unique insight in to not only the structure of this architectural wonder, but also how nobility honoured their dead.  Entrance is limited in number, and it is important to book in advance as walk-ups don’t appear to be permitted.

And what’s equally great about the mausoleo is that it is right next to the Museo dell’Ara Pacis (  A gorgeous juxtaposition of modern architecture with a stunning ancient alter, that is either loved or hated by most – I happen to love it – but regardless, gives additional insight in to the early roman city.

And although not exactly a site, but I recently did a cooking class with Grano & Farina (, also in Trastevere and although also around the corner from where I used to live, my choosing this school was totally by chance.  Julia and Pino offer around 20 courses so look on their website and plan in advance: they only allow 6 guests per class so you don’t want to miss out.

And last but not least, allow me to encourage you to just stroll.  After all these years, and the various directions I have traveled, I still find new things, and new ways of reaching things, and new glorious wonders.  This truly is the eternal city and should be explored as often and as varied as possible.

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Bocas del Toro, Panama – a a fascinating town of dirt roads (and lots of potholes due to the traffic and the rains), packed with cheap hostals and mid-range hotels, restaurants of all sorts, and bars on every block.

Located on southern tip of Isla Colon, on the northwestern corner of Panama, bordering Costa Rica, Bocas town is a fascinating town of dirt roads (and lots of potholes due to the traffic and the rains), packed with cheap hostals and mid-range hotels, restaurants of all sorts, and bars on every block.


I opted to stay well outside of Bocas town because I wanted time to chill and regroup and quite honestly, the pictures of the Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge ( were just charming: I mean, we’re talking about over-water bungalows y’all!  The staff here are lovely and do their best to help with anything that you need. I think there are two bungalow types and one large family accommodation (out of a total of like 9 huts) so it really is a peaceful and relaxing place to stay for a couple of nights.

As you know, I only include things on my blog that I endorse and recommend so nothing has changed on that front.  But the Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge does have its challenges so as long as you know, and are therefore prepared, you can enjoy this charming place. The lodge is so remote that getting to town for dinner is a challenge and can be rather pricey (and the free transport stops around 15.00 but even so, their dock is not near the center so a $2 taxi needs to be arranged in advance to get you to a restaurant and back = complicated, even for this Panner Planner).  Dinner is not typically included in your rates so you’ll choose from a menu daily (it doesn’t change and this is added to your bill.  It’s not Michelin starred, but it’ll do.  And for this vegetarian, everyone went out of their way to make something for the three nights I was here.)  But the real kicker is that there is no AC anywhere on the property.  It’s in the middle of nowhere on the Caribbean and the lodges have some windows, and some openings without windows (the bathrooms and the bedroom, to be precise).  I do wish they had fans in the bedrooms: the main bedroom is on the top floor of the bungalows and heat does rise and since the ceiling fan does nothing more than offer a bit of white noise during the night, it is hot.  During the day, it doesn’t matter because you’ll just jump in the ocean but at night, even sleeping alone on this trip, it was hot.  Oh, and there’s no wifi in the rooms, much less a TV or radio,  and no electricity so bring a book, don’t plan on shaving or blowdrying your hair, and literally be prepared to disconnect.


If you choose to stay in Bocas town, there are tons of options covering every possible price range.  I didn’t venture in to the city from the Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge but in my research, I was able to find a large handful of vegetarian restaurants.


There are numerous tours to neighboring islands so it’s really about what you want to see.  A friend recommended a tour to Playa Estrella (Starfish Island) but with only one day to get away, and given the reason for the entire trip is that I want to see sloths, I opted to do a tour to Playa Cayo Zapatilla (Slipper Beach), Cayo Coral (coral beach for snorkeling), and Sloth Island that offered the outside chance of seeing sloths. Sadly, no sloths were seen but to my great delight, and that of everyone else on the tour, as we were headed to Cayo Coral to do some snorkeling, low and behold, a small pod of dolphins were frolicking in the ocean and it was gorgeous.  The surprise dolphin sighting, alone, was worth the proverbial price of admission.

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Cala Gonone is THE place to go! Don’t miss it!

(updated 23 Sept 2022)

I have found a small slice of heaven in this hamlet along the eastern side of Sardegna.  It’s not the easiest to find (see note below) but I would suggest that you come here and stay for many days rather than Costa Rei or Villasmius; it’s cheaper, there is more to do, and the people are just lovely.

Note: Cala Gonone is hard to find and harder to get to.  If you decided to drive from Cagliari, I highly recommend you turning on roaming on your phone and using your trusted maps feature.

If you decide to fly to Sardegna and only stay at Cala Gonone, take the Deplanno bus from the airport.  It’s cheap, convenient, and comfortable, not to mention that you get to see much of Sardinia that you don’t see while driving on highways.


There are vast majority of hotel types in Cala Gonone.  None have more than 4 stars and you can go down to a 2 star or even stay at one of the B&Bs peppered throughout this coastal community.  I chose the Costa Dorada ( which was just lovely.  The staff spoke Italian with me, but they also appeared to be fluent in English, German, Spanish, and French (all heard while I was there).  I requested a sea-view room and although it didn’t have a balcony – there are shared spaced on each floor so it’s not the most private – it did have a lovely view of the sea when I opened the shutters each morning.  How better to start your day right?!


Not far from the Costa Durada is the Road House Blues (no website).  The food was pretty good and the service was excellent.  It was however, to be warned, incredibly hot!  Cala Gonone, when there is no wind, is warm well in to the evening and don’t think of asking about air conditioning (here or anywhere else!); it doesn’t happen.  What I liked most about Road House Blues was the classic jazz playing the entire time I was there.

I highly recommend La Poltrona (no website).  This place is phenomenal!  The first night I went here, I decided to walk the 2+ kilometers to the restaurant.  Unfortunately, it was hot – not to mention UP HILL which no one mentioned – and by the time I arrived, I was a sweaty mess!  But the staff was patient and once I cooled off, they said that they new I was vegetarian and the chef was offering a number of different options for me!  How cool?  My last night in Cala Gonone was to be at La Poltrona.  How could it not be?!  And the chef, once again, outdid himself with options and even accommodated my need – and yess, it was a need – to have a simple home-made pasta that was out of this world!

Another recent find was Zio Pedrillo pizzeria (  After a long days of sun, sea, and boating, all we thought we wanted was a nice pizza outside.  And from what we saw, the pizzas looked outstanding.  But when I noticed that they offered malloredus, my favourite type of sardinian pasta, I had to try it.  And it was outstanding!  It was so outstanding that it was in the running for best meal during the entire trip!


You come to Cala Gonone for one thing: the beach.  But unlike Costa Rei, there is more to do here to occupy your time.  There is a bit of shopping that can be done (all of it touristic, however), you can go hiking, and you even have a plethora or restaurants to choose from.

But if there is one thing that you must do, you must do a minicrociera along the coast!  This will be a day-long trip (mine lasted from 9 – 18.30 even though it was suggested I would be finished by 17.00) and will cost you about 70 euro, but it is worth every penny.  And rather than going to the Port and doing one of the large tour boats, ask your hotel to set up a smaller, more private outing.  In fact, the Costa Durada has their own boat (the Marlin) and organizes this for their guests.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know about this and by the time I arrived, the boat was already booked for the days I was there.  But thankfully, the Hotel called a friend who did the same thing, they got me on to the boat tour (8 people total), and the owner of the hotel even drove me to the Port and introduced me to the guides.

The minicrociera is a sun-lovers paradise so if you don’t want to be in the sun, this isn’t the best thing for you.  But if you can stick it out – and most boats have a covered section and you can sleep on the boats as opposed to one of the beaches you will undoubtedly stop at for a couple of hours – do it.  Don’t think about it, just do it!

So, if you plan to go to Sardegna for a bit of sun and relaxation and aren’t sure where to go, without a doubt, I have to tell you to go to Cala Cogone.  It truly is heaven and there is enough to do there to keep yourself occupied and happy for quite some time!  Enjoy!

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Piemonte is more than Barolo but that’s a good first reason to go!

(update 02 Jan 2022)

Piemonte (and Langhe) isn’t a city but rather a region of northern Italy. Arguably, it is one of the most elegant regions of Italy that also acts as a collective municipality overseeing the Barolo and Barbaresco wines. My heart has always been drawn to Venice and Rome but the tranquility of the Piemonte region could very well become my third home!


I may have stumbled upon the most amazing, and charming, and inviting hotel in the Langhe region that I am honestly afraid to share because I don’t want to be turned away: the Locanda Marchesi Alfieri ( (closest to ASTI or ALBA).  I am literally in love with this hotel.  I didn’t want to leave and when I moved to another hotel that I wasn’t happy with, all I could say was that I wanted to return to the Marchesi Alfieri.

I read an article about the Hotel Castello di Sinio ( (closest to BAROLO and MONFORTE D’ALBA) and so I had to check it out. Located in the tiny village of Sinio, this converted castle is a real gem. Denise, the owner, is a hoot and full of information and advice. And the staff, they are a collective dream and literally made every return, and every departing adventure, a real joy.   You don’t stay here if you’re looking for cookie cutter hotels, but you stay here for peace and relaxation. (And, I suspect, the pool in the summer could be a wonderful afternoon reprieve, but I’ll have to report on that at another time.)

In the small village of La Morra – and a short walk from what is arguably the best restaurant in Piemonte: Il Bovio – lies the lovely little Corte Gondina Hotel ( (LA MORRA).  There aren’t a lot or rooms but the rooms they have, are great: some are large with only a minimal view while others are a bit smaller with a balcony where you can see rows and rows of vineyards.  And not to be missed is the morning breakfast with wonderful pastries and divine cappuccini.

The agritourismo Agricola La Morra Brandini ( is a lovely, small agritourismo with stunning views over the valleys that surround it.  And on a clear day, you can stunning gorgeous views of Monviso in the distance.  There are two room types (and only 5 in total) and if at all possible, I encourage you to reserve one of the two Superior rooms: set on two levels, the lower level affords a small but comfortable sitting room and the upper level provides a larger bedroom, with a sofa bed if needed, and a small reading nook.  Reader be warned however: the toilet is on the lower level so if you’re someone who gets up in the middle of the night, you might want to consider one of Le Doppie (double) rooms.  Oh, and breakfast is gorgeous in what doubles as an often busy restaurant at lunch.

Another recent discover is the Relais Poderi Luigi Einaudi ( a wonderfully small and pleasant B&B in the Dogliani area of Piemonte (CLOSEST TO DOGLIANI).  I counted 6 rooms – and the amazing opportunity to be the only guest for 2 nights which was perfect for this traveling introvert – and each was unique with homey and person touches.  The common spaces were warm and inviting and in the summer, an outdoor pool (which is also serves to manage the humidity in the cellars below!).

If you’re in Monforte d”Alba, a gorgeous small hilltop town that I’ve drive through and around so many times, you will find the La Ribezza Boutique Hotel ( a real stunner!  The staff are outstanding and the rooms truly wonderful.  My only advice to my readers is to confirm the room that you will be given, in advance if at all possible: rooms on the ground floor look on to the car park which isn’t the most attractive view, and can be disruptive when sleeping.  I was in Room 104 and wouldn’t recommend it, and I probably wouldn’t recommend Rooms 105 and 106 either for the exact same reason.  It’s a catch-22 because without parking, this would be a problem but with rooms that look on to the car park are just not attractive.  Of additional, and important note: breakfast is not typically included and is rather expensive, especially for what you get.  I would not, not, return because of this aspect alone but given that most hotels in Italy still provide breakfast as part of their rates, you should know in advance. The village below is a great place to get a coffee and a cornetto/brioche/croissant


If I only had one night in Langhe, and if I could simply travel to the Langhe region for one night, I would go to Trattoria La Coccinella ( I literally fell in love with this restaurant: the décor so charming and real, the waiters outstanding and in no way intrusive, and the food absolutely divine! Of course, I was here during white truffle season (tartuffo bianco) but even so, I know that the food here year-round will make everyone content. (And, for what it’s worth, I was only the second of 2 tables where I heard English.)  I have returned to this restaurant every year, for Thanksgiving, this being the 7th year as of this writing and it has not changed, and it remains special to this solo traveler.

De Felicin ( is, without a doubt, my second favourite restaurant in the Piemonte region and I would insist that you spend two nights  in this part of Italy, just to enjoy.  The owner and chef, Nino, is amazing and so incredibly knowledgeable for all diners.  On my visit, he suggested that he make various antipasti and, if we were still hungry, to order a pasta dish.  We weren’t still hungry!   The antipasti were each unique, tasty, and not too big which can be a welcomed respite from the sometimes heavy pasta that you can find in the Piemonte region.  And not to be missed is the wine cellar: what a site  for both the wine aficionado and the newbie!  Put this one on your list!

If you have a third night, you really can’t skip Bovio Ristorante ( which has a bit of history behind it. The short story is that it’s sister restaurant, now closed, was even higher up the hill in La Morra but the views are just as stunning and the wine cellar is rumoured to have over 1 million euro worth of wine. As for the food, it was delicious and the staff really very helpful and the views incredible! So why is this not at the top of my list? Simply because, the food and the interior were just a bit too stuffy, and a bit too showy, and anything where I find the people to be to try too hard, I find it unsettling and not the most enjoyable experience.

A recent discovery thanks to the Slow Food movement so prominent in Italy was the Cantina del Cacciatori.  Absolutely lovely!

Osteria Veglio ( remains a keeper if you ask me.  I am embarrassed to admit that I had forgotten about this restaurant but when I walked in, I was instantly brought back to years earlier when I dined here and how wonderful it was.  The food is outstanding and the staff, multi-lingual to be noted, are outstanding.  And the food divine and the wine list extensive.

And because I can’t eat at the same places every night – although I am always tempted at Trattoria La Coccinella! – I wanted to find a new place to recommend and I can happily suggest Osteria Tre Case (  My goodness, the food was outstanding!  And the staff, attentive but not intrusive, were also respectful of time and not rushing your meal.  I love the Serralunga d’Alba area, especially because it has some of my favourite wineries, but to have discovered this gorgeous restaurant a short hike up in to the “centre” is a jewel to be experienced.


One comes to the Piemonte region to see the wines, to taste the wines, and to hear about the wines. The latter, you say, is an odd thing to hear but I tell you, the stories that the vintners will tell you are mesmerizing and charming and will make the drive on these lovely curvy roads worth the endeavor.

I love cooking and whenever I can, I take the opportunity to take a cooking class.  Run by the lovely Fernanda Giomello, of Effe Food and Events in Alba (, this all female endeavor is a real joy!  I must admit that I was initially expecting a step by step cooking class and when that was evident from the start that that’s not what was happening, I was a little confused.  But put your expectations aside, learn the history of cooking in the Langhe, and get your hands dirty and make some food.  And if there could be anything even better… the foods that you made are then served in a multi-course dinner, with wine, and the opportunity to ask further questions and obtain additional feedback.  It was such a joy that I want to do this again with friends!

With no disrespect to the large wineries that you will find in this valley of two wines, I would avoid them and seek out the smaller producers. Personally, I can recommend the following but if you know of others, or just want to rely on your hotel, check them out:

Cavallotto Tenuta (Barolo)

GD Vajra (Barolo)




Vietti (Barolo)

La Spinetta (Barbaresco) – my favourite

Cantina Vignaioli Elvio Pertinace (Barbaresco)

Azienda Agricola Sottimano (Barbaresco)

and new to the list – only because I can only visit so many wineries and taste so much wine:

Contratto (sparkling wine in a STUNNING winery, not to be missed!)


But a word of advice: a GPS system for your car is imperative. Yes, it will nearly double the price of your rental car but some of these wineries are difficult to find and one of the wineries was surprised that I found them, on time, and when I told them about the GPS, they said that it must have been a great system as most people get lost.

And to note: most of the wineries have begun charging for their tasting.  The fact that they didn’t charge for so many years is one of the things that I found charming. But I understand, and given the tourism trade, it makes perfect sense so be prepared to pay between 10 and 25 euro for your tastings.

So, the next time you come to Milano, go past Torino and head to Piemonte and unwind and check out from the daily craziness of internet and texts and get back to life and to the living of life.

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Venezia, Italy – a place of quiet and intrique around every corner

[updated 02 January 2021]

My heart will always belong to Rome, but my dream is to live in Venice.  There is a magic about Venice that is hard to explain and holds a very dear place in my heart.   If you have not been, go.  And if you have been, go again!  It has become a tradition for me to go to Venice in February when the tour groups are gone, there is a chill in the air, the aqua alta may be in residence, and the canals and “streets” and fogged over in the morning and night.

And before we go any further, there is one bit of advice that was given to me years ago and worth remembering: lose the map!  It’s an island so you can’t get too lost.  And that’s part of the charm and how you will see things that you will never read about in a guidebook or on this website.


The Ca’ Pisani hotel ( and has definitely become one of my go-to hotels when I return to Venezia.  The art deco design is close to my heart and the rooms are amazing.  If you can get a room facing toward the Rio Terrà Foscarini, do it: watching life happen close to the Dorsoduro neighborhood is a part of Venezian life that not everyone gets to see. Breakfast is ample and although I’ve not dined at the hotel, there are options from wine and cheese to a full meal.  And given that it is footsteps away from the Ponte Academia and the vaporetto stop, you’re well connected to other wonderful restaurants in this stunning city.

If you are looking for an affordable place to stay that is so close to everything you must see, the Hotel Flora ( is a wonderful option.

For the longest time, I thought this was a 4-star hotel and only recently found out that it is actually a 3-star hotel.  That says it all!   And although the hotel has no canal views – I’ve stayed at one of those before and although a truly gorgeous view, you may also have the scents from the canal and the noise from people walking below your window – it is 5 minutes from Piazza San Marco, 2 minutes to La Fenice, and easily accessible to everything else!   The staff is outstanding and the improvements to the breakfast buffet a wise choice for the varied clientele!  Search for me in January/February at this hotel because I will return!

If you want the same level of hospitality as the Flora, but on a smaller scale, head straight to Hotel Novecento (; it’s owned by the same family!  Comprised of only 9 rooms, the staff is amazing, the location a wonderful respite of solitude and relaxation, and yet still close enough to everything that you’ll never feel like you are missing anything!

If money is no object, the Ca’ Maria Adele ( is an absolute gem of a hotel and if you have the opportunity to stay here, I highly recommend you do. When you first arrive, not only are you greated by some of the most amazing staff, but you are then walked to the lounge where a bit of prosecco and some biscotti are provided while your room is prepared and the luggage delivered. That’s a great start in my book! But more importantly, the location of the hotel, in the Dorsoduro neighborhood is close enough to everything that you want, yet far enough away that it is quiet and a true get-away. And the breakfast?! AMAZING. Every evening you select what you want for breakfast, and where you want to eat it – your room, an indoor “hall”, or an outdoor balcony – as well as what time you want to eat and the rest is taken care of for you. Truly, this is absolutely astounding and it was difficult not to be little piggy and order everything on the menu!

Ca' Maria Adele with flash Ca' Maria Adele breakfastBites

As long as you avoid the tourist traps located around Piazza San Marco, and any of the ponti, you really can’t go wrong.  The restaurants will be small, and there may be a wait, but if you plan in advance, your dining experience in Venice will leave you with many happy memories.

If I only had one night in Venezia, Ai Artisti ( is where I would go! The food is always amazing and although they no longer have an extensive list of wines by the glass – something I was sad to see go with the recent remodel – they still offer some wonderful whites and reds by the glass. My last night in Venice is typically spent here and every time, I stroll the canals with a full belly and a smile on my face.  I want to return right now!

Another find was the Alle Testiere (no website but on Castello 5801 on the Calle del Mondo Novo).  Again, amazing food and a terrific wine list with wines by the glass.

And then there is Osteria doge Morosini (  This is a tried and true seafood restaurant and worth every penny.   Although I don’t eat fish, I can certainly appreciate the smells, the ingredients, and the words of praise from those around me.  And how did this vegetarian fare?   Just perfectly because there are always vegetables on the menu and most pastas if they aren’t vegetarian, can easily be made vegetarian by leaving the fish out of the sauce.

As much as I love Ai Artisti (still my favourite in Venice) and Alle Testiere (even though they look at me oddly when I say I’m vegetarian), I decided to expand my knowledge and am proud to say that I have two additional restaurants that I can highly suggest.

The other restaurant that may very well become my second go-to place is Corte Sconta (  Trust me when I tell you to use this web address and no others; your fist hit will be another chain or restaurants with a similar name that, I recall, focus on pizza.  This Corte Sconta is no pizzeria!  The service was amazing, the options phenomenal, and the wine list outstanding.  And what gets this restaurant a special nod from me is that, even though it is a fish restaurant – that everyone was raving about (in English, Italian, German, and I think Russian!) – when I told my waiter I was vegetarian, he showed me the listed options and then started to offer some ideas of things not on the menu.  In the end, I had tagliolini with pesto that was plate-licking delicious!

Because of an unexpectedly closed restaurant upon my arrival in Venice, the hotel had to recommend an alternate. I’ll leave out the gory details but suffice it to say the staff was rude and when I said I was vegetarian, they said “no.” So I needed a new restaurant and returned to Al Ponte Storto (no website) who kindly directed me to the failed first restaurant. Al Ponte Storto is not fancy but I promise you that the staff is wonderful, the food classic home-cooked fair, and not expensive. So, if the prices of Venice get to you yet you want a lovely, and simple meal, go here. I would return.

For that special occasion, where you really don’t mind spending just a little more for the production, if you will, I would send you to Ristorante Da Fiore (, a gorgeous, tuxedoed staff, with some of the best food and most amazing ambiance you’ll find in the city.  And if you are lucky, and book well in advance, there are 2 tables that sit canal-side for that extra special evening.

Another place, and a new find which truly illustrates how the outside does not reflect the inside, is Ai Gondolieri (  Located in the Dorsoduro neighborhood, right across from the Peggy Guggenheim museum, I have passed this restaurant innumerable times and never give it a second thought.  Oh, but what I’ve been missing!  Upon entering, you’ll be met with a classic, old-school Venetian restaurant with tuxedoed staff who truly act like they want to help.  The food was truly outstanding.

And lastly, if you’re looking for something fairly inexpensive, Oké ristorante and pizzeria is a good alternative.  I went for the pizza – yes, even I need a break from the pasta once in a while – and it was delicious.  There are a lot of students and locals here, so it’s a safe bet and not overly touristy.


Venice is a wanderers paradise.   When I go to Venice, I walk for hours every day and just let my feet take me wherever they may go.  If an alley looks cool, I will take it.  If a cafe looks inviting, I will stop.   It really is all about the experience.

If you need specific places to go, there are a few that I highly recommend.  The Guggenheim museum ( is worth seeking out not only because it is fun to get lost trying to find it, but the exhibit alone is truly outstanding for the modern artist in all of us.  And before you leave the museum, be sure to go out on to the veranda: you are as close to the Grande Canale as you will ever get in a former residence.

The Scuola Grande San Rocco ( is an amazing gem that should not be missed.

After paying admission and walking up the stairs, look for the chairs dotted around the center of the floor: there should be mirrors that you can use to best view the ceiling above.  (Trust me, it will save your neck!)  The silence is amazing and the beauty of the frescoes  calming and haunting all at the same time.

I also recommend doing a self-guided tour of La Fenice (not to mention going to the opera if you can).

The restoration of La Fenice is stunning and the architecture over the top.  When I went, I was able to sneak in to one of the boxes and get a feel for what it would be like to sit in a box and watch one of the acclaimed performances.

And, of course, you can’t go to Venice without stopping in one – if not every one – of the churches throughout the city.  In the heat of summer, this is a lovely respite and a place to sit for just a minute.  And in the winter, it too provides shelter from the chill air or maybe even the aqua alta!

No matter how many times one visits Venezia, there will also be new things to see, just by happen-stance, or to be reminded of wonders like the Scala Contarini del Bovolo ( that you’ve never previously visited but wondered about.  A phenomenal and breathtaking work of architecture, the “scala” really can’t be located by simply wondering around, even though there is a small yellow sign pointing to it’s location (which I always ignored), but a bit of GPS assistance and intention it will be worth the trek.  You can see the “scala” without paying the entrance fee (reservations recommended) through the bars that surround the courtyard, but with a reservation, you’ll not only be able to enter and see the intricacy of architecture but from the top, you’ll see across the rooftops of Venice, over to Piazza San Marco, and other landmarks in a 360 degree view.  It really is that breathtaking and worth the visit.  (And to be honest, it probably offers nearly the same views as the Campanile in Piazza San Marco, without the lines and without the crush of tourists.)

The Palazzo Grassi ( has finally re-opened after years of work on the structure, thanks to the support of the Pinault Collection (who also undertook the restoration of the Punta della Dogana), and what a beauty it is.  The exhibitions rotate so you’ll want to see what’s on and whether it is worth the price of admission, but honestly, even if you’re not that chuffed with the exhibition, the restoration of the palazzo is truly breathtaking: from the open entrance, to the grand staircase, to the ceiling mural that will give you a neck cramp from staring up so long.

And, of  course, a trip to Venice wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t go to Murano.  (Sadly, the glass sculpture below no longer exists after many many years.  There still remains a blue sculpture – admittedly my least favourite of all the sculptures – but that is all.)

The glass is gorgeous and it is fun to watch a glass blowing demonstration.  And if you must buy something, don’t buy it near the vapporetto stop and be sure to haggle: most prices are negotiable.   But don’t stop a few hundred metres from the vapporetto stop: go further.  Murano truly is a wonderful island with some lovely restaurants, cute shops, and some amazing churches to just stop and investigate.

If time permits, don’t forget to Burano and even Torcello!  The colours of Burano are amazing and bring a smile to my face whenever I think of it.  And the pizza some of the best that I have ever had.

A German couple  in Venice recommended a lovely restaurant in Burano.   They raved so much about this restaurant that we had to try it.  If you go, make a reservation at al Gatto Nero (, definitely the best fish restaurant on the island!  And although there were definitely tourists there  – dining options on the island are fairly limited – the restaurant was also packed with locals for their Sunday brunch.   Amazing!

And Torcello?!  How quaint and lovely.  There is even a small Locanda on the island that I am dying to stay at (although they are closed in the winter when the tourists are gone!)

The first trip  that I ever took in my life was to Venice for one full week.  Everyone thought that I was insane and wondered how I could spend 7 days on such a small island.  Twenty years later, and I still go as frequently as I can and soak it all in.  Get lost: you won’t regret it.

And if you’re looking for some tapestry, fabric, or those lovely little tassles the best place is Mario Bevilacqua. There are 2 shops, both equdistant from Piazza San Marco but my favourite is the one at 337B, Fondamenta Canonica. It’s a little hard to find – being right behind the Basilica San Marco – but I find the staff there very approachable and absolutely lovely. But be forewarned: it’s hard to leave with just one thing and they are not cheap.

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Senglea, Malta

I’m including Senglea for the sole purpose of the Cugo Gran Macina Grand Harbour Hotel.  It was truly that stunning!  The small island of Senglea doesn’t have a lot to offer and probably isn’t the key tourist attraction like other parts of Malta, but for a day or two of walking around, or taking the ferry over to Valetta, or just relaxing at the pool, I found this island of the Three Cities charming and inviting.


I honestly can’t think of the right adjective to use to describe the Cugo Gran Macina Harbour Hotel (  So I’ll just go with sheer perfection!  There really is no other place to stay in my opinion.  Deservingly part of the Design Hotels collection (, I was given room 108, a corner room overlooking the harbor.  Although the hotel describes itself as all suites, this is beyond a suite.  I really didn’t want to leave!  The sitting room is larger than any of the other hotels that I had stayed in.  The bedroom could be closed off from the sitting area (you know, in case someone snores and you had to go out to the lounge, or left open for a phenomenal sense of grandeur).  And the bathroom was gorgeous!  The only thing that could have made it better was a bathtub but since I’m not a bath person (kinda freaks me out to be honest), I was happy with the rain shower.  This, dear reader, is a true 5-star hotel and worth every euro they charge (which should be more) and is deserving of every “Best Of” list possible.


I’m embarrassed to say that my research didn’t turn up too many dining options in Senglea so I opted to dine at the hotel restaurant Hammett’s Macina ( (also because I knew I needed something other than more pasta for at least one night and their menu showed a lot of vegetarian options).  This really was an extraordinary experience.  Describing themselves as cooking based on Mediterranean-semitic roots, the food is meant to be shared but also small enough for the intrepid single traveler like myself.  And when you can sit outside, have a cocktail before dinner, and observe the world passing by, there really is nothing better.


Senglea doesn’t really offer much in terms of sites to see, but I encourage you to pull yourself away from the Cugo Gran Macina Grand Harbour and take a stroll around the old town that is above the harbour.  The tiny streets are gorgeous and the architecture of the homes breathtaking.  There’s been a lot of remodeling going on which makes the old town very clean, but you can also see old homes that are yet to be updated just to have a sense of what the town used to look like.

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Gozo, Malta

Every local I met said “you’ll like Gozo better than Malta.”  Yep, you read that correctly: they refer to Gozo as being separate from the country of Malta which took me a while to figure out.  But Gozo is different from the main island of Malta and the lifestyle much more simple and uncomplicated and relaxed.  I met a lovely couple on my last day in Gozo who said that they’ve been coming for 18 years and I think that is wherein the charm of Gozo lies: in its tranquility and still off-the-beaten-path feel that the island possesses.  It’s a place to relax, and lounge, and recharge.


There are some really lovely options in Gozo but I needed something more of a resort where I could just relax by a pool and not figure out how to get to the ocean, so I chose the Kempinski San Lawrenz (   The hotel is beautiful but I must admit that I felt that it was resting on its position as the only 5 star on the island.  It really is a 4-star, except the high nightly rate.  The breakfast is amazing and the pool is lovely, especially in the scorching Maltese sun, but the rooms are rather tired and feel late 80s in design.  I also noticed a large tour bus arrive to pick up a tour so they apparently cater to the tour operator crowd which isn’t something that I appreciate myself. So as most travelers to Gozo have to do, figure out what it is that you need.  A number of folks that I met during my stay said that they opt for vacation rentals with pools and eat at home while others look for places closer to the larger towns.  The Kempsinski is well outside of any major town so you’ll spend a small fortune on car hires for dinner, just so you know.  But needing to relax and unwind, this was a wonderful option and will be impeccable when they update the rooms.


This is where Gozo excelled.  It wasn’t so much inventive food or anything over the top and grandiose, but just good quality food using local ingredients and outstanding customer service.

If I only had one night in Gozo (which may be enough to be honest), I would go to Ta’ Philip (  Located close to the main harbor of Gozo, the food was outstanding but what won me over was the ambiance of the hotel – very modern and inviting – and the kindness of the owner, Philip.  He’s got over 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry and it shows in his attention to detail and flavour.  There were so many things that I wanted to try – having had them at other restaurants and wondering if they could have been better – but there was just no room left in the belly!  (Insider’s tip: if you have the chance, ask Philip to try his family’s recipe for the sun-dried tomato paste with a hint of salt and sugar.  It’s stunning stuff and I so wanted to ask to bring some home. But I didn’t.)

The other find that I really enjoyed was Maldonado’s Bistro (  The food was outstanding and the options for vegetarian and vegan food were impressive.  If they have the bigilia flitters, get them! I wasn’t sure what to expect as they were described as something like falafel but they were so much better than that and the homemade dips were mouth-wateringly good.  It’s a little off the beaten path but with a good driver and gps, you’ll find it and be happy that you did. 

(An Insider’s tip: I always try to have local wine whenever I can, just to understand what folks expect.  Although I wouldn’t say that Maltese wines are bad, I will tell you that they run on the sweet side.  Even when requesting dry wines, at every restaurants, they were always more on the sweet side.  But… if you go to Maldonado, and maybe others, where they have non-Maltese wines, order a bottle and take home what you don’t drink.  That was the saving grace for an evening after dinner drink.)


Most of the sites in Gozo require a car to reach as they are well spread out.  So, instead, I opted for one of the all-day tours: Barbaroso Excursions (  The problem with the tour, which I was aware of based on other comments I had read, is that the driver trying to explain what you’re seeing is virtually impossible to hear.  I was sitting right behind the driver and had trouble hearing: folks sitting at the back of the jeep heard nothing.  But if you go in knowing this, I think it makes riding around in Gozo that much more enjoyable.  The other part of the excursion – as I chose to do the combi tour – was a boat trip to the Crystal Lagoon (a marketing approach to be frank) and the Blue Lagoon (another marketing pitch as I believe the real and original Blue Lagoon is in Turkey but I could be wrong).  So why did I opt for the combi tour you ask?  Who doesn’t enjoy the chance to jump in the ocean off the side of a boat?!  There are two important things to be aware of before booking this tour: the lunch is basic, at best, but no one books these tours thinking they’ll have a divine meal.  And secondly, their website says “unlimited wine and water” but when I asked for a water on the first half, which was the jeep tour, the driver looked at me stunned and told me where I could go to buy a water.  I told him what the website said and he kindly offered to give me one of his waters that he brought along.  But given how hot it was, even driving around, that wouldn’t have been an option so I just bought my own.  On the boat, there were large jugs of water and wine, so that you didn’t pass out from dehydration.  So, be sure to bring water.

There was another tour group called Gozo Pride Tours that appeared to do the same style tour that Barbarosa does.

And yes, even in Gozo, there is a hop on/hop off tour group.  To be honest, they appeared to go most places that the jeep tour went, and it was probably cheaper, so have a think about what you want to do and then decide which option appears more greatly to you.

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Valletta, Malta

An undulating and fascinating city seemingly floating in the Mediterranean Sea.  It’s ties to Sicily are evident but this wonderful country and city have established their own identity.  As I traversed the narrow streets of Valletta, I constantly wondered what it reminded me of?  Was it a little bit of Portugal?  A touch of Southern Italy?  More than a hint of Morocco? I couldn’t say, but it is a lovely and tranquil place to stroll and relax which is what I needed.


There’s a lovely newer chain of boutique hotels in Malta, the newest being the Roselli AX Privilege ( right in the center of Valletta on Merchants street.  The hotel is very vintage with art deco touches which is just my style.  The rooms are gorgeously appointed and my request for a room with a small balcony on Merchant street was met which made me very happy.  (Ear plugs are advised if you’re a light sleeper, especially on weekends.)  You can book on a bed and breakfast plan, or I think you can book for full board, but I’m not sure why you’d want to eat at the hotel every day where there are stunning places throughout this little city.  (One disclaimer: the hotel advertises a pool and through the miracles of modern photography and angles, let’s just say the pictures look bigger than it really is.  I could have “sat” in the pool but that would have been one step up from a large whirlpool, so don’t come her for the pool in the middle of summer.)


I did a lot of research in advance of my trip and truly had trouble narrowing things down to just three nights.

If I only had one night in Valletta, I’d have to make it Zero Sei Trattoria Romana (  This lovlely Roman restaurant is set off the main streets, creating a calm and enchanting dining experience.  They don’t speak much English but they do speak Italian, and they have all of my favourite foods: caprese, cacio e pepe, and tiramisu.

A very close second in the “what’s Craig’s favourite restaurant?” category is, hands down, Beati Paoli (  Set on another side street on the “other side” of Valletta, the food was gorgeous and the staff perfection!  So why, you ask, is this second?  Solely because I wanted to sit outside and there were only 2 tables outside, both on a small sidewalk and a sometimes busy street.  When I return, I will feel more comfortable dining indoors and things may change.

Fifty-Nine Republic ( is a real stunner on the Valletta restaurant scene.  I sat outside on a balmy Saturday evening and thankfully, was never interrupted.  They’re not really equipped for vegetarians, despite the menu suggesting that you ask the waiter for alternate options, but the service and presentation were divine and when they have truffled mashed potatoes on the menu, can you really go wrong?

And lastly, but just as importantly even though it is not really a place for bites, if you fancy a cocktail before or after dinner, you must seek out Alchemy on Straight Street (  They don’t take reservations and seats are somewhat limited but the cocktails are worth the wait.  The “Ancient Kiss” is insanely memorable (I’m still salivating) and the mixologists are so knowledgable and creative that they deserve all acolades possible.


There aren’t really a lot of sites to see in Valletta, other the city itself.  Well, after you see the stunning works by Caravaggio in St Johns Co-Cathedral, that it is!  Which, by the way, gets crowded very early and very quickly so if that’s what you’re here for – that was the case for me no doubt – arrive at the opening and ask for the Caravaggio paintings and then, when you’ve absorbed as much as you can of these masterpieces, take in the remainder of this baroque wonder.

The Upper Barrakka is a gorgeous place to look out over the city and across the harbour to the Three Cities.  Likewise, the Lower Barrakka offers the obverse view and provides a different vantage that I really appreciated as it was away from the tourist hustle and bustle.  And near the Lower Barrakka is the Seige Bell and tomb of the unknown soldier commemorating recent wars.

There is a hop on/hop off option that you can take from near the bus terminal that will make seeing this wonderful island a lot easier (and which couldn’t be accomplished by foot).

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Negril – 7 miles of gorgeous beaches and activities galore!


There are a wide variety of options to choose from in Negril, from the all-inclusive to pay as you go, from 5 star to hut on the beach.  Being someone who is not a fan of the large commercial resorts, I opted for the Sunset at the Palms ( based on the fact that it was small and tranquil, and adults only.  There are positives and negatives to be honest.  On the positive side: the staff are outstanding, the tranquility divine, and the nature sounds soothing and calming.  At this very strange time in our existence, this is what I needed.  And the expertly manicured grounds are stunning and offered that sense of calm that I craved! On the negative side: I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in a Jamaican remake of “Dirty Dancing”.  The “treehouses” are a little dated, and the architecture a little reminiscent of days gone by as they struggle to stay afloat with the mega-resorts.  And sadly, the food was just so-so and the laminated menus a real turn-off: for an adults only resort, I would hope that sticky fingers weren’t an issue and thus proper menus could be prepared.


As I mentioned above, the laminated menus were a real turn-off.  Not only does it feel cheap, but it doesn’t even suggest the possibility that the food is seasonal and varied.  There is something about the static nature of a laminated menu that isn’t inviting.  And although I don’t think anything could stand up to Chef Matthew at the S Hotel, the chefs reached out daily and did the best that they could with what was available to them.


If chillaxing isn’t your thing, there are plenty of things to do in Negril.  These activities aren’t exactly sites but any version of water sport is available either through your hotel or directly on the beach.


I don’t do this often but I do feel that an addition note when traveling to Jamaica is warranted.  Bring cash.  Many things are cash-only and the expectation to tip – whether when using the VIP service at the airport, or tipping at the resort bar (regardless of being all-inclusive), or getting food on the beach, you will need cash.  And lots of it.  I always have cash with me but honestly didn’t realize the amount that was really required and was on the verge of being ill-prepared.  And although ATMs exist, they are rather few and far between (literally).

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Montego Bay – Where you stay, and the staff you encounter, can make or break an experience. And although Montego Bay seemed to be more of a stop-over either when arriving or departing the island rather than a destination, the staff at the S Hotel alone made me want to return.

Where you stay, and the staff you encounter, can make or break an experience.  And although Montego Bay seemed to be more of a stop-over either when arriving or departing the island rather than a destination, the staff at the S Hotel alone made me want to return.


The S Hotel Montego Bay ( really is a stunner.  It definitely has that South Beach vibe, which I don’t think is a bad thing, especially since they’ve retained their Jamaican heritage through design, the food, and even the music and posters throughout the property.  The hotel is stark-white with hints of black in the rooms and more pops of red and black in the public areas, offering a calm respite to hot days, the grey pop-up showers in the afternoons, or even the often-seen sunburnt guest.  Views of the ocean and the pool are stunning and if you can swing it, the top, 6th floor, has access to the Sky Deck and the Sky Lounge. 


Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many locations were closed or we were just not available to guests of the property.  But in all honesty, that was just fine with me; Chef Matthew is stellar and a real find for the hotel!  His food was outstanding and as a vegetarian, he met with me nightly and seemed to enjoy the challenge of making an outstanding and varied meal every evening.  One of the biggest let-downs for any vegetarian is receiving the un-inspired grilled vegetable platter or the quinoa and vegetables that we can make ourselves at home: not with Chef Matthew.  And as you’ll know from other posts, I’m not a fan of eating at hotels as I like to get out and explore but I was happily ensconced at the S Hotel and literally looked forward to Chef Matthew’s creations daily.


Because of its proximity to the airport, I’m really not sure there is that much to do in Montego Bay.  There are a number of high-end all-inclusive resorts nearby so if that’s your thing, do it.  Regardless, I do hope to return when the world returns to normal and explore more fully.  In the interim, I will say that although Doctors Cave Beach is cute, it is also incredibly small and rather crowded.  (I chose to remain at the pool at the S Hotel.)


I don’t do this often but I do feel that an addition note when traveling to Jamaica is warranted.  Bring cash.  Many things are cash-only and the expectation to tip – whether when using the VIP service at the airport, or tipping at the resort bar (regardless of being all-inclusive), or getting food on the beach, you will need cash.  And lots of it.  I always have cash with me but honestly didn’t realize the amount that was really required and was on the verge of being ill-prepared.  And although ATMs exist, they are rather few and far between (literally).

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