On Wednesday, I leave for a two week stint in Austria and Germany. All the trip preparations initiated a rapid recall of previous excursions abroad — stories of stick-shift driving gone wrong, conversations in muddled tongues, museum mishaps, and divine culinary discoveries. I started making a list of highlights from my many travels.* Here are a few Bests from my non-American journeys… (category suggestions for future posts welcomed)
Once in a lifetime Meal — Le Saint-James Restaurant Gourmand, the Saint-James Hotel, Bouliac, France. The Saint-James boasts one of the best restaurants in all of France. Overlooking a vineyard and the city of Bordeaux, the view from the small dining room is breathtaking. The menu epitomizes modern French cuisine, it’s expensive but easily the most amazing meal you’ll have in your life.
Breakfast –– the homebaked crusty rolls with house-made jams and local cheeses accompanied by a giant cafe au lait at La Chapelle Saint Martin, Nieul, France.
Afternoon Tea — The Lords of the Manor, Upper Slaughter, England.
Snack-attack — the tapas selection at the NH Hotel Bar, Estado Puro, Madrid, Spain. The fried anchovies and cod fritters, washed down with a glass of wine, were excellent fuel for an afternoon at the Prado (conveniently across the street)
Appetizer — fresh local mushrooms and shaved asiago cheese, Rome, Italy. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, all i remember is that it was near the Pantheon. The plate of thinly sliced mushrooms and shaved artisan cheese is the dish dream about.
Dessert — Sacher Torte, Vienna.
Bouillabaisse — Marseilles, France.
Pint — a lively pub off a back road near Shannon, County-Clare, Ireland. Reels and jigs played by a crinkly old man on his fiddle, i wasn’t permitted to refuse a dance or a guinness.
Local Brew — Sherry, just about everywhere and at every meal, Spain.
Beach for a sunset — any beach on the western coast of Cozumel, Mexico.
Often Overlooked Sights —
- Nero’s Domus Aurea, Rome, Italy
- The Villa Jovis, Capri, Italy
- The Roman Aqueduct, Segovia, Spain
Balcony — Hotel Marina Riviera, Amalfi, Italy. Positioned just above the coastal town of Amalfi, the Marina Riviera offers unobstructed views of the Mediterranean, the cliffs behind, and the charming town below.
Place to buy a Che Guevara t-shirt — the Museo de la Revolution or the Airport, Havana, Cuba.
Mineral Bath – Temple Gardens Mineral Spa, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Coastal Hike — The Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Place to buy hand-made sandals — the back streets of Nice, France. There’s an Italian cobbler there who makes a stellar gladiator sandal, and will custom fit them for you.
Sunday Stroll — the open fields between Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter, the Cotswolds, England. Makes you feel like a hero/heroine in an Austen novel.
View of the City –from the Castle District of Budapest onto the Hungarian Parliament, Budapest, Hungry.
Place to rent and ride a scooter — Bermuda.
Walk Back in time —
- Pompeii, Italy
- Chichen Itza, Mexico.
Place to see ugly Communist-era public sculpture – Bratislava, Slovakia.
Unexpected Roman Ruin — Chedworth, England. Sure it’s near Bath, and sure we know about Hadrian’s Wall, but somehow perfectly preserved Roman mosaics in the middle of the English country side is not what you’d expect to run into on an afternoon stroll.
“Craft” Museum — Musee National Adrien Dubouche, Limoges France. A museum dedicated to Limoges’ most famous product — porcelain.
Marquee Museum — Musee D’Orsay, Paris, France. Manet’s Olympia and Courbet’s Burial at Ornans — need I say more?
“Non-Marquee” Museum — Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain. Typically overshadowed by the Prado and the Reina Sofia, most tourists miss this beautifully curated collection of outstanding artworks.
Solo-Artist Museum — The Rodin Museum, Paris, France.
Local History Museum — Museum of the City and Museum of the Revolution, both Havana, Cuba.
Baroque Colonial Square — Valladolid, Mexico.
Off the beaten track food to go —
- road-side farmers’ markets in the Berry/Limousin region of France
- Grande Boulangerie de l’est, Acadian region of Nova Scotia, Canada.
- Amalfi Coast, Italy.
- The Riviera from Genoa, Italy, to Marseilles, France, with a requisite pit-stop in Monte Carlo.
both have their twists and their turns, both offer the most stunning views of the Mediterranean, both require a confident driver (and preferably, an automatic transmission…)
In-Land Drive — a safari at Ulusaba Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sand Reserve near Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Scariest Wild Animal Interactions:
- being chased into the bathroom by a baboon, Cape of Good Hope, Capetown, South Africa.
- being chased by a herd of elephants, Ulusaba Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sand Reserve near Kruger National Park, South Africa
- being chased by a flock of pigeons, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy.
*originally, “Meet Me in the Drawing Room was entitled “Journeys in a Discovery,” and was thus originally conceived as a travel-blog. Consider this the start of a new column….