• #SINEQUANON,  fantastic journeys

    SINE QUA NON: AMALFI COAST

    ONE: RAVELLO This will be a surprising no. 1 for most, as the usual day-trippers and ‘effective’ travel guides will skip it altogether. And that’s a good thing, because the crowds make it difficult enough to reach and enjoy in all its haughty splendour. Ravello is in fact not on the Amalfi Coast, but hanging uphill, just on top of Amalfi. It is spectacular, noble and expensive, and worth it. The narrow road leading to Ravello is cut in the rocky mountain like an initiation path and is called, quite evocatively, the Valley of the Dragon. Ravello is small, which adds to the feeling of exclusivity, especially off- season or…

  • #SINEQUANON

    SINE QUA NON: NORMANDIE

    MONT SAINT MICHEL The only possible number one. Although is closer and more intimately connected to Bretagne, it will be top-of-mind for any escape in Western France. I wrote more about “the wonder” here. THE ALABASTER COAST AND PAYS DE CAUX La Cote d’Albatre is the French counterpart of the famous white cliffs that are the picture-perfect signature of the English Channel coastline. It makes for a great roadtrip, with its towns and villages of quaint charm and the often striking beauty of the high falaises. Stop in Etretat, Yport, Fecamp, Veules-les-Roses, Dieppe. Etretat has the most beautiful cliffs, Fecamp is a jewel of a town where you cannot miss…

  • fantastic journeys,  THE TREASURE MAP,  Uncategorized

    Mont Saint Michel, legend of tides

                Is it a castle or an island? Is that the desert or the sea? Is it Bretagne or Normandie? Each day, this castle becomes an island, then the sea withdraws to leave treacherous sands behind. Meanwhile, a whimsical little river draws the border between the two realms, making Mont St. Michel part of Normandy. The mountain has always been a place of awe; beautiful and inaccessible, it caused many to perish at the mercy of tides. And as it happens with so many places of awe and beauty, it has always been a site of worship. In the early days of Christianity, monks were…

  • fantastic journeys,  Uncategorized

    Driving through Chianti Classico

      Follow La Strada del Chianti and stop along the way to your heart’s desire. Etruscans were first here, then Romans drove their carts on these roads. A land of tremendous beauty and forever radiating serenity, the wine road witnessed the obsessive conflicts between Florence and Siena, undisturbed by battles and time. Looking at the map, the villages, vineyards and castles of Chianti Classico can be found along the SR222. We started from our beloved Monteriggioni and went up through Castellina to Greve in Chianti, then round towards Castelnuovo Berardenga in our search for Brolio Castle.  In Castellina, we walked the Via delle Volte and visited the Rocca Comunale, the…

  • fantastic journeys,  THE TREASURE MAP

    Peniche

    One more stop he said. We were chasing daring lighthouses, pure beaches and wild coastline, as usual. It had been a very hot day in August, the kind of day that makes everything quiet and brings out the light in everything, white houses and white sands surrounded by a shimmering halo, people scarce and wrinkled by sun and dry winds. Coming down from Nazare along the coast, we had taken a scourging trip inland to see Fatima and Batalha, and were heading to Obidos for the night. Tired with heat and long drive, I was looking forward to the cool walls, green ivy and refreshing chatter of the Obidos fortress at night.…

  • everydaymagic,  fantastic journeys

    300 years of Chianti Classico

      On Sept. 24, 1716, the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III de’ Medici officially delineated the borders of the Chianti wine region. Which basically makes him a personal favorite and a hero. Him and Barone Ricasoli, of course. Cosimo had quality control teams patrolling the vineyards in the area and made sure that no other wine outside this blessed realm could be called Chianti, ever again. A predecessor to what would become the modern Denominazione d’Origine Controllata (DOC) and DOCG wine labeling system, the Grand Duke’s act was the first of its kind in Europe. Genius. 300 years later, thehappyfew couldn’t have missed the celebrations. On September 24, 2016,…

  • THE TREASURE MAP

    Portugal: beaches for thehappyfew

    The treasure map for thehappyfew discovering the coastline Costa de Prata (between Porto and Lisbon): from Porto / Vila Nova de Gaia – Dunas Sao Jacinto – Nazare – Obidos – Baleal – Peniche, Praia da Mexilhoeira – Foz do Sizandro – Sao Juliao – Magoito,  to Aguda, Adraga and down to Guincho. Infinite white beaches for surfers and lovers of the immense blue, and secret coves that are hard to find and even harder to leave. Algarve: mainly the Lagos – Sagres  – Cabo Sao Vicente area.  Probably the most beautiful beaches in the world, an incredible scenery created by the famous red rocks that take fantastic shapes and hide…

  • everydaymagic,  THE TREASURE MAP

    Outside Valencia: PENISCOLA

    Who was first? The Knights Templar or the dragons? The must escape is yet to come, and, as any proper magic, it should last three days. You simply must go to Peniscola. Take Costa del Azahar north from Valencia towards Barcelona on either the highway or the national road, if you want to make some stops along the way.

  • fantastic journeys

    Outside Valencia: 3 escapes

    AZAHAR means “citrus blossom”, and the word has a ring to it and stays with you forever once you’ve seen the orange trees in bloom. Valencia has it all for a truly captivating holiday; the sea and the oranges and the food and the urban surprises, and even some happy escapes that you can try if you’re feeling adventurous. As I said, driving in Valencia is completely stress-free, and outside Valencia you have the usual Spanish quality roads, so there is absolutely no reason to not venture beyond.