(Updated January 2017)
Welcome to the Dairy Free Traveler list of places Therese (my wife) and I have recently visited, and places we are planning to visit in the near (or perhaps distant) future. I should say that in the time since I first made this list, we have gotten to see so many of the places on our list – it is time to start brainstorming about where to see next! I will keep the list of places we have visited at the bottom of this list, and link to posts about them, for easy browsing.
1. Rome and Venice, Italy. Our next trip, in October, 2017, will be to these two incredibly historic meccas in Italy. Therese has been to both cities several times, but not for a long time, so I am sure that while the basics historically speaking will not have changed (the Colosseum is still there!), neighborhoods and travel details will have been upgraded since then. For Venice, we will be doing more of our “being residential” thing, staying for two weeks in an AirBnB apartment in a very residential neighborhood, Cannaregio, and just wandering around and taking in all the aquatic city has to offer.
2. St. Augustine, Florida. We don’t know exactly when, but we think one of these years we may spend Christmastime in St. Augustine. I have good friends who are considering moving to St. Augustine, and I have otherwise heard good things about St. Augustine. There’s good food, good shopping, and a fair amount of culture (museums, etc.). So maybe we will wait until my friends relocated, or do a trip to St. Augustine with them.
3. California’s Napa Valley/San Francisco. Since we are both budding oenophiles, we will at some point visit Napa and sample some great local wine, stay in nice b&b’s and such. My suggestion is to do this as an autumn trip, to coincide with when the grapes may be at their plumpest and picking is underway. But I could be wrong: more research needs to be done on this one. The San Francisco portion of the trip is a no-brainer. Great food, etc. And I have never been!
4. Taiwan/Hong Kong. We had thought that we might visit these two places in the early spring of 2014, but then settled for doing a Paris and environs trip instead (which we loved, by the way). So now I fear that this trip has slid down the list priority-wise. Shanghai, China is also on our list.
5. Mekong River Delta cruise through Cambodia and Vietnam. Therese and I had arranged a cruise with AMA Waterways for February, 2015; but then we looked at the price tag and we balked. We still hope to do this trip, though some reports are that Ha Long Bay near Hanoi is polluted and not worth it. Perhaps we will find some way of just doing the Mekong portion of the cruise, going from Angkor Wat in Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City. Just the other day, we saw two really cool documentaries on Netflix, one on the Mekong River and one about Vietnam, that sort of re-whetted our appetite – Ha Long Bay looked wonderful, for example. I’m sure we will revisit this at some point in the near future.
6. Seattle/Portland/Vancouver. I have friends who live near Seattle, and they tell me it is wet and dreary there most of the year; but Therese knows someone from that part of the country who says the exact opposite – that it rarely rains in Seattle. Whoever is right, there have been some tantalizing attractions from that area that we have seen in magazines and newspapers. Based on reading about the wineries in the Willamette Valley near Portland on the Drunken Cyclist‘s blog, I am compelled to include Portand as well. The trick will be to plan something out substantial enough that I won’t mind losing a day when we return to New York at the end of the trip – you either fly overnight and lose the next day, or you spend a whole day flying – not the best situation, but there’s no way to avoid it.
7. New Orleans. I’ve never been to New Orleans, so it would be fun to check it out. Other than food and music, I’m not sure what there is there, so obviously I have to do some research. But we are thinking this would be a long weekend trip. We might be able to get some nights in a Hilton to provide us with some comfort, or maybe a little atmospheric B&B is the right way to go. And no, we will most likely not be going at Mardi Gras time – not that there’s anything wrong with doing that, but we want a chance to experience the city without having the craziness of the festival monopolizing our attention. (and yes, we are big fans of HBO’s “Treme”…)
8. Jordan. We have been reluctant to consider visiting Jordan because of security concerns. But purely on aesthetic terms, there is a lot to persuade us to put it on the list. We would love, love, love to see the ruins of Petra, and Amman, the capital, and Aqaba also look very interesting. We spoke to a Jordan rep at the Travel & Leisure Global Bazaar recently, and he was very persuasive. Also, the Hecks from Hecktic Travels visited Jordan last July, and it looked amazing. So it’s on our list now! But it may be a few years before we get serious about planning to go there – and hopefully, unrest in the Middle East will get a little better…
9. Norway/Northern Fjords/St. Petersburg cruise. While Therese’s mom was still alive, this was a trip we were thinking of taking with her. Since I have never been through Scandinavia, the part of the world that both my parents’ families came from, I find this idea very attractive. The question is: can Therese and I add in enough that we will enjoy to make it worthwhile? For example, if it stops in Denmark, that will make it more attractive to me, and if there was a visit to the song festivals in Estonia, that would be a plus. As you can see, some research is needed to figure this one out.
10. South America cruise. Although this is a cruise, this is something that Therese and I will probably do, maybe when we are older and less mobile. Holland America has a number of cruises, mostly traveling between October and May I believe, that start in Valparaiso, Chile, travel south around the Horn, and end up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A couple add on visiting Antarctica, although I don’t think you actually leave the ship there. At least one adds on the Iguazu Falls in Argentine at the end, which are one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature – that one would be particularly attractive to me. Some of these cruises are pretty long, though – as many as 21 days for the cruise alone, plus traveling time. We could also do a shorter version of the cruise, maybe a 13-night one, and possibly do a side trip to Easter Island before the cruise begins in Valparaiso.
A second possible cruise would be one that starts on the west coast of the U.S., in Vancouver or San Diego, does the west coast of Mexico and Central America, Peru and concludes in Valparaiso. That one would give us a chance to experience Peruvian cuisine firsthand – Anthony Bourdain did an episode of his CNN show “Parts Unknown” in Peru which we found very compelling. But more likely, we will do the Valparaiso to Buenos Aires cruise. When? Probably not for several years. Maybe when we retire? We will see.
That’s what we have so far! Please let me know what places are on your list! And if you have done any of these trips, please let me know how it went! Thanks in advance for the feedback.
Places we have visited recently:
1. India’s Golden Triangle Plus: Dehli, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur. February of 2015 we did an Oberoi tour of the Golden Triangle, staying in fabulously beautiful hotels in each city (and the price seems pretty reasonable by Western standards). We stayed for 15 nights in total, I believe. This is how it works: the tour covered all the hotels (and these are some of the most fabulous hotels in the world) and the transfers from place to place (shuttles to and from airports as well). Then for an extra set fee we got a driver (the unflappable Chota Ram) and guide for the days when we wanted to get out and see sights. All things considered, from what we could see, this was a less-expensive (not cheap, but not as expensive as other ways to do it) and secure way to see India.
2. Bulgaria. We have a very close friend, a young lady who is from Bulgaria, and over the years we have to gotten to know her family. Her mom Teddy invited us to come to Bulgaria, and we took her up on that offer, spending the first week of our 2016 holidays in Sofia and Veliko Turnovo and some other places with Teddy as our guide. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved seeing Bulgaria – the history and culture should not be missed, and I am glad we got to taste some of that, and hope that in the years to come, we will have the chance to visit again.
3. Vienna, Austria and Krakow, Poland. In the summer of 2015, we did a two week European vacation, the first week in Vienna, several days in Krakow, then returned to Vienna for a couple of days before returning home. The first week we were joined in Vienna by Therese’s good friend Faith – it was her first European vacation, and she was absolutely thrilled. The vast wealth of art in Vienna was absolutely astounding to see. Then Therese and I were in Krakow by ourselves, which we also loved. On the return, we did an overnight cruise trip to the small town of Krems an der Donau, which was quite charming.
4. Charleston, SC. We visited Charleston for the first time over Christmas week of 2013 with Therese’s mom. It was a somewhat up and down visit – her mom did not enjoy some things as much as we did, and the unnaturally chilly weather put a damper on some of the facilities. Nevertheless, we loved it and couldn’t wait to go back. So we went down again in May 2015 for their “Insider’s Weekend” to get a taste of what it feels to live there, and decided that this might be the perfect place for us to retire to in the future. We’ve been back several more times since then, for their Fall Tour of Homes and Wine & Food Festival 2016. Things have progressed, and we might not wait until we retire before resettling there!
5. Rouen, France. After stopping there in 2014 during a trip of northern France, Therese and I decided we wanted to spend more time there. So in July 2016, we spent three weeks there (after a week in Bulgaria visiting with a friend). It was an experiment really – to see if we would find it worthwhile to be based in one city in Europe for a few weeks and then do day trips and the like from there. Well, we can definitely say that it was a rousing success – we stopped in Paris three times, so got some time in the capital, explored pretty much everything to do in Rouen (including sampling, and cooking, the regional cuisine), and also did some day trips to other parts of Normandy. Will we do something like this again? Absolutely – in fact, our next major vacation is to Italy in October 2017, one week in Rome, and two weeks at an AirBnB in Venice – see above for more on that!
6. Lisbon and environs, Portugal. We loved our May, 2013 trip to Portugal. It was our first experience renting an apartment through Airbnb, and that worked fabulously well. We stayed in the funky artsy Alfama neighborhood to the east of Lisbon’s city center, and that worked out great! Our day trip to Evora, and two day trip to Porto (with an adventurous cruise on the Douro River) were also quite splendid.
7. Prague, Czech Republic. We had a marvelous time in Prague with Therese’s mom in August of 2014. Great food, incredible culture. And a city that is very easy to navigate, even with a septuagenarian in tow!
8. Toronto, Canada. I met Therese in Toronto in October of 2012 and we spent a few days there together and enjoyed it quite a bit. If you haven’t read my posts about the trip, a good place to start might be this one about our lunch at Osgoode Hall. I keep meeting people who are from Toronto here in New York and when the opportunity arises, I would be glad to go back and spend another long weekend there.