Dreamy destinations

 
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France

Wine, gastronomy, history, and art

One of the largest countries in Europe, France is steeped in cultural experiences.  You’ll find that one trip will give you a delicious taste of the amazing feast that awaits.  Its familiar yet diverse culture and superb gastronomy, exemplified beautifully by cafe terraces, lace-curtained bistros, and rows of grape vines and fruit trees, has distinctive characteristics in each part of the country, from the French Alps to the sandy beaches of the Mediterranean. France is a country rich in history, making it home to some of the most famous museums, monuments, architectural feats and historical sites in the world. Whatever your reason for visiting, France is sure to impress, inspiring repeat visits in the years ahead.

Things not to miss

  • Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne, major centers of French wine country with completely different styles of wine.

  • Normandy, famous for the beaches of the D-Day landings in WWII, the medieval Mont Saint Michel monastery, the impressionist painter Claude Monet, camembert cheese, and its delicious pears, apples, cider, and apply brandy.

  • Along the French Riviera, colorful and vibrant Nice, exuberant and gritty Marseille, medieval and modern Montpellier, and the lush lavender fields of Grasse.

  • Biarritz, an elegant port city on the French-Spanish border and the gateway to French Basque country; once a vacation spot for nobility, and now the surfing capital of Europe.

  •  The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Tuileries Garden and other unforgettable sights in Paris.

  • Strasbourg, the cradle of Alsatian culture, which melds French and German heritage, architecture, and cuisine and boasts one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe.

  • City of Arles - a charming city where Vincent Van Gogh created some of his most amazing works, and home to a well-preserved Roman amphiteater.

  • Pont du Gard, near Nimes – a three-level Roman aqueduct and UNESCO World Heritage site that remains one of humankind’s great masterpieces.

 

Best time to go

Due to its size, climates vary widely across France.   Cities in the north and northwestern experience temperate climates.  Southeastern swaths have Mediterranean climates complete with warm, humid summers and mild, cool winters.  For sightseeing and beach visits and you don’t mind crowds, spring, early summer, and early fall are the best times to go.   For wine country, the fall harvest season in September and October is optimal.  Winter offers skiing and other activities in the Alps from December through March.  As for most of Europe, August is when Europeans go on vacation, and many shops and public places are closed.  Unless you’re on a river cruise, August is best avoided.

 

Costa Rica

Nature lover’s paradise

Costa Rica is a true nature-lover’s paradise, one of the happiest countries in the world, and the land of “pura vida.”   Literally translated as “pure life,” the phrase means so much more.  Not only is it used by Ticos (Costa Ricans) for hello, goodbye, all is well, or no worries, it also reflects their outlook on life.  Ticos are said to have an easy-going, low-stress, optimistic, happy demeanor.   Costa Rica abolished its army in 1949 and reallocated the military budget to free and mandatory primary and secondary education for all citizens.  The literacy rate is 95%.

A relatively short flight from most US cities, this Central American country is an ecological wonder.  It has 800 miles of pristine shoreline, vast stretches of protected rain forest and reserves, volcano-heated hot springs, cloud forests, and lush river valleys.  Costa Rica boasts 5% of the world’s biodiversity, devotes 30% of its territory to national parks, and generates 99% of its electricity from renewable resources. 

Add to that its plethora of yoga and wellness retreats and resorts, from the very casual and rustic to the very luxurious, and you have the perfect place for an active wellness getaway close to home. 

A culinary revolution is bringing new life to overlooked districts like Barrio Escalante, in San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital city. Many young chefs, craft brewers, and mixologists are transforming San José into a gastronomic boomtown. Combined with the opening of Liberia’s International Airport in 2012, new luxury hotels and resorts are popping up beyond established beach communities.

Ticos are eager to share their amazingly rich and diverse home with visitors.

Things not to miss

  • Monteverde and the Cloud Forests - The jewel in the crown of cloud forest reserves, Monteverde contains the largest number of orchids in the world and has breath-taking zip-lining.

  • Manuel Antonio National Park - Diverse wildlife, pristine white sandy beaches, and bath-warm coastal waters.

  • Volcanos - Six active and 61 dormant volcanoes, many of which are accessible.  Be sure to visit, Arenal, Irazu, and the Poas volcano with its own boiling acid lake!

  • Coffee Plantations – These are plentiful, and many are a short day trip from San Jose.

  • Hacienda Baru National Wildlife Refuge - Walking trails, spy monkeys, sloths, and birdlife.

  • Santa Teresa – A laid-back little beach town known for “Not a lot happens here.” Excellent spot to just chill out on the beach and surf.

  • Osa Peninsula - A secluded nature wonderland, home of Corcovado National Park with rare and endangered animal and bird species including the puma, jaguar, Harpy Eagle and Scarlet Macaw.

  • Puerto Viejo – A lively town on the Caribbean coast with a unique blend of Latino, Afro-Caribbean and indigenous Bribri cultures, Reggaeton music, nightlife, great surfing, and a fun party atmosphere.

 

Best time to go

Reliable sunshine can be found during the high season of December through April, along with more crowds and higher prices.  The balance of the year is green season, with regular rain showers and few crowds and lower prices.  The weather does vary by region.  Green season brings high humidity but moderate temperatures in the Caribbean and northern forests.   The northern Pacific coasts have lower humidity but temperatures that can soar into the 90s.  Avoid October, the wettest month, if you want to maximize your beach time.

 
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Italy

Culinary and cultural experiences

Oh, where to begin? Whether you are heading to the mountains or the beach, to the cities or the vineyards, endless possibilities await for exciting travel in Italy.

Italy’s Renaissance paintings, marble sculptures, ornate architecture, and ubiquitous Roman ruins will leave you awestruck.  Its mouthwatering meals, luscious local wines, and passionate people will touch your heart.  Whether your first visit or next of many, the impression Italy will leave on your soul will be unforgettable. It is everyone’s dream to travel to Italy, and for good reason.

A good place to start is the capital city of Rome, the birthplace of Western civilization and the site of epic historical events and evocative architectural scenes.  From there, venture out to expand your experience based on your desires. All of the regions of Italy are different and cater to different kinds of vacations—from skiing in the Dolomites to sunning on the Aeolian Islands.

Things not to miss

  • Ride a gondola along the canals in Venice.

  • Shop and have a fine dining experience in Milan, Italy’s fashion capital.

  • Climb to the top of the Duomo in Florence.

  • Bike through the vineyards of Tuscany.

  • Catch an opera performance at Teatro Massimo in Palermo.

  • Hike to the five scenic fishing villages of Cinque Terre in the Italian Riviera.

  • Tour the ancient volcano-buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

  • Stroll and sip limoncello in the cliffside villages of the Amalfi coast.

  • Float and splash in the Blue Grotto on Capri.

  • If you dare, trek Mount Etna in Sicily, the highest volcano in Europe, and one of most active in the world.

 

Best time to go

Italy’s Mediterranean climate makes it a year-round destination with thrilling activities for every season. In general, the summers are hot and dry, the winters are cold and damp.  In general, the best months to visit Italy are April to June and September to October when the weather is comfortably warm.  July and August can be stiflingly hot and muggy, except in the northeastern Dolomite mountains, famous for winter sports and summer trekking.  Most Italians go on holiday in August, shuttering many shops and restaurants.

 

US Southwest 

Outdoor adventures, art, and heritage

The US Southwest is a wonderland of spectacular landscapes, invigorating outdoor activities, and a unique cultural mix.   Its red rock canyons, ruins of ancient civilizations, legends of the Wild West, and ts distinctive cuisine continue to draw visitors who want to rejuvenate physically, mentally, and spiritually.

The southwestern US boasts a unique multicultural mix, blending the history and customs of indigenous peoples with Spanish missionaries and the cowboys who arrived later.  Tribal traditions, combined with Hispanic and Mexican cultures, still shape art and gastronomy across the region. Cowboys still roam the scrubby desert, and their cultural legacy remains apparent in food, fashion, festivals, and local attitudes. 

More than 20 percent of Native Americans in the United States live in the Southwest, especially in the present-day states of New Mexico and Arizona.  The oldest ruins north of Mexico are here, where the Ancestral Puebloan people created complex communities and elaborate centers of culture including the great houses of Chaco Canyon, the cliff houses at Mesa Verde, and numerous other sites scattered throughout the Four Corners.

The stunning landscapes, national, and state parks offer endless opportunities for exploration and inspiration.  Utah, alone, has 5 national parks, 45 state parks, 5 national historic sites & trails, and a dozen national monuments & recreation areas.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, is the oldest capital city in the US.  It was established a decade before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, and became the seat of power of the Spanish Empire north of the Rio Grande.  Today it’s a vibrant, colorful, culturally rich city full of history, art, and cultural festivals.

Things not to miss

  • The Grand Canyon, Arizona:   You will be astonished by its grandeur.

  •  Sedona, Arizona :  a New Age community known for its energy vortexes, art, and dramatic red-rock formations.

  • Navajo Nation’s Monument Valley Tribal Park, Arizona and Utah :  one of the most majestic, and most photographed, places on earth

  • Cliff Houses of Mesa Verde, Colorado:  With more than 5,000 sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, it is the largest archaeological preserve in the US

  • Pike’s Peak, Colorado:  take the refurbished Cog Railway to the summit for the views without having to watch the road.

  • Santa Fe, New Mexico:  the Palace of Governors, the oldest public building in the US, and Canyon Road, a mecca of the arts.

  • Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico:  site of a major center of ancestral Puebloan culture.

  • Arches National Park, Utah: a landscape of contrasting colors, land forms, and textures, with over 2,000 natural stone arches and hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive rock fins, and giant balanced rocks.

  • Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah:  among other geological wonders, it contains the largest concentration of hoodoos – irregular columns of rock – on the planet.

  • Canyonlands National Park, Utah:   a wilderness of countless canyons and fantastically formed buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries.

  • Zion National Park, Utah:  home to one of the greatest engineering feats of modern times: the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and Tunnel.

 

Best time to go

The Southwest is the hottest and driest region of the US. 

 

Spring may be a cool, wet, muddy season in many parts of the US, but it's the perfect time to visit the desert parks of this region. Early in the year, many parks famed for their hellish summer heat are downright temperate, even a bit chilly in the evenings. In the winter, frost and snow are common.

 

Temperatures in the summer can reach over 110 degrees, so it’s best to avoid the summer and wait till October for things to cool down if you’ll be partaking in outdoor activities.

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Schedule a complimentary 30-minute call to discuss your ideas.

My commitment to you is to listen carefully to your desires and to bring my knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm to crafting an experience you’ll love.