Thailand really is the land of festivals. There seems to be a different major holiday every month. And Chiang Mai is the place to celebrate most of them. For some reason, tourists gravitate to this part of the country by the thousands to partake in everything from Songkran to the Lantern Festival. Like the rest of the world, Thailand celebrates New Years Eve and New Years Day with parties, fireworks and everything else that goes along with this crazy part of the year on December 31 and January 1.
Living in Paris is wonderful, but it’s not the cheapest place on earth. This came home to me recently when, after having a simple cup of coffee in a café, I got socked with a €6 bill. Almost 7 dollars, for a not-so-big cup of coffee. Argh. Not all of Paris is so exorbitant, of course.
A recent trip to Brazil’s Northeast coast was where I fell in love with this country. Culture…food…music…art…dance…beautiful weather, and beautiful people—it has it all. And I discovered two of my favorite Brazilian towns—Pôrto De Galinhas and Olinda. The towns are a 90-minute drive from one another, with the city of Recife (the capital of the state of Pernambuco) nestled between the two.
Roatán, the largest of the Bay Islands of Honduras, is surrounded by the beautiful Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and also boasts a lush, verdant landscape above water. As you fly toward the island on a direct flight from the U.S. or Canada, you’ll notice how much of this paradise remains undeveloped. Natural beauty abounds on Roatán. Homes built on the gorgeous jungle-covered hillsides overlook the turquoise Caribbean water and even beachfront homes enjoy privacy and tranquility.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Botin Restaurant in Madrid is the world's oldest operating restaurant, which opened its doors in 1725. Famous the world over, Ernest Hemmingway mentioned the restaurant’s signature dish cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) in his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises.
The 24-hour media machine fuels this “fear of elsewhere.” Footage of revolutions in the streets and masked gunmen stalking the jungle makes for good TV. Footage of people peacefully and cheerfully going to the market, relaxing on their porch of an evening, and doing the sorts of things normal daily life brings, well, that’s not going to attract the TV news crews, is it?
I stumbled upon the Italian town of Biassa quite by accident while looking for rooms to rent in the famed cinque Terre— five pastel-colored towns built along the cliffs of Liguria—and I knew right away that the town would be perfect. While I love Italy in the summertime, full of laughter, sunshine, and gelato, I also crave peace and quiet, to get away from the crowds and experience something authentic, something all my own.
I turn off the Pan-American Highway and start up a gentle slope. Well-maintained and brightly-painted homes with gardens full of vivid blue hydrangeas line the fences on either side of the roadway. Mango trees, heavy with almost glowing green and red fruit, loom above. Ten minutes later I’m in the heart of the village. There is a picturesque little white church with a tidy park in front. Children in pressed uniforms file out of their classrooms at the school down the road. Passers-by hail me with a hearty Buenas Tardes as they walk by. I’m in Miramar, a small town in the hills about an hour west of the country’s capital San José. It’s just a 10-minute drive from the Pacific coast. That must be why the garlic seafood dish I ordered at an open-air restaurant in the center of town tasted so fresh…and was just $6.50 for a heaping plate of clams, calamari, fish, and shrimp, with sides of salad and French fries.
Having lived in Costa Rica’s Orosi Valley for a year now, leaving our lives behind in Dallas was the best thing my partner and I could have done. I knew it would be years before I could afford to retire in the States but I was ready for an adventure. I didn’t want to wait. So I started searching… We visited Costa Rica numerous times in the three years before we moved here to find what we called our “Goldilocks Place.” The beaches were gorgeous, but too warm for our taste. The jungles were amazing, but too humid for us. The Central Valley was cooler and popular with expats, but just not quite what we were looking for. Then we found our place in the mountains of the Orosi Valley, about 20 miles south of the capital San Jose. It was “just right.”
The year was 1997, and my wife, Suzan, and I had just gotten married in a civil service at the Hotel Don Carlos in San Jose, Costa Rica. She remembers that it was my idea, and I remember that it was hers. But whoever thought of it turned out to be a genius, because it set the travel bar pretty high for the rest of our lives.