Chicago’s Best Bites

Narrowing down where to eat on a recent trip to Chicago wasn’t easy. Did we want to revisit old favorites such as Blackbird, Naha or The Publican? Dine at high-end legend Alinea or their brand new, much praised, more casual Roister. Did we spend hours trolling the Internet, grilling the hotel concierge and asking local friends –yes, yes and yes. Can we save you time with our go to list—again-yes, yes and yes. Happy eating!

Side Note: Chicago is a city of neighborhoods and you could very easily dine well without leaving a zip code. Taxi’s and Ubers are plentiful, and you can also hop on the “L,” Chicago’s elevated train line.


Wicker Park: Right in the heart of hip Wicker Park, are our new favorite next door neighbors --Dove’s Luncheonette, and Big Star Tacos.

  • Dove’s is perfect for a solo meal or a cozy couples date, with counter service (just 41 stool seats) Dove’s doesn’t work for a group. A Tex-Mex diner with retro throwback chic, our lunch of chicken fried chicken with chorizo gravy with sweet peas, (a signature dish) was worth the Uber.  With over 70 agaves and tequilas to choose from, we’d love to return for a casual dinner date.

  • It’s always a party at next-door’s Big Star, especially on a warm day or evening when the patio is packed with groups enjoying tacos and pitchers of margaritas, beers or bourbon.

  • After lunch, we spied someone walking by with a soft serve that looked so good we just had to ask. Right across the street at noodle heaven, Urban Belly, you must get  (you don’t need to be hungry) a soft serve vanilla ice cream topped with peanut butter and jelly. Trust us.

West Loop: You could easily eat all your meals in the red hot west loop ‘triangle’ with everything on or branching off Randolph Street, a mini restaurant row.

  • Many visitors make Au Cheval a priority destination; fans claim this is the best burger in the country. With a no reservations policy and long waits, go early so you can grab a seat at the bar and see for yourself. (Tip: in Bucktown, sibling, Small Cheval you can get the same burger, smaller yes but with the same taste, an outdoor patio and usually no wait)   

  • The reigning star of the West Loop, Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat has not lost any steam since it opened some eight years or so ago --still an impossible reservation to come by. No luck getting a table, go and sit at the bar, and sample from the eclectic menu. The Goat empire continues across the street at Little Goat, good for breakfast and lunch—a diner with a chef’s creative twist. We loved the inventive Chinese fare at Duck, Duck, Goat washed down with killer cocktails.

  • The space at Avec is cool and minimal, the service is professional and friendly and the food is delicious, with many vegetarian options. Do not miss the chorizo-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates. There’s a reason you see it at every table.

  • We wanted to love Bad Hunter, it’s a big, lively space with an interesting veggie-centric menu, but the food was good, not great. Press has been very enthusiastic, so perhaps we hit an off night.

The Loop: After a mandatory stop at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, or a visit to The Art Institute, go high at The Chicago Athletic Association. Reborn as a hotel, the 1920’s Venetian Gothic building, an architectural gem offers tours in conjunction with the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

  • Cindy’s, the rooftop restaurant at the Athletic Association has stunning panoramic views overlooking Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. The seasonal American plates compliment the view, quieter at lunch; things heat up at 5 when everyone arrives for cocktails around the fire pit or in the glass and steel atrium.

River North: Rick Bayless may be the most famous chef for Mexican fare this side of the border and his three restaurants in River North are favorite Chicago destinations.

  • Head to Frontera Grill, the original restaurant for casual, regional specialties while Topolobampo features more daring, sophisticated tasting menus. Xoco, right next door, is counter service only, perfect for a quick meal of Mexican street food, known for excellent tortas. (Bayless’ new Lena Brava in the West Loop has the critics going crazy—with no stoves and no gas everything is cooked open-hearth on a wood-burning stove.)

Logan Square:

  • Lula Café put Logan Square on the map serving locally sourced fare on its inventive menu, you’ll find long lines at brunch and dinnertime, but we enjoyed a quiet weekday breakfast with no wait and no crowds

  • We had our best meal of the trip at tiny Giant. The narrow space is perennially packed thanks to fried uni shooters, homemade biscuits with jalapeno butter, crab salad with waffle fries, drool-worthy pasta and pecan-smoked baby back ribs. Come hungry and order as many small plates as your tablemates will allow.  (If you wind up waiting as we did--our table was lingering and who can blame them--head to corner lounge Scofflaw for an artisan cocktail)

  • Fat Rice can be credited for bringing Macau cuisine into the spotlight. (a fusion of Chinese-Portuguese influences) Though everything on the menu sounds great, the namesake dish of Arroz Gordo (fat rice) is the draw, resembling paella on steroids.

 


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BEST PLACES TO EAT IN L.A.

We’re just back from LA where in addition to stops at The Broad and the beach we ate, ate and then ate some more. LA is one of our favorite eating cities; restaurants are laid-back and creative, showcasing seasonal and local fare thanks to produce that is off the charts. LA reflects the rich cultural diversity of America, in the mood for Thai, Korean, Mexican, or Chinese—no problem! Like many food obsessed cities there’s always something new opening, but here’s a list to get you going with some of our favorites. As an added bonus, we asked our friend and local foodie guru Alison Dinerstein of Twist Your Spirits to share her favorite haunts listed below. Check out Twist Your Spirits artisan cocktail kits and be your own mixologist at home—just add your favorite spirit and some friends and you’ve got a party!

Bowl Food Nirvana: Breakfast at uber popular Sqirl is worth waking up for -- it’s best to go early, anyway, to avoid a long line, and be warned—you’ll want to order everything on the menu. On a non-descript street in Silver Lake, the space may be minimal but there’s nothing simple about the flavors of the food. Sure you’ll see the sorrel pesto rice bowl on everyone’s table, but we’re still dreaming of the chicken and rice porridge, and addictive, crispy rice salad. It was so good we ordered the cookbook as soon as we got home so we can recreate it all summer long. Oh and you need to get the ricotta toast with homemade jam, it may be an over order, but who cares you can skip lunch.

Better at Breakfast: Don’t get us wrong we love Republique at dinner, but with reservations hard to come by, breakfast works just fine for us. Order at the counter and grab a seat at one of the large communal tables where folks are digging in to shakshuka, mushroom toast, kimchi-fried rice or one of the excellent pastries. And can we talk about the bread--we would be happy with just a baguette and the Normandy butter, the best bread and butter anywhere. Republique is striking, especially during the day with the light streaming in. 

Good Fellas: Everyone squeezes into the tight, narrow space at Jon and Vinnys  - and they’re having a great time. And why not? Serving excellent pastas and delicious pizzas forget your diet for the night and dig in. Order their signature “LA Woman” pie and two orders of the meatballs. Served with garlic bread and a side of ricotta— it was the star of the night, even for a table of non-meatball fans. Jon and Vinnys is also a good idea at breakfast and lunch, and it’s easier to get in to. (From the team behind meat-centric Animal, another great dining choice.)

Italian Corner: Over on Highland and Melrose, there’s an Italian trifecta from Chefs Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali—casual Pizzeria Mozza, meat centric Chi Spacca and fine dining Osteria Mozza. We ate at Osteria Mozza known for its mozzarella bar, flavorful salads and great pastas. (Order the orecchiette with sausage) Don’t skip desert here-- Dahlia Narvaez won Outstanding Pastry Chef at the 2016 James Beard Awards—one bite of the huckleberry bombolini and you’ll know why.  

Spicy: Night and Market is fun for addictive chicken wings and papaya salad unless you’re spice sensitive-- the thai food here is hot, as in spicy hot.  (There’s also sibling Night and Market Song in Silver Lake) Jitaldia may be in a strip mall, but this southern-thai spot with an extensive menu is the real deal. Jitaldia doesn’t take reservations so go early or at lunchtime, if you don’t want to wait.

Downtown Smorgasbord: It was love at first sight for us at the historic Grand Central Market, a massive food hall and serious eating destination with overwhelmingly good choices. The only problem is deciding what to eat, from breakfast sandwiches at Eggslut, burgers at Bel Campo, falafel at Madcapra, smoked fish at Wexlers Deli, that street food at Sticky Rice or tacos at Tacos Tumbras A Tomas. Brand new from the owners of Republique, Sari, Sari Store is one to watch for Filipino comfort food—we expect his will be a new go-to in the market. Finish it all off with an excellent coffee at G & B Coffee

Scenic: The waves are the soundtrack at stunner Nobu in Malibu where you could say the food, though excellent, is the supporting actor to the ocean setting. Go for lunch, sit on the patio and don’t forget your sunglasses. After lunch go for walk on the scenic Malibu Pier and watch the surfers. Malibu Farms, is a great healthy spot for salads and sandwiches on the pier, read more about it here.

Inventive: In a hip space in Koreatown, Heres Looking at You serves creative small plates made for sharing alongside delicious cocktails—take an uber and don’t drive. The Hamachi Collar with fuji apple, snake beans and Nashville Hot sauce demands a return visit on our next trip.

Local: Rose Café is the kind of place you wish you had in your neighborhood—it’s great at any time of the day—with friends, with kids, a date or even solo. This iconic Venice restaurant has been completely redone into a multi-concept eating venue. The large, eclectic space boasts a bakery, coffee bar, bar area, big open kitchens, plus two patio’s. The food is good, it wasn’t our best meal in LA, but we loved the space and the vibe, all in all a fun night.

Just Opened: From Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan of Huckleberry, Rustic Canyon, Cassia and Milo and Otis fame its no wonder Tallula’s, though new to the scene, is already packing in the crowds in Santa Monica. The menu reads Mexican modern with SoCal influences served up in a fun, beachy space. Leave room for Nathan’s desserts and definitely have one, or more, of the delicious cocktails. 

Ethnic: Out scouting USC for Daytripper University we had lunch at Chichen Itza in the nearby Mercado la Paloma. There’s a reason locals rave about the pork and chicken pibil--its the kind of plate where everything speaks to each other in each bite—sweet plantains, black beans and oh so flavorful meat. The owners have just opened Holbox in the same market featuring raw and cooked Yucatan-style seafood, now there’s even more reason to go to the Mercado hungry.

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Anytime of Day: From the first moment we walked into Gjusta we were smitten—the chic industrial space, the beautiful food displayed behind glass cases, the bakers at work. Gjusta is the younger sibling of one of our favorite restaurants in LA--and really anywhere else too—Gjelina. (Book well in advance for Gjelina) If we lived in LA you’d find us here a few times a week eating on the back patio or grabbing take out to bring home or to the beach. The breakfast Bialy sandwich is seriously addictive; loaded with egg, merguez sausage, arugula, gruyere and harissa--so good were still thinking of it while eating our grain free granola back home.

Pasta Master: Chef Evan Funke is back in action with hand rolled pastas at Felix in a Venice bungalow on Abbot Kinney. The centerpiece of this buzzing Italian is the climate controlled room where pastas are being made in front of you—this is cacio pepe heaven!

Fish, Fish, Fish: Connie and Ted’s is loud and bustling—with a New England menu of lobster rolls, clam chowder, grilled fish with herbs and a seafood boil that is summer in a bowl. It’s a fun, casual place for good reliable seafood and perfect for larger groups. Dig in to the Parker Rolls and order the calamari to start—trust me.

Word of Mouth: Everyone’s talking about Kismet, and for good reason. This all day, packed, minimalist spot in Los Feliz showcases a veggie heavy, Middle Eastern menu, from the team behind Madcapra. We don’t know about you but we are over avocado toast and the delicious broccoli toast is a welcome spin. You need to order the Persian cucumbers with lebneh and parsley seed za'atar-and the shakshuka-and the flaky bread. Better yet, go with a friend or two so you can share.

Salads: Joan’s on Third is great for breakfast and lunch with a side of good people watching. This is the space that I’m convinced Nancy Myers used as her inspiration for Meryl Streep’s gourmet kitchen shop in the movie ‘It’s complicated’. Come here for a quick bite—there’s an array of good sandwiches, veggie plates and salads. On a nice day sit outside before heading over to Melrose to shop.

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Good Luck: Book way in advance at Bestia, located downtown in the hot arts district. The food is rustic Italian, the space is industrial, and the place is perennially packed-one of the hardest reservations in LA to get.

Ran Out of Time: We so wanted to try the bowls we’ve been seeing on Instagram at Baroo. And tacos at Guisados, Oaxacan food at Guelaguetza, and French-Asian fare at Cassia. We didn't have time to visit old favorites like Suzanne Goin’s Lucques or AOC, Italian classic Giorgio Baldi, or Spago in Beverly Hills.  And, of course all the restaurants on Alison’s list below.


Alison's List

Los Angeles Favorites by Neighborhood from Alison of Twist Your Spirits

  • Top Silverlake/Echo Park: Cafe Stella, Alimento, Botanica, , Ostrich Farm, Winsome, Sqirl
  • KoreaTown(Ktown): Ham Ji Park, Le Comptoir, Here’s Looking at You
  • West Hollywood/Hollywood: Papilles, Petit Trois, Nora, Jon and Vinnys, Gwen and Salt’s Cure, for brunch.
  • Downtown: Bestia, Wurstkuche, Sushi Gen, Ka Ga Ya, Sushi Enya, Kozunori
  • Santa Monica: Felix, Scopa
  • San GabrielMian Restaurant (insane homemade Chinese noodles)

 

 


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PUGLIA: MAGICAL IL CONVENTO DI SANTA MARIA DI CONSTANTINOPOLI

Puglia has garnered a lot of press these last few years as a hot travel destination; yet--for now--it remains a less traveled and authentic region in Italy, where olive trees dominate the landscape and small villages populate the hills. The simple things prevail—sun, sea and delicious food. Masserias and small hotels add to the charm and in one week we slept in a farmhouse, a cave and a former convent. That convent, Il Convento di Santa Maria di Costantinopoli, located on the tip of the heel near the Adriatic coast is one of the most unique properties in Puglia, the home of Lady Athena McAlpine and an incredible 8 room B&B. 

Tripper Tips:

Il Convento provides free laundry service during your stay, a big plus, especially if it’s in the middle of your trip. We all left with fresh clothes for the remainder of our vacation.

You can fly into either Bari or Brindisi. Il Convento is a two-hour drive from Bari and one hour from Brindsi.

Combine your trip with a stay at a Masserria closer to Bari and explore the charming towns such as Poligano a Mare, Otsuni, and Martina Franca. We traveled on from Il Convento to Matera, on the border of Puglia in Basiliciata. The town, one of the most dramatic and atmospheric places we have ever been is a "wow" and a must visit. Sleeping in a restored natural cave at Albergo Sextantio was memorable and surprisingly luxurious.

Check In: We arrived in the late afternoon at Il Convento after driving through the small town of Marittima di Duso, a sleepy little village where we passed mostly old people strolling down the narrow streets. Our GPS had us going in circles, till finally one of us spotted a sign for the church of Santa Maria di Costantinopoli, just on the outskirts of town. Standing outside the church, we knocked on the small side door next-door, still unsure it was the right place. The door swung open, Athena warmly greeted us and the experience began. For a stay at Il Convento is an experience, entering the inner courtyard transports you immediately to another world--blink you might just think you’re in Mexico, Cartagena, or India perhaps, rather than in Italy. Immediately it’s as if you’re at a friend’s grand villa rather than a guest at a hotel. 

History: Il Convento, a 15th century Franciscan monastery, was in complete ruin when the late Lord Alistair McAlpine and his wife Athena bought the property. They lovingly restored it, furnishing it with collections from their extensive travels. Every nook holds another treasure such as Moroccan carpets, Indian ceramics, tribal art, and everywhere books—stacks and stacks of incredible books. 

Wake Up: This is non negotiable. Go for a run (or walk) down to what we referred to as ‘the swimming hole.’ We were up early, and so for the three days of our stay this became our morning ritual. As it was late September we pretty much had the place to ourselves, apart from an older gentleman who seemed happy to see us each day, smiling and nodding warmly. The water is clear and beautiful, the spot beyond picturesque and it is an ideal way to start your day. Pierluigi, Il Convento’s in house chef, told us that in the summer months each inch of rock is covered with people sunbathing. There is something to be said for late spring or early fall travel!

Mangia: Breakfast is spread out on the dining room table, an abundant array of delicious breads, pizza focaccia, homemade jams and jellies, yogurt, plus fresh fruit and juices. Pierluigi is in the kitchen, happy to make you eggs as he plans the day’s menu; soon off to the market or his mother’s garden to get provisions. Breakfast is communal and its fun to converse with the other guests, sharing highlights of each other’s trips to nearby towns and restaurants. 

Relax: It’s tempting to never leave Il Convento during your stay.  There are so many places to read, cozy corners, hidden nooks. The pool is beautiful and perfect for lounging. Pierluigi will make you an incredible lunch utilizing different spots around the property. And our lunch was lovely; an assortment of cheeses and cured meats, fresh raviolis, stewed zucchini, rocket with cherry tomatoes. During the day guests are invited to help themselves while Pierluigi is out shopping for dinner.  Wander into the kitchen for something sweet (the biscuits are addictive) or an afternoon Aperol Spritz.

Don’t Miss: Make sure to explore the beautiful grounds; we especially enjoyed the rooftop succulent garden. Also on the rooftop there is a yoga room that can be booked for massages or a private yoga sessions. 

Dinner: Though there are towns and restaurants within driving distance, trust me, you wont want to leave. Have a pre dinner drink in the cloistered courtyard; magical at night with the candelabra’s lit and classical music playing. It’s just you and the stars. Beautifully set tables around the garden (weather permitting) or in one of the small dining rooms are set just for your group. Pierluigi is a very good cook; everything is local, simply prepared and delicious. Dinner ends with sips of the house made grappa infused with fruits and spices, let’s just say we tried quite a few.

Excursions: Athena can supply you with maps and suggestions for exploring the nearby towns and beaches. One afternoon we headed to the seaside town of Otranto, a short drive along the coast. The Cathedral is a must! We all agreed the 12th century mosaic floor was remarkable, unlike anything we had ever experienced in a church. The chapel of the dead behind the altar is eerily filled with bones and skulls of 800 martyrs who refused to renounce their Catholic faith. The small Chiesa di San Pietro is another worthy stop to see beautiful Byzantine frescos currently undergoing preservation. Stop for a gelato at Gelato Naturale and if you choose to stay for dinner grab a seat at popular Ristorante da Sergio. Another day we headed to Baroque Lecce, often referred to as the “Florence of the South’. Wander the narrow streets where it feels like there’s a Baroque-era church at each turn. Highlights include the Basilica di Santa Croce, Centro Storico and the Duomo di Lecce. Don’t miss lunch at La Zie, an extremely popular trattoria specializing in home style cooking. Each dish that came out of the women only kitchen was delicious; this was authentic, rustic food and one of our best meals in Puglia. Another day, Athena suggested lunch by the sea.  A dramatic drive along the coastline brought us to Lo Scalo in Marina di Novaglie. After lunch you can travel further down the coast where there are many small beaches where you can rent chairs and enjoy a swim. 

Not For Everyone: Il Convento is a very special place and we all loved our stay. However, if you can’t be without your Wi-Fi, then Il Convento is not for you. There are no phones, televisions or Internet, encouraging guests to relax and slow down. (We have to admit, we did wish they had Wi-Fi, and eagerly logged on whenever we left the property.) All of the rooms are uniquely decorated, and all have a private bathroom. However, the rooms on the second floor do not offer bathrooms ensuite instead they are located across the hall. There is no air conditioning, not a problem when we visited in September, but during the hot summer month’s fans are provided if needed. 

Reserve: To book a stay at Il Convento speak to Helen Forbes at Essential Italy who handles all reservations for Athena. Helen is extremely well versed and well traveled throughout Puglia and can recommend Masseria’s to combine with your stay, along with restaurant and sightseeing recommendations. 


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Tennessee: Local Take with Eric and Mandee McNew of Knox Foodie

Photo credit: Don Dudenbostel

Photo credit: Don Dudenbostel

Daytripper travels to Knoxville, Tennessee with Eric and Mandee McNew of Knox Foodie, a website that chronicles their food adventures. The South is a hot culinary destination and here Eric shares his ideal day in his hometown. “Knoxville, known by its residents affectionately as “The Scruffy City”, is in the middle of a mini renaissance. The food scene has started to come into its own after a too long love affair with chain food. There are some big name newcomers, such as star chef Joseph Lenn, who after ten years at Blackberry Farm is opening his own restaurant. Knoxville just won a large grant to create new mountain bike trails, and the waterways are healthier than they have been for decades. The once scrappy downtown is now bustling with city dwellers. Knoxville makes a perfect spot for a long weekend or as an outpost while visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just a few minutes away.”

Tripper Tips:

Eric and Mandee say…Downtown Knoxville's upscale, boutique hotel The Oliver lands you right in the middle of downtown within walking distance of many of my Knoxville highlights. If you're lucky, you can get a seat at the speakeasy inside the Oliver called The Peter Kern Library. Seating is quite limited and they do pick and choose who can go in, so be prepared to venture to one of the other fine beverage establishments if they are at capacity.

Splurge and stay at Blackberry Farm, 30 minutes away in Walland, set on a 4,200 acre ranch at the foothills of the Smokey Mountains. Check the schedule for special weekend events such as photography workshops, wellness weekends, food and wine experiences and concerts in the barn.

Morning Wander: Start your Saturday morning with a trip to the Market Square Farmer’s Market. From May until early November, farmers, artisans and food trucks take over the Market Square district of downtown Knoxville. Whether you’re looking for the freshest tomatoes, sweet corn, foraged mushrooms or Lambsquarter greens, you’ll find something interesting to fill your shopping bag. To fuel your day, you can grab a cup of pour-over coffee from Old City Java and grab a quick snack from one of the many fine food trucks. If you’re more health-conscious, Benefit Your Life has outstanding gluten-free munchies. Enjoy the talented buskers on every corner, and there’s a fountain fit to play in the square center. 

Breakfast: After getting your fill of shopping at the Farmer’s Market, walk a couple of blocks down to Central Street for a proper Southern breakfast, with a Latin flair at Olibea. Chef Jeff DeAlejandro’s small restaurant in the Old City district immediately became a landmark when it opened. The weekly torta, using vegetables available seasonally is a must! 

Get Moving: You will need some exercise once you’re finished with breakfast at Olibea!  An excellent choice would be exploring Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness at Ijams Nature Center. Enjoy the easy-to-walk 12 miles of trails at this 300-acre urban green space. Rent a canoe and float on Meads Quarry Lake, or bike the 9 miles of beginner to intermediate trails including a trip through the “Keyhole”, a large Tennessee Marble pathway that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Test your skills at the Ijam’s Canopy Zipline Experience, and the kids can explore the whimsical Jo’s Grove.

If Water Sports are More Your Thing: Kayak, canoe and stand up paddle board rentals are made available by River Sports Outfitters at ljams, the Cove in Farragut and their Sutherland Ave location. Knoxville is a town that loves the water so access is easy to find no matter where you are in town!

Lunch: Returning downtown, visit Holly’s 135 for a lunch fix. Chef Holly Hambright has brought her seductive flavors downtown to 135 Gay Street. Her weekend menu includes brunch sandwiches named after local friends, delicious curated cocktails, and a new addition of Italian favorites. Chef Holly’s other successful endeavors: Holly’s Eventful Dining (a catering company which frequently wins Best Catering awards in Knoxville), Holly’s Homberg (a weekday lunch and weekend dinner spot), and Holly’s Corner (a sandwich and soup lunch spot and music venue). 

Drink: In the afternoon, book a tour with Knox Brew Tours  to discover some of Knoxville’s established and up-and-coming breweries.  It’s a fun bus ride across the city on a 3 to 4 hour guided tour. Knoxville’s brewery scene is currently exploding with an expected 5 new breweries and at least one new distillery opening by the end of the year. There are flavors for any beer lover. There’s even a tour that lets you visit some of the not-yet-open breweries so you can taste beer that’s not yet available to the public! 

View: If you prefer something a little less boozy, head across Henley Street to World’s Fair Park (site of the 1982 World’s Fair) to check out the skyline from the observation deck of the Sunsphere and catch the latest exhibits at the Knoxville Museum of Art. There you will experience local, national and international art alike. 

Dinner: There’s a quaint little spot in the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood that’s a great place to unwind and enjoy unique Southern flavors. Chef Drew McDonald and his wife Bonni quietly opened The Plaid Apron in an almost hidden location and it has become a go-to spot for both dinner and their famous brunch. A new Monday tradition is their Fried Chicken and Champagne dinners. Each week Chef Drew uses locally provided vegetables to accent his delicious fried chicken thighs. Also look for specials like: Sheep’s Head with seared romanesco, fennel and charred carrots, the Mitchell Family farm ribeye, and the addictive southern club with chicken thigh, braised local collard greens, garlic aioli, and Benton’s bacon on a Ciabatta. Here’s a tip: their brunch burger may also be the best burger in town!

After Hours: Late night drinks abound in Knoxville. A solid choice, with a great mix of fans is the Public House. The friendly bartenders mix intricate cocktails using house made shrubs and tinctures. There’s also a varied selection of craft beer and an impressive list of liquors including the occasional appearance of Pappy Van Winkle. If you’re visiting on a Sunday, check to see if they are hosting one of their Sunday Suppers. During these occasional dinners, local invited chefs host a full family style dinner. The Public House offers a selection of gourmet hotdogs, (Try the Kim Chee Dog), charcuterie, and seasoned popcorn for when the late night munchies hit.

All Seasons: Knoxville continues to grow with more adventures on the horizon, but the annual traditions are still not to be missed. In the fall, be sure to head over to the University of Tennessee for tailgating and college football the Big Orange way. In the winter, Market Square turns into a winter wonderland complete with hot chocolate and ice-skating. You can also enjoy a trampoline adventure at several places around town. Be sure to visit often so you do not miss anything Knoxville has to offer!

Honorable Mention: There’s more good stuff to eat…

Bida Saigon, an out of the way Vietnamese restaurant that serves the city’s best Pho. Southern elegance comes at a price, but the Grill at Highland’s Row is perfect for a special occasion. Knox Mason – is a small upscale southern spot from a Blackberry Farm alumni, Chef Matt Gallaher. From his tiny kitchen, Gallaher produces some of the most unique offerings in town. Knox Mason shows up very frequently on lists of top restaurants in Knoxville. Prepare to wait for a seat, but it’s well worth the wait! It’s All So Yummy Cafe serves gourmet grilled cheese and homemade Hilton Head Ice Cream, on the West side of town. Dead End Barbecue, from local BBQ champs turned restaurateurs has two area locations offering traditional smoked meat and southern vegetables. 

 

Social: Follow Eric and Mandee’s food adventures in Knoxville and beyond @ http://Knoxfoodie.com and on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

 

 

Drink up--A Weekend in Rioja

Just a few hours drive from Madrid; Rioja is Spain’s most lauded wine region. Unlike Napa, or to a lesser extent Tuscany and Bordeaux, places more commercial and accustomed to tons of visitors, Rioja is delightfully undiscovered and authentic. Traveling from San Sebastian, (see here) with a stopover first for a lunch to end all lunches at Extebarri (see here), we made our way to our home base at the Marques de Riscal for the next two nights. Hardly enough time to soak in all the compelling wines, delicious food, modern architecture and medieval villages.

Tripper Tips:

Do your research and plan ahead to schedule appointments at the wineries you wish to visit. Most do not have public tasting rooms and only offer limited tours in English, usually one per day.

You have the option to choose to tour the Marques de Riscal winery, it’s included in your stay. The 33,000 square foot complex, including the hotel and spa, is aptly called the The City of Wine. Tours of the winery are 90 minutes.

Another hotel option is to stay at the boutique Hotel Viura, located in Villabuena de Alava, home to over 30 wineries.

Have time for another day tip… dine at the the famed El Portal del Echaurren in the town of Ezcaray for food from chef Francis Paniego.  Chef Paniego is also the chef at the gourmet restaurant at Marques de Riscal.

Have more time…visit the mountain monasteries of Suso and Yuso. Be sure to make a reservation a few days before you plan on going.

Rioja is a vast area, and a useful source is to download the comprehensive Maribel Guides before you go.

Stay: Its not everyday you get to sleep in a Frank Gehry designed building that looks just like the younger sibling of the Guggenheim Bilbao (see itinerary here.) The Marques de Riscal sits high on a hill, overlooking the oldest winery in Rioja, dating from 1858. You can see the hotel miles before you arrive. It looks as if a space ship was dropped in the middle of tiny, sleepy Elcegio. Riscal has put Rioja on travelers’ maps, and indeed the crowds come—but they also leave quickly, and most of the time you have the place to yourself. 

Singular: Frank Gehry brought international attention to Rioja, but he is not alone in creating breathtaking architecture, Santiago Calatrava, Zaha Hadid, and Inaki Aspiazu have all designed cutting edge wineries that stand out in the landscape of rolling hills and fortified towns. It’s so surreal, so fun.

Morning Wake Up: Wander through the streets of Elcegio, and then head up towards the vineyards, you can walk or run for miles. It’s peaceful, beautiful, and the return vistas of Riscal are magical, changing form and color from every angle. It feels like life in Elcegio hasn’t changed all that much, as if untouched, even with the arrival of Riscal. Afterwards, enjoy breakfast in the hotel’s modern bistro. 

Drink: A large concentration of wineries can be found in or near Haro, approximately 30 minutes from the Hotel. We booked a morning tour at López de Heredia, where the Zaha Hadid decanter shaped tasting pavilion and wine shop stands in sharp contrast to the traditional winery next door. The tour begins in the winery, surrounded by men at work making wine barrels, one of the only wineries to handcraft their own barrels. You’ll learn the history of this family run bodega dating back to 1877, before venturing down to the underground tunnels and caves. Itchy at the sight of countless cobwebs, we were amazed at the thick layer of natural mold covering both the cellar walls and the wine bottles. I’ve visited a lot of wineries, and this was a unique and visual experience. Roda, right next door, has one of the rare public wine rooms. Stop in for a tasting, not only of their stellar wine, but also of their outstanding olive oil.  Another popular winery in Haro is Muga if you’d like to do another tour. 

Drive By: Make a stop at Ysios’ Winery, designed by Calatrava. We heard the building was more compelling than the wines, and it was well worth it to walk around and admire the architect’s handiwork. 

Still Thirsty: If you’re up for more touring, one of the more interesting tours is at Bodegas Baigorri. The winery is an architectural gem, a glass box with a multi level winery below, designed by Iñaki Aspiazu. Here the wine rivals the setting; Baigorri was one of our favorite Riojian wines. You can choose to eat here; we heard the set 3-course lunch overlooking the vineyards was a lovely way to spend the afternoon. 

Lunch: On the way to the afternoon stop in Laguardia, dine at the charming, small restaurant Hector Oribe in the nearby town of Paganos. The Michelin starred restaurant has quite a following for it’s creative take on traditional Riojian classics. 

Don’t Miss: Book a tour in the late afternoon with Judith of Pepita Uva, to not just see, but to learn and experience the history of picturesque Laguardia, a fortified medieval town, near the Cantabria Mountains.  Judith speaks perfect English, her mom is from Boston, and she lives here in her family’s home—offering you a true local’s insight and knowledge. The two-hour tour covers the historic town center, the church and the Abbot´s Tower. Laguardia is most fascinating for its network of over 300 subterranean wine cellars, all caves beneath people’s homes. These hidden caves, were once used for protection during sieges, now adapted for wine production and storage. Judith took us into her family’s own cave, deep underground. The tour ends at Judith’s shop with--you guessed it--a glass of wine. 

Dinner: Close to Riscal, head to Fuenmayor, it doesn’t look like much from the road, but has a simple, sweet town center.  Here we had one of our most delicious meals in all of Basque county at Asador Alameda. Run by husband and wife Esther and Tomas Alvarez everything is prepared simply using only the finest seasonal ingredients. The restaurant set up was a bit unusual as Tomas grills in an curtained, glass enclosed kitchen right in the dining room utilizing his 2 grills –one for huge slabs of t-bone steaks, and another for whole fish.  He kept smiling at us as he cooked our dinner, his pride fully evident. Later touring the tiny, spotless kitchen we met Esther who proudly showed us what was bubbling on the stove. We left with hugs and a meal we’ll remember for a long time. After many memorable dinners over our ten-day trip, my best bite may have just come down to a simple bowl of baby peas.

Day Two

Morning: It’s not just a winery tour, but also your morning workout. Walk the vineyards at world renowned Remelluri. Using the maps provided, you choose the 30, 60 or 90-minute self-guided walk throughout their gorgeous grounds.  Make sure to book ahead.  Afterwards head to Briones to visit the Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture, the world’s largest wine museum.  All 4,000 square metres are devoted to exploring the evolution of wine over 8,000 years of history. 

Lunch: Wander around lovely Briones before heading to lunch at Los Calaos, a family run restaurant in the old part of town with a traditional Rioja menu.  

Relax: Back at the hotel, book a massage at the lovely Caudalie Spa overlooking the vineyards, with a small indoor pool. You’re in wine country so try one of the wine related treatments such as a cabernet scrub.

Tapas Crawl: Some say Logrono, the capital of Rioja, rivals San Sebastian when it comes to pinchos. Simpler, and less haute, we found them equally delicious. All the action takes place clustered around two narrow streets in the Casco Viejo: Calle Laurel and Calle San Juan. Come hungry: it’s a bustling area with over 50 bars, a real food marathon. The evening crawl gets going around 9 pm, plan on visiting 5 or 6 bars, and sampling the specialty in each place. How will you know what to order? Ask the bartenders, look and see what the locals are ordering, or choose what looks good to you and be adventurous. 

Eat: Bar Angel serves just one thing: garlicky wild mushrooms grilled and served on a toothpick atop a slice of bread, with a small shrimp as a garnish. It might sound boring, but trust me; it was so good we immediately ordered another round. Half the fun is wandering around and finding your own favorites: we liked El Sebas for their tortillas de patatas, Juan y Pinchame’s prawn and pineapple brochettes and Pata Negra for the toasted jamon sandwich or plates of their rich iberico.

Drink: Wash down your pinchos with the inexpensive Txaoli, the popular fizzy white wine or with a local red crianza. At Taberna de Correos for a few extra euros we ordered wines by the glass, sampling some higher end wines from the area. One we discovered, El Pundito, we are now buying and drinking at home. 

Still Hungry: I’m betting you’ll be properly stuffed after a good pincho prowl , but if you want to sit down and eat dinner, Iruna and Matute, both on Calle de Laurel are good choices.


Related Destinations



OREGON: EXPLORE PORTLAND

Quirkier than Seattle, the “other” Pacific Northwest city, Portland wears a small town feel with big city offerings. The restaurant, bar and coffee scene is as good as anywhere, everyone is super friendly and the city boasts beautiful parks and gardens. I had always heard great things about Portland, and a recent visit with my family did not disappoint. In fact, it surpassed all our expectations. Rent a car so you can spend time outside the city visiting the Columbia Gorge, the Willamette Valley wine country or head down the coast for an extended trip. Here’s my hit list for an ideal two days in Portland.

Tripper Tips:

The lovely girl working at Palace told us to head to Mississippi Ave between Freemont and Shaver for cool stores in a newly trendy neighborhood. She raved about Sweedeedee, which Eater put on their Essential list, but unfortunately we ran out of time and had to leave it for our next trip.

Portland is a bike town, 8 bridges span the river, and many use bikes as their primary transportation. Rent bikes or do one of their tours at Pedal Bike Tours.

Unfortunately, I was not in Portland for the Saturday Market, which funny enough, also takes place on Sunday. On the river by the Hawthorne Bridge rent a canoe, kayak or SUP at Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe. Or just stroll along the Eastbank Esplanade.

If you’re a doughnut fan, stop at Voodoo Doughnut on SW 3rd, not far from The Nines, to pick up some of their unusual creations to bring along on your hike. Early morning is a good time to go to this 24/7 Portland institution, which is on everyone’s must do list, as later the line is down the block.

At Ava Genes, chef Joshua Mcfadden has a way with vegetable salads, called Giardini, they were the star of our meal. Until his cookbook comes out in 2016, make his standout Kale salad, originally created while he was chef de cuisine at Franny's in Brooklyn, using the recipe here. Want to make more of his delicious veggie salads?  Click here for two more recipes.

What’s in a Name: Portland goes by many names: City of Roses, Rip City, Stumptown, P-Town, and Bridgetown to name the most popular.  See here for the origin behind all these commonly used nicknames. 

Stay: I liked the Nines. Sitting next to Pioneer Square, it’s centrally located, the rooms are very comfortable, and there is an awesome 15th floor rooftop bar with great views. Part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection, we used our points, a heads up to you Starwood junkies. Yet, the neighborhood wasn’t my favorite, being the business and retail hub for Portland. (There is a mall, a Nordstrom’s and an Apple store all within sight.) Still, until Portland gets a game changer hotel, I would stay here again.

Walk: Bring comfortable shoes, as Portland is an extremely walkable city. Each neighborhood is like it’s own little town, with a unique and different character--it’s really the best way to get a feel for Portland. Portland is divided by the Willamette River, and you can walk across the bridges and over to the East side, which has a much different vibe—more residential and definitely more hipster. Other ways to get around include renting bikes, riding the MAX light rail or calling an Uber. We found that Uber was fairly priced and a good option if you get tired, or lost.

Coffee: Where do you even begin in a city with so many great coffee houses?  Staying downtown head to Heart, on SW 12th or Stumptown at the Ace Hotel. Our favorite was Courier Coffee, for the hipster vibe, coffee drinks served in mason jars, and the friendly staff. A few blocks over in the Pearl, popular Barista has a nice patio and excellent coffee. Next-door Maurice bills itself as a pastry luncheonette, I bill it as absolutely adorable and charming, serving the most beautiful and delicious tarts and pastries early morning and moving into salads, soups and quiches at lunchtime.

Books: We are a family that can’t walk by a bookstore without being drawn in, so this was priority number one for our day.  Powell’s City of Books is a major Portland tourist destination and the world’s largest independent bookstore spanning an entire square block. (Locals love it too!) One could easily spend a day in the maze-like mecca of Powell’s, with used books mixed in with new, staff recommendations intermixed throughout the store in sections you’d never dream of, a rare book room and an in-house cafe.  If you love bookstores this will instantly shoot to the top of your list of favorites. 

Shop: Near Powell’s there is good shopping at Frances May, West End Select, Back Talk, Woonwinkel, Canoe, Alder and Co. and Tanner Goods.

Lunch: Over 700 food carts are registered in Portland and more are popping up each day. The carts are assembled together in food courts, and most neighborhoods have one. One of the largest is right downtown at 9th and SW Alder. Walk around and see what appeals to you, and then head to Nong Khao Man Gai, one of Portland’s most popular and legendary carts. The poached organic chicken and rice, served with the key garlic and ginger sauce, comes with a clear soup on the side. Itsa perfect combination. Winning Nong’s a new fan, my 18-year-old daughter made us go back three times in three days. 

Casual Sit Down: It’s hard to choose among the creative sandwich offerings at Lardo. Meat lovers will want the pork meatball banh mi or an excellent hamburger, while vegetarians will be happy with the chickpea or broccoli rabe sandwich.  Don’t think of skipping the fries. The Southeast location has a large outdoor patio.

Urban Renewal: The Pearl District, once home to abandoned warehouses, has been transformed into a hip neighborhood of art galleries, chic boutiques, restaurants, breweries and high end loft apartments. On a nice day people roam the cobble stone streets and drink and dine on the outdoor patios and loading docks late into the night. 

North West: Industrial stretches and tall buildings give way to Victorian houses and tree lined streets as you approach NW 23rd street. Among the boutiques and restaurants, you must stop and indulge at Salt and Straw, a small-batch handmade ice cream shop with a cult like following. You can expect a line here, but it moves quickly, and once inside you will not be rushed, but encouraged to taste up to 4 flavors. Sample some of the wacky, unusual combinations. 

Sweet Smells: There are upwards of 500 varieties of roses, and approximately 7000 individual plants at the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park.  Roses are not just red here, but a burst of all colors and sizes. June was the peak of the season and something special to behold, but with great views of Portland from up high it’s worth going even off peak.

Quiet Reflection: Get your Zen on at the Japanese Garden, a peaceful oasis in the city, right above the Rose Garden. Allow at least 30-40 minutes to explore the 5 distinct gardens including sand and stone, tea and a strolling pond garden spread out across 5.5 acres.

Dinner: South East Division has been dubbed “Restaurant Row,” and I could be very happy not venturing any further. One night we put our name down on Pok Pok’s list, and spent the hour wait at their sister place across the street Whiskey Soda Lounge. The time flew by drinking Tamarind Whiskey Sours and nibbling on the strangely addictive roasted red peanuts with lime leaf, garlic, chilies and salt. One of Food and Wine's best new chefs of 2013, Jenn Louis, cooks at Sunshine Tavern. More than a few locals told us to try Bollywood Theatre, for its take on Indian street food. One afternoon, though we weren’t even hungry, we stopped by to try their signature Kati roll, and oh wow was it good. And then there’s Ava Genes, one of Bon Appetit’s top ten restaurants in the US in 2013, and our best meal in Portland.  If you didn’t make it earlier, skip dessert and join the line next door at Salt and Straw's other location. 

Day Two:

Quick Breakfast: Head back to the food trucks on SW Alder to Bing Mi for a Chinese breakfast crepe called the Jian Bing. This savory crepe is stuffed with scrambled eggs, black bean paste, wonton crackers, cilantro, scallions and pickled veggies. It was wow at first bite-- if I lived in Portland, I’d be a regular, it’s that good!

Southern Style Brunch:  For an even heartier, sit down meal, head across the bridge, to the Screen Porch. On the weekends the lines are long, the secret is to go during the week. Fill up on the most delicious chicken and waffles, and be extra decadent with a side of biscuits and gravy. The meal will sustain you for your hiking to come. Right down the street is the other location of Heart for a coffee stop and Palace, which became our favorite store in Portland. We left with a few too many of their vintage tee’s hand tie-died in subtle patterns and colors. (Discovered thanks to local artist Christiana Hedlund’s itinerary here.)

Eclectic: A few blocks from the Screen Porch is the hipster Hawthorne neighborhood. Powell’s has two smaller stores here on Hawthorne Blvd. and music fans will love Jackpot Records and Crossroads Music for their old vinyls. House of Vintage, with over 13,000 square feet of wares from different independent dealers, is a maze of old denim, clothes, jewelry and housewares. 

Chasing Waterfalls: Head out of town on I-84 and onto the Historic Hood River Highway towards the Columbia Gorge. The drive is just beautiful, if you like spectacular vistas. Don’t think of just doing a drive by at Vista House at Crown Point, stop and enjoy the panoramic view. The gorge is famous for its waterfalls, and you will have time to visit a few such as Bridal Veil and Horsetail Falls; as all are located within a few miles of each other. Multnomah Falls is the most visited and the highest with a drop of 620 feet, so expect crowds here, but it’s worth searching for a parking spot.

Continue On: From Multnomah Falls its approximately 30 miles to Hood River. In laid back Hood River, you can rent gear or take a lesson at Kite the Gorge, grab a beer and burger at Full Sail Brewery (can also do a tour and tasting) or eat at Celilo. Continue onto the Fruit Loop. A scenic 35 mile drive passing farm stands, vineyards all with great views of Mt. Hood. Stop and pick some fresh peaches, or cut yourself some fresh lavender. Taste some wine at Cathedral Ridge Winery.

Alternate Route: Another hour from Hood River you'll reach Timberline Lodge and Mount Hood, take the highway for a quicker route back to Portland.

Dinner: Tired after a day at the Gorge, we stayed close and headed to Olympia Provisions SE. (There is another location across the bridge, and both have just recently changed the name from Olympic to Olympia). Everyone loves Bamboo Sushi, head to the NW location for signature rolls and plates. So many restaurants, so little days. I didn’t get to dine at Beast, Paley’s Place, Le Pigeon and Ned Ludd, all on my list for next time.


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THE OREGON COAST

Photo by  Grace and Jaden

The Oregon Coast is part of the great Pacific Rainforest, the largest temperate rain-forest in the world. Stretching 350 miles from Astoria to Brookings the scenery is stunning at every turn. Beautiful, wide sandy beaches set against dramatic rocky coastlines call out for long walks no matter what the weather. Just under two hours from Portland, the town of Cannon Beach is known for Haystack Rock, an icon of the Oregon coast and a charming place to spend a few days.

Tripper Tips:

The weather on the coast can be unpredictable. December- February is rainy season with late spring becoming drier and summer the driest. A magical part of being on the coast is experiencing the atmospheric changes—the fog rolling in, the clouds thick as a wall surrounding Haystack Rock, the sun bursting through the maritime layer—all beautiful. Be prepared by bringing layers! For hiking enthusiasts we strongly recommend that you check out Saddle Mountain which is about a 20 minute drive from the Stephanie Inn. The hike begins at an elevation of 1650 feet and  climbs to a  height of 3290 feet over  2.75 miles of  fairly steep  terrain. The challenge  pays off handsomely for those who refuse to  quit.  From the summit (on a clear day) you are able to see the Columbia river feeding into the Pacific Ocean in addition to the peaks of Mt Rainier, Mt. Hood, Mt St. Helens and Mt Jefferson.  Bring plenty of water and maybe even a picnic lunch to enjoy up top!

Stay: Check in to the three-story Stephanie Inn, right on the beach with sweeping views of Haystack Rock and the needles. Rooms are large and very comfortable, if not quite stylish, and top floor rooms have spacious balconies; perfect to watch sunset. The vibe is sweet, rather than sophisticated, with charming touches including an afternoon wine tasting hour, evening nightcap at 9, and homemade cookies available all day. (Stored in the ceramic house, next to the front desk.)

Coffee: After or before the complimentary breakfast at the hotel head to the adorable Sleepy Monk, for very good organic coffee roasted right in Cannon Beach.

Hike: Walk in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark at Ecola State Park, just a 5-minute drive from downtown Cannon Beach. This is one of the best spots for panoramic views of the Coast—the sea stacks and small islands to the South, and to the West, Tillamook Rock, Oregon’s only offshore lighthouse. There are both walking and hiking trails and beach access at Indian Beach, popular with surfers. We hiked the 4-mile Tillamook head Trail climbing up through a tall forest of Sitka Spruce before reaching the top.

Lunch: How can you not love the concept of the Screw and Brew: half hardware store, half restaurant. The funky space more than delivers with good burgers, salads and fish sandwiches.  At Ecola Seafoods, a fish market with a bunch of tables, the packed house doesn’t seem to mind the no-frills-atmosphere as they happily consume steamers, clam chowder, fish and chips, and grilled locally caught salmon or halibut. The fresh Dungeness crab meat cocktail and a whole cooked crab were the clear favorites at our table.

Town: Cannon Beach is a cute beach town with shops and galleries. If the line isn’t too long at Osburns, get an ice cream and walk around after lunch.

Beach Biking: The Stephanie Inn has bikes for guests to use; don’t miss the opportunity to ride them on the beach. The sand at the waters edge is hard packed, making for a great ride. At low tide you can go for miles. We rode in the direction of Tolovana State Beach, continuing past Silver Point and Humbug Point and turning around at Hug Point. Along the way the scenery constantly changes; the crowds by Haystack replaced by isolated stretches of beach, sea caves, high dramatic cliffs, and an old road bed that is now a path of barnacles and green algae.  (If you just want to play around, recumbent bikes can be rented at Family Fun Cycles at Tolovana Park.)

The Rock: At low tide, walk right up to Haystack Rock to explore the tidal pools where kids of all ages are looking for starfish, crabs, shrimp and anemones. Tufted Puffins arrive late spring and summer to join the thousands of birds already calling Haystack home. Friends of Haystack are on hand to answer questions and to safeguard the ecosystem of this incredible monolith, formed from lava flows millions of years ago.

Dinner: When I mentioned to a friend I was visiting Cannon Beach, she told me stop what I was doing and immediately call EVOO for a dinner reservation. She was so adamant, that I didn’t argue, and I was lucky enough to score a reservation. Chef Bob Neroni and his wife Lenore Emery have been welcoming guests for over 10 years to their unique venue, a combination cooking class and fine dining experience all in one. Watch each dish prepared with lively discussion from Bob and Lenore, who have a light banter that comes from years of experience. They use only the best ingredients--organic, local, and seasonal in their Mediterranean inspired menu. The food was delicious, sophisticated and layered, and the wine pairings were well thought out and complimentary. This was a fun night out and no visit to Cannon Beach would be complete without a stop at EVOO.

Night Skies: Sunset is late in the summer, sometime around 9PM, allowing you to pack the most in a day. Luck plays a part here, as one day the colors can be spectacular and the next night a wall of clouds can roll in shutting down the sun splash. As the daylight fades away, a surprise awaits, as small beach bonfires begin doting the beach in small pockets for miles.

Must do: Arranged ahead of time, the Stephanie Inn will set up a beach bonfire for you complete with all the s’mores fixings. Song lyrics for Kumbaya not included.

**A special thank you to photographer Grace Hurtienne of Grace and Jaden, a husband and wife team who specialize in wedding and travel destination photography and cinematography. Click here to see their stunning photographs and the schedule for their upcoming workshops.


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A weekend in Venice

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Venice, a floating city is one of the world’s most magical of places. A city of contradictions—sensual, romantic and architecturally significant while at the same time fragile, overcrowded and very expensive. One of the most unique places to visit, go and see the sights, but leave time to wander; getting lost is half the fun! Venice’s charms and treasures are too numerous to experience in just a weekend, so plan your time well and make the most of your day.

Tripper Tips:

Venice’s beautiful opera and concert house, Teatro La Fenice, reopened after a catastrophic fire in 1996 that destroyed it completely. Click here to see the schedule while you are here. The theater is usually open for daily tours, check ahead to be sure.

The tiny boutique of Cristina Linassi sells hand-embroidered nightgowns and sheets made in its own workshop. This is an ideal place to pick up something extra special as a present. They also have exquisite bed and table linens...with the prices to match.

Off the beaten track -  visit Cemetery Island, Isola di San Michele, to see the tombs of Igor Stravinsky, Joseph Brodsky, Segei Diaghilev and Ezra Pound.

Venice has a great hot weather aperitif that you definitely want to try--the Sgroppino, which is Prosecco mixed with vodka and topped with a small scoop of lemon sorbet.

Before dinner head to a Bacaro, stand up snack bars resembling Spain's famous tapas bars. Cicchetti are little snacks, good for a bite before dinner with a glass of wine. Cantina do Mori and Bancogiro. both are good places to try near the Rialto Market.

Near St. Lucia train station visit the very old neighborhood of Campo del Ghetto, the world's oldest Jewish ghetto. Still an active community to Venice small Jewish population (approximately 500) with two synagogues still in use today. The Museo Ebraico offers guided tours every hour starting at 10:30.

Stay: The Bauer Il Palazzo, housed in an 18th century palace, overlooks the Grand Canal and is close to St. Mark’s Square. Two boutique hotels, both on the Grand Canal, include Ca Maria Adele and Ca’Sagrado. Feeling extravagant, there’s nothing better than the new Aman, a grand, historic, 24 room hotel housed in a renovated 16th century palazzo right on the Grand Canal. The legendary Gritti Palace just reopened after an extensive renovation. For those who want a more resort like feel, stay on the island of Giudecca. Belmond’s Hotel Cipriani or Bauer’s Palladio Hotel and Spa are a 10-minute boat ride from St. Marks.

Breakfast: Start the day at Café Florian on St. Mark’s. Dating back to 1720, this Neo-Baroque café is beautiful, sit outside and watch the crowds go by.

Morning Sights: For first time visitors, or those who can’t remember the last time they were in Venice, Piazza San Marco, or as the English say St. Marks’s Square is a must do. It’s sure to be filled with tourists so go early. Ride the elevator to the top of the Campanile for a great view of Venice from up high. Go inside St. Mark’s Basilica, the most famous of Venice’s churches and one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture. Book the Secret Itineraries tour in advance for the Doges Palace, and walk right past the long line with your guide. Inside you’ll see two very different sides of the building—first the magnificent rooms with walls of Venetian masterpieces, and then the hidden secret prisons and torture chambers behind those walls. All of these sights are within a few hundred yards—you can cover a lot of ground quickly! Set off in directions off the square and wander, you will discover a much quieter city.

Shop: Il Prato at San Marco has a great selection of Venetian handicrafts all handmade...from antique fabrics to leather goods, fine papers to old carnival masks.  

History Buffs: Visit the Correr Museum at St. Mark’s Square dedicated to the art, culture and history of Venice.

Lunch: Ristorante Quadri on San Marco serves delicious contemporary Italian. Near the Rialto Bridge dine at popular Antiche Carampane. Make sure to order the order the pasta with spider crab and fritto misto. Or head to Ai Gondolieri in the bustling Dorsoduro neighborhood.

Art Afternoon: Venice is an exciting place for modern and contemporary art even when the Biennale is not in season. Many museum quality collections can be seen at extraordinary palazzos throughout the city. One of Venice’s most popular attractions is the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. During her life Peggy Guggenheim was a pioneer of many artists, giving many their first shows. This is a personal, intimate museum in what was once her former waterfront home in the Dorsoduro neighborhood. Francois Pinault is one of the most influential art collectors in the world today. In 2009 he opened his second venue of contemporary art, Punta della Dogana, located at the tip of the Dorsoduro. It hosts temporary exhibitions, mostly with works belonging to the François Pinault Collection. (Pinault’s first venue, Palazzo Grassi, a palace built on the Grand Canal in the 18th century is also worth a visit!)

Old World Art: Not into contemporary art… head to the Gallerie dell'Accademia to see 5 centuries of classic Venetian painting.

Time Travel: The Palazzo Rezzonico is also in Dorsoduro. The interior offers you the truest sense of life in 18th century Venice.

Apertif: Fans of Hemingway must have an Aperol spritzer at Bar Longhi. Located at the Gritti Palace this was one of his favorite haunts; sit on the terrace overlooking the canal. Another favorite Hemingway haunt, Harry's Bar has been a fixture of Venice since 1931. It's on most everyone's list to visit, asthe birthplace of the Bellini, a mixture of white peach juice and proseco, invented by Giuseppe Cipriani and named after a painting by 15th century artist Giovanni Bellini.

Late Night: Venice is not a late night city, but Centrale is an exception if you're looking for a night cap. Just steps from St. Mark's the hip, stylish interior contrasts with the historic, 16th century building it calls home, a winning combination.

Dinner: Off the beaten track is Vini da Arturo. However, this under the radar restaurant is worth finding! Arturo's dishes never disappoint. Don't miss the Venetian pork with vinegar or the radicchio pasta. Arturo's only seats 22, so book ahead. Enjoy one of best meals in Venice at Da Fiore, this Michelin starred restaurant is tops for fresh local fish and seafood. Al Covo uses only the freshest ingredients to showcase the traditional Venetian cuisine from Chef Cesare Benelli. A friend recently loved her meal at Hostaria Da Franz.

Day Two

Early Market: Foodies can’t miss a visit to the Rialto Market to see the freshest fish and vegetables. 

Islands:  Spend a half-day touring the neighboring islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. Watch the glassblowers at work and visit the workshops along Fondamenta dei Vetrai. Bring your camera to snap great shots of the rainbow rows of houses in Burano. Stop at the Burano Lace Museum, located at the historic palace of Podestà of Torcello, in Piazza Galuppi, which was the seat of the famous Burano Lace School for 100 years up to 1970. Here you will find rare and precious pieces showcasing the history and artistry of the Venetian and lagoon’s laces.In Torcello, visit Santa Maria dell Assunta, Venice’s first Cathedral. 

Lunch: Some say it’s worth going to Murano just to have lunch at Ai Frati or at Osteria al Ponte del Diavolo in Torcello.

Sweet Tooth: Choose between two of the best gelaterias in Venice at Nico  or Gelateria Alaska.

Peaceful: Escape the crowds and take a late afternoon launch to Giudecca Island, a small island in the lagoon just across from the Grand Canal.  Once home to Jewish merchants in the 12th and 13th century, though never a ghetto as the name implies.  This is a lovely neighborhood for a stroll along the waterfront with lovely views of the Grand Canal and city. Walk around the narrow streets and admire the old houses and churches.

Dinner: Dine at Cip’s Club in Giudecca for a romantic dinner with an incredible view. Or head back and go to casual Aqua Pazzo for delicious Neapolitan pizzas, great fish and must order sorbets. Arrive by gondola or foot to tiny, cozy Da Ivo on the canal not far from St. Mark's. Order the Florentine Beef and be sure to check the daily specials.
 


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Santorini: A Weekend In Oia

Photograph by William Abranowitcz

Photograph by William Abranowitcz

From the moment she saw the view of the caldera, my teenage daughter gasped that unlike other places she had been, Santorini lived up, and exceeded, all the glorious pictures and postcards that had mingled in her imagination. Born from a cataclysmic volcanic eruption, Santorini, the southernmost island of the Cyclades group, thrills with dramatic cliffs rising up from the sea and white villages perched high above the caldera. Oia at its most northwest tip is famous for its awe-inspiring sunsets, breathtaking views and incredible hotels and restaurants hugging the cliffs.

Tripper Tips:

Oia’s charms attracts busloads of visitors, it gets crowded in the summer—real crowded! May and June are the best time to visit. 

Try Santorini’s own micro brews--the Yellow, Red or Crazy Donkey or the local Fix beer.

Domaine Sigalas Winery, right down the road from Perivolas, is open to the public for tours or to visit their tasting rooms. The wines, especially the whites, have been gaining an international recognition and are truly delicious. It’s nice to visit in the early evening as the sun sets over the vineyards.

Want to continue eating healthy Greek food at home? Recreate the magic of your trip with the help of some of our favorite Greek cookbooks—Smashing Plates, How to Roast a Lamb, Food from many Greek Kitchens, and Kokkari from San Francisco’s acclaimed restaurant.

 

Stay: While there are many beautiful places to stay in Oia, there is only one Perivolas. Started by the Psychos family with a dream and a vision, and just that much of crazy, all the rooms are built dramatically into the Cliffside in restored 300-year-old caves. The hotel is set high above the Aegean with rooms spread out amphitheatrically.  The décor is simple, letting the scenery steal the show. All white interiors are accented with just a touch of pink, of purple, adding to the overall effect. And it only gets better with one of the most photographed infinity pools in the world, drop dead vistas over the caldera and neighboring islands and an incredible spot for sunset.

Location: Perivolas is on the outskirts of Oia, which is a good thing. It’s just a short walk (5-10 min. max), but it’s nice to be slightly outside of the main thoroughfare. I used, and highly recommend, Ronnie Liadis from Liadis Travel to organize our trip. Ronnie, recognized by Conde Nast Traveler as a specialist for Greece, has in-depth knowledge of the country and all things Greek. Ronnie also recommends Canaves in Oia, especially if you are traveling with children.

Breakfast: Perivolas’ dining room, for guests only, is built in a converted wine cellar overlooking the pool. Breakfast is buffet style with made to order eggs. At lunch, or as a late afternoon snack, you must try the traditional Santorini dish of favas, done here beautifully with capers and tomatoes on top. (Santorini is famous for its favas, which are yellow split peas, not the green favas from broad beans.) The Dakos is another must order—a Cretan style salad of tomatoes, capers, cheese and olives over a dark rusk.

Get Rolling: Head through town and run the steep steps down to Amoudi and back up, if that’s not enough of a work out do it more than once. For the ambitious there’s a hike from Oia to Fira that we had the best intentions of doing.  The entire hike takes about 4 hours and is meant to be spectacular.

On the Water: Greece is heaven out on the water with some of the most inviting swimming anywhere.  Rent a catamaran for either a half or whole day, leaving from the small port at Amoudi. While the view looking down is pretty impressive, the view looking up at the white washed villages is equally as good. You can cruise around the Caldera and over to Thirasia, or head to Ios or Anafi Island to swim in coves and enjoy the white sandy beaches. A BBQ lunch was served on board. Time it to be out on the water for the most beautiful sunset. A highlight of our trip!

Shop: During late morning when the cruise ship buses arrive en masse, and at sunset when the crowds aim to get their strategic spot, Oia is to be avoided –its really wall-to-wall people in the narrow, windy streets. Go early or late afternoon to have the town to yourself, or even after sunset when the crowds disperse. (The shops stay open late.) Atlantis Books is one of those special places, a small bookstore teeming with character. Started by expats from England and America, and reminiscent of Shakespeare and Co in Paris, there are books stacked everywhere. Go in and linger. Have fun exploring the maze like streets, finding your own favorite shops among the mix of chic boutiques and souvenir stores. There are many nice jewelry stores, some high end and some selling tons of inexpensive evil eye bracelets, which are good for gifts. Don’t miss Maria Baba Vida. Maria, a French ex-pat, has created a boutique with an eclectic array of jewelry and textiles from not only Greece, but also France and Asia. I left with 2 unique pairs of earrings and many stories from Maria.

Eat: Two of the most acclaimed restaurants in Oia are 1800 and Ambrosia, both with stunning views. If you can bear to leave Perivolas go for an early dinner and catch the sunset. Make a meal of mezes at Skala, a laid back restaurant with views not just of the water, but of the donkeys traveling up from the quay below. The Red Bicycle is more casual, a quirky, charming restaurant with good food. Down in Amoudi, some people favor Dimitris and some prefer Katina, you can’t go wrong with either for freshly caught fish and seafood. Katina, look for the orange chairs, was one of my favorite meals in Santorini and I’m still dreaming of their tomato fritters.

Day Two

Discover: It’s well worth it to drive to the other side of the island to spend some time at Ancient Akrotiri, the Greek version of Pompeii.  The entire site is enclosed and it’s fascinating to see the ancient city preserved after it was buried under volcanic ash during the Minoan period. Right nearby, take a look at Santorini’s famous Red Beach. You can choose to climb down and spend the day or just look at it from up high as we did. Next, drive to the lighthouse for spectacular views over the Caldera. Make sure to stop at the roadside stand right before you arrive to sample some of the local olives, cheeses, and the sun dried tomatoes, which are drying right in front on a rack in the sun. Don’t leave without some of the dried oregano branches, so much more fragrant than those you get at home. I only wished it was possible to bring back the jars of wild carpers and olives.

Afternoon at the Beach: Perissa and Perivolas are Santorini’s well-known black beaches on the eastern end of the island. They are fun to see, but I prefer the white sandy beaches of other Greek islands. Pick a spot for lunch and rent some sunbeds for the afternoon. You can rent jet skis or go windsurfing. The best beaches closer to Oia are Koloumbos and Baxedes and the winds determine which beach to go to on any given day.

Dinner: It’s crowded and it’s touristy, but if it’s your first time in Santorini you probably want to check out its main town of Fira. (Also spelled Thira) Overlooking the caldera, dine at Archipelagos or Naoussa for exquisite views, especially at sunset. One of the best restaurants on the island located in the hillside village of Pyrgos is Metaxy Mas; make sure to make your reservation well in advance.

Must do: A friend, who has spent over 20 summers on Santorini told me this before I left: At the port of Ammoudi follow the path past all the tavernas (away from the parking area) and continue along the gravel around several bends--you'll come to a place with several old little fishing boats. Off shore is a little tiny island.  The place will be filled with Italians who, for some reason, like to lie on the rocks and sun bathe.  It might be crowded but this will be worth it.  On the little island at the far side is a tiny church up around 20-25 feet off the water.  From the platform at the church, people jump into the sea.  You MUST all do this lest we will never consider you ever having had a true Greek experience.  Some people do intense flips into the water, but I just go simple. It’s exhilarating and the kids will love it.  The water here is crystal clear and it's an ultimate Santorini experience. 

Off the Beaten Path: Head to sleepy Megalochori. It feels more like old Greece than anywhere else in Santorini. Here there are little crowds and tourists, just a cute traditional Greek square. Wander the narrow streets, admiring the stone houses and the beautiful church. Have lunch on the square at Raki and definitely order the chicken kebabs. Even better come late afternoon so you can have dinner at Feggera, closed at lunchtime. Gavalas Winery, a classic old school winery is right at the entrance to town, arrange a visit before hand to taste their delicious wines.

Night Cinema: Meander the beachfront of Kamari, browsing in the shops before heading to an early dinner at Irini’s or Nichteri . Then proceed to the open-air cinema a 5-minute drive from town. (All the movies are in English) Though we weren’t fans of the movie playing that night, World War Z, I still remember sitting underneath the stars, drinking a Red Donkey and watching Brad Pitt.

The Hideaway

Extravagant: Rent out the Perivolas Hideaway carved into the foot of a cliff on the island of Therasia, a 5 minute ride from Oia. More than just a luxury villa, it’s got the feel of a private island as its set in its own secluded cove, accessible only by boat. The décor is simple, but stunning with terraces overlooking the sea and Santorini. Saying it is extraordinary and jaw dropping is no exaggeration. The Hideaway comes with a private boat, sea kayaks, waterskies, wake boards and windsurfing equipment.

**Photographs for Day 1 and The Hideaway by William Abranowicz



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PARIS: AN ENDLESS ROMANCE

To extraordinarily talented and successful interior designer Julie Hillman when it comes to Paris-- once is never enough. Paris draws her back time and time again, for work and for pleasure, and while she’s always on the lookout for new and fascinating treasurers, the historic landmarks never grow old. Long strolls, market hopping, the art, the food, the old and the new….whether the Left Bank or the Right Bank, it’s an endless romance. 

Tripper Tips:

Stay at Hotel L’ Abbaye - just moments from Musée du Luxembourg and Notre-Dame, this boutique hotel is charming and a quiet respite from the bustle of the Parisian city. Newly opened, La Reserve, is convenient near rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.

Take a break from your hectic itinerary at the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens and Palais Royal--the perfect stroll.

The Louis Vuitton Foundation , designed by Frank Gehry, and sponsored by LVMH, is a spectacular architectural accomplishment, museum and cultural center.

Transportation: I can often be found exploring Paris on a Velib - Paris’ public bike system. With pick-up and drop-off stations every few blocks, there is no better way to take in all that Paris has to offer. It’s efficient, affordable, and allows you to experience this magnificent city at your own pace. For the faint of heart, Uber never fails.  

Food & Drink: No one takes on food like the French so enjoy this opportunity to indulge in fabulous fare. While there are many wonderful choices, be sure to try these favorites:

  • Breakfast: There is no other than Cafe de Flore.  A quintessential Parisian spot for a coffee, croissant and watching the passerbys.
  • Lunch: Get inspired at La Palatte. Once a favorite of Picasso and Ernest Hemingway, La Palatte is rich in history and worth the price. Also wonderful is L’Avenue and on weekends I recommend Ferdi.
  • Pre Dinner Cocktail: Caviar Kaspia.
  • Dinner: Le Duc or Le Voltaire are both classic french staples. I also love Chez  L’Ami Louis on Sunday night and should you feel like being an Italian in Paris, try Stresa.

The Flea: If you’re a shopper at heart, you can’t miss the Le Puces Flea Market.  Without question this is the largest flea market in the world. However, there is nothing  typical about Le Puces. With hundreds of shops carrying every imaginable specialty, it has become a favorite ‘shopping mall’ for professionals and amateurs, coming from all over the world.  Marché Serpette and Marché Paul Bert is held every Saturday and Sunday and one of the largest and most well-known areas of the market.  One can find a huge selection of art deco furniture, prints, antiques, vintage clothing, and far more. The dealers are tough negotiators, but the quality of their ware is worth the price.  

  • Added bonus #1: Outdoor browsing in the summertime is a true pleasure.  
  • Added bonus #2: Hedley's Humpers and other vendors located in the market will ship your large and small items home.  Problem solved. 

After the Flea: After you’ve shopped and shipped, there’s more Parisian design highlights. The Rue de Seine is the center for art and antique galleries, while Ruse de Lille has become the place for high-end vintage furniture. And don’t miss my favorite shop, Muriel Grateau. Part art gallery, part boutique, her table wears are beautifully hard crafted and one of a kind.  

Culture: Between eating and shopping your way through town, be sure to make time for the arts. Paris is chalk full of world renowned museums and although the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay should be on everyone’s bucket list, I prefer the smaller and more intimate museum settings. Grand Palais always has interesting exhibitions and two of my favorite smaller museums are the Musée Jacquemart-André and the Nissim Camondo. The Jacqemart, once a private home, offers visitors the opportunity to catch a glimpse into 19th century society living, while viewing the family's sensational art collection. 



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Lisbon: Aimless Wander

Freshman fall, a long weekend break—where to go for a few days with my son? It was his desire to go to Lisbon; somewhere new to both of us, and easy enough to explore in a short time. Before we left for our trip, I came across a touching piece Frank Bruni wrote for the NY Times: How I fell for Lisbon. To paraphrase, Lisbon unlike many European cities has no major “checklists”--no must do’s like the Louvre in Paris or the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Rather, the City of Seven Hills (as it’s commonly refereed to) is ideal to wander, to roam, to get lost in. It sounded perfect for some catch up quality time with my independent college boy.

DAY ONE

Tripper Tips:

I can’t wait to book my ticket to Comporta, the fashionable chic beach retreat just one hour from Lisbon. Under the radar for now, but with talk of an Aman opening soon that may change. (Though it looks like the project may be on hold.) Beautiful sandy beaches, great food, it’s a place to relax and unwind.

I’m staying at Casas Na Areia, a super cool small hotel designed by architect Manuel Aires Mateus, or five minutes away the even smaller Cabanas no Rio, 2 old fisherman shacks turned into simple, but luxurious cabins along the River Sado, a natural nature reserve. You can be sure that I’m going to eat at Museo do Arroz.

Stay: We loved the Barrio Alto, a small, chic boutique hotel designed by Grace Leo Andrieu, and what a location!  Located right in the heart of the city bordering the chic Chiado and bohemian Barrio Alto neighborhoods, you can walk everywhere from here. Don’t miss having drinks or snacks on the roof top terrace with killer views of the Rio Tejo and the old Lisbon rooftops!

Splurge: A friend just told us at Daytripper about Palacio Belmonte, an elegant and historic 10 suite hotel housed in a 15-century palace. Located high in the hills of Alfama, each extravagant suite is uniquely designed with private terraces overlooking the Tagus. With no televisions, air conditioning and room service it's not for everyone, but how often do you get to have a palace pretty much to yourself. Take a look at this property; it's pretty special!

Another option: Friends recently stayed at Palacete Chafariz del Rei, a Neo Moorish building dating back to the 19th century. Her description…”a lovingly restored  “palace” by a very hip gay couple. We loved it, finding the whole experience very special. Less central than the Barrio Alto Hotel, it’s located in an interesting, beautiful area in Alfama where at night all the Fado clubs are. The owner, Rui, is around and can answer all of your questions. It has the feel of a bed & breakfast.”

Morning: Arriving fresh off of the overnight flight put us in need of coffee; how convenient that A Brasileira, Lisbon’s most famous and iconic grand café, was right across the street. This is a great spot. After you admire the stunning art deco interior, have a “bica” (an espresso) and a pastry on the outdoor terrace.

To MarketMercado da Ribeira  is Lisbon's main food market filled with stalls offering the freshest fish and vegetables of the day. It's been the city's main market since it opened in 1892. Recently,  Time Out Lisboa magazine, transformed this market into a foodie hangout where top chefs bring their favorite dishes to the market. 

Ride: Jump on Tram 28 right outside the hotel to head towards Alfama, the oldest, most historic district in Lisbon. Meander the medieval alleyways and steep hills, admiring the colorful mosaics and constant incredible water views at every turn. Getting lost in the narrow streets is part of the fun! This is old school Lisbon, your picture postcard images. High up the red rooftops below make for a scenic panorama. It’s worth it to spend some time at Sao Jorge Castle.  This Moorish castle dating back to the 10th century is visible everywhere in the city from its high hilltop position. After, head down and admire the view at the Santa Luzia viewpoint. A few steps away another ideal viewpoint is Miradouro das Portas do Sol. Even better go to Café Portas do Sol and recharge on one of the sofas or tables overlooking the water. You can have a light lunch or some drinks here while basking in the view.

Saturday Market: Visit Feira da Ladra, the Thieves market. My son loved rummaging through the junk--I mean stuff-- at this flea market—musical instruments, clothing, and old records. We left with some military medals and vintage postcards. The market also sets up on Tuesdays.

Wander: Head back towards downtown, making sure to stop in the magnificent Praco do Comercio, Lisbon’s grandest plaza. Then, head over to Rossio Square, and hit some shops along the way. You’ll soon discover that cork products are everywhere as Portugal produces half the world’s cork supply. Pelcor is a good place to shop for cork bags, bracelets, and all kinds of accessories. It wasn’t my thing but perhaps it will “pop” for you. I preferred admiring all the goodies in the many gourmet food stores—loads of bacalhau, tins of sardines, Porto, Madeira and other liquor digestives.

Lift: I thought about skipping it, as there was a line and it seemed touristy, but I’m glad I waited at the Santa Justa elevator, a beloved Lisbon landmark. Your rewarded with incredible 360 views of the streets below and the surrounding area. It’s more than just scenic, but built for practicality, designed to connect the lower streets of Baixa, the downtown area, with the higher Carmo Square. Wander around Carmo Square before heading back towards Chiado.

One Stop Shop: You don’t have to go any further to find gifts to bring home for friends, or yourself, than at A Vida Portuguesa, a beautiful store selling high end local products. Specialty soaps, old style traditional products, teas, exquisitely designed tins of sardines, even the Couto toothpaste in its bright orange and black box found it’s way into my suitcase as a souvenir. 

Sweet: There’s usually a line at Santini for the handmade gelato, try the cinnamon or bitter orange with chocolate. There’s a shop in Cascais as well where it all began back in 1949.

Wine Before Dine: The Barrio Alto is quiet now with people starting to fill up the many restaurants, but still calm till the party really begins after midnight. At the Old Pharmacy sip some of Portuguals finest from their extensive list at small tables created from wine barrels.

Dinner: We loved the tasting menu at 100 Mareinas and the shellfish stew with cilantro and spiced bread at Pap ‘Acorda. We had a great meal at Cantinho do Avillez, chef Jose Avillez’s trendy, more casual restaurant to his Michelin starred Belcanto, considered one of the best restaurants in Lisbon.

Picky Eaters: Great pizza can be found at Casanova, along with great views along the river.  Open late.

Late night: Barrio Alto becomes one big block party at night with people spilling out into the streets. With over 250 bars, from quiet wine bars to more boisterous clubs there is something for everyone to join in the party.

Day Two

Beyond The City:  You can easily travel by yourself to Sinatra or Cascais by train, each about 30 minutes, but as we only had a short time we decided to do the 7-hour X-day trip with We Hate Tourism Tours. Billed as the anti tour, this is a fun way to see many sights outside of Lisbon in a small group. (We were 8) Our first stop was Fairytale Sinatra, where we spent an hour at Quinta da Regaleira, a Neo-gothic mansion with picturesque lakes, grolloes, waterfalls and secret tunnels. The views from the house are pretty spectacular. After some time in town we headed to the dramatic viewpoint of Cabo da Roca, the most western part of mainland Europe. We spent some time walking the seaside promenade between Cascais and Estoril, and then drove to nearby Guincho Beach, popular with surfers due to the rough Atlantic waves.  The beaches are beautiful, slightly wild and go for miles. I’d love to go back and spend more time on another trip. Our last stop was Belem; home to the National Place, Jeronimos Monastery and the Belem Tower. Some say the most delicious pastry in the world can be enjoyed at Pastel de Belem, try one of their velvety custard tarts and decide for yourself. While the Monastery and Tower were impressive, the scale of the production and amount of visitors at this pastry shop dating back to the 1830’s was equally enjoyable. Belem is easily accessed by a quick tram ride from Comercio Square, it’s definitely a must do when in Lisbon. 

Dinner: Playing tourist for the day we continued with a traditional Fado Show. Fado is the unique sound of Lisbon, the melancholy national music that is sung from the heart often about life, about love.  At Senhor Vinho or Clube de Fado, Lisbon’s most popular and famous Fado venues you have dinner while some of the top singers perform. The traditional Portuguese dishes were good enough and it was a fun experience. Would I do it again? Probably not, instead I would seek out a smaller, more authentic bar to hear this traditional folk music. But as first time visitor’s we felt it was a good introduction to the tradition and sounds of Fado. And a fun night out!

Impressions: Well you know the song—Red, Red Wine, here in Lisbon it goes like this—Red, Red Roofs. Seriously, what struck me most was that Lisbon was a city of color—the blue of the Tagus, the colorful ceramics, the black and white mosaic floors in the city center and the colorful houses in Alfama. And yes the red of the roofs.



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