Saint Augustine started it off by saying, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”  Is travel the best education? I can neither deny nor confirm whether this is true, but I am sure that I know a little more this year than I did last year, simply by stepping out my front door. Since this time of year is all about giving, I thought I would share with you that which I have learned!

WHAT A MANGROVE IS…

Koh Lanta Mangroves, Thailand

When you‘re on an island as lovely as Koh Lanta, Thailand, you never want to leave the beach. That’s if you have sunny weather. The sun was taking a vacation of its own when the Cypriot and I arrived on the island. As sunbathing was not an option, we spent an overcast morning kayaking through the so-called mangroves. To be honest, before the trip, I had heard of mangroves and knew that they were trees, but had no clue that they only lived in water and were home to monkeys!

WHERE THE OLDEST BAKERY IN FRANCE IS…

Fossier biscuits, Reims, France

Most people visit Reims only as a stop on the way to Champagne country. Why had I not heard that it was home to Fossier, the oldest bakery in France!? They have been making Le Biscuit Rose since 1756! Given their fabulous pink color, I think I spent more on these rose-colored treats than I did on bubbly!

WHERE I CAN GET A FLAT-CAP…

Flat-Caps-Portobello-Market-London-United-Kingdom-1

Needless to say, Dick Van Dyke’s Burt wears a flat-cap in Mary Poppins. This tiny hat screams “I am a Londoner!” without the bad accent. Only the bowler is as synonymous with the city of London as the flat-cap. It should be a law that everyone who lives in London should own one. If that law comes into effect, you can find yours at Portobello Road Market every Saturday. Climb up the hill, past the antique dealers, past the fruit and vedge, to a stall filled with as many as you could want. Instead of heading back down the hill, turn right on Golborne Road and toast to your new head ware with an Aquavit at Snaps & Rye.

WHICH FERRY SERVES PINOT GRIGIO…

Drinking Prosecco

A sunny, autumn afternoon post-visit to the Isle of Wight, we thought to ourselves – what could make this journey even better? We all had the same answer. A glass of Pinot Grigio would be perfect right now, as we watch the island disappear from view and the sun come down. How lucky were we that the Wightlink Ferry Service from Fishbourne Harbor to Portsmouth Harbor had exactly what we wanted.

WHAT BAR HANGS OFF A CLIFF…

Cova d’en Xoroi, Menorca, Spain

How does it stay up there? With my Pomada in hand, I may have had that fleeting thought once, but the views, the sunset, the pomadas kept my fear at bay. Who cares anyway? The Cova D’en Xoroi is definitely the sexiest place to be on Menorca, Spain and we were there!

WHERE I CAN SHOP FOR FLOWERS & SING AT THE SAME TIME…

Ghent Flower Market, Ghent, Belgium

A bandstand is not a normal feature within a flower market, but in Ghent everything is a surprise, a good surprise. Beer without hops, noses filled with jelly, and also a classical orchestra playing Stevie Wonder’s greatest hits. Many had pulled up chairs and stayed for the afternoon. It was difficult to tear ourselves away and, if not for lunch calling, we would still be there.

WHERE SUBTERRANEAN HOUSES WERE ALL THE RAGE…

 Romanian Houses, Bucharest, Romania

Who knew that the Romanians lived underground? Until visiting the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum in Bucharest, I had no clue. By being built mostly underground, the houses were protected not only from the harsh winters, but also from being raided by marauding troublemakers. Even churches were sometimes hidden from view. Given the roof is pretty big, these marauders must have had pretty bad eyesight to miss these houses! Many it was too much polinka – learned what that was too!

WHERE YOU COULD SEE A GLACIER FROM YOUR ROOM…

Termine Neige,Refuge du Montenvers, Chamonix, France

I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Mer de Glace in Chamonix, France twice – once in summer and once in winter. It is glorious no matter what time of year you visit, but now you can stay overnight at the Terminal Neige: Refuge du Montenvers once you’ve made it up there. Originally opened in the 1880’s, the hotel was a haven for all those who found their way to the top without the help of the train. Now, after a major refurb, it’s a luxurious overnight stop with a full-bar, restaurant serving local fare and of course, the views!

HOW A CEILING CAN TRICK YOU…

Chambery cathedral ceiling, France

My first thought was how fabulous the stucco work was on the ceiling of the St. Francis de Sales Cathedral in central Chambéry. My mistake was assuming it was stucco. It wasn’t! The whole ceiling and most of the cathedral was all trompe l’oeil, which made it even more impressive. Give yourself at least an hour to wander around exploring with you head turned toward the heavens. Maybe that was what the artist was going for.

WHAT LIQUEUR WILL MAKE ME AGE BETTER…

Benedictine, Fecamp, France

According to Alexandre Le Grand and the newspapers at the time, drinking Bénédictine was good for you in the 1880’s. Monsieur Le Grand would say that – he invented the stuff. My mother always told me never to believe what you read in the papers, but since Benedictine tastes so delicious, maybe this once, I will believe!

WHERE I CAN ENJOY LE NOTRE, LE VAU, LE BRUN ALL BY GOLF CART…

Golf Carts, Vaux-Le-Vicomte, France

I don’t believe golf carts hadn’t been invented in the 18thC, but if they had been, then Nicolas Fouquet would definitely had invested heavily. At Vaux-Le-Vicomte and Versailles, you can tour the entire garden in a golf cart, making the long distances from house to grotto to Trianons fairly easy on our 20thC unfit selves!

HOW WRONG MY OWN DEFINITION OF LUXURY IS…

 Truffles not included, Alba, Italy

I write a luxury travel blog and have done so for a long time. You would think there is nothing so luxurious that I haven’t seen before. At lunch in Alba, Italy at a forgettable trattoria, I saw something on the menu that made me rethink my definition of luxury. Here you can bring your own white truffle to lunch or dinner and all you pay for is the pasta and a slicing fee of 2 euros. Now I know I have seen it all!

What have you learned this year?

I would love to hear from you!