Tag Archives: food

Traditional Greek food

Food-Focused Trips: Reviews From Our Travelers

Do you travel for food? We get countless requests for food- and drink-focused private itineraries, and we know trip-planning specialists who are connected to the local food scene everywhere from Athens to Zihuatenejo. There are fascinating people in unexpected places who will open their homes, farms, vineyards, fruit orchards, and olive groves for traditional meals, cooking lessons, and much more. There’s a smorgasbord of possibilities out there. If you can imagine it, our Trusted Travel Experts can make it happen. Here’s what it means to get a WOW trip.


South Korea: sampling Korean BBQ, making bulgogi…

A tea sommelier at the Rakkojae Seoul Bukchon Village Hanok Hotel, South Korea.

A tea sommelier leads a tasting at the Rakkojae Seoul Bukchon Village Hanok Hotel. Photo: Traveler Michael Ruma

“Drawn to Seoul to attend a business meeting, we decided to extend our Korean journey to explore a loop of the southern half of the country. With limited knowledge of the culture, food, and scenery of South Korea, we reached out to Wendy, who pointed us to Grant. Grant was easy to reach, listened attentively to our travel interests, and collated a well-curated agenda for my wife and me, along with two friends joining us from Saipan.

Getting to Seoul is not the hard part. The excitement starts as you begin to journey into one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Fortunately, with Grant as our travel organizer, we did not have to worry about managing the language barrier, the poor functionality of most US-based map apps, or the extensive Seoul transit system. Prior to departure, Grant asked important questions about our likes and dislikes and then created an itinerary which evolved into a spectacular journey of big cities, endless exploration of food, and an opportunity to witness the magic of the rural countryside.

Our first stop was the Park Hyatt Seoul, a stunning and well-situated hotel with superb service. During our time in the Korean capital, we sampled the highest quality Korean BBQ, innumerable variations of seafood, a tea tasting and a Korean liquor tasting. Despite a population of over 25 million in a concentrated area, we were struck by the city’s cleanliness, convenience, and kindness of its people.

Following Seoul, we travelled to Jeonju. After an efficient high-speed train ride, we checked into the Lahan Hotel overlooking the traditional Hanok village, which allowed for an easy stroll to any of the shops or restaurants that make this area a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Following the recommendation from the chef who taught us how to make beef bulgogi in Seoul, we went to her favorite place for bibimbap and seafood pajeon.

After eating and drinking our way around Jeonju, we traveled by car to Gwanju in the southwestern portion of the country. On our drive, we were immersed in the beauty of the Korean countryside, taking a moment to stretch our legs with a nice autumn walk at Hwaeomsa temple. A stunningly beautiful site of quietude, we wandered the numerous Buddhist temple buildings and pagodas, with each vantage point offering a better view of the surrounding mountains. Informed by our guide that guests are allowed to reside overnight in this special place, we plan to come back soon to try out a ‘temple stay.’

While significantly more tourists visit Seoul, we were pleasantly surprised by our visit to Korea’s second largest city, Busan. Located on the water with sublime city views, we checked into the Park Hyatt Busan, which rivaled the service of its sister hotel in Seoul. While in Busan, we took in incredible oceanside views, decadent dining, and a bit of relaxation at the hotel spa.

While uncertain what Korea would hold, we were delighted by its massive, clean, and well-organized cities, its infinite delicious dining, and its helpful, caring, and thoughtful people. We are excited for the day we will return.” —Michael Ruma

This trip was arranged by a WOW List candidate. Here’s what that means.

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Argentina: touring legendary wine estates, tasting dinner in a private restaurant…

A chef and sommelier guided the travelers through their WOW Moment dinner in a private restaurant, Argentina.

A chef and sommelier guided the Shapiros through their WOW Moment dinner in a private restaurant. Photo: Traveler Andy Shapiro

“We’ve worked with many WOW experts on numerous trips all over the world throughout the years, and if there was a ‘WOW Mount Rushmore,’ Jordan would be on it! In Buenos Aires we were driven to a penthouse apartment to ‘experience’ our WOW Moment that we had earned based on previous WP WOW trips. There, with a private gourmet chef and a sommelier, with the backdrop of a beautiful Buenos Aires night skyline, we delighted in a 7-course-with-Argentinian-wine-pairings gastronomic experience! The sommelier provided a valuable introductory education about Argentinian wines, using maps, which we loved and appreciated. AMAZING!

The next day we flew to Mendoza for three nights in wine country. We stayed at the Relais & Chateaux Cavas Wine Lodge, which was gorgeously nestled into the vineyards. Somehow—our guess through Jordan but still a mystery—we were upgraded to a Vineyard Villa, which offered a rooftop deck with panoramic views of the vineyards and mountains where we made sure to enjoy the beautiful sunrises, sunsets and evening stars.

Our two full days visiting Mendoza wineries with our private guide and driver were fantastic! The wine tours and/or incredible lunches with wine pairings at a combination of Argentina’s legendary wine estates and smaller boutique producers—including but not limited to Catena Zapata, Viña Cobos, Durigutti, Alta Vista—were the realization of a wine (and food and life) lover’s dream! Fun and awesome stuff!

On the way to our final destination—Clos Apalta in the Colchagua Valley, part of Chile’s wine country—we had an amazing winery visit, lunch and tasting at Villard Winery with the owner Charles Villard. What a treat to have this type of experience and spend such quality time with the winery owner and fellow wine lover! Fascinating and so much fun!

Clos Apalta is one of the great wine estates in the world and is our favorite Chilean wine. The casitas at Clos Apalta were not only the nicest wine-country property we’ve ever stayed in—and we’ve been to a lot all over the world—but we could make an argument it’s the nicest accommodation we’ve stayed in anywhere! The manager, Joaquin, who we became friendly with because we were so blown away by this Clos Apalta experience, is one of the best managers we’ve ever come across at a lodge or hotel anywhere. Joaquin, knowing our love for wine, on our last day arranged for us to have an extraordinary wine tasting with one of the on-site Clos Apalta oenologists.

It was one of the three best wine experiences we’ve ever had (i.e. touring and tasting with Gianfranco Soldera at his estate in Brunello di Montalcino was one, and the same with Olivier Humbrecht at his Domaine Zind-Humbrecht estate in Alsace was the other). LOVED IT!!!” —Andy and Marci Shapiro

Read more reviews of Argentina and Chile trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Portugal: cooking class, port tasting, seafood feast…

Mixed Portuguese tapas on a wooden table.

Portuguese tapas. Photo: Shutterstock

“We did a little of everything during our seven days in Portugal. We started with tickets to a soccer game our first night in Lisbon and WOW that is an experience we will not forget, especially our 16-year-old son. Our guide took us on a foodie tour finding the most unique places to visit. Our day culminated with a ferry boat ride to a seafood resort literally in the water. She arranged for a special appetizer and meringue dessert at the end.

Our son’s dream was to play golf in Portugal, and Penha Longa did not disappoint, with amazing views and a challenging terrain. Our driver John and guide Tiago made quite a pair, sharing stories along the way through a city tour of Lisbon and on to the palace in Sintra. On to Porto, which was equally incredible, with its seven bridges and the boutique Rebello Hotel complete with spa, Roman-style pool and beautiful rooftop restaurant overlooking the city.

One of the highlights for my husband was a cooking class with Chef Hugo; they almost seemed like kindred spirits. We can’t wait to serve his specialty sandwich to our friends. The port tasting and tour of Taylor Fladgate was incredible with our distinguished and humorous guide Tiago. Our final stop was the Hotel Palaçio in Estoril. We had the modern accommodations in the cities to the elegant palace on our last evening—what a way to finish our trip to Portugal. Wendy Perrin’s team thought of everything from seeing Harry Potter’s library to the waves in Nazaré to tasting the most authentic cuisine.” —Camilla Farrell

Read more reviews of Portugal trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Oaxaca, Mexico: “The highlight of our trip was the day we spent with award-winning chef Alejandro Ruiz…”

A platter of traditional food from Oaxaca including tamales, tlayudas, and more.

Traditional Mexican food from Oaxaca. Photo: Shutterstock

“This was our second trip arranged by Zach and, once again, he and Jose did a fantastic job. As with all of Wendy Perrin’s fixers, the logistics were impeccable, enabling us to relax and enjoy our trip. This year, we chose Oaxaca. We had been 20+ years ago and had fond memories, so we decided to visit again. And, of course, we wanted a completely different experience. Zach and Jose listened carefully to what we wanted, and they delivered, including the right blend of guiding time and time on our own. We met and interacted with local people, which is important to us when we travel. These encounters included a visit to a farm with a Mezcal Master and a day with a gallerist, that included visits to artist studios. Both were lots of fun.

The highlight of our trip was the day we spent with award-winning chef Alejandro Ruiz. We began with a visit to the Central market with Alejandro and one of his chefs—we were the only Americans there. Shopping with him, watching what he chose as he planned the menu in his head, was a treat. We followed the visit to the market by joining his kitchen staff to prepare a multi-course meal for the three of us. We were expecting a cooking “lesson”; instead, we were chefs (of sorts). And we couldn’t have asked for a better tutor (btw, Alejandro was a teacher before becoming a chef). We learned a ton; Alejandro was patient and fun to be with, in no way fitting the stereotype of a famous chef, and we had a great time.” —Elisa Spain and Art Beyda

Read more reviews of Mexico trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Italy: “A cocktail class at the Martini and Rossi headquarters…”

The verdant Barolo wine region in Italy.

The verdant Barolo wine region in Italy. Photo: Traveler Joe Lyle

“Our trip to Piedmont was excellently planned and executed by Maria and her team. We started in Torino, where the highlights were a chocolate tasting and a tour of the Egyptian Museum (which has the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt). Before leaving Torino, we were treated to a fun WOW Moment: a cocktail class at the Martini and Rossi headquarters outside of Torino.

Then the real fun began as we moved on to the winemaking region of Piedmont, touring its villages, staying in restored castles in Sinio and Guarene, and tasting Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbara and white wines of the region while sampling the regional dishes. The landscape was amazing: We were always surrounded by hills of lush green vineyards between each village and castles in almost every one.

One of the many highlights of the trip was truffle hunting. Watching the dog track down truffles was amazing. Unlike the French, Italians don’t use pigs for truffle hunting. Why? Pigs don’t listen, and they eat the truffles. We found four black truffles and shared them with our guide and driver, who were very appreciative.” —Joe Lyle

Read more reviews of Italy trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Colombia: ceviche class, rum & cacao tasting, coconut lemonade…

Lynn Herrick's sons enjoy fresh coconuts.

Lynn Herrick’s sons enjoy fresh coconuts. Photo: Traveler Lynn Herrick

“This was a family trip with my three college-aged kids and my husband. So, we wanted a bit of history, a bit of adventure, a bit of culture and a lot of fun. Our trip started in Cartagena with the best tour guide ever, Will. Not only was Will’s dad the mayor of Cartagena, so we got to visit town hall, but he quickly got to know each of us and tailored our tours to our personalities. The kids even scheduled a secret outing with him to surprise me with emerald earrings for my birthday!

In Cartagena we ate street food we would have never tried, learned salsa dancing, took a cooking class with a cantankerous French chef and made the best ceviche ever, went canoeing in the mangroves, learned to drum with a local group, and participated in a rum and cacao tasting. We also fell in love with this hot, romantic, beautiful Caribbean town.

Next on the itinerary was the coffee region. We visited the Wax Palm trees, zip-lined, rafted, and spent a special morning at a coffee plantation. We all loved learning about the coffee industry in Colombia, enjoyed the delicious lunch that was served, and agreed the organic coffee was special.

We spent our last three nights in Medellin. We took the cable cars to visit the barrio and see how those who escaped the civil war in the countryside built homes into the hills and created new communities. On our final day, we visited the very vibrant, and exciting, Comuna 13, where urban art and music are thriving. Throughout Colombia we ate the most delicious food, fruits and drinks. We will be craving coconut lemonade for a long time!” —Lynn Herrick

Read more reviews of Colombia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Peru: full-day experience at MIL restaurant in the Sacred Valley

The view of the Sacred Valley in Peru.

The Sacred Valley, Peru. Photo: Shutterstock

“We just returned from a fabulous 10-day trip to Peru. Allie helped us find probably the best guide in all of Peru! Our guide, Nick, became central to the success and ease of our trip, as he networked us to the front of lines for access to everything (including the line for buses up and back from Machu Picchu). We also had the opportunity to do the full-day experience at MIL, which we would highly recommend! As much as the food there is fabulous, the learning experience by hiking into the hills behind the restaurant with a knowledgeable local guide provided a fabulous addition to better understand the Peruvian culture and food presentation at MIL. It was a highlight of the trip and books up months in advance, so be sure to get reservations online as soon as trip dates are established!” —Julie Olson

Read more reviews of Peru trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Mexico: harvesting cactus, making mole and tortillas…

Mole Poblano on a plate with sesame seeds on top.

Traditional Mexican Mole Poblano with chicken. Photo: Shutterstock

“We had a spectacular trip to Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende November 2023. After an initial call with Zach and Jose, they proposed an itinerary that was interesting and thoughtful. We started in Mexico City with a food tour exploring Centro Historico. We had a very interesting culinary experience at Milpa Alta, where we harvested edible Nopal cactus and enjoyed a delicious breakfast. We then went to a traditional mole factory. After that chef Jorge Correa and Laurencia Melo taught us how to make tortillas and other Mexican dishes. Chef Jorge prepared a delicious four-course lunch that was memorable.

We enjoyed a private visit at the National Museum of Anthropology and visited the Park, the Chapultepec Castle, Modern Museum, and explored many charming neighborhoods and art galleries. It was a rich and rewarding experience.

On our way to San Miguel we had a private tour of the Teotihuacán pyramids, including our first hot air balloon ride, which was fabulous! San Miguel was as charming as we had hoped. We stayed at the Rosewood, which is a beautiful property. We loved exploring San Miguel and walking around the cobblestone streets and ducking in and out of art galleries, museums, numerous shops, and cafés. We went to the intriguing city of Guanajuato, where there are underground roads and streets. The colorful panoramic vistas of the city are simply gorgeous. We spent a day visiting San Miguel’s art and artisan scene with studio visits—another highlight of the trip. We were celebrating birthdays, and there were so many birthday cakes and touches I lost count. We are extremely impressed with how well run Zach’s company is. Thank you, Wendy, for this amazing recommendation!” —Marian Robinson

Read more reviews of Mexico trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Thailand: street food, locals’ favorite restaurants, cooking class…

Over the top view of traditional Northern Thai food on a wooden table.

Traditional Northern Thai food. Photo: Shutterstock

“With a short lead time of about two weeks due to my last-minute China business travel, we decided to use Wendy Perrin’s travel service. We were matched up with Dan and Obb. We wanted to focus on food, culture and markets. We had a great time experiencing the street food of Bangkok. Thailand street food is amazing. We also loved our longboat tour to see the sights in Bangkok from the river. From the water, we saw the Wat Paknam giant buddha that was incredible.

From there, we were off to Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. We loved our guide, Yawan, for this portion of the trip. We loved our hike through the tea and coffee fields in Chiang Rai. Yawan knew all the different types of plants along the way, and it was very interesting to see all the different herbs, fruits, and vegetables growing along the roads. We had a great stop at the Elephant Nature Conservation Sanctuary Park outside of Chiang Mai. The stories behind some of the elephants were heartbreaking, but it was good to know that they could live out the rest of their lives being well taken care of by the staff at the camp.

We were then on to the final leg of our trip in Phuket—and Dan and Obb saved the best activities for last! Our guide, Pong, gave us a great overview of Old Town Phuket and took us out for some delicious food at some local favorite restaurants. The next day was our favorite excursion of the whole trip: The John Gray sea kayak tour. Everywhere we looked was incredibly beautiful, and we will forever remember the night kayaking where we made an offering to the water goddess and got to see the luminescent phytoplankton, which was an amazing sight!

It was tough to follow up the sea kayaking, but we also had a great time at our cooking class the next day. Chef Pui at the Brass Wok was so much fun to talk with about food and restaurants, and she showed us how to make several delicious Thai dishes. I’d always been intimidated by Thai cooking. However, when I arrived back home the following week, I headed to the Asian grocery store for supplies and was able to reproduce the same delicious dishes that Chef Pui taught us to make.

It was very thoughtful that our guides in the different areas communicated with each other so that it felt like the guides already knew us when we arrived. When we told Dao in Bangkok that we were interested in getting some makrut lime leaves to take home with us, she contacted Yawan in Chiang Mai, who gave us a bag of dried lime leaves from the tree at his home.” —Amy and Bruce Tylock

Read more reviews of Thailand trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Sicily: “A lovely balance of cultural touring/visits and the rest of the day making cheese or tasting olive oil or learning how to make cookies!”

Sicilian almond cookies on a wooden board dusted with confectioners sugar on top.

Sicilian almond cookies. Photo: Shutterstock

“I’ve wanted to travel to Sicily for years but didn’t want to go on my own, so I asked my adult niece to accompany me, since she is fascinated with Italy and its food, being a former chef. We wanted a trip that balanced cultural highlights with food experiences, and Marcello and Matteo really delivered!

One of the highlights of our time in Palermo was a day when we went to Monreale to see the exquisite Norman church and then stopped at a vineyard on the way back to Palermo for a private wine tasting and amazing lunch with the owners and their big friendly adorable dog! Many of our days were a lovely balance of cultural touring and the rest of the day making cheese or tasting olive oil or learning how to make cookies! Their restaurant recommendations were also excellent and easy to find, thanks to the maps they provided!

Our favorite part of the trip was our final few days, based in Ortigia, visiting the Greek ruins of Siracusa and the beautiful Baroque towns of Ragusa, Noto, and Modica. We both agreed that the private four-course lunch served after an olive oil tasting in Ragusa was among the best meals we’d ever eaten in our lives! As we were leaving the Greek temples one late afternoon (wonderful light for photos), our guide told us about a Leonardo da Vinci painting that was being displayed in a small gallery near the exit of the temple area. We never would have known it was there if he hadn’t been with us. We loved every minute of our trip and never had to worry about a thing. A perfect holiday!” —Kathryn Winter

Read more reviews of Sicily trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Italy: “A melting pot of northern Italian, Austrian and Slovenian cuisines and has great wines (mostly white)…”

Morning seascape of Adriatic sea with the Miramare Castle.

Miramare Castle in Trieste, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

Jennifer helped us plan a two-week trip to Friuli Venezia Giulia. The area is a melting pot of northern Italian, Austrian and Slovenian cuisines and has great wines (mostly white). Inexplicably, the region doesn’t seem to be on the tourist radar, so of course we decided that this was the place for us!

We had a guided tour on our first full day in Trieste. We learned about the long struggle for control of the city between the Venetian Republic and the Hapsburgs of Austria, and the resulting cosmopolitanism of Trieste. After two days on our own in Trieste, our driver took us to the Collio wine country, with a stop at Miramare Castle on the way.

The accommodation Jennifer suggested to us in the Collio was outstanding—just what we were hoping for! The property was lovely, with a spa and walking paths through the surrounding vineyards. Jennifer helped us with booking and transportation for lunch at a nearby restaurant we had set our hearts on. (Shout out to Stanley Tucci for his Friulian footnote in “Searching for Italy”!) We had our local guide back for a half-day trip to Gorizia, on the Slovenian border. Having discussed our interest in World War I with her, she arranged for us to make a short visit to an Italian war memorial that was nearby. We also spent an amazing day visiting local wine producers and sampling their wares. (Our favorites were Friuliano and Schioppettino!)

After our break in the countryside, we moved on to Udine. There we had another guided tour, learning about the tug of war fought over the area for centuries and the remarkable mix of historical influences at play. A highlight was seeing Tiepolo’s amazing ceiling frescoes. From our base in Udine, we visited the lovely town of Cividale del Friuli, with beautiful Lombard art and architecture, and day-tripped to Kobarid in Slovenia to learn about the Italian front in the First World War. So much of what we know about World War I is focused on Belgium and France. Learning about trench warfare in the mountains was fascinating and a highlight of our trip.

We also had a WOW Moment while staying in Udine: We had a private cooking demo in the kitchen with chef Anna Barbina and her mother, who serves as her sommelier. Anna made five traditional dishes for us to sample (with wine served by her mother, of course), then we had lunch in her osteria, AB Osteria Contemporanea, where she serves contemporary twists on traditional cooking. Heavenly! Anna and her mother were delightful and couldn’t have been more gracious.

Our final activity was a guided tour of Aquileia on our way back to Venice to fly home. Jennifer and her team delivered exactly the trip we were hoping for. FVG was full of beautiful scenery and art, brimming over with fascinating history, and the food and wine were simply spectacular. We’ve had many incredible meals in Italy over the years, but we had more standouts on this trip than any other. If food is your religion, you should make your way to FVG.” —Rachel Webber

Read more reviews of Italy trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Portugal: tasting flight of port, from 10- to 50-year-old bottlings

Traveler tasting 50 year old Port at the Taylor Floodgate Quinta in Porto, Portugal.

Tim Triche enjoys a glass of 50-year-old port at Taylor Fladgate’s quinta in Porto.

“Our recent trip to Portugal, from September 27 to October 6, encompassing Porto, the Douro Valley, the Alentejo, and Lisbon, exceeded all our expectations. Of the many adventures, we experienced a few noteworthy ones: the Port flight (10-, 20-, 30-, 40-, and 50-year-old Tawny) at Taylor Fladgate in Porto was both uniquely enjoyable and informative; I never realized I knew so little about one of my favorite wines.

The drive to the Douro Valley was thrilling, including the narrow one-lane roads often wide enough only for one car—with oncoming cars! The views were stunning, and the trip was timed perfectly: we arrived just at the last harvest and were able to see (and smell) the last grapes being processed into wine at Quinta do Bomfin, where we also tasted their Dow and Grahams vintage ports after a memorable lunch at their restaurant, which included an exceptional bottle of their local Dona Berta verdelho white wine.

In fact, every meal and every wine served with the meals at every site we visited in Portugal was memorable; the tasting luncheon Gonçalo arranged at Herdade do Esporão was truly unforgettable—one of the best meals my wife and I have ever had. It lasted over two hours, with at least six courses paired with wine, plus dessert and port, of course. We, not surprisingly, elected to pass on dinner that night.

I should also note that every lodging we stayed in was absolutely first class, from the Vintage Hotel in Pinhao to the Palácio Ludovice in Lisbon, including the unique São Lourenço do Barrocal in the Alentejo in between, which was one of a kind. We finished our trip by driving from the Alentejo to Lisbon via Evora, a charming medieval town with a unique bones chapel (literally decorated with thousands of human skeletons—go figure). Upon arriving in Lisbon, we first toured Sintra on the seaside and visited one of the most beautiful estates I have ever seen, Monserrate Palace, and its grounds. The palace itself has been restored to its early 20th-century splendor and was either breathtakingly beautiful or over the top, depending on your taste.

We finished our all-too-short stay with a walking tour of Lisbon, and a second food tour of same. Lisbon reminds one of any major city, with a vibrant street and night life, remarkable food and restaurants, and grand old historical sites like the Moorish castle on the highest point in the city—a stark departure from the rest of Portugal, save perhaps for Porto, also a vibrant but smaller city with its own charm, historically inextricably tied to port wine production.

Needless to say, this trip would have been impossible without the careful planning by Gonçalo, who was able to obviously call in many favors and secure lodging, meals, and visits to unique places throughout Portugal. The virtual meeting with Gonçalo was key to creating a unique trip tailored to our desire to see sites and meet people that are often overlooked in the classic tours that focus on the same well-trodden routes. If I had it to do over again, about the only thing I would change is the duration of our trip: our stay was too short!” —Tim Triche

Read more reviews of Portugal trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Tuscany, Italy: tour & lunch at Brunello winery, pasta-making class, Michelin-starred meal…

An autumn landscape in the Chianti region of Tuscany hills in the surroundings of Radda in Chianti.

Chianti region vineyard, Tuscany, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“We just returned from a fantastic 12-day trip to Tuscany arranged by Andrea. Our excursion to Montalcino and Pienza was sensational, as was our driver Giovanni. We are big Brunello fans and Andrea’s team arranged a great experience for us at the small, family-owned Poggio Rubino vineyard. What a great day—we got the tour of the winemaking operations and then sat down for a homemade Tuscan lunch (thank you, Nonna) to accompany our very generous and expertly paced Brunello tasting. A great experience. Do it, but make sure you have Giovanni there to take you home. Since we probably overstayed our welcome at Poggio Rubino, our time in Pienza was brief but still worthwhile–even if just for the aroma of the cheese and truffles that surrounded us as we wandered down the streets.

The following day we drove to the Antinori-owned Fonte deMedici estate, where we took a pasta-making class with Ellis, followed by a 5-course tasting menu at the Michelin-starred restaurant Osteria Passignano just down the road. Wow. Both experiences were eye-opening and a treat for all the senses. The meal was a show stopper and the pasta class was revelatory. Ellis is a great teacher with a sharp sense of humor. We loved him. Our only advice is don’t drive there and maybe don’t do them back to back. A must-do experience. Thank you, Andrea.”—Andy Robinson

Read more reviews of Italy trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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France: Girls’ wine trip to Bordeaux, Champagne & the Loire Valley

Michelle Price

Traveler Michelle Price and her friend Candi at the Eiffel Tower.

Jennifer planned a glorious 14-day girls’ wine trip in France. Our itinerary was completely planned around our focus on wine. Every hotel, tour guide, driver, wine tasting, and dinner recommendation was perfection.

Our trip started with being met on the jet bridge by Sofiane, who was literally waiting outside the airplane door. He whisked us through passport control, helped with baggage and escorted us to the awaiting car. This was the first time utilizing the service for passport control, and I am a big fan!

We had a wonderful day in Bordeaux visiting three Grand Cru Classe chateaux with private tours and wine tasting. Our driver, Remy, was full of wine knowledge and helped us with our French. The tasting in the cellar at Chateau Pichon-Longueville was incredibly memorable.

In the Loire Valley our highlight was learning about the powerful women who owned Chenonceau castle. The highlight in Paris was a private cooking class in Veronique’s home (Cuisine Elegante). And dinner at Le Tout Paris was delicious, with an incredible view of the city—including the Eiffel Tower.

My personal favorite part of the trip was Champagne. Domaine Les Crayères was an outstanding hotel, and both meals were amazing (Le Jardin and Le Parc). We toured Reims Cathedral, Veuve Clicquot, and a small Champagne house, La Maison Penet, where we had a delightful lunch.” —Michelle Price

Read more reviews of France trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Lake Como, Italy: Cooking class with an award-winning celebrity chef

Adam Amsterdam

The result of a tri-color pasta-making lesson with Chef Luigi in Bellagio, Italy. Photo: Traveler Adam Amsterdam

“We worked with Andrea and her excellent team to rent a wonderful villa for three weeks in Ossuccio, a small comune on the western shore of Lake Como (about 12 miles northeast of the city of Como). Andrea’s team found the perfect villa for us and our two adult children and made all the necessary arrangements with the owner and property manager. They even made sure that any groceries and household items we wanted were ordered and stocked for our arrival. Andrea arranged a day trip to Bergamo with a great English-speaking guide. If you’re within a two-hour drive I highly recommend visiting Bergamo. She also arranged a cooking class for us in Bellagio with an award-winning celebrity chef. We made beautiful tri-color pasta and feasted on a delicious lunch.

Andrea also arranged a boat with an English-speaking captain to take us to several towns along the western and eastern shores of Lake Como where we stopped for lunch, shopping, and gelato. I also must mention that we had a WOW Moment, which was a romantic dinner for my wife and me on the terrace of the Grand Hotel Tremezzo overlooking Lake Como and the twinkling lights of Bellagio, all framed by the pre-Alps in the distance. This was our third trip to Italy planned by Andrea and her team as our travel experts and I wouldn’t think of planning anything in Italy without them.” —Adam Amsterdam

Read more reviews of Italy trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Tuscany, Italy: Truffle hunting, vineyard lunch, agritourism farm…

Jessica Tolmach

Jessica Tolmach and family lunching at Agriturismo Torrenieri in Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia. Photo: Chef Fabrizio Fe

“Four special highlights that Maria secured for our group during our Tuscany stay: A spectacularly situated apartment in Siena overlooking the town square for perfect viewing of the wild, medieval, spectacular Palio horse race and dinner with the family who graciously opened their home, shared wine, food and stories of the history of the races over the centuries.

Another highlight was an outing with a truffle hunter and his dog into the hills and woods where the dog found truffles and after we were hosted at their farmhouse overlooking the valley while they served us a multi-course lunch of truffle-focused dishes that were scrumptious, along with their own wines. We also adored a private tour and lunch prepared for us at a little-known but spectacular vineyard in Chianti, with tastings paired with each course.

And, last but not least, we will all remember forever our lunch at an agriturismo farm with a most generous host and chef that happily went on for hours, on a glorious afternoon, on their patio on the edge of their fields, where we were served mind-blowing grilled meats and the best lasagna and tiramisu any of us has ever tasted. My boys wanted to stay and work on the farm and never come home! And I got his grandmother’s recipes!” —Jessica Tolmach

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Paris: food tour in the Marais, market shopping & cooking class…

Ellen Weiner

Ellen and Jeffrey Weiner and their cousins capped off a cooking class with a meal in the instructor’s apartment.

“Since we had been to Paris several times prior to this trip, we asked Jennifer for some ideas of different things to do instead of the usual sightseeing. She sent us a variety of activities to choose from and we picked something each day, which also allowed for us to have free time.

A food tour in the Marais was our first stop, and it was delicious!! Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and we tried everything from cheeses, wines, charcuterie and desserts. The highlight of our trip was a cooking class with Veronique! We went to the local food market to shop for all of our ingredients and then back to her apartment to cook an authentic and delicious French meal.

Everything that Jennifer arranged for us was top-notch. All of our arrangements went according to plan from the moment we stepped off the plane in Paris until we departed.” —Ellen and Jeffrey Weiner

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Spain: Award-winning cheese, artisanal olive oils, learning to cook crema catalana and paella…

Traditional house and colorful flower-laden patios in Cordoba, Spain.

A home in Cordoba, Spain, and its flower-laden patio. Photo: Shutterstock

Virginia, Julia, and Inmaculada planned our perfect trip to Spain. We wanted a trip that hit some highlights of typical tour stops sprinkled in with cultural and foodie destinations. As I was very specific, down to tasting the 2022 International Cheese winner, Julia patiently kept reworking our trip, and Inmaculada worked diligently on reservations.

We started our trip in Barcelona and were expertly guided around many Gaudi sites by Begonia. She was really a true expert. We also spent a day in Costa Brava, where we met Chef Pilar and her husband Rene. They shared their spectacular home and cooking expertise about making Crema Catalana and paella. She was also able to find the 2022 International Cheese award winner from a small Spanish dairy.

Our next stop was Seville and the charming town of Ubrique, a short hike in Grazalema park, and family-owned, artisanal cheese and olive oil production businesses. A day we will always remember! Jeronimo drove us around for the next few days to an Iberico Pig farm, a Real Madrid vs Sevilla FC game, and through multiple small white villages. He was the most knowledgeable and friendliest man/driver we have ever come across over many years of travel. He also took us to Cordoba, which thanks to tour guide Maria-Elena Consuela made this one of our favorite stops—loved the flower-laden patios and the church that combined elements from multiple cultures dating back over a thousand years. As well as a preserved Jewish synagogue built in 1315.

Our last major stop was in Granada with a stay in a hotel overlooking the oldest and largest bullring in Spain and expertly guided by Alfredo. While there were some snafus, Virginia’s staff quickly resolved a last-minute change in futbol schedule and retrieved a forgotten cell phone charger. Highly recommend this agency. This was our 3rd trip with a WOW expert, and they have all done a terrific job.” —Lisa Jacobson

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The Netherlands, Belgium, and Alsace, France: From tastings on Amsterdam’s canals to a 4-hour meal in a Michelin 2-star…

Canal in Amsterdam surrounded by bikes and colored buildings.

With our expert’s help, you can enjoy a wine-and-food tour on Amsterdam’s canals. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our trip to the Netherlands, Belgium, and Alsace, France, was a wonderful experience that we planned with Claudia. All the hotels were lovely and exceeded expectations. Hotel Estherea (Amsterdam) was like residing in a garden, Made in Louise (Brussels) was cute and quirky, and Le Chambard (Alsace) felt like a sumptuous Bavarian hunting lodge.

With Claudia’s help, we felt we visited the highlights that each region had to offer. Our Food and Canals tour was so much fun—our guide Gerard was informative and entertaining. The culmination of the food tour was a wooden boat ride on the canals with wine and tastings. What a great way to start our trip! The half-day bike ride into the country was also a highlight—windmills, sheep, and Dutch apple pie!  What a wonderful way to see another side of the Netherlands. Brussels was a fun and cosmopolitan city with excellent dining options like Cowfish and Tero. Colin was our guide in Brussels, Bruge, and Ghent. We couldn’t have asked for a more informative and fun person to spend time with.

Lastly, we visited Alsace, France, a quaint area with a strong Germanic influence. The beautiful scenery and wineries dominated the landscape. We had what, for us, will probably be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We dined at La Table d’Olivier Nasti, a 2-Michelin-star restaurant that provided unbelievable service, an elegant ambiance, and the most delicious and beautifully plated food. It was a four-hour dining experience we will never forget! Thank you to Claudia for creating this wonderful experience for us. We never could have done this trip without her!” —Kristine Carey

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Southeast Asia: “Like Napoleon’s army, we travel on our stomachs, and the food we had on this trip was extraordinary…”

Delicious dishes from Laos.

Local Laotian delicacies. Photo: Shutterstock

“We just returned from a fabulous three-week-plus trip to Thailand, Laos, Viet Nam, and Cambodia, organized for us by Sandy. While we have traveled a great deal, this trip was among the best, if not THE best, trip we’ve taken. The diversity and specialness of our experiences made it stand out.

Like Napoleon’s army, we travel on our stomachs, and the food we had on this trip was extraordinary. One evening in Laos we went to the home of our guide, who Sandy has worked closely with for years. We helped prepare dinner, were blessed by the family elders in a Baci ceremony for success on our journey, ate the delicious food we had helped cook, and danced and sang with the family. Another night in Cambodia, we ate at a local village restaurant. With travel to Cambodia down due to the pandemic, it’s a great time to visit, and we were the only people at the restaurant. After a foot massage and passion fruit mojito, we were escorted to our table overlooking vibrant green rice fields while being serenaded by lovely music. In Hanoi, we went to Bun Cha Sinh Tu and had the famous soup it’s known for. It was table-pounding good. And our Vespa food tour of Saigon, which Sandy had strongly suggested, was both delicious and terrifying. Driving a motorbike in Saigon should be an Olympic sport, and we just rode!

Our excellent guides in Laos and Viet Nam shared with us the experiences of their families during the War and recounted working with American veterans who returned years later, as well as a reporter who had covered it. These personal and moving stories touched us and helped us better understand the profound effect of the War on the people who lived through it.

In Cambodia, we went to a Buddhist temple at 5:30 in the morning and meditated. Afterward we were showered with lotus petals as part of a blessing ceremony and had breakfast at the monastery as the sun rose. Early one morning in Laos, we gave sticky rice to saffron-robed monks who extended their begging bowls to us. Through this daily ritual, the monks demonstrate their vows of poverty and humility. Our guide took us to a quiet place where her family normally gives alms, avoiding other tourists.

It’s hard to encapsulate all we saw and did because there was so much: seeing the temples of Angkor, kayaking in Halong Bay, boating on the Saigon River, biking through Hoi An. Part of what made this trip so good was the flexibility we had in determining what we would do and not do each day. We had great guidance and suggestions from Sandy, but he emphasized this was our trip. Thoughtful planning and flexibility helped make this the trip of a lifetime.” —Catherine Mathis

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Switzerland: In-depth tour & lunch at a cheese factory, private workshop at a boutique chocolatier…

Variety of Appenzeller cheeses in switzerland

The cheese selection at an Appenzeller dairy. Photo: Billie Cohen

“The plan that Nina and her team put together for our two-week trip matched our interests perfectly. We had asked for a trip that would provide insight into the culture and history of Switzerland. The trip was a delight. Some highlights were: walking through villages in the Bavona Valley where people live without benefit of electricity; making our own chocolate bars from scratch at perhaps the best boutique chocolatier in Switzerland; getting an in-depth tour of a cheese factory, followed by a wonderful lunch just for us where we could enjoy their products; a private musical performance featuring the Hackbrett, a kind of hammered dulcimer; and of course a visit to the charming town of Zermatt with amazing views of the Matterhorn.

It was our guides’ efforts that brought the trip alive and made our visit unforgettable. One guide, Pascal, drove us off-road through parts of Switzerland generally accessible only to hikers. We wound up at a picture-perfect Swiss Alpine Club hut where we enjoyed what was perhaps the best lunch of our trip. We are fortunate that Wendy’s WOW List connected us with Nina.” —Stephen Behnen

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Morocco: Market tour, cooking lesson, wine tasting…

A spice stall at a market in Marrakech, Morocco.

A spice stall at a market in Marrakech, Morocco. Photo: Shutterstock

“I had a general idea of the cities and sites that we wished to visit, and Radia developed them into a thoughtful and exciting itinerary, including such highlights as a gourmet lunch and wine tasting in a beautiful vineyard near Fez, an excursion to the Roman ruins of Volubilis, a motorcycle and vintage sidecar tour through Marrakech’s medina, and a sunset camel ride in the desert. Radia helped us choose excellent restaurants for all our meals and handled all the reservations, and she also arranged a very fun market tour and cooking lesson in Fez, where we learned to make chicken tagine on a rooftop kitchen overlooking the city. We cannot wait to return to Morocco.” —Sarah Balassa

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Sicily: Cooking class, street food tour, wine experiences…

A welcome lunch at the Fratelli Valenziani orange farm, a family-run operation in Sicily.

Lunch at the Fratelli Valenziani orange farm, a family-run operation in Sicily. Photo: Agave Creative

Matteo did an excellent job of listening to us: We wanted time to explore on our own, unguided, but Matteo also knew where the value of a guide was indispensable, and he made that clear—and he was right!

We wanted several experiences on this trip: We wanted a food tour of the Sicily markets—and Matteo got us a fantastic guide for a great street food tour. We wanted to shop and cook with a chef—Matteo arranged this with a charismatic great chef. We wanted a day on the water to sail and enjoy the sea—Matteo arranged a phenomenal afternoon and sunset sail with Salvo, a very special person who set up an amazing afternoon for us. We wanted an e-bike tour, and this too was arranged for us. The vulcanologist on Mt Etna, the archaeologist who led us through the Villa Romana del Casale, and the guide at the Agrigento temples were all also fantastic.” —Jonathan Scharfstein

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Peru: Learning traditional Inca cooking techniques

A traditional Peruvian food cooked underground and stones.

Traditional cooking in Peru. Photo: Shutterstock

“From Lima to the Tambopata Reserve in the Amazon, from Arequipa to Colca Canyon, from Cusco to the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu, we were spellbound by the warmth of the Peruvians and the beauty and diversity of the terrain and climates throughout the country. We didn’t encounter unmanageable crowds anywhere—in fact, we were pleasantly surprised by the tourism levels, even at Machu Picchu and in Cusco.  We are thrilled that we worked with Marisol and her team to plan this fantastic trip.

A definite highlight was our day exploring the ‘real’ Sacred Valley. The time spent with Maria and her family was priceless. From dancing with her parents to walking the Andean hills with her llama, from a spiritual ceremony thanking the gods to plowing the field with bulls, from sharing a lovely lunch made from locally produced ingredients to an in-depth demonstration of their textile artistry, we felt humbled and honored to have been offered a glimpse into their daily lives.

Another highlight was our WOW Moment in Ollantaytambo. On an organic farm, we learned the traditional Inca cooking technique of pachamanca and savored the delicious al fresco lunch while admiring the snow-capped peaks of Mount Veronica. Thank you, Wendy, for a delightful experience!” —Molly O’Neill-Emmi

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Provence: Tasting Roman wines, shopping & cooking with a chef…

Sunny day in Provence with Aiguines castle surrounded by vineyard and the beautiful turquoise St Croix lake in background.

Château d’Aiguines, with the Lac de Sainte-Croix in the background, Provence. Photo: Shutterstock

“We had a short time in Provence and are so glad we were able to work with Laurie on Philip’s team to get the most out of our time. She arranged for a couple of amazing hotels in Les Baux and Aix en Provence. I think we could have taken up residency in either one! Our driver/guide Cedric showed us beautiful villages and introduced us to the wonderful culture and people of Provence. A couple of highlights for us were walking through a Roman aqueduct at Pont du Gard and taking part in a Roman wine tasting that gave us a sense of what wines may have tasted like in Roman times.

Another special treat was spending a day with Gilles Conchy, first shopping in the market in Aix en Provence and then cooking a fantastic meal at his home. Lastly, we received a WOW Moment during our stay. One morning, we found our van had been replaced by a 60-year-old bright green convertible Citroen. We had a chance to ride through the countryside from Les Baux to Aix in style. It was so much fun.” —Bill Hiatt

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Northern Italy: “Balsamic vinegar artists, parmesan cheese makers…”

Typical stone houses with stunning vineyard in the Chianti region in Tuscany.

A vineyard in Tuscany’s Chianti region. Photo: Shutterstock

Maria met with us by Zoom and we discussed our interests and the kind of trip we wanted. She really listened and planned an amazing trip for us. We traveled through Umbria and Tuscany with a focus on food, wine, and culture. Montefalco is a charming Umbrian town nestled in the hills with a focus on wine and olive oil. Maria had booked us into a charming hotel and made dinner reservations for our first night. The next day we went truffle hunting and shared perhaps the best meal of the trip with the family. Each of the seven courses were delicious and I could have eaten the entire tray of the homemade onion foccacia.

The next morning was our WOW Moment. WOW does not do justice to the opportunity to meet Marta Cucchia, the great-granddaughter of the founder Giuditta Brozzetti who has carried forward the textile workshops. Working on looms from the 15th century, she provided us with a look into the art of weaving. Her joy in the work and understanding of the complexity and history of this art form was enthralling.

This experience set the tone for the remainder of the trip meeting artisans, wine stewards, wine growers, balsamic vinegar artists, parmesan cheese makers, prosciutto ham makers, sculptors, cooks and guides and hoteliers that made us feel welcome. Although it was crowded already in Italy, we always felt as if we had our own private pathways to each activity.

One of the most surprising events was a last-minute opportunity provided by Maria to go to the opera in Parma. An old theater that is built like the opera house in Venice. Maria got us perfect seats to see Pagliacci, the Franco Zeffirelli production. My husband, who is not an opera fan, has been telling everyone that one of the highlights was seeing the opera with 280 performers on stage. This may be the highest of compliments for a perfect trip.” —Lynne Golomb

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Ireland: Touring Galway with a chef, Guinness cake…

Appetizer plate of Irish blended whiskey and cheeses.

Irish blended whiskey and cheeses. Photo: Shutterstock

“Having used Wendy Perrin’s WOW List last year to travel to Greece, we chose Jonathan and his team to book our mother-and-adult-daughter trip to Ireland, and they made the entire process extremely easy. We started at historic Dromoland Castle in County Clare. In Galway we took a food tour through the city to experience the best food the city had to offer. Our guide Regina was a chef herself and you could tell she thoroughly enjoyed sharing the amazing food that Ireland and Galway specifically had to offer. During this tour, we had the best raspberry croissant with red striping and a delicious raspberry puree center. We also had a whiskey tasting where we tried Irish Poitin, which is Ireland’s version of American Moonshine and it definitely made you cough on the smallest sip. The other highlight for me of the food tour was at lunch when we had local oysters. I am not usually a fan of oysters, but Regina described them as a little burst of fresh salt water, and that’s exactly what it was!

Next we headed over to Killarney and the Killarney Park Hotel. We had a very interesting whiskey tutorial and tasting with the head of spirits at the hotel. We also explored the town of Kenmare and took a chocolate-making class at Lorge Chocolates. Neither of us had ever done a chocolate-making class or anything of the sort before, and it was very fun and educational. Benoit Lorge ran the private lesson with the two of us, and he was so enthusiastic and passionate about his chocolate and the quality of chocolate that he creates.

Finally, in Dublin, we took a private cooking class with Alix Gardner’s Cookery School, and there we learned how to make all the essentials for a true Irish feast. We made scones, soda bread, shepherd’s pie with lamb, and a Guinness cake. My daughter and I both cook a lot and consider ourselves to be decent cooks, but I think we both learned new techniques that we’ve applied to our cooking since. The food was delicious and we got to take home our leftovers. We managed to bring a whole Guinness cake on the plane home with us to The States! A slice of Guinness cake after a full day of traveling was well worth the trouble of packing it.” —Robin Stone

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Greece: “A meal fit for kings and queens but which represented everyday food in a typical Greek household…”

Traditional Greek food

A traditional Greek platter of antipasto includes grilled vegetables, olives, nuts, and toasted bread.

“The trip Mina prepared for us in Athens was spectacular. Shortly after our arrival in Athens, we were mysteriously picked up at our hotel and driven to a residential area. Imagine our delight when we were greeted by our host, Dionysia, who prepared a meal fit for kings and queens but which represented everyday food in a typical Greek household.

Dionysia prepares custom meals for groups of individuals, mostly corporate requests, so we felt so special she had cooked just for us. We started with Greek wines (delicious) and tzatziki and a spicy feta spread, which we coupled with delicious homemade beautiful bread. We then had two salads: damos salad and, of course, Greek salad. Then came homemade sausage and kleftiko (a mix of lamb, chicken and beef).

Then we MADE sweet phyllo rolls, which we enjoyed together with a Greek-style cheesecake. Last of all, we had wonderful Greek coffee and when we finished it, imagine our surprise when Dionysia asked us to turn our cups over and let the leftover coffee drain to the bottom. Of course, everyone’s designs which appeared on the cups were quite interesting and she then ‘interpreted’ what each design meant, similar to fortune telling according to Greek customs. It was a fun (and most filling) afternoon and evening. I asked Dionysia whether Greeks really had that much food every day and they do! However, a meal like that lasts two meals….” —Victoria Jones

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France & Italy: Truffle hunting, organic farm tour…

Chiesa di San Biagio standing in a green landscape of Montepulciano Italy Tuscany

Chiesa di San Biagio, Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

Jennifer’s office is hands-down amazing! The most helpful and best expense was the VIP Meet & Greet at Charles de Gaulle, as we were transferring airlines and don’t speak French. Brice, our greeter, was on the jet bridge as soon as we deplaned, whisked us through passport check, carried our bags and assisted our transfer to Terminal 1, checked us in, whisked us again through security & showed us our gate. Priceless!!!

The castles recommended where Jennifer has solid relationships were priceless too! We were greeted with baskets of fruit, bottles of champagne and other treats. The suites we stayed in were beautifully appointed at Castello di Reschio and Castello di Casole. The staff at both properties were personable, friendly, informative and classy. Every meal we had was divine, whether it was a tasting menu or a simple buffet breakfast! The drivers/transfers/car service were clean, professional and knowledgeable—so much better than taking your chances with an Uber/taxi.

Our most memorable moments that Jennifer’s team arranged were the Truffle Hunting/Lunch and the Organic Farm Tour/Lunch. Both experiences had us with locals who educated us, then prepared meals using their products. Over-the-top fresh food made right in front of you. We loved it and felt at home with both ‘families.’” —Chrissy Croonquist

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Spain: Tapas tour, paella class, farm visit…

jamon sandwich and vermouth at Bar del Pla Barcelona Spain

Seasonal tapas as the locals enjoy it. Photo: Made for Spain & Portugal

“I visited Sevilla, Cordoba, Ubeza, Granada, Bilbao, San Sebastián, and finished in Madrid where I did day trips to Toledo and Salamanca. Every place was a joy to visit. I particularly loved Sevilla and the old city, where the guide took me for tapas and the following night I had a cooking course at her home where we made soups and paella. Granada and the Alhambra were sensational. Ubeza was a great visit where they were restoring some of the Jewish homes and creating a museum.

Visiting an organic farm and old castle in the Andalusian countryside was so special especially having lunch and a guided tour of the castle by the Countess. The Guggenheim in Bilbao was awesome and my guide gave a great tour of the huge space. Maybe my favorite place was San Sebastián—so beautiful on the water. Could definitely live there. My guide Gurutze was so great to be with. Madrid was a big city but I really enjoyed my walking tour of the city and Royal Palace. I also attended a Flamenco show and dinner which was most enjoyable. The old university in Salamanca was especially interesting. My favorite hotels were in Sevilla, Madrid, and San Sebastián.

What impressed me most about Spain was their quality of life, cleanliness, low crime rate, food, historic places of interest, and friendliness of the people. Could not recommend Spain enough as a destination. Thanks so much to Virginia and her team and to Wendy Perrin for her high standards of travel advisors.” —Leon Malkin

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Italy: Cheese farm, truffle hunting, cooking class…

Traditional italian food - 36 months aged in caves Italian parmesan hard cheese from Parmigiano-Reggiano, Italy.

Aged Parmigiano-Reggiano. Photo: Shutterstock

“We traveled March 11–22 to Rome, Florence, and Venice with our two adult children and then a few days in Milan on our own. We worked with Jennifer, and we couldn’t have been happier with our trip. Our cooking class in Rome with Marco was surprisingly a highlight for my 25-year-old son. My husband has not stopped talking about our day in the Tuscan countryside where we visited a cheese farm, tasted wine and olive oil, had the most incredible lunch at one of the wineries, and then ended our day with truffle hunting in the woods with the cutest truffle hunter ever, Dora.

Other highlights were an artisan tour of Florence where we met local artisans who have been continuing their family traditions for generations, glass blowing in Murano, and our trip to Burano with its beautiful colorful houses along the canals. The food was spectacular!! Every restaurant recommendation was spot-on, and when we wanted to make a change (because we needed to get one more portion of cacio e pepe), help was easily accessible and quick to respond. Jennifer planned an amazing trip that we will never forget. Thank you!” —Julie and Phil Taub

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Argentina: Winery visits, meeting Francis Mallmann…

Vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina

Vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina. Photo: Cavas Wine Lodge

“This was the second time that I worked with Maita and Santiago, and, once again, the trip was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. I started in Mendoza, Argentina, at Cavas Wine Lodge, which is located in a gorgeous vineyard and has gorgeous views from all angles. Santiago arranged for me to go to several wineries, and each was excellent and so much fun! There are hundreds of wineries to choose from, so I was delighted that Santiago found ones that were perfect for me.

Then I flew to Montevideo, Uruguay, and was driven to the absolutely delightful and gorgeous town of José Ignacio. Maita and Santiago had recommended this over Punta del Este, and they were spot on. I never would have found this little town and am now considering buying property there!  Santiago arranged very interesting tours to Garzon winery, lunch at Garzon restaurant, where I met Francis Mallmann(!) , and Pablo Atchugarry’s amazing and beautiful art, as well as the must-see Casapueblo.

Maita and Santiago will listen to your likes and dislikes, and what you want out of the trip, and will then create a bespoke itinerary that you will absolutely love! I am already working on a third trip with them.” —Susan Cunneen

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France: Private winery visits in Bordeaux

Vine-clad chateaux overlooking vineyard in Bordeaux, France.

A vineyard in Bordeaux, France. Photo: Shutterstock

“We were invited to a friend’s wedding near Montpellier. I lived in southern France many years ago, but my husband and son had never been there, and I wanted them to see Provence; my husband and I have become oenophiles, so we were also interested in visiting some winemaking châteaux in Bordeaux; and of course we had to see Paris.

Philip and his colleagues helped us pull together everything we wanted in our trip and more. They were amazing! We arrived in Paris and spent a couple of days there, with a dinner cruise on the Seine one night and dinner at Michelin-star restaurant L’Arpège another. We then traveled by TGV to Montpellier for the wedding weekend, followed by Provence, where we visited Nimes, Avignon, the Pont du Gard and many other beautiful towns and villages. Les Baux-de-Provence was a special favorite of my husband and son….

All our accommodations were top-notch—mainly small boutique hotels that were well-situated and each had their own charms. Philip’s team took care of all reservations, entry tickets, and train tickets. They really went above and beyond in Bordeaux, securing private tours for us at six châteaux in the region. It was an amazing experience to see the variety of châteaux and the winemaking process at each.” —Helen and Glenn Miller

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Mexico City: taco tour, mezcal tasting, snacking on crickets…

tacos

Tacos are a must-have in Mexico City. Photo: Shutterstock

“We have just returned from a spectacular trip to Mexico with one of Wendy’s WOW List planners. We were particularly interested in the differences and juxtaposition of the pre-Hispanic to colonial culture, visited many of the significant Aztec and Zapotec sites, as well as the Colonial churches and significant buildings. We loved the personal stories of our guides and their connections to their hometowns. As we were especially interested in the food culture, we had excellent restaurant experiences at Pujol in Mexico City, going on a taco tour, a mezcal tasting (really interesting and fun), and eating lots of chapulines–crickets—that were in season.

Zach’s staff was very accommodating in supplying us with names of cardiologists and hospitals at each city we visited, just for peace of mind. We ended our trip with two days on the beach near Puerto Escondido at a lovely small resort, Casona Sforza. We had wonderful food and a lovely room overlooking the Pacific—definitely our chill time before returning home. Zach’s staff provided a seamless trip: Timing on every event was flawless, and we had great vehicles, safe drivers, and local guides who were willing to make changes on the fly and accommodate our every request. Wendy’s WOW List will continue to be our gold standard for international travel. —Jim and Cathy Getz

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Sicily: Meeting chefs, winemakers, vulcanologists…

Mt. Etna vineyards, Sicily

Mt. Etna vineyards, Sicily. Photo: Agave Travel

“My husband and I worked with Marcello to plan a 3-week vacation in Sicily which we took in September 2022. Marcello was fabulous to work with!  He listened carefully to how we liked to travel and what we were interested in doing. He gave us a wide range of experiences to choose from and helped us create a fantastic itinerary. He clearly loves his work and his passion and excitement for Sicily is contagious!

He arranged for us to have some unique experiences. Some of the highlights include:

  • A morning spent with a local chef. First we went to the open-air food market, learning how he chose fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. Then we went to his restaurant (which is closed at lunch) and had a cooking lesson, followed by the delicious lunch we had watched him make for us.
  • Another experience was spending an afternoon and evening sailing on the Mediterranean in a 52-foot sailboat. The couple who own the boat were lovely and welcoming. They served us delicious antipasti and wine while we were sailing and watching the sunset.
  • We also visited an organic farm/ranch. We loved spending time with the owner, who spoke so passionately about his way of farming and raising cattle and horses. He was a fascinating man and it was an unforgettable experience.

Thanks to Marcello, we had a fantastic trip in Sicily.  —Davi Harrington

Read more reviews of Sicily trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO SICILY

Vietnam & Cambodia: Grazing at markets, sharing home-brewed plum wine…

Traditional spring rolls in Vietnamese night market.

Spring rolls are just the start of Southeast Asia’s many specialties. Photo: Shutterstock

“If you’ve considered a trip to Southeast Asia, do it now!  We are lucky to have been able to see Vietnam and Cambodia before the masses of tourists come back. Dan listened to our goals and worked these ideas into our itinerary. For example, we like to try all the foods. Throughout the trip we went to various markets and even stopped randomly on the side of the road and had a lot of fun trying some very interesting things! When I said I really wanted to find mangosteens, we did, even though they’re out of season. We ate at wonderful restaurants, street food, market stalls, and in the homes of local villagers. One of my favorite experiences was a hot pot lunch at a local’s home near the Chinese border in Bac Ha. We bonded with the local hosts, chatting with facial expressions, hand movements, and of course our guide translating, all the while drinking home-brewed plum wine.

We wanted to have some suits made for my husband, so for three days in a row, we made time to go to the tailor for fittings. We wanted to experience everything we could so, even when a torrential downpour interrupted the end of our street food scooter tour, instead of taking a taxi back to the hotel, we rode through the streets of Saigon in the rain on the scooter….so much fun and we were soaked! I decided last minute that I really wanted to see Angkor Wat at sunrise. No problem, done! And we learned so much more about the Vietnam War. We met a Vietnamese pilot that shot down two American planes during the war. What an interesting and moving interaction that was.

And then, the surprise for me was our WOW Moment. We had a special tuk-tuk ride to a boat ride on the river. On the boat we had cocktails, appetizers, entertainment with a traditional singer and a musician playing the dan tranh (which we got to try our hand at), and even lit lanterns. All of that was followed by an incredible multi-course dinner at a beautiful restaurant where our musician was playing another instrument. Everyone involved was amazing. Thank you, Wendy!” —Amy Evers

Read more reviews of Vietnam and Cambodia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO VIETNAM AND CAMBODIA

Oaxaca, Mexico: Cooking class, mezcal tasting…

Oaxaca Toys for sale, Mexico

Colorful toys for sale at a market in Oaxaca, Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock

“There is so much to see and do in Oaxaca, and we are glad that we hired Zach to help us plan and execute this trip. We had a wonderful cooking experience with a Zapotec family, and we spent an afternoon tasting mezcal and learning how it is made with the owner himself. The history in this area of Mexico is fascinating. Black pottery, Alebrijes, natural dyed wall hangings and rugs…. BRING AN EMPTY SUITCASE! (Or buy one in the market, as we did.)” —Candace Chiaruttini

Read more reviews of Mexico trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO MEXICO

Sicily: Vineyard tour, pastry class…

Granita cools you off on a hot day in Sicily. Photo: Marcello Baglioni

“We just returned from an incredible trip to Sicily, curated by Marcello. From beginning to end, Marcello did a wonderful job of listening to the sometimes varied needs and wants of our two couples, crafting personalized experiences that truly helped us understand the beauty and uniqueness of Sicily, and staying in touch to make sure we were having a wonderful time. We knew very little about this amazing island before our trip – and thanks to the interesting places and knowledgeable guides and delightful experiences arranged by Marcello, we left feeling a great affinity for Sicily and looking forward to coming back.  While it is hard to pick a favorite moment, some of the highlights included an amazing vineyard tour and lunch in the hills of Camporeale, making pastries with the incredible 82-year old Maria Grammatico in Erice, experiencing the stunning Infiorata in Noto and hiking on Mt. Etna with a Vulcanologist during a very active time. We will be reliving this trip for years to come. Thank you Wendy for introducing us to Marcello and bravo to his entire team!” —Lisa Wollan

Read more reviews of Sicily trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO SICILY

 

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

aerial view of Masada Israel

What the Right Local Fixer Can Do For You in Israel (or Anywhere)

It had been 20 years since my last trip to Israel, and all I remembered were overcrowded sights and frustrating logistics: wall-to-wall tour groups on the Via Dolorosa, endless lines snaking through the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, hours of rigmarole just trying to rent a car with collision-damage coverage for the areas we wanted to drive in ….

This time my experience of Israel was the polar opposite. That’s because, this time, I had the right local fixer.  As you know, I created my WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts specifically to point you to such fixers in locations worldwide.  And so, for my family trip to Israel, I turned to Joe Yudin, the Israel specialist on my WOW List.   As you read below about how Joe saved us from lines and tourist traps, and opened doors that are normally closed to the public, please keep in mind two important things:  First, I wasn’t getting special treatment.  He’s done the same thing for many travelers, as you’ll see by reading Joe’s reviews.  Second, the other destination specialists on The WOW List do the same thing in their different destinations.  Wherever in the world you’re headed, here are eight ways a WOW Lister can make the magic happen:

They are your insurance against bad weather.

Tel Maresha archaeological dig

On a rainy day you can dig up ancient artifacts underground at Tel Maresha. At left, in gray, is archaeologist Asaf Stern of Archaeological Seminars Institute. At right, in red, is Joe Yudin of Touring Israel. Photo: Timothy Baker

I chose to take my family to Israel during the kids’ February school break because February is Israel’s low season. That means fewer crowds and lower prices, but it can also mean the possibility of torrential rains. Although it did rain in Israel while we were there, we never saw one drop, and that’s because Joe has the flexibility and connections to nimbly alter itineraries based on the weather or other surprises. When it was raining in the north, we headed south for sandboarding in the Negev Desert and scuba diving with dolphins in the Red Sea. When the rain was over, we headed north to the green vineyards of the Golan Heights.  Joe can also move things around so that, if it does start to rain where you are, you can either hit the indoor must-sees (say, view the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Israel Museum, or go to the Ayalon Institute—a secret 1940s ammunition factory, built beneath a kibbutz to fool the authorities at the adjacent British army base, that was pivotal to winning the Independence War in 1948) or you can do below-ground activities (say, explore Hezekiah’s Tunnel beneath the City of David, or dig for artifacts from the Hellenistic period at the archaeological excavation at Tel Maresha, pictured above).

 

Caesarea sunset israel

When the weather cleared, we hit the ancient Roman port of Caesarea. Photo: Timothy Baker

They put you in the right place on the right day.

Makhtesh Ramon Israel

When we landed in Israel on a Saturday, we headed to Makhtesh Ramon in the Negev Desert.. Adam Sela (on the ground) is a desert expert who led our jeep adventure into the makhtesh.  Here, he photographs my 14-year-old who is finding new ways to combat jet lag. Photo: Timothy Baker

Every country has its holidays when things are closed, as well as its best days for hitting the weekly markets and other events. In Israel it’s important to plan around Shabbat (the Sabbath), from sundown on Friday through sundown on Saturday, since that’s when most places are closed or, even if the doors aren’t physically shut, normal operations take a break. If you arrive in Israel on a Saturday, for instance, you might have trouble checking into your hotel room before dark, especially if your hotel is in Jerusalem. Some travelers arriving on a Saturday opt to hit the beach in Tel Aviv and power through their jet lag with fresh air and a swim. We arrived on a Saturday and headed south to the Negev Desert, combating jet lag with sandboarding and a jeep tour of Makhtesh Ramon. (A makhtesh is a crater-like geological landform that is unique to Israel’s Negev Desert and Egypt’s Sinai Desert.)  On our second Saturday in Israel, we went to Masada (since it’s open on Saturdays) and the Dead Sea. Things get more complicated—in terms of where you should be when—during Easter, Passover, Christmas week, and the many other religious and national holidays in Israel. (When planning your itinerary, remember that Sunday is the start of Israel’s work week.)

Makhtesh Ramon Negev Desert israel

When it was raining elsewhere, we went to Makhtesh Ramon. Photo: Timothy Baker

They get you past the crowds and lines.

crowd at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem Israel

This is what the tour-group crush in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity looks like—in low season!  Photo: Timothy Baker

Israel is jam-packed with tour groups from all over the world making pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Even low season (January/February) is high season for low-budget group tours. When we arrived at Masada early on a February morning, as one example, there were 50 tour buses in the parking lot and at least 300 people in line for the cable car. (Naturally, Joe took us through a different entrance and to the front of the line.)

One of the most crowded sites in the world is the spot that is recognized as the manger where Jesus was born, deep inside Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.  Just one of the factors that make a visit tricky is that Bethlehem is in an exclusively Palestinian-controlled part of the West Bank where Israelis can’t go, which means you need a Palestinian guide—but one who can make the traffic and bureaucracy at the border checkpoints disappear.  Most travelers get handed from an Israeli guide on one side of the border to a Palestinian guide on the other, but Joe skips all that by using an Arab Christian guide, Daniel Sahwani, who met us on the Israel side, drove us (in a gleaming new white Mercedes van) into the West Bank, showed us everything we wanted to see in and around Bethlehem, then dropped us off back in Jerusalem’s Old City, all in record time.

You also want a guide with the right connections both outside and inside the Church of the Nativity.  When we got to Bethlehem, Daniel artfully managed to park the van in a small V.I.P. lot right at the front door of the Church. He shepherded us past a very long line comprised of umpteen tour groups (according to Daniel, the line was four hours long and, in high season, it can take all day) to the door and staircase that lead to the underground Grotto that is recognized as Jesus’s birthplace. In the photo above, you can see the mad crush at the door to the Grotto.  You can also see Daniel ahead of me (well, the side of his face), near the door, leading my 14-year-old (light brown hair, olive shirt), to his right, through the mob. Down in the Grotto, Daniel made sure we had enough time to photograph the manger. (You’re officially allowed only about two seconds.) Then he led us into the adjacent Church of St. Catherine, the Catholic chapel where Christmas Eve mass is broadcast to television audiences around the world, and showed us other sights in Bethlehem, including edgy Palestinian street art, before zipping us out of the West Bank and back to Jerusalem, all in just a couple of hours. It was like watching a magic act.

Entering West Bank Area A from Israel

This is the border checkpoint you pass through as you drive into the West Bank’s Area A, where Bethlehem is located. Photo: Timothy Baker

They get you to each sight at the best moment.

Western Wall at night Jerusalem Israel

The Western Wall is best experienced on a Friday at sundown. We shot this later, as we were leaving after dark. Photo: Timothy Baker

The Western Wall is at its most interesting on Fridays at sundown, the start of the Sabbath. You’ll see young men in dashing suits and Lubavitcher fedoras, old men in long black robes and Lithuanian fur hats, and all manner of other traditional garb and headgear worn by worshippers’ Eastern European ancestors. You’ll see female soldiers joyously singing and dancing in groups, with machine guns strapped around their bodies. You’ll see and hear multifarious small collections of worshippers holding their own services, singing their own songs and dancing in their own circles. Joe made sure we arrived shortly before sundown (which, depending on the time of year, could be any time between 5:00 pm and 8:15 pm).  Using cameras (or any other electronic devices) during the Sabbath is not smiled upon, so Joe also made sure we got to the Western Wall on another day when we could take photos of our kids doing as the locals do—writing their prayers on small slips of paper, wadding up the paper, and cramming it into a crack in the Wall.

 

Men praying at the Western Wall Jerusalem Israel

Taking photos at the Western Wall during the Sabbath is frowned upon, so go twice: once to see the scene on Friday at sundown, and another time to take photos like this. Photo: Timothy Baker

They know cool new ways to see old places.

Powered paragliding over Masada Israel

We soared over Masada and the Judean Desert in this powered paraglider. Photo: Timothy Baker

Whether you’re hiking up to Masada—the 2,000-year-old fortress-palace built by King Herod atop a rock plateau in the Judean desert overlooking the Dead Sea—or ascending by cable car, you can’t see any of the ancient city till you’re on the mountaintop. Most people explore the fortress only at eye level. But, thanks to Joe’s friend Segev Baram, a flight instructor with a powered paraglider, we got to enjoy aerial views too. We each took a turn soaring over Masada and the sites of ancient Roman camps in the desert, and then over to the Dead Sea Canal, dipping downward until we almost skimmed the surface of the waterway. My 14-year-old says it’s the coolest thing he’s ever done.

Segev turns out to be a cinematographer too. Somehow he managed to pilot the machine, working the controls like a marionette, while simultaneously filming our entire ride.  To fly over Masada vicariously with us, check out this three-minute video Segev made and sent to my family.  It’s sababa!  (That means awesome.)

 

They ensure you taste the best local flavors.

Mahane Yehuda Market dried fruit tea vendor

Our tasting tour of Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market included this stall that sells “dried fruit tea.” There’s no tea in it. It’s just diced, sweet, intensely aromatic dried fruit that you mix with hot water. Photo: Timothy Baker

I can meander through foreign food markets all day long, losing myself in the scents and colors. But when time is short and markets huge and labyrinthine, a guide who knows everybody in the market—who knows whose Medjool dates are the plumpest and whose tahini is ground the centuries-old way and where to taste which award-winning cheese—can really enhance your experience. And that’s especially true if you’re in one of those markets on a Thursday or Friday during the pre-Shabbat scramble.  That’s why everybody in my family agrees that two of our trip highlights were our private tasting tours of two of the biggest markets: the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv and Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. At Mahane Yehuda, when we couldn’t resist buying edible souvenirs to take home, our guide arranged for our purchases to be delivered to us later, so we wouldn’t have to lug our haul from stall to stall.

Carmel Market etrog medicine man shop Israel

Medicinal fruit juices— including those made from the etrog (that bumpy greenish-yellow fruit she’s holding)—are served at the Etrog Medicine Man shop in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market. Photo: Timothy Baker

They reduce airport waits and hassles.

Joe’s travelers get airport VIP service, and here’s what that means:  When we landed at Ben-Gurion on a Saturday morning, we were met at the end of the jetway and led on an alternate path to the immigration area.  We were led to a separate VIP desk, to the side of the immigration lines, where we were handed our stamped cards to get into the country.  We exited the immigration area for the luggage carousel at the same moment that the first people off our flight were arriving to queue up at the end of the already long lines.  Back at the airport on Sunday morning eight days later for our flight home, we were met curbside by another VIP agent who enabled us to bypass the standard check-in lanes and escorted us through security to our gate.  We zipped through without a hiccup.  I estimate that this airport VIP service spared us at least an hour each way standing in lines.

Your passport no longer gets stamped when you enter Israel, by the way. At Immigration you are given a small laminated card with your principle details and a stamp on it.  Don’t lose it, since this card gets you the V.A.T. discount when you check into hotels.

They introduce you to interesting people you’d otherwise never meet.

Here I’m with Sarit Zehavi, a security expert and lieutenant colonel in the reserves of the Israeli Defense Forces, at Israel’s northern border in the Golan Heights. You’re looking at Syria (beyond that light-colored road). Photo: Joe Yudin

What’s a trip to Israel without hearing varied local perspectives on the geopolitics of the Middle East, the war against terrorism, and other important topics of the day?  So Joe arranged a few of the meetings that he has arranged for so many WOW List travelers, as you can read in their reviews of Joe’s trips.  I’ll give you just a few examples:

Joe told me that if I wanted to understand Israel’s outlook on the Middle East, I needed to go to the Golan Heights, an area of rolling vineyards and army bases on the border with Syria. There we met Sarit Zehavi, an expert on Israel’s security challenges at the northern borders. Zehavi is a 15-year military intelligence officer and lieutenant colonel in the reserves of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and is also the founder of ALMA, a research and education center focused on the border conflict. She is actually of Syrian heritage (her father grew up in Damascus). She is also a mom whose house sits six miles from the Lebanese border, so she lives with a visceral sense of danger, day in and day out.  Pointing to the Syrian border (see the photo above), she showed us exactly where and how the situation has been changing along it.  A week after we met, Zehavi was headed to Washington, D.C., to address members of Congress and other U.S. leaders at AIPAC. Here’s what she told them.

Eitan Cohen, a counter-terrorism and security expert

Eitan Cohen, a counter-terrorism and security expert, with my son Doug at Caliber 3. Photo: Timothy Baker

Joe also arranged for us to meet with Eitan Cohen at Caliber 3, a counterterrorism training academy that offers security solutions and intelligence operations to clients around the globe. Cohen is a charismatic and inspiring colonel in the IDF and a security expert who works in elite undercover units. The kids got hands-on training in self-defense strategies, as well as an unforgettable lesson in patriotism and how profound love of country—like Cohen’s for Israel—is what inspires soldiers around the world.

journalist and author Matti Friedman

We met journalist and author Matti Friedman for breakfast at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel. Photo: Timothy Baker

Of the local journalists Joe offered to connect me with, I chose Matti Friedman, a former Associated Press correspondent who also served in the Israeli army.  Friedman is the author of two award-winning books, The Aleppo Codex and PumpkinFlowers: A Soldier’s Story of a Forgotten War, and his third book, Spies of No Country—the story of Israel’s first spies in 1948—is coming out in November.  Friedman believes that, because of the way news about the Middle East is framed by Western news media, many travelers are left with a lot of misconceptions about Israel and the situation in the Middle East.  As just one example, people think Jerusalem is dangerous, but last year there were only 27 deaths in Jerusalem caused by acts of violence, compared with 133 in Jacksonville, Florida, and 175 in Indianapolis (cities similar in size to Jerusalem).  Social problems that Americans take for granted—health care, homelessness, gun control—hardly exist in the same way in Israel. For instance, Friedman has four kids and pays only $56 per month for health care for his whole family.  As for his perspective on conflict in the Middle East, the main takeaway was:  Don’t come to Israel with a lot of preconceptions. Or, if you do, meet with Friedman.  2023 UPDATE: Matti Friedman has little availability nowadays. Instead, you can meet with journalists such as Gil Hoffman and Khaled Abu Toameh

 

cooking class in Jersualem Israel

Chef Tali Friedman taught the boys how to cook an Israeli feast, including apple-filled phyllo pastries, in her kitchen. Photo: Timothy Baker

I went to Israel thinking most of my time would be spent on sites of historical, cultural, and religious significance.  As it turned out, most of my time was spent eating.  Israel’s culinary scene has been exploding, and one of the reasons why is Chef Tali Friedman. She gave us a cooking lesson in The Jerusalem Atelier, her kitchen workshop inside the historic Mahane Yehuda Market, and then we got to eat the feast we had cooked. I’m still dreaming of the best eggplant dish I’ve ever tasted: roasted Baladi eggplant, grilled over an open flame until scorched and smoky, with tahini and balsamic vinegar drizzled on top. So simple, yet so flavorful.  We took the recipes home with us, but I’m not so sure I can replicate them without easy access to the superb produce and ingredients in the Market.

Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market Israel

Inbal Baum introduced us to her favorite finds in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market. Photo: Timothy Baker

We also had a blast with Inbal Baum, founder of Delicious Israel, who steered us to her favorite stalls and shops in the Carmel Market, Tel Aviv’s largest outdoor food extravaganza. This eliminated haphazard guessing as to the best foods to sample—which in turn eliminated thousands of unnecessary calories—and it also meant no standing in lines:  In each spot, seats and tables magically appeared for us, and then dishes suddenly appeared on them. Come hungry!

Chef Tal Zohar and his mobile kitchen in the Golan Heights. Photo: Timothy Baker

When we went to the Golan Heights, we weren’t expecting gourmet dining al fresco, but that’s the surprise that awaited us in the middle of nowhere, thanks to Chef Tal Zohar and his mobile kitchen.  A friend of Joe’s with grandparents from Turkey on one side and Germany on the other, Chef Tal went to culinary school in New York City, and now he zips all over Israel creating gourmet “picnics” in spectacular locations.  You can see photos of what we ate here.

Joe Yudin, the Israel travel specialist on my WOW List

Joe Yudin of Touring Israel at Tel Maresha. Photo: Timothy Baker

And here’s who made it all happen:  Joe Yudin, the Trusted Travel Expert for Israel on my WOW List.  Contact Joe using my questionnaire so he knows Wendy sent you and you get the same caliber of trip that I, and all these other travelers, received.

START YOUR OWN TRIP TO ISRAEL

UPDATE:  This article was written in 2018, based on a trip to Israel in that year, but all of these experiences are still available today in 2023. 

Transparency disclosure: Thanks to a stipend that Joe Yudin received from Israel’s Ministry of Tourism for press, most elements of this trip were complimentary.  In keeping with WendyPerrin.com standard practice, no strings were attached:  There was no request for coverage, nor was any promised.

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

Mahane Yehuda Market dried fruit tea vendor

How to Get Genuine Local Experiences

Diving into the local culture is an important component of WOW trips.  After all, the best trips connect you with interesting local people and help you experience their worlds.  So we’re sharing some of our readers’ favorite moments—those that have happened during the pandemic, as well as some that took place before—as a reinvigorating reminder of the reasons we travel, and of what’s waiting for us when we can get back out there again.

The following trips were all designed and arranged by destination specialists on Wendy’s WOW List, a group which I’ve road-tested and rigorously vetted (with readers’ help) and which I’m now also monitoring for their Covid-travel readiness. For a personalized trip recommendation so you can start dreaming of your own special moments, talk to us at Ask Wendy.

 

Trips taken during the pandemic

“We had a private tour of the Ol Pejeta Conservatory Northern White Rhino Project, met the two remaining Northern White Rhinos, and learned about the global efforts & cooperation amongst countries to save the species…”

African white rhino, National park of Kenya, Africa

White rhinos in Kenya. Photo: Shutterstock

“What began as a thought to go to a warmer place in February morphed into a bucket-list trip to Kenya & Rwanda! I reached out to Dan in November and the planning began for an African adventure for my husband and I from 13-23 February.

My main focus for the trip was not just an animal safari, but also to experience the African culture, see the local conservation efforts, witness the labors to preserve endangered species, and incorporate my interest in the work of Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall.

Dan engaged immediately via telephone and truly listened to me. He created an itinerary that checked all the boxes; not an easy thing to do! To add to the complicated logistics, it meant traveling to two African countries: Kenya and Rwanda.

Dan was very patient with my numerous emails and questions, promptly responding to each one. He was also not afraid to advise if something was not a good idea and offered other options, which I appreciated.

He coordinated with local ground operators in both Kenya and Rwanda, which made things so much easier. From meeting us at the plane with a wheelchair, getting us through Customs & Immigration, arranging COVID testing or self-quarantine when required, escorting us to our guide/driver, even tracking down a missing suitcase and getting it delivered just as we were leaving for our safari. I’m sure we could not have done it without them. It was obvious that Dan communicated our wishes to them, too, so it was a seamless transition.

How was this trip different from a pre-pandemic trip? The most obvious is the multiple, varying requirements for COVID testing. It could be confusing as to when to get tested, how to get the results, where to post them online, etc. Dan answered all my questions and once we departed, the ground operators coordinated everything. No worries!

The lodging Dan suggested was amazing! Not only great, personalized service, but each of the four locations took precautions to minimize health risks. The two where we stayed the longest come with my highest recommendation:

Ol Pejeta Safari Cottages in Kenya: We had a very private & secluded cottage with a verandah for dining and just relaxing. We received royal treatment from the moment we arrived; our personal butler (John), chef (Victoria), night ‘watchman’ (Robert), and guide/driver (Mike) were all great! Our hosts, Andy & Sonja, ensured we felt welcome by adding little touches that made all the difference.

Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel in Rwanda: A quiet room with a secluded patio meant we were never aware of the other guests. Our room attendant (Salus) always made sure we had everything we needed. Even though the tables in the dining area were well-spaced and everyone wore masks, the manager offered to serve our meals in another building that was more easily accessible for me. He even prepared a special candlelight dinner by the fireplace on our last night.

Our WOW Moment was perfect! We had a private tour of the Ol Pejeta Conservatory Northern White Rhino Project, met the two remaining Northern White Rhinos, and learned about the global efforts & cooperation amongst countries to save the species.

This was exactly what I wanted in the trip — to see and experience the Kenyan & Rwandan people & culture without being too touristy. Dan and his connections with the local operators and the best guides, definitely made this a fantastic trip.

My advice: Listen to your guide’s suggestions and go for it! Be flexible & spontaneous. A rare cheetah sighting? Let’s go! An early awakening to watch the sun rise behind Mt. Kenya? Definitely worth it! A personal tour of a beading or weaving ‘factory’? Sure! Visiting a project to improve lives for single mothers? (And celebrating their joy as they sang and danced to welcome us.) You bet! There is so much to see & do that you never know what you’ll find! But most importantly, just be in the present and experience Kenya & Rwanda. And know that, with Dan and his team behind you, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime trip!” —Sue Newton

ASK ABOUT A TRIP TO KENYA AND RWANDA

 

“We experienced once in a lifetime activities…”

A treetop villa with outdoor plunge pool at Chaa Creek Lodge in Belize.

A treetop villa at Chaa Creek Lodge in Belize. Photo: Chaa Creek

Rachael and Patricia curated a wonderful trip for us to Belize.

The accommodations were first-rate. Each place at which we stayed was beautiful and serene. At The Lodge at Chaa Creek no matter where we stood the view was picture perfect. Further, at each of the five places we stayed, the service matched the setting. We were treated very well.

We experienced once in a lifetime activities. The highlights were the ancient Mayan sites of Tikal and Xunantunich, Che Chem Ha Cave, a visit to the San Antonio Women’s Group Center, and a back street food tour in San Pedro.

Our guides were consistently good which substantially enhanced the activities we were offered. Brainerd in and around San Ignacio was excellent, and Eder at Xunantunich was fabulous.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we were able to meet, spend time with, and learn from many wonderful people. Gonzo, Andrea, and Calliandra of Che Chem Ha were enchanting. Callie is the definition of precocious and a treat to be around. Timotea and the other members of the San Antonio Women’s Group Center were gracious, committed, and knowledgeable. Eder and his father El Fego at Xunantunich made us feel welcome and taught us much. Don Eladio took us for an educational and entertaining romp through his organic farm, Victoria taught us much as she prepared our lunch, and her children Christian and Tristan made us part of the family for the day. Axel, Vickie, and Isien of Manta Island Resort were so good to us that, even in the age of covid, hugs were essential. And then there were the two anonymous guests (fishermen we surmised) who ate dinner at the table next to ours two nights in a row at the Copal Tree Lodge. Their unselfconscious, almost childlike joy (even choosing the entrée for dinner was an adventure to be savored) underlined for us how fortunate we were to be there at that moment.

Rachael and Patricia provided us with many such moments, and for that we are very grateful.” —Richard Ashmore

ASK ABOUT A TRIP TO BELIZE

 

“Zach came up with an itinerary that perfectly suited our tastes and preferred pace…”

pool at Quinta Real Oaxaca

The Quinta Real Hotel in Oaxaca.

“Wow! Wow! WOW! We’re just home from a glorious trip to beautiful Oaxaca. I can’t say enough about the outstanding service we received from Zach and his team. I particularly appreciated that Zach responded immediately to my initial inquiry, set up a phone visit, and from then on, each and every contact with Zach and his team was seamless.

We were able to share our goals for the trip—seeing colonial architecture, ancient ruins, interacting with locals to learn about their culture, visiting a contemporary artist, enjoying the fabulous cuisine, both indigenous and modern. As self proclaimed foodies, we particularly appreciated the balance between the choices of local color and flavor during daytime excursions and the exquisite upscale restaurants in evening.

Zach came up with an itinerary that perfectly suited our tastes and preferred pace. Unfortunately Covid prevented us from enjoying some museums we wished we could have seen. On the other hand, we were able to visit artists in their studios. Our guide, Gabriel, never ceased to amaze us with his knowledge of architecture, art, culture, history, even horticulture. He is an encyclopedia of everything Oaxaca!

The Covid protocol in Oaxaca had us feeling very safe—at the hotel, in restaurants and historic sites and galleries. We loved visits to the markets, a personal cooking class, meals with their famous chocolate drink sitting with the locals. Zach’s deputy Adriana was on point each and every day, sending us reminders of tour hours, restaurant reservations, even making timing and site adjustments in the itinerary when requested. Even setting up our Covid antigen test at our hotel rooms prior to return to the U.S.

We were so very happy with our stay at the Quinta Real. We had originally requested a boutique hotel, but when our choice was not available for the week, we took Zach’s recommendation of the Quinta Real Oaxaca, a 16th century convent, now a hotel. The experience was outstanding. We were there a full week and frankly felt like ‘family’. The service was impeccable, the staff delightful, Covid protocol was exceptional, rooms comfortable, views exquisite.

Thanks to Zach, Laura, Adriana and Gabriel and all the team for a magical week which met every expectation and more!” —Ann Wilkinson

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“When I chatted with friends who have been living in Bangkok for more than 20 years and told them about our experiences, they weren’t even aware of a majority of the places we visited…”

The Marble Temple , Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Marble Temple , Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo: Shutterstock

Dan did an absolutely incredible job of making our December 2021 trip to Thailand unique and unforgettable. As seasoned travelers with a healthy budget, we expect top service and want to be shown places/experiences off the beaten track. Thanks to Dan, we got routes, visited destinations and met locals that blew our minds. I even ended up buying great contemporary art pieces from a little art gallery we visited along the way (something I would not typically do). When I chatted with friends who have been living in Bangkok for more than 20 years and told them about our experiences, they weren’t even aware of a majority of the places we visited. My wife and I can’t stop talking about our incredible time with Dan’s team. Thanks again, Dan, you are the best. And, of course, a big thanks to Wendy and WendyPerrin.com. It will continue to be our go-to site for the best guides around the world.”  — Matthaeus Kala

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“We were especially touched when he took us to his house to meet his mom…”

A view from the beginning of the hike towards Cocora Valley which is famous for its tall wax palm trees in Colombia

A view from the beginning of the hike towards Cocora Valley which is known for its tall wax palm trees.

“Firstly, we can’t begin to express our gratitude to Boris in crafting such an amazing trip!

We had an absolutely stellar time! Everything he suggested was truly spot on.

To break it down a bit more…

Cartagena:
What a gorgeous city! We absolutely loved our time there. Our guide Gustavo was wonderful. He was so nice and funny and truly had a wealth of knowledge. He did a great job telling stories of the city and showing us around. It was great to meet lots of people he knew all over the city too. Really an amazing time with him/because of him. And all of the activities we booked were fantastic too!! We really really loved the cooking class and the day on the boat! But everything was super special. And the hotel Boris found for us was really special too. What a beautiful hotel… amazing room, amazing staff, amazing location, etc. etc.

Coffee Region:
What a great contrast to the coast. Everyone was very apologetic about how rainy it was, but honestly, coming from LA it was a nice change. Haha. So glad Boris recommended the area! Our guide Sebastian was just as wonderful too. Really truly made us feel welcome and did an amazing job showing us around. His genuine warmth and friendliness was so special and memorable. We had such a great time exploring the area and eating all the amazing food! Even when we couldn’t go on the rafting trip because of the weather, he was so great about finding another activity for us. We were especially touched when he took us to his house to meet his mom. What a great guy! As for activities… we LOVED meeting Pascal and Diego and sharing lunch with them in their little slice of paradise. That will definitely be one of our favorite memories from the trip! And staying at Bambusa was so wonderful. What a cool hotel in the middle of the mountains. Really peaceful and relaxing and comfortable and had great food!

Honestly… we’ve run out of all of the amazing words to describe our experience.

The trip was magical and we are absolutely in love with Colombia. We can’t wait to come back and see Medellin and Bogota and all of the other amazing places!!

Thank you to Boris a million times over for creating such a special trip for us. I don’t want to say it was once in a lifetime, because I know we’ll be back. But suffice to say it’s in the pantheon of absolute favorite trips we’ve been on.” —Anne Leary

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“The guided activities were with local Icelanders. There are so many tour companies but supporting local folks was important to me.”

Iceland waterfall Skogafoss in Icelandic nature landscape. Famous tourist attractions and landmarks destination in Icelandic nature landscape on South Iceland. Aerial drone view of top waterfall. -

Skogafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. Photo: Shutterstock

Chris covered all of the bases for my first visit to Iceland Oct. 28-Nov. 7, 2021 as a solo traveler, from the perspective of COVID safety, comfortable accommodations, ground transportation, guided and self-guided activities, cultural exchanges, historical and educational material, crowd-pleasing food recommendations, a packing list, and 24-hour concierge availability.

I originally planned to go to a three-day music festival in Reykjavík and stay there for another week, but it was cancelled so I decided to drive the Ring Road. At the time of my trip planning, Iceland had over 70% vaccination rate and low infection rates. A majority of my activities were outdoors and the timing of my trip was during the shoulder season, so there weren’t any crowds at popular destinations around the country and social distance was easy to achieve.

Before the pandemic, I probably wouldn’t have thought about using a travel service, but I needed local expertise to navigate the ever-changing public health protocols and resources. Chris has over 20 years of immersive insights into all things Iceland, and possesses a deep fondness for the land and people, which resonated with me. Logistically, he made everything easy and straightforward.

I especially valued that Chris sent daily morning road conditions updates, since I circled the entire country on my own. Naturally, I encountered a couple snow storms on the Eastern and Northern regions. One morning, Chris let me know and made arrangements to change my driving route through a toll tunnel passage instead of along the fjord, which was a safer option at the time.

My travels around Iceland wouldn’t have been the same without Chris. First, because he made sure I could safely drive to my next stop every day. Second, I could text him any kind of question and he responded right away, like what to do when my rental car maintenance light turned on in Mývatn or where to find shark meat. Third, the guided activities were with local Icelanders. There are so many tour companies but supporting local folks was important to me. Fourth, he scheduled my appointment for me to get a rapid COVID test in order to return home – super appreciated. Finally, I could send him a photo of the magical things in Iceland, like Goðafoss, and he knew exactly what I was experiencing! For me, as a solo trekker, it was nice to share that with someone who understood. Also, the detailed, printed itinerary, was very useful, and due to a shipping snafu, Chris sent me a souvenir copy.

Chris also had to manage my expectations. I had a very long list of things I wanted to see and do, but doing everything just wasn’t feasible with my dates. He was right.

Not surprising, however, there are several highlights of my trip: the secret hot river soak, glacier hiking, nature baths, waterfall and canyon treks, having the black-sand beaches all to myself, seeing the Northern Lights from a lighthouse cliff in Stykkishólmur, and breaking bread with local Icelanders in their homes. It’s no wonder why I feel like I have to go back for more than just 10 days.

After returning home and sharing photos and videos of my trip to Iceland with family and friends, many have said they now want to go see for themselves. I hope to visit again next year to see and do some things I didn’t get to my first go-round, but also a few things that I want to do again. Chris, thank you for sharing your love of Iceland with me!” —Nicolina Hernandez

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“Something we will always treasure is the morning we spent with the owner/chef of a small waterfront pintxos bar learning how to make pintxos.”

Pablo crafted a wonderful itinerary for my wife and me in the Ribera del Deuro and the Basque Country of Spain. We had guides take us to a couple of wonderful wineries and the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Guides also introduced us to the wonderful world of pintxos (tapas) in the Basque Country. Something we will always treasure is the morning we spent with the owner/chef of a small waterfront pintxos bar learning how to make pintxos. We and our guide got to enjoy our creations washed down with a bottle of local txakoli wine outside on the terrace. It was a truly special experience. We have a new appreciation for anchovies!” —Bill Hiatt

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“The extraordinary experiences (behind the scenes at the theatre in Moscow, dinner in the home of a lovely young woman in Suzdal, chocolate making class in Estonia) were each phenomenal.”

Bolshoi Theater Moscow Russia interior

Visit the renowned Bolshoi Theater.

“Just back from Russia and the Baltic’s … when I saw a three week window open on my calendar recently I made a very last minute decision to go to Russia …Greg and Stella put together a fabulous and interesting itinerary (encouraging me to add Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) expedited my visa application and guided me through all of the covid related hoops going from country to country … when my own covid test results didn’t come through in time for my initial departure, Stella found and set up an appointment for a rapid test 5 minutes from my ATL hotel the morning of departure, thereby saving me a potential delay in leaving for the trip. As for the trip itself, I had a blast. Every single detail was taken care of, the extraordinary experiences (behind the scenes at the theatre in Moscow, dinner in the home of a lovely young woman in Suzdal, theatre tickets, a boat trip in St Petersburg, chocolate making class in Estonia, I can’t remember them all) were each phenomenal. Guides, drivers, covid testing and hotels all perfectly arranged and top notch. Thank you Greg and Stella for a very memorable return to travel after 20 months at home due to covid restrictions (both here and abroad) and to one of the places that has been on my list for a long time. I’ve already got designs on my next trip!”
—Jeannie Mullen

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“Matteo arranged a series of private meetings for us with vineyard owners, chefs, and an olive oil firm. All relationships cultivated over several years and not available to the regular tourist.”

Aquamarine blue waters of sea near Taormina resorts and Etna volcano mount. Giardini-Naxos bay, Ionian sea coast, Taormina, Sicily, Italy.

Sicily’s Mt. Etna. Photo: Shutterstock

“We had an amazing two week adventure in Sicily planned by Matteo and supported by m. The trip was originally planned for 2020 but had to be rescheduled due to Covid. It was clearly worth the wait. We stayed at four fabulous boutique lodgings in Palermo, Agrigento, Siracusa and Taormina. Each location was ideally situated and served as a hub which allowed us to branch out and fully experience all that Sicily has to offer which is a great deal. Our guides and drivers were superb. Where appropriate we had specialists, i.e.,archeologists and volcanologists, to explain the landscape in terms we could understand. All quite fascinating. Matteo arranged a series of private meetings for us with vineyard owners, chefs, dairy farm proprietors, a yacht skipper and, of course, an olive oil firm. All relationships cultivated over several years and not available to the regular tourist. In all cases we were treated to a fabulous lunch after touring and learning about their respective business. We had the opportunity to meet Matteo along the way and to share some wine and small talk while thanking him for the wonderful itinerary. Our high expectations were exceeded. Highly recommend Marcello and Matteo.” —Joe Rothman

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Trips taken before the pandemic

“Cherri and her husband met us and took us to a number of projects they work on: a clinic, a coop farm, girls’ clubs…”

“We just returned from a trip to Zambia planned by Cherri, and I feel as though I’m returning from a dream. Mfuwe Lodge in South Luangwa Park was wonderful! We fell asleep to the sound of hippos munching on cabbage…in fact, one night our neighbors (the hippos) got a little rowdy with their antics. What a memory! We next traveled to the lower Zambezi. Cherri understood that we were not only interested in a safari but also in understanding life in the area and what is being done to raise up the life of the people living in the lower Zambezi. Cherri and her husband met us and took us to a number of projects they work on: a clinic, a coop farm, girls’ clubs…. It was such a special, meaningful day. Cherri also arranged for a day of fishing on the Zambezi, then enjoying our catch at dinner!” —Deborah Wente

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“We had dinner with a Saxon family in Vescri; a trip to an iron mason who made us a trophy horseshoe on his forge; a dinner with a Hungarian herbalist; and a meal with a gypsy family where we could ask any questions we wanted to about their lives in Romania…”

“We were attracted to Romania by the biennial George Enescu Festival of classical music. Raluca secured us tickets and also suggested a week or so in Transylvania and several days in the Danube Delta. We found Transylvania to be much more than Dracula: We had dinner with a Saxon family in Vescri, complete with geese parading by and freshly picked vegetables; a trip to an iron mason who made us a trophy horseshoe on his forge; a dinner with a Hungarian herbalist; and, probably most fascinating, a meal with a gypsy family where we could ask any questions we wanted to about their lives in Romania. In Bucharest, where the Festival was held, our local guide whom Raluca selected for us, Andrei, shared stories about living under Communism and what is currently going on in his country. We visited Ceaucescu’s palatial home, saw the hidden gems of Bucharest, and ate several gourmet meals, including a seven-course meal designed for the Enescu Festival where each course was explained to us personally by the award-winning chef! The Danube Delta was a fascinating surprise. It is the largest wetland in Europe, and our guesthouse was accessible only by boat. We rode privately along canals both wide and narrow, into small inlets and lakes, observing swans, ducks, pelicans, and loons close up, with no one else in sight. Romania is a gem and deserves much more acclaim. We thank Raluca for making our three-week visit spectacular.” —Susan Duncan

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“We met with two well-known journalists with whom we could discuss politics: a retired colonel who had designed the fences surrounding Jerusalem, and a member of the ultra-Orthodox community who showed us around Mea Shearim…”

“A year ago we booked a small-group tour of Jordan and Lebanon, and I had assumed we would use the travel agency who planned that trip for our own extension to Israel afterward. I worked with that (very reputable) agency for most of the year but could not get them to design the trip I wanted. After months of delays, and sleepless nights because I didn’t feel like they were listening, I said to my husband, ‘I’m going to write to Wendy Perrin.’  And so I did.  The very next day I heard from Jonathan, and he understood exactly what I wanted. Within days we had a wonderful week-long adventure planned. First, we spent two nights in the desert at the Hotel Beresheet, in a gorgeous room overlooking the makhtesh. The next two nights we stayed at the Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem and met with two well-known journalists with whom we could discuss politics: a retired colonel who had designed the fences surrounding Jerusalem (we drove with him as he described the process), and a member of the ultra-Orthodox community who showed us around Mea Shearim. Our last three nights were in Tel Aviv at The Norman Hotel, a wonderful place in a wonderful neighborhood. Jonathan’s restaurant planning was sensational: He provided a curated list of restaurants and made our reservations. He also provided, when I asked, a list of Jordanian restaurants (the other agency had sent me a link to Lonely Planet). This was a lovely trip: intellectually stimulating but at the same time relaxing.” —Salena Kern

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“Trip highlights included meeting one of only two living survivors from the Tuol Sleng prison…and a spontaneous invitation from locals to party with their extended family during the Luang Prabang boat festival…”

“I am a very experienced and highly independent traveler who seeks out diving deep into the local culture, history, nature, politics, and food of a country, with an emphasis on ‘off the beaten track.’ From soup to nuts, our WOW List specialist put together precisely the trip to Laos and Cambodia that I had described that I wanted. The hotels were all excellent (winning the most over-the-top ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ prize was the Nam Kat Yorla Pa resort in Oudomxay). The five local guides and drivers were the ‘secret sauce’ for my experience. They all possessed encyclopedic knowledge of the region (Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap, Pakse, Luang Prabang, and Northern Laos) and were friendly, flexible, and attentive. Trip highlights included meeting one of only two living survivors from the Tuol Sleng prison, seeing the endangered fresh-water Irrawaddy dolphins, and a spontaneous invitation from locals to party with their extended family during the Luang Prabang boat festival. This trip checked all the boxes.” —Pam Farmer

ASK ABOUT A TRIP TO LAOS AND CAMBODIA

 

“She proved the perfect travel expert to craft an itinerary with special attention to my 5-year-old grandson…”

Kenya Maasai Warrior with tourist child

A Kenya Maasai warrior. Photo: Ann Wilkinson

“When I was planning a three-generation family trip of a lifetime to Africa, Wendy recommended I contact Nina. She proved the perfect travel expert to craft an itinerary with special attention to my 5-year-old grandson. Her recommendation of Kenya, with its colorful and fascinating culture in addition to the wealth of wildlife, proved spot-on. She thoughtfully listened to my interests, as well as always keeping in mind the most appropriate activities for the little one, and our conversations led to a superb itinerary that was exciting for each and every family member. As soon as the airplane door opened, we were whisked through customs, setting the stage for a seamless continuum of travel logistics. The camps Nina recommended all went out of their way to entertain my grandson. At one camp, he got to join the Maasai while they performed their ‘adumu’ (jumping) dance. I will forever carry the memory of him jumping with the Maasai beside the campfire, with the African sunset on the horizon. Finally, thank you for a very special WOW Moment. During one game drive we were thrilled to suddenly come upon a beautifully set table in the bush and full staff on hand to provide us with a fabulous bush breakfast. Thanks to Nina, Dan, and you, Wendy, the trip exceeded our dreams. Asante sana!” —Ann Wilkinson

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“…A fantastic job of listening to our preferences to avoid the usual tourist spots and spend time off the beaten path…”

View to Lugano city, Lugano lake and Monte San Salvatore from Monte Bre, Ticino, Switzerland - Image

View to Lugano city, Lugano lake and Monte San Salvatore from Monte Bre, Ticino, Switzerland. Photo: Shutterstock

Nina did a fantastic job of listening to our preferences to avoid the usual tourist spots and spend time off the beaten path. The hotels she suggested were exceptional. The views from our rooms at Villa Orselina and Coeur des Alpes were amazing, and we truly enjoyed the mountain-hut experience at Guarda Val. The guides they picked for us were great, particularly Anna in Ticino, who led us on a magical walk through the Bavona Valley; Nikki in Zermatt, who was a delight and took us on a great hike and gave us ideas for our next two days of hiking; and Albert in Zurich, who suggested a side trip to Rapperswil that was very enjoyable. Nina’s suggestion of a first-class Swiss rail pass was excellent: We used it for boat rides in Ascona, Zurich and Lucerne, a bus ride in Ticino, and side train trips to Bellinzona, Lucerne, and Rapperswil. Well worth it! Restaurant suggestions were all excellent, from dinner in the castle in Bellinzona to dinner on the terrace of Sonnmatten in Zermatt. An exceptional trip.” —Gary Reading

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“Our guide was AMAZING and a delight to our three pre-teen/teenage boys. We learned all about her fascinating family…”

“Two things really set our trip to St. Petersburg apart: First, the guide that Greg picked for us, Eugenia, was AMAZING and a delight to our three pre-teen/teenage boys. We learned all about her fascinating family. Eugenia’s grandfather was the official photographer at the Hermitage, and she knows the museum like her own home. We spent seven magical hours there with her, and I’d gladly spend another seven magical days! She also adjusted our plans on the fly so we could fit in the Fabergé Museum and helped us know what to look for in the ballet Giselle before we went. Second, the itinerary was very thoughtful, given our interests. For example, the Peterhof tour included the grottoes (where we went from massive crowds to serenity in seconds!) and Monplaisir Palace but not the crowded main house. For us, this was perfect. Also, the Museum of Political History was fascinating, given our interests, and we understand that it doesn’t get included on many shorter itineraries. The built-in flexibility in the Hermitage day was also ideal. It was an amazing trip!” —Jonathan Marek

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“Our visits to local farms, a banana plantation, and a cocoa plantation were memorable…”

Allie was well informed about the different liveaboard options and itineraries in the Galapagos. She got us booked on our first-choice ship, the Alya, at a far better rate than the published price! She also understood our desire to experience the real culture of Ecuador and arranged wonderful day trips to the countryside and coastal areas near Guayaquil and the mountain communities near Quito. Our visits to local farms, a banana plantation, and a cocoa plantation were memorable. Every day the food was better than the day before, and our accommodations at historic hotels and haciendas were more than expected—especially at La Casona de la Ronda in Quito’s historic old town. Tricia celebrated her birthday on the day we left the Galapagos and arrived in Quito, and both the ship’s and the hotel’s staffs were informed of this and had small complimentary celebrations for her birthday. Such a nice surprise!” —Stephen & Tricia Lincoln

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“We had an incredible food tour in Saint-Germain-des-Prés and a private cooking class with a chef who taught us how to prepare the most amazing duck recipes…”

Caves Legrande is one of the oldest wine shops in Paris

Caves Legrande is one of the oldest wine shops in Paris. Photo: Caves Legrande

Jennifer had a great feel for the kind of experience of Paris that my husband and I desired. We had an incredible food tour in Saint-Germain-des-Prés and a private cooking class with a chef who taught us how to prepare the most amazing duck recipes per our request. He also took us food shopping prior to the class; visiting all of the little shops in Paris for bread, cheese, wine, and our duck was a treat! In addition, Jennifer was able to secure some very hard-to-get dinner reservations; we were able to dine everywhere on my wish list. Lastly, thank you, Wendy, for an incredible WOW Moment! Jennifer arranged our surprise WOW Moment at the oldest wine shop in Paris. We were guided to a beautiful shop in a charming neighborhood and into a private room for a wine tasting with a sommelier who said he was opening bottles that he had actually never been able to taste himself before, as they were that rare. He was thrilled with our WOW Moment too!” —Tina Sarafa

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“We learned about singing bowls, met with an astrologer, visited temples and stupas and dzongs, watched young monks in school and had a Q&A tea with the principal…”

Iron Chain Bridge of Tamchog Lhakhang Monastery, Paro River, Bhutan

Iron Chain Bridge of Tamchog Lhakhang Monastery, Paro River, Bhutan. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our days in Nepal and Bhutan were filled with very special moments that only someone with Toni’s experience and familiarity could have arranged. We had tea with a Bhutanese expert on Gross National Happiness. We watched monks create a mandala over many hours and then allow us the privilege of immediately destroying it to illustrate impermanence. We raised prayer flags on the hike to Tiger’s Nest and participated in an archery match in a Bhutanese farmhouse. We were personally blessed by the Living Goddess (Patan Kumari) in Nepal, learned about singing bowls, met with an astrologer, visited temples and stupas and dzongs, watched young monks in school and had a Q&A tea with the principal, and flew to Mt. Everest to see the Himalayas up close. And, because Toni founded READ Global, we visited the READ (Rural Education and Development) office managing expansion of library community centers across Nepal and Bhutan. It was a wonderful trip, focused on immersion in both countries’ cultures. We came away educated and fascinated. ” —Donna DeSantis

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“One of the biggest highlights of this trip was helping cook Paan’s family dinner at her house. Her family was nothing short of amazing in welcoming us…”

“My husband and I had the trip of a lifetime that was perfectly planned and executed by Sandy and his team. We visited Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia for two weeks. The planning alone with the number of internal flights, hotel and guides was flawless. Sandy gave us so much planning material on each country before the trip so we were well versed in all three countries. Luang Prabang was nothing short of delightful, and Paan was a fantastic guide and host. The Mekong cruise to her village and to the Buddha caves was stunning. One of the biggest highlights of this trip was helping cook Paan’s family dinner at her house. Her family was nothing short of amazing in welcoming us—the food was delicious and the rice whiskey was fantastic. The dinner really got interesting after that! Paan was so kind and generous and gave us two embroidered small weaves for our anniversary. We really liked Cambodia too. Our great guide through Angkor Wat kept us away from all the tourists, and his knowledge was astonishing. Both my husband and I went to the monastery on the hill before sunrise with the monks and Khana. We had a private blessing from the monks and a breakfast outside the temple as the sun was rising. An unforgettable experience.” —Sandy and Art Collins

ASK ABOUT A TRIP TO THAILAND, LAOS, AND CAMBODIA

 

“My husband is passionate about plants, so Jonathan arranged an excellent private tour for him in the Burren…”

“Our priorities in Ireland were a two-hour hike each day (which meant more countryside than cities) and to be based at each hotel for at least three to four days and make day trips. Jonathan planned a wonderful trip. My husband is passionate about plants, so Jonathan arranged an excellent private tour for him in the Burren. We both loved a private demonstration of sheep herding with border collies. The hotels were top-notch, especially Ballynahinch Castle, in Connemara, and Gregans Castle, in the Burren. But most important for us was Will, our driver-guide, who was very knowledgeable and extremely flexible, so that our itinerary was revised several times as we thought of additional things we wanted to do. We had a fabulous trip to Inisheer, one of the smaller, less touristy Aran Islands. We hiked to our heart’s content, then had lunch on picnic tables in front of a house where a woman was cooking lobsters and crab claws in her kitchen. We visited a donkey sanctuary after I fell in love in with two rescue donkeys that the owner of Gregans Castle had from that sanctuary. And we had edifying conversations with Will about everything under the sun.” —Muki Fairchild

ASK ABOUT A TRIP TO IRELAND

 

“Since my son is a guitar enthusiast, Pablo arranged for a Spanish guitar lesson and also got him into a special Flamenco show…”

Man playing the Spanish guitar - Image

Spanish guitar, Spain. Photo: Shutterstock

“I used Pablo to arrange a celebration trip to Spain—Barcelona, San Sebastian, and Madrid—for my son and his wife for their 2nd wedding anniversary. One of their interests was to try different exclusive restaurants and wineries, and Pablo was able to secure reservations at three Michelin-star restaurants. He arranged tours of boutique-style wineries, including a special wine-tour bike ride in Barcelona. Since my son is a guitar enthusiast, Pablo arranged for a Spanish guitar lesson and also got him into a special Flamenco show. Pablo had the ability to secure unique, private, and culturally enriching activities, allowing my son and daughter-in-law to experience Spanish cuisine and culture in a way that I am sure would not have been possible otherwise.” —Jeffrey Bernfield

ASK ABOUT A TRIP TO SPAIN

 

“Scott obtained tickets for an evening baseball game of the home-town favorite Tokyo Giants vs. the Hanshin Tigers, and also arranged a visit to a Sumo stable…”

sumo wrestlers training in Tokyo Japan

Earthen dohyo training ring for wrestlers at a sumo stable in the Ryogoku district of Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Ben Simmons

Scott arranged every precise detail of our two weeks in Japan; so that we enjoyed a unique trip filled with cultural insights and experiences of day-to-day life. In Tokyo we visited the food market, rode the subways, explored department stores, and went to sporting events. Scott obtained tickets for an evening baseball game of the home-town favorite Tokyo Giants vs. the Hanshin Tigers, and also arranged a visit to a Sumo stable, where we saw the wrestlers up close as they practiced. In Kyoto we met privately with a monk who showed us meditation techniques in a Buddhist Temple, and we toured ceramics studios with a well-known expert in the field. But what made this trip most special was our private English-speaking guide, whom Scott hand-picked for us. She was the most experienced and professional guide we have ever had, and we saw Japan through her lovely, smiling eyes!” —Kathy Drew

ASK ABOUT A TRIP TO JAPAN

 


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View of the pool and sea from the bar deck at the Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve Resort, Portugal

Portugal is Suddenly Hugely Popular. This Is Why.

If it feels like everyone you know is suddenly interested in traveling to Portugal—or has recently been—you’re not imagining it. Tourism in Europe’s westernmost country has been soaring: Portugal was named the World’s Leading Destination at the 2018 World Travel Awards, the number of tourists visiting has continued to increase every year since 2014, and Madonna recently bought a house there. In fact, the country keeps beating its own tourism records, bringing in more people and generating more revenue all the time.

These days, the food and culture scenes are booming, and cities, beach towns, wine country, and idyllic villages are all benefitting from beautiful new hotels and improved tourist access, thanks to TAP Air Portugal’s increase in flights from the U.S. and its free stopover program, which lets travelers spend up to five nights in either Porto or Lisbon, depending on their route.

But of course, it’s not just numbers and logistics that make a travel destination worth the hype. It’s much more. Here are a few reasons why Portugal is suddenly getting so much buzz—and worth the praise.

stacks of Portuguese egg tarts on display at a bakery in Lisbon Portugal
Pastéis de nata (Portuguese egg tarts) are the signature Portuguese dessert, and my favorites come fresh out of the oven every few minutes at Manteigaria's bakery, at the Time Out market in Lisbon. Photo: Billie Cohen
pool at the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort in Portugal
The updated Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort has a pretty pool and a golf course and is just a few minutes from the beach too. Photo: Minor Hotels
The menu at Anantara Vilamoura's Emo restaurant is inspired by the region's wine. Photo: Minor Hotels
wine bottles from several different Portuguese regions
The master class at the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort introduced us to wines from several different Portuguese regions. Photo: Billie Cohen
beach with turquoise water in the Algarve Portugal
The water at the beaches in the Algarve is bright blue. Photo: Billie Cohen
Cabrita Wines is one of many vineyards in the Algarve
And the vineyards, including these at Cabrita Wines, are not far away. Photo: Billie Cohen
Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, the Algarve, Portugal
View from the bar deck at Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, the Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Billie Cohen
The Sky Bar at the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade has a great view over Lisbon
The Sky Bar at the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade has a great view over Lisbon. Photo: Minor Hotels
The lobby of the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Lisbon Portugal
The inside is pretty cool too. Photo: Minor Hotels
blue and white old tile Lisbon Portugal
Everywhere you look in Lisbon, you'll find beautiful tiles, both with a historical feel…
green tile building Lisbon Portugal
…and modern.
Saint Anthony Festival Lisbon Portugal
During June, Lisbon is lit up with festivals for St. Anthony and St. John, and locals grill sardines outside every evening.
The passionfruit dessert at Bairro do Avillez, in Lisbon, is served in a chocolate "coconut."
The passionfruit dessert at Bairro do Avillez, in Lisbon, is served in a chocolate "coconut." Photo: Billie Cohen
brass carver atthe Museum of Decorative Arts in Lisbon, Portugal.
This brass carver was just one of the traditional artisans I got to meet on a tour of the workshops at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Lisbon. Photo: Billie Cohen
tile street art in Lisbon Portugal
Even outside the museums, Lisbon is a city full of beautiful, colorful street art. Photo: Billie Cohen
I was able to paint my own tiles at Lisbon’s Museum of Decorative Arts;
I was able to paint my own tiles at Lisbon’s Museum of Decorative Arts; they were not as pretty as the real ones. Photo: Billie Cohen
horse carriage outside the Tivoli Palacio de Seteais Sintra Portugal hotell
The Tivoli Palacio de Seteais hotel in Sintra used to be a palace, built in 1787 by the former Dutch Consul in Portugal. Photo: Minor Hotels
Tivoli Palacio de Seteais suite, Sintra Portugal
If it looks like a place for royalty, it is: Brad Pitt, David Bowie, Maria Callas, and Agatha Christie have all stayed here. Photo: Minor Hotels
The pool at the Tivoli Palacio de Seteais in Sintra Portugal
The pool at the Tivoli Palacio de Seteais in Sintra looks over the whole valley. Photo: Minor Hotels
seaside cliff village of Azenhas do Mar in Portugal
At seafood restaurant Azenhas do Mar Restaurante Piscinas (it's that rounded bank of windows down on the beach), you can pick your own fish and preferred cooking method Photo: Billie Cohen
The Pena Palace, in Sintra, Portugal,
The bright colors and the myriad tile designs of the Pena Palace, in Sintra, are stunning. Photo: Billie Cohen
view of Porto Portugal and Dom Luís I Bridge
Walk across the top level of Porto's Dom Luís I Bridge to snap this view of the city. I got to visit thanks to a free stopover with TAP Air Portugal on a trip to Rome with my mom. Photo: Billie Cohen
Palácio da Bolsa interior Porto Portugal
My mom and I took a private, after-hours tour of Porto’s most visited attraction, the Palácio da Bolsa. It was empty! Photo: Billie Cohen
business-class seats on TAP Air Portugal
The window business-class seats on TAP Air Portugal are roomy private nooks. Photo: Billie Cohen
The amenities kit is packed in an adorable oversized sardine can designed by a local artist. Photo: Billie Cohen
sardine cookies at Ria restaurant in Anantara Vilamoura Algarve hotel Portugal
Sardines are so popular in Portugal, even the cookies look them (but thankfully, they don't taste like them). Photo: Billie Cohen

 

It’s a good deal.

Portugal is inexpensive compared to a lot of Europe. The currency is the same euro, but your money goes farther—on food, drink, transportation. One simple example: The metro in Lisbon costs €1.45 per ride. In Paris, it’s €1.90. In London, it’s a whopping £4.90 (about € 5.50). In fact, the UK’s 2018 Holiday Money Report put the Algarve at the second-cheapest holiday destination worldwide (after Bulgaria). The annual report compares the cost of eight tourist items in countries around the world, including dinner for two with wine, a range of drinks, sunscreen and insect repellent.

It’s close.

From NYC, Lisbon is 6 hours 45 minutes nonstop. That’s about the same as the flight to London, but you’ll land in a place with much more sunshine and much cheaper everything. It’s also a shorter trip than to Barcelona, Paris, or Italy.

Airfare is low and stopovers are free.

Thanks to the rapid expansion of TAP Air Portugal, there are now many flights from New York, Boston, and Miami—and they are reasonably priced, without the no-frills corner-cutting of a low-cost airline. I’ve flown TAP in both coach and business class, long-haul and short (both on my own dime and on a press trip where TAP covered the flights), and I was pleased with the friendly service and how new and sleek the cabin looked. Even better, TAP offers a free stopover in Lisbon or Porto on its long-haul flights—so if you’re going to Europe, Africa, or even Brazil, you can tack on a one- to five- night stay in either Lisbon or Porto. Of course, Portugal definitely deserves its own trip—there’s enough to see. (One note: Getting through passport and customs control at Lisbon airport can be a slog—on two occasions, it’s taken me more than an hour. Make sure you leave enough time between any connecting flights.)

You can do city, seaside, and riverside village all in one trip.

Like most European countries, Portugal is not big—and that is a good thing. It means you can explore more ground in a short amount of time. And while you could spend weeks in each of Portugal’s different landscapes and not get bored, you can also hit several of them quickly and easily in one vacation. You’ll find turquoise water and soft-sand beaches in the Algarve, a cool green microclimate in Sintra (complete with lush, fanciful botanic gardens Monserrate and Quinta da Regaleira), olive and grape farms in the Alentejo, coastline cliffs in the southwest, and wine everywhere.

New hotels are emerging (and renovating) to meet the increased demand.

Over the past two years, more than 60 hotels have opened or been renovated, many in Lisbon and Porto, including new arrivals from Minor Hotels, a successful Asia-based brand that, tellingly, chose Portugal for its first European location. Its M.O. here has been to take over longstanding, beloved properties and update them to meet today’s culinary, design, and service standards

A few of its standouts include the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Lisboa, which recently emerged from a stylish refresh: Its public spaces and guest rooms have a cool Art Deco sheen, its new seafood restaurant is fashionable but unstuffy, and the rooftop Sky Bar is worth a visit even if you don’t stay at the hotel. Its view of the city is gorgeous, the people-watching is fantastic, the walls and the waitresses wear striking designs by local artists, and the drinks are creative (including several mocktails).

Sintra’s Tivoli Palacio de Seteais is at the other end of the design spectrum: an 18th-century palace estate with a regal feel—think wallpapered banquet rooms, beautiful antiques, and a hedge maze. Guests can wander the formal garden, linger over a meal on the terrace, or sip lemonade (made from the hotel’s own lemon trees) while gazing at long, green views of the Sintra mountains. To complete the royal treatment, they’ll even arrange a horse-and-carriage ride to some of the area’s gardens.

In the south, the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort is a newly revived base for seaside escapes: sunbathe by the palm-tree-lined pool, head to the area’s nearby beaches, go out for the night by the bustling Vilamoura marina, explore the region’s nature reserves and farmers’ markets, dine on fresh seafood at notable onsite restaurants Emo and Ria, and of course drink plenty of wine.

The food and restaurants are top-notch.

It is easy to eat well in Portugal: seafood, cheese, vegetables, fruit—you can sample local, fresh varieties everywhere. The warm bread and local olive oil served with most meals are worth the trip alone, as are the famous Portuguese egg tarts, pastéis de nata.

For a quick and informal sampling of some of Lisbon’s hottest eateries, go hungry to the Time Out Market; the outpost of Manteigaria bakery here churns out some of the best egg tarts in the country (I think they’re better than the more well-known ones made by monks out in Belem, for which tourists line up for hours). Of course before you have dessert, you should eat all your supper, and there are delicious options no matter where you travel. Select your own fresh-from-the-ocean fish at Azenhas do Mar Restaurante Piscinas, which is right on a dramatic beach near Sintra. In Lisbon, don’t miss the lively, indoor-piazza setting of Bairro do Avillez, one of Michelin-starred chef José Avillez’s restaurants (save room for the “passion fruit” dessert with coconut sorbet—it has a fun, creative presentation). No matter where you go, you will be able to try some form of the national dish, sardines; but for the classic preparation, visit Lisbon in June during the Feast of St. Anthony, when locals gather on the streets every night to grill sardines and enjoy festivals and concerts across the city.

As for drinks, the Portuguese are the world’s biggest consumers of wine, so you can trust that they know what they’re doing when it comes to indigenous wines and ports. Learn all about the country’s varied terroir at the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort’s master class, taught by onsite guru António Lopes, who was named Portugal’s best sommelier in 2014. Then follow your tasting with a meal at the hotel’s wine-centric restaurant, Emo, where Lopes and the chef collaborated on the food and wine menus to ensure an ideal match.

Beyond the walls of restaurants and bars, there are plenty of other ways for food lovers to immerse themselves in the country’s culinary culture: For example, Virginia Irurita can hook you up with a fisherman in the Algarve. The region is famous for oysters and clams, and you’ll spend the day learning how to gather mollusks—and tasting them, of course.

History and creativity are on display everywhere you look.

Buildings and train stations (especially in Lisbon and Porto) are famously clad in colorful tile called azulejo, which recall the city’s time under Moorish rule in the Middle Ages. You can learn all about the tiles at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, or even paint your own at Lisbon’s Museum of Decorative Arts.  More modern artistic endeavors adorn city streets too, in the form of gorgeous murals (painted and mosaic) and stunning architecture (both modern like Santiago Calatrava’s Oriente train station in Lisbon, and historic like Sintra’s Pena Palace). There are plenty of official cultural institutions as well, offering something to match every interest, whether it’s history, arts, music, performance, sports or culinary. The right trip designer can get you behind-the-scenes or after-hours access to some of these places, so be sure to ask. For instance, you can get a private guided tour of the workshops at the Foundation Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva; I met several of the bookbinding, furniture-making, and brass-carving artisans who are keeping Portugal’s craft traditions alive (it was one of the highlights of my 2017 travels). And Gonçalo Correia arranged an after-hours private visit to Porto’s most visited attraction, the Palácio da Bolsa.

Disclosure: Minor Hotels and TAP Air Portugal provided me with a complimentary five-day trip. In keeping with WendyPerrin.com standard practice, there was no request for or expectation of coverage on either sponsor’s part, nor was anything promised on mine. You can read the signed agreement here. If you go: Ask Wendy to put you in touch with just the right travel planner for the trip you have in mind.

 

 

Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Cuisine at Nur Restaurant, Fez, Morocco. Photo: Nur Restaurant

WOW Moment: A Special Dinner With One of Morocco’s Finest Chefs

Andrea and Ron Klausner's WOW Moment was a special private dinner at Nur, a buzzy new restaurant in the Fez Medina that amazed Wendy when she dined here last year.
Chef Najat Kaanache of Nur Restaurant, Fez, Morocco
Nur is the creation of chef Najat Kaanache, a Moroccan who grew up in Spain’s Basque Country.
The dining room at Nur Restaurant, Fez, Morocco
The restaurant is tiny and fills up fast; reservations are a must. The Klausners’ complimentary dinner would include a private dining room, wine pairings, a personal greeting from the chef, and a professional photographer to capture the moment.
Chef Najat Kaanache prepares dinner at Nur, her restaurant in the Fez Medina, Morocco
Using the haute-cuisine techniques she learned at some of the world’s top restaurants, including Spain’s El Bulli, Najat creates a ten-course tasting menu that is based on fresh ingredients and changes daily.
Cuisine at Nur Restaurant, Fez, Morocco. Photo: Nur Restaurant
Some of Chef Najat's many inventions…
Cuisine at Nur Restaurant, Fez, Morocco. Photo: Nur Restaurant
Cuisine at Nur Restaurant, Fez, Morocco. Photo: Nur Restaurant
Cuisine at Nur Restaurant, Fez, Morocco. Photo: Nur Restaurant
Cuisine at Nur Restaurant, Fez, Morocco. Photo: Nur Restaurant
"Chef Najat came out before dessert and introduced herself. She and her partner made us feel 100 percent at home. After the meal, we sat around with the two of them for an hour and just talked. We talked food, we talked Morocco, we talked travel, we talked restaurants. We talked about family and children. We talked about where she had worked, where she had learned her skills."
Cuisine at Nur Restaurant, Fez, Morocco. Photo: Nur Restaurant
Desserts…
Cuisine at Nur Restaurant, Fez, Morocco. Photo: Nur Restaurant
Cuisine at Nur Restaurant, Fez, Morocco. Photo: Nur Restaurant
This one is called Choco Planet.
The Klausner family enjoying their dinner.

 

Ron Klausner and his wife, Andrea, are frequent travelers who like to experience a culture in depth; often their trips include their adult children. On December 23, 2018, the family gathered in Morocco for a ten-day vacation. As repeat users of Wendy’s trip-planning system, the Klausners had qualified for what we call a WOW Moment: a complimentary insider experience, custom-designed for them by Wendy in collaboration with a Trusted Travel Expert.

WOW Moments are meant to be a surprise. When the Klausners arrived in Morocco—where they were met by a driver and a local guide—they knew only that they would get to experience a WOW Moment at some point during their trip.

What lay in store for them was a private room at Nur, a buzzy new restaurant in the Fez Medina that Wendy was amazed by when she dined there with her own family on a recent trip. Nur is the creation of chef Najat Kaanache, a Moroccan who grew up in Spain’s Basque Country. Using the haute-cuisine techniques she learned at some of the world’s top restaurants, including Spain’s El Bulli, Najat creates a ten-course tasting menu that is based on fresh ingredients and changes daily. Nur is tiny and fills up fast; reservations are a must. The Klausners’ complimentary dinner would include wine pairings, a personal greeting from the chef, and a professional photographer to capture the moment. This WOW Moment, like the rest of the Klausners’ trip, was arranged by Michael Diamond, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for Morocco. As always, we were eager to hear how it had turned out, so after the family’s return to the U.S., we called Ron Klausner to find out.

Q: We want to hear all about your trip, but let’s start with the WOW Moment. Were you surprised?

A: It was a complete surprise. It came at the beginning of our trip, on day two or three. We walked to this restaurant, and of course, in Fez you can never tell what anything looks like from the outside, because everything looks like it did in the eighth or ninth century. We walked inside, and there was this beautiful restaurant. It was small—eight, nine tables—and the art was incredible. The seven of us were seated in a very private area, where we proceeded to have the most amazing meal using Moroccan ingredients but in a totally different way. There were Moroccan spices but combined differently, with different presentations. We had a ten-course meal with different wines. I don’t eat at every super-duper restaurant in the world, but this was certainly one of the top ten meals of my life.

Chef Najat came out before dessert and introduced herself. She and her partner [Charles Accivatti, Najat’s husband and business partner] made us feel 100 percent at home. After the meal, we sat around with the two of them for an hour and just talked. We talked food, we talked Morocco, we talked travel, we talked restaurants. We talked about family and children. We talked about where she had worked, where she had learned her skills. She’s very picky about every ingredient; the meal changes every night based upon what comes from the market.

The only bad thing was that we had to get going early in the morning, so I had to cut it short. It was midnight when we left. We had arrived for dinner at eight, and they were willing to keep talking, but I had to break it up because we had to get up early in the morning.

I’m amazed that in this little town, which is not very well touristed, there is this amazing chef. I would come to Fez just to eat at that restaurant. We traveled for another three weeks through Morocco, Kenya, and the UAE, and no other meal came close to that one. And I never once had to reach for my wallet, although we did leave some gratuities for the staff.

Q: You qualified for a WOW Moment because you’ve used Wendy’s trip-planning system multiple times. Why do you use WOW List destination specialists to plan your trips?

A: We’ve used Wendy’s people seven or eight times. Why do we use them? That I can answer very well. We go to places usually for a long time and in depth, so we want to benefit from a specialist’s in-depth knowledge.  Last year we went to Myanmar for six weeks. I mean, who can plan that unless they’ve really been there and know it? The year before, we went to Chile and Argentina for eight weeks. I want to work with somebody who knows the area, who responds immediately, and who translates my wishes into reality. Somebody who gets me access to local events. For example, we went to Uzbekistan, and the Trusted Travel Expert asked, “What would you like to do?” I said, “I’d like to have dinner at your mother’s house.” Believe it or not, we had a feast at her mother’s house in Samarkand. Not only for us—twenty other relatives came. She taught my son how to make a rice pilaf over the open fire for two hours. We then shared a family meal, danced together in the dining room—I’m speechless about it. I had a problem with one of the local guides in Myanmar, just a personality clash. I called up and within an hour I had a new guide. The communication, the oversight when we’re there, the knowledge… To get deep into a country, as I like to do, Wendy’s people are able to put it together.

Q: What are some of your travel criteria? What, in your opinion, makes a trip special?

A: About half our trips are with our children, and the other half are just my wife and me. It’s very important to us to take the children; we’ve traveled the world with them. We want them to see and experience other cultures—to realize that America is not the center of the universe, to be able to interact with other people, to learn from them, to enrich their lives, not to be afraid of strangers.

The trip to Morocco was one of our best trips together. We like to go away as a family over Christmastime, and often there are struggles over what different people want to do. Our children are millennials in their late twenties and early thirties, and when I asked everybody at the end of the trip to name their top three activities, they all came up with different top threes. Some of them were things I hadn’t expected them to appreciate as much as they did.

Q: Like what?

A: Sleeping in a tent in the Sahara even though it was 35 degrees. A day’s shopping with a local designer who brought us to the best shops, where we were able to buy at his special prices. I hate shopping, but I enjoyed that day, surprisingly enough. It was easy with a driver, and we had an amazing guide. He was the Trusted Travel Expert’s person on the ground. He buys rugs for ABC Carpets, so he has already negotiated a price with them. If we saw a carpet we liked, we didn’t have to worry about whether we were overpaying—we just bought it. So we bought carpets and leather and clothing, and then he shipped it back for us, which was fantastic. Everyone enjoyed that.

Q: What were some other highlights of the Morocco trip?

A: A cooking class outside Marrakech was high on the list—we all liked that. We like to do local things. We like to stay in more authentic local places, and the local riads gave us a taste of Morocco. At the Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou in Ouarzazate, a woman who has lived there for 80 years took us around her home in this ancient town. Jardin Majorelle, in Marrakech, was also surprisingly well received; I’m not big on museums but some people enjoyed that tremendously. The sunset walk at Volubilis was very cool, with incredible photo opportunities, and the timing was perfect, just to get out of the car on our way to Fez and walk around the Roman ruins for a quick half hour. A hike and a picnic lunch in the mountains outside Marrakech was another highlight.

Q: Is there anything that you would have done differently?

A: No, for the amount of time we had, I think it was perfect. We got everybody busy, everybody moving at a good pace. We didn’t do too much, so nobody got cranky, and we didn’t do too little, so they didn’t get bored. We like experiencing a country and drinking it in, but we also enjoy just being together as a family.

 

Wendy Wants To Amp Up Your Trip!

On every third qualifying trip, Wendy will add to your itinerary a surprise WOW Moment. A WOW Moment is an exclusive insider experience that helps make a trip extraordinary. Each WOW Moment is totally different. They vary depending on a huge range of factors, including the country you’re headed to, the timing of your trip, logistics, availability, and more. You can read a sampling of the more over-the-top WOW Moments (those most conducive to editorial coverage) here. Learn which trips qualify, and how the process works, here: Wendy Wants To Amp Up Your Trip!

Flower Market at the end of the Mumbai by Dawn tour

How to Stay Healthy While Traveling in India

When you tell someone you’re going to India, it’s a good bet their first response will be something like “Don’t drink the water!” or “Get ready for Delhi belly.” And that’s unfortunate, because travelers should focus their energies on the more enjoyable problems that a trip to India poses—such as which parts of the huge country to visit, how to bypass lines at its many famous temples and palaces, where to sample its myriad different cuisines and dishes, and how to cram as many activities and experiences into one vacation. Still, concern about health and food safety continues to loom large for tourists heading to India.

“It’s one of the questions people are worried about: getting sick and how to avoid it,” says Victoria Dyer, an India travel specialist on Wendy’s WOW List. “Some people, and typically those who already have a food intolerance or are sensitive to a change of diet, will ask for advice about ‘Delhi belly’ and how to eat their way healthily round India.” Victoria and her husband, Bertie, lived in Jaipur for eight years and have been in love with the country for many more.  Luckily, things have changed in recent years, she says. “Ten years ago it was almost a given that travelers would get sick. But now hygiene has really improved, and it’s pretty unusual that we have an issue with anyone becoming ill.”

She attributes the improvement to India’s tourism boom. “There are luxury five-star hotels that realize that food safety has to be a priority,” Victoria says. “In the past few years there’s been a real drive to maintain standards to a much higher level.” She adds that these days, “Indian food is something that people are really excited about; we have some phenomenal restaurants here that are gaining an international reputation.” To help guide travelers to restaurants of the highest culinary and sanitary standards, she provides recommendations to her and her husband’s favorite eateries around the country. “We recommend places we know personally, that we’ve been to, that we’ve eaten at ourselves, and places that provide different levels of experience,” she says. “People might want to go where there’s a celebrated chef and others might want to have a much more local experience.”

Sanjay Saxena, another of Wendy’s WOW List travel specialists for India, agrees that things are changing in India. “Food quality in the last decade has improved tremendously,” he says. “Loads of restaurants now provide purified water through a central system to their kitchens.” Oberoi and Taj properties have this kind of system, he says. Smaller private hotels often do not, though, so he warns travelers to avoid cold salads, especially the cucumbers, tomatoes and raita that are frequently provided on buffets. These are most likely rinsed in tap water (or, in the case of raita, contain raw vegetables that were rinsed in tap water) and could leave you in distress. However, he added, “Indian food is generally ‘well done’ boiled/simmered for minutes if not hours, killing all bacteria, and so always safe to eat. But if food is kept sitting then it can be an issue.”

Of course, it never hurts to err on the side of caution. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of tips and strategies to lower your chance of getting sick. And since feeling good is not only about your belly but about your entire body (the sights, sounds, smells, climate, and pace of India can be overwhelming), we’ve included some mental-health suggestions as well. Knowing these things will help keep you at 100 percent.

For physical health

fruit market in Udaipur India

Only eat fresh fruit you wash, cut and peel yourself. And wash it with bottled water. Photo: Billie Cohen

•Bring more hand sanitizer than you think you’ll need—and use it.
Have a small bottle on you at all times, so you can easily clean your hands before you eat or drink, and after the bathroom. Wipes are also useful for cleaning the dust off any bottles of water or packages of snacks you might buy from street vendors.

•Buy bottled water and listen for the “crack.”
Indians are master recyclers and reuse everything. As you travel around, you’ll see locals pouring water into their mouths without letting the bottles touch their lips; this is because they reuse and share bottles. Visitors, of course, should buy sealed bottled water only; drinking anything from the tap could result in sickness. If you don’t hear the plastic safety ring crack open when you twist the bottle—or if you don’t hear the soda fizz when you open it—get a new one. In the pre-trip notes he writes to his travelers, Sanjay goes even further, “Drink only bottled water, sodas, beer, coffee, or tea,” he writes. And “In hotel rooms you may be provided with a pitcher or thermos of water, never drink this before sterilizing the water!”

•Use this fail-safe tooth-brushing strategy.
Tooth brushing is such an ingrained habit that it’s easy to make a mistake and revert to muscle memory—you could find yourself scooping water to your mouth or running your brush under the tap before you even realize you’re doing it. The fail-safe solution I use is to always hold my toothbrush in one hand, and my bottle of water in the other—I don’t put either down until I’m through the entire process. I do this because if both hands are full, I can’t unthinkingly turn on the tap. (And if it wasn’t clear: Don’t brush your teeth, or even open your mouth, in the shower.)

•Avoid cut or peeled fresh fruit.
If it’s been cut open and rinsed in local water, that’s the same as drinking local water. Closed fruit, such as oranges and bananas, are usually okay (but use your own judgment). Wipe them down and wash them with bottle water, and sanitize your hands before peeling them. (Usually the cut and peeled fresh fruit served in five-star hotels is A-OK.)

•Say no to ice.
Many high-end hotels and restaurants are now using filtered water for ice (and some other places say they are but aren’t), but if you’re not sure, go without. In a lot of cases, your drinks will still be cold. In fact, when you order a soda or a beer in India, the waitstaff will usually bring the closed bottle to your table so that you can approve of its temperature before they crack it open in front of you.

•Carry plastic straws.
Pack some plastic straws (even better if they’re individually wrapped), and carry a few with you every day. This may not be the most eco-friendly tip, but straws are very useful to have if you’re drinking from a can or a bottle that might have been sitting in unfiltered ice—this way, you don’t have to touch your lips to them.

•Bring tissue packs and anti-bacterial wipes.
Buy a bunch of small tissue packs and wet wipes and always have some in your day bag (bandanas are invaluable too). They come in handy as toilet paper, brow moppers, dust masks, and napkins. You’ll also want to wipe down bottles and snacks that you buy from street vendors. There’s no point in sanitizing your hands if the bag of chips you’re about to rip open is covered in grime.

•Wipe down your gadgets at the end of each day.
Even if you’re sanitizing your hands before every meal and after every bathroom run, they’re still going to be filthy by the end of the day. Once you remember that you’ve been grabbing your camera and phone in and out of your bag all day long with those hands, you’ll know why it’s a good idea to run a sanitizer wipe over them (be careful of screens).

biryani and curry and naan in India

The food in India is delicious—and exciting because the cuisine varies from region to region. Start out slow (and possibly vegetarian) to acclimate to the hotter spices and new flavors. Photo: Colleen Brennan

•Don’t be embarrassed to ask for mildly spiced food.
Indian food prepared in India is spicier than you’re used to—even if you like spicy cuisine. When you order, ask for no (or little) spice. You can increase the heat as you acclimate.

•Be careful what you order where.
Don’t order seafood if you’re miles away from the sea, since refrigeration might not be great. And keep in mind that, even if everything is clean and cooked properly, your stomach needs to adjust to the new foods and flavors. For example, paneer (an Indian cheese) can be harder on your digestive system than cheeses at home, and it might not be fresh or high quality in every restaurant. Meats might not agree with you even though you eat meat back in the States, so consider a vegetarian diet (very easy to do here) as you ease into the new spices and flavors. Above all, trust your instincts, and listen to your body. “If you feel a bit nauseous, starve yourself for 24 hours,” says Victoria. “Just rice or yogurt and drink loads of water and allow yourself to get better. A lot of people are excited about the food so they can’t resist it,” she adds with a laugh.

pancake street vendor in Pushkar India

Street food can be tempting in India, but it can also be hard on your stomach. Play it safe and avoid it. Photo: Billie Cohen

•Steer clear of street food.
You’ve heard this one before, but it bears repeating. You will see a lot of street food, fresh fruit, and snacks as you travel in India. Some of it may be offered to you by friendly vendors or even by local friends, and you might feel awkward declining. But it’s better to feel awkward than to feel sick. As Sanjay tells his travelers before their trips, “No matter how appealing the smell and look, DO NOT eat food from street vendors, especially food that has been sitting.”

•When in doubt, drink a Coke.
They say Coca-Cola can strip rust off of metal. If that’s true, then it can definitely kill any bugs you might accidentally ingest. Yes, this one is more of an old wives’ tale, but I swear by it. I’ve chased many a questionable meal (and an unfortunate tooth-brushing mistake) with a can of Coke, and didn’t get sick. Who knows if it was the Coke that saved me, but I was pleasantly surprised (and validated) when my guide in Pushkar said that he recommends the same cure-all to his guests.

•You can become dehydrated before you even realize it, so drink regularly.
The rule is: If you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Carry water on you all the time, and avoid too much caffeine. You can easily purchase electrolyte powder at drug stores here, which tastes like a salty-sweet fruit drink. Pour one packet in a liter of water to help prevent or cure dehydration.

•Respect the sun.
The sun is incredibly hot and intense here, even in winter. Bring a wide-brimmed hat and sunblock, and wear both every day. I attach my hat to my bag with an alligator clip (or sometimes wear a hat with a string) so I can take it on and off easily when I walk in the shade. I may not look stylish, but I’m also not sunburned, so I consider that a win.

•Bring closed-toe shoes.
Streets are dirty in India. Sometimes it’s the gritty dust or desert sand of normal life in a dry climate, but sometimes it’s grime, garbage, and mysterious puddles. So make sure you have at least one pair of closed shoes with you.

Jama Masjid in Delhi

Many temples and holy monuments, such as the Jama Masjid in Delhi, require you to take off your shoes. Carry socks to protect your feet from hot stones and dirty floors. Photo: Billie Cohen

•Carry a pair of socks in your day bag if you’re not already wearing them.
You’ll be removing your shoes quite a bit as you visit temples and holy ghats (riverside staircases used for bathing), but some sites allow you to keep your socks on. Ask even if it’s not indicated on the signage. You’ll want your feet covered in some places because of dirt and/or hot stones. If you do take off your shoes and socks, this is another instance when sanitary wipes are useful. You can wipe off your feet before putting your socks and shoes back on.

•Take your malaria pills with a big meal somewhat early in the day
Consult your travel doctor about what medications to take in India, but you will likely need to be on malaria pills—and you’ll want to take them every day with food. Breakfast was the easiest time for me, since that was usually a big meal. When Wendy was in Africa, her family didn’t eat much breakfast and chose to take their malaria pills at lunch instead of at dinner. That’s because if they forgot at lunchtime, they could take them at dinnertime with little negative repercussion, whereas if they forgot at dinnertime, that would result in skipping a day, which could have great negative repercussion.

•Take advantage of expert knowledge.
Planning a rewarding and comfortable trip through India requires a deep understanding of the country, its culture, its complexity, and its changing tourism infrastructure. You definitely want to have someone you trust working on organizing the right accommodations and experiences for you. For example, the annual Pushkar Camel Fair is a fascinating whirlwind of sights, sounds, crowds, and sand—but it is also challenging and overwhelming to navigate. When I traveled there, Sanjay knew exactly which hotel would not only be the most sanitary and the safest, but would also provide a much-needed respite from the sensory overload of the fairground.

•If you decide you want Western food, go to a place that serves a lot of Western expats.
Even if you love Indian food, at some point you will probably want a break from curry, rice, and decadent buttered naan. When that time comes, choose a restaurant with a good track record of preparing food to Western standards (look for the expats). The food will be safer and more delicious.

For mental health

Cafe Palladio Udaipur India

Travel specialists can guide you to delicious, safe, and beautiful restaurants all over India, like Victoria’s recommendation of Bar Palladio in Jaipur. Photo: Billie Cohen

•Flip your thinking about the noise: Recognize that horns are there to make you safe.
You will hear a lot of honking in India, and it will be loud. Tuk tuks, rickshaws, cars, beautifully decorated trucks, scooters, pedestrians, cows—they all jockey for space on the same narrow roads, and the only rule about driving seems to be that there are no rules. At first you may find that the constant honking puts you on edge, but for me that stress dissipated when I realized that in India, the horn is not an instrument of road rage—it’s actually a way to be considerate of others. It’s the way drivers tell each other, “Hey, I’m coming up behind you, and I want to make sure you see me.” Tweaking your perspective on that is likely to help you tolerate it better.

•Don’t give money to beggars, no matter their age and adorableness.
Beggars of all ages will approach you in various places in India. In Jaipur they knocked on our car windows; in Pushkar, smiling playful kids trailed us around the fairground chanting, “Money, money!” The poverty is upsetting, but as India experts will tell you, handing over your money is not the answer. As hard as it may be on your heart, the best thing to do is to ignore them or firmly say “nay” and keep walking. They won’t try to open the door, they won’t become aggressive, and they will eventually walk away. This is one of many reasons why you want to hire the best local guides possible. I was very aware of how much mine were looking out for me in these times, and I always felt that I was safe. They will usually clear the way with a friendly word before it even becomes a problem.

•Ignore touts completely.
Touts will follow you in their attempt to convince you to buy things at monuments and in the streets. You do not need to say no, or no thank you, or anything at all—in fact, I learned from a guide that if you say “no” they are likely to interpret that as an invitation to haggle. So just keep walking, and they will fall away. Again, guides will have your back and will shoo them away if necessary. To be honest, though, I never felt threatened at any time. People here are persistent but not aggressive, and they smile a lot. So when I did have interactions, they often ended with mutual grins and laughter.

men buying a camel at the Pushkar Camel Fair India

Our guide for the Pushkar Camel Fair knew to bring us back to the fairground late in the day so that we could avoid the hottest sun and also catch camel trades in action. Photo: Billie Cohen

•Leave room in your itinerary to take time off between noon and 3 p.m..
Give yourself a break to recharge during the hottest part of the day, when you’d be uncomfortable outside anyway (especially at monuments where there’s little shade) and inside stuffy museums (which usually have no air-conditioning). Instead, give yourself permission to take a break: Try a long leisurely lunch or relax at your hotel. Then head back out close to sunset, when the weather will be cooler, the light will be more beautiful for photos, and you will be refreshed and ready to enjoy the evening. Smart guides know this and will make sure your activities take place at the optimal times. For example, Kapil, the guide Sanjay assigned me for the desert-based Pushkar Camel Fair, knew to take us out to the fairgrounds in the early mornings and early evenings, with a long cooling midday break—not only because we’d be more comfortable, but because that’s when we’d have the best chance of seeing camel and horse trades take place, an integral and very interesting part of the fair. In the bustling city of Jaipur, timing was just as important. Virendra, our guide for Victoria’s VIP shopping tour through Jaipur, timed our afternoon perfectly so that we ended right at sunset in a quaint, boutique-filled palace, where we could browse a bit more and then unwind with cocktails and dinner al fresco.

•Look for the women.
Personal safety is another question that travelers often ask Sanjay and Victoria about before they get to India. Can we walk around at night? Should we avoid certain places if we’re alone? You’re not any more or less safe in India than in Western cities; crime happens everywhere, and if you follow the usual common-sense rules (lock your purse, make sure someone always knows where you are, don’t accept open drinks from strangers, etc.) you’ll be fine. But there is one especially helpful tip I learned from a guide: Look for the women, he said. If you’re out at night and there are still Indian women buzzing about, that’s a clue that you’re in a good neighborhood at a good time of night.

•Pack a loofah, body puff, or fast-drying washcloth.
This may not seem like it would have such a big impact on how you feel but, trust me, it will. India is dusty and hot. And did I mention it’s dusty and hot? On top of the grime and sweat you’ll build up just from touring around, you’re going to be coated in sunblock and bug spray by the end of each day. A scrub, especially for your tired and dirty feet, will feel like a luxury, and it takes up virtually no space in your luggage.

Women in Jodhpur market India

If it’s night time and women are still out shopping and strolling, it’s usually still appropriate to be out shopping and strolling yourself. Photo: Billie Cohen

If you do get sick

If you do get sick, there is plenty of help available. “Healthcare too has greatly improved (not just quality, but more importantly access) in the [past] two decades,” says Sanjay, “and now travelers can find a qualified doctor quite easily across India.” Victoria likes to remind travelers that “calling a doctor in India is not the same as in America. It’s not as expensive and your hotel will be able to get you help easily. A stomach bug is usually cleared up very quickly.” So don’t try to be a hero and suffer through it, she says. Call your travel specialist or your local point person and they will quickly deliver a solution. Be sure to have proper travel insurance too; here’s what you need to know about buying it.

 

Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’s reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Valle Bavona stone village Ticino Switzerland

Switzerland Is More Than Chocolate, Cheese, and Mountains

Switzerland is an increasingly popular destination for our readers—so much so that I’m spending a few weeks traveling the country to get to know it better and to test different Switzerland travel specialists for potential inclusion on The WOW List in the future. Each Switzerland specialist has different strengths and offers different insider experiences, so if you’re looking for a WOW trip to Switzerland, click over to Ask Wendy to get her recommendation for the right trip designer for your needs. In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here are key things you need to see, taste, and know about traveling in Switzerland—beyond the usual and expected draws (though those are pretty good too).

Follow more of my trip on Instagram @billietravels and at billietravels.com.

Don’t call them macarons.

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Zurich confectionary Sprüngli has its own branded version of the colorful almond-flour sandwich cookies. They’re called Luxemburgerli, and they are a little smaller and lighter than classic macarons. Sample the always-available flavors including raspberry, hazelnut, champagne, caramel, and chocolate, but don’t miss the seasonal Luxemburgerli. May’s specials were mango and strawberry-rhubarb.

Wear thick-soled shoes even if you don’t plan on hiking.

Old Town Piazza Grande Locarno Ticino Switzerland

The old town areas of Swiss cities, like this one in Locarno, are charming—but the uneven stone surfaces can be tough on your feet. Photo: Billie Cohen

You might think you only need solid footwear if you’re going to be trekking in the mountains, but the cobblestone streets of an old town (and every Swiss city has one) will quickly lead to tired, painful feet if you’re wearing thin sneakers or sandals.

The hype is true: The trains are spectacular.

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The famed panoramic Glacier Express and Bernina Express live up to their reputation as gorgeous scenic experiences but, honestly, a lot of the regular train rides throughout the country offer equally stunning views. Switzerland Tourism sells a few varieties of train passes to make system-wide travel easier and more economical (you can purchase consecutive-day or flex passes for 3, 4, 8, or 15 days). Since I’m here for about a month, I chose the half-fare travel card; it gave me discounted tickets on long-distance, panoramic trains and local transportation, including buses, trams, and many scenic cable cars and even some local taxi services. I also tested an eight-consecutive-day, first-class Swiss Travel pass, courtesy of Switzerland Tourism, to see what that kind of freedom feels like and to experience first class. The Travel Pass covers all of the above, plus gives you free admission to more than 500 museums and attractions. There is plenty of info on myswitzerland.com to find the right one for your trip.

Second class is really nice.

comparison of first and second class seats on Glacier Express train in Switzerland

On the Glacier Express, first-class seats (the red) are a bit roomier than the blue second-class section, and there are fewer seats in each car. But second class is still quite comfortable, even on regular trains. Photo: Billie Cohen

When traveling on trains or buying your Travel Pass, you’ll have a choice between first and second class. As you’d expect, first class is more spacious, the seats are bigger, the tables are bigger, and there are fewer people in each car, but second class is really nice too. This is no coach vs. business class dichotomy here—second class is very comfortable and the seats are roomy. In many cars, if I was sitting in a foursome (two seats facing another two seats with a little table between), I had enough room to keep my roller bag at my feet without crowding the person opposite me. I also found outlets in several second-class cars during my travels. Where I really appreciated first class was on my seven-hour Glacier Express trip. Since I was on that train for so long, it felt luxurious to have room to stretch out, a big table so I could spread out my maps and my laptop, and a less-crowded car.

But trains are not the most scenic way to travel.


That is not to say Switzerland’s trains are not spectacular. They absolutely are. I’ve criss-crossed the country on long-distance routes, inter-city expresses, regional connections, the famed panoramic Glacier Express, and even a 125-year-old cog railway that chugged to the summit of Monte Generoso at 1,704 meters. And I loved every second of every ride. Whether you travel first or second class, trains are comfortable, roomy, clean, and even the most basic local carriages have big windows. So I am not saying you should skip train travel. If you don’t travel by train in Switzerland, you are missing out. But I really shocked myself to find that after a month in this country, my personal favorite way to see it is by bus. Granted, it is slower, but that’s why I prefer it. Buses can also go where trains can’t. (Renting a car and driving introduces complications such as navigating scary roads, not being able to gawk at the scenery and drive at the same time, and not being able to have a local beer or glass of wine with your meal.) I rode the most amazing route in the Ticino region to see the famed Church of San Giovanni Battista in Mogno, by Swiss architect Mario Botta. We started out winding through charming tiny villages (where our driver knew everyone who waved to him from the streets because he’s been driving this route for 28 years) and then graduated to a series of steep hairpin turns that led up a mountain with sheer cliffs on one side and eye-popping views of the valley. I also really enjoyed the fact that we drove through many towns and villages. Yes, this meant a slower ride with more stops, but it also meant I had the chance to see where people lived and get a better sense of how the various villages are connected.

Long-distance routes like this one are run by the PostBus company, which, as its name implies, got its start as a service for delivering mail. It’s still part of the Swiss postal system, but it’s grown into a far-reaching, easy-to-use, and affordable public transportation network that’s also covered by the Swiss Travel Passes. You’ll recognize it by its bright yellow buses. The app even offers downloadable audio guides that point out sights and history along some of the routes.

Don’t miss the toilets on the trains.

funny design wallpaper in a bathroom on a Swiss train

The bathrooms on Swiss trains are much cleaner and more whimsical than you’d expect. Most of them have some kind of funny wallpaper to make you feel like you’re anywhere but in a train toilet. Photo: Billie Cohen

For one thing, this is practical advice, since bathrooms at train stations often cost a franc, while the toilets on the trains themselves are free. For another, the train toilets (look for the WC sign) are not only clean, they’re adorable. Yeah, I know, that’s not a word anyone would normally use to describe a bathroom, but just look at this picture! Most of the WCs on inter-city routes have whimsical wallpaper that’ll make you feel like you’re somewhere else: a homey powder room, in an under-the-sea submarine looking out a fake porthole, in an airplane flying through the clouds— and I never saw the same design twice. When the bathrooms are this nice, you know trains are a valued, respected, and well-maintained mode of transportation.

Don’t be a hero; take your Dramamine.

Hairpin turn on road in Ticino Switzerland

One unfortunate consequence of all those beautiful Swiss mountains: very, very, very sharp turns to get up them. Photo: Billie Cohen

The roads in the mountains can be very sinuous—ideal for causing discomfort to those of us who suffer from motion sickness. Even some of the trains rock side to side and may take some windy routes. And then there’s the buses, which can navigate even more serpentine roads and do a lot more stopping and starting. Also keep in mind that all modes of transportation here have front- and back-facing seats, and you may not always get your first choice, so you’ll have that additional trigger to worry about. So do yourself a favor and don’t try to tough it out. You’ll end up feeling too sick to look out the window; take whatever aid helps you feel better. If it makes you tired, you can always pep up with a coffee and a piece of chocolate!

There are gems of modern architecture, but some of them are hidden.

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Mario Botta has several structures around Switzerland that are worth visiting. In addition to the San Giovanni Battista church, there’s La Chiesa Santa Maria degli Angeli at Monte Teramo and the Fiore di Pietra at the top of Monte Generoso (both in the Ticino region). Pritzker Prize-winning Peter Zumthor is another Swiss architect worth seeking out. In addition to the Therme Vals (in Vals), he designed a shelter for Roman archeological finds in Chur, Switzerland’s oldest city. That one is way off the main streets; although it’s not widely publicized, you can ask for a key at the tourist information center to access it. If you make the effort, you’ll be rewarded. I had the place entirely to myself when I visited, and I loved the contrast between the way the open-air structure incorporates light and shadow, which are always changing from minute to minute, and the ancient artifacts, which haven’t changed in 2,000 years. Another architectural gem that’s not obvious from the street is in Zurich: Santiago Calatrava’s law library at the University of Zurich is inside another building, so unless you know it’s there, you won’t notice it. The library is free and open to the public and worth the trip. There are so many other gems of modern architecture throughout Switzerland, so be sure to seek them out: the last building Le Corbusier ever designed is in Zurich; creations by Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry and other starchitects are gathered at the Vitra Campus outside Basel; and Renzo Piano designed the undulating Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern.

It’s very easy to accommodate food allergies and preferences here.

I’m a vegetarian with many food issues, none of which were a problem here. Not only does everyone understand “vegetarian” and “vegan,” but I saw many menus that noted those options as well as gluten-free offerings. In grocery stores, packages mark these things too. Some stores have separate gluten-free sections. And I love to visit grocery stores. The two main ones you’ll see around Switzerland are Coop and Migros; the larger locations have inexpensive buffet-style restaurants and sections of housewares and even clothing.

Try all the Swiss cheese. There’s more than you think.

Variety of Appenzeller cheeses in switzerland

There a so many kinds of cheeses to taste in Switzerland, try them all. This selection is from the Appenzeller dairy. Photo: Billie Cohen

There are myriad varieties of cheese here beyond the familiar hole-pocked slices we picture when someone says Swiss cheese: There’s Emmental, Gruyère, Appenzeller, and many that are local to each region. Be sure to try them all and seek out opportunities to see it made. In Appenzell, I visited the Appenzeller show dairy and tasted several varieties. You can also visit the Gruyère factory and Emmentaler show dairy, and a well-connected Switzerland travel specialist can arrange more personal cheese experiences

There’s a rosti for every region and you should taste them all.

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If you want to get very basic about it, rosti is just a big hash brown. But that’s really oversimplifying it. When done well, a big fat plate of browned and crispy rosti is exactly what your belly needs after a day of touring or hiking or shopping or whatever it is you did that day. What’s cool is that different regions in German Switzerland have their signature versions: In Appenzell, the rosti is served with a fried egg and Appenzeller cheese. The Bern version has bacon. Ask about it and try them all.

There are also regional desserts. Try those too.

biberli cookie dessert from Appenzell Switzerland

Every region of Switzerland has specialty desserts. This biberli, a gingerbread cookie filled with nut cream, is popular in Appenzell. Photo: Billie Cohen

Keep your eye open for cakes, cookies, and treats in each area you visit. In Zurich and Appenzell, you’ll see a lot of small round mini cakes called biberli, which are soft gingerbread on the outside and filled with a nut cream. In Chur, I was introduced to Bündner Nusstorte (Bündner indicates it’s from the Canton of Graubünden, of which Chur is the capital), which is more like a walnut pie. Birnenbrot, also from Graubünden translates to pear bread. It’s a log of pear filling wrapped in a thin pastry.

Even the grocery stores sell good chocolate.

Swiss chocolate bars in grocery store in Switzerland

Every grocery store sells a large selection of chocolate at very affordable prices—and it’s good. Photo: Billie Cohen

You will likely want to try the fancy and famous chocolatiers of Switzerland, including Sprüngli in Zurich, Merz in Chur, and my favorite, Chocolat Stella in Bellinzona. And, of course, you should—they’re famous for a reason. But the quality of Swiss chocolate is so high that, as a rule, even the bars you buy in regular grocery stores are delicious. You’ll find large selections including Lindt aplenty, as well as Maison Callier and in-house lines. And whereas bite-size pralines from an upscale shop can cost 1.50 francs, standard chocolate bars are 100g (about twice the size of an American bar) and usually not more than two to three Swiss francs. The Migros grocery store’s house-brand milk chocolate bar is at the inexpensive end, and even that is creamier and more indulgent than any 80-cent chocolate bar has a right to be. Ask a local for his or her favorite brand, and you’ll get a different recommendation every time.

There are villages in the Ticino region where people still live without electricity—by choice.

Valle Bavona stone village Ticino Switzerland

The valleys of Switzerland’s southern Ticino region are dotted with ancient stone villages still in use today. Photo: Billie Cohen

The Ticino region of southern Switzerland is a varied landscape of steep cliffs and verdant valleys. And in those valleys, you can drive right up to—and walk respectfully through—miniscule villages of stone houses that date back hundreds of years. In the Valle Bavona outside the city of Locarno, for example, some families spend their summers in rustic homes, eschewing electricity and modern plumbing in exchange for being surrounded by nature. You can visit these on your own, but a local guide who knows the area, the history, the context, and some of the residents, will make a big difference since there are no signs to give you info on what you’re looking at, how the houses were built, or what daily life here is like. For example, my guide Anna, who still spends summer weekends in a mountain home in the area, shared anecdotes about residents she knew personally and how they handle basic tasks like laundry and gardening, as well as insider stories such as why the locals here chose to refuse electricity (it had to do with taxes in the 1970s), and how those who live in high-up mountain crevices get their supplies (hint: look for ground-level posts topped with orange balls, they mark the beginning of pulley wires that ascend to the heights). Anna also led me through an off-road trail dotted with ancient cave grottos still in use by today’s residents—I never would have found that on my own, or even known to look.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

red wine glass at sunset

Intoxicating Wine Travel Ideas for Wine Lovers

Wine fans have plenty of places to choose from for vacation ideas: These days there is no shortage of eateries with impressive wine lists representing the world at large. But to truly experience the terroir of a bottle, there’s nothing like traveling to the source—and, ideally, unlocking access to some behind-the-scenes secrets of the area’s viticulture. Here are some ideal travel destinations for wine lovers, along with tips and experiences you should ask Wendy’s WOW List experts about when you start planning your next wine travel adventure.

Mendoza, Argentina

Vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina

Vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina. Photo courtesy Cavas Wine Lodge

Get a firsthand lesson in winemaking in Argentina’s wine country. Depending on the season and your interests, Maita Barrenechea, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for Argentina,
can arrange various types of hands-on training.

“In spring, you can help prune the vines, learning how to bend the canes and cut out the ones that won’t produce the proper grapes. If you come at the end of summer, you’ll be harvesting, checking each cluster and handpicking those that are at optimal ripeness. The viticulturalist will teach you how to test for a balance of sweetness and acidity, using both lab equipment and your own sense of taste. Or you can go inside the winery and put together your own blend of different varietals under the tutelage of a winemaker or sommelier (you’ll leave with a bottle of your unique concoction). For a bit of added glamour, tour the vineyards in a classic car (options range from a 1930s Chevrolet to a 1960s Mercedes, all carefully restored). At the end of your day, help prepare a gourmet barbecue with master chef Francis Mallmann, cooking over a fire as the gauchos do, in the wilderness of the Andes range.” Maita Barrenechea.  To be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this, contact Maita via Wendy’s trip request form

Burgundy, France

winery tour in Burgundy France

Get inside an exclusive winery in Burgundy. Photo: Trufflepig.

Plan a trip to this famous French wine mecca for October. Yes, you can sip a quality glass at many times of year, but the fall is when in-the-know travelers make their pilgrimage.

“The chaos of harvest is over by October and the grapes are in, which means there’s still lots of activity in the wineries since the wines are fermenting and the vinification is in full throe, but the winemakers themselves have a little more time to spend with visitors. It’s also the prettiest time: The leaves on the vines turn yellow and gold, and you realize why they call it the Côte d’Or, the golden slopes. And beyond the wines, it’s the most interesting time for seasonal produce: Mushrooms and squashes complement wild game in the menus of the local restaurants.” Michael Eloy. To be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this, contact Michael via Wendy’s trip request form.

Paarl and Franschhoek, South Africa

Restaurant in the garden of Spice Route wine estate, Cape Wine Route, Paarl, Western Cape Province, South Africa. Photo: South Africa Tourism

Restaurant in the garden of Spice Route wine estate, Cape Wine Route, Paarl, Western Cape Province, South Africa. Photo: South Africa Tourism

Cape Town is a fun city to visit on its own, thanks to a wide range of historical, cultural, and culinary draws, including the buzzed-about Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. But the nearby winelands are the perfect compliment to the buzz of city life: idyllic spreads in rolling hills lined with vineyards and destination restaurants.

“Don’t miss the village of Paarl. See the well-preserved Cape Dutch architecture in the town (the largest in the winelands, about 40 miles from Cape Town), and explore the wine estates around the village. In Franschhoek, make time for a meal at La Petite Ferme, a restaurant on a small family-run wine estate with two stunning views: Look down to see the vineyards in the valley below, and up for mountain vistas. The laid-back vibe lends itself to long, lazy lunches with a great bottle of wine and a dish I never forget: the slow-cooked lamb. If you’re interested, I can arrange a behind-the-scenes tour of the winery for before or after lunch. In summer, there’s nothing better than an al fresco lunch at Boschendal Wine Estate. Collect one of their pre-made picnic baskets—packed with pates, cold meats, salad, cheese, crackers, baguettes and chilled wine—and feast on tables and chairs set under lofty, fragrant pine trees between the vineyards.” Julian Harrison. To be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this, contact Julian via Wendy’s trip request form

Spello, Umbria

Italy is a no-brainer when it comes to good wine. But in Umbria, you can get a taste of the whole scene.

“For wine aficionados and collectors, a private wine tasting with owner Roberto at Spello’s Enoteca Properzio is a must; Roberto has personal relationships with the producers of many of the country’s finest wines, from famous names to tiny organic producers, so he can fill you in on all aspects of the Italian wine world. We can also arrange a private cooking class in a farmhouse so stunning that it’s been featured in several design magazines and where the owner—a great cook and hostess, not to mention a well-respected attorney—will teach you to use some of the region’s most humble ingredients to prepare an unforgettable meal.” Maria Gabriella Landers. To be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this, contact Maria via Wendy’s trip request form

Moravia, Czech Republic

Looking for a wine destination not yet overrun by American tourists? Look no further than the Czech Republic region of Moravia, where the local specialty is Riesling.

“Don’t miss the Moravian wine region and Mikulov, two to three hours outside Prague. The Europeans have found it, but Americans aren’t there yet. And within Moravia’s manicured green hills there’s something for everyone: The countryside is bisected by miles of bike routes; its vineyards produce good white and Riesling wines; and the town of Mikulov has streets lined in baroque and renaissance homes along with an interesting historical Jewish quarter. If nothing else, the Valtice and Lednice castle complex is the perfect place to stop off on the drive from Vienna to Prague—it’s home to two magnificent châteaus linked by a four-mile avenue of lime trees.” Gwen Kozlowski. To be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this, contact Gwen via Wendy’s trip request form

Porto, Portugal

Grape harvest in the Douro Valley, Portugal

Harvest in the Douro Valley, Portugal. Photo: Porto Tourism

The land where port was invented should be on any oenophile’s must-visit list. Happily, Porto is just one fascinating stop in a country full of delicious food, beautiful scenery, historic architecture, and charming towns. Just remember that port is strong stuff: often with more than 20 percent more alcohol than standard wines.

The best time to visit is September and early October, which is typically the time for the grape harvest in the Douro. You can participate by picking grapes (more fun than it sounds) or—better yet—stomping the fruit à la I Love Lucy with your own two feet and taking home a custom bottle.

Ask Wendy to find the right Trusted Travel Expert to plan your best possible trip.

Marzamemi, Sicily

Some of us would be content to travel to Sicily simply for the gelato, but thank the heavens above, you don’t have to compromise—you can have both wine and dessert.

“The southern tip of Sicily is a hidden gem, which some of the most pristine beaches on the island, and it also happens to be a great area for wine, melons, tomatoes, and fresh local seafood. One of my favorite spots for an evening stroll and dinner is the Marzamemi fishing village. It’s a great place to get a strong sense of what traditional Sicily is all about, especially in the summer when the streets are filled with local families and friends on their evening “passeggiata,” or leisurely stroll. It’s also one of the best spots for gelato in Sicily, so the evening walk is a great way to earn an extra scoop of a new flavor! Mt. Etna is another ideal base for wine lovers, with breathtaking views of volcanic landscapes, vineyards, and the Mediterranean Sea below. You can even stay in hotel bungalows dotted among the vineyards.” Marcello Baglioni. To be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this, contact Marcello via Wendy’s trip request form

Chianti, Tuscany

Tuscany vineyard landscape Italy

Tuscany, Italy. Photo: marissat1330/Pixabay

While spring is a beautiful time to visit Italy’s classic wine destination, our Trusted Travel Experts recommend September instead, when the region’s grapes are being harvested. “The rumble of small tractors rolling along the long rows of vines, the chattering of families and farm hands as they snip off individual clusters by hand, the tinkling of glasses and forks against plates as long tables are set up outdoors for everyone to take a break for lunch al fresco…these are the sights and sounds of autumn in Chianti, Montalcino, Montepulciano, and the rest of Tuscany’s wine country.” No wine fan wants to miss that.

“Many of Tuscany’s historic estates have been owned for centuries by successive generations of a single noble family, and are set around private castles or villas open only to a select number of guests for private visits. Our connections can gain you access to certain exclusive estates, where you’ll spend the day touring the property with the (invariably charming) owner, sampling their prestigious wines, and joining the family for a lavish lunch that shows home cooking at its finest. For a kind of meal worth splurging on, we recommend Osteria di Passignano. One of the most prestigious names in Tuscan wine is Antinori, a family who has been in the winemaking business since the late 1300s and who ushered in the Super Tuscan revolution a few decades ago. In 2000, the family opened this osteria at their estate surrounding the historic Badia di Passignano monastery in the heart of Chianti, where they produce Chianti Classico Riserva, aged in the cellars beneath the monastery. Here the food is sublimely Tuscan, and perfectly paired with their extensive list of Antinori wines.” Maria Gabriella Landers. To be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this, contact Maria via Wendy’s trip request form

Burgenland, Austria

Timing is everything for wine fans in Austria. In addition to several notable restaurants in Vienna, less-visited towns along the Danube are home to boutique hotels and small wineries and taverns you can only visit during the harvest.

“October is one of the best times to visit. It’s at the end of the peak season, there’s gorgeous fall scenery, and it’s harvest time in the vineyards, which means that the Heuriger (wine taverns) are especially fun and lively and you’ll probably get to try new wines. More important, especially for wine buffs, many of the smaller (and better) Heurigers aren’t open year-round, but they’re all open in October. Don’t miss Burgenland, Austria’s easternmost state. It’s full of tiny villages, cute inns, Michelin-star dining, and good wine (including the locally produced red Blaufrankisch). Here the Tavern Schandl is a particular local favorite and serves simple regional cuisine and wines from the owner’s vineyards.” Gwen Kozlowski. To be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this, contact Gwen via Wendy’s trip request form

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Philadelphia's Headhouse Farmers Market

Authentic Food Markets Worth Traveling the World For

For me, travel is best when I engage all of my senses. Wherever you are, step into a food market and this simply happens naturally. When you can recall a taste or an aroma, you’re also more likely to hold onto the memory. That’s why I remember blindly choosing a handful of French cheeses for an afternoon picnic in the Alps, knowing each would be delicious, and ogling the enormous fish caught that very morning at a pungent stall in Singapore. Each time I’ve strolled into a food market abroad, I’ve gotten to talk to (or, in circumstances of language barriers, gesture at) local people going about their daily life, generally welcoming of but not kowtowing to tourists. And then, of course, there are the photo-worthy visuals: careful rows of flamboyant dragon fruits, racks of glistening pastries and just-baked breads, and salamis and ham hocks hung on butcher’s twine to dry.

Here are markets where you can see, touch, and smell the ingredients necessary for life in that corner of the world, and hear how the transactions between buyer and seller differ from place to place. Arrive hungry, of course, because there will be plenty to taste, too. Want to go even deeper? Our Trusted Travel Experts can arrange a market tour with a culinary expert or local chef.

Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Place: First established in 1745 (though under a different name), the Headhouse Farmers’ Market in Philly is a cook’s delight, with the city’s largest selection of locally made and grown produce, baked goods, meats, cheeses, and other specialty items.

Best Time to Go: The market is open 8am to 3pm every Sunday from May through December. Go before 11am for the best offerings (though sometimes there are events, such as cookbook signings with local chefs, later in the day).

Tastiest Treat: Pick up a box of handmade chocolates from John & Kira’s, or locally produced maple syrup from Spring Hills Farm.

Paul Bennett, Trusted Travel Expert for Cultural City Tours

 

Mercado de San Ramon—San Ramon, Costa Rica

The Place: The town of San Ramon has a charming, laid-back atmosphere; older generations use the park and market (which sells tropical fruits, vegetables, and flowers) as a meeting spot to go over the coming week’s events. San Ramon is located between San Jose and the famous Arenal Volcano, so stopping here breaks up the drive between these two popular destinations quite nicely.

Best Time to Go: The market is open daily year-round, but is best on Fridays (12pm–6pm) and Saturdays (7am­­–12pm).

Tastiest Treat: Make sure to try the queso arollado (rolled cheese) or cajetas (a sweet coconut milk-flavored spread).

Irene Edwards, Trusted Travel Expert for Costa Rica

 

Borough Market—London, England

London's Borough Market

London’s Borough Market. Photo: Michael HeffernanLondon and Partners

The Place: With tons of vegetables, fish, craft foods, and incredible cheeses—all sold by lively stallholders eager to tell you all about the provenance of what they’re selling—Borough Market is a great place to learn about Britain’s organic food movement. Located in a Victorian glass-and-ironwork building, it is also very photogenic.

Best Time to Go: The market is open Wednesday and Thursday from 10am to 5pm, Friday from 10am to 6pm, and Saturday from 8am to 5pm; it’s closed on many holidays. Get there early; the later you arrive, the larger the crowds you’ll find.

Tastiest Treat: Cheese or terrific preserves and jams.

 —Jonathan Epstein, Trusted Travel Expert for England, Ireland, and Scotland

 

The English Market—Cork, Ireland

The English Market, Cork, Ireland

The English Market, Cork, Ireland. Photo: William Murphy/Flickr

The Place: The resurgence of the Irish food movement started in Cork, first with farmhouse cheeses in the 1970s, and a slew of restaurants spotlighting local produce in the 1980s; there is no better way to learn about the country’s culinary scene than in this covered market, which sells everything from fish and meat to locally made chocolate and cheese.  (Wondering about the name? The market dates to the 18th century, when Ireland was still English.) When the Queen recently came to Ireland, this was one of her few stops.

Best Time to Go: The market is open from 8am to 6pm, Monday through Saturday. I like to go around lunchtime, either picking up a picnic of bread, cheese, and other things to snack on, or sitting down for a meal of the best Irish food you’ll find at the Farmgate Cafe. (The restaurant is not open for dinner.)

Tastiest Treat: I love the incredible selection of Irish chocolate. And make sure to learn about “buttered eggs.”

Jonathan Epstein, Trusted Travel Expert for England, Ireland, and Scotland

 

Marché Notre Dame—Versailles, France

Cheese at the Notre Dame Market in Versailles, France

Notre Dame Market, Versailles, France. Photo: Paris Perfect

The Place: There’s more to Versailles than the royal palace and gardens. This market is one of the best in the entire region, and one of the largest too. Dozens of stalls sell their specialties, from local and exotic produce to artisan cheese, marinated olives, and colorful spices. The best part is, it’s not far from the palace and gardens, making it the perfect warm-up to a wonderful day of exploring.

Best Time to Go: The market is open on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday morning, from 7am to 2pm. The absolute best time to go is between April and October, when the weather is warm and the palace gardens are lush and green. Grab an assortment of fresh foods from the market in the morning, then after you’ve explored the palace, find a spot in the grass along the Grand Canal for a picnic.

Tastiest Treat: Make sure to try the crepes from the stand inside the southwestern corner section of the covered halls—they’re the best crepes I’ve ever tasted, and for mere pocket change! The owner coats her delectable, crispy-on-the-edges crepes and galettes in a generous helping of salted butter, making for a mouth-watering memory you won’t forget.

 

Montesanto-Pignasecca Market—Naples, Italy

The Place: Montesanto-Pignasecca market, located right in the heart of the city on Via della Pignasecca, is Naples most ancient market, offering local produce from mozzarella to juicy tomatoes and fresh bread. It’s the biggest and best-supplied food market in the city center, and a very lively place, bustling with people and popular with locals since the prices are so low. You might hear the market before you see it: The voices of the barrow boys urging you to buy their goods echo down this very narrow street.

Best Time to Go: The market is open Monday through Saturday from 7am to around 2pm; I prefer to go in the morning, when it buzzes with locals doing their daily shopping and the produce is at its most fresh. The best fish comes in on Fridays, when many Italians adhere to Catholic doctrine and avoid eating meat.

Tastiest Treat: Suffice it to say, you’ll satisfy your taste buds on the spot. Naples is famous for its mozzarella made from water- buffalo milk. Another local cheese to try is Provola, produced in the area around Mt. Vesuvius from non-skimmed cow’s milk.

Paul Bennett, Trusted Travel Expert for Cultural City Tours

 

Ortigia Food Market—Siracusa, Sicily

The Place: This open-air market is located in Ortigia, a small island connected to the mainland of Siracusa. It is the city’s historical center, filled with ancient ruins of Greek temples, Baroque churches, and Jewish ritual baths, with wide-open piazzas and breathtaking views of the sea. The market sells locally produced cheeses, fruits, vegetables, fish, herbs and spices, wine from all over the island—pretty much anything you might need to make the freshest Sicilian meal can be found here. Walking along, you will hear local fishmongers sing out the day’s offerings in Sicilian dialect, accompanied by an assistant wielding a guitar.

Best Time to Go: The market is open Monday through Saturday from 7am to 11am, year-round. We like to send travelers with our local culinary guide, collecting fresh ingredients and then preparing a lunch together.

Tastiest Treat: Pick up sun-dried tomatoes, capers, cheeses, and other local items to have vacuum packed and brought home to share with their friends and family.

Marcello Baglioni, Trusted Travel Expert for Sicily

 

Olhão Market—Olhão, Portugal

The Place: Olhão’s two original market buildings sit side-by-side along the waterfront—the perfect location for the enormous variety of fish and seafood sold here, all straight off the boat. There is also fresh produce for sale. I love the ambiance and the authenticity here; at few other markets on the Iberian peninsula are you able to buy seafood straight from the people who caught it.

Best Time to Go: The market is open every day but Sunday. Go first thing in the morning, before it gets too crowded. If you can, visit in late fall, winter, or early spring, when there are far fewer tourists.

Tastiest Treat: Buy some Manna fish preserves from Conservera Do Sur; canned fresh tuna, scallops, mackerel, and anchovies are easy to carry and a treat once back home.

Virginia Irurita, Trusted Travel Expert for Spain and Portugal

 

Nishiki Market—Kyoto, Japan

Nishiki Food Market Kyoto Japan CR Flickr-Jan

Nishiki Market, Kyoto, Japan. Photo: Jan/Flickr

The Place: Strolling through this market’s more than 100 shops, all packed into five blocks, is a truly immersive experience, and the best way to understand Kyoto’s culinary offerings and the city’s traditions. You’ll find pickled vegetables, Japanese tea sweets, miso, tofu, knives, cookware, sushi, freshwater fish, truffles, chestnuts, rice cakes, and sake. The market is a regular spot for both locals and tourists; some of the stores have been in the same family for centuries.

Best Time to Go: The market is open from 10am to 4pm everyday except Sunday (and is smaller on Wednesdays). Avoid 12pm to 2pm, when the lunch crowd rolls in.

Tastiest Treat: Take away some soy-milk donuts, which are cooked on the spot and served piping hot; they are slightly sweet and deliciously natural tasting—a far cry from most American donuts. For a more lasting souvenir, buy a handmade knife from one of the oldest knife shops in Japan; one of the docents who lead our Nishiki tours is a knife maker, who can advise you on your purchase.

Paul Bennett, Trusted Travel Expert for Cultural City Tours

 

Mindil Beach Sunset Market—Darwin, Australia

The Place: The Mindil Beach Sunset Market gives visitors a taste of the uniquely Australian, relaxed, multicultural lifestyle enjoyed by Darwin locals. Among the nearly 200 stalls, food is the main attraction (from savory to sweet, the flavors of Thailand, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, India, China, Turkey, Italy, Portugal, France, and Greece are there for the sampling, along with Northern Territory crocodile steaks and Aussie burgers) but you can also buy local crafts, from didgeridoos to barramundi-skin belts.

Best Time to Go: The market is open Thursdays (5pm–10pm) and Sundays (4pm–9pm) during the “dry season,” which runs from the last Thursday in April to the last Thursday in October. Come early enough to purchase the makings of a picnic and secure a great spot on the lawn, overlooking the beach, to watch the sun set over Darwin Harbor (B.Y.O. wine); sunset is usually around 6:30pm.

Tastiest Treat: Of the exotic options, I like the Indonesian satay, barbecued pork balls in a banh mi, or laksa. For Aussie fare, try the burger made of kangaroo, buffalo, or emu.

Stuart Rigg, Trusted Travel Expert for Australia

 

Machane Yehudah Market—Jerusalem, Israel

spice bags at Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem

Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem. Photo: Julien Menichini/Flickr

The Place: The Machane Yehudah Market (known locally as “The Shuk”) sells farm-fresh local produce, spices, Middle Eastern fare, and traditional Jewish food. Here you’ll find the best challah, chocolate rugelach, and cheese-and-spinach burekas right out of the oven, and tahini made right in front of you using a 500-year-old giant basalt-stone sesame crusher. Though the market has been a place to buy foodstuffs for decades, it’s recently been revitalized and now includes trendy bars and restaurants as well.

Best Time to Go: Arrive soon after 9:30am, when the delivery trucks have just departed. You’ll find the freshest food and fewest crowds on Monday; Friday is a half day and at its busiest and most colorful; on Sunday, most of the stalls get taken over by the most famous granola maker in all Israel, who dries his ingredients there.

Tastiest Treat: Kurdish-style red kube soup—a chicken soup with beets and either deep-fried breaded meatballs or Middle Eastern dumplings—is a market favorite.

 —Joe Yudin, Trusted Travel Expert for Israel

 

 

 

Café Einstein, Berlin

6 Sweet Spots Worth the International Plane Ticket

This article originally ran on Luxe City Guides


 

You’ll need to dig out that elastic waistband for these sweet boutiques.

Sebastien Gaudard, Paris

Sebastien Gaudard, Paris

Sebastien Gaudard, Paris

From petit fortes and eclairs to almond croissants and caramel macarons, pâtissier extraordinaire Sebastien Gaudard (aka the ‘Tom Ford of pastry’) has the most magnifique (read: calorifique) creations in his pretty pastel-hued shop. Or for something a little more swish, sashay over to his Tuileries Salon de Thé for millefeuilles and crème Chantilly creations in a truly sumptuous setting.

1 Rue des Pyramides, 1st, Paris. +33 171 182 470, sebastiengaudard.com

Café Einstein, Berlin

Kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cafe) is an afternoon institution all across Germany and in Berlin the best place to indulge is Café Einstein. Many a literary great has put in time at this historic, mahogany parquet and garden delight that served up decadent slabs of schwarzwald kuchen, strudel and sacher torte. Heavenly hot chocolate too.

Kurfürstenstr. 58, Tiergarten, Berlin. +49 30 2639 1918, cafeeinstein.com

Ciampini Gelateria, Rome

Ciampini Gelateria, Rome

Ciampini Gelateria, Rome

When in Italy…. Gelati. This charming, retro-ish gelato bar serves up the nicest frozen flaves in all of Roma. The frutti di bosco and pistachio are both winners while the sinfully good whipped cream (panna) is only for truest of ice cream devotees.

Ciampini, Piazza di S. Lorenzo in Lucina, Rome. +39 06 687 6606, ciampini.com

Karakoy Gulluoglu, Istanbul

Karaköy Güllüoglu, Istanbul

Karaköy Güllüoglu, Istanbul

Of all the baklava shops in Istanbul, this is the bonanza best. Güllüoğlu has been baking the sweet, flakey treats since the 1820s and have over a dozen different varieties including chocolate, walnut, pistachio, or good old plain (which is anything but). For top Turkish delight head to Aladdin in the Spice Bazaar and order the milk lokum with nutella swirls. More like loku-mmm!

Karaköy Güllüoglu, Rihtim Cad. Katli Otopark Alti 3-4, Karaköy, Istanbul. +90 212 293 0910, karakoygulluoglu.com

Kosoan, Tokyo

Kosoan, Tokyo

Kosoan, Tokyo

Mochi might not be to everyone’s taste, but if you do like a chewy ball or two you’ll love this tatami-lined garden-chic teahouse that serves up rolled rice mouthfuls with hot green tea and a side of, errr, palate-cleansing salted kelp?

Kosoan, 1-24-23 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 3718 4203, kosoan.co.jp

Bibelot, Melbourne

Bibelot, Melbourne

Bibelot, Melbourne

A dreamy sweet-tooth sanctuary inspired by the patisseries of Europe… but these pretty petit fortes and melt-in-your-mouth macarons get an Aussie twist with native ingredients like pepper berries, macadamias and lemon myrtle. Try the signature gourmandise platter or high tea service. Pinkies!

Bibelot, 285-287 Coventry St, South Melbourne, Melbourne. +61 3 9690 2688, bibelot.com.au

 

More from Luxe City Guides

Top Sweet Spots for a Sugar Fix
5 Top Shops in Seoul
Rome’s Best Aperitivo Bars
New Art Museums & Galleries
7 Hotel Rooms With A View

Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Gelato among ancient temples in Syrcuse, Sicily.

How to Find Italy’s Most Authentic Gelato (and Where)

Few things excite me more about Italy in summertime than the prospect of all that gelato. Milky and dense, this Italian delicacy feels both familiar and exotic to a palate raised on American ice cream. The difference: America’s iconic dessert is made with more cream, gelato with more milk; the latter is also served at a higher temperature.

How to find, and properly eat, Italy’s finest gelato? Here’s intel from our Italy-based Trusted Travel Experts:.

pistachio gelato italy

Color will tell you a lot about the gelato—it should be natural, not neon. Photo: Marcello Baglioni

Color is key to sussing out a truly artisanal gelateria.

Look first at the banana and pistachio flavors: They should be a grayish white and earthy green, respectively,, says Andrea Grisdale of IC Bellagio. No flavors should have anything approaching a neon hue.

bins of gelato in italy by CIU Travel

Gelato should be packed densely into the bins. Wave patterns mean air was pumped into the dessert. Photo: CIU Travel

If it’s not packed flat into the bins it’s served from, it’s not high-quality.

While those fluffy waves of gelato in the display case might look appealing, says Brian Dore of CIU Travel, they actually signal that air was pumped into the dessert, simply for appearance’s sake. Like Donald Trump’s hairdo, those waves are all about style, not substance.

It’s normal to have to pay for gelato before you order it.

Let the cashier know what size you want, in a “cono” or a “coppa”—the smallest version of each usually allows room for two flavors—and then bring your receipt to the counter to place your order. “It’s not very common, but you can ask for a small taste,” says Andrea.

You shouldn’t mix cream- and fruit-based flavors.

That’s what connoisseurs say (though that hasn’t always stopped me).

It’s okay to eat it for breakfast.

We all know by now not to order a cappuccino in Italy after noon, but no such rules apply to gelato. In his 15 years living on Sicily, says Marcello Baglioni of Agave Travel Creative, he saw plenty of Italians make a breakfast of a sandwich of ricotta, pistachio, and Modicano chocolate gelato pressed between fresh brioche.

Gelato is more than just a snack; it’s a ritual.

It’s “a ritual tied to the passeggiata in a way that no other food in this street-food-bereft culture is,” writes Brian on his Postcards from Italy blog. “Where almost anything in the U.S. can be eaten on the go, very few Italian foods can, and very few Italians want to! Gelato is one of the few exceptions, and everyone from stately grandfathers to young hipsters to toddling grandchildren can be seen walking down the street licking dripping cones or digging into cups with tiny plastic shovel-shaped spoons for the late afternoon ‘merenda’ (snack) or after dinner on hot summer evenings.”

Here are a few of Andrea, Brian, and Marcello’s favorite gelaterias:

Gelateria del Teatro in Rome. Photo: Concierge in Umbria

Gelateria del Teatro in Rome. Photo: Concierge in Umbria

In Rome:

Giolitti has been making gelato since the 19th century. The stracciatella (a milky base with fine chocolate shavings mixed in) is a must. Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40

Gelateria del Teatro serves cake flavors that reflect the founder’s pastry-chef training, as well as inventive options such as ricotta, fico, e mandorle (ricotta, fig, and almonds). Via dei Coronari, 65

Gelateria Alberto Pica is known for its fragoline (strawberry) and riso zabaione (similar to rice pudding). Via della Seggiola, 12

Gelateria Carapina is a new style of gelateria, playing off of the slow-food movement with intensely flavored, creamy gelato and a limited selection based on seasonal availability. Via dei Chiavari, 37

In Bellagio (on Lake Como):

At Gelateria del Borgo, Andrea recommends the vanilla, hazelnut, and pistachio. Via Garibaldi, 46

In Ragusa, Sicily:

Gelati Divini serves flavors inspired by local wine varietals such as Moscato and Nero d’Avola. Piazza Duomo, 20

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

The Best Airport Restaurants in the U.S.

When you’re stuck in the airport, as is likely to happen this time of year, one of the tried-and-true ways to kill time is to eat something. Happily, airport restaurants have improved so much in the past few years that you might just wish you had more time to dine before taking off.

Inspired by the list that The Daily Meal just released, compiling its editors’ picks for the 35 best airport restaurants in the world, we asked our readers—frequent and sophisticated travelers that they are—for their expert opinion on the matter.

We narrowed the field to restaurants in U.S. airports, because other countries recognized the value of quality airport cuisine long before our own did, and so it’s simply too easy to ask for the best airport restaurants in the world.

Here’s what your fellow travelers named as the best airport restaurants in the U.S. Bookmark this page—you’re likely to need it if you’re traveling over the next few months.

Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport (ATL)

“One Flew South. They fly in their sushi fresh every day! It’s located in the International Terminal and feels like a real restaurant with funky decor. It’s amazing!”
—Lissa Harnish Poirot, Editor-in-Chief, FamilyVacationCritic.com

Cafe Intermezzo at ATL airport

Grab a book with your meal: Cafe Intermezzo at ATL is a restaurant and a bookstore. Photo: Cafe Intermezzo

“Cafe Intermezzo ATL. Both of my favorites in one place: great salads, and the tables are surrounded by a book store!”
Beth Aton Stewart

“Ecco in Terminal F. It’s a Midtown Atlanta restaurant that now offers an airport outpost. Wonderful Mediterranean cuisine and a respectable wine list.”
—Marshall Jackson, MJ on Travel

“Fresh to Order is fantastic. All fresh, light, and healthy menu selections at affordable price points. Refreshing to see in an airport!
—Laura Faust, Ciao Laura

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)

“The Salt Lick has the BEST BBQ at an airport I have ever had. The brisket was amazing! And I am from Texas, so I should know! They have one at DFW too.”
—Cacinda Maloney, Points and Travel

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)

“Legal Sea Foods—there is more than one, and some have that ‘airport’ feel, but Legal is very fussy about quality, and you can get some of the best, freshest seafood in Boston.”
Go See It Travel

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)

“Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits! I used to live down south, now I’m in Pittsburgh. I try and make all my flights connect through CLT, and I will run from one end to the other for my chicken biscuits!”
Tasha Heckla

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

Rick Bayless's gourmet Mexican dishes—and margaritas—are fan favorites at Chicago O'Hare. Photo: Tortas Frontera

Rick Bayless’s gourmet Mexican dishes—and margaritas—are fan favorites at Chicago O’Hare. Photo: Tortas Frontera

“Tortas Frontera is SO good. Delicious sandwiches, locally sourced ingredients, and a killer margarita. For about the same price as other airport options, you can get a little bit of gourmet (Rick Bayless knows his stuff). I actually look forward to this airport meal!”
Kelly Ratliff

“Always make the rounds of Garrett’s popcorn, Vosge’s chocolates, and Tortas Frontera sandwich with margaritas!!!”
Katherine Montgomery

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

Texas favorite Salt Lick BBQ has an outpost at DFW location. Photo: Salt Lick BBQ/Facebook

Texas favorite Salt Lick BBQ has an outpost at DFW location. Photo: Salt Lick BBQ/Facebook

“Salt Lick BBQ gets my vote. Being a Texan, this gives me the taste of home even if only passing through. And yes, Texas BBQ is the BEST!”
Charles Wolfe

“Cousins Bar-B-Que @ Dallas. D’lish!”
Lisa Ringler

“DFW Pappasitos, Mexican.”
Leslie Kaminski

Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)

“Max & Erma’s: A taste of typical Midwest always makes me happy to be home! Their cheesy tortilla soup and warm, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies are sure to cheer and warm up any wintery blues. Also would vote for National Coney Island, a Michigan classic.”
—Jessica Seba, Journey Mexico

Indianapolis International Airport (IND)

“Harry and Izzy’s is a great spot to sit down and have their famous shrimp cocktail and a drink.”
Midori Fujii

New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA)

“Delta’s terminal at LGA offers a wealth of modern café options. Last time flying through I made extra time to pop into Crust. Fresh coal-oven pizzas and quiet atmosphere. Love the iPad order system. Swift service, darkened lighting, and a location just footsteps to the gates make this a perfect dining spot.”
—Sharon Pomerantz Strelzer, Pomerantz PR

Miami International Airport (MIA)

“Cafe Versailles totally gets you in the mood of Miami—hot, sizzling, tropical. You want to do the salsa while ordering your Cuban sandwich. When you can speak Spanish to the staff while you are still in the U.S., it’s like you’ve taken a ‘little trip’ to another country, and that’s priceless!”
Robyn Webb

“At MIA, La Caretta is terrific authentic Latin cuisine.”
Marcy Gross Schackne

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)

“Ye Olde College Inn—fantastic food!”
Lucie Thornton

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

“At EWR, Jersey Mike’s subs are the best.”
Leslie Kaminski

New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

“At JFK, The Palm has fabulous burgers. (Would you expect anything else?)”
Marcy Gross Schackne

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

“I like Cibo Wine Bar at PHL. Great wines, nice Italian food, and an ambience that makes me forget I’m at an airport.”
—Lissa Harnish Poirot, Editor-in-Chief, FamilyVacationCritic.com

Portland International Airport (PDX)

“Do food trucks count? PDX has the popular Pok Pok food truck now, and LAX terminal 4 has Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ.”
—Arnette, founder, Round The World Girl

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

“I love Le Grand Orange at PHX—maybe because LGO was also in my Phoenix neighborhood. I’d often stop to get carry-out to take home from the airport! I love their salads, their pizza is delicious, and they offer a gluten-free chocolate cookie that is delectable.”
—Micheline Maynard, Editor in Chief, Curbing Cars

Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport (DCA)

Legal Sea Foods clam chowder

A cup of clam chowder or a lobster roll? Or maybe a crab roll? Legal Sea Foods serves all its signatures at various airport locations. Photo: Legal Sea Foods/Facebook

“Bowl of clam chowder at Legal Sea Foods. Also, Boudin Bakery in SFO for fresh sourdough bread. They would be great together!”
— Charles McCool, McCool Travel

 

Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

prickly pears Marrakech

Join Us for a #TravelForFood #TripAdvisorChat

Are you the sort of person who would fly to Chicago just to eat at Alinea?  Then mark your calendar for Wednesday, October 22, at 12 pm ET, when I’ll be co-hosting TripAdvisor’s #TravelForFood twitter chat. We’ll dish about the food you travel for and top restaurants around the world. What region or city do you think has the best cuisine? Which country’s food or drink has most surprised you?   What are your tips for getting a table in a restaurant that’s fully booked? Here, by the way, are my own tips for getting a table in a hot restaurant.  As chat prep, you might want to look for a photo from one of your most memorable travel meals!

I can’t wait to hear your tips and opinions, so please join us on Wednesday.  Just follow @wendyperrin, @TripAdvisor, and the hashtag #TripAdvisorChat.