San Sebastian

San Sebastián is located in the mountainous Basque country of Spain and surrounded by beautiful beaches. It is a surfing and foodie paradise.

San Sebastián has three airports, two are international, within about 100 kilometers of the city. Bilbao Airport has connections all over Europe and is 105 kilometers from the city. Biarritz Airport is about 50 kilometers away and served by French and low-cost international companies. San Sebastián Airport is 20 kilometers from the city centre and has connections to major Spanish cities Madrid and Barcelona.

Before traveling add Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises to your reading list. The novel takes place largely in this region of Spain.

EAT & DRINK

There are many bars and restaurants sprinkled throughout the city, all varying in quality. Take a stroll through Parte Vieja Old Town and try to find your favorite. Our recommendation for exploring the city is to combine both eating with drinking! Have a zurito (mini beer) and a pintxo (tapa) per bar, not sticking to one spot for too long.

Atari Gastroteka Fun, trendy vibe. Great Old Town stop for pintxos.

La Cuchara de San Telmo Still dreaming of this meal. Try the grilled octopus.

La Rampa Seafood lunch at the Port.

Fuego Negro A modern take on pintxos. We went for a full course lunch.

PLAY

Monte Igueldo On a clear day, we recommend taking the funicular to the top of Monte Igueldo for the best viewpoints over the stunning Concha Bay and surrounding mountains.

Monte Ulia Coastal hike from San Sebastian to Pasaia. This 7 kilometer hike starts behind Zurriola beach (look for red and white trail markers and climb up towards Monte Ulia). Follow the signs to Pasaia. Once you arrive, you can take the local bus back to San Sebastian. Proper shoes are essential.

Monte Urgull Easy walking trails in the middle of the city. Burn off some pintxos and enjoy the views.

Playa de la Concha Right in the midst of the city, this urban beach attracts both visitors and locals and is the perfect spot to cool off in the afternoon.

Parte Vieja Explore the Old Town streets and visit the many boutiques, pintxo shops, and bars.  Don’t miss the Santa María and San Vincent churches.

Zurriola Beach The go to spot for surf-lovers.

STAY

We stayed in the Old Town and loved it. We were right in the midst of the food and nightlife scene but, depending on your location, it can be very loud. Looking for something quieter? Try an Airbnb near the beach in the Centro (city center) area.

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Barcelona

The Catalan capital is the second most populous Spanish city and the most beautiful (we think). From its Mediterranean beaches, Iberico ham, tapas, sparkling Cava wines and dreamy, Gothic architecture, it is a European gem well worth a weekend or extended visit.

The Barcelona airport is just 12 kilometers south of the city and an easy and affordable 25 minute taxi ride. Check out the MyTaxi app, an easy way to call rides. It is also possible to take the A1 or A2 bus to Plaça de Catalunya (Pl. Catalunya - Andana Central). It is about a 40 minute trip.

EAT

Bar Castells Casual, late night tapas just off La Ramblas.

Delicious Barcelona Consider hiring a private chef through Delicious to cook dinner at your AirBnb or apartment. This is a great option for a group or family planning a special night.

El Nacional A renovated, 19th century factory with four specialized restaurants and bars. Make a booking.

Pla Restaurant Romantic restaurant in the Gothic Quarter. Go for dinner.

Restaurant Mirabé Food is pricey but the view is amazing and overlooks the entire city. Recommended by a friend.

Sensi Tapas Amazing tapas in the Gothic Quarter. Reservations a must.

DRINK

Alaire Terrace Bar Located on the 8th floor of the Hotel Condes de Barcelona, this bar overlooks La Pedrera and the Sagrada Familia.

Bo Kaap Nice, little spot for beachside drinks.

Carrer de Joaquín Costa Lots of bars on this narrow street west of Las Ramblas and just past the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Penedes Wine Region Organize a day trip wine-tasting in any of the surrounding wine regions with The Wine Colours. We enjoyed Penedes which is well known for its cava production. Definitely request a visit to Pares Balta, a bio-dynamic, family-owned winery with incredible wines!

PLAY

Ciutadella Park The green heart of Barcelona, this park has a small lake and fountain, lovely architecture and the zoo.

FC Barcelona Check out a game at Camp Nou, you won’t regret it!

Gothic Quarter Traverse the winding, medieval streets of the old city. Lots of bars, restaurants and clubs here.

La Rambla It’s touristy but worth a walk down Barcelona’s most famous street.

La Sagrada Familia Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí’s most famous work, this Roman Catholic church is so exquisite that construction started in 1882 and is still unfinished. Book tickets in advance!

Mercado de La Boqueria La Boqueria is one of the most famous markets in the world. Closed on Sundays.

Museu Picasso One of the largest collections of Pablo Picasso’s works.

Park Güell Another Gaudi creation, this park overlooks the city and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Plaça de Catalunya Considered Barcelona’s city center.

Platja de la Barceloneta White, sandy beach. The perfect spot for a siesta.

STAY

Stay within walking distance of Plaça de Catalunya and the Gothic Quarter and you will be just fine. We enjoyed the three-star Hotel HCC MontBlanc.

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Phuket

A tropical island in southwestern Thailand on the Andaman Sea, Phuket is prized for its clear beaches, jungle trekking and high-end resorts. It is well positioned as a gateway to smaller, surrounding islands, with ferries leaving daily to the Phi Phi Islands, Similians and James Bond Island.

Winter is the best time of year to visit to avoid monsoon season. The water is calmer and clearer between November to January.

If you want the freedom and mobility to explore the island on your own, scooter rentals are popular. We recommend only renting through your hotel, versus a local shop in town, to guarantee a fair price and to avoid thievery.

Tuk tuks are another popular way to get around. Be prepared to negotiate price up front and never accept the first offer.

EAT

Kata Beach One of the more popular beaches on the island, Kata is a great for restaurants and nightlife, and has a handful of spots right on the beach. It is more sophisticated than its seedier cousin, Patong Beach.

Mama Seafood Casual little restaurant serving up fresh seafood and overlooking sleepy Nai Harn beach.

DRINK

Kata Beach As mentioned above, Kata has a good nightlife scene and beach bars.

Nai Harn Reggae Bar Chill, laid-back spot with live music.

PLAY

Karon Beach One of the larger beaches on the island, it has a long strip of sand and is more commercialized than Kata Noi and Nai Harn.

Karon View Point South of Kata Noi beach, this view point has lovely vistas of the jungle, ocean and sunset.

Kata Noi Beach A smaller, quieter beach south of Karon.

Nai Harn Beach A quiet beach at the tip of the island that is a bit off the tourist track. Consistently ranked one of the prettiest beaches in Phuket.

Phuket Weekend Night Market The largest market on the island, it runs Friday through Sunday evenings.

Promthep Cape Watch the sunset and snap a few photos.

Walking Street Located in Phuket Town, this old Sino-Portuguese has interesting architecture and is a popular shopping area.

STAY

Most of the luxury resorts are on the northern part of the island. These are a good bet for relaxing away from the hustle and bustle. Angsana Laguna Phuket is well known for its long pool that snakes throughout the resort.

If you care less about staying in a five star resort, we recommend staying near Nai Harn beach. Check out the four star All Seasons, an Accor hotel.

Western Sicily (San Vito lo Capo, Trapani, Marsala)

Western Sicily is, simply put, stunning. It’s clear, calm water, rugged Mediterranean landscapes, medieval towns, delicious seafood and rich red wines are deserving of a four to five day road trip. Best of all, this region hasn’t quite yet been found by international tourists. Enjoy the sleepy beaches and towns of San Vito lo Capo, Trapani and Marsala.

Fly into Palermo and then head west two hours along the coast by rental car to San Vito lo Capo.

EAT

Morsi e Sorsi Dinner in San Vito lo Capo. Try the seafood busiate pasta.

Caffè Savoia Ice cream and sweets overlooking the Santuario di San Vito Catholic church in San Vito lo Capo.

Pasticceria Maria Grammatico Pastry and sweet shop in Erice.

DRINK

Donnafugata A family owned winery and historic cellar in Marsala. A tasting includes several traditional Sicilian foods. Try the nero d’avola red blends.

Ni Mia Beer bar a block from the beach in San Vito lo Capo.

Cantine Pellegrino A family-owned winery known for its sweet Marsala wine production. They also produce dry reds and whites.

PLAY

Catamarano Alien Boat Tours A daylong boat trip off the coast of Trapani and around Favignana Island. The water, views, quiet coves and cliffs are incredible. Hosts Isa and Ale are incredibly generous and serve homemade, traditional meals and snacks.

Erice A well-preserved, hill-top medieval town overlooking the Mediterranean and Trapani. Take a cable car from Trapani or drive.

Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro A national reserve with seaside walks and hikes. Bring water and food!

San Vito lo Capo Do not miss this sleepy beach town. It has a truly world class beach.

Scopello A small village and beach town down the east side of the peninsula from San Vito lo Capo.

Trapani Tours A daylong tour of the region, including two wine tastings, tours of Trapani and Marsala, and a local salt flat. Guide and owner Aldo is incredibly knowledgeable of Sicily.

STAY

A few suggestions by area:

San Vito lo Capo The town is small and anything near the beach will be close to restaurants and night life. We loved Poseidon Residence.

Trapani Stay in Old Town. Secret B&B is a boutique hotel with beautiful touches in an old, traditional Sicilian building.

Abu Dhabi

The Emirati capital is more refined than its busier and flashier cousin Dubai. Come to Abu Dhabi to visit the magnificent Grand Mosque.

Abu Dhabi has its own airport and is a 90 minute drive from Dubai. Most taxi drivers can take you to and from the cities for a metered rate.

Winter is a lovely here as the sun is out but the temperatures are a manageable 20 to 30 degrees Celsius.

Abu Dhabi is more conservative than Dubai and we would recommend that women pack scarves and more modest clothing for a visit.

EAT

Nolu’s Cafe California-Afghan fushion. Great for brunch or lunch.

Jones the Grocer This Australian restaurant is the only non-hotel restaurant in the city that serves alcohol and food. Recommended by a friend.

Zaatar w Zeit This Lebanese chain features delicious and healthy takeaway or casual eat-in options. Definitely try the manakeesh wraps with zaatar.

DRINK

Asia de Cuba Fun drinks and fusion on the Corniche. Recommended by a friend.

Tamba Indian restaurant with great drinks at the World Trade Center. Recommended by a friend.

PLAY

Corniche Beach A long, public beach for sun-worshiping, walking and relaxation.

Mangrove National Park Try kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding through the calm waterways of this national park.

Saadiyat Beach Club A luxurious, tranquil oasis just outside the city. Spend the day at this beach club and spa.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque This stunning mosque is the jewel of Abu Dhabi. Free, guided tours on site.

STAY

If you are only in town for a short period, we recommend staying near The Corniche to be close to the beach, shopping and restaurants.

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