Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Town & Country

After years of traveling and visiting destinations around the world I have discovered a vacation recipe that I feel compelled to share. It is simple and direct as many good recipes are. Now, when I say ‘recipe’ I don’t mean you’ll be cooking food over your hotel radiator or using your travel alarm clock as a kitchen timer. I mean that by combining a few key elements to any trip, you’re bound to have a very satisfying experience.

My vacation recipe requires two essential ingredients…‘Town’ and ‘Country’. By mixing a must-see city and a location off-the-beaten path a visitor can delve deeper into a culture; the lifestyle, the food scene, the topography and most importantly this winning combination gives a traveler a different, more balanced perspective of a place and its people. The ‘Town’ doesn’t have to be a big city and the ‘Country’ doesn’t have to be rural or desolate at all. The point is to be able to gain the perspective that visiting only a huge city or only a small village can’t provide.

I love visiting bustling metropolises and I enjoy the pulsating hustle of the city dwellers around me. I walk around sightseeing all day, I shop at chic boutiques that sell beautiful and unique things, I visit museums and art galleries, I eat fine worldly cuisine three meals a day and stay up all hours of the night to join in the party of urban fabulousness. Though, after long days and long nights, a ‘Town’ destination can be taxing on the body. The grit of a big city loses its luster, the urbane inhabitants start to seem rude, and not only the sky-high cityscape but the exorbitant prices start to overwhelm.

I also love visiting slow-paced islands, quaint beach towns, and picturesque country estates. I sleep ten hours a night, pamper myself with spa treatments, spend the day laying in the sun (whether it be by the sea, by the pool, or by a watering hole), I enjoy local cuisine, I read books and lose myself in the most sought after ‘Country’ destination sound…silence. However, after several days of a ‘Country’ interlude, I begin to tire of days lying around… eating and sleeping. I begin to crave activity and adventure.

This vacation ‘recipe’ is really the best of both worlds. By mixing equal parts ‘Town’ and ‘Country’ I can enjoy the sophisticated culture of a big city and the quiet serenity of a beach, island or provincial destination, all on one trip. I fly into the ‘Town’ primarily because there are more flights available to cities and the fares are less expensive than flying into smaller towns. Just when I start to feel overwhelmed in the city…it’s time to take a vacation from my vacation and head for the ‘Country’.

You may think that this kind of travel would be cost prohibitive but in reality the ‘Town’ and the ‘Country’ should be a manageable distance from one another. When choosing a destination, pick a city and find out where the inhabitants go to get away for weekends. Research small villages in the environs and make sure there are tourist facilities in the ‘Country’ destination as well as along the way. To get from the ‘Town’ to the ‘Country’ many modes of transportation are available and really depend on where in the world you are visiting. Domestic flights are usually inexpensive as are train fares and car rentals.

Here are a few examples of ‘Town’ and ‘Country’ trips we’ve taken and enjoyed:

* Bangkok and Koh Samui, Thailand
471 Kilometers/292 miles. We flew into the dirty, crazy, fascinating urban jungle of Bangkok, which happens to be meteorologically, the world’s hottest city. We spent a week walking around, dodging tuk-tuks (Thai rickshaws), sweating, sightseeing, shopping, eating, and drinking. We then flew on a small domestic airline to a little island called Koh Samui, off the Kra Isthmus. We stayed at a resort on the beach and enjoyed some much needed relaxation amidst the wafting scent of Jasmine.

* Istanbul and Bodrum, Turkey
799 kilometers/496 miles. We started our vacation off in the ancient city of Istanbul. We explored antiquities, ate beautiful Turkish food, enjoyed watching the whirling Dervish, and explored the fascinating wonders of this handsome metropolis. We then flew to Bodrum, a coastal town on the south-west coast of Turkey, along the Aegean Sea. We took a week long Gulet cruise (a small wooden boat) and enjoyed the silence of isolated cerulean coves.

* Buenos Aires, Argentina and Carmelo, Uruguay
323 kilometers/201 miles. We began our trip in the pulsating city where the tango was born. We ate lots of steak and drank beautiful Malbecs while enjoying the sounds, sights, and smells of the ‘Paris of the South’. We then took an hour long ferry from Buenos Aires to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. After exploring Colonia we rented a car and drove to the pastoral and picturesque village of Carmelo. We stayed at an AMAZING estancia called Tierra Santa (a working ranch) and enjoyed world-class food in a relaxing, quiet, rural atmosphere.

* London and Bath, England
185 kilometers/115 miles. London is a wonderful world hub and one of the must-see European cities. Bath is a great side trip because of its proximity to London. Bath is located approximately two and a half hours west of London. The town was first popularized by the Romans who made spa baths around the naturally occurring hot springs, hence the name, Bath. Since the 18th century, Bath has been a fashionable get-away for Londoners and continues to be a popular weekend get-away destination.

* Lisbon and Lagos, Portugal
302 kilometers/188 miles. We began our look at Portugal in the capital city of Lisbon. We enjoyed strong coffees in busy cafés in the shadow of the open-armed Cristo Rei monument of Christ that stands on the left bank of the Tagus River. We walked mosaic pavements while gawking at the sites as we sweated under the hot Mediterranean sun. We then took a train south to the Algarve region and stayed in a little town called Lagos. The ancient maritime town is home to some of the most beautiful, rugged beaches I have ever seen. Cliffs meet the sea and the coast is so plentiful that you may not see another sunbather all day.

*Stay tuned for upcoming postings where I’ll take you on a more in-depth tour of these fascinating destinations!

This is a simple recipe that even the most novice traveler can follow. The idea is to get away from the hub city where everyone and their brother flys into. This recipe is about independent travel and the tenacity to go off-the-beaten path.

Step One- Pick an urban ‘Town’ destination
Step Two- Pick a smaller, nearby ‘Country’ destination
Step Three- Mix the two in equal parts on your next vacation
Step Four- Run Around in the ‘Town’ and relax in the ‘Country’
Step Five- Most importantly…share your travels with someone you love.

1 comment:

  1. I love your idea - we are going to follow it on our next trip:) Thanks for that.JiM&S