Summer is officially here so let me dream a little. Of faraway destinations, of trips I always wanted to take and of places I am longing to return to. Not a bucket list, really, just a list of places I would pick if I could pack my bags tomorrow and go. In fact, I will not take a proper long trip until next November but, in the meantime, I can plan ahead. Would love to hear if you have been to any of these places or what your travel plans for the Summer are.
One. Going to Italy, to me, invariably feels like a “chore”, a place I have to go back to now and then to visit the family and sometimes I forget how special it is. I always try to take in a new area or revisit a place I especially liked. I studied in Florence for a while, and years ago I rented a renaissance villa outside Arezzo and explored the countryside – and there is no countryside more beautiful than the Tuscan one. A way to avoid the tourists is to stay in a special place like Villa Piano, an estate dating back to 1036 on nearly 2,000 acres: a beautiful house with a private chef from where to explore the whole region. Check out photos and details at La Vera Italy.
Two. Paris, Provence, the Loire Valley are magical but there is so much more to France. Take Dordogne, for example, in South Western France. Dordogne has been on my mind because I follow the blog of a South-African transplant who lives there, on a property she also rents that is on my list of must visit. The self-contained house, Maison Travers, that sleeps 6, is on 30 acres and near the village of La Bugue. While you would be living completely on your own, I believe there is a way for Nadia to be persuaded to cook….judging from what I have seen, it is worth it.
Three. If I had to choose one luxury hotel to stay at, it would be the Post Ranch Inn Inn in Big Sur. Every time. And not just because it holds personal memories: situated on the cliffs of Big Sur, one of the most beautiful and untouched stretches of the California coast (about 90 minutes south of San Francisco), the Post Ranch is one of the few places where you can feel completely disconnected. No cell reception, no tv, nothing will come in from the outside world if you don’t want it to. All you will for is to hole up in your room, that can be literally on the cliff (not for the faint of heart) or up on a tree. If you are passing through Big Sur, try to stop for a drink or a meal at the restaurant.
Four. One of my most memorable trips was Ecuador with sofagirl. We did it on the cheap, driving around the mountains and then flying to the Galapagos, all the way through sleeping in dodgy accommodations. But Ecuador is beautiful and, if you are into wildlife as much as I am, the Galapagos are a must. Talking to a patient from Ecuador a few days ago, she told me of the Railway in the Sky, a train that goes from Quito to Guayaquil, the line perched atop mountains for breathtaking views (and no hiking boots required). The ride takes four days and every night you stop and sleep in a charming hacienda and explore a different village. I put this on my list immediately.
Five. Since reading “The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency” I have wanted to visit Botswana, and perhaps meet Precious Ramotswe. This is the trip sofagirl and I are planning to take every year: a safari at the Okavango Delta, maybe driving there all the way from South Africa. It’s my dream to see elephants, hippos, zebras and all manners of wildlife in their natural habitat, roaming around the unspoilt Delta. The cost of safaris and accommodations there is a drawback but a friend of sofagirl recently used the fairly affordable Botswana Family Safaris and highly recommended them. So, who knows, back to planning.
Top image: the inside of Villa Piano