Old historic church in Montalcino Italy
Southern France is lined with ancient stone villages that have existed for centuries. Most villages are surrounded by wineries and vineyards creating a woven tapesty that change colors with the seasons. In the valleys of the Pyrenees Mountains the roads wind along rivers, vineyards and villages.
Life is simple in the villages and most industries focus on the wine industry. Each village has their own wine cooperative where the smaller vineyards bring their current grape harvest. The local cooperative then processes and bottles the wine. The local wine is then sold through the local wine cooperative.
The larger vineyards market and sell their own wine under a private lable. And as you travel through the villages in the Maury Wine area you will see huge vats on porches or inside the doorway of warehouses waiting for that moment when the wine is ready for market.
Harvest season everyone has a job. The local vineyards will hire anyone who wants to work and the roads are filled the sounds of laughter and families handpicking the grapes.
Although there are several types of wines found in Languedoc France, one of the most famous is the Maury AOC. This wine is noted for its strong sweet taste similar to Brandy. There are rigid requirements for a wine to be granted the Maury AOC label. One of the well know wineries in Maury is Mas Amiel and as you travel along the Maury Wine Trail, you will see the logo in the vineyards.
It’s hot. I’m in the south of Thailand, it’s the middle of the day, and I’m wandering a city that even Lonely Planet struggles to recommend – the town of Nakhon si Thammarat. I was walking down the street in search of a hotel, which seemed promising given the reviews online, from the few choices available. Despite my best efforts, walking up and down the street and peering intently around, the hotel resolutely failed to appear at the location the online map I was using said it should be.
Dejected, and sweating profusely in the hot sun, I took refuge in a small shop to plan my next move. The lady in the shop took pity, and asked what I was doing. In my entirely non-existent Thai, I conveyed the impression that I was trying to find a hotel that didn’t seem to exist. After much hand waving and other sign language, it became apparent that the hotel did in fact exist, only, it wasn’t anywhere near where I was looking for it. Which explained at least why I couldn’t find it. She inspected my sweaty condition, my luggage and the distance I had to go, and decided that attempting to walk across town to find the hotel was likely to kill me.
Instead, a motorbike and side car were procured, with two likely lads summoned as my chauffeurs. Bags were loaded into the sidecar, I was popped onto the seat. Off we went, arriving ten minutes later on the other side of town to a hotel that did, thankfully, exist. Attempts to thank my rescuers with money were waved away amidst enormous smiles. An experience I won’t forget.
This time I was in the ancient Thai city of Ayutthaya. This used to be the largest city in the world, and the capital of the Thai Kingdom. Over a million people once called this city home – although that all came to an end when the Burmese razed it to the ground in the 17th century.I had spent the day exploring some of the many temple ruins that dot the city, on a circuitous route that had taken me all day, and where I had somewhat lost track of time. I found myself, as the sun was setting, only fifty meters from my hostel, footsore and ready for a cold beer.
Unfortunately, the fifty meters between myself and the hostel were filled with the flowing mass of the Chaophraya river, making my return home that little bit trickier. There was nary a bridge in sight. Nor was there any evidence of the many water taxis that had been zipping up and down the river all day. It looked like I might have to walk back around the way I had come, a distance of at least 6km, in the dark.I cast about for an alternative option, which didn’t present itself, so I started walking. After a few minutes of walking, a lady on a bright yellow scooter stopped, and presumably attracted by my despondent face, asked in Thai if I was ok. I pointed at the river, and signaled I needed to be on the other side of it. She smiled, made it clear I was walking in exactly the wrong direction, and motioned me to the back of her scooter.
Now – accepting rides from strangers isn’t necessarily something I’d recommend, but given I was tired and she seemed nice, I hopped on. I figured if all went wrong I could scream a lot. We set off into the traffic, on a journey which could best be described as “slightly terrifying”. Scooters in Thailand appear to have their own set of traffic regulations, and we seemed to be defying all of them. Still, before I could get really worried, it was all over, and I was deposited at the public ferry for river crossings – presumably a well sign posted location for those with Thai as a language. Mere seconds later I was back on the right side of the river, and it wasn’t long before that cold beer was in my hand. Again, attempts to thank my rescuer with a few Thai Baht were waved away with smiles.
These were but two examples of the friendly welcome I received during my time in Thailand – I can think of many more.
Truly, this is a place where the smile is backed up with genuine friendliness and compassion! A country I am always pleased to recommend to travelers.
Lawrence Noah loves photography and exploring different cultures. You can find him at Finding the Universe
After living for 25 years in USA, where I went with my husband at the time to do our graduate studies, a divorce, and a big economic crisis, I decided to come back to my home country and restart life with something completing new from what I had been doing till then. Most of my adult life was dedicated to raising my three beautiful children Leonardo, Gabriel and Bianca who were all born in USA. Then in 2005, my husband and I divorced, so in 2009 I made the final decision and moved my family back to Brazil, my homeland, settling not in Rio de Janeiro, where I was from originally, but in the charming, southern island-city of Florianopolis in the state of Santa Catarina. I simply fell in love with the island, a cosmopolitan city of some 300,000 with two major universities, a Waldorf School and 42 surf beaches along the ocean side of the island.
I sensed that Florianopolis, though still a bit sleepy at the time, was about to be discovered by the travel industry, so, needing a way to earn a living, I decided to open a bed-and-breakfast in the house I was living in on the island’s inland lake, Lagoa da Conceicao. I have two big passions in my life: travel and meeting new people. I love to talk and find myself fascinated by people’s life stories, so I thought this would be a perfect way to combine those interests of mine. And that has turned out to be so very true.
I love getting to know my guests, to hear their life stories, their passions, the litany of their travels. Unlike with some hoteliers, my guest are not just people who come to have a bed to sleep and a breakfast to eat but rather people who are looking to experience a new culture, It is a great pleasure for me to be able to share with them the things I appreciate in the island, the gastronomy , the craft beers, wines, music, sports or just being able to be part of such great moments of their lives.. moment of re-sparking and re-calibrating so they can go back into their routine of life and work feeling rested and renewed. Janela de Marcia has also proven to be a wonderful experience for my children. My oldest son is attending college in the U.S., but my second-born, Gabriel, has been a big help to me and learned a lot from the experience. He is just heading off to university in southern Brazil now. My youngest, my angelic 12-year-old daughter, Bianca, has also been a big help to me and has learned a great deal from the experience.
The real star of the show, though, is Florianopolis itself. This city has so much to offer without the problems of the big cities. I am not much of a surfer, but I enjoy connecting my guests up with some of the excellent surf instructors here and the fabulous beaches, too. There are wonderful restaurants (seafood, of course, is a specialty), fun clubs, cafes. Some of the best moments, though, turn out to be relaxed conversations during the quiet mornings at Janela de Marcia, over coffee and our delicious Brazilian breakfasts. Perhaps my favorite aspect of running my business has been not just having guests but making friends, friends from all over the world.
“Mimosa Apartment” in Kotor Montenegro
The first time I came to Kotor was on a ship from Italy and when we sailed into Southern Europe’s deepest fjord Kotor Bay with the morning sun, I was sold. Flanked by towering mountains on either side, this 28-kilometre bay was more beautiful than we ever could have imagined. Having travelled extensively for many years I knew that I wanted to spend time here, again and again; so we swept aside our intention to explore this entire small country of 600 000 inhabitants and instead spent a week looking at property.
Within a week we found a seaside apartment that had the benefit of the sea on the doorstep as well as being within walking distance of one of Europe’s best preserved medieval cities, Kotor. Mimosa, our lovely apartment, therefore has the best of both worlds: the advantage of swimming, fishing, boating, and water sports as well as the culture and leisure activities of a city.
Montenegro is a magic place, no wonder it was chosen as the setting James Bond film “Royal Casino”.
At the northern tip of the Garden Route, on the border of the Western and Eastern Cape, the R102 swings away from the N2 and zigzags down a mountain pass, passing a troop of baboons squatting, appropriately, just beyond the baboon warning sign. 10 Kilometres later, at sea level; a sign indicates the opportunity for a cup of tea. This is Nature’s Valley, the Garden Route’s best-kept secret.
A tiny enclave nestled within the Tsitsikamma forest, Nature’s Valley is a residential area located inside a South African National Park. A couple of kilometres in length and a few hundred metres in diameter, it is flanked by the Indian Ocean, a placid lagoon, and mountain slopes covered with indigenous forest, yet only 30 kilometres from bustling Plettenberg Bay.
What makes Nature’s Valley so special? For me it was carefree days spent hiking with now long-lost friends along the rugged coastline past rocky cliffs to reach the Salt River Mouth, a picturesque cove set against the verdant backdrop of mountain forest. There we camped for days, isolated from all noise of civilisation. Now, decades later, these views and beauty still take my breath away. This is still South Africa’s most beautiful location or, as a lot of my guests say, “paradise on earth”. For those who simply wish to soak up the timeless beauty of nature, you don’t need to venture far but whatever it is you wish to see or do in Nature’s Valley, be prepared for it to steal a piece of your heart.
Tremblant Living was founded in 2003 by Chris Nadeau and Isabelle Daigneault. “Our business and personal values are reflected throughout business, including; being responsible corporate citizens, respect for planet earth, honesty, trust and enjoying life while leaving a minimal trace! We are a husband/wife team who are passionate about the great outdoors and enjoy discovering the world and particularly its great cultural diversity”.
“We pride ourselves in providing a high level customer experience in amazing Tremblant experience to vacationers in Mount Tremblant. We offer vacation homes that are on or close to the resort, & equipped with everything that you could possibly need to make your stay incredible! Tremblant Living properties come with only the highest of standards. We are accredited by the CITQ (Quebec’s Tourism arm) and repeatedly deliver outstanding accommodations and amazing guest experiences! “
An owner of rental properties in Tremblant since 1999, Chris understands the needs and expectations of home owners as well as vacationers. Born in a small 500 person fishing village in Northeastern Quebec (near Labrador). He left a 17-year Canadian banking career in 2003 to concentrate on growing the ‘Tremblant Living’ brand that he started years earlier. He also enjoys discovering the world and practicing numerous sports including hockey, yoga & backcountry skiing.
Isabelle was born and raised in Quebec’s Eastern Townships and is an active volunteer on the national committee of the Alpine Club of Canada. Passionate about the outdoors and travelling, Isabelle is an active volunteer on the national committee of the Alpine Club of Canada. She enjoys skiing, climbing, mountaineering and yoga She also has a passion for film making – producing her first documentary film called “Chuquiragua” (2005) that was featured a number of film festivals.