An Adventure in Angkor Wat

An Adventure in Angkor Wat

We stumbled down the outdoor staircase and passed reception where a man stood, a bit dazed in the early morning hours. The clock face on my watch flashed 5:00 a.m. We were directed to one of several waiting carts hooked to the back of a moped, called tuk-tuks, where a local wrapped in a light jean jacket greeted us. I crawled onto the tattered leather seats behind my lone companion on this escapade, a friend and fellow student, Mitali. It was mid-March in Cambodia and when the sun was at its highest, it seared through any resemblance of comfort. Thus we joined several tuk-tuks rattling through the dirt roads of Siem Reap in the almost cool morning air hoping to escape the inevitable afternoon swelter. Several upscale resorts whirred past us, a bit out of place in this desert landscape, as we made our way towards today’s adventure — Angkor Archeological Park, or perhaps better known as Angkor Wat. Joining the Masses The UNESCO World Heritage site stretches 400 square kilometers and boasts remains from the Khmer Empire dating as far back as the 9th century. Angkor Wat is just one of its temples, and arguably its most magnificent. Many people whose ancestors once occupied the site still live in villages scattered across the property, heralding guests with food and souvenirs. It’s riddled with history and religious significance, and on this morning, many tourists like ourselves. Our driver, who we’ve paid a mere $10 US to drive us between sites for the next eight hours, took us to the ticket center where a rather unalluring photo captured my disdain for...
The Vintage House Review: A Luxury Escape In The Heart of the Douro Valley, Portugal

The Vintage House Review: A Luxury Escape In The Heart of the Douro Valley, Portugal

The Douro Valley immediately shot to the top of our travel bucket list the moment we decided to celebrate our six-year anniversary in Portugal. Luckily, this spectacular wine region did not disappoint.     From the rolling green hills to the rushing Douro River to the lush vineyards and olive groves, the Douro Valley is easily one of the most romantic places we’ve visited. Top it all off with spectacular wines from family-run wineries and mouthwatering local cuisine, and it’s hardly any wonder why we’re already dreaming of a return visit. For such a magical destination, it only makes sense to splurge on a memorable and luxurious hotel to match. And in the Douro Valley, there is simply no comparison to The Vintage House.   The Vintage House: A Luxury Hotel In The Douro Valley, Portugal     The Vintage House is a five-star boutique hotel just steps from the famed Pinhao Train Station. Located in what was once an 18th-century wine estate, The Vintage House is all elegance and style. From luxury bedding to sophisticated furnishings, you’ll find all the amenities you would expect from a five-star hotel. The true highlights of the rooms are the private terraces, each with unparalleled views of the Douro River. There’s nothing quite like sipping a cup of coffee in between wine tastings on your personal terrace while soaking in the outstanding views of the Douro Valley all around.     The Vintage House also boasts a lovely pool with panoramic river views, which looks particularly scenic when lit up at night. We didn’t get to spend time at the pool, but...
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia: What To Know Before You Go

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia: What To Know Before You Go

If you’re planning a road trip through Croatia, then chances are Plitvice Lakes National Park is high on your bucket list. This fairytale setting of aquamarine water, dazzling waterfalls, colorful dragonflies and scenic woodlands is one of Croatia’s most renowned tourist attractions—clearly for a good reason.     You’ll have to share the picture-perfect scenery with heaps of other visitors, (Plitvice Lakes National Park sees some 1.2 million tourists each year) but don’t let this deter you. Nearly every turn along the wooden trail is more beautiful than the last, revealing waterfalls of all shapes and sizes that plummet into sparkling, crystal-clear pools below.                                 If you’re ready for the ultimate trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park, here’s what to know before you go: Navigating Plitvice Lakes National Park   Plitvice Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprised of a series of 16 terraced lakes; the cascading lakes are grouped into the 12 upper lakes and four lower lakes, with some 90 waterfalls along the way. Convenient wooden walking trails make exploring the park simple and accessible. Avid hikers can opt to adventure further into the park along well-marked dirt paths.   You’ll want at least three hours to do Plitvice Lakes justice, though you’ll likely find that’s not quite enough to walk around both the lower and upper falls. We parked at Entrance 1, walked around the lower falls, then took the ferry to the upper falls where we walked a bit more before returning to Entrance 1 via the...
Exploring Portugal’s Mesmerizing Minho Region

Exploring Portugal’s Mesmerizing Minho Region

  Many travelers to Portugal only make it as far north as the lovely—but increasingly touristy—city of Porto. However, continue a bit farther, and you’ll arrive at Portugal’s mesmerizing Minho region. This often overlooked destination is characterized by lush mountains, rolling vineyards, charming towns and sweeping beaches.     Though our stay in the Minho was short, the spots we did visit were some of our favorite on our entire road trip. In fact, we added one city to our ongoing “I could live here list.” Whether you’re planning a similar road trip through Portugal or you’re just looking for a semi off-the-beaten-track spot for your next European adventure, here are a few things to love about the often overlooked Minho region:   Highlights of The Minho, Portugal From the birthplace of Portugal to the home of Vinho Verde to some of the country’s most verdant landscapes, the Minho region offers a little something for everyone. Here’s a look at our top picks: Guimarães     Considered the birthplace of Portugal, it was here that revered King D Alfonso Henriques was born and later declared Portugal’s independence. Visit the medieval Castle of Guimarães to see Alfonso’s birthplace, also the site of many key battles in Portugal’s early history.     While you’re there, you won’t want to miss the Historic Center of Guimarães, a UNESCO World Heritage Site revered for its beauty and preservation. We recommend grabbing lunch amongst the gothic buildings in the lovely Largo da Oliveira, then taking the time to amble through the many winding alleyways.     Guimarães is a favorite day trip from Porto,...
The Highlights of Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Highlights of Dubrovnik, Croatia

If you’re planning a visit to Croatia, then chances are Dubrovnik has a spot on your travel itinerary. Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Dubrovnik offers stunning views, picture-perfect beaches, fascinating medieval architecture and plenty of adventure activities. Dubrovnik is also home to many locations used to film Game of Thrones, attracting quite a few travelers whose sole purpose of visiting is to see the real-life settings behind the hit T.V. show. Given its fame, beauty and UNESCO World Heritage status, it’s hardly a surprise that Dubrovnik also gets tons of tourists, especially within the Old Town. To be honest, knowing very little about Croatia prior to our road trip, I was shocked by just how touristy the city felt. Dubrovnik is still well worth the visit, but try to avoid peak season and know you’ll likely be sharing the views with many other tour groups.     The Start To Our Croatia Road Trip   After picking up the rental car in Split, Dubrovnik was the first destination on our road trip itinerary. The drive from Split to Dubrovnik is gorgeous, much of it hugging the coastline. Keep your passport handy, because you’ll even get to pass through Bosnia for a few miles!       Our rental car was courtesy of Nova Rent A Car, and we could not have been happier. The car was brand new and super easy to drive throughout Croatia and Slovenia. If you’re visiting these two countries, you really want to have your own wheels. The most breathtaking spots were driving through the countryside (lots...
Carmo’s Boutique Hotel: A Small Luxury Hotel In Portugal’s Most Spectacular Region

Carmo’s Boutique Hotel: A Small Luxury Hotel In Portugal’s Most Spectacular Region

  It’s no secret that, given our travel lifestyle, we’ve stayed in countless hotels, hostels, resorts and apartments of all shapes, sizes and prices around the world. Throughout this time, we’ve learned that our favorite kind of accommodation is the small luxury hotel. The type of place that’s more like a friend’s guesthouse than a business—accommodation where you feel right at home (albeit more often than not at a much more stylish and luxurious home.) These small and personal hotels always go down as the most memorable, actually enhancing our travel experiences rather than just serving as a place to fall asleep at the end of a long day. Carmo’s Boutique Hotel in Ponte de Lima, Portugal, is exactly this kind of place (and more.) The family-run luxury hotel is not only uniquely gorgeous in every way, but it’s also conveniently located in one of our favorite spots in Portugal, the Minho region. If you’re looking for a memorable, off-the-beaten-track Portuguese experience, this is it. Here’s a closer look at why we love Carmo’s Boutique Hotel and the Minho region so much:   Carmo’s Boutique Hotel: A Small Luxury Hotel Of The World   It doesn’t take long to realize why Carmo’s consistently wins awards for being one of the world’s best small luxury hotels. Located down a quiet country road surrounded by rolling hills, you might drive right past Carmo’s if you didn’t know to look for it. Once inside, the hotel grounds begin to unfold into a quiet oasis of gardens and vineyards.     Carmo’s Boutique Hotel has just fifteen suites and two ultra-glamorous tents. You’ll...
A Must-Try Douro Valley Wine Tour in Portugal

A Must-Try Douro Valley Wine Tour in Portugal

    The Douro Valley makes a dramatic first impression. With its rolling green hills, a mighty river and lush vineyards and olive groves, it’s hard to imagine a better backdrop for sipping fine ports and table wines.     While the Douro Valley isn’t necessarily a secret, the destination doesn’t see nearly as many tourists as other famed wine regions such as Bordeaux or Napa. Drive just a few minutes outside of the main town of Pinhão, and you’ll encounter picturesque towns devoid of any tourists, seemingly pulled straight out of a storybook.     Even with its sleepy charm, you won’t have any trouble discovering spectacular vistas, delectable cuisine and memorable wines—if you know where to go.   Enter: Jorge Barefoot Wine & Tours     It’s no secret that we love wine and food tours. From Hong Kong to Paris to Boston, we’ve had quite a few incredible foodie experiences. But of them all, our Wine and Olive Oil Tour with Jorge easily tops out as most memorable—for all the right reasons. The best wineries in the Douro Valley are spread out, and most require advanced reservations for a tasting. We wanted to discover top table wines, but we also wanted to do it in a way that would let us get to know the winemakers and ideally find undiscovered wines from small but passionate producers. Jorge Barefoot Wine & Tours was the perfect solution. We set up a private, full-day tour, meeting from our apartment in Provezende, then set out on what would be the highlight of Portuguese adventure.   An Introduction To Winemaking In...