Luxe Adventure Traveler http://luxeadventuretraveler.com Adventure Travel With a Glass of Wine Thu, 05 Mar 2015 18:15:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 The Beginner’s Guide to Wine Tasting http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/beginners-guide-to-wine-tasting/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/beginners-guide-to-wine-tasting/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 16:16:01 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=64209 Luxe Adventure Traveler

You sit down at a nice restaurant and are presented the wine list. You might ask for a few recommendations and finally settle upon a bottle to order. Before you know it, your waiter is proudly presenting the bottle to you and pours just a tasting amount in the glass with a flourish. If you’re [...]

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Beginner's Guide to Wine TastingYou sit down at a nice restaurant and are presented the wine list. You might ask for a few recommendations and finally settle upon a bottle to order. Before you know it, your waiter is proudly presenting the bottle to you and pours just a tasting amount in the glass with a flourish. If you’re not a certified sommelier, you’re probably like the rest of us who swirl it, taste and nod your head that it’ll be just fine. But wine tasting doesn’t have to feel intimidating or pretentious, especially when you know what to look for. Follow this beginner’s guide to wine tasting and you’ll have your waiter convinced you’re a wine connoisseur!

Step 1: Sight

Wine tasting truly uses all of your senses and our eyes give us the first impression of the wine. Like many of us recently learned with “that dress,” our eyes can play tricks on us. To sip like a sommelier, you’ll want to get the full color range of the wine and look at it in four different ways. First, look straight down in to your glass to take in the deep color of the core of the wine.

Next, hold the glass to the light and look at it through the sides of the glass. Wine should always be clear with some sparkle to it, like a brilliant diamond. A murky wine is a sign of a problem with the fermentation process or a chemical imbalance.

Tilt the glass to let the wine thin out toward the edges to determine if the wine is young or old. If it looks watery or very pale at the edges, it could be a wine that is too young and lacking any flavor. You can also see if the wine is past its prime and oxidized if the color of the edge looks brown for a white wine or orange for a red wine.

Finish off your sight evaluation with the swirl. And you might laugh, but the mid-air swirl is a practiced technique. Beginners should place the glass back on the table and swirl while firmly planted on that table. There’s nothing more embarrassing that sloshing some wine out while “free-styling.”

Step 2: Smell

Did you know that 50% of taste comes from smell? So it’s pretty much a crime not to allow your nose to take in the bouquet of the wine. You’re robbing yourself of half of the taste!

To get the full bouquet, it’s best if the wine can oxygenate before smelling it. For a red, 30 minutes in a decanter is optimal. But even a few minutes in the glass while you’re examining the color will make a big difference. The swirl also helps release the bouquet.

Don’t stick your nose right in to the glass; that just looks ridiculous and you won’t get the full bouquet of the wine. Instead, hover over the glass and take several short sniffs, swirling in between. While it’s impressive that sommeliers can name a number of the fruits, spices and herbs in a wine, and it can even be fun to guess, it’s really not necessary to learning how to taste and enjoy wine. But if can you pick out a few, it admittedly does enhance your experience. Whenever I sniff blackberries, I know the wine is going to be a hit in my book.

Just like bad apples happen, flawed wines happen. Certain scents are a sure fire way of sniffing out a spoiled wine. Scents like vinegar, nail polish or rotten eggs are scents you definitely don’t want in your wine. It it smells funky, it will definitely taste funky. If you’re at home, pour it right down the drain. If you’re at a restaurant, send it back.

Step 3: Taste

Finally it’s time to put that glass you’ve been tinkering with to your lips and get a taste of that divine liquid! But as with sight and smell, you want to savor it; don’t just swallow it. Take a sip and swirl it around your entire mouth to get a true sense of taste and texture.

Yes, wines definitely do have different textures – one of my favorite textures is a jammy wine. Sommeliers, I know you cringe at jammy wines but don’t be a hater. A jammy wine has a syrupy, cooked berry quality about it. In my world of wine, jammy = yummy.

Back to tasting though, the taste happens in three parts: initial impression, evolution and the finish. The initial impression is when you pick up the flavors and is influenced by the sniffing phase. You smelled black pepper? I bet the wine tastes a bit spicy to you. Picked up on those blackberries? It feels jammy in your mouth.

The evolution is when you pick up on more subtle flavors that you didn’t notice initially. Take the time to enjoy it and think about the familiarity of the flavors. The finish is how long the wine keeps expressing itself in your mouth. A good, quality wine will linger.

Food also influences the taste of wine. There are a number of wines I just don’t like as a stand alone, enjoy a glass with a book wine. But paired properly with food and suddenly they are delicious! Reversely, improperly pairing wine with food can also make it not taste good.

Wine tasting in Crete

There’s obviously nothing pretentious about this group of wine tasters!

Take a Wine Tasting Class

If you really want to get a grasp of wine tasting and learn more about the various appellations of the wine region you’re visiting, there are often wine tasting classes you can attend. I attended a beginner’s guide to wine tasting in Crete and learned about the Cretan wines from a local expert who walked our group through a variety of six different wines. The wine cellar is in the heart of Chania, perfect for then taking a stroll to a nearby taverna for dinner after. You can even purchase wines at the cellar, which I did to take to the beach with me the next day.

viator-ambassador-400Our Crete wine tasting was provided by Viator in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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Unforgettable Winter Adventures in Swedish Lapland http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/winter-adventures-in-swedish-lapland/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/winter-adventures-in-swedish-lapland/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 17:53:28 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=63272 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Swedish Lapland is magical in the winter. Snow that sparkles like a sea of diamonds, spotting herds of reindeer, trees so heavy with snow that they dip precariously toward the ground, and green curtains dancing across the night sky. There’s a thrill to stepping off the plane at the tiny airport and spotting the negative [...]

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Swedish Lapland is magical in the winter. Snow that sparkles like a sea of diamonds, spotting herds of reindeer, trees so heavy with snow that they dip precariously toward the ground, and green curtains dancing across the night sky. There’s a thrill to stepping off the plane at the tiny airport and spotting the negative temperatures displayed on the sign welcoming you to Kiruna. It might sound absolutely crazy to go to a place so cold that you’ll quite literally feel your eyelashes freeze, but the experiences are unforgettable.

Northern Lights in Abisko, SwedenChasing the Northern Lights

One of the greatest and most spectacular natural phenomena on earth, it seems every traveler has put witnessing the green curtain that seemingly billows across the Arctic night sky on their must-see list. We get it. We’ve had the good fortune to see the Northern Lights more than a dozen times now in four different countries and we’re still always planning our next trip to go chasing them.

We Recommend

5 Things No One Ever Tells You About the Northern Lights

Even the teeny-tiny town of Abisko, shockingly, puts off a lot of light pollution. And when you’re chasing the Northern Lights, you want as little light pollution as possible for the best viewing. Lights Over Lapland, the premier Northern Lights tour company in Swedish Lapland, offers excursions to the Aurora Sky Station. Each night a small group of guests that opt for the Aurora Sky Station Exclusive Dinner are whisked up the mountain to 900 meters by chair lift.

Aurora Sky Station

Reindeer starter, soup with caviar, and reindeer filet entree

After the 20-minute ride, being welcomed with hot mulled wine with a shot of cloudberry liquor warms you right up. The chef prepares the dinner in the open-style kitchen impressively on a stove no bigger than the one you have at home and our small group enjoyed the 4-course while the chairlift operator keep a Northern Lights watch for us. The menu is a set menu as all ingredients have to be brought up via the chair lift and you can opt for wine or beer pairings (not included).

We Recommend

Why Abisko is the Best Place in Europe to See Northern Lights

After dinner, more guests begin arriving and there are short guided tours that give you some interesting facts about the Northern Lights and show you around outside. Climb the observation tower and if you can hold still for five minutes, the Aurora Sky Cam snaps a photo that you can view on the Aurora Sky Station website.

Though our night up at the Aurora Sky Station was a rare completely cloud covered night and we eventually gave up on the Northern Lights, we still had a wonderful meal in a very special place. The Northern Lights are never a guarantee, and you’ll never spot them if you simply don’t go outside and look. The great thing about keeping watching from the Aurora Sky Station is that you have a warm place to hang out and with staff and other aurora hunters keeping an eye out, you’ll be sure not to miss them if they appear.

Dog Sledding in Swedish LaplandDog Sledding in the Swedish Forest

If you think the best way to enjoy Swedish Lapland’s wintery landscape is to sit by the fire and gaze out the window, think again. Bundle up, get outdoors and conquer the snowy terrain with a team of huskies. The moment that the barking stops as you ease your foot off the brake and the dogs can do what they were born to do is a moment that you’ll never forget.

The Pine Tree Lodge, which actually started out as a husky kennel offering dog sledding tours in Swedish Lapland, is located in the middle of the forest. The owner, Johan, started the company after spending a year in Alaska in quite literally the middle of no where (the nearest town was 700 kilometers away) and learning to mush with his own sled dog team. Now Johan and his guides take great joy in taking people like us out in to the wilderness with the dogs.

With 107 Alaskan huskies, it’s quite the orchestra of howls, whines and barks when you arrive in the morning. Everybody wants to go! There’s jumping and tugging punctuated with more barks and howls as us humans get ready to go. We’re clearly not moving fast enough if the whines are any indication.

Dog sledding in Swedish LaplandJust as a maestro’s baton silences a philharmonic orchestra, taking your foot off the brake silences the deafening cries in an instant. We sledded across frozen lakes and rivers, picked up speed in the open expanses, and ducked for cover through tunnels made by the snow-covered trees bending in arches over the narrow trail.

Even though the temperatures were hovering around -20°C, helping the dogs by pushing the sled up hills keeps the blood flowing. I rode in the sled with our group’s bag of firewood, which we’d be using to make a hot lunch, and just sitting in the sled gets cold after a while. But even with my toes going numb, there’s just nothing like bouncing along in the blue light as the snowflakes gently fall.

We covered about 40 kilometers on our full day dog sled adventure and stopped midday for a lunch we cooked in the forest. Back at the lodge, a hot sauna followed by sitting in front of a crackling fire never felt so good!

Snowmobiling in Swedish LaplandSnowmobiling Over Frozen Lakes and Rivers

Though the main activity at Pine Tree Lodge is dog sledding, there are numerous other winter activities offered. Dog sledding is a really peaceful experience that makes you feel at one with nature. Snowmobiling, on the other hand, is exhilarating as you zig-zag across the snowy landscapes. Innumerable tunnels created by the tree goblins (trees so snow covered that they no longer resemble trees) open up onto frozen lakes that offer heart-racing opportunities for speed.

There is absolutely nothing like watching the sun peek above the horizon for the first time in several weeks from the middle of a frozen lake. Even though sunrise and sunset all happened within 15 minutes, our snowmobile group forgot the cold and were all completely mesmerized by the golden glow. A beam shooting straight up in to the sky above seemed to emanate from the forest. Our guide, Victor, assured us that it wasn’t our eyes playing tricks on us. Seeing the beam is as rare and special as seeing the Northern Lights dance in the Polar Night.

Snowmobiling in Swedish Lapland

We all hovered around the campfire

Like our full day dog sledding tour, we cooked a hot lunch over a fire Victor expertly built. This time we stopped out in the marshes on a large frozen lake dotted with islands. You never know what soup the cooks from the Pine Tree Lodge send and we were all pleasantly surprised with the vegetarian chili. And I don’t just say that because it was -24°C; that chili was the perfect amount of spicy and I think I could have gobbled up the entire pot myself!

We covered twice the ground we did dog sledding, traveling about 80 kilometers on the full day snowmobile tour. It was fantastic seeing parts of the forest we didn’t reach on dog sled and really awesome to spot some dog sleds making their way.

IceHotel Sweden

King and Queen of the IceHotel

Chill in the IceHotel

Located 200 miles above the Arctic Circle and situated in the small village of Jukkasjarvi, each year the IceHotel is completely reconstructed from the ice from the River Torne. 2015, when we visited, was the 25th celebration of the world’s oldest ice hotel and they certainly went all out.

IceHotel Sweden

The entrance and lobby

We’ve actually stayed in igloos on several occasions previously at a ski resort in Slovenia and just under the Matterhorn, but we were blown away by the size and intricate details at Sweden’s IceHotel. From the moment you pull open the wooden doors by their reindeer antler handles, you’re presented with a feast for the eyes. Etchings of various animals like skateboarding bear and a rollerskating reindeer adorn the walls of the lobby and a chandelier completely made of ice cut into shapes to look like Swarovski crystals dangles in the main hall.

IceHotel Sweden

Polar Night suite

From here you really take in the sheer size with multiple hallways branching off from the main hall. Each is lined with room after room, each art suite 100% unique and created by renowned artists. During the daytime, these suites are all open for guests and visitors to wander through. It was truly hard to pick a favorite! From a suite dubbed Polar Night with a lynx and howling wolves to days gone by in the Polish countryside inspired Borderland Suite, I wanted to stay in them all.

“But isn’t it really cold?”, some of you asked on our Facebook Page when we posted live photos. Actually, it was around a teeth-chattering -20°C, snowing and windy the day we spent there, so the -5°C inside the hotel was a welcome respite from the blustery weather outside. The worst part about staying in an ice hotel or igloo is if you need to use the bathroom at night. Remember that these hotels are completely made from snow and ice, so there is not plumbing nor a bathroom. If you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, it is a cold dash from the comfort of your cozy expedition sleeping bag to a bathroom in another on-site building usually 100 yards away.

Aside from the main “building” of the Ice Hotel, there is also a chapel where you can have a wedding straight of Frozen. Or head to the ICEBAR for a drink of vodka right out of a glass made of ice. Try out the kick sleds or skis, which are also available for guests and visitors. You can also arrange a variety of activities from the IceHotel, including arriving or heading to Kiruna airport by dog sled.
The Ice Hotel also has a regular on-site hotel with sauna, lounge and restaurant. We got out of the cold for a bit and happily warmed up with Arctic inspired hot cocktails and smoked reindeer ciabattas.

If you’re not up for staying the night in a bed made of ice and topped with reindeer furs, you can still visit and tour the IceHotel. There are guided tours at 12pm and 4pm and cost SEK 325 (adult) and SEK 75 for kids 6-12 years old.

Pine Tree Lodge

Our base for our dog sledding and snowmobile adventures was three nights at the Pine Tree Lodge, about eight kilometers outside the village of Kangos. The three log cabin-style buildings that make up Pine Tree Lodge are located in the middle of the forest, so there is no light pollution and you have great possibilities of seeing the Northern Lights. We loved that all of our activities started right from the lodge and that there were also cross country skis, sleds and snowshoes available for guests to use complimentary.

Pine Tree Lodge Sweden

Smoked reindeer and moose sampler

We enjoyed hanging out by the fireplace in the main building for afternoon snacks upon returning from our day trips each day. Tea, coffee, cookies and a snack that varied each afternoon were complimentary, but you could also order other beverages from the bar. We couldn’t resist ording a sampler with reindeer, moose and cheese served with cloudberry jam every single one of our three afternoons at Pine Tree Lodge. We even bought some of the reindeer, which is nicely packaged and for sale in the small gift shop, to enjoy at home.

Like our stay at the Abisko Turiststation, we were asked each day if we had any allergies. The closest hospital is a long way away, so the wait staff want to ensure everything on the menu is okay. The meal changes daily and everything we had was delicious. We also loved that we could order a bottle of wine and if we didn’t finish it, the restaurant would re-cork it and store for us until the next night. Dog sledding is exhausting after all and we had Northern Lights to stay up and watch for; a full bottle of wine would have put us to sleep!

The saunas in the main building were also perfect for warming up after being chilled to the bone on our day excursions. In addition to the sauna in the main building, the more adventurous could use the sauna next to the lake and then take an icy dip in true Scandinavian style. A request just has to be made in advance so the sauna can heat up.

Being out in the middle of the forest comes with its charms, and its challenges. We had a couple of power outages, one that knocked out the hot water and heat. I wasn’t thrilled that I couldn’t take a hot shower when we got back from dog sledding or before dinner, but a complimentary bottle of wine that the management offered took the edge of.

Aurora Odyssey Package

Our Aurora Odyssey trip was a package trip, which we don’t recommend often, but we can honestly give this one our stamp of approval. The 7-night trip includes:

  • 3 nights in the Abisko Turiststation
  • 1 night in the IceHotel warm room (upgrade available for the snow rooms for €35, the ice rooms for €130, or the ice art suites for €220)
  • 3 nights in the Pine Tree Lodge
  • 6 days of breakfast, lunch and dinner (lunch and dinner in the IceHotel are not included)
  • 3 Aurora hunting excursions
  • Aurora Sky Station visit (upgrade to Exclusive Dinner available for €100)
  • full day dog sledding
  • full day snowmobile
  • all local transfers

There are additional optional activities in both Abisko and Kangos that include everything from ice climbing to ice driving.

Know Before You Go

BookingTips
The Aurora Odyssey trip is €2980 per person.
  • Warm Bergen’s clothing is provided for all excursions, so you don’t have to worry about purchasing or packing gear.
  • We recommend bringing hand and foot warmers to keep warm on full day excursions.
  • Both Abisko Turiststation and Pine Tree Lodge accept credit cards.
  • Get cash at the airport as both Kangos and Abisko are very small villages with limited services.

 

Our Aurora Odyssey trip to Swedish Lapland was provided by Abisko Aurora with the support of Lights Over Lapland in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month: Esther Chou http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/luxe-adventure-traveler-of-the-month-esther-chou/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/luxe-adventure-traveler-of-the-month-esther-chou/#respond Fri, 27 Feb 2015 11:19:32 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=64074 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Welcome to the Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month series! Here we check in monthly with regular travelers just like you – no blog, no job in the travel industry, just travel. Want to be a Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month? Get in touch with us at info@luxeadventuretraveler.com. This month we check in with [...]

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Welcome to the Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month series! Here we check in monthly with regular travelers just like you – no blog, no job in the travel industry, just travel. Want to be a Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month? Get in touch with us at info@luxeadventuretraveler.com.

This month we check in with Esther, who is an adventurer at heart. We met Esther virtually when she got in touch with us about planning a trip to Iceland. She’s been all around the world, including South Africa and Cuba (both on our own bucket list) and we’ll definitely be asking her for some tips once we start planning for those countries.

Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month

Esther in Cuba (when it was still banned!)

Name: Esther Chou

Occupation: International Education Professional

Hometown: San Francisco, California

Tell us a little about yourself: I’ve been a huge fan of international travel since I started on a gap year to South Africa when I was 18. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to find myself in a career that has enabled me to traipse around Cuba (even when there was a travel ban!) and to return to South Africa (more than 15 times) for which I am ever grateful. Today, I work in the gap year sector to make education abroad accessible for young people of all backgrounds. I love what I do, fantastic food, and luxe adventures.

How many countries have you been to? 30

Favorite US city and your favorite thing to do there? Boston! This little college town was my home for almost a decade and I miss the way autumn looks and smells like a cold, fresh fire. My perfect day would take place in late September involving a walk through the North End to get a truly Italian pistachio cannoli at Mike’s Pastry, eating oysters at Neptune Oyster, walking to the harbor along the water, and getting a custom cocktail at Drink.

Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month

Esther in Cape Town

Favorite international city and your favorite thing to do there? Cape Town, South Africa is my favorite place on earth. The country itself is diverse with so many different religions, cultures, languages, and a rich history too. Moreover, in Cape Town you get stunning landscapes like majestic mountains, rocky beaches, greenery in the bush, coupled with wine country. The city is also beautifully curated; everything you see is well designed and well made. I love to go to the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill on Saturdays and to walk along Beach Road in Mouille Point at sunset.

Least favorite country? Why? To be fair, I truly don’t have a least favorite country because I learn something new with every trip and gain appreciation through every challenge. However, my most challenging trip was a solo journey to Egypt during Ramadan in August. Here’s what I learned: it is really hot in August, single lady travelers need to exercise caution in Cairo, and very few things are open during Ramadan except hotel restaurants and McDonald’s. 

You’ve got a healthy appetite for adventure. Tell us a little about that and what your favorite adventure has been. My adventure seeking self loves to learn and traveling is at the root of this. I tend to be an information junkie, which makes me difficult to travel with because I research overload then I want to learn, do, taste, and see everything. My most recent (and favorite) adventure to Iceland was an exercise in truly learning to appreciate the journey, not the destination. Driving around for several days along Ring Road in the winter made it hard to stop at the traditional tourist spots to get the requisite photo, but I encountered endless, jaw dropping beauty that was so worth it!

Five things you never travel without? (Passport is a given). An excellent book. A beautiful scarf that doubles as a blanket. Melatonin. My iPhone. Small gifts that represent my home for people I’m grateful to meet along the way.

Favorite travel iPhone app? TripIt (before you get there): to organize all your itineraries and reservations. Tripr (when you get there): to meet like minded travelers… it’s like Tinder except the end result is… travel buddies.

What is your most embarrassing or worst travel moment? Tucking my skirt into my underpants when exiting the ladies room at a fancy restaurant in Lusaka, Zambia… then getting pulled aside by a very kind waitress who was mortified FOR ME.

My dream travel destination: Lebanon!

You’re a Luxe Adventure Traveler reader. What’s your favorite tip or suggestion you’ve gotten from our site? I debated going to Iceland during the winter but ultimately this website got me to change my mind. My travel buddy and I got awesome tips – everything from how to photograph the Northern Lights to plans for New Year’s Eve. The review of Silfra snorkeling excursion really prepared us for what to expect (down to how many pairs of socks to wear) and was the best thing we did in Iceland!

What’s your favorite travel website(s) (besides Luxe Adventure Traveler, of course!)? I like TripAdvisor generally for reviews, but I love Instagram for inspiration. My favorite travel photogs on IG: thephotosociety, ourwildabandon, everchanginghorizon, and of course, natgeotravel.

Best travel tip: I think the golden rule of travel is to exercise curiosity before judgment when you’re a stranger in a foreign land. Asking questions of kind, benevolent strangers has led to some of my most enriching conversations and unexpected adventures.

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Get Adventurous In Málaga http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/get-adventurous-in-malaga/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/get-adventurous-in-malaga/#respond Thu, 26 Feb 2015 16:52:22 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=64050 Luxe Adventure Traveler

This is a guest post written by Tim Rhodes. Tim is an avid traveler with several backpacking trips around Europe under his belt. While traveling, he enjoys freelance blogging about his adventures and advising fellow globetrotters. When contemplating a trip to Spain, there are a number of factors that come into play when deciding exactly [...]

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

This is a guest post written by Tim Rhodes. Tim is an avid traveler with several backpacking trips around Europe under his belt. While traveling, he enjoys freelance blogging about his adventures and advising fellow globetrotters.

MalagaWhen contemplating a trip to Spain, there are a number of factors that come into play when deciding exactly where you’re heading. Which region’s cuisine may influence the city or town you end up visiting, and if that’s the case you should probably head to San Sebastian and use this guide to eat your way through the city and its wonderful pintxo bars. But if it’s rich history you’re after, you may want to spend a few days in Santiago de Compostela, where you can learn all about its background—though you can also do that virtually here via UNESCO.

Honestly, it’d be easy to keep going like this, simply because Spain has so much to offer and, yes, that includes adventurous travel. That’s particularly true in the overlooked city of Málaga, which resides on the Mediterranean Sea in the southern portion of the country. While the municipality offers plenty of chances to indulge in local cuisine and history—there are top-rated restaurants and art museums galore—it’s also home to some excellent opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and much more.

But before you can do any of that, you’ll want to make sure you’re properly prepared to take on the elements. And no, that’s not a reference to having the right pack prepared, because that’s a given. What you’ll need is the right mode of transportation, and that means you’ll definitely want to opt for a rental car. As they write here, British Airways advises would-be Málaga travelers to spring for a rental car during their trip to the city. While they note that you can get to and from the airport to most hotels via shuttle, “the best way to see the Costa del Sol is to pick up a rental car at the airport.”

a view of Alcazaba of Malaga, in Malaga, Spain

A view of Alcazaba of Malaga, in Malaga, Spain

Case in point: many of the more adventurous spots in the area are most easily reached by getting there on your own terms. As outlined on this page from Málaga Aventura, there are a number of places you can visit within reach of Málaga that will allow you to kayak, hike, bicycle, explore underground areas, and drive through 4×4 trails (with one of the JEEP vehicles provided) in the absolutely breathtaking region of La Axarquia.

You may be tempted by the Costa Del Sol’s beaches when you visit Málaga—and who could blame you considering the weather’s almost always beach-worthy—but don’t forget to fill your agenda with these thrill-seeking activities. Just make sure your trip is long enough to soak up those rays in between days spent riding horses through the countryside and navigating through the caves.

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8 Types of Italian Coffees, Explained http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/types-of-italian-coffees/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/types-of-italian-coffees/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 15:19:57 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=62932 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Ordering coffee in Italy isn’t as simple as queueing up at your local Starbucks. First, Italians are unfamiliar with the concept of a queue and second, it is always cheaper (and the Italian way) to order your coffee at the bar and drink it standing up. There likely isn’t a menu of the coffee drinks [...]

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Ordering coffee in Italy isn’t as simple as queueing up at your local Starbucks. First, Italians are unfamiliar with the concept of a queue and second, it is always cheaper (and the Italian way) to order your coffee at the bar and drink it standing up. There likely isn’t a menu of the coffee drinks available anywhere to be found and though Starbucks sounds very Italian (venti actually means the number twenty in Italian, not the size of a coffee), you won’t recognize many of the names of types of Italian coffees. So I drank a lot of coffee in order to put together this handy little guide for how to order coffee in Italy:

Caffe

The classic coffee of Italy

1. Caffè kahf|FEH

While caffè does literally translates to coffee, a caffè is also a shot of espresso. It is served in a tiny cup and drank all throughout the day. When ordering, you order un caffè and not un espresso.

You can also order caffè corretto (pronounced kahf|FEH cohr|REHT|toh), which is a shot of espresso “corrected” with a shot of liquor. The most common additions are a shot of grappa, sambucca or cognac, but feel free to ask for the liquor of your choice. A shot of Irish cream added is always delicious.

Cappuccino

A cappuccino at one of our favorites bars by our house

2. Cappuccino kahp|poo|CHEE|noh

Cappuccino is probably Italy’s most famous coffee. After all, while there’s no such thing as a grande anything when it comes to types of Italian coffee, a cappuccino is a cappuccino the world over. It’s basically ⅓ espresso, ⅓ steamed milk and ⅓ foam.

Italians eat and drink everything at certain times and in a certain order because of how it affects digestion. With all that foam and milk, Italians consider a cappuccino a meal itself and won’t drink one after 11am. Despite the judging glares or being refused a cappuccino that you may have heard about, those are nothing more than rumors and you can enjoy a cappuccino in Italy any time you please. It’s one of my favorite types of Italian coffee and I’ve ordered it after lunch and dinner many times.

Macchiato

A macchiato often comes with a small cookie or sweet

3. Macchiato mah|KYAH|toh

A macchiato is like an espresso married a cappuccino and had a slightly foamy child. It’s an espresso with a drop or two of hot milk and served in the same little cup that an espresso comes in. Since it isn’t as milky and frothy as a cappuccino, Italians consider it perfectly acceptable to have any time of the day.

Marocchino

The marriage of cocoa and espresso known as the marocchino

4. Marocchino mah|rohk|KEE|noh

Grazie mille to the genius in Alessandria that married cocoa and espresso together to invent the marocchino! It’s a shot of espresso, a layer of foam, and a sprinkle of cacao powder in a glass mug that has been dusted with cocoa powder. It’s slightly more milky than a macchiato. In Northern Italy, where we live, thick hot chocolate is mixed with the espresso and then the layer of foam is poured on top.

caffè latte

A caffè latte is equal parts espresso and milk

5. Caffè Latte kahf|FEH LAHT|teh

Order just a latte in Italy and you might be surprised to be served a tall glass of milk. What we in the US call a latte is a caffè latte in Italy. It’s ⅓ espresso, 2/3 heated milk, and a little foam. Because of how milky this type of Italian coffee is, Italians would also only have this before 11am much like a cappuccino.

Shakerato

A shakerato is perfect on a hot day

6. Shakerato shay|keh|RAH|toh

The shakerato is Italy’s answer to the Starbucks iced coffee and on a hot day (basically all of July and August when I hole up in my air conditioned house because it’s just too unbearable to go out in that humidity), there is nothing as tasty as a shakerato. Well, technically the most refreshing Italian beverage on a hot day is a spritz Aperol, but the shakerato is perfectly acceptable to drink before 11am. It’s chilled espresso poured over ice and shaken to a froth.

caffè al ginseng

The nutty caffè al ginseng is naturally sweet

7. Caffè al Ginseng kahf|FEH ahl gin|SEHNG

My hot beverage of choice in the US is a chai tea latte, which are impossible to find in Italy. But a caffè al ginseng comes close with its nutty flavor and is a wonderful alternative if you crave chai tea lattes like I do. It’s espresso prepared with ginseng extract and needs no other sweetener. Ginseng naturally increases energy and is said to make you alert. It also helps with digestion, making caffè al ginseng another perfectly acceptable after lunch or dinner coffee drink.

caffè d'orzo

Caffè d’orzo is a great caffeine-free alternative

8. Caffè d’Orzo kahf|FEH dee ORT|zoh

Caffè d’orzo is a barley coffee and is 100% naturally caffeine-free. This is a great alternative late at night or if you have issues with caffeine. It’s also great if you have kids that like to be part of the grown-up group. I like to order mine con scorza di d’arancia, which is with a slice of orange. The citrus adds a nice flavor to it.

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Luxury Meets Nature in Rovinj http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/rovinj-croatia/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/rovinj-croatia/#comments Sun, 15 Feb 2015 15:26:04 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=63497 Luxe Adventure Traveler

About five years I went on a “guided” day trip to Rovinj. It was pouring, cold, and the guide basically left us to do our own thing without even making recommendations of what to see. Since I thought I was going on a guided tour, I didn’t do any research and ended up aimlessly wandering [...]

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Rovinj, CroatiaAbout five years I went on a “guided” day trip to Rovinj. It was pouring, cold, and the guide basically left us to do our own thing without even making recommendations of what to see. Since I thought I was going on a guided tour, I didn’t do any research and ended up aimlessly wandering around. After checking out a few of the local artists and climbing the winding streets up to the church, I planted myself in a cafe to warm up and dry off. Rovinj was beautiful even in the rain, but the highlight of my day trip was the entertainment provided by a bunch of drunken German seniors singing karaoke on the boat portion of the tour.

So I was excited when Hotel Lone invited us to their Celebration of Lo{n}ve and to discover Rovinj. While I’m never an advocate of large group bus tours with 50 of your closest friends, our second trip to Rovinj convinced me that the only way to visit is to stay for at least a few days and explore the food, wine and nature that this gorgeous slice of Croatia has to offer.

Visit Rovinj’s Old Town

The Old Town of Rovinj used to be an island that was separated from the mainland by a channel and one of the most important towns of Istria under the Venetian Republic. Now connected to the mainland, the massive Venetian Baroque St. Euphemia church dominates the peninsula with the buildings of old town tumbling down the sides from it.

St. Euphemia Rovinj, Croatia

St. Euphemia

Perhaps because we’ve lived in a tiny town straddling the Veneto for so long now, but we noticed the Venetian lions everywhere throughout the old town – on the town clock, the city gate and the town hall, to name a few. Even the bell tower of  was designed to be a replica of the one in St. Mark’s Square in Venice.

Aside from admiring the distinctly Venetian architecture, in summer artists set up shop throughout the tiny streets and you can find some really unique pieces to bring home as a souvenir. Many of these artists are members of the Croatian association of painters and have gained a reputation in Croatia, so you never know what treasure you might find!

Evidenced by the number of boats in the two harbors, Rovinj is one of Croatia’s last true fishing ports. As we walked along the harbor, some fisherman were bringing in their catch – fresh squid – which they proudly proclaimed were the biggest ones you could find in these waters. I couldn’t wait to visit a proper tavern to try the fresh fish and seafood that the fisherman sell directly to the restaurants each day.

Kantinon Rovinj, Croatia

Dinner at Kantinon: scallops, Istrian ox stew, grilled Istrian sausages, sampler of Istrian desserts

Kantinon is a charming little tavern located on the harbor with a view of the Old Town. The menu features dishes prepared with only fresh, locally sourced ingredients and made with the traditional Istrian recipes. We tried a sampling of both fish and meat dishes paired with Istrian wines. Everything we tried was delicious and the atmosphere was fantastic. We were surprised to see that some of the recent TripAdvisor reviews noted bad service, as that wasn’t at all what we experienced.

Kantinon is located at Obala Alzo Rismondo 18.

Great Cape Forest Park RovinjBike, Hike or Rock Climb the Golden Cape Forest Park

The century-old Golden Cape Forest Park has a network of trails of varying difficulty on which you can bike – or hike – for just a few kilometers or really burn off the calories on a 30 kilometer ride. We walked since we had Emma with us and took our time exploring the many beaches and coves along the coastal route. Though too cold for us to swim in February, Emma definitely didn’t mind.

The Venetian Quarry offers rock climbing on the cliffs with 80 varying routes of difficulty and we saw a few climbers. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for an activity like rock climbing with spring-like temperatures and the morning sun’s rays warming the rock face.

Golden Cape Forest Park RovinjThough it wasn’t an issue to let Emma off leash since we nearly had the nature reserve to ourselves, there is a dog park where dogs are allowed off leash and a dog beach. There are many beaches and coves along the coast, so I’d bet that even in summer you’d be able to find a bit of privacy.

Also in summer, there are several cafeteria-style restaurants and snack bars to purchase food and drink or big grassy areas perfect for having a picnic. Golden Cape Forest Park is definitely a terrific area to explore any time of the year.

Karlic Truffle HuntingTruffle Hunting

Truffles are the diamonds of the culinary world. A delicious delicacy that some say are an aphrodisiac – in the Middle Ages monks were not allowed to eat truffles because it was feared they would forget their calling – and ounce-for-ounce, the most expensive food in the world.

Though France is actually the largest producer of truffles, Istrian truffles are famous in their own right. Truffles were first found in the Motovun forest around 80 years ago and the Guinness World Records listed an Istrian truffle as the largest ever found in the world. A local truffle hunter named Giancarlo Zigante and his dog, Diana, dug up a white truffle weighing 1.31 kilograms on November 2, 1999.

I’ve been consuming truffles every chance I get since I moved to Italy six years ago, so naturally I’ve been curious about truffle hunting. I couldn’t wait to join the Karlic family, who have been truffle hunting in the Motovun forest for over 40 years with three generations, for a truffle hunt. I learned so much!

Truffles grow in harmony with a host tree, though don’t plant an oak and except to start finding truffles in your back yard. Truffles only grow in certain conditions. While black truffles grow all year round, the black winter truffle is much less common than the black summer truffle. White truffles, which are my favorite truffles, only grow from September through the end of the year.

Truffles are priced by a classification system and white truffles can range from 500 – 5000 per kilogram. Black truffles average around 300 per kilogram. The biggest truffles are called jokers, which is what the Guinness World Record wielding truffle was, and are extremely rare.

Karlic Truffle Hunting

A truffle feast

We learned all this, and then some, over a truffle feast in the Karlic family’s home. You need sustenance for a truffle hunt after all! We had to restrain ourselves from devouring the entire plate of cheese with wafer thin truffles in it, salami with truffles and crostini with a truffle cream cheese topped with shaved truffles. A honey with white truffle and truffle olive oil accompanied it all. We also had a heaping plate of truffle scrambled eggs. I was in truffle heaven.

Karlic Truffle Hunting

We found one small black truffle

Full of truffles, we headed out with one of the Karlic family’s 21 dogs that have spent years training and honing their skill of sniffing out truffles in the leaves and dirt. We spent about an hour looking for truffles in the Karlic family’s oak grove, which they planted eight years ago, and at the edge of the forest. A few different times we take of sprinting after the dog to snatch any truffles from her before she swallows them in one gulp. As I said, the winter truffle is much more rare and we found just one small one. We also found a red truffle, which is inedible though not poisonous. Of course, a real truffle hunt is much more intense with 6 – 7 hours of chasing the dogs through the forest as they dig and try to gobble the truffles up.

The Karlic farm is located in Paladini, not far from Buzet, the self proclaimed “City of Truffles”. You can go truffle hunting any time of the year, but if you visit in September you can hunt for the famous white truffle and have a bit of the largest omelet in the world. The second Saturday of each September an omelet is made with the same number of eggs as that year (2015’s omelet will be made with 2015 eggs) and 10 kilos of truffles in Buzet’s town square. The pan alone weighs 1 ton!

Truffle hunting with Karlic Tartufi starts around $28 per person. Contact Karlic Tartufi via their website or Hotel Lone can arrange a truffle hunt for guests.

Kabola VinaWine Tasting

Croatian vinters have long made a name for themselves amongst the European countries, but most Americans would have been hard-pressed to point Croatia out on a map, yet alone know that Croatia produces high-quality, award-winning wines. That was until Hollywood put Croatia on the it list and tourists began discovering its gastronomic delights.

Croatia has been producing wine since 2200 BC when Illyrian tribes made wine in the region now known as Dalmatia. These days wine is grown in 12 sub-regions with Croatia boasting 64 indigenous grape varieties. Istria, which sits on the border of Slovenia and just below Italy, is often called “the other Tuscany”. While I don’t always see it when cities are dubbed “the Venice of the north,” with castle topped rolling hills and terraced vineyards I can totally see why Istria is “the other Tuscany.”

We Recommend

Wine Wednesday: Scenes from Istria’s Wine Roads

About 60% of Croatian wines are white and Istria is particularly known for its seafood-friendly whites. But they also produce some delicious reds. One of my new favorite red wines is a jammy red that was paired with my pork belly at Kantinon in Rovinj. I couldn’t go home without stopping by the winery to buy a case.

No matter your wine style, with 60-some appellations you’ll be sure to find a white, red, rose or sweet wine that suits your fancy. Some terrific wineries in the region to arrange a tasting at are:

  • Vina Matošević is in the quaint village of Krunčići, just about 15 kilometers from Rovinj. The wine maker focuses on Malvasia Istriana, Merlot and Teran. The Grimalda is a Merlot and Teran blend with big, bold flavors. It’s the jammy wine I just couldn’t go home without.
  • Kozlović Vina in Momjan is known for delicious Malvasia Istriana, Teran and rosé.
  • Kabola Vina is just a few minutes drive from Kozlović Vina and produces a wine that spends part of its vinification process in terracotta pots buried in their vineyard, in a similar manner to how the Roman produced wine.
Hotel Lone Rovinj

Hotel Lone’s cool interior

Spa and Wellness at Hotel Lone

Designed by Croatian architects and decorated with works from Croatian artists, Hotel Lone is definitely a unique space. The hotel is a five-star hotel with a young, funky vibe. The tables in the lobby are like black dry erase boards and the markers left about beckon your inner artist. From the hanging garden to the atrium, there are just so many inviting spaces that make you want to spend time hanging out in the hotel.

In particular you can while away hours in the spa and wellness center. The spa offers a full menu of services and both Tim and I had back and shoulder massages. There is also an indoor pool that can be used by both adults and kids, and an adults only area with steam rooms, saunas, jacuzzi and fitness center. I also took advantage of the salon and had a long overdue cut and style. Even though my appointment was basically a walk-in and I was unprepared with any photos of the style I wanted, the stylist gave me a great cut I am thrilled with.

The spa area has a Vitality Bar, where you can get fresh squeezed juices, smoothies, protein drinks and healthy snacks. There is also a relaxation area where you can lounge in cabanas that reminded us a bit of cocoons. We spent a whole afternoon relaxing in the spa and it was fabulous.

Even the guest rooms are large and spacious with balconies perfect for relaxing with a glass of wine and a book. A separate rain shower, double sinks, and a bath big enough for two are always winners in my book. As I pointed out all the closet and storage space, Tim said, “Yes, you could live here.” And I totally would if they’d let me move in.

Hotel Lone Rovinj

Scallop with pesto, basil ravioli, duck consomme, pistachio crusted rack of lamb

We were invited to experience the Valentine’s Celebration of Lo{n}ve and the special package included massages in the spa, breakfast in bed on Valentine’s Day, a 5-course dinner in the hotel’s restaurant and a bottle of Prosecco to enjoy in our room. The 5-course dinner in Restaurant L was delicious. We started with a shooter, which was a sweet sparkling wine with a cranberry in it. Next came scallops with an apple and mango salad and pesto. I’m glad Tim isn’t really a fan of scallops because I ate mine and one of his too. A basil ravioli with fresh tomato sauce and duck consomme with a really yummy foie gras stuffed ravioli followed. The entree was a pistachio crusted rack of lamb that I’m drooling over while I type.

Hotel Lone Rovinj

Chocolate spear melted with hot chocolate sauce

Normally I feel like I can’t move after a 5-course meal and sort of groan that dessert is yet to come. Hotel Lone’s portion sizes were just right though – eat course was large enough that you felt satisfied, yet weren’t so big that you felt you had to leave some of each course just to get through the meal. Amazing I still had room for dessert, which was a decadent affair as hot chocolate sauce was poured over a chocolate spear filled with hazelnut cream. It all melted into the cookie crumble in the bowl and was paired with a sweet dessert wine.

We also ate at Restaurant L for lunch one day and had excellent Thai food, which we’ve been craving since our trip to Thailand just over a year ago. Try the Vietnamese prawn skewers with peanut sauce and the spicy prawn soup, which was quite close to the Tom Yum Goong soup we learned to make in Thailand.

There are also a lot of great events going on right at Hotel Lone that guests can take advantage of. On the 3-day weekend that we spent at Hotel Lone there was a sushi lounge (on Friday and Saturday nights), various tastings such olive oil and wine tastings, romantic movies, and even events for kids and teens at the Kids Club and Teen Lounge.

We had a fantastic getaway at Hotel Lone and it’s a terrific base for exploring Istria. We spotted so much that we’d like to go back to see and do. From parks that are great for the family (or make adults feel like a kid again) such as Aquapark Istralandia, Dino Park (the first theme park in Croatia) and paintball to the variety of sports like paragliding, windsurfing, biking and rock climbing there is definitely a plethora of activities for the luxe adventure traveler.

Know Before You Go

Where To StayHow to Get There
Hotel Lone starts at around 112 per night for a superior room with their 3-night bed and breakfast packages.
Rovinj is best reached by car. The closest international airports are Venice or Zagreb. There is a ferry service from Venice to Rovinj and operates from late April through early October. Prices are €121 round trip. Check the schedule here.

Our trip was provided by Maistra in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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Lake Annecy Ski Getaway http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/lake-annecy-ski-resorts/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/lake-annecy-ski-resorts/#comments Wed, 04 Feb 2015 17:19:59 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=63198 Luxe Adventure Traveler

A secret the French have long kept to themselves, the four linked villages that make up Lake Annecy Ski Resorts are destined to be discovered. The pretty, rustic French villages of the Haute-Savoie where the velvety Reblochon cheese has been produced for centuries seep charm and one ski pass covers some 150 pistes no more [...]

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

A secret the French have long kept to themselves, the four linked villages that make up Lake Annecy Ski Resorts are destined to be discovered. The pretty, rustic French villages of the Haute-Savoie where the velvety Reblochon cheese has been produced for centuries seep charm and one ski pass covers some 150 pistes no more than a short chair ride away from the heart of each. With easy access to Lake Annecy Ski Resorts from Geneva, this haute getaway should be on your list of must-ski destinations. Take a look at the variety of winter activities you can find:

Ski joering with Aravis PassionSki Joering

Ski what?! That was our reaction too when we saw ski joering on our Lake Annecy Ski Resorts itinerary. Basically, a horse pulls you on your skis across the French Alps. Think water-skiing, but with a horse instead of a boat and snow instead of water. It’s newer to France, but is actually a centuries old tradition that comes from Sweden where farmers would use their horses and skis to transport things.

Don’t worry, the guide won’t send you off into the mountains with just a galloping horse and your skis. Ski joering is actually pretty simple as long as you can keep your skis straight. Aside from that, you just need to hold on alongside your guide and enjoy the ride. With a shout of “C’est parti!” you’ll soon be pulled across the snow by a beautiful fjord horse from Norway for a unique experience you can only get in a few places in Europe: Alpe d’Huez, Chamonix and La Clusaz.

Ski joering with Aravis Passion in La Clusaz starts from €28 for 30 minutes. 

Snowshoeing at Lake Annecy Ski ResortsSnowshoeing

If strapping on some skis or a snowboard and hurtling down a mountain isn’t your idea of a good time, there are other ways to enjoy the French Alps. Snowshoeing is an excellent work out and you can enjoy some spots that you just can’t get to even when back-country skiing.

I must admit I was a little concerned as I strapped on my snowshoes alongside my guide, Fred. As we chatted about the French Alps and Mont Blanc, which you can see peeking over the Aravis range on clear days, he casually said, “I’ve lost track how many times I’ve summited Mont Blanc. I stopped counting after the hundredth time.” I knew I was in for a workout, but Fred took it fairly easy on me and we climbed a switchback route up the mountain.

We took the ridge and then worked our way down to some of the snow-covered Reblochon cheese caves dotting the mountainside. Fred often spots some of France’s wildlife like rabbits, fox, and the occasional wolf. We saw tracks, but no animals on our snowshoe. Back up on the ridge, he had a thermos of hot tea and it totally hit the spot. As darkness began to descend, we made our way back down toward La Clusaz and I couldn’t believe we’d been out for three hours already. Even though it was cloudy, it was still a gorgeous snowshoe and an excellent alternative way to explore the mountains.

Guided snowshoeing with Aravis Guides is €18 per person for 1/2 day.

Lake Annecy Ski Resorts

Photo courtesy of Lake Annecy Ski Resorts

Ski and Snowboard

With only two days to enjoy the area, we aren’t able to explore all four ski areas that make up Lake Annecy Ski Resorts. We did explore two of the four ski areas: La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand.

La Clusaz is home to 132 kilometers of ski pistes easily serviced by the 52 lifts. There are 190 snow cannons for the area, so you can be assured snow all winter long. Tim’s ski guide for the day was from Evolution 2, one of the boutique guiding companies in the area. He said most of the guides are from the nearby villages so it’s great to know you’re going to be with a guide that is knowledgeable about the area. They explored some of the off-piste skiing that La Clusaz has to offer. While Tim may be confident in his on-piste abilities, off-piste skiing is not yet a specialty of his. Tim’s guide had some great pointers for him and helped him navigate the off-piste terrain. With five mountains that make up the La Clusaz ski area, it is definitely an attraction for those seeking time off the main pistes. Tim’s favorite part about La Clusaz is the number of slope-side ski chalets and the convenience of being able to ski right to your hotel’s doorstep is awesome.

Much to our delight about a foot of snow fell overnight just in time for our day exploring Le Grand Bornand ski area. With 90 kilometers of ski runs serviced by 30 modern lifts there is plenty of skiing to be had. While the off piste skiing in La Clusaz seemed a little higher than Tim’s ability level, that didn’t seem to be the case for him in Le Grand Bornand. His ski instructor from ESF showed him some great off-piste areas that were more of an intermediate level.

Lake Annecy Ski ResortsWhile Tim was improving his off-piste ski abilities, I was having my very first snowboard lesson. My snowboard instructor was fantastic and he had me up and riding down a tiny beginner hill in no time. It didn’t take much time to figure out I’m “goofy,” meaning I ride with my right foot forward as opposed to my left (regular). We worked on balance and stability with a number of exercises like small jumps and touching my toes while boarding without falling. It gave me the confidence that I could control my board by righting my body and I pretty much got over my fear of falling.

I had my first big wipe out when we got to learning turns and I sure was glad for all the fresh powder that fell over night. I think it saved my bum from some bruising. I actually only fell twice during my three hour lesson, so I was pretty proud of myself.

Snowboard lessons are hard work! There’s a lot of getting yourself off the ground, both from strapping on your board and from getting back up from those falls, so it’s exhausting. I couldn’t quite master the right turn, mostly because my legs were just tired by the end of my lesson. But my instructor made it fun and I can’t wait to take some more lessons so I can hit the slopes.

Le Grand Bornand is also home to one of the best snowparks in France, equipped with jumps, a half-pipe and numerous rails to grind on if that’s your fancy. First I’ve got to graduate from snowboard school and actually successfully complete some regular hills. Maybe someday…

The resorts have a small town feel to them and Tim felt like he had the slopes to himself skiing during the week. With plenty of restaurants and some local bars Lake Annecy Ski Resorts have a nice après-ski atmosphere and would be a great area to explore for a week-long stay.

Group or private lessons are available with both Evolution 2 and ESF. ESF also has Club Piou Piou for the littles to learn. Inquire for prices.

La Clusaz Weekly MarketWeekly Market

I don’t know about you other skiers, but we get tired! Especially on a multi-day ski trip, it’s nice to have other activities to do. The weekly market, which rotates through the towns each day, was a fantastic way to spend a few hours. And French markets just always seem better than anywhere else.

Maybe it’s because French markets are so much about the food. The smells of freshly baked bread hit your nose before you spy the baguette poking out of a basket, smoked sausages wafting through the streets, and the stinkier the cheese the better. Piles of Reblochon were stacked and clearly the most popular food stall was the one with the line snaking practically to the ski lifts.

Of course, you can find other things besides food. I’m always astounded at how inexpensive the basket-bags are and I found an awesome tartiflette baking dish with the recipe inside.

The weekly market is from 8am – 12pm in La Clusaz on Mondays, Le Grand Bornand on Wednesdays, and St-Jean-de-Sixt on Sundays.

Lake Annecy Ski Resorts

From left: tartiflette, Reblochonade, steak with truffles, diot de Savoie

Gastronomy

It is a good thing I don’t like in Rhone-Alpes because this region of France sure does like their cheese, especially in winter. And I cannot resist all the delicious cheese! Many dishes are made with the Reblochon cheese that comes from the area and some dishes to try while on your Lake Annecy Ski holiday are:

Tartiflette

We discovered this delicious dish just recently, though the French have been consuming it since at least 1705 when it was first mentioned in the book Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois. It’s sort of like a very, very cheesy potato gratin made with Reblochon cheese, potatoes, ham and onions. It’s the perfect hot, steaming meal after you’ve spent a few hours on the slopes.

Where to try it: the best tartiflette we’ve had yet (and trust us when we say we’ve taste-tested quite a few) is at Hotel La Croix Saint-Maurice in Le Grand Bornand.

Reblochonade

If you think tartiflette sounds like a cheesy feast you can hardly move after, let us introduce you to Reblochonade. It’s a traditional dish from the Savoyard heritage that is more like a Thanksgiving feast designed to be shared. The Reblochon cheese again takes center stage, this time melting into a velvety gooiness you dip all sorts of side accompaniments into. The Reblochon is in a pan and you put it in the fire to let it melt, taking it out to scrape off the melted top layer. Beef is cooked right at the table on top of the grill. And then there are all the sides – boiled potatoes (that you of course put the melted Reblochon on), potato gratin, poletna, leek gratin, french fries…I hope you’re ready to ski that meal off afterward!

Where to try it: La Ferme is a traditional French farm chalet with a panoramic view over the village. Eating Reblochonade here feels like stepping back in time.

Truffles

I love truffles, both of the fungus and chocolate variety. But this time I’m talking about the kind that grow in the ground. When in season, they are delicious shaved over pasta, beef, or even eggs. Eating them just feels so luxurious! Black truffle shaved over a steak with truffle cream sauce was like heaven on a plate.

Where to try it: La Caleche, meaning The Carriage, is a remodeled farm house right in the heart of La Clusaz by the church. The atmosphere charming, the food delicious, and they have a chocolate fondue on their dessert menu that is to die for!

Diots de Savoie

Diots are a very typical pork sausage from the Haute-Savoie that is simmer fried with onions and white wine. It’s a simple, yet delicious meal that is perfect before more strenuous winter activities like snowshoeing.

Where to try it: the Hotel La Croix Saint-Maurice in Le Grand Bornand has a very delicious diot on their lunch menu.

La Clusaz

A snowy view from our balcony at Hotel Les Sapins

Where to Stay

We really enjoyed our stay in La Clusaz at the Hotel Les Sapins. The hotel is steps away from the center of La Clusaz, yet set above with a beautiful view of the village. The ski lifts are literally outside the hotel’s door, so you can ski right up to the doorstep.

Our trip was provided by Lake Annecy Ski Resorts in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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Kissimmee: The Wild, Wild East http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/ram-national-circuit-finals-rodeo-kissimmee/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/ram-national-circuit-finals-rodeo-kissimmee/#respond Mon, 02 Feb 2015 13:36:28 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=63216 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Sshh! Don’t tell my dad, but I kind of liked all those rodeos he would drag me to as a kid. When I worked my way through UNLV as a ticket seller at Thomas & Mack Center, it was always a big deal when the National Finals Rodeo came to town. Cowboys would converge on [...]

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Sshh! Don’t tell my dad, but I kind of liked all those rodeos he would drag me to as a kid. When I worked my way through UNLV as a ticket seller at Thomas & Mack Center, it was always a big deal when the National Finals Rodeo came to town. Cowboys would converge on Las Vegas and it was a job perk for a poor college student to be able to take it all in from the top of the arena once the ticket booth slowed down for the night.

RAM National Circuit Finals RodeoWell, get ready Florida! Cowboys are about to converge on Kissimmee with the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo moving to the Sunshine State. The inaugural event takes place March 25-28, 2015 and features champion cowboys (and cowgirls!) from 12 regional circuits around the country competing in exciting events including bareback, saddle bronc, bull riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping heading, team roping heeling and barrel racing.

Kissimmee is no stranger to rodeo. The RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo is taking place at the Silver Spurs Arena, home of the 70-year old Silver Spurs Rodeo. The great thing is that rodeo-goers can purchase tickets for any single day of the four-day long rodeo competition. Of course, die-hard rodeo fans will want to be there for every thrilling moment.

Each of the four nights has a different theme: Wednesday is Latin Night, Thursday is Faith and Family Night, Friday is Military Appreciation Night with country star Lee Greenwood opening the events, and Saturday is Championship Night. And it’s not all barrel races and bull riding (those are my personal favorite events); there are events sure to delight every age, even rebellious kids that will insist they hate the rodeo like I used to!

Hundreds of competitors are already perfecting their pulled pork and brisket recipes for the first annual Florida Heritage Barbecue Classic, sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society and free to the public. There will also be cattle drives, a fan zone with fun and games, a fashion show, and other live country music concerts in addition to Lee Greenwood. Tickets range just $15-$35, a serious bargain for an afternoon or evening full of entertainment.

Kissimmee air boat ride

Credit: Richard Gibbs

Orlando, all of the famous theme parks like Disney World and Universal Studios, thrilling attractions like hot air balloon and air boat rides and fantastic beaches are located nearby. It’s easy to combine rodeo with other Florida fun making it the perfect family-friendly spring break destination. Get tickets for the RAM National Finals Circuit Rodeo and plan your Kissimmee Vacation now!

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I Quit My Job to Travel the World http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/quit-job-travel-world/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/quit-job-travel-world/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 13:52:35 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=63104 Luxe Adventure Traveler

For the last year or so, I’ve been struggling with a dilemma. I’ve been working toward the goal to build this blog into a business that sustains both Tim and I financially, and I’ve been doing it for three years while also working full time at the university job I was once sure would be [...]

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

For the last year or so, I’ve been struggling with a dilemma. I’ve been working toward the goal to build this blog into a business that sustains both Tim and I financially, and I’ve been doing it for three years while also working full time at the university job I was once sure would be my career.

Unlike many of my lawyer-turned-travel-blogger or inn-keeper-turned-travel-personality friends that have taken this road before me, I wasn’t chained to a desk in a windowless cubicle only traveling on a week’s vacation here and there. I’ve been location independent for six years with the freedom to work from anywhere I had reliable internet. That’s included my home base in Italy and, on occasion, locations like Iceland, Greece and Spain. I also had seven weeks vacation and, more importantly, a reliable paycheck that arrived like clockwork every two weeks.

Security is a hard thing to walk away from.

Security is not the meaning of my life. Great opportunities are worth the risk.But it was more than that. I felt guilty too. When Tim’s job required a move not only across states, but to another whole continent, I had nothing to lose in asking if I could telecommute. Ironically, my boss at the time and who telecommuted from another state said no. A week later, another opportunity presented itself and I accepted a new position at the university. Best of all, I would be able to have a six month period in which we would give telecommuting a try once Tim and I moved to Italy.

I worked my ass off. I worked harder and longer than anyone else for the six months leading up to our move, for the six months of my telecommuting trial period, and for the next five years that I continued to work from Italy. As the sole person responsible for social media, I answered students questions from cruise ships and the top of the Eiffel Tower. I did it willingly because I loved social media management, because it was the right thing for the students…and because my boss put himself on the line to let me work from Italy. How could I ever let him down?

Eventually I proved the ROI of offering customer service on social media and I was able to hire a team of people to do the day-to-day. I took on a managerial role that revolved around a lot of reports and graphs. I was no longer so integral to the success because I’d trained my team well. By then I was also blogging five days a week and our blog had started to take off, we were being invited on many more press trips, and I was even speaking at conferences – both in the travel and higher education industries – about social media strategy.

I wasn’t feeling challenged or fulfilled at work anymore; more like I was just going through the motions. I no longer felt guilt, but there was something else holding me back from turning in my notice.

Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. Failure

I’ve wanted some sort of career that involved travel since I participated in a study abroad program in Costa Rica with my high school – that was in 1997. Those chips began to fall in to place thanks to a friend and being in the right place at the right time over a decade later. Life’s funny that way sometimes.

My friend is a print travel writer. We’d meet up at least once a month for a sushi date and I’d gush (enviously) over her last month on safari, cruising to Australia, and the never ending list of fabulous places she’d been. It wasn’t until she invited me as her guest on a cruise ship launch and just about everyone on board asked if I was a travel writer or travel blogger too, that I even realized there were professional bloggers.

I had a blog, a hobby blog that is. I updated it when I felt like and wrote travel diary posts that I’d basically be mortified for anyone to read now. It must not have been totally terrible (after all, I did write for Ranger Rick Magazine when I was a kid), because Johnny Jet followed up with me a few months after that cruise and sent me on my first press trip.

Reindeer Sledding in Rovaniemi

Driving a reindeer sled on my first trip to the Arctic Circle

It was after that trip to Finnish Lapland that I bought my domain. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but I picked a stupid name and built a website to the best of my ability. It wasn’t the prettiest or most professional looking, but I wrote and wrote pushing out posts five times a week.

It’s been three years nearly to the day that I built that site. Even though more than 1 million of you visited our site in 2014 and money has been consistently coming in for the last year through a variety of revenue streams, I am still afraid of failing.

What if I fail at my dream?

Travel around the world

Iceland, Jordan, Saba, Florida and Greece are just some of the places this blog has take me over the years

Launching Luxe Adventure Traveler

So what’s next? First is getting our brand new re-branded site finally launched. It’s been about six months in the making, but over the last week I’ve had more time (and motivation) to get with my designer and get it done.

Sneak peek at the new home page! What do you think?

Sneak peek at the new home page! What do you think?

You can expect the same great content we’ve always produced, but on a magazine style website. Some changes you can look forward to:

  • Our new homepage is a static page where we can showcase the top seasonal adventures and a stream will still show our three newest posts.
  • A newly updated Start Here page where you can easily discover what we’re all about and our most popular posts.
  • A shop where you can find travel guides produced by us with our personal recommendations of where to stay and eat and what to do. You’ll also find our favorite gear, photography equipment, beauty products and more.
Another sneak peek of our new Work With Us page

Another sneak peek of our new Work With Us page

Content Creation, Consulting and Services

And for our brand partners, we have a brand new Work With Us page. Over the last three years, we’ve experimented with a variety of ways we can work with brands and we’ve put together our service offerings based on both what has been most successful and how we enjoy working.

Northern Lights in Abisko

Northern Lights selfie!

Travel

2015 is already shaping up to be a busy year. We’ve already done projects in Swedish Lapland chasing the Northern Lights and I managed to not break or bruise anything during snowboard lessons in the French Alps.

We’ve got another major life change coming up that I can’t quite discuss yet, but February and March will likely be spent mostly close to home here in Italy, though we do have a short getaway planned in Istria, Croatia. Truffle hunting anyone? April and May are going to be crazy with trips / conferences in Romania and Spain. I’m also speaking about social media campaigns at TBEX Lloret de Mar before heading off to France for a Viking River Cruise in the Bordeaux wine region. I plan to wrap up my Spain-France trip by swinging by Disneyland Paris because I’m just dying to feel rat sized at Bistro Chez Remy, themed after one of my very favorite Disney movies: Ratatouille.

Anantara Rasanada Koh Phangan

Now I learn to cook all over the world!

What do you do besides work?

There are two questions people love to ask me: “what do I do besides work and travel?” and “when do I sleep?” Good questions!

On the sleep matter, I spent six years working for a company nine time zones behind me. That meant odd hours and often not going to bed until 3 or 4am. Truthfully, I took naps for six years and it took its toll on me. So I’m still trying to adjust to actually going to bed at a reasonable time and getting a full nights rest.

Working full time and basically putting in full time hours to build this business left little time for anything else. I used to work out five or six days each week and as we’ve seen in the latest pictures I desperately try not to be in (imagine me snarling at Tim a la Carrie Bradshaw when she falls flat on her face in her jeweled panties on the runway and tells her photographer beau to “stop taking her f’ing picture”), I have not been working out. That already changed this week. 2015 is the year I’m going to be 35 and fabulous.

I also used to read books. You know, for enjoyment. Not travel books I’m reviewing. This month I’ve already downloaded one of the dozen or so books I’ve bought on my Nook account in the last year and never got around to reading. And…I actually finished it! It feels so good to curl up on the couch with a cup of hot tea and read for fun again.

And I love cooking. It seems like a lifetime ago now, but I can still vividly remember when Tim and I toured the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary school in Scottsdale. I made a smart decision not to go at the time. I would have had to continue working full time while going to school five days per week for a minimum of 15 months. You were only allowed to miss three days over the course of the 15 month program. I’m pretty sure (now -back then I thought I was invincible) it would have killed me and the $37,000 tuition would have went right down the drain.

Though I never became a professional chef, I love trying new recipes and cooking at home. Just being exhausted all the time and only having an hour each night while on my “lunch” to prepare and eat dinner meant I made a lot of quick meals. Dinner had become so monotonous! But I’m slowly getting back to cooking. I’ve made the peppermint bark brownies I intended to make during the holidays and even tried a homemade tartiflette that turned out really good. Maybe I’ll even break out the recipes I learned at the Thai and Greek cooking lessons we’ve had.

Whew! That was a really long winded way of saying that I’m already enjoying discovering myself again. I think I lost a bit of myself for a while when I became all work and no play.

So, I didn’t exactly quit my job to travel the world in the sense that I plan to sell everything and hit the road on a year-long round-the-world trip with nothing more than a backpack and what I can fit in it. The nomad lifestyle just isn’t for me. I do plan to put everything I’ve got, and then some, into making Luxe Adventure Traveler a successful business. And well, traveling the world just happens to be a fantastic job perk.

Wish me luck!

Luxe Adventure Traveler

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France’s Ardeche is for Adventurers http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/ardeche-is-for-adventurers/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/ardeche-is-for-adventurers/#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 18:04:45 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=62862 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Mention the South of France and I know I immediately picture the yachts moored at the most exclusive beach clubs in St. Tropez and haute couture on the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival. But the South of France isn’t all yacht parties and champagne until the wee hours. The Ardeche has a decidedly [...]

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Mention the South of France and I know I immediately picture the yachts moored at the most exclusive beach clubs in St. Tropez and haute couture on the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival. But the South of France isn’t all yacht parties and champagne until the wee hours. The Ardeche has a decidedly different vibe. Remote and rurual, the region is an adventurer’s dream with via ferratas, white water kayaking, and riverside camping. Pack a swimsuit, helmet and harness for these adventures in the Ardeche:

Ardeche Gorge, FranceWhite Water Kayaking the Ardeche Gorge

The Ardeche River snakes through some 30 kilometers of limestone cliffs that reach up toward the sky, some of the cliffs as tall as 300 meters high. It’s an incredibly beautiful area best seen by taking to the river in a canoe or kayak, which is exactly what we did.

We rented a sit atop canoe-kayak, which is basically a bigger and more stable sit-atop kayak. But the trip down the river is no tranquil float. The Ardeche has thrilling white water rapids punctuated by calm sections where you can paddle over to the sandy beaches and take in the beauty of the gorge.

We were given a paper map when we rented our kayak and information on how to approach and paddle through each of the rapids. La Charlemagne is the first of the class III rapids and we totally botched the path through it, but in our defense a paper map isn’t the most useful tool when you’re white water kayaking. Even though we basically paddled right through the middle instead of to the side like we were supposed to, we made it without tipping and a whole lot of laughs after.

Just after La Charlemagne we paddled beneath the beautiful Pont d’Arc, a natural bridge reaching 54 meters high. There are sandy and pebble beaches all around the arch, and it’s a beautiful spot to come ashore and have a picnic. You can also walk along the beach up to a spot where you can watch fellow kayakers make their way through La Charlemagne.

Canoe-kayak rental with life jackets and paddles plus shuttle back to the village is €20 per person for a 1/2 day (7 kilometers), €30 per person for a dull day (32 kilometers) or €71 per person for 3 days with Escapade Loisirs.

Via Ferrata du Pont du DiableVia Ferrata du Pont du Diable

The via ferrata originated in Italy as a way for the Italian Army to more easily traverse the Dolomites. The via ferrata du Pont du Diable might be lacking the historical aspects, but it’s such a beautiful assisted climb that you’ll want to stop and take in the view. What’s great about this particular via ferrata is that there are several exit points making it an excellent one for first timers. And if you’re climbing with someone more skilled, like I was with Tim, I was able to exit and he continued to complete another more technical section. It was, without a doubt, my favorite thing I did in the Ardeche!

We Recommend

Climbing the Via Ferrata du Pont du Diable

The stunning Pont du Diable (Devil’s Bridge), where the via ferrata ends, was constructed by Benedictine monks in the 11th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. The Hérault River flows beneath and you can walk down a path to cool off in the river after your workout on the via ferrata, or just for spectacular views of the ancient bridge.

The guided Via Ferrata including equipment is €40 per person with Geo Adventure.

Chauvet Pont d'ArcChauvet-Pont-d’Arc

Without even realizing it, we had visited a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites on our travels. Now we try to incorporate them specifically since these tend to be the most culturally significant sites and monuments. So we were thrilled to get a peek at the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, one of the newest additions to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list as it was granted World Heritage status on June 22, 2014.

The Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc is a cave that contains the best preserved and earliest known figurative cave paintings in the world. Scientists have been dating and studying the paintings, fossilized remains, and other evidence of prehistoric life since the cave’s discovery in 1994. Their published study dates the cave paintings and other evidence back to 36,000 BC.

You won’t be able to visit the actual Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc as it’s been sealed off to the public to preserve it, and I think that’s a good thing. So instead, an exact replica of the cave and its paintings has been constructed nearby. Here you can visit and marvel at the prehistoric cave drawings of some 425 animals from 14 different species like cave lions, bears, wooly rhinos and cave hyenas.

The Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc replica, called Faux Lascaux, is planned to open to the general public in April, 2015.

Bolet ArdechoisVallon-Pont d’Arc

Vallon-Pont d’Arc is the perfect base to stay in and explore the Ardeche from. The small village sits at the gateway to the Ardeche Gorge, one of the most beautiful natural sites in France. You won’t want to miss the Museum of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, where you can watch a video of the cave and paintings and explore some of the pottery and other items found in the cave. Also stop by the Town Hall where tapestries of Aubusson with scenes from the Crusades are on display. The tapestries are considered a historical monument.

On Thursdays the village comes to life with the weekly market stretched through Vallon’s streets. There are plenty of food stalls with everything from roasting chickens with their juices dripping on roasted potatoes below to sinfully delicious meringues with chocolate sandwiched between called Bolet Ardechois. Stroll the market and buy some goodies to have a picnic on one of the beaches along the Ardeche.

Vogue, FranceVogue

Vogue isn’t just a fashion magazine. It’s a real village in the Ardeche and it’s on the list of France’s most beautiful villages. The chateau, which houses exhibits of contemporary art, dominates the village. A labyrinth of cobbled alleys and staircases leads in what seems every direction possible, and the crystal clear Ardeche River flows just beyond the ancient walls. It’s easy to see why Vogue is one of France’s most beautiful villages!

There’s plenty to explore in Vogue, including the art exhibits which change several times throughout the year. You can also rent canoes and here the Ardeche is quiet and calm. Or have a long, lazy lunch at one of the cafes before lounging on the beach riverside. The Hotel La Falaise has a fantastic terrace overlooking the river and a menu of delicious ice cream concoctions that are impossible to pass up.

Chateau du Vogue is open 10:30am – 1pm and 2pm – 6pm. Entry is €5 per adult. Canoe rental is inexpensive at €18 for 2 people from The Argonautes, located on the beach under the bridge. 

Chateau de la Selve

Chateau de la Selve

And a glass of wine…

Ardeche boasts some of France’s best vineyards and most expensive wines. You’ll definitely want to leave time to stop in to some of the beautiful chateaux and wineries around the region. Le Domaine du Colombier is walking distance from your base in Vallon-Pont d’Arc, so you can leisurely taste to your heart’s desire. Chateau de la Selve makes you feel as though you’re French nobility with its exclusive grounds. Domaine de Chazalis is a third generation family run winery set in a “cave,” which is perfect with the outdoor theme of a trip in the Ardeche. Though some of France’s most expensive wines come from the region, you can find reasonably priced bottles from 6 to take home as a memento from your trip.

Know Before You Go

Where To StayGetting Around
There are many four and five star camp grounds along the Ardeche River, but if you seek a little more luxe comfort after days climbing and kayaking, Hotel Berneron in Vallon-Pont-d’Arc makes an excellent base for exploring the region.
This rural part of France is best explored by car.

Our trip to Ardeche was provided by Tourisme Ardeche in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

 

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