The Italy Road Trip

The Italy Road Trip was planned for quite some time. The dilemma was how do you see all of what Italy has to offer in 2 weeks? Well the answer is you don’t. It’s just not possible in 2 weeks. So what do you see? And where do you start? Well right here.

The Italy Road Trip – Getting There

Choose your airline (it’s Air Canada for me from Canada). In order to hit the ground running (with a 6 hour time difference), I need to fly Business Class (sometimes) or Premium Economy (this time). The extra room and increased comfort make the long flight enjoyable. I absolutely have to sleep so I bring along my new travel friend, my Palmate Travel Pillow, to get to sleep and stay asleep. I want to be ready to go and awake on Day 1!

The Italy Road Trip – Venice

Arriving in Venice, we leave the airport in a water taxi and begin the short journey into the historic canals of Venice. After checking into our hotel, we grab an espresso and head out to explore the streets of Venice. Tourists are absolutely everywhere and the streets are packed. Walking along main walking routes and over bridges, we manage to find side routes and squares where the locals are. Small neighbourhoods with cafes, restaurants, shops and Venetian homes are a lot more interesting than the main streets. On Day 2, we jump on the public water taxi (Venice transit) to get around easily and give into the main tourist areas. There’s a lot to see in Venice including Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs and the Doges’ Palace. But take the time to get off the main paths and explore!

Italy Road Trip - Venice

The Italy Road Trip – Prosecco

We leave Venice in a rental car and head up to the Prosecco Region (the hills between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the province of Treviso). It’s mid-September and we manage to hit full grape harvest. The area is alive with extra workers and tractors with grape packed trailers. There are many wineries to visit and wines to drink. We are looking for Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Most wineries will have a fee based tasting (5-10 Euro per person) and will provide a generous sample of their product (3-5 wine samples). If you choose to buy a bottle or 2, the wine fee will be reduced or waived (depending on your purchase amount). Among the best wineries to visit: San Gregorio (family owned- you’ll meet father, mother and sisters);  Col Vetoraz (with a wine vending machine on the small road leading to the winery); and Villa Sandi (great wine and restaurant).

Italy Road Trip - Prosecco Region

The Italy Road Trip – Tuscany

There are so many reasons to include Tuscany in your Italian Road Trip. The wine; the food; the scenery and the people. Among the many wines, the Classico Chianti (with the black rooster on the bottle neck) stands out. The Classico label is only available to Chiantis produced from grapes in the the Chianti Classico subregion. The area covers approximately 260 km2 (100 square miles) between the city of Florence to the north and Siena to the south. The other more well known wine in the area is the “Super Tuscan”. The American name for a deep red wine blended from Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. It’s priced to take advantage of the aura in the marketplace. Among the very best wineries to get a Super Tuscan (and other quality wines) is Villa San Andrea. The small 400 year old winery is right next door to the well known Antinori. They provide an intimate tour and wine tasting for 10 Euro. Villa San Andrea’s Super Tuscan is far cheaper than the winery next door. They also have 7 other high quality and affordable wines.

Italy Road Trip - Villa San Andrea, Tuscany

Italy Road Trip - Tuscany

Among the many towns/places to visit in Tuscany are – Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, Montalcino and of course Florence. You really can’t go wrong wherever you go, but San Gimignano stands near the top. It’s an amazing, well preserved medieval village with several small hotels, shops, museums, and Tuscan restaurants. My favourite restaurants “Le Vecchie Mura“. It has both an inside restaurant and an outside terrace area across the lane. Authentic dishes feature pasta, steak, rabbit, deer, wild boar and of course local wine. Eating a Tuscan dinner overlooking Tuscany is pretty hard to beat.

Italy Road Trip - San Gimignano, Tuscany

Italy Road Trip - Pasta with Truffles

The Italy Road Trip – Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is all about the views. And getting to the coast just adds to the anticipation. Heading south, we drive along the highway through Naples, then onto the winding roads of  Sorrento and its long mountain tunnel. Positano is our destination and our base for 3 days on the Amalfi Coast. Positano has some incredible coastal views. It also has great hotels (Le Sirenuse, Villa Rosa); some great restaurants down on the beach (Chez Black and Le Tre Sorelle – both highly rated and right beside each other) and lots of small boutiques for shopping. From Positano, you can easily make day trips to Amalfi, Ravello, Scala and others.

Italy Road Trip - Positano

Italy Road Trip - Villa Cimbrone, Ravello

We drive to Rome Airport and overnight at a Rome Airport hotel before leaving the next day. Except for the return flight, the trip is over. The Italy Road Trip was among my top trips ever. And that’s saying a lot given the amount of travelling that I have done over the years. Each area/stop well worth the visit to immerse yourself in the history, culture, food and wine of Italy. The biggest issue is when is the next Italy Road Trip?

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Favorite 5 American Inspired Restaurants in Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the world’s great destinations and particularly well known for its food. You’ll visit new and exotic places and indulge in everything it has to offer. You’ll experience a different culture; visit historic monuments; see nature; and of course, try local cuisine. If you’re visiting Hong Kong, you’ll want to try dim sum. There are of course many places where you can find dim sum and other Chinese food in Hong Kong. If you feel more like an America-inspired meal, here’s 5 American inspired restaurants where you must go.

1. Butchers Club Burger

If you crave real burgers, don’t go to Burger King or McDonald’s on this trip. Try a Butchers Club Burger. Here, you’ll find authentic and delicious American burgers – arguably the very best burger that you can find in Hong Kong! Even though it seems very simple, making the perfect American burger is a tricky process. This restaurant has been Michelin-listed since 2016 and is one of only two burger joints with a Michelin listing in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong - Butchers Club Burger

2. Big Sur

If you want to inject a dose of California into your Hong Kong restaurant experience, Big Sur is the perfect restaurant for you. You can choose from contemporary barbeque cuisine including ribs to healthy salads and tacos, and even delicious seafood dishes. Big Sur also has a perfect bar as well, where you can drink cocktails and craft beer. It’s an oasis in the sea of Hong Kong street restaurants. Check it out and take a break from HK food, and go to this California inspired spot for at least one meal. They are open from noon on weekdays so a perfect place for lunch; on weekends and holidays, you can opt for a brunch at 10 am.

Hong Kong - Big Sur

3. Beef and Liberty

Another place for great burgers, or other American-inspired dishes, is the Beef and Liberty. This is the second burger restaurant in Hong Kong (after Butchers Club Burger) to be Michelin-recommended. The magnificent burgers here are made from hormone-free grass-fed beef. The Beef and Liberty is also well known for delicious chicken wings and offers other American dishes to suit different tastes. Desserts include a warm skillet cookie and cream, which is basically a huge cookie filled with chunks of great chocolate, and with cream on top!

Hong Kong - Beef and Liberty

4. BLT Steak

This restaurant is from the chain of BLT Steak restaurants in America, and is medium priced compared to other restaurants in Hong Kong. Apart from the delicious steaks and lunch buffet, the best thing about this restaurant is the fantastic view. It’s located just a couple hundred of meters from the pier and overlooks the water. The restaurant is spotless, and the service is impeccable. The lunch buffet is available from 12 and 3 pm on weekdays. On weekends from 12 to 4 pm, there is a great brunch buffet with all-you-can-eat roast beef and lamb, and a large selection of salads.

Hong Kong - BLT Steak

5. Grassroots Pantry

If you are a vegan or you require (or want) gluten-free meals, then this is the place for you. Grassroots Pantry is extremely authentic. By far the favorite thing of everyone who steps inside this restaurant are the hand-drawn menus which look fantastic. If you’re vegan, there’s nothing you won’t like; and each dish is a generous portion. You can choose vegan pancakes or salads for a starter, then move onto the delicious potato tofu croquettes, and finish off with caramelized apples or coconut brown rice pudding.

Hong Kong - Grassroots Pantry

People think that New York City is hectic, and it is. But you should visit Hong Kong – as one minute in New York is one second here. You can find literally anything to eat here. But eat smart! You can’t go wrong by choosing one of these five excellent Hong Kong restaurants!

Affordable Luxury: 8 Ways to Experience the Best of Dubai

Dubai

Dubai is one of the seven dazzling emirates forming the United Arab Emirates. It has been ranked as one of the fastest growing cities in the world.  Also, it is one of the most sought-after destinations for travellers around the world with its endless choices of fine dining restaurants, shopping opportunities, and luxury accommodation.

Despite the luxury experiences it offers, Dubai is a diverse city offering activities, attractions and luxury leisure hotel rooms at affordable rates. Here are eight ways to experience the best of Dubai without spending a ton of cash:

1. Explore the City by Walking

There are certain areas where walking is considered the best way to explore the surroundings. These include the Dubai Marina and the traditional districts of Al Ras and Al Bastakiya.

If you’re in Dubai Marina, take the monorail to Atlantis hotel, which is located on the tip of Palm Jumeirah. In Al Ras, you can visit markets like Naif Souk, Spice Souk, Gold Souk, and Deira fish market. In Al Bastakiya, you will find traditional souks, lots of galleries, and museums.

the markest in Dubai

2. Enjoy the Sun at Stunning Public Beaches

There are private beaches in the city – you can get access to it by staying at a beach hotel or paying an entrance fee. But there are also some beaches that you can visit for free. These are well-maintained beaches with ease of access to restaurants, camel riding, shopping, water sports, and clean toilets. Others even offer free use of an outdoor gym and an excellent beach promenade.

The Beach in Dubai

3. Go Window Shopping

When it comes to luxury shopping, Dubai is one of the top destinations. The best thing about this is that even if you do not have enough space or budget for shopping, some of these malls are worth checking out without spending a penny.

At the Dubai Mall, you can check out the Dubai Aquarium without paying a fee. Get to see 33,000 marine animals swimming in the aquarium. Another mall you can visit is the Mall of the Emirates which is the home of Ski Dubai. Watching from outside this indoor ski resort and snow park is possible. If you are interested in theatre, dance, film, music, and arts, you can check out Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre.

4. Look out for Low-cost and Free Events

If you are in Dubai during the Dubai Canvas festival, you can see some of the world’s skilled artists making excellent 3D street art. Another event you should watch out for is the Dubai Food Festival where you can enjoy discounted food deals on food markets and high-end restaurants. It is highly recommended that before you visit the emirate, you must research online for happenings and events that you can go to when you’re in town.

5. Watch the Dancing Fountain

One of the experiences a visitor in Dubai should enjoy is to watch the dancing fountain show. The Dubai Fountain has a spectacular show a few times a day. You can actually watch it thrice a day because each has different shows and music. This is the best place for you to wander around the artificial lake with Burj Khalifa and skyline in the background. The show begins at 6 pm until 11 pm, with a show happening every 30 minutes.

6. Visit Museums

Dubai is also home to low-cost and free museums. Dubai Museum is one of them. This is an affordable museum that gives you a thought-provoking history lesson on how this emirate evolved from a small village to one of the biggest cities today. Other museums you can visit include the Antique Museum in Al Quoz, Women’s Museum, and the Coffee Museum. These museums offer different lessons and unique experiences.

7. Join a Guided Tour

If you want to learn more about Dubai religion and culture, a visit to the Jumeirah Mosque is a great idea. A guided tour will give you the opportunity to ask questions you have in mind. The tour often begins at 10 am from Saturday to Thursday.

8. Explore Various Cultures at the Global Village

Global Village is an outdoor shopping and entertainment area that you shouldn’t miss. It has shopping districts that represent different countries. This is where you can encounter most Emiratis and a few Westerners.

You can definitely find affordable souvenirs here. Also, you can try local cuisines from one of the snack stands inexpensively. Moreover, you can watch cultural shows, music performances and entertainment here.

Dubai may be one of the most expensive cities in the world. But with a bit of time and planning, you can enjoy luxurious experiences for free or at affordable rates.

 

AUTHOR BIO

Habib Khan is a seasoned Hotelier, currently the CEO of Planet Hospitality and General Manager of Arabian Courtyard Hotel and Spa. Khan has more than 30 years of diversified international experience in the hospitality industry. He is an expert in developing, transforming, and managing hotels, with an ability to analyze and solve problems in a challenging work environment.