It was tough to come up with a short list of our favorite travel experiences in 2018. There were so many memorable moments, people and places! But here is a short list of some that warmed our hearts and/or made us think differently.
Staying at a Hotel Diffuso in Locorotondo
As opposed to a conventional hotel with multiple guestrooms in one building, an albergo diffuso typically offers a network of accommodations scattered across a small town or village—all under one single management. In the magical, whitewashed historic center of Locorotondo (with a population of only some 2000 people), we happed upon Sotto Le Cummerse, a luxury albergo that we booked through Hotels.com. With an incredible sense of good taste, the owner had scoured flea markets and antique shops to create an inviting space that looked like it came out of a design magazine. The setting allowed us to live next door to real townspeople (rather than tourists) who watered their plants and swept their sidewalks each morning. The town center was an eminently walkable, pedestrian-only zone, and a wonderful, complimentary breakfast (with home-baked pastries, burrata from a local farm, and freshly squeezed blood orange juice) was available in a common room down the street each morning. We could have stayed here for months.
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Meeting a Man Who Has Lived on the Same Cruise Ship for 13 Years
When we recently sailed on the Regent Seven Seas Navigator, another guest told me about a passenger who had been living on our ship for the past 13 years. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with “Captain” Morton Jablin and ask him about the motivations underlying his lifestyle choice. Intellectually intact at the age of 94, although with several age-related physical limitations), the Captain is relatively healthy, happy, and stridently independent. He seems to be thriving in his unconventional housing situation with the support and respect of a loving crew. My story, published on Forbes, went viral with over 698K views!
Barging through Alsace & Lorraine
Our European Waterways barge cruise through Alsace and Lorraine slowly meandered through narrow canals in the northeast corner of France. Although the slow pace of a barge doesn’t allow it to cover much distance, we were able to get up-close glimpses of people, pets and homes along the French countryside; dined royally with a personal chef onboard who prepared Alsatian and other French specialties; met wonderful fellow passengers from Australia; and savored locally sourced breads and cheeses. Of course, the wines were divine; it was here that we fell in love with Crémant D’Alsace.
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Returning to the Bottega D’Arte in Ostuni
One of my first freelance stories recounted a visit to Ostuni, a medieval, walled city on the Adriatic. A maze of whitewashed narrow alleyways and arched pathways separate churches, residences and shops. The city perched on a hillside is simply breathtaking when viewed from up close or from afar. During our first visit, we met Croci Sisinni, an artisan who sculpts city scenes of architecture from chunks of limestone. One of the highlights of our trip to Puglia this summer was returning to see him again in his small studio. We got to introduce him and his city to our son, and caught up with him about his family and his life.
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Learning about the Refugee Experience in Halifax
A traveling exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax packs a powerful punch given its size. We visited the museum on a rainy day during a port stop to the city. The exhibit, Refuge Canada, is especially compelling because of the anti-immigration, anti-refugee policies and rhetoric dominating the news cycle in the U.S. and Europe. Turns out, there has never been a time in recorded history when so many people are displaced; Canada receives the third highest number of refugees of any country in the world. If you are on a cruise ship stopping in Halifax, be sure to visit this spectacular museum that has curated artifacts, first-person narratives, and facts and figures guaranteed to make you feel and think.
All photo credits: Irene and Jerome Levine