Five Reasons to Visit Dordogne France

There are hundreds of reasons to visit Dordogne France, but five that top our list.

Known by its older name, Perigord, Dordogne is France’s third largest region located in southwestern France about a 5 hour drive south of Paris between Lyon and Bordeaux. The Perigord region is full of medieval towns, gorgeous châteaux, prehistoric caves, elite gardens, awesome food and all in and around the spectacular countryside. So don’t delay, visit Dordogne France this year!

There are four major towns are Périgueux, Bergerac, and Sarlat, but don’t stop at visiting those towns and experiencing all that the Dordogne has to offer. When you visit Dordogne France, you’ll pass by many honey-colored stone houses and rich green meadows. Along the way you’ll be reminded why the Dordogne, the rural south-west of France is so loved by residents and tourists.

Here are five reasons to visit Dordogne, France.

  1. Le Châteaux – The Dordogne region has around 1000 castles and exquisite châteaux. Some of the most visited châteaux include the 15th century Chateau des Milandes which was restored by the legendary jazz and singer and actress Josephine Baker.

    Châteaux des Milandes in Dordogne, France.
    Châteaux des Milandes in Dordogne, France. Photo by Manfred Heyde.

    Also, worth a visit is the fortified 12th century Châteaux de Beynac. Set 200 meters high on a cliff that juts out onto the Dordogne River, it was temporarily occupied by Richard Lion Heart. The history alone is a reason to visit as well as the fantastic views of the countryside.

  2. Gorgeous Gardens – When you visit Dordogne France, you’ll see it has its share of châteaux as well as astonishing gardens to match.
    The most famous being Les Jardins de Marqueyssac with numerous perfectly manicured boxed hedges. The gardens overlook the chalky cliffs of the Dordogne offering an amazing panoramic view of Perigord.  Even more amazing than a day trip to the gardens is visiting the magically illuminated gardens during the summer evenings.

    The Gardens of Marqueyssac, Dordogne, France
    The Gardens of Marqueyssac, Dordogne, France. Photo by Lemoussu
  3. Quintessentially French towns – There are three major towns in Dordogne, Bergerac in the south-west, Perigueux further north, and Sarlat in the south-east, but don’t stop at those three. One never tires of visiting any of the towns especially those classified as ‘les Plux Beaux Detours‘ in France, so just look for the label Most beautiful detour in France and you’re on the right track. One city on the detour is Brantôme, also known as the known as the Venice of the Dordogne. A stop at the Benedictine Abbey on the river’s edge and the old stone bridge are well worth the visit. Each village has its own charm so make time to thoroughly enjoy as many as possible.

    Abbey of Brantôme and its bell tower, Dordogne, France
    Abbey of Brantôme, Dordogne, France, Photo by Monster1000
  4. Brilliant Caves – France is peppered with hundreds of caves full of prehistoric art and extraordinary rock formations hidden deep beneath a sea of caverns. At Grotte de Rouffignac, the electric train descends you to complete darkness where you’ll see nearly 100 line drawings and engravings of mammoths, horses, and bison as well as the ‘Great Ceiling’ decorated with 65 animal figures.When visiting Gouffre de Padirac you’ll see nature’s beauty in an underground gorge. After the 99 meter descent (elevator or stairs), you take to a gondola ride to enjoy the beauty of the limestone caves.

    Photo by cave painter
    Photo by cave painter
  5. A Gourmand Experience – I had to save the best for last as without a doubt, Dordogne is a foodie region. It’s the food and wine which draw many people to Dordogne. After all, the region is France’s capital of foie gras, duck, and truffle. Vegetarians, don’t fret, the daily markets in the towns and villages are full of seasonal produce such as walnuts, strawberries, mushrooms, goat cheese (cabécou), and French breads of course.And what better way to enjoy Dordogne’s bounty than with one of the region’s Bergerac wines. The region is one of the few in France that produce nearly as many white wines as red (around 48% versus 52%). The area contains 13 Appellations Contrôlées where Bergerac red wine, Côtes de Bergerac red wine, Bergerac dry white wine, Bergerac rosé wine and Côtes de Bergerac sweet white wines, are grown in the Bergerac vineyards.

    Bergerac white wine, Dordogne, France
    Photo by JPS68

Need another reason to visit Dordogne France? Stay-tuned as we update you on more great things to see and do in Dordogne France.

Five New Orleans Activities under Five Dollars

Five New Orleans Activities under Five Dollars? Yes, you bet and most of them are free. New Orleans is a wonderful, yet expensive city to visit. The hotel prices are relatively high especially during events such as Mardi Gras, Essence Festival, Jazz fest, and the Voodoo festival. Save your money for the excellent Creole and Cajun cooking by spending your day or evening checking out the following five New Orleans activities under five dollars.

NOLA St. Charles Streetcar
New Orleans streetcar, ©

St. Charles Streetcar – Using the streetcar in New Orleans is an affordable and unique way to get around and experience the city. Riding the old rumbling streetcars is as charming and romantic as it was 150 years ago when they first ran. Not much has changed since then, you’ll still pay the driver cash, sit on really hard mahogany seats as you dazzle at the brass fittings and exposed ceiling light bulbs, figuring out how the seat backs reverse, so you can ride facing your companions.

Don’t expect air conditioning, flat screens displaying the daily news, or automated announcements on the forest green streetcars that ride on neutral ground (New Orleans word for the median in the middle of a street). Just remember to keep your head and limbs inside the car at all times,otherwise  you may get knocked in the head by a telephone pole or trees.

There are three different lines, St. Charles, Canal Street, and the Riverfront, each of which originates from downtown but take you to different parts of the Crescent City. I love the St. Charles line which runs through the tunnel of oaks on St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District making frequent stops near sites such as, Audubon Park, historic monuments, antebellum mansions, quaint B&Bs, restaurants, and local shops.

Most conductors call out the stops if you tell them where you want to go. If not, to stop the streetcar, simply pull the overhead wire.

Price: $1.25 per ride.

Cafe du Monde – The original Cafe Du Monde in the New Orleans French Market has been around since 1862. Open 24/7 except for Christmas Day, it’s the perfect place to enjoy Cafe Au Lait using chicory coffee which was developed by the French during wartime. During those years coffee was hard to come by so chicory, the root of the endive plant was roasted and ground—this enhanced the flavor dramatically reducing the bitterness.

Beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde ©, photo by David Richmond
Beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde ©, photo by David Richmond

The perfect complement to a Cafe Du Monde Cafe Au Lait is a plate of hot beignets (French-style doughnuts) that are served in threes and piled high with powdered sugar.

Cafe Du Monde Cafe Insider Tips: Never wear black, expect to pay cash upfront for your order, wipe your seat before you sit down, and do not under any circumstances breath while eating a beignet. Otherwise, you’ll have powdered sugar over you and your table guests.

The lines at the French Market location are long, but move fast and you’ll enjoy the time resting your feet between sightseeing in America’s most fascinating historic city while listening to Dixie jazz from the nearby pavilion.

Price: About $5 per person

Magazine Street – No need to empty your wallet while on vacation. Just walk along the historic Magazine Street. For six miles you pass by a mix of Victorian cottages and Greek Revival architectural wonders that house antique shops, art galleries, outdoor cafes, and quirky boutiques. Better yet, you’ll be tempted to shop, so just leave your wallet at home. 

New Orleans Magazine Street
Magazine Street. ©, photo by Jean-Paul Gisclair

Magazine Street is an eclectic, family area of New Orleans and the perfect place to watch the eight parades that will roll down Magazine Street for Mardi Gras as you attempt to catch the free beads, cups. toys, and doubloons.

Price: Free (to window shop) 🙂

Global Green House Homes – Go green and take a healthy walk or bike ride to the first Global Green House home, finished in May 2008. The sample home is currently a building for developers, contractors, and residents to learn how to rebuild green. 

Green homes in America
Global Green house in New Orleans. ©Global Green USA

The Global Green House project began after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, especially the Lower Ninth Ward. Global Green, in partnership with Brad Pitt, sponsored an international design contest in 2006. The Holy Cross Project was designed for five single-family homes, an 18-unit apartment building which will include views of the Mississippi River and downtown New Orleans, 75% to 90% lower energy bills.

Price: FREE

The French Quarter

Every time a friend or family member comes to New Orleans for the first time, I take them to Bourbon Street. I do forewarn them that they should go with an open mind and expect to see just about anything since that section of the French Quarter can be pretty raw and outright raunchy. Nonetheless, one really must visit it at least once while in New Orleans.

Mardi Gras French Quarter scenes ©, photo by Alex Demyan
Mardi Gras French Quarter scenes

My favorite time to visit Bourbon Street is near Heure bleue (twilight). During the magical hour I capture the backdrop of a brilliant blue sky for perfect photos—but mainly I want to avoid drunken party-goers. No worries though, the New Orleans police officers don’t tolerate nonsense.

Along Mardi Gras’ most famous parade route and beyond the bars, strip clubs, a walk on Bourbon and Royal street provides visitors with an up-close look at 18th century New Orleans. Namely the amazing architecture including the rod-iron-lace balconies and hidden outdoor patios found on Bourbon Street extending 13 blocks from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue.

On nearly every corner or beyond every patio, you hear live jazz at it greatest during the day and evening as well. It’s touristy, charming, heavenly, and a definite must do while in New Orleans.

Price: FREE

Top Five Berlin Street Foods

Currywurst stand Berlin top 5 Berlin street food
Currywurst stand, Berlin

I like street food, its down home, raw, real, and pretty good when your travel budget is limited. Whether its sold from a tiny restaurant, through a truck window, a portable stall, or from a stand, the finger-licking fast food hits the spot. So on a recent trip to Germany’s capital city, I decided to hit the street and find the top five Berlin street foods.

Let’s see what’s cooking in Berlin’s Imbissstaende  (takeaway snack stands).

  1. Currywurst–The snack food of choice for Berliners and Germans too is sausage pieces served with a spicy tomato sauce and them doused with curry.It’s cheap on-the-go food that’s so good there’s even a museum devoted to the cult food called the Curry Wurst Museum. Order it with or without skin at one of my favorites stands such as Curry 36 (Mehringdamm 36, 10961 Berlin) and Konnnopke’s (Prenzlauer Berg Schönhauser Allee 44 B).
  2. Doener–Thanks to Turkish immigrants who from the beginning of the 1960s first arrived in Berlin, the Doener kebab is another street food favorite. Imagine a warm sesame flat bread split and filled with beef or lamb slices from a rotating split. Then top it off your way with a blend of cabbage, lettuce, onions, and a garlicky yogurt sauce. How much do Germans love their Doeners? Well, annual sales amount to 2.5 billion euros. To find a great Doener kebab, go to the Turkish area of Berlin such as one of Imren Grill’s five locations (Boppstr. 10, Berlin-Kreuzberg).
  3. Falafel–Originated in Egypt, the street food is perfect for vegetarians and hearty enough for carnivores. The round fried balls are a mixture of chick peas, broad beans, garlic, onions, and a mix of Middle Eastern herbs. Whether you eat them alone, wrapped in flat brad, or with a salad, head to Mustafa’s (Mehringdamm 32, Berlin) or Dada Falafel (Linienstraße 132, Berlin-Mitte) for some of the the best in town.
  4. Hackepeter–The name literally means chopped Peter as in a man, not the body part of a man. Berliners call it Hackepeter,

    Hackepeter (Mettbroetchen)
    Hackepeter (Ground pork on roll with onions)

    Southern Germans call it Mettbroetchen, non-Germans call it tartar. To all its chopped pork meat on a bread roll and yes, its raw!You can find it at nearly any butcher, whether stand-alone or in a grocery store, as well as vendors selling sandwiches, and sometimes in bakeries too. Make sure you don’t have an important date or business meeting after you eat one because Hackepeter is traditionally topped with pungent chopped onions.

  5. Rice noodle soup and spring rolls–No one does street food better than the Thai or Vietnamese, so while in Berlin I was yearning for anything chopped, doused with secret sauces, and then fried or stirred over makeshift burners. Luckily, I discovered Mammam, Gabriel-Max-Str. 2, 10245 Berlin-Friedrichshain. If you like Pho Ha Noi (vietnamese Rice noodle soup), Nem cuon HAnoi (spring rolls), Nom Xoai (mango salad) and other Thai/Vietnamese specialities, then this is the place to go. Flavor enhancers? No way, Mammam doesn’t use any !!! 

If you can’t decide between my top five Berlin street foods, check out Street Food Thursday at Markthalleneun (Eisenbahnstrasse 42/43, 10997 Berlin). On Thursday from  5pm-10 pm, you’ll find a cornucopia of street food delights and like me, will have to create a longer list of Top 5 Berlin Street Foods.

Top Five Airports for Dining

The 2013 World Airport Awards were recently announced and the winners awarded their well-deserved accolades. Honestly, it’s not easy running an airport and satisfying finicky travels—myself included. As in previous years, travelers from around the world participated in the quality survey to decide which airports received the industry’s most prestigious awards.

The methodology is pretty simple, ask airline travelers from over 100 countries, traveling to over 395 airports worldwide to complete a survey which covers their airport experiences. The survey focuses on quality indicators such as service, check-in, arrivals, shopping, security, and dining experiences through to departure at the gate.

AirportThis year after 12.1 million survey questionnaires the World Airport Awards Airport of the Year is Singapore Changi Airport, congratulations to them but more importantly, which airports offer the best grub.

Let’s take a look at the top five awards for World’s Best Airport for Dining, but there is a disclaimer This was as shocking to me as the season finale of Downton Abbey.

Drum roll please!

Munich Airport
I eat German food, I cook German food, and live and work in Germany, but when traveling, I’d rather pass on delicious calorie-laden Bavarian specialties. Roast pork with crackling, pork knuckles, cabbage, and a good German beer are great for Oktoberfest, but with the travel weight restrictions these days, I’d end up paying the hefty fine for going over the limit.

The Munich airport located in southern Germany does have its share of sandwich, ice cream, pizza joints as well as cafes if you’re not in the mood for traditional German food. There’s even an organic bistro as well as an Asian restaurant specializing in Thai cuisine, noodles, and sushi. Therefore, I guess they deserve to be in the top five.

Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong cuisine is influenced by Cantonese, Western, Japanese, and Southeast Asian influences, so no wonder it made it to the top five. There’s a cornucopia of restaurants serving premium sushi and sashimi, Dim Sum, as well as Hong Kong-style restaurants. You’ll also find Western fast food restaurants such as Popeyes from New Orleans, French-style bakeries, healthy dining restaurants and more. All-in-all, you should be able to find eats to suit your taste. If that’s not enough visit the IMAX theater between flights and much on popcorn.

Incheon International Airport
The largest airport in South Korea is only one of three airports in the world to receive a five-star rating from a world-renowned aviation research organization. Are the dining options five-star too? Well, aside from the obvious, traditional Korean food served as side dishes (banchan) then accompanied with steam-cooked short-grain rice, you’ll also find other Asian delights. To satisfy the Western travel or maybe the curious South Korean travels, there is a casual French restaurant, numerous cafes, and even Bennigan’s with a localized menu of course.

When I fly to South Korea you’ll find me holed-up with family and friends at a 12 cheop (Korean royal court cuisine) table setting, where twelve dishes are served along with rice and soup, after that I’m off to the airport’s museum and five gardens.

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
This is a nice airport to be stuck in if you have a long layover or are looking for unique dining options. The Dutch conquered many territories and ruled the spice trade for a hundred years yet Dutch cuisine is typically simple. Their food is good, honest, mainly consists of vegetables, little meat, fish, and of course cheese. Head over to Holland Boulevard where you can nibble Dutch-inspired poffertjes (mini pancakes) while sitting in giant tea cups.

Singapore Changi Airport
Due to the ethnic diversity of the culture of Singapore which originated from Malaysia, the food is a mix of Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Peranakan, and Western. Oh my where do we begin? Well, there’s Nasi Padang, steamed white rice with various meat and vegetable dishes. How about Indian Singaporean cuisine such as tandoori, and curried gravy dishes served on banana leaves? Maybe a tropical fruit such as mangosteen, jackfruit, lychee, rambutan, and pineapple is more to your liking.

Due to the Muslims (who constitute about 15% of the Singaporean population ) there are plenty of Halal-certified restaurants. This certification designates food seen as permissible according to Islamic law.

With over 40 dining options at Singapore airport, you’ll find diverse cuisine at the world’s number one airport to suit any multi-cultural hunger pain. Don’t forget to walk off the calories while visiting the butterfly, orchid, and koi pond gardens.


Top 5 Things to do in Dubrovnik

Discover Dubrovnik’s top five destinations and see why Bernard Shaw called the city the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’. Despite the Southern Croatian city’s turbulent past, tourists are still captivated by the essence of so many cultural and architectural treasures in and around the UNESCO World Heritage site.

If these walls could talk
Avoid the intense Mediterranean sun and walk during the quiet morning hours around the stunning 13th century walls that encircle the city. You are virtually alone at that time and can relish the fantastic views and sea breeze in peaceful surroundings. Looking across the red roofs onto the urban patches of green paradise as city dwellers still hang laundry to dry makes you have an appreciation for the simplicity in times past.

View of Dubrovnik from City Walls.
View of Dubrovnik from City Walls.

At first glance the walk appears like a short distance, but beware the length is 1,940 meters so expect to spend around 90 minutes to complete the track depending on your pace. Along the way you’ll find juice stands and places to capture the perfect picture with backdrops of the Adriatic Sea, as well as midway exits in case you’re ready for the next Dubrovnik top five attractions.

The streets glisten with gold
The main street within the walls of Dubrovnik is Placa-Stradun where residents once entered the city through one of four main gates Ploce, Peskarija, Ponta, and Pile–the later a good starting or meeting point. The 292 meter Stradun is full of uniform Baroque buildings, perpendicular streets and alleys where you’ll find restaurants to street-dine boutiques, hotels, living spaces, as well as other cultural institutions.

Don’t forget to romance the walking stones of Stradun at night which is impressive when the golden light glistens across the brick streets just like a scene from Oz.

Find the Cold Drinks sign
Thirsty for a drink or a view? Head toward Buza which means, ‘hole in the wall’. The small bar is melded into the rocks and fortress walls on two terraces and has an amazing view of the sea, passing ships, and cliff jumpers who walk the seemingly unsafe metal steps to dive into the Adriatic.

The cafe sells cold drinks and that’s it, but making an adventure to find the sign ‘Cold Drinks With The Most Beautiful View’ is a fun experience which will not disappoint. Hint: If you’re near the Jesuit Church and the Collegium Ragusinum, you are pretty close to Buza. Look for the sign and a small gated key-hole in the wall and have fun.

Loving Lokrum
On a hot Mediterranean summer day tourists and locals head to the peaceful Lokrum Island. From the Old Town city harbor the 15 minute boat ride brings you to a seemingly uninhabited island, although there is one family that still lives there today along with many peacocks.

Mentioned for the first time in 1023, when the Benedictine monastery there was founded, the island has a botanical garden and several beaches including a nudist one. You’ll find the monastery and fortress on opposite sides of the island as well as a restaurant that has live music.

The locals may talk about the ‘Lokrum curse’ where apparently people went to the island at night and were never seen again. In that case, don’t be left behind on the island to see if the curse is true. Depending on the time of year, catch the last boat to Dubrovnik which leaves around 7:00 pm.

Moor Up and head to the club
Don’t let the idea of a snooty yacht club steer you away from a delicious, memorable, and affordable dining experience. Located on Lapad Peninsula, you’ll find Yacht Club Orsan where simple boats, luxury yachts, and huge cruise ships tank and dock. While on the marina look for the Orsan restaurant which has a beautiful leafy terrace, striking views during the day, and impressive evening romantic scenes when the light from the boats glisten across the Gruz Harbor waters.

Restaurant Orsan is not at all pretentious nor the guests. The service is superb and the fresh grilled fish is excellent and always served with the local side dish I call ‘Green pearl of the Adriatic‘ (Swiss Chard). Definitely start with the platter of little fish (smelt) which blends perfectly with a bottle of local wine or your favorite beverage. Sit among the evening stars and relish your time in Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik, home to 42,641 residents along the southern coast of Croatia is one of the best medieval walled cities in the world with spectacular churches, monasteries, museums, and fountains for you to explore. If you’ve managed to visit the top five destinations in Dubrovnik and have time to explore more of this fascinating city, I recommend purchasing a Dubrovnik tourist card to take advantage of discounts on attractions and free public transport.