Barbara & Stu's Excellent Vacations Great trips we have taken

New York, USA – No matter where we travel, New York remains our favorite city in the world, and the only North American city that ranks with the great cultural capitals of London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, Beijing, Bangkok.  We began taking photos of new York, and have perhaps gotten a bit carried away.  We add new ones at least twice a month, which you can see by clicking here.   As we continue building the site, we'll provide our NYC recommendations in our Tips section and more NYC photos.

Paris, France -- In our opinion, Paris is the most beautiful major capital in the world. One of the reasons is its graceful architecture and grand boulevards.  Not only do we like France, but we like the French. We've generally found most French people to be far more amiable than their reputation.  The wealth of museums alone are worth more than one visit, if you ignore the wonderful churches, parks, monuments, shops, food, clubs, ambience as well as the rest of the arts. Don't just visit the Louvre and the incomparable Musee D'Orsay, the smaller museums are first rate, such as the extraordinary Picasso and Rodin museums, the Musee Marmottan and many others.  Be sure to see the exquisite Sainte Chapelle in the Palais de Justice.  We'll add some photos to the site when time permits.  To see our Paris photos click here.

Istanbul, Turkey – It’s hard to capture the excitement of this fascinating city in words; it's a virtual smorgasbord of exotic sights, sounds, smells and tastes. To see our Turkey trip notes click here.  To see our Turkey photos click here.

Sydney, Australia -- When we first visited Sydney around 1990 we found it lovely, with a harmonious mix of colonial and modern architecture set on one of the most scenic harbors in the world.  Since the summer Olympics came to town, it's gotten even spiffier.  We find the Aussies to be gregarious, funny and unpretentious.  The food, especially the seafood, is excellent as are the wines and there are lots of fun things to do.

London, England – The food has been improving steadily, though you have to shell out a lot of pounds for the good stuff.   Sure it tends to be gray and rainy (though Barbara experienced no precipitation during her first twenty trips), and sure there’s Starbucks everywhere now, but the architecture, history and museums are world class.  The British Museum, where Karl Marx did much of his research, caches the plunder of the world.  Don’t miss the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Globe Theater, the Tate Gallery, the Courtauldt, the Tower of London and Westminster, though that’s just a small start.  On a clear evening the views from the London Eye are incredible.  To see our London photos click here.

Bangkok, Thailand – Traffic really is a nightmare, but travel by boat on the muddy Chao Phraya is lovely and when you wander into the small klongs (canals), it’s like being in the country.  It’s our favorite big city in Asia so far and a completely mesmerizing locale.  Did we mention the scrumptious Thai food?  to see our Thailand notes click here, and to see our Thailand photos click here.

Small Cities

Florence, Italy – Stu remembers reading a novel about 25 years ago in which the protagonist said that Florence was a gift.  We didn’t fully understand that statement until we visited.  Gracing the slopes of the Arno River, the consistent period architecture is charming.  For a city of its size (about 400,000 inhabitants – if you don’t count the hordes of visitors), Florence has a remarkable amount of amazing art.  The crowds are always prodigious so you have to devise strategies for dealing with them. At the Uffizzi, we recommend getting on line a half hour before it opens, buying a museum guide from one of the street vendors to figure out what you most want to see, and going directly to that room when the museum opens.  You can enjoy your favorite paintings without the crowds, then take your time with the rest of the collection. Michelangelo’s David exceeds expectations, but go to L’Accademia to see it, and don’t be fooled by the crude replica in the Piazza della Signoria.  Then there are Il Duomo, Giotto’s bell tower, the Medici chapel, and much, much more.  Always check opening/closing times to avoid disappointment and plan a loose itinerary based on what’s open when and where.  to see our Florence photos click here.

Venice, Italy – If you go in the springtime rather than the overcrowded summertime, you will be treated to one of the most romantic experiences of your life.  The seafood is exceptional and there is plenty of excellent art and architecture considering that this jewel of a city has a reputation for being light on art (perhaps only compared to Rome and Florence).  We fondly remember a perfect, leisurely lunch at an outdoor café on the island of Burano.  To see our Venice pictures click here.

Boston, Massachusetts, USA – A powerhouse of history and culture for such a small city, fueled by the intellectual drive of its excellent universities, as well as a handsome town with the harbor, the Charles River, well-maintained parks and attractive architecture.  Tracing the Freedom Trail is especially moving for Americans.  You can also whale watch on a harbor cruise – we spotted Minke, Right and Humpback Whales.

Bruges, Belgium – As much as we also adore the art in Brussels and Antwerp, Bruges is such a gem, if a bit overrun by tourism.  To see our Belgium trip notes click here.  To see our Belgium photos click here.

San Francisco, California, USA – We lost count of the number of visits we’ve made to San Francisco, both for business and pleasure.  It’s arguably the prettiest town in the U.S.   We tend to prefer the art galleries to the museums, though the Asian Art Museum is terrific as is the Palace of the Legion of Honor.

Buenos Aires, Argentina – The architecture is almost as attractive as the people, though the river, Rio de la Plata, is drab and disappointing.  This is a vibrant city with its many colorful and diverse neighborhoods.  To see our Buenos Aires notes (with other locations) click here.  To see our Buenos Aires photos click here.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada – Vancouver is a melting pot of Indian, Anglo and Asian cultures.  Its scenic harbor setting, pristine streets, fine cuisine and extraordinary Northwestern Native art make it a highly enjoyable place to visit.  To see our Vancouver photos click here.