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Troy Hightower
707.318.6066
troy.hightower@casto.com
uniquejourneystravel.com

Wednesday
Jan102018

Florentine Food Tour

In Florence, just before Christmas, we had booked a “Traditional Food” tour of the city, and a half-hour before noon, meet our guide, a charming young woman called Paola, as she is scurrying to avoid some pigeons outside the entrance to the Cappelle Medicee, at the rear of Brunelleschi's Basilica di San Lorenzo. A few blocks away is the vast cast-iron and glass Mercato Centrale, originally built in 1874. The market has changed since we last visited a dozen years ago. The ground floor is still meat, fish, salumeria and vegetables, but the entire top deck, which used to be given over to more market vendors, was converted in 2014 into an enormous food hall, with cooked foods of every description, from asparagus risotto to roast chicken to fritto misto to Chianina beef burgers, with hundreds of tables crammed with lunchers. There are also specialty food vendors, an Eataly grocery section, enoteca and a cooking school. One could make a several-hour food tour here alone.

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Sunday
Nov262017

Eight Tables--Nine Flavors

Restaurateur George Chen has been around quite a few blocks. His latest opus is Eight Tables, a small, sparse elegant space on the second level above his new food emporium—dubbed by some the "Chinese Eataly"—China Live.

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Friday
Jul212017

Colorado Mining Towns

The Colorado Silver Rush followed the ’49 Gold Rush in California almost 30 years later.  Silverton, nestled at a 9,300 foot elevation in a valley surrounded by soaring peaks of the San Juan Mountains, experienced the mining boom from the late 1870’s through the early 1890’s.

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Monday
May012017

Puerto Vallarta Getaway

Oh, those sunsets. Fiery orange, salmon, burnt gold, fading to purple and then gone—set against he magnificent enveloping sweep of the Bahia de Banderias and the multi-hued blues of the Pacific. A winter getaway to Puerto Vallarta—El Paraiso del Pacifico—where we haven't been in a dozen years. Troy came first as a child with her family in 1960 when it was still a small fishing village. The simple Casas de Carmencita terracing up the hill behind the Parroquia de Nuestra Senora was the place her family stayed. There were a few taquerias and loncherias in the centro.  La Palapa, on the Playa de los Muertos a hike south, had opened in 1959—a  palm-roofed restaurant on the beach, with sand floor and pig-skin equipales chairs. They went south of the river for the day and swam, sunned and ate.

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Friday
Sep302016

La Cité du Vin

Along the Garonne River, in a rapidly-gentrifying former industrial area of Bordeaux sits the ultra-modern twisting golden cage-like structure that is known as La Cité du Vin. Part museum, part wine-shop, part interactive experience, part restaurant, this stunning edifice provides lots to do for a half-day or more for those interested the wines of the Bordeaux region.

Designing architects Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières state that the building is meant to evoke “wine’s soul and liquid nature, gnarled vine stock, wine swirling in a glass and eddies on the Garonne.”

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Wednesday
Sep212016

St Emilion

From Perigord we drive west a couple of hours to the wine region and town of St Emilion, there to do some winery exploring, wine tasting, and luxurious living in the elegant Relais & Chateau—Hostellerie de Plaisance. We arrive at the lovely stone hotel, once a convent, and back our rental black mini into the only empty of three spots in front, next to a black McLaren P1 and a black Ferrari 812 – intimidating company! We’re shown to our terrace suite overlooking the hotel’s lower gardens and the golden stone town tumbling down the hillside. Plaisance is owned by the Perse family, which also owns nearby Premier Grand Cru Chateau Pavie—which dates to Roman times, and takes its name from ancient orchards of peaches “pavies” which stood on the location. The Perse family also own Chateau Monbousqet and Chateau Pavie-Decesse, and they are clearly committed to quality and luxury. We meet Madame Chantal Perse over the course of our stay, and she is both elegant and welcoming.

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Monday
Jul042016

Great Fosters

One night overnight in or near London, on the way to the continent can be challenging to do both easily and nicely. Airport hotel is easy, but hardly charming. A nice hotel and good dinner is to be had in London, with the hassle of a cab and traffic, or the express train to a cab to a hotel. What to do?

Twenty minutes from Heathrow sits an oasis of serene greenery and historic architecture called Great Fosters—a lovely country house hotel set in a 50 acre parkland, with fantastic and varied gardens, and a terrific restaurant.

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Friday
Oct232015

Royal Scotsman

We’ve enjoyed multi-night train journeys in historic train cars on several occasions in the past, including the Venice-Simplon Orient Express from Venice to Paris, and the Eastern and Oriental in Southeast Asia. A run around the Scottish Highlands on the Royal Scotsman, now owned by the Belmond group, has been on Troy’s bucket list for some while, so it was time for another “cruising by rail” journey.

Belmond’s Classic journey is a 4 night/5 day loop around Scotland, beginning in Edinburgh travelling through the highlands, past its capital Inverness, and reaching Kyle of Lochalsh—which translates to "strait of the foaming loch" and which is the crossing to the Isle of Skye.

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