April 26, 2016

Surpass all your previous expectations about vacations! Never again allow “been there and done that” to characterize your plans.  Everyone knows the most popular tourist attractions, but this year you can choose to go off the beaten path.  Explore those places previously undiscovered by most tourists.  Make lifelong memories in places like Siena in Italy, Douro Valley in Portugal, or Anguilla, in the Caribbean.

Siena, Italy

Piazza del Campo, Siena, ItalySiena lies in the central area of Italy, in Tuscany.  While it may not be as well known as some other tourist locations in Italy, its charm is unmatched.  The lovely Medieval buildings are definitely worth a second glance.  The center square is called Piazza del Campo, and delights visitors with its historic roots.  Built in the 12th century, the buildings are topped with Fonte Gaia, a fountain sculpture created by Siena’s own Jacopo della Quercia.  This and the beautiful brick buildings, steeped in cultural tradition, provide a feast for your eyes.

Very near the Piazza del Campo lies another sight not to be missed. The Duomo Cathedral is stunning to view, and also houses treasures by Pisano, Donatello, Michelangelo, and more.  Constructed in the 1200’s, the building takes the shape of a Latin cross with a dome and bell tower.

And a gem inside this beautiful place can be found in the Piccolomini Library, known for its most amazing paintings by Pinturicchio. The details included in these paintings will amaze anyone.

You can’t neglect the beautiful outdoors of Italy, either.  Many lovely gardens decorate the landscape, one of which is the The Orto Botanico dell’Università di Siena.  Operated inside Siena’s city walls, this garden boasts a history back to 1588! It grows on a hillside in the valley S. Agostino, and includes various exotic and local plants.  It also has a farm area of fruit trees, vines, and grapes, as well as three greenhouses containing a wide variety of lovely plants.  And these gardens are open daily.

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Douro Valley, Portugal

Douro Valley, PortugalThis remarkable area is located in the north of Portugal, extending from the city of Porto to the eastern border.  Known around the world for its outstanding wine, this area offers many treasures without the crowd of tourists encountered in other regions.  They even have wine tasting tours where you can sample wine from some of the best vineyards in the world, as well as learn about its history.

You’ll also want to see the beautiful Capela De Sao Pedro De Balsemao, a chapel that dates to the 7th century! This church, the oldest in Portugal, is known for its beautiful decor and mysterious symbols.  The gorgeous columns and rounded arches make it a must see!

Another way to enjoy the Douro Valley, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, would be a river cruise.  This offers an excellent view of the valley, and provides entry to parts of the landscape only accessible by ship. Cruises often include touring the vineyards and a ride on a train.  Definitely worth your time!

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Anguilla beach funThis island in the eastern Caribbean offers a laid back atmosphere unlike some of the other vacation spots nearby.  But it still has the most beautiful white beaches you would expect from the Caribbean.  You’ll want to see Rendezvous Bay, a gorgeous beach appropriate for all water sports, as well as Little Bay, only reachable by boat.  Other areas of interest include Big Spring, known for prehistoric petroglyphs, as well as the wildlife conservation site at East End Pond.

Indulge your taste buds while you’re in Anguilla, as well.  It has over 100 restaurants to delight your fancy, including the elegant Veya, to Straw Hat on the beach.  Veya serves amazing food unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before.  Try the Vanilla Cured Duck Breast in Guavaberry Sauce served with Sweet Yams and Spiced Pecans for a glorious experience!

Straw Hat offers delightful choices, as well.  One of their most popular is the grilled Anguillian lobster, which comes with sweet plantains, grilled vegetables, Anguillian rice and peas, and lemon butter sauce.  No one leaves while still hungry!

You can also peruse various shops in the area, for locally designed clothing and other souvenirs that can easily be packed into your luggage.  Especially notable is Limin’ Boutique, which uses local sand in making its jewelry.  Find lovely home accessories and other locally made jewelry, also.  A definite opportunity for one who loves to shop!

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