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November 05, 2009

A South American Vacation For Wine and Food Lovers

Floralis Genérica, architect Eduardo Catalano's aluminum flower on Avenida Figueroa Alcorta in Buenos Aires, opens its petals by day and closes them at night.
Photo: stuckincustoms / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Thinking about a South America trip that combines great wine and food, charming hotels, and shopping? Readers Michelle and Rick are. Here's their question:
"I recently signed up for The Perrin Post and think this is an outstanding tool for travel tips. I have been reading about South America and it sounds like somewhere my husband and I should visit. We are 56 years old, very active, and live in Cleveland, Ohio. We would like to plan a 10- to 12-day trip this winter, but are not sure of the best places to see. We love wine, shopping, good cuisine, and nice hotels. We do not speak Spanish. We would love to use your expertise in hopes of making the best of our trip. Thank you in advance for your help!"
De nada. Argentina and Chile strike me as a good solution for you, so I e-mailed Vanessa Guibert Heitner of Limitless Argentina. Vanessa, who lives in Buenos Aires, is an Argentina and Chile travel specialist on my annually updated list of the world's best travel agents. Vanessa has designed and booked flawless, custom-tailored itineraries for several Conde Nast Traveler staffers, as well as dozens of the magazine's readers, not to mention our 2007 Dream Trip Winner's South American extravaganza. She was kind enough to suggest the following possible itinerary for you in an e-mail yesterday: 
Argentina is the perfect place for a vacation during the Ohio winter. It is summer in Argentina and the weather is fantastic.  For a 10-12  day trip with wonderful properties, shopping, food and wine, and  beautiful scenery to boot, I would recommend combining Buenos Aires,  Mendoza, and Chilean wine country (with a visit to Santiago, as  well).  Late January or February are perfect, just after the crowded  holiday season and before the harvest.

Buenos Aires offers sophisticated properties and excellent, varied, and affordable shopping, as well as a broad range of cultural and culinary venues. Mendoza, home of the Malbec and now officially one of the world's seven great wine regions, has lovely properties (my favorite is Cavas Wine Lodge), as well as an impressive array of wineries (from garage to international), restaurants, and Andes-related excursions.

The Colchagua valley just outside Santiago offers a different perspective on wine, with the Carmenère as the central grape in some of their most prized wines, such as Clos Apalta which won best wine of the year in 2008 from the Wine Spectator.  I love Casa Lapostolle - it is a small, truly unique and beautiful property."
You'll be in great hands with Vanessa. Also check out "Buenos Aires in Bloom," an article that ran in Condé Nast Traveler a couple of years ago. Buen viaje!
March 30, 2009

Cheap Beach & Nature Getaways for Families

Fond Doux
The Hillside Guava Tree
cottage at Fond Doux.

by Wendy Perrin

Still haven't made your April/May getaway plans? Neither have I. But it's not too late to turn to one of the 28 affordable, easy-to-reach, warm-weather escapes listed in the More Sun for the Money feature in Conde Nast Traveler's March issue.  Some of these resorts start at just $70 a night.  Most can be reached from major gateways and don't require a rental car once you're there. And a few are for travelers who want nothing more than a hammock strung between two palm trees.

Deal of the Day

Today I'll highlight our article's most budget-friendly recommendations that also happen to be family-friendly (pictured is a cottage at Fond Doux Plantation on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia). The rest of this week, Julia will bring you the more romantic, adventuresome, and cultural options.

For now, here are the kid-friendly school-break options that I wish I could have found the time to book a couple of weeks ago:

Continue reading "Cheap Beach & Nature Getaways for Families" »

September 24, 2008

Seeking Brazil Travel Specialist

Specialistslogo_perrin by Wendy Perrin

"Do you have a recommendation for someone or some agency to organize a trip to the Pantanal in Brazil?," asks reader Xicades. "Do you know Douglas B. Trent of Focus Tours?"

I'm afraid I don't know him. I do know that if I personally were traveling to Brazil I'd book through one of the vetted Brazil specialists on my list of the World's Top Travel Specialists, published annually in Conde Nast Traveler's August issue. Why don't you at least give a call to Jill Siegel of South American Escapes to get a sense of her recommendations for the Pantanal, what value she would add to your trip, and how these compare with what Focus Tours has described to you? Checking out Jill's blog might also give you insight into how the two agencies differ.

Anyone who wants to read or post user reviews of the travel planners on my annual list may do so here. (Unfortunately, there are no user reviews of Jill yet, since she was just added to the list in August and therefore has not yet been tested by hundreds of Conde Nast Traveler readers.)

January 16, 2008

Share Your Tips With Our Dream Trip Winner!

Stand back, Buenos Aires:  Here comes Gene.  Should he check out the tango dancers in front of the Galerias Pacifico?  You tell us!

Photo: Michael Lewis, Corbis

by Wendy Perrin

Been to South America lately?   Then perhaps you've got restaurant, sightseeing, nightlife, or other tips for our Dream Trip winner and guest blogger Gene Pembroke.  Over the next month Gene will be hitting:

*Buenos Aires and Posadas in Argentina
*Iguazu Falls on the Argentine-Brazilian border
*Rio (for a second time)
*Manaus and the Brazilian Amazon
*El Callao (for Carnivale), the Orinoco River, and Caracas, all in Venezuela

Where's Gene at this moment?  Camping in Torres del Paine National Park, in Chilean Patagonia. So, you may well ask, why is his latest dispatch from Rio just before New Year's?  The reason is the lack of Internet access in Antarctica:  Between Rio and Patagonia, you see, there was Gene's Antarctica cruise, where he couldn't blog because he couldn't get on the Internet.  Instead of having Gene report from Rio and then leave us all hanging for two weeks until his cruise was over, we decided to have him start blogging once he was back on land, post-cruise. This way you can get a new post from him daily, with no annoying absences.

Now we want to hear from YOU. If you've got tips for Buenos Aires or any of the other destinations listed above, or if you're thinking of traveling to South America and would like Gene to check out a place or two for you, just click on "click to post a comment" at the end of this post.  Can't wait to hear your advice!

January 01, 2007

Travel With Kids To Latin America

Swimming with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands. Photo: Lindblad Expeditions

By Wendy Perrin

Question from reader rebeccaweller:

"I'm hoping you can recommend a place for my family of 5 (kids age 2, 4, and 7) for 8 days in late March. We are pretty intrepid travelers. I've been researching the paradors of southern Spain, for example, but am realizing that something a bit warmer like South America might make more sense so we can get in some swimming. We are definitely not looking for a stay-on-the- beach-all-day place. We'd like music, adventure and, of course, good food. Brazil? Antigua, Guatemala? Thanks!"

Those are both great destinations (and jet lag wouldn't be an issue for the kids, as you're not changing time zones much). But Rio de Janeiro requires an awfully long plane trip, and Antigua, while colorful and fun, has greater appeal to adults. Have you considered Costa Rica? Or the Galapagos Islands? Both have plenty of beaches, animals, and nature-oriented adventure activities.

Continue reading "Travel With Kids To Latin America" »

December 23, 2006

Planning South American Travel

By Wendy Perrin

Question from reader drtomdixon:

"I'd like the name of a South America travel specialist or tour company that is not as high-end as Blue Parallel.  We're traveling to Brazil, Argentina, and Chile in September. Companies like Abercrombie & Kent and Travcoa are asking $500 to $600 per person per day. Seems awfully high. We want small-group or independent travel with 4- or 5-star lodgings."

A more affordable option for the three countries you mention is Ladatco Tours, and the person to talk to there is Michele Shelburne.

Continue reading "Planning South American Travel" »

November 06, 2006

Guides/Drivers For Cruise Land Tours

By Wendy Perrin

Question from reader

"We are cruising to Lima, Peru, and Quito, Ecuador, in April and would like to arrange for a private car and English-speaking guide. Can you suggest who we contact?  Thank you!"

Did you book your cruise through a travel agent?  Normally a cruise passenger would book private English-speaking guides and cars through his/her travel agent.  That's why I always recommend booking cruises through a cruise specialist who has access to the best guides and drivers worldwide. I can only assume that your travel agent, if you used one, does not strike you as qualified to book land excursions and thus I need to point you elsewhere.

Continue reading "Guides/Drivers For Cruise Land Tours" »

October 09, 2006

Luxury Travel For Less

Machu Picchu

Photo: Lisa Limer, Conde Nast Traveler

By Wendy Perrin

Conde Nast Traveler readers have bragged to me about the nifty deals they've gotten through Luxury Link, so when its president, Diane McDavitt, asked to stop by my office to introduce herself, of course I said yes. Luxury Link auctions off posh travel packages for up to 40% less than what they'd cost if you were to buy the components separately.  Sometimes the offers are cruises and villa rentals, but more often they are hotel and resort stays where the property throws in a bunch of extras (e.g. meals, spa treatments, golf).

How to win a Luxury Link auction?  If there's a package you want, submit a bid so that you're in the loop and will be notified of what others are bidding. Then don't bid again until literally the last minute:  Auctions are always extended to five minutes past the last bid.

Continue reading "Luxury Travel For Less" »