Category Archives: Around the World Travel

Leyendo by americanistadechiapas, on Flickr

Romance or Adventure – Bring a Novel on the road…

Lost to the world.. by rosemilkinabottle, on FlickrAs all vagabonds know – deciding exactly what to put in that rucksack or travel bag before you set off on your next adventure is crucial. Space is limited and weight is the enemy, so every item must be carefully considered, mulled over, and possibly rejected once or twice before finally earning its place. Ideally all items have more than one purpose and are capable of earning their keep many times over.

So given your lack of space – why on earth would you take a novel with you on your journey? It’s bulky, heavy, and it’s not even a guide book or a history, so how is that going to help you with the practicalities of day-today travel?

The truth is, it won’t. But who wants a life of practicalities? Where’s the romance and adventure in that?

When I travel I want to absorb the place I’m visiting. I want it to creep under my skin and spill out in my conversations with the locals. I want to understand what they are thinking, what they’ve been through and what makes them who they are. I want to know the places where people fall in love, where they play with their children, or are shocked by family secrets. I want to go on an emotional journey as well as a real-life one.

And I can’t get that from a guide book.

But I can, and I do, get this from novels.

Not any novel. Sci-fi set in remote galaxies or books about fantasy worlds far into the future have their place of course – but I would argue that it’s not in your rucksack.

What you need is a novel (or three!) set in the place you are traveling to. Believe me – this changes everything. No city is a stranger when you have met it first on the pages of a novel.

Trekking along some of the smugglers’ trails of the Pyrenees will mean so much more to you if you have just read about those very same trails being used in WWII to spirit downed allied airmen out of France (some heart-stopping scenes in Dave Boling’s novel ‘Guernica’) and having a flutter at the Casino Estoril near Lisbon is a much more romantic experience when you realize this is where spies and dispossessed royals partied their way through the war (all is revealed in Robert Wilson’s crime novel ‘A Small Death in Lisbon’). You will never look at a bridge in the Bosnian capital the same way again after reading harrowing descriptions of besieged residents trying to survive sniper fire in 1992 (Steven Galloway’s ‘The Cellist of Sarajevo’) and you will have far more respect for the drivers of Delhi after sharing your days with amateur philosopher Balram Halwai (Aravind Adiga’s ‘The White Tiger’).

They may be fiction, but these novels ooze just as much history, politics and contemporary culture as any guide book. And their stories remain with you long after your journey has ended.

So assuming I now have you convinced that reading novels set in your destination is a good idea, you are going to tell me that you could do all this with some kind of electronic device – a kindle, ipad or even your iphone. This is true – and I have to admit that I never travel without a kindle now.

moments for oneself VI by procsilas, on FlickrBUT – I always have a novel as well. At least one. And this is why…
1) It gives you something to read when the plane is taking off and landing, when they won’t let you have any electronic devices on.
2) It keeps you company when your batteries are flat
3) You can still read in muddy, wet or sandy places

And my very favorite reason…
4) It is one of the best ways to make friends on the road. If people can see what you are reading, they are interested. They’ll come and chat with you, ask you if it’s a good book – especially if it is set in your location. In my experience, people just don’t do this with a kindle. The paperback novel is a wonderful conversation piece.

Leyendo by americanistadechiapas, on FlickrAnd when your reading is done?
You get to seek out someone else who has just finished a book and do a swap. If you are really lucky, you’ll find someone who is ready to trade a book set in the next place you are heading off to and you can start all over again.

As Vago tells us, vagabonding is about celebrating the spirit of adventurous travel, letting it bring you in touch with local people, culture and landscapes – next time why not let a novel help you make that journey?


Suzi is the editor of Packabook Travel Novels, a website which explores that special place where travel and literature meet. She likes nothing more than helping you find the perfect novels to match your itinerary. Find a book set in your next destination at


French Wine Tourism

Romance and Wine in the South of France

Exclusive for Vagobond, story and photos by Linda Kissam

International Wine Travel

Many of us think we need to travel to Paris or Champagne to experience what France has to offer in the way of wine travel. I’ve been to both, and they were great for family holidays, but I find the small, less known wine regions featuring family owned wineries to be much more intriguing.

There’s a story behind these out-of-the way spots that call to the soul of people who love wine, food, and the soft adventure activities that support that mindset. And if you seek the unique captivating sense of discovering a rock star in the making, then I guess I now have your attention.

I often receive wine samples to review. I love that, but the true test of understanding a wine is to visit where it is made and to get to know the people who made it. As luck would have it I received an invitation from one of the most influential and visionary French vintners — Gerard Bétrand – to visit him on his turf – in the South of France. I would be his guest for 4 days to experience the food, wine and jazz Bétrand style.

Who could resist that invitation? Not me. In a few short days, I was off from San Diego, California to the South of France (SUD) to taste SUD wines as they are meant to be experienced. Follow along my friends and then recreate this trip for yourself.

I’ve interviewed my share of winery owners, winemakers and growers. Some have passion for the wine, some have dedication for the business of wine, some for the pleasure of wine…and then there are those that have the vision not only for the wine they make, but for the place that wine comes from. It does not take long to understand that I was in the presence of a man who could easily be called a wine visionary for the South of France. The man, his wines, and his wine region have presence, passion, and potential oozing from him.

Wine Travel in France

Gérard Bertrand owns five estates in what many consider the best wine regions of the Languedoc: Château Laville Bertrou, Domaine de L’Aigle, Domaine De Villemajou, Cigalus, and Cháteau L’Hospitalet. Each features its own terroir and wine program.

While I was fortunate to visit three of those Chateau’s, my main focus was on Château l’Hospitalet. Lying between Narbonne and the Mediterranean on what was once an island, Château l’Hospitalet Gérard Bertrand’s headquarters is comprised of 978 hectares of moorland and 82 hectares of vines in a beautiful sea-view location in the heart of the Coteaux du Languedoc – La Clape appellation.

It is 2.5 miles from the sea and 4 miles from Narbonne’s center. This facility is the perfect spot to base your 3-4 day exploration of the region. It is the third most visited tourist attraction in the region. The top two are the old city in Carcasonne and an African themed safari park. Those of you who favor or support Eco Tourism will be glad to know Mr. Bertrand has adopted a strict carbon neutral sustainable approach to his vineyard management while offering eco-friendly wine-tourism related activities.

The regional character of the Chateau L’Hospitalet will charm you. It’s Mediterranean hip, edgy and comfortable all rolled into one. Enjoy the pleasant atmosphere of the small modern bistro, the comfortable dining room, and the lounge bar for relaxing breaks and (in season) smokin’ jazz evenings. I especially appreciated the luscious meals and snacks made from regional products (olive oil, olives, jams, honey, etc.) The restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine and premium wines. Unwind in the comfy lounge bar armchairs, enjoy some music, and taste some Tapas along with a glass of premium regional wine.

French Wine Tourism

Chateau L’Hospitalet has 38 spacious rooms accommodating 2 to 4 people. The hotel is set on a large property overlooking a small park-like area, gardens, and vineyards. All rooms feature lovely amenities such as spacious beds and flat screen TV’s. You’ll enjoy the swimming pool and the short walk to the tasting cellar. Get adventurous and take a hike up the hill for a breath taking view of the sea and surrounding vineyards.

Château l’Hospitalet definitely is a wine estate with a strong sense of self based on hospitality focusing on the Mediterranean lifestyle: cellar visits and tasting of course, but also make time for to explore the art exhibitions, crafts workshops and an annual jazz festival on the first weekend in August showcasing the facilities at the Château. Try booking your visit during the August Jazz Festival (held at Chateau L’Hospitalet) if you can. If it’s booked, try one of the local hotels located on small waterways and beaches where you can become part of the local scene. Don’t expect big fancy accommodations. Think small family friendly vacation rooms.

Barrels of Wine in France

A key focus of my short stay was a 3-day pass to the International Jazz event. Located on the Chateau’s property, the event is designed entirely to promote ecotourism. Five concerts, 6,500 attendees, 5 gala dinners on the Chateau’s gorgeous grounds, means this is THE place to be the first week of August. A typical night’s schedule includes a 7 p.m. tasting, 8 p.m. Mediterranean dinner created by some very talented chefs, a 10 p.m. concert, and a midnight after party at La Cave ? Jazz. Wow does not do this justice: spectacular maybe, or once in a lifetime perhaps.

This was their 8th annual festival, so I would expect it to go smoothly, but this was more magical than smooth. Think premium wines (I actually got to taste a 1936 Gérard Bertrand Rivesaltes- bottle 623 of 869), French food at its most local and finest, vineyards everywhere, the waft of sea air, a big French moon, and the most glamorous people ever as my dining partners.

Jazz Night in France's Wine Country

The Jazz talent is handpicked each year by Gérard and his team. He told me he tries not to repeat any act so that each year guests can look forward to something new and exciting. Each performer had their own vibe and that made each show an experience in itself.

What wine travel adventure would be complete without a discussion of the wines? The wines bearing the Gérard Bertrand signature share a common identity: balance and elegance, they truly express the thoughtfulness of the winemaker and the South of France terroir.

There are 4 levels or ranges to meet the needs of the different markets:
1. Vins de Pays and Varietal Wines: pleasure guaranteed
2. AOC wines for more character and complexity: culture of flavor
3. Great wines: experience the emotion
4. Natural Sweet Wines and Sparkling Wines: region’s softer side

Gérard Bertrand wines win tons of medals bearing testimony to the consistent quality of his products. Awards include: the Paris Agricultural Show, the official reference in French quality wines ;the equally-prestigious Brussels Concours Mondial ; the Grands Vins de France Competition in Macon, Vinalies “OEnologues de France”, the Blaye Bourg International Wine Challenge, the Wine Challenge (UK and Japan), and the Anivit National Vins de Pays Competition organized by the Union of French Oenologist.

French Wine Tourism

As nice as it is to have all those words of praise from your peers, the true test comes in the hands of the consumer. Trust me; you’ll love any one of them no matter where you are on your wine journey – novice to aficionado. On a warm French evening under a romantic moon my favorites included Cremant de Limoux Brut, Natural Grenache (Organic), Cigalus blanc, and the yummy Gerard Bertrand Banyuls. These are great value wines and can be found worldwide. Conclusion? You haven’t completed your wine journey – be romantic or more pragmatic – until you join Gérard in the South of France at l’Hospitalet to experience his vision of ecotourism as you groove to sweet & sassy Jazz, dine in culinary excellence, drink inspired wines from sustainable vineyards, dance under French moonlight, and be pampered at the l’Hospitalet hotel. Check out the Gerard Bertrand Web site for other interesting events like the L’Art De Vivre in June and the exquisite Truffle Hunt in December. A vote santé!

Lifetime trip to Jamaica

Last Minute Romantic Getaways to Jamaica

Photos by Tomash Devenishek
Lifetime trip to JamaicaRealizing that it’s high time to take your significant other and unwind on a spontaneous holiday for two? Then you’ll be delighted to learn that there are some great  last minute” holidays  on offer. These luxury excursions to romantic Jamaica will cost you far less than you might expect. Take a break from the “real world” with a seven day package deal that includes airfare, airport transfer services and complimentary breakfast. All you have to decide what kind of hotel will best suit you!

Adult-only Hotels

Adults Only Jamaica

Although the pitter–patter of little feet may be charming in certain settings, on a romantic vacation for two it can be distracting to deal with other people’s children. That’s why there are package trips to Jamaican hotels that cater exclusively to adults. These “grown-up” playgrounds offer perks like spa facilities, workout rooms and serene kid-free swimming pools. Gourmet restaurants serve beautifully prepared meals and can even set up private romantic dinners in the room or on the grounds.

Seaside Hotels

A trip to Jamaica

For couples who enjoy spending time relaxing on the beaches and playing in the warm Caribbean waters, there are many beach front hotels in their getaway packages. Besides stunning waterfront views, these hotels have activity directors that can arrange water sport activities from simple snorkel gear to professional guided deep sea diving excursions. They’ll also help you make reservations for fishing trips, sunfish rentals, surfing lessons or private yacht tours.

Bed and Breakfast

For a more intimate experience, you can find Jamaican getaway packages to cozy bed and breakfast establishments all over the island. From jungle bungalows to beach front cottages, these accommodations provide a “home away from home” atmosphere where you can relax and enjoy your time together far from the crowds. Expect ambassador class service with champagne breakfast, gourmet dinners and upscale entertainment in a luxurious atmosphere.

High-rise Resorts

Awesome Resorts in Jamaica

Indulge in the jet-setter lifestyle at bargain prices with the many Jamaican luxurious high-rise hotels offering perks like in-house water parks and shopping malls. These extensive resorts have so many activities and fine dining opportunities that you can cheerfully spend your seven romantic days in one spot without hassling with the outside world.


If you like the idea of whipping up your very own romantic meals, select  self-catering establishments in Jamaica that offer fully equipped private kitchens with their accommodations. You can shop at the local markets for fresh vegetables, fruits and seafood to experiment with exotic island recipes. With self-catering facilities, you can also save a bundle on your overall expenses since you’re eating out less and are spared having to pay so many tips and gratuities.