Europe

The Douro Valley is Portugal’s less snooty version of Napa.

The beautifully twisting Douro Valley. Drive an hour and a half due-east from Porto and you’ll come upon the Douro Valley, Portugal’s world-famous wine region and answer to California’s Napa Valley, home to some of the world’s most pretentious farmers ...
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No city crams in more Europe per square inch than Porto, Portugal.

The Porto Train Station, circa 2020 (or 1320 for all I know). Before boarding the #125 Alfa Pendular high-speed train, I’d never even heard of Porto, Portugal. Yet when we arrived in the city’s train station about three hours later, ...
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You don’t have to be royalty to enjoy the Portuguese Riviera, but it helps.

The central square of São Martinho, Sintra. About a half hour northwest of Lisbon, even beyond the Belem District, is a coastal area popularly known as the “Portuguese Riviera.” This picturesque stretch of land includes the swanky municipality of Sintra ...
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Belém District: Where Lisbonians go when they want to GTFO of Lisbon.

One of the many gardens in front of the Jerónimos Monastery. When the hustle and bustle of Lisbon’s city center gets too much for people, the locals pack a lunch of Ruby Porto, Evora cheese, and acorns for some reason, ...
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Lisbon is the city San Francisco could’ve been if the Internet hadn’t totally effed it up.

A view of San Francisco’s Coit Tower, the Bay Bridge, TransAmerica building, and some kids shooting hoops. When I moved to San Francisco in 1997, the Fog City was a very nice, very livable town. Yet, as the Internet grew ...
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Prague: Where people hate expensive beer almost as much as Communism.

The former Soviet Union turned Karl Marx’s naïve, utopian dream into an oppressive and corrupt regime that prompted a Czech revolution in 1989 and doomed communism to the dustbin of history. Since throwing off the yolk of authoritarianism, the Czechs ...
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Vienna: The birthplace of Sigmund Freud and penis—wait, I mean psychoanalysis!

A statue of Joseph II in Josefsplatz. Behind the statue is the Prunksaal. Everything I know about the world-famous doctor, Sigmund Freud, I learned from Mel Brooks, Saturday Night Live, and my “Intro to Psychology 101” class in college. So ...
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Budapest: The place to party in the year 2896 (mark your calendar now).

Part of Budapest’s 9th Century renovation efforts. I don’t know a lot about the history of my own people let alone the history of pre-Medieval, Uralic-speaking tribes of Central Europe, but I do know a country of serious partiers when ...
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Munich, Germany is home to high-tech business and high-octane beer.

Munich Germany isn’t one of the country’s more well-known cities, at least not in America. Most Americans are only familiar with the cities they’ve heard mentioned on the “Hogan's Heroes” TV series (like Berlin and the hilariously named Düsseldorf), or ...
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Edinburgh, Scotland: A city of culture, arts, science, and god&@#^! bagpipes.

According to folklore (and plate tectonics), Edinburgh Scotland was once supposedly warm. If you believe the locals, Scotland — and the whole of Europe, for that matter — was once situated near the equator. The locals paint Ye Olde Scotland ...
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Reading, England: It’s close to a lot of other, better places to visit.

Warning: This assessment of Reading won’t be in any way fair for three reasons. First, I spent my stay ensconced in a mid-level business hotel. Second, the hotel was a full 15 minutes outside of Reading, so I didn’t spend ...
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Athens, Greece: The birthplace of democracy, drama, and doric columns.

Ever since I was an art student in college, I’d really only wanted to visit four exotic places: Egypt, Rome, the Playboy Mansion, and Athens, Greece. Naturally, I was psyched when some friends of ours invited us to go along ...
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London, England: London calling. (Collect, most likely.)

The train left Paris, France on time filled with lots of English-speaking passengers. My rage slowly subsided as I slipped into slumber amidst the dulcet tones of the Queen’s English being spoken by high-pitched elderly ladies. It was a half-hour ...
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Paris, France: The city of lights and total jerks.

We pulled into Bercy Station, saw the endless line waiting for cabs, said “screw that noise,” and dragged our many bags to the Metro station yet again. The weather in France was nothing like that of Italy, it was overcast ...
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Florence: You say “Florence,” I say “Firenze.” And I’d be right.

We almost missed our train to Florence, but fortunately, it was running 10 minutes late. Watching the destination board update itself was like gambling. “Come on, Firenze! Daddy needs an on-time departure!” Learning from our experience with EuroStar, we upgraded ...
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Asia

Phuket, Thailand: It’s called ‘poo-KET,’ not FOO-ket (and definitely not ‘FUK-it’).

We’d heard that Phuket Thailand was very popular with tourists from all over the world. Despite that fact, we decided to go there anyway. But, to be honest, we didn’t need much convincing: “Wait, the place is sunny, humid, AND ...
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Bangkok, Thailand: A lot fewer prostitutes and lady-boys than we expected.

My wife and I watch a lot of Hollywood movies, so we expected Bangkok Thailand to be a horribly seedy place with a dark underworld of illegal activity where sexual deviants and unnatural acts are performed on every corner. Instead, ...
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Bali, Indonesia: Newsflash, it’s beautiful.

Trees provided excellent shade while in the pool. To state the obvious, so we can move on: Yes, Bali, Indonesia is unquestionably beautiful. Yes, yes, hells yes. Stunningly so. Bali is kilometers of coral reefs, white- and black-sand beaches, surrounding ...
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Beijing, China: San Francisco’s Chinatown doesn’t hold a candle to it.

When I first moved to San Francisco, I thought its Chinatown was impressive. But after spending a week in Beijing, I have to admit, it looks a lot less impressive. Frankly, I had no idea how many Chinese you could ...
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Kuala Lumpur: Tropical heat. Tons of monkeys. What more could you want?

Palace Of Golden Horses While we were “in the area,” we hopped over to the neighboring country of Malaysia for our second week of vacation. We didn’t really know much about the place before we visited (sadly, a common theme ...
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