Europe, specifically Belgium, France and Italy

 "First night’s accommodation in the Dolomite Mountains with food and wine at Rifugio Pradidali (2278m) after climbing 1000 metres from the valley below." - Judy & Grant Mraz

"First night’s accommodation in the Dolomite Mountains with food and wine at Rifugio Pradidali (2278m) after climbing 1000 metres from the valley below." - Judy & Grant Mraz

Best time of year to travel to

Autumn – you get the warm weather and beautiful light as well as the changing vegetation colours. Stunning! And fewer people than Summer.

Best accommodation you experienced

We rented an apartment (through AirBNB) on a walnut farm in the Dordogne Valley in a quaint village called Calviac-en-Perigord. We became friends with the owner who looked after us in so many ways – providing bikes, canoes and access to his farm produce – walnuts, walnut oil, tomatoes, raspberries, pears and apples. And the best honey we have ever tasted. We have stayed in a beautiful place and made a friend. A much better experience than sterile hotels.

Best restaurant/food of the trip

An al fresco French meal in a hilltop village called Carlux opposite a 10th Century castle. The meal was five courses of the freshest local produce from surrounding farms. All for 25 Euro per person!

Money saving tip

When in Venice don’t queue and pay to see St Mark’s Basilica. Go to Mass on Sunday morning, sit in a pew and gaze upwards at the most amazing mosaic Byzantine art for one hour, without the crowds and without paying an entry fee.

The main attraction

The Pantheon in Rome as soon as it opens its doors in the morning – vast, ancient, amazing and all to yourself!

Hidden secret

The Quirinale Palace in Rome is the official residence of the President of the Italian Republic. It is closed to the public . . . EXCEPT on Sunday mornings when, for five Euros, you can take a leisurely walk through the state rooms and halls and see the most amazing art and opulent furniture. Steeped in history, it is fantastic and not very crowded.

Other knowledge to share

The Dolomite Mountains in northern Italy are spectacular and great for hiking. All you need is a day pack with some thermal clothes (just in case the weather changes as it is apt to do in the high mountains), some food and, of course, a camera. So many walks to choose from and they all lead to Rifugi – Refuge Huts – with fires, dining rooms, bar, three course meals / breakfast, bedrooms and bathrooms. A civilised way to see spectacular mountains, rock formations and views – at one point we were standing in Italy and looking across to the snowy mountains in Austria!