From Bruges to Marrakech

This month, our globetrotters toured the Sahara Desert on camelback, chased the perfect Italian pizza and island-hopped in paradise.

By Kristen Gray

When in Amsterdam…

While in the bicycle-friendly European city, Emily Ledig and boyfriend Nate Paquette stayed at The Toren, a chic boutique hotel with colorfully decorated rooms. It’s conveniently situated close to the Anne Frank House, which the couple visited. “Inside one of the rooms, they have built a model of the house as it was,” Ledig says. “The model and photos gave a peek of how life was when they were hiding. It was incredible and it really transported us into the historical period of the city at that time.” In between bike rides along flower-lined canals—and romantic boat rides sipping wine while wrapped in cozy blankets—they enjoyed local refreshments at places like the Brouwerij’t IJ, a brewery and windmill serving beer flights. “Many people refer to Amsterdam as not much more than a party city, but there’s so much more to experience. It is architecturally and historically striking.”

Bliss in the Philippines

Marco Castro, who’s got Filipino heritage, has visited the Southeast Asian country many times, but with more than 7,000 islands, it’s nearly impossible to see it all. For his latest trip, Castro and good friend Andrew Nicholls bypassed Manila and explored Mactan and Boracay islands. On Mactan, they checked into the Crimson Resort and Spa as well as Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort. “We took a boat out to snorkel-dive and ended up catching our lunch: fresh cracked uni and a beer.” Island-hopping was on the agenda: The group, staying at Boracay’s Hennan Regency Resort, traveled via rented boat to Crystal Cove, which has underwater caves and hidden alcoves, and Magic Island, where they jumped from cliffs as high as 33 feet. “On the last day, I captured breathtaking photos of the many catamarans as they glided across the ocean under the setting sun,” Castro muses.

Epicurean expedition

Imagine finding pizza so delicious that you make a “pizza pilgrimage” all the way to Rome to enjoy it. Stephanie Marver, husband Jim Marver and daughter Carissa did just that, devouring slices of pie at Pizzeria San Marco. They stayed at their favorite, Hotel de Russie, which is nestled up against a hillside covered with citrus trees and charming gardens—next door to the famous Spanish Steps. After falling in love with Venice on a trip last year, the trio ventured to the Venice of the North, aka Bruges, “a complete fairytale of a city.” There, they saw sights including the Basilica of the Holy Blood, and traveled with a knowledgeable guide. “He was a very kind older man who grew up in Bruges and was therefore extremely informative,” Stephanie says. “We were truly mesmerized with him.”

Moroccan magic

“Sharing a part of the world’s beauty with people of all backgrounds is an elevating experience,” Lori Bush says of watching the sunrise and sunset atop ever-changing waves of sand in the Sahara on a recent trip with husband Steve Bush. “As a parting gift from my retirement as CEO of Rodan + Fields, the staff gifted me with a trip for two to Morocco, which is a place I had been dreaming of going for quite some time.” The pair stayed at the Selman Marrakech, which boasts exquisite floor-to-ceiling tile designs throughout and enchanting restaurants with delicious cuisine. “We visited Yves Saint Laurent’s final resting place, the Jardin Majorelle. It is a vibrant blue villa and garden full of yellow potted plants and surrounded with cacti.” They also spent a day to shop the souk, the outdoor market. “We shopped for Berber rugs, even receiving a free rug-making lesson, and various Moroccan spices, enjoying the mint tea that was served everywhere.” While glamping at Erg Chigaga Luxury Desert Camp, they rode camels, connecting with other travelers from places far and wide. “Everyone we met, including our incredible guide, was extremely friendly and accommodating. The only alarming part of the trip was the gigantic spider we encountered in our tent. Steve captured and released it outside, where it would later spook the guests of another tent!”

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