The Brown‘s Travels Adventures


Over the water bungalows; swimming with and hand feeding Stingrays; Snorkeling; Whale watching tours; Tahitian vanilla plantation tour; Jeep island tours; witnessing Manta rays performing large loops while eating plankton (attracted by the underwater floodlight) at dusk just under our feet, as we sat on the dock on our private over the water bungalow; running into Pierce Brosnan in the lounge area at our hotel (what a NICE guy!)

Toured Chichen Itza ruins and climbed to the top of the Temple of Kukulcan (pyramid); Scuba diving (tanks) for the first time in Cozumel; enjoying Yucatan cuisine at a home of a local family; Jet Skiing; ATV touring local mountain villages; Riding horses on the beach; Fine dining at Pujol (voted top 10 World Restaurant) in Mexico City; 3-day package with Red Bull F1 Racing Team (Formula One race weekend); One of our favorite resorts is One & Only Palmilla (San Jose Los Cabos)

Staying at the Hotel Quintessence in Mont-Tremblant attending a 3-day Ferrari high-performance driving school (Corso Pilota) at one of the best race tracks in North America “Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant.” Fun fact . . . of the 18 participants [broken into 3 teams of 6], 1 of the top 3 executives at Apple happened to be in Gary’s team.  We didn’t realize who this individual was (as he was dressed down in jeans/tee-shirt/ball cap/sunglasses and went by a nickname) until after the event at the finale dinner.  What a super nice/great guy.  Yes, their team won of course – LOL.  Side note . . . Gary’s attended 30+ high performance driving schools on race tracks over the years (even taking 1st place in a high-end Auto-Cross event with 30 participants at Sonoma Raceway/Sears Point).  Yes, he’s passionate about driving . . . and fine automobiles. And of course, while visiting Canada, we couldn't go without attending the Montreal Formula One Grand Prix for 3 days. What a blast!

Toucan, Sloth (and so many more native animals) rehabilitation center and Sanctuary; We love coffee, so being able to tour a coffee plantation was amazing; Canopy walks; Spotting the Resplendent Quetzal (rare bird); Rain forest night-time hikes; “SkyTrek” Zip-Lining in Arenal (a total of 8 cables coming down off the mountain – some lines being over 650 feet high and almost a half mile long); Our favorite hotel was the Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa (their thermal waters warmed by and flowing from the volcano just a few miles above them are simply magical); Taking a class all about Chocolate, learning about the history of Chocolate; growth of the trees; to harvesting; to the actual making of the delights we enjoy); a 25 mile river rafting/float past numerous Crocodiles and Howler Monkeys (noted as the loudest land animal on earth . . . wow, what an amazing sound.  Click HERE if you’d like to experience the sound for yourself).

Sailed around the islands on a chartered newer 72′ carbon fiber catamaran with three other couples/friends. Visiting islands such as Mustique, Bequia, Union Island, Canouan, Mayreau, Tobago Cays, Petit Nevis, and more.  The waters are incredible here.

Having traveled to this amazing Country several times, we’ve tried to immerse ourselves in just about everything and toured from the Southern tip all the way up North. Biking the top of the walls of Lucca (where Gary’s grandparents were from); Taking the train through the Northern Countryside; Touring the Roman Colosseum and Pantheon; Touring the Vatican’s museum, Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter’s Basilica; happen to meet the American Ambassador to the Vatican who invited us to an intimate, private gathering of no more than 300 people to be blessed by Pope John Paul II; Captivated by the Statue of David in Florence; Astonished by The Last Supper in Milan (which is actually a mural painted on the wall, not a canvas painting as projected); Purchasing our large, colorful “Baby Baccus” ceramic statue in the walled hilltop village/town of Orvieto, Umbria; Viewing the Leaning Tower of Pisa; Fascinated by the history while touring the City of Pompeii; Driving the coastline of Almafi, Ravello and Positano with Sorrento actually being our favorite town, sipping Lemoncello was always a great way to start and end the day, LOL; walking the Blue Trail in Cinque Terre (otherwise known as the Path of Love) and then boating from Cinque Terre to Viareggio (near Pisa); Gondola through Venice; Boat tour around Venice to tour the Murano glass blowing factory; a few magical days spent in Parma touring local, family-owned Prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Traditionale Balsamico  (35+ year aged balsamic that tastes a lot like honey) producers; Visited Modena (Ferrari Factory and Museum; Fiorano racetrack; Ristorante Cavallino); Shopping at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (Italy’s oldest active shopping “mall” circa 1877), touring the Duomo di Milano and fine-dining in Milan; Staying in Como on the lake taking the Como–Brunate funicular to the top of the mountain (breathtaking views), boating along the Lago di Como stopping in at numerous villages (including stopping for lunch in the famed town of Bellagio); Attending the Monza Formula One Grand Prix event for 3 days; Wine touring with ItaliAnna in Barolo (simply the best 9 hour wine and food tour experience we’ve ever had – and we live in the wine country! If you’re thinking of heading to Barolo, click here for info); Having lunch in Portofino and finishing up with a drink at the famous Hotel Splendido just above the old fishing village; Staying a few nights in the tiny mountain village of Montalto Ligure (we called this the straight up or straight down maze town).

In Dublin we visited the massive 7 stories at Guinness (circa 1759) Brewery the #1 attraction in Ireland – of course a full day tour with a private connoisseur tasting, which we had to book 60 days in advance (fun fact: The Guinness Book of World Records was started in the 1950’s as a promotional item for the Guinness beer brand), food and whiskey tours, Trinity College and The Book of Kells (including “The Long Room” library), shopping, Hop on/Hop off bus tour, visited the oldest bars in Dublin (Hairy Lemon, Temple Bar and Brazen Head circa 1198), finally experienced a “Scotch Egg” (tastes even better than it looks), and more. Rented a car just for the day to experience driving on the right side of a car on the wrong side of the road (glad we didn’t have a stick shift, as we would be shifting with our left hand) and yes, we always remembered to go Wide Right or Tight Left when at an intersection!   Visited the Cliffs of Moher (over 700 feet straight up from the Atlantic ocean). Toured through Galway on our way to Cong (Ashford Castle).  While staying at the Ashford Castle (which is truly spectacular) we both enjoyed riding horses through the forests and up into the hills of Cong, delighted by our hour and a half Hawk Walk/hunt through the forests with our own Hawks, we also participated in Archery and Clay Pigeon Shooting (12 gauge over/under) classes, and so much more.  Yet another fun fact . . . both Gary and Ashley hale lineage from Scotland and Ireland.

Enjoying lunch and shopping in the medieval town of Eze, right above the French Riviera between Nice and Monaco; traveling to yet another fairy tale, medieval town of St. Paul de Vence (further inland from the French Riviera) and enjoying French Macarons and Glace; Spending the full day at The Palace of Versailles, Marie-Antoinette’s hamlet, and the Trianon Gardens was beyond over-the-top; Private guided tour of the Musée du Louvre (yes, we viewed the Mona Lisa)Spending a full day at the Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte (the gardens here were what Versailles was commissioned from); Climbing & then descending the almost 300 stairs to the top of the Arc De Triomphe; Shopping in Paris (of course!); Numerous walking history, food and wine tours throughout Paris (eating the best of the area – Boulangerie, Fromagerie, Charcuterie, Chocolaterie, and so much more); Our favorite meals in Paris were at Bistrot Paul Bert (pronounced as Bistro Paul Bear), Frenchie (we learned about these restaurants as they were featured on both Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern’s TV food programs) and L’Ami Jean – Note: as we dined at Frenchie, owner/rock star Chef Greg Marchand came out of the kitchen, walked up to our table to wish Gary a Happy Birthday; and a meal fit for a king and queen (and our most expensive meal EVER with wine pairings of course -LOL) was at the 3 Michelin Star restaurant Le Cinq . . . located within the Four Seasons Hotel in Paris – we were fortunate enough to be invited into the multiple stations/kitchens that seemed to go on “forever;” Taking the inclinators (yes, two) to the very tippy top of the Eiffel Tower to enjoy the views with a glass (ok, plastic “glass” anyway, wink) of Champagne; 3 days in Reims, Champagne visiting the chalk caves of Dom Ruinart, Dom Perignon and Veuve Clicquot – and learning how to saber open a bottle of Champagne; Ok, so we know Monaco is not France, but as it boarders France we’re including it here !!!  Monaco speaks for itself – and yes we took pleasure in shopping and a full 3 days at the Formula One Grand Prix !!!

Staying at Ashley’s favorite hotel (The Savoy) in London; Enjoying the “American Bar” in The Savoy (where the cocktail was invented – yes, by an American); Partook in Afternoon tea at The Savoy; and experienced our first taste of a traditional Beef Wellington at Savoy Grill (a Gordon Ramsey restaurant); Numerous history/food and drink walking tours throughout London (wow, what fun to walk through the City and enjoy so many different ethnic foods); One of our favorite restaurants in London was “THE” Restaurant Gordon Ramsey (one of three “3 Michelin star” rated restaurants in London) – and after the legendary Maitre d’ Jean-Claude Breton discovered we were from California/Wine Country, he personally invited us into the kitchen for a tour; City Hop on/Hop off bus tour – and we got to see the Queen pass by in her Range Rover (yes, we waved); Walking through all the levels at both Harrods and Selfridges; Hired a private driver and guide to visit Salisbury Cathedral where the oldest working clock and the most legible pages of the Magna Carta are housed; thereafter we traveled to Stonehenge, where we were able to partake in a very rare after-hours tour behind the ropes (not 30 yards out) but within the actual stones themselves, for over an hour . . . awe-inspiring experience to say the least !!!

Stayed in a quaint hotel right in the city center of Brussels; Enjoyed delicious Belgium Beer, mussels, fries, waffles, chocolates and the not to be missed Liege waffle (our favorite); City history tour; and more.  From Brussels we hired a private driver to trek us over to Spa, Belgium in the heart of the Ardennes Mountains and Forrest.  There we stayed for 5 days at the intimate Hotel De La Source, located directly on the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps iconic and historic Formula One racetrack. We were fortunate to meet and speak with some of the Formula One drivers (such as Daniel Ricciardo, Charles Leclerc, George Russell, Esteban Ocon and Alex Albon just to name a few) in a more intimate setting. Every driver could not have been more approachable and kinder to speak with. We even accomplished a bucket list item by sitting in the covered grandstands at the famous corners of Raidillon and L’Eau Rouge; and on Sunday after the race, we walked the entire 4.352 mile track.  What a beautiful area, truly magical.

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