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Now, That Was a Vacation


Singita Boulders Lodge in South Africa  

MOZAMBIQUE AND SOUTH AFRICA
Who: Carolyn Montrose, 33, creative-development director, and Adam Dub, 36, executive account director
What: Three weeks in April 2010 on $35,000
How: “We arrived at Vilanculos airport in Mozambique and were transferred to Benguerra Island via helicopter; the views of the Indian Ocean atolls were incredible. Azura at Gabriel’s (from $1,390; azura-retreats.com) had beautifully appointed villas with plunge pools, and we had a butler who set up private dinners for us on the beach. In Cape Town, we stayed at farmhouse turned boutique hotel Cape Cadogan (from $230; capecadogan.co.za) and went on safari in Sabi Sand Game Reserve. There, we stayed in two camps: Kirkman’s Kamp, where we woke up to white-faced monkeys at our door every morning, and Singita Boulders Lodge (from $1,700; singita.com). The guides were super-passionate about wildlife, and the game drives were adventurous.”
Highlights: “We loved touring the sites in Cape Town, including Table Mountain and the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. And restaurant La Petite Ferme (lapetiteferme.co.za) in Franschhoek had gorgeous vineyard views and even better wine.”
Take their advice: “April was a great time to visit: There’s no rain, which means you’re less likely to get malaria; it’s also easier to spot animals because the grass is lower.”

HONG KONG, BALI, AND BEIJING
Who: Loren Chidoni, 30, associate editor, and Brian Naylor, 30, risk analyst
What: Two weeks in June 2011 on $10,000 to $15,000
How: “We stayed at the new Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong (from $520; ritzcarlton.com) in a junior suite with floor-to-ceiling windows. One of our hotels in Bali—the Amankila (from $850; amanresorts.com)—sat right on the beach; with no TVs, all you hear is the ocean.”
Highlights: “The dark-sand beaches in Bali were so peaceful it was hard to leave. We took a private tour of Beijing with Orient Flexi-Pax Tours (orientflexipax.com), which was totally worth the $1,400; it included accomodations plus tickets to all the attractions and lunch for three days. And you can customize it: Our guide took us wherever we wanted to go and handled all the logistics.”
Take their advice: “Bali is famous for its wood carvings, and between Manggis and Ubud there is this great place called IB Marka Gallery to buy them. You even get to see the artists working.”


EME Catedral Hotel in Seville, Spain  

SPAIN AND MOROCCO
Who: Lori Bergamotto, 33, style editor, and Nicholas Barnhorst, 33, attorney
What: Three weeks in October 2010 on $5,000 to $10,000
How: “We spent two days in Madrid, then stayed at the gorgeous Gran Hotel Guadalpin(from $350; granhotelguadalpin.com) in Puerto Banus. Our suite had more room than our New York apartment. We also spent two nights at Seville’s EME Catedral Hotel (from $225; emecatedralhotel.com) before catching the 30-minute ferry (frs.es) from Tarifa to Tangier. In Morocco, we were greeted by our driver, Ahmed, from Marrakesh Voyage (marrakeshvoyage.com); we drove through Rabat, Ouarzazate, the High Atlas mountains, and more in his Mercedes SUV, spending time in different riads.”
Highlights: “Riding camels into the Sahara, where we slept in tents pitched by a Berber family. We could have drowned ourselves in vats of Moroccan kaab el ghazal, a pastry stuffed with almond paste.”
Take their advice: “Learn the term Rod balak. It means ‘Look out!’ They use this all the time in Morocco’s labyrinth of souks when a donkey is coming through. We saw a few people get knocked down who didn’t heed the call.”

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
Who: Courtney Woods Teska, 26, apparel merchandiser, and Jamie Teska, 26, graphic designer
What: One week in September 2010 on $5,000
How: “We flew into San Francisco, rented a convertible, and drove up the coast. We started at the Carneros Inn in Napa (from $395; thecarnerosinn.com), which was incredible—we had our own little cottage with an outdoor shower. Then we went to the rustic Ventana Inn & Spa in Big Sur (from $550; ventanainn.com). Every day we did morning hikes.”
Highlights: “We zip-lined through the Redwoods at Mount Hermon (mounthermon.org) and rode in a hot-air balloon in Napa with Balloons Above the Valley (balloonrides.com). Our dinner at Napa’s Culinary Institute of America (ciachef.edu) was also a highlight. The wine flight was incredible and the location gorgeous. We drove there with the top down and could smell grapes the whole ride; we still talk about that aroma.”
Take their advice: “Hit Big Sur’s Nepenthe restaurant (nepenthebigsur.com) on a sunny day. It is built on a cliff on the coast, and the views are incredible.”


La Montaña y el Valle in Boquete, Panama  

PANAMA
Who: Carolina Kim, 36, industrial designer, and Damon Zucca, 37, editorial director
What: Two weeks in August 2009 on $5,000 to $10,000
How: “We began in Panama City at the deserted Hotel DeVille (from $175; devillehotel.com.pa). From there we rented a car and drove toward Santa Catalina—an area known for surfing, snorkeling, and diving—and stayed at the cabana-style La Buena Vida (from $55; labuenavida.biz). Next, we drove through the Boquete area to La Montaña y el Valle (from $160; coffeeestateinn.com), a B&B run by Canadian expats. It’s an orchard and coffee farm; owner Barry took us on a tour of the grounds. We also stayed at an ecoresort on the island of Bastimentos(from $220; alnaturalresort.com) and at Dolphin Lodge (from $250; uaguinega.com) in the remote San Blas islands.”
Highlights: “The mountains of Boquete were so verdant, and the beaches and diving in Santa Catalina were some of the best we’ve ever experienced. Also, Casco Viejo in Panama City was such a pleasant surprise. It’s the old colonial section but still very vibrant.”
Take their advice: “When booking your accommodations, many hotels ask you to wire transfer money in advance, which kind of freaked us out. It ended up being okay—very few places accept credit cards outside Panama City.”

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