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30 Wonders of the Hideaways Vacation World
According to Hideaways Founder/President Mike Thiel

This article from the January/February 2009 issue of Hideaways Life is available to all audiences.

Big anniversaries—like this, our 30th year helping you plan your most memorable vacations—have a way of bringing out the nostalgia in all of us. As I reflected on my favorite travels over the past three decades, and those I still hope to enjoy—my personal "bucket list"—I thought I'd share with you (in no particular order) some of the life-enriching experiences I've had in the hope they might inspire your own wanderlust. Here's to your own happy travels!

1. Barging the Canals of France: Experiencing the countryside, villages, cuisine, wine, and culture at a relaxing 5 mph. We've enjoyed the luxury of a crewed charter barge, being waited on hand and foot, and the independence of captaining our own self-hire barge and learning the ropes of barging. Recommended self-hire: Nicols, Connoisseur, Crown Blue Line.

2. Montana: Soaking in the purple mountains majesty, amber waves of grain, bubbling rivers and streams, great skiing, hiking, and fantastic fly-fishing. Recommended lodgings: Triple Creek Ranch, Big EZ Lodge, The Lodge at Sun Ranch.

3. Cruising Peru's Upper Reaches of the Amazon: An up-close-and-personal experience with the wonderful wildlife and primitive village life of the river. Recommended tour company: International Expeditions.

4. Venice: Romantic, intimate, timeless. A feast for the senses. Recommended hotels: Hotel CiprianiTHC, Palazzo Sant'Angelo, Bauer Il Palazzo, Hotel Londra Palace.

5. Paris: What's not to love? The architecture, the river Seine, the unique ambiance of each arrondisment, the food, the joie de vivre. Recommended: Hotel de Crillon, Hotel du LouvreTHC, Hotel LutetiaTHC, Hotel MontalembertTHC, or rent an apartment and live like a local.

6. A Kenyan Safari: The grandeur of the vast grasslands and escarpments of the Maasai Mara, Amboseli National Park with snow-capped Kilimanjaro as a backdrop, the lush up-country, and all those magnificent animals. Recommended: Micato Safaris.

7. Dubai: Its contrast, a go-go fantasy world against a backdrop of traditional Arab culture, gold and spice souks, desert dunes. Recommended hotels: Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Royal Mirage, Al Maha Desert Resort.

8. Bali: Serene, bucolic, exotic, idyllic, and one of the most spiritual places we've ever experienced, with amazing sybaritic hideaways from which to enjoy it all. Recommended hotels: Kupu Kupu Barong VillasTHC, Ubud Hanging GardensTHC, Jimbaran Puri BaliTHC, The Oberoi.

9. Tokyo's Tsukiji Market: Marveling at the variety and abundance of seafood—much of it still alive—at the world's largest fish market; the high-energy, high-stakes tuna auction, and enjoying a breakfast of sushi and shashimi in a local hole-in-the-wall eatery. Recommended hotels: The Conrad, Seiyo Ginza, Four Seasons Marunouchi.

10. The Greek Isles: Santorini's cliffs, its moody caldera, and ever-changing skyscape; Mykonos' whitewashed cottages surrounding a harbor of brightly painted fishing boats; ancient ruins galore and tavernas brimming with scrumptious seafood, ouzo, music, and good times. Recommended hotels: Mykonos—Santa Marina Resort & Villas, Kivotos ClubHotel, Hotel Semeli; Santorini—Mystique, Vedema Resort, Sun Rocks; Crete—Blue Palace Resort & Spa, Elounda Gulf Villas.

11. Istanbul: Where East meets West, exotic and bustling with its bazaar, Topkapi Palace, magnificent mosques, and smoke-belching ferries. Recommended hotel: Ciragan Palace Kempinski.

12. Skiing in Austria and Switzerland: Spectacular mountains, hair-raising skiing, quaint Alpine villages, cozy lodges, and a bon-vivant winter lifestyle. Recommended hotels: Kristiania Lech, Schlosshotel Igls, Goldener Adler.

13. Malta: A medieval masterpiece fantastically preserved, with good dining and ample activities; close your eyes and sense the ghosts of Crusaders and the Knights Templar. Recommended hotels: Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz, Hotel Ta' Cenc, or rent a farmhouse on Gozo.

14. Anguilla: Home to some of the world's most beautiful beaches and a wonderland of luxurious resorts showcasing a fantasy of international architecture—North African minarets, Mediterranean cubist, post-modern glassy; also a bastion of fine—if expensive—dining. Recommended resorts: CovecastlesTHC, Cap Juluca, Carimar Beach Club (a best value).

15. Belize: Big adventures in a postage-stamp-sized country—snorkeling and diving with sharks and turtles on its beautiful barrier reef, fly-fishing for a saltwater grand slam (tarpon, bonefish, permit), exploring Mayan ruins, nature trekking in jungles and highlands. Recommended lodgings: Blancaneaux LodgeTHC, Chaa Creek, Turtle InnTHC, The Inn at Roberts Grove, La Perla del CaribeTHC.

16. The Bay Islands of Honduras: Where we took our first family scuba diving trip; sitting atop the world's second-largest—and one of its most spectacular—barrier reefs. Recommended lodgings: Anthony's Key Resort.

17. The World of ResidenSeaTHC: Cruising aboard the world's first condominium ship, the most sedately elegant ship we've ever sailed—a veritable floating village that roams the world.

18. Brazil: The excitement and flair of Rio, soaring Pan de Azucar (Sugarloaf Mt.), bustling and bodacious Copacabana and Ipanema, eclectic Buzios, a throbbing samba block party in colonial Salvador de Bahia, cruising the mighty Amazon, the food, the welcoming people. Recommended hotels: Copacabana PalaceTHC, Ponta dos Ganchos.

19. Alaska's Inside Passage: A must-do once in your lifetime, we marveled at the wilderness, the glaciers, fjords, the wildlife, and the frontier towns as we cruised in luxury with Sea Goddess (now SeaDream Yacht Club). Recommended cruise lines: Celebrity CruisesTHC, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Holland America Line.

20. A Staffed Villa Rental: Living the good life in your pick of sunny Jamaica, Barbados, or Mexico, enjoying your own private pool, a gorgeous ocean view, and being waited on hand and foot. Ahhh . . .

21. Hong Kong: The exotic, vibrant, and colorful gateway to China and the financial capital of Asia; its bustling harbor, fantastic hotels, wonderful dining. Recommended hotels: The Peninsula, The Four Seasons, The Mandarin Oriental.

22. Touring Ireland: Roaming from one country-house hotel to another, especially in springtime—rolling fields and mountains in 40 shades of green, blooming in wild rhododendrons and yellow gorse; windswept seaside links-style golf courses; trout and salmon fishing; winding roads leading to cozy pubs and smiling people. Recommended lodgings: Ashford Castle, Ballynahinch Castle, Park Hotel Kenmare, and any of Ireland's Blue Book association country-house hotels. 23. The Azores: Certainly off the beaten path, these mid-Atlantic islands are a unique blend of European culture and dramatic, volcanic, Hawaiian-like topography; a paradise for exotic flora, birdlife, hiking, whale watching, fishing, colonial architecture, and some of the most scenic drives we've ever experienced. Just don't expect good beaches. Recommended hotels: Hotel Marina Atlantico, Terra Nostra Garden Hotel, Terceira Mar Hotel.

24. Grenada: The once-sleepy "spice island" has always been one of our favorite Caribbean-as-it-used-to-be destinations, with gorgeous mountain scenery, rivers, waterfalls, quaint St. George, one of the prettiest little harbors in the world, and some excellent beaches. Of late, it's been going more mainstream. Recommended resorts: LalunaTHC, Spice Island Beach Resort.

25. River Cruising in Europe: One of the best ways to experience both the major cities and quaint villages of the Continent; convenient, relaxing, luxurious, and you only have to pack/unpack once. Our favorite—cruising from Passau, Germany, to Vienna and Budapest. Recommended cruise lines: Peter Deilmann Cruises, Viking River Cruises. 26. Private-Island Resorts: There is something very special about small private-island resorts reachable only by boat. The separation from the rest of the world encourages a true sense of relaxation, especially when there are no readily available phones or TV channels to link you to the frenetic world. Recommended resorts: Little Palm Island (Florida), Guana IslandTHC (BVI), Kamalame CayTHC (Bahamas), Palm Island ResortTHC (Grenadines), Pangkor Laut (Malaysia).

27. Mexico: One of our favorites overall for sun and fun, and as a cultural destination; from the fantastic Caribbean beaches to the desert-meets-cobalt-sea beauty in Baja, the colonial towns in the center of the country, and even cosmopolitan Mexico City (admittedly an acquired taste), we love the diversity of Mexico, its music, spirit, and warm welcome. Recommended: Just call us (877-843-4433)!

28. Bareboat Chartering in the Caribbean: I'd have to say that these sail-the-boat-yourself vacations have been among my favorite escapes; no shoes, no schedule, no worries, just letting the wind carry you from one idyllic island to the next, snorkeling, fishing, dining ashore, and rubbing elbows and dancing with kindred spirits at casual beach bars. Recommended bareboat charter company: The Moorings.

29. Vienna: We fell in love with this elegant city of music and culture, the palaces, the shops, the symphonies, the Spanish Riding School, the bustling street life. Recommended hotels: Hotel Sacher.

30. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Lots of people vacation in this charming colonial port city for its fine dining, performing arts, the scenic New England coastline, and its many recreational attractions. We chose it in 1992 as Hideaways' home, so no matter what other wonderful places in the world we may roam, we always have a great place to come home to. Recommended hotel: Wentworth by the Sea hotel.

My Hideaways 30th Anniversary Bucket List

When you've spent 30 years as a professional traveler, and the 30 years before that exploring the world as a side light to your profession (oil/gas consultant) and to your station in life (son of a diplomatic corps officer), it gets a bit harder putting together your bucket list of places to see and things to do. I try not to be jaded—there's always something new and interesting to see and do in most places, no matter how many times you've been there before. Luckily, it's a big world, and to quote from one of my favorite poems by Robert Browning, "Our Last Ride Together:"

Look at the end of work, contrast
The petty done
The undone vast.

Nevertheless, as you recognize your own mortality, your time gets ever more precious and you tend to get more selective about what you want to see and do in your travels.

I should also add that your tendency is to emphasize more in-depth experiences, experiencing and doing vs. seeing, and slowing down to smell the roses. So it may not surprise you that my own bucket list includes more emphasis on active, participative sojourns: sailing, fishing, hunting, learning—all of which are high on my list of loves.

My own list, and I'm guessing yours, too, is always changing. I was somewhat shocked to look back on past bucket lists, in part to see how my list has changed, but even more so, to see how few checks I could put next to the things on past lists.

The message is, of course, "Time and tide wait for no man," an adage my mother, who was also an inveterate traveler, used to impress on me. When I got rolling on a bucket list, I could very easily have drawn it out much more. But given my experience with this exercise in the past, I stopped at 13, one of my favorite numbers. I thought it better to be more modest in my ambition, but more dedicated in its achievement, which brings me to another of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

So here's my personal bucket list of things yet to be achieved.

  1. Take a sailing sojourn, preferably bare-boating—lazily and with but a sketch of a plan—around the Greek Isles. Enjoying the laid-back Greek lifestyle, lots of ouzo, and taverna food.
  2. Ditto in the South Pacific, snorkeling in tranquil, turquoise lagoons, and sipping cool coconut water while swinging in a hammock under swaying palms.
  3. Experience what for me is an entirely new vibrant culture . . . incredible India.
  4. Explore bucolic New Zealand and try my hand at its fabulous trout fishing.
  5. Return to Chile, this time to check out the wonders of Patagonia and sample its fishing.
  6. Try soaring, especially riding the thermals and lifts along some spectacular mountain range.
  7. Hike hut-to-hut in the Alps, humming "The Sound of Music" (just kidding!), and more important, enjoying the vistas, the rustic good life, and great Swiss/Austrian cooking.
  8. Explore more of Eastern Europe, Poland, the Baltic, and Scandinavia.
  9. Actually relax and enjoy la dolce vita at an Italian villa, the kind of vacation we so frequently plan for our members but never have time to enjoy ourselves. (Our visits are always hectic inspection trips).
  10. Tour the wine district of South Africa, sampling its boutique hotels, and especially go on a tented safari, preferably on foot. Even better, combine a look-see safari for the big animals with some bird or small game hunting for a very different, more participative experience.
  11. Sail trans-Atlantic the slow and serene way, aboard one of the sailing ships of Star Clippers or Sea Cloud, with a pile of good books at my side.
  12. Learn more about cooking the great cuisines of the world in the destinations that inspired them: France, Italy, Thailand, China, Japan.
  13. See more of the U.S., especially by doing "America's Great Loop," cruising at your own pace (it usually takes 9-12 months) by boat along the continuous waterway that encompasses the eastern portion of North America—including the Atlantic and Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes, the Canadian Heritage Canals, and the Mississippi and other inland rivers of America's heartland. See
I hope this list inspires you to put together your own bucket list of where you most want to travel, and what you want to do there. And, if we can be of assistance in making your dreams come true, you know where to reach us.

Happy travels,

Mike Thiel

January 2009

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* Hideaways Aficionado Club is a registered trademark of Hideaways International, Inc.
Copyright © 2021 Hideaways International, Inc.
All Rights Reserved