Fast Cultural Fix

Go international without going far

Jul 1, 2006
Outside Magazine

a. Azores, Portugal
A four-hour flight from Boston puts you in the middle of the Atlantic amid the whitewashed walls and stone-trim houses of São Miguel, the largest of the Azores' nine islands. A Portuguese protectorate and stopover for Columbus, the Azores teem with rolling green hills and throwback coastal villages. Base yourself at the Hotel São Pedro, a 19th-century colonial Georgian manor house built on the water in Ponta Delgada, the island's largest town. Rent a bike for a ride along the wave-whipped southern coast or make the five-mile hike from Vista do Rei to Sete Cidades, a small village at the base of a volcanic crater about 40 minutes outside of town. SHOCK IT TO ME: In Furnas, an hour east of Ponta Delgada, order cozido, a meat-and-veggie dish slow-cooked in a geyser. DETAILS: Azores Express flies to Ponta Delgada twice a week; 800-762-9995, Hotel São Pedro, doubles from $150; 011-351-296-301-740.

b. Quebec City, Canada
There you are fingering a plate of poutine in the Quartier Vieux-Port, watching ships slip past the châeau, when—Sacré bleu—it hits you: You're practically in Paris, and you haven't crossed the Atlantic. Reserve a 19th-century suite at the Auberge Saint-Antoine, a 94-room boutique hotel, shop for Charlevoix cheeses on the Rue Saint-Jean, then cycle to the Plains of Abraham, the fields where the Brits beat the French in 1759 during the "conquest" of Canada. By the feel of this city, you might wonder who really won. SHOCK IT TO ME: Once dodgy, the Saint-Roch district is on its way to becoming Quebec City's hippest 'hood. Check out the Boudoir Lounge, a locals club near Rue Saint-Joseph, and you might be the only étranger there. DETAILS: Auberge Saint-Antoine, doubles from US$124; 888-692-2211, Rent bikes from Cyclo Services, US$45; 418-692-4052,

c. Guadalupe Valley, Mexico
Mexican wine? Yup. Head two hours south of San Diego into Baja's green Guadalupe Valley to find a dozen boutique wineries with shady patios for sipping blends of nebbiolo, syrah, and mourvèdre. At 1,400 feet in the cool Sierra de Juárez, the Moorish-style Adobe Guadalupe is a cheerful hacienda with six guest rooms, a brick wine cellar, and a working vineyard. From there you can set out on horseback through the hacienda's 60-acre vineyard to Monte Xanic, a neighboring viñedo. Back at the inn, get a grape-skin massage before a four-course meal that includes salmon and stuffed pears. SHOCK IT TO ME: Try a shot of Mezcal Lucifer, made in Oaxaca exclusively for the hacienda. DETAILS: Doubles from $168, including breakfast and wine tasting; 011-52-646-155-2094,