Hot or Chill

Find the destinations of your dreams with these picks from fellow Fairfielders

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Cinque Terre: Italy

Nancy and Duncan McCuaig

Nancy had her first taste of Italy’s delicious allure during a whirlwind tour of its scenic Amalfi Coast to celebrate a close friend’s fortieth birthday. So when she had her own significant milestone to toast in 2012, she wanted to discover even more.

With their teenage daughters happily bunking at sleepaway camp, Nancy and her husband, Duncan, jetted off to Florence to explore the city’s magnificent art, architecture and culture. And that was all wonderful.

But it was a detour about three hours away to the Italian Riviera settlements of Cinque Terre (Five Lands) where Nancy really fell in amore. For the small cluster of five sister villages tucked in the remarkably unspoiled region of seaside terraced vineyards and hillside footpaths struck Nancy as “among the most naturally beautiful, completely romantic places I’ve ever been.”

While travel bloggers love to debate the relative charms of Amalfi’s coastline and Cinque Terre, Nancy gives her nod to the latter, if only for its stunningly compact accessibility. “It’s wonderful for walking. If you didn’t want to, you wouldn’t have to get in a car. We could have hiked and hiked,” she says.

Nancy and Duncan followed their pedestrian instincts to traverse the Via dell’Amore or Lover’s Walk. The UNESCO World Heritage site links the quaint villages of Riomaggiore and Manarola via a narrow footpath overlooking the Riviera. Legend has it, smitten boys and girls from the two towns used the pathway to rendezvous. And who could blame them with views Nancy describes as “completely breathtaking.”

Of course, while the coastal views from so many Cinque Terre vantage points are spectacular, seeing things up close is even better, which is why the couple’s boat excursion to the elevated, seaside Ristorante Belforte in Vernazza was the culinary highpoint of their stay. “We were so lucky that the owner treated us to one of the best tables, right over the water,” Nancy says. Because the Liguria region is famous for its pesto, the plates the couple tucked into were sublime. “Absolutely the best I’ve ever had—this decadent mix of cream and pesto; completely delicious.” So too was fresh-from-the-sea grilled fish and the decadent gelatos they enjoyed at a quaint scoop shop. Normally not one to indulge, fitness enthusiast Nancy adds, “We walked a lot, so we didn’t care about the calories. We were there to celebrate!”

As for accommodations, Nancy suggests a boutique-style bed and breakfast that speaks to the quaintness of the region. She and Duncan recommend Avventure Bellissime, the semi-private small group tour they booked out of Florence. Their guide made their Cinque Terre experience more special by being so “friendly, helpful and knowledgeable.”

If You Go: Stock up on the incredible olive oil. “I stuffed my suitcase with carefully wrapped bottles. It’s just better there than anything you can get here,” says Nancy.

Crested Butte: Colorado

Kara and Bryan Gilmour

Known as America’s “last great ski town,” the allure of tiny Crested Butte is its exceptional Rocky Mountains’ slopes paired with the rustic vibe of a hip downtown that resembles a cowboy Western movie set.

Yet what’s so appealing about the hamlet, famous for its skiing and world-class mountain biking is its authenticity. It’s no fabricated movie set, but the real sporty deal.

Native Fairfielder Kara (Foster) Gilmour and her husband, Bryan, both CIA trained chefs, first discovered the former coal-mining town when their culinary careers lured them to the mountain in 2008. For Bryan, a skier, Crested Butte offered a chance for adventure on the mountain and in the kitchen as he helped launch Soupcon, Chef Jason Vernon’s acclaimed nine-table eatery nestled in a refurbished miner’s cabin in a downtown alley. Kara, meanwhile, took the dessert shift, working for a nearby gourmet chocolate emporium.

Although it’s a different pace from Fairfield County (and the couple eventually returned here for new opportunities), they remain sweet on Crested Butte and continue to recommend it enthusiastically as a get-away destination to outdoors enthusiasts.

“What people love about Crested Butte is that it isn’t flashy. There are really almost no chain restaurants or stores,” says Kara. “You could easily imagine a gunfight erupting or a stagecoach stopping right outside the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, where I worked.” (Try the RMCF’s homemade peanut butter cups.)

Indeed, Kara says Elk Avenue, CB’s main drag, epitomizes the down-home appeal of the town, which boasts fewer than 1,500 year-round residents. “Walk into any store or restaurant and they treat you like one of their own,” says Kara. “Since it is so small, if you stay for more than a day or two, you’ll probably start recognizing people.”

Bryan, now the executive chef at restaurant 121 at Oxford Airport, says skiing Mount Crested Butte is so enticing because of its quiet beauty and varied terrain, perfect for skiers of all abilities. “You could go to Aspen two hours away and fight the long lift lines and crowded trails or head to Crested Butte for a skiing experience that is so special,” he says.

As for the amenities, Kara suggests bunking in town at a bed and breakfast to fully appreciate CB’s homespun warmth. If you want digs closer to the slopes, book into the Crested Butte Mountain Resort, a picturesque lodge at 6the base of Mount Crested Butte.

If You Go: Consider an off-season stay, too. Crested Butte is a true mountain-biking paradise and “is just as beautiful in the summer as it is in the winter,” says Kara.

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