May is a good month to get out of Phuket. It’s when the monsoons hit and when it isn’t raining, it’s very hot.

This year we left our home in Phuket for a six week vacation, touring Southern Europe. With an American passport I can go just about anywhere, but my Thai wife needed a Schengen Visa. Not an easy thing to get, but we eventually figured it out. It will be easier the second time around.

Our first stop was Lisbon. Portugal is a great place to spend some time. We toured the whole country spending a month there. Lisbon was beautiful, but Porto may be the most beautiful city in the world. We loved the people, English is commonly spoken. It was the least expensive country we visited.

Coming from Thailand where wine is heavily taxed, a bottle of wine is $15, there was wonderful Portuguese wine for $3. The bread, the cheese, the desserts, the beef, things Thailand doesn’t do well, it was a revelation! Every restaurant was good and often great. I use Tripadvisor.

We tried to stay in apartments instead of hotel rooms whenever possible. That way we could prepare a lot of our own meals and the Thai girl could make the food she loves.

We were in Northern Portugal for the first two weeks, toured the Douro Valley wine region and then headed down to the Algarve, Portugal’s Southern Coast for the final two weeks. We loved Portugal.

I want to rent a condo for a month next year in the Algarve. You can rent a one bedroom condo in the low season (September-May) for $750 a month. We particularly liked Portimao, a great place to explore the Algarve from. We rented cars at very low rates.

Then, off to Spain and the largest cities of Barcelona and Madrid for a week. Instead of condos we stayed in small hotel rooms, in the the old town sections of these historic cities, walking and taking public transportations, we went everywhere. We loved dining on Tapas every night. Have a drink and tasty small meal, move on and repeat. These cities are magnificent and it doesn’t take long to master public transportation with the help of Google Maps.

Flying around Europe is a bargain. The airlines are in in a cutthroat price battle and the consumer wins. Warning: they make money on screwing the passengers on baggage requirements. Make sure you know what your airline’s requirements are. We had an overweight bag that we had to pay a $50 penalty on, that was more than our two tickets!

Finally on to Milan Italy, where we rented a car and drove 120 kms North to the Piedmont (Piemonte) area for the last four days of our trip. This was a very special four days. The beauty of the area is truly magical.

It was epicurean experience, simply the best food and wine I’ve ever had. This is where we found the Best Italian Restaurant in the World. Every meal we had was outstanding, not what you would expect when you think Italian food.

I was ready to turn around and do the whole trip all over again when I got back, but I guess it will have to wait for next year. Meanwhile, I’ll hang out in the tropical paradise of Phuket. Ciao.