The 🎁 of travel – top tours & experiences

Happy Thursday Hidden Gem Travel community! The holiday season has begun, and I’d like to remind everyone that giving the 🎁 of travel is always a guaranteed ‘surprise and delight’ experience. With a travel advisor like me in your rolodex, it’s easy to make your travel dreams a reality. I specialize in matching clients to the best itinerary for their interests – and I know the breadth of and best options saving you hours of internet research. And to my loyal clients – thank you for allowing me the privilege of planning your dream vacations and referring me to your family and friends. I am grateful!

This year, I’ve been sharing favorite client experiences that have been the highlight of their trips. In this newsletter, I share a few from this fall. The fall season is an amazing time to travel in Europe. While it still can be peak season in September and October, November and early December can mean fewer crowds and lower prices. If your schedule allows you to travel in the fall season, I highly recommend a European country. Note that some destinations like the Greek Islands are seasonal and may not be fully open after late October. Reach out to me to find out where this caveat applies.

Below are select tour descriptions from client trips this past fall in Italy, Portugal, and France. It will be no surprise that wine experiences are extra popular this time of year. Note – even if you can’t travel in the fall, these tours can be enjoyed any time of year.

Interest piqued? Read on for scoop on some of the top-rated tours from Hidden Gem Travel client trips this fall season…

Tuscany Day Trip from Florence

Depart Florence for a day trip in Tuscany visiting both San Gimignano and Chianti!

With your dedicated driver for the day, reach the delightful San Gimignano for a leisurely stroll and a browse in the charming shops. Renowned as “the city of beautiful towers” it is certainly one of Tuscany’s most iconic and well-preserved ancient towns which has been used as a background in many movies. Roam the quaint cobblestone streets, see the graceful tall towers, and browse the pretty shops lined by bottles of Vernaccia di San Gimignano, premium saffron, hand-woven linens, and hand-made Santa Fina pottery.

Then, continue to the Chianti area. Picture it: a unique landscape made of gentle green hills covered by wide rambling vineyards and olive groves, small stone villages, and silent parishes. The Chianti hillside is so beautiful and iconic!

Discover luxuriant vineyards and their cellars and taste exceptional wines. Characterized by the unmistakable Black Rooster logo, Chianti Classico wine is among the most renowned wines in the world, a DOCG wine that shows unique peculiarities and characteristics. 

Enjoy a private vineyard and cellar tour led by the expert in-house staff and learn all about the production and aging techniques that lie behind world-class wines. At the end of the visit, savor the best estate blends, discovering the characteristic flavors and aromas of Chianti: a ruby red color, floral notes for its odor, and a harmonious, dry and sapid flavor.

Sunset Sailing – Madeira island, Portugal

Want to experience the ultimate luxury? End your day with a private cruise aboard a fabulous yacht tailored to your preferences. Sail along the picturesque southwestern coast of Madeira island and witness the breathtaking moment when the sun sets and the moon and stars emerge.

Our yacht, Miranda, is perfect for a relaxing and unforgettable experience. It’s well-equipped with a sundeck, sofas, and sunshade.  Bring your family or friends along as we can accommodate up to 6 guests on board, starting from Porto Recreio da Calheta.

While enjoying the stunning views of the southwestern coast of Madeira Island, the crew will share why this place is so special year-round. Take the opportunity to jump from the boat and swim in the warm crystal clear waters of Madeira island. We provide snorkeling equipment, plush bathing towels, and soft blankets in case of chilly weather.

On our boat ride back, you can chill out while enjoying a refreshing drink and sparkling wine. Witness the gradual sunset lighting of the southwestern coast of the island. This memory will be an unforgettable experience!

Paris’s Left Bank Walking Tour with a Local

With a local Parisian guide, you’ll not only learn the history of the Left Bank but also discover today’s hidden gem spots and their stories!

The Left Bank, or Rive Gauche in French, spreads out on the southern side of the Seine. Together with the district of Saint Germain des Près and the Latin Quarter, they define the Esprit Rive Gauche (“Left Bank spirit”) as a blend of Parisian chic attitude and history. 

Established in the Middle Ages, the Left Bank Quarter in Paris has been dominated by the Sorbonne and acquired its name from early Latin-speaking students. It dates back to the Roman town across the Ile de la Cité. The area is generally associated with artists, intellectuals, and a bohemian way of life. 

The Left Bank features many of the Paris Monuments, museums, and Gardens, ranging from the Orsay Museum, the new Musee du Quai Branly, the Institut du Monde Arabe to the Musée de Cluny, or the National Museum of Natural History.

In the heart of Paris, Cite Island has been inhabited since the Romans. As the religious and political center of France for centuries, it retains splendid buildings and three marvels: the Notre Dame cathedral, the Conciergerie prison, and the Sainte-Chapelle holy chapel (pictured). It also has the Quai des Orfèvres police bureau, famous for taking care of criminal affairs. 

The small Ile Saint-Louis (Saint Louis Island) is one of the loveliest districts of Paris:  romantic riverbanks, 18th-century houses, and village-like life. The island almost retains its 18th-century outlook. Recently, the Ile Saint-Louis has become very fashionable and expensive. Former French president Georges Pompidou lived there.

💎Hidden Gem Tip: Keep your eyes open for the Emily in Paris actor Bruno Gouery. Clients spied him sitting at a café in Saint Germain des Pres!

Douro Valley day trip from Porto, Portugal

The Douro Valley is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world and only 85 miles from the UNESCO city of Porto in northern Portugal. It’s an easy and memorable day trip with your driver at the wheel so you can enjoy the gorgeous landscapes and wines.

This is a hidden place surrounded and protected by mountains that, besides preserving nature, also creates the perfect micro-climate necessary to grow the Port Wine grape varieties (all native). Historically, the wines were distributed from Porto to the rest of Portugal (and the world) via specially designed boats that transported the barrels down the river. You will experience one of these boat rides today.  

The best way to enjoy port wine is to taste several different types of port, from different years (different aging) and compare how they aged and evolved. You’ll taste the full range – Ruby, Tawny, Vintage Ports, and the others. And … let’s not forget that Douro also has amazing red and white wines.

Inspired by these experiences? Reach out to me now to get your questions answered and begin the planning process.

Wishing you unforgettable travel adventures,


NEW Section: Travel News You Can Use

💎 Hidden Gem Tip: Packing Hack

I’m a huge fan of packing cubes.  Why?  You can pack by item (for example separated by tops, pants, accessories) or outfits.  It’s easy to unpack and repack, find what you need quickly, and keep dirty items apart from clean. 

Packing cubes come in a variety of sizes, are inexpensive, and are easily purchased on Amazon.  If you’re concerned about being short on space, there are compression cubes too.  I recommend cubes with mesh so you can see what’s inside. 

Give packing cubes a try on your next trip!


Follow my Facebook/Instagram pages this week for more travel inspiration: or Instagram:

Make your own Wanderlist for 2024! As a reminder, Wanderlist is an online portal where you can research, explore, and create shareable lists of destinations and experiences. Share your list with me so I can make it happen for you. Check it out here:  

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Hi, I'm Susan Wilson

I’m the founder of Hidden Gem Travel Consulting. As your personal travel advisor, I craft custom worldwide itineraries that astound and inspire you.


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