I was talking to an expert on Scotland last week. He asked me my favorite town. I immediately flashed on small cottages lining a perfect bay with cabbage palms everywhere and a mystic castle in the hills across the water. I even recalled that the movie The Wicker Man was filmed there, but I could not remember its name until I got home. Plockton. Lonely Planet calls Plockton, a planned fishing and crofting village more than 200 years old, “idyllic”. It is.
I got to thinking of the other ideal small communities around the world that I have been lucky enough to visit. The list quickly grew to 10. Tilba was #2. Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba are very charming preserved heritage villages in New South Wales, Australia. Europeans came here around 1850 and found rich volcanic soil perfect for dairy farming. Then gold was discovered nearby bringing prosperity until the 20th century. The Tilbas went to sleep and awakened to be declared places of aesthetic and historic significance in 1974. Preservation guaranteed, tourism boomed. These tiny hamlets are especially known for cheeses and ice creams, good weather, nearby Mt Dromedary, etc.
Marsaxlokk. Pronounced marsa shlock, this really ancient fishing village with very colorful boats called luzzus (loots zoos) were happily bringing in lots of octopi the day we were there. Ruth didn’t know whether to be fascinated or shocked. This town with an unusual name is on the island of Malta. Seafood restaurants and low-rise houses ring its harbor. When Napoleon invaded Malta in 1798, he landed here with his army.
The medieval village of Eze sits atop a mountain overlooking a very expensive destination, Monaco. It contains winding streets, a tropical garden, and sensational views of the Mediterranean. Below the village is a tourable perfume factory called Fragonard. Walt Disney reportedly loved Eze. I can see why. It’s pure fantasy.
Szentendre. This quaint village north of Budapest, Hungary, is on the Danube. Many artists live there. It has a Balkan flavor because Serbians fleeing invading Turks settled in Szentendre. It’s easy to day-trip from Budapest via public transportation so it’s best to avoid it on weekend days. I took my cousin there and he spent most of his time wondering if he should buy property. Ruth loves its shops.