My cousin Paul speaks 10 languages flawlessly, has travelled around the world (literally) more times than most astronauts, and is a gourmand like no other. He’s relentless, charming, determined, wickedly funny, and a great companion. My son and I adore him.
So, a few years ago, when Paul invited us (or we may have invited ourselves, actually) to join him on a two-week trip to Turkey, I jumped at the chance. Paul has worked for some of the finest hotel and resort companies in the world, and has contacts EVERYWHERE. I figured that any trip he would plan would be one to remember.
We landed in Istanbul just past midnight and by the time we made it to our hotel it must have been 3:00am.
Two hours later we were roused by the first (of five daily) Muslim calls to prayer – minuets around the city echoing with voices which were both haunting and memorable… it was a sound I wouldn’t soon forget, and one which has made me ache for Istanbul ever since. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Turkey twice, and look forward to going back as soon – and as often – as I can.
#1: Istanbul, Turkey
#2: Stowe, Vermont
About 40 years ago my parents bought a house in ski country – Stowe, Vermont. They figured that it would be a good sport for us all to learn and had been lured there by friends who also had second homes in the area.
I vividly remember the first time my brother and I were dropped off at the ski hill – he bawled for the day (in his defense he must have been all of 5 years old), and I somehow managed to make it down in one piece (and feel smug about it, too).
How times have changed: my brother is now a tri-athlete, a skier, snowboarder, and devout follower of a ridiculously strenuous workout regime called (appropriately) Insanity. I do none of those things.
I do however, go to Stowe – when I can – on weekends, and invariably end up doing exciting things like laundry, dead mouse disposal, closet cleaning, etc. The house is not fancy, but it is well-situated and one of the most relaxing places I know. I nap like crazy, sunbathe when I can, and enjoy every minute spent in the fresh air.
#3: Cernobbio, Italy
Even before George Clooney made Lake Como (more) famous, it had been home to movie and theater stars, vacationing politicians and personalities, and all manner of fashiond designers. There is a wonderful old hotel called Villa D’Este, located on the lake in the town of Cernobbio, and if I had to pick the most magnificent hotel – in terms of grounds and gardens – in the world, it would undoubtedly be that one.
The fact that my mother-in-law has a splendid, world-class garden adjacent to the gardens of Villa D’Este, is another good reason why I love this place and go there whenever I can. You can see her garden here.
#4: Montreal, Canada
I know it’s kind of like cheating, but I have never played tourist in my hometown and as I think it is one of the nicest cities I know of, I’m thinking maybe on one of my days off (ha) I should do that…
One of my very closest friends was a travel agent. When he found out that he was dying, he decided that instead of giving in, he would fight valiantly and travel around the world with his partner as long as he could. One of the last trips that he planned – meticulously, of course, as that was both his business and his nature – was a three week trip to China. I shared two weeks with them, and found the country and culture to be fascinating, stimulating, and unlike anything I’ve ever known. I would go back anytime…
I like Bruges (although I really disliked the movie In Bruge with Colin Farrell – probably because I couldn’t understand a word), but love Brussels. It’s not too big, the food is great, they have some fab poster shops and great hotels. What more could you ask for?
I’ve never been… I think the pyramids must be pretty spectacular, don’t you? I Googled ‘egypt music video’ and got this…made me giggle, so if you need a laugh.
#8: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam
My son Giulian and I have always said we would like to take three months and see this part of the world. Most likely not in the same way in which Anthony Bourdain travels, but who knows?
#9: Barcelona, Spain
I went last summer with Giulian (yes, my most frequent and general faithful traveling companion) and we LOVED it. Tapas, late nights, great art, a cablecar – Barcelona has all the components needed for fun.
#10: Washington DC, USA
Say what you will about politicians, Washington is a beautiful and beautifully laid out city. I spent one of the best summers of my life there – lived in Georgetown, worked at the State Department and loved every minute. Not sure I would go back to live, but every time I’ve visited I’ve remembered why I loved it and with whom.