Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My Top 10 Places to See Before You Die

Warning: This posting has absolutely nothing to do with Hong Kong or being a tai tai.

With our trip to Phuket only days away, I find myself reflecting on other trips I've taken and places I've seen. While I'm by no means the most well-traveled person I know, I like to think I've seen some nice spots in my 33 years. It got me to wondering what my top 10 favorite spots in the world are -- a list that may at first seem like an easy task, but then you find yourself with 14 locations, oppressive indecision and an unclear perspective on what puts one spot over another. Following is what I landed on in no particular order, although truth be told Barcelona is my favorite city in the world. (I apologize in advance for not having pictures for every spot):

1. Barcelona, Spain -- Barcelona is like Prince Harry. It gets to be cool and have fun and not follow the rules while big brother Madrid has to function like the biggest city in Spain. Barcelona is a lot like Gaudi's architecture -- zany and mesmerizing, steeped in meaning and culture, but not taking itself too seriously. (The Park Guell is a must, btw.) I love that you can experience mountains and ocean, bustling citylife and quaint nooks -- all in the same day and within steps of each other. Barcelona makes it easy to fall in love because everything is manageable-- from the pace, which allows you to actually take in your surroundings, to the Picasso Museum, one of few in which you can see everything in a few hours. I lied, there is one thing I don't like about Barcelona; well all of Spain, really. The food. I'm not into it -- too much ham and sardines and things served cold that are supposed to be hot. I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority on that front, so don't let it deter you (should you by chance be considering a trip to Barcelona!)

2. Taxco, Mexico -- Nestled in the valley of two mountains a few hours south of Mexico City is the most quaint town on earth. It also happens to be the silver capital of Mexico and you can get adorable stuff for next to nothing. More than anything, though, the architecture is what makes you a fan for life -- Taxco feels very European with all the terracotta roofs and winding roads. It's the kind of place where you come across a wedding marching through the zocalo (town square) and find authentic Mexican food at out of the way places. If you happen to stumble into this town, I highly recommend staying at the Posada La Mision.

3. Vancouver, Canada -- I'm embarrassed to say that my first visit to Vancouver was only this past summer! Man, was I missing out! Vancouver is one of the few big cities that feels clean. I don't know if it's because you're surrounded by water and mountains, but it makes you believe you'd have a different life if you lived there. Like suddenly I'd become the kind of person who kayaks in the summer and snowboards in the winter -- and always has a healthy flush in my cheeks. While the lush park system and waterfront skyline are stunning, what I like most is the clear delineation and personality of Vancouver's neighborhoods. They each have their own identity -- one section feels very TriBeca while the hood next door is dead-on SoCal.

Lunch with Julia on Granville Island

The frightening Capilano suspension bridge

4. Paris, France -- Do I even need to write anything? We spent half of our honeymoon here.

Classic Eiffel Tower shot

Vin and I getting our Parisian cafe on

5. Santa Fe, New Mexico -- You can have Florida and North Carolina; I want to retire in Santa Fe. Good art, great food, amazing weather -- what's more to love?! The Inn of the Five Graces might be the best place we've ever stayed, too.

6. La Digue, Seychelles -- The Seychelles overall was pretty amazing, if for no other reason because it's not flooded with tourists. (More than once, we had local Seychellois ask if we were British!) While Mahe (the main island) and Praslin were nice, La Digue was special. No cars are allowed on the island so everyone walks, bikes or takes an ox cart. In one afternoon, we biked through a turtle sactuary where some of the turtles were hundreds of years old, had a local man cut a coconut out of a tree with a machete so that we could drink the milk (for free and completely unsolicited by us!) and then stumbled out to some of the most mind-altering ocean vistas I've ever seen. This place looks like the land before time.

7. North Fork, Long Island -- Anyone who hears Long Island and thinks of Joey Buttafucco or "Lawn-Guyland" accents needs to visit the North Fork. You will forget where you are -- and certainly won't find a fake nail or gross accent in sight. It's farms, vegetable stands and vineyards for miles. Whereas some of Napa has gotten hoity-toity, the vibe here is relaxed with people setting out their picnics, picking pumpkins and drinking lots of wine! In another life, I'd like to renovate an old farmhouse and live here.

8. London, England -- Though I'd been to London for work a few times, they were just quick in-and-out trips that didn't allow me to see the city. Then we went and visited the Mettlers in June one year and it was just spectacular. Maybe it's because the whole city was bathed in sunlight (they assured us that the 80 degree weather was a rarity), but it felt like we were in a new, shiny-happy-people version of New York City. Laying in the park, picnicing in the Mettler's neighborhood garden, grabbing a Pims in a pub, hitting the famous outdoor market whose name escapes me, doing Sunday brunch in Notting Hill -- all of it was perfect. The accents were the proverbial cherry on top.

Picturesque Notting Hill

At the pub with the Mettlers

Having a Pims

9. Italy -- I refuse to pick a favorite in Italy. Can't do it. My first trip there I fell in love with Florence and was lukewarm about Rome. My second trip there, I found Rome exciting and Florence a bit dull. I can't decide whether I like Capri, Positano or Amalfi more. Having famiy in Bari and Lecce doesn't necessarily put them on top. What I can do is pinpoint the next places I want to explore: Sicily, Sardinia, Italian Riviera (Portofino, Cinqueterre), Lake Como, Venice, Sardinia...

Arriving in Amalfi

Eating (Italy's national pastime) with the family in Bari

Florence's Duomo -- craftsmanship at its most intricate

Capri's infamous Il Fariglioni

Piazza Navona -- my favorite spot in Rome

10. Gramercy Park, New York City -- It's where I lived by myself for the first and only time; where I met my husband; where I adopted Victor and where I had a key to one of the most exclusive spots in the city. But those aren't the reasons I love it. After living in various neighborhoods throughout New York for 11 years, I still dream about Gramercy. Its central yet almost hidden location (close enough to hit the Union Square Farmer's Market and shops in Flat Iron, but designed so that no main roads cut through it) and small-town feel (you see the same folks in 71 Irving every day) make its residents feel special. While the rest of the city has morphed from obscure to emerging to white-hot-trendy to oh-so-over (hello SoHo!), Gramercy Park hasn't changed one iota.

My old place (decorated for Victor's birthday party!)

Honorable Mentions include: Maui, Hawaii; Santorini, Greece; Key West, Florida; Aspen, Colorado and Mahe, Seychelles

Places I'll Never Go Again include: Athens, Greece; Big Island, Hawaii; Madrid, Spain

I probably went into a little too much detail on some of these -- guess it's true all bloggers like to hear themselves talk!, so apologies if you fell asleep or wanted to rip your eyeballs out. One of the big reasons I decided to make my list public (in addiiton to the aforementioned point!) is that I want to knowwhat everyone else's top 10 list would be. If you don't mind sharing, give me your top 10 list in the "Comments" section. Or you can email it to me separately.


  1. You guys have been to some good spots.... fill me in!

  2. seeing your old place made me sad...those were the days. plenty of sunday night dinners with good friends.

    you all are missed. :(

  3. aah, thanks Ki! i really want to hear what your top 10 fave places are! you are so well-traveled, i know there are some good one in there. you don't even have to put explanations next to them...

  4. loved reading your list and I'm totally into going to Sante Fe by the way (a good friend lives there) and staying at the inn of five graces (sister property to the lake placid lodge - one of my all time favorites!!)