“What’s Your Favorite Place in the World?”
Almost every time I tell someone I’m a travel writer, I get asked what my favorite destination is. Now that I’ve traveled to 80 countries (Jamaica last week for spring break was number 80), I’ve started giving some thought to my favorite places around the world. There’s no way that I could limit it to one – there are simply too many destinations that I would love to travel back to tomorrow – but I’ve narrowed it down to eight. And I’ve been to six of them with my kids which makes them even more memorable.
I lived in Florence for a year in college and have traveled back almost every year since then. I love everything about the city – walking around at sunrise, having a cappuccino on the rooftop terrace of the Antica Torre di via Tornabuoni, climbing up the cupola the Duomo, getting lost in the twisting streets, visiting museums, eating gelato, watching the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo, and overall just basking in the history. I’d go back every month if I could.
Dimitris Ammoudi Taverna, Oia, Santorini, Greece
Our favorite restaurant in the world. To get there you need to fly or sail into Santorini, travel across the island to Oia, walk through town and then walk down 300 steps to the bay. We’ve gone three times now the past six years and it’s always worth it. Even without the view the fish, fritters, tzatziki, wine and desserts would be amazing, but add in the view and you have a perfect place to spend an afternoon. Our kids don’t even get bored during three-hour lunches! And no, you don’t have to climb the stairs after your meal – Joy (the owner) can call a taxi to take you back up to town.
Frogner / Vigeland Park, Oslo, Norway
I first visited Frogner Park on New Years Eve in 1990, with several feet of snow on the ground. It was stunning. Every time I’ve been back since then it’s been in the middle of the summer and it’s even better – people barbecuing and picnicking, playing Frisbee, rollerblading, relaxing and enjoying the summer days that last well into the night. Norwegians definitely know how to make the most of their summers and this is a fun place to soak it all in.
I’ve traveled throughout Rajasthan twice and both times the city that leapt out at me was Jaisalmer. The Suryagarh is one of my favorite hotels in the world, literally a desert palace, but Jaisalmer is about far more than a nice hotel. I love it for the desert, its festivals, camels, cows (that’s everywhere in India actually), the Jaisalmer fort and the morning light and city scenes when no other tourists are around. If you see a camel silouette shot on my Instagram feed, chances are it’s from the Thar Desert just outside of the city.
Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong is still my favorite city in Asia – a city that changes slowly and retains much of its Chinese and British past. After staying within the city every trip for the better part of two decades, I’ve gotten out to Lantau Island with my kids a couple times recently and have really enjoyed hiking the Lantau Trail (a small portion of it anyway) and visiting the Big Buddha. It’s an easy city to navigate, it’s safe, and the Star Ferry from Kowloon to HK Island is the best value (for US$0.32) anywhere in the world. And I love spending time at Man Mo Temple, people-watching and breathing in the incense.
Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya
My newest happy place, and the only place on this list that I haven’t been to at least twice. I loved spending the night at the Giraffe Manor, feeding the giraffes in the evening and having breakfast with them. I think I liked the experience even better than my kids did! Whenever possible I’d love to route future travels through Nairobi in order to do this again.
On the Terrace of the Hotel al Ponte Antico, Venice, Italy
I’ve been going to Venice for 26 years and currently have two return trips planned – this summer with the kids and next February for Carnevale. As with Florence, I love the city for its history and I love walking around early in the morning before other tourists are awake. My favorite thing about Venice, though, is having breakfast and a cappuccino on the terrace of the Hotel al Ponte Antico. Most mornings there’s nowhere else in the world I would rather be.
By the Pool at the Peninsula Bangkok, Thailand
I’ve always preferred Hong Kong to Bangkok, but anytime I can do a one or two day layover in Bangkok, I do. The reason? The pool at the Peninsula Hotel. I rarely even swim, but I love sitting in a cabana, ordering Pad Thai and reading. Rain or shine, I spend hours there. It’s magical to eat breakfast on the river at the hotel while watching the iconic Peninsula boats go across and come back, but if I had to choose only one experience to repeat, it would be my pool lunches. And the hotel isn’t expensive – usually under $200/night. It has to be the best hotel bargain anywhere in the world.
Those are my top eight out of 80 countries. How about you? If you could wake up anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you choose?