Tuesday, November 22, 2011

top cities to travel to

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. I have a little something for you:

Quite a few days ago, the lovely Rose commented: "Danielle, you've been to so many cities. I feel like I want to see a top 5 list from you sometime. I want to know your favorite (for suggestions on where to go!)" The complimentary advice was very much appreciated because, to be honest, such a post idea had never occurred to me before. On principal, I choose not to compare places. I believe that each city, community, and country has at least one uniquely special characteristic to it, and who am I to say that some are worth discovering more than others?

That being said, having become well-versed in the journalistic world, I know that readers like lists, guides, and tips, and I do understand why. So, fine ;). To give the world a special thanks for hosting my adventures across it in these past few years, I will try my absolute best to potentially inspire your next trip...
Most recently, I read the 10 healthiest cities for women by Self magazine. According to it, the healthiest eaters are in Santa Barbara. It didn't surprise me. Santa Barbara is so overwhelmingly beautiful, in part, because of it's nearly perfect climate, clean beaches, rich soil and vibrant flora--all aspects which encourage agriculture and healthy produce year-round. Furthermore, it's located in Southern California, a region known for it's unapologetic vanity and early embracement of the organic lifestyle. I wouldn't ever choose to live in Santa Barbara because I found it almost too manicured (even the buildings adhere to strict aesthetic rules), but I certainly understand the appeal. And I commend their healthy eating habits, of course. I'd love to return one day to explore the dining scene more.

Within The Daily Beast's best cities for College Grads, I was thrilled to find Madison, Wisconsin listed as the second. It's reasons included Money Magazine listing it as one of the best places to live and Forbes noting it as the city with the least amount of unemployment and largest number of residents with Ph.D.s. It failed to mention, however, how generally awesome Madison is. The Mad City is naturally beautiful thanks to it's location between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota while also being culturally strong as a result of its various restaurants, shops, and artistic attractions. It has Midwestern charm, convenient proximity to cities like Chicago and rural towns with farm tours, and Holly. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and look forward to a reason to go back.

Then there's New York City. I have yet to discover another American city that is as famously celebrated as it is despised. I believe Broke-Ass Stuart put it best when he wrote, "She's not the one that got away, she's the one you never had the chance of getting, and that's what makes just being near her so exhilarating. There's a quote from Thomas Wolfe that goes something like, 'One belongs to New York instantly; one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.' And I think old Mr. Wolf was onto something . . . Anything you could ever want is here, as long as you're willing to work for it and know where to look. Magic happens on a daily basis; the hard part is finding time to take it all in." It is a city unlike any other, and I say that with no bias whatsoever. It's no wonder it topped the list of Forbes' America's Most Entertaining Cities. There is a seemingly endless list of opportunities in every area of life; Almost too much, but not. I believe that every single person could find a happy place here, though I also completely understand why some would not want to. For as much as I've been loving life in Manhattan, I know I could never stay forever. Still, please do dine here when you visit/stay.
I cannot wait to have experiences in each of the countries included on my friend Nomadic Matt's Cheap Places to Travel on the US Dollar, but having been to three of the seven, I'd have to say I recommend Hungary the most. I didn't see as much of the country as I one day hope to, but I fell in love with Budapest. Eastern Europe gets a lot less attention than Western Europe, but it's history is just as rich, it's architecture is just as beautiful, and it's cuisines is just as exciting. Budapest was gorgeous in a different way than I'd ever seen before. And having the opportunity to stay with my neighbor's family allowed me to enjoy the kind, soft spoken Hungarian hospitality first hand. It's wonderful, really, and obviously notably more inexpensive than other nearby destinations.

Today I stumbled upon Travel and Leisure's World's Best Cities. I can't imagine taking all the world's cities and rating them against each other, but somehow Istanbul and Barcelona are in the top 10, and I simply cannot argue with that. Istanbul is a sprawling city at the juxtaposition of three of the world's largest religions, with more influences that it somehow knows just how to deal with. It's hectic yet devastatingly enchanting. My one qualm is that come nightfall, I did feel uncomfortable as a woman. I didn't feel outwardly threatened nor disrespected, but it was bizarre to know that you're the only female in a restaurant of dozens of diners. Speaking of machismo, though, let's talk Spain. Barcelona is one of the most fun cities I've ever been to. I'd quickly go again at a moments notice, despite having received my fair share of catcalls. The city boasts distinctly magnificent architecture, in addition to fantastic Spanish food and nightlife. And I have to admit, I find the Catalan language to be yet another fascinating aspect. There are so many reasons why these two cities deserve their "best world city" statuses. 
As far as cities that aren't given enough credit, in my opinion, many of them are located on the South American continent. Travelers flock to Peru for it's "natural, cultural, and human legacy," but I'd encourage Ecuador for those same reasons. Cuenca is a gorgeous colonial city and the perfect jumping off point to explore the country's mountains, beaches, and rain forest further. Many gravitate to Brazil and Argentina for tireless excitement and beautiful people against glittering scenery, but I'd urge a stay in Chile as well. Santiago is a vibrant capital city with so much to offer the senses and mind. Being that the culture is somewhat more low-key, I also found it to be an easier cultural adjustment. Moreover, it's worth mentioning that those traveling from Santiago have an incredibly easy commute to amazing beaches, wine country, dessert, mountains, and Patagonia.
What about the spectacular cities of Vietnam, South Africa, Japan, and Egypt? Well, I haven't been to any of them yet, but I can assure you they're all at the top of my must-go-soon list. I also hope to make my way to Reykjavik, Vancouver, St. Petersburg, and Charleston, South Carolina in the next few years. Are there still cities I haven't gotten enough of too? Yes. My affection for Paris, for example, is everlasting. Perhaps one day my dream of living in the City of Lights will come true. Until then, I'm content with basking in the delicate beauty of the French language and cafe culture at Le Moulin a Cafe, my current favorite neighborhood find.

I am bubbling over with gratitude for this wonderfully small world and all the amazing people, places, and things within it; many of the reasons this warm, fuzzy (delicious) holiday is my favorite. Once again, Happy Thanksgiving.


  1. Great Post! Wish I have traveled to as many cool places as you! If you are ever looking for a buddy to explore a new city I'd be happy to join you!

  2. Shannon: Thanks, dear! I'd love that :)


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