It’s officially springtime (yes, difficult to believe with this cold and depressing weather) and it’s time to get really serious about planning summer vacations and getaways (if you haven’t already). For inspiration, we thought we’d share our favorite international cities.
Matt Bray – Montréal
Montréal wins my vote. It has always appealed to me and I try to visit whenever I can. Its people are fun-loving and kind, fiercely independent, and its streets and neighborhoods manageable and attractive. Montreal has a lot of hustle and bustle, but is not a teeming metropolis the way New York is. It has great nightlife, restaurants and a ton of cultural attractions while remaining affordable and unpretentious. And I’m lucky to have some friends who live there so I not only get a free place to stay, but also enthusiastic, local guides. Mere hours from NYC, Montreal can also sometimes feel like you’re in Europe, thanks to the strong Francophone community. And I love Québec French!
Elizabeth Brettschneider - Stockholm
There are so many cities I love. If forced to choose, however, I would choose Stockholm, Sweden. I visited in 2009 with my brother who lives in Europe. Stockholm is an expensive city so we ended up walking around and doing free activities. It was the summer and the warm sunshine beautifully highlighted all the city has to offer. What I love about Stockholm is the way it is laid out. Bridges connect islands where beautiful buildings line the streets. The facades of the building are so carefully considered and each neighborhood has its own flair.
My favorite neighborhood was Gamla stan—a very old neighborhood characterized by buildings whose roofs are tiered like steps. We also enjoyed the amazing indoor food market of Ostermalm Saluhall which has seemingly endless rows of amazing Swedish food. Six years later I still remember buying cloudberry jam and moose sausage, which we later enjoyed during a picnic on the quay. With the sun barely setting in the evening and kind people all around, it really is hard to beat Stockholm. And, although my brother doesn’t agree, hearing ABBA played in the background in shops and restaurants is only a further reason why I love this city!
Protima Daryanani - Sydney
Where can you find a cosmopolitan city within a half hour of one hundred pristine beaches with gorgeous water views wherever you go? Sydney, Australia. As I have said before, I love the water and being on the water and near the water—especially the ocean. So I was not surprised by how much I liked this city when I first visited. But each time I go back, I find more to love: from the Harbour walking paths to the beauty of the peninsula beaches; from the cool new restaurants in Surry Hills and Newtown to Cockatoo Island, a UNESCO World Heritage listed island in the middle of Sydney Harbour; from the Charlton pool to the bats in the Botanical Gardens. But the coffee, oh my goodness is the coffee amazing! Plus how can you not love a city where flip-flops are acceptable dinner attire and everyone calls you “darling!”
Ashley Emerson - Cassis
Cassis is a town in southern France, east of Marseilles. Originally an ancient fishing port, the town is based around a main harbor and has many small cobblestone streets with colorful buildings and unique shops. I love this town because it has the best of several of my favorite things—vineyards (and wine), nature, and a relaxed and cheerful atmosphere. First, the wine: Cassis is one of the oldest wine regions in France. A quick drive up the windy roads leading up chalky limestone cliffs brings you to one of the best vineyards in the region—Chateau de Fontblanche.
Founded by the famed winemaker Emile Boudin, the wines are refreshing, influenced heavily by the minerality of the limestone and sandstone that makes up the terroir. The contrast of the leafy green vineyards and rugged greenery is stunning against the white ground. Second, the nature: back down the bluffs, there is a beach adjacent to the harbor, which is often dotted with bright and cheerful umbrellas where locals and tourists sun themselves. A quick boat ride from the harbor also takes you to view the calanques, deep narrow inlets in the rocky cliffs along the coastline between Cassis and Marseilles displaying stunning clear blue-green water. Lastly the atmosphere: in this idyllic setting, who wouldn’t be relaxed and cheerful? I can’t wait to plan another trip there!
Joseph McKeown – Strasbourg
For about three springtime and summer months I lived in this mid-sized French city near the German border in the Alsace region of France—the fattest region of France, my French tutor there told me once. The spring was absurdly rainy and cold, but who wouldn’t love a town where everyone bikes, there’s a romantic canal and river circling the beautifully preserved old city (a UNESCO World Heritage site), and there's a restaurant that’s pretty much exclusively devoted to cheese? But my favorite part was the many old independent movie theaters in the city. At the end of the day I’d wander the narrow streets, have a beer or glass of wine at one of the many bars (my favorite was one that seemed to only play music videos from 1990s), and then buy a ticket for whatever was showing—anything from contemporary French cinema to classic Hollywood. One more thing to love: they know how to throw an intense Christmas market.