May 27, 2020
Interviews & Inspiration | Lauranne Heres
All any of us want to do right now is get out of our house. And most of us want to take it even further and get the hell away from here and go somewhere nicer, really far away. Unfortunately, we’re all stuck in place. But we can dream! Let me give you a little tour of my favourite destinations so you can get some serious inspiration for your next holiday as soon as we’re allowed back on the plane! This month I’ll focus on places outside of Europe, but you’ll see a column on weekend getaways soon enough!
Egypt: My first ever trip on a plane was to Sharm-El-Sheikh (great snorkelling!), but what you need to see is Cairo. The pyramids are out of this world and will make you feel tiny and insignificant. Once the big museum will be up and running, all the best artifacts will be in one place and you’ll be able to enjoy them in a gorgeous new location. Don’t forget that you can cruise down the Nile!
South Africa: Cape Town was, hands down, one of the best places I’ve ever visited. Table Mountain is amazing, and you’ll love going up with the rotating cable car. Try to spot a Dassie, which is a local marmot-like creature. Check out the Victoria Waterfront for all your shopping and dining needs, but also make sure to go to Bo-Kaap for the colourful houses and the spices. You can visit Robben Island to see where Mandela was kept prisoner, and there’s an Apartheid Museum called District 6 which is very poignant. Penguin beach in Simon’s Town is adorable, and if you keep going you can go see the Cape of Good Hope. If you get further out, Knysna is beautiful and has a great Elephant Rescue, and George has a great natural Reserve where you can see lions, rhinos and giraffes just hanging out.
Singapore: It may be outrageously moist and hot, but it’s also beautiful. Singapore has some amazing food at exceptionally low prices, and I dare you to leave without trying some Chicken Rice or Chilli Crab. Don’t forget to go see the Marina Bay Sands (from afar if you can’(t afford it) and check out the lightshow at the Gardens by the Bay! For fans of nature, get yourself to the Botanical Gardens for some epic orchids.
Taipei: If you’ve never had a Xiao Long Bao from Din Tai Fung in Taipei, have you even lived? These soup-filled dumplings are amazing and people queue for hours to eat at one of the many locations around town. Go up Taipei 101, visit the National Palace Museum to see 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese artifacts, look around all the temples and hang out at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall to satisfy your historical cravings.
Hong Kong: Go up Victoria Peak for amazing views of the city, visit Ocean Park instead of Disneyland for some local flair and hang out at the Harbour at dusk to watch the boats go by and the towers light up. Go to a night market for some cheap souvenirs; and don’t forget to get to Macaw if you can to see the huge casinos and old Portuguese architecture.
Tokyo: There is so much more I want to see in Japan, but Tokyo in itself is already mind-blowing. Go visit Kaneiji temple and buy yourself a lucky cat in one of the many shops. Taka photo in front of Tokyo Tower followed by some Teppanyaki and maybe Wagyu beef; walk across Shibuya Crossing, shop at Tokyu Hands and stroll through Akihabara at night to see all the gamers at their finest. For fans, go to Disneyland and Sea Disney for some epic rides and organised queuing like you’ve never seen it before.
Australia: I loved Perth. There’s Rottnest Island, where all the cute Quokkas live; there’s Caversham Wildlife Park where you can feed Kangaroos, meet Neil the Wombat, and hang out with Koalas. The city has great food courts and restaurants and if you hang out in Freemantle, you’ll see some gorgeous colonial-style houses. For Penguin fans, go to Phillip Island near Melbourne, or fly to Tasmania to visit a town called Penguin. Sydney obviously has the beautiful Opera House, the Botanical Gardens, the Queen Victoria Building mall and Darling Harbour, where there’s fireworks every week.
New Zealand: Queenstown is out of this world. The mountains, the lakes… Go up Queenstown Skyline for outstanding views and to luge down the mountain. If you have the time to go see Milford Sounds (we didn’t, there was a mudslide), I’ve heard it looks like the Norwegian Fjords. Nerds should also go to Hobbiton on the North Island for some serious Lord of the Rings nostalgia.
Chile: Santiago is a beautiful town, set next to the Andes. Go up and see the Cerro San Cristobal for amazing views and a lovely cable car ride. Take a stroll through Parque Bicentenario and hang out in Sanhattan to see some epic skyscrapers. From Santiago you can take daytrips to Valparaiso, which is famous for its street art and there’s a Moai if you don’t have time to go to Easter Island.
Buenos Aires: Go for steak (obviously) but only order one! Their portions are huge. Visit the Boca neighbourhood for some live tango action and funky street art. Walk through Recoleta which has super fancy houses that will remind you of Paris or stroll down the widest road in the world, Avenida 9 Julio which has an obelisk, an instragammable BA flower installation or check out the Evita Peron murals dotted all over. Don’t forget to see the Ateneo Grand Splendid, a bookshop set up inside a former theatre.
Rio de Janeiro: Keep your valuables safe and beware of street scam artists. Best to book a guide or organised tour for constant supervision and safety. Go up the Sugar Loaf and make your way to Christ the Redeemer with the funicular for some epic photos. Visit the Copacabana and Ipanema neighbourhoods for glorious beaches with deep blue waters. Check out the Botanical Gardens to see exotic wildlife.
Panama: Visiting the Panama Canal is seriously awesome, especially if you get lucky and a huge cargo or cruise ship comes through. Head to Avenida Balboa for glorious city views and get lost in the old town to check out old churches. Make sure to get yourself a Panama hat before you leave.
Curaçao/Aruba: Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao, has some beautiful colourful colonial architecture, as well as a cool floating bridge. Enjoy the amazing Arepas which come with plenty of fillings and take a gander around the Rif Fort. Enjoy snorkelling in the deep blue water. Next, hop a 20min flight to Aruba, the Happy Island! Where the water is turquoise, and you can visit Flamingo island (if you’re in a hotel nearby) or go take a glass-bottomed submarine to see the wreck of the Antilla.
Mexico City: Start your day with a ride on the canal in one of the colourful boats, then visit the Presidential Palace and the National Museum of Anthropology where you can while away the hours. Take a day trip to visit the Pyramids at Teotihuacan for a glorious history lesson, then stuff your face with tacos or be adventurous and try roasted crickets!
Orlando/Miami: This was my first foray into the USA, for obvious Disney-related reasons. I loved the parks and I’m dying to go back to go to Universal! The city itself has a chill vibe, and if you don’t stay in the parks, you’ll find that there’s a lot of souvenir shops and restaurants near hotels where you can get things cheaper. Don’t forget to check out Gator World to see some awesome alligators and flamingos! If you have a car (and really why wouldn’t you in the US), take a drive through the Everglades and check out Tampa and Miami. And when in Miami, definitely go to Enriqueta’s on 186 NE 29th Street for the BEST Cubano sandwich and black bean soup you’ll ever have. And don’t forget to channel your inner Jamie Lee Curtis and drive down endless bridges to the Florida Keys and have some Key Lime Pie.
Las Vegas/Grand Canyon: Don’t bother saving your small change, nowadays in Vegas it’s all notes or prepaid cards! Only older casinos (like Circus Circus or other off-strip establishments) have coin-operated slot machines left. Talk a walk down the strip either by walking through one casino to the next (they’re all connected), or venture outside to take in all the extravagant architecture of favourites such as the Venetian, Caesar’s Palace, New York New York, the Paris, Luxor, Excalibur… At night, pretend to be part of Ocean’s crew and watch the fountains outside the Bellagio. Take a drive across state lines to Arizona and check out the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. There are different view points to drive to, and you can even stay at a hotel overlooking the large hole! For some Route 66 Nostalgia, get off Interstate 40 in Seligman and check out the old signs, 50s diners and petrol stations.
Austin: The capital of Texas has a pink capitol that is bigger than the one in Washington D.C. Because in Texas, everything is bigger. From the Sweet Teas to the Barbecues, make sure you bring your elasticated pants to the party. Try a burrito from Freebird’s (so much better than Chipotle), stuff your face with Pancakes at iHop, queue for ages for the best brisket or pulled pork at Franklin Barbecue and finish it off with a Blizzard from Dairy Queen. If you’re there between mid-March and early November, spend dusk watching the Austin bats from Congress Avenue Bridge. Every night an estimated 1.5 million bats take off in search of food and the skies are filled with them as they emerge from their slumber.
Montreal: Get tickets to a hockey game and watch the Habs play the Maple Leafs for some ultimate rivalry vibes. Roam the streets of the financial district or check out the students of McGill university playing Quidditch outside. Book yourself into a lovely Bed and Breakfast to pretend like you live in one of the gorgeous houses dotted around town and don’t forget to try Poutine, Canada’s answer to our boring cheesy chips.