Today, I'm kicking off a new series on the blog titled "My 5 Favorite." First up: cities around the world!
I love cities. There is something about navigating a new city that is extremely exhilarating. What some may see as frenetic or draining, I often see as invigorating and an exciting challenge (assuming I'm not stuck on a metro train). It's probably a good thing I feel this way since I live in one of the busiest cities in the world. But my love for metropolises extends way beyond New York. In my travels, I've become enamored with a number of places, all for different reasons. So, in no particular order, here are my five favorite cities around the world:
Why I Love It: I think I loved Paris before I ever visited Paris. Of course, the media played a large part in that, but I have also always had an affinity for all things French — from the cuisine to the fashion to the films. I was and still am a francophone. Interestingly, when I finally made it to Paris to study abroad for a summer, I did not immediately love it. Perhaps I watched too much Sex and the City and visions of being magically dressed in a chic outfit with chic friends at a chic restaurant à la Carrie Bradshaw clouded my head and raised my expectations to an unrealistic level. Regardless, I went on to have an amazing time in Paris, an experience I will never forget. The city is so beautiful and elegant, the food is unbelievable (note: just as in any city, not everywhere is great; you have to know where to go) and, despite many preconceived notions about the French, I met many lovely people.
Why It's Worth Visiting: Because it's Paris, one of the most beautiful cities in the world! Audrey Hepburn said it best: "Paris is always a good idea." I have visited the city during the summer and in the spring, but I think Paris is one of those places where you can go any time of the year and it will still be magical.
Favorite neighborhood: It's so hard to pick one, but I am partial to Montmartre. One of my favorite restaurants, Cheri Bibi, is located here, tucked behind the Sacre Coeur.
Why I Love It: It took me awhile to love London. When I moved there for grad school, I spent the first three months comparing the city to New York, and I often found the former lacking. Where was the energy and buzz? Why did everything close at 11pm? And how come I can't find a proper bagel in this place? All very important questions, clearly. But then I stopped comparing and started enjoying London for what it is — a beautiful blend of history and modernity with a more understated charm than Paris. Now, whenever I visit London, I'm reminded just how gorgeous this city is and why I grew to love it so much. Another bonus: countless free museums and access to endless culture, plus a number of amazing markets (including this favorite).
Why It's Worth Visiting: Beyond the free museums and great markets, London presents its past and present so well. You can immerse yourself in British history as easily as you can enjoy the more modern attributes of the city, like the Shard or the Tate galleries. There is also something to be said about passing the time in London's parks before enjoying one of the countries most well-known traditions: afternoon tea.
Favorite neighborhood: I don't think I can pick just one neighborhood so I will name two, one in East London and one in West London. My East London pick: Hackney, home to Victoria Park, which is particularly amazing in the fall. My West London pick: Holland Park, home to a whole lot of prettiness.
Why I Love It: it's no surprise that I love Montreal, considering I'm a self-declared francophone. I only wonder why it took me so long to visit. My first trip took place in 2012 during the World Film Festival, but it wasn't until I returned for the International Jazz Festival (twice!) that I knew Montreal and I were going to get along just fine. It's the perfect combination of North American and European influences and there's always something fun to do, particularly in the summertime.
Why It's Worth Visiting: It's like a taste of Europe in North America, not to mention it's extremely bike-friendly with gorgeous parks found throughout the city. My two cents: go during the Jazz Festival and enjoy the music streaming out onto the streets of downtown Montreal.
Favorite neighborhood: Le Plateau Mont-Royale: great food, great shopping and great scenery.
Why I Love It: Oh, Hong Kong. You want to talk about energy? This city doesn't give you energy; it slaps you in the face with it, leaving you slightly shell-shocked yet somehow ready for more. That was my first impression during my only visit to Hong Kong — energetic, busy, packed, and I loved it! During my time there, I shopped until my feet hurt, ate myself silly, met random but great people, wandered to as many places as I could, took countless pictures and planned my return to my new favorite city. I am ecstatic to be heading back to Hong Kong later in the year and look forward to uncovering more of what makes the city so great.
Why It's Worth Visiting: It has what I believe to be the perfect blend of Chinese culture and British influence overlaid with a chic, cosmopolitan vibe. Even the school kids looked hip and trendy; certainly far trendier than I could ever be.
Favorite neighborhood: I stayed in the Causeway Bay neighborhood and enjoyed it thoroughly. It's where I stumbled upon some of the best noodles I've ever had.
Why I Love It: This may seem like a cop out since I've lived in New York for a very long time, but I think it's all the more reason to include it. Ask most New Yorkers how they feel about this city and chances are they will say they have a love-hate relationship with New York. To live here is not easy. It's crowded, busy and far from being the cleanest (or clean at all, for that matter). Commuting can be a pain and sometimes you just never know who you're going to piss off today. Yet, I love this city. That raw energy I was looking for in London is what keeps me going, but I also recognize that I have to find my moments of peace and quiet or I will go crazy living here (I think it's the INTJ in me). New York has everything and for that reason, I love it.
Why It's Worth Visiting: The energy, the views, THE FOOD! Oh man, this city has great food. From cheap, cheap, cheap dumplings to extravagant five-course meals, you can literally find it all. And if you can't find it, you may have a great business idea on your hands.
Favorite neighborhood: While everyone is going on and on about Brooklyn, I am all about my adopted borough of Queens. In particular, I love Long Island City (LIC). It's still somewhat undeveloped and industrial, but then you come across these great gems that make you feel like you've discovered something very cool and only a few (hundred) people know about it. Also, the view of Manhattan from LIC is pretty ridiculous.
HONORABLE MENTION: CAPE TOWN
Why I Love It: Okay, I know I said I would only share my five favorite cities, but I felt I had to mention Cape Town because it was a very close sixth. Many people who have been here proclaim it their favorite city and while I can't say it's my absolute favorite, Cape Town is definitely an amazing place. It's not often you find a city that has the mountains, beach, wharf and nearby winelands. Visually speaking, it has some of the most stunning features I've ever seen, from Table Mountain to my personal favorite, Chapman's Peak Drive. Economically and socially, the city still has a ways to go, but it's truly a place worth seeing, flaws and all.
Why It's Worth Visiting: Like to swim? Like to hike? Like to go out? Like to shop? Like to eat good food? Like to surf? Like wine? Like to chill out? Well, you can do all of this and more in Cape Town.
Favorite neighborhood: The colorful and warm Bo-Kaap, home to the best Cape Malay cooking class!
There you have it — my five favorite cities, plus an honorable mention. Stay tuned for the next post in this series: my favorite meals around the world!