Monday, November 12, 2018
LA SAGRADA FAMÍLIA CATHEDRAL
If you only see one building in Barcelona, see Antoni Gaudí’s magnificent Sagrada Família Cathedral. None of the surfaces are flat. Abstract shapes combine smooth curves and jagged points. The stone staircases are extraordinary, as is the nave which towers into the heavens, its pillars branching out like a forest of trees. The exterior is equally inspiring. When Gaudí was asked why he paid so much attention to the tops of the spires when no would see them, he answered, “The angels will see them.”
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
Discover the world-famous Colón Theater, Buenos Aires’s main opera house and one of the most iconic venues in the world. Known for its outstanding acoustics and architectural splendor, the theater originally opened in 1857 and was most recently refurbished in 2010. Admire the rich red and gold décor and glittering chandelier of this auditorium that has hosted opera legends such as Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti, ballet dancers Vaslav Nijinsky and Mikhail Baryshnikov and conductors Arturo Toscanini and Herbert von Karajan.
CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR ON SPILLED BLOOD
ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA
With so many incredible buildings in Scandinavia and the Baltic, how do you choose just one? We narrowed the choice to the one place that quite literally leaves you speechless—the Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg. It is completely spellbinding. Every square inch of space is decorated with the most extraordinary art and mosaics of gold leaf and semiprecious stones. The effect is one of shimmering beauty. See it and be awed.
We could have chosen the remarkably preserved Roman city of Herculaneum. Or, we could have chosen the opulent rooms of Venice’s Doge’s Palace. Instead, we chose the 14th-century trulli houses in the village of Alberobello. Beautifully simple and simply beautiful, trulli are tiny, beehive-shaped dwellings with white-tipped conical roofs. Step inside the thick stone walls and you will find it pleasantly cool, with its rustic simplicity cozy and welcoming.
ALCÁZAR DE COLÓN
SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
In the historic heart of the Dominican Republic’s oldest city sits the 16th-century Alcázar de Colón. Originally the home of Diego Columbus, the governor of the colony and Christopher Columbus’s son, the palace is an exceptional example of Spanish colonial architecture. Now a museum, its many rooms and open air loggias are decorated with paintings, tapestries and antique furnishings. Imagine which courtiers would have once entertained distinguished Spanish explorers such as Hernán Cortés and Vasco Núñez de Balboa.
SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE
Few buildings are more instantly recognizable than the Sydney Opera House. And there is no more spectacular way to approach it than through the Sydney Harbor. The gleaming white sails of Jørn Utzon’s design are different from every angle, and during different times of the day. The iconic structure is home to seven performance venues, each one an inspiring place to watch and listen to live music and theater.
On Gharapuri (renamed Elephanta Island by the Portuguese) near Mumbai is a labyrinth of cave temples. Hewed from solid rock, the UNESCO-listed complex was created between 450 and 750 AD. It consists of a network of chambers, halls, pillars, courtyards and shrines, and is described as a “masterpiece of Gupta-Chalukyan art.” The most important sculpture in the caves is the Trimurti, a 20-foot-high image depicting a three-faced Shiva, as the destroyer, creator and preserver of the universe.
One of Bangkok’s lesser-known treasures and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. King Ramathibodi I founded the city in 1350 AD and it served as the kingdom’s capital for 417 years, until it was conquered and destroyed by the Burmese in 1767 AD. Admire its stunning temples, statues and gardens. Be sure to see the Bang Pa-in Summer Palace, a captivating collection of pavilions in a variety of architectural styles set amid a beautiful garden.
ST. STEPHEN’S CATHEDRAL
You will not want to miss the magnificent 17th-century St. Stephen’s Cathedral when you visit charming Passau. This baroque wonder houses Europe’s largest pipe organ, with more than 17,000 pipes, and inspired composer Franz Liszt to write his Hungarian Coronation Mass. Admire the cathedral’s elegant white interior, its elaborate stucco painted by Italian artist Giovanni Battista Carlone and the intricate frescos created by painter Carpoforo Tencalla.
THE OCULUS AND 9/11 MEMORIAL & MUSEUM
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
This sacred and powerful memorial honoring the lives of those we lost is sobering yet inspiring. The underground museum space was built within the remnants of the original World Trade Center. Outside, two enormous waterfalls flow into two pools, around which are carved the names of those
who perished. Equally extraordinary is the Oculus at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, a mind-boggling glass-and-steel structure designed to look like a dove in flight. The vast, pure white interior of the main hall is like a modern-day cathedral, with light pouring through the ribbed ceiling. And, just like in a cathedral, the effect is incredibly moving.
Monday, September 3, 2018
You Didn’t Pack Smart
There’s nothing worse than hurling yourself atop a bulging suitcase, then huffing and puffing as you struggle to wrench the zipper shut. Avoid this highly undignified scene by packing your clothes compactly—roll, don’t fold—and resist the urge to chuck in the contents of your entire closet.
Ask yourself: Are you actually going to wear that sequined cocktail dress, or is it just going to take up precious space in your carry-on? With a smartly packed suitcase, unpacking and repacking won’t become an existential dilemma that makes you wonder why the heck you travel in the first place.
Some people like to sightsee until their feet are blistered, other people like to laze on a beach until their skin turns copper. Both are perfectly acceptable travel choices. But if you belong in one camp, chances are you have zero patience for someone in the other. If you’re going on a vacation with a friend, make sure you’re on the same page travel-wise before you buy a plane ticket. Otherwise, you're on track for a major vacation blowup.
A city like London is super easy to experience on the fly. If you’re an American, lucky you, you already speak the language, and because it’s such a vibrant and bustling city, there’s nearly always something interesting around the corner.
But if you’re going to a more remote destination—like, say, rural China—things won’t be so easy. Don’t wait until you land to do your research.
That means figuring out the transportation deets (will you take a train to get around? A bus?), telecommunication info (is there cell service? Will you need a mobile Wi-Fi device?), and so on well ahead of time. The more you plan ahead, the less likely you'll be to find yourself lost on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.
There’s something to be said about just letting yourself wander. If you overdo it on the research, there’ll be no stumbling across beautiful old houses, no chance discoveries of quaint, under-the-radar cafes, no friendships forged over lazy pints at the local pub. The best trips are the ones that unfold organically and include experiences you’d never have expected when you first arrived. Finding a happy medium between overpreparation and no planning at all is crucial.
Pro tip: Don’t head to a luxury mecca like Monaco or Macau if you’re on a super tight budget. Some destinations are easy to do on the cheap without sacrificing fun, others not so much. It’s smart to be realistic about what you’re willing to spend, otherwise you’ll wind up feeling like you’ve missed out.
There’s no better way to get to know a place than through the eyes of its residents. Sure, you’ll want to hit up the big museums and major monuments on your trip, but don’t forget to strike up a conversation with your bar-mate or meet up with friends of friends. From them, you’ll get an entirely different perspective on a place than what the guidebooks tell you.
If you’re the type of person who’s attached to their phone (no judgment) then you’d best figure out the cell service situation at your chosen destination before you leave home. In some countries, an international phone plan purchased through your regular provider might be the right move. Other places, you might want to nab a SIM card when you touch down, or even rent a mobile Wi-Fi device.
If you’re drowning in stress at work, an action-packed tour of Paris planned down to the half hour may not be right for you. On the flip side, if your day-to-day life is stuck in a boring rut, a secluded cabin-in-the-woods situation may not give you the excitement you desire. Don’t plan a vacation based on what the travel magazines say are fun—choose one that fits your needs at the moment.
Remember when your friend posted an Instagram photo of herself posing serenely on a gorgeous Bali beach at sunset?
Well, you traveled all the way to Bali to see it for yourself, only to find dirty sand strewn with trash. It’s easy to fall prey to images that make a destination seem glamorous, but sunsets can be manipulated with filters and less savory scenery cropped out.
Don’t plan a trip around Instagram. Instead, do your homework, learn about a place from experts who aren’t bending over backwards for likes, and most importantly, seek out travel moments that are genuine and meaningful to you personally.
It’s important to think about how you plan to get around your destination of choice. If you’re in a major metropolitan city like Tokyo or London, taking cabs everywhere could cost you a fortune.
Consider the local public transportation as a cost-saving alternative. In more out-of-the-way places—like small towns in northern Japan or southern Taiwan—renting a car is the right move, because public transportation only takes you so far.
(Some countries, including Japan, require foreigners to hold an international driver’s license, so check before you rent!) Choosing the wrong transportation might mean missing out on some major gems.