It’s fair to say that I normally seek isolation and beauty for a holiday, away from the hum drum with peace and quiet and a view of the hills or the sea! Divergent Travellers put up a question a while back – which city, Dubai or Singapore? That got me thinking, I’ve actually been to a few despite my rural preference! And I loved them all – how to pick a favourite!!
I’m very fond of London, after all it is (almost) home and I certainly spend at least a couple of days a week there with work! There is so much to see and such a mix of culture and history – it is easy to take it for granted being there so regularly. London is easy to get around with fantastic transport links and she did herself proud throughout the Olympics – centre stage to the world. It is always lovely to spend time in the parks, see the palaces, walk the Thames and even spend time in the shops, bars and restaurants. There is an incredible choice of things to do and visit. Even better – the likes of Windsor, Hampton Court and Richmond are all less than half an hour away and are in themselves fantastic! Yes, I like London – but I take it for granted as I am there so often!
We stopped off here en route back from a desert retreat – Dubai is big – looking up, but also in length along the coast. Driving in from the south I think it took us about 30minutes on a motorway to get across the city to the northern permitter. It definitely seems to have many hubs – there’s the high rises at the marina, the Palm, the Jumeirah beach front, Downtown where the Burj Khalifa is etc etc. A lot of money, almost too much – everything is about being the biggest and best. That said – the key buildings do have a certain beauty to them and they are awe inspiring. There are old bits to the city too – Al Fahidi neighbourhood is a great example and there are stunning wind towers on the buildings (that the new hotels try to copy), and Al Karama is staggering for just how many fake handbag shops there are!
New York was never somewhere I was desperate to visit, but then we ended up there a few years ago in the Autumn and we were very taken by it. Like London there is such variety and it is very well set up for tourists. The metro is really good and its pretty flat for walking! We had 2 nights there and it felt like just enough. We used the New York City Pass that we had for 2 days – it definitely made sure we visited more than we might otherwise have done. Favourite spots was sun up in the Rockafella and sun down from the Empire State. Time out was spent in Central Park, the world trade centre garden and on the high line. A complete variation of things to do and bound to be something for everyone. NYC is massive, and the scale of the buildings is something else, there is such a lot that you should plan what you want out of the trip so that you don’t get swamped by trying to do everything!
Abu Dhabi is younger as a city than Dubai, and as a result there is even more building work going on. We actually found less to look at here than in Dubai – but that was perhaps because it was more disjointed, or perhaps because we were still in desert-traquility mode!! There are some stunning things to take in, but only really for a day. Emirates Palace is a gold-plated hotel (with a gold bar vending machine) – we made the obligatory visit and thanked our good sense not to have wished to have stayed somewhere like this!! The mosque is stunning and no visit should be complete without quiet time visiting. Saadiyat island is quickly being developed, but currently still has some open stretches of sand which are a very pleasant place. Yas Island we didn’t stop at – but there is a lot of quirky building going on there!!
This was another surprise trip, in that it wasn’t a long term plan. I didn’t think I’d like the humidity, but actually I came to terms with it really quickly! My husband was there with work so I flew out to join him – scored an up front upgrade on the way out that definitely got me in the mood!! We had 4 days here and much like NYC, were selective with what we chose to do and ensured a real mixture. Trainers on and a mooch was good fun, it’s hot but the underground and hotel lobbys are very well air conditioned! We loved the view from the top of the ship-like hotel (but a soulless place, would not want to stay) and we treated ourselves to supper in Equinox which had an equally amazing view. We also spent some time in China Town and took a trip out to Sentosa to see the beach, and a view of 1000 ships! It’s a bit of a tourist cliche, but do take the time for a Sling in Raffles – expensive, but it has to be done! That and soft shelled crab! I was happy to have found a small hotel – Naumi – right near to Raffles that was perfect for our requirements with a great roof top pool, they’ve also opened another in the city now that looks interesting as well!
Paris is so close to home, yet I only visited for the first time a few years ago. What struck me most was how much warmer and continental the climate is to the one we have in the UK, yet it really isn’t far away from us. We walked and walked and walked, and we didn’t really have a plan either, it is easy to follow your nose because each time you get to one site, you can see another in the distance to head for! We saw an incredible amount of the city that way and didn’t feel like we missed out! I think one of my favourite bits was going up to Montmartre at the end of day for sunset and drinks – a stunning spot and amazing lighting on the Sacre Coeur – we found a cute little restaurant down a side street away from the tourist central square.
I think I saw DC the easy way – in a car, with my Uncle, on a clear winter weekend! The city was very quiet and we zipped between sites in his car. But this did mean that I got to see most of the outdoor memorials – it is striking just how clean the city is (looks great against a blue sky) and how much history is commemorated across the city. On another visit I would love to spend time working my way around the Smithsonian museums which are mainly free entry.
Boston is cute and very friendly. We spent a day in the sunshine enjoying many of its sights. We did a lot from a duck tour, but also a lot on foot. We were there at the start of fall and the colours of the trees were just getting good! I found it quite hard to find a reasonably priced yet well-located hotel. Many had minimum stay requirements which is always frustrating! We had our first supper in Boston and that introduced me to American Spec food (my first visit to the states) – rest assured an appetiser or starter is probably big enough as a main meal!
I don’t know the city of Cape Town that well as we tend to head out into the countryside when we have visited. But any city with such an iconic natural back-drop gets my vote!! Table mountain and Lion’s head both provide epic views of the city and the coastline. Table View is fast being developed for fancy accommodation and bars, when we first visited it was just a deserted stretch of beach!! The V&A waterfront is a great place to visit and there is an awesome wine shop there too (if you can’t make it out to Stellenbosch!!). Local knowledge is best for the city as there is a buzzing nightlife and some amazing food, just a stones throw away from the tourist traps!
Marrakech is a fascinating place – and it really comes alive at night! The main square is full of food stalls and surrounding it is the most beautiful and bustling souk! Eating out here takes some planning – in and around the souk and into the city further there are some hidden gems – we dined like royalty on a number of occasions enjoying Thai one night and a local-fare banquet on another. Try and stay in a Riad on a visit, rather than a large hotel. Hidden behind unassuming doors they open up inside and typically have wonderful roof terraces!
I have only been to Rome with work, and so everything I’ve seen is from a taxi window… There seems to be history and beautiful architecture everywhere you look – plenty to see! No doubt plenty of tourist traps, but it looks a bit like the kind of place that a couple of days with trainers on and a map in hand would go nicely!
No trip to the south of France would be complete without ogling the money on display in Monaco! A fascinating place! Thankfully not all of the coastline is like Monaco, but this is the place to people watch! Enjoy a glass or few of rose at Cafe de Paris and watch people come and go, and check out the cars that arrive at the Casino! There is always something to turn the head in this city! We were quite surprised that neither the parking or the wine was that expensive. Plenty of architecture and beauty to take in as well, away from the main spots
Favourite place then?
First, to answer the original question – Dubai or Singapore? Tricky as they are actually more different than I expected. Dubai is fascinating, however I think that Singapore just has the edge – the buildings in general are a little more awe-inspiring and life doesn’t need to be about hotel-living in this culture. That said – the climate in Dubai is less humid (for much of the year) and this is definitely a positive and there is history and beauty if you go looking. So it is a close run thing, and to be honest, I’d probably visit either again (as a stop off to a beach retreat). Not a conclusive answer, but probably Singapore by a whisker – thinking about it from the perspective of where would I actually prefer to live given the choice!
Complete favourite from all the above? It was always going to be London. How could it not be!! London is near to home and so I can get a little dose of it whenever I’m there with work, or at a weekend visiting friends. There is a lot of pride in the UK about just how good London 2012 was and the city really was at its best, and has stayed that way. It is always easier to enjoy a place the more you know about it and there is such a variety! That said – my favourite place is always going to be somewhere with patchy 3G or wifi and a great unbroken view of the countryside, wide open spaces and no other people around!….
Anyhow, continuing the city-based research in April – off to Venice for three days… will report back! Have already looked into trips out of the city!!
With Chasing the donkey