San Francisco

Some stories from Europe and America’s tourist hot spots – where to go on your next trip abroad

Standing with Starbucks in hand, intoxicated by the perfumes in Duty Free; double checking your hand luggage to make sure you haven’t suddenly lost your passport. There is no better feeling than the excitement and apprehension that comes with getting ready to board a plane. Whether it is your first city break with your girlfriends, that once in a lifetime couples holiday, or a family tour you have been saving for, sometimes the most popular locations just have to be ticked off the bucket list. ‘Must see cities’ are desirable for a reason. Here is our flash guide to just a few of them to see if it is the right place for you. 

EUROPE

Amsterdam – canal boats and coffee

Bikes, mopeds, trams, trains, and canal boats. This city is not shy of transport to guide you through your sight-seeing. A canal boat ride will put you in a race against the bicycles up on the pavement, and drift you past the meaty smells from riverside restaurants. Duck under leaves from the trees and bridges as you cruise along. Cafes are squashed between and underneath the terrace homes and are lovely to sit at no matter the weather. Sit out in the sun, or cosy up with a cappuccino as Autumn leaves tumble later in the year. For the museums and galleries, such as Anne Frank Haus, there are extortionate queues. The markets however are free to roam and will serve local cheese, tulip bulbs, books, vintage clothes, and homemade cooked food to try. 

Sit amongst women staining their mugs with lipstick as the smell of smoke tangled in the air. Be sure to pick up ‘Stroopwafel’ (crispy caramel waffle) or ‘Ontbijtkoek’ (stodgy ginger cake) from one of the many stores. Stumble down The Red Light District and find yourself in awe at the sexual freedom Amsterdam expresses. Whether you choose to party in one of the many queer bars, or have a wholesome trip dipping in and out of bakeries, Amsterdam is undeniably self aware of its unique European culture. Leather jackets, art classes, floating flower stalls, there is nowhere else quite like Amsterdam. 

Saint-Tropez – boutiques and beautiful buildings 

Hop off a boat at the port of Saint Tropez and you will be greeted by vintage French buildings – all different shades of beige and salmon pink with sash windows. The colours are unreal against a blue summer sky. 

This town is popular with artists as people sell their paintings around the harbour, evidently inspired by the architecture’s aesthetic. Meanwhile on the cobbled streets, women strut in pristine designer outfits, shopping bags in hand and sun hat on head. There are many restaurants all lined up with dishes like caviar and moules. La Sardine is a restaurant on the corner of the harbour serving fish, pasta, steak and salad as well as views of boats on the sea and tree-topped mountains. Saint Tropez epitomises the luxurious Mediterranean lifestyle which the South of France proudly boasts. Just a drive or boat trip away are cities such as Cannes, Saint-Raphaël and Nice. For a cheaper, family-friendly place to stay, reside temporarily at Agay which allows you to travel between these spots along the French Riviera and experience it all. 

Saint Tropez

Ibiza – pints, parties, paella 

Despite how Ibiza can be painted to be on social media, this island is a place for everyone; it is so much more than a party paradise. San Antonio, while it is home to the likes of Ocean Beach and Cafe Mambo, can be done at a reasonable price. Grab a pint at one of the Irish bars, and have a delicious dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants. Watch fountains dance under palm trees in the sunset golden hour. There are some cute bohemian spots to hang out at by day including The Orange Corner which emulates the beach club spirit of Savannah Bar but for a much lower price. 

If you’d rather go big or go home on your trip to Ibiza, you will find clubs Eden, Es Paradis, Ibiza Rocks also in San Antonio while Hï Ibiza, Pacha, Amnesia and DC10 are on the other half of the island, near the airport. These parties are worth researching before your trip so that you can know the line up or event taking place, plus whether there are any terms for entry, and pre-book your tickets. A must-do in Ibiza is a visit to the Sunset Strip to watch the sun kiss the shimmering sea as it falls. The atmosphere is unreal at this hour. Cafe Mambo, having rehearsed this routine daily, time their playlist perfectly, so that watching the final disappearing inches of the sun feels like being in the end credits of a cinematic masterpiece. 

Even if cocktails, beach club parties and midnight raves are not your thing, Ibiza Old Town is well worth a visit for a gorgeous authentic Spanish culture. Ibiza Town provides a quirky maze of hippie stalls and tapas restaurants in the cosiest corners of the cobble streets, appropriate for families. You will find locals at fresh fruit and market stalls and can see laundry delicately dancing in the breeze as it hangs from the ancient window shutters of a rickety house above the hustle and bustle. Splashes of olive green and flowers of orange and pink pave the ways as you shop handmade crochet tops or friendship bracelets. Plaza del Sol is a Bohemian Mediterranean restaurant tucked under trees and lanterns which overlooks the town and sea. Come here for an essential sangria and paella. 

Rome – attractions and affogato 

Experiencing Rome is like sitting amongst the photographs of a history book. The Colosseum, Vatican City, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountains – the city is oozing with culture. With so many attractions however comes busy crowds congregating around these spaces. Expect queues and slow moving walkways everywhere you go. Is it worth it? Definitely. Rather than squeezing amongst the other tourists around the Trevi, slip down a nearby alley to share pizza and affogato. While you may not avoid the street performers or cheap Italian merchandise, you can watch this all pass by with a Limoncello Spritz in hand. 

For the best views of the city, climb up to Faro al Gianicolo. Here you overlook the cathedrals, museums, galleries and apartments dotted around Rome, and is a lovely brief escape from the chaos. Half an hour of walking from this point along the river will take you to the Spanish Steps. By evening, go to Piazza Navona which is a romantic square of fountains and restaurants. In the middle, Fontana de Quattro Fiumi is majestically lit under the Italian evening sky.

Streets in Rome

AMERICA

If you like the sound of candy floss on the pier, bike rides through the city, and dinner with a sunset over the Golden Gate, then you will love… 

San Francisco 

The first thing I noticed about San Francisco was the hills. The rollercoaster roads mock the bobbing of water under the Golden Gate Bridge. Pier 39 carried a funfair with a carousel, candy floss and corndogs. San Francisco is a city of curves and circles. The fluidity of the water around Alcatraz island mirrors the movement of people on shore. The only thing static and structured is the bridges connecting San Fran to surrounding areas. 

Fisherman’s Wharf is an area bursting with life and paint splashes of colour. Expect street dancers and saxophone players performing on the curbs. Getting a cable car into Union Square is the perfect way to get a taste of the streets: immerse in a touristic itinerary of visiting Market Street and ChinaTown. Back at Fisherman’s Wharf, hire a bike from Blazing Saddles and succumb to the emancipation you feel cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge and into the town of Sausalito. Feel the breeze in your hair and burn in your glutes, and try your best to soak it all in. 

Streets in San Francisco

If you like the sound of grabbing a coffee and bagel as you shop by day, and pizza and cocktails by night before watching a Broadway show, then you will love…

New York 

“As soon as you get out of this subway, look up.” It’s practically impossible to walk along the avenues without feeling like you’re in slow motion amongst the rush of taxis and the vibration of trains rumbling beneath your feet.

Times Square allows visitors to become a part of the New York atmosphere rather than watch it. The bright lights of billboards reflect off people’s skin; the smell of hotdogs and sewage provides a unique but distinct aroma; sirens, cameras, music – it really is a city that never sleeps. A nearby sports bar Tonic is the perfect stop for chicken wings. 

Views from the Rockafeller Tower means you can get The Empire State Building in your photos, while the rest of the city looks like Lego blocks below. Central Park calls for hours of mindless wandering. From the zoo, Shakespeare gardens, many lakes, baseball pitches, Strawberry Fields, and plenty of areas to run freely. There is so much entertaining the incredible space. A ferry ride across the Hudson, in Manhattan, there is a much more relaxed atmosphere to the streets with Battery Park being the ideal spot to rest your legs and absorb views of Lady Liberty. 

Dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner combines the sense of performance you would get in a Broadway show, with authentic New York style dining. Don’t be alarmed when your waiter jumps on a table behind you, launching confetti. Or, maybe a game of baseball or basketball is more your calling. Bottom line is, New York could never be boring. 

If you like the sound of combining art on the beach with designer brands in the city, plus dining or sleeping in what feels like a film set, then you will love…

Los Angeles 

Frank Lloyd Wright said “tip the world over on it’s side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles” and there is no better way to depict it. Men on skateboards rushing past; audition posters hanging on tight to lampposts; tattoo parlours on every street and cars hosting their own portable parties – the buzz of Hollywood boulevard mimicked that seen in the movies.

Rodeo Street, Beverly Hills

It is a fun city of chaos, full of life and character, home to the famous and homeless. Hollywood, while it is the abode to people wanting to live the American Dream, is also a beautiful spot to hike to the observatory and grab a coffee with a view. Down at Santa Monica, it is a different vibe entirely. Venice beach seemed to be the magnet for L.A’s hippie scene as individuals set up stalls to sell and exhibit creations of every medium. However, you also can explore the land of materialism and finesse – Beverly Hills. Pass Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and other designer stores. Even the architecture is delicately carved to look like a painting only the rich could afford.

‘The Grove’ in Hollywood is a gorgeous spot, suitable for families. It is a complex with restaurants, retail stores, a cinema and entertainment which allows you to combine the hippie spirit of Santa Monica with the shopping experience of Beverly Hills. The lit up fountain in the centre, and trees carrying fairy lights and lanterns provides a relaxing backdrop to an evening meal. There is plenty of Al Fresco seating and live acoustic music on the central backdrop. 

If you like the sound of Cuban cocktails, sports cars zooming underneath palm trees, and art deco architecture, then you will love…

Miami 

South Beach Miami has the sweet smell of money and marjuana. Arriving at Ocean Drive, I think the lights hit you first. Twinkling or flashing colours on restaurant walls come face to face with palm trees on the opposite side of the road. Songs that make you want to dance are unavoidable. Hearing the rev of an engine on a sports car as they too blare music from speakers with their convertible roof down, is also unavoidable.

There is an atmosphere of nonchalance and everyone just wanting to have a good evening. Pretty hostesses stand outside bars, beckoning you to come in. The drinks are not cheap, but let me tell you, they are big. Some of the cocktails I saw in their frozen and artificial shades of orange or blue may as well have been served in a bucket. While there were birthday bashes and stag dos parading the streets, there were also lots of families out to enjoy the fun. I saw grandmas on dance floors, and little girls getting up on stage to join in with the rhythm of a salsa dancer (Kanoli restaurant).

Beside the wild lifestyle of the city, Miami also boasts nine miles of the prettiest beach I have ever seen. Walking on the sand is like walking on a mattress, so soft and white. Lincoln Road in South Beach is a must visit. With countless restaurants and all your favourite high street stores to choose from, it is a town hot-spot for keeping busy in the morning or afternoon. There are often also events, festivals, performances or markets in the centre of the road too. Located in the Art Deco area, you could even just take in the beautiful pastel, rounded architecture and the snippets of wall art painted across walls. 

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