It’s been said that if you go to France and don’t visit Marseille, then you haven’t really seen France. The city is the country’s second largest, a wonderful souffle of European and African cultures overlaid with a deep sense that all is well, bon enfant. This translates into a Mediterranean port city long on charm, great restaurants and clever distractions.
One of those diversions is Le Panier, the old quarter. Hilly, narrow cobblestone streets carry addresses for local artisans, boutique shops and colorful bistros reflective of the many centuries of those who came before. Couples might be inclined to stroll the waterfront Corniche Kennedy Boulevard, known for its two miles of restaurants, terrific views and photographers.
There are beaches (you’re on the French Riviera after all) and the art, both indoors and streetside, is par excellence.
Stay at Sofitel Marseille Vieux Port near the water – complete with two restaurants, spa, gym, rooftop bar and panoramic views of Marseille’s exquisite Old Port.
Kiawah (key-wuh) Island is a ten-mile sliver of land running parallel to the coast of South Carolina, 21 miles from historic downtown Charleston. It’s named after the Kiawah Indians, the people who greeted the English in 1670.
The island now is filled with private homes and villas, tennis courts, pristine beaches and the star of the show: golf. The five championship golf courses at Kiawah Island Golf Resort include the Ocean Course, one of just four U.S. courses to have hosted every major PGA event.
Frolic with dolphins and explore the wildlife of the barrier island via kayak or paddle board on guided nature tours. Power boat excursions are available, and there are also folks who will teach you how to surf.
The beachfront Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island Golf Resort features guest rooms with handcrafted armoires, desks and beds. Schedule a personalized spa treatment after chasing birdies.
Way above the Scottish mainland, past Orkney on a tack toward Norway, lie the Shetland Islands; wide open spaces and hundreds of miles of beautiful coastline accented by luscious greenery. Fans of the BBC drama series Shetland will recognize the heather-clad hills.
On the southern tip of the Shetland mainland, you’ll see puffins, fulmars and razorbills around historic Sumburgh Head Lighthouse. From nearby 300-foot cliffs, on calm days, look for minke whales, harbor porpoises and white-beaked dolphins. Across the islands, the celebrated ponies now number about a thousand.
Small museums here and there, such as the Shetland Museum in Lerwick, give visitors insights into how the Shetlands were settled by the Picts, the Vikings and the Scots. Shoppers will love the sweaters made of Shetland wool and Celtic jewelry handcrafted on the islands.
Fort Charlotte Guest House offers luxury accommodations in a 130-year-old native stone B&B overlooking the harbor in the heart of Lerwick.
Wedged between the Southern Alps and the Pacific Ocean, the city named after a college in Oxford sits on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
Following the awful earthquakes of 2011, Christchurch bounced back in funky fashion with colorful murals, boundary pushing architecture and natural urban landscapes. Imagine lazy Sunday afternoons, punting down the Avon River past the roses of Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
There’s a growing arts scene in central Christchurch and wine-making is making a comeback north of town. Book a table for two on board the old-timey Christchurch Tramway Restaurant and be sure to ride the gondola for dramatic views of the Canterbury Plains and the Alps.
At the International Antarctic Centre, experience simulated winter storms, take a field trip on a Hägglunds all-terrain amphibious vehicle and get nose-to-nose with the center’s little blue penguins. Christchurch is the world’s primary entry point into the Antarctic.
Stay at the Observatory Hotel Christchurch – Victorian architecture, down comforters and a 24-hour fitness center.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City in the south of Vietnam drives that nation’s economic engine with a dizzying whirlwind of youthful entrepreneurial exuberance. Formerly known as Saigon, the city neatly balances Vietnamese tradition with modern verve on elegant tree-lined thoroughfares, where age-old pagodas share the street with gleaming skyscrapers.
Two themes permeate HCMC’s culture: 60 years of French rule (ending in 1954) and the Vietnam War. The French influence is obvious in the city’s architecture, its cuisine and in the French Quarter with its relaxed pace and sidewalk cafes. The war is remembered in some detail at the War Remnants Museum and more than 20,000 documents, films and artifacts. Visitors can enter actual Cu Chi tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the war.
The Ben Thanh Market is Vietnam’s largest with 1,500 vendors trading in textiles, cosmetics, food and souvenirs. Leave time for a river cruise on the Mekong Delta.
At the end of the day, pamper yourselves at the Reverie Saigon, an uber-chic hotel occupying the top floors of downtown’s gleaming Times Square Tower.