There’s still a huge part of the world I yearn to see, but certain places I have visited remain forever imprinted in my mind. Prompted by the Booked.net – Top Destinations to Go There challenge, here are five places I’d return to in a heartbeat:
Truth be told, I was a bit reluctant to go because I wanted to use the travel opportunity to see somewhere less popular, less obvious. But when I arrived, I literally gasped at the sight of the Cathedral of Notre Dame and I realized, there’s a reason why this city is so celebrated. It was also my first time visiting a place where I didn’t speak the language, which was humbling to say the least, and forced me to get creative. At one point when a waiter forgot how to translate the name of a meat in English, I asked him what sound the animal makes.
2. New Orleans
Despite being in my home country, this was much different than what I was used to. (Greeting strangers — what a concept!) I went there during Mardi Gras season but a week before Fat Tuesday, so I was able to see local neighborhood parades and celebrations. On our first day, my friend and I went to Cafe du Monde, which serves simply beignets and chicory coffee, and went back every day for the remainder of our stay. My favorite detail was seeing Mardi Gras decorations everywhere like it was Christmas (including decorated pine trees!)
A few years ago back in the U.S., I volunteered at a social justice-oriented cultural center founded by Chileans recovering from the former dictatorship. I happened to arrive in Santiago a few days after the fortieth anniversary of the military coup (their September 11th, literally), and its legacy and efforts to preserve the collective memory were very much present. I left with a deeper understanding of the cultural center, the people I had worked with, and of course Chile. The city gave me an incredibly good feeling through its architecture, nature and friendly people. It’s also amazing to me that you can drive an hour east and reach the mountains or drive an hour west and reach the ocean, all the while passing by vineyards.
4. Mexico City
If Mexico City could be summed up in one word, it would have to be stimulating. It is forever a busy, chaotic, messy city but with a lot of color, culture and beauty. There are Aztec ruins in the middle of downtown, alongside centuries old churches, fashionable boutiques, crafts markets and packed bars. Most importantly (for me), there’s nothing like going to the market to eat a blue corn quesadilla stuffed with squash blossoms. It’s the city with the best street food ever.
Located in northeastern Brazil, it’s known for two things — its Carnaval and its strong African roots. I’ve never experienced the former, but the latter can be felt everywhere, through its food, slang, rituals and sounds. On every corner there’s music, whether it be blaring from a parked car stereo or from people improvising with trash cans. It’s a very relaxed city, sometimes to a fault, but the people are always friendly and willing to chat. This place has stayed with me in such a way that I feel an immense sense of joy when I smell dendê oil and remember eating acarajé on the beach.
I’m nominating five blogs to take on the challenge: Grobetrotter, Ella Está Por Embarcar, Journeying Jeff, The Travelling Chopsticks, and Braless in Brasil. It’s simple – 5 places you’d return to with 5 photos and 5 nominees. The winner, picked at random, will get a new iPhone 6. Rules and regulations here.
And of course feel free to add your favorite destinations in the comments!