Everyone out there having a marvelous time being home, pajama-clad and uber lazy?? I know I am. I don’t think I’ve ever done so many loads of laundry #momlife. But the best part about this quiet time of year? Dreaming about what can do with the next one! I’m feeling very optimistic about 2018. I mean, things can only go up from here right!? We better hope so. But 2018 is Apartment 34’s 10th anniversary and I plan to make the most of it! (more to come on that) On the tippity-top of my new year to-dos? Travel. I never left the country in 2017 and that makes mama very sad. I’m not sure where I should travel in 2018. Mexico? Europe? Somewhere really off the beaten path? Thankfully, one of my favorite jet-setters, Megan McCarty has been keeping notes on all her travels – and places on her wishlist. Now I’m taking notes too.
Everywhere, anywhere. That’s where you should go in 2018. You don’t need me to tell you strolling new streets and eating foreign cuisines molds us into more inspired, understanding people, but I’ll remind you anyway. Plus, a little escapism these days doesn’t do us any harm. Neither does going somewhere where the wifi is spotty or spend your hard-earned money in a city that is recovering from (insert disaster here).
Below are eight stand-out spots for the design lovers among us. Ready? Set? Pack those bags.
With everything we’ve endured this past year, we’re all overdue for a little peace and calm. Modern-day Danes are known for topping the list of happiest folks, and for good reason. Copenhagen is like Amsterdam’s more mature sister, packed with charm, architecture, culture, parks, canals, history and some of the most peaceful people on earth. What’s not to like?
For your stay, consider booking a room at the Nobis Hotel or Sanders Hotel, both perfectly polished. I’m also partial to THEKRANE, an industrial coal crane that’s been converted into a luxury two-person retreat. The one-room masterpiece includes panoramic views of Copenhagen and sleek all-black decor, in homage to coal, of course.
There aren’t enough meals in the day to visit all of Copenhagen’s sleek restaurants, but here are a few stand-outs: Restaurant Barr, 108, Geist, Vakst, Amass and Relae. The name says it all for Nebbiolo Winebar, and Ved Stranden and Apollo Bar are worth a sip too. For a morning jolt of coffee, consider a stop at Atelier September. Then work off all those glasses of nebbiolo with a winding wandering through Rundetaarn, the oldest functioning observatory in Europe.
For daily Copenhagen inspiration, follow my friend Ruben Hughes. His feed alone will, well, feed your need to hop on a flight.
Big Sur, California
Following last spring’s crippling mudslides, Big Sur is back in business! No matter which part of Cali you’re coming from, the drive to Big Sur is one of those getting there is half the fun cliches. If you haven’t been, you’ll wonder what took you so long to get there. If you have, it’s time to to revisit. Take the scenic route via State Route 1, otherwise really, what’s the point?
As for where to stay, your options are limited, in a way that allows for easy decision making. There’s the Ventana Big Sur, which recently reopened under new ownership. The renovation added the new Sur House restaurant, glamping cabins and an on-site art gallery. You could also make a major splurge and stay at Post Ranch Inn, a long-time fave of Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler, which sits atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific. Even just getting a drink in the dining room is worth it.
But first, fuel up with breakfast at Big Sur Bakery, then walk through the pink sand at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. After that you’ll deserve a drink at Nepenthe, which has a view that may or may not leave you speechless, with an emphasis on the may. Walk off the liquid calories with a hike through McWay Waterfall Trail or Ewoldsen Trail, then dine at Post Ranch Inn. For a magical night under the stars, reserve a spot at Esalen Institute – you know, where Don from Mad Men is meditating in the series finale – to take a dip in the hot springs or melt into a message. (The 1:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. public bathing at Esalen would provide you with good dinner party stories for years to come, I’m sure.)
Just beware: you’ll likely lose cell service throughout your time in Big Sur. (Hallelujah – no what-did-he-do-now news alerts!) And be sure to hit up an ATM and fill up on gas before you get into Big Sur proper; state parks often require a cash entrance fee and don’t pay Big Sur gas prices unless you have to.
Need I remind you: the glaciers are melting. Make it a point to visit any/every National Park this year, but my top pick goes to Glacier, the most beautiful place in America, in my humble and stubborn Taurus option.
Lake McDonald Lodge – a from-another-time resort, built in 1913, packed with history and taxidermy – can serve as a homebase if camping isn’t your thing. Another option if you’re outdoorsy-ish, but still like to shower: Under Canvas, a luxury glamping site just a few miles outside of the park proper, provides tents with ensuite bathrooms, queen-size beds and wood stoves. Under Canvas has glamping sites throughout various National Parks, including Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Moab and more.
On your way to Glacier, make extended pit stops in Bozeman and Missoula. Both cities are incredibly cool, packed with intelligent folks who live life right. In Bozeman, grab breakfast at The Western Cafe, “the last best cafe.” Just don’t dally, as they close every day at 2:00 p.m. Then pop over to Heyday to browse goods by local artisans and stroll Main Street for the countless antique stores. If you find a perfect pair of cowboys boots in an 8.5, send them my way; I’ll Venmo you.
While we’re at it, let’s all take a minute to donate to the National Park Foundation. The glaciers.
Kyoto is at the tippy top of my my-god-Megan, book the damn ticket already list.
My friend David Coggins – a quick-witted writer who you should follow on all the things immediately (here’s his Instagram and Twitter) – ventures to Japan annually and can rattle off recommendations like a local. He suggests staying at Shiki Juraku, a hotel made up of a series of traditional row houses. Bonus: it’s near the Raku Museum and allows for walks around neighborhoods away from the crowds at the temples.
Add Nishiki Market, the iconic covered food market, to your to do list, and make a point to wander Teramachi Dori, an old street scattered with stunning 200-year-old stores that sell paper, ceramics, books, ink brushes and green tea. (All my favorite things, really.) For drinks and entertainment, make your way to Gion, the historic area where, if you’re lucky, you could spot a maiko – a geisha in training.
If you’re lucky enough to nab one of its six seats, make a stop at Bunkyu Bar. It’s small and dark and sometimes people smoke inside. Tell the bartender Nao that David says hi.
Sure, sure, you know the Prada Marfa installation. But the tiny town of about 2,000 residents, in the middle of the middle of nowhere, which has nearly reached mythic status, is now a haven for art and design and get-me-the-hell-out-of-society lovers alike.
The hotel options range from kitschy and retro to modern and Dwell magazine-y. If you’re opting for the historic route, book the Hotel Paisano, where Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean stayed while filmed Giant in 1956. For a more modern take, just down the block is Hotel Saint George, a sparse space with white-washed walls.
Warning: Marfa is not easy to get to. Via plane, the closest airport is El Paso, which provides the shortest drive to town – just under three hours. Cell service is sketchy, at best, so map out your stops before you leave the comfort of wifi. Marfa is still the type of place where the shops open only when the owners feel like it. But if the owners of Wrong Marfa, a design gallery and store, feel like opening when you’re there, go.
Montreal + Quebec City
Paris, always. Montreal, also always. For the Francophile, Montreal is Paris Part II. The city has that certain je ne sais quoi, if you will, with its winding cobblestone streets (especially in Old Montreal), traditional bistros and overall air of elegance. Montreal melts all sorts of cultures – not only French, but also Italian, Chinese and Caribbean – into a cool, progressive, art-focused city with Canadian kindness and European flair.
Take in the view at Mount Royal, a mini mountain in the middle of Montreal, and pay the admission fee for Notre-Dame Basilica. It’s worth it. Then down a dozen oysters at Bouillon Bilk’s minimalist space and venture down the street to the restaurant’s sister wine bar, Cadet. To fulfill your need to purchase something impractical to fly home with, gawk at the gorgeous lamps and light fixtures at Lambert & Fils.
If time allows, take a day-trip to Quebec City, if only to wander the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac and gasp at the Montmorency Falls. It’s particularly magical in winter, especially if you pump tough midwestern blood like I do, and a trip down the sledding hill in front of the Frontenac is worth the couple bucks and wind-whipped cheeks.
Also, somewhere in Montreal is Moroccan man named Jawad. I’ll tell you that story another time.
Mexico City, Mexico
Following a 7.1 magnitude earthquake last fall, during which the citizens’ resilience and humanity shone through, Mexico City is ready for visitors once again. An epicenter for edgy art and architecture, the megacity was named the 2018 World Design Capital – the first time a city in the Americas has earned that distinction – and will host events throughout the year tied to its “socially responsible design” theme.
Book a stay at Condesa DF, which feels modern yet warm and welcoming. Though your museum options are extensive, make a point to visit Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo, which is exactly what it sounds like. Then browse Studio Roca, an upscale design store, for home decor items and pieces of furniture you’ll gleefully tell everyone I got that in Mexico City.
As for food, there’s no going wrong. Even the street food is a delight. One notable spot: the famed Pujol restaurant, which recently reopened in a new location with a light-drenched interior and tasting menu featuring some of superstar chef Enrique Olvera’s most legendary dishes. Most excitedly, the new location also includes a taco bar. Count me in. And count on me never leaving.
Go. Frida and Diego would want you to.
Todos Santos, Mexico
There’s one main reason people are now exploring Todos Santos, a tiny town of about 5,000 residents down the dirt roads in Mexico’s Baja California Sur: famed Texan hotelier and all-around cool as hell woman Liz Lambert is to thank.
We’d follow Lambert wherever she goes too. Last year she opened Hotel San Cristobal, an easy-on-the-eyes oceanside hotel spotlighting all made in Mexico details: bedspreads woven in a small village outside of Oaxaca by a mother and son team, palm-woven wood and chairs from a company in Guadalajara. “Every chair, every textile,” says Lambert in an enlightening interview with Standard Hotels. “There’s nothing here that wasn’t created by people of Mexico.”
Imagine sipping a mezcal margarita by the turquoise-tiled pool in your custom kimono robe that was waiting in the room upon your arrival. Enough said? Enough said.
Any places you’ve visited lately that you’ve loved? Any hidden gems out there? Amazing hotels? I’d love more tips.
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images in order of appearance via style me pretty / copenhagen tower / nobis hotel / atelier september / finn beals / finn beals / montana / kyoto shiki juraku / Marfa Prada / lambert & fils / Mexico City Condesa DF / Mexico City Condesa DF 2 / Mexico City Pujol /todos santos cristobal