Traveling is often when we feel most alive. Whether we’re exploring a new place or returning to a beloved city, our senses are heightened when we connect with another culture. Not to mention we can eat well, admire sublime paintings, visit enlightened shops and maybe even catch a few fish — all of my preferred pastimes. Here are some of my favorite travel destinations, near and far. Hopefully they’ll make you want to pack your bag and get out into the world.
When I land in Charleston, South Carolina, I head straight to Lewis Barbecue and I don’t apologize if it’s before noon. I don’t want to start a barbecue argument, but the move here is the beef brisket. Hominy Grill sadly closed, but nearby is Xiao Bao Biscuit, a smart, modern Asian restaurant in an old gas station. Order a cocktail at the Rarebit or in the sleek lobby at the Dewberry. For dinner, try oysters and a fried chicken sandwich at the bar at Leon’s and you’ll do very well. (Oh and don’t miss Ben Silver, the wonderful men’s store on King Street.)
As a New York City resident, I have some strong opinions about where to eat. If you enjoy very good updates on the Gallic tradition, start at Frenchette in Tribeca. The dining room is lovely and lively, the bar is charming, and the wine list is excellent. Il Buco serves classic Italian food in a moody, antique-filled room on Bond Street. Around the corner, sibling spot Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria is a little more airy and perfect for a pizza. New York City is also a great place for breakfast (power or not). Peer over The New York Times at your fellow diners at Balthazar, or if you’re craving something lighter, Jean-Georges’ vegetarian ABCV will set you right.
For Viewing Art
Yes, Paris is home to the legendary Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. But the City of Light has extraordinary small museums with their own personalities and charm. The Musée Cognacq-Jay is a wonderful private collection that focuses on French painters like Chardin and Fragonard. The Musée Maillol in the Seventh Arrondissement has a strong permanent collection featuring favorites like Degas, Matisse and Rousseau, and also hosts good temporary exhibitions. If that’s not enough, visit Delacroix’s studio or, for something a little wilder, try the family-friendly Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (hunting and nature).
What’s wonderful about Florence, Italy, is that you can experience both the Uffizi (a timed ticket later in the afternoon is the way to go) and the Bargello (housed in a former prison). But also make time for masterworks in churches, like the splendid Giotto frescoes in Santa Croce or Fra Angelico’s frescoes in the monks’ chambers at San Marco Museum. Seeing these paintings in the spaces they were designed for is transcendent.
Men like to shop if a store feels small, personal and smartly focused. Welcome to London. You might find yourself wandering in an arcade and the next thing you know, you’re seriously considering a vintage Rolex. There are modern approaches here, such as Drake’s on Savile Row and Speciale, the impressive tailor in Notting Hill. But don’t forget the classics like Sotheran’s, the wonderful old bookstore, and Berry Bros. & Rudd, one of the world’s great wine shops.
I’ve fallen in love with the intimate stores in Venice, Italy. There’s the delightful Chiarastella Cattana for incredible linens and home goods in a 17th century scuola. Keep your eyes open for Venini glass, especially the older vases and bowls that can be found in the antiques stores around town. The gorgeous Martinuzzi is right on St. Mark’s Square and carries lovely linen, glassware and children’s dresses. And if you’re designing your house like a palazzo, visit Bevilacqua for extraordinary fabrics fit for a doge.
Anyone who loves to fly-fish must make the pilgrimage to Patagonia. Your first stop should be the incredible Lodge at Trevelin, run by the expert Patagonia River Guides. There’s no better setting for legendary Argentinian hospitality and fantastic trout fishing. A steak lunch with a good bottle of malbec at the side of the river is a must, and after some coffee, you’ll recover to fish well into the evening. The fishing is great January to April, so you can escape winter while living well in the Southern Hemisphere.
For something more family-oriented, try Turtle Inn in Placencia, at the southern tip of Belize. Stay in the Indonesian-style thatched-roof villas right on the ocean. The hotel can arrange for guides to take you fishing for tarpon and the very elusive permit, a fish designed to break your heart. There’s also a pool and plenty to do for those who aren’t fiercely determined to fish on their holiday.
A Minnesotan turned New Yorker, David Coggins is the author of the New York Times bestseller Men and Style and writes a style column for Artful Living.