Thursday, August 5, 2010

Where are You Going? Top Ten Summer Destinations!

A Peace Treaty's Farah Malik (pictured above) has turned a passion for global travel into an integral part of her lifestyle. Incorporating fashion, economic integrity and activism, she's set the bar for intelligent, creative lladies. Having met Farah at the second Ladies Lotto event ever in 2006 (!!!), she has become a close friend, active member, supporter and travel buddy.

I asked Farah to share her top 10 summer destinations with us. Here's her list and reasons behind her choices (all images courtesy of Ms. Malik):

1) Barcelona
This is the most youth-friendly summer destination in the world. There is something for everyone - museums; the most innovative architecture; markets; parks; outdoor placas; classical music in old roman ruins; the longest laziest, cheapest lunches in the world; discount Zara finds on every street corner; all night parties in converted mansion discotecas in the hills as well as sunrise parties in chiringuitos on the beach and the most incredible yet at times puzzling people-watching ever of subcultures that vary from - techno raveheads to guidos to dread-locked squeegie punk kids. And everyone is always happy - even with the 25% unemployment and devastated local economy!

2) Salina, Aeolian Islands
The most nature-rich of Sicily's Aeolian Islands and also the location for one of the sweetest films - Il Postino (featuring Pablo Neruda's poetry) Salina is my favorite place in the world. It is also said to be the birthplace of granita (the latte di mandorle is the best one ever!) and has a huge agroturismo culture (wherein you can stay on family farms where their simple old world-y restaurants turn out exquisite home cooked meals using produce and ingredients sourced from your surrounding environs). Salina boasts hot sailors and Italian stallions on motorbikes a-plenty as well as capers and a local variation of the Malvasian Wine which is made by pressing grapes which have dried on the vine (and tastes much like the Niagara Region of Canada's Ice Wine which is made by pressing grapes which have frozen on the vine!)

3) Porto Ercole, Tuscany, Italy
A less trodden and utterly charming sea-side town that has the feel of the Riviera and the Amalfi coast without all the sun-burned tourists nor the pomp and perversity of the nouveau riche. It has some beautiful beaches and a really charming fortress on top of a hill that has been converted to condo apartments which are rentable. If Positano or Cinque Terre once charmed you but you're heartbroken over their discovery by the hordes, Porto Ercole will sweep away your sorrows. Hire a car to get around so that you can also savor the tuscan family run farmyard trattorias' specialties of sage and butter gnocchi and real tuscan steaks (even better than the Argentinian variety).

4) Byblos, Lebanon
Known as the oldest city in the world and once the jewel of the Mediterranean (where everyone from Marlon Brando to Bianca Jagger would sail in on their yachts). The NYTimes recently dubbed it the Cannes of the Middle East. Outside and in the surrounding areas of the center of town are to be found some of the most charming beaches truly evocative of middle eastern bathing culture including babes in thong bikinis right next grannies in burquinis. Drive up to Batroun and spend the day lounging at Pierre and Friends for a real taste of Beiruti youth culture (which includes philosophers and intellectuals arguing politics right next to tables of guidos discussing their diamond businesses in West Africa).

5) Otranto, Puglia
In the region of Puglia, at the eastern most tip of Italy, in the heel of the boot is Otranto, a stunning little town on the Adriatic. You've already heard about how Puglia is the next Tuscany - it is in fact more untouched and rustic. The region's cuisine highlights its diverse history - Otranto was once a Greek and Roman port, it was ruled by the Byzantines, the Normans, the Aragonese and also the Muslims - this is all evident in the local culinary specialties which taste almost North African. Drive down to Santa Maria de Leuca to see the sunset and hire a sailboat to really take in the one of kind turquoise gleam of the Adriatic water.

6) Jaipur, India
In the Rajasthan region of India an Oasis in the middle of the Thar dessert lies the pink city of Jaipur. Also the home of India's gem and hand carved woodblock printing industries, Jaipur has a large handicrafts industry and happens to be the eighth place where A Peace Treaty has set up production projects for jewelry and scarf collections. Rajasthan is also the birth place of the first nomadic tribes and gypsy culture. Gypsies or Roma people originated from Rajasthan’s Thar Desert and began migrating West one thousand years ago. Jaipur, apart from being home to some of India's legendary Maharanis and Maharaja's also has great shopping and ancient bazaars that are organized in alleys and known by the trades that the craftsmen specialize in - the silversmith's lane; the embroiderer's lane etc. While summer is not the best time to be in the dessert a plus is that many of Jaipur's palace hotels offer special rates off peak season. Stay at the Rambaagh Palace, surrounded by peacocks and Elephants, voted one of the world's best hotels in the world!

7) Berlin, Germany
Much like Barcelona but with less sun, Berlin is becoming everything that New York tried to be in the 70's and 80's. It has some of the best modern art museums in the world (Hamburger Bahnhof) as well as cuisine - whether it be german dairy and meat specialties or Turkish food that's done at times, even better than in Turkey (at the Turkish Market, Maybachufer, Kreuzberg). Add to that the fact that Berlin is a bicyclist's fantasy and you have a great Bohemian paradise - one of the last places in the Western World (other than Montreal) where you can get a true cosmopolitan city culture (with expansive and cheap old world apartments) at a price comparable to a provincial cost of living.

8) Archipielago de San Blas, Panama
A stretch of 400 (mostly uninhabited paradise islands) off the coast of Panama, a country with incredible historical links to the US and also a place known as the new Costa Rica. Most of the tourism development here has been very eco and ethical and its fascinating to see how hotels and hospitality can indeed be done "right." The indigenous Kuna run the San Blas islands in a mostly autonomous fashion. You can easily rent a thatched roof cottage on stilts on top of the sea for under 20 bucks a night (including the catch of the day prepared in traditional fashion). If you want a more Caribbean and populated experience head over to the surfer paradise (now rapidly being taken over by the tourism industry and a backpacker's haven) Bocas del Toro - also made up of small islands all disconnected from the mainland.

9) Capadocia, Turkey
This other-worldly ancient region in central Turkey is covered in mind-blowing, towering, volcanic stone structures known as fairy chimneys. You can take a hot air balloon ride to take in the bizarre topography; hike through the Love and Pigeon Valleys; travel to a local village to feast on local stuffed breads; visit a thousands of years old network of underground cities; and come back to sleep in your own private cave (feeling like you've been transported to an episode of the Flintstones). Cappadocia's surreal landscape, ancient monastries and serenity make it one on the most tripped out places possible to visit on this planet!

10) Kas, Turkey
This hidden little gem of the Turquoise coast is harder to get to than Olympos and Antalya and so remains preserved. If you thought Greece was paradise, wait til you see Kas. As a stop on the 500km Lycian trail, Kas has all the access to the charms of the south coast with a vibrant local town culture. You can use it as a stop, but with it's arresting views of the Mediterranean across the peninsula including the nearby Greek island of Meis, you might never want to leave. The Turquoise coast and some of its ancient ruins (at nearby Kekova) are best explored by boat or kayak.

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