New York City: the name itself has such a magnetic quality to it that you can't help but stay away from this place for too long. Fitzgerald found “wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world” here. For us, it embodies opportunity, diversity, and creativity in every sense that a city can. Something about New York makes it seem untouchable; humbling you in a way that no other place is able to. New York has always been a place to escape to for us; a city of many personalities that can offer you something unique no matter the season, year, or purpose of travel. Words can never represent this city accurately, but personal stories always seem more appropriate. Ours began with a trip to New York together in 2014, in which we gallivanted endlessly to only discover the neighborhoods we enjoyed the most at the very end of our trip. We kept this in mind for our next visit in 2015, sticking to those neighborhoods built up of low and mid-rise blocks that let the sun fill the streets into the late afternoon. New York has pockets and islands of culture and atmosphere, which is why visiting it is like being able to be in twenty places at once.
- TriBeCa for density, mid-rise old architecture, and men with suits in the late afternoon.
- SoHo for careless shopping, photography, and meandering through cobblestone streets.
- East Village for hidden retail gems, whole food goodness, and ice cream at Van Leeuwen.
- NoLita and NoHo for great coffee and breakfast, afternoon wandering, and lifestyle shops.
- Meatpacking District for retail variety, architectural gems like The Whitney, and long walks on the Highline.
- The Bowery for good architecture, quick museum visits, and brunch destinations.
- Upper Midtown for Central Park walks, visits to the MoMA, and evening hangouts at the Lincoln Center.
- Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO for quiet streets and alleys, views of the city, and good pizza.
- West Village for quiet dinners on intimate streets, Saturday window-shopping, and late night drinks.
Of course, the last neighborhood is where Adriana uttered those sweet words "I do", so we may be a bit biased about it! New York is all about walking the streets to us; a city so fast-paced requires you to slow down a bit in order to embrace it. An ideal day would be a late morning waking up at The Nolitan, acai bowls and avo toast for breakfast at Two Hands in NoLita, then some shopping and strolling around the cobblestone streets of SoHo, head over to Meatpacking for a late lunch at Nourish Kitchen and a visit to Renzo Piano's Whitney Museum to see the latest exhibit, then an afternoon coffee pick-me-up at Happy Bones, a quick pamper back at the hotel, an evening stroll window-shopping through West Village culminating with an intimate dinner at Blenheim curbside, head to the Highline after for a post-dinner hangout spent people-watching, and finish off with a late night drink in a cozy corner at Buvette. This quintessential urban jungle delights us and tests us equally. It makes us fall in love upon the first visit, and then delights us and surprises us with the next; enticing you to fall in love all over again.
There is certainly something about Paris that is dreamy, effortless, and just plain lovely. Appropriately, it embodies that "je ne sais quoi" atmosphere that makes it tick and run so nonchalantly. The thin, intimate streets that wind every which way and the warm, beige limestone buildings that emit that warm, late afternoon light just perfectly; it isn't surprising to us that the qualities of Paris have inspired artists, poets, architects, and writers for centuries. Paris has the capability to make you feel completely lost and be completely fine with it, a quality that few cities are able to have in the same way that this one does. Our relationship with this city began when Mateusz moved here to attend studies and research in architecture, only to be joined by Adriana in the early summer. For the remainder of the season, we called Paris home and spent our days wandering the streets, picnicking in parks, and sipping coffee at street-side cafes, talking late into the night. As a couple, we fell in love all over again here. So we owe Paris, and each of the neighborhoods that gave us great memories, the honor of being the city which inspired us and our love of travel. A whole world in 20 arrondissements, each having it's own character, emotions, and attitudes.
- 1st arrondissement was home, so we stayed here for evenings at Le Louvre, fresh baguette runs, and rue St. Honore.
- Le Marais for art and architecture at Pompidou, hidden bars, and street markets.
- Saint-Germain-des-Pres for lovely courtyards, private art galleries, and evening ice cream.
- 7th arrondissement for picnics in the park, casual Musee Rodin visits, and triumphant architecture.
- Place Vendome for window shopping, garden strolls, and nights at L'Opera.
- Ile De La Cite for beautiful churches, great crepes, and evening strolls along the Seine.
- 8th arrondissement for tourist culture, Palais de Tokyo, and corner-side cafes.
- Montmartre for sweeping views, Sacre-Coeur, and small, intimate streets with art sellers.
- 16th arrondissement for peaceful walks, lovely pastries, and views of the tower.
To write of these places simply does not scratch the surface of the memories that they hold. But that is what Paris does: it pulls you in, reveals in you qualities you didn't think existed, and it stays with you and your memories. An ideal day would be a late morning waking up to the sounds of the streets, a walk to the nearest boulangerie for a fresh baguette, tarte aux framboise, and a croissant de beurre, shopping for our next book at Shakespeare & Co in the early afternoon, a good coffee and people-watching at Frenchie to Go, shopping and strolling along rue Saint-Honore, grabbing a baguette and picnicking at Champ de Mars in the late afternoon, afterwards a visit to Musee Rodin and its beautiful gardens, a quiet dinner at Septime, an evening strolling the Seine back home with a sweet crepe in hand, culminating with a late night conversation sitting in the Louvre courtyards. This city can give you a quiet and self-reflective visit of intimacy, wine, and good conversation, or an adventurous trip of history, walking, and museum-hopping. Choose your path, and Paris will still most likely surprise you.
There's nothing like home base. You can travel the world and be enthralled by everything you see and experience, but something about home should feel familiar and comforting while still being able to surprise and entice you. For us, Toronto embodies those characteristics perfectly. Mateusz first moved here to pursue graduate studies in architecture and to complete a series of internships, before Adriana joined him a year later in what would become a place we couldn't be happier to live in and be a part of. Before crafting his signature bold and terse style as a writer in Paris, Hemingway called Toronto home as a journalist, and the rapid prosperity and confidence of the city in the 20's most likely lent a hand in establishing his triumphantly bold writing. Today, that prosperity and confidence is alive and well in Toronto. A city made up of main street neighborhoods and lovely Victorian rowhouses, Toronto offers diversity in every way: socially, urbanistically, and culturally. What we love about it is the opportunities it offers you and how much it embraces a society of people with different goals, aspirations, and interests. This is embraced in its physical nature as a city. Toronto has that metropolitan atmosphere paired with plenty of enclaves that feel small-town and intimate. Each day, we migrate to different parts of the city to work, explore, and relax, all based on what we are after.
- Old Town is home, so we stay here for walks to the market, lovely brick architecture, and furniture shopping.
- Finacial District for tall towers, hidden fancy restaurants, and weekday hustle.
- West Queen West for a young crowd, unique shops, and late night eats near Ossington & Dundas.
- Waterfront for morning runs and bike rides, urban renewal at its best, and wide lake horizons.
- Fashion District for laid-back dinners, good pastries, and evening party and theater goers.
- Riverside and Leslieville for independent shops, family parks, and sun-filled Saturday walks.
- Yorkville for expensive clothes, art galleries & architecture, and fancy cars.
- Distillery District for European nostalgia, cobblestone streets, and vintage shops with rare finds.
- Kensington Market for cheap eats, graffiti-covered walls, and urban authenticity.
It's painfully difficult to list just a few neighborhoods, as Toronto is filled with them. But one thing that roots them all are the fantastic coffee options in this city. It's not hard to find a great independent shop, because coffee is a culture in Toronto, and so it's only fitting that our day always starts with one. An ideal day would be an early morning run by the waterfront, closely followed by cortados and a parfait at Odin Coffee, strolling the Queen West strip for unique finds throughout the morning, lunch with a good croissant on the sun-lit terrace at Colette Grand Cafe, checking out the Gehry-designed Art Gallery of Ontario in the late afternoon, a quick pick-me-up at Sam James Coffee, evening window-shopping on the streets of Yorkville, and a late dinner at Buca for some chef sightings and incredible pasta. Words are never enough for this city, but of course some have tried. Drake has said it's called the "6ix". Hemingway said "No city in the world has a better-run and more comfortable streetcar system." We say, come visit and decide for yourself. You may end up just staying here like we did.
No matter where you go or what changes, where you are from remains the same. For us, hometown is Ottawa; the place where we both grew up and spent much of our adolescent lives. We met in Ottawa as kids and began our courtship years later here, so Ottawa will always hold a dear place in our hearts. What is now captivating about Canada's capital is the transition that it has been experiencing, one that has arguably transformed the city over the last 12 years or so. Ottawa represents the ability for a city to attract a younger population, and thus begin to transform its social platform through new places to meet, shop, eat, and gather. The city has always been rich historically, with downtown Ottawa having some of the most picturesque buildings and public landscapes in Canada. But what has been inspiring to see is the shifts that the city has begun to embrace in terms of social culture, with new spots constantly popping up that testify to a new wave of creative individuals in the city. From the latest restaurant, to a new neighborhood barbershop, to a carefully-crafted lifestyle store filled with locally-made goods, the creative diversity of the city is growing and this trend is not showing signs of stopping. Each time we return to see family and friends, we always enjoy the new offerings that Ottawa has presented.
- The Glebe for local shops, calming afternoon walks, and good infill housing.
- Byward Market for restaurant variety, Saturday morning food market, and late night party happenings.
- Centretown for underrated dinner spots, architecture of the Museum of Nature, and new developments.
- Hintonburg for great doughnuts at Suzy Q's, local coffee shops, and independently-owned retail joints.
- Downtown for picturesque architecture, photography, and bike rides along the Rideau Canal.
- Westboro for new lunch spots, family-oriented stores, and weekday hangouts.
- Little Italy and LeBreton Flats for new architecture, traditional coffee shops, and Dow's Lake winter skating.
- Old Ottawa South for ice cream dates, Landsdowne Park farmer's market, and evening views of the Canal.
- Rockliffe Park for historic houses, views from the escarpment, and weekend runs.
Ottawa is made up of these pocket neighborhoods, and each of them hold a few hidden gems that have regenerated the area. Of course their disconnected nature across the city makes them hard to visit as a collective, but devote about half a day to any of them and you'll enjoy what they have to offer. An ideal day would be breakfast at Chez Edgar on the Hull side across the river, a walk across the Alexandra Bridge to the peaceful Major Hill's Park, a late morning visit to the National Art Gallery to see some recent exhibits, lunch at La Bottega Nicastro for a good sandwich, an afternoon trim at House of Barons barbershop, afterwards a leisurely bike ride along the Rideau Canal, and finishing off with a trendy dinner at North & Navy. Perhaps if there's time, a cab ride to Stella Luna afterwards for impeccable late-night gelato. If you take anything from Ottawa, take it's ability to have a small-town culture with beautiful public landscapes and the new flux of a creative social scene. It's a winning combination for a city on the rise.