Three Perfect Days: Hangzhou - United Hub
Hemispheres

Three Perfect Days: Hangzhou

By The Hub team , June 02, 2017

Story by Benjamin Carlson | Photography by Scott Turner | Hemispheres June 2017

Hangzhou is enchantingly two-faced: One side is a classic Chinese painting—all fog-wreathed hills and lyrical lagoons—and the other is a futurescape where cash is dead, luxury cars are everywhere, and the deliveryman is an internet entrepreneur. For centuries, the ancient city has represented an aesthetic ideal for the Chinese. Now, it is the country's e-commerce capital, with all the wealth and ramped-up cool that implies. Hangzhou today has the trappings of a global megalopolis and the temperament of a small town—which is about as happy a contradiction as a city can have.

Day 1 graphic

In which Ben cycles through paradise, contemplates the benefits of being ruled by poets, and encounters his first virtual maître d'

So perfect are the waters of Hangzhou's West Lake that its name has become a byword for beauty. I awake minutes away from this jewel in the Four Seasons Hotel, an extremely agreeable update on the palaces of the Song dynasty. The day starts on my private terrace, with coffee and a green-tea scone, beside a glade of bamboo and plum blossoms. I sit and ponder an old Chinese idiom that says “Above there is heaven; below there is Hangzhou."

On my way out, a young woman at the front desk in a neon-green qipao dress offers me a bike. I cycle out of the hotel driveway and onto a winding road. The bicycle lane is already a clutter of colorful frames—fruits of the proliferation of local bike-sharing apps. To my left, electric buses zip silently by, carting tourists in caps and backpacks. After 10 minutes, the lake is visible through the trees: gray-green, wreathed by verdant hills.

The lake was formed more than a thousand years ago, when the Qiantang River delta became filled with silt, causing a small bay to become a freshwater lake. In the ninth century, the poet-governor Bai Juyi built a dyke, raised a causeway, and gave the body of water its name: Xihu, or West Lake. Over the thousand-plus years since, it has been expanded and elaborated by many hands, with bridges, gardens, and pagodas that have inspired generations of landscape architects across Asia.

A West Lake pagodaA West Lake pagoda

I ride up the lake's western perimeter, past the tomb of Su Xiaoxiao (a “famous sing-song girl" of the fifth century, says a sign), and cross the Bai Causeway. The poet's road is rolling and green; it makes me wonder how much nicer I-95 might be if Emily Dickinson had been involved.

After 10 minutes, I reach an island called Solitary Hill, named for the many scholars and poets who have taken refuge here. Now, it's busy with tourists and retirees doing odd exercises. I see a pair of old men vigorously clapping their hands behind their backs. A white-haired fellow flies by on in-line skates, singing and waving a yellow streamer. A grizzled cyclist blasts Beijing opera from a small speaker. An elderly unicyclist wobbles across the road.

I duck into a mossy courtyard, home to a museum of “epigraphy and sphragistics," the study of ancient seals and inscriptions. Nearby, stone stairs run to the top of Solitary Hill. I decide to climb and take in the view that inspired literati like Bai Juyi. I pant up the first set of stairs to a small landing, where a sign informs me that Su Dongpo—Hangzhou's other poet governor and the namesake of a delicious pork dish—compared the life of man to a goose's footprint in the snow. I pant farther upward. At the top, with the blue lake glinting and an oriole pecking a bamboo stalk, I am moved to construct a verse of my own.

Man's life

May be spent wondering

What's for lunch

Suddenly ravenous, I rush down the hill, hop on my bike, and race across the causeway, expertly avoiding selfie sticks as I go. Luckily, I have lunch plans close by: On the eastern side of the lake I'm meeting Jingjing Hong at the Green Tea restaurant, a chain specializing in Hangzhou staples.

Jingjing studied fashion in Shanghai, and she looks the part in hoop earrings and a black and pink sweater. A cofounder of a local English-language magazine, she has lived in the city for over a decade and witnessed its transformation from a second-tier backwater to a first-class destination. “Hangzhou is a really strange city," she says when she greets me at the crowded door. I soon see what she means. While the food at Green Tea is classic fare, everything else is newfangled. To book a table, I scan a barcode. A real-time monitoring app opens on my phone. There are 15 people in front of you, it says. Jingjing notes that this is typical Hangzhou: high-tech and trendy, but rooted in tradition. “I don't think there's any other city where in 15 minutes you can go from downtown to the tea fields," she says.

The dining room at the Four SeasonsThe dining room at the Four Seasons

My phone buzzes. There are five people in front of you. You are next! You are next!

The app tells me our table is on the fifth floor. I wave down a waitress and ask for a menu. She shakes her head and points to another barcode. I scan it and get an interactive menu. Jingjing helps me pick a few local favorites: green tea–roasted pork with crispy skin glazed in spices; tubular rice noodles in savory egg broth; shaved bamboo shoots with green beans. I send the order. A few minutes later, the dishes arrive. As we eat, Jingjing tells me about the mystifying fame and fortune of the city's vloggers, who livestream their days to hordes of fans. “I went to a birthday party for an internet celebrity. I didn't know who she was, but she was like a third-tier movie star."

At a nearby table, a very pale girl with long, sleek hair holds up her phone and gives a coquettish smile, tilting her head this way and that. I ask Jingjing where I should go tonight if I want to see more of Hangzhou's glamorous side. “Park Hyatt, Forty8," she says. “That's where the posh generation goes."

I pay with a tap of the phone and say goodbye. No cash, no menu, no problem.

Group of men walking the streets of Hangzhou

In the afternoon, I prowl the business district that runs along the bank of the Qiantang River. At a sculpture garden near the InterContinental, which resembles a giant golden candy apple, I follow tourists from statue to statue: a tower of fish, a girl with a cloud brassiere. A gang of middle-age men is particularly interested in a giant chair made of branches and twigs. “What is it?" A man grabs a leg and pulls. The chair doesn't budge.

“It's metal!" His friend reads a label on the base. “It's called 'Sitting Man.'"

“That's a man?"

“That's not a man," says a little girl walking by with her father.

I take a cab back to the Four Seasons and descend to the spa. My masseur, Peter, has a handshake like a catcher's mitt. Perfect. I
follow him down a cool, dark passage lined with channels of running water. I am reminded of the throne room of the Wizard of Oz. I lie down, and Peter begins squeezing my neck. There is a grinding sound.

“Your neck is bad."

“I know."

“Open your mouth."

“Why?"

“Just do."

I do. Peter leans down on a pressure point. Something unclenches.

“Oh!"

After washing up, I head to dinner at the hotel's celebrated restaurant, Jin Sha, where I dine in a private room. The waiter brings out a fine bottle of red from the highlands of Ningxia Province, and the chef sends out a parade of seafood courses: vermicelli and clams, marinated lobster with Sichuan peppercorns, bamboo shoot salad with fish roe, and a divine pork dish (named Dongpo, after the poet) with abalone in sweet soy sauce glaze. For dessert: Longjing tea-flavored cream pudding.

“Within walking distance of seven temples, Amanfayun has the air of a Tang dynasty hamlet."

I waddle out and hail a cab to the Forty8 at the Park Hyatt, per Jingjing's suggestion. In the whooshing elevator, my fellow ascendants are all outrageously elegant, though none appear to be livestreaming themselves. I find a spot at the mottled marble whiskey bar. Behind me is a glass-floor balcony that takes in a panorama from West Lake to the Qiantang River.

A jazz band does a sultry cover of “Just the Two of Us" as Hangzhou's hippest sip lychee cocktails. I order a single malt, then another. Soon, I am chatting up the jazz singer and her bass player during a break. They're new to the city—musicians from Montreal who've played hotels in Seoul, Dubai, Bangkok, Beijing. I offer to buy them a drink, but they decline.

“Time to play, man."

As the band retakes the stage, I grow sleepy looking down at the serpentine river, the golden orb of the InterCon, the brooding lake, and the mountains lurking somewhere in the dark.

Day 2 graphic

In which Ben wakes up in the wild west, drinks his body weight in green tea, and discovers parallels between modern Hangzhou and 19th-century France

I am wakened early by a series of urgent squawks—egrets, perhaps, or cranes. I raise the bamboo blinds. Across the tea fields, on the far bank of a burbling stream, I see the real source of the racket: two slightly hysterical geese.

This is Amanfayun, a resort that's more village than conventional hotel. Spread over 35 acres in a valley just west of the lake—the wild west, as Jingjing called it—the property consists of 47 immaculately preserved tea cottages nestled in groves of osmanthus and camphor. Within walking distance of seven temples, the resort has the air of a Tang dynasty hamlet, but inside the brick-and-earth lodgings, the feel is contemporary luxury, with bronze Lefroy Brooks plumbing fixtures and bamboo furnishings, including a long daybed with a table for sampling Dragon Well tea plucked in the property's own fields

Olivier Hervet, galleristOlivier Hervet, gallerist

It's a fitting way to start the day, as I'll be biking to Longjing, which produces perhaps the most famous and coveted green tea in China. First, I head through the mist to fortify myself at the resort restaurant: a sumptuous spread of currant danish and mascarpone blueberry buttermilk pancakes.

As I walk along the quarter-mile trail to the street, a tree speaks to me: “Have a good day." I step back in alarm, until a valet in muted khaki manifests like a camouflaged agent. He and his compatriots are posted every hundred yards along the trail to guide visitors away from the private lodgings.

My first stop of the day is the National Tea Museum, which lies off a winding road among lush green fields and irrigation ponds lined by flowering cherry and magnolia trees. The small but excellent museum traces the origins of tea from its earliest cultivation in southwestern Sichuan province 3,000 years ago, when the trees stood 30 feet tall. Its leaves were eaten, drunk, and boiled in soup. In the Tang dynasty, monks embraced the drink because it allowed them to meditate all night. One room shows dazzling varieties: white, green, black, red, oolong. Some of these can be sampled at a tasting station.

I continue on toward the village. The road rises past burbling springs and rockeries garlanded with vines and moss. I stop to catch my breath at the Longjing Temple, where garrulous ladies play a card game called dou di zhu (“beat the landlord") at cane tables and sip from thermoses of green tea. I look around for a cup, but the soda vendor shrugs and points farther uphill.

“In some ways, Hangzhou is the most Chinese city in China. It has everything traditional Chinese culture has to offer—tea, art, temples, mountains, and lakes—next to the country's most innovative companies." -Olivier Hervet

At last, I arrive in Longjing village, and a second after I've parked my bike a petite old lady with a pixie cut and swift step taps me on the arm. “You want to try tea? Come to my sister's house." I follow her through a scattering of white-tiled farmhouses and tea shops dotting the misty hillsides. As we walk, she tells a story about dragons—or at least I think it's about dragons; her accent is thick. She leads me up a steep staircase to a red-brick house surrounded by green tea shrubs. Her sister sits me at a table and pours three tall glasses of tea.

“This one is last year's harvest, the cheapest. This one is good quality. And this one is fresh picked—the best." I drain all three glasses and she pours me another round. “Do you like them?" she asks. I tell her I do, and buy a tin of the good stuff.

The ride downhill is swift, and soon I reach the China Academy of Art, where I'm meeting gallerist Olivier Hervet for lunch. Impeccably dressed in a fitted blazer, Oxford shirt, and scarf, Hervet is easy to pick out of the crowd. The fact that he has brown hair and is French also helps.

West LakeWest Lake

“Here, this place is very nice," he says, leading me across the street to the Yuexiu Spring restaurant. We take a table by the window and start ordering: Dongpo pork, pork soup dumplings, and glass noodles in savory broth. A longtime resident of China, Hervet moved to Hangzhou in 2013 after touring the country scouting places to open a gallery. “We went through quite a few cities, and I must say, I fell for Hangzhou," he recalls. “The fact that it's an old cultural capital means they are much more sensitive to art."

After opening HDM Gallery, which focuses on contemporary Chinese art, he found his first client at the Academy's graduation exhibition. The artist's work sold out within two hours. “I think it's one of the most, if not the most sophisticated city in China," Hervet tells me, dipping a dumpling into rich sauce. “People are wealthy, but they don't flaunt it. They like Grand Cru, not monogrammed clothes." He stops short. “You don't eat cartilage?" He eyes a pile I've hidden under a napkin and, with panache, picks a morsel from the serving dish and pops it into his mouth.

After lunch, we wander among the Bauhaus-inspired buildings of the Academy. Hervet is a great champion of China's artists. He believes they are more dynamic, universal, and technically adept than their counterparts in the West. “Chinese painters are more idealistic. I won't say they don't care about money, but they don't care as much. The greatest art comes from countries in times of great social change. Look at the U.S. in the '60s, France during the time of Romanticism. Now, it's happening here."

The view from the Baoshi Mountain LookoutThe view from the Baoshi Mountain Lookout

I say goodbye to Hervet and head for the nearby crafts gallery 101 West Lake, where I pick up a hand-painted, thimble-size china tea cup and flip it over to see the price: $100. I place it back gingerly.

Not far from here, in a park by the lake, 50 senior-citizen couples twirl in a grove of linden trees. A man sings through a tinny sound system while musicians scrape two-string erhu violins and bang woodblocks, and another, serious-faced man in pressed trousers claps his hands and stamps to demonstrate a tango step for a woman in a flowing skirt. “Watch how I do it. One, two, boom! One, two, boom!"

Farther along the shoreline, I see a woman in a wedding dress perched on a narrow railing over the water, her veil billowing in the stiff lake breeze. In the distance, a three-story-tall dragon-shaped boat floats menacingly behind a small junk.

For dinner tonight, I'm meeting longtime expat Tim More at La Pedrera, a popular Spanish restaurant inspired by and named after Antoni Gaudí's famous Barcelona building. (Its exterior is all tiled curves, mosaicked lizards, and undulating walls.) A serial entrepreneur, More has a shaved head, a lingering New York accent, and four cell phones. For 10 years, he owned and operated one of Hangzhou's most popular bars, before the government shut it during renovations for last year's G20bconference. Now, he runs an empire of
magazines that cover China's second-tier cities.

Dongpo pork at Jin ShaDongpo pork at Jin Sha

We order a bottle of La Miranda Secastilla Garnacha Blanca, tapas of grilled foie gras and pineapple compote, beef and egg yolk tartare, pork neck, and a squid-ink paella with squid, razor clams, and Argentine king prawns. As we eat, More tells me his story, the Hangzhou chapter of which begins in 1994. I ask how Hangzhou has changed since then. He swallows a morsel, thinks a second, and stares. “It's gone from taking taxis everywhere to taking your own Ferrari. It's gone from people buying three beers for 10 yuan to people buying a cocktail for 80. It's gone from cheap hamburgers to stuff like this." He jiggles a cube of foie gras for emphasis.

After dinner, we walk through the drizzle to a nearby bistro-cum-bar, Provence. A mixed crowd of French- and English-speaking patrons leaps up to greet More. We sit at a corner table where two Americans are chatting. “I don't want to sound crazy, but I don't trust banks anymore," one of them says. He shows me a plastic card he's invented to store and spend Bitcoins. Not to be outdone, his companion pulls out a piece of whitish wood from his bag. “That's made from hemp. I invented it."

I gulp a mouthful of Merlot and try to think of things I've invented, but the conversation turns to other matters: African safaris, a stolen Ferrari, methods for shipping live Chesapeake crabs around the world in a chartered jet. “One shipment, and you'd be a millionaire," says the hemp-wood inventor. For me, the idea conjures images of thousands of little crabs wearing seat belts. Might be time to call it a night.

Day 3 graphic

In which Ben flirts with local aunties, enjoys his umpteenth serving of Dongpo pork, and gets philosophical during a sax solo

I wake to the scent of lemongrass and incense. Last night, in a rare bout of post-bar foresight, I lit several of the candles and joss sticks provided in my room at the Banyan Tree Resort. The result is invigorating, even (ahem) sobering. I open the silk brocade curtains and see a stone bridge curving over green water. Falling back for a minute onto a lacquered divan, I somehow lose another half hour. In the restaurant, my breakfast—a tall glass of Prosecco paired with a heap of fried taro root—draws stares.

The resort, 15 minutes from the city center, is on the grounds of another natural wonder: the Xixi wetlands, China's first such national park. A 10-minute golf-cart ride takes me and a few other guests to the docks. Our party includes a young boy who drops his Mickey Mouse doll as we zip along, forcing us to stop. His mother notices me and instructs him to say hello to the foreigner. He does, and drops the doll again.

Upon arrival, we hire one of the dozen or so wood-bottomed boats that take tourists out on the water. A young guide points out birds native to the wetlands—egrets, doves, cranes—but her speaker is no match for a woman bellowing lunch plans into her phone. “Not Sichuanese!"

Tim More, publishing entrepreneurTim More, publishing entrepreneur

The ride itself is more tranquil: White cranes flap languidly and disappear into thickets of bamboo and willow. Fishermen cast and reel their lines. Pink-black plum trees wink in the breeze. At the next stop, I get off and wander through an old silk-weaving village. When I return to the boat, the only seat left is with a retiree tour group from Henan province. I am easily 30 years younger than any other passenger.

My seatmate introduces herself as Ms. Guo. “We have been traveling for 400 days. We went to Shanghai, Korea, Japan…" Suddenly the passengers around me burst into deafening song: “Mao Zedong's Thought is the soul of the Chinese people!"

After the anthem's rousing conclusion, Ms. Guo asks whether I like China or America. When I tell her I like both, she grins and pats my knee. A passing auntie with a bouffant announces, “We all think you're cute!"

On the way out of the park, I eat a bowl of green-tea noodles in clear broth at a restaurant whose name translates as “Male-Female Park," and then catch a cab to Hefang Jie, an old-fashioned (but extensively renovated) boulevard. Vendors sell stinky tofu, coconut milk, and cucumber face masks. A mustached man plays a klezmer-style solo on a wooden instrument his sign identifies as a “Chinese saxophone." Nearby, an elderly couple wait patiently for their turn to sit on a gold-plated Buddha. “Hurry, sit down," the wife says, patting Buddha's thigh. In a nearby shop, two boys sing a lusty tune as they beat peanuts and corn syrup into a thick sheet. My phone rings.

“The Hangzhounese are like no other people I've met in China. Though I've been to 30 cities in the country, I can say that here, they all like their leisure time—not to mention their moneymaking time…" -Tim More

“Ben, do you know where to go?" The voice, deep like a radio host's, belongs to my dinner companion, Denis Xu. Fluent in English and French, Denis is a bon vivant and language teacher who instructs students over WeChat, China's most popular messaging app.

I take a cab to Little Southland Restaurant, on a narrow street of seafood eateries housed in elegantly refurbished industrial plants. Denis greets me upstairs. Wearing fatigues and combat boots, and with close-cropped hair, he has the look of an affable soldier. We enjoy a meal of “beggar's chicken" (a local dish in which the bird is wrapped and baked in clay), fermented fish, pork kidney and tofu, and yet more Dongpo pork. Afterward, Denis leads me and a group to 7 Club, an underground hangout with a wall covered in calligraphy. “My friend made that," he says. “Calligraphy painters make a lot of money now, selling over WeChat. They paint three an hour; one sells for 4,000 yuan ($580). That's good money."

We down our Tiger beers and head out to nearby You To Bar, a smoke-filled joint where a slender, goateed guitarist is belting out a ballad. The manager shakes Denis's hand and sends over a mini-keg of beer.

After that, time seems to swim. Denis tells stories about Tunisia; I am proposing a world of poet-governors. A saxophone player blasts a killer solo as lights slice through the swirling smoke. “This is the real, Chinese local place," Denis yells above the din, which is about as big a compliment as you can give in Hangzhou.

Benjamin Carlson, a Beijing-based writer, is seriously thinking about patenting his safety device for Chesapeake crabs.

Taking action to make a global impact

By The Hub team , January 17, 2020

Following the devastating wildfires in Australia and powerful earthquakes that shook Puerto Rico last week, we're taking action to make a global impact through our international partnerships as well as nonprofit organizations Afya Foundation and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency).

Helping Puerto Rico recover from earthquakes

Last week, Puerto Rico was hit with a 5.2 magnitude earthquake, following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake it experienced just days before. The island has been experiencing hundreds of smaller quakes during the past few weeks.

These earthquakes destroyed crucial infrastructure and left 4,000 people sleeping outside or in shelters after losing their homes. We've donated $50,000 to our partner charity organization Airlink and through them, we've helped transport disaster relief experts and medical supplies for residents, as well as tents and blankets for those who have lost their homes. Funding will go towards organizations within Airlink's partner network, which includes Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Corps and Americares, to help with relief efforts and long-term recovery.

Australian wildfire relief efforts

Our efforts to help Australia have inspired others to make their own positive impact. In addition to teaming up with Ellen DeGeneres to donate $250,000 and launching a fundraising campaign with GlobalGiving to benefit those impacted by the devastating wildfires in the country known for its open spaces and wildlife, our cargo team is helping to send more than 600 pounds of medical supplies to treat injured animals in the region.

Helping us send these supplies is the Afya Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to improve global health by collecting surplus medical supplies and delivering them to parts of the world where they are most needed. Through Airlink, the Afya Foundation will send more than $18,000 worth of materials that will be used to treat animals injured in the Australian fires.

These medical supplies will fly to MEL (Melbourne) and delivered to The Rescue Collective. This Australian organization is currently focused on treating the massive population of wildlife, such as koalas, kangaroos, and birds, that have had their habitats destroyed by the recent wildfires. The supplies being sent include wound dressings, gloves, catheters, syringes and other items that are unused but would otherwise be disposed of.

By working together, we can continue to make a global impact and help those affected by natural disasters to rebuild and restore their lives


Help us (and Ellen DeGeneres) support wildfire relief efforts in Australia

By The Hub team , January 08, 2020

Australia needs our help as wildfires continue to devastate the continent that's beloved by locals and travelers alike. In times like these, the world gets a little smaller and we all have a responsibility to do what we can.

On Monday, The Ellen DeGeneres Show announced a campaign to raise $5 million to aid in relief efforts. When we heard about Ellen's effort, we immediately reached out to see how we could help.

Today, we're committing $250,000 toward Ellen's campaign so we can offer support now and help with rebuilding. For more on The Ellen DeGeneres Show efforts and to donate yourself, you can visit www.gofundme.com/f/ellenaustraliafund

We're also matching donations made to the Australian Wildfire Relief Fund, created by GlobalGiving's Disaster Recovery Network. This fund will support immediate relief efforts for people impacted by the fires in the form of emergency supplies like food, water and medicine. Funds will also go toward long-term recovery assistance, helping residents recover and rebuild. United will match up to $50,000 USD in donations, and MileagePlus® members who donate $50 or more will receive up to 1,000 award miles from United. Donate to GlobalGiving.

Please note: Donations made toward GlobalGiving's fund are only eligible for the MileagePlus miles match.

In addition to helping with fundraising, we're staying in touch with our employees and customers in Australia. Together, we'll help keep Australia a beautiful place to live and visit in the years to come.

20 Reasons to Travel in 2020

By Hemispheres Magazine , January 01, 2020


20. Spot Giant Pandas in China

In 2016, giant pandas were removed from the endangered species list, and China would like to keep it that way. This year, the country plans to consolidate the creatures' known habitats into one unified national park system spanning nearly 10,500 square miles across Sichuan, Gansu, and Shaanxi provinces—about the size, in total, of Massachusetts. —Nicholas DeRenzo


19. Follow in James Bond's Footsteps in Jamaica

Photo: Design Pics/Carson Ganci/Getty Images

When No Time to Die hits theaters on April 8, it marks a number of returns for the James Bond franchise. The 25th chapter in the Bond saga is the first to come out since 2015's Spectre; it's Daniel Craig's fifth go-round as 007, after rumors the actor was set to move on; and it's the first time the series has filmed in Jamaica since 1973's Live and Let Die. The Caribbean island has always had a special place in Bond lore: It was the location of one of creator Ian Fleming's homes, GoldenEye (which is now a resort), and the setting for the first 007 movie, 1962's Dr. No. Looking to live like a super-spy? You don't need a license to kill—just a ride to Port Antonio, where you can check out filming locations such as San San Beach and colonial West Street. Remember to keep your tux pressed and your Aston Martin on the left side of the road. —Justin Goldman


18. See the Future of Architecture in Venice

Every other year, Venice hosts the art world's best and brightest during its celebrated Biennale. But the party doesn't stop during off years, when the Architecture Biennale takes place. This year, curator Hashim Sarkis, the dean of MIT's School of Architecture and Planning, has tasked participants with finding design solutions for political divides and economic inequality; the result, on display from May to November, is the intriguing show How Will We Live Together? —Nicholas DeRenzo

17. Celebrate Beethoven's 250th Birthday in Bonn

Photo: Universal History Archive/Getty Images
Catch a Beethoven concerto in Bonn, Germany, to celebrate the hometown hero's big 2-5-0.

16. Eat Your Way Through Slovenia

When Ana Roš of Hiša Franko was named the World's Best Female Chef in 2017, food lovers began to wonder: Do we need to pay attention to Slovenia? The answer, it turns out, is definitely yes. This March, the tiny Balkan nation about two hours east of Venice gets its own Michelin Guide. —Nicholas DeRenzo

15. Star- (and Sun-) Gaze in Patagonia

Photo: blickwinkel/Alamy

Come December 13 and 14, there will be no better spot for sky-watchers than northern Patagonia, which welcomes both the peak of the Geminid meteor shower and a total solar eclipse within 24 hours. —Nicholas DeRenzo

14. Explore Miami's Game-Changing New Park

About 70,000 commuters use Miami's Metrorail each day, and city planners aim to turn the unused space beneath its tracks into an exciting new public space, a 10-mile linear park aptly named The Underline. Luckily, the Magic City is in good hands: The project is being helmed by James Corner Field Operations, the geniuses behind New York's High Line. “Both projects share similarities in their overarching goals," says principal designer Isabel Castilla, “to convert a leftover infrastructural space into a public space that connects neighborhoods, generates community, and encourages urban regeneration." When finished, Miami's park will be about seven times as long as its Big Apple counterpart. The first half-mile leg, set to open this June, is the Brickell Backyard, which includes an outdoor gym, a butterfly garden, a dog park, and gaming tables that call to mind the dominoes matches you'll find nearby in Little Havana. “We envision the Underline dramatically changing the way people in Miami engage with public space," Castilla says. —Nicholas DeRenzo

Photo: philipus/Alamy

13. Kick Off the NFL in Las Vegas

Photo: Littleny/Alamy

Former Raiders owner Al Davis was famous for saying, “Just win, baby." His son, Mark Davis, the team's current owner, is more likely to be shouting “Vegas, baby!" Swingers-style, as his team becomes Sin City's first NFL franchise, the Las Vegas Raiders. After years of threats and lawsuits, the Raiders have finally left Oakland, and this summer they're landing just across the highway from the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in a 65,000-seat, $1.8 billion domed stadium that will also host the UNLV football team, the next two Pac-12 championship games, and the Las Vegas Bowl. Construction is slated to be finished July 31, just in time for the NFL preseason—and just in time to lure football fans from the sportsbooks to the grandstand. —Justin Goldman

12. Celebrate the Suffragettes in Washington D.C.

All eyes are on the ballot box this year, but the electorate would look quite different if not for the 19th Amendment, which was ratified 100 years ago this August. Many D.C. institutions, such as the National Archives Museum and the Library of Congress, are honoring the decades-long struggle for women's suffrage with exhibits. In particular, the National Museum of American History unveils Sarah J. Eddy's portrait of Susan B. Anthony this March, before putting on a 'zine-inspired show on girlhood and youth social movements this June. —Nicholas DeRenzo

11. Go for a Ride Through Mexico City

If you want to get somewhere quickly in Mexico City, try going by bicycle. During peak traffic, bikes average faster speeds than cars or public transportation—which might explain why ridership has gone up almost 50 percent since 2007. And riding on two wheels is getting safer and easier. In 2019, the city announced plans to invest $10 million (more than it had spent in the last six years combined) into the construction of about 50 miles of new paths and lanes. Now, you can cycle on a two-mile separated path along the Paseo de la Reforma, from Colonia Juárez and Roma to Chapultepec Park and Polanco. Future plans include a route along the National Canal between Coyoacán (where Frida Kahlo once lived) and Xochimilco (with its floating flower farms). “The goal is to finish the six-year [presidential] term with 600 kilometers of bike infrastructure," says Roberto Mendoza of the city's Secretariat of Mobility. Time to start pedaling. —Naomi Tomky

10. Consider the Mayflower's Legacy in Massachusetts and Abroad

Photo: Thianchai Sitthikongsak

Before they came to America in 1620, the religious separatists now known as the Pilgrims lived in England and the Netherlands. This year, the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing will be commemorated not only by those nations but also by a fourth: The Wampanoag, the confederation of tribes that live in New England and whose role in this world-changing event has been at best left out and at worst distorted.

“We're challenging the myths and stereotypes," says Aquinnah Wampanoag author Linda Coombs, a board member of Plymouth 400, Inc., which is planning cultural events such
as an Ancestors Walk to honor the native villages pushed aside by settlers, as well as
an indigenous history conference and powwow (plus an $11 million restoration of the replica Mayflower II).

Kerri Helme, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag nation and cultural programs manager at Plimoth Plantation, says that “people want to hear the whole story." She notes that it's a commonly held belief that the Pilgrims were welcomed by the natives, when in fact their first encounter was violent, since the English had been stealing the Wampanoags' food.

“The Wampanoag are key players in all of this," says Charles Hackett, CEO of Mayflower 400 in the U.K. “It's a whole other aspect of this history." In England, a Mayflower trail will connect Pilgrim sites in towns such as Southampton and Plymouth, and in Leiden, the Dutch town where the Pilgrims took refuge before embarking for the New World, the ethnology museum will run an exhibit about the natives.

“The most important thing for us, as the Wampanoag people," says Paula Peters, a former Wampanoag council member, “is to be acknowledged as a vital tribe comprised of people that, in spite of everything that's happened, are still here." —Jon Marcus

9. Discover Lille's Design Scene

Photo: Mark Bassett/Alamy

Previous World Design Capitals have included major cultural hubs such as Helsinki and Seoul, so it came as a shock when Lille, France's 10th-largest city, beat Sydney for this year's title. Judges cited Lille's use of design to improve its citizens' lives; get a taste for yourself at spots like La Piscine Musée d'Art et d'Industrie, a gallery in a former Art Deco swim center. —Nicholas DeRenzo

8. See Stellar Space in Rio de Janeiro, the World Capital of Architecture

Rio de Janeiro is renowned for the beauty of its beaches and mountains, but the Cidade Maravilhosa's man-made structures are as eye-catching as its natural features. For that reason, UNESCO recently designated Rio its first World Capital of Architecture, honoring a city that boasts such landmarks as the stained glass–domed Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, the fairy-tale Ilha Fiscal palace, and the uber-modern Niterói Contemporary Art Museum.

"Rio is an old city by New World standards, having been founded in the mid–16th century," says architectural photographer Andrew Prokos, who took this shot. "So the city has many layers of architectural styles, from Colonial and Rococo to Art Nouveau, Modernist, Brutalist, and contemporary." In the case of this museum, which was designed by perhaps Brazil's greatest architect, Pritzker Prize winner Oscar Niemeyer, Prokos was intrigued by how the 24-year-old building interacts with its surroundings. "The upward slope of the museum complements the slope of the Pão de Açúcar across the bay," he says, "so the two are speaking to each other from across the water." – Tom Smyth

7. Join the Avengers at Disneyland

This summer, Disney California Adventure unveils its Marvel-themed Avengers Campus, with a new Spider-Man attraction, followed later by an Ant-Man restaurant and a ride through Wakanda. If the hype surrounding last year's debut of Disney+ is any indication, Comic-Con types are going to lose their fanboy (and -girl) minds. —Nicholas DeRenzo

6. Listen to Jazz in Cape Town

Photo: Eric Nathan/Alamy

Cape Town's natural wonders draw visitors from all over the world, but there's a hidden gem beyond the mountains, beaches, and seas: music. Much as jazz was born from America's diverse peoples, Cape jazz combines the traditions and practices of the city's multiethnic population, creating genres such as goema (named after a type of hand drum) and marabi (a keyboard style that arose in the townships). Cape Town has hosted an International Jazz Festival for
20 years (the 21st edition is this March 27–28), and now UNESCO is giving the Mother City its musical due by naming it the Global Host City of International Jazz Day 2020. The theme of the event—which takes place on April 30, features an All Star Global Concert, and is the climax of Jazz Appreciation Month—is “Tracing the Roots and Routes of African Jazz." During the dark days of slavery and apartheid, music became an outlet through which repressed people could express their struggle for freedom. What better way to mark a quarter century of democracy here than with a celebration of that most free style of music? —Struan Douglas

5. Take a Walk Around England

Many hikers love walking around England—but how many can say that they've truly walked around England? When it's completed, the England Coast Path will be the longest managed seaside trail in the world, completely circumnavigating the coastline, from the fishing villages of Cornwall and the beaches of Nothumberland to the limestone arches of the Jurassic Coast and the sandy dunes of Norfolk. Much of the trail is already waymarked (the 630-mile South West Coast Path is particularly challenging and beautiful), with new legs set to open throughout the year. If you want to cross the whole thing off your bucket list, be warned that it's no walk in the park: At around 2,795 miles, the completed route is 605 miles longer than the Appalachian Trail and about the same as the distance between New York and Los Angeles. —Nicholas DeRenzo

4. Get Refreshed in the Israeli Desert

Six Senses resorts are known for restorative retreats in places like Fiji, Bali, and the Maldives. For its latest location, the wellness-minded brand is heading to a more unexpected locale: the Arava Valley, in the far south of Israel. Opening this spring, the Six Senses Shaharut will offer overnight camel camping, off-roading in the surrounding desert, and restaurants serving food grown in the resort's gardens or sourced from nearby kibbutzim. While the valley is said to be near King Solomon's copper mines, the Six Senses is sure to strike gold. —Nicholas DeRenzo

3. Say konnichiwa on July 24 at the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, which plays host for the first time since 1964.

The Japanese capital plays host for the first time since 1964. This year, softball and baseball will return after being absent since 2008, and four new sports—karate, sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding—will be added to the competition for the first time. Say konnichiwa at the opening ceremonies on July 24, which will be held at renowned architect Kengo Kuma's New National Stadium. – Nicholas DeRenzo

2. Score Tickets to Euro 2020

Still feeling World Cup withdrawal? Get your “football" fix at the UEFA European Championship. From June 12 to July 12, 24 qualifying national teams will play games in stadiums from Bilbao to Baku, culminating in the semi-finals and final at London's hallowed Wembley Stadium. Will World Cup champion France bring home another trophy? Will Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal repeat its 2016 Euro win? Will the tortured English national team finally get its first title? Or will an upstart—like Greece in 2004—shock the world? —Justin Goldman

1. Soak Up Some Culture in Galway

Photo: Ian Dagnall/Alamy

Galway has long been called “the cultural heart of Ireland," so it's no surprise that this bohemian city on the country's wild west coast was named a 2020 European Capital of Culture (along with Rijeka, Croatia). The title puts a spotlight on the city (population 80,000) and County Galway, where more than 1,900 events will take place throughout the year. Things kick off in February with a seven-night opening ceremony featuring a fiery (literally) choreographed celebration starring a cast of 2,020 singing-and-drumming locals in Eyre Square. “This is a once-in-a-generation chance for Galway," says Paul Fahy, a county native and the artistic director of the Galway International Arts Festival (July 13–26). “It's a huge pressure. There's a heightened sense of expectation from audiences, not just from here but from all over the world." Art lovers will no doubt enjoy Kari Kola's illuminating work Savage Beauty, which will wash the Connemara mountains in green light to coincide with St. Patrick's Day, or the Druid Theatre Company's countywide tour of some of the best 20th-century one-act Irish plays. Visitors would also be wise to explore the rugged beauty of Connemara on a day trip with the charismatic Mairtin Óg Lally of Lally Tours, and to eat their way across town with Galway Food Tours. But beware, says Fahy: “Galway has a reputation as a place people came to 20 years ago for a weekend and never left." —Ellen Carpenter

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