Editors’ Picks: Our Favourite Trips of 2018
What far-flung adventures from last year sparked the most wistful memories in our editors?
Sensory Overload in Seoul, South Korea
When it comes to must-visit destinations in Asia, Japan and China—or Hong Kong, to be exact—typically get most of the love. But, after a five-day stay in the buzzy, booming metropolis that is Seoul, I’m here to tell you to add South Korea to your must-visit list STAT.
The country’s beating heart has a little something for everyone: no shortage of hole-in-the-wall joints serving dubu-kimchi, haemul pajeon and dakgalbi for the foodies; storied 14th-century palaces and high-energy street performances by legit K-Pop groups for the culture vultures; and, for the fashionistas and beauty junkies, a mind-blowingly eclectic shopping scene that’s rivalled only by Tokyo’s.
Plus, the city is a mere hour away from the Korean Demilitarized Zone—a neutral area at the border of North and South Korea established following the Korean War—in the off-chance that you, like me, are interested in trekking through a two-metre-high tunnel that was apparently dug in preparation for an invasion of Seoul in the ’70s and touring the Joint Security Area, a series of blue United Nations–governed buildings where meetings between North and South Korean leaders take place.—Lucy Lau, style editor
Falling in Love in Venice (with Venice)
There’s still plenty of Italy left for me to see in my life (the street food of Lido di Camaiore is still calling my name and I know I’ve only grazed the surface of what Florence has to offer if former editor Julia Dilworth’s story is any indication) but I’ve already picked my favourite city. Venice may get a bad rap for being particularly touristy, but this summer I stepped onto a water taxi and into another world.
There aren’t too many places on this planet where pedestrians and gondolas rule the roost; not even the crowds clamouring for photo opps at the Rialto bridge could ruin the magical, fairytale vibe for me. (To be fair, feed me risotto for three meals a day and I’ll be happily enchanted by pretty much any setting.) I found the commuters in their speedboats charming, and the labyrinthian streets a wonderful excuse for being late for things. Every twist and turn walking the canals led to a new surprise: a window packed with delicate glassware, the sculpture-filled courtyard of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. But my most important discovery was found not walking, but sitting on a patio on the water at sunset: Aperol spritzes just taste better with a view. —Stacey McLachlan, executive editor
Surfing in Biarritz, France
First things first: I was not a surfer before venturing into the ocean with my Surf in Biarritz instructor this past summer, and I’m still not. It turns out one lesson does not a surfer make. But, man, was it fun trying.
Biarritz is a coastal town in the southwest of France, near the border of Spain. (So close, in fact, it takes about an hour by bus to get to the famed foodie destination, San Sebastián—which I’d highly recommend as well.) It’s less touristy than Nice and its Côte d’Azur counterparts, though you’ll certainly see throngs of them. The draw is the surf—steady and strong, and a magnet for both beginners and pros. A day spent bodysurfing the waves gave us a taste for attempting the real deal, though it’s still intimidating (you’ll want to wear a well-fitting bathing suit, or you’ll be releasing it to Mother Nature). But our German instructor, Flo (yes, Flo) quickly stripped away our fears and had us working to catch a wave quickly, shouting out memorable lines such as “Chris, I can measure the tension radiating off of your body in amperes,” and convincing us we were very, very close to hanging ten. (We were not.)
Later that night, we spent the evening being toured through glasses of natural wine at Cheri Bibi by a warm-hearted French-Canadian server, paired with unforgettable small plates—like roasted beets over salty labneh, or butternut squash with mint and gorgonzola. Beautiful.—Anicka Quin, editorial director
Bubbles and Bicycles in Conegliano Valdobbiedene
The best trips are the ones that take you by surprise. Prior to heading to the town of Conegliano, all I knew about it was that it was about an hour north of Venice and it’s where they made the beloved Italian sparkling wine, Prosecco. And while both those things are true, it’s a bit like describing the Mona Lisa as a picture of a lady—it doesn’t really tell the whole story.
My cycling-mad brother-in-law was with me, so he suggested we arrive early and spend one day watching the famed Giro d’Italia bicycle race and one day actually riding ourselves in the area. When it comes to road biking, I’m at best a weekend warrior so I stressed that I didn’t want something too crazy. No problem, he said.
The Monte Grappa. If I live to be 126, those words will never cease to shoot goosebumps up my arms. That was our bike ride and it was not only the hardest ride I’ve ever done, it’s tied with a 17-hour shift working on pipeline construction as the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. No one wants to hear about someone else’s bike ride, so I’ll give you the gory details and be done with it: 9,300 feet in elevation, 82 kilometres an hour on a descent that neither of us had ever done and had patches of snow on it. Agony. Unending agony.
That I could walk the next day was a miracle. We made our way to the neighbouring town of Nervessa della Battaglia (how’s that for a romantic Italian name?), where the 13 stages of the Giro was happening. Imagine the atmosphere of the Stanley Cup finals if they were being played in Salmon Arm, and you get an idea of how electric this town was for the country’s biggest bike race. We grabbed a satchel of Peronis and planted ourselves on a small hill and waited. After a few minutes, we heard a distant throng, then closer, then closer until the first glimmers of the leaders came into view. They were flying…going uphill. The crowd went wild and they were soon joined by the Peleton, a huge mass of cyclists riding insanely close to one another at high speed. These were riders that would do the Monte Grappa before breakfast.
The next day—no bikes at all. The work portion of my trip saw me touring the vineyards of Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOC, which are the cream of the crop of Prosecco. Impossibly steep and backing onto the towering Dolomites, they are in the running for the most striking in all of the world. But unlike their counterpoints in Bordeaux (not in the beauty contest running, btw), these weren’t run by huge corporations but by unassuming families who wanted you to hop in the front seat while you toured their vines. And the wines, which I had given scant attention to before, offered a start-the-car value—handcrafted and elegant. It was the perfect counterpart to the horror of the first part of the trip.—Neal McLennan, travel editor