There are many places in the world that I have visited and enjoyed but only a handful that I have loved so much that I am sure I will return to. With there still being so much that I want to see in the world, sometimes it is hard to justify continually returning to a place that I have already been. But I love the familiarity of returning to special places again and again. Revisiting old haunts and discovering new ones. It feels like coming home.
If you revisit places you can really get under their skin. Like they have gotten under yours.
These are the places that are very special to me. Places that I couldn’t imagine not visiting again. Places where I felt a deeper connection.
Five Places That I Will Definitely Return to
I know it’s a cliché but Paris lived up to my extremely high expectations. I have been fascinated by the French language and culture since I was a teenager when I studied French in school. It is a city that I always dreamt of visiting and when I finally visited for the first time back in 2005, it was love at first sight. I think it helped that I was seeing a French guy at the time that I had met in London and was reunited with during my 4 nights in Paris.
I loved the touristy attractions such as the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, the lush parks and gardens, the beautifully ornamented churches, the stunning architecture, the incredible food, the shopping, the quirky sights (Catacombs and Pere Lachaise Cemetery) but most of all I just loved the feel of the place. It felt so alive and dripping in that undeniable French culture that I had adored from afar. People were friendly and I felt welcome.
On my second visit in 2010 we wandered the cobbled square of Montmartre, velvety hot chocolates in hand, while feathery snowflakes fell around us – it was like a scene in a movie. This romantic city is firmly one of my favourite places in the world and I will definitely be returning for a third visit.
Unless you are a Kiwi from the North Island, you probably haven’t heard of this little gem, a small pine scented holiday town on the gorgeous Coromandel Peninsula. I started going to Pauanui every summer with my family, then later with friends, from the age of 8 up until I left New Zealand when I was 21. We would go for 2-3 weeks and I used to look forward to it the whole year.
The days spent in Pauanui were the highlight of my childhood. I grew up in Pauanui and it holds very dear memories.
I try to get back there whenever I am back in New Zealand as it feels like home. I spent long summer days bike riding, looking for shells on the beach, body boarding, swimming in the river, jet skiing, catching the ferry to Tairua, climbing Mount Pauanui and just hanging out with my best friend and the other kids who went back every summer as well.
My favourite time to go is in late summer, after the school holidays, when the red stone streets are quiet and you almost get the beach to yourself.
My home for nearly 6 years over 3 separate stints, I have always had a love hate relationship with this beautiful historic city. I don’t miss the crowded public transport, the grey skies and the passive aggressive attitudes, but there are so many wonderful things about this city that I miss with a passion.
The build up to Christmas when the outdoor ice rinks and Christmas markets opened, those rare sunny days when you couldn’t contain your happiness to see such a brilliant blue sky, the bustling markets filled with fresh local produce and everything else under the sun, Sunday lunch and a pint of cider at quaint English pubs, wandering the Thames path in spring past daffodils and cherry blossoms, living on a houseboat in genteel Richmond, rambling through the green fields of the city’s many commons and parks, visiting World class Museums and Art Galleries for free, catching a West End show followed by dinner in Soho, Cheap dim sum in Chinatown and curry on Brick Lane, cheap airfares around Europe and the storied history of this ancient city with so many stories to tell.
I spent a large chunk of my life in London and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
This group of islands actually changed me as a person (sorry, I realise how lame that sounds). The first time I visited in 2009, I spent 2 weeks on the islands of Oahu and Maui on the way to Vancouver. Staying on Oahu’s undeveloped North Coast, I gained an appreciation for walking that I never had before. As I walked along the stunning coastline and through the botanical gardens surrounded by tropical flowers and ripening mangoes, I felt a sense of peace that had evaded me most of my adult life. I haven’t stopped walking since and my life has become so much richer for it.
Hiking is my biggest passion after travel and it gives me such a sense of wonder. It is now a driving force in my travels. I am fully connected to my surroundings when I am walking and Hawaii awakened this capacity for inner peace in me.
I have already returned to Hawaii once since that life changing trip, to the Big Island, and I am planning to spend a couple of weeks back there next year as well, hopefully visiting Kauai and the North Shore of Oahu.
Hawaii truly awakened my spirit.
The one place in the world that I have been that I thought ‘THIS is my place’. I have never felt such a powerful sense of belonging anywhere else outside of my home country, New Zealand. Whenever I think of Vancouver I instantly feel happy.
I love nearly everything about this picture perfect city. The friendly and forward thinking people, the delicious cuisine, Granville Island Market, the abundant wildlife, the driftwood strewn beaches, the spectacular sea wall, the funky neighbourhoods and the alpine mountains taking pride of place in the background.
The only thing I wasn’t too keen on was the long rainy winter but my love for this city is so strong that it didn’t bother me much.
The five months that I lived in Vancouver were some of the best months of my life and we weren’t even doing anything exciting, just living a simple, frugal life, but I have never felt so happy just being somewhere. I was back for a month last summer and I will be back for a couple of weeks next summer as well. This breathtaking city is my happy place and I will live there one day, somehow.
So these are my special places in the world. They all played a part in shaping me into the person I am today. I hope to find other places in the world that I feel this way about but if I don’t, that’s OK.
Because they are enough.
What are the places that you will return to?