For an urban vacation, here are three very different experiences to choose from:
The streets were deserted. Had we fallen into a fairy-tale city decorated like a fancy wedding cake but without any guests? The morning felt oddly serene as we wandered the cobblestoned lanes and wound our way to Vilnius’ central Cathedral Square." ...continued in the Fallen Kingdoms Chapter of Searching for Unique.
Favourite Cafe: Crustum Bakery and Café earned its place as our favourite coffee and bakery spot in Vilnius: crustum.lt.
Find your flow in Cuba’s city of marbles, where each district offers its own swirling ball of history, grit and artistic soul.
Our senses flickered under a storm of contradicted reality. We had walked only three blocks and had already been passed by 1950s-era Buicks, Chevrolets and Cadillacs painted in faded mauve and brilliant turquoise. In comparison, dented Ladas pointed their snout-like hoods down the road and beeped at pedestrians who might be looking for a lift. They bid adieu with a plume of carbon puffing from their exhaust pipes, either from burnt oil or just cranky age."
Recommended Accommodation: Villa Romera, a fantastic casa particular (bed & breakfast) in Vedado run by a Cuban-Italian couple.
Favourite Cafe: Dulceria Bianchini II, tucked away off Plaza de la Catedral.
Know before you go: In Cuba, ATMs accept only Visa credit cards, not debit cards or Mastercard. To avoid excessive interest charges from your bank, transfer funds onto your Visa card before arriving in the country to cover anticipated cash needs.
Gaze at gold-leaf temples, watch a Buddha statue receive a face wash and walk the longest teak footbridge in the world while locals wade through waist-deep water to toss their morning nets.
Mandalay—the city’s name embodies a sense of romantic melancholy oozing with Burmese tradition and a twist of British colonialism. Most visitors come to Mandalay to see its moated palace and the views from the top of the iconic Mandalay Hill. We wanted a deeper view, to strip the city’s frantic overcoat and discover its quirky “side, the ancient habits that spin around in their own orbit yet somehow blend seamlessly into Mandalay’s discordant urban vibrato.
Recommended Accommodation: Peacock Lodge is tucked among palm trees on a quiet street and within walking distance of the Mandalay Palace, Mandalay Hill and other central sights.
Favourite Cafe: Unique Mandalay Tea Room, based on our hotel owner’s recommendation.
Know before you go: Myanmar is one of the few countries I recommend using a travel agent to book your domestic flights. Flights are often delayed or cancelled and your agent will re-route your tickets and ensure you are kept up-to-date. I recommend One-Stop Travels & Tours for fair rates and incredibly helpful staff.
Searching for Unique is packed with details about these three cities and other hidden gems around the world, each brought to life through travel tales and on-the-ground tips.
~ Available as an eBook and paperback (Colour and B&W editions) ~
Nancy O'Hare has lived and worked across five continents and travelled to over eighty countries. Her writing shares insights from her travels and musings about the world around us.