Until you've been on a freshwater sea like Lake Michigan you just don't understand. The idea of this unbelievable mass of non-salt-water in the centre of a continent (20% of all the earth's fresh water sits in the Great Lakes system) requires this kind of visual confirmation. And unlike most major cities, Chicago celebrates its waterfront by lining it with parks and beautiful public beaches. Run, walk, play, swim. Free and for the whole family - though that water can be mighty cold most of the year.
It's to the east of the city, wherever you are
Right in the middle of South Beach, very near the Clay Hotel and Youth Hostel, a beautiful public swimming pool. Six dollars entry, water gently heated in winter, shady palms around the deck, loungers, a kids' pool ... and hardly anyone there, at least when I visited.
Flamingo Park on 11th Street between Meridian and Jefferson
OK, yeah, you go to London and want to catch a football game and choose, hmmm, Leyton Orient? But hey, why not? The Brooklyn Cyclones, a Class A (think, maybe Conference South) baseball team that is part of the New York Mets organisation plays in this great little stadium on the Boardwalk (and Atlantic Ocean beach) at Coney Island.
Cheap and fun and you can eat hot dogs at Nathan's Famous (at Surf and Stillwell) and splash in the sea on the way. Call 718 449 8497, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets - put "tourist tickets" in the email subject line.
1904 Surf Avenue, Coney Island, Brooklyn - D,F,Q to Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue, walk west to the stadium.
I’m not very fond of bus tours filled with tourists and less-than-interesting tourguides, but in Miami I went on a tour which had my kind of guide.
Started up in Boston and now one of the most popular tours in Miami: the Duck Tour. It owes its name to the fact that it can drive as well as sail, so that you can see and hear Miami from every possible angle. The guide shows you around Miami and talks about its citizens and history, which is nice, but the best part is when the Duck hits the water.
While on the water you sail along Miami’s little islands, which are packed with multi-million dollar mansions. It was great to look into the garden of Shaquille O’Neal, to spy on Diddy in his ‘dump’ and to see all the other residences of Florida’s richest inhabitants.
Back on the streets the Duck takes you to the Port of Miami, past Ocean Drive and the home of the late Gianni Versace. The whole tour is really educational, especially for the Hello readers amongst us.
One minor drawback of the Duck Tour is that they take their name too serious. The quacking the passengers have to perform during the one and a half hour ride is most embarrassing.
Miami Duck Tour, 1665 Washington Avenue, South Beach, tel: 786 276 8300;
Everything about Key West is so laid back that it feels more Caribbean than Floridian. The formerly quaint and peaceful Duval Street, now the main tourist drag, has been spoiled in recent years by a proliferation of T-shirt and tacky gift shops, and the whole town can get a little overpowering, particularly in the mornings, when hordes of cruise ship passengers disembark for the day, but late afternoons and evenings are fun.
Mallory Square has free entertainment at sunset every night (check out the bonkers French guy and his performing cats).
Sloppy Joe's and Captain Tony's both claim to be the favoured watering holes of the town's most famous former resident, Ernest Hemingway, and are both worth a visit.
More cultured visitors should look to the Audubon House, Hemingway's house (including the famous six-toed cats) and the Little White House, one-time president Harry S Truman's former residence.
160 miles from Miami at the end of US1 (Mile Marker 0);
The drive down US1 towards Key West has to be one of America's most scenic, especially if you hire a convertible on a sunny day, and you're the passenger. The bridges over the water afford you some spectacular views.
You can do Key West and back in a day from Miami, but it's a long day.
If you've more time, make a day or two of it in Key West (see separate posting) and if you don't, you can get a flavour of what the laid-back Keys are all about (fishing, diving, snorkelling, seafood etc) by heading for Key Largo and/or Islamoroda towards the top of the island chain.
The John Pennekamp State Park on Key Largo has many facilities, including a glass-bottom boat tour if you don't fancy getting wet.
Follow the US1 south from Miami, it runs all the way down to Key West (160 miles away). Key Largo is 58 miles from Miami, Islamoroda 76 miles; Telephone 305-451-6300 for boat tour reservations, 305-451-1202 general information; www.pennekamppark.com
These hop-on, hop-off tours are a fantastic way to start your sightseeing. Running out of Times Square, Gray Line do tours of Downtown, Uptown, Brooklyn and a night tour. You can buy tickets from the many sellers in Times Square and your best buy is the All Tour pass, which is valid for two days for all the tours at about $46.
Each bus is open top and comes with a tour guide, who is usually true New Yorker and has plenty of information on the places you pass through, as well as plenty of recommendations for restaurants, shops, cafes etc.
The night tour is not to be missed as you go across to Brooklyn shore and get a beautiful view of Lower Manhattan. Be warned that it gets very chilly sitting up top at night, no matter how hot it has been during the day, so take a sweater.
The buses stop at all the major points of interest and run from 8am until 6pm, with the night tour starting around the same time until about 9pm.
Main point:Times Square or any stop
One of the city's least-know jewels, despite being housed in the grandest piece of classical architecture on one of the busiest stretches of Michigan Avenue. An unusual thing in America, the whole place is free to the public.
It is primarily a museum and performance space, with a busy schedule of exhibits and performances. On Saturdays, they often have midday dance classes for young and old (great fun, even if you just watch).
The Chicago Symphony and Opera both offer free performances in the opulent Preston Bradley Hall, covered in glass mosaic, beneath the world's largest Tiffany dome.
On Michigan Avenue, at Randolph. Half a block away from the Loop trains, served by several buses and underground garages;
Chicago's finest 'pork project' in decades, it features surprising architecture and art that are all interactive in some way. In nice weather, you'll find dozens or hundreds of kids playing at Crown Fountain, with two towering digital screens showing the smiling faces of Chicagoans in slow-motion.
The city also offers free performances in the Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavillion. There's a bike centre to rent or stow a bike, a large garden, skating rink, restaurant and spectacular views of both the lake, and the most elegant stretch of Michigan Avenue.
My favorite part? The world's only Gehry bridge, which meanders like a lazy stream, and leaps across Columbus Avenue, tranporting you into another large park.
On Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Monroe.
One block from the Loop, served by every elevated train in the city, numerous buses, and several underground garages; www.millenniumpark.org/
A special type of haven from city life on the waterfront, inspired by Bach's music for cello and involving the great player Yo-Yo Ma in its design. It can be appreciated for its musical invention, or simply in terms of ingenious garden design, and it's free. Summer open-air concerts are a special treat.
At Queen's Quay West, not far from the main harbour front area;
Warburton is a small town about an hour’s drive north-east of Melbourne on the Warburton Highway, nestling at the base of the Great Dividing Range and overlooked by Mt Donna Buang.
Originally a honeymooner retreat in the 50s and 60s it was involved with the Sanitarium Health Food company after that. Sanitarium closed their factory and Warburton became to place to go to the craft and antique shops. The number of coffee shops and cafes also increased and today it is a great place for a stroll on a lazy weekend.
During winter, Mt Donna Buang is snowbound and a day trip to the snow is one for all the family.
Irish football - as in soccer, not Gaelic football - may not seem like much in terms of sport in English-speaking Europe, but the games are exciting, the fans are great, and the grounds are delightful.
Tolka Park, home to Shelbourne and Dublin City is on the northside. Richmond Park - home of St. Patrick's and Shamrock Rovers - is west of the city centre past Kilmainham. Like most Irish football grounds it's only about 20 rows deep, so there are no bad seats. Dalymount, home to the Bohemians is above O'Connell Street off North Circular Road. There's even Belfield, back on the south side, home to UCD.
It's a summer league, so there are games during most European leagues’ off-season. With tickets topping out at 12 euros, you can't go wrong.
A modern creperie - boasting two branches either side of Grafton St - that serves tasty French treats in a variety of sweet and savoury flavours as well as toasted sandwiches. The main reason that I visit is for the coffee, which I believe to be the best in Dublin.
Dawson St, South William St
This is a real gem. The building itself is a museum piece, it's like stepping back in time to the Victorian era, you really expect to meet Conan-Doyle, Holmes or Watson peering at some exhibit around the next cabinet.
National Museum of Ireland - Natural History, Merrion Street, Dublin 2; www.museum.ie/naturalhistory/findus.asp
Simply the loveliest department store in Paris or anywhere else, with a beautiful selection of fashion and homeware (even the haberdashery is stunning). The food hall is wonderful.
Rue de Sevres, Paris 7e; nearest metro: Sevres-Babylon; www.lebonmarche.fr/
I took my two children (aged eight and 11) tobogganing and hired two large wooden sledges. It was great fun and very safe. The scenery is beautiful, but if you’re there in the winter, go early in the morning, as it gets dark very quickly.
The sledge path takes you down the mountain to the metro stop and you just get the train back up the mountain again, as many times as you want.
It’s about £4 for a day pass for the metro and train and about £7 to hire a sledge.
Take the local metro to the top of the toboggan run at Frognerseteren station; but remember go get off the metro briefly at Voksenkollen station to hire your sledges at the Tryvann Winter Park
BA is bursting with cafes and confiterias, a number of which are now firmly on the tourist track. If you would like to try something a little more 'locale', check out Confiteria Las Violetas, a few stops west on the Subte (underground). It is a slice of real BA 'confiteria culture' with its grand tables, fine stained-glass windows, traditional service, not to mention a rather tempting menu - particularly for those with a sweet tooth.
Rivadavia 3899; nearest undergorund: Castro Barros;
tel: 00 61 4958 7387
Google map: tinyurl.com/kw7zcu
Soul Mama is located in one of the best spots for dining in Melbourne, upstairs in the renovated sea baths at St Kilda. There’s no real menu, the line up for your meal is different, the view from the toilets is worth a million dollars and the restaurant is vegetarian only.
You choose the size of the meal you want: little, small, medium or large. The little dish consists of dips and bread. The small/medium/large meals are made up of your choice of 20 or so hot or cold vegetarian dishes. You also have a choice of wines, beers and soft drinks and, for the health conscious, variety of freshly made juices.
If you manage to get through your main course, then amazing deserts await. Some look strange but they all taste terrific.
Soul Mama is bright, kid friendly and best of all, the meals are priced relatively cheap. Underground car parking is also available for patrons.
St Kilda sea baths, Jacka Blvd, St Kilda; tel: 9593 6470
Of course you should eat the beef whilst in Buenos Aires, but at some point you might seek something a little different. If so, try Filo, an Italian restaurant, right in the heart of the city, by Plaza San Martin. The pizzas are divine, the wine sublime, and the tiramisu is the best in the southern hemisphere. There's even a tasteful gallery in the basement.
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