Things I do in every city

Royal Park Rajapruek, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Royal Park Rajapruek, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Because I travel so much, I need to find consistent things that make me feel like a normal person, or feel connected to a city right away. I love to compare these four things in cities and towns around the world:

Botanical Gardens - Peaceful and relaxed - that's how I feel in beautiful gardens. I know very little about plants and flowers but I know a lot about how beauty can make a person feel really good. Some of the most beautiful gardens I've been to have been in Chiang Mai (Royal Park Rajapruek), Melbourne (Royal Botanic Gardens), Cape Town (Kirstenbosch), and the Isles of Scilly in England (Tresco Abbey Garden).

Orchids at Royal Park Rajapruek

Orchids at Royal Park Rajapruek

Local grocery stores - I love gourmet grocery stores (Eli's Manhattan on the Upper East Side is my all-time favorite) but finding any local grocery store is always worth it. On Phillip Island in Victoria, I visited the two big competing ones (String cheese is called stringers! There are kangaroo dog treats!) and then was able to chat with locals about the pros and cons of Coles vs. Woolworths. In Puerto Varas, Chile, I spent way too much time wandering the aisles of Jumbo and marveling at yogurt sold in giant bags. 

The highest view - I always climb to a high viewpoint in a city or town. I wrote once that it makes the chaos of a city below seem like a perfect puzzle from above. In Bern, I love the panoramic view of red roofs and the river from the top of the Cathedral. In London, I love St. Paul's Cathedral. In Mexico City, it's the Torre Latino that has the most fantastic view.

London from St. Paul's Cathedral - Tower Bridge meets the Shard

London from St. Paul's Cathedral - Tower Bridge meets the Shard

The local library - This usually works best in an American destination. But there's something so nostalgic about a public library and the community built there. There are always event listings that make me smile - "Don't Get Ripped Off! Learn How to Protect Your Wallet" or "Come Learn About eBooks!" I grew up going to Scottsdale's Mustang Library and I love going back because it smells the same and you can buy magazines for fifty cents. Some of my favorite local libraries in America have been in Mill Valley, on Coronado Island, and in East Hampton.

Do you visit any of these places or others? I also try to visit dog parks, especially if I have my dog Rocco with me.

The "I'm Home!" View

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This view always takes my breath away. When I take a car home from LaGuardia or JFK, or drive back from the eastern part of Long Island, there is a moment when you round the corner on the BQE (Brooklyn Queens Expressway) and this heart-stopping view is before you.

To bring me back to reality, the highway is riddled with pot holes and lined with trash. It is also constantly under construction. But, New York, it is always good to be home.

2015: My Six-Continent Year in Review

Looking back at all my photos from this year, I can't believe where I went and what I've accomplished. I traveled to six continents (someday I'll see you, Antarctica), wrote countless stories for a variety of outlets, including my continued work with National Geographic Travel, and increased my number of speaking gigs as a keynoter and panelist talking travel, media, and trends. I met many of my career goals and have many more I want to accomplish in the next 12-18 months. There were significant personal challenges in this year of transition, like all of us face. But I'll remember the great love and fun of this year (and hope for a little less craziness next year).

May 2016 bring you great adventure, incredible love, and major highlights for your work and personal life.

I am headed to Thailand and Myanmar for Christmas & New Year's and can't wait to be back in Southeast Asia - have a wonderful holiday!

Celebrating New Year's in L.A.

Celebrating New Year's in L.A.

Beautiful hometown: Scottsdale, Arizona

Beautiful hometown: Scottsdale, Arizona

A staycation at The Pierre

A staycation at The Pierre

Skiing in Arosa, Switzerland

Skiing in Arosa, Switzerland

St. Moritz, Switzerland

St. Moritz, Switzerland

Back to L.A. & Shutters on the Beach, one of my favorite sunset spots

Back to L.A. & Shutters on the Beach, one of my favorite sunset spots

Johannesburg, South Africa

Johannesburg, South Africa

Victoria Falls, Zambia

Victoria Falls, Zambia

Stellenbosch wine region, South Africa

Stellenbosch wine region, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia

Speaking in Daugavpils, Latvia

Speaking in Daugavpils, Latvia

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Saigon, Vietnam

Saigon, Vietnam

Cruising on the Aqua Mekong in Vietnam & Cambodia

Cruising on the Aqua Mekong in Vietnam & Cambodia

The Raffles Phnom Penh

The Raffles Phnom Penh

Naples, Florida

Naples, Florida

Flying home to NYC

Flying home to NYC

Quebec City

Quebec City

Speaking at the Ritz-Carlton annual meeting in Bachelor Gulch, Colorado

Speaking at the Ritz-Carlton annual meeting in Bachelor Gulch, Colorado

Silver Lake, PA

Silver Lake, PA

July Fourth in the Hamptons

July Fourth in the Hamptons

Newport, RI

Newport, RI

Back to Switzerland

Back to Switzerland

All five Fitzsimmons siblings in Berlin

All five Fitzsimmons siblings in Berlin

Deer Valley, Utah

Deer Valley, Utah

Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Mexico

Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Mexico

Puerto Varas, Chile

Puerto Varas, Chile

Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas

Victoria, Australia - 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road

Victoria, Australia - 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road

Cannes for one of my favorite conferences of the year, ILTM

Cannes for one of my favorite conferences of the year, ILTM

The most wonderful two days in Paris

The most wonderful two days in Paris


A Love Letter to Paris, in Photos

I have never seen Paris look more beautiful. I was lucky enough to spend two days in Paris after the annual ILTM conference in Cannes, staying at the INCREDIBLE Mandarin Oriental, my new favorite place to stay. I am so glad I made the trip happen - it was a highlight of my entire year and I can't wait to get back. Go now - eat, drink, celebrate, and walk the streets. It is absolute perfection. Paris, Je T'aime.

Behind-the-Scenes Filming for National Geographic Travel

Just me hanging out by myself on a picnic...

Just me hanging out by myself on a picnic...

This summer, I filmed a short video on Quebec City for National Geographic Travel. It is less than three minutes long, but it took two 16-hour days to film. Here's the final video.

I really like how it turned out, and it's mostly thanks to my videographer, Hai-Lam Phan. We worked really well together, and he understood what was important to me (therefore, I was super comfortable with him), while knowing what would work best on camera.

I'd wake up at 6:30am, attempt hair & make-up, then meet Hai and our local assistant Annabelle in the lobby. Most of all, I was obsessed with showing only really great places - places that a visitor would love.

I eat a lot in the video. No human can eat that much food, no matter how delicious. We'd film a bite or two for camera. We filmed at this super popular local bar - you have to find engaging, fun people to talk to and show on camera. A lot of people (more than I thought!) absolutely do NOT want to be on camera. We found a great group of guys-hockey players!-and then an amazing group of women, students at the local university.

What I love most about filming is it gives you greater access to people. My favorite moment of the video is when the mother kisses her son at Cafe St-Malo and says "My son" - I tear up every time! She started the restaurant and he has been working there since he was a toddler.

Canadian hockey players!

Canadian hockey players!