I have a daughter who's in school in the UK, so for Spring Break, we figured we (Me, Wife, Other Daughter) would head over to Europe and meet her for some family time. The question was where—it had to be one flight from London, preferably with cheap airfare, and it had to be warm, which is no small feat in early April. Ultimately we decided on Puglia in Italy. We landed in the charming town of Bari, but before we headed further south I wanted to make a quick jaunt into the neighbouring Province of Basilicata to see a town I had read about. Matera, was by some estimations, one of the oldest cities in the world with continual habitation for over three millennia. It had come on to my radar thanks to being named one of the European Capitals of Culture for 2019. The drive from Bari was uneventful until we got into any small town, when it was absolute chaos. If Italian drivers are crazy (and they are), the Southern Italians are in an entirely different world of wacko behind the wheel. As we approached Matera, it looked like a normal, albeit pretty, hill town. But as we neared our AirBnB, the city showed its cave-dwelling, whitewashed true face. It looked positively ancient—The Passion of the Christ was filmed here for this very reason. It has no "sites" per se, so days we're spent getting lost on back streets and endless staircases with only a smattering of tourists around. There were no fancy hotels, no gourmet restaurants and no museums, the Holy Trinity of my usual trips as the Travel Editor. But there was a pace that was unquestionably Italian and we all enjoyed it together.
Oh yeah, and if that's not enough, check out the town starring turn in the new James Bond Trailer.—Neal McLennan, travel editor
Photo by Brian EricksonCincinnati, Ohio
I had an excellent travel year (at least memory-wise it was excellent; from my bank account's perspective, probably less so), starting with a world-class food festival in paradise and wrapping up with a jaunt to feed elephants watermelon slices in Thailand (LIFE! HIGHLIGHT!). But one of my more surprising destinations makes the top of my highlight reel: a trip to Cincinnati, Ohio, for my MasterChef Junior novelty fan podcast. (You don't have a MasterChef Junior novelty fan podcast? Okaaaaay....). It's kind of a long story, but through what was essentially a series of escalating dares, my podcast co-hosts and I decided it would be worth an indirect flight to watch MasterChef Junior Live on tour in Cin City. We weren't sure what to expect, but Cincinnati turned out to be surprisingly cool—and weirdly unoccupied. It was like Vancouver Mount Pleasant had been transplanted into the American midwest and drizzled with a generous helping of heritage brick architecture. Every rooftop bar was hipper than the last (Pins Mechanical Co. crushed it with the slushee machine), every brewery had more games and experimental casks than they knew what to do with (shout out, Rhiengiest!), and the restaurant scene was full of fun, creative spaces (honestly, was hard to focus on the tacos at Bakersfield OTR with 100 tequilas on the menu). Going into it with zero expectations, I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe it was my travel crew, or the spillover of my MCJ fandom, or a West Coaster's obsession with all things brick, but I found this city on the verge to be well worth a long-weekend, food-focused jaunt. Maybe download a certain podcast to enjoy on the flight? —Stacey McLachlan, executive editor
(Photo by Clark Van Der Beken on Unsplash)Sagrada Famîlia, Barcelona, Spain
If you've spent any time in Europe, touring gorgeous, gothic churches is practically a cliché. ("ABC," we used to sigh in our 20s, backpacking through France. "Another Beautiful Church.") And if you go to Barcelona, as I did this past September, touring Sagrada Famîlia is also a cliché—you can't visit the city without joining the thousands of tourists that jam into the never-finished cathedral designed by Barcelona's famed architect, Antoni Gaudi. At least you'll think it's a cliché until you walk inside. It's hard to truly describe just how mind-blowingly incredible the space is: 45-metre-high pillars reach skyward in a design reminiscent of tree trunks and branches. The stained glass windows that surround you follow the pattern of the sun, changing in colour as the sun travels across thy sky through the day. Take the tour—you'll learn a lot about the mind of Gaudi, but you'll also avoid the line-up (or worse, get turned away: they limit the number of tourists per day). When I think back to the eight days I spent in the city, yes I remember the champagnerias and mercados and evenings spent over tapas and glorious bowls of G&Ts, but mostly it's the hush I felt in that cathedral, despite the crowds around me. ABC, maybe—but the best ABC in all of Europe, I say. —Anicka Quin, editorial director
Owning a property just across the border has resulted in not a ton of "big" trips for me—why break the bank on plane tickets when I can mosey on over to the cabin and drink my dad's booze for free? And before you ask, Mr. Scary Border Officer, no, I do not technically own the property myself (nor any property, nor am I likely to, thanks for reminding me). Family cabin aside, I did venture outside of the immediate U.S. this year. A trip to Texas was my first time to the southern states, and while I was definitely excited, you can bet that headlines of racism and general xenophobia were at the forefront of my mind as I stepped off the plane with my all-Asian improv troupe. Yes, my wanderlust was largely prompted by the Hideout Theatre's Improvised Play Festival. At risk of this turning into an improv festival review (which it totally won't, and I won't recommend catching Dark Side of the Room in Atlanta or Twins in Austin whenever you can, either), I'll focus on other trip highlights: there was the food truck village near the university, the electric scooters that were crazy fun and definitely a death wish, and Barton Springs Pool, a gigantic, underground-spring-fed pool that is warmer in February than English Bay is in August. The appropriately named Hole in the Wall was our go-to for karaoke, and maybe it was the more-liberal-than-expected university town or a few drinks too many, but we closed 'er down with a rendition of "Kung Fu Fighting" complete with totally legit martial arts. A fabulous trip all around, though my diet of fried chicken and breakfast tacos probably warranted a year-long cleanse that I will start tomorrow.—Alyssa Hirose, assistant editor