Lucerne, the capital of the Canton of Lucerne, is one of Europe’s most charming cities. Lake Lucerne is a beautiful part of this city surrounded by the Swiss Alps and Mt Pilatus. In fact, it offers a scenic view of the lake and the mountains almost at its doorstep.
Coolest area to stay in: The best location to stay is definitely along the Reuss River in the old part of the city. This area has several old timber structures with painted fronts. Since Lucerne boasts of some great music and food, it truly signifies a taste for the good life and gives one a reason to celebrate.
Food fiesta: With a strong German and Italian influence on the city, the cuisine is an eclectic and delicious mix of different types of food. You will find traditional Swiss fare along with gourmet specialities from across the world. The banks of the lake are surrounded by many extraordinary and diverse restaurants and cafés serving the most delicious food available in all of Switzerland. There are a variety of fresh water fish preparations dished up with umpteen variants of dairy products to go with the sauces. And, you cannot leave Switzerland without its chocolates.
Style quotient: Easy luxe. It is one of the richest cities in Switzerland due to which the finest and trendiest in fashion clothing is available in Lucerne. For the elite, there is an ample choice of designer wear. H&M is popular amongst the youngsters and the masses. The Swiss have their unique traditional attires and the young in their fashion best make Lucerne a very fashion-conscious city.
Best buys: The Rathaus Square is the busiest shopping paradise. Shopping for something typically Swiss – such as a prestigious brand of watches, jewellery, fashion or stylish accessories – is all within easy reach in Lucerne. The Old Town is pedestrianised and has a wealth of boutiques and stores, and the lively new part of town also boasts a good selection of shops. Attractive markets are held several times a week selling fresh and artisan produce, plants and handicrafts.
Festival bonanza: Lucerne holds a series of festivals around the year ranging from food, music and the Lucerne Carnival. When I was there during the summer festival of Lucerne Fasnacht, I took the photograph of the marching band.
When I visited Barcelona, I was delighted to discover a city that never sleeps and emits its own charm. It is steeped in a variety of artistic treasures, the greatest of names in modern art and architecture – Dali and Gaudi. The imagination of the people who have created these wonderful buildings can only be imagined.
Cool city: It is high on style and nightlife. It is lively and bubbly and is buzzing with people from around the world. There is so much to see and do. There is no place like Barcelona anywhere in the world. You can spend hours exploring its many attractive neighbourhoods like Gracia and Borne Barrio. And, with an excellent public transport system in place, it is very easy to get around the city.
Visual appeal: The architecture is so inspiring. The city has a mix of the old and the modern which blend together so well. Gaudi’s architecture – seen strongly in the Barcelona Gaudi Church and his unfinished work La Sagrada Familia as well – is amazing. You can spend hours at the museum dedicated to Dali’s work (Dali’s House Museum) and I loved the area where we stayed – Paseo de Gracia.
Where to stay: Hotel BCN Design, a beautiful boutique hotel in Paseo de Gracia. The interplay of forms and colours within the hotel add to its luxe environments.
Food fiesta: Barcelona has many small tapas bars. You can never get enough of them. If you are a hardcore
non-vegetarian, the food is delicious. Dip into the monditos, the Perron peppers, the croquettes and more. And when the heat gets to you, claras , a shandy, is a perfect cooler. The Buddha Bar Lounge is beautiful and Taktika Berri is a must-visit place. Also check out Tapas 24, Kaiku and Aqua.
Beach appeal: The landscape is dotted with some amazing beaches. Bang in the middle of Barcelona is the fabulous Barceloneta. And also not very far away is Sitges. Visit for a relaxing day under the bright sun.
Shopping areas: A shoppers’ paradise. The areas where you can indulge yourself endlessly are spread across the city and differ considerably in what they offer. There are numerous trendy little designer stores in the city. Paseo de Gracia is not just home to some of the most famous modernist buildings but is also host to some of the most expensive shops in the city. It starts at Piaza Catalunya and ends at the Diagonal. Gracia offers creative and unique buys. La Roca Village, a short drive away from Barcelona, offers a heady mix of international labels and luxury boutique outlets.
Incidentally, Barcelona has the famous 5km shopping line which stretches from the top of the Ramblas, through Placa de Catalunya along Passeo de Gracia and up Avenue Diagonal. You can spend your time leisurely since a large portion of it is pedestrianised.
What I find most appealing about New York is the fact that it is a very fashionable and style-conscious city. Fashion here is like freedom. People can actually wear and carry off not only the chic and stylish, but even the bizarre.
Where to stay: I stayed in a Manhattan hotel a few blocks away from Times Square. Whenever I could, I would walk back to my hotel. After having read Lee Iacocca’s autobiography years ago, the one building I had most wanted to see was Chrysler. On my very first day, a few streets down from my hotel I came across the Chrysler building. It was so unexpected. That feeling and image (on camera too) is one of my most memorable.
Food fiesta: The best part about New York is that you can savour food from all parts of the world. The restaurants there encompass the country’s’ flavours, décor, customs – it is all a treat for your senses. Among the various Spanish, Japanese and Korean restaurants that I got a chance to go to, the one interesting place was Spice Market in the meatpacking district. Its décor had a mix of Indian and other Asian artifacts and colonial furniture. On entering the place, one was transported to Eastern exotica. It’s always interesting to see how the west actually appreciates the east and vice-versa. I also remember going to a Spanish restaurant in the Village with glimpses of Spain painted on its walls. It was like walking into a restaurant in Spain.
Iconic areas to shop in: I was shooting on Park and Madison Avenue which is lined with all the fashion brand stores – Etro, Saks, Tiffanys and more. I just had to check them all out and sometimes window shopping also makes for good shopping therapy.
Best buys: Shoes! I must have bought a dozen pairs. But my two favourites were a pair of embroidered denim shoes and a pair of dull silver pointy toe stilettos.
I shopped everywhere. I had to take a bit of New York home, besides all the experiences and memories – from Armani and Guess to the tiny shops tucked somewhere in between, a lot of them run by Asians . But the most feel-good place was the South Street Seaport in the meatpacking district with its open cobblestone spaces, next to the waters, the warm October sun beating down. There were a variety of stores, cafes and bistros to choose from. It was the only other place in New York with an Abercrombie & Fitch store.
Its cool quotient: For me New York was really cool because there was so much design and aesthetic in everything; even in the city’s detailing. Right from the amazing window displays, the beautiful parks and gardens – I remember going to a small garden near Eastside river where there were statues of dolphins as if they were emerging out of solid water. In downtown New York even the manholes have a beautiful pattern in the grill. Style and design seem to be embedded in everything around you. And people experiment with style and fashion even in their daily wear. There was a very pretty blonde ballet dancer American girl in our crew with an amazing uber-chic sense of style. Her clothes were a mix of small shop and big fashion brands. One word to describe her is…Carrie Bradshaw and I actually liked this girl’s styling more.
Art and culture: The city is the centre of art and culture – there is a buzz in the city. Unfortunately, on my trip I only got to see one musical. But, what an experience it was at the Radio City. It was a wonderful symphony of beautiful sets, costumes, amazing dance and music. The energy of the show was exhilarating. Another enriching experience was visiting MOMA. It is a wonderful amalgam of the old and the contemporary. The high point of my trip – I got to see Monet’s Blue Lilies, one of my favourite paintings