Which cities should a gentleman visit this summer?

Jun 18, 2013

French rivieraMy summers are not really spent anywhere exciting. In fact they’re almost invariably spent in a piping hot kitchen dealing with complaints from obnoxious fat people in some ghastly tourist restaurant for minimum wage. One day soon though I’m going to cast off the shackles of this mould and travel as a true gent should: indulging in fine cuisine and unbound luxury. Like a younger version of Richard E. Grant’s Hotel Secrets only with more cash to blow and a snazzier pair of expensive sunnies. This dream will most likely definitely happen someday soon. Probably. I’m sure of it … 

Until this glorious time arrives in real life I’m content to pretend. All that’s needed in this fantasy world is the right destination. We’ve all soaked up the landscape photography whilst pointlessly flicking through old National Geographics and pondered over what foreign country best defines us as a young person. Well, we’ve got a huge pile of them in the family house’s downstairs loo, so I do.

Anyway, it’s given me a few ideas for fantasy holiday destinations for young gents looking to sate gentlemanly travel needs. London and Paris, although prime spots are not included for the simple reason that Monsieur London splits it time between them already. It’s time to get culturally exotic and explore some cities you may not automatically consider. Finally, while they’re fun in their own way (so I’m told), drinking holidays in Ibiza or Kiev would be an insult of taste here. When it comes to summering for the young gentleman there’s European cities and then there’s European cities … 

Cary Grant and Grace Kelly

Nice and the Côte d'Azur. The French Riviera has been the slickest place to exist and be manly since the 1920’s. The intense rivalry among Côte d'Azur’s hotels drives the industry on constantly for the best reviews. Standing on the Mediterranean coastline, arms outstretched in white pyjama bottoms on a plush hotel balcony must be a powerful experience. Top-end hotels around this stretch of coast can cost around €800, even more if you venture into Monte Carlo. But Nice has all the style of the surrounding coast and lots of old buildings and stuff so I’d stay put. It was recently voted the classiest place in the world by everyone in the world so it’s worth saving for.

Prague

Prague. Prague gets a bad press. Particularly from British beer guzzling lads holidays flocking to the red light district in flip flops with their collars turned up ready to spend a month’s worth of saved wages chanting whatever it is they chant. This is a shame because there’s so much more to this city like the Jewish Quarter, Royal Palace and strange cuisine. I enjoyed bumbling around the cobbled streets listening to buskers, going into puppet stores (there were quite a few) and visiting a torture museum a few years back. The further you stray from the city centre at night the seedier the place becomes, but besides the sleaze, it’s a great place to be. Relatively inexpensive too.

Bruges

Bruges. Never been here. But it’s the setting for one of my favourite films and my mate’s parents went and they said it was really really nice.  What I can tell you is that Bruges is one of the best preserved medieval cities in all of Europe, you can go bowling there and the beer is quaint. For these simple reasons Bruges is where you need to be this summer.

Panama

Panama City. What’s that? It’s not in Europe. Well it looks like it should be. Particularly the Panama Viejo district of the city. It’s neat. Bush Senior decided to invade the place in 1989 for reasons no one really understood, particularly the Panamanians. But since then tourism, nightlife and restaurants have been steadily increasing. There are no better tailors in the world than in Panama City and the occupants were recently voted the happiest city-dwellers in the world. Two thumbs up.   

Verona

Verona. It’s the new Venice apparently. The clue to Verona’s gentlemanly credentials is in the name of that Shakespeare play. It’s very Italian except with less chance of being knocked over by slick-backed youngsters on tacky scooters. It’s the most arty of the northern Italian cities and hosts lots of arty things from open air arena operas to arty architecture. But if you prefer to sit in a pub and drink beer it can offer that too. 

So don’t get stuck on destinations this summer. If you’re a young gent not wanting to get caught with your trousers down holiday-destination wise then make the smart choice. Strike a balance between culture and fun. Get stuck into one of these cities. One of these days I’ll be able to do the same. 

James Fredrick Gray

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