Originating from the signature hit “I left my heart in San Francisco” of Tony Bennette , the phrase “I left my heart in…” has become one of the most cliché captions put on a travel pic. For a traveler struggling with a modest budget like me while giving priority to places I’ve never been to, supposing I could pick out places I’d be dying for coming back, here would be my top 5 to collect pieces of heart left there:
5. Venice (Italy)
The idea of a touristy place like Venice didn’t sound attractive to me at first, but the thought of regret about not giving Venice a shot while I was in Europe convinced me to stop by. As soon as I put my first footstep on the island, it turned out I was one in the fan crowd and couldn’t resist to its grace like everyone else. It was indeed crowded like most cities in Italy, but its unique appeal made from a maze of canals and small alleys, pretty cafes, drifting gondolas, fine cuisine, and historical sights made up for the bursting and pricey part.
Buy a gelato (ice-cream in Italian) to snap a legendary photo in Venice
Typical sights that can be found anywhere in Venice
4. Santorini (Greece)
The most well-known Greek island that tops travel bucket list of many. Like Venice, Santorini wasn’t on my list at first, but then I agreed with my friends to add the island as the last stop for my Easter break after Turkey. I was much more obsessed with Turkey but in the end I had to cancel my trip to Turkey for safety reasons (too many suicide bombings continually happened during that time), leaving Santorini one of the two stops I had (the first is Athens). And I know I’m an ordinary guy with mainstream tastes, but who could resist its irresistible beauty? The photos said it all.
My crew in front of a breath-taking view
Santorini in the magical sunset
A lovely alley
3. Chefchaouen (Morocco)
Every wanderlust has a crush on a off-the-beaten place that they want to keep it as a secret so that it won’t be ruined by hoards of tourists. I do have one but can’t help letting it slip: Chefchaouen. Most of friends I know will come up with Casablanca when it comes to a destination in Morocco, but trust me I personally don’t think it’s as worth a visit as Chefchaouen if your budget or time constraints don’t allow.
Most of the houses in this small town are painted in vivid shades of blue, which is believed to repel mosquitos. Unlike other few Moroccan cities full of tourist traps, hassling and haggling like Marrakech (known as Marra-cash) or Fez, Chefchaouen, as proudly coined by the locals “Cheap-chaouen”, was so pleasant with cheaper food, nice people who didn’t give you a yell if you decided not to buy.
2. Dubrovnik (Croatia)
I was struck by photos of Dubrovnik before, and the in-person meeting far from disappointing really surprised me. What couldn’t convey through photos was the great vibe of the place. Everything felt pristine thanks to the fresh sea air and clean marble-paved alleys.
The bay in sunrise viewing from my attic room
Inside the old quarter
View from outside the old quarter
1. Lisbon (Portugal)
The moment I got out of the metro station from the airport and Lisbon appeared before my eyes, I knew right away what a terrible mistake I made to think a two-day itinerary would have been enough for Lisbon. This underrated European city with pretty houses under red roofs, mouth-watering food (especially egg tarts and cod-fish caked with cheese inside), cobblestone streets, and vintage trams made me wanna get stuck here forever. Though the hilly capital wore me out with its steep roads, it offered several perfect spots for a bird’s eye view. If ever asked where I wanna live, the answer so far will definitely be Lisbon.
The vintage tram packed with tourists