Best of CH 2020: Travel

From boutique hotels in Denver, Santa Monica and the Catskills to wineries in Mexico, an island off Brittany and more

Borders locked down; shelter-in-place directives cascaded across cities, counties, countries and continents. If this were any other year, our team of full-time staff and contributors would have traversed the globe in search of inspiration and stories that come from diverse, immersive experiences. And although this year began that way, it settled into routines at home and daydreams of travel. By summer, we were granted safe access to outside art destinations within reach, and in the fall we as a team trekked to the Berkshires, but this was not a year to explore as much as it was a year to plan. With that in mind, the selections below encompass highlights from what we as a global network of writers were able to tour on this remarkable planet of ours in a year unlike any other.

Courtesy of Printers Alley

Word of Mouth: Nashville

Part of the appeal of Tennessee’s capital city lies in its ability to retain its storied history as a lively, talent-rich musical destination while also thriving as a bustling metropolis of cultural institutions, worthy accommodation, excellent dining and more. Nashville has experienced significant growth over the past two decades, but plenty of favorites remain: Hattie B’s hot chicken, beloved honky-tonk bar Robert’s Western World, and internationally-acclaimed record shop Grimey’s (albeit in a new location) among them. Dotted in-between are newcomers that include a lovely wine bar from a Paris-trained chef and the lush guest rooms of an Art Deco hotel. Here we have selected some of our favorite spots—new and old—to visit in Nashville… Read more.

Courtesy of Jeff Jenkins / Chubby Diaries

Interview: Travel Content Creator, Activist + Resource Jeff Jenkins

Launched last month, the Black Travel Alliance intends to be a lobbying organization for Black travelers and a force capable of directing attention to injustices and intentional oversights with regard to diversity. “Black Travel Alliance is a new group of Black Travel Content Creators from across the globe. Our three pillars of the community are alliance, amplification, and accountability,” the initiative’s mission reads. “We unify to amplify. We also aim to provide training and business support to our members, as well as hold destinations and travel brands accountable on the issue of diversity in travel marketing and storytelling… Read more.

by Ben Fitchett for Urban Cowboy

Urban Cowboy’s Catskills Mountain Escape, The Lodge

Big Indian, New York’s Urban Cowboy Lodge counters the bustling metropolis found just two and half hours south with the warm charm of a respite that’s at once familiar and unchartered. Expanding upon a sort of design universe built from their previous openings—Urban Cowboy Brooklyn and Nashville and The Dive Motel & Swim Club in Nashville—proprietors Lyon Porter and Jersey Banks use this ’40s-era “vacationland” (a title bestowed upon the land by the owners before them) as the foundation for a fire-burning, vinyl-spinning and eye-catching escape from modern life. Beyond this sanctuary is 36,000 acres of wilderness… Read more.

by David Graver

Word of Mouth: Ouessant, Brittany

The name of the westernmost part of France, Finistère translates to the “end of the earth;” so does the region’s Breton name, Penn ar Bed. To set foot in Finistère—the department that includes the port city of Brest, dozens of small villages dotting the rugged coastline and a series of islands in the Celtic Sea—is to understand the gravity of these translations. No place in the region conveys “end of the earth” quite like the furthest of those islands, Ouessant (Ushant in Breton), which embodies the windswept spirit of Brittany. It’s remote and charming and its defining attraction—several stunning lighthouses, of which one is a museum—alludes to the magic one finds there… Read more.

Courtesy of The Ingalls

Kelly Wearstler’s Vision for the Santa Monica Proper Hotel

The spacious lobby of the Santa Monica Proper Hotel—with its earth tones, textured wood and natural stone set among a variety of deep, plush seating—feels like a private home overlooking the water. This was part of designer Kelly Wearstler’s vision for the renovation of a 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival office building into a 271-room hotel, situated blocks from the Pacific Ocean in downtown Santa Monica. From soundproofing guest rooms to deflect nighttime carousing at circular rooftop bar, Calabra; adding handles close to the entry of the deep step-in marble showers; including Apple TV and bedside-adjacent digital lighting panels; or hand-selecting all the books and art in the lobby’s “grotto” library, Wearstler’s aesthetic can be felt throughout the property… Read more.

Courtesy of Leora Novick

Word of Mouth: Tucson, Arizona

Located at the southern tip of Arizona, Tucson is the state’s creative enclave. Nestled between the Saguaro National Park, the Old Pueblo draws millions of travelers for its larger-than-life saguaros, a variety of cactus whose blossoms form the state’s official wildflower. Just 30 minutes from Tucson’s downtown, this desert oasis presents the icons of the southwest in their natural environment. Stunning vistas aside, Tucson’s designation as UNESCO’s very first City of Gastronomy highlighted its slew of food and drink options—many of which offer more than traditional dine-in scenarios. The blend of Sonoran culture with the Mexican heritage of many inhabitants creates a unique flavor that stands out within the region, and the city’s obsession with heritage and heirloom seeds only fuels this further… Read more.

Courtesy of Black Tomato

Camp Beneath December 2020’s Total Solar Eclipse in Argentine Patagonia

For two minutes and 10 seconds, on the afternoon of 14 December 2020, the moon will cover the sun for a total solar eclipse. The “G eclipse point” of the umbra—the perfect spot to witness it all—exists inside Patagonia and, more specifically, the otherworldly landscapes surrounding the village of Piedra del Aguila, otherwise known as the “Stone of the Eagle.” To cater to celestial-enthusiast tourists, luxury adventure travel company Black Tomato will set up camp in Argentina and host guests in temporary, low-impact Blink tents—all under the watch of the snow-capped peak of Lanin Volcano… Read more.

Courtesy of Life House

Denver’s Design-Forward, Character-Filled Life House Lower Highlands Hotel

Life House first came on the scene in 2017, garnering buzz for being an ambitious tech-driven hotel brand backed by Silicon Valley. But as its portfolio of stylish boutique properties grew, Life House’s lofty reputation was soon defined by one of its core philosophies: celebrating neighborhood heritage and identity through design. With its newest outpost in Denver’s Lower Highlands, Life House welcomes its first outpost outside the eastern seaboard (Miami and Nantucket are the other locations) with a prairie’s worth of excitement… Read more.

Courtesy of Square Nine

Word of Mouth: Belgrade

Over the past few years, the Serbian capital Belgrade has emerged as one of the most exciting destinations in Europe. Owing to its cheap prices, 24-hour party culture and plenty of dilapidated but beautiful architecture, Belgrade is often described as “the new Berlin” by those who fear that gentrification has stripped the old Berlin of the permissive hedonism for which it was so famous in the 1990s. Belgrade, which still hasn’t really recovered from the aftershocks of the Yugoslav wars (even though those conflicts ended 20 years ago) still retains that low-level lawlessness that often fosters great nightlife; however, there’s also an altogether more refined side to the city that usually goes undetected by outsiders… Read more.

Courtesy of Finca la Carrodilla + Lomita

Visiting Lomita + Finca la Carrodilla Wineries Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

About 20 miles northeast of Ensenada, in the middle of the Valle de Guadalupe wine region, the Finca La Carrodilla winery makes Árbol, the region’s first fully organic wine (a Syrah). In the vineyard, sheep rollick their way across the rows of vines, clearing the land and fertilizing the soil. An apparatus that rolls the adorable flock, fondly nicknamed the “lamb rover,” provides a glimpse into the biodynamic processes at play… Read more.

Hero image courtesy of Black Tomato