Eight of my favorite places

By Caitlin Kelly

Having lived in five countries — my native Canada, France, England, Mexico and the U.S. — I have so many favorite places, a few of which (sob!) are now gone.

I travel as often as time and money allows, and am always torn between re-visiting old favorites and making new discoveries.


Île St.-Louis


We’ve stayed several times in a rented apartment here, on the aptly-named Rue de Deux Ponts (the street of two bridges). The island sits in the Seine River, setting it physically apart from the bustle and noise of the rest of the city. The streets are narrow and short, and it’s overwhelmingly residential. One of our favorite restaurants, Les Fous de L’Île is on that street, about four doors away from a Parisian legend, the ice cream shop Berthillon, which offers amazing flavors.

I love how compact the island is, complete with its own bars, bakeries, hair salon, ancient church. Yet, within minutes, you’re back on Paris’ Left Bank or Right Bank, ready to roll.


Keen’s Steakhouse


Tucked away on a side street in un-glamorous midtown sits this terrific bit of Manhattan culinary history. The main dining room is long, dimly-lit, filled with tablecloth-covered tables and framed ephemera. The ceiling is the coolest part — lined with clay pipes wired to the ceiling. In business since 1885, the food is delicious and well worth a splurge. There’s a less-formal small dining room on one side and the bar area is also charming. You feel completely transported out of noisy, busy 2018.







Probably my favorite store in the world, this legend is in London, opened in 1885 and the Regent Street location in 1927; here’s a history. 

I visit every time I get to London, even if I buy nothing.

It’s a store focused on luxury, but a very specific louche-aristo look, eccentric and confident. Even if you just go for a cuppa in their tearoom, check out the mock-Tudor building’s exquisite stained  glass windows and light-filled central atrium.


The Grand Canyon — whose profound silence makes your ears ring


The Grand Canyon

Ohhhhhh, you must go! No words can really do it justice. My only advice — you must hike down into the Canyon to experience it, and spend a full day if at all possible, watching the light and shadows shift minute by minute.


The Toronto Islands


What a joy these are! Jose and I got married on one of them, in a tiny wooden church surrounded by public parkland — and accompanied by (!) the mooing of cows from a nearby petting zoo. One of the islands is covered with tiny inhabited cottages, the most coveted real estate in the city — a challenge when, (as happened to me with a boyfriend) — you have a 3 a.m. nosebleed and the Harbor Police have to race across and get you to a hospital.  They’re a great place to walk, bike, swim, relax and enjoy great views of the city at sunset. The ferry ride over is still one of my favorite things to do anywhere, any time.



Our wedding church, St. Andrew by The Lake, Centre Island, Toronto


Grand Central Terminal


It really is a cathedral, and sees more than 750,000 visitors every day — most of them commuters from suburban Westchester (north in New York) or Connecticut (northeast) traveling by train.

Built in 1913, it’s spectacular — a brilliant turquoise ceiling with gold-painted constellations and pin-point lights sparkling as stars; enormous gleaming metal hanging lamps, elegant brass-trimmed ticket booths, wide marble steps and floors.

It also offers many shops, great restaurants and bars, a terrific food market (check out Li-Lac chocolates for a chocolate Statue of Liberty) and the classic Oyster Bar downstairs.




The Coffee Mill


This legendary cafe, a fixture in Toronto for more than 50 years, closed in 2014. It opened in 1963, and, as a little girl, I loved sitting on one of its cafe chairs in the sunshine near a fountain. Later, in a nearby location, inside a small shopping center easily overlooked, it continued serving Hungarian specialties — strudel, goulash and the freshest rye bread anywhere. The booths were small and intimate and its owner always immaculate. On every trip back — and I left in 1986 — I stopped in for a coffee or a meal.




Oh, the 80s! A former laundromat on Toronto’s Queen Street became — from 1983 to 2002 — a fantastic bar and restaurant, with a lively rooftop scene perfect on a steamy summer’s evening. Here’s its history, and an excerpt:

Inviting in every possible way, the BamBoo was relaxed, warm, and far from slick. Random parts hinted at an industrial past, including the outdoor fountain built atop the remnants of the building’s original boiler. A narrow metal stairwell led up to the Treetop, a Jamaican style bar ‘n’ BBQ that opened on the club’s rooftop in summer of 1984, expanding the BamBoo’s legal capacity to 500.

“During the summer heat, there was nowhere you wanted to be other than the Treetop Lounge,” says [Toronto artist Barbara] Klunder. “Think rum drinks and burgers at brightly painted barstools or coffee tables under the night sky and the CN Tower.”

What are some of your favorite places — and why?

17 thoughts on “Eight of my favorite places

  1. Heide

    What a wonderful collection of “favorites”! The Île St.-Louis is right at the top for me too — although I stay on the Île de la Cité if I can manage it (because I can’t get enough of the bells of Notre Dame). Love Liberty, too. I’ve only been there once, 20 years ago, but I still remember being joyfully overwhelmed by all of the treasures on display. And the Grand Canyon! You’re right that one must simply go, because neither words nor photos can do it justice. Loved the sentimental reasons behind some of your other favorite spots. One of mine is the beautiful little city of Freiburg, in the foothills of Germany’s Black Forest. Ah … now you have me daydreaming about these places!

    1. Thanks!

      I realized long ago that the places I am always happiest in combine a true sense of history with beauty, natural or artificial. I seek both out every day, now also through my Instagram feed with images of 17th century costumes and textiles and dozens of florists.

  2. Besides my apartment? Well, the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast keeps popping up in my mind. It was a really amazing experience for me, and I’d like to visit again someday. London and Paris were pretty awesome as well. And a part of me still misses Germany. And in Columbus, I love going to Tensuke Market for Japanese food and products, and Hofbrauhaus for German food and drink. Plus the North Market downtown for just anything fun or weird.

  3. Rothesay, Bute, Scotland
    I went there with my family when I was eleven. My Dad couldn’t get time off during the summer, so we went in the fall, which my teacher (Who actually used to say “If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding!”) found endlessly amusing. The town was super quaint, with lots of little shops and good places to eat. I never understood why British food gets such a bad rap, especially breakfast. Except for haggis, that is. Haggis is gross.

    Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
    This place is sacred ground, but if sacred ground is not your thing, it’s still a really nice little town. Cathy and I stayed in a place called the Brafferton inn, maybe 100 feet from the town square. There is a bookstore right next door called “For the Historian” that positively reeks of toasty old books. Woof. I got up early our last day there, right around sunrise, and went for a walk. It was so quiet back on the residential streets and many of the homes were there during the battle. You can see where some of them were struck by small arms or artillery fire. The drive home, all eight hours of it, was really nice, too.

    Way the Hell out in the middle of the Pacific ocean
    The USS Merrill, DD976, was my home from 1980-1982 and we spent lots of time far from land. We did lots of testing of things that go boom and that’s always a lot of fun, but I mostly liked being out on the water. Navy ships only show running lights at night, so it’s super dark and you can see all the stars. The Merrill serves as a reef habitat now, so long, Mean Mutha.

    Joe Harbaugh’s farm, Rawlins, West Virginia
    Joe was my father’s uncle. He lived with his wife Lou (Yes, I have an aunt Lou. I also have an aunt Fanny. If you ever write a post about the sweetest, kindest person you ever knew, I’ll tell you about her.)
    Uncle Joe’s wasn’t a very big place. He raised a few cows to sell and he had a pretty big garden for canning. We used to go down and pick vegetables for supper. Aunt Lou made bologna sandwiches for lunch, sliced thick, right off the log, or whatever they call it, with homegrown tomatoes.
    Uncle Joe was a hillbilly to the core, the proud owner of about three teeth, but he could absolutely destroy an ear of corn. It wasn’t pretty, but I think he liked it when we laughed. It really was almost Heaven.

    Right here
    This is where the love is and it just doesn’t get any better than that.

    It really was nice to reach back and spend a little time in these wonderful places, with these wonderful people. Thanks for inviting me.

    1. This is amazing…thanks for all the details! I was very moved, in Normandy, to see bullet holes in stone walls from WWII, so I know what it can feel like to revisit a battle scene.

      Have never had anyone like and Uncle Joe or Aunt Lou, but have had some good friends for many years and grateful for them.

      1. Somehow I could tell that a dazzling urbanite like yourself wouldn’t have many Appalachian stump-jumpers swinging in the ol’ family tree. My first clue was your reaction to beans ‘n’ taters. No matter. I like to think we are working together to keep the world interesting.

      2. I like “dazzling urbanite”! Good band name.

        Beans ‘n taters sound good to me. I envy you such lovely relatives. Mine were all glamour pusses in the public eye but not very nice people privately.

        I think we are doing a very good job of this!

        Still mulling your vision of the stars from that ship…

      3. “Dazzling urbanite” comes from a bit of dialogue between Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little in the greatest movie ever made, Blazing Saddles. The whole line goes “What’s a dazzling urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?”
        It would be great if all my relatives were that lovely (I’m crazy about that word), but that’s a story I won’t be telling.
        I’m glad you like my comments, they’re some of my best work.

  4. each of these places sound wonderful in its own way, a shame they do not all remain in place.

    some of mine are:

    big star lake in northern michigan, the last happy place i remember going with my family as a child, before all fo the unhappiness came to my parents.

    toronto – to visit the first man i loved after my divorce, so excited to arrive by train

    ann arbor, michigan – felt like i finally found my home at last when i moved here for grad school at age 40

    negril, jamaica – on a beach, as the sun was setting, sitting at a table, barefoot in the sand, listening to live reggae music with newfound fellow travelers/friends

    kinsale, ireland – in a rented 150 year old farmhouse, in the midst of beautiful meadows and a walk to the sea

    bunbury, western australia – visiting family and heading out on a day sail on the sea, my son in law diving down and catching fresh lobster for lunch on the boat

    here is just a taste, but it’s clear when writing them, they are all attached to emotion for me.

    1. These all sound amazing. And, so true, about attached emotion — the first time I visited the Grand Canyon alone I was ecstatically happy there and the night I returned to NY my husband walked out for good. I went back a few years ago to create a new and happier memory.

      I always cry when I leave Ireland. It’s an amazing place; so glad you know and love it too

  5. Pingback: [BLOG] Some Tuesday links | A Bit More Detail

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