Starry Nights, Amazing Sights

0

Time is a truly magical thing. A mere matter of hours is all it takes to transform a bustling sunny shopping strip into a romantic midnight esplanade lined with flickering candles. A simple sequence of moments can turn a simple farm horse and buggy into a mobile fondue table navigating beneath a canopy of dense forests filled with Swiss truffles below and sparkling stars above.

A city can completely change depending on the time.  During the bright hours of the day, structure reigns supreme as people hurry to appointments and seek to be on time. But at night, something magical happens. Time slows down into a series of unpredictable moments and glorious possibilities as the setting sun lies to rest each night.

Certain experiences can be transcendent, however, not all experiences are created equal. From eating truffle fondue at twilight in Switzerland to letting the stars guide your path in Israel or watching the city lights from high above in San Francisco, here are a few destinations that offer amazing sights during starry nights.

Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland

 

Nestled deep between the Jura Mountains, the Broye hills, and Lake Neuchâtel, Yverdon-les-Bains is a romantically quaint Swiss village known for its natural thermal spas and decadent gastronomy. This little town sits right in the heart of the wine and truffle region of Lake Geneva, part of the French speaking section of Switzerland, and truly sparkles when the sun goes down behind the snow-capped mountains.

With a history dating back more than 6,000 years, people have been flocking to the shores of Yverdon-les-Bains to experience the healing powers of the thermal waters spread throughout this small village. The waters reportedly promote well-being for joints and respiratory tracts, as well as soothe the stomach and sore muscles.

In 1896, the four-star-plus, super luxury Grand Hôtel des Bains opened a grand rotunda connected to the thermal centre where guests can spend the day relaxing in the sulfur spring waters — indoors or out — before embarking on an entirely adventurous exploration once the sun goes down. Because, in Yverdon-les-Bains, locals know you don’t need the sun to fuel a thirst for adventure.  A favorite local tradition includes joining in on the twelve annual full moon snowshoe hikes to each of the mountaintop chalets for an alpine fondue with friends.  But a real exclusive treat involves planning a private wine tasting and dinner party in the caves of the exclusive Vignoble Cousin winery, where this young and inventive boutique winemaker consistently sells out of his (purposely) small stock year after year and only opens his doors to the public by appointment.

A favorite local tradition includes joining in on the twelve annual full moon snowshoe hikes to each of the mountaintop chalets for an Alpine fondue with friends.

One of the most magical ways to spend an evening in this region is by sharing a delightful dinner with friends while riding through the vineyards of Bonvillars, or to the castle in Grandson, inside a horsedrawn carriage. A warm jacket and furlined boots are recommended as Claude Jaggi’s horse-drawn carriage rides offer a truly unique way to sense the countryside.  From there, the senses take over with the smell of the fresh mountain air, the sight of snow-speckled vines, the feel of cozy woolen blankets, and the taste of freshly baked bread dipped in locally-sourced fondue with fresh truffles shaved directly into the pot.

This magical experience comes with a complimentary Swiss serenade by Jaggi himself. What better way to cap off your journey to this winter paradise?

Jerusalem, Israel

More than just a city built with deep religious roots and an overwhelming history of emotions and archaeology, Jerusalem boasts a truly modern range of gastronomic delights and cultural sights with an illuminating and vibrant nightlife.  This eternal city has more than 70 names associated with it, but no matter what it’s called, the sense of majesty and mystery is unmistakable at even the mention of this Israeli capital.

During the day, the city is alive with the scent of Turkish coffee and roasting meats and the sound of bustling markets, like the Mahane Yehuda Market, stocked with  everything from Armenian artifacts to ancient antiques to intricately embroidered clothing and cushions. Boasting more than 9.3 hours of sunshine each day on average, there’s never a shortage of ways to fill the afternoon. Main experiences include wandering through the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum and floating in the ancient waters of the Dead Sea. Even taking a simple journey through the four elements of the Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Center at the Mamilla Hotel Jerusalem can be a great way to spend the day. This chic sanctuary not only offers guests a respite from the city’s day-to-day (make sure to check out the hotel’s mesmerizing Rooftop Restaurant) but it also is located within walking distance to most of the major landmarks of the city.  

This eternal city has more than 70 names associated with it, but no matter what it’s called, the sense of majesty and mystery is unmistakable at even the mention of this Israeli capital.

By night the city transforms into a dreamy Mediterranean amalgam of culture and romance with nightly light shows dancing off the 3,000-yearold walls of the Old City to breathtaking sunset views from the top of the Citadel of David Museum. Dine outside the city in conservative yet classy attire (think pashmina scarves and full-length cloth trousers) at the renowned Tishbi Winery for some amazing Israeli wine pairings. Or explore the inner city dining experience in conservative yet modern style (think wrap skirts or collared shirts) by candlelight at the local hotspot, Chakra restaurant, where the menu changes monthly with an array of local specialties.  Whichever dining option you choose, be sure to end your night with a stroll along the fairytale-esque floodlit paths of the Promenade to see the sparkling lights of the city below and the twinkling stars in the skies above.

For a truly unique nighttime excursion in Jerusalem, go where the locals go. After a late dinner and stroll, most young couples make their way to one of the many dance clubs or late night cafes and eateries in the German Colony’s Emek Refaim Street, the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall, Nahalat Shiv’a, Shlomtsiyon HaMalka Street, or the Russian Compound. For a more conservative and historic night excursion, take a fiveminute taxi ride to the top of the Mount of Olives for a remarkable panoramic view of the rooftops and city lights of Jerusalem.

San Francisco, California

 

Despite being the second most densely populated city in the United States, there is a strikingly small-town allure about San Francisco that only comes out at night. Founded in 1776, San Francisco has long been a melting pot of culture and freedom of expression.  The city itself is only 46.9 square miles, but is divided into 15 distinct neighborhoods. The vibe of the city changes as you traverse the iconic and tourist-friendly Fisherman’s Wharf by the bay to the Union Square district where you will feel in the heart of it all at the historic John’s Grill (keep your eyes open for celebrities looking to grab their favorite meals during the restaurant’s 150-year anniversary this year). Close by is the refreshingly sleek Mystic Hotel by Charlie Palmer. This chic, boutique hotel was recently opened by famous chef-turnedhotelier Charlie Palmer, and offers guests a classic San Franciscan experience, from film noir-inspired décor throughout Palmer’s onsite restaurant and bar, the Burritt Room + Tavern, to a speakeasy vibe throughout the rooms and suites.

While the sun is up, the place to be is anywhere on the ground in this city, from eating fresh chowder in a bread bowl at Pier Market Seafood Restaurant & Market on Pier 39 while watching the sea lions bask in the daylight to catching a ride on one of the famous cable cars down Lombard Street. Other options include exploring the haunted halls of Alcatraz with Alcatraz Cruises or the tie-dyed culture of Haight-Ashbury, or perhaps grabbing a dim sum lunch in Chinatown or an upscale meal on the Embarcadero at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, famous for its innovative ceviche and Peruvian cuisine.

Founded in 1776, San Francisco has long been a melting pot of culture and freedom of expression.

A true San Francisco evening is best experienced high above the city. San Francisco is truly a city of stars, from the swanky Starlight Room at the decadent Sir Francis Drake Hotel (a hotel that offers star amenities like in-room massages, complimentary wine receptions, and in-suite yoga mats). From 21 floors up at the Starlight Room, you can glimpse 180-degree views of the Bay while dancing in stilettos to live music or sipping cocktails in your designer duds in the VIP lounge.  Or soar on a sunset champagne seaplane tour by Seaplane Adventures that takes you high above the bridges along the bay and skims the skyline above the eerie scenes of Alcatraz Island.

For a truly magical and memorable San Francisco experience, head straight to Foreign Cinema in the Mission district.  There, you can sample exotic oysters or taste new treats from a daily changing California/Mediterranean-inspired menu while watching an independent movie projected on an old building in the restaurant’s inner courtyard. Dine indoors by the fire, upstairs in the semi-private mezzanine, or simply grab a blanket and a cocktail on the patio for the quintessential San Francisco dining and movie experience.  After the movie, head over to Bourbon & Branch or Laszlo for after-dinner drinks and dancing where you’ll see people wearing everything from suspenders and graphic tees to miniskirts and combat boots.