In Aesop's fable "The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse," a citified rodent and his rustic friend swap homes, each believing his own to be superior. The mice soon discover that comfort is a matter of taste, and so it goes with travelers, too. Some are happiest when surrounded by hustle and bustle, while others delight in quiet calm. Preferences are often mixed within a group or even a couple. Thankfully there are many destinations that offer equally stunning city and country options this summer.
If witnessing history is your priority, then there's nowhere else to be but London, where the queen will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee on the eve of the 2012 Summer Olympics. (How convenient that a dazzling panoply of new hotels is opening for the occasion?) But if settling in the countryside sounds more desirable, boutique properties in New Forest National Park by Lyndhurst Hotels -- havens for foodies and spa-goers alike--are just a 90-minute drive away.
In Peru, sip pisco sours in bustling Lima or explore a chic eco-resort and Machu Picchu. In Seattle, celebrate the 50th anniversary of its World's Fair or head to the San Juan Islands to get up close and personal with nature (don't miss the whale watching). And while Italy's fashion designer turned hotelier Giorgio Armani prefers Milan, Italy's director turned hotelier Francis Ford Coppola can't get enough of pastoral Bernalda.
The unsaid truth, of course, is that these destinations are often best paired -- after all, isn't there a little bit of town and a little bit of country in all of us?
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When Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton ran away to get hitched in 1964, they chose the Ritz-Carlton Montreal (from $425; 1228 Sherbrooke St. W.; 514-842-4212). The hotel reopens its doors this month after a three-year closure and complete reconstruction (just in time for its centennial), featuring 130 rooms and 46 residences, a new restaurant by Daniel Boulud (Maison Boulud) and the city’s first freestanding Tiffany & Co. Schedule your trip around the summer music celebrations—Montreal Chamber Music Festival (through June 2) and Montreal Jazz Festival (June 28–July 7)—and look to Théâtre de Verdure in Lafontaine Park for entertainment alfresco. Find excellent shopping in Old Montreal and trendy Le Plateau Mont-Royal, or visit Bota-Bota (358 Rue de la Commune Ouest; 514-284-0333), a floating spa on the St. Lawrence River with 20 treatment rooms and views of the skyline.
The Eastern Townships, just a two-hour drive from Montreal, are charming in every way. Meander from township to township, or vineyard to vineyard, along La Route des Vins and see myriad antiques shops, corner stores and outdoor theaters. The area has been popular with travelers since the turn of the last century, when Americans began hopping trains north to idyllic Lake Massawippi. The railway lines are now trails, allowing visitors to tour the breathtaking landscape by bicycle or on foot. In North Hatley, on the northern tip of the lake, is Manoir Hovey (from $195; 575 Chemin Hovey; 800-661-2421), a 41-room, five-star Relais & Châteaux hotel in a century-old manor. The waterfront property has kayaks and canoes, and its restaurant is a regional destination famous for its cheese cart. Pâté lovers take note: The Québécois food and wine festival Fête des vendanges Magog-Orford takes place in nearby Magog during the first two weekends of September.
Between the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June and the Olympics in July and August, this summer belongs to London—and hotels are gearing up. Bulgari Hotel & Residences (from $950; 171 Knightsbridge; 44-20/7151-1010) will open its first property here on May 28. Firmdale Hotels adds a Marylebone gem to its boutique mix—the 38-room Dorset Square Hotel (from $250; 39–40 Dorset Sq.; 44-20/7723-7874) opens June 18. The Central Weekend of the queen’s revelry (June 2–5) is packed with historic events. The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on June 3 promises to be a sight, with the queen’s barge leading more than a thousand boats. And on June 4, just weeks before the July 27 opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics, Britons will light more than 4,000 torches—or, in Britspeak, “beacons”—in celebration of the queen.
England designated a new national park in Hampshire County in 2005. The 219-square-mile parcel of land, once royal hunting grounds and located 90 minutes by car from Central London, is pure English countryside—and developers aim to keep it that way. In 2009, Lyndhurst Hotels opened Lime Wood (from $475; Beaulieu Rd.; 44-23/8028-7177), a restored 13th-century Regency hunting lodge just outside the small town of Lyndhurst. Interior designer David Collins bedecked the 29 rooms in bespoke antiques and rich textiles; the 22,000-square-foot Herb House Spa has a forest sauna and hot pond; and head chef Luke Holder emphasizes local sourcing. Lime Wood’s little sister, The Pig (from $200; Beaulieu Rd.; 44/01590 622354), opened in neighboring Brockenhurst this spring. Chef James Golding leads this self-proclaimed restaurant with rooms and works with a gardener and a forager on its menus.
Get a glorious slice of this vibrant metropolis in June and September. The first ten days of June mark the Festa del Naviglio, when the canal area fills with antiques markets, food stands and the occasional parade. Men’s Fashion Week runs June 22 through June 27, and for one day in mid-June (the date has yet to be announced) the city’s restaurants and bars stay open all night for the annual La Notte Bianca party. The Formula 1 Gran Prix (September 9) and Women’s Fashion Week (beginning September 18) come later. Armani Hotel Milano (from $775; 31 Via Manzoni; 39-02/8883-8888), which opened last fall and is pictured here, is a design-hotel lover’s dream. Armani approved every touch and based many decisions (such as foyers in each room) on his own home. An innovative glass “hat” on the top floors allows for panoramic views of the Duomo, from Armani Ristorante and Armani/SPA.
Palazzo Margherita, Francis Ford Coppola’s fifth property, is set in the Basilicata region in the small town of Bernalda, where his grandfather lived. The Medieval hilltop city overlooks the Ionian Sea, has no major attractions and doesn’t see many tourists—and that’s its charm. The nine-suite property opened in March. Its overall feel is that of a private home, but the extraordinary interiors by legendary French interior designer Jacques Grange render it more a summer palace. Graphic tiles—including Grange’s signature zigzag—cover the radiant-heat floor, and walls are painted in striped patterns or washed-out pastels. The screening room features 300 Italian films from Coppola’s personal collection. A 20-minute drive takes you to the beach, and two golf courses are nearby, but you won’t want to stray far from this haven (rooms from $1,000; 64 Corso Umberto; 39-08/3554-9060). To see the rest of the summer travel itineraries, click here.
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