Half-drunk with a bottle of Casillero del Diablo, sitting on the floor in the middle of Plaza Mayor, Madrid, having had a great lunch at Museo Del Jamon, and enjoying a spontaneus “Concierto de Aranjuez” interpreted by an anonymous street musician, it felt very close to the most perfect vacation moment I’d ever had. It was 4 years ago and I still remember the realization at the time of how that moment would not fade away. No fancy hotels, no tours booked that day, no galleries to visit in the area and no intention of standing up any time soon.
As I try to deconstruct that moment, I now know that should one of the elements of such experience had been missing, it wouldn’t had transcended. So I’ll take a risk and generalize that a memorable experience has to appeal your senses in many ways. The dry yet tickling sensation on your palate, the stone floor warmed up by the sun rays, a belly full with exquisite cured hams and a well-known melody enhanced by flawless up-tempo execution, they all contributed to such memorability.
Monocle has an article called Good Hood, in which Tyler Brûlé & Thomas Calvocoressi attempt to build the perfect neighborhood by aggregating the very best shops from around the world into a few blocks of this, their new favorite living quarters. But the key to the success of this cosmopolitan version of your favorite city corner is not the quality of the stores, as they position the article, but the variety: fashion, deli, bookshop, café, restaurants, banks, bycycle shops, consulting shops, studios, galleries, florists, technology, shoes, wine, laundry. They all work in tandem to cater to every single need you may have.
Just the same, the traveler doesn’t need a guide to the 100 best restaurants in a city but a list of the few areas that provide a good balance of restaurants with shops, galleries and entertainment venues to enable a memorable experience. This could be finding the perfect patio after enjoying a good meal, buying an almost out-of-print book at a specialized stored, sipping an espresso right in front of a lively street full of beautiful people hunting for fashion bargains. It doesn’t take much. It takes variety.