Five of the best.
New York City, US For sheer vibrancy and buzz, this is it. So many different sorts of places to see in such a small area, astonishing architecture, the world's widest choice of quality bars (full of craft beers) and great restaurants, sensational shopping and nightlife and - most of all - a culture mix like nowhere else.
BEST BITS? Central Park is a leafy haven amid the skyscrapers, Long Island an escape to the shore. The Museum of Modern Art (www.moma.org) is unique, the Rockefeller Centre (www.rockefellercenter.com) and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (www.intrepidmuseum.org) are musts - and so too is a ball game. Any ball game.
FAVOURITE RESTAURANT? The modest-looking Wong (www.wongnewyork.com) in West Village serves great-value Asian-fusion dishes like you won't believe. I loved the crispy duck tongue and jellyfish.
AND THE DOWNSIDES? The all-night noise, the extreme temperatures, the sheer stupidity of the tipping system, massive airport queues. And it's very expensive.
HOW DO I GET THERE? Try a short break through a site like lastminute.com. Three nights, flight plus hotel, will cost you about PS700. But prices vary greatly.
Chablis, France This cosy village in Burgundy gives its name to one of the world's great white wines - made with the locally grown chardonnay grape. With a population of 2,500, Chablis is French charm exemplified, an oasis of calm where time hasn't just stood still, it feels like it's gone backwards. BEST BITS? A walk along the banks of the River Serein, a drive around the local wineries - book in advance at the village tourist office. On a Sunday morning the weekly market is a great mixture of local food and drink, arts and crafts. FAVOURITE RESTAURANT? The Hostellerie des Clos (www.hostellerie-des-clos.fr) is a sensation. Michelin star-quality food and a wine list of 500 bottles. With, of course, lots of Chablis. AND THE DOWNSIDES? It's virtually dead late at night and in the early hours of the morning. Or is that an upside? HOW DO I GET THERE? Relax on a Dover-Calais P&O ferry (www.poferries.com) for around PS100 return - prices vary - then drive the 300 miles. The motorways are virtually empty. In Chablis, stay at the Hotel au Vieux Moulin (www.
hotel-au-vieux-moulin.lu). I'll be there next month and a lovely double room costs PS119.
New Zealand A country of stunning geographical variety, whether you visit the North or South Island. Go for both. Your eyes will pop out every time you turn a corner. Even more important are the people. You simply won't believe how friendly and polite they are wherever you go. The world's best.
BEST BITS? In the North I love the art deco of Napier, the historic, old-colonial feel of Russell and Mount Taranaki. Pick of the South is stunning Lake Tekapo, sports-crazy Queenstown, the truly spectacular Fox Glacier (take a helicopter ride) and the entire Marlborough wine region.
FAVOURITE RESTAURANT? Built in 1847, the Gables (www.thegablesrestaurant.co.nz) in Russell is the country's oldest and a waterside delight. Went there on Valentine's Day.
AND THE DOWNSIDES? It's a long way. The food is based around fish and chips and pies. HOW DO I GET THERE? Fly to Auckland with a major carrier for around PS700. Then you'll need to hire a camper van. Honestly, it's the only way to "do" New Zealand and see all the sights. Big companies such as Britz (www.britz.com) have a huge range of vehicles and prices. When it comes to campsites, Top 10 Holiday Parks (www.top10.co.nz) has a good choice of places nationwide, where you can park up from as little as PS15 a night.
Cape Town, South Africa Stand on top of Table Mountain and below you spans one of the world's great cities. It's an eclectic combination of rich and poor, old and new, which somehow manage to work together for a better future while never losing sight of the recent troubled past. BEST BITS? The climate is ideal, the time difference is negligible and everything is amazingly cheap. The new V&A Waterfront development is where it all happens - an astonishing array of bars and restaurants and top-quality shops. But the local beaches are great too and the Stellenbosch wine region is within easy reach.
FAVOURITE RESTAURANT? The Ferrymans Tavern (www.ferrymans.co.za) has top food, drink and live music. Great ribs for PS3, beer for about PS1. AND THE DOWNSIDES? No matter how it's dressed up, there is still an air of tension in certain areas at night. HOW DO I GET THERE? British Airways (www.britishairways.com) has flights, plus five nights in a hotel, from PS843.
town mix Umbria, Italy From the ancient hilltop towns to the rolling fields of vines, olives, sunflowers and tobacco, here is the green heart of Italy in all its glory.
BEST BITS? If there's a better touring area in Europe, show me. Drive to magical Lake Trasimeno and Gubbio, Todi and Orvieto. Soak up the culture of tours: Perugia and Assisi all the while feasting on some of the world's greatest food and wine.
FAVOURITE RESTAURANT? Er... it's a van. A van that tours the region's towns on their market days, selling the most wonderful pork called porchetta. It's got Umbertide painted on the side. AND THE DOWNSIDES? The rural world shuts from 1pm-3pm.
HOW DO I GET THERE? Drive from Calais, taking in two overnight stops each way. It's about 1,000 miles. Or fly to Perugia - Ryan Air has returns from about PS50 - and hire a car. I stay 15 miles away at Prato di Sotto (www.umbriaholidays.com), a mountain retreat near Umbertide. Prices on request.
| Steve Riches visited all of these locations at his own expense. hilltop
STUNNING: Mount Taranaki is a highlight in New Zealand
DIVERSE: Cape Town has a real cultural mix
TOURS: Hilltop towns in Umbria
UNFORGETTABLE: See the sun set in Cape Town
BUZZING: Get in a New York state of mind
IDYLLIC: Church in the vineyards near Chablis
MAGICAL: Ancient sights of Todi, Italy
TRANQUIL: The golden countryside at Chablis