This occurred to me as I was writing about airports, and is obviously not inclusive (I am writing from a European point of view, even though I love the Middle East, but maybe someone could start another discussion for other regions).
After my first trips abroad (next paragraph and during) I went to Germany and Switzerland. My ancestry is entirely Swiss/German (Berne). It was actually a relief from France in the 80s (so different from now) when no one in France spoke any English. It was a relief, even though my ex-husband (who'd seen it all) did not travel with me. Even in the late 80s Germans and German-Swiss spoke some English and I could (then) speak German. Still, oddly, I never felt at home, even in Berne. Other than the possibility of being a changeling (not likely, since I was born and raised in Germantown, PA), I couldn't quite get why I did not connect with my ancestral homeland (or its language, despite it being my best subject in high school). I later went to East and West Germany on fellowships in the late 90s and visited Switzerland again, but all I can say is that I felt ... nothing. With a friend, I visited Vienna, and mostly it was the same.
I have not a drop of Latin blood in me. Totally Swiss-German, so why do I only feel at home in France, Italy and Greece (in Europe)?
My favorite place to be used to be France. It was my first time not just visiting but living outside of the US except for visits to Québec and Ontario. The problem is, and I wonder if any of you who consider yourself serious and frequent travelers, is that I have seen and been to almost all of France. I've lived in Paris for years totalled, and partial years in other places.
My next favorite place became Italy. I hated every place I first visited in Italy, after a first trip to both Venice and Rome in the 90s. In each case, I stayed in fleabag hotels to do my research, and in summer, when it was horribly hot. As you know, I've become a great lover of Italy since, especially Venice and Rome. I gave a three-college tour for two weeks to Tuscany and Umbria in 2002 for my college's Alumni Office and have been to Florence, Siena, etc. many times. Yet the only one of the places in those tours that stuck with me was the beautiful and amazing Assisi. I've been to both Florence and Siena (I prefer the latter) many times, yet I always prefer the Tuscan villages. For me, the first time in Florence was magic as the taxi passed by the Duomo and Baptistery. But as I was there more and more, I 'felt' it less and less. Much less than Paris, which is my least favorite part of France.
And then I discovered Greece and its islands after my life-changing experience in 2009. I'd been too timid to go to places where I did not speak the language before that. Both of the first two trips were based in Athens with day trips everywhere else in Greece. Then I did the islands, and last year stayed a week out of the main town on Mykonos, so I could go regularly to Delos, an ancient site. I'm going back to Greece twice in the next four months, though I'm not sure where.
Finally, and some of you will be surprised. Thanks to my research, I rediscovered London (I actually always liked most of the rest of England fairly well before this). It started with staying at the Marriott County Hall numerous times and most recently at the West India Quay. I learned quickly which part of London suits me -- East End. Next stay will not be at a Marriott, because I need to be in the East End for research, so I'm staying at the Tower Indigo. But I will otherwise always stay at what I think of as the best Marriott in London -- West India Quay.
So tell me and everyone, why and where are your favorite places? And though I started with Europe, please expand it!