Effective January 1, 2024, Departures® will no longer be available.

Card Members will no longer have access to Departures.com content or receive any print Departures magazines.

Departures Studio84 created this story in collaboration with InterContinental® Hotels and Resorts. Departures’ editorial contributors were not involved in its creation.

Worldly Travel, Local Spirit

Find out where to go in Lyon, Washington, D.C., Sydney, and Los Angeles from each city’s resident travel expert: its InterContinental® Hotels and Resorts General Manager.

SINCE OPENING ITS first hotel in Belém, Brazil, in 1949, InterContinental® Hotels and Resorts has delivered locally attuned, luxurious stays for discerning and diverse guests, ranging from royalty and heads of state (such as President Barack Obama, Her Majesty Queen Noor al-Hussein of Jordan, and the Dalai Lama) to famous creatives: Tina Turner, Hubert de Givenchy, Ava Gardner, Luciano Pavarotti, and Ernest Hemingway, to name just a few. Today its offerings include over 200 properties that stretch around the globe, spanning the palatial InterContinental Paris - Le Grand, innovative InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland, and panoramic InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort.

At every one of these covetable destinations, there’s one individual who you can rely upon to serve as a personal guide: the property’s General Manager. These international insiders are not only local experts, they’re avid travelers, savvy in the ins and outs of navigating their locale and the globe.

Below, General Managers from the InterContinental Lyon - Hotel Dieu, InterContinental The Willard Washington D.C., InterContinental Sydney, and InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown unpack the best things to do in their respective cities, and beyond.

Lyon, France

Madelijn Vervoord


The French art de vivre (“art of living”) inspired Holland-born Vervoord to relocate from New York City to France in 1992 — and it’s kept her rooted in the country ever since. After alighting in Paris, Vervoord worked in Marseilles and toured the country, eventually landing at the InterContinental Lyon - Hotel Dieu. Here, she combines her love of French culture with her vast experience, running the storied landmark hotel with Jean-Philippe Nueland–designed interiors and serving as Area General Manager for Southern France and the Mediterranean.

What is your top cultural stop in Lyon?

While Lyon is home to many museums, I particularly like the Musée des Beaux Arts located in a seventeenth-century abbey with a gorgeous inner garden and artwork from antiquity to present day. Lyon is also known for its many festivals. My favorite is the Nuits de Fourvière, which features two months of diverse shows performed in the Roman theater on the hill in Lyon every summer. It’s an extraordinary setting with equally extraordinary views.

If you could travel anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?

I would do a little “tour de France,” starting in Lyon to eat at some of the city’s 4,200 restaurants. Walking around the diverse architecture feels like passing through 2,000 years of history — from the Roman ruins to the Renaissance details on UNESCO heritage sites in Old Lyon to modern buildings in the city center. Then I would go on a wine tour in nearby Burgundy before heading south to Provence to stay in the “rebel town” of Marseille. I’d play boules and drink pastis with the locals, then rent a boat to visit the beautiful Calanques National Park for fabulous bouillabaisse on the seaside. I’d finish in Bordeaux with a stroll through the city center before going on another wine tour, where I’m always reminded that there is a world of difference between Burgundy and Bordeaux wines! I’d also drive over to the Bassin d'Arcachon to climb Europe’s highest dune and eat oysters on the waterfront.

What is your preferred cuisine?

I am very lucky to live in a country where gastronomy is so important, even for a simple family meal. The only country that can beat the French culinary arts is Italy. One of my best foodie memories is from the island of Capri, where I enjoyed the catch of the day alongside homemade orecchiette with fresh tomatoes and basil, on a terrace by the sea.

Friends In Fine Places

  • With InterContinental® Hotels and Resorts General Managers in over 200 destinations, you have personal, local guides worldwide. Explore now.

Washington, D.C., USA

Markus Platzer


With a 30-year hospitality career spanning Munich, Prague, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bangkok, and Tokyo, Platzer is a thoroughly seasoned general manager and explorer. This global background serves him well as “host in chief” of the InterContinental The Willard Washington D.C., where politicians brush shoulders with international tourists in what has been dubbed the “residence of presidents” due to the hotel’s long-standing reputation for housing the world’s political and social elite.

There is nothing more energizing than running early in the morning to discover the authentic sounds and sights of a city.

Do you have a favorite corner of the InterContinental The Willard Washington D.C.?

I never get tired of standing in its lobby, where history is often written. Martin Luther King Jr. made the final edits to his famous “I Have a Dream” speech there before delivering it at the Lincoln Memorial. There is no other place with this special aura. That said, the Club InterContinental Lounge on the 35th floor of ANA InterContinental Tokyo is a close second, thanks to its breathtaking view of Mount Fuji behind the Tokyo skyline. Go between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. to see the peak unobstructed by clouds — the combination of the disparate landscapes is mesmerizing.

How do you spend a day off in Washington, D.C.?

There is nothing more energizing than running early in the morning to discover the authentic sounds and sights of a city. So I start with my usual run at the Lincoln Memorial, watch the sunrise over the U.S. Capitol and National Mall, then wind down at Swing’s Coffee. Next I’ll visit one of the city’s amazing museums, such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture. For lunch, I enjoy a fresh lobster roll at the Wharf Fish Market. Then I try to attend a D.C. United soccer match or a Washington Capitals hockey game. Often I go with family and friends to Millie's Spring Valley, a neighborhood restaurant featuring fresh California Baja–style fare with a coastal vibe, before listening to live jazz at the Blues Alley Jazz Club in Georgetown.

If you could travel anywhere tomorrow, where would you go and why?

I would travel back to Thailand, my family’s home for eight years. I’d spend time in Bangkok, taking in its rich cultural heritage, beautiful temples, floating markets, luxurious shopping malls, and street food — some of the best in Asia. I’d also visit some of the islands (Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Kut, Koh Samet, Phuket) and beaches, such as Hua Hin, south of Bangkok.

Sydney, Australia

Jennifer Brown


Brown began her career in Europe after childhood travels with her architect father inspired her to join the world of hospitality. By the age of 33, she had already joined the ever-growing community of female General Managers at InterContinental® Hotel and Resorts. Now, as both an Area General Manager and General Manager of InterContinental Sydney — the beautifully restored Treasury Building of 1851 that’s situated directly opposite the Royal Botanic Garden — Brown provides local recommendations, caters to wildly unexpected requests, and mentors the brand’s next generation of leaders.

What is your ideal way to spend a day off in Sydney?

I’d wake at sunrise with nature, then walk along the coastline with my family — the Hermitage Foreshore is our favorite track. Next, I’d stop for coffee at a neighborhood café. Later, I’d venture into the city by ferry — my children’s faces light up every time we go under the Sydney Harbour Bridge — and shop boutiques. In the evening, I’d explore Sydney’s incomparable dining and bar scene. The melting pot of cultures and access to diverse, fresh produce make for unbelievable flavors.

Share a memorable experience you’ve had with a guest.

I lead a portfolio of hotels including InterContinental Hayman Island Resort on the Whitsunday Islands, a popular honeymoon destination. One summer, a newlywed couple staying there took one of our delightful Island Escapades experiences, exploring nearby islands by speedboat and swimming alongside the incredible sealife. They returned from their epic adventure beaming. But later that night, the groom came to us distressed: He’d lost his wedding ring on one of the beaches. The next morning, a search party of colleagues sourced a metal detector and set sail for the islands. Teamwork soon prevailed: The wedding band was found! And we returned it to him so swiftly (and discreetly) that his wife was completely unaware it had been lost. It’s memories like these that remind me I have the best job in the world. I get to work with a passionate team, dedicated to making a difference — whether that means leaving a thoughtful gift in a guest’s room, leading projects that make our properties more meaningfully sustainable, or, yes, digging in the sand for missing jewelry.

If you could travel anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?

I’m always drawn to Italy and my husband is Italian, so I’ve been lucky to see parts of the country that a tourist never would. The Dolomites are our home away from home — there’s breathtaking nature, food, one-of-a-kind ski slopes, and a beautiful sense of community. I also can’t wait to visit the recently restored landmark InterContinental Rome Ambasciatori Palace. After spending the last few years leading the multimillion-dollar refurbishment of InterContinental Sydney’s heritage features, I’ve become fascinated by the restoration of other historic buildings.

Los Angeles, USA

Niles Harris


Harris has worked in the hotel industry for over three decades all over the United States, with tenures in New York City, Boston, Atlanta, Houston, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. Now at InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, which sits in the epicenter of the city’s historic financial and arts district, he combines his extensive cultural education and experience with memorable guidance to ensure guests get the most out of the property and Los Angeles.

What do you love about Los Angeles?

Los Angeles is a combination of grit and glamour. I love it for its rich and diverse culture, sports, and musical vibe — and of course the incredible international food scene.

What makes InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown stand apart?

It’s an architectural masterpiece. The main entrance features a skylight that measures the length of an American football field. And it is the city’s first LEED Gold building, with features like solar-operated, automatic window louvers. It’s also the tallest building west of Chicago and a beacon of the Los Angeles skyline. We have breathtaking, panoramic views of Los Angeles, but my favorite area is the pool — it’s an absolute oasis in the center of downtown.

Name another city you love.

If I had to choose one, it would be New York City. Your senses are constantly enlivened, and the diversity, cultural enrichment, languages, and culinary experiences can transport you to any place at any time, day or night. I also really enjoy theater, and there is no place like Broadway.

So … Knicks or Lakers?

I’m a loyal, lifelong Knicks fan! However, I always support the local team and now root for the Lakers — when they aren’t playing the Knicks.

Our Contributors

Departures Studio84

Departures Studio84 is the creative, strategy, and media team at Departures dedicated to bringing merchant partnerships to life.


Let’s Keep in Touch

Subscribe to our newsletter

You’re no longer on our newsletter list, but you can resubscribe anytime.