I was going to continue with my Laos series when I noticed that this is my 100th post. To celebrate, I decided to do a post about places that have stuck in my mind and in my heart. It was a tough exercise limiting this to only ten (there are many runners up). I took a broad approach to the word “place” and the list includes countries, regions, and provinces. A few of the places are from visits that happened long before I’d ever heard the word “blog” or even used a computer, and I’m happy to be sharing these “old” favourites. Thank you for reading, for your likes and comments, and motivating me to keep at it.
My list isn’t in order of preference, but this place —Namibia—is my #1. In 2008, we did a 3-week self drive trip through this sparsely populated country and I was completely awestruck by its stunning desert landscape. Namibia has some of the world’s largest sand dunes and their orange hue is truly amazing. I loved the contrast of massive ocean waves crashing on beaches backed by a desert that is one of the driest places on earth. We saw tons of animals in Etosha Park but our most memorable encounter was hanging out beside a couple of gorgeous lions while waiting for a park ranger to “rescue” us from our car that had a flat tire. We got a kick out of capital city Windhoek, and coastal city Swakopmund, a quirky pair where we dined on kudu steak washed down with huge steins of German beer (a few good remnants of German colonization).
Our trip to Egypt in March of 2011 was memorable on so many accounts. It was my 50th birthday and just six weeks after the Arab Spring uprising. Egyptians were rife with optimism about their future. We were among a small group of tourists who had not cancelled travel plans (some called us crazy) and we received the most warm and enthusiastic welcome wherever we visited. I’ll never forget sleeping under the stars in the White Desert, hanging out in the remote Siwa Oasis, having the Great Pyramids and Valley of the Kings virtually to ourselves, and diving in laid-back Dahab. Awesome country. Awesome people. Unfortunately, Egypt’s important tourism industry is still reeling. My heart goes out to the Egyptian people who continue to wait for a brighter future.
I had the great pleasure of living in Newfoundland for two years in the early 90’s. There’s a book about Newfoundland called This Marvelous Terrible Place and it is the perfect description of this province. The weather is crappy, communities are isolated, and resource sector work is difficult. But the “The Rock” (as Newfoundland is sometimes called) has a harsh beauty that I totally fell in love with—the precipitous wind-blown cliffs, the stormy North Atlantic Ocean, the tiny coastal fishing villages. It’s one of the best places in the world to see whales and icebergs. St. John’s, the pretty capitol city, is filled with lively bars and good music. “Newfies” are the friendliest and funniest people in Canada. Where else can you find town names like Dildo, Come by Chance, and Heart’s Desire. We lived in Conception Bay and Paradise.
I’ve had spectacular experiences in all the countries I’ve visited in SE Asia but Indonesia stands out. I spent three months there as a backpacker in ’91 and visited again with Mike and Alex in 2010. Perhaps it’s the diversity of landscapes, cultures, and attractions in this enormous country that holds such appeal for me. I’ll never forget sunrise at Mt.Bromo and Kawah Ijen on Java, the stunning temples of Borobudur and Prambanan, and the aesthetics of Bali. I still shudder when I think of the dragons on Komodo, and sigh when I picture the beautiful island of Flores. Trekking in Tana Toraja and diving in Bunaken, both on Sulawesi are a couple of my all-time favourite travel adventures. Returning to dive in remote Raja Ampat is near the top of my bucket list. Did I mention how great the food is in this country!
The US Southwest
The US Southwest is a region I could return to over and over again. There is so much beauty, recreation, and adventure. Many of our best family vacations have been there. Standouts include mountain biking the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park, backpacking to the glorious blue-green water of Havasupai, Grand Canyon (my featured image of Alex on the rope swing), camping in Monument Valley, and exploring the spectacular sandstone formations at Coyote Buttes and White Pocket (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona)…oh ya, and my first glimpse of Bryce Canyon National Park, and hiking in Zion, and discovering off the beaten path gems like Yant Flat, and…and… I have just scratched the surface of this incredible area and I hope to visit many more times.
British Columbia, Canada
I am lucky to live in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Coast Mountains are my neighbourhood playground and home to many of my favourite hikes and snowshoeing excursions. I am spoiled with Whistler Mountain only an hour away, but I also love the interior ski resorts like Big White, Silver Star, and White Water. Further west, in the Rockies near the Alberta border, is perhaps my favourite Canadian park: Yoho National Park (though I have lots more parks to see). And then there’s the ocean! Kayaking next to whales and dolphins in the Broughton Archipelago, off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, is definitely among my most memorable experiences. We’ve spent many happy family vacations on the beaches of Pacific Rim National Park and discovering the coastal beauty around Tofino and Ucluelet. There’s still so much for me to see in B.C.!
A couple of years ago, we spent most of November in southern Spain. I was completely enchanted by the magnificent towns, historic sites, food, wine, and fabulous weather. Some of you will remember me raving about Granada and its Alhambra, my favourite place among consistently great spots. Moving west we stayed at postcard-perfect Pueblo Blancos (White Towns). In Sevilla, a city with many “must-see” attractions, we enjoyed watching the world go by in a few of the hundred (or thousand) outdoor cafes and restaurants. Cordoba’s Mezquita is one of the most fascinating religious sites I have ever visited and the city is lovely. Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was beguiling Cádiz, an ancient coastal city with a fabulous vibe of old, new, and exotic. Oh…and the beaches near Bolonia, wow! I’m sure the rest of Spain is wonderful too and I look forward to returning.
It’s tough not to have Mexico “stick with me”; I’ve been there almost ten times. Mexico has become our go-to destination for a quick hit of Vitamin D during our bleak Canadian winters—the beaches are great, the people are friendly, the food and beer are muy buena. So far, our trips have mostly revolved around water activities: diving in Cozumel, snorkeling in the beautiful cenotes of the Yucatan, kayaking around magical Isla Espiritu Santo, hanging out on the gorgeous beaches of Tulum, Zihuatenejo, and Balandra (the one in the photo above—my personal favourite). One of these days I’ll make it to some of Mexico’s fascinating towns like San Cristobal de las Casas and San Miguel de Allende. Alison at Adventures in Wonderland has got me very excited about exploring Mexico beyond the beach.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
One August way back in the late 80s, my friend Carol and I boarded a rickety little boat named the Pato Feo. Despite its name (Ugly Duck), it was by far my number one boat excursion—7 days exploring the Galapagos Islands. Each of the islands we visited brought unique and thrilling animal encounters, from giant Galapagos tortoises, to huge colonies of sea lions, to fabulous blue-footed boobies. Two of my favourite all-time snorkel experiences were in the Galapagos: surrounded by sea lions performing amazing underwater gymnastics, and watching the incredible swimming ability of Galapagos penguins that screamed past us like missiles. When Tomás de Berlanga stumbled across these islands in 1535 he called them Las Encantadas (The Enchanted). I couldn’t agree more.
Mike and I honeymooned in Turkey 23 years ago. Much of our 4-week trip is still fresh in my head: getting wonderfully lost in Istanbul’s Grand Bazzar, cruising down the Bosphorous to Izmir, soaking in the pools at Pamukkale, exploring the rock dwellings in Cappadocia, lingering over meals in the impossibly romantic town of Kas, and of course being harassed by carpet sellers every place we went. We still have two of our purchases in the living room. A third one disintegrated years ago—interestingly it was the one that we haggled over for hours, over many cups of tea. A charm we bought seems to have protected us from the Evil Eye and is a beautiful reminder of this fascinating country.
On a different day, some of the places below might have made the list. It was a tough call. There are so many awesome spots out there and so many more to explore.
Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Guatemala, Belize, South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Malaysia, Laos, Thailand, Fiji, California, NYC.
Next up: I’ll get back to Laos