Superlatives of My Travels

One of the most common questions that people ask me about my life is where my favorite place I’ve traveled to is. I am lucky to be from Vermont in the United States and my husband is from the beautiful country of Scotland, so my standards for beautiful places are quite high. Every place I’ve ever been to has taught me something, and everywhere I’ve been there have been good people. I cannot pick one favorite place. Can you truly compare the natural beauty of Alaska to the culture of Rome? How is it fair to compare the fjords of Norway with the beaches of Bora Bora?

As you can’t possibly compare all of these places, I have decided to go with “Superlatives of my Travels” (the Good with some of the Less Than Great). Note: This list will get updated as time goes on. It is also not meant to be say these are the best places in the world. These are just some insights from my travels.

  • Favorite Beach: Bora Bora, French Polynesia, Dravuni Island, Fiji, Cumberland Island, Georgia, USA
    • Why:
      • Bora Bora is not only where I got engaged, but where I was able to swim with lemon sharks, stingrays, and while standing up without goggles on you can look into the water and see an array of colorful fishes swimming past you.
      • Dravuni Island is a small island in Fiji with about 100 inhabitants. The people that live there are friendly and the calmness and serenity of this beach and island are unmatched by any place I have ever been.
      • Cumberland Island is an island off the coast of St. Mary’s in southern Georgia. You have to take a ferry across and there are only 100 ferry tickets sold each day. We stayed at the Spencer House Inn. A lovely bed and breakfast within walking distance of the ferry and with a wonderful homemade breakfast. There are 18 miles of beaches with wild horses roaming freely. While it is not as warm and the water is not as crystal clear as in Bora Bora or Fiji, this beach gives you calm but also wonder as you see the horses gallop along the beach.
  • Favorite Cold Place: Alaska.
    • Why:
      • Alaska feels like going somewhere you are totally comfortable (people speak your language, they use the same money… you know where the pharmacy is and how to get to the grocery store, or where to get a take-away pizza), but then at the same time you look and there is just amazing scenery and wildlife everywhere. It is magnificent and everyone should go.
      • Bonus: For those of you interested in the cultural side of things, take a look at the history of some of the Native Alaskan Tribes, as well as the Russian history and influence on the area.
      • Side Note: If you are looking for somewhere kind of like Alaska but a bit different? Head over to Norway. Cascading waterfalls, beautiful fjords, money with holes in it, and so dang expensive.
  • Favorite City for Architecture: Rome
    • Why:
      • Rome: Every time I am in Rome I am amazed by the history and the architecture. Every corner you turn there is something that fills you with wonder and is likely over a thousand years old. It puts in perspective how young the United States is.
Inside St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Favorite Building: St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City.
    • Why:
    • It brings me awe every single time I go there. This building with the details, intricacy, and absolute magnitude create awe all on it’s own. As you walk towards the Basilica through St. Peter’s Square you begin to appreciate the magnitude, knowing that the surrounding buildings include the Sistine Chapel and the Pope’s apartment just add to the majestic feeling of this building.
  • Most beautiful drive: Oracle of Delphi, Greece. Scottish Highlands. Basically anywhere in New Zealand.
    • Why:
      • Greece: Small roads winding up a giant hill overlooking the mountains of Greece. As you get close to the Oracle there are stone walls made out of marble that are 2,000+ years old and perfectly in tact. The natural beauty of your surroundings is enhanced by the incredible stonework of millennia ago.
      • Scottish Highlands: I am biased on this one, but I would be remiss to not talk about the small, often times one lane roads, pastures of sheep, a smattering of castles, and the occasional loch. While the weather can sometimes prevent you from seeing to the top of the mountains, it puts in perspective how small you are compared to nature. Perhaps Mary Bennet said it best “What are men compared to rocks and mountains?” (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)
      • I have had the joy of driving through quite a few areas of New Zealand. It is one of the few places that I personally think is worth very, very long flights. This may be because it reminds me of Vermont a bit and typically if I’m in New Zealand I have been away from home for quite some time, but it could also be that you will see vineyards and rolling hills, cows, and maybe a hobbit or two!
  • Best Skyline: Shanghai, China.
    • Why: It’s magnificent. It is futuristic. It is colorful. You can buy a pashmina scarf for one dollar but at a nightclub will pay $10 for a beer. It looks like no other skyline in the world.
  • Most profound disparity between the rich and the poor: Mumbai, India. St. Petersburg, Russia. Tahiti, Pape’ete.
    • Why:
      • Mumbai, India: The poverty in India is incredible. The lack of available proper hygiene amongst the low income population is astounding and fairly unimaginable. However, there are also people living in India with immense wealth. After seeing the “slums” it is difficult  to make peace with that overpriced Starbucks latte you just bought.
      • St. Petersburg, Russia: When you leave the ship in St. Petersburg you drive past what we would likely call “the projects”. They are industrial looking housing developments void of anything that would bring to mind the word warmth. The stereotypes in your mind of Eastern European architecture is well founded when you see these. After a short drive into the city though you see the Hermitage museum, Petrograd, and other incredible buildings and architecture. While many of these buildings are now open to the public, you also see the apartment buildings and opulence that is afforded to the upper classes of society. While every culture has a class system I think the drab, void of color housing, coupled with the grey skies made the color and vibrancy of how the other half lives feel that much more pronounced. Note: I do not have a photo of this. I visited here in 2013 and while I still have a lot of photos from this trip, I may not have even taken a photo of it. I need to get better at photographing the parts of travel that aren’t as beautiful.
      • Tahiti, Pape’ete (and for that matter the majority of tropical islands): In places like Tahiti and Bora Bora you can rent bungalows that are over the water with glass bottomed floors to see the fishes swimming underneath. Walking along the water you look out where these bungalows are and think to yourself “wow, I would love to stay in one of those someday.” The starting price for most seems to be about $1,000 a night. You continue walking down the road by the water and a few minutes later (not exaggerating here, literally just minutes) you walk by a house with dirt floors, maybe with a front door, and is constructed of that light green plastic roofing material for the walls and ceiling. Different climates call for different construction, and the people living in these houses all seemed truly happy, but seeing these houses and these bungalows in practically the same line of sight brings the economic disparity to the forefront of your mind. 
Don’t we look tired?
  • Place that didn’t quite live up to your expectations: Great Wall of China
    • Why:
      • Great Wall of China: Well, here’s the thing. It is great. The drive from the port (of Tianjing, outside of Beijing) is beautiful. The wall in itself is absolutely massive and daunting to look at. Have you ever gone to look at a mountain, and while you can see the top you don’t have enough time to get there? So, you just walk up part way and you don’t get the view from the summit, and you also don’t get the satisfaction of making it to the top? That’s a bit like going to the Great Wall of China. There is no way you are going to be able to climb the whole of it on a casual visit. Instead, you get there and in your allotted 2 hours or so you try to climb as much of it as you possibly can. You want to get to the top. Inevitably you are with a group and as much as you are not in high school anymore and you don’t need to compete with everyone else, you want to get up the highest, or at least the highest you can. Inevitably you spend the majority of your visit climbing these completely uneven steps as fast as you can to get to the top – only to have missed out on the beauty behind you and all around you. You also can’t garner the full scope of the Great Wall of China with just a day visit to one part of it considering that it spans nearly 2,000 miles. It is challenging to wrap your head around the enormity of it when you can’t physically see the enormity of it, and while you can do your best to climb to the highest part in your allotted time, that will never fully convey why it is so Great, and thus you are left thinking maybe it is just …. Okay. 
  • Place I most wish we could have had our wedding had money not been an issue: Omni Mount Washington Hotel, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.
    • Why:
      • I tossed this one in for sentimental reasons. This is not the most magnificent hotel in the world, but for me, growing up in the central and eastern sides of Vermont, it was the castle of my dreams. I grew up going to Mount Washington to go up the Cog Railway with my dad, driving by the hotel looking out the window at this place that oozed opulence. I heard stories of lavish weddings that happened there and eventually in my early twenties I stayed there with my mom. Even staying in the least expensive room at the hotel I felt like a princess. While I had no idea the amount of travel I would end up doing in my life and the real castles I would visit, this hotel holds the distinction of being the castle of my dreams. And, in this fantasy as money isn’t an issue, we could hire transportation for people to go from the church in Peacham to drive them the hour and a half over to the hotel with no logistical challenges at all.
Mount Washington Hotel, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire (photo from Omni Mount Washington Hotel website)

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