Monday, February 16, 2009

Wishful Travels

"Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go." (Th. Roethke - The Waking)

I have been trying to plan my travels for the new year, and that's always exciting, of course, for me... You would think this is easy, since I subscribe to a couple of travel magazines, and travel blogs and newsletters which are full of ideas and itineraries each day. Consider a CNN Headline News addict: that's me - with travel ideas from my travel news sources ... I can never get enough of them. The overload should be enough. But that all makes it harder, by giving you too much!

It's hard to marry the perfect destination with the perfect budget sometimes. And in this American land, where the employers are more often than not stingy with the time off (paid or unpaid, just the same), it's even harder to get enough time to do it all.

So, where do I start?! I didn't want to start with my family first, because they sidetrack me. They always want to go to places I have already been, because they've known them through me, and my travels peeked their curiosity. So, I didn't want to travel WITH them this year. In that respect, I do have a new mantra this year, and that is: go somewhere I've never been. Some destinations are on my list: The Rockies in the summer (or fall) is one, St. Petersburg is another, so are Nashville and Memphis, TN, just because I want to do it for my dad, in search of the music he's raised us on!

I have also gone through pictures and diaries of travels past, to see what I loved and what I'd like to see more of - but that is so difficult, because I have a slew of incredible memories from everywhere :

Being on Liberty Island and looking over Manhattan with dad - a lifetime milestone. Unequaled. Walking Manhattan, anywhere from Time Square to the UN building, to the Empire State building, to Macy's, the original one. Dad, silent with awe. You knew that trip was bigger than what you could handle!

Walking the streets of Montreal with my sister and brother in law, in search of the the perfect "flam" at Les Trois Brasseurs and the perfect "home" brew... The best botanical garden I have ever seen; the penguins at The Biodome; the inclined tower of the Olympic Park; the art vendors in Vieux Port ... The "Arret" Stop signs that remind you, you're not in "America", after all ...

Or walking the hilly and olden town of Quebec City with them, where every street corner is watchfully guarded by Le Chateau Frontenac, an impressive hotel built in a castle; a city that's more European, and more German that anything else, especially "North American"; walking the trails of Canadian Eastern Mountains, in search of waterfalls and wild flowers ... Truly wild!

Wandering, wandering in timeless New Orleans, with no recollection of time and place, really, but just pushing through the day, tired of eating and watching strangers: I always say that in New Orleans your eyeballs will hurt from so much people watching; the gumbo, the beignets, the dirty rice, the shrimps and crayfish, oh me... The smell of throw up on Bourbon Street ...The restaurant signs advertising "Big As^ Beers To Go" ... or "Zydeco music from 10 to 11 AM".

Hearing the click-clock of horseshoes in Charleston, while sipping wine and waiting for seafood wonders at 'AwShucks' or hearing and smelling history in The Black Market, downtown. Chilling to the bone.

Wandering in the wilderness and yet the posh neighborhoods of Kiawah Island, where you can spot anything from a Maserati to an egret, from a mountain lion to an alligator just about any time, if you walk about just a few yards from your residence.

Catching some time for a pizza in Amsterdam, while in between planes; hurrying to get through the lines at Anne Frank's museum; and before that, at the Sex Museum, too. Amsterdam does show it all. Wondering if your camera will be confiscated or thrown in the canal if you try shooting the windowed "ladies" of The Red District. What a quilt of emotions all in one day!

Vienna's parks! And historic buildings! The breathlessness The Opera House can case. The richness of art, and abundance of beauty! The hottest mustard I have ever tasted on an honest to God German Wiener! Ouch!

The conch fritters and black beans at Sloppy Joe's, in Key West; the breathtaking sunsets; the end of the world feeling, overwhelming, like a death sentence! The Hemingway house, open from four walls, it seems, with the light, warm breeze seeping through, bringing, it felt like, old ghosts of the past, of art, and talent, and beauty, and passion, and fights! I wanted to be a paint chip on those walls, to see if I could feel what those walls had witnessed. My paradise on earth, with the tens of cats! Oh, me!

The Carolina and Virginia lighthouses. Claustrophobic, and lonely. Like towers of endurance over time, elements and history. Much history.

The unbearable hotness of the sand on the Atlantic coast in the summers. The stickiness and wetness of the air. The no escape, oven feeling.

The bloody noses of crisp winters in Vail, Colorado and Park City, Utah. The over-crowding and overpricing, but the charm of an old little town like Breckenridge, too.

The intimidating Harbor cruise at Norfolk , making you wonder: how much damage can we actually do with that fleet alone?!

The treacherousness of Romanian mountains: where there are no trails, and no safety law suites to file if you happen to fall out of a gondola ride. Stepping into "Dracula's" footsteps. Or Ceausescu's, in Bucharest. The adrenaline rush!

Atlanta, with its Southern calm, and Northern-like highways cutting through her like a circulatory system: pumping life and energy into it all... The Sundial building that moves around and around while feeding you expensive peanuts! The gorgeous view. Walking the hallways of Margaret Mitchell's home - another life dream come true!

Getting lost in Boston, but found again, when eating the best, freshest seafood dinner I have ever experienced. Ever! It makes sense why they have their own name for their soup: It's "chowda", and not "chowder", because it's their own, and nothing else tastes like it, anywhere else in the nation.

Driving through the peaceful Pennsylvania farmland, through Amish and Mennonite communities, a local reminds us: "We don't have much views out here; but we do have smells". It smells like the land, and the animals. It smells like my mountain childhood back home. It smells of simple, unsophisticated, un-fooled-around with, safe life.

Walking the streets and The Mall in DC, just in search of the next museum. Enjoying the free entrances everywhere, and the exhibitions of anything from NASA to a Buddhist temple from Bhutan!

Driving up to Blowing Rock, just for the day, and the fresh trout, at The Speckled Trout. Watching the sunset over The Blueridge Parkway and telling yourself one more time you'll never move anywhere else again: that is all you need.

So, where to go next, you ask?! Anywhere, everywhere and who the heck knows?!? I think I am putting my wishes in a hat and drawing. And we'll reconvene in December to look back and update . Because all I know now is: the world is an open map, with great destinations, be it far or near. All you have to have is the willingness to go. The funds, and other resources will follow. Somehow. But the willingness has to be there, for fuel!

And for a true traveler, the adventure can be anything: a day in the Smokies, at a lovely old inn, like Celo, where linens are coarse and preserves are fresh from the orchard out back, or a trip over The Pond, where folks speak a whole other language altogether. The thrill is the same.

I'll listen to the clues, the offers, and the winds this year, and "I'll learn from going ... where I have to go".

I also am in dire need of a travel partner, or maybe not, but that's a whole other story, altogether and entirely!

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