Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Vacation memories

I was flipping through gorgeous Vanessa's pictures of her vacation (er, holiday I suppose to her) in the Cook Islands, and I had to admit that I was feeling a tinge jealous. What with all the cotton candy sunsets and the crystal waters, it's no wonder really...

And then I realized it's been nearly a year since I've gone on a real vacation. I'm trying to plan a getaway or two for the near future - likely a long weekend trip and another trip of around 8-12 days or so in the next three months or so. My sister turns 21 four days before I turn 27 in July, and I've promised her a trip to Europe for her birthday - a worldwide coming of age gift if you will, as she's never been. We'll likely end up in Ireland or Belgium I think for that, though who's to say we could end up back in Amsterdam as well, which would suit me just fine. Ultimately, the destination is her choice.

To be honest though, I'm a bit overwhelmed with options. So, tell me about your favorite vacation. I don't care if it's just somewhere that was close, and local (I'm a bit spontaneous and have been known to just get in the car and drive with no destination at all, and just "end up" somewhere for the night) or whether it was a far flung affair.

I'm not particularly keen on tourist traps, and prefer more off the beaten path destinations. I've a special fondness for old architecture, just being outside, local music and food festivals and quirky little shops and restaurants. Though, as jaded as I am, I have to admit that I could spend hours pouring through art museums and just idly driving watching the countryside.

This is what I want to know:

1. Where'd you go and when (i.e. how long ago, what time of year)?
2. What was your favorite part(s) of the trip?
3. What did you wish had been different?
4. What are the 'insider' or 'local' places that you loved?

Feel free to be as verbose as you want, and yap on about anything else that you remember that you'd like to share.

Or, if you'd prefer - tell me about where you live. What's it like where you are - what are the things that you enjoy close to home?


At 2:34 PM, Blogger N said...

1) Sifnos, Cyclades Island, Greece
2) Most romantic place in the whole of Europe
3) Been there with S. (my best friend) and wished that I was there with my love instead. So maybe not the ideal place for you and your sister, but maybe for you and your husand?
4) Nearly everything is "insider". Not many foreign tourists. Very cool and fashy Atheneans (people from Athens) come over the weekends.

Here is a link: http://www.greektravel.com/sifnos/

If you go to Amsterdam, go to Cafe de Jaren and drink a Pastis. It is a very cool and relaxed Cafe/Restaurant with lots of academics (University is around the corner). It is also the place where I met my DH-to-be and fell in love with him :-D.

At 6:38 PM, Blogger Suzanne said...

When I turned 30 my present to myself was a cycling trip through Tuscany. It was a singles trip though people weren't really there to hook up. We spent 8 days cycling through hill top towns dotting the countryside. It was May and there were fields of poppies in bloom everywhere. We toured Chianti vineyards and saw the head of St. Catherine in Siena. I have never eaten so well in my life, every meal was an event and we had gelato every day. And I got some awesome shoes in Florence!

At 10:02 PM, Blogger Rebecca said...

One of my very favorite places to just get away and find some peace is at Oak Creek Canyon in Arizona. It's just north of Sedona and not to be confused with the Village of Oak Creek, which is just south of Sedona and not nearly as pretty.

Oak Creek Canyon has breathtakingly tall canyon walls, a softly flowing creek, and a lot of places to go on amazing hikes.

You can spend a day in Sedona doing the tourist thing if you want, or take a drive up from Oak Creek to Flagstaff and spend the day in Flag, which also has great hiking and outdoor options. The drive back down from Flag to Oak Creek is stunning, so we always try to head back before it gets dark so we can enjoy the view.

There are a couple of places to stay. We love to stay at the Junipine Resort in a creekside room and sit out on the deck all day listening to the creek flow by. Their website is http://www.junipine.com/index.html

I've also heard fabulous things about Garland's Lodge, which I believe has no TVs and no telephones (unlike Junipine, which does). Their website is: http://www.garlandslodge.com/

The best way to get there is to fly into Flagstaff and drive down to Oak Creek Canyon (about 45 minutes, with a stunning view), or fly into Phoenix and drive up (about 2 1/2 hours, with amazing views of the red rocks in the area).

I'll stop now since that's probably way more than you wanted to know, but can you tell it's one of my favorite places? :) It's just so peaceful.

At 7:19 AM, Blogger April said...

I have to say, the drive from Sedona to Flagstaff is absolutely breathtaking...

At 12:08 PM, Anonymous mm said...

My favorite places (warning, not very original or off the beaten path. I clearly need to travel more. Admit that my trip to Argentina/Buenos Aires this fall was slightly underwhelming. Great city just not as "different" as I'd hoped): St Barth's, Paris, Venice/Florence

All three have amazing food and shopping. St B's has great ppl watching, gorgeous scenery, fun vibe. Second two have amaing museums, history. Going back to Berlin and Paris this wknd. Will post any highlights. Also love, love, love Napa and am considering taking my mother there for her bday this summer. Have fun!!

At 12:14 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

i had a conference last year in Lyon, France. I took Mr. M and we had a wonderful time. you can rent a car and drive north into the wine regions and lyon is often over looked, most tourists want Paris. But Lyon is an amazing city.

At 1:20 PM, Blogger julia said...

Well, it may not be too original, but here goes:

I'm a city person. My favourite, absolute, all-time favourite place to go is New York City. I love that you can do anything, any time of the day or night. I love early mornings, hearing the garbage trucks rattle by, watching the shopkeepers hose down the sidewalks, seeing them set out their displays of fruits or flowers or finery.

I love the hustle and bustle of New York days. People rushing to get where they need to go, taxis and buses creating their horn symphonies; even the pigeons strut with purpose in New York.

And yet...you can wander into Central Park and within moments, lose all that city sound. You can go to the zoo there, watch the boats sailing, lounge in the Sheep Meadow, see an impromptu puppet show or concert, buy some artwork or just look at the passersby.

Museums beyond compare, architectural details (the Chrysler Building alone can keep you busy for hours), shopping (oh, the shopping!), dining, nightlife. Uptown martinis, downtown beers. Bagels. Cheesecake. The New York City Public Library. The Strand.

*sigh* I need a vacation....

At 2:55 PM, Blogger Dee said...

Man, I need to book my next trip.

Last big one was the west coast of Sicily in August 2003.

It was gorgeous and there weren't a lot of (American) tourists around (this contrasted severely with our subsequent time in Rome on this same trip). However, it was the peak of the Italian vacation season and many of the 'mainlanders' holiday on Sicily so it was crowded. But oh, the beauty, the ancient Roman temples and ruins, and the FOOD...ah g-d, the food.

It was also HOT (and girl, you know where I grew up/live, I can handle hot)--in fact, it was the peak of the European heat wave that was all over the media that summer and that had elderly folks dropping like flies in France. If we go back, we'll go in May or June to avoid the two things mentioned above.

We stayed with friends who have a family home in a tiny little town there, Scopello. If you've seen Oceans Twelve, the end scene where Brad Pitt takes Catherine Zeta-Jones to meet her dad at this sun-strewn 'estate' by the shore--that's the old tonnara (tuna factory) on Scopello beach. It's been derelict for years but is well preserved and a popular and beautiful beach (though there's not much beach, only a sliver, and it's rocky). But the water was blue like a pool and you can jump off the 70 or so foot high rock formations nearby into the cool clear waters below (and hell no, I didn't do that--was afraid I'd blow out an ovary or something if I hit the water the wrong way).

We're contemplating a return trip this or next summer or trying somewhere else in Europe. But I'd recommend Sicily in an instant. Wonderful people, somewhat off the beaten path, lots of history and art, and did I mention the food?

Happy travel plannin' darlin!'

At 3:43 PM, Blogger Twisted Ovaries said...

I work in London. Everytime I go in to London, I get on the train and settle in for an hour. I listen to my iPod and I write up blog posts. When I get close to London I-like everyone else on the train-stands up and stretches. I watch from Clapham Junction in, as I pass MI-6, Vauxhall, Wimbledon, and I see the London Eye and Westminster all from my little seat on the train.

At Waterloo I walk briskly on the pavement, always looking up-the station is huge and has been there for so long. It survived two wars and looks today much like it always has.

I like to walk to one of my offices if I have the time and it's not too cold or rainy. I walk beside the Thames, seeing Tower Bridge, the London Eye, and the throbbing hustle and bustle of double-decker buses and the famous London black mini-cabs. People are always in a hurry but almost always polite if you drop something or bump into them.

I stop into a nearby Starbucks. The women behind the counter are invariably from Eastern Europe, and are always so kind I leave my change in the tip jar. My office is right near St. Paul's and I stare up at the gold domes every time. St. Paul's survived the London Blitz, a vicious firestorm, as that night people stood guard on the top and put out fires all night. I love that the priest of St. Paul's spent his evening with the firefighters on the roof, watching the Luftwaffe and praying to an unknown god.

I never, ever get tired of working in London. I never will. And if you pass through here, the first round's on me.

At 9:02 PM, Blogger Donna said...

Since Europe has been covered well, I'll talk about Belize. We went in September two years ago and it was amazing. Perfect weather, uncrowded beaches, jungle hikes, ancient ruins, sleepy villages. We stayed here: http://www.jaguarreef.com/, which is on the mainland. There's a large island north of there where all the SCUBA enthusiasts go and is more touristy, but we have great snorkeling and swimming where we were and it was cheaper and quieter.

At 1:02 PM, Blogger Sandy said...

Well, not much good to you but my favourite destination is Cuba. I also enjoyed Mexico ... what can I say? I'm Canadian and crave warmth.

So...now the Canada thing. I'll put a plug in for my end of the country - beautiful Nova Scotia and the Maritime provinces. Cape Breton Island is an awesome vacation destination. Friendly folks, awesome music, lots of breathtaking scenery and mucho quaintness. Not that far from the small city of Halifax where the bars are open into the wee hours of the morning, and there is live music and fun to be had in each one of them! It's also the site of the Titanic exhibitions and graveyards, along with much other history - the Halifax Explosion, which basically levelled the city in 1906; the Citadel which guarded the port city. Come east woman!

At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Trans said...

This is the first time I've copied and pasted every comment on a blog post: I'm going to Sifnos and then right down the line until I hit Belize. And I'm going home to Atl. by way of London.
TwistedOvaries (an interesting way to address somebody), you made me feel as if I was right there with you, going to work--and appreciating every minute of it. By the way: what work do we do? Just kidding. Good posts. See you in my travels (someday).

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Vacant Uterus said...

I'm going to sound like a huge nerd compared to everyone else here, but I loved our vacation to Colonial Williamsburg last year. It was so stress-free. We drove about four hours, stayed in a little Quality Inn (we weren't in the room much so I didn't really care that it was no frills) and drove to historic Williamsburg every day (about a ten minute drive.)

We got the Independance Pass, which is good for a year and lets you into any show for free. All you have to do is reserve tickets at the ticket place. We also got to ride the shuttle around for free.

Now, I really love history, so maybe that's part of why it was such a good vacation. But not feeling any pressure and just getting to spend time with Sarge was the best part. When we go places far away, I always feel pressured to get out and see things, to make the most of every moment. In Williamsburg I didn't feel that way. If we wanted to take a nap for the afternoon, we did. If we wanted to go on walking tours, we did. If we got bored on those walking tours, we went somewhere else. We saw some FABULOUS shows at night; some culturally relevant, some just entertaining but all had historical value. We went in early November, when the colors were in full force and the air was cool but not cold. The days were all sunny, the people were friendly and the historic town was beautifully restored (great costumes, too. As a sewer, I was fascinated with the costumes.) I was tempted to think the place was magic, everything was so perfect.

So if you want to go someplace relatively close to home, Colonial Williamsburg is a nice choice. Stop in at Christiana Campbell's Tavern for lunch or a light dinner...very inexpensive and the food is traditional early American fare. Delicious! For a more expensive and more elegant meal, try the King's Arms tavern.

And you never need to feel guilty about how much you eat because you walk everywhere and you know not an ounce of it is staying on you!

Sorry so long...I just really liked that vacation. I'd go back again in a heartbeat.

At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Mary Scarlet said...

Ooooh I'm so late but I have to chime in anyway because this was the most fabulous experience of my life.
I flew to Pisa and took the train to the Cinque Terre region, on the Italian Ligurian (north-westish) coast. There are five little villages that are all connected by a rail line, but there are also hiking trails between them. My brother and I hiked to Vernazza, and the trail, which was not at all difficult or rough, led us on a winding way along a cliff right on the sea, along which there were many vineyards, fields, and spectacular but modest homes. We stood on the cliff overlooking Vernazza and watched a wedding party walk from the church down to the sea's edge. When we eventually walked in to the city, it was through narrow, arched streets that were covered in flowers from the procession. The whole experience was overwhelmingly beautiful and serene, I've never seen anything else like it. We were there in the fall, late October I think, and I remember crossing paths with maybe one or two other pairs of hikers, and that's it. We then took the train back to Florence, where my brother was living at the time, which was also gorgeous. It wasn't your typical hot, sunny picture of Italy, but it was just as sumptuous and somehow even more enjoyable for being a little chilly at night.


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