Our top ten destinations

I love to make lists:  airlines I’ve flown, states I’ve visited, favorite movies, favorite books, etc.  Thanks to David Lettermen, these lists usually are “Top Ten.”  In that spirit, here is my Top Ten List of travel destinations.  Let’s be clear.  It’s not a list of favorite places on earth, as that would include Fayetteville, where we live, or the beautiful Arkansas State Parks, where we often camp.  This is a list of places that I have liked and hope to visit again.  In general I believe that Kay and I are in agreement, although she’d like to do another safari more than I would.

We are city people, so the list won’t contain Yellowstone Park, the Sahara desert in Morocco, or even Bali.  These are all lovely places, but, “been there, done that.”   Kay and I are drawn back again and again to certain cities, but not so much to breathtaking scenery.  I know Alaska must be beautiful, but we may never make it.   I met a guy who worked in an International School in China who went to rural Bali every summer and every holiday.  Great!  I’m very happy for him, but focusing on one spot is not for us.  He will learn about that particular culture far more deeply than I’ll ever know about one.  Lucky him!  However, I’d choose a city over scenery, given the limited amount of travel I have left in my bones and my budget.

The list won’t include any of the five places we’ve lived outside of Arkansas:  East Lansing, (Michigan), Riyadh, Tokyo, Trinidad, and Vienna.  Why?   Well, life is short, and, while we loved these places (all for different reasons), we feel like it’s time to move on.  We roam, we don’t settle.

In no particular order:

London   Well, this is an easy pick.  What’s not to like for a city guy?  This has been our favorite city since 1967.  Theatre, history, art, orchestras, jazz, pubs, fish and chips, ale, walking, royal pageantry, Kew Gardens, the parks, and the world’s largest book store, and other bookstores that are merely gigantic.  They say the national dish of England is now Chicken Tika Masala, but we love Indian food so for us it’s eating heaven.   Sure, it can be expensive, and it’s not especially clean, but it works for the Brits and it works for us!  And then there are the day trips from London:  Greenwich, Hampton Court, Oxford, Cambridge, and Southhampton, to name a few.  We also like to explore neighborhoods and suburbs, e.g. Primrose Hill, Mayfair, Camden Town, Hampstead, and St. John’s Wood, where the American School is located.  “When you’re tired of London, .......”
Paris   It’s too bad that Paris gets a bad rap from people who haven’t been.  Supposedly, the  French are rude and Paris is impossible for people who don’t speak French.   Americans who visit Paris know better.  We drove into Paris in a VW in 1967 and headed straight to the Eiffel Tower, even before going to the hotel.  Driving was easy, and parking wasn’t bad.  (By the way, once was enough for the Eiffel Tower, although we have picnicked underneath it since then.)    We love walking, especially in the Right Bank, St. Germain area.  We love to gaze at the architecture.  We love the food, even the cheap cafe and ethnic food that feel we can afford and that we enjoy.  For some reason we never attended the symphony or the opera, as we do in other cities, but we make up for that by overdosing on visual art.  Although the Louvre still overwhelms us, we do love the Impressionists at the Musée d'Orsay. 
Amsterdam  When we visited Amsterdam in 1967 for only four days, I remember thinking I’d probably never get back, so we did sightseeing from dawn to dusk and I took hundreds of pictures.   Well, we’ve been back a few times and still can’t get enough of the art, the canals, the cool people, the walkable city, the surrounding little towns like Haarlem and Edam, and the beautiful farmland nearby with windmills, cows, and, meadows.  Twice in recent years we’ve rented condos for two or three weeks at a time, and never seem to run out of things to do, including day trips to Utrecht, Volendam, Delft, and The Hague.  We find the food over priced and unexciting, so it’s a place for picnics mostly, but then we don’t focus much on food wherever we go.
Boston  We learned about Boston when Andrew attended Berklee College of Music about 15 years ago.  Recently we spent three weeks in a condo in the Back Bay area, just a few blocks from Berklee.  It’s a very walkable city.  When feet are tired, the “subway” (“T”) and busses are easy to use.   We like all of the American History stuff, such as the Freedom Trail and Old North Church and Trinity Church.   We like the Arboretum, Harvard Campus, the houses in the Back Bay, the waterfront, jazz at the Pru, and the many concerts available all over town, often free at the colleges.  We can’t resist poking around college campuses, and there are more than 100 colleges and universities in greater Boston.  Next time we want to visit the islands in the harbor.
Hong Kong   I stopped in Hong Kong in 1980 for a quick 3 days, and two of them involved work at Hong Kong International School.  In my one free day I just walked alone: up and down Nathan Road, through the Ocean Terminal (where I bought Kay a trinket), and crossed over from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island on the Star Ferry. (“Twinkling Star,” I believe it was.  All the boats have Star names, like “Morning Star” and “Rising Star.”) That evening I ate Dim Sum in Suzie Wong’s old neighborhood and stayed up looking at the bright lights across the harbor as late as I could stay awake.  This was definitely not Kansas.  When we lived in Tokyo we visited Hong Kong for long weekends as often as we could.   Our goal is to spend a few weeks in a condo on the Island side near the ferry.
Washington, D.C.  A great tourist town, and much of it is free!   Everyone likes the Smithsonian, or at least pieces of it.  Over the years we’ve “done” the White House, Capitol, Library of Congress and such, but that now those those are checked off, we’ve moved on to activities like walking two miles down Embassy Row, finding exotic foods, e.g., Ethiopian, and visiting more and more obscure museums, e.g., the Textile Museum.  But, at the top of list for me is visiting the monuments on the Mall.  I never tire of the Viet Nam and Korean War Memorials, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Roosevelt.  Night seems like the best time for memorial hopping.
New York City  Obvious.  What can I say that hasn’t been said?  Actually, we haven’t been tourists in the Big Apple all that many times.  In our last trip we explored outside of Manhattan a bit, such as walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and poking around Brooklyn, and taking the 7 or F trains all the way to the end of the line in Queens, stopping at various ethnic neighborhoods, and checking out Louis Armstrong’s former home.  We see 3 or 4 Broadway shows on the road in Fayetteville every year, so don’t see as many in NYC as you might expect.  Although we love art museums, we don’t care to return to the Guggenheim and MOMA.  We start with the Metropolitan and then visit smaller ones.   
Switzerland  OK, this is not a city.   Although there ARE cities, we like the small towns and countryside best.  We first learned about the country when we visited the Interlaken/Grindelwald/Lauterbrunnen area on our first trip.  Gradually we have discovered other spots, especially Leysin, home of Leysin American school and our good friends the Fiedlers. For us, Switzerland is best seen by car so that stops can be made at little villages, country inns, and roadside restaurants.  We have ridden a few of the scenic trains (e.g., from St. Moritz to Italy and back) and want to ride more, but I don’t want to depend on trains for everyday travel.  Distances are short and driving is just too much fun.  The Swiss generally speak English and are rewarding to meet.
 Thailand  We like Thailand so much that I wrote an entire page about Bangkok, Thailand, so click away.
 In the RV   Although the motor home is not a place like the others, it definitely belongs on this list.  I tell people we have a home in the mountains and one by the beach, wherever we want to park the RV!  For reasons why we like our motor home, click here.