From My Travel Bucket List

I’m one of those people who like to read travel books like “1000 Places to See Before You Die” or “The Geography of Bliss.” Book CoverSometimes I find myself planning my next vacation when I’m not even done with my current one. Well, not really planning but dreaming. Where will I go next?

There are so many places I feel I should go – places I’ve read or heard about all my life. Places like Venice, Rome, and Florence; Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville. I’ve never been to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Vienna, Oslo, or even Prague. Then there are the places which intrigue me, the activities or people which sound more than just interesting – exciting, challenging, and even educational.

Map

Here are just a few of those places I’d like to go, in no particular order, taken right off My Travel Bucket List!

The items may change as the years go by, whether by necessity or choice, but I look forward to dreaming about each trip in the days to come. What’s on your Travel Bucket List?

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Do You Plan Your Wanderings?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Happy Wanderer.”

I’m a planner. I admit it. But whether or not my children believe me, I wasn’t always one. When I traveled to Ensenada, I let my friend plan our weekend. When I traveled to San Felipe, I went with the flow. On my trip to Australia, we were free and spontaneous. We chose where to stay and for how long, money and a flight home our only boundaries. Even my first trip to Paris and Zurich were simple – I stayed with friends, brought guide books, and decided each day where I would be a tourist.

But then I had children. And the world became more crowded. I discovered that summer camps would fill up before spring. With a child with food allergies, spontaneity was difficult and wrought with disappointment and a hungry child. Slowly, I learned to plan. And now, I always plan.

My hesitation and anxiety about traveling to South Africa was lessened by learning more about the country, where we could and would go. Planning has allowed me to avoid long lines and eat gluten free at Disney, visit our sponsored child in Lesotho, camp at Pawtuckaway State Park every summer for years, be led by a tour guide through Gettysburg National Park, and visit the Senate on a trip to Washington.

But I still love spontaneity. And while doing a little research before traveling to a new place helps me to find the special and unique, or avoid those well traveled and touristy, destinations, spontaneity allows us to change course. To listen to recommendations from other travelers or discover new places ourselves.

Without spontaneity, I wouldn’t have attended a hearing for Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, watched the surfers in Half Moon Bay, or listened to the Wave Organ in San Francisco. I wouldn’t have spent the night in a treehouse, picked strawberries in Pescadero, gone hiking with the Hobart Bushwalking Club, or danced Nia in Santa Barbara. Without spontaneity, I wouldn’t have met Terry from England who later invited me to her wedding in Athens. I wouldn’t have stayed with the dairy farmer in Auckland or gone hot air ballooning outside of Alice Springs.

The travel world is so different than it was – the internet provides information and access to so many places, and apps like Yelp can allow a little bit of spontaneity with less risk of disappointment. You can read about where to go and what to see on blogs and share your experiences on social media.

But there’s nothing quite as freeing as just setting out, doing what you feel like doing at the moment, eating when you’re hungry, and being ready to just let things happen.

The Eiffel Tower or the Ferris Wheel?

Have you been to the top of the Eiffel Tower? Waited in the long line for the elevator or taken the many (704) steps up or down?

Eiffel Tower Steps

Have you wondered why such a structure was created? Or did you just accept its existence as a symbol of Paris? A check off on your bucket list? A place to see a view?

View from Eiffel Tower

When I took the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower, I didn’t realize that its structure created an engineering challenge for organizers of the Chicago World’s Fair, which I learned while reading the book, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.

After the creation and appearance of the 986-foot Eiffel Tower in 1889, American engineers were perplexed. Designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel’s consulting firm, Eiffel et Compagnie, the Eiffel Tower was created for the Exposition Universalle (the Paris World’s Fair).

Now it was America’s turn. The challenge: to create an engineering marvel for the Chicago World’s Fair that would rival the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower

And they succeeded, but only just in time. Designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., the 2 million-pound Ferris Wheel officially opened on June 21, 1893, during the Chicago World’s Fair. 

London Eye

The original Eiffel Tower still exists: the Paris icon a tourist attraction as well as a dining destination. Though the original Ferris wheel no longer exists, various iterations exist in cities and fairs all over the world. Paris even built their own version in 1900, Le Grand Roue, for the Paris Exposition.

Next time, you’re dining at Le Jules Verne or riding through the air on the London Eye, remember the creators and the impetus for invention.

Trip taken: July 2010. Book read: 2014. 

24 Hours in Paris!

When our kids were 10 and 12, we decided to give them a whirlwind glimpse of Paris.Paris

After 10 days in Great Britain, we arrived at London’s St. Pancras International Station ready to board the early morning Eurostar train through the Channel Tunnel to Paris, France. Although the “Chunnel” is only 31.4 miles (235 of those miles are under water), the entire distance from London to Paris is 307 miles and takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

We arrived at Paris’ Gare du Nord, hopped on the Metro, and got off at St. Michel-Notre Dame. Though the weather was hot (about 85 degrees), we walked slowly from Notre Dame Cathedral to the top of the Eiffel Tower, exploring the Left Bank along the way.

Eiffel Tower

We were lucky – our lodging that night was at a friend’s apartment in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a western suburb of Paris. We sat outside on our friend’s balcony drinking champagne and speaking English interspersed with French.

The next morning, a short Metro ride brought us to the Avenue des Champs Élysées and a 2-mile walk to Le Musée de Louvre.

Louis Vuitton

After a quick tour past the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, we left Paris for our train back to London.

Mona Lisa

If you had only 24 hours in Paris, what would you do?

Trip taken: July 2008.