Highlights recalled by a reluctant traveler, by Deb Katie

I never was much of a traveler. I’m no good at packing, I like my OWN bed and my OWN house (and heaven help you if you keep me up past my bedtime… and that’s Pacific time, thank you very much), and on top of all that, I’m such a contented homebody that I don’t feel the need to go elsewhere. (Until I have a couple of glasses of wine, and then suddenly I’m a world traveler in the making… “Why DON’T we go to Argentina next year??”)

But even a grumpy troll like me manages to relax and enjoy myself from time to time, and here are five of my favorite travel memories to prove it. (I can’t say they’re my top five, because I can be very forgetful in small patches, so there’s a good chance I have a lot more favorites.)

1. Istanbul, Turkey. My parents, my little sister and I had traveled to Turkey to attend my brother’s wedding. We were staying at a little tiny hotel in the Sultanamet area, near the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. The days were hot and slightly full of bickering, but one night, my mothers, little sister, and I sat at the tiny rooftop restaurant (all the food was prepared by the waiter), sipping wine and relaxing. It was cool, and a fog had settled on the city. Across the square, we could see the spires of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia coming up out of the fog like lighthouses. The smaller mosque across the street from the hotel began their call to prayer, and we all just sat and listened and were mesmerized as the sound echoed around us, as it had done for hundreds of years.

Ballycarbery2. Ballycarbery Castle, County Kerry, Ireland. Driving the Ring of Kerry in the southern part of Ireland, we diverted from the main path a bit and came across the ruin of an ancient castle. It was blocked off by barbed wire, but many someones had tied the wire up and helpfully supplied a little bridge so the curious rule-benders could explore anyway. We climbed among the ruins and walked the narrow staircases and stared up at sky through what had once been the home of a nobleman and his family.

3. Cave tubing, Belize. Wearing insect repellant that melted the print off the label of my sunscreen, we hiked through rainforest for 40 minutes to get to a launch point. We then floated down caves that were like the real life version of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. (Those ride designers were pretty talented guys.) For a while, it rained on us. I had two or three millisecond-long episodes of being amazed that someone was pointing a light exactly where I wanted to look, before remembering that I was wearing a helmet light.

Butler Arms4. The Butler Arms Hotel, Waterville, Ireland. Since we traveled at the end of the tourist season, we were basically the only people at this sprawling, gothic-feeling inn. With the help of a couple of pints of cider, the place might as well have been the lodge from The Shining. We explored the darkened hallways and the creepy terrariums, waiting for ghosts to spring forth from every corner. When we came down the stairs into the lobby after finding an open door at the end of one hallway, the lady at the front desk said, in the manner of a true horror film, “You’ll get lost up there.” It was deliciously eerie. (Although probably only on a dark, rainy October night. I’m sure it’s lovely in the summertime.)

5. New York, NY. Everything we’ve ever done there. I’m sorry, I can’t narrow it down. I love New York. I’d never been until I was 29 years old, and I was sure I wouldn’t like it. But I loved it and felt at home immediately. Although I must say, a recent highlight was seeing “Billy Elliott” on Broadway and hanging out backstage afterward with our friend, actor Greg Jbara (who just won a Drama Desk Award and is nominated for a Tony… cross your fingers for him)!

(Oh, and unofficial #6 would be staying at Dromoland Castle in Ireland, where the bar/lounge/fancy-Irish-term-for-t is in a turret of the castle filled with porcelain King Charles Spaniel statues.)

So tell me, what’s YOUR favorite travel memory?

~ Katie Alender

10 Replies to “Highlights recalled by a reluctant traveler, by Deb Katie”

  1. Those are some great memories, Katie. You’ve traveled quite a bit for a homebody! One of my favorite memories is sitting in Arches National Park in Utah and watching the sunset over the rocks–the reds, pinks and purples were stunning. A couple nearby asked us to take their photograph because the guy had just proposed to his girlfriend. It was one of those perfect moments.

  2. This made me laugh so hard, and is exactly in character for me, too. “I had two or three millisecond-long episodes of being amazed that someone was pointing a light exactly where I wanted to look, before remembering that I was wearing a helmet light.”

    I didn’t get into specific memories from my Italy trip in yesterday’s post (mostly focusing on how we got there) but high on the list is eating the most expensive strawberry ice cream ever in the square of San Marco in Venice, listening to the orchestra, gazing at the incredible cathedral, and watching couples just start dancing in the square as if they were the first ones to ever think of this spontaneous romantic gesture.

  3. Meredith, my travel tends to be one big trip every two or three years. I suppose it does add up, but it doesn’t feel like much! Especially surrounded by friends who have traveled the world. What a sweet memory! Don’t you wonder how those people are today?

    Kristina, we are a special breed, aren’t we? 😉 And your memory makes me want to go to Italy!

  4. When you do travel, Katie, you hit the high spots. For my 21st birthday, I celebrated in Buenos Aries and capped it off with 5 days in NYC — first (dream) visit. Loved both, though NYC always makes me feel I’m “home!”

  5. Katie! You’ve got some of absolute favorite travel memories on YOUR list! Istanbul, Turkey (anywhere in Turkey for that matter), staying in castles in Ireland (our honeymoon!) and cave tubing in Belize (last year’s family adventure – wasn’t it amazing????). I can’t quite go with you on NYC – growing up there probably ruined it for me. But I can’t believe we’ve had so many of the same adventures! Rock on, girl!

  6. Until I met Hans, Walmart was just about as far as I’d ever traveled! He bought his favorite leather jacket (he wore it tonight!) something like 15 years ago when he was in Turkey. Haunted hotels? I had one just one ‘ghost’ sighting in my ten years at the inn where I worked (right here is the good old U.S) and you can’t tell me they don’t exist. I’ve yet to get to NYC but Hans, who lived on his boat in a harbor there one winter (cheaper than an apartment), has no real desire to go back. Damn! But I’ll get there someday. I’ve been so fortunate to travel so extensively in the past few years but no matter what, there’s no place like home!

  7. My kids are “travel junkies”, I am a couch potato, who lives through their books (although I did go to Uzbekistan just to see my grandkids) and Travel Channel.

  8. Great memories, Katie!

    I’ve got to go spend time in Istanbul: apart from a fleeting stop there, the closest I’ve been is my students’ compositions about how great it is. And they don’t do a good as job describing it as you did here. We love hearing the call to prayer here too — it’s so hauntingly beautiful.

    And I’m so envious: you’ve been to Ireland AND Belize! I almost went to Belize once, when I was in Guatemala, and I almost went to Ireland, when we were in Stranraer… Wonder if I’ll ever make it to either?

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