As anyone who’s been following The Ball this year – or who has read FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA – knows, it might seem as if I have traveled a lot. But the other day, I met up with a dear friend who racks up frequent flier miles like the rest of us collect dryer lint. Listening to her most recent jaunts between Atlanta, Zambia, China and Laos, (she’s the director of the CDC’s Global AIDS Program) I feel as if I’ve never even left the farm.
So, mindful of all the places in the world I have yet to visit, I would like to humbly offer this list of some of my best and worst travel recommendations.
Best place to go island hopping, sunbathe nude and eat olives (sometimes all at the same time): Greece.
Worst place to realize you really should NOT have drank the tap water, (NO MATTER WHAT THE GUIDE BOOK SAID): on a bus somewhere in Turkey.
Worst place to have a life-threatening nosebleed (or probably any other life-threatening ailment): Uzbekistan.
Worst way to travel: on the next flight out of Uzbekistan, with your nose packed in gauze and hooked up to an IV, (for some reason, it really makes the other passengers nervous).
Best place to get medically evacuated to: Thailand – medical care is excellent, hospitals are immaculate, shrimp and massages are considered medically necessary.
Best place to have hot coffee spilled on your lap while watching giraffes run alongside you at sunrise: The overnight train from Mombasa to Nairobi, Kenya.
Worst place to book a second class sleeper car to share with your in-laws: The aforementioned train, also known as the Lunatic Express (no wonder our tickets were so cheap!)
Best place to feel like a kid in a Swiss Family Robinson treehouse (and maybe see an elephant in your pajamas): The Treetops Resort in the Aberdare Mountains in Kenya.
Best place to bring children: Thailand, where construction workers will actually climb down off their scaffolding, not to cat-call at you, but to cootchy-coo your baby. And incredibly patient waitresses will entertain your children so you and your hubby can enjoy a fabulous meal. (ALL meals in Thailand are fabulous.)
Worst place to take the kids: The Hermitage in St. Petersburg (they REALLY mean it when they say “NYET TOUCHING THE PRETTY, SHINY NATIONAL TREASURES!”) followed by Moscow, where, trust me on this, NO ONE THINKS IT’S THE LEAST BIT CUTE, when your kids chase the pigeons around Red Square.
Best way to attempt to drive cross-country with your kids: In a 25-year-old, biodiesel RV that “drives like a marshmallow,” leaks oil, smokes like a chimney and won’t go more than 40mph uphill. It was fun! Actual quote, from one of Deb Eve’s actual children.
Worst way to actually GET across the country: In the aforementioned 25-year-old biodiesel RV that drives like a marshmallow, leaks oil, smokes like a chimney and breaks down everywhere. It would have been better if it ran. Actual quote from one of Deb Eve’s actual children. (The same child. The other one was busy rolling her eyes and making sure NO ONE actually saw her riding in the affectionately named “Alum-A-Womb.”)
Best way to make a short vacation seem long and/or Worst way imaginable to travel with a toddler: On a skutje (a very rustic type of sailboat with very low edges and cramped spaces) sailing through the canals of northern Holland. Did I mention we were two families of four sharing this skutje and it was ten, very rainy days? And that we didn’t bring a leash for the toddler?
Best place to shrug your shoulders and say, “What the hey?”: Maui Sands, the indoor waterpark and hotel in (get this) Sandusky, Ohio. But they greet you with “Aloha,” toss leis around your neck, your kids will LOVE it and after one or two tropical drinks, you won’t even remember that you are in a strip mall, NOWHERE near the ocean!
Best overlooked (and let’s face it, overlookable) tourist site in America: The Jell-O Museum in LeRoy, NY. Yup, an entire museum devoted to a dessert made from the connective tissue of hooved animals. Also available to meet the dietary requirements of people of the Jewish faith. Direct quote from the museum’s docent, who does not have nearly as much of a sense of humor as should be required for that job.
Happy travels and I’d love to hear about some of your best and worst travel recommendations.