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.
2. 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.
4. 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?