A few of my favorite places… (Part 1)

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Cliffs of Moher, Ireland. Summer 2013.

I’ve had an extreme case of wanderlust recently which has had me thinking of all the countries I’ve visited and, of those, which I’d love to visit again. While there are plenty of sites in each of these locals – even those I have lived in – that I haven’t seen, there are always those spots that I’ll always want to visit over and over again.

Checking through the travel app I mentioned in an earlier posting, I realized that I’ve visited 13 countries (not including small day trips south), four of which I’ve visited over and over again.

This week I’m thinking back between 2001 and 2013 and four locations that I’ve only visited once but definitely want to visit again.

1. Italy, 2001

I was 10 when I flew here with my little sister, grandparents, four cousins, and an aunt – yes, it was hectic. I was the third youngest and obviously in that awkward preteen stage where I barely knew which way was up let alone what this trip would do for me. This was the first trip I was old enough to remember and really helped me figure out that while I love to travel, sometimes someone else’s dream vacation – and I mean pace – just doesn’t work for a crowd.

We still talk about this trip a lot in my family. Grandpa drove on the sidewalk – and still denies it. We threw coins in the Trevi Fountain. We made friends with the owner of a family run restaurant and they made us a special dinner our last night with them and we ate gnocchi most other nights until we couldn’t move.  Bex accidentally trapped herself in at least 3 different toilets and couldn’t figure out how she was doing it. We stayed in some beautiful hotels with scenic views and others that blacked out a lot due to record breaking heat waves. Every few days, we piled into this white van which was just large enough for all of my and the suitcases and we would drive all over Italy – I’ve seen a lot!

But above all, I have the fondest memories of going to the Blue Grotto in Capri. I remember sitting in the boat and having to lay back against everyone else as we entered the cave – just in case the current carried the boat too high. The Grotto is beautiful  and even if you aren’t allowed to touch the water, it’s an experience. The fact that this trip was 16 years ago is truly scary but makes me want to go back and revisit the Grotto and others close to my heart as well as the many areas I haven’t made it out to.

2. Japan, 2002

We visited Japan when my uncle and his family was stationed there over the middle school’s winter break. I was 11 and since we were on base, we ended up spending a lot of time doing base-life activities – at least for visiting family. Somehow, I remember a whole lot of shopping and getting to make and consume a lot of homemade sushi.

This trip is an interesting one to think back on because while we did explore the city and country, it was really more about visiting family. What sticks out most was walking through some of the temples and my Aunt explaining some on the ceremonies my cousin was going through and the different events  they were looking forward to. I just remember how beautiful everything was and I mostly want to go back to retrace some of those steps.

3. Australia, 2004

I’ve talked a bit about going to Australia but, just to refresh anyone’s memory, I was a student ambassador with the People to People program the summer between my 7th and 8th grade years. I was one of 40 students under the supervision of 3 teachers and 2 Ausies – out guide and our driver (s technically there were two over the over the course of the trip). Because of who I was traveling with, I got a very different view of the country. We had a house stay and school visit to an all girls school; we stayed about 4 days at a cattle farm with termite mounds taller than I will ever be; we toured a government building and nature preserves and a crocodile farm. We toured caves and learned songs and had a few beach days in between.

If I could go back I would do it all again and so much more, but one of the places and experiences I will never forget and can never recreate was our visit to the Sydney Opera house. Our group got a special tour and I remember stumbling upon a modern ballet rehearsal – I wish we could have seen it! But mostly, they talked about the acoustics and one of my really good friends in the group got to get on the stage and belt out a few notes – it was amazing. It also definitely put seeing an actual performance at the Opera House on my bucket list.

4. Ireland, 2013

Yes, this is an eleven year gap, and no, it’s not because it took 11 years for me to venture outside the US again – although it was a close call – but this was the next place I haven’t been able to visit a second time. This 2013 trip was the first trip I had planned by myself and I’ve talked about it here many, many times. This is probably one of the places that is really hard for me to narrow down one site that I must see again or that really stands out.

My sister and I did a large U around the base of this country starting in Galway and making many memories down, around, and up to Dublin – it was a lot of buses. From our 4 days without luggage in Galway, or trudging said luggage across town and back during our day trip through Killarney, or my adventure with the boys in Dublin (another unrepeatable event I’ll always treasure and enjoy retelling), or nights spent in pubs listening to and singing along with good music with great people, there was so much to this trip and the beginning of a much larger adventure, again, making it hard to pick just one thing.

Still, I have: the tour of Trinity college and visiting the Book of Kells. First, the tour was amazing. Given by students (very cute and very funny students, mind you), the tour is entertaining informative and fast. We got information on strange bureaucratic surveys – guess where the three largest maple trees – if I remember correctly – in Ireland (never mind that’s because they are practically the only ones in Ireland). The tour lets off by the entrance of the Book of Kells and the small tour cost goes to that price. This is a must revisit for me since watching the 2009 film about it (the film is also very worth watching!).


So this is all for Part 1 of my revisiting – 12 years of my life and, so far, we’ve got four down, nine to go! Until next time:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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A few of my favorite places… (Part 1)

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Cliffs of Moher, Munster, Ireland. Summer, 2013.
Cliffs of Moher, Munster, Ireland. Summer, 2013.

This week we interrupt our regularly scheduled program on the continued Book Nerd adventures to say have a very happy and festive Saint Patrick’s Day (or whatever is left of it, wherever you happen to be).

And wherever that may be, whether you are near your home or far from it, have fun and be safe!

If you are out drinking, remember to make good choices:

–don’t get kicked out of countries because you are drunk and throwing roof tiles at the police—aka, Colin: The Cautionary Tale.

–don’t get in a car if the person behind the wheel (even if it’s you!) has been drinking.

–have a sober companion to help you get home.

–pay attention to your surroundings.

Not a big thing for travel, but if you are away from home and in unfamiliar surroundings, be even more careful.

I traveled around Ireland for a week and a half a few years back, and today I’m thinking of the places I still want to hit next time I hop over. So, to keep some of the travel in this travel blog, here is me Irish wishlist:

1. Spend more time wandering the Ring of Kerry.

2. The hill of Tara and the surrounding area.

3. Two national parks: Wicklow and Connemara.

4. More nights in local pubs with good live music.

and probably a few others I haven’t thought of yet!

And to leave on a happy note (and because I must), I leave you with my Granddad’s favorite:

“May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

Now I’m off for one last bowl of Irish beef and cabbage stew and next week we’ll be back to our normal program.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!