I'm throwing this out as a follow-up to favorite cities and countries. I partially answered (ignobly) in the question from ChrisF where I answered why I had not listed UK places. For me, like I said, despite tons of German language (equivalent of 5 years with As to A+s), I still cannot speak it well. With only 1-1/2 years of college French (but living there) and a Fluenz.com Italian program 1-3, I feel totally at home in France and Italy. Things have changed a whole lot since I was first in France in the 1980s, when there really was Gaullist feeling. Now everyone wants to talk to Americans, at least in Paris.
For me, the other thing is discovering past historical loves. While I started at Wellesley (still married), I did languages and medieval history, but when I transferred to Harvard I had to work courses around my work schedule and took anthropology, archaeology, classical civilization, and whole lots of stuff to do with Greece and Egypt. And I loved it! So I've come back to that now, along with my love of France and Italy (and Andalusia).
Besides work, why do the rest of you go where you go?
thought I would lead off on responding to your query. Up to this point in my life, most of my non-work travel has been to either, family-friendly locations (disney, etc.), places to relax ( beaches, islands, etc.), places of historical interest (too broad to identify), and finally, to visit family or friends. None of my travel has had any sort of academic bend to it, even the places of historic significance were visited because of their physical beauty and/or architectural interest.
I'll plunge into this one, but I fear it will reveal my true lack of breadth and depth as a traveler. Be that as it may, here are a some thoughts:
I don't have enough resources to explore the whole world, or even a small part of it. The world is just too big, and life is too short. Even if you pick just one spot, there's just too much to absorb at any level that can be truly appreciated. Too much culture, history and geography. So for me, it's like, just pick something that appeals on a particular level and go for it.
Western culture, language and history are my biggest motivators for travel.
My biggest passion would have to be exploring the colonial states and colonial history, then civil war history as well as California history. This obviously due to a sense of patriotism as well as a natural interest and passion for where I have lived my life. Up to this point in my life, it's all just been explored in books, as it has only been recently that I have been able to afford to travel for pleasure. Now that I can do it, like Chrisf, I want to do all of the longest haul travel now while I am younger and fit for it, saving the closer to home travel for later, when the joints become more rebellious.
My next passion would probably be England, which to me is still sort of "Mama" in terms of national heritage, but also just because it is so rich in history. Okay, everywhere is rich in history. England is my nation's Mummy.
Ireland holds an attraction based on an intuitive need to explore the land of my ancestors. There is also something about visions of open, green pastoral lands that draw me in. While beautiful green pastoral lands can be found in Bavaria, somehow it's just not the same for me as Ireland. I can't describe the difference. It's a visceral, from the gut thing.
France. Ahh, France. I prefer being American, but I could easily next be French. Honestly, it comes from 6 years of studying France and French language in H.S. and college. America has enjoyed a longstanding and at times complicated friendship with France. I've learned enough about it to have developed a lifelong love affair with all things France and French, pure and simple. As long as I can get out of bed everyday, I will never stop going to France. There's another element to my love of France, and that is the language. I've only had occasion to learn two foreign languages: Japanese, when I lived in Japan for four years and as mentioned, French. I lost my Japanese skills long ago, but never want to lose my French language skills, small though they may be. Returning to France again and again keeps me motivated to practice. Spoken French is lovely, and France, like the U.S. is a land that I love.
Italy is just a fantastic place to vacation. It has beautiful countryside and coasts. It has an interesting culture and history, and fantastic wine and cuisine. It is loaded with wonderful art, architecture and history. There is also a romantic element to Italy. Maybe I've watched too much Hollywood, I don't know. One thing about Italy that appeals to me in a way that no other country that I've traveled to has been able to do is the shopping. It is fantastic, because the Italians are artisans and superb craftsmen. You can keep your kilts and steins and cuckoo clocks. I love the Venetian masks (not the ones made in China, which I hope won't cause the ancient art of Venetian mask making to become extinct) and the Murano glass, love the fashion design, the clothing and tailors, the leather craftsmanship, shoes, belts, handbags (my daughter bought me a leather key fob fashioned in the shape of a daschund, too cute), wine, olive oil, cheeses, homemade pastas and sauces made with special ingredients. I love the churches, the art and the architecture and will never get enough of it. There are many people in many cultures who have refined the art of enjoying and savoring each moment of living, and the Italians can be counted among those who do this well. They're just fun to be around (generally speaking). They live well.
What have I left out? Ah yes, 'Stralia. Another offspring of "Mama." Plus, an offspring of my mama lives there (my lovely sister), so there you go. Aussies are down to Earth and laid back, fun to hang with and I love the accent. Great food and great beaches. They speak English! They produce folks like Hugh Jackman, Keith Urban and my brother-in-law. Definitely a place to return to over and again.
These are places that I travel to just for pure recreation and fun.
Newport Coast and Southern California beach cities are just pure fun, recreation and relaxation. So is San Diego and Long Beach. Even though these places are where one can go to relax, I tend to play hard at these places.
I love the vibe of big cities like Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco and DC. Also Sydney, Rome, Paris. It's palpable. No rest for this wicked soul. Go, do, play, see.
Seattle and Victoria B.C. It's just pretty. It's where water, mountains, greenery, islands, ferries, wildlife and vibrant city life collide. Wonderful way to decompress.
Yosemite and Kings Canyon are where I go to hike away the stress. Morro Bay, Monterey Peninsula, Napa/Sonoma for pure relaxation. I imagine that Costa Rica, Cancun and Hawaii would be all about pure relaxation as well, in addition to beautiful natural scenery.
The single most important reason for travel: visiting my loved ones.
Eldest daughter in Idaho, youngest daughter (and grandlittles) in Bavaria.
And there you have it.
Great stories, Pluto! And we definitely share the love of France and Italy. I think for me having lived in France for two years for my dissertation in the 80s cemented my relationship, though I hated Paris at first, and still have a so-so relationship with it. But I adore everywhere else in France, especially Burgundy, Provence, Champagne, Normandy, Brittany and Languedoc (I haven't left much out!).
And although I never shop at home except online, when I travel I always buy something very particular to a place. My apartment is a small enough space that I have covered the walls with enlarged matte prints of the places I've been as well as objects from those places. So when the day comes when I can't travel, I can still do so by looking at my walls!
My splurges on this trip have been Italian ceramics, but no more than will fit in my 20" carry-on. I find wrapping them in my dresses uses the space pretty well.
I don't have many relatives anywhere, except my father in Philadelphia and an aunt in Florida. It was a very challenging family growing up on both sides with no one speaking to each other most of the time. I think as a result, most of us who were the children then decided not to have children of our own so the family has shrunk. But at least it's peaceful.
Of course, my closest 'relative' is my kitty Leelee, who I miss terribly.
Ah, I'm curious about what you purchased. I found the most wonderful little store in the historic center of Lucca my last trip. This lady sold nothing but various ceramic pieces that all had the same scene painted on them: Italian farm/villa with the cypress trees amid fields of red poppies! It was so pretty. I purchased a small plate for my daughter - the occasion being her first visit to Italy (would have loved a large piece, but the items were expensive - worth it, but expensive, plus then how to get it home in one piece?) and I purchased this little thing (with the painted scenery fired on it) that you use to grate garlic - very cool. I wish I would've taken a photo of the lady in her shop. I just snapped her cute little dog.
This little store with the wonderful ceramics (and the lovely lady and her dog) is the first of it's kind that I've seen. It speaks to what I mentioned about the Italians being such skilled craftsmen. And I just realized that there are two dogs!
Adorable! Isn't Lucca wonderful? (Except for possibly getting run over by bicyclists?)
I just got home late last night but all went well. And the last day of the trip the Flora breakfast on the rooftop was open again! And since I'd slept through all the previous ones (but on the days I went to Naples and Capri I was up so early I saw it had been in Cabiria), as I gave my room number the maitre d' exclaimed "'Professoressa "Chiara"'! I usually just introduce myself as Signora X when checking in.
Just for you, Pluto, I took photos of the ceramics I bought mostly in Capri (I'll write more when I am back to normal).
These are nice! Good for you. The one at the top reminded me that I did purchase a nice little digestif set with lemons painted on it, accompanied by blues and greens, in Amalfi a few years ago, but the little tray broke and so I got rid of it (gave it to the goodwill). I'm missing it, as I brought some limoncello (made in the south) back with me from my last trip, and I was just the other day thinking that I have nothing to serve it in . I think I should've kept the set and just glued the tray back together. I didn't see anything like it on my recent trip, but I didn't travel any farther south than Rome. Does anyone know how long an unopened bottle of limoncello will keep?
It should keep for quite some time (probably years). It's about 30-35% alcohol [I know what you're thinking], and especially stored in a dark cabinet it should be fine. It's almost impossible not to buy limoncello or limoncino in Capri! More on the Capri experience when I'm less tired. And I haven't forgotten ?Razorback's? question about Boston.
Mentioning Leelee reminded me (uugh!, but thanks none the less) that I'll have to kennel my pets both next month and Nov. if all the humans in our household can hopefully make both upcoming trips. It's just expensive because kenneling requires shots and blood tests and office visits, plus they act like we're torturing and/or abandoning them (we're not of course, and it's my vet's kennel where he kennels his own pets, so I figure if it's good enough for his pets, it's good enough for mine). But if one has pets, then one must factor in the extra expense as related to travel.
It seems like I have always loved to travel. When I was growing up, we usually went to visit relatives or took staycations near home. When I graduated from high school, my aunt (that I was named for) and uncle gave me a trip to Rome, Paris, or London. I chose Rome and fell in love with the city. I returned to Rome several years later and spent the summer taking graduate classes. Week-end trips included Paris and Athens. As a young teacher, I decided to apply with the Department of Defense and hoped to be sent to a location in Europe. I was assigned to Okinawa. Trips to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, and Viet Nam were scheduled during school breaks. Many of the memories have faded, but my love for travel remains.
For the past 20 years, a lot of our trips have been bicycle related. Some of the time we are participants, other times we are spectators, and occasionally my husband is teaching a class for the League of American Bicyclists. We've enjoyed riding in Holland, Belgium, and France. In the U.S., we have ridden multi-day organized events in Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas, Maryland, Michigan, and Wisconsin. We've also ridden on our own in Arkansas (wonderful trail system around Little Rock), Massachusetts (Cape Cod), Florida (rail trails near Orlando), and California (Napa Valley).
We've also chosen to spend time in the National Parks. We enjoy spending time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It also gives my husband, the sports photographer, a chance to try his hand at animals and scenery.
We also love going to Arkansas Razorback football games, basketball games, and baseball games. I prefer going to home games, but enjoy traveling to away games, too.
Whatever our destination, I thoroughly enjoy the research and planning. Now that I am retired, I spend a lot of time studying new destinations. I have to admit that sometimes the airfare determines our destination, then I plan the trip. My husband loves to travel, too, and is always a willing participant. I never have to "twist his arm" very hard. It will be nice when he retires and we can travel any time we want.
It is very special for me to take people to places they would probably never would have experienced nor ever make it back. Places I have taken people that they really enjoyed. 15 people have gone with me to some of these places and all trips were memorable for all:
Paris and France, have taken "Reluctant" people to France and thought they would be treated rudely. Never experienced anything like that, and all, including my Mother fell in love with France.
Bavaria, especially around Christmas. There is something really magical and loved ones warm a cold climate!
Chiavenna, Italy (Lake Como Area), for six years I stayed at St. Moritz, Switzerland and on Christmas Day would drive down the Alps into Italy and dine at the local Best Western in Chiavenna. We all would have pasta, and a pitcher of local wine and the mild weather on Christmas Day was amazing. It was then fun to drive back up the Alps to a snow covered city.
London, is the easiest place to take people for me. There is so much to experience for all, shopping, dining, and transportation are easy for most.
Sharing is the highlight of my travel experiences!
I think you have "Forgot" more places than I have been! We would be the "Talk of MI" if we traveled together. We might loose our status.
It however would be great if a bunch of us could invite all our MI friends to meet in DC someday. I really think we would have a great turnout at Marriott HQ. Wouldn't it be great to meet so many of the people responsible for this site?
My 1st internal trips were to visit family & friends
People's stories, and games we played like "What was your favorite meal and why" or "What was your favorite trip"
Things I studies in school
Wow, this is impressive! I guess my bucket list needs to be enlarged, though the trip back from Rome was not so good for my arthritis this time. (Probably aftereffects of Honolulu.)
We share that our first international trips were to Canada. As a child, we went to the South Jersey shore every summer, and my parents had no wanderlust beyond suburban Pennsylvania and their one trip to Hawaii. I think I got my love of travel and desire to see these places solely from living in books as a kid (and I had penpals in the 60s in then Czechoslovakia (even at the time of and after the invasion, and I still keep in touch), East Germany (she stopped writing after I stupidly answered some questions honestly, but I think that was probably not her decision). Ironically, it only took 3-4 days to get letters from Czechoslovakia so the Russian censors were not doing their job. We were writing in German [all of us teenagers] because they were just learning English and I didn't know any of the many languages they did, but they wrote about how much they despised the Russians and celebrated openly once when the Czechs beat Russia in a big hockey game. I also had one penpal in southern France near the Tarn, but [oddly] since neither of us spoke the other language much or at all it didn't last long.
My first trip to Canada was to Montréal, then Québec, Toronto, and Ottawa. I went to a conference in Calgary and got up to Edmonton to see the mountains and lakes, and since I've been in Maine I sometimes just take day trips to New Brunswick or Québec.
But for me the desire to see these places came almost entirely from books, secondarily movies (I wasn't allowed to go out much ) and finally college when history became fun. And I love ancient and medieval history and places best because of the mystery of figuring it all out and having to use so many different kinds of sources, from archaeological to literature to art, music and philosophy.
Now I am down for the count...probably till tomorrow.
ProfC, Sorry to hear tht you arthritis is causing you problems, and hope you are feeling better.
Its also very interesting the overlap we have in family vacations, penpals and travel patterns. My Dad didn't even like going to the nearest big city, the state fare, or any organized events as he did not like crowds. My parents idea of a good vacation was camping on a lake, and liberal use of Field Guide Books on Tree, Birds, Fish, Astronomy, etc. I guess I just reapplied the guide book experience to destinations. This may be why I escaped to the city for college, and never met a city I didn't like. Just like some better than others, though its difficult to prioritize.
You were lucky to go to the Jersey shore when you did. The folks at work tell me its so much more expensive than when they use to go, so even though I have lived here a couple of years I have never been. There is no Marriott at the shore other than Atlantic city that is not on the ocean, and with the amount of money they spend, all I can think of is places on the bucket list I want to go to.
I also had penpals, multiple ones (2 German and 1 Japanese), which I guess have now been replace by emails, social networking and blogging. And I went to an International Schools so most of my friends were from all over the world. Living in WDC did not help either, with so many people from around the world, all the restaurants, etc. Now I work in a global company that is more international than any of the international organizations my friends and family worked in. So I get an overlaod of ideas that strain my vacation time and budget, and I look to travel websites like MI, TripAdvisor, CruiseCritic to optomize my travel experience.
I thought your question was an interesting exercise of reviewing where I have been and why, though I am not certain I covered everything. Will need some more time to go back through my country list and make sure I covered each location, and the why, especially with places I have either gone multiple times (Canada, France, Thailand) or I have multiple drivers like studies in school, read about it, heard many stories from family and friends, etc . Probably something for my travel journal on my cruise next week on sea days. Its an interesting interplay between visiting family and friends, to explosure to stories, books and movies planting ideas in my mind that depending on interest and opportunity I plan and carryout. I actually have a reputation in my family for seeing or hearing things and doing them, that when my sister and I watch Hotel Rwanda, see turned and looked at me in the movie and said, "I hope you don't think we are going there", especially since she knew one of my college friends with there with the UN during the troubles.
Yes, Penpals, an extraordinary concept these days since text messaging and email have replaced it (I think) and I feel that's somehow not at all the same. There was something about getting a letter from Czechoslovakia in the fall of 1968 with post cards and all this amazing inside info about what Czech people felt about Russians that was utterly fascinating. When I worked at Mass. General my vascular surgeon (not mine, the one I worked for) allowed me to send all the old magazines to them so they could all work on their English in groups. (Like Europeans need help with that!)
I use Tripadvisor constantly, and have made it to Senior Contributor, which is oddly more important to me than the Rockstar status I have here. They actually question some of my comments if I have gotten a location wrong or something like that. I also like Flyertalk and am a devotee of InsideFlyer magazine, where I've learned how to get all these extra miles and points.
My whole extended family was (and to the degree any of them still exist) were never at all interested in travel. I do have a cousin with a house on the Ocean City, NJ shoreline, but (and I hope she is not an Insider), but I just don't want to be around family despite her invitations. It was the bane of my existence till I moved to Boston and started college at 24. I do appreciate I am weird in that as well as many other things, but I cannot stand spending serious holidays with anyone but my cat. There are not arguments, just a nice turkey for both of us!
Going to places with troubles, like you, does not bother me. There are some I seriously wanted to see (like Syria) which will probably never happen nor will there be anything left to see. Naples spooked me for different reasons. I think it is because I feel like Europe is practically home (I managed never to speak English to anyone who was not Italian during my last trip!) that I felt Naples was just kind of not the place for most women, however savvy, to be walking around alone. Only one day created that impression, but still, I trust my instincts.
I really, really want to do the whole Magheb, and with French it would not be hard. Morocco and Tunisia should be okay, though Algeria is always iffy and I'll wait till Libya sorts things out (though it has great Roman ruins). And of course I WILL GO back to Egypt.
Viva penpals, even if I have never been to the Czech Republic (again I have to pay for anything that is not related to teaching or research), though I have been to the former East Germany, especially Luther sites. I wish more of my students had real penpals.
My family is a mixed bag on travel. While my mom and dad were not into it at all, my dad's brother did travel in the days when it was not as popular, though mainly Canada [he married a Canadian woman], UK [she was of British descent], Florida [in the old days folks drove the family down, and a 2nd cousin had a place there], and Caribbean which was considered luxury travel in those days. As a result, my cousin loves to travel, and has been very interesting places, especially since they film in inexpensive places,e.g. Bulgaria for Italian scenes, Czech and Hungary for French scenes as its much cheaper to have a crew on location in these countries. My brother use to get to travel with my aunt and uncle, and cousin, as he was an only child and they took my brother along as a companion, so my brother loves to travel as well. My sister likes to travel, but prefers her golf, and if she travels its to play different courses. So I guess the best summary is that we are all eccentrics, but in different ways.
It was my Hungarian mother that inspried me to travel with all her colorful stories of places she had been. To her, Europe was a story book populated with extended families called tribes, and the royal families were one big family. I still have along way to go to catch up with her stories, but then she had an unfair advantage growing up in Hungary, speaking, reading and writing fluently in five languages that she acknowledges and a host of other languages that she claims not to be fluent in, but by all appearances she is. To me she is the epitomy of a traveler, and the difference between tourist and traveler. Your recent experience chatting in a cafe in Italy is very similiar to what she does as well. She will even send drinks over before she starts up the conversation, and it leads to all sorts of interesting people and activities like going to gypsy weddings, etc.
Like you I have never beeen frightened off of challenging travel, though I approach all travel cautiously, and the challenging destinations even more so. I did travel around Turkey for several weeks on the buses, but first I stayed in the Cirgan Palace in Istanbul and sort of sized things up. I also talked to the sister of a friend of mine that traveled in Turkey alot for the World Bank, and to the wife of a colleague who was Turkish and traveled there frequently. She provided me the news that was not making it into English papers. And also the tip, if there are no women around, I should not be there either, or if the women are not in bathings suits, neither should I be. For Morrocco I had heard mixed reviews from one of my brother's friends that was much more adventuours than I and had been everywhere, so I did a day trip out of Spain to sort of size it up. I stayed at the Marriott in Marbella, used their recommended tour company and went their for a day trip. It was a very well organized trip, with a Spanish guide that spoke spanish and arabic, and a step on guide once we arrived in Morocco who had his degree in Moroccan History. They did some interesting things like hiring all the folks that mob around trying to sell you stuff, to surround our group and keep others away. In exchange at the end of the day walking through the Casbah, when we arrived back at the bus, they had the exclusive right to sell to us, and we all benefited cause we knew each other already. In Russia and Ukraine, I have a guide that speaks Russian, Ukrainian and Polish. He knows how to get us around when there are no street signs and you need to stop at every intersection and ask directions, or how to hail a cabin in Moscow when no cars are marked as cabs, and instead are personal vehicles that folks drive off hours to earn extra money. He always has me wait off in the distance till he flags them and negotiates, and then waves me over once negotiations conclude. We never speak English or the price goes up, and he sits up front with the driver and me in the back cause as he puts it, we are not going anywhere he doesn't want to go. Snce the cars are small and he is big, he is a rather imposing figure to the driver.
So with that said, I would like spend more time in Morocco, and would like to see Tunisia and Algeria which my 1st trip may be a cruise stop as they also offer a rather safe way to spend a day there and figure out how you would come back and stay a longer time. I am also looking to go to Croatia (parts use to be Hungarian), Slovenia (the original Lipazzaners), Montenegro (had an exchange student in high school that raved about her summers therer), Egypt/Israel (all the historical sights, as well as family and friends) and Burma/India (lots of stories from family and friends). Also, the only continents I have yet to see are South America and Antartica.
Oh, if I could ever figure out a way to have more time and money to devote to travel!
Not that I don't like my work.
Hip hip hurrah to your last comments about work! Your Hungarian aunt sounds wonderful, and much like my Czech penpals. They had about six languages by 11th grade and despite restrictions under the Soviet regime managed to travel almost everywhere they wanted.
Whenever I travel to a place for the first time, I usually take group tours. I never do this in France or Italy for obvious reasons, but even when I started to go to the UK regularly I did so. I could have figured it all out myself, but I didn't know the history as well as the excellent tour guides.
In Middle Eastern countries, I find it essential, certainly in Egypt. I had the best of the best there. I'd read about (on tripadvisor) and arranged a 'cab' from the airport to the Marriott in Zamalek, which is quite the wealthy area. But Cairo traffic -- well, all I can say is you'd have to have been there. It's always that way. My closest friend was there long ago, and she gave me the hint of crossing the street 'in hordes'. Getting from the airport was probably the only really scary part of my whole trip even though it was three weeks before the revolution, and it was the traffic (and lack of lanes or streetlights) that was truly scary. It took about 3-1/2 hours from the airport to Zamalek so I was very happy to have arranged a wonderful tour company's taxi service (which turned out to be tourism as well -- the next day I had a different female tour guide and male driver to the pyramids, Giza, and all the ancient sites in the Cairo vicinity). Next time I go I might stay at the Marriott at Heliopolis, since I want to spent most of my time in Luxor and Upper Egypt in any case.
But at no time (except for traffic) was I scared. The people in the Middle East are incredibly warm and hospitable, and as I said before my female guide was excellent because if anyone (even children) had approached her, there would have been serious consequences. On my overday trip to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings and Queens, Colossi of Memnon, and Hatshepsut's tomb, I got airfare, all airport transfers, an Egyptologist for a day, a buffet lunch at the Sonesta hotel, three tombs besides Hatshepsuts, and the Temples of Karnak and Luxor for about $410. My male Egyptologist and his driver were Coptic, so I also had no problems. Whenever I went out, I always took a head scarf with me in case it seemed appropriate. Trouble is, I never figured out how to use it. My colleagues tell me Middle Eastern women use a whole array of bobby pins to keep them in place.
As for the West Bank, nothing was ever an issue. It's mostly Christian tourists who go there, and Jewish guides from Israel who trade us off at the border, then get us back.
Turkey, well, Turkey. I love Istanbul and even more Ephesus, but I can't stand the carpet sellers. After my first trip, where I did all tours from the Polat Renaissance (amazing hotel, looks like you're on the coast of Maine rather than the Sea of Marmara), I stayed at a Best Western right in the center of Old Istanbul. It was great and even Kurds, not usually liked by the Turks, ran restaurants right there. But going on my own to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia (AND getting money from outdoor ATMs) was a major problem). The carpetsellers all figured in. They are not dangerous, so if you're intimidating enough you have nothing to worry about it. But I will definitely get myself a burqa for the next time. Then if they bother me I can go straight to the police. (Again, Turkey is a secular state under Erdogan, but the carpet sellers are great at figuring out if you're American.) I should have tried French or Italian, though at least he finally figured out I was not a big bucks buyer and wended me toward cheaper places. Got some nice scarves, but it was still an imposition. Next time I am going to wave them off, scream in foreign languages, and get my clothing in burqish order. I really want to visit the remains of Troy, where I have not been, despite Schliemann's virtual destruction of the site. I felt Egypt in many ways was so much friendlier than Turkey, though again, it's the carpetsellers.
I have a former student who's lived in all the cities of Morocco for two years now and she's fallen in love with it and is now studying both Arabic and Islamic Studies at a college in London. Morocco, by all accounts seems likely to remain safe, as does Tunisia.
But my colleague is warning all of his students off of Jordan. While it seems very stable on the face of it, it's very likely Syrian stuff is going to spill into Jordan.
It's always wise to check in with the State Dept. and give your info before you go any place unusual. And not hard.
PS - GemPrincess, you've been to Russia. Is getting a visa for Russia like one for Turkey or Egypt where you buy it on arrival? Or do you have to go through a whole process in advance? The latter would probably make it impossible for me, since I'm four hours from the nearest embassy.
You need to get your visas for Russia in advance, and you need an invitation letter to get the visa.
Usually your hotel can provide you with the invitation letter.
For my visa, I use to walk them through the NYC consulate. There can be quite a crowd, so I get there 1 hr before they open so I am at the front of the line. Then when you enter, they direct Russian citizens to the right, and non-citizens to the left. Usually the queue for Russian citizens has been the longest. I hand over my application form, my pictures, the invitation letter, my passport and a Money Order for payment. I usually pay to expedite. They usually have me come back after lunch to pick it up. Once they had me wait and processed it on the spot but that is unusual, and I wouldn't expect that.
If you go by cruise ship, they do a blanket visa for everyone on the ship that buys a tour. Passengers that want to get off on their own, need to have their own visa, and I wouldn't recommend this unless you are somewhat fluent in Russia, and know the rules of the road so to speak, as things are very different. The signs are all in cyrillic, which after a fashion I can read basic ones for restaurants, hotels, shops, etc, but I wouldn't trust myself with signs in the Moscow or St. Petersburg metro, and if you lose your way, you may not find anyone to ask questions to in English.
Thanx for all the info on traveling in Egypt/Israel/Syria , as I full expect to take these trips eventually. May start of with a cruise to get the lay of the land and assess the situation. Anyways you can't beat the prices. They go onsale for <$1K for 10 & 12 nights usually out of Venice so a weekend there, and sometimes stops in Croatia, Slovenia and Turkey along the way.
Will write another followup on Turkey to compare notes on our experiences.
I audited a bit of Russian in grad school, but am afraid it would be about the equivalent of Greek (da, nyet and so forth). If I went (and it is definitely on my bucket list), I would probably do day tours, which is always what I have done to get accustomed to a new place. That's excellent news that the hotel can provide the intro for the visa.
I'm glad to reciprocate with any info I can on Egypt or Israel, though Syria's gonna be a ways out for all of us, I'm afraid. Let me know if you have any questions. In Israel, I only took tours because if you do a tour each day you can visit the whole country plus the West Bank inexpensively. Staying in Jerusalem (at least Old Jerusalem, which I liked the best) is a problem, because cars or other vehicles are not allowed in so you have to schlep your luggage on your own. I guess if I went again and stayed in Jerusalem I might just pay someone to do the schlepping! I also really want to get to and stay in Bethlehem again. Caesarea and other places were beyond cool, but once you've seen them, you don't need more. But there's such a treasure trove of places to absorb in Both J and B.
As for Egypt, I'm flirting with a trip in November. I'll probably book FF so I can cancel it if need be (though Delta would in any case if there were problems), but things seem to be stabilizing with Morsy visiting Iran, telling them off, and trying to create an Arab solution for Syria. If I would go, though it gets chancy with the second part since I couldn't cancel, I would want to spend most of the time in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings and Queens. My one overday trip only made me want more. Still, because of a dust storm I never got to see the Cairo Museum, so I need to spend at least some time there. Though I stayed at and loved the Zamalek Marriott Palace, I might stay at the one in Heliopolis next time just to avoid the awful traffic of Cairo (plus they provide shuttles and either a HSA person or undercover somebody told me Heliopolis was the way to go) -- again three weeks before the Rev that seems very plausible. Still, at the same time I'd rather be downtown.
My other option for Thanksgiving (I'm damned well gonna travel while I still can, or at least try) is Greece. Last year I cancelled a January trip to Greece because I learned nothing is open at all. I think that differs for the islands, but will post separately for that.
I also studied a bit of Russian in high school. We had a teacher who spoke Russian and offered it as an after school class, but there were only a hand full of us, and many dropped out, so they finally discontinued the class. I have learned prirmarily pleasantries. Even when I stay in the Marriott, and everyone speaks English, I let my guide speak in Russian (he loves to show off), and the people working there just love being able to speak Russian instead of English.
Anyways, I have wanted to go to Egypt for a long time. My step-brother at one time was in the embassy, and it would have been a great time to go, but my ex nixed it when he heard he was driving a different route every day to the office. So I did the Turkey trip instead. Actually my GFs sister that works at World Bank at the time was responsible for both Turkey and Egypt, and I was going to try to split my time, but she reommended it would be eaiser for me to go to travel around Turkey, and recommended all the cultural mixes there. I will go though to Egypt. Probably the 1st time as a cruise stop (they usually spend 2-3 days there so you can do the overnight nile cruise). After I have a chance to get the lay of the land will work out something more extended.
For T-Day, I am going to Iceland to see the Norther Lights. Have always wanted to do that, and on my Norway cruise met some folks that had been several times and gave some good tips on traveling there. Icelandic Air has a great Winter Spa Getaway package that is air, hotel, breakfast spa access, blue lagoon with 2 spa services for the price of the ticket. Will be booking when I get back ffrom the cruise.
Yes, will be going for T-Day weekend as its a good time to get away from the office. Its been one of the more interesting plans, as I am going to see the Northern Lights and am told they can not be seen during the full moon. So, am scheduling as close to the new moon as possible given the work schedule. But we want to be there on a Thurs night, as the hotel has on Thursday nites Icelandic storyelling. Apparently everyone wears their PJs, and they give you blankets and hot chocolate as they tell the local fairy tales. They also have free on demand Icelandic movies on TV (am assuming I will be reading subtitles on that one). Looking forward to that, and soaking in the spa, the blue lagoon, and a new spa that has been built. I think we shall only have about 4 hours of daylight (checked with a colleague who was there for a conference about that time of year).
I use to be addicted to my cameras. Had two digital cameras when they first came out, as well as digital video. After a trip to spain where I actually filmed a bullfight, I suddenly realized I was only seeing the places I visited through a camera. So I have not traveled with one since. I am traveling with someone though who is coming well armed with camera equipment and promised to share so I will post.
GemP ... The Blue Lagoon is just awesome! We were there a couple of years ago and spent two afternoons soaking ... One of which was in the middle of a snowstorm. It was just amazing ... Sitting in warm water with snow falling on your head! I do'yet know where you will be staying but, if you are prepared to pay for a great meal, try Silfur which is in the Hotel Borg ... Expensive (as is most food in Iceland) but an excellent dining experience.
You are right. I've sat in that Blue Lagoon as well. It was cold and foggy when we were there, and it felt like an excursion to another planet. Definitely something to do if you are there. Gullfoss shouldn't be missed, but the Geysir geothermic field was just OK, I thought. As I mentioned somewhere else, it was the first time I had a Lam (lamb) Dog with some kind of special mustard, and it was awesome!
I enjoy Fresno State Bulldogs sports as well. Huskers played them last year as I recall. And I've seen FSU's baseball team in Omaha at the CWS. Very good programs. I have to say that there wasa time when Boise State was my favorite team...a couple of years ago when they womped on Oklahoma!
Fresno does have good baseball and softball programs. It will be interesting for the Bulldogs on the football field this year sans Pat Hill. Will have to see how Coach Deruyter fairs. Boise State has a fairly formidable program. Next year they'll be Big East. Fresno will remain Mountain West. We're small taters, but we love our taters.
ProfC ... What an interesting topic! I have been trying to work out my answer but ... We just love travelling! As you know, I have a bucket list but I don't stick to it rigidly ... If we spot some deal or need a break ... We are off! We are near Ayr in Scotland at the moment ... the weather is great, the scenery is amazing and we have done some great walks. Today we were at Robert Burns cottage etc. We stood on thebridge that he feature innose of his poems ... Brilliant!
(I am only getting limited wifi here ... not a Marriott ... so am only slowly responding to postings.)