This occurred to me as I was writing about airports, and is obviously not inclusive (I am writing from a European point of view, even though I love the Middle East, but maybe someone could start another discussion for other regions).
After my first trips abroad (next paragraph and during) I went to Germany and Switzerland. My ancestry is entirely Swiss/German (Berne). It was actually a relief from France in the 80s (so different from now) when no one in France spoke any English. It was a relief, even though my ex-husband (who'd seen it all) did not travel with me. Even in the late 80s Germans and German-Swiss spoke some English and I could (then) speak German. Still, oddly, I never felt at home, even in Berne. Other than the possibility of being a changeling (not likely, since I was born and raised in Germantown, PA), I couldn't quite get why I did not connect with my ancestral homeland (or its language, despite it being my best subject in high school). I later went to East and West Germany on fellowships in the late 90s and visited Switzerland again, but all I can say is that I felt ... nothing. With a friend, I visited Vienna, and mostly it was the same.
I have not a drop of Latin blood in me. Totally Swiss-German, so why do I only feel at home in France, Italy and Greece (in Europe)?
My favorite place to be used to be France. It was my first time not just visiting but living outside of the US except for visits to Québec and Ontario. The problem is, and I wonder if any of you who consider yourself serious and frequent travelers, is that I have seen and been to almost all of France. I've lived in Paris for years totalled, and partial years in other places.
My next favorite place became Italy. I hated every place I first visited in Italy, after a first trip to both Venice and Rome in the 90s. In each case, I stayed in fleabag hotels to do my research, and in summer, when it was horribly hot. As you know, I've become a great lover of Italy since, especially Venice and Rome. I gave a three-college tour for two weeks to Tuscany and Umbria in 2002 for my college's Alumni Office and have been to Florence, Siena, etc. many times. Yet the only one of the places in those tours that stuck with me was the beautiful and amazing Assisi. I've been to both Florence and Siena (I prefer the latter) many times, yet I always prefer the Tuscan villages. For me, the first time in Florence was magic as the taxi passed by the Duomo and Baptistery. But as I was there more and more, I 'felt' it less and less. Much less than Paris, which is my least favorite part of France.
And then I discovered Greece and its islands after my life-changing experience in 2009. I'd been too timid to go to places where I did not speak the language before that. Both of the first two trips were based in Athens with day trips everywhere else in Greece. Then I did the islands, and last year stayed a week out of the main town on Mykonos, so I could go regularly to Delos, an ancient site. I'm going back to Greece twice in the next four months, though I'm not sure where.
Finally, and some of you will be surprised. Thanks to my research, I rediscovered London (I actually always liked most of the rest of England fairly well before this). It started with staying at the Marriott County Hall numerous times and most recently at the West India Quay. I learned quickly which part of London suits me -- East End. Next stay will not be at a Marriott, because I need to be in the East End for research, so I'm staying at the Tower Indigo. But I will otherwise always stay at what I think of as the best Marriott in London -- West India Quay.
So tell me and everyone, why and where are your favorite places? And though I started with Europe, please expand it!
I will expand it to Include Singapore. The airport is modern, beautiful, and the second most efficient airport that I have been in. They have both a waterfall and a flower wall (living flowers) inside the facility. Singapore has 3 official languages, one of which is English. The city is as clean, efficient, and crime-free as Japan at half the cost, and the people are very friendly (even if you are a resident). I also reccommend Melbourne Australia. The people are great and the scenery is awesome.
I have not stayed at the Crown Plaza in Sinbgapore. However, having said that, let me also say that the Crown Plaza is always a very nice property in Asia (in America in can be hit or miss). The equivalent chain to Marriott was the Mandarin Oriental.
While in Singapore try to find a restaurant that prepares "drunken Prawn" it is one of my very favorite dishes.
Do NOT go swimming in Thailand. They have a parasite there that will invade the urinary tract and make you VERY uncomfortable.
Also, Singapore is very sensitive regarding recreational drugs. The mandatory sentence for possession of two or more ounces of a non-prescribed narcotic is death; and they do hang people.Otherwise, you will find that you are perfectly safe walking the streets at 3:00 am.
Melbourne is part British, part American, part Asian, and 90% 'Strain (Australian). There are many parks and gardens there, and don't forget that the seasons are reversed.
Since I was there long-term, they furnished me with an apartment across from the parlaiment building, therefore I cannot make a hotel reccommendation.
My favorite restaurants there were Greek and Chinese in and around chinatown.
Don't mess with the wildlife. Australia has 7 of the 10 most poisonous snakes in the world. Also remember that the Koalas look cute but have sharp claws.
The major problem with the Australian wines is that 90% of the wine produced there is consumed there.
Let me know if you need more info.
The water is safe to drink in Singapore and in Australia. It is most definitely NOT safe in Thailand. Do not let the water in Thailand into your body (that includes brushing your teeth and in the shower), also make sure that you open your own water bottles (some places have been known to fill bottles from the tap).
al years before Elizabeth, making him the world'sTruly they are very far away. Melbourne is 19 hours flight time from LAX (I have to add another 5 hours from ATL to LAX). .and Singapore is typically 18 hours flight time. Singapore is 12 hours time difference from Atlanta, which really made the "window" with my office tiny.
No matter the distance, though, you really should visit Asia. English is not normally a problem as it is the business language of Asia. The people can speak the languages of the other countries, but since they have been at war off and on for the last 10,000 years, they won't. That was not a typo, I did say 10,000 years. The museum in Taipei, Taiwan has jade artifacts and other items (including town records) that date back to 8,000 BC. History in Asia is a great deal more ancient than Europe.
Also, it will give you a new perspective on What if... For example, the chinese and japanese were always at each other. At one battle at approx 50 ad there were approx 300,000 soldiers killed. That is more than the combined armies of the Roman Empire of the time. The chinese were extremely insular at the time, preferring to keep others out rather than expanding. With a standing army typically exceeding 2,000,000 soldiers, if they had turned their eyes westward, they could have rolled over all of the European areas without any trouble; and we would all be speaking Mandarin.
Japanese history is just as interesting. Japanese culture is so very different than western that it becomes fascinating. Moreover many of the ancient customs are still being followed today, although in a modified approach.
Thailand's king took the throne several years before Elizabeth, making him now the world's oldest monarch. The Thais dearly love their royalty (and the royal family works to keep it that way). They also overthrow the prime minister and the government on a regular basis.
Malaysia's king serves for five years, then another sultan takes the crown.
Singapore has less than 1/2 % unemployment, and has successfully eradicated the slums.
Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation.
This just scratches the surface, The only way to appreciate Asia is to go there.Europe is great, and it has many attractions that I have enjoyed, But Asia is another level.
I have always travelled with the notion that I should always look for the good things where ever I am, as the bad things will find by themselves.
I hope that this was no too boring.
ProfC ... I've been sitting here for the last 10 minutes trying to work out how I should reply. It is quite a difficult question to answer.
Over the years, we have travelled to many European cities and through much of the countryside and have found only a few places that we didn't like. Living in the UK gives us a great advantage for European travel and, since the advent of very cheap flights and the Eurostar service, it has become even easier.
Our main focus when travelling in Europe is ... history, architecture and food/wine/beer
My views are as follows on our top 5:
BELGIUM ... Brussels ... we love the architecture and the atmosphere - food and beer are great too ... Ypres ... a very haunting place, especially the Menin Gate
FRANCE ... we love the countryside ... especially areas such as Montcuq ... we've never really fallen for Paris
SPAIN ... Barcelona ... excellent for Gaudi's work and the amazing Sagrada Familia ... food and atmosphere are great too
ITALY ... Rome ... loved the food and, of course, the history ... we loved wandering the backstreets
IRELAND & SCOTLAND ... great places to relax and very different to most other places we've been to in Europe
But, having said all that, we love London. We keep talking about retiring to the North of England where my wife's family live. However, we can get into London in about 30-40 minutes from where we live and we know that we would miss it. Even though we have been there many times and live so close, we sometimes have to stay over just to enjoy it. I find that London has something of everything that we want from travel ... amazing history, stunning architecture, great restaurants (although service can be a bit iffy!) and an excellent selection of theatres.
I'll be interested to see other MRI's responses.
Perhaps we should have a separate post for favourites in North America?
I read this with great interest, however I have been procrastinating packing for my Germany-UAE trip next week, and must get started. (I have a lot of things to take to my daughter, and have the dubious task of figuring how to pack it all without breaking anything as well as not exceeding the 50 pounds: 25 lbs per bag.) I will think on this and reply when I can. It is as usual, a thought provoking "ProfChiara Special."
I agree with Chris. It's a difficult question. It's like trying to answer why your favorite color is your favorite color. The honest truth is that I'm not well enough traveled to answer, really. Even so, of the places abroad that I've been, there are indeed a couple of places - and only a couple - where I've really felt at home, and they will probably seem boring to some, but obviously not to me. Paris is actually one of them. I like being able to speak the language (good enough for my purposes, anyway). I like knowing my way around. And I like the fact that I can just "lose" myself to anonymity, yet be in a familiar place. I'll certainly never be bored there. Has anyone ever just felt like running away? It's my fantasy go to place when I have those rare moments where I just think I might actually and literally need to "run away" and escape my life, if just for a little while. It's the perfect hiding place. For me. Another place might be one of the smaller Tuscan towns like the hill town Montepulciano, or perhaps farther south in the coastal village of Sorrento. These places are relaxed, the people are friendly and I feel safe there. The food is good!
I've not yet discovered Great Britian or its English countryside. I fear that once I do, there will be naught else for me but there. And that would be just fine. I've traveled a lot to Germany over the past 3 plus years, as that's where my kids and grandkids have been living. I have two more trips planned this year, while they will still be living there. I've enjoyed the sight-seeing I've done, and look forward to what I will explore in the region this year, but quite honestly, Germany just doesn't do it for me. I'm not sure why. I've tried to embrace the culture and the history, but it's been difficult. I am indifferent toward the language. I know others love the place. My cousin, a retired two star general and consummate American patriot, says that if it weren't for family obligations, he'd readily live out the rest of his life there. The food and drink, the friends made, the language, the countryside, the culture, the hunting... - Eh, shrug.
I have been to foreign places that I've enjoyed and wouldn't mind seeing again, but there are only a couple of places that continually and repeatedly call out to me, like a childhood friend beckoning for the comfort of old friendship. For some reason, I don't know, French and English culture and history act as a sort of beacon for me, even though I have no family heritage there. Maybe it's just simply the fact of my education and nothing more. I really don't know. It brings me back to that color question.
I will ever be thinking about this now Professor, searching for that definitive answer.