Day 23 of the blog post a day in May and we are off on our travels with a list. Two of my favourite things.
GET home from any long trip and it will not be long before somebody asks a question that starts “what was your favourite…?”.
The most common end to that question is place or country and, to be honest, no matter how many times it has been asked, not sure have ever given a proper answer.
Always had to veer off on a tangent, explaining that favourite moments on overland trips are not so much based on places but memories or moments, where they were is not necessarily the key factor in why they were so great.
Often reel off Rwanda among my favourite African countries, but was only there for about 72 hours.
Those three days included an extraordinary hour with mountain gorillas, a harrowing if hugely worthwhile trip to the Kigali Genocide Museum (both of which are real must sees) and a bizarre afternoon at an eccentric bowling alley.
It is also a beautiful country, known as the land of a thousand hills, but can that really qualify it as one of my favourite places of all my travels?
The same applies to the remaining moments picked out as my five favourites from 10 months on the road in Africa – an afternoon with the children of Lake Bunyoni in Uganda, an evening camping the heart of an isolated village in Cote d’Ivoire, digging a truck out of a waterlogged hole in the Congo and a visit to an orphanage in Ghana.
Trans Africa – The Best and the Worst
All amazing, but enough to land on my favourite places list? Probably not. Even goats on trees is not a good enough reason to lift Morocco onto that list.
Equally, having a few gripes about a place is not necessarily enough to disqualify it – Zimbabwe made it on my best and worst countries in Africa list, such are the delights and frustrations of a remarkable nation.
So have finally tried to work on a definitive list of my favourite places, defined by the city, country or region itself being what earned that ranking rather than some fleeting moment or experience.
Also need to have spent a certain amount of time there – love loads of places having spent very little time there, often just passing through – and the one guarantee of this list is that am determined to go back there. But that’s a very long list.
Diving in to this without having settled on the definitive list – suggest will want to change it pretty much immediately and fairly certain it will include a fair amount of places in the States.
Kept it to 10 or we could be here all day – can rattle on about endless number of places absolutely love – and in no particular order.
No surprise on this one, have long had a bit of a love affair with the state capital of Massachusetts (not the one in Lincolnshire).
Feel instantly comfortable and relaxed there – my overseas destination of choice to just get away from it all and feel under no pressure to go sightseeing or charge around ticking off the must-sees.
Wandering around Boston, hanging out in a bar or catching a Red Sox game is my version of a beach holiday.
Could easily live in Boston, not sure that is the case with New York but a few days always an exciting prospect, but with the similar feeling of being on familiar – if more hectic – ground.
You cannot run out of things to do, places to see and have every intention of doing and seeing a lot more there.
Watching the Red Sox win in Yankee Stadium would be near the top of the list.
Bit of a cheat this one, lumping together such a large and varied area but it contains a huge number of places which could easily have made it in their own right.
From the antebellum charm of Charleston – which will always have a special place in my heart – and Savannah to the music capitals of Memphis and Nashville (plus Austin, Texas, which strictly doesn’t qualify) via any number of stops in smalltown America.
And for each of those memorable major centres, there are countless smaller stops, all with the requisite southern charm and fantastic scenery – if you are going to take one road trip, try the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway twisting through the Appalachians. Or the Great River Road down the Mississippi to New Orleans.
Could go on and on.
The largest state of the union is one of its least accessible, but one of its most rewarding.
It is huge (it is the most northerly, westerly and easterly state, courtesy of a geographical quirk) and that size strikes you at every turn. You will travel for hours between stops and, if the weather is good in the summer, there will rarely be a poor view.
Several American national parks could have made this list – Yosemite, Yellowstone, Badlands, even the Grand Tetons which gave this blog its name – but Alaska just does it all bigger and better.
You do not have to travel across the globe to find memorable cities – Edinburgh has always provided a great stop and each visit (all far too short, often far too drunk or with too much time spent working, occasionally both) leaves me wanting to go back for more.
Slightly surprised that a place not visited for years makes the list, but could not find a reason to take it off. My Dad always used to say ‘if the weather is right, you can’t do better’ and he’s not too far from the truth.
Cape Town/Western Province
Definitely topped the list of places to go back to in Africa, largely because it is simply stunning and Cape Town provides a wonderful centrepiece.
The capital of Mali was not on our original itinerary and events in the north of the country have not exactly helped it as a travel destination. But the chaos, friendliness and sheer fun introduced us to what was to come in sub-Saharan African.
There are people who have trouble with China and, yes, there is a lot to question. But it is a remarkable place, a history and a culture which is totally new to anyone from the west. And the best place for street food.
Had to include one African country. Nearly went for the whole west coast or some of the wildlife hotspots of the east. But Namibia combines the best of both – amazing wildlife experiences, the sense of wilderness of West Africa and its own extraordinary natural sights. It is also a mecca for thrillseekers and overlanders, who come together after weeks or months on the road.