Enjoy memories of Venice … Travel Memoir ~ Venice, Italy
When I planned my first trip to Asia, I used Japan (Tokyo) as a 2 night stopover to break up the trip from the east coast of the US to Thailand. I took a one day tour to Hakone National Park and fell in love with the country and its people. I knew that I would return and have been fortunate to be able to journey to Japan many times, both solo and also with friends. Let me share some of my favorite memories with you.
I discovered on one of my first solo journeys that it is quite easy to travel about on the Tokyo train system; just do not travel during rush hour! I took the train to Ueno Park, a beautiful park with a pond and several fascinating museums. I have spent many hours at The Tokyo National Museum, with its wide range of artwork and national treasures, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and The Kaneiji Temple.
I have been fortunate to be in Tokyo during the Cherry blossoms (usually late March – early April) and this Ueno Park is one of the most beautiful at that time. Tokyo has other beautiful parks and they are all worth time to explore.
Tokyo’s department stores are interesting places to visit. Their customer service is unrivaled as is their packaging. I love the basement floors where food is presented so beautifully. And, they are terrific places to buy Japanese souvenirs. I was in a department store when they were having a French fashion and goods exhibit. Everything was exquisitely displayed. I still have the “Babar” book that I bought. Department stores also have very good restaurants and cafes, with either plastic replicas or photos of the food choices, so no challenge ordering.
I vividly remember going out for dinner and afterward drinks with friends at a Karaoke Bar. It was great fun, and as I sing “Happy Birthday” off key, I only sang with friends and sang very low. A friend noticed and laughingly said, “I did not hear you.” I responded “That was the idea.”
On one visit, with my mother, we left our hotel to walk about and find a restaurant for dinner. The hotel had given use several suggestions in the area. As one point, I had crossed the narrow street and gotten ahead of my mother. Three businessmen approached my mother and started to speak to her. I noticed and walked back. It turned out they wanted to make certain my mother was OK and not lost. They also gave us the name of a nearby restaurant which was excellent. Another evening, we joined a tour and had a marvelous dinner plus a fascinating Kabuki Show. To me, Japan is one of the safest countries I have visited with the most courteous and helpful people.
In Nikko, at the Toshu-gu shrine, I was captivated by the carving of the three wise monkeys: “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” In Osaka, I was fascinated by the 16th century castle, surrounded by a moat and park. And the Bullet train is not to be missed.
My fondest memories of Japan are of its marvelous people, culture and cuisine. There is a sense of serenity and timelessness plus a glimpse of the future as you journey through this complex land with its ancient customs and very up to date technology.
Travel well on your journeys and travel often.
Paris is a magnificent city, no matter the season. Imagine a beautiful city with incredible cuisine, wine, museums, parks, monuments, shopping, book stores and the most unique ambiance. Let me share some memories of when I traveled with friends or solo to this favorite city and working for an international airline I was able to indulge my love of travel and visit Paris many times.
Before my first journey to Paris, I bought a terrific guidebook (Paris Access) which was a good idea as Paris has so much to see and experience. The book arranged Paris by neighborhood (Latin Quarter, St -Germain, Louvre & Chamos-Elysees, etc) making it easy to walk about and explore this fascinating city.
I usually started my day by visiting a local boulangerie and choosing a fabulous croissant or pain au chocolat or pain aux raisins (my favorite) or … your choice is quite extensive. Later in the day, take a break from exploring and enjoy a visit to one of the marvelous patisseries. The creations are memorable and mouth watering.
Several times I stayed in the 5th Arrondissment. It’s a terrific area for restaurants and an easy walk (or Metro ride) to the main sightseeing areas. The Mouffetard Market, on Rue Mouffetard, has a splendid selection of food to buy (cheese, bread and wine, as a start) and cute, local places to dine. I recall a marvelous French-Vietnamese bistro with the most incredible quiche and tartes. Voila!
I have spent numerous hours exploring the superb Louvre and enjoying their restaurants (one had the most delicious brownie). It does require several visits. Other favorite museums include the D’Orsay and The Centre Pompidou. For Monet, nothing beats the incredible Marmottan Museum which has the largest collection of his works; more than three hundred paintings. And should you decide to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, don’t do it immediately after lunch.
LOL, I can still recall doing that, carrying my winter coat, as it was getting warmer and warmer, as I walked up the narrow circular stairs. I heard people ahead of me groaning and laughing and shouted to them “are we almost there?” They laughingly replied, “no — still a ways to go.” And yes, the view is worth the memorable climb.
Close by short trips that I fondly recall and highly recommend include Versailles and yes, it is magnificent. On a smaller scale, take a forty minute train ride from Paris to the Fontainbleau Chateau. At both places, you will feel the France of a by-gone era. Marvel at the royal lavishness and breath-taking gardens.
There are English language bookstores including Shakespeare and Company. The department stores are well worth a visit. And Parisians do like it when travelers speak even a few words of French. Be prepared to have your pronunciation corrected, but that’s how we learn, isn’t it?
I usually traveled to Paris off-season which I prefer as there are fewer lines than in the peak summer months. And while the Luxembourg and Tuileries Gardens may not be in bloom, you will be able to walk about without the crowds.
Paris is a state of mind with memories that last a lifetime. C’est magnifique!
Travel well and often!
I have traveled to Ireland several times, always off-season (no lines!). The weather was very similar to the Pacific Northwest (rainy), but when it cleared, it was fabulous. Two of my favorite spots are Dublin and Galway, which are marvelous cities to explore and easy to navigate.
Dublin has many sights to intrigue the traveler. Both the Book of Kells and St. Stephen’s Green left lasting impressions with me.Visit Trinity College to see the gorgeous Book of Kells. It may be crowded, but seeing the manuscript is awe inspiring and definitely a must see. St Stephen’s Green is a beautiful place to stroll, perhaps read or people watch. Check out The Irish Whiskey Museum, The Guinness Storehouse, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, the National Botanic Gardens and The Abbey Theatre.
If not renting a car (I didn’t), you can take one day tours to many parts of Ireland or do as I did, and take the train to another area. I took the train to Galway, in the western part of Ireland. As the miles went by, I marveled at the numerous shades of green. Galway, a harbor city on the Atlantic, is a beautiful place to walk about. It has many pubs, fabulous Irish seafood and the people are grand.
One day I flew to Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands. The very small plane departed Galway Airport in the rain (well, drizzle) and from my first glimpse of the island, I knew it was enchanted. I was only there for a few hours but loved the beauty and solitude and the people. I also enjoyed the hearty soup and Irish bread that I had at a B&B that served lunch. It is on my list of places to revisit.
Ireland has several Castle banquet evenings. I went to two and enjoyed both, though each was quite different. My favorite was in the Galway area at Dungaire Castle, located on the water. The banquet food was delicious, there was harp music and readings from the works of William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Sean O’Casey and John Millington Synge. It was an unforgettable mystical evening of beautiful music and poetry.
The other banquet I attended was at Bunratty Castle, which is close to Shannon Airport (western Ireland). It took place in the Great Hall; the meal and entertainment were very good and it was great fun. Many people (myself included) go to the banquet prior to flying to the states the next day. After the banquet, many of us went back to the Bunratty Castle Hotel, where we recounted our travel adventures with much laughter. A fitting end to an Irish journey is indulging in an Irish Mist or Irish Coffee with fellow travelers.
Memories of my visits to Ireland are highlighted by the very warm, generous people, the great food and drink and the spectacular scenery. There are magical places, especially in western Ireland, where, if you close your eyes, you can imagine ancient Celts or Druids and feel their presence. And don’t forget the leprechauns. Who knows, you may meet one or two as you journey about this magical isle.
Travel well and often.
Addendum: I found some additional slides to share of my incredible journey to Nepal. They brought back fabulous memories, including taking a local bus from/to Katmandu and Annapurna. When you go, definitely take a tour of Mt Everest by plane. It is breathtaking and not to be missed. Enjoy the link below.
Travel well on your journeys and travel often.
A friend and I traveled to France off season (fall) and loved it. We spent time in Paris, took a train to Geneva where we had arranged a car rental and then we headed for the majestic Alps.
Our trip included Albertville (stopped there for lunch), then onto Chamonix for several days, followed by stays in Val d’Isere, Megeve and Annecy. Let me share my memories of two favorite spots, which were our journey’s highlights: Chamonix and Annecy.
We stayed at the terrific Albert 1er which was central to the town with gorgeous views of Mont Blanc. Upon our arrival, we shopped for a picnic: bread, local wine (a Gamay and an Apremont) and cheese (triple crème) and enjoyed our fabulous goodies on our balcony surrounded by incredible beauty.
Taking the cable car to Aiquille du Midi above the town is a must. The cable car ride is thrilling and the view is spectacular. You are among the mountains and clouds. It is an awesome experience that will stay with you long after your visit. There is a small cafe where you can enjoy coffee and a snack while enthralled by the view.
A favorite pastime in Chamonix was walking about, marveling at towering Mont Blanc, stopping to enjoy coffee and a pastry, sitting outside, taking in the view. A favorite restaurant was Atmosphere, on the Arve River. The meals were superb, capped by fabulous meringue desserts.
For a different view of Mont Blanc, take the tunnel under the mountain which connects France and Italy (the Aosta Valley). Great way to spend a day, explore the area (very narrow streets) and indulge in Italian cuisine.
Called “The Venice of the Alps,” you will enjoy walking about the many canals and exploring this beautiful city. Walk the cobble stoned streets, stop for a pastry and take in the beauty all about. Check the schedule and browse and shop at the local markets. The variety of foods is quite incredible. As you walk about, stop and take photos of the Palais de l’Isle, which is one of France’s most photographed attractions. It is a local museum, only open in warmer months.
As you walk about, you will discover many terrific restaurants. Two dishes to try are the local Savoyard Fondue and Raclette. Once after eating a fondue and looking at the dessert menu, a woman at an adjoining table advised us not to have ice cream for dessert, as it would not go with the cheese fondue we had just eaten. Who knew? While both dishes are traditionally Swiss, the French have made them their own. Bon Appetite!
All that was needed was a sense of adventure, a smattering of French and a small French phrase book. People were friendly and helpful, cuisine marvelous, weather was great and the fall colors spectacular and no crowds. Off season travel has its advantages.
Travel well and often.
I went to Brittany’s magical St Malo in an off season (late fall) and loved the area. My journey was before the Internet was widely used and prior to cell phones, hence, no Trip Advisor or other on-line travel guides. It was a marvelous experience exploring the city and its environs, using my very basic French plus a small French phrase book.
Each morning, I’d walk along the shore, smell the sea air and be immersed in the fog and dampness. You can walk to two little islands at low tide. Note: always check the tides ~ or you will get stuck there!. Later, walk about and explore the ramparts which surround the old town.
Walking about the cobbled streets of the old town, I discovered several marvelous restaurants. One in particular was special. It has a blazing fireplace and an enticing menu. The Quiche as I recall was one of the best I’ve ever eaten. The red wine was terrific as was the dessert: a fabulous meringue pie with Calvados. The atmosphere was quiet and I marveled as I was able to understand other customers speaking French (unlike in Paris where everyone spoke very rapidly). An elderly lady entered and the staff immediately went to greet her and assist her to a table. That simple gesture is a favorite memory of St Malo and its’ wonderful people which has stayed with me for more than twenty five years.
Other restaurants were also very good as were the local wines and desserts and pastries. The Breton crepes are every bit as delicious as you imagine. The word sublime comes to mind.
I took a local bus to Mont- St- Michel and spent most of the day exploring this spectacular place. The medieval religious and military architecture is amazing. The view from the top of the Abbey is incredible and well worth the long walk. I had a late lunch (fabulous pate and local red wine) on site. Going off season the weather may not be great (it was foggy and damp) but it’s also not crowded. It is a must-see on your visit to France and yes, it is very crowded in the summer months.
Working for the airlines and flying stand-by, I took many vacations off-season which I grew to appreciate. I shudder when I see photos of long lines of people waiting to get into museums or top attractions. It is so much more enjoyable to travel off-season … true, the parks may not have flowers but … it’s a trade-off … and you, fellow traveler have to decide your priorities.
Travel well and often.
When you desire to take a journey but circumstances prohibit you from doing so, what to do? Become an armchair traveler …
- Immerse yourself in your dream destination (France, Italy, Montana, Nepal…pick a place you have always dreamed of visiting) …
- Check out your library or book store for photo books, historical non-fiction or fiction set in your dream place …
- Prepare special dinners (or a party!) with the foods and wines of the area …
- Learn a foreign language …
- Listen to music that transports you …
- Find movies set in your special place …
- Too many places to narrow it down to just one destination?
- For ideas, peruse “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” and “1,000 Places to see in the United States and Canada Before You Die” …
- Each month, pick a different destination to immerse yourself …
- Find the place where you feel most comfortable …
- Discover new places …
- Most important, have fun and be creative as you journey to a favorite spot … even if for now, it is a dream …
“Way down deep, we’re all motivated by the same urges. Cats have the courage to live by them.” Jim Davis (Cartoonist)
“In ancient times cats were worshiped as gods; they have not forgotten this.”
Terry Pratchett (Author)
“A cat has absolute emotional honesty. Human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.” Ernest Hemingway
“Cats have it all: admiration, an endless sleep and company only when they want it.”
Rod McKuen (Poet)
“What greater gift than the love of a cat?” – Charles Dickens
“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.”
Leonardo da Vinci