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‘Oh, the places you’ll go!*

March 22, 2019 Barbara Ballinger

Most of my friends, who love to travel, talk about taking trips now, while we are relatively healthy, can walk (fast), climb stairs (maybe, mountains), and breathe in thin air at high altitudes (Denver, Machu Pichu, Bhutan). It’s a notch on the bucket list, a term that’s been bandied about for years and tends to be overused. However, it expresses our wishes before the inevitable…our demise. Truth be told, we’re counting down the good years, in my case, of travel that we may have left, perhaps. It might be 10 to 15 or at best 20 years before we’re ensconced in some form of assisted or independent living care, if we’re still alive. 

So, many of us tend to make lists—in our heads, on our tablets and Smartphones, on the computer, on paper and in thin air, if we have nothing better to do, especially after reading an article or one of the books about this subject such as—1000 Places to See Before You Die

Of course, I’ve done this and thought I probably have 20 good years based on the fact my mother, 99 ½, and I went on a trip to China when she was 89. She saw everything I did including the Great Wall, though she didn’t walk any length of it. But she got to the wall! She also climbed over rocks on her way to the boat we stayed on while we cruised the Three Gorges and Yangzi River on the same trip. So, I am optimistic that I may have 20 years to visit sights unseen and revisit a few. I expect some of the trips will be with my daughters and grandkids and perhaps without the beau. Actuarial tables suggest he may not get to live that long. He and I discuss my list, and he adds his two cents about which places he cares to visit more. We move them to the top of my list. 

However, because I still work and money isn’t growing on the trees in my backyard, I figure one good (big, expensive) trip a year or maybe one little (affordable one or even a weekend) will have to suffice for now. In the meantime, I feel quite blessed that I live in a bucolic farm town where many come to visit, and I get to visit my mom in New York City, another destination many put high on their list. 

Here’s my list with them in my order of priority, though that may be rejiggered when my good friends, J & L, who travel endlessly, come back and share yet another of their adventures. A family reunion or wedding also might cause a slight change in the order or inspire a new destination. Is there any reason I have not put Australia, New Zealand, any place in Africa or Antarctica on the list? No, simply time, money and health. We hope you’ll share your top five to-go spots with us. 

Big trips:

1, Machu Pichu. I’ve long wanted to visit Machu Pichu, the 15th-century Inca citadel since the majestic mountain loomed so large in photos and seemed so romantically isolated from civilization. Because so many visit, I fear it may be off limits soon, which is why this is at the top of my list.

2. Having been to China, I feel I’ve had just a taste of the Far East and crave seeing more, particularly the tiny “art island” of Naoshima. There stararchitect Tadao Ando, who designed the addition to the Clark and Kimble art museums and the small Pulitzer museum in St. Louis, designed many buildings there. Tokyo, Hiroshima and Kyoto are also on the must-see list.

3. I lived through the Vietnam War, marched on Washington, D.C., in protest and read almost every book I could on the subject as well as watched several episodes of Ken Burns’ epic documentary and Rory Kennedy’s own film, Last Days in Vietnam. It’s now time to visit Vietnam firsthand with perhaps a stop in Hong Kong, where I’ve never been.

4. Scandinavia and the Northern Lights. Relatives in Sweden have inspired this visit, which ideally would be taken with my daughters and their families for a multi-generational family reunion. The beau also wants to go, especially to Norway to see the Northern Lights. We’ve always loved gravlax, too, which makes it even more enticing. Food does figure large in every trip I take. 

5. Switzerland and the Matterhorn. I went to school to learn French one summer when I was 12 years old and flew alone to Geneva on a TWA overnight flight. I still remember a teacher meeting me in the wee hours of the morning and driving to the all-girls’ school, Chateau Mont Choisi, near Lausanne, where I stayed for eight weeks, had a German roommate who spoke no English, and I came home speaking and writing French. I still have a little red vocabulary book to prove it! My parents took me to see the Matterhorn and I’ve wanted to go back for more than 58 years, eat fondue and raclette and see those gorgeous snow-capped mountains. 

6. Normandy and Paris. Part of my love of learning about history has included reading all I could about the D-Day invasion. Though I won’t get there for the 70th anniversary, I wouldn’t mind being there shortly after, with stops to Mont St.-Michel. Mais oui.

7. Hawaii holds special allure for my family with multiple visits there and our favorite Halekulani Hotel in Honolulu and the nearby museums—the Bishop and Contemporary Art--and Chinatown. I’d love to revisit Kauai and see Lanai where I’ve never been. The beau has never been so it’s something special for us to do together and maybe also with my girls and their families. 

8. The Northwest—especially Seattle and the San Juan islands--are parts of the country I’ve never seen, along with northwest Canada. Because of my love of gardens, I’d like to visit the Butchart Gardens in Victoria. I used to want to see Alaska but for some reason my interest has waned. 

9. London and the Cotswolds. I went to London multiple times with my mother after my dad died. We stayed in Knightsbridge and had wonderful trips to theater, museums, gardens, shopping, walking, buying food at Harvey Nichols department store and eating at our favorite River Café and San Lorenzo, which the late Princess Diana also loved. This is another place the beau has never gone, and we would have a great time together, especially if we could see a match at Wimbledon, visit the countryside and stay in a wonderful English country resort. 

10. Cruise to somewhere. I haven’t been on a cruise in more than 17 years, since I was separated and went with my mother and daughters to the Caribbean to forget my heartache. It disappointed me greatly since I’m not a shopper and when others rushed off to buy, buy, buy, I was content to stay on board. But I would love to cruise somewhere and enjoy those glorious days at sea doing nothing beyond walking the deck, seeing shows, reading and sunning myself. Sounds mindless…exactly. Everybody needs one such vacation. 

11. Patagonia. I’ve been to South America and around Cape Horn but never inland to Patagonia or to any part of Brazil. I hear both are exciting and beautiful, so this is one of those why not places with maybe a return to Buenos Aires. 

12. Extra credit. Because I’ve gone on one painting retreat near my home for five days, I am trying to plan others and eventually I’d love to do one abroad, maybe Venice or Provence, but this is one of those before-I-die trips to let me pretend I’m Cezanne and paint glorious cypress trees and mountains en plein air! 

Short trips:

Map of national parks

  1. Montgomery, Alabama. I have wanted to see the Legacy Museum in Montgomery since it opened to honor those lynched. I have been to Birmingham to see the church that was bombed and its Civil Rights Institute and would enjoy going back to that city, as well as eating in some of this city’s favorite food spots such as Highland Bar and Grill. 
  1. National Parks: Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce. I have been to Yellowstone but never to Yosemite or these national parks. I would like to do so while they are there and in good condition since I fear what the current administration might do to this country’s parkland. It’s a place I think would be great to take my grandsons when they are ready to hike. And I have a garden designer friend who keeps inviting me to her home in Utah; what could be better than that? 
  1. Nova Scotia. This is another place I’ve never been despite all my visits to Maine. The beau has gone and loved it, and it’s always appealed, ever since I read and reread Anne of Green Gables and watched the various movies on which it is based. 
  1. Napa, California (Wine Country). I’ve been a fan of the area for years and visited many wineries for pleasure and business, including for the first family business book Margaret and I co-authored, Corporate Bloodlines: The Future of the Family Firm. We stayed with and told the stories of the Firestone and Glen Ellyn wineries. I would simply love to return and revisit San Francisco, a city I’ve long loved. I would also enjoy having the beau to show me the Stanford campus, which I’ve seen but never with him. I think he would enjoy this since he was graduated from its business school. 
  1. Houston. Seems a strange place for an East Coast gal to list, but there are so many museums I’d like to see and only read about--the Rothko Chapel since Mark Rothko has long been a favorite artist, the Museum of Fine Arts, Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens (because of my love of American antiques), Cy Twombly Gallery, and the Menil Collection. I would also like to see some of architect Philip Johnson’s buildings. If time permitted, I would make detours to the Presidential libraries—father-and-son Bush and Johnson’s. 
  1. Oaxaca, Mexico. I went there decades ago to write a crafts story on artists like the Aguilar sisters who fashioned their famous clay “dolls” and would love to return, particularly for the annual Day of the Dead ceremony—known as Dia de los Muertos--and eat more wonderful Mexican fare.

Now where are you going? 

 *Title of Dr. Seuss book




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