Our impromptu spring break trip to Canada took us straight into the romance of the Great White North. Banff National Park was a peek inside a snow globe that left us truly impressed.
Even for a directionally challenged loon like me there was something off about driving east to reach the great Rocky Mountains; considered Out West when growing up in Michigan. We drove through never-ending plains of white, past train tracks and tunnels that should have been part of a children’s play set and mountain peaks that looked like Kindergarten renditions of triangle mountains (mad-jestic in JD’s words).
Strangely, I was reminded of Namibia here. They are alike in their opposite extremes. There was the same quiet and same sense of smallness that comes from being the only humans for miles. Although exhilarating, there was also the feeling that we shouldn’t be there, as if we were trespassing on Mother Earth’s hallowed ground. The land was both too sacred and too brutal for us to cruise though in our temperature-controlled car.
As we prepared for a weekend getaway to the mountain town of Leavenworth, I kept running into words like ‘quaint’, ‘charming’, ‘adorable’. But the one review that really made me excited described it as something like Alpine-weird. I was Alpine-interested.
Leavenworth was once just your regular run-on-of-the-mill timber town (pun fun!). But when the railroad relocated, the economy “fell” (sorry, folks, I had to). It “wood”n’t be until several decades later that they decided to turn over a new leaf. So, how do you save a struggling economy in a logging community? Rebrand it as a Bavarian town in Washington, naturally!
The words, “This is our last year in Vietnam” clearly struck fear into the hearts of my family members. Before you could say, “Tien’s your uncle” suitcases were packed, tickets bought, visas ordered and – lo and behold – they came, they saw, they loved it. For JD and me it was a chance to see them, to show off our city and to revisit our best spots.
So where did we go?
Or rather how the East won me over – East as in Eastern Europe. After spending most of my American life pining to be exotically French or Italian or even British and being obsessed with all things Western European, I have come to admire Europe’s other half. My trip with my mom to Hungary, Czech Republic, Croatia and Italy (just couldn’t resist!) transformed Eastern Europe from intriguing to enchanting.
Budapest startled me. The fine beauty I associated with Western Europe interlaced with the darkness of far and recent past so perfectly that I was sure I was in a storybook. Here the opulent Parliament building sits just in front of walls still suffering from Soviet bullet wounds. The Jewish Quarter hosts one of the world’s largest – and most beautiful – synagogues in between lots that have been abandoned since most of the Jews there were deported in the last months of World War II. From the Danube River you gaze at a fairytale castle just next to the statue made to commemorate that the people wanted no more war. Budapest quickly became one of my favorite places.
Most couples are surprised to get one honeymoon baby. We had an average of nine.
The idea of revisiting a place where we’ve already been is not our style. The more you travel, the longer the list grows of places to visit. No matter how many places you can check off, the list never gets shorter. So it was our highest compliment to return to the Philippines for our honeymoon. After becoming engaged in the Philippines last year there was a sentimental component, but really we went back because it’s so fricking cool.
It’s not often you find a country that no one is from; where the only ones indigenous are the plants. However in Mauritius the equal non-nativeness of the island may be part of the reason the place works so well. Off the coast of Africa, a continent plagued by the lasting effects of different peoples stepping on each other throughout time, Mauritius sits as an appealing alternative; a more harmonious way different cultures can share a space.
Where was Rumpelstiltskin? Where were Hansel and Gretel? All I could find were Ha and Hang and Hung, all Nguyens. Something didn’t match.
In Da Lat everything you think you know about Vietnam is wrong. There are pine trees instead of palm. There are hills instead of beaches. People grow flowers instead of rice. And it’s cold. Actually cold. Ok, more like cool but definitely not brow-dripping hot like the rest of the country. Da Lat makes you stop and wonder, “What da what is going on?”