Photo: For some reason the Erawan Museum is not listed in a lot
of guidebooks (maybe because it is outside of central Bangkok). The building is a three-headed elephant sculpture on the outside and it has amazing carvings and stained glass on the inside.
I love travel because it satisfies my sense of curiosity
and yearning to experience (nearly) everything. Do durians really smell that bad? Is a Thai massage torture? How is the Burj Al Arab decorated? What sound does a howler monkey make? Can I roll a golf ball down the Reichstag's spiral walkway? I need to know the answers to these questions and many, many more.
By the way, durians do smell pretty bad (like rotting garlic), a Thai massage is mostly—but not entirely—pleasant, the Burj Al Arab is delightfully tacky inside, howler monkeys sound spooky and I don't have the guts to try the golf ball
trick.I was bitten by the travel bug in the crib
. I've been obsessed with hotels for as long as I can remember. I owned a Playskool Holiday Inn Play Set in kindergarten, read Hotel long before the television series and my favorite
part of our family trip to Walt Disney World was staying at a property with an indoor miniature golf course.I get my destination inspiration from all over
. I talk travel with people; listen to Rick Steves' podcasts; read Travel and Leisure, Traveler and in-flight magazines; subscribe to blogs; and reference websites like The Guardian's Been there...
Although I research like crazy, in some cases I think the seed to travel to a specific destination was randomly planted in my head when I was just a kid or teen. Tel Aviv has always intrigued me, and I think I can trace my fascination
with it back to the Duran Duran song of the same name. I suspect my decision to visit Panama stems from the long-sleeved, hot pink, Panama Jack t-shirt I wore-out in eighth grade: that image of Jack in his hat and jaunty monocle
with the palm leaning behind him has always represented adventure to me. My trip to Marrakech may have never happened if it weren't for Crosby, Stills, Nash, Patsy and Edina.Photo: I captured this guy leaving 'El Che', the always busy (even in the morning) (loud) bar across the street from my hotel in Cartagena, Colombia. I didn't realize until I was home how much he resembles an aged Che GuevaraI like trips that combine contrasting destinations
, typically a big city for my culture fix and a more laid-back place of natural beauty (island, rainforest or mountains) to get in some hiking, fresh air and relaxing. Some of my favorite trips have been to Vietnam, Panama, Morocco and Malaysia because they offer diverse settings in close proximity.The best trip I ever took was with my boyfriend
to the awful tourist trap of Orlando, Florida, for a weekend. We were in love. I traveled solo to a small town on Tenerife
, one of the Canary Islands. I was the sole guest at a Moorish 18th-century mansion occupied by the owner and his teenage son.
The last night of my stay the owner inquired if I wanted to see Guernica. I replied that I had seen Guernica, and that it was (is) my favorite painting. He then asked me to follow him, he wanted to show me something. He, his son, and I walked down a long corridor to a pair of locked doors. He produced a large skeleton key from his pocket.
The doors opened into a ballroom, empty with the exception of a purple fainting couch. A mural depicting acts of human atrocities, painted by the Venezuelan artist Antonio Otazzo, spanned the four walls from floor to ceiling (the fainting couch was where he slept the month it took him to create it). The work was jarring but moving: much like Guernica. The son, interpreting for his father, emphasized that although the images were violent, the message
conveyed was a plea for peace. Heavy stuff, but fascinating.
The three of us remained in the room for an hour or so, the father/son duo explaining to me the stories surrounding us. They allowed me to take photos if I agreed not to distribute them. I've searched the internet since then, and have
found no images of the ballroom. Without a doubt the best meal I ever had was at El Bulli
. The experience is among my best memories. For four magical hours I surrendered to the bizarre, mad genius of Ferran Adrià (and a lot of wine).But the best dish I ever had was something called 'fatta with meat'
at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Al Shami, in the blue-collar Deira district of Dubai. I was staying at the JW Marriott in the neighborhood because I could use my points there. I had just flown in from Oman, and had not eaten all day so I picked the first restaurant I stumbled across (I was the only woman in the place and they looked at me funny).
I must have made a face when the 'fatta with meat' was delivered because the server asked me if everything was ok. Not really—the slop was UGLY—but I was too hungry to care. From what I can remember, 'fatta with meat' combined lamb, garbanzo beans, a yogurt-type sauce, cilantro, pine
nuts and I don't what else—crack, probably, because it was SO. DAMN. GOOD. I still think about that 'fatta with meat' dish.Photo: I happened upon this place while wandering the streets of La Candelaria in Bogota and it made me laugh, especially how the pattern continued across the street and up the side of the house on the opposing side of the street If I had to narrow down my travel for the rest of my life to one city
it would be Rome or Paris for the culture; one country: Spain for the lifestyle; and one continent: Asia because there's so much of it I've yet to see.The difference between traveling and a holiday is intention
. The purpose of traveling is to take in; the purpose of going on holiday is to let go.
The next place I really want to go to is Sri Lanka
because it appears to be a hidden gem: it offers safaris, boutique hotels, temples, gorgeous scenery, hiking, tea plantations, unspoiled beaches, etc. I don't think it will remain a hidden gem for long so I will be there in December.The best souvenir I ever picked up
was a lacquer (black on silver) painting of seemingly random images titled "My Dream". I wandered into the Hoi An (Vietnam) gallery of the artist, Le Duc Hai, and his brother with no intention of
buying a piece. I struggled with the decision to purchase it for at least a half-hour, which in retrospect was ridiculous because it wasn't expensive. Ten years later and I still stop and admire it (at the top of my stairs) at times. A good motto: you only regret what you don't do...and don't buy.The biggest thing I have learned from travel it to appreciate how fortunate I am
to be healthy, have a home and live in a free country and that I should not take any of it for granted.Me and my travels series