As an international travel writer I roam the world searching out wonderful places to tell my readers about. (I know, I know, it’s rough work, but someone’s got to do it.) Among the overseas spots I’ve really enjoyed – notice I very diplomatically said among – are these seven that stick in my mind like the delicious aftertaste of a fine brandy.
On the Andaman Sea
Remember how you itched to squish your toes in that powdery, white-sand beach in the 1996 movie, The Beach? And how Leonard DiCaprio splashed around aquamarine waters so clear you could see a camouflaged ray a dozen feet below on the ocean bottom?
That’s the way it really is on hundreds of little islands off the southern coast of Thailand. What’s more, developers have built gorgeous little hideaways along the beaches. In some places, you’ll find luxury huts with glass floors over the water.
What? You can’t ante up a grand a night to stay there? No problem. Just walk down the beach aways and you’ll likely find a thatched-roof, breeze-conditioned inn catering to folks who flew there in the back of the plane.
When I’m calling youuuuuu
It’s hard to resist turning into Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald when you’re soaking up the beauty of Lake Louise up in the Canadian Rockies. One time, honest, I heard two Nelsons and two Jeanettes belting out Indian Love Call at different places around the lake.
Lake Louise is truly a lake for all seasons, but particularly in the winter when it turns into a mile-and-a-half-long slice of frozen paradise ringed by snow-capped peaks right off the travel posters.
History comes alive in Prague
A trip to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is like taking a jump back in time to the Middle Ages. Visitors can’t help but fall in love with the city’s old world charm, from its medieval palaces to its ancient churches, gates, bridges and soaring towers that light up at night like a scene out of a Harry Potter fantasy.
How did all this survive World War II? Because Prague – with little industrial or military value – was one of the few large European cities spared from bombing raids. So what you see there today is pretty much the way it was when the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV and the Hapsburg monarchs ruled the roost around there.
I love wandering around the four dozen or so small Mexican colonial towns designated pueblos magicos (magic cities) by the government.
Among my favorites is one so far out in northern Mexico’s Sonoran desert the road ends there. Its name is Alamos (not the town in New Mexico), and at one time so much silver was mined in the nearby Sierra Madres it was one of the richest spots on earth. Strolling along its cobbled lanes, porticoed walkways and Andalusian courtyards you half expect to see silver barons in silk shirts, velvet breeches and knee-high leather boots strutting off to count the day’s take.
Some enchanted evening
Perhaps you’ve dreamed about seeing that chain of lovely islands James Michener wrote about in his World War II novel, Tales of the South Pacific. Or maybe you were turned on by the Broadway musical adapted from the novel, or by the movie adapted from the musical.
If you saw the movie, surely pictures of the volcanic peak of Moorea soaring over a palm-lined bay linger in your mind, (Never mind that Michener’s book was about the far-away island of Vanuatu…the French Polynesian island of Moorea is much more, well, South Pacific-ish.)
Call me, Moorea…I’d come back to you in a heartbeat.
Pompeii gets all the press when it comes to ancient Roman cities that got wiped out by earthquakes, but there’s another one that could upstage Pompeii in a couple of years. It’s called Ephesus, and archaeologists are digging it up out of a square mile of rubble on the Turkish coast. Some say it could have been the second largest city in the whole Roman empire.
Ephesus’ main eye-popper was the immense Temple of Artemis (the supergod Apollo’s twin sister), believed to be three times the size of the Parthenon in Athens. It went down in the history books as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
At its peak under Roman rule in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D., the city probably was home to a half-million people. It’s not hard to imagine thousands of them cheering for their favorite gladiators from the stone tiers of the town’s 20-story-high outdoor theater.
Somewhere in the Caribbean
There’s a little-known island in the West Indies – just seven miles long by a couple of miles wide – where most of the 3,000 or so local folks are descendants of slaves, rumrunners and pirates. The dashing swashbuckler Henry Morgan must have spent a lot of time in the little town there, as you’ll see on the storefronts of Morgan’s Bakery, Morgan’s Dry Goods, Morgan’s Saloon, Morgan’s…well, you get the idea.
Wandering around, I noticed there were a lot of things I didn’t see. Like hi-rise condos, mega-resorts, wall-to-wall trinket shops, timeshare salesmen, tourists pouring off giant cruise liners and mobs of college kids from the States whooping it up all night.
So where is this tropical Shangri-La?
I’ll tell you it’s off the coast of Latin America, but I don’t give out the actual name or location. I’d like to keep the island the way it is. I think you would, too.