“What’s your favorite place in the world?”
As the editor in chief of Global Traveler, I get asked that question a lot — and it always leaves me fumbling for an answer. There’s no doubt I get around: At last count, I have visited 39 countries around the world — an impressive number but still only a fraction of the 205 countries listed by the U.S. Department of State.
The more I’d think about the question, the more undecided I’d become. Then I had a revelation: My personal favorite places are less about the actual destination than my experience in that place at one moment in time. With that as my guiding principle, I give you my top 10 destinations.
I DIDN’T MEAN TO BUY A RUG. My husband, Kevin, and I were wandering around Kuşadasi one afternoon. It was early spring, before the summer crowds had arrived to bask in the glow of the Mediterranean sun shining on the Aegean coast of Turkey or to explore the ruins of nearby Ephesus, an ancient trade center. I had window-shopped at rug emporiums in Jordan and Morocco, and I thought it would be fun to check out a carpet shop in Turkey.
Shopping for a rug is a social experience in places like Turkey, Morocco and Jordan. Tea is served; polite conversation ensues; and then, with much hand-clapping and aplomb, the merchant begins instructing his staff to display rugs — one after another, unrolling across the floor like the twisting, turning shapes and colors of a kaleidoscope — until a design is revealed in your choice of size, pattern and palette.
Then I saw it. In the blink of an eye, I switched from amused observer to serious negotiator. Every time I walk through my living room, I relive that day. It was a good one.
MY VISIT TO JORDAN INVOLVED more than shopping. Camping, Bedouin-style, in Wadi Rum ranks among my most favorite travel memories. Just after sunset, I strolled a few yards from the candlelit campsite to gaze at desert dunes barely silhouetted against the night sky. In that moment, I understood the meaning of the word “timeless” in a way that connected past, present and future.
I FIRST LAID EYES ON the vineyards of Lavaux during an evening cruise on Lake Geneva. The twinkling lights illuminating the vineyards and winemakers’ homes stretched across the hillside like decorations on a Christmas tree. Located in the heart of Vaud on the shores of Lake Geneva, it’s a place that draws me back again and again. The region, easily traversed on foot, by bike, by train or by car, numbers six appellations of controlled origin — Lutry, Villette, Epesses, Saint-Saphorin, Chardonne and Montreux-Vevey.
LA RAMBLA IS THE HEART OF BARCELONA. Myriad shops and eateries line the 0.75-mile boulevard where mimes perform and street artists and vendors hawk their wares. No visit to Barcelona is complete without finding the time for a leisurely stroll in La Rambla, truly a microcosm of the city and its people.
THINK OF İSTANBUL’S İSTIKLAL CADDESI as La Rambla times 10. Stroll the pedestrian boulevard early in the morning and you’ll encounter a quiet scene: fishmongers laying out the catch of the day, shop doors beginning to yawn open, and shoppers sipping tiny cups of strong Turkish coffee while laying their plans for the day. The flow of traffic builds throughout the day until the street resembles a roiling sea of people. The energy becomes so intense, it caused one of my travel companions to stop in his tracks and wonder aloud: “Where are they all going!?!”
WALKING ATOP THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA on a Sunday morning is an experience I’ll never forget, truly a pinch-yourself moment in time. The dichotomy between my once-in-a-lifetime adventure and Chinese families with children and young couples strolling arm in arm stays with me. I was in awe while many of them were spending a day together in their local park.
I HAD A SIMILAR EXPERIENCE at the Taj Mahal. First and foremost, I was stunned by the size and grandeur of the startling white monument. Standing in its presence, gazing across the length of the reflecting pool under a cerulean blue sky, I could have been standing in a postcard. Then I stepped into the picture.
DUBAI IS STARTLING IN ITS OWN RIGHT, all shiny and new. The manmade structures — gilded hotels; massive, palm-shaped islands; the world’s tallest building — are almost beyond imagination.
IT SEEMS APPROPRIATE MY introduction to the only living structure on Earth visible from space took place from the air. I was en route to Lizard Island off the coast of Queensland, Australia, on board an eight- or 10-passenger plane. The pilot, sensing our awe, circled back several times, flying over and around the reef, occasionally dipping low to give an up-close peek at the underwater world.
I THINK I MAY HAVE LIVED IN FRANCE in a former life. I’m inexplicably drawn to France. I feel most at home in the Luberon region of Provence, specifically the small village of Peypin-d’Aigues and nearby towns of Cucuron and Loumarin.
Sometimes I feel a bit like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. My life as a travel writer and the editor in chief of Global Traveler opened the doors to worlds I could barely imagine. Our global community is a beautiful place filled with wonder, but wherever I may roam, there’s still no place like home.
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