It feels as if I have always loved travelling, but where did that love come from? Not my childhood experiences, for sure, although the seeds may have been sown then. My first holidays were of the ‘bucket and spade’ variety, on the Kent coast within easy reach by train of our London home.
Later, when my father learned to drive and bought his first (second-hand) car, we went further afield; but still almost always in Britain, usually a self-catering cottage in Cornwall or Wales. A holiday overseas was considered an unaffordable luxury, but there was one exception. My uncle was in the Royal Air Force and spent a couple of years stationed in Germany, so my first ever trip abroad was to visit him and my aunt in Brueggen, near Dusseldorf, when I was 10.
After that my next adventure was the school’s French Exchange when I was 14. This meant ten days in a small French village north of Paris: ten days speaking the language; sampling the food (including horse meat and my first black coffee, now the staple that gets me through the day); and several days out in the capital which made a huge impression on me. To this day I would name Paris as one of my favourite cities in the world.
When I was 17 I was lucky enough to be able to take part in a camping trip arranged by my school – to Canada! This meant scraping together every penny I could from my Saturday job, plus what I could beg from my parents. But the effort was worthwhile, and looking back I think it was this trip that shaped my love of travel. In those days (early seventies) for a teenager from my background to have the opportunity to see Niagara Falls and the wilds of the Algonquin Park and (on our way home) enjoy a day in New York City, was just incredible.
But it was only when I met, and later married, Chris that I found my ideal travel buddy and started to make foreign travel a regular part of my life. Our first holiday together was to Prague and Austria (where Chris had spent a year living and working), and this was followed in 1981 by our honeymoon in France (Paris and Besançon). The next year we chose a trip to New York above the need to install central heating in our new flat; and a pattern began to emerge – from then on holidays were to be high on our list of priorities.
At first our budgets kept us mainly confined to Europe, but gradually other destinations became feasible: Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan. By the nineties we had discovered the delights of driving in the US: exploring the wonderful national parks and indulging our shared fascination with small town America. From 2000 onwards our horizons widened further; and we have now visited all seven continents, including a memorable trip to Antarctica in 2003.
Tina invites us in this week’s Lens Artist Challenge to share ‘moments that take your breath away’.
I have had such moments all over the world; indeed, I can’t think of any holiday that hasn’t included at least one. Here are just a few:
- My first sight of the Grand Canyon from the terrace of its North Rim Lodge, in a snow storm.
- And taking a flight over the canyon, the only way to really appreciate the scale of this place.
- Watching the icebergs of Antarctica drift past our cruise ship and encountering penguins on our shore landings.
I have a theory that no one can see a penguin without smiling!
- Getting up close and personal with the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, including a memorable encounter with an albatross chick and snorkelling with sea lions.
- Looking down on Yosemite from Glacier Point.
- A Son et Lumiere performance at the Temple of Karnak.
- Whale watching anywhere, but especially Tofino, British Columbia – I have never been closer to a whale than we were there, drifting past grey whales in what seemed to be a very small Zodiac!
- Soaking up the magnificence of the Registan and Shah-i-Zindah in Samarkand.
- Looking down on the valley of the Euphrates, recalling long ago history lessons about the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and the Fertile Crescent.
- Our first sight of Fujiyama.
- The first morning of our trip to North Korea, standing in the massive Kim Il Sung Square and realising yes, I am actually here.
- Walking with lions at Fathala Lodge in Senegal (the lions were adopted as orphaned cubs so are habituated to people but still wild).
- And walking with elephants at MandaLao in Laos.
So much for past special moments. The wish-list grows nearly as quickly as we tick places off it, and there is still so much out there for us to discover once we can get back out into the world!
I’m retrospectively linking this to the Sunday Stills theme of Favourite Vacation Spots, as I don’t think I’ll be able to come up with any that are more favourite than these!