My Personal Travel Top Ten.
Lists are always fun. You know . . . the ten best, the nicest, the worst, and so forth. It may not be written down, but all those who love to travel have such a list.
Here, in no particular order, are ten of mine.
1. Most Unforgettable Visual Experience. Our South Pacific Island Airways 707 had just passed over the Island of Moorea and was descending toward Tahiti, shimmering in the early morning sunlight, dark green surrounded by the cobalt blue sea, just ten miles away. I can close my eyes and see it again today.
2. Most Regret-Never-Having-Seen Experience. It’s a long list, but in first place is the Colosseum in Rome. (Yes, that’s right: Three times to Italy, but I have never been to Rome. I have no idea how that happened.)
3. Most Thrilling Experience. A front row seat–in the Mayor’s Box, no less– for a performance by the famous Lipizzaner stallions in Vienna. “Memorable” can’t begin to describe the experience.
4. Most Fascinating Experience. Talking politics for 90 minutes with former California governor Pat Brown over dinner in the upper level of a PanAm 747 en route to San Francisco.
5. Most Unusual Dinner Companion. Having a leisurely meal in the dining car on the Lake Shore Limited with one of only six men in the world qualified to repair and restore ancient pipe organs.
6. Worst Taste Experience. As an honored guest, I couldn’t refuse taking an obligatory sip from a bowl of fermented mare’s milk in a Mongolian yak herdsman’s yurt.
7. Most Coincidental Experience. Having breakfast on the Empire Builder and discovering that the couple seated across from me own a B&B in Granby, Connecticut, literally next door to the house where my father and grandfather were born.
8. Second Most Coincidental Experience. Having dinner in a 15-room hotel overlooking the Dordogne River Valley well off the beaten path in France and discovering that the couple at the next table was from Maui, their house just a few miles from mine.
9. Scariest Experience. Losing an engine (Bright flash and loud bang right outside my window) on a PanAm flight from Guam in the Western Pacific to Honolulu.
10. Most Unexpected Experience. In 1994, being given a five-hour ride in the locomotive cab of Amtrak’s Empire Builder to gather material for the first edition of All Aboard—the Complete North American Train Travel Guide. Impossible to arrange since 9/11 and a rare privilege even then.