Top Five Places I’d Like To Go — Lists 1 and 2

And no, I don’t want to see gladiators — although I did enjoy the Muay Thai in Bangkok.

On the previous post, Bud mentioned that he’d recently returned from a tour of 14 states plus Canada, which he was visiting for the first time. He said he still had “many bucket list places to visit,” and that this was a start.

I started to reply, but it got long, so I decided to turn it into a separate post.

I’m not sure I have a “bucket list.” Frankly, I’ve never really liked the term, as it has seemed a tad morbid to me. But I do love travel, and I would like to go to Canada sometime, just to say I did.

And now I’ve been to Boston, which I had always wanted to do. And I got to see my three fave things there — Fenway Park, the Constitution, and Quincy, John Adams’ hometown — Adams being my favorite Founder. And the Fenway Park visit was perfect, since we got to watch the Red Sox beat the Yankees, and sat out in right field while Jackie Bradley Jr. was still with the Sox and playing that position. Of course, that means in the other halves of the innings we were right behind Aaron Judd during his big home-run year, which was cool, but that was less of a thrill.

I’m not sure of anything else I’m burning to see for the first time here in our own country. I’ve seen most of the best bits at least once. That’s the thing about me and travel — I enjoy it, but I did so much of it when I was a kid. And most of that was here in the states, although the longest I ever lived in any one place was in South America. But with all that moving around I never got to either Europe or Asia growing up. I’ve addressed that since with trips to England, Ireland and Thailand, but I’ve still never set foot on the European mainland.

So I’ve got some places I’d like to hit internationally, some of which I’ve never been to.

But you know what? I think another reason I don’t think in terms of “bucket lists” is that I’m a guy who’d like to spend what time is available on things I’ve already experienced and would like to see again. Part of it is just that I like what I know I like, so I read favorite books and watch favorite movies over and over. But it’s also because I still haven’t experienced enough of those places, and want new experiences there. I mean, you can say “I’ve been to England” all you want — and we spent a couple of weeks there awhile back. But that wasn’t enough time to fully explore even the places where we went, not to mention the vast majority of the country, which we’ve never seen.

So I guess I have two Top Five Lists. The first is sort of the re-run list:

  1. London — We were there for a week, but just scratched the surface. Just last night, we rewatched “Notting Hill,” and my wife said she’d like to go to there, and I realized that when we were in town, we missed it even though we strolled through Hyde Park, right next door. And we rode by Hampstead Heath, but never got out and walked through it! And I’m just getting started…
  2. Ireland — A gazillion places we didn’t go in 2019. We barely touched the surface of Dublin, Waterford and Limerick. And then there are all the places we haven’t seen. I’d like to spend months just hanging out in County Kerry.
  3. Tokyo — All we saw was the airport — for several-hour layovers each way. And while it’s nice to be able to say I watched sumo on the telly in the first-class lounge (a one-time treat our travel agent had arranged), I’d kind of like to see the city.
  4. Various places in Ecuador — I’d like to show my wife where we lived in Guayaquil from 1962-65, and my old school, then hit a couple of beach towns — Salinas being my favorite, but I’d like to stay at the Humboldt Hotel in Playas again. And it would be awesome to visit the Galapagos, a place where I’ve never been. Although it’s not like we could just “swing by” there — it’s not exactly on the way
  5. New Orleans — I loved living there, but most of the main personal landmarks — my school, our home, in fact the whole dilapidated Navy base we lived on there in Algiers — are gone, completely. But cross the river, and so much of the coolest city I’ve ever lived in is still there, and I’d love to take my wife there.

The closest thing that almost made that list, but not quite, is Hawaii. But my wife and I were there for a couple of days in 2015, and saw my old house and school and other cool things like Waikiki, the Windward Side and Pali Lookout. But there’s so much more I’d still like to go back and see after all these years — I left there in 1971.

Then there’s the Places-I’ve-Never-Been List:

  1. Rome — You know, the center of the Western World. I was hugely into the Roman Empire when I was a kid, particularly during those two years of Latin. And now I’m Catholic, so I’m actually a “Roman.” My wife’s been there, and she could show me around. I can’t have pasta and I can’t have cheese, in fact my allergies are one reason I generally prefer to stay in English-speaking countries, but I’d risk it to go to Rome. And I can have vino, right?
  2. Spain — I wanted to go to England because it’s the mother country, and so much of my country’s culture comes from there. But living in South America as a kid, I got a sense of Spain kind of being a mother country as well. And wow, talk about a fascinating history. I’d want to hit all kinds of places — Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia, Pamplona, the other regions as well, particularly along the coast.
  3. Havana — Speaking of Spanish influence. I want to go to Havana before things have opened up so much that it gets too modern and touristy. Of all the Hispanic sites I can think of in the world, it probably attracts me the most.
  4. Greece — Athens certainly, but even more I’d like to make like Odysseus and get lost in those islands. Just chill, do beach stuff. You ever see that Lina Wertmüller film, “Swept Away… by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August?” Like that.
  5. Normandy — This is a military-history geek thing. I’d like to see where the landings happened, where the Allies landed 175,000 men in a day in the face of fierce Nazi resistance. I’d like to visit Carentan and Sainte-Mère-Église, and pay my respects at the cemeteries. I’d like to see those legendary, surprising hedgerows.

Note I’m limiting it to a Top Five, in respect for the Nick Hornby convention. There are other places I’d like to go, as well — Scotland, for instance. They’re generally in Europe, and I’m not going to apologize for being not only Eurocentric, but even Anglocentric. Other places are charming and fascinating, but the cultural influences that have acted upon me my whole life — the books I’ve read and such — have particularly inflamed my curiosity about this and that place in the Western World. We don’t live long enough to experience all the cultures of the world to an extent that is deeply meaningful. We don’t even live long enough to fully explore and grok our own, but I like to take stabs at it, in the attempt of better understanding my environment. The two places that related to that culture most vividly would probably be New York and London, and that’s why I’ve been to those places whenever I’ve had the chance. And it’s a big reason why I want to go to Rome.

I’m sure I’d hit quite a few other, more “exotic,” areas if I were drawing up a Top 100 list, or even a Top Twenty.

But this is what comes to me in response to what Bud said. How about you? Where do you want to go?

Oh, but wait — when we go to London, can we bop down to Portsmouth and see HMS Victory?

13 thoughts on “Top Five Places I’d Like To Go — Lists 1 and 2

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    That’s a stupid list, isn’t it? I keep going back and changing it, and I’m sure by the next time I look at it, I’ll have thought of three places I haven’t even mentioned that should be at the top.

    The main thing is, there’s just not enough time, is there? Not in a human lifetime. That’s one reason I stay so close to home — all that Eurocentrism — in drafting a list for this one brief time.

    Truly, to understand, to internalize, any of these places takes years. Give me a couple of years in, say, County Kerry, and I’ll feel pretty familiar with it — feel like I might really be able to tell you something about it. Although only if I were being presumptuous. It really takes a lifetime. You need to be in a place for year after year, through all the seasons over and over, as the place and you yourself change.

    If I had eternity to draw from — or at least an eon or two — on this planet, I’d first spend entire lifetimes in the places on these lists. That might give me a chance to “get” them. And as long as we’re talking temporal impossibilities, I’d want to live in those places in different ages — ancient, medieval, modern.

    Then, once I’d done with the easy ones — England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales — I’d branch out to France, Germany, Scandinavia. Then I’d venture to tackle parts of Africa, or India. But I’d have to spend more than a single lifetime in each of those places to believe I knew them….

  2. Norm Ivey

    I also don’t care for “bucket lists”. It puts your focus on “one day” instead of whatever you’re doing right now. I prefer the idea of a list of things I’ve no intention of doing, like skydiving. That list rhymes with bucket.

    I have little desire to travel outside the USA. There’s so much here I’ve not seen yet, and things I’d like to see again.

    My list goes to 6. Barry can’t accuse me of being obvious, to mix cinematic references…

    1. Destination: Bangor, Maine. The airline cheated us out of our New England trip last summer. I still want to to do it.
    2. Yellowstone, Grand Teton and surrounding areas. We visited when I was about 13. We spent a couple of hours there during a two week vacation in which Daddy’s main goal was getting to Canada. We spent an hour in Vancouver. We covered some miles that summer, but it wasn’t much fun.
    3. Alaska, preferably on a cruise. Doug has been there a couple times, and I’m always envious of his journey.
    4. Wisconsin and vicinity. My wife was born in Milwaukee (her maiden name is Brewer, so I married a Milwaukee Brewer), and she grew up in several little towns in Wisconsin. I want to see the environment that molded her.
    5. Red Rocks amphitheater in Colorado for a concert. It’s just one of those things I want to experience. I don’t much care who the artist is.
    6. You can’t go home again, but I’d like to return to southern Arizona and visit the places I took for granted as a kid. I’m just afraid the reality won’t live up to my memories.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Norm, that’s an impressively thoughtful list. But please don’t go skydiving. Allow me to recommend my own, personal rule with regard to that: I will never jump out of a perfectly good airplane unless it once again becomes absolutely necessary to do so in order to liberate Europe from Hitler.

      That may read as though I’m just being silly and facetious, but I’m not. I have friends who lost a child to skydiving, so the very idea of anyone unnecessarily taking such chances causes a dark cloud to cross my mind.

      Shifting gears… you make me feel unpatriotic with your determination to stick to the USA. As I was typing my own list, I kept hearing Dinah Shore from my childhood, singing, “See the U.S.A in your Chevrolet…”

      But even though, as I noted, I don’t urgently yearn to go to really exotic places — Africa, parts of Asia I haven’t been to (that is, MOST of it) — I do want to go places that are a little more different than here in the States. I spent more than a decade living in the place MY wife came from, and I’ve hit the more interesting places I lived as a kid — although as I said, I’d like to go to N.O. and Ecuador again. And Hawaii yet AGAIN. But that’s because they are the more “different” places…

      Of course, in real life I’m not a billionaire sitting here drawing up realistic lists to jet off to. As my wife sensibly noted last night when I had finished writing this and asked where SHE’D most like to go, we tend to go where circumstances take us, and enjoy them to the fullest when we do.

      We went to England to take my oldest granddaughter to Oxford, to be with her father while he was pursuing a master’s there. We went to Thailand because my youngest daughter was stationed there with the Peace Corps. We went to Ireland because my brother-in-law and his wife from Memphis were participating in a tour there, and persuaded us to come along. In fact, the same folks have persuaded us to join them in Gatlinburg this coming weekend, and we’re going to do it. We haven’t been there in about 40 years.

      And we end up enjoying the trips, wherever we go. Which is cool.

      I guess we sort of take a Dirk Gently approach to travel. You ever read a Dirk Gently story? When Dirk gets lost, rather than consulting a map, he engages in something he calls Zen Navigation: He follows someone who looks like he knows where he is going. “I rarely end up where I was intending to go,” he explains, “but often I end up somewhere that I needed to be.”

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Seven hours.. sound familiar.

        I have a somewhat unconventional (for an American) grasp of time, which is often frustrating to the people around me.

        Rather than take personal responsibility for it, I blame it on having lived in Latin America longer than anywhere else growing up. I just… understand time differently from most gringos.

        In Ecuador, my parents would fairly regularly go to parties hosted by their Ecuadorean friends (unlike so many Ugly Americans, my parents didn’t restrict their social circle to expats, but had lots of Ecuadorean friends), and not return until 4 a.m. or so. Understand that my parents were never “party” people. They have never at any other point, in any other place, done such things. It’s just that they wanted to socialize with their friends, and Latin parties tend not to get rolling until sometime after midnight.

        Once, when we were new there, they went to a dinner party at the appointed time. They were met at the door by the shocked hosts, who had still not showered and changed in preparation for receiving guests. They learned to wait until at least a couple of hours after the time on the invitation, in order to avoid being rude…

        1. bud

          A dinner party is one thing but it’s grotesquely rude to agree to meet at a restaurant and to the arrive more than 5 minutes late. More than 10 minutes is sufficient cause to never arrange a meal with that person again.

  3. Ralph Hightower

    I checked off a thirty year old bucket list item on July 8, 2011 when I saw the final Space Shuttle launch. I made a return trip to Florida to see Atlantis land for the final time on July 21st. We were next to the control tower for the Shuttle Landing Facility, just 200 yards away from the runway. On TV, the twin sonic booms sound like a muffled “boom. boom.” In person, the twin sonic booms are “BANG! BANG!”, sharp and crisp.

    Veterans Day weekend 2016, we got to meet NASA Astronaut Chris Ferguson. I told him that Atlantis was the second final spaceflight that I’ve seen. He asked me “Apollo 17, the last lunar landing? ” I answered “No.” “Skylab?” “No.” He asked “Okay, which was it?” I answered “Apollo/Soyuz.” He said “That was the final mission.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I remember, from when I was a kid, sonic booms being more of a dull thud of a boom. Or actually, more of a “WHUMP!” The impressive thing, though, wasn’t the sound. It was the way it shook the house.

      Maybe it depends on the angle at which you hear it, or maybe it has to do with the size and speed of the supersonic vehicle. I would expect a space shuttle to make a different sound from, say, an F-4 or century series or whatever I heard when I was a kid — before the booms were banned.

      I may have seen one of the Apollo flights take off from my high school in Tampa. But I don’t remember much about how it looked. I do remember being disappointed, from so far away…

      1. Ralph Hightower

        At the US half of Apollo/Soyuz, I was close to the point of falling backwards watching Apollo slowly climb the sky. That’s when we heard and felt the fury of the Saturn I-B engines. It was like a continuous, rolling, wave of thunder; I also felt vibrations in my chest. I wonder what it would have been like with the big Saturn V.


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