Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My ABCs of Travel

I'm taking a quick break from the Colors of Brussels because I was tagged ("tag you're it") by my friend Alison at CheeseWeb.eu to come up with my own ABCs of Travel. Alison was tagged by Andrea at Destination Europe and both are great reads! Like them, I was reluctant to participate in the blog memes that are circulating but it ended up being a wonderful walk down memory lane as I recalled some of the places, both near and far, that I've been fortunate enough to visit.

Strasbourg Cathedral from last summer's road trip to France

A: Age of first international trip: Six weeks young! I was born in Haugesund, Norway and shortly thereafter, I started my life in Berkeley, California.

B: Best (foreign) beer: I thought I'd develop a taste for beer after moving to Belgium. It still hasn't happened though I'm now able to sample my husband's Leffe without making a funny face.

C: Cuisine (favorite): That's easy, it would have to be any dish my mother-in-law prepares! I love Moroccan cuisine so whenever we're visiting my husband's family in Fes (Morocco), I savor every mouthful.

My mother-in-law's famous couscous!

D: Destination (favorite and least favorite): Since it's fresh in my memory, my favorite would be my recent trip to the Sinai peninsula in Egypt. My husband, our three kids and I went for a week of great snorkeling, delicious food, beautiful sunsets, and much-needed relaxation. Least favorite might be our trip, one week later, to London. The contrasting weather, 2-day time crunch, and crowds left us missing the Red Sea.

E: Event experienced abroad that made you say “wow": Snorkeling with nurse sharks and stingrays in the clear blue waters of the Caribbean.

F: Favourite mode of transportation: My own two feet, says the person who's afraid to drive in Europe and North Africa!

G: Greatest feeling while travelling: Sounds cliché but learning about the way people used to live (the Maya civilization to the Romans) to everyday life across Europe and the US.

Ancient Maya ruins in Tulum, Mexico

H: Hottest place travelled to: Believe it or not, Norway in June '02 reached degrees hotter than Spain for a few days. It was a stifling 95°F, which wasn't the hottest place I've been but was almost unbearable in a country that's not accustomed to heat waves.

I: Incredible service experienced and where: Hands down, downstairs at Chez Panisse in Berkeley.

J: Journey that took the longest: My first trip to Morocco in 1988. My husband and I were moving there and, after a tearful good-bye to my family and friends, we flew from San Francisco to Gibraltar, via London. We spent the night on "the rock" then woke-up early the next morning to get ourselves and five bulging suitcases on a ferry to Tangier. After a bumpy ride through the Straight of Gibraltar, we were greeted by my new in-laws. Although I couldn't understand a word that was being spoken, we spent four hours together on the long drive to Fes, stopping at several roadside produce stands along the way. Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by approximately 25 rather loud relatives, friends and neighbors (I was so tired that I went to our room and had a mini-meltdown).

K: Keepsake from travels: Christmas tree ornaments and fridge magnets!

L: Let-down sight, why and where: Dare I say the Mona Lisa at the Louvre?

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel: It must have been at a young age because I don't remember a specific time. This is why I've tried to instill a love of travel in my own children. Plus, I've been able to enjoy Japan, Australia, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Greece vicariously through their visits.

My son's photo from a class trip to Greece

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in: The nicest was probably the Bellagio or Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas but I can't forget the time we were given a penthouse suite in Maui, Hawaii because the occupants of our original room forgot to check out. They must have been on "island time"!

O: Obsession – what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while travelling: Anything colorful! Murals, flowers, ceramics, people and, yes, these Moroccan slippers.

Colorful Moroccan slippers in the medina

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where: I currently have 29 stamps, most of them are from trips between Belgium, Morocco and the US. The others are from the Dominican Republic, Turks & Caicos, Mexico and Egypt.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where: The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. According to popular belief, Sarah Winchester thought the mansion was haunted by the ghosts of people who died from Winchester rifles. The only way to appease these spirits was for continuous construction to be made on the house (around the clock for 38 years).

Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California

R: Recommended sight, event or experience: Arches National Park in Utah. Absolutely beautiful!

S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while travelling: By the time we've paid for a family of five to fly anywhere, there's not much money left over!

T: Touristy thing done: Double decker hop-on hop-off buses (they're really the best way to get an overview of a city).

Unobstructed view from the hop-on hop-off bus in London

U: Unforgettable travel memory: The three months I spent backpacking through Europe in 1986.

V: Visas, how many and for where: Three (Belgium, Egypt and Dominican Republic). My Belgian long-stay visa required a flight to Los Angeles where I spent about 10 minutes handing in my paperwork at the Consulate's office.

W: Wine, best glass of wine while travelling and where: Aside from any glass with my husband, I'd have to say last fall in Rome after learning how to make a delicious lemon and asparagus risotto with my friends Mary Beth, Bob and William.

X: eXcellent view and from where: The sunrise from the summit of Mt. Haleakalā in Maui. It was below freezing and very crowded but well worth it. I captured the sunrise in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico last summer (alone) and it took my breath away.

Sunrise in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Y: Years spent travelling: Since 1965... you do the math.

Z: Zealous sports fans and where: Back home in 2010 when the San Francisco Giants won the World Series!

Okay, folks, who's next? I'm ready to tag the next blogger...


  1. This is great Janice! We'll be in Gibraltar this April. I would love to just jump on the boat to Morocco but my parents will never go for it :) I guess Andrew and I will have to make our own trip!

    1. Morocco is worth visiting when you have the time (it sounds like you'll be busy enough)! Jet Air and Ryan Air fly there pretty cheap and it only takes 2+ hours. So much to see in the world, so little time... ;-)

  2. Great post! I love your wow experience. Snorkeling in the Caribbean would be amazing!

    1. Thanks, Andrea! What I wouldn't give to be there now, rather than in cold Brussels ;-) It was wonderful!

  3. Wow! You have clearly shown the ABCs of travelling to Europe. Very informative.