My “Current” Top Five.

Since everyone on the planet has an opinion on what they’re best travel destinations are around the globe, and since I have seen a small piece of the globe, and since I (like everyone else) have my own opinions, It seemed appropriate to throw out what I consider to be my own Travel Top Five. Now I happily confess that this list is based upon my own travel experiences, so it is definitely not a be-all-end-all of global travel. I also happily confess at the outset that it is open for serious debate. These spots just happen to be the coolest places I’ve been too, so far. They are also the place that I tell friends that they need to go.

That being said . . .

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Number One.

The Hall of Rubens, The Louvre Museum, Paris, France.

I agree that it seems odd to start a top five destination list with a specific art exhibit, in a specific museum however, The Hall of Rubens is currently my favorite place to be on the planet. Bold Statement? Yes. Accurate? Also, Yes.

The Hall of Rubens is the home to a series of paintings representing the life of Maria de Medici. The canvases range in size from large to fantastically massive and represent an excellent representation of the period in which Rubens thrived.  The story starts with Maria’s birth and follows her through her ascension to the throne and ultimate old age. If you enjoy the old masters, you will enjoy this hall greatly.

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Scan4Number two.

The Pyramids, Giza Plateau, Cairo Suburbs, Egypt.

The Great Pyramids of Giza that occupy the tourist center of the Giza necropolis, and the associated Sphinx, are justifiably considered true world wonders. Outside of being on everyone’s must see lists, I can say without reservation that they should be on yours.

The true scale of the pyramids and the building materials used to build them are beyond realistic expression. To say they are massive blocks of stone is a complete understatement. The monuments are immense, and mirror the vastness of the plateau they inhabit. They are absolutely worth your time and effort to go see them. If you haven’t seen them, you should.

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Number Three.

Machu Picchu, Cusco Region, Peru.

They say that the journey to a place is the real joy of travel. Machu Picchu is one of those places where This statement might actually prove true. Let’s say, it’s not the easiest place to get to.

High in the mountains of Peru, most people endure a flight from Lima, a cab ride from Cusco to the train station out in the middle of nowhere, a VERY scenic train ride to Aguas Calientes in the mountains, a mildly harrowing bus ride up the side of the mountain to the park entrance, and then a casual walk into a most-spectacular archeological site. (You can also walk the Incan Trail for a couple of days to get there, but trains and buses are better.)

The Machu Picchu site is absolutely breathtaking. Set high in the mountains, there is a spectacular view from every direction you look. The site itself is in a fantastic state and is awe-inspiring to walk around.

One piece of advice: The tourist buses arrive in bulk around 10am. If you want to see the site un-bothered by people, then be on the first bus out of Aguas Calientes at 6am. There will be a long line of people trying to catch the first bus, but that okay. The first bus is actually a set of like 6 buses. You can get a seat, if you want one.

Once again, if you haven’t been there, I recommend that you make the trip. The trip into the Peruvian mountains is as much of the experience as the site itself.

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Number Four.

Angkor Wat Temple Complex, In the jungle north of Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The Angkor Wat temple complex is incredibly intact and a shining example of the Khmer Empire. Originally a Hindu temple, it was converted to other religions over the centuries. Pretty sure it’s currently holding a Buddhist title.

If you have never been to the area, it needs to be said that you can find whatever you look for here. The larger jungle area holds two distinctly different temple areas. There is Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. They are not the same thing.

Angkor Wat is (Largely) intact, and well maintained. The jungle has been cleared and the site made hospitable for mass tourism. It is the major stopping point for most of the tourist traffic that passes through. And , as such, is overrun with people. Overrun.

Angkor Thom, and the many temples and sites surrounding Angkor Thom, are still very-much in the grip of the jungle. If you’re looking for the Lara croft version, this is where you’re headed! The temples half-submerged in the jungle are fantastic and awe-inspiring. They are where the true travelers head to when they consider exploring the Angkor Wat region.

Again, somewhat repetitiously, if you haven’t been, go. This was one of those places that I always said I was going to go to (but never really believed that I would actually get to). When I actually did get there, it was so much more than I expected.

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Number Five.

The City of Petra, Jordan.

Where almost all of you are going to say that Petra is not worthy of being as low as number five on the list, I am going to say that I agree with you. but alas, everything ranks somewhere on all lists. Petra is another site that I always said I was going to go to, but never actually believed that I would really get to. Finally getting there, I’m happy that I made the trip.

The city of Petra is buried in a canyon, deep in the southern reaches of the Jordan desert. That being said, it’s surprisingly easy to reach. A bus out of Ammon run to the complex daily. You can even get a taxi from the Ammon airport straight to the site if you choice. There are numerous hotels in the area and the archeological site is open long hours.

The walk from the head of the canyon, down through the Siq, to the Treasury (the first tomb accessible along the way) has been made infamous by Indiana Jones. It is also worth the time to take the walk through history. Where most people make it as far as the Treasury, there is so much more to see in the other 60% of the archeological site. The most-impressive tombs and the Romain ruins section are all farther along into the site.

Petra, like a great many other sites, gets A LOT of tourist traffic. It is beneficial to arrive early, before the tourist buses and local transportation buses arrive for the day. The site opens right around 6am and gets instant traffic. Most of the touristy buses arrive about 10-11am. if you want unobstructed photos, get in when they open.

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Like I said, This list is based upon the places that I have been so far. There is a vast world left for me to explore. I am sure that as I do, this list will change. One of my favorite things to do is talk about where to go next with my travelling friends. To find out what they think is must-see and explore those places.

Hopefully, this will give you inspiration to go to places that you’ve been wanting to explore. I definitely suggest that you do. There is an old internet philosophy that says: travel, your money will return, but your time won’t. (Or, something like that?)

Now, get out there. Go see stuff.

Everybody Gets Sick.

This post is a little late in coming. I did say something in the last post about following that post up with some heartwarming story about home during the holidays or some such thing. But, then I got like, super sick, and had some time to think better of that.

What probably would have happened is a post like the one a half dozen back, where I talk about small town USA, and stuff. I already did that. So, instead, let’s talk about getting sick. Why? Because, everybody gets sick.

Three stories from three continents that maybe tell a story about seeing the world.

Egypt, 2000, sick on a cruise ship.

Say, night four of a ten night stint up and down the Nile, on a Contiki trip with a most awesome group of Aussies. Up all night, drinking and waiting for the sun to come up over the Nile. Somewhere in the midst of the evening, I slipped and got a drink with ice in it.

Now, anybody who knows anything about Egypt will tell you don’t drink the water. I mean, don’t drink the water! One drink with ice cubes in it and bang, Pharaohs Revenge. It took 2 full days to pass. I ate a complete box of Imodium AD. Pretty sure I lost weight. I flushed the toilet in my cabin so many times that I broke it. By the time I started to feel better, I had wrapped all the towels around the toilet so that it wouldn’t leak out on the floor when flushed.

I did get the pictures of the sun coming up over the river, and made it out to one Temple before I was sequestered to my cabin, on the bottom of the ship. On the bottom of the ship, where all the plumbing went up.

Moral: don’t drink the water! Let’s say, I didn’t make that mistake twice! But, some of my traveling companions did. Sucked to be them!

Europe, 2005, sick in Paris.

Everybody has the well thought out plan that goes to hell, somewhere around the midpoint. Where I have these in spades, for this particular story I’ll use Paris.

After several wonderful day wondering the Louvre, and antagonizing women with my lack of the French language, I potentially interacted with someone that didn’t agree with me. That, or more likely, I forgot to wash my hand after handling the money. (Serious, foreign currency is a huge germ carrier.)

A stop in MT Saint Michel and casual side trip around Normandy turned into 1 day running around the top Normandy sites and 4 days sick as hell in a Paris hotel.

This was one of the rare times I travelled internationally and didn’t pack a certain amount of cold/flu and stomach meds. Fortunately, there are a plethora of pharmacies in Paris. All the pharmacies are marked by green crosses. The pharmacy people are very good, and the drugs are all pretty much the same. Different names, different packages, same base ingredients.

Moral of this story? Probably, wash your hands more. Still haven’t made it to MT Saint Michel yet.

The United States, 2019, somewhere between New York and Texas.

You know that feeling you get when you’re in the middle of something and you start feel, off. You think to yourself, “hope I’m not getting sick?” Too late, you’re sick.

After days of driving and seeing people, which really was just a lot of time in my truck, alone with my thoughts, it struck. I have no real good idea about how I got the sickness, but the cold/flu hit like a ton of bricks.

I drove for as long as I could, and then pulled up at a Holiday Inn Express, somewhere in Roanoke, Virginia. I gave the desk lady my visa and asked for the location of the nearest drug store (oh, and McDonalds). After drugs, food, and the first half of the Alabama/Clemson game I crashed. (Pretty much like Alabama did. Roll Tide!) Eating drugs and drinking coffee got me the rest of the way to Texas. There, I collapsed in my bed.

Moral? I guess you just never know when things are going to fall apart. Sometimes you just have to such it up and keep moving on.

Basically, you just never know when you are going to get sick on the road.

Don’t let it get you down! It happens!

Seriously, don’t let it get you down. If you are gonna get sick, you are gonna get sick. You put a lot of changes on your system when you travel. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out.

About the only things you can really do are maintain your fitness, eat healthy, wash your hands at the right times, eat drugs when necessary, and don’t panic. These things happen. It will, most likely, be okay.

Optimism keeps us all going. Optimism will keep you going too. Or, that’s my two cents.

Now, get out there. Do stuff, even if you might get sick!

Taking the Long Way Home.

I had every intention a couple days ago with being able to give you this great end-of-year little US road trip experience. I’m headed back to NY from TX to see mom and dad for the holidays. Having made the drive numerous times, I decided to diverge a bit on the way and see some friends.

The first leg of the road trip was decided on home in Texas up to Chicago to see some friends. I gased up the truck and headed out. It has been some time since I’ve driven 16 hours straight, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it. 8 hours in and I wanted to stop and get a hotel. Putting failure from my mind, I trudged on completing the trip in 17 hours 45 minutes.

The rest point was my friend Billy’s house in Lowell, Indiana. My exhaustion was evident when I arrived. I had a beer With my host and decompressed from the drive.

This is where my loose plans went astray. I had visions of running around Chicagoland seeing old friends. This, I can say with some reservation, did not happen. I little hanging with Billy, a little bad ice on the roads, a little apathy, and the stop turned into hanging out in Lowell drinking beers. The beer drinking was happily infused with Billy working out how to ship a motorcycle to Europe so he could spend a vacation riding around Europe. This was backdropped by watching both Long Way Round, and Long Way Down. The two Ewen McGregor motorcycle documentaries.

Very good times and a quiet New Year’s Eve all around. Also laundry. Because, you need to take advantage of other people’s washing machines.

Gassing up the old girl at the start of the trip.

Me. Chillin and drinking beers.

Billy, engrossed in Long Way Down.

Documentaries confused as research.

I’ll give better reports from the road as the trip continues. Hopefully.

Get out there. Do your own adventure!

As a post script:

The whole next travel leg looked like this. The driving is getting better as it goes along.