When Kevin McAllister was left home alone, the rest of his family went to Paris, France. We always thought it was pretty sweet they were spending Christmas in a foreign country. That is why last week we wanted to hear about your travel adventures and we asked you: Where is the best place you have ever visited outside the United States? The bags are packed, and we’re ready to go. First we head east to the hot spots we love. Then jet set around the world to following your adventures. Grab your passport and boarding pass and let’s fly.
Dagger: Of all the countries I’ve visited – England, Spain, Mexico, and Sweden – my favorite is without a doubt, Sweden. Nowhere have I met friendlier people, and nowhere else have I felt so on top of the world.
One of the most surprising things about visiting Sweden is that basically everyone speaks English. Sure, they all learn it in school, but what helps more is that Sweden airs a ton of American television and doesn’t overdub it, just subtitles it. This is great if you find yourself killing time before going out as I did watching a “Friends” rerun one night, and it also makes travel a lot easier as an American since you’re not groping around desperate for help in a strange land with a huge language barrier.
The other great thing about Swedes is their droll sense of humor. Everyone from the 13 year-old distant relative that served as our interpreter for the older relatives to the 90 year-old woman who cooked dinner for us had a dry, George Burns-style rejoinder for any situation. Possessing that myself, I was right at home with everyone.
And while Stockholm was lovely, my favorite spot was actually in Northern Sweden in a town called Umea. Umea is so close to the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t set in the summer. I found myself outside one night at 1 a.m. and thought, “This is the only time you’ll ever be here. Soak it in.” And I did. I’ll never forget looking out at the friendly college town in Northern Sweden where McDonald’s failed (the town was too hip for it), the sky looking like dusk in the dead middle of the night, and feeling on top of the world.
Hart: Having been to only two other countries it was easy to narrow my answer down. While Victoria, British Colombia, Canada was beautiful, it has nothing on Venice, Italy.
When I visited Italy we went all over the country. I saw Rome, Florence, Verona, and Pompeii (which was awesome too. A whole city preserved perfectly in ash, incredible). But Venice blew them all away by far. We had to take a water taxi from Verona to the main part of Venice. Once there we were on foot. There were no cars or bikes or anything, one of the joys of a city surrounded by canals. We also took advantage of these canals and toured the city by Gondola. It would have been romantic if it wasn’t for the four other dudes on the boat with me. Oh and I saw Marco Polo’s house.
Everything there is older than Christ which was a weird thought for me to get my head around. And surprisingly it was still holding up really well. The streets were all cobbled and there were so many bridges. The lack of cars made the whole experience feel like I was a million miles away from everything. I didn’t have a care in the world and I would just lose myself staring into the water.
Then I lost myself in the city. I started wandering around and suddenly I had no idea where I was. But I never felt worried or stressed about it. I just continued to wander and eventually I found my way back. In the process I got to see a lot of the city. This was probably one of the best things I could have done. I recommend taking this approach to see other new places. You never know what you’ll find when you’re not looking for it.
Dagger and Hart have Europe covered on the northern and southern ends. Let’s see if some of our readers will fill in the gap or even travel to other continents. So get your passport back out and let’s continue our tour. Our trip will keep us in Europe just awhile a longer.
CassieB: Cinque Terre is the most amazing place… The name itself means “Five Lands” in Italian. The five towns of Cinque Terre are built on the cliffs of the Italian Riviera and paint the hills with their brightly colored buildings and architecture. A path connects the five towns, and hiking between the towns is a popular tourist activity. On this hike I found that it is very easy to distinguish the Germans, because the women all have butch haircuts and closely resemble their husbands. In addition, they all wear shorts, hiking boots and wool socks pulled up below their knees. And despite the relatively easy terrain, they all use hiking poles.
We stayed in the quaint town of Vernazza, as recommended by Rick Steves. By the way, has anyone ever seen Rick Steves on his PBS travel specials? For years I was sure he was gay, but I just learned he is straight!! Man oh man that is one gay straight man.
Anyhoo, if you get the opportunity, be sure to take a trip to Cinque Terre. There is truly nothing like it anywhere else in this world.
Lady E: I think my favorite place that I have ever been would have to be London. It may be because I lived there and got too see the “real” London and not just the touristy places, but it might also be that it just rocks! Here are a few of the reasons I love it there: You can find any kind of food you want, any time of the day. Kebobs (pronounced Kah-bab, and are more like gyros than meat and veggies on a stick), French fries in newspaper funnels, curry and nan bread on the street corner. I am salivating, Next!
The shopping is amazing! European designers mixed with American stores.
Culture when and where you want it. Museums are fun but drinking in a pub that was an opera house in the 1700′s is just Fun!
Beer. Lots of great Beer. I still say Damn You Coors for taking Carling off the market in the United States!! Damn You!! Did I say shopping? Topshop, H&M, Harrods, Oh My! And the sightseeing is fun too. The London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, my British boyfriend: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace.
And finally…They speak English. I know how horrible this sounds! This is why the French hate us, but it is so hard to do everything you want in Europe when you do not fluently speak the language. The rest of Europe is fun, and a lot of the other cities resemble London a lot, but the fact that my dyslexic brain doesn’t have to learn a new language to play in another country makes me love London just a little bit more.
Europe was fun. Now let’s board the plane again and head down south.
Deuce: Since I have only been to two places outside of the US and both of them are located within the borders of our southern neighbor, Mexico, my decision was quick. My favorite place was the Riviera Maya on the eastern side of Mexico. The water was a beautiful aqua blue and the sand is like walking on powdered sugar. Granted, those trips were made all the more enjoyable because I was staying at an all-inclusive resort, which in and of itself is just a fantastic way to enjoy a vacation. There were things I did that were a lot of fun when we traveled to the western coast near Puerto Vallarta, but overall, I enjoyed the opposite coast much more.
Lisa: My favorite place that I have traveled outside the U.S is definitely Costa Rica. While I was there I got to do a rain forest canopy zip-line tour that was absolutely amazing. All of the wildlife and shrubbery are so colorful. The two sides of the country are bordered by very drastically different oceans and each side has their unique and amazing perks. If you visit in the rainy season like I did, the weather is a very temperate 95 degrees and it rains every afternoon, sometimes all day. The culture is rich, the food is amazing, and the night-life is rocking. Try it out sometimes.
Jitterrawks: It’s tough to pick…there are a ton of great places I’ve been. I’d have to go with Fiji. When I went there, I was ridiculously stressed…I’d pretty much broken up with the guy I was in love with, had major financial stress, plus I was attempting to keep my GPA up to the point where the government would continue to fund my booze-filled adventures. I was more stressed than I’d been in my life…and it all disappeared the second I got off the plane. Something about the sea breeze, the lack of things conforming to a time schedule and the amazing natural beauty just removed all my stress. For the next two weeks, I went scuba diving daily, surfed, and the only thing I had to worry about was waking up from my afternoon nap in time for happy hour. Things were ridiculously cheap (our hostel was $9 a night), the company was great…and to this day, when I think back of that trip seven years ago, I still relax. Unfortunately, the country has been in a civil war for awhile and has taken to kidnapping people to fund the war…so it’ll be a bit before I can go back.
We’ll finish our trip by heading north to the Far East. Please fasten your seat belts and put your trays in the upright position.
Corriander: I don’t know if it’s really the best, but the most interesting place I’ve travelled to would be Kumamoto, Japan. I travelled there for a little over two weeks on a mini student exchange program the summer before my senior year of high school. We were supposed to stay with English-speaking host families; however, my host family was lacking in the English speaking department. They were a couple in their late 50′s whose 25 year old daughter lived with them. The parents spoke no English at all and the daughter had only had English in high school (7 years prior). Both the father and daughter worked full-time so I spent my days with my host mom who as well as not speaking English also did not drive. So everyday we’d meet up with at least one person that spoke English and one person that could drive. Sometimes she knew these people, sometimes they knew each other, and sometimes they both were just random friends of a friend, etc. that were willing to translate and/or drive. It was quite an experience and I definitely improved upon my level of patience while figuring out how to communicate. Especially when my host mom had a college student ask me why I hadn’t washed any of my underwear while I was doing laundry (Ummm….I packed enough clean underwear). It was a very interesting cultural experience with the communication issues, weird food and crazy pop culture, not to mention the amazing history of that country. My host dad was a child in Hiroshima when it was bombed and had some physical disabilities as a result so it was interesting to hear their opinion on the US. I also enjoyed being “tall” for two weeks.
That was a fun trip around the world. Hit almost all the continents and had a wonderful time. But as usual it must come to an end. Be careful opening the overhead bins as contents may have shifted during flight. We would hate for you to drop the luggage on your head, or break the Christmas present you are transporting.
Now that travel is out of the way, it’s time to deal with the real hassle of Christmas, shopping. There are only 11 more days to find that perfect gift. With that in mind we want to present you with another question. What was the best Christmas gift you ever received? Was it a plane that loops the loop? A hula hoop? Or even an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle? Whatever it was that made your Christmas awesome we want to know what it was. Also we don’t want to get you something you already have.
We want to know more about all our readers. So don’t hold back. If you haven’t confessed, or it’s been awhile, or even if you did it last week, we want to hear from you. Don’t be shy and send us your response, along with your posting name to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll put them up next week.
Dagger & Hart
14 Dec 2009 CJS Staff