TWS’s ABCs of Travel Experiences

Many thanks to Marcia of Inside Journeys for nominating me to contribute a post to the “My Travel ABCs” series. I enjoyed reading Marcia’s post and thought it was a good idea to ask bloggers some questions about their lifetime of travel experiences in a fun way — one letter at a time. Alphabet letter, that is.

Here are some of my special travel experiences.

Age you went on your first international trip:

L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal in Montreal, Quebec

I think I was about six years old when we traveled by car from Chicago to Ontario and Quebec. I remember bits and pieces of the trip, such as visiting L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal Royal (St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal) where this photo was taken. I’m wearing the scarf — not a great look, but it was required for women and girls to cover their heads to go inside the basilica.

Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:

The Blind Piper in Caherdaniel, Ireland

Guinness in Ireland, in pubs like The Blind Piper in Caherdaniel on the Ring of Kerry. I don’t drink beer very often, but it would be a shame not to try a little Guinness while in Ireland. Not only does it taste great, it actually has some health benefits — or so I’m told. My husband tells me that the Guinness poured in U.S. bars doesn’t taste quite the same as what you get in Ireland. Any input on this?

Cuisine (favorite):

My tastes aren’t very exotic, but I like to try local dishes in places I visit. Most recently, I enjoyed beef goulash in Prague and my favorite meal in Germany was roast duck and potato dumpling. I can’t stop thinking about it, in fact. In bistros in Paris or New York, I nearly always order Croque Monsieur. But I also enjoy pizza or a good steak –anywhere in the world!

Roast Duck in Hamburg

Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:

I always cringe when asked to name favorite destinations, because there are so many wonderful places I’ve visited all with their unique appeal. But a destination that has a special place in my heart  is Ireland. Being Irish on my father’s side, I felt a connection to my roots, and most of the people I met were very warm and friendly. In addition to that, its beauty, history and culture add to making it one of my favorite destinations. And then there’s the Guinness!

I can’t really name a least favorite. Sure, there are places that aren’t high on the travel destination list, but I don’t think I’ve traveled to any place that didn’t have some redeeming quality. No place really stands out as being least favorite.

Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:

Trafalgar Square Tree Lighting Ceremony, London

I’ve always loved London, but the festive spirit of the city during the holidays is exhilarating. The Christmas tree lighting at Trafalgar Square in London was a special event for me. I loved the ceremony, enthusiastic mood of the crowd, singing carols, and the symbolism of the Norwegian pine. The tree is an annual gift from Norway in thanks for Britain’s help in World War II.

Favorite mode of transportation:

Hamburg Hauptbahnhof

Trains are a real treat, especially in Europe. I’ve made good use of Eurail passes through Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. I’m really taken by the beauty of some of the grand railway stations, like Central Station in Antwerp, Belgium. I’m also very fond of a good drive. I’ve taken many of them throughout North America, especially in the western U.S.

Greatest feeling while traveling:

The anticipation of going someplace new. I remember my first trip to Europe. I couldn’t nor did I want to sleep on the flight. When we began to fly over land, I saw a few lights after hours of darkness across the Atlantic and my anticipation grew.

Hottest place you’ve traveled to:

Phoenix in summer at just under 120F. I’ve been to Phoenix often, but on that particular visit, my sister picked me up at the airport in her vehicle with a broken air conditioner. I like it hot, but ….

Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:

The most recent example I have of incredible service was that of a reception desk clerk at the Marriott Hotel in Prague. Her pleasant, sincere personality and helpfulness made the stay there especially nice.

Journey that took the longest:

The itinerary was a non-stop flight from Chicago to San Francisco that would have been about four hours. However, severe prolonged fog in San Francisco was causing widespread delays. After boarding our flight, it was cancelled and we had to spend the night in Chicago. After waiting several hours at the airport the next day, we were finally rerouted on a flight through Dallas with a rather lengthy layover there. By the time we got home, I think it was about 24 hours since we first got on board our originally scheduled flight.

Keepsake from your travels:

Nowadays, I mostly collect ornaments since I travel light (carry-on only whenever possible.) I love putting them on the tree each year and reminiscing about where I got them.

Let-down sight, why and where:

Tourists in Prague

I try to keep my expectations realistic, so I can’t think of a major disappointment. There are places where I wish there weren’t so many tourists (like me), such as in Bruges or Prague. But I expected that would be the case, so I wasn’t taken by surprise. There were still places to get away from the crowds and I love both of those cities!

Moment where you fell in love with travel:

I can’t remember ever not loving travel. Even as a child, I was always excited about getting out of town. I loved looking at maps, retracing routes we had taken and looking forward to where we were going next.

Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:

Covecastles in Anguilla, British West Indies

Whenever I’m asked this question, the place that comes to mind first is Covecastles, a resort with private villas and beach houses on a white sand beach in Anguilla, British West Indies. It was a beautiful place, designed by a renowned architect and was once featured in Architectural Digest. The resort is quite secluded and we felt as though we had the beach to ourselves.

Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:

Sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle in Washington DC

I take a lot of photos of art, architecture and city scenes. I’m probably a little obsessive about taking photos of statues, sculptures and other art exhibits.

Passport stamps, how many and from where?

I haven’t counted, but they’re from Canada, Europe and the Caribbean. Last time I was in Mexico, passports weren’t required. I’ve got a few more pages to fill before it expires in a couple of years and there are so many places I still have to visit.

Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:

Museum of Sex, New York City

That’s probably the Museum of Sex in New York City – ooh la la! They have a rather impressive array of exhibits, videos and artifacts. I have several other photos taken inside, but this blog post will remain suitable for all ages.

Recommended sight, event or experience:

Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market, Berlin

Christmas markets in Europe. I couldn’t get enough of them last month in Germany and Prague. I loved smelling the aromas of bratwursts cooking, eating tasty pastries, sipping hot mulled wine while listening to carols, watching the sparkling lights, and meeting nice people.

Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:

Food and drink. Because of this, I once almost bought an astronomically expensive glass of wine in Las Vegas because I didn’t look at the price on the menu. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed.

Touristy thing you’ve done:

Ride on the Hop On/Hop Off tour buses. They can be great for getting a first look at a city to get your bearings before exploring on your own.  Just don’t spend a lot of time on them. There’s more to see than what’s on the tour bus routes.

Unforgettable travel memory:

Sunset on Kauai

The firsts. The first time I saw the Grand Canyon, New York City, Paris, Switzerland and so on – those are unforgettable. A very special first was the island of Kauai in Hawaii. It was our honeymoon, so that made it romantic. When we first arrived, I was overwhelmed by the flowers, foliage, fresh air, balmy breezes, palm trees — it was like paradise.

Visas, how many and for where:

None right now. Someday, hopefully.

Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?

Right here in California on getaways to Sonoma and Napa counties, I’ve tasted exceptional wines. However, it would be impossible for me to select an absolute best. And it’s more than the wine itself. It’s the setting that can really make a wine special for me.

eXcellent view and from where?:

Avenue des Champs-Élysées

From the top of the Arc de Triomphe, there are panoramic views of Paris in all directions — the Eiffel Tower, La Grand Roue on the Place de la Concorde, Sacré-Cœur of Montmartre, and the Grande Arche de la Défense. This photo is looking down the Champs-Élysées with La Grande Roue in the distance.

Years spent traveling?:

Since I was a baby 🙂

Zealous sports fans and where?:

It was fun to be part of the excitement of soccer (sorry — football) fans in England in June of 2002. Flags and signs were everywhere and there was much celebration in the pubs. The day before we arrived, England had won over Argentina allowing the team to progress further toward World Cup qualification.

So now you’ve heard my ABCs, it’s time for me to nominate a few of my favorite bloggers to tell us theirs.

Linda Wainwright of Island Momma
Andrea Spirov of Inspiring Travellers
Christina Hegele of Jandal Road
Ruth Rieckehoff of Tanama Tales
Fida Wild of Unusual Travel Destinations


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33 thoughts on “TWS’s ABCs of Travel Experiences

  1. Steve

    Love your answers Cathy! My favorite is the lighting of the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square. That one is firmly on my bucket list. Can’t say I’d complain about having to stay at Covecastles either.

  2. Fida

    Look at you at 6! You are a born traveler 🙂 I enjoyed reading about your favorites. I know it’s hard to choose because there are so many beautiful places! Ha, and you put me on the spot 😉 I am flattered that you count me to your favorites but now I have some pretty big shoes to fill 😉 Unlike you, I was never big on making photos for the first decades of my travel-life… give me little time to dig into my shoe-boxes 😉

  3. Jeremy Branham

    A great look back Cathy! In my times in Paris, I never went to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. I absolute LOVE soccer in Europe and watch the EPL all the time. I went to a game in Barcelona and that was awesome. It was those experiences, along with the ones I had growing up and my connection with sports, that inspired my College Football Travel Tour.

    It’s amazing how experiences through travel shape us and make us who we are today!

  4. Sherry

    The museum of sex has got to be the quirkiest thing I’ve seen in the blog world yet; I must make it out there 🙂 Great food choices as well! At first I thought you were going to say you had your favorite roast duck in China, surprised to see it was from Germany. So awesome to get to know you better and your travels around the world.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks, Sherry. I know that there are other museums like that, but it’s the only one I’ve been to — maybe I’ll check out some others in the future 🙂

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks for inviting me to share my ABCs. Back then, women had to wear something on their heads in all Catholic churches and men had to take their hats off. Times have changed!

  5. Sheril Benedict

    Nice Post to share your interest !! I love the cuisine part especially the pic in Hamburg ..and another is your greatest feel post .. I m eagerly waiting for my trip to Europe too Definitely its my first preference (Particularly Italy)

  6. Jenna

    These ABCs posts are so fun! I agree about the Hop On Hop Off buses and the tourists in Prague. Glad to know that you loved Prague despite the crowds! Oh, and of course I love the wines of Sonoma and Napa too! 🙂

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