As I’m getting ready for another vacation, I’m thinking back to the highlights I’ve had so far.
**Beijing, China. Location: The Oriental Pearl Market. **
This place is well known for jewelry and also black market/over run goods. (Nike orders 50K shoes, the factory makes 60K and sells the other 10K in China). As we were snaking around the aisles looking at all of the cheap goods and making bargains, I met up with two of the most aggressive saleswomen I’ve ever met. I’m about 6’1 and 200 lbs. She was maybe 4’11 and 100 lbs. She grabbed me by my arm and literally pulled me into her shop. The other saleswoman blocked my exit as they showed me their wares. Wallets, underwear, belts. “You like? We give you special price for friend!” And their bartering skills amused me so much when given a low ball price in return “OH! I thought we were friends :(”
Paris, France. Location: Sacre Coeur.
After making the long hike up half the hill to the top, we had dinner and an outside cafe. After that, we made our way to the steps overlooking Paris and waited with tourists from all over the world to watch the sunset. A musician was playing his guitar and at one point played Oasis’ “Wonderwall”. Most everyone joined in on the choruses, accents thick in the air but it was still beautiful to see the world come together in such a way.
Rajasthan, India. Location: Somewhere on the highway between Jodhpur and Jaisalmer.
I had to make an emergency stop at a shop to use their restroom (Delhi Belly) and decided to repay their favor by buying a bunch of local sweets from the shop. I wasn’t feeling up to eating them at all, so we loaded back up in the van and continued our journey. The landscape changed from city to something I had only seen in National Geographic magazines. Grass huts in small conclaves dotted the arid landscape and we asked the driver to pull over when we saw some wild peacocks under the shade of trees. Running out to get pictures of them up close, I discovered that peacocks can actually fly. I just had never thought about them doing that. So as I was chasing a couple around, 5 kids comed out of their nearby huts in their colorful robes wondering what the hell I was doing. I’m not sure what language they spoke, but we were able to exchange smiles and I motioned for them to wait for a second while I ran to the van and get the box of sweets. Their eyes lit up as I offered them and they dug in. I never did get a good shot of the peacocks, or the villagers, but I’m still glad it happened.
Istanbul, Turkey. Location: Anatolia Cafe and Restaurant in Sultanahmet.
I’m not much of a foodie and in fact when I go to a different country, I do like trying the local McDonald’s odd menu items. So, when my partner wanted to find a nice place to eat, I consulted our DK travel book and we set off for the restaurant. It was a chilly night, about 55 degrees, but the soft light in this tiny eatery was so warm and inviting that by the time we ordered, I felt like I was getting a hug from the waitstaff. The food was quite incredible, dreamy even. The music played was a mixtape from the waiter’s Parisian friend and it fit the mood so perfectly that I wrote down some of the songs. We chatted with neighboring tables, something I would typically abhor due to my introverted nature, but there was such a glowing camraderie here that it was impossible to resist.
Puquio, Peru. Location: On the highway
The US State department recommends against driving in this country. The first thing we did when arriving in the airport? Rented a car. Then drove on rural roads. Then drove at night. Pretty much everything it said not to do. We did a backwards J of the country following it from Lima down along the coast to Lake Titicaca and then to Arequipa and Cuzco. From there, we needed to cut across the country back to Nazca and there was one city in the middle where we could stop. Puquio. Now, this was right after tourist were stranded on top of Machu Picchu for weeks due to flooding and it had just re-opened. Infrastructure construction was all over the roads and the route from Cuzco to Puquio was only open a couple hours for the day…possibly. We arrive hours too early at a small village and had breakfast in a shitty little restaurant while we waited. Once the road was open, we went along a dirt road that was still being blasted by dynamite. Going was slow and the sunset as we drove on a small road to Puquio. Our hopes to get to Nazca were dashed as we realized that driving in the mountains, in an unsafe country, with very little lighting and very sporadic towns and signage. At one point, I was driving and was the only one awake in the car. The road twisted left and right and right and left again and I started to wonder if I was driving in a circle in some sort of Twilight Zone scenario. I pulled the car over to relieve myself along the road and took in the most breathtaking amount of stars I had seen in a very long time. We were close to being on top of a mountain and the skyscape was just jawdropping.
I would love to hear other people’s special vacation moments.