Your favorite times during your vacation.

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.

I just got back from a vacation to Colorado. We backpacked up to the Chicago Basin, where we camped, and did a couple of day hikes from there. There were lots of magical moments during this trip, but to post just one: the day we hiked up to Twin Lakes, where there was the most amazing turquoise water, and snow (in July!), and the rocks were swarming with friendly marmots. We had also been adopted by a goat. It was like freakin’ Narnia up there. :smiley:

Hrm, not sure I’ve been on a ‘vacation’ before. We went camping a lot as kids, and camping next to glacier lakes <in Idaho> is awesome. :slight_smile: The few times I saw land while working on a boat in the Aleutians was neat. St.Paul <in the Pribolovs> is FULL OF BIRDS; just lying on the tundra and listening to them, watching rafts of birds go by, pretty cool. Ditto watching ice patches float by. Ditto rafts of jellyfish coming up at dusk. Ditto…well, lots of things up there. But I wasn’t on vacation.

I am not the vacationing type, really. For me, ideally, a vacation is visiting someplace for at least 6 months, preferably a year. Being rushed or on a time schedule is the opposite of relaxing for me; seeing things go by in a blur, well…I might as well just read a book about it.

I was naughty in college, and stole two pages out of this old travel book that had the railroad maps of Wales. I always wanted to walk along them, all of them. That would be a neat vacation. Also wanted to live in Key West for a year. Just a year though; would take that long to find any quiet spots, I’m sure, and any longer and the tourists would drive me nuts.

Oh, I worked in a ski resort for about 3 years. One long vacation, if you want to look at it that way. :slight_smile: Vegas for a year would be interesting, I wager.

New York, New York Location: Manhattan.*

I might have written about this before, but in January my wife actually surprised me with a trip to NYC. She picked me up from work and basically said “My parents have the kids for the weekend and we have a flight and a hotel room for three nights.” I had never been before and it was a blast.

The highlight was Saturday. We got 26$ last minute standing-room only ticket to The Phantom of the Opera. We asked someone who worked at the theatre for a good Italian restaurant, and the food was fantastic. While there we talked with the owner who got us wine that wasn’t on the menu. Next that we found a place to dance (ballroom, not that bar/club stuff) but it was closed for a private party so instead we took a carriage ride through Central Park. Finally we walked back to the hotel and . . . that’s none of your business.

Best. Date. Ever.

*Hey, going there is a vacation for me. If any NYC Dopers want to vacation in Columbus, Ohio let me know.

Ruidoso, New Mexico. My wife and I rented a cabin for a few days, just the two of us. Best moment: waking up to no alarm clock, walking out onto the second story balcony in the chilly morning air, sipping fresh coffee while watching the sun rise over the beautiful valley, looking at the family of deer grazing placidly on the cabin’s front lawn.

Nothing so exotic. I did spend a year as an “exchange student” in Japan (I put it in quotes because I was 30 at the time and had only been going to school at night). There were some good times there while I was supposed to be studying - picking potatoes in southern Hokkaido in August (to pay our way), visiting Kyoto in winter when tourists were few, and so on. Met a lot of really nice people everywhere.

More recently, white water rafting down the Colorado in the Grand Canyon. 3 days, 2 nights sleeping out, in early May so it was still chilly. The hot shower when we got to Phantom Ranch was the best ever. I am not cut out for roughing it, I tell you. Then hiking out the next day was also nearly sublime.

My first and only trip to NYC was for my 60th birthday. I think I had the most fun shopping at Century 21, then we had lunch overlooking the construction site at the World Trade Center (not much progress at that time). I loved the fact that we found places to eat more or less at random, not checking reviews or anything, and we didn’t have anything less than a wonderful meal every time. I loved taking the subway and that you could walk everywhere. I loved walking on the upper east side, so many interesting shops (I can only imagine what it must cost to live there).

In general, my favorite vacation times are those times when I don’t have to be anywhere at any particular time, and I can just wander around exploring. Unfortunately, when I’m traveling with someone else, that almost never happens.

Most recently:
Las Vegas, Nevada

Mandalay Bay - We rented a cabana for a couple days and it was the most relaxed I’ve ever been. We’ve been to Vegas enough that I didn’t feel like I had to be rushing around to see everything and with the cabana I didn’t have to worry so much about my lily white skin turning tomato red. We alternated between napping on the loungers near the cabana and floating around the lazy river on inner tubes.

Chick trip highlight:
Helicopter trip over Volcano National Park with my two best friends. All three of us spend the entire time tapping each other and pointing to the next amazing sight.

Vacation with husband
Diving and snorkeling with the Manta Ray’s. I still watch the video of that once a month or so. It was amazing.

Death Valley National Park
Mosaic Canyon. Bright blue skies and red hills while walking over (and sliding down) pathways of smooth marble. Lovely.

First day there in the early evening we go to the Eiffel Tower. We don’t bother going up but end up walking around the neighborhood nearby. We find a pastry shop and have dessert before dinner (yay vacation!). Then we find a restaurant with charming outside seating. Then we get on the last Batobus (boat) from the Eiffel Tower to go back to our hotel. It ends up being a sunset tour of the Seine – utterly romantic and unplanned.

Hiking in the Alps. Those trails have the best view to effort ratio. We literally saw a guy in a wheelchair on the trail. We purchased a bag lunch from our hotel which ended up being super delicious sandwiches (they put tons of butter on their sandwiches) that we ate overlooking the valley below. It was so pretty!

Just got back from Lake Winnipesaukee, NH, after spending a week there. Highlights of the vacation include the absence of TV, teaching my son how to play backgammon and sleeping till 9 every morning. The most excellent day was taking my 16 year old daughter on the back of my motorcycle to Wells Beach, ME. 75miles took 3 hours to travel on little used woods roads, and we frolicked in the waves for a few hours then returned to the big lake.

Not quite the adventures you’ve had, stpauler, but I would not trade a minute of the lake house for those worldy travels. Sigh, 2 days of work and I’m ready to go back.

Like Spalding Gray, I always hope for a perfect moment when I’m on vacation. It doesn’t always come when or where I expect, and often it doesn’t last very long, but I savor the moment when it does.

Here’ my perfect moment from the trip I took in May.

I hadn’t planned on going to morocco but there I was. I enjoyed it so much I stayed for a while. Just as I was on my way out of town a woman asked me if I wanted to go to her family home for lunch. I was flexible so I accepted her invitation.

She gave me a note written in arabic to give to the cab driver in the morning. He took me to the medina where I sat under an umbrella with a man selling one cigarette at a time. Then my girl shows up. I ask her for help with ideas on something to purchase for the family. She said to wait. We squeaze into another cab. 8 of us. All arabic men except me and my girl. We drive fairly far and stop at a hub of lean to’s with storefronts. My girl tells the man what we would like and I pay a small price. Then the girl and I walk walk walk in the desert. Then we hitchhike. Then walk again. We get to a mud house.

I meet the Mom first. Omgosh she was so beautiful and welcoming. She showed me her little 4x4 kitchen and was proud to be able to offer me cold water from her very tiny refridgerator. Outside the kitchen was a propane tank on which she cooked lunch. Then they showed me the rest of the house. A bedroom with carpets hung on 2 x 4’s as bed, one on each side of the room. And right next door to that room was the goat room. I was happy they asked if I had a camera as I didn’t want to be rude and just start taking photos. They took my camera and threw a goat into my arms.

In the courtyard on the way to the back of the property was a cement wall with a fire under it. The girl pointed that out like it was something special. This is where i met the father. I gave him a handshake. He didn’t compare to his wife in beauty. He was very gruff looking. He took us out back and put out a carpet under an olive tree where the mom, the girl, the kids and all took off our shoes and sat. I had a hole in my sock which I made a joke about. The Mom had a hole in hers too. So we all had a good laugh.

Mom went into the house and brought out mint tea and some nice bread. Dad left and the girl asked me if I wanted a shower. I said no, thinking it was a little odd but we had come a long way in the desert.

We sat and talked as much as we could, Mom didn’t speak any english. The young girl spoke some english. We got along very well. After a while, Mom goes in the kitchen to fix up lunch, I offer to help many times. But instead the girl takes me to the neighbors to see a newborn. We come back to her family’s house and she asks again if i would like a shower, again I say no.

We have lunch, nice chicken, salad, bread. I am asked if I would like a fork but I tell them I would like to eat the way they eat. So we all used our fingers and enjoyed lunch under the olive tree on the old carpet. Dad didn’t join us but did come out once to move the carpet to match the shade. They didn’t eat any breast meat so I didn’t either. I thought that would be another meal for them.

I offer to help the Mom with the clean up but she of course says no. So the girl and I sit there and chat and she asks me one more time if I would like a shower. But this time when she asks she said " you told me you came with me for the experience". I did say that. So off we went to the cement wall with the fire under it. On the other side of that was was a small room with the fire partially in the room where an olive oil tin of water was rapidly boiling. She told to undress and sit on a board. Even though I was so afraid of being burned, I did as she said and she bathed me. From head to toe she scrubbed me with this and that and green slime. Then she put on a glove and scrubbed me again. She washed my hair. All and all she did about 6 different scubs on me, then rinsed me off with water just the right temperature. Then she grabbed my clothes and told me to come outside the room. She wanted me to sun dry. Then she handed me my clothes and we went back to the carpet where Mom was waiting for me. I sat with Mom while the girl went to take her own shower.

Mom and I talked as well as we could, at times looking like we are playing charades. The girl comes back all clean. She does some translating for me and the mom. I was asking the mom why she has no wrinkles and she thought I was talking about my feet. Mom runs into the house to get a book she has where she has handwritten all kinds of cures using herbs. Then we pick the herbs and sit on the carpet cleaning them.

I noticed the sun was in a positition that if I wanted to get back to my hotel in daylight I better get going. I felt like I was saying goodbye to good friends. I didn’t know where the dad was but I found him on my way to the door. He was in the hallway on his hands and knees with his head the the carpet praying and I stepped back not wanted to intrude. But he got up and grabbed my hand warmly. Mom and I hugged each other. The girl and I walked and hitchedhiked and walked again, then two cabs again. Back to my hotel.

It was a very magical day.

The two that come to mind …
The Colosseum, Rome, March 2011

I had arrived in country only a few hours prior and had pre-booked a tour of the Colosseum along with another girl from my tour of Italy. We had only met about an hour before and had communicated only on Facebook, deciding to book this pre-tour Colosseum visit.

We go to where we were supposed to wait for the rest of the people booked on this particular tour. We were confused because nobody was around - they told us to wait here, right? They said if we missed the tour, that was it, we missed it. So we waited …eventually, a woman comes up to us and asks us if we’re ready to go. We ask “Where’s the rest of the group?” She says “You guys are it!” We were told that the tour would take about 45 minutes to an hour. Our tour guide would tell us about everything, answer any questions we had, and would wait so that we could take as many pictures as we wanted.

We went everywhere … under the stage staring out at the stone structures, the main floors with everyone else, and through isolated passages to the uppermost level with an awesome view of the surrounding areas. There were lines around the block outside and we were literally walking through blocked off areas completely alone. Ropes were removed so we could walk through to places that others couldn’t see. It was an unbelievable way to start an amazing 11 day trip through Italy and an experience I’ll never forget.

Fjallsárlón, Southeastern Iceland, August 2011

A friend and I had booked a day tour to Jökulsárlón with a company called Goecco. Our tour was two Icelandic guys, a van, and nine of us traveling from Reykjavik across the entire country to the East coast and back over the course of 18 hours. Along the way, we made many stops to amazing places, each of which would have blown me away in their own right. The guys who ran the tour treated us like old friends and loved showing off their homeland. The only rule, we were told, was that, if Hekla erupted, we had to drop whatever we were doing and go to it. Okay, deal.

We made it to Jökulsárlón by mid to late afternoon and it was definitely cool, but there were a lot of people around. Tons of cars parked around, traffic moving in and out, and long lines for boat tours. We stayed there for a couple of hours before shoving off for our next location. About 10 minutes out, our guides said “There’s a dirt road over here leading toward the glacier that we’ve never been down before … anybody want to see what’s down there?” Hell yeah, we do.

We traveled down that road for a few minutes until we pulled over and walked the last couple of minutes to what I now know is called Fjallsárlón. Everything that Jökulsárlón wasn’t, Fjallsárlón was. Completely isolated, no other cars, no other people, and completely silent. It was unlike any place I’ve ever been. Just being there was almost a religious experience, like feeling completely at home with nature.

We all sat down in silence and just listened to the ambient sounds around us (a few seconds of which I filmed). A few seconds after that video stopped, there was a roar as a car-sized piece of ice broke off from the glacier and splashed into the water.

The rest of that day continued on to be amazing, from walking on a glacier, walking behind a waterfall, and finishing with the Northern Lights making a slightly rare August appearance, but the moment that really stuck with me was that perfect little visit to Fjallsárlón.
2011 was a damn good travel year for me.

Japan, Iceland, Rome . . . heck I need to travel more.

sachertorte, where in Switzerland did you stay? I’ve always wanted to do some hiking there.

New Years day, 2004.

My wife and I booked an overnight cruise on Milford Sound, NZ. We kayaked, swam, ate, drank, talked with strangers (a novelty for us) and saw seals, dolphins, penguins, waterfalls and cliffs.

It was a brilliant 24 hours, one of many we had on that holiday but that one stands out particularly.

I’ve done a lot of backpacking in the Sawtooth Range, mostly above Redfish Lake near Elephant’s Perch. I first went there in 1961, when I was 7 years old, and have been back several times, most recently in 2006. Fabulous country.

I was 16 years old and on a class trip to New York City. We’d been dropped off at Macy’s for a few hours and at this point had 30 minutes until we had to get back on the bus. I suggested to the two girls hanging out with me (“buddy system”) that we walk for 15 mins, then turn around and walk back. About halfway into our walk we turned a corner…and I looked up…and realized that I was right in the middle of Times Square. I had wanted to see Times Square ever since I was little and to just stumble upon it was one of the happiest moments of my life.

That’s great! One of my favorite memories is sooo simple. It involves Redfish Lake, in the autumn, with everything closed up. Sun still bright but the air cool; lying on the warm wood of the dock, looking at the hills and sky, listening to birds, wondering if goats are going to appear on the goat tracks we see along the hillside. It’s why I don’t do vacations well: if I’m in a happy spot, all I want to do is lie down or curl up and just be comfy looking at everything.

We camped the Sawtooths a lot, and a lot of other places too, but I would have to ask my dad just what the names were. Even though I was 15 when we moved there, I still don’t remember exactly where we went. My dad is the ‘Prepare everything, then drive until we run out of road, then hike until dad’s tired’ kind of camper. :stuck_out_tongue:

Another memory/side effect of that is that we had an Econoline van, which my dad had kitted out for storage and sleeping. So 4 kids + dog in the back, winter time; we’d just moved there and my dad was excited to explore the mountains.

In an Econoline van. Which, even if it’d had the right tires would have sucked for that kind of thing in the winter.

So we ended up completely offroad, in an ECONOLINE VAN, in show up to the wheel well, driving through trees. At one point I looked out the window to realize we were on the edge of a drop off. All I said was “Well, the view sure is pretty!” I got lots of glares. Even the dog was scared. :stuck_out_tongue: Somehow we made it out.

I should bring that up to my dad next time I see him, see if he’ll FINALLY admit that he made a mistake then, lol! :stuck_out_tongue:
But hey. It was a great view!

Too many to count. Just some off the top of my head (all with the wife):

As boyfriend/girlfriend, flying to the mainland from Hawaii and introducing her to my parents in Texas. Then driving her to Arkansas in my father’s car to meet my grandmother. And later showing her around Albuquerque and Santa Fe, sleeping in our rented car near Taos.

Sleeping in another rented car atop Haleakala on Maui to see the sun rise – it was COLD up there – and going whale watching out of Lahaina. Same trip, battling giant cockroaches in the state-park cabin we’d reserved.

Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. (Mark Twain himself had looked into the same Kilauea that I was looking into.) Camping on the white-sand beach and seeing the orange glow in the sky from the volcanoes. (That beach has since been covered by a lava flow.)

Flying around Mount Everest on a small plane out of Kathmandu. Wandering around Kathmandu.

Driving cross-country from Texas to California in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing and listening to radio reports of developments. While at the Grand Canyon, we decided on the spur of the moment ot run up to Vegas, where I won $50.

Wandering the alleys of Hong Kong.

Lazing around the scenic town of Ubud on Bali for several days, then going out in a small boat from Lovina Beach on the north shore to watch the dolphins frolicking at 6am.

Returning to Hawaii seven years ago and staying in our old building at the East West Center at the U of Hawaii.

Exploring Vietnam from north to south. Especially Old Town in Hanoi. And the World Heritage city of Hoi An.

Wandering around Angkor Wat for several days, followed by a long weekend in Phnom Penh.

Hiking out from the old Lao royal capital of Luang Prabang to see the recently rediscovered tomb of Henri Mahout, who had rediscovered and popularized Angkor Wat but died there searching for a back door to China.

Taking the train from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.

This past April exploring Manhattan and Washington and meeting Dopers in Philly. And visiting Gettysburg, where my ancestor fought.

Wandering around Beijing and then taking the fast train to Shanghai. Strolling along the Bund in Shanghai.

Lazing on our favorite beach in Thailand, Hua Hin, while beer and food are brought to us.

And many more.
And in my wild and crazy youth (pre-wife):

Backpacking around Europe including passing through Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.

Taking a cheap sit-up seat on the 36-hour train from Juarez to Mexico City and back again.

Picking coffee beans in Matagalpa province of Nicaragua.