Category Archives: Must-see Destinations

Perfect Mo’orea

The most beautiful place I have been during the past year is Mo’orea where I met a man who came here and simply didn’t leave until he died.  This Society Isle is sometimes described as symphonic.  Dominated by 8 perfect mountain peaks, it was no surprise to me that it was author James Michener’s inspiration for Bali Hai in Tales of the South Pacific.

Those who travel up through Mo’orea’s Opunohu Valley to the Belvédère, this island’s highest point accessible by car where the road ends at a spectacular scene, are on one of the few paved roads in all of French Polynesia that doesn’t just circle a perfect island.  It goes inland and upward.    On it, travelers pass an agricultural college, pineapple fields, abundant forest, and they see evidence of much archaeological research.  There were at one time temples and maraes and lots of contented natives living here.   Marae are ancient stone and coral constructions shaped like pyramids on which ceremonies, including many sacrifices, were held.  The oldest one on Mo’orea is more than 1,000 years old, and experts are finding that this was an island with a steady population for centuries because it’s so inviting.


This is by no means to discourage visitors from circling Mo’orea too.  This allows them to see places like the Manutea Resort, which has an extensive conservation program with an emphasis on restoring coral reefs.  Totoa, another roadside viewpoint, has a memorial to the 20 victims of a 2007 airplane accident.   The 20 died when a Twin Otter crashed here.  Mo’orea is shaped like a baseball glove or a fat bird with upraised wings in flight.  Circling Mo’orea is amazing in that you pass empty beaches and are never in traffic despite the many resorts, shops, and restaurants passed.  This is said to be the perfect place to get a tattoo because the best artists who specialize in them live on Mo’orea.  This island seems underpopulated because there are no major towns on it.

The driest time to experience Mo’orea is May to October.  Mid-summer months, however, can be windy and November to April can be wet for hikers and splashers.




Two Stressed Travelers

In my opinion, Jada Yuan and Sebastian Modak are lucky/crazy.  Last year, Jada got a new job.  13,000+ people applied for this job and she was hired.  Sebastian applied for the same job this year and replaces Jada.  She was employed by The New York Times.  Each year its Sunday Travel section lists the best 52 destinations to be visited during the year.  Jada became the 1st writer/reporter to visit all 52 of them in 365 days, often staying less than a week in some destinations and posting lots of stories about her considerable adventures.

On January 6, 2019, The New York Times published an article in its Sunday travel section written by Jada called “On the Go, Nonstop”.  In it, she wrote about what she learned about the world and herself during her year.  She says that “dream job” always came up each time she told someone what she was doing, her 52 destinations in a single year project.  She said that she missed a lot of events in her personal life and that the first couple of months were especially difficult as she felt she was “stepping into an unknowable void”.   She talked about missing meals and says that sometimes bar nuts was her dinner and her breakfast was ice cream.   She says that her biggest fear became getting sick or injured, and she mentions the shots and prescriptions she endured before heading for places where infectious diseases were possible.  These were often not 52 easy places to reach.  New Orleans, Branson, and Baltimore were among them, but so were Sao Tome and Principe, Bhutan, and Peru.  All in all, she had quite a year and details the lessons she learned in “On the Go, Nonstop”.

“52 PLACES TO GO IN 2019” appeared in The New York Times on January 13.  Sebastian Modak, a finalist in 2018, got Jada’s job.  He and TNYT decided to repeat Jada’s feat, so Sebastian will travel to all 52 destinations within this year.   He has already visited the #1 choice, Puerto Rico, and says he is most looking forward to being in Iran.  He calls his new job surreal and says he is approaching his travel year with “gratitude, excitement, anxiety”.  I would be too.

Ruth and I have been to many of the 52 selected for 2019, but the thought of being in each one of them for just a few days for an entire year seems impossible.  Ruth and I try to limit our travel to one trip per month.   The photos today of Zadar, Croatia up top, Las Vegas, the Islands of Tahiti, and Wyoming are 4 places we have been that Sebastian will visit in 2019.  Tahiti is #52.  We just went there at the end of 2018, and that’s Bora Bora below.  We have not, however, been to Uzbekistan, Senegal, Qatar, and Georgia (the country not the state) that Sebastian will spend time in this year.   I look forward to reading his reports.



2019 Trip Choices

In its December, 2018/January 2019 issue, National Geographic Traveler published its “28 Best Trips Around the World for 2019”.  They are diverse and highly interesting choices.  I especially like the way this publication separates them.  Their lists begin with CITIES.  They select six of them on 3 pages and then have a feature on what I assume is this publication’s actual #1 choice since Mexico City is ending up in a number of year end articles about best 2019 travel destinations.  NGT’s other #1 city is Dakar, Senegal.

I was glad to see that National Geographic Traveler singled out Kansas City, Toronto, Perth, and Mexico City as esteemed destinations.  I agree with all 4.  The feature about Mexico City focuses on food, especially corn.  Right after Dakar, Salvador, Brazil, gets a favorable nod.  This surprised me because of the political turmoil and huge number of murders occurring in this country, which is under an “increased caution” travel advisory.

National Geographic Traveler‘s next classification is NATURE.   Its featured destination here is a great one, Tahiti and the Society Islands.  If you haven’t been there, put it on your must-go list, but don’t spend a lot of time in its capital Papeete, which is too much like any other city.  As the feature’s author Andrew Evans, who talks about diving and calls these islands an “underwater paradise”, wisely reports, “Every island in French Polynesia is unique, each with its own personality….”  This is definitely true and there are 67 inhabited ones to explore.

The next category is CULTURE and the choices are very diverse.  They swing from Egypt to Switzerland.  My favorite among them is Galway, Ireland, where Ruth and I spent one memorable Christmas.  When I came home, I started this blog because of what happened to us.  We were kicked out of a hotel on Christmas Day because, at least at that time, all businesses including hotels, restaurants, and most forms of transportation were closed on both this major holiday and the next, Boxing Day.  This incident was the subject of my 1st blog.

The last category is ADVENTURE and the choices are certainly adventuresome.  Travelers can surely find unusual things to do in Greenland, Argentina, and New Zealand.  But the most unusual choice in this category is Macedonia.  Ruth and I have seen a lot of this Balkan Country that’s still involved in a big disagreement with Greece over its name.  It’s most definitely a far-out place to go for many reasons as is National Geographic Traveler’s featured destination for adventure, Oman.


The 2 photos above the ADVENTURE paragraph are of Lake Ohrid and a floor in a Macedonian/Roman ruin.  The top photo is from Vilnius, Lithuania, a destination which I nominate for adventures in 2020.


Listed American Cities


Travel and Leisure Magazine likes lists.  I tend to mistrust them even though I went to Penzance on The New York Times recommendation this year and Mexico City last year.   Below are reflections on 2 T&L lists.

Last year Travel & Leisure published a list of “America’s Favorite Cities”.   It was based on an annual survey of readers, and the text was written by Katrina Brown Hunt.   There were 30 cities selected for honors.  Among the top 10, 2 each were in Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia.  The other four were Buffalo, New York, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Providence, Rhode Island. Buffalo was #1. Buffalo!  I can’t remember the last time I said to Ruth, “Let’s go to Buffalo.”   Maybe I should.  We’ve been to all of Katrina’s cities, but some not recently.  We have traveled to San Antonio, Nashville, Albuquerque, and Fort Worth on recommendations in the last couple of years. All 4 are list-worthy.

The 2nd list was just published on July 11, 2017.  On it Jacqueline Gifford documented “The top 15 Cities in the United States”. She mentioned that 8 0f the 15 were in The South. She listed 2 criteria for winners–they play host to festivals and attract inventive chefs. There are only 2 cities in the top ten on both lists–Nashville and San Antonio.  We like both and have been to all 10 of Jacqueline’s winners recently except for Asheville, North Carolina.  Buffalo is not on her list, but the cities that are, like Savannah and Austin, are definitely crowd pleasers.

My personal list would be different from the 2 above.  Big cities that we tend to regularly repeat include Seattle, Phoenix, Chicago, Las Vegas, Denver, Vancouver, BC, etc.  We’re actually heading to Vancouver tomorrow.  For roots reasons we like Madison, Wisconsin, Springfield, Illinois, and other Midwest destinations.

I do pay attention to current travel buzz.  This has taken Ruth and me to Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, and Charleston recently.   It’s the reason why we’ll more than likely travel to Galena, Illinois, soon for a reunion with her cousins.





From Argentina to Uruguay


On January 11, 2016, I wrote about The New York Times 52 best places to visit in 2016.  It’s almost time for The Times best for 2017.   Its #1 choice for 2016 travel was Mexico City.  Ruth & I made it there in May and had a great time.  It was worthy of the #1 slot.   I also wanted to go to #2, Bordeaux, France, but we didn’t make it there.  I wanted to go to #11 Guadeloupe in December but Ruth didn’t.  We’ve been to #3 Malta, #5 Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and #7 Toronto.  Malta is one of the world’s best destinations.  In fact, National Geographic Traveler has already selected it for its list of the 21 “Best of the World” for 2017.

I’m glad that The New York Times included St. Louis in its bests of 2016.  My hometown, #46 on its list, has lots of great places to explore like the Tivoli Theater and the World Chess Hall of Fame and Museum.  I have blogged about those and many other fine attractions.   I still get mad when St. Louis shows up on a list of bad places to visit.  It happens.  Even though I’ll be there more than once in 2017, if I were you I’d wait to go to St. Louis until the Union Station project that means a dancing fountain, an aquarium, a major ferris wheel, and a whole lot more becomes operational by 2018.


The other destinations in The New York Times top ten 2016 were The Virgin Islands, specifically St. John’s Coral Bay, Mozambique, Abu Dhabi, Skane, Sweden, and Cuba.  One summer Ruth & I went from country to country in Scandinavia, but we didn’t make it to Skane. Now we have a reason to return to Sweden, a 5 Compass destination.  I’d love to see the Vasa again and take the Norwegian train from Oslo to Bergen, which is one of my top ten travel experiences of all time.  Ruth & I are going to Cuba next month.

#15 on The New York Times 2016 list was Argentina.   It’s traveling contributor raved about the Road of the Seven Lakes in Patagonia.  We’ve been to Patagonia but not the lakes. Unfortunately, Ruth’s birthday is between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  As a result, I try to take her to an exotic destination each year to celebrate.  This is not the best time of year to go north, so this year we’re heading south, way south.  Ruth will have her 2016 birthday dinner in Colonia del Sacramento.


Magical Malta