What follows is my submission to the Rough Guides travel writing contest. The bolded title is one of three themes we could choose to write about. The piece itself is 492 words. The max allowed is 500 words, the min, 450.
I have no illusions about winning. Actually, I hope I don’t win anything. Expectations and all that. I used the competition as a way to kick myself in the butt to start blogging again. It remains to be seen whether it results in a resumption of my travel writing. You never know.
My best day on earth
Everybody’s best day on earth is different. For a beach person, it’s being stretched out on a Caribbean beach. If you love mountains, the view from atop Mt Kilimanjaro or the gorgeous, ever-widening panorama as you ride a gondola into the Alps could define your perfect day. Snorkeling the reef along Costa Rica? Having the absolute best seat for Formula One or the World Series? Surfing in Hawaii? If you want to stay home, perhaps lazing around in the backyard is your idea of bliss but my best day happens traveling far away from home.
I can’t fit everything into just a single 24 hour day. I’m not trying to be coy. My most perfect day consists of travel experiences collected mostly in Europe and there are so, so many; too many to fit into just the one day. Oh well. Here is one day’s scenario, a patchwork of experiences culled from thirty years of travel.
Morning is a cello concert at Sydney Opera House; a hike along the glacial lake depicted on almost every postcard of Banff in Canada; a delectable meal of grilled mussels on a New Zealand beach. These are some of the first bits Scotch-taped into the album of my best day on earth. Then I discovered Europe. How many people do you know fell in love with London not while standing outside Buckingham Palace or gawking at Westminster Abbey, but just queuing up at Customs and Immigration at Heathrow? Nutsy. Absolutely nutsy and wonderful.
At noontime of this best day I’m stepping into Barcelona’s stunning Sagrada Familia church, stained glass windows splashing ribbon candy colors across the floor. Next, I’m being flung around on the dragon roller coaster at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, followed by a trip to Mostar in Bosnia that takes me way out of my comfort zone. A group tour of the Normandy beaches with Dad in May, 2002 ended up being just the two of us as everyone else cancelled in the after-fear of 9/11. Orkney’s archaeological treasures, the floral excesses of Keukenhof’s bulb festival, the amazing sound-enhanced videos projected onto Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate during the Festival of Light and the tsunami-seeming winter surf on Iceland’s west coast fill the rest of the afternoon and early evening.
Dinner is at an outdoor restaurant in Brussels’s Upper Town. I’m eating chicken with morels, drinking chilled white wine. It’s a dripping hot spring evening and I’m able to communicate with the waiter using only French. Mind you, my French is pretty pathetic, but at least he speaks French back to me and not English.
Luck adds to the day, too. I find a nothing-much hotel in Provence at the last minute, very late one summer night and find Arles just outside my window next morning!
This day began three decades ago, the sunset beyond Dubrovnik’s harbor is breathtaking, the Night Watch walking tour of Zurich has run almost past my bedtime. (One of) my best days on earth.