Still blogging away alongside three other talented bloggers. Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays. (Usually we are on time. Usually. Ok, sometimes.)
Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:
Merryland Girl chose this week’s topic: What FIVE places would be in your “basket of trips” [a basket containing pamphlets of places you want to visit]. Please say why for each and list at least one thing you’d do at each place. Time and money are no object.
My first thought when I read this week’s topic was, “Super fun!” And then, about twenty minutes later, it switched to, “Gaaahhh!”
I’d quickly begun thinking about where I’d want to go if neither time nor money were an object. A fun exercise, right? A few places immediately popped into mind. I’d been reading a lot of memoirs about Paris lately, so that city came up, even though I’d already been there once (but only for like two days and with my ex, so that shouldn’t count). Next came London – which I’ve also visited before, and also love. The Yorkshire Dales in England, setting for James Herriots’ All Creatures Great and Small Series. Italy. Even a few cities in the U.S., like Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia (been there twice and love love love it).
Yet, as I started writing out the wheres and the whys, I decided I didn’t like my answer. I found myself struggling with the “list at least one thing you’d do at each place” section of the challenge. I could easily pick a few museums (Picasso) and stores (Monoprix) in Paris and my favorite restaurant chain in London (Pizza Express – I’m low maintenance and they have garlic balls (stop giggling)). This was easy, as I’d been to these places before.
But then I wondered whether my “basket” should include places I’d been before, or only places I hadn’t yet gotten. Re-visiting familiar haunts seemed less interesting, no matter how much I love the cities. So I focused on places I’d yet to explore.
Immediately, I froze, as my urge to “research” kicked into overdrive and stopped me in my tracks.
I admit it: I? Am a planner. I do not fly by the seat of my pants, here or in another city or town. A trip where I just “wing it” fills me with angst and anxiety. I want to know where I’m going and when and how and for how long so I can spend days researching the local attractions and stores and restaurants, etc. I don’t think I have ever traveled anywhere without consulting a guidebook and/or the Internet. And I’m not talking a quick perusal – I mean some full on studying. I map things out. I check the times places open and close and the days of operation. I read reviews. I look at photos. I plan.
The reason is simple, even more basic than my ever-present OCD: I have to do research or else I might miss something! How will I know what I need to do or see or eat if I don’t check it out in advance? I don’t want to go all the way to wherever and come home and realize I missed the best place for breakfast or shopping or walking or people watching, etc., etc., because I didn’t bother to do a little recon. Just the thought of that happening makes me itchy with angst. Unacceptable.
Before I went to Paris, I bought a few books: a general one about the city and then one called Walking Tours in Hemingway’s Paris. En route, I managed to forget the walking tour book. I’m still aggravated I wasn’t able to see all of Hemingway’s haunts – and that trip was more than fourteen years ago. (I did manage to find Shakespeare & Co., which took off some of the edge.)
Lest you think I’m crazy (and unless you are wired this way, you do), let me tell you what happened the one time my family and I traveled somewhere without a real plan. We’d gone down to Nashville (before our move) for a long weekend. My husband did zero research. None. Not his thing. Wouldn’t ever cross his mind. The kids didn’t look around online at all. I bought a guidebook about Nashville and then did some online searches, and I came up with a list of places I thought we would all like. I tucked the list into the book, but didn’t say anything to the family because they tend to accuse me of over-planning (as if such a thing exists). And – shock! – by day two, all eyes turned to me in a communal, “Now what??” I pulled out my list and we saw the fake Parthenon and Centennial Park. We had tacos at San Antonio Taco Company. We explored nearby Franklin and had pizza at the Mellow Mushroom. We walked through a Confederate cemetery and took a detour to Parnassus Books. We hit Antique Archaeology and Nashville’s really good Farmers Market. I even programmed the addresses into my phone’s GPS to plan the order of our stops for the least amount of driving. We could not have seen nearly as many sites had I not bothered to do some “research” before leaving Illinois.
And so, to really answer Melissa’s question this week would have required days or even weeks of research – hell, I hadn’t even narrowed down a city in Italy! Should it even be a city – or the coast? A small town or a big one? Should I visit Naples, alleged home of some of my ancestors, or should I hit Venice and the canals? I can’t just throw a dart at a map; I mean, c’mon. What if it landed in a so-so town right next to the most awesomest town ever – and I missed it?? (I know: is there such a thing as a “bad” town in Italy?) I’d literally lose sleep.
There is one place I am able to include in my “basket of trips.” This trip wouldn’t take much research, as I’ve been planning it for decades. That place is Sayreville, New Jersey. From the day my friend Michelle and I fell head over heels for Bon Jovi, we have sworn we would make a pilgrimage to the town that claims Jon Bon Jovi as its own. He no longer lives there, but the landmarks remain: his childhood home, his high school, some of the clubs he played in nearby Asbury Park. We would visit them all. And maybe we’d take a jaunt to stalk – I mean “look for” – Jon where he currently lives, the area of which is known to us and would be a must-visit. So that trip for sure holds a place in my “basket of trips.”
Yes, Paris may have the shopping, Italy may have the food, Savannah may have the charm, but only New Jersey really has my heart.