Gladness and sadness, weddings and funerals, business meetings and baseball tournaments. Fishing trips and horse farms. Cons, thieves, murders, and rip-offs. Airport security and insecurity. Flight attendants, lousy food hot and cold, organized crime, currency exchanges, and slovenly dressed, poorly behaved travelers who do not travel well. Welcome to my world, the world of the million-mile flier.
Somewhere around midnight Wednesday, my air mileage odometer with United Airlines will roll over to seven digits: 1,000,000 miles, most of which has come since moving to Denver eleven years ago (after flying 330,000 miles with American when living in Miami). Add in countless unforgettable flights from defunct, obscure, death-defying rattletraps throughout the years and I’ve probably flown, plummeted, and bounced two million miles around the planet. I’ve had two near misses with emergency pull-ups and been hit by lighting, which caused a nun next to me to throw up in a bag. All up, all in, I’d never change a thing.
Listed below in no special order are ten Honorable Mention Favorite Places in the USA, plus ten more abroad. Home doesn’t count.
HONORABLE MENTION (Domestic): coastal Oregon; Seattle and Port Townsend, WA; Annapolis, MD; Islamorada, FL; San Francisco, CA; Lexington, KY; Maui, HI; Saratoga, NY; Homer, Alaska; Steamboat Springs, CO. There seems to be a water theme here, except for Lexington and Saratoga, America’s showcase cities for Thoroughbred horses and horse racing. Steamboat’s water is frozen and creates the nation’s best snow on America’s best ski mountain. Alaska, to me, is where God went when he or she got done practicing.
Overseas, here are ten cities I really enjoy:
HONORABLE MENTION (Foreign): Riga, Latvia; Vienna, Austria; Paris, France; Singapore; Iguazu Falls, Brazil/Argentina; Newmarket, England, U. K.; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Cairns, Australia (the Great Barrier Reef); Bimini, Bahamas; Genoa, Italy.
I love all these great places for totally different reasons; every visit is a gift to be treasured. And while my twenty honorable mentions are superb, here’s my Top Ten (also in no particular order). Each is fabulous, fun, and inspiring. They’re numbered for easy reading. Consider the list a ten-way tie for first.
MY TOP TEN FAVORITE PLACES:
- New Zealand: The greatest little country in the world for anyone who loves the outdoors.
- Istanbul: A spectacular, historic, scenic city that straddles Europe and Asia.
- Budapest: The Hilton up by Buda castle that overlooks downtown Pest and the curling, ribboning beauty of the Danube River is my favorite hotel in the world. The historic resilience of Hungarians is a remarkable story.
- Beijing: China is amazing for more reasons than the Great Wall is miles long.
- Havana: See it, live it, understand it. The Cubans are kind, generous people who love baseball more than any country in the world. Ninety miles from Key West, ninety million miles from our way of life.
- India: For all the noise, poverty, chaos, and commotion, the gentle kindness of India’s people is overwhelming.
- New York City: The older I get, the deeper I fall in love. On the short list for the world’s greatest city.
- Rome: Small, compact, historic, spectacular fun. Every visit to Italy is a treat. Rome’s diversity edges out Florence’s breathtaking art. Superb wine flows like blood through corpuscles throughout the country.
- London: Its metamorphosis continues. What was once a staid and stodgy place with 8 million teacups and black umbrellas is now a global banking center and 40 percent foreigners that balances tradition and dignity brilliantly; but it still rains like Seattle.
- Dubai: Despite its immediate challenges, Dubai is the improbable execution of paradigm-busting vision and scale. If you like sand, camels, and skyscrapers, this is the place to be. Especially between November and March.
There’s my list. Hopefully my next million miles will send me new places I learn to love just as much. If you’ve got special places you’ve visited, let me know. I’d love to hear about them!
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