Over the last week or so, I’ve seen various lists of top tips, discoveries, disappointments, old-favourites and newly-emerging destinations as travellers pass judgement on where they’ve been and where to go next. It’s inspired me to put together a list of what was supposed to be my top ten favourite places.
Unfortunately, I ground to a halt after seven, so that’s all there is. But that’s because these seven are places I could go back to and slide into. Some are spots where I feel at home. Some are where I can recharge the batteries, no matter how flat they might be. I have a special fondness for all of them, eclectic though the list might seem to be.
1 The Northumbrian coast – forget palm trees and the sun beating down. Beaches, to me, mean miles of golden sand, empty because it’s too damn cold for any sensible person to venture near them. I spent my early childhood in Northumberland, near the coast, and I can remember being wrapped in layers of clothing, cheeks red-raw and screaming when the waves crashed over my wellies. It was early June.
2 Gheralta, Ethiopia – a golden landscape of rocky outcrops with centuries-old churches carved into the rock. At night, the stars seem to be touching-distance away. The people are some of the kindest I’ve met. Gheralta Lodge is a delight and their white Tigrayan honey is the best I’ve ever spread on toast.
3 Chicago – I loved this city from the moment I stepped off the plane. The lake, the museums, the architecture, downtown, the suburbs, the people. Ok, I haven’t been there in the depths of winter, but I’m sure I’d still love it. Pretty sure.
4 Peninsula Valdés – it’s the bit of land that sticks out, two-thirds of the way down the coast of Argentina. Flat as a pancake, it’s peaceful and there’s amazing wildlife. Elephant seals shared their beach with me for hours on end, although I did shuffle back to higher land when some of the more purposeful bulls came ashore.
5 Oxford – yes, there are tourists and students, but I can’t imagine anyone not loving Oxford. The buildings are beautiful and there are so many things to do. Everything seems possible when you’re there.
6 Luberon – it’s no more specific than that. Although Bonnieux is special, anywhere in the Luberon will do nicely and pretty much any time of year is fine. Like the Northumbrian coast, it’s a place I slide back into and weeks can disappear in a flash.
7 Chesapeake Bay – a new discovery, but a place I’d wanted to go to for some years. I’ve now been to the Maryland side and the Virginian side of the Bay and they’re both beautiful. Tillman’s Island (MD) and The Inn at Tabbs Creek (VA) are worth a visit – and best slightly out of season when the beaches are empty and you need to wrap up warm.