There are many places we can’t wait to visit once the pandemic is under control and border restrictions ease. We miss the joy of travel that brings with it meeting new people, places and cultures.
We asked our GOT contributors to share their thoughts about some of the places they are eager to visit, either because they haven’t been there before or because they have and are eager to return.
We bet there are places you can’t wait to visit, too!
Can’t Wait To Visit
Switzerland: Alpine paradise
Swiss mountains and valleys are balm for the spirit, inviting us to travel back in time through a pristine countryside and a multicultural setting. When the pandemic’s shadows lift, Tom and I want to return to Switzerland, our home for almost two decades. When we do—next summer or autumn—we plan to travel sustainably, as well. We want to make the most of the country’s superb infrastructure as we visit old haunts and broaden our experience of a country we love.
We will start in Basel, our former hometown, and combine trains, boats, and gondolas for almost seamless travel around Switzerland. We look forward to a nostalgic hike in the alpine landscapes of the Bernese Oberland: perhaps a walk to Lake Oeschinen above Kandersteg; or ride a gondola up from Lauterbrunnen for incomparable views of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Canton Ticino calls us to kick back for gorgeous food and wine, and to ride the Centovalli Railway past gorges, myriad waterfalls and secluded stone hamlets. And we would love to try something new: an e-bike tour through Graubunden’s Bündner Herrschaft wine region!
Two grand Swiss traditions—enalpe, or the cows ascent to summer pastures, and desalpe, the cows’ autumn return to the valleys—happen in June and September, respectively. In Ticino, these are also the best times to experience la dolce vita, Swiss-style. Everywhere, we know to expect delicious regional foods. This, combined with virtually stress-free travel throughout the country, makes Switzerland a post-pandemic destination worth waiting for!
—Anita Breland and Tom Fakler
Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Trail
My feet are itching for a long walk. While I’ve enjoyed plenty of nature trails at home in Ontario during the last six months, I’m yearning to plant my boots on unfamiliar soil. Top of my list is Shikoku Island, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, which is known for the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage trail that encircles the entire island.
Called Shikoku Henro in Japanese, the ancient Buddhist trail has long been on my list of “Walks I Must Complete in this Lifetime.” Dating back to the 9th Century, the ancient route is considered Japan’s version of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, which I’ve completed. The 88 Temple trail is longer by 400 km. I’m not sure I want to walk all 1,200 kilometres—nor visit all 88 Temples on Shikoku Island—but two sections especially appeal to me.
The first is the Iya Valley in Tokushima Prefecture. I picture myself rambling at a leisurely pace through its valleys dominated by terraced farms, thatched-roof cottages—and gorges and rivers which are crossable on suspension bridges made entirely of vines. The 45-metre Iya Kazurabashi suspension bridge is the longest.
And if I could approach Matsuyama Castle in Ehime Prefecture during cherry blossom season I’d have all my greedy hiker’s heart desires.
Can’t wait to visit Croatia on the Adriatic
My family vacation to Croatia was canceled in May 2020 due to Covid-19. Having heard of its beautiful landscape along the Adriatic, I had so wanted to visit this part of Europe and still do. My plans included a few days in the city of Dubrovnik followed by a relaxing week in Split, in the southern part of the country with its picturesque beaches. I had hoped to take a history tour of Dubrovnik’s Old Town and partake in some of Croatia’s freshly-caught seafood and other Croatian delicacies like truffles, mussels and fried fritule pastries (critters).
Having researched other islands close by Split, like Hvar and Montenegro, I knew convenient daily boat rides would allow me to see them both. For now, my Rick Steves Croatia and Slovenia Guidebook sits on top of a stack of travel books on my desk. I open it often and whenever I’m restless, I dream of my next trip to come and can’t wait to visit Croatia.
Ahhh Aruba…can’t wait to visit
I miss the Caribbean, my specialty wheelhouse for over two decades now. This is the first time in my adult life I can remember being grounded for so long. I miss flying. I miss snorkeling with my colorful fishy friends. I miss the spirit-lifting sunshine, the soft trade winds caressing my skin, the sparkling aqua seas, the stellar soft sand beaches, the hip-moving music…and room service. I really miss room service. But I miss Aruba, my happy island home away from home the most.
Though I love coming back to Montreal, Canada, my heart will always be tightly tethered to that tiny little rock in the southern Caribbean. And not just for its mind-blowing beaches — often appearing as top choices on the planet — but for the warm and friendly locals I’m fortunate enough to call my friends. Arubans are seriously salt of the earth people.
Even though Carnival may be postponed this year, there are a surprising number of eclectic and diverse experiences and adventures on this island beyond the beaches. And many aren’t costly either.
And while Aruba is tiny, there is still plenty of space to social distance; in fact, over 20% of the island is a dedicated national park preserve. Accommodations span a wide spectrum of choices, with each area offering its own distinct vibe and appeal. From popular Palm and Eagle Beach resorts to luxury overwater bungalows secreted away in Savaneta, there is something for everyone. And Aruba is open for business to North Americans right now. For all you need to know about getting there and the current protocols, visit the Aruba Tourism Authority website.
A staycation in Santa Barbara
When the Ritz-Carlton Bacara opened two decades ago, guests delighted in the Frette linens, original Chinese art, en-suite marble jacuzzi baths. and the elegance of its rooms and suites. During my first visit, I walked two miles along the pristine beaches on the coast of Gaviota and rarely have I seen more beautiful views anywhere in California.
Within a couple of years, the hotel was considered one of the top ten resorts in the world and became a hideaway for the rich and famous. The award-winning spa beside a zero-edge swimming pool remains a go-to spot to unwind. Among many recent changes is the renovation of the 358 guestrooms and signature suites, all artfully infused with luxurious interiors and modern technologies for a true sense of comfort.
The original French restaurant was a favorite haunt of residents Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston; today’s restaurant scene is Angel Oak’s, a fine-dining restaurant that specializes in Basque-Catalan cuisine made with fresh vegetables that are still grown on the grounds at Bacara.
This luxury property, only ten minutes from my home is at the top of my staycation wish list. I can’t wait to visit the hotel again, hoping to have the pleasure of walking the bluffs again, enjoying a blissful spa experience and, perhaps, sipping fine California wine at Foley’s tasting room.
Inspired by Iceland
Iceland is a country I have visited in the past, the place that ignited my passion for travel. After this tumultuous year, I’m feeling the need to reset, and where else than in the company of Iceland’s nature. The first time I visited this fascinating country, I couldn’t explore the island’s East Coast because of a snowstorm. Consequently, I cannot wait to see the Glacier Lagoon and Hengifoss (the third highest waterfall in Iceland).
The weather was also a bit treacherous when I visited Vik, and I would like to experience Reynisfjara, also known as Black Sand Beach, better. And, I wouldn’t mind exploring the status of the culinary scene in Reykjavik, where I ate the most wonderful fish and pastries. Mývatn is another region I’d like to return to, especially its Nature Baths.
Finally, I want to sit down with a cup of hot chocolate and a slice of volcanic bread in Akureyri, a city I fell in love with at first sight. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to see the Northern Lights, reminiscence, but also look with hope towards the future.
Returning to Iquitos and the Peruvian Rainforest
There is a saying in the rainforest that the jungle hugs you or spits you out. There is nothing in between. In my case, the Peruvian Amazon embraced me with a fervor that captured my heart and soul, thus ensuring my return for a lifetime of adventures with nature.
This region, perfumed with the damp smell of soil carried on warm humid breezes, is home to a myriad of plant and wildlife species. There is no greater diversity of life in the world than here in the Amazon, home to more than 10,000 species of mammals, 575 bird species, and 20,000 species of plants. I still need to photograph the owl monkeys, blue and gold macaws, pink dolphins, and the elusive jaguar. My experiences will form the basis of an e-book series on the Peruvian rainforest.
International flights start in October from other South American countries followed by a gradual re-opening to more countries. I can’t wait to visit and plan to be on one of the first planes back to Peru, making my return to the Grand Amazon Lodge, which I prematurely left in mid-March due to the country closing its borders. I hurriedly left Peru on the last Delta flight to the United States with the help of my Peruvian naturalist, Willy. However, over 13,525 other Americans as of September 30, 2020, were not so lucky, eventually being repatriated with the help of the U.S. American Embassy in Lima.
I want to immerse in the Amazon with walks in the rainforest and boat safari treks, with the expert guidance of naturalists like Willy. I want to visit the Yaguas and riberenos villages. I want to taste the flavors of the jungle again, while hugging the Amazonian spirit.
I want to go back to Peru.
London is calling my name
Once I can travel again, I look forward to going back to this big, busy, bustling home of Big Ben. It’s calling me not because it is new or unknown but because of the familiarity that numerous visits have imparted. I have passed through often – sometimes just to catch a connecting flight, other times for a quick day or two layover, and occasionally for longer stays.
I live on the East Coast of the U.S. and my home airport is a hub for American Airlines. This means that more often than not, trips to most locations in Europe involve a flight change at Heathrow Airport. As a result, both the airport and the city where it is located have become quite comfortable for me.
London has become my bridge from the routine to the unfamiliar as I explore new facets of European culture. After an uncomfortable overnight flight with little sleep, it’s OK if my wits are less than sharp as I make my way into the city on the tube. There is no language barrier to strain my muddled brain, and since I normally stay in the same neighborhood of Earl’s Court, I don’t have to give it too much thought about where to get off and how to get to my accommodations.
Even if I am only passing through for a day or two, I can always find something interesting to do. I have my favorite activities in London, like taking in a concert at Royal Albert Hall or a show in the West End, and I try to have a special afternoon tea every time (Fortnum and Mason is my favorite.) A walk along the Thames on the South Bank or a stroll through Kew Gardens is always enjoyable, as is a plate of fish n chips at a neighborhood pub. With the excellent underground system, I can easily get around town on my own with very little effort.
Yes, London is calling my name, and once I can answer, I will know that my traveling life is back to normal. Cheers.
Smitten with San Sebastian
When Jerry and I returned home from the Basque region of northern Spain last February, we didn’t realize the trip would be the last one we would be taking for at least a year—or, perhaps, longer. But like fine wines, our memories of the trip have aged well.
In San Sebastian, we fell in love with the sandy, crescent-shaped La Concha beach set on the aquamarine waters of the Bay of Biscay. The winter air was crisp as we basked (basque-ed?) in the warm sun, strolling the stretch of the promenade encircling the beach. We crawled the cobblestone streets of the old town, tasting different types of pintxos (small pieces of bread with different food toppings), a gastronomic delicacy of the region. A visit to these crowded, hole-in-the-wall taverns is inherently social, a place to meet old friends and make new ones. A mecca for food lovers, San Sebastian boasts restaurants totaling 16-Michelin stars, alas most closed for the winter season.
We took day trips to visit the iconic Guggenheim museum in nearby Bilbao, the seaside villages of French Basque Country just across the border, and met with local producers of Idiazabal cheese and Txakoli wine in the lush countryside outside the city.
Our homebase was the historic, 5-star hotel, Belle Époque-style Hotel Maria Cristina—located in the center of San Sebastian. One of the nicest properties we’ve stayed in anywhere, everything was pitch-perfect—from the exquisite design and decor, to the impressive food and beverages, to the bespoke service. We later learned that during the lockdown, the hotel was used temporarily to house COVID patients.
A psychological concept called the “recency effect” suggests that people better remember more recent experiences. We wonder whether our rich and vivid memories of the people, place, culture and landscapes of Basque Country are such because it was our last trip before the pandemic. We are eager to test this hypothesis and can’t wait to visit again as soon as circumstances permit.
—Irene S. Levine
A Grand Tour
Dublin. Oslo. London. Paris. Zurich. Vienna. Istanbul. Mumbai. Dubai. Nairobi. Johannesburg. Quebec City. Saint John. Saint Johns. Vancouver. New York. San Francisco. Not to mention all the in-betweens. Add the enduring friendships forged along the way and the strangers who eased my travels with kindness. How do I choose where to travel first, when past adventures tease memories that flirt with my senses?
When I close my eyes, not only can I envision Mumbai’s flower market but also conjure the enticing scents permeating it. I see the dapper Irish gentleman who taught my husband to fold in the side mirror and squeeze by on a dirt byway in the Burren—and when we were window to window, stopped, smiled, looked at Tom’s white-knuckled grip on the wheel, and trilled Relax. And I chuckle about standing next to Benedict Cumberbatch at the Chelsea Garden Show and not knowing it.
I see the Polish woman I met in Davos, as we both alternated glances between a trail map and the foggy white slopes, and decided we’d be safer skiing together. I see the limping man with the crooked body who helped me cross a Jaipur street safely, when I was hobbled and using a cane. I remember connecting over wine—a universal language—when seated with French-speaking tablemates aboard a combo cargo-cruise ship on the St. Lawrence. And I remember the laughs and meals shared with my cyber-twin, a Canadian chef in Paris who I met on Facebook, later met in person, and still visit whenever I’m anywhere in the ‘hood
I scan through photos of African safaris, and reminisce watching wildebeests worry to and fro waiting for one to break away and cross the Mara River; being charged by an elephant in musthe; and coming within petting distance of a lion. Images of the Northern Lights awaken memories of lying on frozen tundra at 48 below in Manitoba as well as of catching fresh crab and feasting on it in northern Norway before a winter Hurtigruten cruise. Yet more images trigger yearnings to nibble and nosh through European Christmas Markets and to ski village to village in the Alps, savoring long lunches with wine lubricating a hearty cheese-and-ham dish.
Although I treasure each experience, I crave more than photographs and memories, but asking about where I can’t wait to visit first when this pandemic ends seems a Sophie’s choice.
Perhaps, instead of looking back, I should just open a map, close my eyes, and choose wherever my finger lands.
Featured photo for Places We Can’t Wait to Visit (at top) by Tom Fakler: Lake Oeschinen, in the UNESCO World Heritage Bernese Oberland, a year-round destination
What are some of the places you can’t wait to visit?
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