Monday, June 6, 2016

Five of my most memorable travels...

Bill and I have been really lucky.  We've both gotten to see some pretty amazing places, both together and apart.  Before I married Bill, I was an Air Force brat.  Then I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia.  My parents didn't take me on a lot of trips when I was a kid.  I think they relished having time alone, since I was their youngest.  However, because of their travels, my experience living in England and seeing Tunisia, and my sister's globe trotting experiences and Peace Corps experiences, I was inspired to also be a Volunteer.

While I can't say I was the most dedicated Peace Corps Volunteer, I can say that the experience changed my life for the better in many ways.  One way it changed me was by waking the travel bug within me.  I've gotten to see some pretty extraordinary places, though Bill's experiences in AFRICOM are starting to eclipse mine.  So I thought today, I'd write a short piece about some of my favorite and most memorable travels so far.

5. Turkey and Bulgaria- 

About twenty years ago, Peace Corps friend and I took a bus trip from Yerevan, Armenia to Istanbul, Turkey.  In those days, life in the former Soviet Union was still pretty primitive.  It was also cheap.  My friend had loaned me the money for the trip... $500 in cash.  And it was PLENTY of money, especially once we got to Turkey and I had access to an ATM.

Northeastern Turkey is extraordinarily beautiful place.  I probably felt that way especially since we went through the border crossing from hell between Georgia and Turkey.  Suddenly, traffic lights worked and there were minarets everywhere instead of churches.  As we passed through Turkey on our primitive Armenian bus (on which we were the only Americans), I gazed at the gorgeous landscape.  It was like being in a fairyland.

We visited Bulgaria on that trip and spent some time in Sofia.  Then we went to Sozopol, which in 1996, was a very cheap resort on the Black Sea.  I understand it's gotten a lot more popular since our visit twenty years ago.  I'd love to go back, though...  Sozopol is beautiful.  We spent three weeks on our Turkey and Bulgaria trip and I'm hoping to return someday.


Here's the proof...

4.  Pinasca, Italy-

Bill and I visited beautiful Bella Baita in 2008, when we lived in Germany the first time.  Bella Baita is an adorable little B&B six kilometers up an Alpine mountain.  It was a very special trip.  We found it when we were looking for accommodations near Turin.  Bella Baita is actually about 30 km from Turin, but it turned out to be a great place to unwind.  Run by an American and Italian couple who are chefs, Bella Baita offers some very unique experiences, as well as a very authentic taste of a real Italian lifestyle.  Best of all, Bella Baita is very economical and the town of Pinerolo, which is not far at all, offers wonderful restaurants, charm, and a great farmer's market.  If you arrange a cooking lesson, Marla and Fabrizio will take you to the market to pick up your ingredients.


The view of the French Alps from Bella Baita...

3.  Sanda, Scotland-

Sanda is a privately owned island off of Argyll and Bute in Scotland.  Bill and I have visited there twice.  What makes this place memorable, besides the fact that it's pretty much uninhabited, is that both times we've visited, there have been some seals there to put on a show...


A natural formation...


And one of many seals!

Sanda is unspoiled and ruggedly beautiful.  Both times we've visited, we've gone via a Hebridean Cruise.  Hebridean Cruises are special in and of themselves, though they are not cheap.  We were onboard in March 2016 and I'm already pining for my next voyage.

2.  Slovenia and Croatia-

Bill and I just got back from our first visit to Slovenia.  We've seen a lot of Europe, but I think Slovenia is now one of our favorite places.  It's right next to Austria and Italy, yet isn't really like either of those places.  There are good wines, exotic foods, friendly people, and affordable prices... not to mention some stunning scenery.  Slovenia is also very close to Croatia.  We haven't had the chance to explore Croatia for more than a couple of hours, but it's definitely now on the list.  I have a feeling we'll love it as much or more than Slovenia.


Beautiful Vintgar Gorge.  Next time we go to Slovenia, we're hitting Lake Bohinj!

1.  Armenia-

I have to mention Armenia.  I lived there for twenty-seven months in the 90s and haven't yet been back.  Nevertheless, my memories of Armenia have been a big part of my life for twenty years.  I made some good friends, Armenian and American, and saw some awesome places that were not sullied by tourism.  Of course, things have changed a lot since the 90s, though I still remember people from there and they remember me.

Something tells me that if I visit Armenia, it will be an unforgettable trip.  And if you are a Christian, it's an especially fascinating be.  Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion.  If you like good wine, good barbecue, fresh lavash, and excellent brandy, Armenia is your place.  And the people really are some of the warmest, most hospitable people you'll ever meet.


Lake Sevan-- courtesy of photo-armenia.com.

I really would love to take Bill to Armenia and show him some of my favorite places...  Hopefully, I still remember some of the language!
  






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