Here is the first half of the very best trips we’ve ever taken. They’re in random order but we talk about these trips more than any of the others.
We did this right as the country was opening up. The capital, Yangon, was interesting; and Bagan, with over 2,000 pagoda temples, was something to see. The highlights of the trip was Inle Lake; very large with many different, fascinating areas. Huge underwater tomato farms and all the peoples’ homes, as well as factories and stores, are built on stilt platforms over the water, even our hotel.
The people were open and friendly, always anxious to help; and the boatmen, who moved the paddle with one foot, were intriguing. Perhaps best of all was our guide, Wawa, who made the trip a delight.
Crossing from Chile to Argentina
It took all day and involved three different buses and two different boats. Although we didn’t have a personal guide, somehow we got shepherded from one transportation mode to the other.
We left from Puerto Monat, Chile, on a bus to get to the first lake. We actually started the trip in Santiago, which was a delightful city with a fabulous ice cream parlor next to our hotel. It was a great warm, sunny day, which always helps. After eight hours on five different vehicles, we ended up in Beriloche, Argentina. A great ski resort—warm on the bottom; snow and cold on top. We had to be evacuated from our snow-bound lunch stop by a four-wheel jeep to the cable car.
Rafting Down the Grand Canyon
Strap five large Navy pontoons together with wooden platforms to hold about 15 to 18 people along with storage boxes to hold the provisions for three meals a day and a small outbound motor to help the main guide steer and you have the ingredients for an exciting eight days on the Colorado River.
Bouncing through rapids and dipping in the cool Colorado River was great fun, as well as short hikes to Havasu Falls and the little Colorado River with unexpected, almost spa-like warm waters.
The Cities of Spain and Don Quixote
The highlights of our trip to Spain were the art, culture and history of their great cities. It was all enhanced by a terrific tour guide from Tauck.
Seville, with their horse-drawn carriages and the architecture, was a romantic interlude on a long bus trip.
Alhambra, at least for me, was perhaps the premier stop. The exciting intersection of the three religions all converging was an enriching bit of history. The Christians, Jews and Muslims all contributed to the continuing evolvement of the massive church. What a wonder!
Then Madrid, with wonderful museums and restaurants; and I don’t want to forget Barcelona, a great modern city on the Mediterranean.
Barging Down the French Canals
It started and ended in Dijon, France, where they grow the seeds for Dijon Mustard. We bused up northeast about 60 miles to board our 22-passenger barge. They stored our suitcases in the engine room because the cabins were so small; you had to get dressed one at a time.
Every lunch and dinner featured local, freshly-prepared produce, wine and cheeses. As you might imagine, the food was wonderful. You could walk faster than the barge moved through the narrow canals and through 14 locks.
There were tours most days to small towns in the region and bicycles available to strike out on your own. The highlight was the wonderful four couples from Vancouver who adopted us on the cruise.
Visiting our nation’s capital is an eye-opening, enriching experience. There are so many hidden gems to explore, it takes more than one trip.
Of course, the Capitol Building, where congress meets, the White House, and all the fantastic monuments are great sights to see and expand your patriotic spirit. I think the Lincoln Monument is the most impressive, heart-rendering of them all.
But then there is the National Portrait Gallery, the unbelievable Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian, with separate museums and the most outstanding sculpture garden you’ve ever seen.
You can see another side of D.C. if you take a grandchild and witness their enthusiasm at the Spy Museum and the FBI and Treasury buildings.
My first trip to Washington was with a group of Jaycees in 1962. We visited the White House and spoke with Ted Sorensen (JFK was busy that morning) who was about our age and the smartest contemporary I ever met. We met with Gerald Ford, then House minority leader, had lunch with John Rhodes, my Arizona congressman, and the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms, and gravely-voiced Bill Lawrence, ABC Chief Washington correspondent. It was a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at our government operations.
Besides for business, I probably visited three or four more times as a tourist.
It’s hard to capsulate the enjoyment we felt on each of these trips in a paragraph or two.
I’ll tell you about the other six next month.