Our Trilogy Members have traveled the world – several times over!  Between family trips, romantic getaways, adventures with good friends, business travel, and journeys of discovery, they’ve experienced the food, drink, scenery, and culture of countless countries.

Even with so many stamps on their passports, most of our Members still have that one special place that stands out in their minds as being their all-around favorite travel experience.  Perhaps it is a memorable meal, a breathtaking view, or a warm and welcoming vibe from the locals that makes this destination stand out in their minds.  Or, it may be that their eyes and minds were opened in a way that only travel to a new and different land can do.

In this first installment of “The Best Place I’ve Ever Visited,” five Trilogy Members share memories of their favorite places around the world.  We had so many great responses, that the rest will be shared in part 2 of this series later this month!

Happy travels!

 

Jo Ella Allen of Trilogy at the Vineyards

After one very steep turn, our small plane stuffed with nine people landed on the dirt airstrip of the Serengeti.  Four of us piled out and were greeted by our ranger with an offer of much needed cold refreshments.  Suddenly the plane turned and lifted into the air for its destination in the outer reaches of Tanzania.  We looked about and felt a bit unnerved being left here in the middle of the savannah. We quickly climbed into the high riding seats of our vehicle for the continued journey to our lodge.

Upon pulling away from the airstrip, a small pride of lions were pointed out to us in the shade of a nearby tree and a short distance on there were two giraffes eating the leaves of an acacia tree.  It was a pleasure to see them so close and so real, but it was not the big bang I was anticipating. As we moved slowly forward I found that I was full of curiosity, glancing here and there while the dirt road bumped us left and then right.  We saw no more animals; all we were seeing were trees and shrubs, and so we took the opportunity to share information about ourselves with our fellow adventurers.  We discussed how the trip was good so far:  seeing Mt. Kilimanjaro up close was beautiful, the city of Arusha was fascinating, the coffee lodge where we stayed last night was glorious, and seeing the Masi villages dotting the huge open barren landscape as we flew over was definitely a new experience.  But something was still missing and yet to come.

We continued to bump along until we topped a ridge where my heart stopped.  There spread out in front of me was a sight that touched my very soul.  You could see from this prominence all the way to Kenya, and in that vast wilderness were hundreds, no thousands of animals.  Gazelles, elephants, wildebeest, zebras, antelope, elans, ostrich, and giraffes were all moving together, eating, twitching their ears, alerting their tails and making small communications with each other.  The more I looked the more I saw: there a large pride of lions basking in the sun, and there a huge bull elephant, and there a lone Thompson’s gazelle looking for his family.   As I watched I felt my pulse change to a deeper rhythm of life and a feeling of both excitement and fear filled my every thought.   We moved on and the landscape poured forth more and more animals, more than I had ever seen in my life.  Each one was beautiful, alive, and watching.  I felt like they were all there for me to have the chance to be part of their lives.  It was magnificent.

What happened to the four of us as we drove on is that we became a part of the animals – their watching and anticipation.  Our vision grew and our senses soared as we entered deeper and deeper into Africa. We all looked at each other and without saying a word we knew that we were fortunate beyond description.  Soaring above us was the powerful black eagle and on the ground getting his share of the final life of a zebra was the mournful undertaker bird.  The sights, sounds and feel were nothing if not pure strong life.  When I think of the yellow eyes of the leopard only feet from me, meeting me face to face before turning to disappear in the grass, or the sheer majesty of the faces of three cheetahs so close I could reach out to them if I dared, or the graceful movements of the giraffe and its baby as they moved away from the snorting and restless hyena,  I am filled with wonderment.   Being surrounded by a family of elephants as they escort a newborn to the water hole or watching the lone female lion take down a zebra by herself makes you want to shout to the whole world:  Come to Africa! You must not miss this!

In the evening, in the open lodge, I sat spellbound as I looked out the huge windows along the valley below and I listened to the calls of the zebra and the low muffles of the elephants and the ringing of the bells of the Masi animals on their way back to the boma.  My eyes followed along the ridge and up the river valley and I saw the misty hills of Kenya in the far distance as the sun set, turning the sky the deepest indigo blue fringe on the horizon with an orange color I cannot describe.  It was there in that moment that a feeling of contentment settled over me, and the very honor of being there stung my eyes.

Now I understand Hemingway when he said:  “All I wanted to do now was get back to Africa.  We had not left it yet, but when I would wake in the night, I would lie, listening, homesick for it already.”

 

Linda Boswell of Encanterra

My name is Linda Boswell, and I am a Leisure Travel Advisor for CWT Vacations, Carlson Wagonlit Travel.  I have been in the industry for over 30 years and experienced so many places that I loved!  But there is one place that I have been to at least six times, and I would visit again and again when in the south of France.  That is the small, medieval village of Eze.  The village is not far from Nice and it is mostly pedestrian, it is termed the “Eagles nest” by the locals because of its location 1401 feet above the Mediterranean Sea. With its narrow roads, archways, superbly restored stone houses, and refreshing ancient fountains, visitors are quickly seduced by the marvels of Eze. The village is so beautiful, you would almost believe you have stumbled onto a movie set! The numerous small arts and crafts boutiques are hard to resist… some of them are like tiny caves dug out of the rocky hillside. The streets of this medieval village have witnessed its historic past. The two lookout towers at the entrance, the doorway, and the gunboat are all classified as historic monuments.

On my last visit, I was so very fortunate to be invited for lunch at the three star Michelin Restaurant at the Chateau Eza.  We had a private terrace overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean Sea.  Every afternoon, the Chauteau Eza offers the ‘Menu du Château’, with a three or four course chef selected lunch. It was something I had never experienced before, and was absolutely delicious. After lunch, we toured the Chateau Eza’s ten room hotel, which was the former residence of the Prince of Sweden.  Most of the rooms have a balcony with sea views. It is one of CWT Vacations Virtuoso properties for the area, and all the rooms were recently renovated last winter. That day will go down in my memory as one of the best afternoons I have ever spent.

My favorite saying is, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take in, but the moments that take your breath away”.  Eze does take your breath away.

 

Sandra Zipf of Trilogy at Vistancia

Five years ago, my husband and I flew into Berlin, Germany. He had been stationed in Berlin in the past, and that is where we were married.  We spent two days revisiting family and old haunts.  The next day we drove to Regensburg for lunch, then onward to Munich where I had graduated from Munich American High School.  (My dad was in the army). After two days in Munich, we drove to Salzburg (the setting of The Sound of Music). From there we stopped at the Zipfer Brewery (no relationship to my last name, Zipf). We toured the brewery and had the best gulash ever. From there we spent two awesome days sightseeing in Vienna. Both of our fathers immigrated to the United States from Budapest, so that was our next two-day stop.  We both remember how delicious our pork and goose dinners were in Budapest.  Our last stop on this incredible trip was Prague.  It was all so awesome that we are going back this year and taking our two grown-up kids with us this time.  Sweet!

 

Mary Brink of Trilogy at Vistancia

We have two favorite trips and it would be difficult to say which would be the favorite.

Our first favorite trip was to the Antarctic in 2006 via Buenos Aires and Ushuaia.  The name of the ship was the Marco Polo (a converted ice breaker).  We had wonderful naturalists on board who led us on amazing day trips.  We took Zodiaks to several points of interest on the Antarctic Peninsula. There we saw the various species of penguins and other fantastic animals that live there, not to mention great views of icebergs, glaciers, and ice fields.

Our other favorite trip was a 31-day cruise in 2010 to the South Pacific!  The ship was the Sapphire Princess – a great ship!  We departed San Francisco and sailed to Hawaii where we spent a few days. Then our ship sailed south for several days until we reached Moorea, Tahiti, Bora Bora, the Samoas, Fiji, then both islands of New Zealand.  We visited several cities along the way and then made our last stop in Sydney. We met wonderful people, saw great sights, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

 

Dianne Donegan of Trilogy Orlando

What is the best place you’ve ever visited?  That is a very hard question for most world travelers.  There are so many “bests” for many different reasons!

Here are a few of my favorites.

Loch Lomond in Scotland is a favorite for its quiet beauty.  I remember taking my shoes off on a hot day by the lake in plain view of a singing waterfall (my only company), sitting down on a small rock, putting my feet in the water, and just pondering this peaceful moment in a world of chaos.  There was no one else in sight; everyone had gone on a hike and this awesome moment was mine alone!

In Turkey, I was on a gulet, which is like a small yacht with cabins underneath and seating on the deck.  I decided to sleep outside on one of the half-moon sofas up top because the cabins were rather small and warm.  I’ll never forget lying down on this refreshingly cold evening (blanket in hand) and, rather than waste this once-in-a-lifetime moment sleeping, I just looked up at the starry sky with wonder and amazement and a sense of the magic of our planet.  It was there that I saw my first shooting star!  The night was crystal clear, the sky a deep, deep blue, and I was all alone on the deck.  Everyone was downstairs cozy and sound asleep and I felt like I had the whole world to myself.  The quietness was deafening.  Our gulet was the only boat in this serene little cove in the middle of nowhere.  I wish I could have put this experience in a jar and savored it forever.

Then, there are the African safaris.  Can anyone deny that the amazing creatures that permeate the plains, savannahs and bush make for the best vacations ever?  I even got to hold a lion cub.  You would never think such a baby could have paws the size of a small woman’s hands.  Yes, he was heavy and, even though he was not my brother, he was another living, breathing awesome creature just like me for sure!  Every time I think of this a big smile appears on my otherwise serious face.  Another semi-miracle moment was feeding a very tall giraffe.  His tongue was almost as long as he was!

In Thailand, I held a very slimy python around my neck.  If I knew then what I know now, I can assure you I would have thought twice.  However, it was truly an exhilarating experience!  That guy was heavy!!

My husband and I were having fun snorkeling in the waters of the Galapagos Islands when suddenly the “Beach Master” (the very large patriarch of a seal family) decided to come in from the shore and chase us away.  I never swam so fast in my life!  He barked ten times louder than a dog!  Where else can you walk among land and sea iguanas, seals and their pups, giant tortoises and colorful Sally Lightfoot crabs?  The incomparable Albatross of  “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” fame is a sight to behold, not to mention the Frigate Bird with his balloon shaped pouch protruding from his neck to attract a mate, as well as the Blue and Red Footed Boobies.  Did you know that there are penguins on the Galapagos Islands?  Yup – small ones!

If anyone is looking for paradise, I have found it in French Polynesia!  There are many islands that make up this archipelago:  Moorea, Raiatea, Huahine, Tahaa, and the Queen of them all – Bora Bora.  There are no words to express the beauty of these islands.  From the most bluish-green, calm waters you’ve ever seen to the heavenly ambience of the land itself, Tahiti must be a sample of God’s world on earth!  Here we swam with dolphins, fed sharks, and watched with awe the underwater world straight from the glass floor of our thatched bungalow.  Last, but not least, we stood among stingrays swimming around and between our legs and fed them, watching their ravenous appetites devour everything we threw their way.

I could go on and on.  But, if you let me, I would just like to add a few more wonderful aspects of some other vacations we have taken.

  • New Zealand – for its pristine countryside because of strict immigration laws.
  • China – for its magnificent education of a totally different culture.
  • Egypt – for its preservation and record of ancient history.  (We rode camels at the Pyramids, but that’s a different story for another time.  For me anyway – never again!)
  • And, not to leave our beautiful country, the USA, out of the running – Alaska!  It surprised us how beautiful it really is and how much there was to see.    Being driven by a dog sled, high up on the glaciers, was a thrilling ride we will never forget.

 

Please stay tuned for the second part of the “Best Place I’ve Ever Visited” series later this month!  Five more Trilogy members will share their experiences getting to know this wonderful world!