Where should I go?

January 20, 2023 • 3:07 pm

My lecture trip to Cuzco, Machu Picchu, and the Galápagos has been called off because of political troubles in Peru. (I was going to talk about evolution on an alumni trip.) It was scheduled from Feb. 7-22, and it’s a good thing I didn’t buy trip insurance yet.

The trip has been rescheduled for late October/early November, but there’s no guarantee that the political turmoil will have abated then, nor that there will be enough people willing to go to put together a trip. Although I have been asked for this later trip, and have said yes, I’m not sure it will happen. Alternatively, there’s a trip in August, but only 9 days, and the Galapagos only.  That one’s more or less guaranteed, as the Galapagos are Ecuador, not Peru, but it’s shorter.  Maybe I can do both.

But the purpose of this post is not to ask readers to decide what I should do, but to suggest an alternative trip for February or March (I plan to go to Paris for a week or so in late March). Ideally, I’d go in three weeks for at least two weeks, for I am stir-crazy and need to get out of here.

Plane fares this close to departure are, of course, pricey, but I won’t let that deter me. BUT WHERE SHOULD I GO? The requirements are simple: it should be a nice place, not too hard to get to because of the press of time, but can be either in the US or in another country. It should have some attractions, not be too touristy, and ideally provide a soupçon of adventure. And the food should be decent.

Any suggestions? I am free and retired, so nothing is really off limits.

69 thoughts on “Where should I go?

  1. Hi Jerry.
    Come to New Zealand ASAP and help us to sort out science and education. We needs ya!
    David Lillis

  2. I think you might enjoy Portugal as I did a couple years ago. Fascinating country and beautiful ocean access. Good food, popular with American x-pats. I only had time for Lisbon but friends also love Porto. Good luck, nice problem to have.

    1. I went to Lisbon and Porto for a while a few years back, and loved them. Especially Porto, where I got to stay a few days with my host’s family in the Douro: they own a port-grape farm above the river. What a wonderful trip! Fantastic people, great food, and homemade port every night after a fantastic Portuguese meal cooked by an 85 year old lady. The Douro is such a beautiful region!

      1. If you go to Paris, take a few days and a rental car and drive west to Brittany and see about 35 stunning calvaires spread across the region…sitting out in the open for over 500 years! Amazing sculptures waiting to be discovered. Or how about
        Barcelona: Audi’s Parc Guell etc, plus Montanero’s amazing
        Casa de Musica! And an 18th century surgical theater, perfectly preserved. And the Sagrada Familia…but surely have already seen that????Great food too. Keep in mind that Asia is pressingly hot and overwhelmingly humid, almost unbearable.
        At 6 am in the morning it is already 85 degrees F. and 90% humidity. Latin America is mostly bearable for the morning and late afternoon, and cooler at elevations, Asia is for me is climatically intolerable, as well as much of Australia, though the birds in Australia are absurdly easy to see; you have to kick the parrots out of the way. Dangerous one lane roads out in the bush and outback make driving a challenge…not to mention driving on the left. When they paved roads they put down pavement that was exactly one steamroller width in size, no shoulder, even on major highways (of which there are only about two).Kangaroo Island burnt down though. Go to the remaining lodges outside of Brisbane up in the hills. Or the northeast coast near the Great Barrier Reef. Expert birders say PNG is extremely difficult to get around, sometimes dangerous, and outrageously expensive since you have to fly everywhere. We were advised against going there by Guy Tudor, illustrator of the large South American bird guides. I think he was right.

      1. Yes. Excellent hiking and fascinating linguistically, to say nothing of the people with more Denisovan DNA than most. And the birds, though when I was the there, the only wildlife I distinctly remember in the bush were large arachnids.

  3. Bali. Culturally interesting, tropical, people are very nice, and relatively easy to get to from any of the major airport hubs in that neck of the world. Nearly antipodal to Paris, though.

  4. Reminded by David Crosby’s death, Marrakech is still one of the great places to visit, even if the song was more about marijuana than travel. The city is fascinating and if you’re feeling energetic you can go trekking in the Atlas mountains.

    Or else come to Bahir Dar in Ethiopia, source of the Blue Nile. I can give you a bed there.

  5. My mother and sister and on a separate earlier trip my elderly neighbors have been to Sri Lanka and loved it, has plenty of the down to earth and the over the top with great people, great food and great wildlife.

  6. Japan. You can spend almost any amount of time visiting museums and eating great food in Tokyo. If you have not been to the Peace museum in Hiroshima, you must go.

    It is an incredibly interesting place, and both friendly and safe.

  7. My wife and I spent 3 weeks in Nov in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We are returning for 2 weeks in Feb, but spending a couple days in Phuket before heading to Chiang Mai again. Singapore Air Premium Economy is our favorite carrier.
    Food is varied and Chiang Mai is well known for it’s culinary scene and street foods.
    They have excellent coffee bars, a couple of Cat Cafes and many Temples, some as old as 700 years. We will only go from early Nov thru end of Feb because of the weather. Museum of World Insects is a common stop for us, Wat Phra Lat is a mountain Temple that is best arrived at by hiking Monk’s Path. Our overall plans usually avoid group tours, or touristy places. I do have a 5 page guide that I wrote up for a family member that is planning on Honeymooning in Chiang Mai, if you think you’d be interested I can forward it. Note: We completely avoid Bangkok and this will be our 1st visit to Phuket and even with that we have chosen a fairly secluded beach.

    1. I have just completed a budget analysis for the friends who are joining us in Feb. I can also forward that.

    1. Two weeks are not long enough: every time I go to India (and I’ve been there a lot), I need at least a month. The NE becksons (I’ve been to Darjeeling but want to go farther east), but Kerala also beckons.

  8. Maybe a reschedule of your canceled Hili visit to Poland from a few months ago? Great friends, great food, rustic break from chicago and paris, and i would think reasonable access to/from paris, and i do not think you have been there in person since the pandemic…at least three years. See old friends whilst you can.

    Whoops. I just saw paulina’s post #7. We cross posted so just add me as a +1 to paulina.

    1. Not knowing Paulina’s last name, I’m not sure that’s THE PAULINA who photographs the cats. I’ve written to Malgorzata to ask her. But yes, I need a replacement trip to Poland, but I’m not sure my hosts are well enough yet to receive visitors.

  9. My lecture trip to Cuzco, Machu Picchu, and the Galápagos has been called off because of political troubles in Peru.
    Sorry to hear that, but I have to admit that I’ve been concerned about the upcoming trip when seeing the news from Peru.

  10. An anthropologist friend (who has been everywhere) was recently rhapsodizing about Mexico City—the food, the sights, and the cultural attractions, with particular emphasis on the beautiful museums. I know it made me want to go!

  11. February/March is a lovely time to visit Australia. Sydney (or course), or if you’re feeling more adventurous, Tasmania.

    1. I was thinking that too. With the promise of a close encounter with Big Kittens. For the safari part Jerry would need to rent a camera with a big lens.

  12. I don’t know if you’ve been here Jerry, but you could visit Ireland, specifically Dublin, which you can do on your way to Paris. We possibly fail on the ‘not be too touristy’ criterion, but we have decent food, and ‘some attractions’, and I’m sure we can come up with a ‘soupçon of adventure’. Fáitle.

  13. I would suggest Nova Scotia, but this time of year, the areas I am familiar with (Cape Breton, Halifax) tend to touristy, and I don’t know that it is quite your cup of tea even out of season. There are some amazing hikes, national parks, and the like. Summertime on a bike is amazing.

    When I was younger, I loved winter on the Maine coast (North of Portland) and winter camping in Acadia. Again, I don’t know that it is your cup of tea.

    1. The Cabot Trail in Cape Breton is simply breathtaking in early October when the leaves turn, but you don’t need more than two days if driving. For mountains and water you can’t beat fjords in Norway. The tourist industry there is rather cutesy, but if you go off the beaten trail you’ll not want to leave. Take a fishing rod, good hiking boots and waterproofs (how it rains!)

  14. Sabah, Malaysia – previously British North Borneo – is my recommendation. See elephants, orangutans, proboscis monkeys, sun bears, crocodiles, and many more types of animals while jungle trekking. See Rafflasia flowers. The descendants of Sabah’s most famous headhunter, Monsopiad, still display his trophies at The House of Skulls. Search “Sabah Tourism”. And – most appealing – Sabah is home to the best bagels in the Eastern Hemisphere (Bagel’ Off Sabah)!

  15. I visited Lima, Cuzco and Machu Picchu when the Shining Path were active. They regularly cut off electricity all over the place and stopped people living their ordinary lives from going into Lima. There were a lot of heavily armed men around, including on trains. Terrorists tend to diminish the number of tourists. I don’t recommend you change your plans but on other occasions too I’ve managed to visit some wonderful places deserted by tourists because of the activities of dangerous people…

  16. Hi Jerry – Start your Paris trip early and stay there for at least a month or two. Long stays are are better and you can relax and get a real feeling for the city, people, country. We were just there for two months and spent the entire time just in Paris. However, there are many great side trips you can take in any direction. There are many options on renting a flat (from Airbnb or such, or a local agency). Email me if you want details of our trip.

    1. I’ll be in Paris from March 10 to March 25, my first post-pandemic trip to the Northern hemisphere. If my dates overlap with your arrival, why don’t we meet up? Why not do a side trip, as I am, to Amsterdam to catch the great Vermeer show at the Rijksmuseum? It is billed as the biggest collection of Vermeers to be assembled under one roof, at least since the bailiffs auctioned off his works after V’s death, to pay off his debts. March 25 is the opening night in Paris for the Bastille Opera’s production of Nixon in China, with Dudamel conducting, and Renee Fleming cast as Pat Nixon.

  17. This would not be a destination in itself, but if you happen to choose somewhere near Ecuador, perhaps you could make a side trip to visit your “progeny”, Atelopus coynei.

  18. Jerry, I recommend Turkey, if you haven’t been there. Istanbul and the Aegean coast have many interesting historical sights, including more ancient Greek ruins (e.g., Ephesus) than in Greece. (Or so it is said — I haven’t been to Greece.) Very friendly people, at least in the countryside….But now I recall that you have been there, invited by Aykut Kence, I think. But there’s enough there for two trips.

    1. Hi Jerry, Doug beat me to it. Istanbul is the most amazing place. I have written a brief guide for friends who have asked me, and I would be happy to provide it. A few things, such as restaurants, that are not so ‘touristy’.

  19. If you elect to remain stateside, I highly recommend Tucson and Southern Arizona. We’ve been there in spring seven times in the last decade (and are returning for an eighth time in April), and we’ve enjoyed it every time. Food is no problem – Tucson is a UNESCO designated center of gastronomy – and it is surrounded by the wonders of the Sonoran desert (including many accessible but little known places). And while the city is kind of a patchwork of neighborhoods, there are a lot of treasures if you know where to look. And, of course, it is definitely not Phoenix.

    1. I too was thinking stateside, and would suggest New Mexico. Rent a car and hit the byways from White Sands to Carlsbad to the Valle Grande to Ghost Ranch to the Pueblos with great cuisine all along the way. And maybe spend a couple nights at Ted Turner’s Vermejo.

  20. Skip all the places that are warm now. Everyone else is there. Go to Slovenia. Start by spending a day or two in Ljubljana. You’ll fly in to there anyway. Make sure to take in the Dragon Bridge. Then go to Lake Bled, which ought to be very picturesque at this time of year, too. I picked a B&B that sounded great, and it was. It was summertime but they had lots of firewood already stacked, so winter ought to be great, too. Then either make that your base of head off to Kranjska Gora at the nexus of Slovenia, Italy and Austria, which is a ski resort that might be pricey at this time of year or not, and explore the Julian Alps just S of there. There’s at least one hostel up there, and from there explore the road into Vrsic Pass, and down into the Soca Valley / the Isonzo Front of WWI, passing fortresses from empires past, to get to the the WWI museum at Kobarid. It is rather small, and I was pressed for time & so could only spend an hour there, but I could’ve spent most of the day there. This area of the conflict is scarcely known to the West, but Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms more or less starts in this arena.

    I wound up at Kranjska Gora, completely unaware of the surrounding history, from a scientific meeting in 2008, but the experience has never left. It was not touristy then and I doubt it has become so since. Also, wherever you go to eat, order the mushroom soup.

  21. Northern Italy! It’s touristy in places like Florence and Venice, but I never considered the tourism obnoxious in those cities. There are beautiful cities with rich history without overt tourism like Padua or Treviso and other “idyllic” Italian cities. Tuscany is hard to beat for scenic beauty. The food and wine won’t disappoint (talk about an understatement), nor will any museums, or strolls around the countryside. I’ve traveled to a lot of countries (not nearly as seasoned as you) but I’ve always considered my two trips to Northern Italy a bit magical (sorry for the supernatural reference, but it’s the perfect word). Ahh, I miss it! I’ll be back one day, dammit.

    1. And Northerneastern Italy runs into Slovenia. A re-tracing of Hemingway’s trek in Farewell to Arms could be an itinerary.

  22. I know it’s not very exotic, but how about exploring The Center For Inquiry’s Freethought Trail in the Finger Lakes region of New York state?

  23. Rwanda. Quiet country, lot of wildlife (Mountain gorillas, Akagera wildlife reserve) and a place where to remember how sapiens can be terrible (genocide against the Tutsis).

  24. Hi Jerry,
    I’m not sure whether this is the kind of break you are looking for, but the Red Sea is fantastic at this time of year. You won’t enjoy the same level of cultural sophistication that Paris can offer. However, the wildlife in the Red sea is breathtaking, and anyone interested in biology should visit at some point. All you need is a snorkel (and maybe a cheap wetsuit if you get cold easily), and as soon as you pop your head underwater you’re transported to a wonderland of colour and life. The sea and air temps will both be about 24C and the weather is always sunny. It really is incredible, and the beauty has to be seen to be believed, but for a rough idea, you can view my reader’s wildlife photos from 2015: Red Sea photos.

    I’ve never met anyone who has seen the wonders of the red sea and not been flabbergasted. You’ll already be two thirds of the way there when you’re in Paris, so my advice is give it a go. You’d only need to spend a week there to experience it properly, but once you have, you’ll never regret it.


  25. Uganda. Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees, plenty of other mammals, wonderful birds such as Shoebill, and (preCOVID), excellent safari accommodation. Or Tikal in Guatemala, probably my favourite Rainforest destination. I also agree with Sabah; Papua New Guinea is probably no safer than Peru. Lastly, what about Panama? Capybaras in Panama City, Quetzals to the west, and Harpy Eagles in the Darien.

  26. Come to Ireland and you can visit Achill Island where the Banshees of Inisheerin was filmed. Also the Ceide fields, Neolithic farming from 5500 years ago. All very quiet at this time of year Plenty of excellent restaurants and pubs. Can’t guarantee the weather as always very changeable. Yesterday -2C but today +10C. Easy trip from Chicago to Shannon on the West coast.

  27. If you still wanted to head south, Belize is a fascinating spot. Can spend 1 week in the west of the country in the jungle exploring caves, tubing, and listening to Howler monkeys. Then 1 week on the beach on the coast with excellent diving/snorkeling.

  28. ¡Come Back to Tenerife and Canary Islands! It’s pretty touristy, but that can be esily avoided, especially if you drive; you can have the benefits from the two sides of it. You can choose and stay in a nice tourist hotel and use as your base camp for exploring the island(s). You can also stay in a country home or hotel. Food here is fantastic and internationally varied, we have lots of italian restaurants (I have been in Italy twice in the last years, and I haven’t eaten better than here), brazilian rodizio… and of corse local foods and restaurants. It’s only for “adventure” that I have my doubts, as I think it would be mostly a matter of personal taste: here it would be mostly nature hikes, in which you would be surprised of the variances along such a small territory, and there’s also paragliding and such things, but I suspect that’s not what you are looking for.

  29. Go somewhere where people are friendly: Italy, Ireland, Brazil. Iguassu Falls in Brazil is one of the GREAT PLACES ON EARTH, a Garden of Eden (stay on the Argentine side, not Brazilian), and then visit the wonderful hill towns north of Sao Paolo especially Ouro Preto, truly a world treasure of baroque churches. Italy? Anywhere!
    If you havent spent much time in Rome, then go there: See Rome and Die. Art,
    architecture, history, food, Italians, easy to walk around the centro storico on foot, take in Pietro da Cortona and Caravaggio, hang out in any piazza especially the Campidoglio, most beautiful piazza on earth. Ireland: the pubs alone and the Irish gift of gab justify Dublin or just about anywhere. Or Andalucia, especially Granada and Cordoba, the one place my late and husband and I never got to, regrettably (rent a car and visit the wonderful little medieval towns in Andalucia). For nature, go to the Pantanal in Brazil or the Great Barrier Reef in north Australia or the Camargue in southern France. For scenery and food, the Adriatic coast of Croatia with its delightful towns, Roman relics, delicious seafood and great scenery….a wonderful combination, restful, safe, scenic, friendly. Or Sicily.

  30. Go to Amsterdam and see the Vermeer Exhibition.https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/whats-on/exhibitions/vermeer This will be the biggest ever exhibition devoted exclusively to the master painter of Delft, with a total of 28 paintings from countries all over the world, including Japan and the US. In many cases, this will be the first time they are exhibited in the Netherlands. They include three works from the Frick Collection in New York, as well as the recently restored Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window from the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden and The Glass of Wine from the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. Other highlights include the world-famous Girl with a Pearl Earring from the Mauritshuis in The Hague, The Lacemaker from the Louvre in Paris, and Woman Holding a Balance from The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

  31. Trying to think outside the box, since I imagine you’ve been almost everywhere… Quebec City is nice and has great food.

    Looking forward to your Paris photos. Might I recommend Les Deux Magots for a chocolat viennois.

  32. Have you been to Asheville, home of Thomas Wolfe? A little south in Hendersonville, you can even see an angel – looking homeward, towards Asheville, of course. I hear the food is good; maybe check that with Obama – he came here once for the ribs, I hear.

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