I’ve been told that my Antarctic cruise employers don’t require lecturers this year, so my fall/winter speaking gig in Antarctica is off, much to my distress. I was also invited to the Netherlands to speak, but then the invitation was rescinded because it was a Dutch meeting and, they said, they didn’t require “an American point of view” (the topic was religion vs. science).
Although I’m doing a alumni lecture tour of the Galápagos in August, which is fantastic, that’s only for nine days. Ergo, I need some places to go for R&R this summer/fall/winter, and am crowdsourcing ideas. Here are places I’ve thought of:
New Zealand. I’ve never properly seen the North Island, but my eagerness to go has been dampened since Heather Hastie died.
South Africa. I need to see the Big Animals before I die, and although South Africa is reputed to be less safe than other African countries, I know people there and the animals are numerous.
Israel. I’ve always wanted to see Israel for myself, and, being small, it’s a good country to visit for a couple of weeks, as one can see a lot.
Antarctica (paying my own way). The problem is that this is quite pricey, but I do need to see the island of South Georgia before I die. It has a huge colony of king penguins and is, of course, the place where Shackleton is buried.
I haven’t thought much about other foreign destinations, and am open to suggestions. I had considered Nepal again (I’ve hiked to the base of Everest twice and to Annapurna once), but I realize now that I’m pretty old to do this (I always carry my own gear and don’t want to hire porters).
And then, of course, there’s the U.S., and there are a lot of places to think about. I love New Mexico, but it’s best in the spring and fall. I’ve always dreamed of renting a car and driving the Blues Trail down through Mississippi down to Louisiana (eating on the way, of course), and I’ve never been Savannah, Georgia, which is supposed to be lovely—a more southern version of Charleston, South Carolina, which I have visited.
The only requirements for foreign travel is that the place be interesting and have good food. Food is also a sine qua non for domestic travel, but there are few places in America where you can’t find a good nosh.
Feel free to suggest places to visit, but remember that they have to be more than places you’ve liked: they have to be places I’d like, too. Tastes differ!
Here’s South Georgia:
60 thoughts on “Where should I go?”
Uzbekistan. I just went there, simply fanatastic history and monuments, and relatively free of American tourists (I suspect that they think that anywhere with “stan” in the name is a terrorist state). Lots of tours aimed at older, less agile folks from UK companies (and you can join in by getting there by yourself, I went with Jules Verne). Food a bit bland (mainly beef, carrots and potatoes), but you can’t have everything.
How about Japan or Thailand?
Paradise. Take your pick of the islands and atolls of Oceania.
‘…they didn’t require “an American point of view” (the topic was religion vs. science).’
Ceiling cat help me. So now we (I’m Dutch) are only interested in Dutch points of view and not in those of someone who wrote a great book on the topic?
Can you disclose which organization this concerns? Just curious.
Oh no! He’s been cancelled!
No, seriously, what are the odds someone read WEIT and discovered it’s not doctrinaire on wokiness?
No, I’d prefer not to give the name of the organization. I don’t think there is a particularly Dutch point of view on the issue. For example, one of the best books on the topic, which seems to have a universal skeptical point of view, is Herman Philipse’s God in the Age of Science?: A Critique of Religious Reason. Philipse’s is Dutch, who works at the University of Utrecht.
South Africa or Africa as a means to see the great beasts is a great idea!
(even though Panthera tigris is not in Africa….)
South Africa. (First)
That’s got my vote. And he needs to rent a camera with a big ‘ol lens. The next topic should be which camera? Which lens(es)? Oh boy oh boy oh boy!
Probably better to rent in-country if you can. The insurance fees will probably be lower, it’s less air freight, less risk of being baggage-handled.
– Which camera? Whatever body you’re used to already.
– Which lens(-es)? What options for the camera system you’re familiar with, are available in-country. That’ll trim the options a lot. Big telephoto, possibly with a small degree of zoom, on your body’s bayonet mount ; bring a shorter, zooming lens for people and near-range shots. Anything you’re familiar with if you do close-up work.
One of the thing you don’t want to be doing while you’re grokking the wildlife, is trying to remember how to focus-lock on this camera.
Well there is now a non-stop ORD to Tel Aviv, so that’s probably the quickest. Friends and family who have been there have loved both New Zealand and South Africa. I don’t know how the danger level is in SA, but it might be focal rather than systemic, akin to straying too far from your Hyde Park base at night. Have not heard of problems from tourists that I know, but none of them have gone on the cheap.
Although I am not a fan of its government policy regarding Israel, my wonderful wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Luxembourg and surrounding countries in 2014. That’s not a place high on most tourist lists, so you can actually get a feel for life in another country.
Surprised that no one has mentioned Australia. Animals of many unique sorts and totally amazing birds. Enormously variable different parts of the country. You want penguins? They have penguins. Beautiful trees.
Exactly. Come to Melbourne. Phillip Island is a couple of hours south, where you can see the penguin parade and there’s a koala reserve with a treetop walkway.
There’s also Tasmania, where you can climb Mount Wellington (as Darwin did!), visit a Tassie devil reserve just outside of Hobart, and see Port Arthur (a former prison colony where they sent you if Sydney couldn’t handle you).
I’m from Memphis, Tennessee and have worked a job that required me to travel all throughout Mississippi so I’ll add two cents on that. Off the bat I don’t think that’s the best trip idea especially compared to the more “exotic” places you’ve suggested but it would be inexpensive and you’re probably much more familiar with blues than I am (my taste in rock music is similar to yours so I appreciate its influence but I don’t actively listen to blues and am multiple generations your junior). So although I’ve been to several of the towns mentioned in the Blues Trail Wiki I’ve never actively gone to most of the monuments. I suspect you’d be traveling through a lot of rural towns that would largely blend in together. The food would undoubtedly be good throughout though. BBQ, catfish, grits and okra are some favorites of mine. If you’re going towards Louisiana/coastal Mississippi I suppose you’d have to get some crayfish (I’m allergic so can only report that many of my friends love a good crayfish boil). If you go to Memphis specifically you should probably check out Graceland, the Stax Museum (I don’t know if Sun Studios and Ardent allow tours), Beale Street (no particular restaurant) and there’s lots of BBQ places, I don’t have a favorite. If you go to the Delta my only specific recommendation is to get a meal at Ground Zero in Clarksdale. Make sure you catch it when they have live music (Wikipedia says this is only Wednesday – Saturday).
I agree that Mississippi and its surrounds may not have the panache of some of the other ideas here, but it’s certainly worth considering, and if so, consider expanding it a bit to include a trip down the Natchez Trace. If you could get a one way car rental, you could fly into Nashville, get started with the best breakfast in America at The Loveless Café, and then drive one of the least traveled scenic highways in the country to Vicksburg and/or Natchez, where you can start hitting the blues spots. When you’re done, fly home from New Orleans. And for food opportunities, see Anthony Bourdain’s episode of Parts Unknown on the Mississippi delta (Season 3, Episode 6, available for purchase ($3.00) on Amazon Prime). IMO, it was one of his best.
As someone who spends each summer in rural Mississippi, I would ask “Why on earth would anyone go to Memphis!?” Goodness. The police are almost as bad as the criminals!
I will echo a bit of what Nick says: a lot of similarity from one small town to the next. The cultural differences from the North that one could still readily see and hear as a visitor even three decades ago have diminished somewhat. I miss the Southern charm, pride, mannerisms, and diction of the now deceased generations; on the other hand, they also brought to their graves a great deal of what most Northerners know Mississippi for. The poverty is still visible and widespread but, again, things have improved significantly.
I frequently have my radio tuned to BB King’s Bluesville, but I am somewhat allergic to live venues. I know there must be some Blues aficionados here who can speak to details, so I will simply mention that any trip might be best scheduled to coincide with one of the many Blues festivals hosted throughout the state. Unfortunately, a number of these are in the heat of summer, but the April Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale might fit the bill.
I would be remiss not to plug a drive-through visit of the Vicksburg National Military Park should your interests and travels ever take you that way. I do not know how anyone could fail to be moved by memorial after memorial, from states North and South, and not reflect on both the nobility and destruction that we are capable of. So, probably best to hit some more juke joints afterwards!
South Africa and Botswana. Botswana feels as close to Edenic (pre-human) as it gets. Botswana is a magically people-free, animal-rich place and it’s easy to visit both countries on same trip. Cape Town is of course one of the most beautiful cities in the world and is home to unique microclimates near Camps Bay, False Bay and on Table Mtn. Robben Island is a must. The food (African, Indian, Dutch, British ok- think high teas-influences) make for fabulous food and wine. The V&A Waterfront is a great place to stay. I have lots of pics that I’ve been meaning to send for wildlife photos – haven’t found the time yet. Will try to send some soon.
Should I stay or should I go😀
My suggestion – the New Zealand, only it’s not exactly the right season. Moreover, neither for for Antarctica or South Georgia.
I am South African and return each northern winter. I have a base in Cape Town, so am biased to it (great food, lovely hikes in the fynbos on Table Mountain, ocean all around, amazing wine estates inland in spectacular scenery, but best with a local host to show you around, and while winter there can be wet, still get some dry days, but as I say, I go in their summer). The last few years we have taken friends with us and then flown to Johannesburg, rented a large SUV, and driven to Kruger National Park for 4-5 days. I can give you the full itinerary if you like, but each time we have seen all the big ones, and since we love birds, all the little ones too. We stay in rondavels at the major camps to save costs, but you can also stay at more exclusive bush camps, etc. OR, if you have money to spend, pay $500-1000 per night to stay in one of the several private reserves that flank the western side of the park, guaranteed seeing everything big, plus likely a kill as their rangers monitor locations of all major predators at all times. OR, if really willing to spend, go with an organized 2-3 week tour of Southern Africa, including Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, simply amazing but very expensive (I did it cheaply in my 1966 Peugeot in 1982 before coming to the US).
Funny you dont mention one of the key ecological miracles in the world: the Cape floristic kingdom, one of about half a dozen in the world……fascinating plants in the karoo, wildflowers under your feet by the thousands, all easily accessible. The cities may not be safe so fly in and then hire a car and driver to take you to these
wonderful natural areas. All these areas consist of indigenous
plants (a few imports here and here) so you wont find them elsewhere. And stay at a sheep ranch and get the best tenderest lamb for dinner! Dont forget passion flower yogurt! With all the seeds which give it its unique flavor.
I would love to see you go to Israel and report back not only on the nature of the country and people—a travelogue—but also on your observations regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I’ve read a lot about the latter but would be interested in your take from on the ground.
I have family in Israel that I have yet to visit, so I plan to go myself sometime in the foreseeable future.
‘interesting and good food.’
What about Buenos Aires and Montevideo, with a naturalists’ jaunt into Patagonia. The two cities are right across the Río de la Plata from each other, and the rumored ‘best meat cuisine in the world’ could be an adventure to test in both. I’ve never been there, but images of the spectacular mountains, with sharp dramatic ridges, stirs the blood.
The other rumor to test is that “Buenos Aires has more bookstores per capita than anywhere else.” Are they smart down there?
And the World Heritage Site on the Valdez Peninsula!!
I highly recommend Antarctic cruises which pause at South Georgia. We (my wife and I) took one of those last November and it was wonderful. Our ship was a small one with about 200 or so passengers, which was good because everybody could get off the ship in Zodiacs in a reasonable time. The large ships with thousands of passengers provide that service too, but not everybody gets to go ashore.
And you DO want to go ashore at South Georgia. You can walk right up to the penguins — except you have to keep 5 meters away from them. This is way better than seeing half a million penguins from shipboard.
When I post here I try not to spam your website with links to my blog, which WordPress always tries to sneak in. But today I’ll post one.
You’ve been on Antarctic cruises before so you know the cruise ship drill. And yes they are pricey. And also I believe that they are already getting booked up for the rest of 2023, so don’t delay.
Do any of the South Atlantic cruises include the Falklands/ Malvinas, Ascension and/ or Tristan da Çunha in their itineraries. Mavlinas/ Falklands and Ascension were stopping places for Darwin on the Beagle, and cover some quite disparate ecosystems. Tristan would fit well between South Georgia and Falklands/ Malvinas legs, and is a rather different volcano to Ascension, so that could be botanically/ faunally interesting too.
Gough Island is advertising for a bird ringer and counter, IIRC.
Go to a private game reserve in South Africa. Amakala. Kariega. Shamwari. And there are many more, all great.
How about Paraguay? I’m being serious. It’s landlocked and obscure, which makes it feel like you’re on a real adventure when you’re there. And the Chaco, which makes up a huge portion of the country, is incredibly biologically diverse. From wikipedia:
“The Chaco has an abundance of wildlife. Larger animals present in the region include jaguar, ocelot, puma, tapir, giant armadillo, giant anteater, many species of foxes, numerous small wildcats, the agouti (a large rodent), the capybara (water hog), the maned wolf, the palustrian deer, peccaries, including the endemic Chacoan peccary, and the guanaco (the wild relative of the llama). The region has an abundant and varied bird population and one of the largest populations of the greater rhea (or nandu), a large flightless South American bird. The streams host more than 400 fish species, among which are the salmon-like dorado and the flesh-eating piranha. The region is home to many species of insects, some of which cause discomfort for travellers. Reptiles also are abundant, with numerous lizards and at least 60 known species of snakes, including many pit vipers and constrictors. The region is also home to many unique amphibians, including the iconic waxy monkey tree frog Phyllomedusa sauvagii that produces a waxy secretion to prevent drying out and coraline frog Leptodactylus laticeps that spends the dry season deep in a burrow, emerging with the rains to feed on other frogs.”
When I lived in Argentina for a year, right after college, everybody told me not to go there, but it was awesome. (Not a huge surprise; Argentines have historically been stereotyped as the biggest snobs in South America.) Asuncion, the capital city, is much more low-key and provincial feeling compared to hectic, cosmopolitan Buenos Aires.
The food wasn’t great, but I’ll bet it’s improved some since I was there 15 years ago. And if you can always stop in Argentina while you’re down there and enjoy their excellent food and wine.
It’s a quirky place. There’s an entire city named after US President . . . Rutherford B. Hayes. And various remote colonies of Mennonites living in the Chaco. And smuggling (and Hezbollah activity) in Ciudad del Este, on the border with Brazil and Argentina. There’s also a tiny, close-knit Jewish population in Asuncion to boot—it was about 1,000 people when I was there.
Based on my experience living in Florida, I recommend the following 10 hour road trip: Tampa Airport to Key West. Be sure to take the Tamiami Trail (actual gators), not Alligator Alley. Just south of Florida City, take the Card Sound Rd. ‘detour’ so that you can have lunch at Alabama Jacks.
When you get to Big Pine Key, take Key Deer Blvd. 10 minutes north to the Blue Hole–very likely to see key deer at some point.
Another hour to KW, and then a couple days’ stay– take your pick of the many overpriced hotels, but the La Concha is right in the middle of Duval St. As far as food goes, lots of seafood places, but I’m not a foodie, so you’re on your own there (I admit I did used to recommend places that gave me free meals).
Of course you will visit my old workplace the Hemingway Home (polydactyl cats), sunset at Mallory Sq. (Dominique & his trained cats), and the Tennessee Williams Museum. For more entertainment, catch a performance at the Red Barn or Waterfront Playhouse, & I highly recommend hearing Raven Cooper sing at Schooner Wharf Bar–all are easy walks from the La Concha.
Finally, You’ll need one day to take the ferry to Fort Jeff in the Dry Tortugas, a fabulous trip for the snorkeling & birding–not to mention a colossal monument to Dr. Mudd!
Lots of other stuff, to be sure, in KW, but these are a few things that are unique.
Westfjords, Iceland — particularly Látrabjarg.
Or if you’re feeling more adventurous, Hornstrandir (one of many excellent films from Kraig Adams):
Separately, it’s been more than a year since I’ve supplied wildlife/abstract photographs to WEIT; and so I’m hoping to provide a large selection soon.
How about Southern Italy? Start in Rome and then work your way down to Naples and Sicily. The food of course is magnificent, and anyone interested in natural beauty or history will have a full plate. Rome’s charms are well known, but the Naples area has Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum (fantastic Greek temples), Capri, and the Amalfi coast. Sicily has the incredible Greek temples at Agrigento and the stunning mosaics in the Norman churches of Palermo, Cefalu, and Monreale. Plus lots of lovely scenery.
I know you just returned from Europe, but how about indulging in La Dolce Vita in Italy? The food and wine will rival France, as well as the art museums, architecture, scenic views and ambiance. (I’ve been to both and prefer Italy.) You can do Padua and Vienna in a couple days, then high-speed rail to Tuscany (2 hour trip) for a romp around the beautiful environs of central Italy and Florence (Uffizi Gallery and Museo Galileo can’t be missed!), then another high-speed train to Rome (under 2 hours) and you can spend days in Rome roaming around (sorry, I like the pun!). I also know you love Caravaggio; there are 25 Caravaggio’s in Rome, and you can take a tour to see most of them. Galleria Borghese has on display 6 of his paintings, the largest gathering in a single collection. In their presence, my brother, who is a fine artist, actually began to shake uncontrollably and tear-up he was so moved.
If you havent seen Italy, this is the one and only bucket list place.
Anywhere. Churches, palazzi, food, ancient ruins, Pompeii,
all of Rome, plus friendly Italians. See Italy and die. In this order:
all of Rome, Florence, Venice, Siena. Get the Green Michelin glude or the old Blue Guide. Dont forget carciofi alla giudea, Jewish artichokes in Rome’s ghetto! Monte biancio for dessert (chestnut paste with meringue)! Abbacchio (lamb with garlic and rosemary)! Cortona frescoes Barberini! Raphael in the Farnesina! Music on the Campidoglio, most beautiful public space in the world! Endless glories to stay with you the rest of your life.
Thanks for the Italy-choice endorsement; bucket list place indeed! And thanks for highlighting Rome’s street food and other famous foods of that glorious city. And iirc, Jerry has never visited Italy.
if you do go to Israel, would definitely recommend that you visit Akko (Acre) near Haifa. A Unesco World Heritage site and a Crusader port, much history from 2000BC.
Interesting link here: https://www.laidbacktrip.com/posts/akko-israel-best-things-to-see-and-do
Too much choice already! Many people have suggested Southern Africa (quite right too); but East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania including Zanzibar, Uganda) is worth considering too.
Nepal is said to be making it compulsory to hire guides, even for valley treks, so maybe another reason to give it a miss.
Can’t recall whether you’ve visited Vietnam. The coastline is being steadily wrecked, but there are interesting wilder areas in the interior, plus Halong Bay, plus historic sites such as Hue. And great food.
Iceland? Fascinating scenery; and the cuisine is OK (fermented shark not obligatory).
Kenya: safer than SA, just as many animals, and the Tamarind near Mombasa (I have been there five times) has been described as the best restaurant between Cairo and Cape Town. There are many other good restaurants as well.
Late February is best, since the vegetation dies back and many waterholes dry up, concentrating the animals around those remaining.
While you are in Ecuador, would you like to look for your frog?
Quito has some wonderful old churches. Water shortages. Some great churches. Guayaquil is a mess. There are great birding lodges however if you are a birder, one on the east slope of the Andes. Due to pandemic most birding trip organizations are defunct. The west coastline of South America is grey, foggy, dismal, unattractive, especially Peru but lots of sea birds.
In the end I would go and stay at these places, in order: Arles, Granada, Salvador. There are many nearby places of interest for all of these towns., plus good food.
Arles: all of Provence in your backyard, Frederic Mistral’s great museum of Provencal life, and good food.
Granada: near Cordoba and its Jewish heritage, and gorgeous Andalusian hill towns. Most beautiful city in Spain??
Ouro Preto: world renowned, not to be missed.Read up on the other old silver mining towns in Minas Gerais of Brazil; they might interest you on the way to Salvador. Chock full of gold 18th century churches, steep streets, friendly people.
If you’ve never been to Latin America, try Ouro Preto/Minas Gerais first. Rent a car and driver cheaply and drive around
Minas. Or for R and R, just go to Iguassu Falls for a few days
(stay on the Argentinian side, not Brazil side). One of the great
natural sites of the world. Bring binoculars. Stay out of Brazil’s big cities.
SALVADOR!!!!! one of the great cities of the world. Music, food,
markets, architecture, ethnic diversity…..a Great City of the World, along with NY, London, Paris, Rome. Really!!!!
No water shortages now, and birding companies and lodges are in full swing. Yes the coast is often gray, especially in Peru, but the Andes (east and west) are stunning. We have the highest biodiversity in the world, in terms of number of species in a given area. One lifetime isn’t enough to see all the birds, and then there are the frogs, orchids, etc.
If you are travelling for nature, here are the top places: Iguassu Falls, Pantanal, Great Barrier Reef, American national parks in the southwest and west plus Everglades. If you are travelling for art and architecture: Barcelona and Granada, Greece, Italy (Rome, Florence, Siena, Venice, Pompeii), English country churches, Ouro Preto (Brazil), Provence. R and R: Dalmatian coast, Cape Breton Island, Salvador, Arles ( Mistral’s great museum of old Provencal life). If you stay in Arles you are not only near great food but near the Camargue, St. Remy, wonderful old hilltop towns, medieval churches…..this would be my first
choice because you can get great food and great art together.
If you want to be based in one place the whole time, it is either Rome, Arles or Granada ( Andalusia is full of old towns and churches). In Brazil you can do Ouro Preto and the dozens of wonderful baroque churches of Minas Gerais followed by Pantanal and Iguassu (or vice versa). and maybe a jump up to Salvador.In Arles you have all of Provence plus the Camargue if you want (and great food). (stop by Lyons for best French food).
The great cities of the world: Salvador, Granada, Rome. The great towns: Arles, Siena, Cambridge, Ouro Preto, Bruges. Check out the South American Handbook if Latin America interests you. Otherwise Green Michelin or the old Blue Guide if it still exists, or the Rough Guide.
Bali. A very interesting culture and art, good food, friendly people, a pretty landscape, and great snorkeling. Relatively inexpensive, too.
Having mentioned Darwin’s stops at Ascension and the Malvinas/ Falklands, then the option of following some of Wallace’s footsteps might be an interesting variation.
Which opens up a number of South American/ Amazonian options too. Probably best not to mention it to a shipping agent though.
You should definitely visit all the incredible sites of ancient civilizations in Israel. And while you’re there you must go Nextdoor to Jordan to visit the most incredible one of all of them in that part of the world – Petra.
We are going to Israel/Palestine on Monday, so I can let you know how we like it!
Yes, please do, and tell me what you saw and where you went. Thanks!
Scotland- the outer Hebrides, known as the Western Isles. Wonderful coastal trails, incredible beaches. Friendly people. Botswana for thé best high end safari game camps. Very safe country. Check out Victoria Falls on the Zambezi river between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
I am a little surprised that you have not been to Israel before. It is a great place to visit, although you cannot avoid being exposed to a lot of religion. Still, just seeing the country in terms of history and heritage, is worthwhile.
Of course, one must be cautions of stabby Arabs or those that randomly explode.
Still, Japan. I cannot help but mention the place, even though it is not on your list.
Delphi, the navel of the world.
I would add food-wise, what the non-vegetarians with me told me about how exceptionally wonderful the restaurant was that we went to, down at the harbor. This being Greece, it’s a ways into the night before dinner arrives, and longer still before it’s even nearly over. You need a car or friends with a car. Delphi itself is so beautiful you can just sit and look out over the world spread out around you and below. It is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Been there twice!
Japan. I don’t think you’ve been there and of all countries it is the most important to see. I say that as a former resident there so I’m biased but it is as “different” and arresting as India.
It used to be difficult for non-Japanese speakers to tour there alone but in the past 20 years they’ve REALLY lifted their game and made Japan much more tourist friendly. And while not cheap it isn’t wildly expensive.
Where ever you go I look forward to reading your posts about it.
Of all the things that travelling as an academic has enabled me to see and think about, a visit to the First World War sites in Northern France has been one of the things I am particularly grateful for. I and a friend hired a knowledgeable guide with a car who does visits to these First World War sites, a full day. The memorial to the battles of the Somme was only one of the immensely moving sites. Interestingly, the cemeteries were not just filled with crosses…the Jewish dead were evident too, among the South Africans.
It is so fun to read your other reader’s suggestions. Makes me want to pack my bags.
For places outside the USA I’ll add another vote for Sicily. Sicily has a fascinating cultural history (Siculans, Greeks, Arabs, Moors, Normans, etc). Great food, pastries, and wine. Easy travel for non-Italian speakers but not overrun with tourists. I’d avoid the summer because it is too hot for comfortable tourism but fall is beautiful. Beyond Sicily in southern Italy, I’d also recommend Puglia and Basilicata, especially Lecce, Alberobello to see the trulli houses, and Matera to see the sassi cave homes, a World Heritage site. My wife and I had one of the best meals of our life at a lunch in one of the converted caves there.
In the USA, and if you will be traveling in the summer, let me put in a plug for the Pacific Northwest. I’m in Oregon but the same can be said of Washington. Again great local foods and wines, fabulous coastal scenery, mountains, wildlife (Malheur refuge, for a birding example. Whale watching along the coast). Perfect weather June-mid-October with warm days, cool nights, no rain, and no bugs. Most of us even speak a version of English! And I have a spare room if you need to crash.
Another vote for South Africa here.
(I live in Australia and the animals really aren’t all that, not compared to Africa anyway.)
We did a game reserve just west of Johannesburg, in Madikwe, but I just found out the lodge I was going to recommend had a catastrophic fire in December. Real shame. They’re re-building, but probably not in time.
Definitely not a safe place though. Cape Town is stunning, but is the only city I’ve ever felt unsafe in just wandering around the CBD. I once strolled through the tenderloin in San Fran (didn’t know its reputation) and didn’t even feel a tension, not so in Cape Town.
We, probably foolishly, hiked up Table Mountain solo (just me and the wife). We didn’t encounter any trouble, but next day we heard a group of tourists got ambushed at knife point and one stabbed on it at the same time we were on it.
But I think the magic of the country outweighs the risks. They have many high quality restaurants as well as incredible scenery and wildlife.
Jerry, have you ever considered Patagonia? Not sure what times of the year the whales migrate close to shore there, but hanging out around a campfire on the coastal cliffs whale-watching in Patagonia is one of the things I’d like to do before I die.
Also, the Atacama desert to tour the observatories there. Particularly the ESO’s Paranal observatory, home of the Very Large Telescope (VLT), which consists of 4 separate 8.2 meter telescopes. It is one of few (the only?) observatories that does optical interferometry (Very difficult to achieve the precision necessary at visible wavelengths). It was designed from the outset to do so. They combine all 4 of those 8.2 meter telescopes. There are also several other smaller scopes.
And viewing conditions there are pretty much the best in the world. Just going there to view the night sky would be worth it all by itself.
If you go to Israel then I suggest going across the border to Jordan. The ancient sites are incredible. I went there last year with my son and we were really impressed. I recommend the Temple of Artemis in Jerash, Petra and Wadi Rum.
You are welcome to stage a trip from our place. Yes- October or November would be best. Avis
I suspect you are suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder. Leads to insomnia, dyspepsia, and bloat.
A wilderness canoe trip ought to fix you.
The vast Canadian Shield is relatively close. There are lots of large provincial parks within reasonable driving distance; Quetico and Temigami come to mind. I canoed through Quetico as a teenager, and it is still one of my most treasured memories. Outfitters and guides can be hired to match your fitness and comfort level to the rigors of wilderness travel. A float plane into the deep wilderness, and guides who can guarantee good fishing are among the higher amenities that you might look for. Negatives: 1) no identifiable gourmet cuisine, apart from really fresh fish, and 2) mosquitoes and black flies.
For gourmet food, why not Montreal? Good canoeing probably not far away.