I just might be the luckiest traveler in the world. I know, what a bold statement to make. But you judge for yourself-- I travel when I get the urge. I go where I get the calling. I reside where my tastes lead me, and I visit where my wandering eye takes me. And that, dear friends, is the true definition of utterly blissful travel.
What continues to fuel this blessed state is the sheer pleasure of discovery. Discovery is not necessarily seeing a new continent or country. It may be returning to a place experienced before. It may be strolling down a familiar street suddenly observing an architectural detail previously overlooked. What a gratifying feeling recalling a past memory somewhere tucked away all too ready to unexpectedly appear again. How enlightening to pass through the portals of a grand hotel once more and remember why you held such fond feelings about a previous stay. Maybe it is exactly as you left it. Maybe not, but updated without losing its distinguishing character. Either way, it seduces once again.
So often with the global demands on the luxury sector of the hotel industry and the race for the new, sameness trumps individuality or character. With the abundant supply of world class hotels in Paris from which to choose, I continue to love returning to Le Meurice. It is one of the traditional grand "palaces" of Paris, so unless a Princess, one can hardly claim it as home. It has all the trappings of grandeur throughout devoid of pomp but spilling over with welcoming warmth.
Returning once again to a beloved city gives a traveler an opportunity to revisit favorite spots, discover new neighborhoods, explore latest shops and all done in a relaxed fashion. There is nothing you have to see (already did that) but what you choose to do at your own pace.
To me, multiple visits to a country blends the familiar with the new. One can often go further afield with less stress. Certainly capital cities throughout Europe are great bases from which to explore fascinating places and absorb local culture. Driving or training from Paris, north, south, east or west leads to some of the very best tourist destinations in Europe. And that I did recently off to the beaches of Normandy with my 14-year-old granddaughter to see what she had been learning in school. Starting with a pleasant few hours on a train through the bucolic countryside of France to Caen and a highly educated guide waiting to greet us at the station all arranged by a favorite expert, Flo ([email protected]) made this two-day trip tops in the memory bank.
Staying in Bayeux at the charming Villa Lara steps away from the spectacular Bayeux tapestries is a must for all history buffs. Just a train ride away, we managed to even squeeze in a stop in Chantilly to experience the lovely new Auberge du Jeu de Paume (well reviewed in April's Luxury Travel Advisor) adjacent to the the city's stately chateau. Of course, we did not pass up the opportunity to dine in its wonderful Michelin-starred restaurant. An added plus- from there to Charles De Gaulle airport it is only a 20-minute traffic free ride.
Often travel advisors, when suggesting a destinatio,n get the response, "I have already been there years ago. Loved it, so where do I go next"? Take a chance and suggest a return trip. But explain why such an experience can be a rich discovery. On another recent trip I returned once again to India, stopping off at some familiar places and discovering new areas. For those fascinated by the richness of diversity in India the art of discovery has no limits. Can you think of any other place where one moment you can push through streets swarming with people, bikes, food vendors, hawkers, blaring horns; assaulted by rich aromatic aromas and blinded by the dazzling colors of saris, scarves and head coverings and then- just moments later enter into a quiet world of beautiful calmness and beauty. Many of the hotels in India and their services are the finest in the world. Just go to the Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad to see for yourself. This historical site run as a hotel by the Taj group is a model of great hospitality with reverence for authentic restoration.
Thanks to my dear friend, Shonali at Banyan Tours (www.banyantours.com) I traveled once again from one city to another, from the Bay of Bengal to villages along the Ganges to the chaos of Calcutta and finally to the luxury of the Lodhi Hotel in Delhi without an interruption in spite of knowing that India has often been termed the home of orderly chaos. On other trips I have traveled up north to Kashmir, south to Kerala and more. Oh yes, so much more to do, so much more to see in this one country.
Why do I tell you all this? It does not take new stamps in your passport to be a discoverer. A peripatetic traveler has the ability to experience more without going further. You see ... I would like you, too, to be the luckiest traveler in the world!