While I was growing up I was fortunate enough to have a super travel planner in my mother who made it a priority that every summer our family would visit a new part of the country in our handy pop up camper. The camper had wheels the size of a small motor bike so at least one tire repair per trip so we were destined to spend a couple of hours in a repair shop….. usually in Smalltown, USA and if we were lucky, it had a Waffle House.
And while my dad was not in the league of Clark Griswold, navigating through vacation mayhem, it made me wonder what summer vacation memories others look back on and why. I have visited over 42 states in total and my top 5 are from my childhood are listed below:
1. Jekyll Island, Georgia. This island boasted an exclusive vacation club for wealthy and influential families called the Jekyll Island Club and boasted members like Joseph Pultizer, William Rockefeller, and William Vanderbilt. It is now a historical hotel and we were able to tour the exclusive club and grounds. Every morning I woke up to chattering birds in the campground that felt like a tropical forest. I remember this trip oddly enough because a family friend applied pressure to a mustard packet in a restaurant we stopped at and the mustard went sailing onto the shirt of a guy in the booth behind us. Of course, our parents were mortified and we couldn’t leave the restaurant fast enough.
2. Seattle, Washington. This destination was part of a three week summer trip specifically to see the King Tut Exhibit in Seattle. A large portion of these artifacts are no longer permitted outside of Egypt so you can imagine my disappointment as an adult taking my kids through an “edited exhibit” in Chicago a few years ago upon its return that had hardly any of the items in the original US tour.
3. The houseboat trip on Lake Kentucky that spans through Kentucky and Tennessee delivered a camping experience with immediate access to water sports. My sister and I spent the week perfecting our jumps off the roof of the houseboat into the lake and roasting marshmallows every night. Pure childhood heaven!
4. Casco Bay Area in Maine. Maine’s coast line is one of the most picturesque that I know and excellent for shell collecting. Two things I remember the most from that trip was during a boat ride on the Atlantic, how thrillingly close we got to blue whales and hearing the calls to each other and having my first taste of lobster.
5. Last but not least, the rugged California coastline and trip through the National Redwood Forest. My sister and I were much smaller at the time, but even as an adult to look up at the trees and be unable to see the tops of the trees made us feel like we were one inch woodland fairies in some magical kingdom. I was in awe of the road tunneling right through the truck of the giant trees and running around the tree circumference playing hide and seek.
Readers, what were your top 5 childhood travel memories?
Cassino Italy may not be a regular stop-over destination for travelers hitting the highlights of Italy, when the most popular destinations of Roma, Firenze,Venezia and Milano are the first to come to mind. I recommend Cassino as a 1/2 day diversion from the other popular sites because of the slice of life of central Italy it offers.
If you are a World War 2 aficionado, you may be familiar with the battle of Monte Cassino as a strategic battle point in Italy. The Monastery which overlooks the valley below can be seen by most vantage points in the city. A minimal fee for access or a tour through its museum is well worth it. The drive up the mountain is worth the view in and of itself.
This is a regular destination for my family because my husband’s family originated from there and several aunts,uncles, cousins and family friends remain there. It is a mere 90 minute drive from Rome or two hours by train. Fair warning to train travelers: there are no first class options so when traveling in the summer, fresh air will be your air condition.
Expansive gardens of vegetables, herbs, and fruit trees abound. Many residents in the more suburban areas still press their own olive oil from family orchards and the majority continue to process their grapes for their own delicious table red wine. Its hardly difficult to eat well here but also eat healthy as well.
The slower pace of life is evident as compared to the bustle of the larger cities. Keeping a schedule is just a suggestion and appropriate to delay if it in some way cuts short a social conversation over a gelato or cappuccino or glass of wine.
To give you a sense of this mindset, my sister-in-law relayed a story about the ‘BoFrost Man’ she observed while on an extended stay in Cassino several years ago. Italians are slowly converting over to the concept of frozen, ready made meals and there was a frozen food service that started that would travel to the neighborhoods selling frozen pasta and other items. Because of the social nature of Italians, the driver was often invited in for espresso and biscotti which often extended 1/2 hour or more that he never seemed to finish his route.
If you find yourself off the beaten path. and want to relax…..Cassino Italy a recommended spot.
One of the many things my family enjoys about traveling to different places is experiencing a regional flavor through one’s stomach. When my husband recounts his travel experiences it usually involves the experiences recounted via his ‘eating tour’.
In many parts of Europe ‘foodies’ can easily locate cooking schools to provide you with the hands-on experience of the process and the enjoyment of many flavors of local cooking. Most regions of Italy will feature local ingredients in their cuisine and for an extra cost; some will offer a wine tasting to be paired with the meal. Some cooking school links I Iooked at in my planning research are listed below:
Prices and packages vary widely depending on the experience. In our case, since it was a family adventure, I choose a moderately priced class for the ‘novice chef’ to experience. Whatever venue you decide, I recommend and always check for feedback on Trip Advisor because anyone can be creative and make an experience sound fabulous, but other traveler reviews or lack of traveler reviews speak volumes.
I am a ‘wanna be’ world traveler. I have only just begun to fill my bucket list with memorable travel experiences both domestic and abroad. My favorite thing to do is absorb the local color and not necessarily hit all the standard attractions. While some of the more exotic places will take more ‘lettuce’ than I have or will have set aside in a lifetime, I continue to dream and plan. This blog is about travel experiences, travel tips and the bucket list location goals. Readers of this blog are encouraged to share their experiences and pictures.