by Fifi LaMode
Throughout the years, I've discovered a few places which literally take your breath away. Here are my favorites, in no particular order:
If there's one place you should see, it's Egypt. After seeing countless photos of the Sphinx and Pyramids, I was still speechless when I gazed upon them in real life. Add to that the fact that they are over 5000 years old and you're reminded how fleeting our lives are, how unimportant most of the things we fret about, how the Sphinx looks out over the sands just as it did thousands of years ago, and time marches on.
2. The Canadian Rockies at Banff
Stayed at the Banff Springs Hotel many moons ago. The dining room had huge windows and in the morning the sky and mountains were a gorgeous glowing pink. Later in the day, at the top of the ski lift, we took time to look around us. Deer in the valleys, majestic snow-covered peaks, what paradise should look like. Probably the most physically beautiful place in the world.
3. The Harbor at Rio de Janeiro
Rio has a beautiful natural harbor, extremely exotic and extremely breathtaking. The surrounding roads leading into the mountains and hills are rich with tropical vegetation and there is just something in the air. There's no place in the world like Rio.
My other favorite harbors: Hong Kong, Sydney, Valletta (Malta), Sevastopol (Ukraine) and our own New York.
4. The Ruins at Palmyra
In the Syrian desert lies one of the best-kept travel secrets, ever - Palmyra. Once ruled by Queen Zenobia, conquered by the Romans, the ruins are spectacular, especially when you see Bedouin on camels riding across them at sunset. Simply magical.
The entire city is a living museum. If you go, spend the night - pop for a good hotel on one of the canals. No car traffic, just people sounds at night - the way it was hundreds of years ago. Time stops. Venice is fragile, serene, elegant, a city like no other.
6. Tikal, Guatemala
Here are pyramids in the middle of the jungle. Turn the corner into a clearing and more pyramids. Stop to rest against a rock and it's really a ruin, complete with glyphs, moss, lizards. The silence of the ruins is broken by the sounds of the jungle. A place full of mystery and surprises.
7. The Acropolis
I thought I'd seen it all, but I was still moved, almost to tears, as I stood at the ruins of the Acropolis and looked out over Athens below. Here I was, standing where Plato, Socrates, and all the famous Greeks I learned about stood, looking out at the same city. Here is the cradle of European civilization, birthplace of democracy. Wow.
If I've omitted places which are obvious, like the Great Wall of China or the Taj Mahal, it's either because I haven't been there (yet) or they just didn't have that "Wow" factor for me that the above places did. It's a combination of the place itself and where you are at that time of your life. For example, Paris meant so much more to me in 2005 than in 1967, for various reasons.
I'd like to hear about some of your favorite places, whether it's a world-famous site or just a place that's off the beaten path, but worth a visit.