RHYS BOWEN: I had planned to devote this week to travel because I'm about to embark on a book tour with Cara Black, who writes the fabulous Parisian mysteries and will be my guest on Wednesday.
Then fellow JRW Rosemary Harris announced that she was just popping off to Dar Es Salaam to visit the library in Tanzania that she created with her husband and I was reminded what a terribly peripatetic group we are. (See I know long words even if I can't spell them) Deb spends half her time in London, Hallie and Rosemary are outdoor nuts, Jan goes to civilized places like Provence, Lucy to Key West, (Julia is chained to child rearing at the moment and Hank is perpetually busy but does zoom around the country to writers events.)
I had the travel gene in me from birth, from the time I wandered into the sea wearing only my sun hat and would have kept on going if I hadn't been rescued when it came up to my neck. At twelve I went from London to Vienna alone. More trips across Europe followed. I left England to go to Australia at 24--a place that had always haunted my dreams. Luckily I met a man who worked for an airline so we've traveled all our lives. When I've been at home for about a month I find myself staring up at a passing airplane and thinking "I wonder where that is heading?"
I've cris-crossed most of the world but I find the trips that stay with me are not those that go smoothly. My travel memories are more about things that go wrong. It's the adventure of the thing. So I'm asking Jungle Reds and our visitors today to share their most memorable travel experiences:
My own: I vividly remember every detail of going by jeep into Ladakh when there was no real road and we had a maniac driver who tried to switch off the engine to save gas while going down an unpaved 15,000 foot pass. I remember an overnight in a first class sleeper with my daughter and a disgusting old man who drank red wine from a big coke bottle, made noises and asked to borrow my comb for his long greasy hair. My daughter, the sweetest natured of all my kids, whispered to me, "When he's not looking stab him with the fruit knife."
Of course I have lovely memories too, but I'm going to be discussing my 5 most beautiful places on Earth later in the week, so start thinking of yours.
LUCY BURDETTE: Stab him with the fruit knife? that's priceless Rhys! I'd hate to tangle with your other kids:). Probably my most adventurous trip was a church mission trip to La Romana, in the Dominican Republic. We stayed in a dorm-like arrangement with one bathroom for about 20 women. For some reason, we had to spit our toothbrushing liquid into a giant garbage can. But compared to the folks who actually lived there, we had it made. I'd never seen such poverty in my life--we were helping to build a hospital for Haitian immigrants, who were not allowed to use the regular hospital. The building conditions were primitive--no elevators to move supplies up to higher levels so we had to shovel gravel up, several stages at a time. It was utterly exhausting and humbling and I don't believe I slept a minute the entire week.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Most-memorable-bad, you mean? I suppose it was all in the line of duty, and I try to think of it as being a team player. I was assigned to cover the Super Bowl when the Patriots played the Bears, in New Orleans. It was all fine for the beginning of the week, even though we worked around the clock, editing all night, shooting all day, and appeared on every newscast. Still, it was fun and exciting. At first, we stayed at the Intercontinental. It was gorgeously luxurious, the whole place smelled fabulous, it had millions of high thread count pillows and sheets, there was such lovely soap, I still remember, I was hoarding it like mad.
But. Our station had failed to plan on so many of us staying thought the weekend, so at the last minute, we had to move out of our lovely hotel. You can imagine that New Orleans was fully booked for Super Bowl weekend, so we would up billeted on a river boat that was in the process of being renovated into a hotel.
Note I said in the process.Can you imagine staying someplace that is under construction? On a BOAT, that is UNDER CONSTRUCTION? It was a horror. Dark, only the dimmest of lights, freezing, no heat, clammy, no rugs, no hangers, no drawers, no curtains, no towels--only some thin pitiful little gray washcloths. It didn't matter, because there was no hot water. The beds were cots. There was no food, at all. I kept a coat on all the time, and never took off my shoes, because I'm sure the floor was crawling with whatever. It was as bleak as bleak could be. It was January, and SO COLD even in NO, and we were on the river so it was windy, too.
We were EXHAUSTED, working every minute, and to come back to that prison of a pseudo-hotel, tired and starving and oh, I just remember almost bursting into tears.
HALLIE EPHRON: Oh, what a shame! How to spoil New Orleans.
My husband and I are amateur birders, and one of our best trips ever was to Costa Rica where we stayed at a biological reserve in the Corcovado National Park. Our "room" was a tent platform - electricity after 8, no hot water. Very basic meals. We saw the MOST AMAZING wildlife. Toucans and scarlet macaws and howler monkeys and and and... ants. Lots of them. Parading into our tent, under the mosquito netting to get at my husband's breath mints. They bite.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Back in the 80's and early 90's, Ross's father made a sort of avocation of going to time-share presentations (this was in the glory days of the time share condo) and picking up free vacations, which he would frequently donate to us, the young married couple. As a result, we went on quite a few four-day, three-night holidays to sunny spots.
One year, he gave us a more extended trip to Manzanillo, on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Overall a good time, it was a trip with many memorable moments: We got picked up at the airport by the resort shuttlebus. We were the only passengers. We drove and drove and DROVE and drove through what seemed, to our Maine-trained eyes, dense jungle. Ross was convinced we had been kidnapped. We finally arrived at a fairly luxurious resort - but we were the ONLY people there.
Turned out it was off-season. Way off-season. In fact, it was the rainy season, which we found out when we took our complimentary topless VW bug into town to sightsee...and had to bail it out before driving back to the resort. We spent the week feeling rather like secluded drug lords, walking through beautifully decorated empty rooms, sunbathing by the empty pool (which would get covered in leaves after every passing rain storm) eating, alone, in the Palapa restaurant, while rain dripped off the palm thatching. One thing I'll say - we had EXCELLENT SERVICE.
RHYS: Julia, that is so weird because exactly the same happened to my daughter on her honeymoon. Also out of Manzanillo, miles of jungle. When they arrived there was nobody to greet them except for a Dachshund who escorted them to the reception area. They signed in then found a palapa and went to sleep. All week they were the only guests and food and margaritas miraculously appeared. They said it was lovely but creepy at the same time. I wonder if it was the same place?
JAN BROGAN - The year was 1978 and I was in school in Aix-in-Provence traveling through Italy with a friend who did not know enough to NOT TALK TO MEN WHO FOLLOW YOU FROM THE TRAIN STATION. So this guy followed us all the way to our pensionne, up three flights of stairs. Here, he finally caught on that I was telling my friend to ignore him, and as punishment, he grabbed my crotch. Reflexively, I pushed him away and he tumbled down the stairs. We rang the doorbell of the pensionne and banged on the door, hoping like hell, they door would open before the guy at the base of the stairs, furious now, could recover. Door opened in the knick of time and we scrambled inside.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Traveling all over England and Scotland on a coach (bus) pass on my own a year or so after I graduated from college. I'd worked for a year to save up for the trip, but still, the money didn't go very far. B&Bs with nasty nylon sheets and the only heat came from coin-metered electric heaters. These were the sort of places that rationed hot water, too--the boiler was only on an hour or two morning and evening. I was always wet and cold. The food was generally horrible, and nobody talked to me. One night on a coach layover in Birmingham, I ate in an Indian restaurant near the coach station. A rat ran over my table. I must say that put me off Indian food for many a year...
Obviously, the entire experience didn't put me off Britain, and I can now look back on it with a tiny bit of nostalgic gloss. But I like my hot water and down comforters these days.
RHYS: Your turn, friends. Share your most memorable experience. The best comment will win a signed copy of NAUGHTY IN NICE.