RHYS BOWEN: I have just returned from a wonderful trip that took me to Turkey, Egypt and Greece. Turkey and Egypt were new to me, places I had long dreamed of visiting. Istanbul seemed to me a delightful city with a grand bazaar right out of the thousand and one nights (too bad that it has now erupted in rioting and unrest). Egypt was a sad and sorry place, one that the tourists now shun increasing the poverty and desperation there. Piles of garbage line the streets, half built buildings everywhere, no traffic rules, no jobs and presumably ripe for Islamic extremists.
But Greece was another matter. I was visiting it for the first time in 50 years. Fresh out of high school, naïve and idealistic, I had spent three months wandering around Greece with my friend Ruth. We took local buses, rusty ferries and slept in private houses or tiny hotels. Two girls alone in a land where they kept their women firmly at home. When we ate in cafes we were always the only females. We got used to men propositioning us and old women inquiring why we weren’t married yet. I don’t know why I had resisted going back for so long. Perhaps because I had been told that it had changed so much and become so commercial that I would be disappointed.
So it was with apprehension that I watched Mykonos as our ship steamed into the port. But there were no giant Sheratons or Hiltons to be seen. The town looked as it always had—small gleaming white buildings, blue water in the tiny harbor. True there were many more stores and more cafes but it was still enchanting. We had spent two weeks there on my previous trip, buying warm bread and cheeses and grapes before catching the rickety bus to a deserted beach on the far side of the island. No deserted beaches these days—our beach is lined with umbrellas and chairs.
I was even more worried about seeing Athens again. I had heard it was dirty, smog ridden and the Greeks were always having dangerous protests against austeries. But it was still magical with the Acropolis sparkling in sunshine and the evzones parading outside parliament with their “ministry of silly walks” and pom poms on their toes. And the Greeks were still charming, friendly and laid-back. Everyone wanted to chat, to ask where we had come from, how we liked it there and interested that I had been to Greece so long ago. True the main square was shut for a demonstration once, and we saw a parade of far right black shirts that was scary, but I would go back again in a heartbeat.
So I’m wondering, fellow Reds, have you ever dared to return to a place of your youth? Were you disappointed?
HALLIE EPHRON: A few years ago we went back to Venice - and I felt just that apprehension since it had seemed like such a magical place when we were there on our honeymoon inn 1969. We were not disappointed. This time we steered clear of the Piazza St. Marco which has become ridiculously crowded. The shopping is still extraordinary, the city a work of art, the food fabulous, and there was even a Vaporetto strike like there was the last time we were there.
RHYS: Hallie, I also went back to Venice for the first time since my childhood and found it as entrancing as ever! One of my favorite places.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: My mother used to say "Never return to the scene of a former glory." I suppose that was her way of preventing us from trying to recapture something wonderful--that the memory and the experience of a thing is singular--and that new is better. However, my 89-year-old father and his dear wife have just departed for Paris. For the millionth time. They're off to have a birthday dinner for Juliet at the same restaurant where they celebrated 10 years ago, Les Bookinistes. Dad said, when I called him to say bon voyage, "Paris is always wonderful."
I'm trying to figure out what we can learn from this.
LUCY BURDETTE: Hooray for your father, Hank, that's amazing. This is timely because my husband and I are going to the Provence area of France in October. I spent a semester there during my junior year of college. It wasn't a happy time because I was terribly homesick, and my roommate and I were living in cramped quarters with a family who wasn't very hospitable. (counting toilet paper and showers, just for example.)
But we did meet another family who whisked us around the gorgeous countryside every Sunday--Les Baux, La Camargue, Aigues-Mortes, and lots more. John's never been to this area of the country and I'm truly looking forward to going back. I can't imagine being disappointed....
ROSEMARY HARRIS: My husband and I love to go to new places so I suppose we only return to those places we know we still love. Recently that meant Florence, Rome...and Gettysburg, PA.
I'm more likely to have the "you can't go back" experience with books or movies. The first that leaps to mind is The Adams Chronicles. I remembered loving it and in 2013 it was pretty tough going..
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I've never been disappointed in London or Paris. It's been years since I've been to Italy or the south of France, however, so I do wonder if those places would hold up to the memories. I adored Germany on a book signing tour a couple of years ago, much more so than on brief trips in the late 70s.
I was talking to a friend the other night who had spent much time in Mexico City on business, and wondering how I would feel now about Mexico City and Guadalajara, cities where I spent much time from childhood into my twenties, and loved.
And then there's Edinburgh... It's been more than thirty years now since I lived there. I made a very brief visit when my daughter was six, and have passed through Waverley Station a few times on the way to the Highlands. Would I still love it as much as I did then? Now, if I could just think of reason to get my detectives there, I go visit as a research trip...
RHYS: So, dear friends, have you ever gone back to a place that was special for you? Were you disappointed or glad that you did?