Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fantasy Island...and city, and boat, and train...

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING:  Except for Lucy's Wednesday visit from Key West, it's been all cold weather all the time here at JRW. And even Lucy was talking about a scene that takes place on a cold gray day on the water! Well, the heck with that. Now is the time to  crank that under-the-desk heater, pull out your back issues of TRAVEL + LEISURE magazine, and start planning your imaginary getaway to the sun.

Since I'm not going to be able to take a real vacation until after I've paid off the last tuition bill, I let myself go whole hog on my fantasy trips. Five-star luxury hotels? Sure! Concierge tours? You bet! Stay an extra week? Oh, all right. Needless to say, since it's been all arctic air for the past few weeks, my imaginary trips lean heavily to warm spots. "So, Julia," I hear you saying, "Where would you go if you won the lottery tomorrow?" I'm glad you asked.
If we're taking a family vacation with two college students and 13-year-old Youngest, there's only one place that will thrill us all: New Zealand. Of course, we'll all travel via Air New Zealand's Premiere Business Class (the seats lay flat so you can sleep!) I was happy to discover the average temperature in Christchurch in February is 70 degrees F, dropping down to a comfortable 52 at night. Perfect weather for hiking, kayaking, exploring glaciers and taking in the sites where LORD OF THE RINGS and THE HOBBIT were filmed. 
While I go to the museums in Auckland and the art galleries in Wellington, Ross and the girls can go whale or penguin watching and The Boy can try bungy jumping off the Auckland Harbor bridge. We'll stay in farm bed and breakfasts and luxury hotels and stuff ourselves on lamb and seafood.

True, I may never get any closer to this trip than having a slideshow of NZ scenes on my desktop, but it's nice to dream. How about you, Reds? Where are you fantasy holidays located?

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Yes, NZ is on my list!  My brother and sister-in-law are there now, on their live-aboard sailboat.  And that African luxury safari. And the Orient Express from London to Istanbul.  All first class, all the way, if we're allowed to fantasize....  And how about a luxury cruise around the Mediterranean?

Ever since I researched the English waterways for Water Like a Stone, I've wanted to take a narrowboat holiday.  But I think I need a lackey to work the locks...

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Paris, Paris, Paris. No-holds-barred, anything you want Paris.
With behind the scenes,and museums and fashions and food and shopping and total immersion French. Merci!.

And of course,the Orient Express! How it used to be, right?  With tea and staterooms.

And then maybe no-hold-barred Florence. With behind the scenes,and museums and fashions and food and shopping and total immersion Italian. Grazie! 

JULIA: Hank, I'm sure you know this, but one of the routes the Venice-Simplon Orient Express takes is Paris to Venice. Talk about getting there being half the fun... and of course, there's no baggage limit on the Orient Express, so you can shop 'til you drop in both cities.

RHYS BOWEN: I only have one major item on my bucket list and that's an African Safari. Still trying to persuade John that lions will not bite off his toes as he sleeps. I also wanted to do a narrowboat holiday, Debs, but we decided the locks were too much work. But I can always be lured back to Paris, and Venice and I am doing a really nice cruise this summer in the Mediterranean, so no complaints. 

JULIA: Rhys, Ross and I went on a seventeen day safari back in '98 and it was amazing. No lions came and nibbled our toes (they are actually supremely lazy and avoid humans when they can) but an elephant did stroll over and look into the open-air shower where I was washing up!

How about you, dear readers? Where would you go if time and treasure were no object? 



  1. Rome and the Holy Land have always been on my wish-I-could-go-there list, so if money was no object [and it was actually safe to go to the middle east] that would be my dream trip . . . .

  2. I would go to Marblehead and rent a house in my old neighborhood on Front Street overlooking the harbor. I'd go sailing and swimming. When I wasn't eating lobster rolls I'd be eating clam rolls.

    I'd go over to Salem and research 17th century church and court documents. I'd visit with friends and relatives. Then I would decide to stay.

  3. Every one of those vacations sounds amazing! Get a ticket for me too?

  4. My husband booked a 12-day safari in October to take photos, and I got to go along. It was pretty much a dream trip, except for the fact that he was either looking through a camera or clearing shots on the computer the whole time. But Tanzania is such an amazing country.

    I'm going to Phoenix this week, for a four-day "girl camp" with women I've been friends with for more than 35 years. We'll hang out by the fireplace and pool, eat out (or cook together), get mani-pedis and massages, take hikes, visit museums, and just talk, talk, talk. I can't wait. In the past I've also been able to visit Reine, but can't make it that far this year. (I'll miss seeing you, Reine!)

    One of my daughters is going to live in Madrid for a year, so I'm hoping to go visit her. I've never been to Spain, and would like to also see Portugal, and maybe get back to Italy again.

    All it takes is money, right? There's the rub. But I would do without a lot of things to get the chance to travel.

  5. Yup, all it takes is money. Isn't that odd?

    Unless you could get on the Amazing Race. Reds, do you watch that? Would you do that? I mean, it would be an adventure...

  6. Karen, you have a great time. We'll visit another time, And you can tell Steve and me all about what you did. xoxo

  7. I want to visit all the islands of Scotland. ALL of them.

  8. My curious side wants to travel through Scotland, Spiritual me wants to return to Japan. My wine/foodie side longs to visit Italy and materialistic me is shopping in Paris or New York.

  9. I want to do the Viking River cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. Trip of a lifetime! I would return to Egypt and Israel in a heartbeat if it weren't so dangerous in that part of the world.

  10. Hank, I want your vacation, too. I love just spending time in cities, getting to know them, staying in flats rather than hotels, shopping at the markets... and patisseries! Where better than Paris! And I would love to go back to Florence, but I think I want to see Barcelona more..

    And Bev Fontaine, yes, that river cruise!!! Wouldn't that be fabulous?

    We all need to be independently wealthy, I've decided...

  11. Susan Elia, I'd go back to the Scottish Highlands, especially Speyside, in a heartbeat. And yes, I'd like to see all of the islands, but I've been to some, and I can tell you that they are very COLD.

  12. Susan, when do you want to go to all of the Scottish islands? Count me in. I've read so many books set in different Scottish isles, that I long to see first-hand the beauty and fierceness of these places. Most recently, I've started Peter May's trilogy set on the Isle of Lewis. Peter also has a pictorial guide to this setting entitled Hebrides, which, of course, I own, and on his Web page for these books (, there are all sorts of interesting links, including one to hearing someone speak Gaelic. Then, there are Skye, Shetlands, and Orkey to visit, too. Of course, I really just want to visit all of Scotland, and I couldn't miss out on the Highlands, due to my affection for the Highland coo ( and my fascination with the whisky tradition there ( I must add that my fascination with Highland whisky is due to Deb's book, Now May You Weep, and Gemma's trip to the Highlands.

    And, while I'm at it, England is also a part of this dream trip. I have roots in Stoke Canon, near Exeter, and I would love to explore Dartmoor and just all of southern England. Of course, I want to see all of England, but family ties make the southern part especially interesting. And, I have to visit all the places around London that Deb has brought alive for me through Gemma and Duncan.

    I think maybe a year or two would suffice to do all of the above?

  13. Susan and Kathy, Ross and I honeymooned in the Highlands, and spent part of the time on the Isle of Skye. We were so swept away by the rocky coast and spare landscape (and the very friendly welcome from the locals) we decided then and there we would retire to Skye and raise sheep in our golden years.

    I'll have to ask him if that's still on the table, or if an annual temperature of 40 to 56F has lost some of its appeal.

  14. I'm with you on New Zealand, with an Australia add on. Also a cooking tour of Tuscany with every comfort included and no cost too high.

    But on the realistic scale, I can't wait for my March northern California trip. Two author events already set up with a couple more pending (in the heart of the Local Foods movement!). Time with many dear family members, plus college friends who moved north. Topped off by Left Coast Crime, with another cousin and two good Quaker friends in the same town. Looking forward to all of it.

  15. If Scotland wasn't so cold, would Scotch have been invented?

    What a tragedy, if it hadn't. :-)

  16. I've always wanted to drive through Bordeaux and stop at all the great wineries. No holds barred, let's take a limo with butlers and maids to set up tables, a following truck in case I want to buy a a few cases of something special. Oh/ And then when I get home, I have to build a wine cellar.

  17. Many interesting dream trips.

    My likelihood of getting my husband (the white knuckle flier) on a plane long enough to reach, say, Paris to begin a trip on the Orient Express, or New Zealand, is just about zero.

    All the talk of Scotland, reminded me that with the time difference they are already celebrating Robert Burns night over there. So Happy Burns Night! and you're welcome to my share of the haggis.

  18. Australia is number one on my wish list.

  19. Julia, it would be interesting to hear what your husband thinks about that retirement idea now. I used to not understand why people retired to Florida and Arizona, but the older I get, the more I understand the need for warmth. My retirement home idea at this point is Key West, though I might have to see if Lucy has a shed I could rent, with the real estate prices so high there.

  20. I was lucky enough to go to Arisaig, on the west coast of Scotland, while I was researching THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT and also went to the islands of Rhum, Eigg, and Muck. What was fascinating was that they were all so close to each other and yet so different. And we just found out that my husband's Scottish ancestors come from the Isle of Barra, so I'm keen to see that as well!

    Also, Lucy, Key West is on my bucket list. If you ever need a house-sitter............ : )

  21. My first wish would be to spend a week in Vienna! What beautiful pictures and scenes from books I have seen and read! Then my husband and I would like to hit all the major tennis Opens. We would alternate one tennis open a year with a major golf open the next, and spend the next 8 years watching someone else play a sport at a high level in some wonderful cities around the world!

  22. Other than making it less demanding for you to get your boating permit, you will be a vastly improved boater after you take a boating security course.