Category Archives: Travel, places, and the world

Art and the world

On the local radio station – well, not technically local, but close enough – a new song came on around the end of 2017. The lyrics are simple, and the melody is said to symbolize an emerging music genre called “alternative dance,” combining alternative rock of the 1990s with the dance craze. The song was “No Roots” by Alice Merton.

Video courtesy of YouTube. 

Music is said to be a universal language, and the stories of the places that musicians and artists tell. Merton is no exception, and the lyrics are largely autobiographical. She was born in Frankfurt, Germany, to a German mother and an Irish father. During her childhood, she spent time all over the world, due to her father being constantly reassigned for work. Among the places she spent times were Connecticut, Ontario and various parts of Canada, Munich, then to Mannheim for her musical education. Her mother also spent time in France, and she’s currently based out of Oakville, Ontario. A road well-traveled, Merton re-connected with her German heritage upon arriving in Munich and began learning the language to communicate with her grandmother. Reportedly, they had seen each other only once before then.

In fact, this story has similarities with my own. I grew up in the same place for most of my life, a college town in southern Indiana. My dad grew up in Wemmel, a Flemish-speaking suburb of Brussels, and my mom was based in Nashville, Tennessee. I don’t know our official heritage on that side, but I’ve heard some stories. I’d imagine Anglo-Saxon would be very close, but she once told me (around 20 or so years ago) that she was contacted by a man in Francophone Canada who said they may have had a common relative. I’m not sure if that ever panned out, but I’d love to try to find that. And like Alice Merton, my linguistic journey starts out in a similar way. My grandmother spoke no English, and I spoke no Dutch or Flemish. But she did speak French, so I learned it as a way to communicate with her whenever I could. I was so good at it so early that I majored in it all the way through college. Over the years, I started picking up others, including my dad’s family’s native tongue. Ik ben zo trots om meer talen te leren. 

I’ve often felt that the languages and the theatre and acting side combined together perfectly. I’ve certainly won roles because I could speak some French. In fact, in one role, I was said to be the only actor in the main cast who didn’t need a dialect coach. It may be imitation, but I supposedly have a good ear for these things.

Art knows no language. Art knows no boundaries. It’s been said it requires only four things to keep it going: an artist, an audience, a venue, and an idea. As long as you have all four of them together, art will always be a survivor.

Art can be done in the streets, as entertainment and protest, as music, as theatre, as dance. It can be done in sporting arenas, which often give us a perfect blend of true-life drama. Poetry in motion is all around this world. Everybody has a rhythm to life. I’m grateful I get to be a part of it.

Art, travel, and a strong sense of family: what more could a guy ask for?

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Two steps forward?

Not that it’s really a secret, but it is a little embarrassing to talk about. But I also feel like as painful as it is, it’s necessary to try to get people to understand. I don’t know how to drive a car, or ride a bike.

One of the most infuriating parts about being on the spectrum is how people think it’s a lack of desire that is the main cause. They’re half right. The lack of desire is there, but it’s not the main cause. That lack of desire is brought on by a lack of know-how. I had a learner’s permit when I was 15 and 16 years old, but even then, I could tell that I wasn’t cut out for it. What’s even more upsetting to me is that I cost myself a chance to audition for the spring musical my freshman year of high school. The fact I likely wouldn’t have made it aside, at least auditioning would have been a better use of my time. At least I could do what they were asking me to do. Acting was the easy part. Driving, not so much.

It’s true that there are some autistics that can drive. And more power to them. But I think it’s fair to wonder if they’re just a lucky exception instead of the norm. Ordinarily, driving defensively would be considered a good thing. Except when you’re an autistic 15-year-old in Indiana, trying to fit in during your freshman year. I can’t tell me how many times my dad would get frustrated and raise his voice when I wouldn’t speed up. Most kids at that age tend to be a little reckless. I was the complete opposite, but that wasn’t much better. The rigidity of rules was so high here that I created a hazard by following them. The manual said not to touch the line in a no passing zone, so I didn’t. I drifted as far to the right to the road as I could….constantly. A few times, including twice with my driving instructor, I ended up on the side of the road. And there was nobody else in the car to distract me. I doubt it would have made a difference, but I do think I was unfairly singled out in my class. I was the only one granted that exemption. Over the years, I wonder if I really should have had it.

The following story is all true. I couldn’t make it up if I tried. It’s too humiliating to be false.

When I had my permit at 15-16, I once drove with my cousin Troy one time, driving a pretty hefty truck. We were in a residential neighborhood, near a cul-de-sac. I pulled out of said cul-de-sac, and headed into the neighborhood, with a 10 mph speed limit. Ours was the only car on the road, in large part because it was a Sunday morning (ergo many were at church or early work). Instead of going too fast, I went too slow off of a speed bump, and amazingly at first, I didn’t have enough momentum to get over it. I accelerated just a little bit, mistimed it, and veered off the road…and straight into a mailbox. Nobody was hurt, but the mailbox was almost obliterated. I think I drove two times after that, and both were unmitigated disasters. The first of the last two times, I was unable to control my fine and gross dexterity, so I almost careened off a blind curve with no guardrail, and on top of that the engine gave out; and the last time, the only time I finally felt brave enough to venture closer to the median line in a no-passing zone, I narrowly missed side-swiping somebody. The margin was just over an inch. My dad yelled at me for not paying attention, and it was then then I realized: I was a hazard behind the wheel.

He forgot that story, but I never have. I reminded him of it about a year or so ago, and I think he finally gave up trying to get me to try again. I told him this: I’m trying to protect everybody, not just myself. 

To recap: I hit a mailbox in a dead end going ten miles an hour on a dead Sunday morning. If I can’t do that part right, how can I be expected to go 55 in traffic five days a week? 

On top of that, I never learned how to ride a bike either. I tried and tried and tried, but I could never balance properly. I’d always tilt to one side or the other. This was more emotionally painful for me than driving because as a half-Belgian, they are crazy about cycling over there. I felt like a fraud. 

If I can’t do it on two wheels, how can I be expected to do it on four, and vice-versa? 

This and my diet are the two worst parts of being autistic. But even the diet isn’t that bad. Because there are other people with dietary issues, such as gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, etc. But I bet they know how to drive. It’s humiliating and embarrassing enough to not be able to do it, but what makes it worse is having to explain why.

“Safety first” is one of the first lessons we’re taught of children. Does it suddenly become waived as we get older? No. And it shouldn’t.

Over the years, I’ve gotten accustomed to walking. But even on flat sidewalks, I’ve tripped. I turned my ankle pretty badly walking on a flat sidewalk with no elevation. Even that is hit or miss sometimes. But I still do it. There, I can put my best foot forward – pun completely intended.

So, I want to clear something up once and for all. I want anybody who reads this to do so carefully. In fact, I’d suggest you read it multiple times.

I don’t walk everywhere for exercise purposes (although that is an added benefit). I don’t walk to make a statement. I don’t walk because I’m trying to save money, although that too is also nice to have. I walk because I have no other reliable means of transportation. If I don’t walk, then I’d basically never go anywhere. 

Sorry to be a little blunt, but I had to make my point. I hope this answers the question. I don’t drive because I can’t drive. And I doubt I ever will able to correct my hand-eye coordination to do so.

But I’ll try to conclude on a positive note. Being able to walk has allowed me to see the world in a new way. It’s allowed me to slow down and see the beauty of the world we live in. Perhaps we’ve put too much praise on the culture of the car. This is one of my favorite travel questions: where are we going, and why are we always in such a hurry to get there?

To quote the following song below (Ted Leo and the Pharmacists):

“And if we’re near or far from out city by the sea-side
Well, as long as we keep our stride, I believe we’ll be fine
You’ve seen the years roll on, and you’ve seen me roll with you
I see the road is long, so get on my side, there’s a whole lot of walking to do.

National Geographic Books: Secret Places updates, January 2018

The 2018 updates of the next National Geographic book, Secret Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Best Hidden Travel Gems.

As usual, repeats are allowed if they occur, and will be listed by the book’s listing. These also include side lists, such as specialized places, like museums. And this time, I’ll list if and when it’s connected to anything.

I. The World at Your Feet 
1. Cherohala Skyway (Tennessee/North Carolina)
Secret: Great Smoky Mountains 

Image result for cherohala skyway
http://www.cherohala.com. 

2. Willis Tower (Chicago, IL) 
Secret: Not the building, but its observation decks 

Image result for willis tower skydeckSkydeck Chicago

II. Last Wildernesses 
None

III. Island Getaways
None

IV. The Road Less Traveled 
None

V. Secret History 
None

VI. Spiritual Havens
1. Our Lady’s Church (Bruges, Belgium) 
Secret: Religious Art 

Image result for our lady's church bruges art
http://www.visit-bruges.be 

VII. Hidden Treasures 
1. Chateau d’Hassonville (Ardennes, Belgium) 
Secret: Castle with accommodations, once a favorite of Louis XIV
Image result for chateau d'hassonville
TripAdvisor

VIII. Undiscovered Villages
None

IX. City Secrets 
1. Central Park (New York, NY) 
Secret: Birding 

Image result for birding in central park
National Audubon Society 

2. Le Châtelain (Brussels, Belgium) 
Secret: Lesser-known part of southern Brussels
Image result for chatelain district brussels
http://www.fourpointsbrussels.com.

Potential Visits in Near Future 
1. SoMa District, San Francisco, CA (City Secrets)

Near-Misses, Unconfirmed, or Inconclusive 
1. Caesars Head State Park – South Carolina (The World at Your Feet)
2. Forêt de Brotonne – Rouen, France (Last Wildernesses)
3. Shining Rock Wilderness – North Carolina (Last Wildernesses)
4. Île des Cygnes – Paris, France (Island Getaways)
5. South Oxford Canal – Oxford, England (The Road Less Traveled)
6. St. John the Divine – New York, NY (Spiritual Havens)
7. Chappelle Expiatoire – Paris, France (Spiritual Havens)
8. City of London Churches – London, England (Spiritual Havens)
9. Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum – Gatlinburg, Tennessee (Hidden Treasures)
10. Lumina Domestica – Bruges, Belgium (Hidden Treasures)
11. Biltmore House – Asheville, North Carolina (Hidden Treasures)
12. *Begijnhof of Kortrijk – Kortrijk, Belgium (Hidden Treasures)*
13. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – Boston, Massachusetts (Hidden Treasures)
14. National Arboretum – Washington, D.C. (City Secrets)

*This is in italics because I’m pretty sure I’ve been to another begijnhof, in Bruges, just not the one in Kortrijk. Viewers, what do you think: should I count this as half, perhaps? I’ll leave it up to you. Comment with what you think.*

Total: 6

The frustrating part is that it could be as many as 20 if any of the unconfirmed ones come through. Maybe it’ll give me an incentive!

Related image
Photo courtesy of National Geographic Store. 

National Geographic Books: 2018 updates – Journeys of a Lifetime

Thank you all for reading the previous post. There are five in total that I have, and I’ll post the 2018 updates.

This book is Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips, edited by the late Keith Bellows. As with the previous list, they’ll be listed by category instead of country, and will be listed in order by the book’s listings, and including side lists as well. For example, the Eiffel Tower and Empire State Building (Part 8, “Up and Away”) aren’t the attraction, but their elevators are. Similarly, in the last list, it’s the cities as major film production centers. I’ll do my best to find corresponding photos so readers don’t get too confused. Also, repeats are okay from previous lists.

Here’s the list!

I. Across Water 
Staten Island Ferry (New York, NY) 
Image result for staten island ferry
http://www.nycgo.com. 

II. By Road 
None

III. By Rail 
None

IV. On Foot 
1. The National Mall (Washington, D.C.) 
Image result for the national mall
http://www.washington.org

2. Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee/North Carolina)
Image result for great smoky mountains
http://www.visitmysmokies.com.

3. Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky) 
Image result for mammoth cave national park
National Park Foundation.

V. In Search of Culture 
1. Freedom Trail (Boston, MA)
Image result for Freedom trail
Boston Private Tours 

2. The Loop (Chicago, IL)
Image result for the loop chicago
http://www.loopchicago.com.

3. England’s Gardens (Windsor, England) 
Image result for windsor gardens englands
http://www.planetware.com. 

4. Cathedrals of France (Paris and Strasbourg, France) 
Related image
Wikimedia Commons (Strasbourg’s is shown)

VI. In Gourmet Heaven 
None

VII. Into the Action 
1. Dutch Bulbfields (Keukenhof, Netherlands) 
Image result for Dutch bulb fields keukenhof
http://www.fullsuitcase.com.

VIII. Up and Away 
1. Eiffel Tower (Paris, France)
Image result for eiffel tower elevator
http://www.visiteiffeltower.com.

2. Empire State Building (New York, NY) 
Related image
Wikimedia Commons.

IX. In Their Footsteps 
1. New York, NY (Film Production)
Image result for new york city film locations
http://www.scoutingnewyork.com.

2. Paris, France (Film Production)
Image result for paris film locations
http://www.cntraveler.com.

3. London, England (Film Production) 
Image result for london film locations
Brit Movie Tours

4. Normandy Beaches (Normandy, France) 
Image result for Normandy beaches
France Tours 

Planned Trips or Possible Trips in the Near Future
1. San Francisco to Sausalito Ferry – California (Across Water)
2. Route 66 Through Arizona – Arizona (By Road)
3. San Francisco’s Streetcar F – California (By Rail)
4. The John Muir Trail – California (On Foot)
5. Ansel Adams’ Yosemite – California (In Their Footsteps)

Near-Misses, Unconfirmed, or Inconclusive 
1. Brooklyn Bridge – Brooklyn, NY (On Foot)
2. Colonial Virginia – Williamsburg, VA (In Search of Culture)
3. Vieux Carré – New Orleans, Louisiana (In Search of Culture)
4. Dutch Masters Tour – Delft, Netherlands (In Search of Culture)
5. The Battle of the Somme – France (In Search of Culture)
6. Cajun Cooking in Louisiana – Louisiana (In Gourmet Heaven)
7. Cheeses of Normandy – Normandy, France (In Gourmet Heaven)

Yes, I included some from side lists, but to the best of my knowledge, they are part of the list. So, I think I’m allowed to list them. If anybody has the book to compare, you are welcome to post your lists. I hope to see them, too!

Total Confirmed: 15

Related image
Photo courtesy of Barnes and Noble. 

January 16, 2018: Updates and another challenge

Just today alone, this blog increased its profile significantly, with five views from the UK, three from the Netherlands (dank je wel, Nederland, van deze half-Belgische schrijver), which doubled the views in one day as it had in all four years combined (3 to 7), and my first ever from Ghana and Japan! Even if they were just stopping by on accident, it does mean a lot.

As blasé as this will sound – actually, as blasé as it is – why don’t I throw in an extra challenge? With these new views, I now have views from twenty-five countries all-time! So, if any of you readers are interested, how about we do a little informal contest?

Image result for it's contest time
Photo courtesy of http://www.keepcalmandposters.com. 

These are the primary topics on these blogs, in no particular order:
1. Sports – primarily baseball, association football (soccer), and basketball.
2. Travel – local, domestic, international, and everything in between
3. Arts – movies, songs, literature, and what it means to be a part of the creative community
4. Living life as a high-functioning autistic, and how it ties in to the other three topics mentioned above.
5. A compulsion to list things, which ties into #4.

I do write about other topics, but less frequently. If these topics, or perhaps a combination of them, appeal to you, keep coming back, please. I hope to hear – or in this case see – from you soon.

For those that are excited about the World Cup in Russia, all the teams in Group A and B (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay; Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran) and the first two of Group C (France, Australia, and the next two coming soon!) are up. If you click at the top of my blog and look for the tag “World Cup profiles,” you can look it up there. Maybe some of you have a team that’s in it this year. And, to up the ante a little bit, here’s a link to the profiles page, with every team so far.

https://ericparisvangucht.wordpress.com/category/world-cup-profiles/

Here’s the challenge: every month for the rest of the year, and I’ll do my best to get it as close to the 15th or 16th of the month as possible (May will be difficult because there’s a trip planned, but soon afterward!), each country that reads this blog will have its monthly progress tracked. At the end of the year, I’ll tally up how many combined views I have from each country (2014-18). And at the end of the year, I’ll write an entire post about the top three countries!! Does that sound like a fair challenge?

For the sake of argument, because it would be unfairly stacking the deck, I’ll leave the United States out of this one. So, this leaves twenty-four countries as of this writing (6:25 p.m. on January 16, 2018). Other countries may enter (or re-enter) the race at any time during the year.

Going back to this blog’s inception in 2014, here is the full list of views. And our current leader is….Belgium! In the event of ties, it’s listed by the way my stats page lists them.

Leader board (April 2014-present, U.S. excluded)
1. Belgium – 72
2. United Kingdom – 23
3. Australia – 22
4. South Korea – 16
5. India – 11
6. Ireland – 10
7. France – 8
8. Netherlands – 7
9. Thailand – 6
10. Canada – 4
11. Italy – 4
12. Brazil – 4
13. Germany – 4
14. South Africa – 3
15. Russia – 3
16. Taiwan – 3
17. Indonesia – 2
18. Ghana – 1
19. Caribbean Netherlands – 1
20. Mexico – 1
21. Czech Republic – 1
22. Ecuador – 1
23. Spain – 1
24. Japan – 1

Year of 2018 (as of January 16)
1. India – 11
T2. United Kingdom – 6
T2. Belgium – 6
T4. Netherlands – 4
T4. France – 4
T4. Italy – 4
T7. Australia – 3
T7. Russia – 3
9. Canada – 2
T10. Ghana – 1
T10. Japan – 1
T10. South Africa – 1
T10. Taiwan – 1

If anybody in the blogosphere reads this, the gauntlet has been laid down. If anybody is interested, keep reading! Also, feel free to comment where you’re from, and perhaps we can trade views. Feel free to pass this on to your friends. Hopefully, these global interests can help narrow the divide in a chaotic world right now.

The challenge is on! Who’s with me? If you’re in, on your mark, get set, go!!

National Geographic Books: 2018 updates – Sacred Places of a Lifetime.

Some of you may know the National Geographic books I was so fond of. Here’s a 2018 update of Sacred Places of a Lifetime. The genius of these books is that instead of by country, it’s listed by what kind of place it is – i.e. a church, or a cemetery, etc. Photos will be credited as such, and places will be listed in order by how the book lists them.

I. Sacred Landscapes 
None

II. Megaliths and Mysteries 
1. Stonehenge (England)
Image result for stonehenge england
http://www.planetware.com.

2. Megaliths of Carnac (France)
Related image
Reader’s Digest 

III. Cradles of Faith 
None

IV. Majestic Ruins 
None

V. Daily Devotion
1. Old North Church (Boston, MA) 
Image result for old north church boston ma
Wikimedia Commons.

2. University Church of St. Mary (Oxford, England) 
Image result for university church of st mary oxford
Wikimedia Commons

3. Salisbury Cathedral (Salisbury, England) 
Image result for salisbury cathedral
http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk. 

4. Aachen Cathedral (Aachen, Germany)
Image result for aachen cathedral
Expedia

5. Westminster Abbey (London, England)
Image result for westminster abbey
http://www.londonist.com

6. Notre-Dame de Paris (Paris, France) 
Image result for notre dame paris
TripAdvisor 

7. Sacré-Cœur Basilica (Paris, France)
Image result for sacre coeur paris
http://www.aviewoncities.com. 

VI. Shrines 
Shrine of St. Ursula (Bruges, Belgium) 
Image result for Shrine of St ursula bruges
http://www.visit-bruges.be 

VII. The Pilgrim’s Way 
1. March for Jobs and Freedom, National Mall (Washington, D.C.)
Image result for national mall washington dc
PBS. 

2. Mont-St-Michel (Brittany, France)
Image result for mont st michel
Lonely Planet. 

VIII. Ceremonies and Festivals 
None

IX. In Remembrance 
1. Ground Zero (New York, NY) 
Image result for ground zero nyc
http://www.tripsavvy.com.

2. Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Washington, D.C.) 
Image result for vietnam veterans memorial
Sacred Sites International. 

3. Korean War Veterans Memorial (Washington, D.C.)
Image result for korean war veterans memorial
National Park Foundation 

4. Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial (Normandy, France) 
Image result for normandy american cemetery & memorial
History Channel. 

X. Retreats 
None

Near-Misses, Unconfirmed, or Inconclusive (listed by chapter) 
1. Mission Concepcion, San Antonio, TX (Daily Devotion)
2. Rothko Chapel, Houston, TX (Daily Devotion)
3. Shrine of the Three Kings, Cologne, Germany (Shrines)
4. Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA (In Remembrance)
5. Cenotaph, London, England (In Remembrance)
6. Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium (In Remembrance)
7. Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France (In Remembrance)

Totals by Country 
United States – 5
France – 5
England – 4
Belgium – 1
Germany -1

Total Confirmed: 16

Still holding from where it was last time, but hopefully can do updates next year.

Image result for sacred places of a lifetime
Photo courtesy of National Geographic Store. 

1001 Amazing Places You Must See Before You Die: January 2018 updates

I posted a previous list under a different title. Here’s an updated list for the book 1001 Amazing Places You Must See Before You Die.

All places will be listed chronologically by the book pages, and by country in alphabetical order. Photo credits listed in italics.

Belgium (3) 
1. Belfry of Bruges
City: Bruges 

Image result for Belfry of Bruges
http://www.visitbruges.be 

2. Rubens House 
City: Antwerp Image result for rubens house
http://www.thousandwonders.net 

3. Waterloo Battlefield 
City: Waterloo
Image result for Waterloo battlefield
TripAdvisor

England (10) 
1. Blenheim Palace
Location: Woodstock 

Image result for blenheim palace
http://www.blenheimpalace.com

2. Bodleian Library 
Location: Oxford 
Image result for bodleian library
The Telegraph 

3. Avebury Stone Circles 
Location: Avebury 
Image result for Avebury stone circles
http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk 

4. Stonehenge 
Location: Salisbury 
Image result for Stonehenge
The Sun 

5. Eton College 
Location: Windsor 
Image result for Eton College
http://www.etoncollege.com. 

6. Windsor Castle 
Location: Windsor 
Image result for windsor castle
The Telegraph

7. Westminster Abbey 
Location: London
Image result for westminster abbey
http://www.londonist.com.

8. Buckingham Palace 
Location: London 
Image result for buckingham palace
http://www.visitlondon.com

9. Nelson’s Column 
Location: London 
Image result for Nelson's column
The Daily Express

10. Tower of London 
Location: London 
Image result for tower of london
The Telegraph 

France (6) 
1. Normandy Beaches 
Location: Normandy 
Image result for normandy beach
http://www.francethisway.com.

2. Eiffel Tower 
Location: Paris 
Image result for eiffel tower
National Geographic 

3. Arc de Triomphe 
Location: Paris 
Image result for arc de triomphe
Lonely Planet 

4. Pont Neuf 
Location: Paris 
Image result for Pont neuf
TripAdvisor 

5. Notre-Dame de Paris 
Location: Paris 
Image result for notre-dame de paris
TripAdvisor 

6. Notre-Dame de Strasbourg 
Location: Strasbourg 
Image result for notre dame de strasbourg
TripAdvisor 

Germany (1) 

1. Aachen Cathedral 
Location: Aachen 

Image result for Aachen Cathedral
http://www.realmofhistory.com.

United States (12)
1. Wrigley Field 

Location: Chicago, Illinois 
Image result for wrigley field
http://www.ballparks.com.

2. Monticello 
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia 
Image result for monticello
http://www.virginia.org

3. Mount Vernon 
Location: Mount Vernon, Virginia 
Image result for mount vernon virginia
http://www.mountvernon.org 

4. United States Supreme Court 
Location: Washington, D.C. 
Image result for us supreme court building
http://www.britannica.com

5. White House 
Location: Washington, D.C. 
Image result for White house
http://www.cnn.com. 

6. The Capitol 
Location: Washington, D.C. 
Image result for capitol building
http://www.washington.org 

7. Washington Monument
Location: Washington, D.C. 
Image result for washington monument
USA Today

8. Lincoln Memorial 
Location: Washington, D.C. 
Image result for lincoln memorial
http://www.washington.org

9. Empire State Building 
Location: New York, New York 
Image result for empire state building
New York Post 

10. Statue of Liberty 
Location: New York, New York 
Image result for statue of liberty
TripAdvisor 

11. Gateway Arch 
Location: St. Louis, Missouri 
Related image
http://www.smithsonianmag.com. 

12. Alamo Mission 
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Image result for alamo mission
TripAdvisor

Inconclusive/Unconfirmed 
1. World War I Trenches (Belgium)
2. Cenotaph (England)
3. Ducal Palace of Brittany (France)
4. La Conciergie (France)
5. Palace of Versailles (France)
6. Palais Rohan (France)
7. Père Lachaise Cemetery (France)
8. Sainte Chappelle (France)
9. Cologne Cathedral (Germany)
10. Arnhem Bridge (Netherlands)
11. Arlington National Cemetery (United States)
12. Brooklyn Bridge (United States)
13. Graceland (United States)
14. Grand Central Terminal (United States)
15. Library of Congress (United States)

Totals: 32 out of 1001 (3.19%)

Image result for 1001 amazing places
http://www.amazon.com

UPDATES: 501/1001 travel books

As of today’s writing (March 13, 2017), here are all my places, with repeats included.

Rules
1. I must have a legitimate memory of doing something. Ergo, just stopping in the airport or driving through a place doesn’t count (unless the airport itself is the attraction – there is one of them on this list).
2. It must be listed in the book.
3. Places will be listed either chronologically by country, or by how they’re listed in the book. So, I’ll list where I first visited, and go from there.
4. If I can’t confirm it, but may have some memories, it will be listed as “Inconclusive.”
5. For the sake of quickness (relatively speaking for me, of course), I won’t go into detail as much. Partially because of repeats.

All information is accurate as of this writing, March 13, 2017.

501 Must-Visit Cities 
Image result for 501 must visit cities
(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.) 

Belgium 
1. Antwerp 
Times Visited: 2
Dates: January-August 1994, July 2004

2. Brussels
Times Visited: 3
Dates: February-March 1994, July-August 2004, July-August 2010

3. Bruges 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

4. Ghent 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

5. Mechelen 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July-August 2010

Totals: 5

France 
1. Rennes 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

2. Paris
Times Visited: 2
Dates: July 2004, March 2005

3. Strasbourg 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2005

Totals: 3

England 
1. Oxford 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

2. London 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

Totals: 2

United States 
1. Chicago, Illinois
Times Visited: 3
Dates: June 1995, July 1999, March 2006

2. Washington, D.C. 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: June 1998

3. San Antonio, Texas 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: June 2001

4. Austin, Texas 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: May 2004

5. New York, New York 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2009

6. St. Louis, Missouri 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2009

7. Columbus, Ohio
Times Visited: 3
Dates: May 2013, February-March 2015, March 2016

8. Boston, Massachusetts 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2016

Total: 8

Inconclusive
1. Cambridge, England
2. Rouen, France
3. Nantes, France
4. Cologne, Germany
5. Leiden, Netherlands
6. Atlanta, Georgia, USA
7. Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Grand Total So Far: 18

501 Must-Visit Destinations
Image result for 501 must visit cities
(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.) 

United States
1. The Smoky Mountains 
Times Visited: 3
Dates: November 1997, November 1998, March 1999

2. Washington, D.C.
Times Visited: 1
Dates: June 1998

3. The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: June 1998

4. The National Air and Space Museum 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: June 1998

5. San Antonio
Times Visited: 1
Dates: June 2001

6. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2009

Total: 6

Belgium 
1. Bruges 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

Total: 1

France
1. Mont-Saint-Michel 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

2. The Cathedral of Notre Dame 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

3. The Louvre 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2005

Total: 3

Germany 
1. Aachen Cathedral 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: Spring 1994

Total: 1

Netherlands 
1. Keukenhof Gardens 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: Spring 1994

Total: 1

England
1. Stonehenge 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

2. Salisbury Cathedral 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

3. Oxford
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

4. The Houses of Parliament 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

5. Tate Modern 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

Total: 5

Multi-Country 
The Great Lakes (USA/Canada) 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2006

Total: 1

Inconclusive
1. Cologne Cathedral – Cologne, Germany

Grand Total So Far: 18

501 Must Visit-Wild Places
Image result for 501 must visit wild places
(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.) 

Unfortunately, zero here. But I’m close to a few, so maybe soon.

Grand Total So Far: 0

501 Must-Take Journeys
Image result for 501 must take journeys
(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com)

United States
1. Appalachian Trail 
Times Visited: 2
Dates: November 1997, November 1998

2. Shenandoah Valley 
Times Visited:1
Dates: June 1998

3. Blue Ridge Parkway 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: November 1998

4. Lower Manhattan 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2009

Total: 4

Netherlands
1. Keukenhof Gardens
Times Visited: 1
Dates: Spring 1994

Total: 1

Multi-Country  
1. Flanders Fields (France/Belgium)
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

Total: 1

France 
1. Brittany’s Emerald Coast 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

2. D-Day Beaches
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

3. Paris 
Times Visited: 2
Dates: July 2004, March 2005

Total: 3

Grand Total So Far:

501 Must-Be-There Events
Image result for 501 must be there events
(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com)

United States 
1. Independence Day
Times Visited: Numerous
Dates: Numerous

Totals: 1

Belgium 
1. Pistes de Lancement Circus Festival 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 1994

2. La Flèche Wallonne
Times Visited: 1
Dates: April 1994

3. Ommegang Pageant 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

Totals: 3

Inconclusive/Not Enough Information 
1. Pukkelpop – Hasselt, Belgium

Seen on TV (but not in person) 
England – FA Cup Final, Wimbledon Championships
France – Tour de France
United States – U.S. Open (golf), U.S. Open (tennis), World Series, Stanley Cup, Indianapolis 500, Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Rose Bowl Parade, New Year’s Eve in Times Square

Grand Total So Far: 4

501 Must-Visit Natural Wonders
Image result for 501 must visit natural wonders
(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.) 

Multi-Country 
1. Great Lakes (USA/Canada)
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2006

Total: 1

United States 
1. The Smoky Mountains 
Times Visited: 3
Dates: November 1997, November 1998, March 1999

2. Mammoth Cave National Park 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: May 2002

3. Blue Ridge Mountains 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: November 1998

Total: 3

Belgium 
1. Ardennes Peaks 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: Spring 1994

Total: 1

France 
1. Meuse Valley and the Ardennes Forest 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: Spring 1994

Total: 1

Inconclusive
1. Bluegrass Country – Kentucky, USA
2. Bracken Cave Bat Roost – San Antonio, Texas, USA
3. Chesapeake Bay – Maryland, USA

Grand Total So Far: 6

1001 Walks You Must Take Before You Die 
Image result for 1001 walks you must take before you die
(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com)

United States
1. Appalachian Trail
Times Visited: 2
Dates: November 1997, November 1998

2. Clingmans Dome 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: November 1997

3. Mammoth Cave Park Long Loop Trail 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2002

4. Chicago Lakefront Trail 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2006

5. Central Park
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2009

6. Freedom Trail 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2016

Total: 6

Belgium
1. Waterloo Battlefield Trail 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

2. Bruges Historic Center 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

3. Comic Strip Trail 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

Total: 3

England
The Ridgeway 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

Total: 1

France
1. Mont-Saint-Michel 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

2. D-Day Beaches
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

3. Dinan Walled Town Walk 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

4. Left Bank, Seine 
Times Visited: 2
Dates: July 2004, March 2005

5Île Saint-Louis
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

6. Alsace Wine Trails 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2005

7. GR-21 Alabaster Coast Trail
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

Totals: 7

Inconclusive
1. Ramparts of Ypres, Belgium
2. Cologne Cathedral, Germany
3. Brooklyn Bridge, United States
4. Alum Cave Bluffs Trail, United States
5. Chimney Tops Trail, United States
6. Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, United States
7. White Horse Trail, Wiltshire, England
8. GR34 Customs’ Officers Trail, Brittany, France

Grand Total So Far: 17

1001 Historic Sites You Must See Before You Die 
Image result for 1001 historic sites
(Photo courtesy of amazon.com)

Belgium
1. Belfry of Bruges
2. Rubens House
3. Waterloo Battlefield

Total: 3

England 
1. Avebury Stone Circles
2. Blenheim Palace
3. Buckingham Palace
4. Eton College
5. Nelson’s Column
6. Stonehenge
7. Tower of London
8. Westminster Abbey
9. Windsor Castle

Total: 9

France
1. Arc de Triomphe
2. Cathedral of Notre-Dame (Strasbourg)
3. Cathedral of Notre-Dame (Paris)
4. Eiffel Tower
5. Normandy Beaches
6. Pont Neuf

Total: 6

Germany 
1. Aachen Cathedral

Total: 1

United States 
1. Alamo Mission
2. Capitol Building
3. Ellis Island
4. Empire State Building
5. Gateway Arch
6. Lincoln Memorial
7. Mount Vernon
8. Statue of Liberty
9. Washington Monument
10. White House
11. Wrigley Field

Total: 11

Inconclusive 
1. World War I Battlefields – Ypres, Belgium
2. Ducal Palace of Brittany – Brittany, France
3. La Conciergerie – Paris, France
4. Palace of Versailles – Paris, France
5. Palais Rohan – Strasbourg, France
6. Père Lachaise Cemetery – Paris, France
7. Sainte Chappelle – Paris, France
8. Cologne Cathedral – Cologne, Germany
9. Arlington National Cemetery – Virginia, USA
10. Brooklyn Bridge – Brooklyn, New York, USA
11. Graceland – Memphis, Tennessee, USA
12. Grand Central Terminal – New York, New York, USA
13. Library of Congress – Washington, D.C., USA
14. Monticello – Charlottesville, Virginia, USA

Grand Total So Far: 30 

Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Spectacular Trips 
Image result for drives of a lifetime
(Photo courtesy of barnesandnoble.com)

England
1. London

Total: 1

Netherlands
1. Springtime in Holland – Lisse

Total: 1

United States
1. Blue Ridge Parkway – Great Smoky Mountains
2. Newfound Gap Road – Great Smoky Mountains
3. Fifth Avenue – New York City
4. Washington, D.C.

Total: 4

Inconclusive/Near-Misses
1. Alsace Wine Tour – Alsace, France (walked it, but didn’t drive through it, so I don’t think I can count it here)
2. Route des Abbayes – Rouen, France
3. Amish Culture and Crafts – Elkhart, Indiana, USA
4. Cullasaja River Gorge – Macon County, North Carolina, USA
5. Out of Houston – Houston, Texas, USA
6. Revolutionary Roads Tour – Concord to Lexington, Massachusetts, USA

Totals So Far: 6

Sacred Places of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Peaceful and Powerful Destinations 
Image result for sacred places of a lifetime
(Photo courtesy of National Geographic Store) 

Belgium 
1. Shrine of St. Ursula – Bruges

Total: 1

England 
1. Salisbury Cathedral – Salisbury
2. Stonehenge – Wiltshire
3. University Church of St. Mary – Oxford
4. Westminster Abbey – London

Total: 4

France
1. Mont-Saint-Michel – Normandy
2. Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial – Normandy
3. Notre-Dame de Paris – Paris
4. Sacré-Cœur Basilica- Paris

Total: 4

Germany
1. Aachen Cathedral – Aachen

Total: 1

United States 
1. Ground Zero – New York, New York
2. Korean War Veteran’s Memorial – Washington, D.C.
3. March for Jobs and Freedom (National Mall) – Washington, D.C.
4. Old North Church – Boston, Massachusetts
5. Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial – Washington, D.C.

Totals: 5

Inconclusive/Near-Misses
1. Menin Gate Memorial – Ypres, Belgium
2. Cenotaph – London, England
3. Père Lachaise Cemetery – Paris, France
4. Shrine of the Three Kings (Cologne Cathedral) – Cologne, Germany
5. Arlington National Cemetery – Washington, D.C., USA
6. Cemeteries of New Orleans – New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
7. Mission Concepcion – San Antonio, Texas, USA
8. Rothko Chapel (University of Texas) – Austin, Texas, USA

Grand Total So Far: 15 

Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips
Image result for journeys of a lifetime 500 of the world's greatest trips
(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com) 

England 
1. England’s Gardens – Windsor
2. London (film center)

Total: 2

France 
1. Cathedrals of France – Various
2. Eiffel Tower – Paris
3. Normandy Beaches – Normandy
4. Paris (film center)

Total: 4

Netherlands 
1. Dutch Bulbfields – Keukenhof

Total: 1

United States 
1. Empire State Building – New York, New York
2. Freedom Trail – Boston, Massachusetts
3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Tennessee/North Carolina
4. The Loop – Chicago, Illinois
5. Mammoth Cave National Park – Kentucky
6. The National Mall – Washington, D.C.
7. New York, New York (film center)
8. Staten Island Ferry – New York, New York

Totals:  8

Inconclusive/Near-Misses 
1. Battle of the Somme – France
2. Grand Masters Tour – Delft, Netherlands
3. Vieux Carré – New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Grand Total So Far: 15

Secret Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Best Hidden Travel Gems

(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com) 

Belgium 
1. Chateau d’Hassonville – Ardennes
2. Le Chatelain – Brussels
3. Our Lady’s Church – Bruges

Total: 3

United States 
1. Birding in Central Park – New York, New York
2. The Cherohala Skyway – Great Smoky Mountains
3. Willis Tower – Chicago, Illinois

Total: 3

Inconclusive/Near-Misses 
1. Begijnhof of Kortrijk – Kortrijk, Belgium
2. Lumina Domestica – Bruges, Belgium
3. City of London Churches – London, England
4. Chappelle Expiatoire – Paris, France
5. Ile des Cygnes – Paris, France
6. Foret de Brotonne – Normandy, France
7. Biltmore House – Asheville, North Carolina, USA
8. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – Boston, Massachusetts, USA
9. National Garden – Washington, D.C., USA
10. Shining Rock Wilderness – North Carolina, USA

Grand Total So Far: 6

Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe
Product Details
(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com) 

Belgium
1. Chocolate in Brussels – Brussels
2. French Fries in Ghent – Ghent
3. Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate – Brussels

Total: 3

England
1. London’s Restaurants – London

Total: 1

France 
1. Best Baguette in Paris – Paris
2. Paris (great food cities)

Totals: 2

United States
1. Indianapolis International Airport – Indianapolis, Indiana
2. Manhattan (great food cities)
3. New York’s Sidewalk Chefs – New York, New York
4. Tex-Mex in San Antonio – San Antonio, Texas

Inconclusive/Near-Misses
1. Belgium Taste in the Sky – Brussels, Belgium
2. Confiserie Temmerman – Ghent, Belgium
3. London’s Food Halls – London, England
4. Paris Pastry Hunt – Paris, France
5. Chicago Style – Chicago, Illinois, USA
6. Patrenella’s – Houston, Texas, USA

Grand Total So Far: 10 

Yes, repeats have been included, but hey, it still counts, right? I’m pleasantly surprised how spread out some of these are anyway. Here’s to more travels in the near future.

Updates can be posted as necessary.

 

 

Travel top 10 lists: Under-the-radar places

Along the same lines as my “underrated” list, here are my list of ten places that may not be known to a lot of people, places or events that are “off the radar,” so to speak. These are places that may not be known, stuff that you won’t find on the maps or promotional brochures. These are ten that I remember.

10. Austin Duck Boat Tour – Austin, Texas 
At the end of sophomore year of high school, a cousin of mine got married in Austin. The day before, we were able to take a duck boat tour of the city, seeing the University of Texas, along with many other parts of the city that I can’t quite remember off the top of my head. Still, what I do remember was lovely. It ended in the Lady Bird Lake along the outskirts of the city. Austin is a city on the map, but it can be a little sprawling, so here’s a way to take in a lot more.

9. St. Louis Zoo – St. Louis, Missouri 
Officially called the St. Louis Zoological Park, the zoo isn’t as famous as San Diego or Lincoln Park in Chicago, but has a lot of charm to it. This is another one of those where the city itself is famous enough, but is worth spending some time on with more time to spare. Much of St. Louis is really nice, but sometimes these places can get lost in the shuffle.

8. The Book Loft – Columbus, Ohio
On my most recent visit to Columbus, where my brother lives, we took a drive and stopped at this bookstore. There were thirty-two separate rooms that contained various books, including a travel section, sports section, manga, fiction, nonfiction, and the like. Bibliophiles should like this one, and take advantage of it if they get the chance.

7. Vannes, France
Located in the Bretagne-Normandie region of France, Vannes seems foreboding, especially behind a wall. But once inside the city, its old Breton charms come back, mostly in the architecture. The river and the old cathedral are highlights. It has that nice “on the water” quality to it.

6. White River State Park – Indianapolis, Indiana
This one I’ve visited many times, most recently last year on St. Patrick’s Day. And here’s the thing – I didn’t really go for the parade, I just had a day off and wanted some time to explore. I spent $20 taking a shuttle bus each way, which was really nice. I stopped by the canals and just took in the scenery. For what it’s worth, it looks like Indianapolis is trying to step up its game, and it does deserve more credit sometimes.

5. Eva Bandman Park – Louisville, Kentucky
Part of this is a park, part of it is a cyclocross track, and that’s what it was used for when I went there with my dad, cousin, and his girlfriend. The fact that Belgium won four medals aside, the park is very beautiful, and would probably be a great ride for bikers.

4. Blankenberge, Belgium
Based on the coast of Belgium, near Ostend, Blankenberge is one of those towns that you would imagine would be the setting for “Under the Boardwalk.” In fact, there isn’t really that much of one, but only because it’s built so low into the ground. Ice cream and the North Sea make it all worthwhile. The pier is unique on the Belgian coast, and it’s reached via railway from Brussels, so it’s not as difficult to reach as other seaport towns.

3. Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina
For those that know me, I’m not a risk-taker for the most part. This was an exception, when I was around eleven or twelve years old. Roanoke Rapids is basically what it sounds like, with rafting rapids available. I don’t think these were higher than Class 3, or if they were, they didn’t put us on that. For once, I let my adventurous side carry me, so this one’s higher for personal reasons. Additionally, rafting in the mountains gives you a great atmosphere – I’ve been on the water in other places that lacked the charm.

2. Nashville Parthenon –  Nashville, Tennessee
Nicknamed “Athens of the South,” Nashville borrows a lot from the ancient Greek city. Its version of the Parthenon is an art museum that also is a part of the U.S. National Register of Historical Places. The art is terrific, and although the inside is smaller than anticipated, the idea that less is more works here. It was the last time I got to visit my mom’s hometown with her, too, so there’s a tenderness there I don’t want to lose.

1. Efteling – Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands
I’ve forgotten a lot about when I lived in Belgium for a semester, but I remember this for totally hilarious reasons. It reminded me of a simpler time, when I was still a kid. During that semester, we visited The Netherlands over a weekend. We stopped in a small village called Kaatsheuvel, which has about 17,000 people. Efteling is an amusement park centered around fairy tales, Aesop fables, folklore, etc. For me, the highlight is the “paper gobbler,” known as Holle Bolle Gijs (Hollow Bulging Gijs), which is a series of about twenty recycling bins. You’d hear them talk to you. They talked, I’m serious! “Papier hier, papier hier.” Paper here, paper here. My brother Nick and I would always try to find extra scraps to “feed” the various incarnations of Gijs. Now, if only I could have had something like that when I would take out the recycling at home.

This is my “off the beaten track” list. Hope you all enjoy it.

Another travel book list so far: 1001 Walks You Must Take Before You Die

 

You could say the mold was broken with the 1001…Before You Die series. Because there are more choices, there is probably less that I’ve explored. This one is called 1001 Walks You Must Take Before You Die. And, as I mentioned, these should be taken with a grain of salt, and not as a be-all and end-all. Still, I do have a few on the list, luckily. Like the other ones, it’ll be listed chronologically by country. Also, this book does things a little differently: instead of listing it by country, they divide it up by what kind of walk it is (overland, urban, mountain, heritage, and coastal). So, perhaps some of these you’ve visited, or would like to visit. I hope others have read this book, or would like to, so we can compare lists. I’ll also list a few interesting things about it, in case anybody does want to visit one day. Like with the other lists, a few guidelines: it must be listed in the book (seen listed below), and I must remember actually visiting it.

WIN_20160411_180101
(You can’t see my face, but that’s not the point. Hopefully, you can see the book itself. It’s more important.)

My list so far:

United States (1)
1. Central Park 
Times Visited: 1
Dates : March 2009


(Central Park. Photo courtesy of http://www.en.wikipedia.org

On St. Patrick’s Day 2009, we passed by the park and took a walk along its borders. There was a monument dedicated to John Lennon, within view of the Hotel Dakota. This is the most-visited urban park in the United States, and is also large enough to hold a zoo. We only did a small section of the park, but it was as magnificent as the history suggests. Definitely one of the best parts of the New York 2009 trip.

Belgium (3) 
1. Battlefield of Waterloo Trail 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004


(The Waterloo lion. Photo courtesy of http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Known as the spot where Napoleon suffered his major defeat at the hands of the Duke of Wellington and the Seventh Coalition, Waterloo extends into approximately five directions, and is most famous for its statue of a lion at the top. You climb 226 steps on a hill 141 feet (43 meters) high. Waterloo is its own town, just south of Brussels. I was seventeen when I went to the battlefield in July of 2004.

2. Bruges Historic Center
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004


(The canals of Bruges. Photo courtesy of http://www.travel.usnews.com)

Also known as Brugge to many locals, the city is lined with canals and rivals Amsterdam in terms of canal cities, both in Europe and worldwide. We walked along many of the sidewalks and eventually came to the historic center, although my memory’s a little fuzzy on this one. The 2008 Academy Award-nominated film In Bruges was shot here, with many of the city’s landmarks featured prominently in the film. Bruges has a history of being the oldest city in Belgium, and it certainly has some of the oldest architecture in the country. It’s really magnificent, and is highly recommended.

3. Comic Strip Trail 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010


(A section of the Trail. Photo courtesy of http://www.visitbrussels.be)

Not many people know that Belgium is one of the best places for comic strips in the world. Nicknamed the “Ninth Art,” the comic industry is prevalent in Belgium. Among the characters originating in Belgium are the Smurfs, Tintin, and Lucky Luke. There’s even a museum dedicated to the art itself. Tintin creator Hergé was one of the greatest practitioners of the ligne claire (clear line) style of drawing comics. The trail is located in Brussels, and we ended up at a museum dedicated to a Tintin exhibit.

France (2) 
1. Mont Saint-Michel 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004


(Mont Saint-Michel at high tide. Photo courtesy of http://www.cnn.com)

Doing this on the Belgium-France leg of the summer 2004 trip, Mont Saint-Michel has some rather interesting geography. It’s part of the Basse-Normandie region in France, which has a lot of coastal sands and waters near it (in the book, it’s naturally in the “coastal and shoreline” section). Lying only 600 meters (1,969 feet) from land, Mont Saint-Michel is surrounded by a garrison and was used as a sacred chapel during the Hundred Years’ War. Most interestingly, it’s carved so closely to the beach that when you time it right, you can walk along the sand at low to get there. But be aware: when high tide comes, the water can reach as high as 46 feet (14 meters), and even though there’s a walkway that can get you there, it might not be entirely accessible (as you can see in the photo). Therefore, patience and timing are very good to have here.

5. D-Day Beaches 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004


(Bombardments on Omaha Beach. Photo courtesy of http://www.vcepinc.org

Although Omaha Beach was and is the beach that is most recognizable today, and was the spot where the Americans began to begin the liberation of France, there are actually five beaches in total (in alphabetical: Gold, Juno, Omaha, Sword, and Utah). We stuck largely to Omaha Beach, but we did go around as much of the landings as we could. I remember seeing the holes and bombardments seen above. We even hid in one for a few minutes. Located in Basse-Normandie, we just barely missed a dedication at the sixtieth anniversary (literally about one month after). There are numerous dedications, including some of the beach itself. When you consider the history, and the magnitude of the moment, it’s quite incredible. You feel very small.

Total: 6 places in 3 countries

Considering how walking is my best means of transportation at this moment, I should probably try to see more of these as soon as I can. Even if it’s only a pipe dream, it’s nice to at least have something to think about.

Photo credits
http://www.cnn.com (Mont Saint-Michel) 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk (Waterloo Trail)
http://www.travel.usnews.com (Bruges Historic Center)
http://www.vcepinc.org (D-Day Beaches)
http://www.visitbrussels.be (Comic Strip Trail)
http://www.en.wikipedia.org (Central Park)