BY JANET STEINBERG
“There’s a few more lonesome cities that I’d like to see, while the wine of wandering is still inside of me.”
“The Bucket List” was a 2007 movie with a plot that followed the terminally ill Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as they traveled with a wish list of things to do before they “kicked the bucket”. As a young widow in the 1970s, I formed my own travel bucket list and have been scratching it off ever since. My wanderlust gave me the opportunities that follow. Most of my list you can still do; two you can’t. I sailed, and flew, two historic legends that no longer exist. But the memory of those trips will last a lifetime. So hop on my magic travel carpet, and fly with me as I show you some experiences that I have already checked off my bucket list. I hope it inspires you to make your own bucket list.
TAJ MAHAL: You cannot keep your enthusiasm down; you cannot keep your emotions within bounds when that soaring bubble of marble breaks upon your view. At that moment, fantasy touched reality. My dream was no longer a dream. Standing before the reflecting pool in its idyllic Persian garden, my thoughts flashed to the romantic Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan who had built this tomb symbolizing the eternal beauty and purity of love for his wife. I had to see the Taj at sunrise…when the first rays of dawn distinguished it from the night. I had to see the Taj at sunset…when the pristine white marble became cool pearl and then warm mauve. For ever and ever the memory of my first distant glimpse of this divine poem in white marble will compensate me for traveling half way around the globe to have that great privilege.”
|THE TAJ: THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS MONUMENT TO LOVE|
ANTARCTICA: This frozen continent is “The Greatest Show on Ice”. I really did it! I went to the bottom of the world…to Antarctica, the most hostile continent on earth. This barren, white continent, that thrills the imagination and overwhelms the senses, is a continent of superlatives. While it is the most forbidding, most inaccessible land on earth, it is also the most majestic and most pristine. This harshest, most inhospitable land is also the windiest, the highest, the driest, and the coldest. (Winter temperatures plunge as low as 121-degrees (F) below zero.) Yet this southern land, that contains 90% of the world’s fresh water and approximately 95% of the world’s glacial ice, is the most eerily beautiful continent on earth. If I were Frank Sinatra, I’d croon “I Only Have Ice For You.”
|CHILLING OUT ON THE FROZEN CONTINENT|
ORIENT EXPRESS: Riding the rails, from Venice to London on the VS-O-E, (Venice Simplon-Orient-Express) was an experience–not just a means of transportation. There are many faster, and less costly, means of travel but my 30-plus hour ride on the Orient-Express was a romance with history. It was intrigue, glamour, fantasy, and a byword for luxury and elegance. The classic continental train, with the navy blue and gold carriages, was resplendent in all its romantic glory. All Aboard! Each cabin is ingeniously designed and decorated with oval marquetry (inlaid wood) flowers. The bases for the traditional silk-pleated lampshades were cast from the original mold of the 1920s. It is impossible to overdress on the Orient-Express and it’s fun to dress with a suggestion of the Roaring 20’s. Long pearls, and a few strategically placed ostrich plumes, can give a period look to evening clothes. The VS-O-E is the world’s most famous train. It is the king of trains and the train of kings. Agatha Christie wrote that it was “Murder ON the Orient Express”! Agatha Christie was wrong. It’s murder getting OFF the Orient Express!
|DRESS THE PART ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS|
THE CONCORDE: The Concorde was a supersonic dream machine! Science, freedom, beauty, adventure…all wrapped up in one. This ultimate flight of fancy, that shrank oceans and conquered time along the way, whisked me from London to New York in 3-hours and 18-minutes, and, on a second flight, from New York to Paris in a mere 3-hours and 45-minutes. This queen of the sky, that revolutionized the world’s concept of aviation, was likened to a gleaming white monster waterfowl, a giant praying mantis, a big Canadian goose, an exquisite work of sculpture, a sophisticated sexy lady, and Superman. It has been said that both Superman and the Concorde drew “millions of eyes skyward on both sides of the Atlantic. Both traveled faster than the speed of a bullet; both had immense power.” The Superman/Concorde analogy played out in real time on my first Concorde flight. Hollywood’s gorgeous Superman…the late, great hunk Christopher Reeve, was sitting across the aisle from me. When I asked Christopher his opinion of the drop-nosed, sleek- silhouetted time machine in which we were flying, he replied: “It’s great! I hope they don’t take it out of service…” How sad to think that both Superman and the Concorde have left us forever.
|CHECKING OUT THE COCKPIT OF THE CONCORDE|
CARNIVAL IN RIO: I went because it was there…and because I was there. Carnaval (as it is spelled in Portuguese) is an experience. It can be exciting and fun, but it can also be a noisy, overcrowded, drunken brawl as 70,000 revelers pile into Rio de Janeiro’s Sambodromo. Carnaval is the one experience I am glad I have had. But, unlike the others on my bucket list, it is also one experience that I have no burning desire to repeat.
|CARNIVAL TIME IS COSTUME TIME IN BRAZIL|
QUEEN ELIZABETH 2: A transatlantic crossing on Queen Elizabeth 2 was my destination of dreams…a classic confrontation of man against the sea…an ocean voyage on what was then the only surviving transatlantic super-liner in a jumbo-jet world. QE2 was a fabulous floating city complete with landmarks and traditions. Passengers were likely to inquire: “What time does this place arrive?” She was an oasis of culture, human comfort, and the grandeur, glitter, and grace of a bygone era. Far more than a means of crossing the ocean, the QE2 was a destination unto herself. At the September 20, 1967 launching, using the same scissors her grandmother had used at the Queen Mary’s launching and her mother had used at the launching of the Queen Elizabeth, Her Majesty The Queen of England cut the ribbon and said: “I name this ship Queen Elizabeth the Second”. Today’s cruise ships may be folksier or friendlier, longer or ‘lithe-er,’ cheaper or costlier. The QE2 will always be what the others are not. She will always be a legend. Fortunately, the Queen’s legend lives on today with the Queen Mary 2, the Queen Victoria, and the Queen Elizabeth.
|QE2’s LEGEND LIVES ON WITH THE QUEEN MARY 2|
VIENNA OPERA BALL: I was Cinderella for a night. A horse-drawn carriage picked me up at the hotel and drove me to the Baroque Vienna State Opera House where I was helped from the carriage by a liveried footman. The seats in the opera house had been covered with a temporary dance floor and the room was magically turned into a cavernous ballroom. Throughout the night I was surrounded by beauty. There were zillions of flowers, crystal chandeliers, sparkling candles, and 100-plus white-gowned debutantes escorted by handsome bachelors in white tie and tails. After the debutantes and their partners whirled to the tune of a Viennese waltz, the words “alles walzer” (all waltz) were announced. At that point I was politely commanded by my Austrian host Michael to rise to the occasion. “You vill valtz,” Michael strongly suggested. With that he grabbed me by the hand and took me to the dance floor where the Left Waltz was the dance of choice. Take it from me, champagne at dinner and a spinning Left Waltz are not a pleasant combination.
|FOR ONE MAGICAL NIGHT THE OPERA HOUSE CONVERTS INTO A BALLROOM|
Though I have been checking off my travel bucket list for four decades, I also keep adding to it. It is one list that I won’t allow to be completed. Without travel life would have a significant void.
Janet Steinberg, winner of 47-travel writing awards, resides in Cincinnati but calls the world her home.