“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”  Susan Sontag said it first, but I have to agree with Susan, I haven’t been everywhere, but everywhere is certainly on my list.
As a young widow many years ago, I learned that a single journey could change the course of a life.  I have since come to realize that my first trip alone truly changed my life.  I fell in love with travel and that love affair has continued for four decades.
Come along with me and share some of my favorite 2012 memories that will remain with me forever.
1. CRUISE: Silversea’s Silver Whisper is elegant, yet casually sophisticated.  She lavishes her guests with the luxuries of a private yacht, the amenities of a country club, and the fine services of an exclusive hotel.  Silver Whisper sailed me some 1418 nautical miles from Lisbon, Portugal to Southampton, UK with five fascinating ports in-between.  Highlights included shore excursions to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; the sobering beaches of Normandy, France; and the fascinating Mont St. Michel in Saint-Malo, France.


2. BOAT RIDE: When Silver Whisper docked in Oporto, Portugal, I opted for Silversea’s Douro River Shore Excursion that headed down to the Ribeira quarter where we boarded the boat.  The boat ride, passing under numerous bridges, provided a totally different panorama of Oporto’s skyline and gave a serene river view of the beauty of the historical area.  

3. UNFORGETABLE EXPERIENCE: Silversea Silver Whisper’s shore excursion to the Normandy Beaches brought to life one of the most historic events of World War ll.  Via the D-Day landing beaches of Sword, Juno, and Gold, we visited the Arromanches Invasion Museum, dedicated to the largest landing operation in history…the June 6, 1944 storming of the beaches of Normandy by the Allied forces. Following a déjeuner magnifique (magnificent lunch) at Chateau La Cheneviere, a 17th century manor house, we visited the American Cemetery where a majority of the American soldiers killed at Omaha Beach are buried.  Here, 9,386 marble crosses and Stars of David are aligned on a plateau above the somber beach.
4. LAND TOUR: Gray Line’s Cityrama Tours in Lisbon Portugal made my two days of touring informative as well as pleasurable.  On day one, I rode their Hop-On Hop-Off double-decker buses to reacquaint me with the city.  Hoping on and off at destinations of my choice, was a grand open-top experience.  On day two, I chose Gray Line’s all day tour to Sintra, a romantic UNESCO village that enchanted kings and inspired poets.
5. BAR:  Harry’s …of course!  It has been said that, in the legendary city of Venice, Italy, more tourists ask directions to Harry’s Bar than to the Piazza San Marco.  The venerable Harry’s Bar is much more than an ordinary watering hole serving up the world’s best Bellinis to the world’s most glamorous people.  Harry’s Bar also serves up delectable dinners. Arrigo (Harry) Cipriani is the affable hands-on owner whose philosophy of luxurious simplicity is the reason for the bar’s success.
6. HOTEL MANAGER: Donald Friedman, the manager of Embassy Suites Ft. Lauderdale, is a Jack-of-all-trades and, contrary to the old saying, he is also the master of ALL.  Donald can be found running the business office, overseeing the front desk, and even cleaning tables at the hotel’s daily complimentary breakfasts if needed.  If you give a suggestion to Don, you can count on it being adopted if it has merit. 
7. RESORT: Pinehurst Resort is a legend. The grande dame of North Carolina, who is well into her 12th decade, has undergone many facelifts.   Yet she is still as lovely and charming as she was in her flaming youth.  As in any successful transformation, her changes have been skillfully executed without altering the overall appearance of the patient. The majestic Carolina Hotel with its signature copper cupola and sweeping verandas has been dubbed the “Queen of the South.” The historic Holly Inn, Pinehurst’s first building, is a Four-Diamond hotel where time seems to stop as you walk in the door. 
8. FOREIGN HOTEL: Located right in the heart of the city, Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon has long been considered one of Lisbon’s premier hotels. The hotel provides a glorious bird’s-eye view of the city’s stunning historic sites – and makes the perfect starting point for exploring its unique architecture.  Varanda, the hotel’s restaurant, features a drop-dead view of Eduardo VII Park.  With its proximity to the ocean, Varanda features explosive seafood as well as fresh grills and Mediterranean vegetables.
9. HISTORIC HOTEL: Grove Park Inn, tucked in the breathtaking landscape between the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountain range, is a return to the elegance of a bygone era. It is yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Grove Park Inn has preserved the integrity and charm of its turn-of-the-century atmosphere.

10. MUSEUM: From a distance, Frank Gehry’s titanium-clad, architectural masterpiece Museo Guggenheim, in Bilbao. Spain, looks like a massive steel sculpture. Philip Johnson, the dean of American architects, called the splendid bizarrely shaped $100-million museum “the most important building of our time”.  The museum’s “starchitect” describes his building (that opened on the banks of the Nervion River in 1997) as a ship that has run aground.  Others have likened the silhouette of Bilbao’s Guggenheim to a roller coaster, a mermaid, a waterfall, a hula girl, and a fish.  


11. INN: From the time I entered the lobby of Old Edwards Inn located in Highlands, North Carolina, I was totally enveloped by the warm ambiance of the huge stone fireplace and the wood and stone interior that surrounded me. Authenticity prevailed.  Little wonder that Old Edwards Inn, the meandering mountain resort that graces the scenic Southwestern Plateau of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, has consistently been voted a top travel destination for its world-class spa, for relaxation, and for romance.

12. LODGE: The Lodge at Buckberry Creek, high above the hustle and bustle of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a handsome hideaway that opened in 2005. This jewel in the crown of Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains recaptures that rustic elegance of upstate New York’s famous Adirondack lodges and combines it with the unspoiled beauty of the Smoky Mountains. Each suite in this all-suite lodge is exquisitely decorated in rustic elegance.  Gargantuan fireplaces, and balconies overlooking the mountains, make for a perfect blend of atmosphere and accommodation. It is rugged but luxurious, casual but chic.  

JANET STEINBERG is an award-winning Travel Writer and a Travel Consultant with THE TRAVEL AUTHORITY in Mariemont, Ohio.