BY JANET STEINBERG
When Ray Charles recorded his 1961 rhythm and blues Grammy
winner “Hit the Road Jack”, I thought he said: “Hit the Road
Jan”. So I took him literally. I not only hit the road, but I also
hit the sky and the sea. I was amazed at the
variety of ways I found myself traveling. From
donkeys to elephants, from rickshaws to Rolls Royces, from hot-air
balloons to both the British and French Concordes, I tried them all.
Unfortunately, I won’t be doing the last three ever again. I
won’t be flying the British Air or Air France Concordes
because, sadly, they have been retired from
service. Additionally, I won’t be flying any more hot air
balloons because I am no longer young and dumb. Safety concerns have convinced
me I don’t need to do that again.
But for now…let’s hit the road Jack!
BY ELEPHANT: Probably my most exciting road trip was when I climbed aboard
an elephant named Lakshmi in Agra, India and proceeded on
an approximate 2-mile ride from my hotel to the Taj Mahal. This
was something that had never been done before in Agra. Our
parade through town was an unforgettable experience. Towering
over trucks, ducking under trees, Lakshmi would stop for bread and
veggies at her favorite food stands. Children lining the
streets screamed with delight as that strange looking, camera-laden
lady lumbered along on an elephant. Old folks clasped
their hands in the traditional Namaste greeting and I, who seldom
has delusions of grandeur, felt like a visiting Maharani.
As we approached the gateway to the Taj, I spied through the trees
the blindingly white marble dome of India’s proudest possession…The Taj
Mahal. High atop my thick-skinned pachyderm, it
was a moment when fantasy touched reality…when suddenly a dream was
no longer a dream.
|RICKETY HOWDAH HOLDS AUTHOR ATOP LAKSHMI THE ELEPHANT IN AGRA, INDIA|
DONKEY: Fira, the capital of this The Cycladic island of Santorini is
perched on the rim of an active volcano. The island used
to be circular, but a massive volcanic explosion, around 3500
years ago, blew out the center of the island. High cliffs jutting out
of the sea are all that is left of the crater rim. The
surrounding islands are the remains of the sides of the crater and the sea
has filled in the gaps, forming an exquisite bay. To get
to the capital city of Fira, from the port where the cruise ships
dock, you have three choices: ride a donkey, take
the funicular cable car, or climb the 600 steps to the
top. I chose to take the donkey up the hill (for the
experience) and ride the cable car down (for the view). It is
also safer to ride the donkey up the hill than to ride it down the
hill. Going down the hill, the donkeys are more apt to slip on
the excrement-coated pathway.
UP THE HILL ON DONKEY IN SANTORINI, GREECE
to see the Pyramids of Giza. They exude an excitement just
by the very virtue of being there. Although this awesome sight
has been marred by commercialism, even the most sophisticated of
tourists give in to the myriad of camel drivers hustling to take you
for a ride on one of those mangy-looking beasts. Tacky as it
may seem at the time once you get home it becomes a memorable photo.
RIDE TO THE PYRAMIDS OF GIZA IN CAIRO, EGYPT
let’s switch from the animal kingdom to more civilized means of travel.
BY TRAIN: All aboard! Time to go tracking. 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. It was intrigue, glamour, fantasy, and a byword
for luxury and elegance. During the day, I wore 1920’s–style cloche
and carried a fake pink cigarette in a hand-carved ivory cigarette holder. In
the evening, I donned some long pearls, and strategically placed some
ostrich plumes to give a Roaring 20’s look to my cocktail 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.
THE VENICE SIMPLON-ORIENT-EXPRESS
BY ROLLS ROYCE: The Sydney Opera house…the Sydney Harbour “Coathanger”
Bridge…The Rocks…Bondi Beach. I was doing it up “Down
Under” when I decided to see a little more of Australia than Sydney’s
beautiful metropolitan area. When I hired a car to take me
to the Blue Mountains (about 35 miles west of the city), lo and
behold, a gold Rolls Royce appeared. As ostentatious and
glitzy as it was, I loved every minute of it. The Three sisters, a
sandstone rock formation is one of the main attractions of this
mountain range with its characteristic blue haze.
BY SHIP: When I thought I had seen it all, I found myself aboard a cruise
ship that would blow away even the most discerning
traveler. The incredible Seabourn Quest, a true gem of the ocean,
has been called “a game-changer for the luxury
segment”. And that it is! You have to experience one
of Seabourn’s “Caviar in the Surf” beach parties to believe
it. While a barbecue cooks on a sun-drenched beach, crewmembers
wade knee-deep in the sea to serve you champagne and caviar off of a
surfboard. Ho-hum…just another day in paradise!
QUEST’S CAVIAR IN THE SURF
from London to New York took a mere 3 hours and 18 minutes and my Air
France flight from New York to Paris took just a few minutes longer. As
far as I was concerned the London flight could have gone on for
days because a handsome hunk of a man, the late Christopher Reeve,
was sitting across the aisle from me. Sadly, both are gone
forever, but both will never be forgotten.
THE COCKPIT OF BRITISH AIRWAYS CONCORDE
the winner of 40 National Travel Writer Awards.