Ten foreign countries that I have traveled to in my life — in order.
1. Ireland 1998
2. Paris, France (twice, actually) 1999
3. South of France + Monaco 1999
4. Rome, Italy 1999
5. London, England 2001
6. Edinburgh, Scotland 2001
7. Jamaica 2002
8. Tokyo + Kyoto, Japan 2010
9. Athens + Santorini, Greece 2012
10. Istanbul, Turkey 2012
I have to say, if I had to pick the best places I’ve ever been, I have a top four.
1. Paris, France
2. San Francisco, California
4. Estes National Park, Colorado
I loved the ease at which I could travel about Ireland. The bed and breakfasts that I stayed at and the castles I got to see were amazing. Most of the people in Ireland were great, save for Kilkenny.
Estes National Park was also amazing. I never felt more at one with nature than when I was there. I stayed at a bed and breakfast that was off the beaten path. The owners gave us great trails to go hiking on. We were one of only a few people on the trails. It made you feel like you were the only people in the park. One of the greatest trips in my life.
As for Paris, it’s everything that anyone has ever said about it. It has a ton of sites to see. The people are fantastic, the food is excellent. The nightlife is great.
In my opinion, what makes a great destination to go to for travel is more than just their tourist area. For example, I went to Athens. While it was great to see the Parthenon, there wasn’t much else to see in regards to sites. As for Jamaica or Cancun, or even Hawaii, the problem is, that once you are done laying around at the pool and the beach — I’m kind of done. And bored.
Here are things that I feel make a destination great.
1. Great monument/structure. For example. Parthenon. Eiffel Tower. Roman Colosseum. Golden Gate Bridge. Statue of Liberty. Stonehenge.
2. Great museums (although, I, for one, don’t enjoy museums). Louvre. Natural History Museum. MOMA.
3. Great tourist attractions. Examples: Fisherman’s Wharf. Central Park. Jardin des Tuileries. Empire State Buildiing.
4. Great food. Could you go for the food alone? San Francisco. New York. France.
5. Accommodations. They need to be comfortable.
6. Day trips. Santorini.
This is what makes Paris and San Francisco my top destinations that I have been to so far. San Francisco is way better than New York City for these reasons.
In Paris you have all of the sites to see. You have the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Les Invalides, and the Arc de Triomphe. There are all the gardens. All the museums. You could go alone just for the food. Just for the shopping. You have day trips like Versailles, Normandy, and Mont St. Michael. Same for San Francisco. You have all the food — you could literally plan a whole week just to eat at great restaurants every night. All the museums as well. Some really cool ones to, like the Academy of Science. Thursday nights they have bars set up and it becomes a nightlife thing. You can drink, listen to DJ house music, and look at amazing creatures. Pretty cool. There are all of the parks — Golden Gate, walking along Crissy Field with the bridge as your backdrop. There is all of the regular touristy sites like Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Alcatraz, Chinatown, and Ferry Building. Yet, you also have lesser known things like running the Lyon Street Stairs, going on an urban hike throughout the city, Fort Funston to watch all the dogs play, movies in the park, and visiting a speakeasy. The side trips are worth it sometimes more than going to San Francisco. Sausalito, hiking in Mount Tam, going to Napa and Sonoma for sure, but also Guernville and Russian River.
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***Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Francisco. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook at madelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com