My Travels From A to Z

by Gray Cargill on January 18, 2012


P is for Paris

I’m a sucker for travel memes, so when I was recently tagged by my friend JoAnna Haugen for a journey through my travels using letters of the alphabet as prompts, I jumped on it. Some of the questions are a bit challenging, and overall, I think I would have preferred choosing my own word or phrase prompt for each letter. But despite its shortcomings, it was a fun exercise and I hope that you’ll find a few nuggets of information in here that will allow you to get to know me a little better. (If you don’t want to get to know me a little better, skip to the end of the post anyway. I’ve got a little homework assignment for you. 🙂 )

A: Age you went on your first trip.

I’m not quite sure. I was a toddler. We went to Germany. (My father was in the Army.) All I remember from our time there was playing on the floor with wind-up fruit-shaped toys and knocking a neighbor boy on his ass because he was bullying my big brother.

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where.

I’m no beer connoisseur, so take this with a grain of salt (or a wedge of lime); I like Corona. I drink it everywhere I can find it. But I also really enjoyed the Spanish beers I tried, San Miguel and Estrella Damm. I tried to do a “beer throwdown” between them, but honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two. I’m also fond of Tsing Tao.

Tsing Tao beer

Tsing Tao beer

C: Cuisine (favorite).

Indian. (Even though I’ve never been to India.) Shahi Paneer is my favorite; I love the cubes of cheese, and I still can’t figure out why they don’t melt.

D: Destination (favorite and least favorite).

Anyone who knows me even remotely knows that Las Vegas is my favorite destination. My least favorite would have to be Hopkinton, KY (sorry everyone who lives there). The people were super nice, but I’m more of a city girl. There just didn’t seem to be much going on there.

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow.”

I was in Madrid during the youth protests in the spring. My first evening there, I stepped out onto my balcony and saw how many people were gathered in the square, Puerta del Sol, below me–and it was breathtaking. And wow, were they loud.

Spanish protestors

Spanish protestors in Puerta del Sol

F: Favorite mode of transportation.

My own two feet if it’s a walkable distance, otherwise, I’ll take whatever is convenient. I do like metros quite a lot. And I’ll take flying over driving any day of the week.

G: Greatest feeling while traveling.

Making connections with other people while traveling is always a great feeling. It makes the world feel a little smaller, a little friendlier. Second greatest feeling: Standing in places that I’ve been reading about or seeing on TV or in the movies since I was a child. It feels like a dream, but a wonderful dream.

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to.

Laughlin, Nevada. I thought Las Vegas was hot, but then I went to Laughlin and it was about ten degrees hotter—120 Fahrenheit–which seemed odd to me, since Laughlin is much greener than Vegas and located on the Colorado River.

Laughlin, NV

Laughlin, NV

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where.

I stayed at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico, the Aventura Spa Palace. At check-in, they handed me a flower and a flute of champagne. That really set the tone, and it didn’t let up for the entire time I was there. I felt like royalty.

J: Journey that took the longest.

I haven’t taken it yet. At the end of February, I’m taking a trip that will result in 20 hour travel days (including airport layovers).

K: Keepsake from your travels.

My photos are usually the only souvenirs I bring back from my travels. But I do have a Las Vegas mug, a House of Blues long sleeve tee from Orlando, and some Native American art around my house that I purchased in Las Vegas years ago. (I have a Southwestern theme going in my house.) I guess that’s the closest I come to “keepsakes”.

L: Letdown site and where.

I wasn’t as impressed with the Prado Museum (Madrid) as most people seem to be. It had way too many portraits and too much religious art for my taste.

The Prado

Outside the Prado Museum

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel.

I fell in love with travel during road trips taken as a child. My grandparents would wake us up briefly during some dark hour, like 2 or 3am, pack us into the car and my brother and I would fall asleep. I’d wake up and I knew we weren’t in Vermont any more, because the air smelled different. . .and there were billboards along the highway. . .and very tall buildings. I loved every minute of it. To my preteen self, it all felt very exotic, even though we were still in the northeastern United States. I don’t remember my earliest flights, but when I was 8, we flew to Germany, and I was smitten with air travel from that moment on. I still feel like an excited little kid when my plane takes off.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed at.

I’ve got to go with the Palazzo in Las Vegas. My suite there was bigger than the apartment I lived in for 9 years before buying my condo. Everything about this hotel screams “5 star hotel”.

O: Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?

Architecture and animals. I’ve been known to stalk squirrels with my camera.


Not a squirrel

P: Passport stamps. How many and from where?

I got my current passport in 2006; it has Mexico, Canada, France and Spain in it.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where.

I think this came to mind so quickly because Lori at Travel Moments in Time just wrote about this: The Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street in London. This was the first time I’d ever visited a museum dedicated to a fictional character. Runner-up: Templo de Debod, an Egyptian Temple sitting on a hilltop in. . .Madrid, Spain.

R: Recommended site, event or experience.

I’d recommend that everyone try international travel at least once in their lives. I know it’s not always easy, but it’s so worth it.

S: Splurge. Something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling.

Convenience. I have no trouble forking over money if the expensive option is more convenient than a cheaper option. I figure I’m frugal in my everyday life so that when I travel, I can splurge on whatever I want. So almost nothing is off the table when it comes to splurging.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done.

I do touristy things everywhere I go, and I am not ashamed of that. I purchased a ridiculously overpriced $20 photo of myself riding the zipline in Las Vegas to prove I’d done it, because I was traveling alone, and there was no one else who could take the photo for me. I’ve done a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. I took a narrated boat tour on the Seine. Whenever I go to New York City, I make a beeline for Times Square. I’m all about the tourist attractions.

Times Square

Times Square

U: Unforgettable travel memory.

Positive: Flying over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter, which was so very cool.
Negative: Getting food poisoning in Mexico, which so wasn’t.

V: Visa. How many and for where.

Unless we’re talking about the credit card, never.

W: Wine. Best glass of wine while traveling and where?

My dirty little secret is that. . .I don’t like wine. I’ll drink it on occasion, but I never enjoy it.

X: eXcellent view and from where.

(Oh come on, that is SO cheating!) Xpu Ha in Mexico has a gorgeous white sand beach that stretches on forever and the most beautiful, clear turquoise waters. (And Xpu Ha actually begins with an X. See how I did that?) Joking aside, I took a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon a few years ago. It was the most breathtaking view I’ve eXperienced during my travels.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Y: Years spent traveling.

My whole life. Most of my childhood travels were to visit relatives who lived out of state, but even so, it definitely whet my appetite for it. There were a number of years when I didn’t travel because I felt I didn’t have the money and I thought I needed someone to travel with, but it’s been an on-again, off-again love affair my whole life.

Z: Zealous sports fans and where.

I happened to be in Barcelona when the Barcelona soccer team beat Manchester United in the Champions League in May 2011. Overexcited fans poured into the streets, the celebration eventually turned violent,11 people wound up in the hospital and more than 80 were arrested. (Being a big chickenshit, I hid out in my hotel for the duration. I really don’t like being around crowds that are all worked up like that.)

Now it’s my turn to tag a few other travel bloggers:

But wait–there’s more!

Just because you’re not a blogger, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook! Turnabout is fair play, right? I just answered some questions to help you get to know me better; now I’d love for you to take one of the 26 questions above and answer it from your own experience so I can get to know you a little better. Many thanks!

Kirstin March 6, 2012 at 9:35 pm

I plan on using the tagine, but I live in Christchurch, New Zealand and I don’t want to run the risk that it breaks in an earthquake so it is in a safe place until we stop having the bigger shakes.

In hindsight I should have split up the trip 8o)

Gray March 6, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Kirstin – Thanks so much for playing! Yeah, I would think Ireland would be the best place in the world to drink beer. Same with the champagne in France. It’s almost a requirement, right? 🙂 I feel your pain on the journey–you didn’t split the trip up at all? I couldn’t do it. Just 24 hours to Hawaii just about killed me. Do you actually use the tagine to cook in, or is it just for display purposes?

Kirstin March 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm

A: Age you went on your first trip.
First overseas trip – Aged 8 to Australia

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where.
Guinness in Dublin, Ireland (and I don’t like beer that much but we just had to do it).

C: Cuisine (favorite)
Too hard – Burmese or Italian

D: Destination (favorite and least favorite).
Santorini in Greece – blissful!

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to.
Las Vegas

J: Journey that took the longest.
Christchurch to Auckland to Sydney to Hong Kong to London to Amsterdam (I think it was something like 44 hours, no bed to sleep in along the way)

K: Keepsake from your travels.
Tagine from Morocco, balsamic vinegar from Montepulciano and mask from Venice.

P: Passport stamps. How many and from where? (passport issued Jun2009)
Six – The Netherlands, England, Australia, USA, Canada & Morocco.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where.
The Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street in London. 8o)

R: Recommended site, event or experience.
Fountains Abbey, England (just make sure it is NOT school holidays)

U: Unforgettable travel memory.
Flying over Grand Canyon in a plane with my travel companion fast asleep.

W: Wine. Best glass of wine while traveling and where?
Champagne in the Champagne region of France (and I don’t normally drink wine).

Z: Zealous sports fans and where.
Canucks ice hockey fans in Vancouver

Gray February 1, 2012 at 12:11 pm

I wouldn’t say “shy”, but he definitely knew he was being tailed and kept trying to lose me. 🙂

Simply Hike February 1, 2012 at 10:20 am

Was it shy at all? I was watching a program a while back and the lizards in the Galapagos have now learnt to scavenge from human left overs, instead of just running away at the sight of a human. (Name is michael) 🙂

Gray January 31, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Hi, Simply Hike (do you have a name?) – The lizard picture was taken in Puerto Rico.

Simply Hike January 31, 2012 at 7:25 am

Good concept, I enjoyed that post. One question? Where was the lizard picture taken? I find it funny that you stalk squirrels with your camera, I had a similar obsession when travelling Europe, only it was old people instead :/ (slightly weirder?).

Gray Cargill January 24, 2012 at 6:49 am

Thanks, Armand.

Armand January 24, 2012 at 12:54 am

I’ll make sure that I will remember this ABC of travelling. For sure I will not forget to take pictures of my favorite spot, to eat the specialty foods of the place and to take home some souvenirs.
Thanks for listing these important things to do when taking a vacation. Nice post!

Gray January 23, 2012 at 5:04 pm

@Lisa – Thanks! Oh thank God, you got one of those photos too? That’s the downside of traveling alone, eh?

Lisa @chickybus January 23, 2012 at 4:19 pm

I really enjoyed reading this, Gray. It was interesting and entertaining! Feel like I know you better….

You’re so lucky to go to travel when you were young. I started very late.

I love the photo of the Grand Canyon…it’s incredible! And PS: I got one of those overpriced zipline photos, too! 🙂

Gray January 22, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Thanks, Sabina–I can’t wait to read yours!

Sabina January 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Thanks for tagging me in this, Gray. I enjoyed reading your A to Z’s. Very insightful 🙂

Gray January 20, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Ooh, sweet, Dave! (Or is that “suite”?) 😉 Gotta love those upgrades. I wonder what a suite like that normally goes for? More than I can afford, I’m sure! Congratulations. And thanks for playing!

Dave January 20, 2012 at 7:00 pm

N – Nicest Hotel I’ve Ever Stayed At

About a year ago, I went to Aria in Las Vegas — solo, of course! I had booked a comped room through my host, but when I checked in, I found that I had been bumped up to a 1-bedroom Sky Suite, complete with 72-inch flat screen TV + Bose surround sound system, an 8-seat dining room, and (my personal highlight) a Toto Washlet with heated seat and built-in remote-controlled bidet. In no way does my gambling action qualify me for digs like that normally, so this was an incredibly special treat.

Gray January 19, 2012 at 6:21 am

JoAnn, you crack me up. That also could have applied to the “wow” question. 2 Papal Audiences? Wow. Not everyone can say that.

JoAnn January 18, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Ok, somehow I completely missed the word “service” for I and thought you were looking for an incredible experience. I would like move this answer to U: Unforgettable travel memory

JoAnn January 18, 2012 at 9:20 pm

I’m going to continue to play. I like this game.

P – France, Spain and Germany.

I – I had the opportunity to attend two Papal Audiences with two different Popes – Pope John Paul II (2004) and Pope Benedict XVI (2007)

W – all the Chianti classicos I had while traveling through Tuscany

Gray January 18, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Thank you for playing, JoAnn! Great answers! I agree about going to a country that’s not connected. (Though quite a bit is, if you think about it.) Scottish rugby players in kilts, eh? Hmm…I may have to start planning a trip to Scotland in my future. 🙂

JoAnn January 18, 2012 at 8:58 pm

O – I take a lot of pictures of clocks and statues.

R – One thing I would like to add to your recommendation for international travel – traveling to Canada and Mexico would be international, but go to one that isn’t connected. 🙂

I also recommend experiencing Mardi Gras and Oktoberfest.

Z – I didn’t see any sports fans, but while in Paris in 2007, the city was hosting the world rugby tournament and I was quite smitten with the Scottish rugby players wearing kilts. Very nice legs. I guess this would also count as an answer for E.

Gray January 18, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Thanks, Saadia, but you didn’t tell me anything about you! 😛

@Tracy – Ooh, well played. I suppose I should have said that, but it’s kind of obvious from the name of my blog that I feel that way. 🙂 Thanks for playing!

Tracy Antonioli January 18, 2012 at 9:49 am

First…I literally laughed out loud at your caption on the lizard photo! Ha!

Second…my contribution…

R. Recommended site, event, or experience: Solo travel, of course! Sure, I don’t travel solo all the time, but it’s definitely something everyone should do once or twice…or a dozen times or a million times! In my opinion, it’s the best way to go.

Saadia January 18, 2012 at 7:54 am

Loved the post and of course the concept!!

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