A ‘bucket list’ is defined as the things you would like to do before you die – as in the 2007 film starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicolson, The Bucket List, where the two terminally ill men take to the road to fulfill their wish list before they ‘kick the bucket’. The term has taken hold, yet you really don’t have to be thinking of death and dying to come up with lists of things you would like to do in a certain time frame. It’s important for us all to assess our lives from time to time and check we’re on track with what we’d like to be doing and what we’d like to achieve – and, if we’re not, we must ask ourselves: Is there anything I can do to change my life and achieve some of the things I’d like now … in the next year? The time frame is important. We all sometimes say, One day … and talk or think of our dreams. But dreams just coming true, with no effort, only happens in fairy tales: we ordinary humans have to do something to make them come true and by setting a time frame, then you start to harness your dreams in a positive way … and then, well, the chances are you will achieve at least some of what you dream of.
I follow a very inspirational blog by Lesley Carter called Bucket List Publications, which got me into the bucket list thought process. Lesley’s success with her blog and achievements is phenomenal and I think I can fairly certainly assure you that The Single Gourmet Traveller isn’t going to be doing any of the more intrepid and daring feats that Lesley achieves. But what she does got me thinking about how I could be more adventurous in my travels. I find a delight in going back to the same places – Venice, for instance – again and again. I like the familiarity of being recognised and warmly welcomed at the same hotel and being able to instantly relax; I like knowing where to go for a good coffee or meal, and yet each time finding a few new things. But then, I thought, there are still loads and loads of places I’ve never been to but would like to visit. So maybe I should branch out a bit next year. And then I thought, Where do I really want to go that I haven’t been to before.
It was quite an interesting exercise. In conversations with others about holidays and travel, I’ll easily throw out lines like, I’d love to go to Australia … India … Vietnam … or a whole host of places I’ve never been to. I decided there was an element of sometimes feeling I ought to want to go to certain places, because, well, doesn’t everyone want to see the Taj Mahal, or Ayers Rock or the Great Canyon? And it’s not that I don’t, but more whether I want to enough. You’ll see from my list that I’m quite a European girl. I know Europe pretty well but there are still loads of places I haven’t been to and would like to see. And even if it shows that I’m a bit of a stay-at-Europe-home girl, then the whole idea is focus on what I want to do; it’s not a test but only a challenge to myself to branch out, try something different and make sure I don’t miss out on seeing places I’d like to go to just for lack of a little effort.
I’m a girl bedded in a fair heap of realism. I can’t dream about something totally unlikely to happen. So I started to put together a list of places I’d really like to go to but also I could reasonably expect to be able to visit, i.e. could afford to visit and also be willing to travel to alone if I didn’t find someone who also wanted to go to them. Without meaning to dampen the whole thing before I get started (sorry, Lesley, who is always so positive), I know I’m not going to make all ten of these destinations next year short of the lottery ticket I bought earlier coming up trumps tonight … but I’m determined to make a start in 2013, and maybe I’ll be able to cross them all off in a the space of a few short – 2, 3, 4? – years. Once you bring the list down to something manageable, something seriously achievable … then it’s a short step to making the dream a reality. So here’s my most-want-to-go-to holiday destinations; places I’ve not visited before. Fairly inevitably there are strong food links to a lot of them … but well, that’s where my passion lies so it makes sense to me. But what about yours? I hope you enjoy my list and let me know where you dream of going.
I decided to do my list in alphabetical order. There’s no particular weight attached to any of these; I’m just opening myself to thinking about how I will get to all of them – pretty soon!
1. Arles, France
I’ve been to quite a few places in the South of France but have so far not made it to Arles. It’s an area rich in history from both ancient and more modern times. The Roman amphitheatre is a UNESCO World Heritage site, which I’d love to see, but more important to me is the town’s connection to artists, most especially Vincent Van Gogh. I went to a wonderful exhibition, The Real Van Gogh, at London’s Royal Academy of Art, a couple of years ago. Days before I had had an eye operation and I don’t think I will ever forget the stunning clarity and amazing colours I enjoyed as I stood before Vincent’s incredible painting of The Yellow House. I’d love to go and see it for real.
I flew into Athens airport once, many years ago, and saw the Parthenon from a distance as the coach I was in made its way to our holiday destination (we were sailing either in the Ionian or Peloponnese), but I don’t think that counts as seeing Athens in any proper sense. It was when I went to Greece more recently – last year to Kardamyli – that I started reading more about its history and culture; its ancient gods, and felt I wanted to know more. I’d really love to visit Athena’s temple – the Parthenon.
3. Giza, Egypt
The Great Pyramid is the last surviving wonder of the Ancient World and it’s for this reason that I’d like to see it. However, I’ve also nursed rather romantic ideas about deserts since seeing the film, The English Patient, so maybe I just have deluded dreams of a Ralph Feinnes-type man emerging from a sand storm and whisking me off on a camel!
4. Granada & Cordoba
Ever since I watched Monty Don’s 80 Gardens Around the World on TV a few years ago, I wanted to go to see the Alhambra. I know it might seem like cheating to put in Cordoba here too (isn’t that two destinations, you ask), but it’s an obvious combined trip and I’ve been told Cordoba is very beautiful. I thought about doing this trip en route to staying with my friends Linda and George in Spain a couple of years ago until I looked seriously at a map and distances and realised quite how large Spain is and how far away the Alhambra was from where they live. So, you say, try harder next time! It’s not that far if you really want to go there.
When I was about 12, for some completely inexplicable reason my school decided we should have Turkish pen friends. Now I’ve nothing against writing to any Turkish person … but none of us was learning Turkish, which was the usual reason for having a foreign pen friend. However, I wrote to this boy (I don’t remember his name, I’m afraid) for quite some time and I guess it all seemed very exotic sending and receiving letters (this was way before the internet) from such a far away place. More recently, many of my friends – and my daughter – have been to Istanbul and raved about how wonderful it is. I guess I’m jealous. But I do like the idea of wandering through the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest souks in the world, and haggling over a carpet or whatever (I got some practice in Marrakesh!) and then the food. You may have noticed on the blog recently my favourite Pasha and Tas restaurants and my love of Turkish food. So, the real thing is a must for me. Can’t wait to go.
Well, it’s not really a ‘blaming’ situation but … then again … this really has to be Ottolenghi’s ‘fault’. Since watching his wonderful programme, Jerusalem on a Plate earlier in the year and buying his Jerusalem book recently, I’ve been longing to go there myself. I’ve haven’t quite summoned the courage to do this trip on my own – yet – but when I hear my son talk about how his Jewish friends who know Jerusalem well have eaten at the places Ottolenghi visited in the programme, well, I want to go too!
7. New York
Strictly speaking, this wouldn’t be a new destination. I went there about four years ago but only for a couple of days and have wanted to go back since to see and do all those things that seem such an essential part of enjoying the true New York experience – go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, walk in Central Park, visit Grand Central Terminal and eat some great real New York food. And, as you know, I am a city girl and there are few greater cities than New York.
OK, so at last and inevitably to get to Italy … or, in the case of The Single Gourmet Traveller, we get back to Italy. You know all things Italian are my great love and thus will hopefully forgive me two Italian entries here. But haven’t you been to most of Italy, you may ask. Fairly. But no, I haven’t. I don’t know how I’ve missed Sienna. I’ve been near Sienna: I’ve stayed in Florence a couple of times, visited it once while staying near Lucca, and Florence is quite close to Sienna. I’ve nearly got to Sienna a few times but never quite there. It was Jonathan and Lyndsey’s favourite stop on their Italian honeymoon last year and they say they had their best ice cream of the trip there (sorry Rome!) and have lots of eating places to recommend. I think I must definitely give up on the idea of having a holiday in the region and taking a day trip to Sienna – I must just holiday in Sienna itself!
A little while ago Fabio asked me, in one of my lessons, where I’d not yet been to in Italy but would like to visit (maybe that’s where this post started!). I think we also talked about where I liked best … I’d been to both Rome and Venice in the early part of this year, but how could you choose one over the other? Then Fabio told me he thought I should go to Turin; that I would like Turin. Well it is home to both risotto and Barolo wine, so that’s a good start. And I found information on the internet that told me that chocolate as we know it (solid in bars and pieces) originates in Turin, which definitely earns it many points! We, in UK, often think of Turin as an industrial city, Fiat cars etc., but Piedmont has some of the best food in Italy and my Dorling Kindersley Italy guide describes Turin as a city of grace and charm. Sounds like it has everything going for it … must be an excellent long weekend break destination, at least.
Viennese waltzes, Gustav Klimt, Viennese coffee and, of course, Sachertorte. Well I’m happy to go for the cake alone. Having recently made a Sachertorte, I’d love to try the real thing. But seriously, Vienna looks a really beautiful city and I’d love to go there. I went to Austria quite a few times as a child, not never to Vienna. It’s time to go back.
I’ve greatly enjoyed giving some time to thinking about the places I really want to visit soon and hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them and my reasons why. But why don’t you take some time out to sit down and draw up your own list? And I’ve love to know where you’d like to go.