The Big D is a city on the move. First time visitors immediately pick up on the energy that radiates from this grand Texas metropolis, the state's third largest city, and that energy certianly takes them places. With a host of new parks, museums, hotels, architecturally-significant bridges and awe-inspiring sports facilities, Dallas has transformed itself and emerged as a destination-worthy location. It’s rich in sights and experiences, offering something for everyone, young and old. There is no question that Dallas knows how to delight in a big-time Texas way, and any trip here - short or long - will leave visitors all the better for the experience.
On November 22, 1963, history changed in a split second. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, while his motorcade passed through the city’s central business sector as part of a two-day Texas tour in preparation for the 1964 presidential campaign. I don’t remember much of this event, as I was a young child at the time, but I do recall my mother audibly weeping as she sat in front of the television watching the news unfold. She was shocked and horrified upon learning that the President she and so many others adored had been murdered, and like the rest of the nation, she tensely waited to hear who was responsible for such a tragedy. For many days, life in my family’s house was chaotic, with the television on 24/7 and my parents in a constant state of agitation and grief. There was a sense of despair and hopelessness. Even as a child I realized that the world around me grew heavier and darker during this period. In ensuing years, my understanding of the event and how it affected our nation grew in both substance and clarity, and I marked it as the moment when America lost its innocence.
Among those I have taken to lunch over the years, I can now add a llama to my list. My dining companion, K-2, was one of six llamas that accompanied our small group on a recent day trek with in Northern New Mexico. A handsome blonde and statuesque creature with plenty of personality, K-2 was ever-alert and curious as we hiked the trails in the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Area of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I led my trusted wooly friend through the dense woods, over bridges and into the gentle creeks within this picturesque and unspoiled wilderness. With his leather padded, two-toed feet and natural agility, he walked with a self-possessed air, exuding confidence as he navigated the terrain without faltering, while carrying a load of gear. “Llamas are the perfect low-impact, high altitude pack animal,” says Stuart Wilde, owner and head wilderness guide of Wild Earth Llama Adventures. “They are sure-footed because they have the perfect ‘mountain moccasins’ - like mountain goats - and they have little impact on fragile wilderness trails. They exemplify the ‘leave no trace’ ethic we practice and teach out here.”
As the train pulled into the Zugdidi train station in Western Georgia, the drivers started shouting "Mestia! Mestia!" assuming that most tourists getting off the train here would be heading north to the famed UNESCO World Heritage Site, as I did on a previous trip. On this day, though, I had a different end. A driver approached me like he would any tourist, offering his services to the Upper Svaneti region of the country. Curious, a small group of drivers gathered to chat when I answered that I was not headed far. I was hesitant to answer as I was going to a place that was still controversial for many Georgians. I reluctantly replied that I was heading to Gali.
Amman is a different kind of place. Though it is the capital of Jordan, it’s not always the metropolis that many may think. It’s located in a very hilly region where only the hardiest get by. Even the ploughed hillsides are dominated by submerged rocks, while other hillsides are pure rock and nothing else. The city itself is a contrast of old and new, rural and urban. It boasts all the amenities you’d expect to find, but at the same time is home to tents in the centre of small farm-like enclosures that host sheep or camels, and the occasional donkey. The sprawl of Amman is wide thanks to extensive and mostly ongoing construction work on the outskirts, and there are relatively few mosques compared to other cities in the region.
It’s easy to fall in love with Savannah, Georgia. She woos you with her beguiling charms while seducing you with promises of rich and varied experiences. She’s the consummate Southern belle – a real ‘the hostess with the mostest’ – whose popularity has consistently put her on lists of the top ten places to visit by numerous, world-renowned travel publications and websites. Everyone adores and flocks to this vibrant coastal haven at all times of the year. It’s definitely love at first sight for most newcomers, who are drawn like a magnet to the city’s beauty and its historic-but-hip, and classic-yet-cool vibes.
Tell a Mexican you’re going to Oaxaca and you will undoubtedly be hit with a barrage of delectable recommendations: moles, tamales, posoles, quesillo and chocolate, to name a few. While it’s true that Oaxaca is a culinary thrill for anyone into new flavors, the state is also home to a few special treats for the exceptionally adventurous of tongue and steely of stomach. Oaxaca de Juarez, the artsy oasis of a capital city at the junction of the Valles Centrales, teems with dining options, from classy, sit-down restaurants that serve plates worth a small fortune in pesos to budgeting itinerants, starving artists and penny-pinching English teachers, to crowded street stalls with standing room only, where one is often forced to reach over a few shoulders to retrieve one’s tacos. Mind the taxi traffic. The city’s pervasive population of North American snowbirds keeps the gourmet places abuzz with English chatter about whatever entertains those who move to a foreign country and never bother to learn the language. Places like these tend to incorporate traditional Oaxacan delicacies into their bourgie, impeccably presented plates: some grasshoppers in your guacamole, maybe. They’re easier to stomach that way.
As I gaze at the landscape below, I wonder if I’ve landed on Mars or perhaps have been transported into one of Dali’s surrealist paintings. Picture a spectacular topography of vast plains and valleys, rolling hills, rugged mountains and extinct volcanoes. Then visualize bizarre rock formations - or ‘fairy chimneys’ – in mushroom, pinnacled, capped and conic shapes, scattering the area and giving it an otherworldly appearance. Yes, it’s easy to believe I’m on another planet. But, no, I’m in Cappadocia, a region in central Turkey, about three hours’ drive south of Ankara. Cappadocia covers nearly 3,900 square kilometers in the country’s Central Anatolia Region.
Imagining what Doha is like is really not possible unless you’ve had the good fortune of walking along the city’s Corniche on a not-too-hot summer's day, with the breeze tickling your hair and the Arabian Gulf lapping peacefully at your feet. The city's Corniche - the nearly seven kilometer promenade along the coast - is a picture postcard indeed. It's an almost-surreal vision for joggers, walkers and those who cannot help but stroll and marvel at the architects, designers and workers who have built a spectacularly beautiful city out of the desert in such a short time, all the while maintaining some very traditional ways of life. Without a doubt, this city is amazing!
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