Think about your absolute favorite places and travel experiences. We all have them. And we make it our mission to create Walking Adventures that will rise to the top of your “Best Of” list, every time you return home.
Every year about this time, Travel + Leisure asks you to cast your ballot in their “World’s Best Awards.” So we thought it would be fun to conduct our own poll here at the Country Walkers office. In the spirit of that prestigious magazine’s annual celebration of travel, we asked a half-dozen of our well-traveled Tour Consultants about their favorite places and most unforgettable moments on the road, on the walking trail, or even close to home.
It’s unofficial … it’s informal … and their answers may surprise you!
Most Memorable Walk
Amanda Wetter was enchanted when she walked out to Fifth Water Hot Springs in Spanish Fork, Utah. “There was a little snow on the ground but the hot spring was steamy and very enjoyable!” she says. “The hike in was lined with mini pools to soak in and gorgeous scenery.”
For Terri Erdelyi, it was a very specific Portuguese segment of the Camino de Santiago: “The Ponte de Lima was built by the Romans and as we walked over it, we were following in the footsteps of so many pilgrims,” she recalls. “Below us, the river was wide and shimmering and the town was full of flowering trees.”
Best Meal While Traveling
“It was in a family-owned restaurant in Muxia, Spain, that only opened its doors for us,” recalls John Zelig of his time on the Camino del Santiago. Not only was the meal incredible; so was the fellowship and warmth. “The mother cooked a multi-course seafood lunch and we all applauded her when she came out of the kitchen.”
For Terri, her favorite meal was as much about the setting as the food. “We were hiking uphill all morning in the Grand Canyon on the Yellowstone River. We sat at the rim looking out over the canyon and the river and that sandwich and cookie never tasted so good!”
Most Memorable Conversation with a Local
During John’s college days, he studied in London and traveled around Europe during break. In a quiet town in Spain, a happenstance encounter with a priest led to a leisurely walk as el padre gave him a private tour and John did his best to communicate with his rudimentary Spanish.
Terri’s most meaningful encounter was in her native Vermont. She ran into a fourth-generation farmer named Kermit. When she asked if he lived on the farm all his life, he replied, “Not yet,” in his droll New England fashion. She asked if she could walk on his fields and he replied, “It’s God’s country and everyone has a right to enjoy it.” Um, so that’s a “yes?”
Favorite Mountain View
We’re lucky that our home state boasts many mountain vistas. Vermont’s own Mt. Mansfield got two mentions – from Megan and from Jane Agran. The view from nearby Stowe Pinnacle also made it to the top of Terri’s list.
Beyond our brave little state, it was the range surrounding Park City, Utah; the soaring Teton Range in Wyoming; and Switzerland’s Mt. Pilatus that took the breath away from (respectively) Amanda, Tucker Auch, and John.
John wouldn’t call Salida, Colorado, a city. But it tops his list. The one-traffic-light mountain town on the Arkansas River is burgeoning into a vibrant artistic center of galleries, shops, and restaurants while its outdoor recreation options are endless.
For Amanda, San Jose, Costa Rica, wins out for its “fun people, delicious food, and high energy.” Meanwhile, the medieval gem of Ghent, Belgium, made a huge impression on Tucker with its preserved buildings, lacy canals, welcoming locals, and rich history.
Most Charming Village
European destinations took the prize for Most Charming Villages. Tucker happened on a local festival in Dendermonde, a Flemish treasure of cobbled streets, typical architecture, and pretty canals. John remembers the Alsatian village of Ribeauvillé, lined with half-timbered houses painted in rich colors. “It was rated ‘4 fleurs,’ or flowers, by the tourism board!” he says. The medieval Portuguese enclave of Marialva stole Terri’s heart, strewn with small churches, cobbled courtyards, olive trees, and stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
It was back to Belgium for Tucker as he dreamed about his favorite hotel. “The Hotel Navarra in the heart of Bruges is really cool, a gorgeous hotel with an antique feel. The outdoor terrace was a great place to relax without the big city feel.” John pined over the Hotel Minerva in Sorrento, Italy. “Our room looked over the Bay of Naples, Capri, and Mt. Vesuvius and breakfast was on the veranda,” he recalls. As for Terri, she has a soft spot for the Borrowdale Gates Hotel. “At this quintessential English country hotel, you can have tea outside overlooking a pasture and the beautiful mountains of the Lake District.”
Most Spontaneous Moment While Traveling
Spontaneity ranged from the sweet in The Netherlands, when Tucker stopped for ice cream along a bike route, to the sublime in Rome, when John happened upon the Pope on Easter Eve and then decided to attend services at St. Peter’s the next day.
But even witnessing His Holiness can’t compare to Jane’s post-picnic swim on a Croatian beach. Regrettably, she was without a swimsuit on a very hot day, so she and a traveling companion found a clothing-optional section of the beach and dove in au naturel!