"Some of My Favorite Places" von.otter's Profile

I came to traveling late in life. I was in my mid-40s when I took my second trip to Europe. I feel very much at home in Europe. My first European visit was with my fellow high school French students; we went to Paris and northern France. As with most teenagers I was more concerned with my appearance and what others thought about me than with what I could learn and gain from what was around me. That has changed. Today, I research thoroughly the destination and absorb the place once there.

Although I have such a strong love for Europe, its history, art, culture, food and people, the place where I feel most comfortable is Fire Island Pines, only 55 miles from New York City. This photo of the beach at 9am, taken at the start of the 2008 season in May, sets the mood for the peaceful isolation that I have felt in The Pines since my first visit in 1984. Because the island is free of vehicular traffic (except for police and construction workers), accessed by passenger ferry only, it is a world apart. This narrow spit of sand on the southern shore of New York State’s Long Island is where I feel closest to nature and closest to God.

My favorite city is Rome. It was the first I visited as a 44-year-old adult. And my favorite building in Rome, in the world, is the Pantheon. Oh! that dome.

In May of 2007, when we visited for the third time, our hotel, the Albergo del Senato (see review and photos on my Rome pages), was located directly next to the Pantheon; we went inside at least twice a day to marvel at the space, the workmanship, the multicolored marble, the oculus and the sun shining through it. We could not get enough.

Keep in mind, that the Pantheon is a church, St. Mary and the Martyrs. Please be quiet and respectful, and guys, please remove your hats.

Granada, in the Andalusia region, in the south of Spain, captivated me with its hills and history.

We had the good fortune to spend five nights at the Parador de San Francisco, a former 15th century monastery, within the city’s most popular attraction, the Alhambra.

This photo was taken from our hotel room; it is late on Christmas Day. The sun-drenched view is the El Generalife. We got an around-the-clock look at this 13th century retreat for the Moorish sultans each day and night, when it was illuminated.

Florence, the city of the Medici, is a treasure, both its grand works of art and its natural beauty combine to form its charm. The hills surrounding the town give it varied perspectives, and give visitors a good workout climbing them!

This photo, taken in Florence’s Piazza della Signoria, shows Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, in commanding form. This 1594 equestrian bronze is by Giambologna.

This tribute, commissioned by Cosimo’s son, Grand Duke Ferdinando I (1549-1609), came 20 years after Cosimo's death in 1574. It was the first equestrian monument erected in Florence.

Prague is a gem. We visited for Christmas 2001. We were lucky; it snowed on Christmas Eve, enhancing the fairytale quality of this lovely town.

As we reached the Lesser Town end of Charles Bridge Kampa Island, on the left hand side, presented a memorable sight. With its streets covered in fresh snow and the low-storied buildings and the Christmas Tree, Kampa Square was picture-postcard perfect.

My first visit to California included a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, in Big Sur.

What a beautiful place! Certainly the most naturally beautiful place I have seen.

The area combined my two favorite elements of nature, the ocean and mountains.

Visiting St. Petersburg, Russia during White Nights was an exhausting time. Because the sun does not set until after 23:00 we stayed awake walking about and sightseeing well past our bedtime! This photo of me on a bridge across the River Neva with the Winter Palace in the background was taken at 21:00! Look how bright the sun is!

This is one beautiful city. With its many waterways and grand palaces the city has grace and style. It does remind one of Europe, which was Tsar Peter’s goal.

I could easily live at Château Vaux le Vicomte.

It is a good sized house, but not overwhelming. It is perfectly decorated by Charles Le Brun; the grounds were created by André Le Notre, and Louis Le Vau designed the house itself. All three of these men would help create Château de Versailles. It is said that without Vaux, there could not be Versailles.

Because we visited on a Monday there were very few other visitors; it was almost as if the place was ours alone!

  • Intro Updated Jun 28, 2014
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