For better or worse, 2008 was a year I’ll not soon forget. And, a handful of travel experiences stand out in my memory for being exceptionally pleasant or just plain unusual. What follows are my top five travel experiences of last year in no particular order.
I had heard about silent discos and raves taking place at public places (Central Park) and music festivals (Bonnaroo), but before my trip to London this summer, I never had the chance to participate in this fun, yet bizarre social experiment. So, a local friend of mine and I went to Royal Albert Hall, purchased our $20 tickets for its silent disco night and were given a pair of oversized, yellow headphones, which were hooked up to the music of dueling disc jockeys. With our new headgear, we could switch between two channels of differing music styles or, for more impact, turn them off completely and watch people dancing in a silent frenzy.
Room Service at Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya
Mandarin Oriental, Riviera Maya
Sure, I was on vacation in a gorgeous, previously undeveloped portion of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, but that wasn’t going to get in the way of my election fever 2008. On Sept. 26, I opted for a night in with room service, a plush robe and the first presidential debate on an oversized, flat-screen television. My meal — the catch of the day (red snapper) with pureed potatoes — was so tender that it practically melted away before I had a chance to devour it. Yes, being lazy never felt so good.
Shopping at Pike’s Place Market
My friends in Seattle are always enthusiastic about showing off the Emerald City, and what better way to do it than on a sunny day at Pike’s Place Market? With mini-chocolate doughnuts and strong coffee in tote, we weaved in and out of the many booths selling items as random as hand-blown glass jewelry, edible wall decorations and wind-up toys. As a sort of out-of-towner prank, they took me to see the world’s largest collection of “really big shoes” and to the famous — and mildly disgusting — Seattle Gum Wall.
Watching Lee “Scratch” Perry at the Montreal Jazz Festival
When Lee “Scratch” Perry took the stage at the Montreal Jazz Festival, I was blown away by his vitality (the man was born in 1936, after all) and charm. And while I didn’t necessarily understand his short speeches to the audience or lyrics, for that matter, his dub and reggae music was more than agreeable. What also struck me about the 72-year-old performer was his flamboyant attire — particularly, a mirrored hat with a burning incense stick affixed to it. I can’t say I know too many grandfathers that can pull that look off.
Swimming Along Tulum
After an educational, yet hot, day of touring the Maya ruins of Tulum in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, our tour guide led us down a series of steps to a gorgeous beach. The water was a shade of turquoise that I had never before seen, and the waves gently lapped against the shore. Walking around the grounds all day, we thought we had a pretty comprehensive look at the ancient ruins. We found out, however, that if you really want to find the best vantage point at Tulum, don’t forget your bathing suit.