Sunday, June 28, 2009

Eight Questions for my Traveling Companion: Leslie

I'd issued invitations to several people asking if they would like to go to Ireland with me, however it didn't work out for anyone.  Two days before I left, I mentioned the trip to my friend, Leslie, who to my delight was able to come with me.  So, meet Leslie...

AKN: Why did you say "yes" to my impromptu invitation to go to Ireland?
Well, there are six reasons...
  • First, I was suffering from travel envy and a severe case of wanderlust at the time; I was trying to drum up a travel opportunity when this gift fell from heaven. 
  • Second, I had two major personal losses within 90 days and needed distraction and healing. 
  • Third, Ireland has been on my list of top five destinations for years; I thought I would go after completing the genealogical research on my Irish relatives (still unfinished!). 
  • Fourth, my youngest son raves about it as his favorite place on earth.
  • Fifth, I am not a spontaneous person, and it’s about time I got over that! 
  • Sixth and most important, I had total faith in you as my travel companion.
AKN: What kind of traveler are you -- high maintenance, low budget, somewhere in between?

You can probably answer that better than I at this point.  I think I am “in between,” but would love to afford being “high maintenance.”  Just kidding. I try to be flexible and good natured about travel mishaps unless they scare me.  I am also well aware that when I am out of the USA, I am a guest with an opportunity to learn from my hosts and to represent the best characteristics of Americans to other cultures.

AKN:  What was your favorite experience on our trip to Ireland?

Oh, how mean to make me choose!  I am going to cheat and choose two: falconry at Ashford Castle in County Mayo and the Old Library at Trinity College, Dublin.  Both made my heart leap with joy for totally different reasons.  I will never forget either.

AKN:  What meal did you enjoy most?

Our dinner at the George V Dining Room at Ashford Castle narrowly edges out the lovely meal at The Cellar at The Merrion in Dublin.  The curry soup and the blackberry dessert were simply divine.

AKN: You are also an Italy-lover.  What similarities do you see between Italy and Ireland?

Both countries are extraordinarily beautiful, have long histories important to all cultures and the ruins to prove it, and are populated by people whose pride in country and welcoming warmth touch the heart of any visitor.  The vineyards of Italy are replaced by the gorgeous pastures, sheep, and truly happy cows of Ireland.  To me Ireland is “simpler”, however, and I mean that in the very best sense.  I love them both.

AKN:  My readers are great book lovers.  What are a few of your favorite travel or history-related books?  Why do you love them?

As to travel books, my best sources are the relevant Rick Steves and Eyewitness Guide for my destinations.  I like two perspectives.  Steves is practical and helps me prioritize while Eyewitness gives me great information and pictures or diagrams.  I like to buy books from my destinations to help me relive my travel adventures, e.g. the book on Ashford Castle. 

When in Rome, I fell in love with the sculpture of Bernini; I am now learning more about him and his work from several books.  I tend to read books focused on people rather than events or places.  I’m curious about how human beings manage to become great historic figures, whether good or bad.  Examples include the Robert Caro books on Lyndon Johnson, William Manchester’s The Last Lion books on Sir Winston Churchill as well as Churchill’s My Early Life, almost anything about President Lincoln.  My favorite fictionalized history is Burr by Gore Vidal.  Right now I’m reading His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph Ellis, and I have two David McCullough books in the queue. 

My guilty pleasures about history though are the wonderful documentaries on television, like PBS’ offerings on the American Experience and the documentaries of Ken Burns.  What opportunities to make history lovers of us all!

The payoff to reading about history, even if fictionalized, can present itself in delightful ways.  For example, during our guided tour of Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon, Ireland, I understood the guide’s description of how the abbey was built because I had read Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, a formidable yet enjoyable story about the building of a cathedral.

AKN:  If you could spend one day traveling anywhere in the world, what would you do?

If I have only 24 hours in one place I haven’t been before, I suppose I would choose Jerusalem or a day in St. Petersburg, Russia at the Hermitage Museum.  If I could choose a place I had been before, it would be Rome, in particular the Galleria Borghese and St. Peter’s to see more of Bernini’s work and then to the Forum.  Rome was life-changing for me.

AKN: Where are you headed next?

I am planning a trip to join a very dear friend and her husband who will be spending time near Lake Como in Italy in October 2010.  Now that I have written that it sounds too far away not to have something special to do before then and it presumes you do not ask me to accompany you to Ireland again soon, which I will do at the drop of a hat!

Many thanks to Leslie both for her wonderful companionship and for her great answers.  Cheers!

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jessiev said...

what a GREAT traveling companion you found, angela! leslie seems like a fantastic person and perfect travel partner.

Dad X 5 said...

I might suggest Leslie pick up a copy of A Journey into Michelangelo's Rome by Angela K. Nickerson before her next trip to Rome.

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