Sorry...this page is pretty self-indulgent, a bit boastful, and more for my own reminiscing than for sharing. My Web site also
serves much as my personal digital "scrapbook."
Highest - Not counting airplane altitudes, of course, the highest point on Earth that I have visited is at the Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman. At 12,142 feet above sea leavel, in the Peruvian Andes, its elevation exceeds the second highest point I have visited: the summit of the High Lift (to the Keystone intermediate ski run), at Crested Butte, Colorado, at 11,875 feet. Third highest: the Alpine Visitors' Center at the summit of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, above Estes Park, Colorado.
That center sits at 11,796 feet, which is 80 feet higher than the Sphinx Observatory viewing platform at Jungfraujoch, Switzerland, my fourth highest visit at 11,716 feet. Fifth, at 11,312 feet, is the summit at Monarch Pass, which I crosssed in 2021 on a road trip through Colorado and New Mexico. Sixth was the top of the Winter Park Ski Resort in Colorado at 11,220. Seventh was the city of Cuzco, Peru at 11,200 feet above sea leave, and also Mary Jane Mounntain at Winter Park Ski resort, also at 11,200 feet.
In New Zealand, Fox Glacier's tallest peak is 3500m (11,482 ft) and would be a new # 5, but we didn't get up that far on the glacier (I believe only to about 6000 feet).
Although I have skied Breckenridge, and one of the lifts to some of the Black Diamond slopes terminates\off-loads at a slightly hgher elevation, we did not ski those trails or take that particular lift, as it was a few years later before we were skiing black trails, and I have not yet found any of those other lifts at other resorts (which I have skied that reach as high an elevation.
In contrast, the highest building I have been to the top of, is the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, in Chicago, at 1,450 feet (#11 in the world in 2014), although the observation deck was only at 1353 feet (still higher than the 86th floot observation deck of the Empire State Building at 1049 feet, or the CN Tower glass floor deck, at 1,122 feet, or the Eiffel Tower's top deck at 896 feet. I do not typically pay much attention to the pilot's announced cruising altitude on airline flights, but typically, that would be in the range of 30,000 to 35,000 feet. On our flight to New Zealand, I did notice on the in-flight monitor that we spent some of the flight at and very slightly above 40,000 feet.
The second highest elevation gain that I have climbed on foot is a steep 7km, 454-foot-elevation-gain, roundtrip trek, to the summit of Rocky Mountain, New Zealand, which reaches 775m (2542 feet), overlooking Lake Wanaka. That doesn't sound that high, until you calculate that it is over 1000 feet higher than the Sears/Willis tower in Chicago.
However, the highest elevation above sea level to which I have climbed is just short of the 10,111 foot summit (approximate 2,200 feet elevation gain for me) climb we did, in 1999, from the Machu Picchu ruins at 7710 feet above sea level to (almost) the summit of the adjoining Machu Picchu peak in the Andes mountains of Peru. The peak summit (Cerro Machu Picchu) is actually approximately 10,009-10,111 feet above sea level (depending of the elevation measurement source), but a bus takes you up about 1,300 feet from the train station at Aquas Calientes, which is already at approximately 6,700 feet elevation,
to the Machu Picchu ruins, which cover a range of 7,710-7,972 feet of elevation.
Robin made it a bit farther than me to about 50 feet down from the Cerro Machu Picchu summit before we simply ran out of time and had to return for our train departure from Agua Calientes.
We have walked down (including Marissa) a longer distance, 9km (we took the train up) from an elevation of 6,762 feet, at Kleine Scheidegg, Switzerland, to Grindelwald Grund (elevation 3,392 feet), a 3,370 feet elevation drop.
Lowest - Even counting 125 feet down on my deepest-ever S.C.U.B.A. dive, the lowest spot I have ever visited is actually the lowest point on dry land, on Earth, which is along the sides of the Dead Sea, between Jordan and Israel, at -1,388 feet below sea level. I swam in the Dead Sea, at Ein Gedi, in late 1976. The lowest point in a man-made structure that I have visited is the Park Robedy Metro/subway station, in Moscow, at 243 feet below the surface. I have never been in a submarine.
Largest Building - Beijing International Airport, Terminal 2, Altough Terminal 3 is three time larger, it was not constructed until after our 2002 visit to China, so terminal 2, at 3,620,000 square feet, is the largest building I have ever been in. The next three largest (that I have actually entered) are the Palazzo Casino & Hotel, in Las Vegas, at 645,581 square feet, which is appriximately 34,000 square feet larger than the Pentagon bulding, Willis Tower in Chicago at 418,000 square feet, and the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, at 372,000 square feet.
Oldest man-made stucture - I was surprised to learn that several of the oldest man-made structures still standing are actually Neolithic edifices dating to about 4800 B.C., in France, followed by a few Nelothic stone structures in Scotland dating back to about 3700 B.C. The oldest of any still-existent man-made structure I have personally visited/entered, however, is the Great Pyramid (of Khufu) at Giza, Egypt, dating to 2560 B.C. That was in October 1976. The same month, I also toured the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, at Deir el Bahari on the west bank of the Nile near the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, which dates to about 1490-1460 B.C. The Treasure of Atreus at Mycenae, Greece, which I have also entered, dates to 1250 B.C. In contrast, the Parthenon , on the Acropolis in Athens, dates from 438-432 B.C., and the Colliseum, in Rome, only from 70-80 A.D.
I have also visited Stonehenge, in England, which archaeologists believe was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC, but tourists were no longer allowed to get very near the stones, so we viewd it from approximately 30-50 feet away.
The oldest man-made structure that I have been inside within the U.S. is the Step House at Mesa Verde, New Mexico, of which a portion of the cliffdweller ruins beneath the cliff overhang date back to 626 A.D., and the rest to 1226 A.D.
Northernmost - Mt. McKinley Lodge, in Talkeetna, Alaska, at 63.74° N. Although I have also visited Sweden, Norway and Denmark in 1973, until 2019 the northernmost place I had ever been was Helsinki, Finland, at Latitude 60° 12N, in 1975.
After Alaska, Helsinki dropped to # 5. I once flew over Reyjavik, Iceland at 64.1333° N, en route to Europe, but have never visited or touched down there. My other northermost travels are #2-Denali National Park, Alaska at Horseshoe Lake (63.44° N),
#3-Anchorage, Alaska at 61.21° N, #4-College Fjord, Alaska, at 61.11° N. #6-tie - Oslo, Norway, at 59° 57N, in 1973, #2-tie - St. Petersburg/Lenigrad, Russia, also at 59° 57N, in 1975, #7-Skagway, Alaska at 59.4554° N, #8 -Stockholmm Sweden, at 59°20N, in 1975.
#9 Glacier Bay (Tarr Inlet), Alaska at 58.98° N along with theMargerie Glacier, #10-Juneau, Alaska and the Mendenhall Glacier at 58.44° N, #11-Inverness, Scotland, in 2016, at 57° 28N, and #12-Ketchikan, Alaska at 55.34° N.
Southernmost - Until November 2015, Papeete, Tahiti, in 1990 and 2000 was the farthest south I had ever traveled. Papeete sits at Latitude 17° 6S. In November 2015, we traveled to Australia and New Zealand, and all points visited were more southernly than Tahiti.
Walter Peak, New Zealand at 45°07'44"S is currently the most southern point I have visited. Queenstown, NZ is at latitude 45°01'52S, and therefore the second southernmost point I've ever visited.
Milford Sound, NZ, at latitude 44°67'50"S, is the third southernmost, followed by (#4) Wanaka, NZ at 44°42'S, (#5) Fox Glacier, NZ at 43°27'52"S, (#6) Punakaiki at 42°6'30"S,
(#7) Wellington, NZ at 41°17'20"S, (#8) Motueka, NZ at 41°07'24"S, and (#9) Sydney, Australia at 35°51'54"S.
Easternmost - Moscow, Russia. Using my hometown of Norman, OK as the starting point and traveling east across the Atlantic, the most eastern point that I have traveled to was Moscow, in 1975 (during Détente). Moscow lies at 55°45'N 37°37'E, which is 5,613 air miles from Norman (even though I had first traveled to Kaiserslautern, Germany and already spent nearly two years there before traveling farther on an American Express tour to Helsinki, Leningrad, and finally Moscow). Ephesus, Turkey, at 37.9411° N, 27.3419° E is approximately 6,265 air miles, but not as far by longitudinal distance, and is my 3rd farthest by longitude (#1 by air miles) in an easterly direction from home.
Westernmost - Chongqing, China. Using my hometown of Norman, OK as the starting point and traveling in an arc across Alaska and down to Beijing and then X'ian, China, the most western point that I have reached was Chongqing, in 2002. Chongqing lies at 29°33'30N 106°34'00E, and is 7,693 air miles west from Norman.
Most distant from home - Amboseli, Kenya, immediately north of the border with Tanzania and at the northern base of of Mount Kilimanjaro, at 8,723 air miles from Norman, Oklahoma, in 1992. Chongqing, China at 7,693 air miles, was a previous most distant, but was surpassed in 2015 by several points we visited in New Zealand.
Although further South, Tahiti is only 5,000 miles from my home. Sydney, Australia is 8606 miles (as the crow flies) from Norman, OK, and is #2.
(#3)Milford Sound, on the South Island of New Zealand, is 8,072 air miles from Norman, Oklahoma. (#4) Queenstown is 8,049 miles from Norman.
Hottest and Coldest - Although there are places I have gone where the temperature may often drop much, much lower or rise much higher at other times when I was not present, the most extreme high temperatures that I have personally experienced have been right here in Oklahoma, where it reached 120°F (49°C) in June 27, 1994 (officially, at my own location a record high would be 113°F on August 3, 2012), and where it has also dropped to -31°F (-35°C) on February 11, 2011, in Nowata, OK (although I can't remember personally experiencing a lower temperature than -18°F once while skiing in Colorado or New Mexico). It dropped to -12°F in the early morning of February 16, 2021, in Norman, -14°F in Oklahoma City (second lowest ever, since records kept. -17°F in 1899 was #1 lowestin OKC) and -22°F in Nowata, OK, also on February 16, 2021. Previously it had reached -8°F a couple of times in the Oklahoma City metro area in December, 1989, but in contrast never dropped below freezing while I was at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, or while in Fargo, ND, one October, a few years ago, and never dropped below 10°F at Jungfraujoch, Switzerland, when I have visited there on a few occasions. I don't even recall it ever dropping below 0°F at any time while I was stationed in Kaiserslautern, Germany. When I visited Alaska, in July of 2019, at no time was the low temperature below 50 degrees F, except where the wind blew straight off the glaciers at the bow of our cruise ship, and even then it did not feel nearly as cold as an Oklahoma winter.
Dullest City - Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Wildest City Tie: - Amsterdam, Netherlands. Few limits in place, here, once you leave the tourist areas. It was a bit much for my blood, although still worth visiting at least once. It is after all, a very picturesque city. If you are traveling with a tour group or staying in a ritzier hotel, you might not even be exposed the wilder sides of the city. I stayed in a co-ed, youth hostel in 1973, and believe me, I saw plenty. Cairo: No one was truly in control, here. Way too many people, and too severe a division in haves and haves-not. Bad things can happen in Cairo at any time, and often do.
Most Tranquil - Bora Bora, French Polynesia, South Pacific. There are a lot of tranquil places I have visited and enjoyed, but Bora Bora is still my choice in this category. This was also the Most Expensive overall destination to dine that I have visted. (not just any one restaurant, but in general)
Most Disturbing\Depressing - Dachau concentration camp, Germany. Man's horrifying inhumanity toward other human beings.
Most Beautiful - It is really impossible for me to single out any one city or location as the the most beautiful I have ever visited. There are too many to choose from, and they are each uniquely beautiful.
See instead my un-ordered list: My Top 30 Most Scenic Destinations.
Longest duration in a city/country oustide the USA - Kaiserslautern, Germany I was stationed in "K-town" during my military service, in the mid-1970s. I spent a total of almost two years there, (from early November 1974 - late August 1976, plus 3 weeks of February 1977, after I finshed my enlistment and subsequent European and Midlle Eastern travels). My only other foreign stays in any one city of more than a week have been 14 weeks in Jerusalem, in early November 1976 to early February 1977, 5 weeks in Florence, Italy, in 1976, and 4 weeks in Lyon, France in 1973. I have also spent 2 to 4 weeks in several countries (e.g. - Brazil, France, China, Kenya, Peru) at a time, in various years, but in multiple cities during those visits, rather than just one place.
Most-visited country and city oustide the USA - I have visited Mexico (including Tijuana, Cancun, Cozumel, and the Riviera Maya on 29 different trips, as of mid-2019. Cozumel has been my most frequented city with 20 separate visits, beginning in 1989. France is my second most-visited country, with over a dozen trips, in eleven different years.
Most-visited city in Europe - I have visited Paris in 11 different years (1971, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1995 and 2010). Several of these trips incuded Paris at both the start and end of an itinerary.
Nice, on the French Riviera follows with 9 separate vists, then Munich and Heidelberg with 7 separate visits apiece, Athens and Florence, with 5, each. I also visted Mannheim at least 5-6 times on active duty-related trips during my military services, as that was where my Group headquarters were located. I am excludng Kaiserslautern, where I resided for part of 1974, all of 1975, most of 1976, and a little bit of 1977. Other than returning to Kaiserslautern from other side-trips, I have only made that city a travel itinerary destination, three times. See above category for longest duration, instead.
Least-friendly - 1) Morocco. Although the few people we met in Tangiers and Marrakech were not noticeably unfriendly, I cannot say the same for most people we encountered in Casablanca, Rabat and Fes. Our official Moroccan tour guide was even surly and rude. Even though Morocco is a NATO ally, the people I have met in non-NATO countries Egypt, Russia, China and France have been much friendlier. Most people visit Morocco for the sights, not to make new friends, and for the sights it is still worth the trip. 2) Isiolo, Kenya, the "Pearl of the North" was a notably unfriendly exception to a string of nice, friendly places we visited in Kenya. Isiolo residents do not seem to like outsiders, at all, and perhaps especially not Anglo Christians. Avoid.
London, England was a surprisingly-snobbish, and generally-discourteous city on both of my vists, there. Paris has that reputation in the U.S., but I have never found that to be true (but then, I do speak French, and that does make a difference).
Largest City - Chongqing, China. Although other cities that I have not visited, such as Tokyo, have larger total "metropolitan area" populations, Chongqing has the largest "city proper" population in the world, at a whopping 30.1 million as of 2019. I visited in 2002. With slightly over 24 million people (as of 2014), Shanghai is the second most-populated city I have ever visited, as well as being the 2nd most-populated city proper in the world. I would have guessed Beijing, which actually is #3 on both accounts, at slightly over 21 million. I have also visited the world's 4th most populous city (Istanbul, 15 million), 7th (Moscow, 13.2 million), 21st (Chengu, China 14.3 million),
22nd (Lima, 8.84 million), 24th (London, 8.4 million), 29th (Wuhan, China 8 million), and 32th largest city in the world (Cairo, 7.6 million). In contrast, two cities visited by millions of tourists and business travelers, including myself: New York and London, make the worlds most populated cities at #26- New York, with 8.6 million, and #24- London, with 8.8 million people, both of which I have also visited.
Los Angeles is much further down the list at only 3.9 million (#66), and Paris with 2.2 million, doesn't even break the top 85. If, however, you change the measurement rankings to greater metropolitan area, then New York jumps to # 15, with 20.3 million people, Los Angeles grows to #30 at 13.35 million, and Paris grows to #33 at 12.5 million. Tokyo (which I have not visted) then becomes the largest metroploitan area in the world, with 37.8 million people, followed by #2 Shanghai at 34.8 million (which I have visited).
Oldest City - Luxor, Egypt. Inhhabited since 4000 BC, Luxor is the oldest, still-existent, continuously-inhabited city I have visited, followed by Athens and Jerusalem (although there are several cities in the Middle East, such as Damascus which still exist and which are reputed to be older, but that I have never visited).
Most Modern/Futuristic City - Shanghai, China. I have never visited Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, else I likely have given the label to that city. Shanghai, however, boasts 123 scryscrapers (4th most numerous, behind Hong Kong, NYC and Dubai), many of which rank among the tallest in the world, and many with a very futuristic architecture. I was extremely impressed. Anyone who understimates China does so at their own peril.
Most Exotic - Hmmm...this is a really tough one. Of those places I have visited, I considered Jerusalem, because there is so much of the ancient, walled city and landmarks that remain, but it lacks a couple of ingredients to be called exotic. There is also Marrakech with it belly-dancers, water vendors and snake charmers at the Medina, and there is Fes, with its own huge, and largely-unchanged medina, as well as Istanbul, with its Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and old Turkish Bath. I also considered Giza, with the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx, The Valley of the Kings across from Luxor, Bora Bora with its jagged peaks and drop-dead-gorgeous, tropical-paradise allure, and the Inca ruins and llamas high in the Andes at Machu Picchu. All of these are certainly very deserving candidates, but I think that I have to give this particular label to Fengdu, the so-called «Ghost City» on the Yangtze River in China, with its very exotic Taoist buildings, structures, dioramas, and statues related to Diyu, the concept of the underworld and hell in Chinese mythology and Buddhism. Perhaps it is not as impressive, overall, as some of the other locations, and I would be less-likey to re-visit or even recommend it as a travel destination, but for best use of this label (as in strange, foreign, mysteriois, sensual), I think Fengdu is the best fit. Had there only been harem girls at the Turkish Baths, I'd have given it to Istanbul. ;)
Friendliest - New Zealand is the friendliest country that I have visited. Everyone seemd eager to be as helpful and welcoming as possible when we visted in December 2015. Also, Amapa and Para, Brazil. I visited these two extreme-northern, Brazilian states in the eastern Amazon region, in 1993, as part of a Rotary International Group Study Exchange. Granted, our team was treated with VIP level courtesy, but I assure you that treatment far exceeded the friendliness and selflessness that I have observed or experienced when extended in reciprocation by American clubs and families, or even churches, to similar visitors, here in the U.S. I also noticed that the typical Rotary Club member in these two Brazilian states were far more senior executives, business owners, surgeons and government officials than the usual mid-level managers, marketing staff, realtors and dentists found in American Rotary Clubs. This, too, struck me as an indicator of the general amity, empathy and selflessness of the local inhabitants.
Wettest - Madre de Dios. Robin and I spent a week in this region in southeastern Peru, in February 1999, while I was doing research on the setting for my novel, Gold in the Shadow. The Madre de Dios region is almost entirely low-lying Amazon rainforest, with a warm and damp climate. The rainy season is from December to March, when torrential rainfall causes rivers to swell and often overflow their banks, as happenwed on the Tambopata River, during our visit (necessitating an early, urgent departure). Annual precipitation can be as much as 3 metres (9.8 ft)!
Dryest - Luxor, Egypt. With an average rainfall of 0.862 mm (0.034 in) per year, and hot winds from the nearby Western Desert (a.k.a. Libyan Desert), which oxomoronically is actually the eastern Sahara, Luxor (and the nearby valley of the Kings), some 500 miles down the Nile from Cairo, is the dryest place I have personally visited. In contarst, the Mojave Desert, which includes Las Vegas, receives approximate 13 inches or 330mm of annual rainfall/per year, and even Death Valley averages 2.36 inches or 60 mm of rain per year, about 70 times more annual rainfall than Luxor.
Most Primieval\Untouched - Tambopata Reserve, Madre de Dios Jungle. Only about 50-100 entry permits are granted, each year, by the Peruvian goverment into this heavily-restricted region. Guardia Civil sentries patrol the river entry points (there are no airstrips) and shoot trespassers. Our camp had no electrictity, and we had to travel 4 hours by motorized "piroque" dugout-canoe to get there. Caiman, piranha, macaws, deadly snakes, monkeys and exotic flora, butterflies, spiders and other insects were abundant, and a jaguar print was found one morning on the river bank less than a hundred yards in front of the camp. The Tambopata National Reserve harbors some of the wildest, least impacted habitats in the world. In this one million plus hectare protected area, rainforests and tropical savannahs meet in a land where roads have never existed and rivers are the only means of accessing its dense wildlife-abundant forests and bird-filled marshes. It is one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet. You should really read my novel.
Most Bustling - Cairo, Egypt. Even though New York City is known as "The City That Never Sleeps" and is indeed a very bustling city, along with San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, Barcelona, and dozens of others, Cairo was easily the the busiest, most-crowded, fast-paced, and hectic city I have vsited.
Most Expensive - Stockholm, Sweden. In 2013, TripAdvisor published a list of the most expensive cities for tourists. Its top ten in order: were 1) Oslo, 2) Zurich, 3) Stockholm, 4) NYC, 5) Paris, 6) Sydney, 7) London, 8) Copenhagen, 9) Cancun and 10) Punta Cana. Such lists are usually based heavily on the nightly cost of a 4-star hotel room. Like a vast majority of tourists, I don't necessarily need a four star hotel, as long as it is clean and in a nice area, not too far from the main attractions. From Trip Advisor's list, I have stayed in each of those cities with the exception of Punta Cana. Along with Stockholm, I would very much agree with Oslo and Copenhagen being on any top ten most-expensive cities list. I was trying to do the backpacking-hostel-sandwich-budget trip when I visited the Scandinavian countries, and even that type travel was inordinantly expensive in these cities - so much that I could not afford to spend more than a single night, anywhere in Scandinavia!
No doubt about it, London and NYC are also both also very, very expensive in many ways; so they'd make my top ten list too. I am very mystified by the inclusion of Paris and Cancun on the TripAdvisor list. You can make either as expensive as you want, but I have stayed as long as a week, many times in both cities, or even with my family of four, without noticing that either was exorbitant, except for more upscale type dining experiences. Instead of Zurich (albeit not necessarily inexpensive) I would have instead inserted Paradise Island, Bahamas, where virtually nothing except
pizza is very reasonbly priced, and number two or three on my list would need to be Bora Bora, which understabably is not on TripAdvisor's list, since few tourists make it to that idyllic loaction.
Most Polluted - Beijing, China. Along with Chongqing, these two Chinese cities are actually rather horrifyingly polluted. The skykline of Beijing was generally a disturbingly-brownish haze from a distance. Alongside Chongqing, our ship on the Yangtze River, I watched a small brown cloud drift past, which was actually dripping drool-like brown tendrils, like something from a sci-fi film, that caused us to rush inside and shut the balcony door! I returned home with a case of asthmatic bronchitis, which persited for abouth a month, and even with medical treatment, I lost some 20 pounds, before shaking it! Afterwards, I have since read that this type illness has happened to other American travelers to China, as well. I read that China made a conecerted effort to improve the pollution levels in the year leading up to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
Most Touristy - Gatlinburg, Tennessee. There are a lot of cities that I really like, that are, at the same time, very touristy, with far too many souvenir shops lining the streets near the local sightseeing attractions. These include NYC, Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice, Las Vegas and San Francisco. Even Jerusalem, has an appallaing number of tourst-trap shops with plastic Jesuses and other souvenir-ware literally overflowing out the front of their premsies onto the narrow route up the Via Dolorosa, and even right outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (This seriously detracts from any feeling of spiritualy or solemnity). Still there is enough worth seeing and visiting in all of these to inspire and to mostly-offset the accompanying commercial gaudiness.
The automn hillsides and Somkey Mountains are breathtakingly beautiful, at that time of year, in and around Gatlinburg, but in reality the city itself mostly seemed to be of a "Strip"-like street that is litle else but an unbroken string of souvenir shops, creating a memory that makes it highly unlikely I would ever return, unless to pass through en route to somewhere else.
Best Island - Bora Bora. I've vacationed on a lot of different islands, including Moorea, Virgin Gorda, Kauai, Maui, Oahu, Tahiti, Santorini, Capri, Corfu, Cozumel, Nantucket, Ambergris Caye, Roatan, Padre Island, Key West, St. Kitt, St. Barts, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, the Bahamas, Dominica, Puerto Rico, Tortola and a handful of smaller islands in the British Virgin Islands. I considered doing a top ten list of islands, but to tell the truth, although Cozumel is one of my favorite dive and beach destinations, and Santorini, Capri, Tahiti and Kauai are all very beautiful, there is no need for a comparative list. Bora Bora simply outclasses any of those that I have visited in virtually any category (raw natural beauty, diving and snorkeling, beaches, weather, tranquility, friendliness, accomodations, etc.) - with only nearby Moorea (also in the Leeward group of the Society Islands of French Polynesia) as a close runner-up.
Most Memorable - Kenya Safari. While Egypt and Michu Picchu also both vie for this label, I have to give this label to the Photo Safari that Robin and I did to Kenya (with Abercrombie & Kent Travel) in 1992. The trip included a stay at the Ark (a treetops lodge in the Aberdares, overlooking a natural salt lick frequented by several species of wildlife), at Amboseli National reserve at the northern base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, a stay at the Mount Kenya Safari Club, a visit to Samburu, and to and Nairobi (where we overnighted at one of the nicest hotels I ever experienced (the Windsor Golf and Coutry Club), 5 days and nights at the tented Jichwa Tembo camp in the Maasai Mara, a hot air balloon ride over the Mara River and savanahs of the northeren Serengetti, and close-up photography opportunities of elephant, zebra, water buffalo and wildebeest herds, pairs and trios of giraffe, rhinos, hippos, crocodile, cheetah, warthogs, ostrich, large flocks of flamingoes, prides of lions, various other birds and animals, and even a couple of leopards.
Worst Traffic - Los Angeles, easily. In my personal experience, early morning and late afternoon/early evening traffic at San Tropez, France is number 2, and Washington DC suburb commutes are number 3.
Longest River - I have been on a boat of one sort or another on all of the world's four longest rivers: The Nile (1976, ferry), the Amazon (1993, steamer), The Mississippi (1987, steamboat) and the Yangtze (2002, small crusie ship from Chongqing to Suzhou). I have never traveled along the next 20-21 longest rivers; the next in my own travels has been #25, the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Most Fun - In my opinion, this is more dependent on whom you are with, what you are doing, and how well you can do it - than by your location. Nevertheless, it is pretty easy to have fun, even if by yourself, in Munich, New Orleans, and San Francisco, without spending a lot of money (which is not necessarily the case in other destinations I considered, such as Paris, Monaco and New York City).
Most Overrated - Hollywood. You'll see, if you go.
Poorest Country - Kenya. There are different agencies which track this (World Bank, IMF, CIA, etc.), but via any of these, all use GDP per capita as part of the determination, and all of them are in agreement as to the poorest countries of those that I have visited. Kenya is the poorest of these, followwed by Honduras and Morrocco. The Congo is in the bottom two or three on every agency's list, but I have not ever been there. Likewise, there are about twenty to thirty other unvisited, poorer countries than Kenya, and several more unvisited nations on these lists between Kenya and Honduras and Morocco.
I am a bit surprised by Kenya's lowly rank on these lists; not so much by Honduras or Morocco.
Richest Country - Luxembourg. It may come as a surprise, but using GDP per capita, the United States ranks only between #6 and # 10 on any of these lists of richest countries. Qatar, Macau, Luxembourg, Liechenstein, Norway, Singapore and Brunei are found on all the lists with higher ratios than the U.S. (Monaco, which ranks above the U.S. on the CIA list, is not included on the others, at all, and although sovereign, is apparently lumped in as part of France on the others). Luxembourg is the richest of those that I have visited.
Luxembourg and Liechenstein surprised me as being so high on the lists, but they are both tiny countries. I fully expected Switzerland and Norway to be near the top, based on my own experiences in those countries.
Most Ethnically/Racially Diverse - I have visited 7 of the top 10 cities ranked by WorldAtlas and a few other entities as having the most diverse mix in their populations (as of 2018): Amsterdam, which appears at the top of all those lists, Los Angeles, Toronto, New York, Sydney, Paris and London. Those that
immediately came to mind, before I looked up those statistics included all of those except Amsterdam and London, but it had been several years since my last visit to either. I have never visited the other three cities ranked in the top ten most diverse: Dubai, Singapore and S�o Paulo.
Most Impressive Man-Made World Wonder - Of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only two remain, which I have visited: The Great Pyaramid (of Khufu) of Giza and the barely-identifiable site (one column) of the Temple of Artemnis at Ephesus. Of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages, I have visted Stonehenge (Why do they put it into the Middle Ages list? It was built ca 3000 BC-2000 Bc, not during the Middle Ages!), the Colesseum in Rome, The Great Wall of China, the Hagia Sophia, and the leaning Tower of Pisa. Of the New 7 Wonders of the World (contemporary list), I have visted four: the Great Wall of China, the Colesseum, Machu Picchu, and Chichen Itza. All of these are man-made, not natural wonders.
Of all of these, to me the most impressive comes down immediately to the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Great Wall of China. Because I remember being slightly surprised and disappointed that the pyramids (although unquestionably very impressibe) were actually somewhat smaller than I expected, I would have to say the the Great Wall of China was the most awe-inspring of any structure on these lists that I have visited, so far, followed by the Great Pyramid, Machu Picchu, the Hagia Sofia and Chichen Itza, in that order.
Highest Bridge Crossed - Of the 40 highest bridges in the world (by deck height above the ground or water below) only 5 lie outside of China, and I have never crossed any of those. The highest bridge I have ever crossed is at #80: The Glen Canyon Dam Bridge over the Colorado River, at Page, Arizona, which stand 699 feet from deck to river surface below.
The Royal Gorge Bridge, which I have never crossed, is the highest in the U.S., at 955 feet. The Mike O'Callaghan-pat Tilman Memorial Brige, over the Colorado River between Clark County, Nevada and Mohave County, Arizona, in front of the Hoover Dam, is the second highest in the United States. The height from the deck of that bridge to the water below is 889 feet, but I have never crossed it.
By comparison, the highest bridge in the world, the Duge Bridge, in China, stands at 1850 feet from the deck to farthest surface below, slightly over twice the height of the height of the O'Callaghan-Tilman Memorial Bridge.
Perhaps beacause it is only 1,271 feet from one side to the other, the Glen Canyon Dam Bridge (though impressive tp look down from) is not that intimidating to drive across. The Laviolette Bridge from Trois-Rivières, Québec to Bécancour seemed scarier, but its deck is only 157 feet at the highest point! Likewise, the Bixby Creek Bridge at Big Sur, which is the second highest I have crossed a few times is only 279 feet high at the deck. The Golden Gate Bridge which I have also crossed a few times is just 220 feet high. The Mackinac Bridge across the Straits of Mackinac, which I crossed in Michigan, twice in 1981, is 200 feet high.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which I crossed numerous times while living in D.C. and Maryland is 186 feet high on the westbound section. The Brooklyn Bridge, which I have crossed a few times is just 127 feet high. The Bosphorus River Bridge, at Istanbul, which I crossed on foot in 1973, is known officially as the 15 July Martyrs Bridge, and stand 210 feet high at the deck.
The 25 de Abril Bridge across the Tagus River from Almada to Lisbon, which I crossed in 2018, stands 229 feet at deck level.
Longest Bridge Crossed - The longest brigde that I have ever crossed is, per the World Atlas, the #9 longest in the world: The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, in Louisiana, is 38,442 meters = 126,122 feet across.
Most Impressive Natural World Wonder - Of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World (so designated by a non-profit organization of the same name), I have only visited two: The Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls. I have never visited the other 5: the Aurora borealis, Rio de Janeiro, Great Barrier Reef, Mount Everest or Victoria Falls.
Extreme Sports - I don't really do extreme sports. I don't sky dive, parkour, bungee jump, paraglide, or do any snowboarding, extreme rock-climbing (unless you consider the Beehive in Acadia National Park to be extreme), or anything of that sort...nor am I at all likely to, at this point in my life. I have never boarded or leapt from a moving train. (I once accidentally jumped\fell from the front hood of a moving VW Beetle, as a teen and hit my head, opened a wound, and knocked my self out for a minute or two, but since that was not on purpose it doesn't count! (..and I highly recommend you avoid trying this). The most extreme sport activity I have ever tried is scuba diving without a cage or protective gear, among feeding lemon sharks in Bora Bora, and smaller back-tip sharks in Moorea. These dives, along with others in that area make French Polynesia the Best Diving I have experienced. The deepest dive I ever did was just 125 feet (but a decompression dive) at Punta Sur, Cozumel. I also ski, and (when younger, with much better knees) have gone down a very few rough, black\diamond, mogul-laden ski slopes, and I have Category-3-whitewater-rafted on the Snake River in Wyoming. I have a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and have competed in a multi-state tournament against other black belts, but I'm not sure I would consider that an extreme sport, due to protective gear, rules as to allowable target areas, restriction to light-to-medium contact, and the omission of martial arts from most lists of extreme sports.
Back to previous page
Back to Michael Marcotte's HomePage