Tag Archives: California

My Favorite Place to Travel?

18 Nov

I was browsing the racks at a little boutique in Meredith, NH, when a store clerk struck up a conversation. She asked if I was on vacation.


“Do you travel often,” she continued.

“When I can,” I replied, offhandedly.

Then she asked a question that completely disarmed me: “What’s your favorite place to travel?”

To her, this seemed like idle chit-chat. But it struck me as deeply personal. If she had asked me my weight or if I believed in God, it wouldn’t have felt more intrusive.

I lied, said something about Arizona’s desert landscape (lovely, yes, but my favorite?), and made my way out of the store and into a neighboring bar.

While I sipped a beer, I wondered: Why had this simple question rattled me? And what is my favorite place?

Panicked, I searched my brain for an answer. Looking over London from the rooftop of St. Paul’s? Exploring the labyrinth of the Metropolitan Museum in New York? Winding up the California coast along US 101? Riding the ferry out to Block Island to spend day at the beach? None of it seemed quite right.

And the idea of choosing felt strange, felt wrong. Like picking your favorite child. Who could do such a thing?

Not me, I decided.

Maybe I haven’t found my favorite place yet. Then again, maybe I have. Either way, next time I’m asked, I’ll be better prepared.

I might say, “I’m not sure,” or perhaps, “My next trip is my favorite, I going to ________ this summer.”

Or maybe I’ll turn it around, and ask, “What’s yours?”

Because really, it’s not such a bad question.


The Accidental Bird Watcher

25 May

It’s amazing the things that we become interested in because of our kids. I know the Pokemon theme song by heart and even have a favorite character (Caterpie). I’ve bought Webkins, Crocs, and Sillybandz–for myself. We have the entire Star Wars epic on dvd and have worn out two of the discs.

Though I may have been a Star Wars fan well before my boys became obsessed with Darth Maul and General Grevous, the point is that many of their passions have become my passions. When your children fall in love with something–a sports team, a computer game, a book series–it’s hard not to fall in love right along with them.

One of the interests that I have picked up from my oldest son, Samuel, is a love of birds.

It’s possible that Sam’s affection for birds started when a parrot bit his brother in a pet store. Maybe Sam thought he and the bird kingdom had a common annoyance.

No matter how it began, Sam’s enthusiasm for bird spotting became infectious. Soon we had a membership to the Audubon Society and bought a Sibley Field Guide. We outfitted the backyard with all types of feeders and a bird bath. My husband and I would delight in every new bird Sam helped us to identify.

A chance encounter with a Stellar's Jay along the Pacific Coast Highway.

And then came California.

Minutes after our arrival in San Diego, I knew our family vacation would be for the birds. Hummingbirds were everywhere. Sam was enthralled, and so was I. No matter what we tried, we couldn’t attract these tiny quick-winged creatures to our home back in Rhode Island. But in California, they were zipping overhead en mass.

At the San Diego Zoo, we saw birds of amazing variety in a collection of exhibits that, admittedly, I would have skipped over in the past. A not-to-miss birds of prey section featured the once nearly extinct California Condor and a Harpy Eagle with a massive 7-foot wing span that she kindly displayed for us.

Our trip took us up the coast along US 101 where we saw more exciting bird species. At the Andree Clark Bird refuge in Santa Barbara, we saw huge pelicans swooping down into the water, all types of egrets, wood ducks, and more hummingbirds. A stop at the Point Lobos State Reserve afforded me the chance to get a great picture of a silly looking Stellar’s Jay. We ended our trip in San Francisco, where out in a row-boat at Golden Gate Park, we attracted the attention of coots and cormorants with a bag of popcorn.

Our trip was a few years ago now. Like YuGiOh cards and Jibbitz, Sam’s affection for bird watching has waned. I have to nag him to fill the backyard feeders, and our Audubon membership lapsed.

But birds are part of our family story now; they are a big slice of the collective memories we share about an unforgettable trip to California.

For that, I am eternally grateful to a little boy who taught me to look at the skies in a new way. Now if I could only feel the same way about his soda can collection.