What is your favourite vacationland? It is a question we are often asked by friends and relatives.
Over the years, my preferences have changed. I recall, when I was living at home, my best holidays were spent on the West Coast of Jutland in Denmark. The fresh breeze from the North Sea, the daily hunt for amber at low tides, the occasional warm days when we dipped in the sea and the wonderful taste of freshly-baked bread and cheese for breakfast... these memories are still strong and clear.
Later on I started to travel and Norway with its fantastic fjords and rustic valleys became popular haunts – the skiing in winter is unbelievable. The old Hanseatic city of Hamburg with its bustling seaport and gigantic zoo were eye-openers for a teenager. Paris with the Louvre and Left Bank will always be high on my list of favourite cities and though a pyramid has been built in front of the famous museum and factory-art besmirches the Left Bank, where previously budding French artists exhibited their art, the Parisians with their beautiful language will always save the day in my view.
When I married, England became my home and I discovered why my Viking ancestors had been attracted to the rolling Worlds of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire with more than 600 towns and villages with Danish names. Nowadays. I relish traditional Sunday lunches with Yorkshire puddings and roast, friendly chatty people, who follow the strange game of cricket and supermarkets teeming with pet food.
My husband and I have been lucky enough to travel to more than 80 countries around the world. Our favourites have changed over the years. When the children were young, we loved the Adriatic and Italy. Joining the whole population of little villages for an evening stroll, stopping for pizzas and cappuccinos was delightful.
Then it was the south of France and a campsite near St Tropez, which we abandoned after three to four years because of the endless traffic jams on the coastal roads. We even tried Romania, where there were no traffic hold ups, but the communist regime at that time did not make vacationing very enjoyable.
Our first visit to the Arab world was to Libya, where we discovered the Roman cities of Sabratha and Leptis Magna… incredible ruins still worth exploring. Then we went to Egypt and the magnificent pyramids, Luxor and Karnak with their ancient temples and mammoth pillars. The sound and light show one evening was a memorable experience, which I will treasure forever.
Jordan is probably our favourite Arab country, because of the friendliness of the people and the sheer number of attractions from Amman and Jerash down to Petra along the old King’s Highway. Of course, we fell in love with the Gulf… first Bahrain with its gentle lifestyle, intriguing souks, fabulous ancient grave mounds. Then Oman with its spectacular scenery and, now, Dubai with its non-stop development with the cityscape changing almost daily and offers of attractions for the whole family.
From the Gulf region, we ventured East to Singapore, staying at the Raffles Hotel – a treat in itself – slightly disappointed with the city’s modernity, though loving the harbour cruises and open-air eateries. Bangkok was great, before it became crowded. Hong Kong has changed from the old colonial-style to being part of China, but still retains a certain fascination, especially if you are lucky enough to stay at a hotel overlooking the harbour. Japan was a shock. It was surprising and different to what I had expected. Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation wonderfully captured this initially strange world seen with Western eyes. We even stayed in the same hotel depicted in the movie.
Southwards from the Gulf took me to South Africa. My first visit was to Sun City outside Johannesburg, a sort of first cousin to Dubai. We experienced East Africa with a quickie safari from Nairobi and I spied my beloved elephants and we were even able to cuddle baby lion cubs. Next, I went to Cape Town, which seemed quite tourist-friendly from the impressive Table Top Mountain to the city markets.
We went to Marrakesh in Morocco and felt we had stepped back in time with the smell of spices mingled with leather goods and a feast of woven carpets hanging lazily on mud-bricked walls.
Westwards we revisited New York for the first time in several years and rediscovered a city, which had cleaned up its act and is now safe for pedestrians. There is no more exciting, pulsating metropolis on the globe than the Big Apple with its skyscrapers and yellow cabs.
My favourite destination? Probably England with its beautiful villages and picturesque thatched-roof country inns and Ireland, because of the friendliness of the Irish making you instantly feel at home… Yet, whenever I really want to relax, it is the West Coast of Jutland with its ozone-fuelled, blustering winds and tasty red sausages covered in mustard, which will forever be particularly special to me.
Speaking Out Jonna Simon