Something about lists soothes me.
Ask my sweet husband. I try to make lists for him all the time. Even if he only needs two things from the grocery store, I start to reach for a notepad. "I THINK I can remember milk and sugar," he says with a raised eyebrow and a smile.
But I like making lists. So I make lists for grocery shopping - ongoing, of course, conveniently located on the side of the fridge. I make to do lists. Boring classes were always good places to make to do lists.
Before Christmas, I make lists of who I need to send cards to, who I've already bought for, who I still need to buy for, and the ideas I have for potential gifts.
I don't always follow my lists, but it feels great to have the internal out in the external world. And I'm enough of a scatterbrain that without lists, I can't cope. If I don't write it down, chances are, I won't remember it. I'm the kind of person who has to sit a video out in the middle of the living room floor in order to remember to return it. (Yes - yes, I've actually done that. Yes, it worked. No, I'm not insane. G.K. Chesterton was so infamously absent-minded he once sent his wife a telegram saying, "am at such-and-such a station. Where ought I to be?" after losing track of his surroundings. I'm no Gilbert Keith, but it's comforting to know I'm not alone.
And now, for today's list.
21 Places I'd Like to Visit: cities, countries, regions, in no particular order
(places I've already been: Scotland, England, China, Mongolia, Canada, around a great deal of the continental United States)
1. Italy. Not just Rome - the whole boot. What a country overflowing with a bounty of beauty. History and beauty. Good food and history and beauty. Sure, the mafia's become such a big problem that public marches were recently held to protest mafia killings. But have you ever seen a gorgeous pair of Italian leather shoes? No wonder people would kill. I want to spend long enough in Italy that I develop favorites - my favorite Italian city, favorite museum, favorite village area, favorite beach, favorite restaurant (okay, restaurants plural). To stay long enough to be able to recommend a village or town or hotel to someone else. Italian is the most beautiful language, in my opinion. (In case you're wondering, I consider German the ugliest to listen to - and I've taken some German.)
2. Ireland. I've such a mix of Anglo-Saxon blood in my veins - I know Scottish, Welsh, and English - I can't help assume there's a drop of Erin in there, too. I'd probably wish to visit Ireland and North Ireland, out of the curiosity to compare. It's gorgeous, with moody weather - my cup of [Irish Breakfast] tea. I think there are some great ancient burial sites too, that I'd want to check out (morbid soul that I am, constantly linking everything to death).
3. France. A bit of time in Paris - museums, cathedrals, cafes - but most of my time in southern France. Give me Provence, or give me a slow, painful death. I wish to smell the mingle of gentle lavender, tangy goat cheese, and unwashed peasant. If Gaul was good enough for Paul, it's good enough for me.
4. Prague. This was an old flame recently rekindled thanks to a great few pages on Prague in a Martha Stewart Living magazine. I must go there: the famous bridge, spellbinding ribs of Gothic arches in a palace, a beacon of eastern European identity - and plenty of myth-bound old cemeteries (after all, vampire lore was bred in eastern Europe - insert evil Vincent Price cackle). Prague makes me think of 19th century literature, women in fine silk gowns, royalty, and intrigue. It's obvious I must go.
5. Auschwitz. It is Europe's cemetery, a muffled insulator against millions of voices crying out. The former death camp is not exactly postcard travel - but sometimes you have to run the gauntlet. There is no modern emblem of evil more stark with which to be confronted - and few places where more people should be honored and remembered.
6. Morocco. A Moroccan bazaar sounds like a spice-laden, brilliantly hued place to be. I would like to visit Morocco, observe customs and traditions, visit some sites, and most definitely invest in some souvenirs. Who needs Pier 1 when you've been to Morocco?
7. Israel. Frankly, Israel is a toss-up. I'd love to visit Jerusalem - and while a friend has led many archaelogical trips over there, and has even cleared brush with missiles flying over head, I'm just not sure I want to plant myself mid-war zone. That being said, it's Jerusalem. Israel. Tangible history, and bed of three major world religions - including my own faith. I'd love to visit, I'd just want to dash over in relative peaceful circumstances.
8. Egypt. One word: pyramids. Okay, two words: pyramids and mummies.
9. Moscow. The east is so different. Russian ways of thinking are distinct, not only from American, but from European. Moscow is literally Eurasian: read a bit of Dostoevsky and note the nuances. In many ways, Moscow always strikes me as a sad place: bitterly cold, gray, and with the haunt of former power and splendor lost. But I would enjoy seeing Russian Orthodox churches, and historical sites around the city. Although if I saw Putin, I'd give him a piece of my mind, power-grabber.
10. India. I would like to visit Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying in Kolkata, and I would like to visit some tea plantations, and actually see Assam being grown. But I hate hot weather, so I might be grumpy while I'm there.
11. Liechtenstein. Come on, who doesn't want to visit a pocket-sized country? How fun would that be. An "I went all the way to Liechtenstein and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" shirt? Okay, maybe not, but you have to imagine that it's fun to say, "oh, you like that mug? I got it in Liechtenstein."
12. Cape Horn. It seems wild, untameable, and weirdly south - like Antarctica south - on an otherwise hot, muggy continent. I want to watch storms blow up and walk beaches in search of driftwood from sunken ships.
13.The Outback. Sydney may be interesting, I don't know, but who goes to Australia for the urban life? No, well covered in umbrella-sized hat, long white cotton sleeves, and spackled in zinc oxide, I'd like to meet Aborigines, and see koalas, and especially - especially - kangaroos, wombats, and kookaburras. Thank "The Rescuers Down Under" for that. And "Crocodile Dundee."
14. Prince Edward Island. Most of my childhood and adolescence, I considered Prince Edward Island to be the closest thing on earth to heaven - because, of course, Anne of Green Gables lived there. No matter that Anne Shirley never trod a square foot of God's green earth in the history of mankind. Prince Edward Island was, to quote Miss Shirley, My Ideal. And I would still love to visit.
15. Victoria Falls. From one part of the old Empire to another: Victoria Falls infamously needs no introduction, but suffice it to say that the stunning view of the falls would, I am certain, be worth the trip. Also, note that Victoria Falls plays a small role in Agatha Christie's "The Man in the Brown Suit," in my opinion the funniest of her novels, and one of the earliest.
16. Greece. It's startling how blue the Mediterranean can actually muster itself up to be. And Greece? Home to a couple little blokes called Plato and Aristotle. I can't imagine living in a place where antiquity is constantly underfoot, like a brood of children barging around at Sunday dinner. Sign me up to tour the country, Athens, of course, included.
17. Switzerland. What an interesting little country, like the responsible older sibling of Europe, who moderates fights, fixes your watch, monitors your piggy bank, and gives you a bar of chocolate when you're down. How disarmingly mature.
18. The Bahamas. Let it be known that I love beaches, waves, the sea - everything about tropical paradises. They just don't like me. My pale British genes react to direct exposure to the sun about as well as Henry VIII reacted to his lack of male progeny - which is to say, not well. I burn in about fifteen minutes on a hot summer's day - in midwestern North America. But that doesn't mean I don't like the idea of sitting under a large umbrella on a beach, sipping juice and watching the waves go in and out. Just don't let me actually get IN the sun.
19. China. I know, I've already been there - but briefly, just overnight in Beijing, en route to Mongolia. So when I want to emphasize the places I've been, I mention China, but when I want to emphasize the places I want to be, I mention China. I haven't seen the Great Wall, or the stunning countryside. And while the People's Republic did most certainly not make it easy to get in or out of their nation, I'd be willing to undergo the bureaucratic hassle again if I have to. Also, I'd like to visit tea plantations in China.
20. Wales. Have you ever seen signs with so many consonants packed in like sardines? Probably not since visiting oh, say, Eastern Europe. But I have Welsh ancestry, and I'd like to visit the land of the Prince of...Wales. For literary cross-reference, see "A Child's Christmas in Wales."
21. Hawaii. Never been. It looks leafy and lava-y and hey, THAT'S where all the vowels from the Welsh signs went...Hawaii! Now, I mean Hawaii the state, not just Hawaii the main island. Hmm, this is making me hungry for pineapple. Barkeep! Fetch me some pineapple!
Now, a couple of my favorite countries are absent from this list - England and Scotland. This is partly because I've been both places before, and partly because I love them so much they are places I don't want so much to visit - I want to live there. So a brief nod to Edinburgh, the Isle of Skye, and Oxford are in order - three of the best places on earth, in my experience. Too good to visit only once.
So - where would you go?