This was an interesting challenge because two years ago, several of these places wouldn’t have been on my list at all. In 2009, Andy and I bought our hybrid Ford Escape and road tripped out to North Carolina and back and then flew to Colorado for a few days shortly after that. (We repeated our NC road trip in 2014.) In 2010, we went to Los Angeles and drove up the PCH to Santa Barbara. I had been to Texas a lot because I have family there, but really, I hadn’t been very many places.
That’s obviously changed quite a bit in the past couple of years!
So, in no particular order, here are some of my favorite places, as well as some related locations that we’ve also visited, but maybe not as extensively.
- Wilmington, North Carolina
We’re very lucky in that Andy’s aunt and uncle live in Wilmington and have been willing to host us both times we’ve visited. They’re minutes from the beach and just the best hosts we could ask for.
While in Durham in 2009, we stayed with friends of mine from high school. Ziggy became friends with their dog Prudence (RIP). We met a lot of their friends, learned cool games like Telephone Pictionary, and ate at awesome places like Locopops. My friend Holly is still living in Durham and is changing lives every day inside and outside of the classroom. We were lucky to get to stop and have lunch with her on our way from Wilmington to Asheville in 2014.
At this point in 2014, Andy had been offered a job here in Basel and we had provisionally accepted. Basically all of our travel in 2014 was our farewell tour. Since we were in NC, we stayed for two nights with my friend Emry and her wonderful family. Both of her daughters are older than G, but they got along wonderfully. We had s’mores in their fire pit, played in fountains, shopped at a wonderful bookstore called Malaprop’s, and (the adults) stayed up too late playing games and drinking. I keep in touch with Emry online and our girls have been sending postcards back and forth to each other; if we ever end up in NC, I hope it’s near their family.
- Denver and Estes Park, Colorado
Normally I would try to be a bit more specific on this, but I’ve flown to Denver twice (2009 and 2012) and gone to Estes Park and other surrounding areas both times. I don’t remember what all was in which city. So I’m generalizing a bit.
I fell in love with the landscape in and around Denver immediately when we visited in 2009. I was also super impressed with how dog-friendly it was. When we visited again in 2012, we stayed at a lodge at YMCA of the Rockies and it was amazing. We didn’t get to stay for the entire reunion since I had almost no vacation time after my maternity leave earlier in the year, so we didn’t get to take part in a lot of the activities (horseback riding was my biggest wish and disappointment), but G did go in a swimming pool for the first time and we got to wake up to elk out our windows every morning.
- Los Angeles, California
I loved almost everything about LA. It was chilly in the morning (June gloom is a thing, apparently), but would get nice and warm in the afternoon. The traffic sucked, but honestly I don’t think it was as bad as everyone makes it out to be. (Although I don’t have to deal with it on the daily, so I’m sure that makes a big difference.) We were major tourists on this trip, except that we didn’t go to Disneyland. But we did eat In-N-Out, we went to La Brea, the Getty, the Hollywood walk of fame… I also had the best taco of my life at some random little taqueria and the first song we heard on the radio in our rental car was California Love. It was a great trip.
- Santa Barbara
We drove up the PCH to Santa Barbara. What a gorgeous drive! We stayed at the Secret Garden B&B (which seemed like a very fancy and grown-up thing to do, but it kind of turned out that we’re not really B&B people). We visited the mission and a couple of museums, had a great dinner, and our first-ever trip to Pinkberry.
- Santa Barbara
- Chicago, Illinois
I’ve been to Chicago almost too many times to count. I’ve been to the Brookfield Zoo, the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, and the Art Institute. I’ve been to multiple games at Wrigley Field (steadfastly refusing to cheer for the Cubs the whole time). So many concerts and shows: Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Jay-Z and Kanye, Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, Conan O’Brien, Chris Rock, So You Think You Can Dance, Wicked…
Andy and I had our mini-honeymoon in Chicago. We’ve gone there for shopping, for events, to visit friends and family, to help friends move, to catch flights before we realized flying out of Peoria was usually worth the extra money.
Now that I’m used to walking and taking public transport, I could totally see us living in Chicago someday. Except for the winters. I don’t want to have to walk places in the snow!
- Peoria, Illinois
Peoria is home. I spent most of my adolescence wanting to leave Peoria and now it’s someplace that I miss on an almost daily basis. I can’t make a little Google-assisted collage to show you some of my favorite parts of Peoria because there are way more than 9 of them. Our house is there. Lots of our family is there. Lots of our friends are there. Some of our favorite restaurants are there.
Many of our best memories are there: When Andy and I met at the movie theater the summer of 2001. Adopting Tybalt in 2003. Getting married in 2004. Buying our house and adopting Ziggy in 2006. Welcoming Genevieve and our nephew Nolan into the world in 2012, and our niece Margeaux in 2013, and another nephew in 2014. (And then another one in 2015. So many babies!)
My goodbye posts and the posts covering our visits back to Peoria in May and December of 2015 cover what makes Peoria a happy place and why we miss it so profoundly.
- Austin, Texas
I think it’s a testament to how much fun we have in Austin that I have relatively few pictures of our time there. I was born in Texas (nowhere near Austin) and although I am pretty proud to be Texan, I wouldn’t actually want to live in most of the state. But Austin, the proudly weird and liberal capital city, is by far my favorite place in the state.
Also, the food is all amazing and I gorge myself every time we’re there. It’s probably better for my long-term health that we never live there. (But I would in a heartbeat.) I’m also holding Andy to his promise that we can retire to a house on Lake Travis.
- Toronto, Ontario
I found a disturbingly large gap in my photo history when trying to put together this collage, so I had to pull some pictures from my Instagram feed to fill it in. I’ve been to Toronto twice, once for a girls’ weekend and once with Andy and G, and both times were so much fun. I love Toronto SO HARD.
Highlights of the two trips were two Blue Jays games (but zero toques), dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory, the Toronto zoo, the Ripley’s Aquarium, and G’s first movie in the movie theater.
I am totally against snow; I can’t stand it and I love that Basel doesn’t get much snow at all. But along with Chicago, Toronto is one of the very few places that gets a real winter and I would still consider living there.
- Niagara Falls
When Andy, G, and I went to Toronto for Andy’s work in May 2014, we went a few days early and spent the weekend at Niagara Falls. I absolutely wouldn’t want to live there; it’s a giant tourist trap. But it is so magnificent. The roar of the water and the chilly mist is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. I do want to go back a little later in the year, when it’s a bit warmer, and do one of the boat rides.
- Niagara Falls
- London, England
I’ve already written two posts about our trip to London, so I won’t go into tons of detail right now. Our time in Chertsey and London made us second-guess our decision to move to Switzerland instead of the UK when we had the choice. (The recent Brexit vote has made us feel a bit better about our original decision.) We had heard about how expensive London would be, but compared to Switzerland, it wasn’t bad at all. (This is my #1 tip to Americans who get sticker shock at prices outside of the US: Visit CH and then everywhere else will seem a lot more reasonable by comparison.) I loved being able to listen to people, hear their posh accents, and still be able to understand them. I loved how friendly everyone was. There’s nothing like tooling around a city that you’ve seen on TV and movies in a double-decker bus, just like your favorite characters.
- Paris, France
We were in Paris just over one year ago and I wrote three posts about it. I had never been to a Disney park before and getting to experience for the first time with 3.5-year-old G was perfect. And then seeing the city of Paris was just magical. The sights were everything I had hoped they’d be. The food was delicious. People were surprisingly friendly, given what we’ve always been told about how Parisians feel about Americans. The only downside was how stinky the city was, but I couldn’t even let that get me down. Although exhausting, those were some of the three best days we’ve had as a family. (And also the most walking I’ve ever done; each new day was a new record set on my phone’s pedometer.)
- Columbia, Missouri
This probably seems like a weird choice, given that I didn’t go to school at Mizzou. However, three of my very favorite people did, and so I’ve spent a lot of time in Columbia. Thankfully, some of my wilder times were before I had a digital camera, so the pictures I have to share with you are relatively tame. Weekend trips during our first years of college to visit Ashley and Quentin, moving my brother in and out of his dorm and apartments, visiting my brother and Quentin in later years… So many good times had in a college town where I managed to get lost nearly every time I visited! Somehow I don’t have any pictures at Flat Branch, but no visit to CoMo was complete without stopping there and at Trops. I don’t know anyone in Columbia anymore, so my chances of visiting again are slim.
Honorable mention goes to Las Vegas. I’ve been twice, both times with my sister-in-law Dannie, and had a blast both times. I’m not a huge gambler and I’m definitely not a big drinker anymore, but there’s just something about Vegas…
I thankfully have some happy places here in Basel as well, but I thought I’d pay tribute to the happy places I don’t get to see as often.
What are some of your happy places?
Please check out the other Top Ten Thursday participants!