Five places we could have gone and wish we did

Always leave with a reason to go back, but if only we’d visited these the first time around

Cathlin’s picks:

1. Blue Smurf Village (Spain) – Recently, I read an archive from a daily newsletter called Now I Know about a real life Smurf Village. A small town in Spain, Júzcar, one of many “pueblos blancos,” was painted blue for a Smurf movie stunt in 2011. It was chosen by Sony because Smurfs have an affinity for mushrooms and the area surrounding Júzcar is brimming with fungi. Once I learned exactly where Júzcar was, I was crushed because we’d driven near it only days before on our road trip through sunny Andalucía. We didn’t know that we should watch for a glimpse of the stunning 175 buildings painted blue, including the cemetery. 4,000 gallons of blue paint and some time later, residents decided to keep the cheery color instead of painting it back to the original white as planned and their tourists numbers have skyrocketed. We’ll be amongst those ranks sometime in the future, so there’s nothing to be blue about.

A view of Ronda, Spain, which is only 25km from Júzcar and has okay views like this one

2. The drive from Melbourne to Sydney (Australia) – After Sean shared our options for getting from Melbourne to Sydney during our trip there in late August and early September, I was sold on taking 3 days to meander along the coastal route while stopping at every possible beach. I’m sure it’s the American in me, possibly even more so the Michigander in me, but I have trouble resisting a good road trip. But the more we discussed it, the more we realized that being in a car for most of our waking hours might be doable and fun for us, it’s less appealing from the viewpoint of our baby who’s favorite activities are 1.) Being mobile and 2.) Seeing things, both of which are difficult from a car seat. Ultimately, we chose the ease and speed of flying from Melbourne to Sydney. Though we put the Great Australian Road Trip™ ideas behind us this time around, one day we will need to plan an epic itinerary exploring the vastness of Australia, including this drive as well as far more of the country.

A scene at the Melbourne airport, which was decidedly less beautiful than the road trip would have been, but also allowed for much more crawling.


Sean’s picks:

3. Abel Tasman National Park (New Zealand) – When I first visited New Zealand nearly 15 years ago, I dogeared a page in my travel guide with a photo of what appeared to be a semi-tropical wonderland: Abel Tasman National Park. But besides the ferry port of Picton, I bypassed the top of the South Island, promising myself I’d someday return. We did: Cathlin and I booked a few nights near the city of Nelson, and I was all but certain we’d plan a day trip out to the national park I’d missed all those years ago. Unfortunately, unless you’re up for a multi-day hike covering nearly 40 miles from start to finish, there aren’t many ways in and out for less aggressive daytime visitors. (And as much as I love walking with Eliza in her Baby Bjorn carrier, we weren’t quite equipped for a true trek.) Still, I hoped we’d make it to an entrance and find a shorter unlisted walk with equal beauty. Instead, we ended up stopping shortly past the town of Riwaka, where we took Eliza for a lovely beach walk and ended up stopping in at Hop Federation for a sampling of what’s crafted from local hops. So close to Abel Tasman, yet still so satisfied by our day.

We didn’t make the hop to Abel Tasman National Park, but Cathlin still got some jumps in

4. The breweries along the Dingle Peninsula (Ireland) – When a friend of mine traveled to Ireland a couple of years ago, he came back raving about an unexpected find: the West Kerry Brewery. I’d never heard of the spot, so I made a mental note to make a pilgrimage of our own when we were next in the area; however, despite two visits to Dingle in recent months, we didn’t plan all too carefully: both times we arrived on a weekday when the brewery and adjacent pub weren’t open to the public. And somehow on both occasions we also attempted to stop by the better-known Dingle Brewing Company, only to find the doors shuttered there as well. At least we were able to appreciate a good coffee and no lack of stunning views along the drive.

If you do stop for a drink at the breweries, remember not to drink and drive. If Ireland’s new law isn’t enough to discourage you, perhaps the narrow windiness of the Conor Pass will.

5. Traverse City, Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes (United States) – When I first traveled from New York to Grand Rapids to see Cathlin’s hometown, her parents came to meet me at the airport. I was alone, since she had flown in a couple of days earlier, but to Traverse City instead. The route made sense: she was attending her friend’s wedding further north in Petoskey, but thus began my curiosity about a Lake Michigan port nicknamed “the Cherry Capital” after its robust cherry trade. Just over two hours driving from Grand Rapids, the distance hasn’t precluded us from making the trip whenever we’ve been back visiting Cathlin’s family; the challenge is there’s always so much to do in and around Grand Rapids, especially with Eliza loving her grandparent time. Still, I’ve a running list of where to go in Traverse City: Moomers for ice cream, Brilliant for books, Brew and Red Door for coffee, and more than a dozen breweries. But eating, drinking, and reading can be enjoyed anywhere, and what’s truly tantalizing about Traverse City is the natural beauty of the surrounding area, including the spectacular Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. With a few longer visits in Michigan this year, we thought we’d finally make this happen, but sometimes what’s still close enough ends up feeling all too far.

We still haven’t made it to Traverse City together because there’s so much to see and do closer to Grand Rapids, including beach walks at sunset at Holland State Park

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Nice photos! Thank you for sharing!

  2. trimmtravels says:

    I’m ecstatic to learn of the Smurf town. I’m definitely a Smurf fan and would love to see it and I typically go to Spain most every year, but haven’t been to Andalucia yet. This is a fantastic post idea! I can’t think of the places right off the top of my head, but there have been several places I either knew about and brushed off (for timing or whatever) and a few places that I was so close to like you were and didn’t know about. Oh wait, Mykonos and Crete when I was in Greece. We decided to spend more time in Santorini.

  3. Marya says:

    As surprisingly as it sounds, the place that I could have gone and wish I did, that would be Bali. Surprisingly because I’m freaking Indonesian. 😛

    Not that I never tried to plan out going, because I did several times. It’s just something always happened that I had to cancel it. At one point, I felt like I’m an Indonesian getting cursed to never go to Bali or something. But I’m still positive that one day I’m make my way to get there. 🙂

  4. Candy says:

    We almost visited this very small sushi establishment in Japan that served the world’s tiniest sushi. We got to the place but it was so small that we ended up being a bit intimidated because everyone was staring at us. We ended up leaving since we felt so uncomfortable, but sometimes wish we would have just stayed.

  5. nitnatshredder says:

    hmmm…#1 to a vineyard outside of Santiago, Chile #2 to Goa, India from Sri Lanka! #3 to Lombok from Bali ( oops my visa was running out) #4 to Arequipa from Cusco, Peru. Mostly I just try to be grateful for all the wonderful places I did manage to get to! But there are always near misses!

  6. Jeremy says:

    Japan ! Always makes me wanting more ! Whether it is a temple I wished I have visited, or a restaurant I wished I have tried !

  7. How awesome does the Smurf village sound! I bet they are so glad they didn’t paint it back to white. We lived in Australia for a year and were based in Perth, we were thinking of emigrating there so we got stuck into getting a job and having a normal life (although going to the beach every weekend hadn’t been normal at all in England!) as we wanted to see what it was really like to live and work there. Although Perth is beautiful and we had an amazing year, we wished we would have spent a bit more time exploring Australia while we had the chance. Although we are on a round the world trip now so it’s just an excuse to go back!

  8. pinkcaddytraveloguegmailcom says:

    When of the hardest things about visiting a foreign country is not being able to see absolutely EVERYTHING! For me, I missed out on seeing the white cliffs of Dover. The group I was with had taken a day trip to Canterbury from London, but before we left London, I realized that Dover was just another 30 minute train ride from Canterbury. My mom and I contemplated leaving the group and heading down there once we finished with Canterbury, but it just didn’t work out. I still want to see those white cliffs one day…

  9. Himanshu says:

    I truly believe in what you have written. I too always leave reasons to go back to a place. I have travelled far off places in Himalayas and while leaving the place I promise myself to come back and explore further.
    From your post I would love to explore real smurf village for I am a huge fan of Smurfs. Drive from Melbourne to Sydney is already in my bucket list and hopefully it should happen soon. A nice inspiring post with some unique places.

  10. Nic Hilditch-Short says:

    I can’t comment for all of these. However the we’ve done a lot of trips around Aus and the drive from Melbourne to Sydney isn’t the best place to do a roadtrip if you are going to do one, so you did right there! It’s best to do one higher up along the coast or through the middle. We are soon to visit Abel Tasman NT and we’ve been looking at doing the hikes in sections or taking water taxis, but we are keen hikers and also don’t have kids. I have seen some good day hike options there though so it might be worth having another look at!

  11. What a fun idea for a post! We all have so many of these situations. I can certainly vouch for Traverse City and Sleeping Bear Dunes. Michigan is truly wonderful, which I’ve just discovered this year. Better luck next time…and I mean that in a good way. Keep on traveling. 🙂

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