Each year, the Palisadian-Post runs a selection of Travel Tales composed by Palisadians who have journeyed both near and far, writing about their experience to share with the community. Though travel is currently on pause, we are running a selection of tales to take us around the world from the comfort of our homes.
Submitted by Naomi and Dennis Flagg
My wife and I spent the holidays and January in St. Paul de Vence, France, Paris, Delhi, Agra, Calcutta, Guwahati, Kaziranga National Park, Sibsagar, Korangani Tea Estate and back to Paris.
Needless to say, it was an exhausting trip, but quite exhilarating.
While in St. Paul de Vence we stayed in the Hotel La Colombe d’Or, where we were surrounded by the original art of master artists. In India we visited the Taj Mahal and many other important heritage sites.
When we went to Kaziranga, we stayed at the comfortable Diphlu River Lodge, which is set up for Western lifestyles.
In the animal park, we had our most exciting experience. We were chased down the road by a large, wild and angry momma elephant who thought we were a threat to her baby. We didn’t get photos but recorded video.
We then went to the expansive tea estate that Naomi’s family once owned where the workers gave us an exuberant welcoming ceremony and dance.
Then it was back to Paris where we stayed on the Left Bank. The hotel Bel Ami where we stayed was so well located, we had a short walk to the Musee d’Orsay, the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral.
While we were in front of the cathedral, God smiled and presented us with a double rainbow. Also the hotel was just three blocks from the Seine River, where we were able to take the “Bato Bus” river boat to other important sights—like the Eiffel Tower—without any traffic concerns.
Submitted by Gisela Moriarty
A pedestrian’s adventures in Taipei, 1989: As a 20-year veteran of the New York City pedestrian wars, I figured I was the equal of anything in the world that might threaten my physical well-being as I stroll along. But I was now in Taipei, Taiwan.
Immediately upon arriving I noticed that, where there are no sidewalks, pedestrians do not face the oncoming traffic. The local explanation was my first hint that all was not in order: “If you face the car and it hits you, it will be your fault because you saw it coming and should have gotten out of the way.” It’s hard to jump out of the way of a car or motorcycle that suddenly swerves at you.
Still I perceived that local logic might also be used against me. The defendant might plead that I had no right to be on the wrong side of the road. So I succumbed and begin following the custom of leaving the responsibility for my well-being in the passing drivers’ hands.
That didn’t last long.
In Taipei steering clear of pedestrians is a fine art and hair-raising challenge. Many drivers are the first in their families to ever get behind the wheel and may be out for their very first drive. Motorcycles are still the dominant mode of transportation, some carrying as many as five family members or three propane tanks (but that’s another story).
Drivers spend much of their time navigating lanes the width of a subcompact car and their feeling is “no contact, no problem.” But when you’re walking along the side of a major road and a car passes you at full speed with an inch to spare, even nerves of steel can feel you. My evolving philosophy is that I’d rather face the traffic so that I’ll have a chance of identifying my assailant if I come out of my coma.
Central city traffic is another game entirely. Pedestrians are clearly considered a nuisance and sidewalks are the sole concession, if you call being forced to wend your way through jungles of motorcycles parked on them (and not all motorcycles are parked: some have chosen the sidewalk as an alternate travel route).
To keep ambulatory humans out of key intersections there are pedestrian subways and pedestrian overpasses conceived by a descendant of medieval masters of torture. They generally consist of steep stairs that force you to walk the equivalent of one or two city blocks just to get across the street.
Things are no better at ground level crossings. See the green traffic light displaying the jaunty little figure of a man to indicate that it’s time to cross? One lane of oncoming traffic gets a green turn arrow at the same time. That way pedestrians might not be able to cross the street after all.
I am overcome with longing for another stint in Los Angeles, where life and liberty are rights enjoyed generally enjoyed by those who walk, as long as they cross at corners (though less and less true these days). I remember my overwhelming sense of power the first time I put a tentative toe into an LA crosswalk and a car actually came to a halt, though a screeching one.
I am overcome with longing for New York, where motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians fight the battle for the streets on equal footing, as it were. This is sometimes referred to by less worldly types as a free-for-all, but I like it better than the feeling you get here in Taipei, this otherwise hospitable city, of being just one notch above snakes and earthworms in the hierarchy of road users.
Submitted by Karen Murphy O’Brien
As founder and CEO of Murphy O’Brien, a travel and tourism hospitality PR, marketing and digital firms in the U.S., hardly a day goes by that a friend or colleague doesn’t ask, “Where in the world do you go when you want to get away from it all?”
Getting away doesn’t always mean getting away from my business or my clients, as that constitutes much of my travel on a regular basis and, frankly, is about as enjoyable as one could wish for.
When I want to go somewhere for some high-quality “me time,” I often stray so I can experience anonymously someplace new and different. As destiny would have it, for my March self-imposed “wellness week,” I chose a gem in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee called Blackberry Mountain.
It’s the 1-year-old sister property to the famed Blackberry Farm, winner of countless hospitality, food and wine awards. Little did I know at the time of booking that the deadly COVID-19 virus would be turning the world upside down as my plane would be taking off. And take off I did.
Getting there was half the fun. TSA at LAX was smooth and the flight was scheduled for an on-time departure. As my AA plane was about to take off, the pilot just behind us noticed smoke emanating from our left engine.
Three hours and a plane change later, we were up in the air. Of course, by then, I had missed my connection via Dallas to Knoxville.
A new connection would afford me less than 30 minutes to deplane and be in my seat prior to takeoff in order to get to Blackberry Mountain in time for dinner. No worries for this intrepid traveler. Mission accomplished and, to boot, my checked bag miraculously appeared on the baggage claim turnstile at the Knoxville airport.
Blackberry Mountain did not disappoint. In fact, at every twist and turn I was constantly amazed by the professionalism and authenticity of each and every team member as well as the added touches. When Jo at the front desk offered to send someone to light a fire in my “Bittersweet” cottage fireplace while I was enjoying my three-course, farm-to-table dinner so I could enjoy it upon arrival, I knew I was in the right place at the right time.
My first morning found me on a three-hour guided hike with Hall, who regaled me with history about the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Beall family, owners of Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain. Proprietor Sam Beall died tragically in a ski accident in 2016 and his wife and mother of five, Mary Celeste, lovingly oversees both.
We hiked to Leo the Enlightened, a monstrous looking troll created by Danish artist and sculptor Thomas Dambo, who looks out over the Great Smoky Mountains with cheeky grandeur. Composed of reclaimed wood from a cabin and gigantic pine nuts from surrounding trees in the 5,200 acres that comprise Blackberry Mountain, Leo is an imposing but gentle giant. He is definitely a troll with a view!
Days ensued which included everything from my first-ever sporting clay lesson whereby I was successfully able to hit two clay targets with just one shell from my Beretta A400 semi-automatic 20-gauge shotgun to a chakra-balancing meditation, replete with tuning forks that literally reset my recently rattled nervous system.
By day three, when the WHO declared coronavirus a world pandemic and fellow St. Matthew’s School alums Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson were both deemed infected, I was beginning to wonder if I should just hunker down and self-quarantine for the foreseeable future.
As I ponder the future of travel and how it will be forever changed by COVID-19, one thing is apparent: We live in a world that thrives on connectivity and there is nothing more powerful than connecting with a place you have never been and then longing to return.
My soul cried out for nature and Ralph Waldo Emerson provided the answer on my pillow during my meaningful visit to Blackberry Mountain: “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
If you have an experience you would like to write about—whether it is recent or the distant past—please send 400-600 words plus a few high-res photos to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration in a future installment.
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