Monday, July 16, 2007
Better Than Awesome Travel
I have what some people probably think is an unusual, perhaps strange, occasionally frightening travel philosophy. I like to find places that most people wouldn't consider travelling to, unless there was a wedding, funeral or individual special event they want to attend.
I'm not knocking the traditional travel hot-spots. I think Las Vegas is a blast, provided you go there with the proper attitude. "I'm going to win a fortune" is probably not the proper attitude, while "I'm probably going to be kidney-punched by that senior citizen if I even look at their penny slot machine" is more realistic.
Some vacation spots are, of course, going to be climate related. In the depths of a winter cold enough to render the heartiest brass monkey incomplete, finding a warm tropical beach with accompanying rum-based pacifier makes infinite sense. But when you're looking for a journey into the charming, unusual and unexpected, why not pick some place a little off the beaten track? You'll probably find the city or town you visit has some sort of unexpected charm that will have you smugly celebrating your "discovery" with everyone unfortunate enough to sit next to you on a city bus for the next six months. Anyone can go to the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa ("..it's smaller than I thought it would be, George..."), but how many people visit a Cranberry Interperative Center?
My first nomination for a "Better Than Awesome" destination is none other than the fine city of Minot, North Dakota!!!!
I can tell you're getting inspired, so I'll continue. As you check your maps,you'll see Minot is a compact city in North-central North Dakota. This little gem-on-the-prairies boasts not one, but two city slogans, "The Magic City" and the coyly clever "why-not Minot?". These are obviously superior to most civic slogans, which tend to run along the lethargic line of "it's great!" or "mostly honest". Minot is a pretty town, with more than it's fair share of fine restaurants, local festivals and Lewis & Clark related attractions. Please check out it's web site for specific details: http://www.visitminot.org/
The reason I choose to highlight the Magic City, however, is a personal one. On a trip to Minot a couple of years ago, my girlfriend and I were taking a cab to attend an event at a local hotel. Our Cabbie, who shall remain nameless due to the fact I can't remember his name, was a charming bloke, who started the trip by explaining the origin of a newly-painted mural on the wall behind a gas station (I believe it may have been of Lewis, or perhaps Clark). Our cabbie, as it turns out, was an amateur artist/photographer himself, with a specific fascination for the light-and-shadows under the highways he frequently drove. Our artist cabbie had some examples of his work, and what could have been a dreary cab ride turned out to be an Ingmar Bergman-esque journey through light, shadow and fog, with one brief stop at the "Kum & Go" on the Burdick Expressway. Art didn't just live, it flourished in the eyes and heart of our impressario from Minot City Cab.
Oh sure, there were other reasons to enjoy Minot. The pretty scenery, the friendly people, the great eats at Barry's Food & Fuel. But for me, the "magic" of Minot was seen in the back of that cab.
Try to experience that in Paris.