A few years ago, Seattle tourism officials coined a new word to sum up the charms of this lively hub of the US Pacific Northwest. The slogan they came up with — “Metronatural” — evokes the way the city’s modern urban centre is ensconced in one of the most beautiful natural settings in North America ; it also reflects how this setting inspires the lifestyle and experience of residents and visitors alike.
A brow-beaten and slightly emphysemic eight-seater plane of uncertain age and less certain power (max speed 110 mph — my Audi does that on West End Lane) flew us from Guyana’s weather-boarded old colonial capital of Georgetown, birthplace of more West Indies cricket legends than you can wield a bat at, to the fabled and heart-stoppingly sensational Kaieteur Falls.
At 750 feet, one of the longest and most powerful single-drop waterfalls on the face of the planet, Kaieteur is arguably the most beautiful waterfall in the world, and incontestably the most remote and least visited.
If there are four of you — two picky teenagers and two exhausted adults — each with a differing view on how best to spend 10 days in the USA, where do you go? In an attempt to satisfy everyone, we embarked on a swift grand tour through three states — Arizona, Nevada and California.
The idea was that there would hopefully be enough variety along the way to satisfy the diverse requirements of the entire family.
Cape Cod is a lot easier to spot in a picture — all those iconic white clapperboard houses, picturesque lighthouses and wild beaches recalling any number of Edward Hopper paintings — than it is to find in real life.
Unlike the coastal strip of Massachusetts known collectively as North of Boston, where one charming township follows another, this old fishing ground — only latterly reinvented as a tourist destination — is a sprawl of mainland and island communities with no visible centre
My flip-flopped feet were speeding towards the beach when I heard someone shouting at me. I thought I’d been spotted smuggling fruit out of the breakfast buffet, but the smiling Barbadian just said: “Stop rushing — it’s illegal to hurry in the Caribbean!”
Looking down on the ruins of Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas and one of the Seven New Wonders of the World was mesmerising. Nestled in the steep slopes of the Andes overlooking the Urubamba River, this city in the clouds seemed magical. It was one of the most impressive sights I have ever seen — and I have seen the other six of the New Wonders of the World.
So what have I got in common with the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Jessica Parker, Billy Joel, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren? Besides religious persuasion, not a lot… but we did all spend time last summer in East Hampton, the illustrious coastal town that sits at the most eastern point of New York.
They tell an interesting story at Mobile’s Springhill Avenue Temple about a mitzvah a poor congregant performed in the days of slavery.
Too poor to own slaves himself, the congregant was so horrified by the sight of an African family about to be split up at the local slave auction, that he somehow mustered the wherewithal to buy the lot — then dispersed them among friends and family. That was philanthropy, southern-style.
When I reached Alabama myself in 1965 the slaves were free, but equality still seemed light years away.
It is Vancouver’s little vanity, with its location on the Pacific Ocean, to think of itself as an outpost of America’s West Coast. Or, in more realistic moments, as an annexe of Seattle, its closest US big-city neighbour. Certainly, the coffee culture, for which Seattle is most famous, has migrated north with a branch of Starbucks or a local chain on every block of every street of south-west Canada’s premier city.