It was dawn in New Orleans and I was in a cab on the way to the airport after a Thanksgiving getaway. We had just driven past the Superdome, only days after hosting the lively Bayou Classic and only five years after it stood as the unfortunate icon of one of the worst disasters in New Orleans’ history. As if in acknowledgement, my cab driver nodded towards it and started talking. “You know, I been in this city all my life,” he said, “except for the two years I spent in Houston after Katrina. Most of my family—they’re still there.”
Traditionally, I haven’t been the most mainstream traveler. I hang back from the crowds, hunt out hole-in-the-wall diversions, and generally do what I can to skip the tourist hot-spots. Which means that after three years of living in San Francisco, the closest I’ve gotten to a tour group is shouldering through one on my way to work. So I’ve come up with a new travel mission: to tour San Francisco so thoroughly that I can point to Coit Tower in my sleep. And the natural starting point of such an expedition is Alcatraz Island, America’s sixth most popular tourist attraction.
I ended up in Pécs because its dot on the map was rather large and well located between Budapest and Sarajevo; I ended up loving Pécs because it’s a wonderful surprise in southern Hungary—a stunningly beautiful city full of fascinating attractions.
The European Union agrees, because Pécs is one of the organization’s Capitals of Culture for 2010. And with a calendar packed with related events and festivals this summer and fall, there’s never been a better time to score a Central Europe travel deal and discover Pécs.
Imagine monitoring a meerkat population in the Kalahari. Picture tracking black sea turtles in Baja California. This summer, you could take a volunteer vacation with our partner Earthwatch Institute and work side by side with scientists who are doing important research in the field.
I always say that the mark of a good vacation is when you start looking at the “For Sale” signs on the homes. No matter how much a traveler loves her job, her hometown, her native country, the temptation to pull up roots and plant a flag somewhere new is always there. And the more I like a destination, the more detailed my Run Away From It All scenario gets. During my trip to Guanajuato, Mexico I had all but called up the airline and asked what would happen if I didn’t show up for my return flight home.