Assisi – Haven of Peace
As a young lad in France, I read voraciously, mostly books set in exotic locations featuring heroic, daring young men (sadly, too few young ladies) overcoming life-threatening situations, facing down danger with élan to finally bask in the sunshine of a glorious dénouement. I dreamt of roaming the most dangerous hot spots in the world, to face the horrible Blue Men of the Sahara, to outwit overwhelming enemy forces, to gallantly save the king’s kidnapped daughter and in like manner transmute as a heroic, noble figure to one and all, me especially but more particularly the daintiest little blonde, my best friend’s upper crust first cousin. Such glowing daydreams I harbored and not a few nightmares when the giant crocodiles of the Nile came perilously close to my capsized canoe.
Not surprisingly geography was my best subject and I regularly came in first in class. At the end of the year it was customary to reward students who achieved exceptionally at some subject with books. In my case I was always thrilled to come home with a fine, leather-bound, gold-leafed book that as appropriate for a geography winner featured far-off lands. One fine year I was beside myself with joy I’d scored a splendid edition of Marco Polo’s Travels, complete with maps and coloured etchings detailing his amazing journeys to the Far East. Immediately I devoured that book and thereafter often picked it up to engrave more details to memory. I determined back then that my calling in life would be to travel to the four corners of the world and although my career in journalism allowed for some foreign travel most of what I did do was as a result of a determination to be true to my youthful promises.
Over the decades I managed to make my way all the way round our beautiful, Blue Planet. The incomparable Taj Mahal, the Great Buddha of Nara, head-spinning Hong Kong, the floating market of Bangkok, awe-inspiring Vatican, mesmerizing Mt. St. Michel, ethereal Reims Cathedral, the majestic Red Woods of California, the raw beauty of the Canadian Rockies, centuries old Gothic cathedrals and grandiose castles were a thrilling spectacle but encountering other travelers, meeting the native sons and daughters, modest artisans or great artists, folks of different cultures and languages, art and historic background, not to neglect local cuisine and wine, that by far was always the most satisfying of all results.
My wanderlust hasn’t abated with the passing years, indeed, I’m always cogitating upon the next get-away to foreign lands. Anyone for Madagascar?