I once traveled with a husband and wife who were obsessed with — I kid you not— how many kinds of olives they could find and photograph in Provençal markets. I’ve strolled in Cornwall with a lovely woman who knew the King Arthur legends forward and backward. And you should try, sometime, walking in the Vietnamese countryside with a gentleman who’s fulfilling a long held urge to find peace on an old battleground. Many of the most passionate travelers aren’t only about leaving home. They head out in order to live out dreams fueled by interests as far ranging as genealogy or the happy compulsion to visit as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible. Herewith, a few favorite examples of how to pair travel and a special interest to unforgettable effect.
You can visit legendary wine regions forever, but to many palates, Bordeaux is the most timeless. Romans planted the first grapes in the 2nd century. The village of St. Emilion (one of those World Heritage Sites!) sits amid endless patches of gnarled vines. However expert your personal tasting technique is, you appreciate the concept of terroir here like nowhere else. In a cave with a millennium or two of stories to tell, you taste the soil and the air and tradition all at once. It’s truly a pinnacle experience…not to mention a remarkable chance to add
some iconic labels to your scrapbook.
How often do you get to be an eyewitness to history? That would be every day in Cuba. There’s plenty of distant past, of course. Havana and colonial Trinidad are 500 years old and, ahem, World Heritage Sites. The Missile Crisis generation gets a rush from visiting the Bay of Pigs and being stared down by portraits of Fidel. A feverish mix of hustle in Havana, horse-drawn agriculture, optimistic entrepreneurs and loose-hipped dancers moving to pre-Revolution tunes defines the island these days. Americans call it “normalization,” and the Cubans you meet let you look “under the hood” to grasp how it feels to want and wait and work to make history happen.
Farm-to-table is not a very modern concept in Tuscany, a fact you grasp as you sit at a table right on the estate where your lunch was grown. The meal stretches a tad longer than the usual salad you grab at home. Though, not to worry, you can recover back at your villa. For food lovers, this is a culinary paradise where shepherds make cheese for you … the pasta is shaped by hand … and the oil is pressed from olives that grow just outside your window. Did we mention lunch in San Gimignano, which is of course a World Heritage Site?