5 Memorable Places

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Dalene & Pete Heck

It might just be our most frequently asked question, and our most detested:

“Of all the places you’ve been to, what’s your favourite (and least favourite)?”

It’s a harmless inquiry and I do find myself also asking it of others, but with the understanding that it is a challenging question to answer because different places are loved or loathed for different reasons. Our fave place for hiking? Probably Argentina. Country with the friendliest locals? Turkey or Colombia. Best pierogies? Why, Poland of course. But do any of these random categories make a particular country a favourite overall?

It’s really not that simple.

And never mind that travel, like everything, is personal and entirely based on perspective.Β  If you journeyed alongside us the last five years, you would likely have entirely different answers than ours, especially considering that we argued over culling a “top five” list between the two of us (despite our natural tendency to share a brain after all this time together). And we carefully share these lists not expecting that you will be similarly impacted if you visit there, or even remotely have the same opinion.

Our lists below are based on those that are more memorable than others, for good and for bad. And let’s face it – 95% of the time, travel is awesome all the time. So our choices are not based on “best” and “worst”, or “great” and “terrible”, because in every place we go, we undoubtedly find some goodness to love. Instead they are ranked by those that served us the strongest memories, with every other destination we’ve hit over the last five years falling somewhere in between.

“Good” Memorable Places

1. Burhaniye, Turkey

Burhaniye, Turkey

This is definitely a place that a passing tourist may not get much out of. The tourist attractions are few and it really doesn’t have much to look at, but for us it has become a foreign version of home. We’ve spent six months there in total and never, in any other spot in the world, felt so welcome and comfortable.

Also: best baklava and mantΔ± ever. And on top of the friendliest bunch of people we’ve ever met, that is all that these two travelers need.

2. Sucre, Bolivia

Sucre, Bolivia

It might just be that this place is so dear to us because it was our first stop on this five year journey. Here, we tested out our travel feet – we took Spanish lessons, volunteered at a drop-in-center for street kids, and spent two months traipsing around this small city high in the Andes. Of all the places in South America, Bolivia felt the most foreign, the most unlike from where we came, and it was the perfect place to start out and see if this life was for us.

We fell in love with Sucre’s whitewashed historic center and easily navigable streets. We didn’t care much for the food, but enjoyed the gorgeous mountain scenery surrounding us, taking excursions to hike and bike outside the city as often as we could. Sucre will always hold significant meaning for us, and after all these years, we know we must return to see if it holds the same appeal. To see if what’s changed us has changed our perspective there as well.

3. Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana, Slovenia

That first night we stumbled through the streets of Ljubljana on a very frigid November night, we were absolutely smitten, so much so that I admitted to shedding a few tears while we stood watching a choir sing beautifully amidst thick fog. I will never use the word “enchanted” with more meaning then I did that night.

And for the few days after, and for a month when we returned later, we realized that it wasn’t just that mystical foggy night that made us love the capital city. It’s the perfect size with a lively historic center and plenty to do in the surrounding countryside. We’ve got dear friends there who may even find a way for us to stay there long-term in a bid to participate in their curling program.

Could we find a fairy-tale ending in Ljubljana someday? Just maybe.

4. New York, USA

New York City Skyline

There is simply no other city in the world quite like New York. And we were afforded the opportunity to spend six weeks there thanks to the Best! House-sitting Gig! Ever! We got to explore the city with family and friends coming in to visit, became award-winning experts on the Big Apple, and I even left with two permanent “markings”. It’s a city that left an impact like no other, and we long for a chance to return and do it all again. Let’s face it, six weeks in NYC is not nearly enough.

5. Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw, Poland

We journeyed to Poland on a whim, or more truthfully, because it was the cheapest flight we could get from North America.

We ADORED it, especially its gorgeous capital of Warsaw – what with the multitude of parks throughout, the evocative memorials to its dark history and the starkly different neighborhoods such that each excursion feel entirely new. We even schemed to bend Schengen visa rules and try and stay there longer. Somehow, Warsaw just “fit” us.

“Less Good” Memorable Places

Now, before the comments and emails come flying at us in vicious anger that your favourite place made our list of “less good”, let’s give another quick reminder that travel is personal, m’kay?

1. London, England

London Bridge at Night

We’ve been twice, spending almost an entire month total, and still carry a “meh” opinion on London.

The city just holds very little appeal. There are so many sad people on the tube staring at their phones, the expense to take in some of the attractions is extreme, and all that royalty stuff is boring and really just infuriates us as Commonwealth tax-payers.

London isn’t hideous, the food is quite good and the markets are interesting. But overall, it is just “less good” than every other European city. That is the only way to say it.

2. Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech, you would not have made this list if it wasn’t for the way I felt from all the creepy creepiness from the lewd men that mentally undressed me with each outing, even when I was hanging on Pete’s arm. The filthy comments, the cat calls, the general uneasiness I felt in every crowd. My Mom said to me: “Enjoy the attention while you’re young!” but I really just couldn’t see it that way. My skin is not that thick, and I couldn’t wait to leave.

Your food, I enjoyed (although grew tired of in a few days), and the architecture and colours were indeed a marvel. However, with each brief excursion beyond our guesthouse doors, I felt the need for an immediate shower afterwards, not only for the grime and smog that clung to my skin, but for every filthy comment tossed my way.

(Oh, and the men waiting in the Jemaa el Fna waiting to drape snakes across an unsuspecting tourists shoulders? Yeah, they ruined it too.)

3. Peru

Peru - Colca Canyon

It’s got the biggest tourist attraction in South America (Machu Picchu), but the country itself was our biggest disappointment in our year around the continent. Outside well-manicured tourist centers, we just found it too dirty, especially after we crossed the border into Ecuador and breathed sweet relief that these neighbors actually picked up after themselves.

Vendors were also too quick to try and cheat us as well, which made us believe that they are just far too spoiled by the massive amount of tourists who visit. By then our Spanish was good enough such that we could spot this and push back, but it still didn’t stop us from being repeatedly annoyed.

We have cause to return (we didn’t actually get to see Machu Picchu because of tragic rainstorms and landslides at the time), and so will likely give it a second chance. We hope our second round will be better.

4. Salzburg, Austria

Mozart Balls in Salzburg, Austria
Two words: Mozart Balls.

5. TBD

We debated for awhile and really couldn’t come up with a fifth (and didn’t want to pick on one just for the sake of picking on one). Thus, we will leave it open for now, confident that somewhere down the road, we’ll find a place to fill it eventually.

5 Places We Want to Make Sweet Memories In

Now this list post definitely wouldn’t be complete without projecting a little, and listing the places high on our to-do list, those that we believe could rise the ranks into our next five favourite-ist places.

1. Antarctica

We are finding that we are drawn more and more to Arctic destinations. Perhaps it was our highly memorable trip to Greenland that still encourages us, or just the fact that we are so proudly Canadian.

2. More of the Balkans

We have so much love for Slovenia that we want to see if it can extend to a whole region.

3. Mongolia

For us, this is the single destination that jumps out with the word “remote”. Therefore, it must be visited.

4. North Pole

See above re. Arctic destinations. We want to see both poles. (That’s what she said.)

5. Anywhere in Africa that has super cool animals

We honestly can’t believe we have barely touched Africa yet, and we’re not even that picky about where we start. We just want the super cool animals.

 
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See more from our “Five Series” – celebrating five years of travel!

5 Life Lessons

5 Memorable Photos

5 Memorable Places

5 Memorable Moments

 
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29 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • i still regret not making time for slovenia when I was in Eastern Europe! It looks stunning
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..Lost on the Dangerous Roads of Himachal Pradesh: Sarahan

  • May 22 2014

    I’m excited to hear Sucre, Bolivia made it on the list! I’m going there in July and I’ve heard so many good things about Bolivia! However, I must disagree about Peru. But maybe I’m biased because that’s the country that started my love for traveling.
    Hannah Wasielewski recently posted..Hiking Exit Glacier in Seward, Alaska

    • May 26 2014

      Each destination is different for each of us! Glad you enjoyed Peru!

  • May 23 2014

    I don’t know if I could narrow any of my lists down to 5! So kudos to you for that.
    Amanda recently posted..A Morning With Monks in Chiang Mai

  • May 23 2014

    Yep to New York being a most memorable place for me too. I LOVE that place. I would love to have an extended stay there just like you did!
    Emily recently posted..What to Know About Chile

    • May 26 2014

      We are plotting for even more… πŸ™‚

  • It’s always interesting to read what other people’s favourite (and least favourite) places are and there will always be people who disagree with you. For me personally, I would swap London and New York around. I lived in London for 7 years and loved it, it did take a while to really get under its skin though. I found New York underwhelming but I only spent 5 days there and I do think that it is one of those places that you have to spend an extended amount of time in to get a real feel for (like London). I hope you enjoy Peru more the second time around. I thought it was one of the most visually stunning and diverse countries in South America.

  • May 24 2014

    When my partner and I went InterRailing we had a great time in Eastern Europe, but sadly we missed Slovenia.

    I agree, seedy comments can ruin even the best places.
    Kerri recently posted..What I Wore: Poodles and Clashing Colours

  • Kudos for mentioning the places you don’t like. Whenever we do that we get some snarky comments but travel isn’t all giggles and kicks. For Africa take a look at Namibia. It’s got the animals plus it’s a safe country for a self-drive safari, which is what we did there. Watching the herds in an isolated spot with no one else around was a real treat.
    Michael @ Changes in Longitude recently posted..Trailing the Ghost of Elvis through Memphis

    • June 5 2014

      That sounds pretty dreamy Michael. I still can’t believe we’ve barely touched Africa.

  • May 24 2014

    I enjoyed seeing which places you loved and that each one is so different from the other. I was also sorry to read about your experience in Morocco. I have a male friend from there, and he is really a lovely person, but I haven’t been there and would hate the cat calls, too.

    • June 5 2014

      We did meet some really lovely people there, but overall, I was just far too creeped out. Which is too bad, Morocco has so much to offer!

  • May 26 2014

    so glad to see Warsaw in your top 5! I like to think it’s partly my fault and I made you fall in love with the city πŸ˜‰ remember you’re always more than welcome to come back!
    kami recently posted..Sunday with Pictures: Grodno, Belarus

    • June 5 2014

      Yes, we blame you too! πŸ™‚

  • May 26 2014

    I went through Lublijana when it was part of Yugoslavia. We couldn’t get out of that country fast enough but I owe it a second chance since I haven’t been since Yugoslavia’s demise.
    Peru was great for me – largely because we were hiking in the Cordillera Blanca – with 2 donkeys & a donkey driver & saw no other westerners for 10 days. Plus the scenery was superb.
    All of eastern Europe has appeal, definitely Antarctica – but when I’m an old fart. I figure a cruise is better for me when I can’t hike as hard.
    Africa- I’ve been 4 X and truly loved every experience but best was Namibia where we rented a car & tootled around for several weeks.
    I’m hot & cold when I think about Morocco – haven’t been & I think I’d rather do Jordan.
    You have done so much awesome traveling in the last 5 years – may the next 5 be just as great.
    Leigh recently posted..13 Great Things to do in BC’s Okanagan Valley in Summer

    • June 5 2014

      Thanks so much Leigh! And I do hope you make it back to Slovenia, I am sure you will enjoy it this time around.

  • May 27 2014

    Ljubljana is one of my absolute favorites!

    I also really loved Peru, although most of my enchantment came from staying with a family in the small town of Ollantaytambo and having a sister who knew all the local spots to take me.

    I hope you do get to see more of the Balkans, as it’s one of my favorite regions in the world!
    Kirstie recently posted..Ciao, Roma! Easter Week in Italy

  • May 27 2014

    I love that Sucre was your first destination. You guys really went for it! I’ve read other rave reviews so I’ll definitely have to make it there at some point. It’s just so hard, with SO MANY awesome places in this world! Slovenia should have this year, though, and I can’t wait!!
    Heather recently posted..Longwood Gardens: A Botanical Wonderland in Pennsylvania

    • June 5 2014

      It really IS so hard, the world is too awesome.

  • June 4 2014

    I had a conversation with someone recently about their trek to South America and they also remarked that they felt that Peru was very dirty. So interesting that you guys felt the same.

    I found it hard to relax there as I had to be on guard at all times, even in my hotel room. There was armed men at the bus stations that made me feel nervous. I was robbed as well. Probably wasn’t the best choice of destination for my first trip outside of North America. πŸ™‚

    However, that being said, I still loved Peru. The Andes are beautiful, the food was delicious and I learned some important lessons while there.

    Also love how your list doesn’t include the most predictable places. As always, look forward to continuing to follow your journey. πŸ™‚

    • June 5 2014

      Thanks so much Cheryl! I know Peru makes many people’s TOP lists, and I can see why it is loved. It just wasn’t for us, especially when we crossed the border to Ecuador and see how much better they take care of their country in comparison.

  • June 4 2014

    Glad you included the bad with the good. Often times bloggers only include the good stuff. I like to see both sides of the coin.

    Keep on traveling.
    Nancy D. Brown recently posted..Colorado Springs Horseback Riding

  • Sucre is a favorite of mine too!
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Great tulip expectations

  • June 13 2014

    I love you bucket list of choices, would love to go there to, and six months in Turkey, wonderful!

  • August 31 2014

    Fantastic write up guys. You arent the first people to have commented on London like that. I reckon its the massive hype of it all that ruins the experience.

    Yet to visit Warsaw, any recommendations?
    Tez Ferguson recently posted..Travel And Food – What a Combination?

  • December 4 2014

    I would also add Ljubljana to my own “memorable in a good way” list! In fact, just about everyone I know that’s been there has truly loved it and hopefully you’ll get the chance to explore more of the Balkans in the future.

    Too bad you didn’t particularly enjoy London or Marrakech – both are places I like considerably.
    Becky recently posted..Just the Facts: Frequently Asked Questions About Nepal

  • Sarina Robson
    August 7 2015

    Dalene, after stumbling across your blog I’ve now spent countless hours (which I should’ve spent booking tomorrow night’s accommodation) scrolling through your travels. I have to thank you for providing such an honest, funny, relatable & awe-inspiring record of your time abroad. My husband & I are travelling on an ‘extended honeymoon’ and have been to many places mentioned on your site. And while our mere 10 month trip doesn’t come close to yours, I have to tell you that I’ve found a lot of comfort in the experiences/emotions you’ve shared. Especially when you’ve mentioned on-the-go travel vs. slow/spontaneous travel, being ‘lame’ & not going out late very often, coming to terms with the grittiness of South America, disappointments like Peru, escaping tourist traps and the everyday ups & downs of travelling with your husband (mine also wanted to drive like a mad-man on the Transfagarasan highway). It’s so refreshing to hear the REAL side of long-term travel with good & bad stories. Your blog has added so many more places to our bucket list, but also showed that we missed out on some wonderful experiences (Disappointed that we ran out of time to do some rural volunteering in Romania). And although we have a return flight home booked, I’ll be sure to keep checking up on your blog to feed my inner wanderer! Thank you & safe travels πŸ™‚

    • August 10 2015

      Hello Sarina! Thank you so much for your lovely comment, and welcome to our blog. I’m so glad you and your husband have made travel such a priority together! πŸ™‚

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