It is, perhaps, a dream of every travel enthusiast to visit the seven wonders of the world. Structures and locations that incite awe amidst natives and tourists alike wield an undeniable appeal. Like the stamping of a passport, adventurers are able to elicit a special kind of satisfaction from collecting photographs (or for the vainer amongst us, selfies) at these infamous landmarks. It is therefore of little surprise that these sights remain some of the most sought-out across the globe. Nevertheless, I think it’s worth taking a moment to consider what it is about these places that have the world talking. Whilst buildings and monuments possess a commendable beauty, it is more commonly the experiences that we have in these localities that earn them their remarkable reputation.
With this in mind, I have decided to craft my own list. In the spirit of my two-year anniversary as a WordPress blogger, it seemed only fitting to share with all of you, the seven wonders of my travelling world.
I should stress that I have no intention of undermining the credibility of the existing list. Indeed, even having visited only three of the seven, I cannot deny their esteem is not unwarranted. Despite this, I have reached the conclusion that there is no harm in suggesting alternatives. Having had the opportunity to explore cities beyond the confines of this selection, I have come to a realisation. There are some experiences, often those which you might not expect, that embody the definition of wonder in a manner beyond convention. So toboggan down the Great Wall of China and walk the perimeters of the Taj Mahal, but don’t overlook the remarkable simplicity of a pavement café ice-cream in the dying moments of a summer’s afternoon. Visit the buildings and photograph the structures but cherish the experiences. The seven I am about to share with you have been some of the most incredible of my life so far and I wholeheartedly encourage you to seek them out for yourself.
NYC White Out
It’s an age-old cliché. Slick New-Yorkers bundled up in winter coats and snowflakes melting on the windows of a yellow taxi cab in the shadow of an immortal skyline. Winter in New York really is the stuff dreams are made of…Unfortunately, this cinematic fantasy is as close as you or I are likely to get to Hollywood perfection. As the city lit up and the sun went down, I didn’t find myself hand in hand with my artfully dishevelled and purposely rosy-cheeked co-star, rather I was somewhat preoccupied with attempting to preserve the fingers on my own hands as I begun to debate the merits of pre-empting the consequences of frostbite. My hair was more ‘wet-mess’ than snowy-princess and the crumpled $1 dollar bill in my pocket didn’t quite stretch to fund my delusions of sipping on that perfect pumpkin-spiced latte in the centre of Times Square. As I came to discover so quickly, winter in New York is like winter anywhere else; really bloody cold. You may therefore be confused as to why snowmeggadon in the Big Apple has made my list, I’ll admit my cynicism hardly screams satisfaction. In fact, the answer lies in the reality of the situation. Whilst it was hardly a scene from any romantic comedy I’ve ever seen, if you’re going to brave the elements anywhere, you might as well do it surrounded by the setting of some seriously magic movie moments. I can quite safely say that battling a snowy onslaught on a Manhattan sidewalk, skyscrapers glittering and NYPD officers giggling was pretty darn remarkable.
Maybe you’ll have better luck than me and fulfil our fantasies of that perfect snowy moment, or perhaps I’ll take solace in your descriptions of a hilariously soggy reality. Either way, snowfall in New York is a wonder that cannot be missed.
The London Underground
For anyone that has read my blog before, you’re probably aware that I’m an English girl myself. Whilst I’ve slowly grown to appreciate the merits of my own country, it’s rare that I find myself enamoured by the things on my very own doorstep. The London Underground might just be the exception…
Now I know what you’re thinking. Could she be a train-spotter? Or perhaps an eco-activist with a thing for public transport? You wouldn’t be alone in questioning the motivations of a self-declared underground train enthusiast. It’s not to say that I don’t understand your hesitation. I’ve experienced my fair share of ‘I’m-sorry-my-face-is-squashed-into-your-armpit-and-I’m-standing-on-your-foot-it’s-just-rush-hour-and-I-have-somewhere-to-be-so-let’s-just-not-acknowledge-our-uncomfortable-proximity-and-certainly-not-make-eye-contact’ and I get it, it’s awkward. But it’s these delightfully cringe-worthy encounters that make a journey on the Underground one to remember.
Some people have a thing about airports. Being surrounded by individuals about to jet off to all corners of the globe has its effect. It’s the same thing in London. Whilst debating whether the leather-briefcase holding, black-coffee sipping business man is heading to Russell Square or Canary Wharf isn’t exactly equal to a toss-up between Beijing and LA, it comes pretty close. Mixed up in the tangle of multi-coloured tube lines, Londoners and tourists alike find themselves crossing paths. Whether you nab the last seat next to them on the midday circle line train or you exchange a glance as you ‘mind-the-gap’ on your way out, for that split second, your journeys are intertwined. As actors act and writers write and Boris bikes just moments above you, for those few minutes underground (excuse the use of artistic license, I’d like to clarify that your typical underground journey is more likely to reach the hour mark – it’s the ‘not so fast food’ of public transport) you’re just another face in a crowd of people on their way to one place or another.
So brave the weird smells and even weirder people (shout out to that shirtless guy with the spear) and take a ride on the dark side. So maybe they are just fast-moving, slightly grubby tubes, but with the right outlook, you can have yourself a rather wonderful commute.
Geisha Hunting – Kyoto
As an avid fan of Asia, it should come as no surprise that the remaining wonders of my travelling world are located on my favourite continent to date. Whilst the temples and mountains scattered across the globe’s most diverse landscape are owed commendation of their own, it was the hours I spent simply strolling the streets of moonlit Kyoto that had a lasting impact.
It can be easy to forget where you are when you’re travelling. With the golden arches at every corner, google at your fingertips and English on the tip of everyone’s tongues, those moments where you become distinctly aware of just how far you’ve come are increasingly few and far between. Tokyo has its charms; the allure of quirky, cosmopolitan sophistication can be difficult to resist. However, it is the unassuming tradition of Kyoto’s alleyways that require a second thought.
Often, my Mother’s excursions are more than a little off-base (click here to read about the full extent of her unique approach to our itinerary), but this time, she hit the nail on the head. Whilst ‘Geisha hunting’ likely doesn’t feature on the first page of your travel guide to Japan, it’s a wonder in itself. There’s something a little eerie about even just wandering the pavements of a foreign city at night, throw in a glimpse of the women you’ve likely only seen in photographs, and you’re in a whole other world.
For a reminder of that feeling, the one adventurers spend their lives chasing after and writers devote their time to articulating, go get lost in Hanami-Koji-Dori, Gion.
I had planned on listing all seven of my wonders in this post but as I’m sure you’ve also come to realise, I had a little too much to say. Whilst details of the final four are on their way (look out for the post soon), in the mean time I’d love to hear about some of your most remarkable travel experiences, perhaps I’ll find another to add to my list!