June 11, 2008

A Special Book Review

[Posted by Crabby]For those of you who are not regulars here, "The Lobster" is my long-suffering life partner. (And soon-to-be spouse, once we figure out which state we reside in). So why is The Lobster reviewing a book, especially one that has pretty much nothing to do with health and fitness?

Well, recently Cranky Fitness was offered a review copy of something called "Dream Destinations." Intrigued by the prospect of a book of pretty pictures, but feeling lazy about actually writing a review, I was just about to delete the email when... a Sneaky Thought occurred to me. Was there a way to get all the pretty pictures and plant Future Vacation Ideas without having to do any actual work? "Hey honey," I said, in an innocent tone of voice...
And Voila, a free book arrived!

So now here is a review of...

Dream Destinations

By The Lobster

Occasionally, Crabby gets new products to review. In the past, she’s received stuff like flavored teas and energy bars. Given my love of "free stuff," I find this grass roots marketing kind of cool.

When the folks at LIFE books contacted her asking if she’d like to review their new book "LIFE’s Dream Destinations: 100 of the World’s Best Vacations" she immediately turned to me. You see, anything to do with geography is, well, not exactly her core competency. We’ve done a great deal of traveling in our almost 18 years together, lately concentrating on driving destinations in our trusty camper van. Crabby’s interest in maps is generally focused on font size, ie, is the font size big enough to indicate a town that has a) a gym and b) an Asian-fusion restaurant? I cannot tell you how many times she has been disappointed on both fronts, especially in the vast middle section of the country.

So with my new assignment, I settled into a comfy chair to read "Dream Destinations." The pictures are predictably fabulous, given that’s what the good folks at LIFE do best. I was completely prepared to make fun of their list, ready for $5000 a night lodges in the Masai Mara or destinations that require some combination of plane and yak to reach them. And, there were a few examples of that, including listing London as a family destination ("honey would you like dessert or to go to college?") and touting a romantic getaway at the Kennedy Cottages, where Jack and Jackie honeymooned near Santa Barbara, for a mere $2995 per night. However, much of their list was affordable and accessible. Or at least it was before gas was over $4 a gallon and airlines started charging by the pound.

Here are my observations:

Some of our very favorite places on earth made the list, which added immense credibility to the book. (Yes, we are extraordinarily fortunate). They are totally right about:
  • Cinque Terre, a series of 5 gorgeous towns on the northern coast of Italy;
  • Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia (in fact that whole dang province);
  • Banff and Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies;
  • Napa Valley (of course, we’re from Northern California);
  • The Yucatan Peninsula;
  • The Snowdonia area of Wales, including the town of Betws-y-Coed (which, of course, to us became Betsy the Coed.)

I have a new list of places on my MUST SEE list including:
  • The Glastonbury Festival, held in a small town in Somerset, England rumored to be the burial site of the Holy Grail that also hosts a Woodstock-like festival. I love the combo.
  • The Tongariro Northern Circuit in New Zealand, home to a world class trek that ends at the Grand Chateau, a hotel that pampers the tired and weary.
  • Wildflower Hall, a luxury hotel and spa in the Kunlun Mountains of east-central Asia, a stunning place at 8,350 feet which is neither affordable nor accessible but will stay on the lottery list.
  • Lake Wanaka, back in New Zealand, surrounded by snow covered mountains, vineyards and, yes, sheep.
There are, unfortunately, some "oh puleeaase" moments. Are these really "Dream Destinations?"
  • Wisconsin Dells: The canyon and rivers were nice but Wisconsin Dells is right up there with Pigeon Forge, Tennessee as the pinnacle of tackiness. In the Dells, you can’t find the river for the putt-putt golf and other money sucking adventures. (However, if you are looking for pancakes in either place, you have hit the motherlode).
  • Montana Dude Ranch... in winter: Illustrated by a picture of unhappy campers huddled around a campfire, obviously freezing their butts off. I love the outdoors but Dude, those people looked miserable.
  • Mount Vernon: Just a question... why does George and Martha’s bed looked slept in?
  • Lost Atlantis: There are enough nut-balls wandering around looking for it, do we need to encourage more of them?

The final verdict on the book? I enjoyed re-living some of our great vacations and seeing amazing shots of places I’m pretty sure I’ll never see. And, given the price of travel these days, the $29.95 price is a pretty good short term escape seeing how you’d only get about 7 gallons of gas and are probably unlikely to see anything as cool within 140 miles of your house.

Now the Crab will pop back in to ask: Does anyone have "dream destinations" that you'd love to visit some day? What would be on your short list?


  1. (*waves to The Lobster*)

    one word here: BALI.

    five words here: may I borrow the book?

    six words here: too poor now for vay cay.


  2. For what it's worth, I live in NZ and it is, indeed, well worth seeing. And not too too expensive if you're willing to travel by campervan! You should come see!

    It's prrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeettttttttyyyyyyyyy

  3. Excellent work, Lobster. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.
    My dream destination is everywhere, but currently I want to go to Antarctica, the Gobi Desert, pretty much any of the empty quarters of the world, Cuba, and back to Peru, the Greek isles, and Saskatchewan.

  4. Wonderful review, Lobster - thanks!

    The Bag Lady hasn't been on vacation in over 14 years, and now, with the price of fuel....
    Perhaps she could borrow that book? :)

    (Oh, and I've been to Peggy's Cove and to Banff and Jasper, and yes, they are definitely worth it!)

  5. Loved the review!! And Crabby? I suck at geography too. It's a good thing that there are people out there who can make up for our deficiencies - and even better when they live with us! (I call it free on-star).

    Anyhow, AMEN to the WI Dells. Blech. And Cinque Terre - awwww.... now I have to go look at pics.

  6. I just got back from Cairo and that was awesome! I've always wanted to go to Asia, but what with fuel costs, that might be a while yet, unless I can turn it into a family vacation with my parents...

    Those places in NZ sound awesome as well!

  7. Well, this post kind of just adds on to my giddy mood this morning. I've just listened to the Discovery Channel's the World is Just Awesome commercial five times in a row. Reading a book about world travel just ties it all in together nicely.

    Also, word on Nova Scotia. I don't think I've ever been to Peggy's Cove, but I've driven through the province on the way to Prince Edward Island and it was like driving through a bunch of calender pictures.

  8. If you are looking for the tackiest of tacky gift shops, look no further than Michigan's own Mackinac Island. The island itself is beautiful but, of course, you must first suffer Gift Shop hell and the per capita largest concentration of fudge shops. Ugh.

  9. My next BIG trip needs to be Australia and NZ. I've wanted to see it ever since the Facts of Life girls went Down Under. :)

  10. That's a thought... "Tackiest Tourist Destinations"! Hey Crabby, you should write a book about all the places that are filled with tourist kitsch. Nightmare Destinations or something like that.

    My favorite personally owned tourist kitsch was my pair of Eiffel-tower earrings. Sadly, as is the way with earrings, they've split up and refuse to be reconciled, i.e. you'll never find both of them in the same place at the same time. Classic kitsch all the same.

    (Hey, anybody going to Paris? Can I put in a request for some earrings?)

  11. I've wanted to go on a horseback trip across India for a few years, since a coworker went on a trail trek with her husband there (who was from there)...and Glastonbury is on my list of festivals I need to go to someday. My holidays the last few years have tended to be hiking, camping and dancing like a fool at festivals, so it's right up my alley.
    Oh, AND the pyramids...and my friends little roundel house a bit outside London...but that's mostly to see her (and the UK) again.

    And yes, Banff and Peggy's Cove are indeed amazing...

  12. Thank you, Lobster. You have some very tempting choices. Unfortunately, having my 95 year old father live with me pretty much puts travel on hold, and unless my fragrance/detergent/cosmetic sensitivities improve a LOT, I won't be going anywhere trapped for hours in a metal tube stuffed with people where the air recirculates forever....

    "is the font size big enough to indicate a town that has a) a gym and b) an Asian-fusion restaurant? I cannot tell you how many times she has been disappointed on both fronts, especially in the vast middle section of the country."

    This is what the internet is for! The font size of the county seat here (town with a population of 1500) would not lead you to suspect it has an Asian restaurant run by Authentic Asian People (and since some of them are Vietnamese and some Chinese there may be some fusion involved), or TWO gyms (one Curves, one real gym-type gym owned and managed by physical therapists.)

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  13. Book! Traveling!


    One of my top places right now is Egypt. And for dream destinations that I'd recommend to other people, the Jura district in France is gorgeous to hike through, and Formentera in the Belearic Islands off the coast of Spain? Spectacular!

  14. Venice used to be #1, but I got to experience that a couple of years ago.

    Greece is definitely up there, as well as Australia and Tuscany.

    I dream about travel so much that most of the time when I get where I wanted to go, it doesn't live up to my expectations. Even Venice was a bit of a disappointment. Still, that doesn't stop me from trying!

  15. Top picks: Madagascar (lemurs!), the Galapagos, New Zealand and back to (northern & central) Italy. Sigh.

    Merry, if I end up getting the job where I'd have to go to the Paris HQ periodically, I will get you your earrings.


  16. Oooh! Good vibes and fingers crossed, GG!

  17. Lobster, thanks for a great review. I have been to Banff, Jasper and Peggy's Cove and agree that they are worth the trip, even with today's gas prices.

    My dream destination would have to still be Australia. Chile and other parts of South America are looking very interesting now that I have looked at them on google earth.

  18. I *heart* traveling!

    My top destination right now is Scotland, but I also hope to make it to Italy.

  19. Aaah I love travel books. Such lovely photographs.

    I really want to get my driver's license this summer, and hopefully buy a car over the year. The plan is to go on a road trip through France and Italy next summer - if we can finance it.

    My top ten "must see before I die!!" places are:

    1. Egypt
    2. Peru
    3. Yuccutan Peninsula
    4. Australia
    5. India (I'd like to travel up along the Ganges)
    6. Iceland
    7. Eastern Canada
    8. Mojave desert
    9. Nahani National Park
    10. Scandinavia

  20. For all the empty-wallet-but-wanna-be-travellers... I recently discovered couchsurfers.com.. (haven't used it yet, though)

    If you don't mind sleeping in a couch, it could be a great way to get more of a local experience and meet some neat people! Not to mention saving a ton of money!

    I envision a backpacking trip through Europe with random locals to show me around, and cheap lodging!

  21. i want to go to italy, seattle, nyc, chicago, boston, portland (oregon), salem (mass), los cabos, the us virgin islands, haiwaii, the caribbean, bermuda (my mother-in-law is from there!), niagra falls, alaska, quebec, london, germany, ireland, sidney, france, vatican city, saint-tropez, monaco, spain, japan, fiji, tibet (like that will ever happen)... i can't think of any others right now.

    p.s. meh meh meh look at us we're crabby and the lobster and we've been everywhere!!

    just kidding! love you!

  22. yeah, i totally forgot like a million places, like amsterdam and russia, but oh well.

  23. Thanks for the review, Lobster. I've been to one of the best (Peggy's Cove) and one of the worst (the Dells). I'd say the Dells are rivaled by Niagara Falls (at least the Canadian side) for tacky. I'll go anywhere though.. so anyplace is a dream vacation to me.

  24. Anywhere in New Zealand, and the Kenai Peninsula to fish for 80 pound salmon. And Meteor Crater, which I was forced to drive past the last time I went by it.

    BUT, I can't seem to even manage to get to Catalina from here, so oh well.

    Thanks to the Lobster for motivating me to get some big travel books for free from the library so I can go vicariously.

  25. There are so many places I want to visit!! But if I had to choose my next vacation spot, I'd love to go to Ireland and Austria, see where my great great grandfolks lived. :)

  26. Having never been out of the country, I could go almost anywhere and it would be exotic and thrilling for me. I watch a lot of Discovery channel and I "travel" by eating in interesting restaurants, so my thoughts turn to Asia, where, apparently, travel and food come together in truly thrilling ways. I will not drink 100 year old carcas-infused alcohol, however.

    We discovered the hazard of relying on font size while traveling through eastern Colorado for the first time. Oops!

  27. I'd like to see Greece and Northern Africa. I'd also like to take a trip down the east coast in the fall when the leaves are changing . . .


  28. Maya Tulum. Jungles and yoga. Although with the price of fuel, I suspect it might require a yak.

    Also, if anyone waved tickets at me for just about anywhere in Mexico, I would have to wave bye-bye to you all for a min.

    Lovely review, Lobster. Moar plz.

  29. Hey, if you guys ever do make it to NZ you'll have to let us know! I've always wanted to do Tongariro, and my father-in-law has a vineyard not too far from Wanaka. We could do a road trip, or something ...

    (Wellington's pretty great as well, by the way).

  30. Mine is Bora Bora. It looks amazing. I collegue of mine just visited there and she said it was incredible!!

  31. Lobster love! I recommend heading west from Peggy Cove along the South Shore of NS... Banff National Park... canoeing in Gatineau Hills - and as for where I'd love to go (again), Massachusetts fits the bill! Specifically, Boston, but further exploration is in the works.

  32. Ooooh . . . Cinque Terre. That's one of my FAV places. I was there briefly when I studied in Cortona, Italy. *dreamy sigh*

    Now I'm so stuck in my memories of Italy that I can't even think straight to post about another dream vacation spot. I'd just pull a Francis Mayes and buy a house there and spend a quarter to half a year exploring the country bit by bit. Yup, that's it. It's straight back to Italy for me! But first, I suppose I'll need to make some moolah to make that dream happen . . . there's always a catch, isn't there?

    Maybe that book is the perfect inspiration to keep around the house!

  33. Great review (and now I don't even have to read the book!) - English towns in general have awesome festivals and are otherwise adorable year-round.

    Only point of disagreement is on Mount Vernon, which I visited this past summer and loved! It's close to DC and some amazing destinations in Virginia, and the museum is second to none.

    Anyway, now I have a list of places to visit once I find a few thousand bucks in the couch cushions!

  34. Sounds great!! It might be a wonderful book. Would also like to read it.


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