Kerala

Three Best Travel Secrets

I’ve been tagged by Robin Locker at My Mélange to provide my three best travel secrets. She actually tagged me on my Italofile.com site. But I had so many good secrets beyond Italy that I wanted to share my top three non-Italy secrets here. To see the Italy list, head over to Italofile. Have a look at both of them!

Of course, it’s not fair to really call these “secrets,” as there are plenty of other people who have gone before me and recommended the same places. So, just consider these as my current favorites among a bucket-load of tips.

Three Best Travel Secrets

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Lycian Coast, Turkey
The Lycian Coast of Turkey is awash in tourists, especially from Europe and particularly from the U.K. But Turkey, in general, has yet to take off as a destination for Americans, which is why I’m including it on my list. This ancient coast is the Mediterranean of my dreams, with dramatic cliff-framed beaches (the beach above is Kaputa? Beach) and ruins from ancient Greeks, Romans, and Lycians (an ancient tribe particular to this region) strewn about. In the off-season, from about October to April when it’s not blazing hot, you can hike the Lycian Way, a 500km trail from Fethiye to Antalya. For a beach holiday, consider staying in Ka? which has a lively, walkable downtown with bars, fish and meze restaurants, and organic textile boutiques.

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Kerala, India
One of the most memorable trips I’ve ever taken was aboard a houseboat, adrift in the backwaters of Kerala, one of India’s most southernmost states. I wrote about my backwater trip at length way back in 2004 and, re-reading my posts from that time still give me blissful memories. If you are fortunate to go to India and have time to make it to the south, do not miss the opportunity to ride aboard a kettuvalam (rice boat). I’m sure that with 3G networks these days, you can take this trip without unplugging from your phone and internet. But here is a chance to disconnect completely, with only books and scheduled meals to interrupt your quiet contemplation.

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Apalachicola, Florida
When I started writing this list, I didn’t intend to have all beachy destinations. But so be it. Apalachicola is yet another place I have written about on this blog in a two-parter titled Long Weekend in Apalachicola Part 1 and Part 2. If you read those posts, you’ll see that this lazy beach town gets me back to my southern roots. Apalachicola is also part of what’s called Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” because it’s largely undeveloped, in that it is lacking in the over-the-top, on-the-beach high-rise resorts that characterize much of Florida’s shoreline. Apalachicola is also the Oyster Capital of the United States, so you can get the fattest, freshest oysters here, either on the half-shell or fried up for a po-boy.

So there’s my non-Italy list. I’m not going to tag a whole bunch of people like I did for my Italy list, but I will give props to Katie at Tripbase, who started this whole meme. It’s been fun!

If you’ve enjoyed reading my tips and decide you want to dream up your own list, tag me. I’d love to read what others have to say.

Photos © Melanie Mize Renzulli

Visiting Vasco in Cochin: Part 2

Cochin Synagogue
Late Sunday afternoon was time to go on our guided tour of Cochin. After a stop to view the shore, some shady rain trees, and the Chinese fishing nets (a row of big nets attached to cranes that were once used to mine the Arabian Sea for fish), we moved on the Mattancherry Palace, the former home of the Maharajahs of Cochin.

The palace had some of the accoutrements one would expect the Rajahs to have, including incredibly dark teakwood ceilings, royal portraits, swords, fancy costumes made with gold and silver thread, palanquins (man-handled carriages for rajahs and ranees) and howdahs (elephant carriages) and a mural series depicting scenes from the Ramayana. The paintings were very detailed and very colorful, but they left me a bit depressed because I felt that they weren’t being kept in the best of conditions. Photography wasn’t allowed within Mattancherry, yet windows and doors were left open so that the heat and humidity could flow right in. I suppose those are the conditions that Mattancherry has always existed in, but I got the sense that my friends who work in art and art conservation would have been appalled.

Visiting Vasco in Cochin: Part 1

One of my favorite dialogues from Seinfeld has to be the one where Jerry and George discuss their favorite explorers. [mp3] Jerry likes Magellan. George likes DeSoto:

Jerry: What did he do?
George: Discovered the Mississippi.
Jerry: Like they wouldn’t have discovered that anyway!

Well, I’ve always liked Vasco da Gama. Columbus may have discovered America, but he was supposed to be going to India. Da Gama actually set out to find a passage to India, and he found it! I have always really liked his name, too. It has a nice ring to it. I’m sure if he were alive today, he’d probably be designing shoes for Barney’s.

Nevertheless, when we booked our Kerala trip, one of the sights I knew I had to see was Vasco’s former grave in Cochin. He was buried in the city’s St. Francis church for 14 years before his remains were disinterred and moved to Lisbon.

On another note, I was also intent on seeing Cochin’s Synagogue, the oldest one in India (and, quite possibly, in Asia). Anthony and I had been lucky enough to stumble upon a photography exhibit on the history, culture, and dwindling population of the Jews of Cochin in Washington last spring. There are quite a few links about the community online, but I wish I could remember the name of the photographer whose pictures and videos set our trip itinerary in motion.