I made my first visit to the US in 1997. A business trip to New York, Detroit and Dallas while working for EDS, a US based IT company once owned by Ross Perot. My first glimpse of the Big Apple made a lasting impression, but I never once thought that a few years later I would make the US my home.

When Valynne asked me to contribute to the blog and highlight some of my favorite places in the US I thought that would be easy enough, but when you have visited 43 of the 50 states you begin to see the problem.  Anyway, here goes.

View of Evergreen Lake from the Old Digs (New Year's Day, 2008)

Colorado has to be high on my list. Not least because it’s where I lived, happily most of the time, for about 6 years and for the last 4 of those with Valynne. Colorado is scenically very beautiful, a photographer’s dream if you will. I lived in a picturesque little town called Evergreen, approximately 15 miles west of Denver at an altitude of 7,200′ (we were a little above 8,000′, on Bear Mountain). The main feature of Evergreen is the lake and this provides a meeting place for the community with concerts during the summer months and skating in the winter. We have many friends there still and it’s always wonderful to return whenever we can.

Valynne always has a yearning to be close to the ocean and I’m not far behind her, although throughout my life in both Europe and the US I’ve always lived as far from the ocean as you could possibly get, until recently. My favorite oceanside spots, in no particular order are: the California coast between San Francisco and Santa Monica; the Oregon coast; driving from Miami to Key West and having a wild time in same; Provincetown (right on the end of Cape Cod) and last but not least, the Outer Banks in North Carolina and particularly Ocracoke Island.

The Atlantic, as Seen From the Deck at Louie's Backyard in Key West, Florida

I think it was back in 2006 when Valynne and I flew out to San Francisco to attend a wedding in Santa Cruz (a friend of Valynne’s) and then take a week driving down to L.A. stopping at places that had been on my ‘must see list’ for a while. I wouldn’t say I’m a big wedding fan, but this was as good as it gets. The ceremony was held outdoors in a redwood glade at a vineyard followed by a reception amongst the vines. This was also my first exposure to the redwoods…more later. We then headed south to Monterey. Both being avid readers, we wanted to get up close with some of the locations familiar to Steinbeck followers. Things have changed since Steinbeck’s time of course and while Cannery Row has become ‘touristy’, there is still an atmosphere that you can feel.  Also, the Aquarium is a must see…..probably one of the best in the world.

We continued south stopping briefly at Carmel for lunch….think we missed the best bits. Need to go back. We drove through the private estate of Pebble Beach and via the world famous golf course of the same name. If you can afford the fees, this must be a wonderful place to play golf. Next of course, Big Sur. More writer connections if you are a Kerouac fan. The real attraction is the dramatic coast line where the surf races in like nowhere else in the world. Erosion is severly damaging the highway these days, so be sure to check the news reports before planning a drive down highway 1 as long road closures have become frequent.

After spending the morning at Hearst Castle (ostentation at its best or worst, depending on your reaction), we headed for Santa Barbara. Now that is a place I could live if anyone wants to donate a few million to the cause. A perfect place to do a ‘sit’ methinks. Wonder if Oprah needs any help.

Cora's Coffee Shoppe in Santa Monica, 06

We couldn’t drive past Ventura without calling in on Valynne’s family…could we?  Just joking, Valynne and Mum. Our first meeting and I thought it went pretty well…I hope.  Our last stop was Santa Monica where we spent a few days amongst the beautiful people. I guess technically it’s L.A. but it feels like a different world. We hired bikes and cycled along the bike path through Venice Beach and basically had a great time.

More of Paul’s favorite places to come….

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