It’s hard to pick a few pictures to hang on the wall. I often have better pictures, but I’m often looking for something characteristic. Something that captures the place I’ve visited and could be from almost no other place. You know, the kind of thing the local authority puts on their promotional posters with the lines “come to fill-in-the-blank.”
That got me thinking and I came up with a game that I hope you fellow travelers will join me in. You’re friend Chuck (not his real name) is from another galaxy and he has just one week to visit the Earth after his business trip to the United Nations. Chuck’s an approximately bipedal alien with much of the same constraints as you and me. He sleeps and eats, and walks and takes in information around the same speed as you and me. He does, however, have a really nifty shuttle that can travel around from any place on the planet to another in just a few minutes and can even slow down for fly overs.
Given these constraints, where do you take Chuck? You want to give him a taste of Earth culture; the kind of tourism often find me self doing, that is seeing the most characteristic things of a given place, but regrettably, you have incredibly little time (just like tourism) so, hanging out and absorbing the local flavor is out, unless of course, this is exactly what you think is the best way to see things in just one week.
For me, Chuck should come away understanding that the earth offers a wide range of beautiful scenery and that the beings that live there have created beautiful and amazing things both large and small and that they’ve done so on ever increasing scales throughout our history. He ought to see a couple of great world cities to compare and contrast; he should see natural wonders, different climates, and historic sites. He’ll probably see enough of the damage we’ve done on the fringes, and I don’t want to hide this, but for me, it’s not the first priority on his first trip to Earth.
Here are some of my ideas for Chuck’s whirl-wind tour of earth. Order doesn’t matter much with that great shuttle of his, but I’ll try to group things together a bit just so he he can keep a sense of things.
Paris is so chock full of art and culture, while still being a big metropolis, I just don’t see how you can miss it. Chuck’s going to have to see the big sites, catch the palace of Versailles, and have some camembert. World foods are another feature of this tour as food and drink represents a huge part of our culture. French food is great, but the true world food of Europe is really Italian. Fortunately Paris is such a big city I am confident we can find some good Italian food even here. Even if I’ve just shunned French food in France, we’ll make room for cheese–for French cheese truly is world renowned, and for good reason. Chuck should probably enjoy a Belgian beer with it, even if he misses French wine. There is good wine around the world, but Belgian beer is almost unique.
Chuck should spend an hour at the pyramids. The real exciting thing here is simply see how big they are…then walk up to them and really see how big they are. There are more exciting things in Egypt like Luxor where one really gets a feel about what humans did thousands of years ago, but we’ve got lots rWe’ll only waste an hour or so at the Pyramids. What we need, though, is to spend a few hours wandering around a bazaar—Marrakech might be a great choice.
We’ve spend the late afternoon and evening in the Serengeti seeing some of the big animals. In one outing, we’ll probably miss many of Africa’s treasures, but lions and elephants are hard to miss on any trip.
Next up, let’s catch the Taj Mahal in the morning. The Taj’s size impresses almost as much as its beauty, but once we’ve seen it, it’s time to have another meal of one of the worlds great foods-Indian food, northern, southern, or both, can’t be missed.
We’ll slow down the shuttle for a flyby over the Himalaya on our way to Beijing, where we’ll check out the Forbidden City. Hopefully Chuck still has room for Chinese food, and that we have a big delegation with us for the giant lazy-susan full of plate after plate which is the hallmark of dinner in China even when you’re not traveling with a delegate from another galaxy. Before leaving China, we’ve got to get up to the Great Wall. Maybe we’ll do a flyover and visit a few sites. On our way south, we should do a slight detour over Mt. Fuji. There probably won’t be enough time to climb a volcano, but we should at least see Fuji from the sky. We’ve got to stop in either Shang Hai or Hong Kong to see what happens when millions of people decide to live very close together in tall, ultra-modern buildings. Many will choose Shanghai, but I think the view across the bay to Hong Kong’s panorama and night time light show.
I haven’t been to Australia or New Zealand, so, please correct me, but I decided to skip the land down-under (hey, the whole of Europe was represented by Paris alone…how is that fair?) and go straight to New Zealand. This’ll give Chuck a view of a temperate forest, sweeping views, and maybe some marsupials all in one place. If hiking around New Zealand doesn’t take as long as I thought, we can dive in the Great Barrier Reef. I hear that’s interesting! I do want to slow down a bit while hiking. We’ve just been to Hong Kong, it’s time to meditate under the sky and be dwarfed by tall mountains more permanent than any buildings there.
We should make a stop in Antarctica, see some big glaciers and maybe some little penguins, but then we’ll continue on to Iguazu Falls in Argentina and then on to the Amazon. Seeing animals in the Amazon is a crap shoot, but giant trees are hard to miss. We’ll find out if aliens sweat walking through the steamy jungle too.
I don’t know if you’ve been keeping track, but, in spite of all that we’ve missed, we’re almost out of time. Time for just one last hike through the Grand Canyon. The world offers many canyons, but the Grand Canyon is not only large, but colorful too. Plus, we’re not so far from Mexico that we can’t grab a quality bite of one more world-food.
Chuck can make it back to New York and maybe catch a glimpse of Manhattan before loading his shuttle and returning to his galaxy. Hopefully he’ll have just as much trouble as I would figuring out which pictures to put on his Facebook wall.
So, what I am hoping is you’ll let me know where you would take Chuck. Seven days, what do you think he would see? Cities, natural wonders? Even more time in places, or more places? How do you represent the sites of an entire planet in one week? Please let us know in the comments!