Travel has always been one of my passions, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen a lot of the world. Of course, like many people, I still have a bucket list of destinations I haven’t yet visited—a list far longer than seven items!
At the same time, certain places call me back. In some cases, I didn’t get enough time to fully experience the location. In other cases, I’m so deeply in love with the place that, even though I’ve been there many times, I want to return.
You might not be surprised to learn that quite a few of these places have found their way into my stories. I guess what’s surprising is that I haven’t used all of them for settings. At least not yet!
Prague is the atmospheric, history-steeped capitol of the Czech Republic. With its massive castle overlooking the Voltava River, cobbled town squares and centuries-old bridges, magnificent cathedrals and narrow alleys, the city whisks you back in time. Meanwhile, it’s also a mecca for art, both traditional and avant garde, and music, especially classical. I only visited for a few days, decades ago, but during that period I went to two concerts (Vivaldi and Monteverdi) plus saw a performance of Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte”, in the same elaborately decorated opera house where it was performed more than two hundred years ago.
The city left an indelible impression on my imagination. My first published short story (“Glass House”) is set there, as is my paranormal tale “Prey”. Somehow I’ve never made it back. But I will.
My very first overseas travel experience included a week-long bus tour of Morocco, as part of a longer trip to Spain. This was right after I graduated from university. Alas, the exoticism of the country was a bit wasted on me. Not that I didn’t appreciate the sights and the culture, but I found everything on that trip amazing and new.
In Marrakesh, my traveling companion and I explored the markets in the old souks and went to a night club featuring a belly dancing floor show. I remember the thrill of using my high school French to communicate with another customer sitting next to me. I really was in a foreign country!
Morocco hasn’t yet shown up in any of my books. I need to go back and refresh my memories.
3. Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand
Railay is a peninsula on the western Andaman Sea coast of Thailand. Cut off from the mainland by craggy hills, Railay feels like an island. It is accessible only by boat.
I’ve seen many astoundingly beautiful places in my life. Railay has to be one of the most exquisite. The deep turquoise ocean nestles in the embrace of soaring limestone capes. Verdant palms shade the white sand. With only a dozen or so resorts and guesthouses, the peninsula is rarely crowded, though its precipitous cliffs make it one of the top rock climbing destinations in Southeast Asia.
I’ve visited Railay twice, once just for the day, once for a weekend. Since then I’ve recommended it to everyone who wants to see the best beach in Thailand. I know I’ll go back before too long.
4. Gloucester, Massachusetts
Although I now live in Asia, I spent much of my life in lovely, blustery New England. The old fishing port of Gloucester, on Cape Ann north of Boston, is one of my favorite New England destinations. For years my husband and I had a tradition of spending our mid-June wedding anniversary there, in a motel with an ocean view. Hence I strongly associate Gloucester with romance.
The geography of the city is delightfully complex, with several harbors and beaches that have very different atmospheres. Two hundred years ago, Gloucester Harbor sheltered the clipper ships returning from the Far East, full of treasures. Museums in the town bring that history to life. Gloucester also offers amazing seafood, as well as art galleries, book stores, and the chance to go whale watching.
If you’d like to get a sense for the place, pick up a copy of my lesbian paranormal romance, The Witches of Gloucester. Any reader will immediately grasp how much I love the place.
5. Bruges, Belgium
Photo by Hans Hillewaert, Wikipedia
My husband and I spent one magic night in Bruges, a city frozen in time. Starting from the 12th century, Bruges was an important commercial center for all of Europe. Canals crisscross the historic central city, lined with warehouses and the homes of wealthy merchants. Wonderfully preserved medieval buildings surround the market square, where traders used to set up their stalls.
At night, the ancient buildings are illuminated, giving the whole place a fairy tale atmosphere. I remember the sight left me breathless. We left on an early morning train, without much time for exploring. I’ve wanted to return ever since.
6. San Francisco
I’ve never lived in San Francisco, but I’ve probably set more of my tales there than anywhere else, including my BDSM romance Her Secret Ingredient and my dystopic MM sci fi novel Quarantine. Many important events in my personal life unfolded in the City by the Bay. I can’t think of the place without a sense of excitement.
The gaily-painted Victorian houses—the artsy cafes of Noe Valley—the sweeping grandeur of the Golden Gate Bridge—the view from Twin Peaks—San Francisco would be a gorgeous place even without the emotional overtones. I haven’t been there for more than five years, but the place lives in my memory. I know I will go back.
I just returned from my first visit to Shanghai. I loved it. As is often the case when I travel on business, my time there was limited to a mere two days. I used that time mostly to walk around, exploring the crowded residential warrens that somehow have survived urban renewal; admiring the art deco department stores and villas, relics from the period when the city was the gateway for Europeans to encounter the Middle Kingdom; marveling at the gleaming skyscrapers that dominate modern Shanghai.
I didn’t have the time to visit any of the museums, or wander through the French Concession quarter, or take a lightning fast elevator to the observation deck on the tallest building in Asia.
Meanwhile I’m wondering whether I have enough of a sense of the city, from this short but intense visit, to set the next book of my Asian Adventures series there.
And speaking of Asian Adventures, you could win your choice of books one through four from this series. Just leave me a comment, with your email, telling me about one place like to revisit.