Place: Napa Valley
My perspective: Coming from Virginia, I thought wine country would be scenic. Traffic, pollution and industrial equipment are not pretty. We grow grapes in Virginia's valleys as well. It's nice for a day trip. Napa was not. Next time I go west, I'll be hanging at the beach in Solana or Del Mar. Now that's what I call California.
Suggested alternative: Solana/Del Mar
Place: Key West, Fla.
Last visited: March
My perspective: We went to Key West to get married. We pictured a tropical getaway and got a tacky nightmare. Maybe the fact that we came over from Britain gave us a slightly different perspective on the place. Maybe it's because it was spring break. But then again, I'm not old, only 29. Do those revelers really need to completely spoil a place in spite of everyone else there?
Place: Las Vegas
Last visited: 1998
My perspective: Christmas in Las Vegas? It sounded like fun.
My husband and I, longtime New Yorkers and recent transplants to Los Angeles, had never been to Vegas, so when his brother suggested a five-day jaunt over the holidays, we said yes. Of course, I have no one but myself to blame. OK, I blame my brother-in-law and spouse and the rest of the world that actually likes Las Vegas. Entering the lobby of our hotel, I found myself in the teeming, noisy equivalent of the New York City subway at rush hour. Instead of the well-dressed, louche, intrepid gamblers of fiction, there were hordes of Bermuda shorts-clad, overweight, pasty, glazed-eyed folk. The strobe-like lights and general cacophony were not helped by the garish and/or sentimental holiday decorations and elevator-inspired Christmas music. Our room, on the fifth floor of what was an allegedly luxury hotel, faced the parking lot in the back. After persuading my brother-in-law to swap rooms, as his had the view, we ventured down to the lobby again to explore. That was when I discovered I hated gambling. My husband, who was trying to juggle an unhappy wife, a well-meaning but irritated brother and his own, understandable, wish to ditch both of us, set off to flush a few hundred dollars down the toilet at the blackjack table. I retreated to our room, wondering what I was going to do for the next five days. All the good shows, we discovered, were sold out or required the equivalent of a mortgage payment. I resolved to be resourceful; I would not let Las Vegas ruin my Las Vegas vacation. I forced my husband to drive out to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area with me. Although this was scenic, the tensions between us escalated. As soon as we returned to the hotel, he fled to the casino and I hunkered down in the room watching cable. On the third day, I found a stable somewhere on the outskirts of the city and went horseback riding. On Day 4, my husband reaped the consequences of the Endless Buffet. On Day 5, we returned to L.A. I have never returned to Las Vegas. The words "cold day in hell" come to mind.
Place: Grand Canyon National Park
Last visited: 2006