Editors' Wow Moments

The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort.
The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort. Photo by Courtesy St. Regis
“Wow” travel moments come in all forms, from “awestruck on the Serengeti” to “speechless over a Parisian pastry.” What sticks with us from our travels is just as likely to be a small, singular event as a grandiose one. We’ve collected some of our editors favorite travel memories to inspire you.

Float On: A South Pacific Session

I try to picture French Polynesia’s original overwater bungalows as I roll up to mine in a golf cart at the 90-room St. Regis Bora Bora Resort. Fifty years ago, the Bali Hai Boys (a trio of Californian transplants) “invented” the first ones at a hotel on nearby Raiatea Island. Inspired by local fishing huts, they built simple structures to give guests easier access to the lagoon, though “simple” isn’t the word I’d use to describe my 1,550-square-foot overwater villa, which has a dining gazebo, an Italian marble bathroom, and indoor and outdoor showers. But the second I step onto the deck and see the jewel-toned water gleaming below, I realize that, while some things may have changed, the feeling this experience elicits probably hasn’t. I’m in a remote corner of the world, gazing out at a panorama that epitomizes a “Wish You Were Here” postcard, and for now, this slice of it is mine. I tell my butler I wish I had a pool float, and he returns an hour later with an inner tube and a rope, which he ties to the ladder so I won’t worry about drifting too far. I bob silently in the South Pacific and watch the sun slip behind Mount Otemanu, knowing that floating will never be the same again.  – Amy Cassell, associate editor

 

Arches National Park.
Arches National Park. Photo by Stan Moniz Photography/Tandemstock

Wings Over Arches: Southwest Exploration

“Edward Abbey kept his trailer here when he was a park ranger,” Andy Damman, Montage Resorts’ director of recreation, tells us, as we gaze at Arches National Park’s Balanced Rock. While passing dishes around the linen-covered picnic table, he rattles off stats on the precariously perched rock and nearby formations. To see who’s paying attention, he eases into an aside about how the park service saved the gravity-defying hoodoo with Gorilla Glue (not true). It’s a snapshot of what makes the exclusive hiking and mountain-biking day trips he leads from the 220-room Montage Deer Valley so compelling: great service, deep knowledge of a treasured landscape, and the ability to find fun behind every boulder.

A few hours earlier, our group woke up in Park City’s tonier sibling, Deer Valley, a four- to five-hour drive southeast. But instead of driving, we boarded a chartered jet for a 45-minute hop across the Wasatch and Uinta mountains on a flight plan customized for the best viewing of the Book Cliffs and San Rafael Swell. By noon, we’ve hiked through Arches’ mile-long Park Avenue formation and knocked off the three-mile loop to Delicate Arch. Now we’re spooning up gazpacho with fresh mint and passing around salads prepared by resort chefs. A couple of nearby picnickers manhandle cling-wrapped deli sandwiches and comment enviously that we’re doing things right – a “wow” moment if ever I’ve seen one, written on somebody else’s sun-reddened face. They don’t know the half of it. Next up: Windows and Double arches, before Damman makes the call in the near 100-degree heat to light out for a gelato shop in Moab and a dip in a swimming hole none of us would ever find on our own. In true day-in-the-wild style, a cooler of iced-down longnecks greets us on the private jet home.  – Justin Paul, senior editor

Travel in good taste in Paris.
Travel in good taste in Paris. Photo by Victor Kiev/Shutterstock

My First Baguette: French Discovery

My first trip abroad was with my high-school French class. It kicked off with a family stay in Nantes, where politeness compelled me to eat every dish put in front of me (“We made you frog legs because Americans think that’s what we eat every day!”). The revelations stacked up with my clean plates. I do like fish after all! CafĂ© au lait tastes better when you drink it out of a bowl! There’s a whole course just for cheese! But more than anything I remember the baguettes – always fresh that day – plunked on the table and passed around for all to tear hunks from. It blew my mind that flour, water, yeast, and heat could yield something so perfect. To this day, I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted anything better than the baguettes – OK, and croissants – I discovered on that trip. But I’m still out there looking for it.  – Marika Cain, managing editor

Grand Canyon vista.
Grand Canyon vista. Photo by Matteo Colombo/Getty Images

Don’t Fence Me In: Grand Canyon Adventure

My first thought upon seeing the Grand Canyon: “Wow.” My second: “I can’t believe there aren’t more guardrails.” As a twenty-first-century mother accustomed to governmental rules and regulations to protect us from ourselves, I don’t know what I expected – railings around the entire 277-mile rim and down the trails to the base a mile below? I nervously watched my teenaged kids snap selfies atop rocks jutting out over the ledge, praying that my lanky son wouldn’t trip or that my preening daughter wouldn’t veer too close to the edge trying to find the perfect shot. 

We were embarking on a four-hour guided excursion below the South Rim, arranged by Virtuoso’s on-site connection National Parks Revealed. Most of the park’s nearly 6 million annual visitors only take in the vantage from above, but the ten percent who venture below immerse themselves in a billion years of history. As we trekked the moderately challenging path, our guide engaged the kids with an educational “Who can find it first?” scavenger hunt, dropping fascinating archaeological and geological clues along the way. After our climb back to the top, we headed to a historic lodge right on the rim for a surprising gourmet lunch (salmon with green chile pesto; salad with goat cheese, berries, and pine nuts; addictive cheddar corn muffins), relaxing our tired legs and recalling the hike’s highlights. My family will forever remember our day exploring this natural wonder – and I’m glad fences didn’t block the view.  – Elaine Srnka, vice president and editorial director

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