I have difficulty naming a favourite place. While I know the choice doesn’t depend upon having seen the entire world, I am nonetheless aware of having confined my voyages to North America and Europe (and a bit of what is in between, including the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and two voyages by sea across the Atlantic Ocean). I say this not with remorse but rather as acknowledgement of the divine views which I have no doubt are otherwise attainable. We have friends living in New Zealand who have invited us to visit. There is little in my mind more exotic than the South Pacific. But it is not likely to happen. Of greater likelihood – and of equal attraction – is a return jaunt to Sardegna where I have already frequented the north and south parts of the island. It has for me the allure of being remote (or perhaps I should say infrequent). There is as well – at least on the south coast – a Bohemian character which I like. Plus there is something staid about lingering in the airport in Rome just long enough to leave!
Equating a favourite place with views is but one option. Certainly Paris with its architecture is another. And New York City for its museums competes favourably. Whatever the magnetism it is probable that each fulfills a particular need or yearning, appetites which when once replete are no longer as dynamic. Eclipsing for a moment the visceral draw of travel – its inevitable assurance of promise and anticipation – the unenterprising nature of cottage or home territory is both comforting and irresistible.
Having a place which qualifies as home doesn’t however necessarily mean it succeeds to a favourite place. My digs at Domus Legis on Seymour Street, Halifax in my first year of law school for example illustrate my point. Below is a photo of the place being torn down. My room (which I shared with George Horan – now an artist whose superb work is also shown) was located on the top floor at the right, the one being demolished! There were slanted ceilings – which we cleverly accommodated by putting the head of our respective beds against the walls at the junction of which the slants were most perilous. There was a single bathroom on the floor, used as well by the other two residents (also law students) who had the single rooms. There was one kitchen with one table and two chairs. The kitchen was in a state of perpetual clutter. I don’t recall ever having actively cleaned anything in the entirety – other than “putting things away”. A Saturday night luxury was sitting in the kitchen sipping a cup of coffee, smoking a cigarette, staring out the window (upon which the rain so frequently fell). The ground floor was used primarily on Friday afternoons for the congregation of law students enjoying a drink of ale. The basement was a dungeon occasionally used for heavy drinking and darts. In all it was what my mother summarized upon seeing it a “rat trap” though in fact we had more rats at another place I subsequently lived on Spring Garden Road owned by the nuns.
I achieved a more ideal domestic culture in Almonte years later. My recollection then was sitting in my leather chair, sipping a martini, reading Jane Austen and watching the shimmer of flames in the Vermont Casting echoing across the recovered pine hardwood floors.
The brilliance and soothing nature of such household toxins do not always overcome the advantage of sea air and late afternoon heat. Our progressive stints southward along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean on the various barrier islands (Hilton Head Island, Anna Maria Island, St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island) afforded us memorable occasions too magnificent to repeat with any justice. Our latest focus is the Florida Keys beginning with Key Largo. We’ve already spent unforgettable days in Key West, just lingering, predominantly estranged from the madness on Duval Street. We come to this from Longboat Key (another barrier island) on the Gulf of Mexico. As one might expect of long-term vacation the venues are residential, not for interlopers. This means the avoidance of crowds and urbanity generally, not customarily the most popular prescription for travel. We have always preferred having our own automobile which similarly proscribes the convenient places to stay for six months. We acknowledge the day may come when long-distance travel by car is no longer desirable but by then we’ll likely be too entrenched to change resorts and we’ll simply go there by air (if at all).
It is an odd characteristic of our current habitation – whether at home in Canada or abroad – that we as equally confine or restrict our social acquaintances. Jumping back and forth between residences is admittedly not the easiest way to keep in touch with people who themselves are in many instances perpetually on the go. My erstwhile physician and long-time friend for example is only rooted at his country seat because of the COVID pandemic. His daughter, her husband and their new-born daughter live in Australia; and he frequently visits former friends in South Africa. All that is temporarily on hold, including to a degree anyway his property ownerships in Florida. Ask him what is his favourite place!
Not to defile the adage, “Home is where the heart is”, as an historic vagabond by some measure I perhaps flatter myself to say that I can be happiest wherever I am. Certainly it is the people with whom one associates who make all the difference in the end.
Home is where the heart is
And my heart is anywhere you are
Anywhere you are is home
I don’t need a mansion on a hill
That overlooks the sea
Anywhere you’re with me is home
Maybe I’m a rolling stone
Who won’t amount to much
But everything that I hold dear
Is close enough to touch
For home is where the heart is
And my heart is anywhere you are
Anywhere you are is home
Home, home, home, home
Songwriters: Sherman Edwards / Hal David
Home Is Where the Heart Is lyrics © Gladys Music, Casa David Music