I like the house in which I grew up, it's big and lived in and sits in the middle of nowhere. It was an exceptional area to grow up in and acts as an equally fantastic retreat now when I want to hide from the pressures of university. Like I said, I like it, it is irreplaceable and largely unchanging. It is somewhere which you can retreat to and rely on, but it is not the stand out pinnacle, rather the comfortable background about it.
It can look like this at winter...
As for the beautiful I can think of a plethora of places. The stand out I think is Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, and I'm not identifying any particular part of it because it is all absolutely beautiful! It really is. It's seven hundred square miles of pretty. Seven hundred square miles of hills, lochs, forest and vistas that kick Bob Ross in the lemons! I challenge anyone to go and not be in some way stirred, stimulated, moved or impressed. The general idea I am trying to convey here is its aesthetic pleasingness. Even Wilde, were he alive, would bestow it with, at the very least, a nod of appreciation, and then probably go back to being persecuted for being one of those gays.
Hills, lochs, clouds, general prettiness.
As for happy memories and successful deeds it's all going to be rugby based I'm afraid. Perhaps, Stirling Rugby club where in the shadow of the Wallace monument we clinched a last minute semi final win and with it a visit to Murrayfield. Or perhaps even Murrayfield itself. Not quite as pictureque but my god stadia are strikingly large when you look at them from within (To quote Mr Fry, 'ooh biggly big,' and it was indeed big of a big variety!). That stadium will forever have connotations of contributing to the big dub-yah, touching the ball down over the whitewash (twice!), a feeling that I'm still chasing today. Damn good good damn damn good good damn good damn good places the both of them, but a touch on the egotistical, localised side for it to be my favourite place ever.
It was a little sunnier and happier when I was there...
So preamble aside, where is my favourite place in the world so far. Well for a proper explanation we go back to 2007 and to Peru. More specifically at three thousand meters up in some mountains just outside of Cusco. We'd just set off on the third day of a three day trek after spending day two waiting for some folk with AMS to get better (they didn't and they wobbled off down the hill and were fine again). So off we went happily walking along in the sun and the fairly chilly wind when a couple of snowflakes started to fall. Now as an aside I'm not a superstitious person, but to this day I still feel mildly responsible for what came next as I had the bad judgement to claim, with a complete deficit of meteorological training, that, 'It'll never lie.' With the scene setting I did before you may be able to guess what came next. If you said a massive blizzard, you would be correct. Think about a blizzard, now make it bigger. Yeah that size of blizzard! The size of a blizzard created when nature gets wind of your presumptions on its permanence. What was a couple of miles of crisp viewing distance turned into a few feet and blurry figures and what was just chilly turned into an ice bath in space.
One iota of relief came from the music I had on, for you just had to laugh when you heard the Chili's lyric, 'What a good day for a walk outside.' In the circumstances I concluded on the thought that, no Chilis, today was not a good day for a walk outside. Jane Eyre thought a bit of drizzle was a bad day for a walk outside, think about what she would have made from blizzards!
Views that would make Byron cry!
So through the white tube we walked, I'm sure the non-blinded views would have been marvellous but we could see absolutely nada. But when we came out the other side it was worth the wait. Dayum! It was worth the wait. Lakes like glass lay everywhere. Cheesy and cliched it may be but these were liquid mirrors. You had one stunning mountain above you and one falling away beneath you. It hung in the middle of infinite skies. They were views that made the blizzard mentally melt away (see what I did there?).
Here we begin to come down on paths that meander away from you through the mountains. Every step makes the next a little easier, headaches begin to fade, you can talk to the people that have suddenly appeared to beside you and talk about the landscape that has materialised around you. It's a wonderful feeling, I would recommend anyone run around at altitude with a bag on their head just so they can appreciate the air and the world when they come back down! My one criticism is similar to how I feel about Loch Lomond in Scotland, if it is all stunningly beautiful then there are no stand out features. Everything is beautiful, buteverything is beautiful! I get the feeling that this might be one of the criticisms you could slide into the, 'First World Problems,' pigeon hole, because, on reflection I think I may be complaining about things being aesthetically pleasing...OK, I shall make a mental note to stop this.
Back to the story, down and down we go past waterfalls, little tiny villages, the odd bit of wildlife and a small child sitting completely alone on the side of a hill selling scarves. Very pictureque! (A picture of it might actually work well here, I shall try and find one). Eventually the hills trailed off and the snow fades away and we end up in Lares! Ah, Lares... It's a touch ramshackly and delapidated but it looks old and authentic and more importantly it actually feels authentic. There's a distinct lack of young children pestering you to pay for photos with baby lamas or leafleters handing out 'massage' adverts. After experiencing this onslaught of tourist manipulation in Cusco, Lares was conspicuous precisely through certain absences. I was in love.
Oh, and there was hot springs. Did I not mention the hot springs? The pools, loads of them, maybe ten or twenty, were all filled with mineral waters that, while it didn't do wonders for the colour, was apparently good for you for reasons of pseudo-science. And they were hot, a searing, almost painful hot. An awesome heat that at once refreshes and exsiccates. But they were wonderful. The sort of wonder you only realise and appreciate when you spend eight hours a day walking at altitude through a blizzard. It made it worth it! It was a big warm hug that congratulated you for scrambling over a few thousand meters of mountain range. Don't get me wrong, I know it didn't objectively mean anything, it wasn't a race, we weren't exploring anything, but the sense of personal achievement was palpable in a way I don't often experience. It was the stupid sort of sensationalised meaning that you only find in fiction but to me it was real. It was a place that became a figurehead for all the time I spent in Peru. A figurehead for one of, if not, the most enjoyable months in my life.