Personal Journeys


October 24, 2004|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

A happy birthday trip to Antarctica

By Ellen Johnson


When I was in sixth grade, my teacher read aloud each week from Richard Halliburton's Complete Book of Marvels -- a great book, which described many of the wonders of the world and Halliburton's adventures seeing them.

This inspired a schoolgirl's imagination.

Ever since that time, I've wanted to see the world. As a single woman, I carefully planned my trips a couple of years in advance. When people asked me what my hobby was, I replied, "Planning my next vacation."

When I turned 45, I started thinking about the BIG birthday that would happen in five more years, and I decided that my celebratory adventure would be to Antarctica. A separate Antarctica savings fund was started, and I announced to friends and family that this was my goal.

Three years later, I met my husband-to-be, Roger, on a trip to China. At the time, I lived in California and Roger lived in Maryland. When we were courting, we made a deal: If I would visit him in Maryland, he would travel with me to Antarctica. Well, we got engaged and married the next year, just before the BIG birthday was to happen.

And sure enough, right on schedule, we booked our trip to the "Last Continent." I got to see Antarctica in all its magnificence. It's such an amazing place to visit that words can't do the experience justice, so I'm thrilled that our (1,000!) photographs captured a bit of it.

We have more than a few pictures that show us standing on the continent with some cute penguins in the background.

We loved seeing the natural beauty of the land and the Southern Ocean. Viewing icebergs up close -- seeing their enormity, curious shapes and myriad shades of blue -- from a Zodiac raft was amazing. And seeing penguins, whales and sea birds flourish, not just survive, in this harsh environment was humbling.

Aboard our ship, we learned so much from the historian, ornithologist and marine mammalogist, who gave lectures.

While Antarctica had not been a destination my husband would have chosen, he now includes it at the top of his list of recommended places for others to visit.

I got to celebrate my 50th birthday before we came home. What a fantastic birthday -- not only to see Antarctica, as I had long dreamed about, but to be able to share it with the love of my life.

Ellen Johnson lives in Greenbelt.

My Best Shot

Laurette Poulos Simmons,


Cyclades landscape

My husband, LeRoy, wanted to revisit the archaeological digs of Akrotiri on Thira for his 60th birthday, so we returned to that magical Greek island. We stayed in the same hotel where we had stayed more than 20 years ago -- Iliovasilema, which means sunset -- and the view is as beautiful as ever.

Readers Recommend


George S. Brown, Glen Arm

When you visit the cathedral of Notre Dame, don't limit yourself to its spectacular interior beauty. Make the climb of hundreds of spiral steps to the tower top for an eyeball-to-eyeball view of the gargoyles and a breathtaking panoramic view of the City of Lights as seen by Victor Hugo's Prince of Fools, Quasimodo.

Puerto Rico

Thelma Repp, Bel Air

My husband, Lowell, and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in June with a Caribbean cruise. In the El Yunque rain forest, where the average yearly rainfall is 120 inches, we climbed a 99-step tower. The view was worth the climb.

Let Us Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

A Memorable Place -- In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you, about the nostalgia a certain place evokes, about a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. Include a photo. (Cash value: $150.)

n Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

Because of the volume of responses, photos and manuscripts cannot be individually acknowledged or returned. Submissions from all categories may be used for Readers Recommend, and upon submission become the property of The Sun.

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