Discover the World’s Best Places for Women
“An amazing feat…Griest manages to impart the essence of some of the world’s most remarkable places. Reading the book is like catching the colors of a tropical sunset, a whiff of an almost tree in bloom, a hint of a melody from a late night jazz bar.”
—Elizabeth Lesser, cofounder of Omega Institute and author of Broken Open
Seeking the tranquility of a Buddhist meditation center? The raucousness of a rumba club?100 Places Every Woman Should Go will not only inspire but compel you to hit the road—in a group, with a friend, or solo. Divided into sections such as “Powerful Women and Their Places in History,” “Places of Indulgence,” and “Places of Adventure,” this guidebook includes contact information, resources, and recommended reading. Its “Ten Tips For Wandering Women” features safety advice and pointers on how to stop departing airplanes and avoid getting tossed off Trans-Siberian trains.
Find the world’s best places to:
- Commune with the spirits of heroines past from Mexico to Egypt
- Race a pony across the Mongolian steppes
- Dive for pearls in Bahrain
- Take a mud bath in a Colombian volcano
- Dance with Voodoo priestesses in West Africa
- Whirl with dervishes in Istanbul
- Devour chocolates in Brussels
- Learn to surf in Costa Rica
- Drink Champagne at its source in France…and much more
by Holly Morris
Time disappeared when I spun the globe and dropped my young finger on a hunk of foreign land—a pink continent, a green island, a republic or a highland or a range. The italics, thebold, the ragged coastlines, the vast teal-blue oceans: to me, it all added up to potential. In some nascent way, even then I understood that seeing the world would be among life’s sweetest nectars.
And now, with a good bit of road dust under my nails, and a keener than ever sense of years flying by, traveling with a reason (rather than the way of the peripatetic) seems more important than ever. But Where? And Why?
It’s a wide, wide, wide, daunting and thrilling world out there, and we could all use a bit of direction. Sure, there are stacks of guidebooks that offer ample information about bus fares, hotels, and arcane history—the kind of stuff that flies out of your mind the minute you find yourself dancing on a sturdy Greek table, or watching an offering glide down the holy Ganges, or gazing across Cambodia’s killing fields.
We ladies could use a book that limns the world in a way that makes sense for us; a book that encourages us to lead with our inspirations and chase down their manifestations around the globe. 100 Places Every Woman Should Go does just that. This is the brain trust of an intrepid traveler who lashed on her estro-lens, filled a few passports, and is now handing over all the juicy liner notes so others can engage the world in a similarly spirited, pro-woman way.
There are lots of good reasons to travel far, near, and widely. Sometimes we simply need to escape the numbing demands of the work-a-day grind; sometimes we’ve lost our way and need the life-altering clarity one can achieve from leaping outside the comfort zone; sometimes we hope to connect with our contemporaries around the globe who face challenges similar and different from our own: poverty, land mines, spiritual angst, potty training. Sometimes we simply need to remember that there’s a two-steppin’ cowgirl within each of us—and that she could use a top-notch massage now and then.
This practical paean serves as a fresh reminder that every trip can be a votive journey of sorts. Reading it sparked memories of my own long-delayed pilgrimages: that intriguing Virgin festival in a tiny nook of South America that I’ve been meaning to get to—for a decade; the magical Hindu temple in Kerala that has long beckoned; the sites of my own matrilineal roots.
100 Places Every Woman Should Go touches on all the best reasons to travel, and delivers a hot list of destinations that is sure to enliven the Where and Why of your next adventure. Onward!
Holly Morris is executive producer/writer/host of the award-winning PBS series Adventure Divas and is the author of Adventure Divas: Searching the Globe for Women Who Are Changing the World.
by Stephanie Elizondo Griest
Wanderlust pumps through my veins: I’ve explored two dozen countries and all but four of the United States in the past decade, and ache for more. Every place is glorious in its own special way, but now and then, I stumble upon somewhere sacred. It usually takes a moment to recover, and when I do, I scan the room (or wilderness) for a pair of eyes to share it with. No matter where I am-downtown Manhattan or the Mongolian steppe-it is inevitably in the eyes of another woman that I find a similar spark or sense of wonderment. Afterward, I can only describe the place as one where “every woman should go.”
When Travelers’ Tales approached me with this project, memories of these places surged forth. I scribbled down half the list in half an hour, then started calling my girlfriends (and a few select boy friends). Nearly one hundred interviews later, this book was born. Within its covers, you’ll discover places where women made history, where we battled for our rights to rule, to speak, to vote, to be free. You’ll find places of inspiration and enlightenment, such as the 88 Sacred Temples of Japan, and places of purification and beautification, such as the mud bath volcanoes of Cartagena, Colombia. Looking for a little adventure? There’s surfing in Costa Rica, mountain trekking in Pakistan, canyoneering in Utah, pearl diving in Bahrain. Or do you just want to indulge? Choose between white-sand beaches in Zanzibar, champagne tours in France, and chicken tamales drowned in black mole sauce in Oaxaca. For every site of struggle on this planet (Rwanda, Beirut, Cambodia, New Orleans) there is a site of celebration (rumba clubs, full moon haflas, flamenco festivals, Carnivale).
In short, this book documents places where being a woman is affirmed and confirmed; where you will be energized and impassioned.
Perhaps you are wondering: does this mean there will be no men? Not a chance: in some locales—Rio de Janeiro, Havana, Bali-they are a main attraction! But we all know how catcalls from street corners and wandering hands in crowded subways can tarnish an otherwise fabulous trip. So pains were taken to include places populated by men who are at least somewhat respectful to foreign women. Of course, not all women are similarly received on the open road. A Bulgarian friend of mine, who has dark Mediterranean features, strolled across southern Italy without incident, while a busty blonde American friend got harassed at every turn. Our perceived race, class, religion, and sexual orientation can have just as much-or more-impact abroad as at home.
Another initial goal was to choose only places where local women, indigenous people, and the environment are treated with kindness, but it was nearly impossible to find 100 of them: inequities are too omnipresent. Instead, I tried to highlight the work of local community activists so that if you, like me, feel guilty downing a glass of Chardonnay in Napa Valley while undocumented farm workers are hunched over in the sun, you know where to volunteer or send a check afterward.
These destinations can be visited with your girlfriends, your mother, your daughter, or your partner. But hopefully you’ll someday travel to at least one alone, to take on Mother Road on your own terms and experience what she has to offer. Be forewarned that she will push you to your physical, spiritual, and psychological limits—then nudge you a few steps further. But at the end of the journey, you’ll be more self-reliant and self-assured, and ever more the woman.
May your travels take you far and wide!
Introduction by Holly Morris
Preface by Stephanie Elizondo Griest
Ten Tips for Wandering Women
Powerful Women and Their Places in History
1. Madonna Sightings Around the World
2. Egypt: Hatshepsut and Saint Catherine
3. Lesbos, Greece: Sappho
4. Llanddwyn Island, Wales: Saint Dwynwen
5. Rouen, France: Joan of Arc
6. County Mayo, Ireland: Grace O’Malley
7. Salem, Massachusetts: Witches of Salem
8. St. Petersburg, Russia: Catherine the Great
9. Upstate New York: New York Women
10. Coyoacan, Mexico: Frida Kahlo
11. Savannah, Georgia: The Lady Ghosts
12. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Evita and the Mothers of the Disappeared
13. Washington, D.C.: National Shrines to Women
14. Famous Women Writers and Their Creative Nooks
15. Women’s Bookstores in the USA
Places of Adventure
17. Africa Game Parks
18. Surfing Sites
19. Abseiling and Canyoneering Sites
20. The Amazon Basin
21. Mountain Trekking Sites
22. Victoria Falls
23. Places to Swim with Sea Creatures
24. Pearl Diving Sites
25. Best Bungee Jumping Locales
Places of Purification and Beautification
27. Russia: The Banya
28. Destinations for Holistic Spa Treatments
29. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: The Brazilian Bikini Wax
30. Japan: The Onsen and Sento
31. Free Body Culture Sites
32. Lago Atitlán, Guatemala
Places of Indulgence
33. Amsterdam, Netherlands
34. Champagne, France
35. Best Bazaars and Boutiques
36. Famed Chocolate Sites
37. C˘esk´y Krumlov, The Czech Republic
38. Eminent Ice Cream Parlors
39. Culinary Class Destinations
40. Zanzibar, Tanzania
41. Sexiest Lingerie Shops
Places of Celebration and Womanly Affirmation
42. Belly Dancing Sites
43. Museum of Menstruation
44. Brazil: Candomblé and the Sisterhood of Good Death
45. Havana, Cuba
46. Places to Dance the Tango and the Texas Two-Step
47. Florence, Italy
48. Andalucía, Spain: The Art of Flamenco
49. Women’s Gatherings in the USA
Places of Struggle and Renewal
50. New Orleans, Louisiana
51. Vieques, Puerto Rico
55. Cartagena, Colombia
56. Beirut, Lebanon
57. Places That Cannot Be Forgotten
Places of Inspiration and Enlightenment
58. Mount Kailash, Tibet
59. Sacred Native Spaces
61. Whale Watching Destinations
62. Buddhist Retreats
63. Australia: The Outback
64. Varanasi, India: The Holy Ganges
65. Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Israel
66. Japan: The 88 Sacred Temples
67. New Zealand: The Maori
68. Istanbul, Turkey: Whirling Dervishes
69. Hawai’i: Island Goddesses
70. Esfaha_n, Iran
71. Places to Pet Fuzzy Animals
72. Luang Prabang, Laos
73. Bountiful Gardens
74. Kraków, Poland
75. Famed Opera Houses
77. Ubud, Bali
78. Classic Castles
80. Dubrovnik, Croatia
81. Best Places to Spot a Mermaid
82. Samarkand, Uzbekistan
83. Famed Teahouses
84. Sites Worth the Hype
Best All ’Round Places
85. San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
86. Kerala, India
88. Austin, Texas
89. Berlin, Germany
97. Chengdu, China
99. New York City, New York
Sample Chapter 27: Russia—The Banya
The banya is a Slavic Eden: a steamy, womb-like place where you take off all your clothes and snack on caviar and smoked herring. Russian babushki, or grandmothers, swear that frequenting these steam baths can tack years onto your life.
Try landing an invitation to your Russian friends’ dacha, or countryside cottage. Many families build banya in their backyards, and they will likely join you inside, along with the requisite bottle of vodka (or two). That failing, visit a public banya. In Moscow, try Krasnopresnensky on Stolyarny Pereulok 7, near the Ulitsa 1905 Goda Metro, or the nineteenth century Sandunovskiye Bani on Neglinnaya Ulitsa 14. In St. Petersburg, there’s the Mitninskaya Banya at Ulitsa Mitninskaya 17/19 near the Metro Ploshad’ Vosstaniya, or Kazachie Bani on Bolshoy Kazachy Pereulok 11 near the Metro Pushkinskaya. Public baths are usually gender-segregated.
At the front desk, pay the fee and proceed to the changing room. Mischievous spirits called bannik are said to bewitch any clothing worn inside a banya, so strip all the way. Wrap up in a towel, slip on some flip-flops, and continue on to the showers for a rinse before entering the steam room, a wooden construction with a large furnace stove at one end. (Sometimes fragrances like pine oil, eucalyptus, or beer are added.) Spread your towel onto a wooden plank (the higher, the hotter) and observe the cultural phenomenon around you. Nothing wipes out class lines like nudity: Russian women of every income level will be perched upon those bleachers, massaging salt into each other’s pores, swapping beauty secrets, and gossiping.
At some point, an attendant will lug in buckets full of birch and juniper soaked in water. Grab a branch and, starting with your feet, slap it against the full expanse of your body. This ritual is said to “bring the blood to the surface.” Babushki will happily assist with any hard-to-reach places; just return the favor afterward. When the heat becomes unbearable, proceed to the pool room and jump in immediately. (Some are kept as frigid as 42 degrees; if you stick a toe in first, you might lose your nerve.) Get out before hypothermia kicks in and return to the steam room. Repeat as many times as you can: your skin will positively glow afterward. S lyogkim parom, may the steam be with you!
Sample Chapter 30: Japan—The Onsen and Sento
Worry not when the controlled chaos of Japan takes its toll. There are two marvelous antidotes, both of which entail stripping down to nothing and roasting in a tub: the onsen and the sento.
First, the onsen. Because Japan stretches across active volcano fault lines, many of its springs are naturally heated and rich in minerals. Japanese have enjoyed taking kamiyu, or divine baths, in these healing waters since ancient times, and families, friends, and colleagues still spend long weekends in the countryside together, sipping cold sake in steamy onsen. The significance of this activity cannot be overstated: the onsen is one of the few public spaces in which Japanese diverge from their carefully heeded social formalities. Here they can truly speak their mind—and do they!
Many onsen feature several baths, each offering a different temperature or mineral composition (and thus, different healing properties). Women and men generally soak separately, and those offering coed pools will almost always have a women-only option as well. Keep in mind that personal hygiene is sacrosanct. People watch foreigners closely, and will be extremely offended if you hop in the tub any less than squeaky clean. Even if you showered at home beforehand, carefully wash and thoroughly rinse off again. Soap is generally provided, but why stop there? This is a prime opportunity to pamper yourself: break out those pumice stones and fancy creams and lotions. Then take a deep breath, fling open the door, race out to the pool, and plunge in.
“As I lean back to enjoy the view of the sky through the bamboo leaves and watch my fingers pucker like raisins, I cannot help but observe my older fellow onsen denizens. I start thinking, ‘so that’s what I’m going to look like when I’m eighty,’” says Debby Katz, who spent two years soaking wet in Kyushu. “And because we’re all naked and sitting in the same tub of water, we start talking. ‘Where are you from?’ they all want to know. ‘Do you like onsen? Hot as hell in here, isn’t it?’”
A popular onsen is Dogo, a spa center in Matsuyama, Ehime-ken on Shikoku Island. The “Bath of the Spirits” includes hot tea, sweet bean-paste dumplings, and a coveted resting spot on the tatami mats on the veranda outside. Free ashi-yu, or footbaths, can be found at the nearby hot spring, Tsu Baki-no-yu Onsen. Another great option is the onsen at the base of Mount Fuji, a 12,390-foot volcanic cone located forty-four miles south of Tokyo. Go in May, when the azaleas are in bloom, and linger until sunset. These hot springs are said to cure everything from stress to rheumatism.
Then there’s the sento, or neighborhood communal bathhouse. They came into vogue in the Edo period of 1600-1868, when Japan began to urbanize, but have declined in recent years, as most apartments now have their own bathrooms. They can still be found in some residential neighborhoods, however. Sento tend to be utilitarian: a simple room with a tall barrier separating the sexes. The women’s entrance is usually red and says woman in kanji (, onna); the men’s, meanwhile, is blue (, otoko). Store your shoes in the locker and—as in the onsen—make a production of deliberately cleansing your entire body. Then hop in.
“The sento are a good way to get to know your neighbors, check in on each other, get the elderly out of the house, etc.,” says Marie Doezema, a Tokyo-based journalist. “I go to mine about once a week to hang out with the old ladies and boil myself silly. The last time I went, a total stranger offered to scrub my back for me because I couldn’t reach.”
Visit Marie’s sento, Rokuryu, at 3-4-20 Taito-ku in Ikenohata, Tokyo.
Stephanie Elizondo Griest has mingled with the Russian Mafiya, polished Chinese propaganda, and belly danced with Cuban rumba queens. These adventures are the subject of her award-winning first book: Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana
(Villard/Random House, 2004). Atria/Simon & Schuster will publish her memoirs from Mexico in 2008. She has also written for The New York Times, Washington Post, Latina Magazine,
and numerous Travelers’ Tales anthologies. An avid traveler, she has explored 25 countries and once spent a year driving 45,000 miles across the United States, documenting its history for a website for kids called The Odyssey. She has been a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University and is currently a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute and a Board Member of the National Coalition Against Censorship. Visit her website at www.aroundthebloc.com