One consequence of being back in the English-speaking world is that we’re having many more long conversations about what we’re doing. And a further consequence of that is that people keep asking us what our favourite place has been. It’s a question that has left us all flummoxed.
The problem is that there’s no way to compare all the places we’ve been and they’ve been almost universally good – although often in different ways. How do you compare the experience of going into a pyramid to pony trekking in Scotland? The Beijing hutongs to a French provincial marché? A white Christmas in Germany to splashing in the pool in Singapore? They, and so many other experiences, are all different and have all been fabulous. There’s simply no way to pick a favourite.
It’s easier to pick the poor experiences, although those have been few and far between. A night in Tel Aviv’s airport wasn’t that much fun. A rubbish visit to Neaschwanstein. Windermere’s tiny, dark apartment and rainy days. That’s not much in the way of low-points but they spring to mind more easily than picking out a favourite.
The ‘favourite’ question is an obvious one to ask and I don’t blame anyone for popping it out. But it’s also one I’m keen to resist. I hope we don’t reduce this wonderful, long, rich experience down to one or two moments that we trot out at need.
Of course, we have found that the diplomatic answer is always to answer that the country you’re in is your favourite. In France that invariably produced a warm glow in the listener. In England, it’s more of a derisive scoff conveying a nice, clear ‘as if!’.