Robert Landon’s Bucket List: 5 amazing places to visit once we are free to roam

Basel, Switzerland
Basel, Switzerland

My dreams of post-Covid-19 travel are founded on a single principle—to finish the March 2020 vacation that the virus so rudely interrupted. I was in the midst of a long-anticipated and carefully planned trip—a week of research in Switzerland and two weeks of vacation in the Middle East with my bestie—when Covid hit Europe, and one-by-one all the countries I planned to visit began to close their borders.

Perhaps my list smacks of revenge, but I am cheerfully determined to tick off each of the items below as soon as frontiers open again.

1. Carnival in Basel, Switzerland

Basel's Carnival
Basel’s Carnival

Switzerland announced its first cases of Covid February 26, the day I arrived. I had come to indulge in, and write about, Basel’s unusual and extremely Swiss Carnival. On Unesco’s list of intangible cultural heritage, Basel’s Carnival, known locally as Fasnacht, is less a drunken free-for-all than a collective art project. Think carefully crafted costumes, sophisticated political satire, and silver-fox bankers beating drums with great force and precision.

Unfortunately, Fasnacht was nixed on February 27, two days before it was set to begin. But at least the city didn’t go straight into full lockdown, so I got to visit its excellent museums, starchitect-designed buildings, and the bar-restaurant-nightclub Hirscheneck—a gay-friendly, anarchist-run institution that cultivates Basel’s serious Carnival spirit year-round.

2. Tel Aviv

The streets of Tel Aviv
The streets of Tel Aviv

After a week of “work” in Basel, I was supposed to fly to Tel Aviv to meet my bestie Renato for a legitimate vacation. Unfortunately, Israel was one of the first countries to close its borders due to Covid. Whenever the world gets back to post-viral normal, we plan to execute our original itinerary—hang out on gay-friendly Hilton Beach, head for apres-soleil drinks at the bars along Avenue Rothschild, and find out from the bartenders where the boys will be partying that night. Tel Aviv’s gay nightlife is legendary.

But the trip won’t be all partying. We also plan to spend a few days in Jerusalem. Besides visiting the ancient sites, we want to experience the sudden quiet of the city on the Sabbath, which by all reports is magical.

3. Eilat and Petra

Petra, Jordan
Petra, Jordan

From Tel Aviv, Renato and I were going to head south to Eilat, which sits on the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba. I’m not a huge beach person, but in 2011 I went snorkeling in the Gulf of Aqaba while visiting Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, a short ride from Eilat. Calm, crystalline waters provided incredible visibility, and the coral reefs harbored marine life of dizzyingly varied colors and shapes. The experience was better than drugs, and I swore to myself I would return someday.

From Eilat, the plan is to head to Petra, whose 2,000-year-old ruins lie in the rugged Jordanian desert just a few hours to the north. With classical facades carved directly into rosy sandstone cliffs, Petra is a classic bucket-list destination. Ideally, we’ll get there before the tourist buses begin to descend again.

4. Corsica, via Genoa

Genoa, Italy
Genoa, Italy

After Israel and Jordan closed their borders, I consoled myself by quickly planning a last-minute trip to Italy. I’ve done the Florence-Venice-Rome triangle multiple times, but have never made it to Genoa. Considered Italy’s most overlooked great city, Genoa it is also a convenient place to catch the ferry to the nearby island of Corsica.

Alas, Italy closed its borders just as I reached them, but at least I had created a great itinerary that I can execute, post-Covid.

Now the hardworking capital of the Italian Riviera, Genoa, is a treasure house of the late Middle Ages when the city-state ruled much of the Mediterranean. It is also a grittily picturesque port city full randy sailors on shore leave. That is reason enough to visit, but then there is the food. Genoa is the birthplace of pesto and arguably the best place to eat seafood in Italy.

From Genoa’s port, I’ll catch a ferry to Corsica, whose bluish peaks you can see in the distance when the weather is clear. Corsica is the kind of place where in a single day you can go on a mesmerizing mountain hike, get in some killer snorkeling, indulge in a rustic Franco-Italian dinner—and even squeeze in a visit to Napoleon’s childhood home.

5. Inwood, Manhattan

The Met Cloisters Museum, Manhattan
The Met Cloisters Museum, Manhattan

More than 60 million people visit New York annually, yet only a trickle make it all the way to the northern tip of Manhattan. In recent years, the traditionally Jewish, Dominican and Irish neighborhood of Inwood has become a new GLBTQ hotspot, especially for actors and other performing types priced out of Hell’s Kitchen.

Besides its gorgeous views up and down the Hudson River, Inwood is home to the Cloisters, a branch of the Met constructed out of the ruins of medieval French monasteries. A few blocks away lies Inwood Hill Park, which fools you into thinking you’ve escaped upstate. The park harbors Manhattan’s last stand of old-growth forest, as well as the hawks, groundhogs, wild turkeys, and coyotes attracted to this precious stretch of urban wilderness.

I should add that I happen to live in Inwood. So why is it on my bucket list? Because when our trip to the Middle East went pear-shaped, I ended up on a flight to Spain. I arrived on March 7, when the country was, by all accounts, nearly Covid-free. By the end of the week, the government had imposed one of the world’s most draconian lockdowns, and I found myself stranded in the mountains south of Granada.

Two months later, I am still here. No complaints whatsoever. I am in the gorgeous, LGBT-friendly Casa de Ibero, a B&B whose wonderful owner Montserrat—a friend of friends—has kindly let me shelter in place.

But home is home, and my next destination will, without doubt, be my own front door.

Casa de Ibero, Bubion, Spain
My host working in her garden at Casa de Ibero, Bubion, Spain