This week, Aaron Saunders is sailing on Carnival Miracle along the Mexican Riviera. Me? I'm spending time far from the sea in Asheville, North Carolina. Did you know that Frommer's named Asheville one of the top 15 places to visit in 2015? Nestled in the Appalachian mountains, our city ranked with entire countries - Argentina and Austria - and with world-class cities such as London - and even cruise lines, Cunard Line. I don't know how much faith I would put in letting Frommer's tell me where to go, but Asheville certainly merits being on the list of must-see destinations. And I won't digress too much about my fair city. If you're curious to learn more, check out Explore Asheville.
Those two kids in the photo are my kids, Alex, who is 18 and taller than his dad, and Britton, who turned 20 on June 1.
I'm exceptionally proud of both of my kids, as any parent would be. My son is one of the nicest people who I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. When I describe him, of course I mention that he is tall and handsome and possesses a good sense of humor, but I also add that when you walk away from an encounter with Alex, you feel as though you have been given a gift. And indeed you have. He is full of compassion and empathy, an amazing young man who I hope will graduate on Friday June 12. School has not been his strong suit, and whether or not he will cross the stage remains to be seen. It's a real nail-biter for his mom and me.
My daughter - if you're sensitive to vulgar language, please scroll down the page - is what we call the MBIC. That is to say that she is the Main Bitch In Charge, a title that she readily embraces. She is responsible and dependable (and loving as well). You can count on her, always. I remember once on Princess Cruises when the kids were probably 4 and 5 years old, Alex being the younger. Their mother and I had to attend an early-morning immigration procedure as we were heading to our port of debarkation. We left the kids quietly sleeping and returned 30 minutes later. Before entering the room, we heard crying. "Don't worry little buddy," I heard Britton say, "let's get you dressed and we'll go find mom and dad." A five-year-old, taking charge. I often joke that all Britton is missing is a clipboard tucked under her arm.
She's studying communications to follow in her father's footsteps. And why wouldn't she? I must have one of the best jobs in the world, and I am grateful for all that I have been able to see and experience while at sea and ashore on cruise ships. Lucky for me, those two kids have been with me on many, many trips.
My next adventure take me to New York to see what Seabourn is unveiling for its new ship, due out in 2016. I come back home for a graduation ceremony where I hope my son will walk, then head out for a barge cruise from Arles to Sete through a beautiful region in the south of France.
"We love Arles, France, hometown of artist Vincent Van Gogh ... ," wrote the Frommer's editors in Frommer's' Best Places to Go in 2015. Nonetheless, they left Arles off their list. "Ultimately, after much lobbying, discussion, and deliberation, we had to draw the line at 15 destinations. With great reluctance on our part, as that number left plenty of esteemed honorable mentions off our final list."
But Asheville is on the list, and I am here for another 10 days, minus a quick trip to New York and back. That Asheville made the cut, however, is not the reason I am here. It is those two kids and the joy they bring to their father.
"You Can't Go Home Again" is the title of a novel penned by Asheville's most famous author. I prove Thomas Wolfe wrong time and again - and hope to do so for decades to come. - Ralph Grizzle