Today's topic is a variation on one suggested by my friend Jen Lechner, in a conversation we had yesterday. She was on her way to one of my favorite parts of the country, and I said that my retirement fantasy is to have a house there. "You should write a post about five places you would live if you won the lottery," she said.
The thing is, I don't want to own multiple homes. Friends of mine do — in fact, a couple of my friends own three houses — and as poor as Maine is, it's not at all unusual for people to own a "camp" as well as their primary residence. (Note to non-Mainers: a "camp" is not a campsite, but a non-winterized summer home of any kind. They can be anything from a mobile home to a finished house. They often run off the grid, with septic tanks and wells and generators, but in some of the more popular vacation areas, the only difference between a camp and a regular house is that people don't live there in winter. A "cottage" is a fancy summer house, the kind the Rockefellers have on Mount Desert Island.)
I don't really want to own a house at all, but I would like to be able to go somewhere on a whim and stay as long as I want. I suppose the easiest way to do that, if you have a lot of money, is to own the place.
On this June Friday, where would you go if money were no object? Leave your dream destinations in the comments section.
1. New Bern, North Carolina. Say "NEWburn," as if it were one word. I first drove through New Bern more than 20 years ago, and was enchanted. It was North Carolina's colonial capital, is the second-oldest town in the state, and claims to be the birthplace of Pepsi Cola. It sits at the junction of the Trent and Neuse rivers. The nearest big city is Wilmington, almost 100 miles away. My favorite retirement fantasy is of buying a big yellow house (why yellow, I don't know, but yellow) with a wraparound porch, and spending my 70s and 80s as the hostess of a continuous house party, with my friends and family coming and going at will, hanging out and playing board games and telling embarrassing stories about each other.
2. Hallowell, Maine. Of course. Hallowell rather than Gardiner, only to reduce the need to drive; Hallowell is five miles up the river. Most visitors to Maine stick to the coast, or to the western lakes, and never discover this jewel at the edge of the state capital. Downtown Hallowell is a four-block stretch packed with restaurants, shops, and an excellent art gallery. You can hear live music in Hallowell at least five nights a week, even in winter. It is fun and funky and so eccentric that it deserves its own TV show. Maybe I'll write a pilot. If I won the lottery, I would start an art-house movie theater in Hallowell, or possibly in the vacant railroad depot in Gardiner.
3. Vienna, Austria. I spent one magical weekend in Vienna with my friends the Schulzes, much too long ago, and have longed to go back ever since. I didn't see a fraction of the city, and I need to see more. I'd like to spend an extended period of time there, enough to feel fluent in German (even if my accent makes me sound mentally disabled, which certain people have told me).
4. Charleston, South Carolina. My mother's family comes from Charleston, and when I was a child, my grandparents retired to a house on Meeting Street, two blocks from the Battery. It has always been a magic place to me.
5. Brooklyn Heights, NY. Manhattan's too crowded and too self-conscious; Brooklyn Heights is a neighborhood. I loved the time I spent in Brooklyn Heights, and would gladly go back if I had the means or a reason to do so.