“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” — Soren Kierkegaard
It is one of the most celebrated occasions in human development: the first steps of a young child. From those first hesitant but determined moments, the world forever changes. It expands and becomes more exciting, more enthralling and more amazing. While most walks may fall into some utilitarian category, the walks collected here are designed to transcend the pragmatic. Perhaps the avenues of Paris and Istanbul or the Atlantic and Pacific coasts have the power to invoke memories of your first exalted steps, when you broke the barrier between what you know and what you hope to find.
By the time wealthy industrialists like George Astor and the Vanderbilt clan completed their magnificent mansions in the late 19th century, the paths on the Newport cliffs were already well worn by previous inhabitants: deer, native Narragansett and the Colonials, who had made their way to the beach for food and salvage. Through the Great Depression, estate owners worked to improve the pathway piece by piece, adding bridges, tunnels and thoughtfully placed stones to enhance public enjoyment.
Today, the 3.5-mile Newport Cliff Walk is a National Recreation Trail. Terrain varies from dirt paths to paved concrete. After the tunnel at Gull Rock, the adventure begins, as well-traveled footpaths and paved walkways give way to wild scrub and the characteristic rocky New England coast.
Between 110th and 59th streets, Fifth Avenue and Central Park West, lies one of the most diverse, historic and restorative urban sanctuaries in the world. Central Park lures city dwellers and visitors out of cramped dwellings and into nature, and that was certainly what Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux had in mind when they made public their intention to create the park in their Greensward Plans of 1858. As the nation’s first major park intended solely for public use, Central Park still teems with democracy and the melting pot spirit that has for centuries defined New York City. Few can deny the equalizing effects that the scent of fresh-cut grass, blooming daffodils or a sanctifying snowfall has on all those who cross into the green heart of the urban jungle.
With massive rock outcroppings, sweeping sand dunes, old-growth forest and an always cool Pacific breeze, the Oregon coast is rivaled by few others for drama and beauty. The 300 miles encompass a range of terrains and towns, from easily accessible walkways and beach-side artist communities on the northern shore to the remote and rugged southern coast. Hiking trails wind through forests, dunes and headlands and emerge above or on the coast. Some beaches stretch for more than 10 miles without evidence of human settlement, the only sound that of surf breaking against rock and the occasional chatter of water birds.
On and off the National Mall, hundreds of statues, plaques and memorials commemorate everything from poetry to politics. Whether honoring service in the United States military or recognizing outstanding individuals from around the world, these historic and artistic representations decorate street corners and cornices throughout the nation’s capital. The National Mall, marked on the north end by the Washington Monument and the U. S. Capitol building on the south, abounds with memorials of the major figures and military events of American history.
Extending for 2.5 miles through the heart of Beantown, the red-brick Freedom Trail links 16 historic sites that collectively narrate the tale of the American Revolution and document the path to independence from Great Britain. The Freedom Trail’s red bricks trace a subtle path on Boston’s modern streets, passing today’s busy pubs and offices, cafes and shops. Disappearing around the corner of a narrow, cobblestone street, the trail introduces the site of the nation’s first public school, cemeteries honoring the courageous dead such as Samuel Adams, and the home of patriot Paul Revere. Crossing into Charlestown and the old Navy Yard, the Freedom Trail concludes with the Bunker Hill Monument commemorating the first battle against the British, and with the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned ship still afloat and an ever-inspiring testament to American freedom.
Shanghai’s Bund, the famous waterfront region long regarded as the symbol of Shanghai. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, this area was the nexus of Shanghai politics, economy and culture, hosting the consulates of most countries, as well as many banks, businesses and newspaper offices. The 52 buildings on the western embankment represent a spectacular variety of classical and modern styles, in notable contrast to the towering skyline of contemporary Shanghai. Still, the Bund encompasses the fascinating contradictions evident in present-day China.
There are many points of departure to embark on El Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James. Since the Middle Ages, Christian pilgrims from around the world have made their way to the holy cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Each year, thousands of the pious, as well as the curious, hike, bike or arrive by horseback to Galicia, a region of rolling, green hills in northwestern Spain. The route from the French-Spanish border — the French Way — was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Route and guides modern pilgrims and travelers to Santiago de Compostela. One of the holiest Christian cities in the world, Santiago de Compostela is also a university town and serves as a central market place for the farmers of Galicia.
Located in the axe historique, a line of monuments, buildings and thoroughfares that extends from the center of Paris, the Champs-Elysées is bordered by some of Paris’ most renowned architecture. The lower part of the avenue, dense with gardens and greenery, is host to Grand Palais, whose elegant glass roof impressed those attending the Paris Exhibition of 1900. The Arc de Triomphe graces the western edge of the avenue and just beyond is the presidential palace. Later in the 20th century, the Nazi party chose the broad avenue for its celebration of the fall of France in 1940, and a few years later, French and American allies took over the Champs-Elysées to celebrate the fall of Germany.
Designated by Constantine in the early 300s A.D., the "Road to the Imperial Council" was once the primary route from Constantinople to Rome, extending west over the city's seven hills. Today, Divan Yolu winds through the city’s most historic quarter, the Sultanahmet, and through the Hippodrome, the heart of Constantinople and today a tranquil city park. The avenue unites the monuments and mosques of the city’s past and offers a path that one may follow to find the wonders and surprises of Istanbul. Among those highlights on the avenue is the Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia), which for 900 years after it was completed in 537 was the center of Byzantine religious life.
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About the Author Hailing from London, England, Alexander Morris studied at The School of Oriental and African Studies in his home city. He began his Road Scholar journey 13 years ago designing small programs in the Midwest, learning a great deal about North America in the course of managing and developing unique programming. In his current position as the Director of Strategy and Program Development, his broader International perspective and knowledge is invaluable as he oversees new Road Scholar programming across the globe. Alex espouses the value of an occasional sabbatical to recharge creative batteries, spending four months sailing the Greek Islands prior to joining Road Scholar and more recently spending a year in Costa Rica.
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