Editor’s note: Vern Lawson is on vacation. Please enjoy these “best of” Vernacular columns. This column originally ran Nov. 7, 2019.
World’s most beautiful cities: Singapore and Sydney, Australia. Then, again, we’ll always have Paris.
During our travels, Margie and I agreed that the most beautiful cities we visited were topped out by Singapore and Sydney, Australia.
The most fun cities we loved included Paris and Las Vegas.
In the summer of 1977, we flew into Singapore, a former British colony.
The city does not allow any kind of trash on the sidewalks. There were no cigarette butts, windblown papers or anything deemed bad by officials.
Singapore might have been the birthplace of the line: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
Margie wrote: “As the bus stopped in front of the Botanic Gardens where 3,000 plant species are grown, we were cautioned that the regulations and fines which we could expect to pay were we caught in violation of the rules. For spitting, picking flowers, playing a radio (because of the students who study in the gardens) or littering, there is a $500S fine. Worse offenses: carrying a slingshot, netting a butterfly or killing an insect draw a $1,000S fine.”
“Walking carefully, ever mindful of the rules, the guide led us around meticulously pruned animals created from evergreen trees, through the tree-shaded walkways and tropical plants of lush green to the covered circular viewing area of the famous orchids.
“Singapore used to enter the International Orchid Competition, but always won, much to the consternation of other entrants, so to keep the spirit alive, they withdrew from competing,” my wife wrote.
Margie was an adventurer, often fearless in situations that would frighten the rest of us. Her main hobby was admiring all the animals of the world. When we attended a night club show on our hotel’s swimming pool patio, the snake charmer asked if anyone would like to hold a snake?
Margie “had often bragged to Vern that she wasn’t afraid of snakes, so the opportunity to prove it was at hand. The snake did have a nice smooth feel.”
And the guy taught her how to hold the head so that it was pointing away from the face.
The best picture from all our worldly excursions was one shot by a fellow traveler during the nightclub act. Margie was first on her feet and I was later able to show friends the photo of her with a large snake around her neck.
She reported that “The big thing we wanted to see was the Raffles Hotel, so we hailed a cab and went there for lunch. Following Rudyard Kipling’s advice, ‘Feed at the Raffles when visiting Singapore,’ we ate an unusual meal in the Elizabethan Grill where solemn faced, regal waiters moved slowly, amid the faded upholstery and massive silver settings that decorated the tables.”
Margie dined on frog legs.
Returning to our review of the most beautiful cities, Sydney’s harbor features the Opera House, built to resemble a large sailing ship with multiple masts. We rode on bus up into the homes and had a high-altitude view of the trees and gardens of the residents.
Paris has the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Seine and outside booths were you can buy delicious crepes.
After Margie taught me some of the basics of gambling, we frequently visited Las Vegas. She often won and was able to partially stem my losses.