Posted by: davepidgeon | May 6, 2009

Amora premiera vista

I was listening to Jimmy Buffett on my iPod today when a particular track sparked some inspiration. The song – “First Look” – waxes on about Buffett’s first foray into Rio de Janeiro, of which the Gulf Coast poet says about his initial sighting of the iconic South American port:

I think I want to go flying

But I don’t want to leave the ground

So I’ll just cruise on my landing gear

And taxi ’round Rio town.

Up to the mountain and down to the sea

Take me to Leblon where the samba queen waits for me

And that inspired me to list my favorite memories of “First Looks,” the moment when you spy a place for the first time. In no particular order:

Ireland’s west coast: During the red-eye flight across the Atlantic, I sat next to an obese woman, who rubbed so much snot on her hand she could’ve been a human cleanex. Sleep was not an option. I watched a peach-colored sunrise illuminate the clouds and greet our crowded 737 cruising above 30,000 feet, and then through the clouds as our plane descended toward Shannon Airport, I spied the true green shores of western Ireland, the square patterns of grazing fields for sheep and the merciless ocean crashing against granite cliffs. Quite a sight to welcome us on that glorious mornin’.

Sea cliffs like Moher greet airline passengers as they enter western Ireland.

Sea cliffs like Moher greet airline passengers as they enter western Ireland.

Shenandoah: The way to the closest national park to my home is Interstate 81. Somewhere near the Civil War town of Winchester, the highway turns and out of the hills rises like a sudden wall Massanutten and to the east like a muscular arm outstretched is the Shenandoah Blue Ridge, two southern ridges which roll gently along the wild border of Appalachia and the Virginia Piedmont. I couldn’t help imagining the intertwined nature of things tucked into the folds of those ridges, be it black bear or red-tail hawk or sturdy oak or hardy backpacker. I feel this everytime I go there, Shenandoah, the place where I learned to travel the backcountry.

North Sea: My soccer teammates and I – all of 16 years old with minimal adult supervision – had a break from a tournament we participated in, held in the town of Hjorring on the tip of northern Denmark. We hitched a ride under slate gray skies to the North Sea coast, and I’ll never forget the desolate, cold, but endearing charm of the tall grass, the gray World War II bunkers, the gray sand, the even grayer sea. Rainy days in the present always inspire memories of that panoramic look at the ocean, my first glance at a shoreline that wasn’t Delaware or Maryland’s.

Dominican Republic: All we’d seen for hours was ocean. All we’d left behind was constant news of the American military invasion of Iraq, which had launched a few days prior to our departure. I was a community journalist covering a medical mission team headed for Peninsula de Samana, and although we were bound for paradise – albeit, a poor sector of paradise – leaving the United States in the midst of the first major ground war in more than a decade, at a time most of the world eyed Americans suspiciously and we in turn eyed everyone else with paranoid fascination, felt odd. And then our plane banked, and out my window stretched the wild shore of Hispaniola, our plane having descended so low we could count the palm trees and the few people walking those pristine beaches. I was 24 years old, and I’d never before been to a place so teeming with mysterious and adventurous qualities like that. Everything suddenly seemed wild, unknown … in other words, just right.

A palm tree twists toward the sky in Dominican Republic's Peninsula de Samana.

A palm tree twists toward the sky in Dominican Republic's Peninsula de Samana.

What are your favorite “First Looks?” Tell me in the comments section.



  1. Ditto on the North Sea. I’ll never forget flying down the dunes like a cannonball.

    I know this’ll sound hokey and overly locally-biased, but one of my favorite “First Views” is the Pinnale Overlook in Pequea, PA.

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