David R. Meldrum, MD
As I mentioned on another page, I had caught the travel bug doing externships during medical school in Jamaica and Florida. Claudia had a major dose of the same bug as it was a top priority for her and her parents. We never let the quads interrupt our passion, taking them on sabbatical to Australia, a meeting in Paris, and even on a safari in Kenya. Once I got into IVF, and particularly when I became popular as a speaker, there were many meetings to attend in places as widely scattered as Australia, London, Paris, Nice, Vienna, Helsinki, Cairo, Istanbul, Bali, Kyoto, Beijing, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Mexico City, Montreal, Hawaii, Rome, Moscow and Jerusalem. We were fortunate that Claudia's parents were happy to take care of the quads so we could combine a vacation with each meeting or talk, so we’ve experienced many different countries and cultures. Then also with taking up flying, we have dropped into airports all over Alaska, Mexico and Central America and on one trip even as far as Lima, Peru. Since this web site has developed into a bit of an autobiography, I’ll just mention a few of our more interesting experiences.
Certainly our most challenging trip was flying to Peru to have our anniversary in Machu Picchu. I have to credit Claudia for believing I could do it and for her fluent Spanish. Every leg involves the same basic challenges, but certainly entering unfamiliar countries poses unique logistic hurdles. We got into northern Peru on schedule but it was a holiday and they wouldn’t accept credit cards or traveler’s checks for the usual air traffic control fees. It turned out that the new leader of Peru had determined that all aircraft, regardless of size, would pay the same fees, and with that additional tariff we didn’t have enough to get to Lima. Fortunately I remembered my flight instructor saying you can ask Air Traffic Control for anything, so I filed for a small city partway and asked for a change to Lima once in the air and they simply charged us when we left Lima. We were understandably elated upon reaching Machu Picchu. In fact when we spoke to one woman at dinner and told her our story, she said she had thought we were having an elicit affair!
The Incas were quite an advanced civilization. Above is a rock designed to keep track of the seasons so they would know when to plant their crops. Just like today, the Inca leaders were those who had the techological knowhow like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs!
That trip also turned out to be challenging as a pilot. The first event was on our return flying through Ecuador. My right engine started to overheat and I shut it down and fortunately was able to return to a reasonable sized airport where they had major mechanical services. Rather than sit around and mope while they were deciding what to do, we visited the Galapagos Islands which are off the coast of Peru. I never realized turtles had such long necks! These blue footed Boobie birds are seen mainly in the Galapagos.
Unfortunately we had to have the engine shipped back to the U.S. for repair. When we returned to pick up the airplane we had a more pleasant experience. I had to divert over Columbia because of thunder storms and landed in Cartagena (yes, the same place those secret service agents misbehaved) where the Miss Columbia contest was being held and the streets and restaurants were filled with Columbian beauties!
Do we have any favorite spots? Yes, they're the ones we've visited more than once.
The south island of New Zealand is very special because of the people, the varied topography, and the many activities (bungie jumping was invented there!). The Kiwi's are quite adventuresome. Here we landed on a glacier on top of Mount Cook.
Costa Rica is another, because of the rain forest and incredible wildlife. On one trip we came out in the morning to take off and hundreds of Esperanzas (means hope) were clinging to the wings. They actually hung on until we levelled off at 100 knots and as we accelerated they finally pealed off one by one!
Italy, of course, and Lake Como (where George Clooney has a home) in particular. We've returned to Belagio (to the right), but we would suggest Varenna (Belagio is a bit touristy) just to the north on the lake, and you can just visit Belagio by the ferry.
Switzerland can be incredible if the weather is right. The valleys are very low so the mountains look enormous. Our favorite spot (and Claudia's dad's as well) is Interlaken, where two beautiful lakes are separated by a narrow isthmus where the town is located. There is great hiking in the valley and mountains to the south.
Of course you always have to be vigilant when on the streets in unfamiliar cities. In Buenos Aires Claudia suddenly had yellowish liquid oozing down the back of her coat and some very “helpful” strangers came up to help wipe off the bird do. Fortunately we had read about that scam, where, as they are helping, they escape with the woman’s purse. The “bird do” was a mixture of mustard and mayonnaise. When they realized we were onto them they fortunately just laughed and walked away.
My final story illustrates how you can be lucky to not be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We went to a small island off Borneo to an island called Sipidan to dive with the sea turtles. Just two months later extremists kidnapped tourists from that same dive resort. We could easily visualize how the two Americans slipped around the corner of the dining room and into the rainforest, escaping with their lives.
We could bore you with more stories, but we’ll let you go. Below are a few photos of some more favorite spots we’ve found along the way (click to enlarge). I hope this website has allowed you to get to know me a bit better, and hopefully you’ve learned a few things along the way!
I was speaking at the World Association for Reproductive Medicine in Moscow and as we were returning from our hotel one evening I took this picture across the Moscow river of one of the "Seven Sisters" that are spectacular buildings from the time of Stalin. I liked the effect produced by the reflection on the water. The new Russia is now a thriving capitalist democracy. This is a shop front in the Gum (Gosudarstvennyj Universalny Magazin) shopping mall. Apparently there are more Mercedes in Moscow than any city in the world!
I've spoken in Italy in Bologna and while in training we took a well-earned ski trip to Cortina, so we've developed quite a love of Italy. Here we visited Sicily just for vacation, which is more off the beaten path, where the hiking and the food were great.
After being asked back to Beijing to see how our trainees had been doing over the 10 years since we had helped them achieve the first IVF success in China, we were able to fit in a trip to Xian to see the Terracotta warriors. Like any excesses of Kings and emporers, it's hard to believe the peasant labor that went into surrounding the emperor's tomb with these full-sized statues.