I stand before the Gates of Paradise.
A pair of sentry doors, forged from bronze; gilded with the riches of proselytization; and sculpted with ancient tales of good versus evil.
Behind me is a plaza that is visited upon by thousands of tourists daily.
Yet at this moment, it is quiet and I am alone.
I have the Gates of Paradise and the facades of Florence’s iconic Duomo and Baptistry all to myself.
I am free to gaze and ponder upon these 500-year-old treasures sans the sight, sound and international smells of snap-happy tourists.
Over a decade later, I still remember the Gates of Paradise and the Duomo with vivid intensity… and the sound of silence.
Time and again, this has proved to be the best time of day to sightsee.
When the morning dew still rests upon the leaves of the trees and the cobblestones of the streets. When the air is at its freshest and all the world about you is slowly waking to the remains of the day.
Some of my sharpest and fondest travel memories were forged during this magical time of day…
Like strolling between the undulating and rose-hued canyon walls of the Siq, en route to the ancient city of Petra.
In the quiet, I am able to enjoy a meditative harmony that was impossible the day before, on the same path, surrounded by throngs of desert-weary tourists.
Or channeling my inner Girl from Ipanema during a sunrise stroll amidst the golden sands and gorgeous mountain vistas of Rio’s Leblon Beach.
Or sitting on a bench in front of Yosemite Falls, in awe of the thunderous power and beauty of the tallest waterfall in North America, with only one or two others about.
So, during your next travel adventure, while most tourists are still snug in their beds, rise with the sun to take in the sights and scenery of the world’s treasures, basked in the meditative quiet of a brand new day.