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Travel

Go Away With ... Bob Bowman

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Bob Bowman is the coach of the most famous swimmer in the world: Michael Phelps. While he won't confirm if Phelps will compete in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, he says the two enjoy competition of another kind: horseracing. "Michael and I own some horses (Water Cube, By a Hundredth)," says Bowman, who is based out of Baltimore. "These horses are amazing athletes in their own right." For more info on Bowman, follow his tweets on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coachbowman.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. If I'm getting on a plane, I'd say Australia is my favorite destination. It's probably my favorite place that I've ever visited. It's worth the time to be on a plane for that many hours. And you get your frequent flyer miles. I find it almost relaxing to be on a plane for 12 hours with no one calling me. I'm a Sydney type of guy. It goes back to my early visit to the 2000 Olympics. There's so much to do there. I stay at the InterContinental Hotel right across from the Royal Botanical Gardens. I did get to go to Melbourne in 2007, which was very nice, too. I liked Brisbane and the Gold Coast, too. I've been fortunate that most of the swimming trips are two weeks long, and then I can tack on a few extra days for fun.

Q. Do you rest when you're on flights?

A. I usually can't sleep the whole time, so I catch up on movies or TV shows. I remember watching "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on one long flight and became addicted to the show.

Q. Where do you go for a quick weekend getaway?

A. I have a little house in Delaware that I love to go to on the weekends when I can squeeze it in. Rehoboth Beach is a great place to get away. It's about 2-1/2 hours from Baltimore, so it's an easy drive. A lot of Baltimore people go there. There are excellent restaurants that are like gourmet places. There's a lot of good shopping, if you like to do that.

Q. Michael is recognized wherever he goes. How about you?

A. Me? No. (Laughs) Except in Australia. They do recognize me there, which is surprising. I always like to tell this story. I was with Michael for the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Michael was 15 at the time and had made (the 200-meter butterfly) finals. This was before anyone knew who he was. I went to a bank to exchange some money and happened to have a USA swimming shirt on. The teller asked, "Are you here for the Olympics?" I said, "Yes, I coach a kid named Michael Phelps." The teller not only knew who Michael was, but he knew his time for the butterfly.

Q. What's a fun Olympics souvenir?

A. When the USA swimming team goes to compete, we get bagfuls of pins that say, "USA Swimming" and whatever country the Olympics are being held at. We hand them out to volunteers and fans and everyone really loves them. It's fun to be able to ask people if they'd like a pin. You don't think you'll run out of these, but you can run through them pretty quickly. I first met (South Korea's swimming champion) Park Tae-hwan in Athens when he was a teenager and again in Beijing, where he did really well. When we were leaving, he gave me several gifts to share with our team. I didn't have anything for him and felt really horrible. But, I don't think he expected anything. He was just so gracious and nice.

Q. Are you an adventurous eater on the road?

A. I don't eat the most adventurous things, but I do eat the local cuisine as much as I can. Interestingly enough, though, my favorite place in Sydney is Sailors Thai. It's recognized as one of the best places for Thai. That's about as adventurous as I get. I don't really like super spicy food.

Q. Which Olympics that you attended stands out as your favorite?

A. The one I enjoyed the most and really felt like I had the best experiences was the London Games (in 2012). It was just fantastic. I loved the people there and the environment. The accommodations we had there were second to none. In terms of the entire package, it was everything the Olympics should be.

Q. What untapped destination should people know about?

A. Delaware. Rehoboth is where the adults go. The college kids go next door to Dewey Beach. I like to go in the winter. It's absolutely gorgeous and I enjoy the solitude.

Q. How do you handle things on trips when things go wrong?

A. I travel so much that I've just learned to roll with it. Whatever happens, it'll be resolved. If I'm traveling with kids who haven't traveled much, I try to direct their attention to something else to occupy their minds -- read that book you've been meaning to. Go to that gift shop and get something for your mom. Buy a snack for the plane.

Q. If you could offer one piece of travel advice, what would it be?

A. Always take the first flight out in the morning.

Q. Finish this sentence: Camping is ...

A. ... Not for me. (Laughs) My rule of thumb is that if there isn't room service, I don't go there. I have some friends who are hardcore campers. Not me. I love to stay in hotels. It's my favorite thing. I like to come in and have a bed that's made and a bathroom that's just been cleaned.

Q. What are your favorite hotels?

A. I've stayed in some wonderful places. I love the InterContinental Sydney. It's a very nice hotel. Also, the Fairmont Vancouver. I stayed there for the 2010 Winter Olympics. I love the Four Seasons Istanbul. It's maybe the nicest hotel in Europe. We have a Four Seasons in Baltimore and I just love to go there for dinner.

Q. What's on your travel bucket list?

A. This sounds really odd, but I've never been to New England proper. I've never been north of Boston. I've never been to Maine or New Hampshire. I would love to visit and I'm so close. I haven't been to Africa yet. I would love to go on a safari or something like that.

Q. Do you bring your Speedos when you go on vacation?

A. (Laughs) I stopped wearing those when I stopped competing in 1986. I am fully clothed!

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. Paris, Sydney, New York, Chicago in the summer and spring and Istanbul. It's an amazing city and the food there is amazing! I'm not sure what I expected Turkey to be like, but it was fantastic.

Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you're on the road?

A. Gelatos. I won't eat lunch and will sometimes skip dinner so I can eat more gelato.

(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at http://www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow "Go Away With..." on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)

(c) 2014 JAE-HA KIM DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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