It’s one of those colors that really stand out. We see it all day long, from our glass of orange juice in the morning to our garden marigolds that we water during the day, from the carrots or yams we employ in our meals to our pet goldfish calming us down after a stressful day. When we travel, we spy it on the flags of, say, India or Niger, in the robes of Cambodian Buddhist monks, and in the rock formations of Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park. These are my favorite oranges.
#1 Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
They thrust up from the earth in bizarre configurations — jagged spires, bulbous mounds, serrated needles. And when the sun hits these geologic anomalies at the right time, they glow like orange embers in a cerulean blue fireplace. The largest and tallest are clearly visible from the main road running alongside this public park in Colorado Springs, but I wanted to get a much closer look at them. As I started to walk along some of the 15 miles of trails that wend their way around these curious rock formations in the Garden of the Gods, I quickly understood why so many people have made a connection with this beautifully mysterious place, including half a dozen Native American tribes, such as the Utes, whose petroglyphs have been found here. Today, these perdurable formations are a magnet for mountain bikers, hikers, and particularly rock climbers, whom I could spy as dark silhouettes dangling off the sides of some near–vertical rises.
#2 Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, California)
One of the most iconic bridges in the world, the famed Golden Gate Bridge has been spanning the Golden Gate Strait since 1937. Its “international orange” color — very similar to NASA’s spacesuits — makes this bridge highly visible from every place I gazed at it— from the edges of Lands End park, from the end of Pier 39, from the headlands of Golden Gate National Recreation Area in Marin County. In low-lying fog banks, the tops of its two Art Deco towers (the tallest on a suspension bridge for 61 years) poke through the gray density like a romantic mirage. Fortunately, the U.S. Navy never got its way: they wanted the bridge to be painted with yellow and black stripes to ensure its visibility by passing ships. This bumble bee motif didn’t come to fruition, and the bridge’s orange color remains its most recognizable and chipper feature, which makes it even harder to understand how it also attracts more people intent on committing suicide by jumping off it than any other bridge in the country.
#3 Rooftops in Dubrovnik’s Old Town (Dubrovnik, Croatia)
My first glimpse of Dubrovnik’s historic and utterly unmistakable Old Town came from the windows of a bus on my way north into town from the airport. The jagged peninsula juts into the Adriatic Sea, its white buildings topped by orange roof tiles forming a brilliant contrast to the cobalt blue of the water. It was love at first sight — for something that had arisen out of hate. When the former Yugoslavia imploded in the early 1990s, attacking Serbs maliciously and unjustifiably shelled Dubrovnik’s Old Town — the historic area, the jewel of Croatia, bore absolutely no military significance — and seriously damaged 86 percent of its buildings, including 752 of the existing brownish clay and terracotta tile roofs. Once the war ended and restoration efforts began, UNESCO donated the first batch of tiles, with its notion that the roofs should not be one unified color. So the damaged or destroyed older brown roofs were replaced by the current orange tiles that give the city its distinctive profile today. The best way to appreciate those new roofs — Croatia’s answer to the equally iconic brown tile roofs of Siena, Italy — is to ramble atop the thick city walls that encircle the Old Town for more than a mile. From any spot along the way, I was able to look inward and down upon the undulating waves of orange.
#4 Sandstone Cliffs at Cupecoy Beach (St. Martin)
One of the top five beaches in the world also boasts one of the best oranges. Hugging a strip of sand along the northwest corner of the Dutch side of the Caribbean island of St. Martin, near the porous border with the French side, Cupecoy is comparatively small and requires a little hike down some stone steps to reach the beach. Once I settled onto the sand to enjoy the warm water and the comforting breezes coming off the Caribbean Sea, I realized that the beach is fairly private, thanks to the orange sandstone cliffs behind you. These wonderful barriers, indented with natural niches, reach up to 20 feet high, isolating you from the activity above. As dusk arrives and the westward-facing rocks absorb the light of the setting sun, they warm up to a luscious orange that will completely enchant you.
#5 Spire of the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne (Lausanne, Switzerland)
Consecrated in 1275, the Cathedral of Notre Dame is Lausanne’s finest Gothic cathedral — an impressive site inside and out, from bottom to top. The intricately carved stalls from the 16th century, the unique rose window, and the wonderful arches present one remarkably beautiful structure, so much so that the cathedral has been featured on at least three Swiss postage stamps over the years. After I explored the interior, I climbed up the 160 steps to the outdoor observation area of the belfry. From here, the sweeping vistas encompass the city, Lake Geneva, and the Alps, and, just as rewardingly, a bird’s-eye view of the shimmering orange tiles covering the spire of the steeple at the opposite end of the cathedral. Trimmed in pale aqua, the orange tiles, punctuated at three levels with small triangular windows, taper up to a fine point that scrapes the sky. At its base, four mini-spires at each corner of the steeple — all in orange and aqua — mimic the larger central one. It’s rare to be able to observe a spire at this angle, and I was delighted to be able to appreciate this centerpiece of the Lausanne skyline at such an intimate level.
- Stockholm Public Library (Stockholm, Sweden)
- Puente del Inca (Mendoza Province, Argentina)
- The top of the Space Needle (Seattle, Washington)
- Jellyfish at Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium (Omaha, Nebraska)
- Pumpkins at roadside stands (anywhere in southern Wisconsin)