Offbeat Feature Articles
For past articles click on the map below for a listing of features by area of the world -- or just scroll down enjoying the ride
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OffbeatTravel RoundupsAfter almost 12 years of publishing, we have a lot of great information scattered across several articles. The solution? We're creating RoundUps - a summary of some of the information that really sums up a theme, or a destination.
Crossing National Borders
by Yvonne Addario. Pirates Edition's stories come from my following in the footpaths and the wake of these explorers who -— from my point of discovery-- started in Jupiter, Florida. It starts back in 1660 when a Spanish aviso vessel (a kind of dispatch or advice boat) met its end along Jupiter on Florida's east coast. It is called the Jupiter Wreck. In 1987, two surfers fell off their boards one day and saw what they thought was a canon and reported it to a lifeguard. Two days later, while on his morning training swim, the lifeguard refound the canon and contacted a master mariner and marina owner, Captain Dominic Addario, who had equipment capable of recovering the find. They agreed to form a joint venture to recover it. Read more...
by George Bailey. Heaven must be a 14-day cruise of the Black and Mediterranean Seas aboard the 20,000-ton MV Discovery. Small in comparison to today’s mega liners, MV Discovery is big enough for cruising to far away places yet small enough to enter harbours larger vessels pass by. We’ve gotten close and personal, and there are no waits for shore excursions and we have less impact on the environment. Read more ...
by Neala Schwartzberg. We needed to see water, walk along the beach, and smell the ocean. With all the good deals around we were certain we could find something, and a cruise seemed to be a good place for good deals. And we scored with a favorite recipe, too. Read more
by Neala Schwartzberg. We went, we saw, we enjoyed - our tips and roundup for these two cruise stops. (slideshows) Read more
Great adventure opportunities, gorgeous landscapes, and cosmopolitan cities -- click here to Visit Canada
by Karen Hamlin. Standing on the terrace of my villa, I can see the surfers bobbing in the bay waiting for a surging wave to carry them to shore. My gaze follows the curvature of the shoreline that sweeps around the bay and backs into the dense Sierra Madre jungle. It's a warm afternoon with clear blue skies and a cool breeze ruffles my hair. Another perfect day in Sayulita, Mexico.
Read about Sayulita Mexico
by Denise Mattia. They named it yah (pronounced yash). It's a green/blue/turquoise color the early Maya, a group of people unique to the Yucatán peninsula, used to describe the rolling sea and placid fresh water wells, around which they constructed myriad imposing city-states that towered above the jungle. More than a description, yah represented the color of the center of the universe, the source of life created by their rain god Xaác (chack), where the god Xucek (y-shok´) could plunge into its magical depths and be rejuvenated. Read about Playa del Carmen on the Riviera Maya
by Denise Mattia. Cabañas on a beach? There didn't seem to be anything special about lounging on beds in little houses on the sand that had thatch for roofs and curtains for windows. As a mature woman alone, the idea didn’t appeal to me . . . until recently. What caused this change of attitude was an assignment at the Fiesta Americana Grand Los Cabos Golf and Spa Resort, in Baja, California, Mexico. I’d been wined and dined like a queen while there, and was offered a cabaña for the last day of my stay as well. That day proved to be one of the most enjoyable times of my life. Read more...
by Robert Painter. When you sit on the front porch in the warm morning sun the mesas off to the Southeast beckon you to come explore. At the eastern edge of a 30,000 acre working cattle ranch in the Sonoran desert just a few hours south of the U.S./ Mexican border the ranch house at Rancho Los Banos is surrounded by a wonderful 360 degree panorama. Read more...
by Laura LaBrie. Like a ghostly apparition, the Pyramid of Kukulkan stretches into a Milky Way washed sky. A handful of intrepid travelers chat quietly, taking seats in folding chairs on the lawn between this new Wonder of the World and its sister ruin, the Great Ball Court. They are waiting for the show to begin. SlideshowRead more...
by Laura LaBrie. Hidden on the shores of the Yucatan Peninsula, between bustling Cancun and exploding Playa Del Carmen, Puerto Morelos is a humble fishing village that still offers an authentic Mexican experience. Read more...
by Robert Painter. You've heard of Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Cozumel and Mazatlan. They're all great and they all have at least one thing in common -- mobs of tourists. But if you'll just head a little further South along the Pacific Coast you'll discover what most of the rest of the crowd hasn't yet found -- beautiful Huatulco with its expansive and uncrowded beaches. Read more...
by Karen Hamlin. IXTAPA (eeks-Tah-pa) has much to offer on a quieter, smaller scale than her sister resorts. Not as flamboyant, not as busy, visitors can escape to any of its exceptional beaches like La Ropa, bird watch for unusual species like the Frigate, zip-line across the Aztlan Ecological Park, drive an ATV through the mountains, fly fish or say hello to the crocodiles on the golf courses.
by Rick and Chris Millikan. Royal Mayan dynasties were declining when the Spanish arrived on the Yucatan; today their magnificent centers of science, ceremony and worship attract many visitors. Exploring the elaborate remains of these cities, travelers can glimpse the past glories of a civilization three thousand years old.
by Karen Hamlin and Colleen Fliedner. Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) -- a cousin to Halloween -- is a three-day festival (October 31-Nov 2) celebrated throughout Latin America to welcome home the souls of the dearly departed.
by Suzanne Wright. Creative artists in a city of great cultural riches and history.
by Bob Fisher. In the 1920s, thousands of Mennonites from Manitoba would uproot themselves, leave the rich Canadian Prairie, and start all over again in Chihuahua, a remote and semi-arid state in northern Mexico. This is their story.
by Karen Hamlin. Xcaret, and Xel-Ha are state parks unlike any other
by Terry Loncaric. Even if you love the upscale malls -- and Cancun has plenty of them -- you should not pass up the opportunity to experience this genuine Mexican market
So much to see and do -- click here to Visit the USA
by George Bailey. I've sailed on other cruise ships but never one as large as the Norwegian Epic, and I've never been able to take a peek behind the scenes to see what goes on "backstage". Until now. This huge beautiful ship which made its maiden voyage in June of 2010 is one of the world's largest ships. And with its new tour of all the spaces and places guests never go, it is also one of the most fascinating. Read about Unique Tour of the Often Offlimits Parts of a Cruise Ship
by George Bailey. When we arrived we were unable to quit drinking in the beauty of this Sub-tropical Island found in the mid-Atlantic. We had left the ordinary behind. For me and my new bride, Ellen, Bermuda is where we would spend our honeymoon, for many reasons. It's only a shade under three hours by air from the east coast of Canada and the United States. Being the oldest overseas British Territory the customs and the language were familiar to us. And we liked the all-inclusive resort. However, there was one thing that took getting used too. Drivers of cars and scooters drive on the left side of the road. Read about Bermuda Top Things to See and Do
by Suzanne Wright. Located at the same latitude as North Carolina, Bermuda seems a bit misunderstood. FAQs about Bermuda Read about Bermuda Frequestions Asked Questions
by Lesley Stones. The word “gullible” must have been hovering over our heads in a visible aura as we strolled aimlessly through Havana. The sting came swiftly in the sexy Latino shape of slick-haired José and his stunning sister Yani. It was dusk, and my tour group was gawping at grandiose colonial palaces on our first evening in Cuba. José instinctively picked out our self-appointed ringleader and sashayed up to her. "What are you looking for?" he asked. "Good food and great mojitos," she simpered, trying hard to act cool as she admired his slim hips and seductive eyes. And, no, that's not Yani in the photo. Read more...
by Augustin Marck. Cienfuegos is one of the pearls of Cuba. Cubanos call it "Perla del Sur" (the pearl of the south). The city was founded in 1819 by the French who came in from Haiti (which at the time was a French colony). Located around a magnificent bay, the city sometimes looks like Paris. It developed quickly in the first of the 20th century thanks to trade, and later to gambling, casinos, and resorts. It was here that the famous musician Benny Moré (Bartolomé Maximiliano Moré Gutiérrez), the Cuban singer, began his career. Over the years many buildings as gorgeous and ornate as any palace were built across the cities of Cuba. One city rich in these palaces is Cienfeugos on the south-western coast. They are the remnants of this rich historical past. Read more...
by George Bailey. If you’re fascinated with history, intrigued by old buildings, old cars and just plain curious a visit to this capital city of the largest island in the Caribbean is right up your alley.
by Bill Brown. Especially Havana - A city of contrasts
by Neala Schwartzberg. Not only is Ponce Puerto Rico a charming colonial city with more than enough to keep visitors intrigued, but it is also offers some fine day trips. Explore Coffin Island (yes there's a reason for that name but it isn't as ghoulish as you might think), and the wild beauty of Toro Negro Reserve. Read more about Day Trips from Ponce Puerto Rico
by Neala Schwartzberg.For many visitors, San Juan is Puerto Rico. With its perfect beaches, vibrant nightlife, historic center, excellent restaurants, water activities, and a wide range of accommodations the island’s largest city and capital is a difficult place to leave. And historic Old San Juan is high on the must-see list. Slide Show Exploring Old San Juan
Exploring Puerto Rico through its diverse hotels and locales: Hacienda El Jibarito, Gran Melia Golf Resort, and Club Seabourne
by Neala Schwartzberg. Given the compact size of Puerto Rico, it's easy enough to take a day trip anywhere in the Commonwealth, but there’s something special about actually spending the night in different parts of the island, and experiencing what each one has to offer. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. The tiny island of Culebra, just off the coast of Puerto Rico, is still the sleepy, laid-back island paradise that we search for, but so rarely find. Don't look for glitz or glamour here, instead, look for friendly people, and laid-back island lifestyle, fresh seafood, and delicious traditional Puerto Rican cooking. Swim, snorkle, explore the coral reefs, eat, rest, kayak, and hike. Enjoy some of the finest beaches in the world. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. Brilliant blue sky, sunshine, warm sandy beaches and turquoise sea. It's a delicious moment, made even more sweet by the fact that back home it's below freezing. But even if the weather up north was warm, it would still be a golden time to visit Ponce. This smaller sibling to San Juan has enough amenities to be comfortable but has not yet become a tourism magnet.
by Sheila O'Connor. Hmm, that warm Puerto Rican sun as it delights your skin thirsty for heat. I call it bliss. And it's something this Caribbean island has in abundance. That, and a beautiful location. A territory of the USA, yet with its own distinct Spanish style and influence, Puerto Rico is the jewel in the South Caribbean Sea.
by Denise Mattia. Whether disembarking a cruise ship for the day or arriving by plane every traveler passes through Basseterre, the charming capital of St. Kitts. Certainly Basseterre is wortth a stroll and exploration, but when it comes to diving, St. Kitts there's fun of a different nature under St. Kitts with the three dive operations and a watersports center on the island. There's a lot to do in St. Kitts and the high standards of the operations, hotels and restaurants and the polite Kittitians guarantee visitors a wonderful holiday. And, of the photos you can take underwater -- enjoy the video. Read about Diving in St. Kitts
by Shelley Seale. The small island of St. Kitts in the West Indies may be one of the friendliest, least ostentatious spots in the Caribbean. It’s a small island – 23 miles long by 5 across and only 68 square miles – and its sister Nevis is even smaller at 36 square miles. Read more...
by Shelley Seale. Just call me dushi, reads the t-shirt in the airport shop as I arrive in Curaçao. Dushi comes from the Spanish word dulce, meaning dessert or sugar; the literal translation here is sweetie, and sweet indeed is the tiny, utterly charming island of Curaçao in the Dutch Antilles. Read more...
by George Bailey. Like many others, I decided to escape to an island in the in the Caribbean for a week of relaxation and sun worshipping. But, when I had my fill of pampering, I ventured out of my beautiful gated resort community to discover the real Jamaica. It proved to be an exhilarating few days of adventure. Read about Biking Jamaica
by Fyllis Hockman. Their bodies were sleek and graceful, the skin soft to the touch, their demeanor welcoming even if a bit skeptical. I spread my arms out and my dolphin snorkeling companions swam under my outstretched limbs and they took me on a wild water-park ride the likes of which I’ll never forget. Read more...
by Suzanne Wright. Bajans, also known as Barbadians, are fiercely proud of Crop Over, which they say is “sweet fuh days,” in local parlance, and of their island that they liken to a "little England," because of its well-oiled infrastructure (and, yes, the island is quite civilized, even a bit prim and proper).
A celebration of music, masquerade, art and food, Crop Over is known across the world to revelers who hopscotch from Trinidad's Carnival, New Orleans' Mardi Gras or Rio de Janiero's Carnival. Bajans insist this festival means more than the others. Read more...
by Kathy Hagood. Flying toward the San Pedro airstrip on Ambergris Caye off the coast of Belize the pilot points out Cayo Espanto in the sparkling aqua and teal Caribbean waters. The tiny island, about the size of a football field, is lush green with six villas spaced out along its sandy shoreline.
by Denise Mattia. As I disembarked at Cainfield Airport and followed the passengers into the same little, bare-bones air terminal, where immigration, passport check and luggage claim is rolled into one room, I suspected I wouldn’t find that a good deal of change had occurred since I was there last. What had developed were The Dominican Watersports Association and an annual Dive Fest, now the longest running event in the Caribbean.
by Denise Mattia. I sat in the cockpit of a Cessna Caravan transfixed by the landscape of green that was 800 feet below, wondering if I'd like the jungle experience. Marine environments are generally my choice of travel destinations, yet I was flying west from Belize City, the opposite direction of the famed Belize Barrier Reef, to a lodge named Chan Chich in a nature reserve called Gallon Jug
by Fyllis Hockman. Hey, did you see that? The Nurse shark passed right over my head! Did you notice we made eye contact until my attention was caught by the sting ray gliding by my side. I was standing in a clear, underwater acrylic tunnel in the Predator lagoon, watching any number of aquatic life forms go about their business all around me.
by Karen Hamlin. She's checked the lush island of Grenada for gorgeous hotels and tropical pleasures and returned with her report. Be warned -- this article will have you running to book your flight.
by George Bailey. Time and service move at a slower pace here. A favourite Bahamian expression is, “Come soon” which means, it will happen when it happens. Inhale. Exhale. Ah!
by George Bailey. There's no sure fire rule that getting married on a warm tropical beach on a Caribbean Island will guarantee a successful marriage. However it will be something quite special.
by George Bailey. After a few days, you'll be on Jamaican time and enjoying it thoroughly. These are laid back people where nothing seems to be a problem. In their words, no problem mon. Oh, yes. There is an exception. Driving.
by Bobbie Green. Barefoot Cay is the new kid on the block, offering a bit of luxury amid the more basic accommodation on Roatan
Central and South America
by Robert Painter. Don't think for one moment that Tango is something you do once in a while when you have a free Saturday night with nothing else to occupy your time. In Argentina, tango is far more than just a dance. Tango is a lifestyle. Some might even call it a life. It definitely has a pulse and a rhythm that pervades Buenos Aires. Read more...
by Robert Painter. Begin another day by visiting the Recoleta area and the Recoleta Cemetery where you will undoubtedly find the mausoleum of Eva Peron. The cemetery is an amazing place with small streets crisscrossing and hundreds of tombs of many of Argentina's most famous and notorious citizens. They are, for the most part, very ornate and elaborate . . . and, obviously expensive. Don't forget your camera.
by Robert Painter. Tango in Buenos Aires is, for many, a way of life. It is not a dance quickly learned at a dance studio and then brushed off. Learning the Argentine Tango would appear almost as a religion for some. For many it is a way to earn a bit of extra cash. And for some it is a total lifestyle. Eating, breathing and dancing the exotic and erotic Tango!
by George Bailey. Ushuaia, the capital of the island province of Terra del Fuego of Argentina is a place of enchantment, magic, serenity, colourful woods, lakes, mountains and surprises. And, if you were to lay the world flat, it would be the southernmost city in the world.
Brazil and the Amazon
by Nell Raun-Linde. My traveling companion, Elaine, and I sailed on the Pacific Princess from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Manaus, Brazil. The ship stopped at four Caribbean islands before entering the Amazon River in Brazil. On island stops, we took exciting over-the-tree-tops gondola rides, bus rides up mountains for ocean and waterfall views, tours through Devil’s Island prison. Nice, but we couldn’t wait for the ride up the Amazon.
by Fyllis Hockman. Hacking through the jungle, fishing for piranha, join Fyllis as she has fun. And eats fried piranhas for dinner.
by Vickie Lillo. I strapped on my headlamp, tucking a few wisps of stray hair under the elastic band, and began the ascent. I was hanging towards the back of the tourist hiking pack; my footprints mingled one by one with the hundreds of others that had tread before me. Breathing was arduous and strained at this elevation. Ten thousand feet above sea level. I could only take baby steps up the steep hill of endless shifting sand and pulverized stone -- La Gran Duna (The Great Dune), a major attraction in Northern Chile's Atacama Desert. But there are others. And where else can you go from can't-catch-your-breath to colorful flamingo? Read about Atacama Desert in Chile: salt flats, hot springs and geysers, and flamingos
by Shelley Seale. Most visits to Chile begin in Santiago, with a vibe of energy that blends the traditional with cosmopolitan modernity. The rich cultural scene and abundance of 19th century Beaux-Arts architecture gives it a European feel, with a decidedly South American flavor. And it is the home to celebrated Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda, who is still lovingly embraced by Chileans today in spite of his lengthy exile from his own home country. Neruda kept several homes in Chile, for his family or mistresses, and although two of them were raided and ransacked following the Pinochet coup and Neruda's death in 1973, all three houses are open to the public today. Read about Pablo Neruda in Chile
by Vickie Lillo. A slight torrid breeze swept across the surface of Lago Gatun, barely enough to ripple the waters of the lake. Iridescent dragonflies skittered in circles near the outgrowth of thick vegetation along the shore...trolling for mosquitoes. Birds chattered loudly in the canopy of the surrounding rainforest. Rat-a-tat-tat, a Crimson-Crested woodpecker thrummed his beak against the bark of an unsuspecting tree, like a ferocious drill bit. Rat-a-tat-tat...the yammering began anew. Across the slough, a mantled howler monkey barked, followed by a rustling in the treetops. The sounds of the Panamanian jungle at play. Read more about Fishing and Houseboating on the Panama Canal
by Troy Herrick. Many tourists simply pass through Lima on their way to Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. Those who do visit the capital often limit their stay to a few days and only explore the colonial center and the local museums. That is a shame because the coast south of Lima offers so much more as you will discover with these unique and memorable daytrips. Read more...
by Troy Herrick. Art on a grand scale, monstrous drawings, mysterious figures and baffling lines are just not adequate enough to describe Nazca's most famous attraction. Spread over 100 square miles of one of the driest, most inhospitable places on earth, the Nazca (Nasca) Lines transform a barren desert plateau in southern Peru into an elaborate artistic canvas. Read more...
by Nell Raun-Linde. The Inca people who built this sacred place had awesome skills and strength to build without the mechanical devices of the modern world. The site’s natural peaks are sharper and its valleys deeper than I expected. Best of all, are the remembered feelings of floating in the clouds on the top of the world -- almost free enough to soar. Read more...
More Central and South America
by Rick Neal. The stunning colonial architecture of Quito's revitalized Old Town makes Ecuador's capital city a must-see travel destination. Quito's top attraction is its historic Old Town, the Centro Historico, which is where I'm headed today. It's only a ten-minute cab ride from my hotel, but I decide to take advantage of the balmy weather and make the forty-minute trek on foot. Read about 24 Hours in Quito: A Guide to one perfect day in Ecuador's Capital
Exploring Isabela of the Galapagos Islands: Individual tours for volcano trekking, bike riding, and snorkeling
by Vickie Lillo. I thought about that lone penguin shrilling on his perch. I thought about those boobies with the bright turquoise feet, doing their little mating dance. If you wanted to find the road less traveled in the Galapagos, all you really had to do was show up. Because the entire archipelago is off the beaten path. Read about Exploring Isabela, Galapagos on Your Own
by Troy Herrick. In a melting pot, combine free range beef, colonial history and a wave of European immigration. Then season with gaucho (a South American cowboy) culture, third world prices and a laid back atmosphere. Let simmer for several centuries and then enjoy a sumptuous taste of the second smallest country in South America - Uruguay. Start with Colonia Del Sacramento as your first course, then it's Montevideo for the second course. Read more...
by Wendy Dale. Excerpted from her book Avoiding Prison & Other Noble Vacation Goals there's a reason why people visit foreign countries. Because they are foreign, different, unlike the life with which we're familiar.
by Robert Painter. He describes the islands and the wonderfully strange and exotic creatures you will find there. Very likely your first encounter will be with a dark and ferocious looking marine iguana lazing in the sun surrounded by bright red Sally Lightfoot crabs. This is indeed a naturalist's idea of paradise.
by Rick Neal. The first streaks of daylight brush the sky as I approach the bus station in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. I can see my breath in the cold air as I search for my bus among dozens of worn-out Bluebird models strewn across the gravel lot. Mine is near the back, the most beat-up warhorse of them all. The destination is barely visible scrawled across the front: Nebaj. Slideshow.
by Barney Navas. Where old meets new
Perhaps the world's most remote inhabited island, it is also one of the most enigmatic.
by George Bailey. It was mid-December and I traveled to the coldest, driest, and windiest continent where there’s no permanent human residents or any evidence of a ny pre-historic indigenous population. It lies in darkness at the bottom of the world.
by Emily Grey. It was mid-December, the advent of austral summer in the Southern Hemisphere. The weather was as unpredictable as a toddler’s next step. But aboard a cruise ship, the author covered over 6,000 miles to visit the breathtaking seventh continent
Iceland and Greenland
by Patrice Raplee. Reykjavik, Iceland, in winter is indeed a splendor to behold. The mid-sized city is a combination of Nordic architecture dating back to the late 1700s, to very modern, clean-line edifices. The various architectures meld together quite well and during the winter holiday season, are adorned with colorful lights and displays that light up the entire town. Slideshow
by Patrice Raplee. In addition to Iceland’s exciting capital of Reykjavik, and seasonal celebrations, there is the countryside. The landscape of Iceland is unlike anywhere else on the planet. The temperate climate provides an ideal atmosphere in winter or summer to explore Iceland’s varied topography. The geological formations of the country can’t be found anywhere else in the world and add magnificence to Iceland that draws visitors back to explore further regions of this dynamic island. Slideshow
by Patrice Raplee. With the country’s dark winter days, holidays take on a special and lively characteristic. Iceland’s famous New Year’s Eve Celebration is the largest in Europe. Millions of fireworks are set off throughout Reykjavik during this auspicious evening with community bonfires that take place all over the city. Musicians perform traditional Icelandic music and residents and visitors gather before the enormous bonfires to visit, celebrate and prepare for an evening of magnificent pyrotechnics and fun.
by Linda Fasteson. We were approaching the southern end of Greenland, Cape Farewell, known to the Inuits as Nunaap Isua The Land’s End. We glided past floating sculptures shaped by wind and weather, frozen reminders of ages past, shimmering shapes in a sparkling sea, the sky a clear cerulean. On both sides, dramatic peaks soared nearly 5000 feet above, dwarfing us as we sailed past icebergs and waterfalls in a pristine wilderness.
by Linda Fasteson. We would trace the pathways of the Vikings across the Atlantic. There would be dramatic landscapes created by volcanic eruptions and sculpted by glaciers. We would stand where two of the earth’s tectonic plates meet and land expands with upwelling magma. There would be bustling cities, quaint villages, remote islands, and pristine wilderness. Part 1 of a 2-part series.
by Caroline Crutchley. This romantic city lies along the banks of the River Danube where parks and squares interlace the streets of majestic buildings like pearls. At the centre of Europe, Vienna is often overlooked but makes an ideal city break. In addition to its other charms, Vienna is a delicious destination. As a European capital, it can celebrate food and drink of quality and variety. The proximity to Eastern European countries gives the spice mix alongside western style cooking. The Habsburg monarchy, high society, and the ordinary people of Vienna have been and still are well looked after with the food and drinks on offer. Read more...
by Suzanne Wright. Austria’s two most visited cities are throwing one heck of a 250th birthday party for favorite son Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 2006. Although he isn’t going to be around to enjoy it, visitors certainly can.
by Patrice Raplee. It is past dusk on a warm summer's evening and the Belfry's haunting carillon bells ring out across the city of medieval architecture and shimmering canals. Visitors and residents stroll beneath Ghent's Belfort, occasionally glancing up at the Tower's clock face, but are unaware of the Time Guardian, who winds the clock, also alters time. Read more...
by Robert Mueller. Ypres (Ieper in the local Flemish dialect) has long been a popular destination for English tourists interested in visiting First World War battlefields. The city is well suited to serving their needs with hotels, restaurants, and shops all with English-speaking staff. But the past saw the most horrific trench warfare culminating in the Battle of Passchendaele only 7.5 miles to the northwest. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. It's the crossroads of Europe and the capital of the European Union. The bilingual residents of this glorious city live and thrive in a rich Flemish and French culture that encompasses art, architecture, language and cuisine to history and, of course, incomparable chocolate.
by Nicholas Klenske. Whether it is the ghost of a classic fairytale kingdom of medieval castles and tin-covered knights, the failed ghost of communism, the ghosts of saints, or the ghosts of sinners. We all come to Prague with a ghost to chase.
England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland
by Bobbie Green. Most Scottish Castles began as fortresses for protection against another Clan or the English. The Laird lived in the Castle and provided protection for his people and the fortress grew in size through the years according with their wealth. Most of the Kirks (churches) began small and grew through the years, according to their wealth or alliances. And many (both intact and in ruins) can be toured. Our tours through the back roads of the Scottish Highlands gave us an opportunity to visit some of these intriguing places. Read about Scotland's Castles and Keeps
by Troy Herrick. The Boyne River Valley, north of Dublin, is one of the most picturesque and serene areas in the Irish Republic. Looks can be deceiving however because this region has had such an active history that you can still see the undercurrents today. Along its short 70 mile long course, the river passes ancient tombs, an ancient royal capital, a battlefield, a castle and an abbey. The daytrip to the Hill of Tara and the Newgrange Passage Tomb outlined below is just a sample of what awaits you. Read about Ireland's Boyne Valley: Tombs and Castles
by Caroline Crutchley. Scousers (people hailing from Liverpool and Merseyside area), are born comedians with a quick quip and a laugh for everyone. The inclement weather that sweeps in from Ireland across the River Mersey does not dampen their enthusiasm for life. Liverpool shines out because of its friendly welcome.
Read about Exploring Beatles History in Liverpool
by Caroline (Caz) Crutchley. Between Oxford and London and the Thames lies a county called Oxfordshire. This quintessential England landscape of thatched cottages alongside the willow-lined banks of the Thames River seems so peaceful. However, like a swan serenely swimming there is much happening below the waterline. This is the fictional murder capital of England. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. Hillsides swathed in colorful bluebells and wildflowers scent the late afternoon air, as golden cows munch contentedly in lush fields. Just beyond the fields, verdant cliffs, surrounded by hand-built stone houses, overlook the sparkling sea and boats drift sedately upon the waves. It is here on Guernsey in the Channel Islands where time slows and serene landscapes provide a vignette of life in harmonious rhythm. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. A thin veil of mist rises from the rooftop pool, as bathers blissfully soak in the warm, natural thermal spring waters. After a relaxing immersion, the bathers indulge in a spa experience where hot stone messages, soothing aromas and heavenly water lily flotation treatments start the day at the beautiful Thermae Bath Spa in England. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. Amid the Lace Market's curving paved streets and lovely Georgian architecture, stands a stone-columned building with a sinister past, a past that is couched in justice, yet sees crimes more heinous and shocking than the theft of a few shillings worth of dry goods. It is here on the front steps of Nottingham's County Gaol that the "Bloody Code" was carried out with the horror of grisly public hangings. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. Billows of smoke rush from the steam engine, as the train's whistle announces its arrival on platform 3 in Bury, England. Passengers line up to take photos of the steam train that resembles the Harry Potter Hogwarts Express. The red and black East Lancashire Railway train will take them on a 15-minute journey through lush countryside to the fabled town of Ramsbottom. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. The attractions of Greater Manchester include not only the lovely and bucolic outlying towns, but also the city itself with chic hotels, theaters, museums, shopping, restaurants, cultural and historical venues. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. Cardiff has many attractions, but it's worth leaving the city for some of the gorgeous gardens and charming villages that lay outside the city. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. Beautiful Cardiff Bay features dozens of boutique shops and top restaurants. This area offers several fine hotels, inns and bars as well as the Wales Millennium Centre, Mermaid Key and for Doctor Who fan, the ultra-cool exhibition of BBC’s sci-fi drama Doctor Who. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. Cardiff, the capital of Wales, is located in the country’s southern region and is part of the United Kingdom. The city’s rich culture has a wide sundry of ancient Roman and Norman influences combined with the industrial revolution and coal industry. Today, Cardiff is a vibrant, international city that offers visitors tremendous heritage attractions, as well as natural scenic beauty and spectacular modern architecture. Slide Show Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. On a late sunny afternoon, college students sit on the steps of the Albert Memorial bending their heads over textbooks, while laughing children race about the square chasing each other in a mock game of tag. Tourists smile at the placid scene and focus their cameras on Manchester, England’s stunning gothic designed Town Hall. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. A tangible excitement stirs the air, as shoppers clutch brightly colored bags brandishing designer names, while they admire the incredible and imaginative window displays. Floral scents drift from several boutiques and the spicy aromas of curry and appetizing delicacies beckon all who pass by. It is morning on London’s famous Regent Street and the momentum of the day is building. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. Carnaby Street, located in the Soho district near Oxford Street, brings to mind the ‘60s with independent fashion boutiques and designers catering to the hip style of the mod era. Today, Carnaby is pedestrianized, yet retains its independent village personality with modern designers presenting progressive fashions at affordable prices. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. Bowness-on-Windermere’s town center lays a little north of the lake docks and inclines at a gentle angle with charming hotels and inns overlooking the lake. The streets are lined with storybook slate and stone buildings dating back hundreds of years. These buildings house intriguing little shops that offer gourmet British foods and teas, clothing, books, sporting goods, gifts, traditional pubs and the famous World of Beatrix Potter Attraction. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. To continue your exploration of the Lake District, journey north to Rydal and Grasmere, located a few miles north of Windermere. This area of Lakeland is absolutely beguiling. Hand-built slate stone walls constructed hundreds of years ago, run endlessly across deep, green hillsides that cordon off grazing sheep and their lambs. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. The rolling green hills and gentle birdsong mingle with the late afternoon sun, stealing away the travel tension; while the storybook stone houses and surrounding countryside transport you back in time. You have arrived in England’s stunning Lake District. Read more about Kendal
Read more Lake District: Holker Hall and Cartmel
by Caz Crutchley. In which city do you find a Big Ben, a Berlin Wall, Samson and Goliath, and Union flags flying with Eire tricolour? If you are looking for an ideal city break, have you considered Belfast in Northern Ireland? It is a must visit destination. Read more...
by Suzanne Wright. Mention Northern Ireland to most people and what comes to mind is the bombings that divided the country for 25 years. But today the country is transforming itself, becoming a dynamic destination for travelers.
by Matt Robinson. Skanking in the middle of thousands of sweaty, muddy Brits at the very first Knowsley Hall Music Festival, chanting along to a Ska chestnut from the elder statesmen of Madness, you begin to get a feel for the musical energy that continues to drive this earth, this plot of land, this…England.
by Imbar Galt. What is it like to explore a beach without sight? Share this sensory experience through a sensitive and beautifully written article.
by Emily Grey. A walkabout becomes an adventure along the southwestern coast of this tiny isle, where merriment, storytelling, and holy ghosts are a part of the Celtic tradition.
by Patrice Raplee. London, England, a resplendent stage of excitement, diverse ethnicities and history. There is no better city to indulge the senses and escape into a multitude of diversions.
by Patrice Raplee. London, England, is a city of refined customs and daily schedules to be met and an environment of visitors seeking the history and significance of British dynamism. An excellent start to a London visit begins in her abundance of museums.
by Kelly Bushell. The world-famous Cambridge University takes up a large portion of Cambridge's city center. The school's influence has pervaded its hometown, and Cambridge hasn't quite given way to the modernity of a new age. The University, the city, and their inhabitants seem content to live amongst the same trees as Isaac Newton, Lord Alfred Tennyson, and CS Lewis.
by Bob Fisher. A love song, melodic and lyrical about a favorite city. And an indispensable guide to attractions, restaurants, and more.
by Suzanne Wright. A Vibrant Waterfront in 100 Year Old Cardiff, The Hilly Appeal of the Nearby Countryside and Surprisingly Good Cuisine
by Fyllis Hockman. Travel through 400 years of history underground in Edinburgh -- a combination of real-life history, drama and intrigue.
The Fascinating History and Sites of Rochefort France: L'Hermione, Pierre Loti and Napoleon's defeat
by Inka Piegsa-Quischotte. Does it get any more eccentric? A 19th century, highly decorated French naval officer, who wore make up, trained as an acrobat, performed in a circus, traveled the world, seduced a Turkish harem lady, wrote novels to great acclaim, became a member of the Academie Francaise and converted his modest French town house into a mosque, also featuring a medieval dining room and an opium den. What came as an additional benefit was the fact that Rochefort contains a wealth of French naval history and is also closely connected to Napoleon's final surrender after the 100 days. Read more...
by Robert Mueller. The Gallic village of Orléans sat along the banks of the picturesque Loire River when it was conquered and destroyed by Julius Caesar in 52 BC. It became the seat of later kingdoms and wealthy because it possessed one of the few bridges across the river. The medieval city’s name became forever linked to that of French heroine, Jeanne d’Arc when she lifted an English siege during the Hundred Years War in 1429. The relationship has remained strong over the past 580 years and Orléans holds a Jeanne d’Arc fête every May with a local girl selected to portray Jeanne in a dramatization of her ride into the besieged city. Read more...
by Robert Mueller. No military engagement in the history of mankind was as intense, as brutal, of such duration, or as devastating as what occurred in 1916 east of the French city of Verdun. In the pleasant hills and once village-dotted fields of Lorraine, enormous armies, supported by the industrial might of the two adversaries, clashed over small strongpoints, massive fortifications, and literally miles of trench lines for nine months – only to achieve stalemate and the most horrendous casualty totals of that dreadful war. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. Paris and élan, intertwined in a never-ending liaison that forms the fabric of the city’s society. Virtually every street in Paris is alive with the hum of creativity.
by Patrice Raplee. Paris, hypnotizing and incomparably beautiful, imbues metaphors of romantic reverie. The sun sets on the Champs Elysees, spreading its last delicate golden rays across the Tuileries and visitors who sedately stroll along, admiring the gardens. In the distance, tiny, twinkling lights illuminate the figure of the Eiffel Tower, as the low pulse of the city gains in intensity with the impending night.
by Patrice Raplee. High fashion, accessories, home items, perfume, and more. This is your long-awaited shopping guide.
by Suzanne Wright. There is much more to the French Riviera than fabled beaches. There's truffles, fine wine, foie gras, and luxury lodging. I am literally eating my way across the Cote d’Azur ... piling on the calories instead of soaking up rays, sleeping in four-star splendor.
by Neala Schwartzberg. Visitors to Frankfurt often come for the trade shows or for business – and it is certainly a banking center. The city dates back to Roman times, and excavated areas in the Archaeological Gardens (between city hall, cathedral and Schirn Art Hall) feature the remains of the settlement. The city also offers gardens, a string of fascinating museums, and walks along the River Main. Although few realize, Frankfurt also is one of the German cities with extensive Jewish sites. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. Worms today is a quietly charming town, with a rich past of both mythic heroes and religious milestones. It was also one of the three major Jewish towns in Germany in the Middle Ages. Known as the ShUM (Shin for the community of Speyer, Waw for Worms and Mem for Mainz), the cities were centers of Jewish theology and learning. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. Unlike some of the other German cities, Dresden is not known for its Jewish sites, but there are two Jewish places that are definitely worth a visit, the New Synagogue, and the old cemetery. And, of course, Dresden is certainly a gorgeously baroque city that is one of the highlights of Europe. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. The baroque heart of Saxony still beats, the art still amazes, and the architecture still takes one's breath away. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. To explore, to understand, to experience what it was and is to be Jewish in Germany, head to Berlin. There isn’t another city in country that can match the number of sites that document, explain, or highlight Jewish life, and history. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. I don’t know quite what I expected, but I do know it wasn’t the stunning architecture, thoughtful exhibits and breadth and depth of coverage. Daniel Libeskind’s modern zinc-clad structure is attached to a historic building, making the museum a true study in contrast, as well as fascinating inside and out, much of it laden with symbolism. Slideshow Read more...
The Rosenstrasse Rebellion: Berlin monument to the protest by German women to save their Jewish husbands
by Neala Schwartzberg. On February 27, 1943, the war was going poorly for the German army, but Hitler was still bothered by the problem of the 2,000 Jewish men remaining in Berlin. He wanted to exterminate all the Jews, but he didn't count on the courage of their German wives. Slideshow
by Maureen C. Bruschi. Bayreuth, the largest city in Upper Franconia, is best known for its ties to composer Richard Wagner. But there is more to the town. Slideshow
by Maureen C. Bruschi. Regensburg, located in southeast Germany where the River Danube and Regen River meet, is one of the country’s oldest towns. The Steinerne Brücke (Stone Bridge) is a great place to begin your visit. Built in the 12th century, Steinerne Brücke sits on 16 immense pillars, reaching more than 1,000 feet across the Danube River. Slideshow
by Maureen C. Bruschi. If you’re planning a trip to Germany’s Bavaria, you’ll find plenty of medieval towns and attractions to visit. But if you want to avoid the tourists, here are three very special places. Bamberg. Arched stone bridges, road bridges and wooden bridges weave back and forth across the River Regnitz, transporting you to the artificial island and medieval town of Bamberg. Slideshow
by Neala Schwartzberg. There is, perhaps, no other city in Germany that had been both the quintessence of the flourishing of Jewish German life, and its destruction. But the cities and the country are working with the kernel of the Jewish population to create a new era. Even though my family left the area in the 1890s and I have never had real ties to Germany, it felt like a completion to visit, freeing me to begin to enjoy the real charms of the country. It's not always a happy experience, but for me, it was a truly important experience.
by Neala Schwartzberg. For romance and ruins, whimsy and beauty, and a panoramic view of the city spread out below visit the castle that guarded the city and the Neckar River.
by Neala Schwartzberg. With its cobblestone streets, stone buildings, plazas with fountains, and Gothic style churches, Heidelberg is a delightful historic walking city, with a sense of humor. Read about Old Town, Hauptstrasse, Heidelberg University, and Student Kisses on the Neckar River.
by Michael Cervin. The Palace of Knossos is one of four original palaces built 4,000 years ago, which acted as the cultural and spiritual hubs on the island. I arrived with the throngs of people to view this amazing complex during the stillness of a hot July day, the sounds of the cicadas and peacocks offering a counterpoint to the various languages of tour groups from far off countries. At first glance the Palace seems disjointed and unimpressive; a smattering of large hewn stones atop a small mountain.
But as you make your way across the upper flat portion, you begin to realize the depth that the Palace goes to, the complexity of not only the construction of a 22,000 square meter project, but the idea that, even back then, there was a sense of proper architecture, order, and a desire to live life in connection with ones surroundings. Read about The Palace at Knossos Crete
by W. Ruth Kozak. In the very heart of Athens, beneath the majestic presence of the Acropolis, the distinctive old market district of Athens Monasitiraki offers lots more than souvenir shops, clothing, antiques and street vendors. A walk through Monastiraki is an unforgettable experience rich with historical significance. The Monastiraki area is full of remains from not only ancient times but of the occupation of the Ottoman Turks. Read about Athens Monasitiraki
by W. Ruth Kozak. In the harbour of Naxos a massive marble gateway looms from a nearby rocky islet. The famous Portals, entrance to a great temple to Apollo that was never completed, stands as a forlorn sentinel to greet the ferry boats and yachts that sail into the port. The islet is linked to the land by a causeway of rocks forming a breakwater for the harbour.
Abandonment is a theme on Naxos. Once long ago, according to myths, Ariadne, a Minoan princess, frolicked there with Dionysus and the maenads while Theseus searched for her along the shore. She had helped Theseus escape the labyrinth of the Minotaur on Crete and he abandoned her on Naxos and sailed away. Read about Naxos for History, Beaches and Ghost Villages
by Inka Piegsa-Quischotte. I was standing on the deck of the big Greek ferry which was to carry me from the island of Naxos to Samos near the Turkish coast. Syros was a mere stop over along the way, but when I watched the port of Ermoupolis approach, I knew I had arrived at a very different Greek island and decided, on the spot, to stay longer and explore. . Read more...
by George Bailey. Although the whole island is a visual treat, the picture postcard town of Oia at the north end of the island is an adventure never to be forgotten. And the slideshow of the luscious images will make you a believer. Read more...
by W. Ruth Kozak. When Hippocrates sat under the plane tree in Kos’s town square expounding his theories of healing I wonder if he knew that many millennia later he would be known as ‘the father of modern medicine’ and people would still flock to Kos to stand under that old tree.
by Karen Hamlin. Cruise adventures -- it was going to be a glorious cruise, but first Karen had to get to the ship.
by Linda Martin. Modena is a city of contrasts: ancient churches, blocks of modern shops, two beautifully restored theaters (The Storchi Theatre and City Theatre) and two schools of higher education (the University of Modena, begun in 1183, and St. Charles College). It is a place where one can shop for souvenirs or just sit quietly at an umbrella-shaded table and feel the stress of everyday life drift away like the steam from your cup of dark espresso coffee. And there's much more. Read about Modena Italy: So much to see and do
by Caroline (Caz) Crutchley. Clear waters lapped the white sandy beach that seemed to stretch for miles. It indeed did just that, from the ancient town walls to Capo Caccia. Above and beneath the historical waters the pescatori di Corrallo have searched for more than fish. Below the waves lives a precious bounty that provides the town with its own "red gold". These are the fishermen of coral and Alghero Sardinia is their home. At the Coral Museum in Via XX Settembre, the full history was well presented. The shops are bursting with coral jewellery but not all may be real. Since the 13th century, the Artisan School was where young apprentices learnt the art of coral carving.
Read about Alghero's Famous Red Coral and its Artisans
by Barry Frangipane with Ben Robbins. "My secret plan to move to Venice was ready. It was time to see if my wife would buy into the idea of leaving our home to live for an entire year in a foreign country." And thus the journey begins - Barry and Debbie Frangipane, a middle-class couple tired of the rat race leaves it all for the lure of Venice. But can they make it in a foreign land? Enjoy reading three excerpts from the book about living in Venice, the improbable city built upon millions of tree trunks. Read more...
by Caroline Crutchley. My previous visits to Milan, the fashion and commercial centre of Italy have been all about business meetings. Now as a travel writer, I can revisit the city of the north and saw it in a new light. The Grande dame has a big date in the near future. She is not only undergoing a facelift but a complete make over. In 2015, the Expo circus is coming to town. At the forefront of all Milanese minds is how to show off the city to the world with style. With lights like star ships for new arrivals to walk through at airports and stations, it will be like entering a new world. The new and the historic side-by-side. Read more...
by Inka Piegsa-Quischotte. I was in Barcelona and sea travel beckoned -- an overnight ferry to Genoa in Italy. As becomes the birth town of the great Christopher Columbus, I thought it most appropriate to approach the capital of Liguria by sea.
Medieval and Renaissance buildings, narrow picturesque alleys lined with shops and trattorias, Baroque churches, a thriving sea port and much more which is a great incentive to spend a few days in a place which is often bypassed by tourists on their way to more famous places like Rome, or Florence. The advantage is, that you don’t find many umbrella touting tourist guides and I had the pleasure of visiting the fabulous Doges Palace with exactly four other people. Read more...
by Caroline Crutchley. The 'Grand European Tour' includes the highlights of Italy, Venice, Rome, Florence and Tuscany. But there is one region that is often overlooked and worth exploring -- Puglia. This south eastern region may be 'down on the heel' but it is worthy of a trip just to see the unique trulli houses, a style of building only found in Puglia. The roofs have an inner layer of limestone boulders, capped by a keystone, and an outer layer of limestone slabs ensuring that the structure is watertight. Tolkien's diminutive creatures, the Hobbits would have loved them. Read more...
by Troy Herrick. Through the ages Catania has been devastated by Mt. Etna’s eruptions and lava flows but like the phoenix it always rises again better than ever. Consequently this city is younger than its Sicilian neighbors. Visitors to Catania discover a treasure trove of Baroque architecture and ancient ruins. But these monuments are not just historic site; they are still in use today. All are conveniently located in the compact city center so you can tour them through a leisurely daytrip. Read more...
by Troy Herrick. Tarquinia is a charming medieval hill-town encircled by 8 kilometers of turrets and fortifications. Characteristic of this region of Italy, the most important families in the middle ages protected themselves inside stone towers. Hundreds of years ago there were as many as 100 towers but now only about 20 remain. With a little digging however, visitors soon discover that Tarquinia’s Etruscan past is the real secret. Slideshow
by Caroline Crutchley. The province of Ragusa lies in the southern area of Sicily with the blue Mediterranean Sea lapping its southern shoreline. From the high peaks of the Hiblean Mountains to the coastal plain it is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Great river gorges converge on cities clinging to the cliffs like limpets.
by Troy Herrick. Vinci receives as many as 500,000 visitors per year. They come in search of its most famous son, Leonardo. The Renaissance giant lived here from the time of his birth in 1452 until the mid-1460s, when he and his family moved to Florence.
by Kate Averre. If your bungee jumping days are over (or like me never arrived) then walking between the villages of the Cinque Terre could be for you. The Cinque Terre in question are five coastal villages embedded in rocky cliffs along one of Italy’s most scenic stretches of coastline in the Liguria region of Italy.
by Caz Crutchley. I stumbled upon this city by chance. Flying by Ryanair to Venice from Malta I arrived at Treviso airport and not Marco Polo in Venice some 30 miles away. Now you may think that this error of distance was a spoiler to a 2 day break. Instead it was an unanticipated pleasure.
by Fyllis Hockman. Within two weeks, our plans to live a month in Tuscany were set; within two months, we were sipping wine on our apartment balcony overlooking the vineyards from whose grapes it was made. The fact that the apartment was housed in a structure dating back to the 13th century on a farm boasting one of the best-known vineyards in Italy was just a bonus.
Marching to Marche: Hunt for the big white...truffle, and the best region of Italy you've never heard of
by Janice Nieder. Even if you ask an Italian who has traveled extensively through the country about the region of Marche you will likely be greeted by a blank stare. Yet, I managed to stumble upon this secret spot on a food safari to Italy, to hunt the Great White Truffle.
by Fyllis Hockman. Hi Again -- This you gotta see. I'm watching this dog impatiently wag her tail as she races ahead to the oak tree, sprints back and forth, nose thrust into ground, then triumphantly starts digging with gusto. Lady got rewarded for her efforts. Her trainer, Giovanni, delicately removed the treasure: a large walnut-sized white truffle.
by Fyllis Hockman. Are we better off drinking our wine, or being massaged with it? Fyllis took up the challenge in Piedmont, Italy.
by Neala Schwartzberg. Romantic, elegant, and fascinating
by Neala Schwartzberg. A leisurely journey through Northern Italy's history
by George Bailey. Intrigued with history, fascinated by old buildings and just plain curious about another part of the world -- you'll appreciate Portugal. This charming country of ten and a half million people is located in southwestern Europe bordering the North Atlantic Ocean west of Spain. It's about an eight hour flight from the east coast of North America. Read more...
by William Thomas. It happens to every romantic traveller and Canadians especially. Blindly, you fall in love with some quaint and curious little place you’ve stumbled upon in a part of the world where it never snows and you begin to believe that someday you could live there. Then reality arrives. Perhaps in the middle of the night.
by Patrice Raplee. Tourists and locals bask in the warmth on the sun-drenched banks of Gaia, Portugal, seated at outdoor cafes sipping various Port wines and gazing out across the sparkling Douro River at Porto. Port wine beckons savvy travelers from across the globe.
by Patrice Raplee. Brilliant blue skies set against red tile roofs and the sun glittering on the Douro River summon the anticipation of summer and the promise of adventures to unfold. Northern Portugal is a remarkable oasis for travelers.
Fado is Portugal's national song. With a romantic tortured past born of a myriad of events and themes. Read about the Romance of Portuguese Fado
By now, you must be ready to find a place to hear and experience Fado. Try Lisbon. In fact, visiting Lisbon means a visit to a Fado house. Read about Lisbon for Fado Music
by Neala Schwartzberg. I walked through the gated entrance to the medieval town of Sighisoara and gasped. It was night, and the effect of the city was magic, like stepping back 500 years. If you're looking for totally charming and quaint historic town, head to Sighisoara. Disney could take lessons from this tiny medieval jewel. For bigger city differently delightful it's the Old Town in Sibiu. Named European Capital of Culture for the year 2007 Sibiu is cosmopolitan charm amid 16th century buildings. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. If you're going to be a villain, it's better to have been one deep in the past. It seems the further back in history, the more colorful the man and less horrific the deeds. Think - Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun. And Vlad the Impaler. But Vlad has a doppelganger who is quite (in)famous on his own – Dracula the Vampire. Vlad is indeed Dracula, and he is from Romania. And he did live in a castle. But he is was known Vlad the Impaler Dracula or Vlad Tepes (pronounced TEP-ish), and his behavior easily qualifies as bloodthirsty without even referencing the fictional character. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. Legend has it that the capital city of Romania, Bucharest, was named after a shepherd, Bucur, who was tending his sheep by the side of the river. Charming, but a bit fanciful. Others suggest Bucur might have been a warrior or freedom fighter. What is known is that the city likely dates back to the 15th century when it was mentioned in official records. But it only became the capital of Romania in the 19th century. During the period between World Wars, the city thrived, earning the nickname Little Paris. But under communist rule for several decades, it suffered the devastation of neighborhoods and then the chaos after the end of Nicolae Ceausescu's rule in 1989. Today the city is a mix. Peeling paint and pieces of facade decorated with graffiti tags coexist with areas of cafes and patisseries, and the funky charming historic heart of Lipscani. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. It's a bit like seeing things inside out. These architectural treasures, unique to the Moldavia area of Romania, have their highly colored, exquisitely detailed 15th and 16th century frescoes on the exterior walls. Exposed to sun, wind, rain for 500 years, they are elaborately decorated with portraits of saints and prophets, scenes from the life of Jesus, images of angels and demons, and heaven and hell. All sought to send a religious message to the people. Parts of faded away, other areas more protected from the weather, are still vibrant. None of have been retouched, making them even more impressive. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. Sophisticated, charming, and welcoming, the riverside city of Ljubljana, Slovenia is not yet on the radar of most travelers, but it will be soon. Read more about Ljubljana's Historic Center and More architecture, festivals, and events
by Neala Schwartzberg. As much as I loved Ljubljana there was much to see in the rest of the country, so off we headed. Read more...
by Inka Piegsa-Quischotte. A day trip to the fabulous city of Cordoba in the south of Spain combines outstanding art with mouth watering food. I've been living on Benalmadena Costa on Spain's sunny and easygoing Costa del Sol. One of the reasons, apart from the weather and the life style was, that several of Spain's most historic and fascinating cities, including Cordoba are within easy reach and very suitable for numerous day trips. Read about Munching and Museums (and more) in Cordoba Spain
by Caroline (Caz) Crutchley The Spanish capital has streets lined with stylish buildings, squares with fountains adding a dash. The cafes and tapas bars are brimming with locals and tourists, enjoying banter with a beer or two or a glass of cold cava. Good red wine is reserved for dinner. The food is an eclectic mix of the bizarre, seafood and stodge. In Madrid the streets are lined with tapas bars and not gold in this foodies Eldorado. It is not an easy city to keep the pounds from the waistline. Read about Restaurants, Cafes and Tapas in Madrid
by Caroline Crutchley. Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia Spain, has long been a thriving city favourite. Since 1992 when the Olympic spotlight shone on it, tourism numbers have gone ballistic. Why is it that many just keep coming back for more? Well I think is because the city just keeps restyling and refreshing itself. And, without Antoni Gaudi and his art nouveau architecture, the rest of the world may have never discovered Urban Chic Barcelona. Read more...
by Jon Voelkel and Pamela Craik Voelkel. Like the rainforest, Galicia is wild, wet and green. It is rich in superstition, legend and myths. It has its own language. And, most importantly from a Maya perspective, it faces the setting sun. With its craggy coast, medieval cities, Celtic heritage and colorful festivals, it is one of the most evocative locations in Europe. So we set out to explore this hidden treasure for the sort of idiosyncratic details that make a story come alive. Read more...
by Nick Ball. One of seven Spanish owned islands that comprise the Canarian archipelago, Lanzarote is located just off the coast of West Africa and the second most visited region in the whole of Spain after Catalonia. But the real lure here are the Fire Mountains or TimanfayaRead more...
by Lynne Christen. This is a "working vacation" like no other. It comes with luxury accommodations, wine, and lots of conversation. Intrigued?
by Karen Hamlin. It's 2:00AM and the place is stompin'. The place is the town of Logrono in La Rioja, Spain. And the people are celebrating the harvest of the grapes.
by Denise Mattia. I hadn't come to Basel to experience Fasnacht, but when I first arrived in front of the Grand Hotel Les Trois Roi, one of the oldest and most elegant hotels in Europe, the first thing I noticed was that despite its staid appearance, the second floor of the façade displayed three gigantic caricatures of kings, which lit the wide avenue. Fasnacht, the only Protestant carnival in the world, is as important as Basel's yearly Art Fair. Read about Art, Fasnacht in BaselRead more...
by Sheila O'Connor. Bern, capital of Switzerland, has to be one of Europe's most beautiful, medieval cities. And it's an explorer's paradise.
by Linda Fasteson. Switzerland is train rides past snow-capped Alps, boat excursions on sparkling lakes, gondolas to mountain peaks hikes and picnics in idyllic meadows of wildflowers, serenaded by cowbells, savoring local wine, freshly-baked bread, cheeses and chocolates.
by Inka Piegsa-Quischotte. Never heard of Eskisehir? Not to worry, neither did I, even living for several years in Turkey. Until I got to talking with my neighbor on my recent flight from Munich to Istanbul. Think gondolas on the river, the tomb of a real giant, who was also a famous Muslim warrior in the fights against Byzantine, and Paris-style cafes. Read about Eskisehir Turkey Travel Guide - Attractions
by Inka Piegsa-Quischotte. I finally did it. I don’t know how many times I have driven through Bursa on my way to Istanbul. Mostly at night when all I could see were the sparkling lights reaching from the shores of the Sea of Marmara all the way up the steep slopes of the majestic Mount Uludag and I promised myself: next time I'll stop over and take a closer look. All I can say is: it was one of my best travel decisions ever! Read about Exploring Bursa Turkey
by Inka Piegsa-Quischotte. Inspired by an article about Hasankeyf, an ancient settlement on the banks of the river Tigris, soon to disappear under the waters of the Ilisu hydroelectric dam, I was on my way to explore Turkey's southeast. I want to see Hasankeyf, her caves, mosques and emblematic medieval bridge before it all vanished forever. But not only Hasankeyf -- Mardin, Urfa and Harran were also on my itinerary. Read more...
by W. Ruth Kozak. I’m standing at the bottom of a steep flight of stone steps. High above me I can see the facades of the Doric-style temples that are cut into the cliff face of the mountain. I’ve waited years for this moment. So I haul myself up the precarious two hundred steps until I am standing in front of the most predominant of these marvels, the Tomb of Amyntas, which dates to the 4th century B.C.
by Bobbie Green. The legendary impregnable city of Troy did and does exist. It sits high atop a hill just outside the seaport city of Canakkale, Turkey. The city of Ephesus known as the best preserved ancient site in the world sits beyond the seaport city of Kusadasi, Turkey. These two important centers of antiquity captivate the imagination of their many visitors.
by Daniel Reynolds Riveiro. If you’ve seen one city in Ukraine, you’ve literally seen them all. Except Lviv. The city center was almost untouched during the war so when you stand in Lviv today, you're seeing 700 years of history.
by Linda Fasteson. The capital of the world’s oldest kingdom is a world of wonders-- tales of kings and queens, Vikings, and a mermaid, with a fortress, castles, palaces, and crown jewels. The largest of the Scandinavian cities cosmopolitan Copenhagen is a city as enchanting as the fairy tales it inspired.
by Patrice Raplee. Aromatic coffee houses and famous boutiques nestled together in the pedestrian area of Strøget, splendid, classic Danish architecture, both beckon visitors to explore charming Copenhagen.
by Jennifer Eisenlau. Seen Dodge Ball? If so, then you know about ESPN's fictitious Channel #8 – "The Ocho." Do I have a sporting contest for them to cover, but wait! The BBC actually did cover it because Englishman Stephen Preston competed in the big event (although he didn’t make it into the finalist list).
by Karen Hamlin. We sailed into the Arctic Circle one morning with such excitement. There is a large globe perched on a tiny atoll to mark the point of passage and as is customary, King Neptune, in full regalia, presided over the event outside on the main deck. Read more...
Oslo, Norway: Land of Vikings, Nobel Prize, Fabulous Opera House, and the Astonishing Vigeland Sculpture Garden in Frogner Park
by Robert Painter. O.K. You've seen the Sydney Opera House, you've visited the Met and you've even toured the opera house in Manaus on the Amazon River in Brazil. But, did any of them allow you to walk on the roof?
by Suzanne Wright. Like many people, I’ve come to Norway to see the fjords and, hopefully, catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. It’s about 7 p.m. and I’m aboard the MS Polarys. An announcement has just come over the PA from the silky-voiced cruise director Nils Eriksson that the "Northern Lights have been spotted at the aft of the ship." The lights might have disappointed a bit, but the adventures continue.
by Raoul Matson. When one thinks of Norway, it is often of deep, majestic fjords and glittering glaciers in west Norway, or of Oslo with its landmark ski-jump, Vigeland sculptures and Viking ship museum. But mostly hidden from view from the main highway from Oslo to Stavanger is the delightful area known as Sørlandet, and the small town of Risør. Located at tip of a peninsula bounded by two picturesque fjords or as the locals say, Ute I havgapet where fjord meets sea.
by Denise Mattia. An exploration of the folk art, culture, and fashion of Norway
by Karen Hamlin. Encapsulated, cocooned, and cosseted, I am carried half-way round the world to a land not only far from home but far removed from my day to day realities.The snow beneath us is like none I've ever seen; like a frozen rippled ocean with ridge-like waves extending as far as the eye can see.
by Patrice Raplee. In a small, southeastern Swedish town with narrow cobblestone lanes, colorful hollyhocks and charming, half-timbered stone houses, crime lurks in this quaint hamlet. In fact, a murderer lives on Harmony Street and explosions rock the village square! Why on earth would anybody want to visit this town? Perhaps charm is deceiving. Or, is it reality mixed with one of the most popular crime fiction dramas on the globe in Sweden? Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. The fascinating and wildly popular Millennium Trilogy by Swedish author Stieg Larsson has taken on a life of its own with over 60 million readers and books translated into 40 languages as well. Moreover, the three Swedish films based on Larsson's books, (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and the Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest) have earned global box-office clout and have garnered a huge fan base. Now, visit Sweden and take the tour, walking in the steps of the characters in Millennium Trilogy by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. The Stockholm archipelago, one of the largest in the Baltic Sea, consists of 24,000 islands and inlets. Several of the islands within this chain offer visitors a chance to experience a unique landscape and cultural richness.
by Patrice Raplee. Comprised of 14 islands and connected by 54 bridges with old-world architecture set in a cosmopolitan culture and an eminently walkable urban center, Stockholm is among the best cities in Europe to visit.
by Denise Mattia. I almost didn't find the place again. My guide and I passed it on my first day in the city and I doubted I could locate it a second time by myself. Still, it seemed like such a magical shop, I knew I had to try.
by Suzanne Wright. On of our favorite globe-trotting writers is back to share her experiences in Stockholm, and Sweden's charming countryside and towns.
by Carmen Hamdi. It is sunny and it is midnight. And Carmen Handi is skiing in Sweden. I have skied for years now and this is the one and only run that I will remember forever she writes.
by Bobbie Green. Situated in the north-west region of Lake Onega is Kizhi Island, Russia -- home to an outdoor museum of fascinating edifices of northern wooden architecture. And a photographer's delight.
by Joshua Hartshorne. There's Russia for tourists, and there's the way Russians live their daily lives. Joshua takes readers for a ferry ride that provides a glimpse of the other Russia. Bring a sense of the absurd with you.
Africa (and Egypt)
by Lesley Stones. As far as desert islands go, Mauritius is a postcard from paradise. White sandy beaches, turquoise water, palm trees swaying and sexy girls dancing the local Sega. It's perfect for hedonists who want to do absolutely nothing except let the warm Indian Ocean wash their cares away. But that does get a bit, well, boring, after a while, doesn't it? So here's the other side of Mauritius - an island of activities.
It's astonishing how many unusual things you can fit into a single day. I'd patted a lion, quad biked through a herd of zebra and hugged a giant tortoise. Now I was eating lobster on a private beach reached by balmy boat ride. Read about Going on Safari in Mauritius and More
by Lesley Stones. In a split second, everything you have been taught about human history flies out of the window. Those melodramatic words are the introduction to an ancient and mysterious world scattered across the seemingly ordinary hills of South Africa. This green and pleasant land, tour leader Michael Tellinger tells us, is the birthplace of the human race. The site where aliens landed 300,000 years ago and cloned themselves to create mankind. Others disagree. Read about Aliens? Humans? The Stone Circle Mystery in South Africa
by Lesley Stones. My mother has refused to fly for decades. It's something to do with a perforated eardrum that would make her head explode on take-off. I rue that medical (or mental?) abnormality whenever I drive into the bush in my adopted home in Africa. I wish she could see countless wildebeest making their spectacular migration. The skittering springbok that comically prance away if something spooks them. She’ll never see a glorious sunset over wide-open plains of gold and tan. Or admire that extraordinary thing the moon does when it rises as big and as red as the sun that just went down. You can't get it anywhere except Africa, and most people never really "get" it at all. But once it's got you, you'll never shake it out of your heart. Read about Experience the African Game Safari and Lodge
by Julian Worker. No matter how many times I gazed at Table Mountain, rested on the Atlantic beaches, or savoured the food at one of the many restaurants at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, I could never really escape the history of Cape Town. Robben Island, the Slave Lodge on Wale Street, and the Bo Kaap district all lead you back to a dark past. There's a reason for everything here and this intriguing past makes Cape Town a must-visit city. Read more...
by Fyllis Hockman. I told myself ahead of time I would not stare. Even though the bare breasts hung low and large, my eyes instead went to the large, intricate metal jewelry adorning their necks, wrists and ankles. I was relieved that what might have been an embarrassing focus became only a gloss-over glance. This was my introduction to the beautiful bodies and gentle lifestyle of the Himba people, the last remaining tribe in Namibia, on the southwest coast of Africa, to cling savagely to its native identity dating back over 500 years. Read more...
by Fyllis Hockman They say it is hard to walk in the footsteps of another, but those were exactly the instructions we received when trekking along the ridge of an approximately 350-foot-high sand dune in Namibia, Africa. The old mountain-climbing adage applies here, as well: The slower you go up the mountain, the faster you get there. Read more...
by Bernard Pollack and Danielle Nierenberg. In October 2009 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia we began a journey to visit nearly every country in Africa. At each stop we are meeting with farmers, community organizers, labor activists/leaders, unions, non-governmental organization (NGOs), the funding and donor communities, and local press. Once in a while we manage to step back and enjoy local food, cultures, and even nightlife. Read more...
by Suzanne Wright. It took three planes including a six-seat chartered Cessna to deposit Suzanne Wright at Eagle Island. And,the pilot had to buzz the pavement to send the lumbering elephants into the trees.
by Carolyn Crutchley. Marrakech, Morocco has made the top 10 list of places to visit. But what is behind the mystical hippie, magnetic pull of Marrakech? Back in the heady hazy days of the sixties and seventies film stars and top designer such as Yves St. Laurent gravitated here for a lavish rule-free winter lifestyle. Taking over the plushest of Riads and Palaces, they were welcome by the locals for the work and money that came with the large entourages. That subsided as locations that were more exotic became fashionable. The arrival of low cost airlines has heralded a new surge. But is it still that fabled, exotic destination? Read more...
by Karen Hamlin. The lure of the kasbahs and the souks. Exotic, mysterious Mystical Morocco.
by Neala Schwartzberg. The stately Nile flows through Egypt as it has for centuries upon centuries. Life along its banks and in the mud-brick houses seems to have changed little. As I visit the temples the dot the land along the river, a sense of temporal dislocation happens again and again.
by Neala Schwartzberg. The call to prayer floats over the city. The eternal sounds, the ancient melody is both beautiful and calming. It competes with the more mundane sounds of traffic, and forms a counterpoint to the driving base of horns and treble of screeches.
See video on Pyramids of Egypt
By Suzanne Wright. "Man fears time, yet time fears the pyramids," says postcard after postcard. How surreal to have flown in, driven through the teeming traffic of the modern city of Cairo, then fall onto my bed in Giza to admire these mystic structures I’ve long dreamed of seeing.
by Suzanne Wright. Exotic, Historic, Delicious.
by Keith Kellett. I’d never been to Tozeur before; indeed, I’d never been to Tunisia before. But, as we approached, it looked somehow familiar. ‘Did you see the original ‘Star Wars’ film? asked the guide. ‘They used Tozeur to represent the spaceport at Mos Eisley.’ But on the safari, there was a lot more to discover.
by Fyllis Hockman. On the island of Djerba, Arabs and Jews live in harmony. If only more of the world was like that small island.
Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Middle East (See Africa for Egypt)
by Inka Piegsa-Quischotte. Last week, I made my dream of visiting Oman a reality, but it wasn't until my friend Wendy and I went to reception of the fabulous Crowne Plaza Hotel in Muscat where we stayed to start planning our trips when we got a real surprise: the #1 spot in the brochures offered dolphin watching off the coast of Muscat and an overnight tour to Sur via Wadi Shab to Ras Al Jinz in the south east of the country to watch the rare nesting grounds of the Giant Green Turtles. Who would have thought? Read about Two Don't Miss Tours in Oman: Turtles and Dolphins
by Troy Herrick. Many pilgrims visit the Galilee to renew their faith at the many Old and New Testament sites mentioned in the Bible. While Tiberias is certainly beautiful in its own right, there is little of any Biblical significance within its city limits. Because of its central location however, Tiberias makes an excellent base for daytrips into the countryside to sites like Megiddo, Sepphoris and Mount Tabor (where Jesus was transfigured). Set at the crossroads of civilizations, this city has witnessed a number of battles involving Egyptians, Canaanites, Israelites (Joshua 12:21), Assyrians and Babylonians in ancient times; and the French (under Napoleon), Ottoman Turks, British and Israelis more recently. But at least one more battle remains to be fought because Megiddo is Armageddon – the site of the Biblical Apocalypse (Revelation 16:16). However, visitors should note that Armageddon is actually a corruption of the Hebrew word Har (mountain) and the city name of Megiddo. Read more...
by Troy Herrick. For almost two thousand years, Christians have visited the Holy Land to connect with their faith and to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Modern pilgrims might be under the impression that the traditional sites associated with Jesus and his family are unique and firmly established but this is not so. Nazareth has two churches commemorating the Annunciation. Jerusalem has two locations for Jesus' tomb. Kafr Kanna (Cana) has two churches celebrating the miracle of transforming water to wine. Read more...
by Judith Fein. The hills around Safed are dotted with ancient tombs. To Jewish believers, these tombs of long-deceased tsaddikim, or holy men, are the meeting place between the living and the dead. People make pilgrimages to the burial places to ask for blessings, favors, surcease from suffering. Read more...
by Phyllis Strobel. In the ancient city of Jerusalem you can put your feet upon the actual timeworn limestone walkway that Jesus trod upon. Stand upon the very same temple steps he taught on.
by Keith Kellett. The problem with visiting places on a cruise is that you seldom get to stay anywhere long enough to really get to know it. This does, though, sometimes have a reciprocal advantage; if you DON'T like a place, you won't be there long enough for it to be a big issue. But, Oman was a country in which we could have stayed longer. I felt that almost before we docked at around breakfast time. We entered the harbour at Muscat, the capital and chief port of the country, and rather rushed our breakfast, so we could hurry out on deck to see the ship entering the harbour. And then... came the castles. Read more...Read more...
by Emily Grey. It’s midnight at the oasis, a primitive Bedouin desert camp. Six other American journalists and I gather around a campfire to discuss the day while drinking Zhoula, a strong tasty herbal tea. Our hosts and guides smoke sheesha, a curious-looking water pipe also called hubbly bubbly or hookah. I puff this apple rind concoction, careful not to inhale.
Indonesia, Guam, Bali, Malaysia, Laos, Philippines and more
by Denise Mattia. My expectations were great when I embarked on a ten-day trip, with a plan to dive a sampling of the innumerable ships sunk during World War II and the coral reefs off islands that comprise the Philippines archipelago. I chose three from the collection of 7,107 islands (some barely break the surface of the water), which divide the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea from the Atlantic Ocean.
by Denise Mattia. The last of our destinations started out with a flight back to Manila, a connecting flight to Coron, Palawan, a ride in a “jeepney” (open air transports, originally fashioned out of reclaimed U.S. Army vehicles) over dirt roads and a boat ride to our final destination, Club Paradise. Endemic vegetation, coconut palms and stunning white sand create a lushness that’s intensified by the tropical sun.
by Suzanne Wright. I am perhaps 20 feet below the surface of the Visayan Sea, suspended in front of a giant, mesmerizing cobalt jellyfish. I’ve come to get wet, eat well and enjoy spa treatments in luxury accommodations. The Philippines delivers—in spades—on all counts.
by Jody White. A story of a beautiful part of the world, coping with a special problem.
by Suzanne Wright. The capital of the country, Vientiane, gets less press than Luang Prabang, but has its own quiet charm. And there's even more to explore outside the citySlide Show Read more...
by Suzanne Wright. Long in the shadow of neighbors Thailand and Vietnam, this low-key Southeast Asian country awaits discovery. Slide Show Read more...
by W. Ruth Kozak. Langkawi abounds with quaint villages, quiet coves and long stretches of white sand beaches. Boat tours are available to the many small jewel-green islands.
by Emily Grey. All’s quiet momentarily on the Kinabatangan, one of the world’s wildest rivers. Our guide Juan, a boatman, and three other travelers look earnestly into the dark jungle. Headhunters once lurked either side of the waterway. Nowadays, descendants dress authentically and relate oral history.
by Robert Painter. I came to Malaysia to explore the wilds of Borneo. I had heard about the high canopy walks through the rain forests, the carnivorous pitcher plants, the proboscis monkeys reminiscent of Jimmy Durante and the wonderful Orang utans that can be viewed outside of a zoo in their natural habitat. And, it was all there.
by Rick Millikan. Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur displays innovative architecture and historic grandeur. This city’s natural attractions include an enclosed Butterfly and Bird Park as well as an extensive Orchid Parks. Yet in the evening, Kuala Lumpur can also entertain folks in a frighteningly unique fashion.
by Lyn Lyon. Ubud is set in the lush green hills of rich rice-terraced country and is the cultural centre, the artistic heart of Bali.
by Suzanne Wright. There’s not much I want to do—save sleep—at 4:30 a.m., but I rose to catch sunrise from the top of the temple. Not just any temple, but Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world in Central Java.
by Teresa Bergen. The bulk of Macau's tourists hail from mainland China, where gambling is illegal. And it's gambling that draws them. The industry has proliferated with China's rising middle and upper class, and the casinos have grown in size and glitziness. The Venetian looks much like the one in Vegas. The Galaxy is absolutely huge and contains the world's largest rooftop wave pool and private villas you can rent, if their upscale hotel rooms aren't fancy enough for you. The City of Dreams complex has three big hotels and a shopping mall you could get lost in for days. For me the beauty of Macau was in the surprising details. This former Portuguese colony hanging off the edge of mainland China has a fascinating cultural history -- a mix of Portuguese and Chinese, Catholic, Buddhist and Taoist. This manifests in mixed architecture, mixed cuisine and mixed people. You see it in the beautiful little shrines on the sidewalks outside businesses, and in the blue and white Portuguese tile work on the walls of the old parts of town. Read about Macau Beyond the Casinos
by Patrice Raplee. On a warm, fall afternoon, couples and families stroll along the quay, gazing at the enormous towering buildings across the Huangpu River in the Pudong district. Teenagers are grinning into cameras, while toddlers lick sticky fingers from ice cream cones and aunties chat on stone steps; it is the perfect day to relax and explore Shanghai, and China's famous Bund. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. Wide wooden boats filled with tourists slowly motor along the picturesque lake on a warm afternoon amidst shimmering waterways that reflect serene forests, towering pagodas and misty mountains. It is here in the beautiful and mystic West Lake that legends both romantic and forlorn are born. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. A small lotus pond, surround by fragrant flowers and sculpted trees, reflects the images of three elegantly dressed Chinese women chatting idly in an ornate pavilion. The midday sun shines down on the women, as they wait for their family to join them for a serene Sunday walk around Suzhou's magnificent Master-Of-Nets Garden. Read more...
by Patrice Raplee. On a warm, fall afternoon, sunlight filters through the locust trees and spicy aromas emanate from numerous kitchens, as local residents relax outside over a game of Mahjong. Rickshaw drivers nod at the neighbors and glide past through the alleyways of Beijing's intriguing and ancient Hutong district. Beijing, China, located in the eastern part of the country, is a fascinating city to visit. With the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Temples, excellent cuisine, attractions, shopping, museums, impressive modern architecture and the disappearing Hutongs or courtyard neighborhoods, China offers a mesmerizing experience and adventure. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. Fengjing, now almost a part of greater Shanghai is a living example of the water towns of China. Fengjing has an old historic area that is being renovated, in keeping with the policy of trying to replace old housing with the same style and design in the historic districts. But it is clearly a living town and one that provides a unique glimpse at a way of life that is not easy to find in an increasingly urbanized modern world. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. Yu Gardens (also called Yuyuan Gardens) is known for its spectacular classical beauty, and for uniquely Chinese Old Town bazaar that is adjacent. While the area known as the French Concession has colonial history, European feel combined with traditional Chinese sensibilities. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. Suzhou, another of the Marco Polo cities, is famous for its outstanding gardens (UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site), silk factory (and shopping opportunity), ancient cultural streets, a theater in high tech Time Square, the lovely Lake Jin Ji. Add to that opera and artisan museum, Suzhou has much that will make you want to pack a bag. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. Most visitors to China are excited to see the fabled Shanghai, and the capital Beijing, but China has one jewel that should not be missed. Hangzhou is a provincial capital and a city known for its natural beauty – it is a garden city, with a wide swatch of parkland around West Lake - historic temples, vibrant restored neighborhoods, and Dragon Well green tea. Slideshow Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. A guide to the major attractions, some great hotels, and suggestions about traveling around the city. Slideshow Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. His name was Dr. Feng Shan Ho, and he was the rescuer of thousands and thousands of Austrian Jews who fled the Nazis, finding a haven in Shanghai, China. No movie has been made of his life, so few people even in China know of his good deeds. But both before and after the influx of Eastern European Jews in China, there was a thriving community in the city. And the remnants are still there to explore.Slideshow. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. This fabled Chinese city has everything -- cosmopolitan Bund, the energetic modern Pudong, traditional neighborhoods, and even an area called Chinatown in China. A visit to Shanghai, a huge sprawling city of almost 14 million, will bust every stereotype and image. One place to start your explorations is in the high-tech, futuristic Pudong. Slideshow. Read more...
by Neala Schwartzberg. The Park Hyatt is the world’s highest hotel and a high-tech luxury aerie. A marvel in subdued tones of black, white and grey. Sleek and contemporary yet warm and welcoming. The night lights glowing softly like ice cubes lit from within. Read more...
by Karen Hamlin. In the chill of early morning, I locate the birdpark that Aming had told me about and wait for the old men to arrive.
by Shivya Nath. I'm fascinated as Tenzing describes a mystery mountain close to his hometown in Spiti. He's my first local friend, and the expert driver who we've entrusted with our lives, up the precarious mountain roads from Shimla to Spiti. We've been stuck in a landslide for almost 5 hours now, watching men relentlessly battle a piece of the mountain on the road. A part of me is glad; it has bought me 5 extra hours of Tenzing's stories. The little wrinkles on his tanned forehead hardly give away his 40 years, and his gregarious nature is my first introduction to the mountain folks in Spiti. But I know that the Spiti River shall take us to the mystery mountain someday! Read more...
by Shelley Seale. It's often been said that nothing worthwhile is easy. This is a perfect way to describe the Darjeeling area of far northern India, which cannot in any terms be described as easy to get to. You have to want to go to Darjeeling; you have to be dedicated, really. Starting from Kolkata or Delhi you fly into Bagdogra Airport or take the train to New Jalpaiguri station; from there it is either a 5-hour car ride along steep, winding, bumpy mountain roads or you can take the famous Himalayan Railway Toy Train – although this will take 7 hours or longer. But let me put your mind to rest – all of this is exceedingly worth it. Although the ride is rather jostling it is also magnificent, with some of the most spectacular views on earth of the world’s highest mountains, and green valleys below dotted with villages and farms. And once you have arrived, you quickly begin to understand the draw that this magical place has. Read more...
by Suzanne Wright. In the end, writes Suzanne, India breaks your heart, tests your will, exhausts your spirit, stretches your soul, awakens your humanity and, finally, repays you for its challenges and exasperations with its indelible imprint.
by Denise Mattia. Two of the major tourist attractions in Toyko were on my agenda, the fish market and auction, and a performance of the famed Kabuki theater. Slide Show Read more...
by Denise Mattia. Grand scale skyscrapers, manicured gardens, little white gloves on taxi drivers that go with white lace seat covers for their cabs. Clean streets and a clean underground system. Elegantly prepared cuisine in food bars. When I think of Tokyo, detail, design, order and cleanliness come to mind. Slide Show Read more...
by Kaila Krayewski. Koh Phangan is well-known for the Full Moon Party but there's so much more to this island. The north west has some of the most beautiful beaches you've ever seen. The yoga camps attract beginner yogis and advanced from all over the world, enticed by the serene, spiritual atmosphere on the island. Koh Phangan is truly the definition of a paradise island. Read about Find Your Perfect Vacation in Phangan Thailand, Island Paradise
by Shelley Seale. If you're traveling on a budget, Southeast Asia is a great place to visit. Once you get here, it's easy to keep the cost of living very low, and have an amazing time on just a few bucks. Take your pick from our recommendations to build your itinerary for a great day in Bangkok, for less than $10 – and easily around $5: Read more...
by Karen Hamlin. For a shopaholic, standing before any of the megamalls in Bangkok is like approaching the pearly gates without a guardian angel. There is a mall or market to fit any purse and with the exchange rate at the time of my visit, my inner voice gave me permission to Go crazy. Read more...
by Antonio Graceffo. The Biggest, Weirdest, Slowest, and Most Expensive Game in Thailand
by Lesley Stones. It must have been on the 10th day that I developed a craving for chips and cheesecake. Noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner had been a novelty until then, but my jaws were craving something to actually chew on. So I excused myself from a restaurant where the menu entices with noodles and frog, and "noodles fried with miscellaneous", and let myself loose in Vietnam’s Saigon. The city has borne the dour name of Ho Chi Minh City since 1975, yet even some of the locals still call it by the more romantic name Saigon. It’s a captivating place of glorious old colonial buildings, gaudy temples competing with flashy neon street signs, delicate Asian ladies riding elegantly on their bikes, and the pretty Mekong Delta within day-tripping distance. Read more...
by Rick Neal. I emerge from the comfort of my air-conditioned hotel into the sweltering, teeming streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. The narrow road is home to a traditional street market. Tanks of wriggling fish, buckets of plump frogs, mountains of fleshy mangos, and stacks of jumbo papayas combine to create a tangy aroma that is not totally pleasant, yet strangely intriguing. Read more...
There I was, descending this very steep, narrow plank, inch by inch, hand over hand along the long pole, and I thought: This better be one hell of a cave! It was. Exploring its other-worldly interior was only the first of many surreal experiences I had traveling along Ha Long Bay in northeast Vietnam.
by Suzanne Wright. Here’s a sure sign a country is ready to welcome the world: it has attracted top hoteliers. From North to South, Vietnam has opened a string of five-star hotels to host visitors in its most popular cities.
More Southeast Asia
by Chris Tharp. We walked in silence into the main artery of Jagalchi Market, letting ourselves be led by the slipstream of people heading into its heart. On each side were countless stalls with their wares splayed out in front of us. Jagalchi is both the heart and soul of Busan. To understand the market is to understand the city's history, and this first trip gave me a taste of the old city, which, while disappearing a bit more each day, will always be alive down where the boats unload their catches. Read about Jagalchi Market in Busan Korea
by Lesley Stones. Korea is a country that few people really know much about. There's the war, of course, occasional cross-border skirmishes and the impenetrable dividing line between north and south. It's certainly been a tough life for this little country perched on the edge of China and Russia. But when you land in Seoul that all seems a million miles away, even though the border creeps to within 30 miles of the city.
The Koreans have some aspects of living down to a quirky fine art. Like heated toilet seats that you really appreciate when the temperature plunges to below freezing.Read more...
by Denise Mattia. Scuba-diver and photographer Mattia went for the diving, and found history, adventure, and paradise-building in process as well.
by Suzanne Wright. Wedged between the world's most populous countries, China and India, the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is famous for measuring its Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product. This, in light of the global economic meltdown, seems particularly auspicious. Read more...
by Suzanne Wright. This English-speaking nation island has a number of surprises for those who wish to discover it. Read more...
by Steven Crook. Taiwan isn't all tech gadgets and Taipei 101. Beyond the big cities it's a different story, a different country altogether. Yanshuei, 240 kilometers down island from Taipei, is the town modern, laptop-manufacturing, cell-phone toting, Taiwan forgot. A century and a half ago, it was the island's fourth-largest settlement. Then its harbor silted up and things went downhill. And in February or March, the town still pulls in visitors with its unique Guan Gong ritual.
by Suzanne Wright. Utter Cambodia and some think of the Killing Fields and the bloody dictatorship of Pol Pot. But there is another Cambodia: a country of gentle, resilient people who, like a Buddhist proverb says, are "the lotus that blooms in the mud." Cambodia began as a dream, a gentle dream, far removed from the travails of this Southeast Asian country.
by Antonio Graceffo. George Santayana said "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." And Edmund Burke noted that "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Which brings us to remembering the Khmer Rouge and the Toul Sleng Prison. It's not a happy article, but perhaps it will remind us of the truths to remember history, and act to stop the past from becoming the future, somewhere else.
by Antonio Graceffo. Training in Deep Water Bay, at night, is an experience everyone should have at least once in their life. There is a solitude on the water, unimaginable in the over-populated jungle of skyscrapers in the city, only a few miles away. With distance, the skyscrapers and electric lights of Hong Kong became the most beautiful sight imaginable. Looking back at the shore, I could see the rolling mountainsides covered in mansions and thousands of lights, dotting the night sky, like stars.
by Joe David. A humorous essay on riding elephants.
by Antonio Graceffo. Chong Kines is a small fishing village built on the Tonle Sap Lake, not far from Siem Reap. Not along the banks, but literally on the water. The 6,000 villagers use small rowboats to do their shopping and make their daily rounds. There are schools, shops, restaurants, temples, and even a hospital, all built on boats.
by Antonio Graceffo. Most of the stories Antonio Graceffo writes are filled with sharp wit and irreverant observations. But not this one. There are children dying for lack of medical care. Desperate families with no place to turn. This is the other side of travel, when we confront a reality that tourists never see.
by Antonio Graceffo. One problem with not reading Chinese in China is that you can't read the street signs. So, Graceffo used to carry a piece of paper in my wallet, which reads, in Chinese, something like, If lost please return to and then his address in Chinese. But, he reports, the day he decided to start studying Chinese was the day that he had to stop a stranger on the street to help him with the ATM machine.
by Suzanne Wright. What does a writer do when she lands in a country in the midst of a bloodless coup? If it's Nepal, and intrepid Suzanne Wright, she sees the sights and meet the people.
by Antonio Graceffo. Another in the series by Antonio Graceffo who left the comfort of New York to explore and experience Asia. This time Antonio experiences Everyday Buddhism.
by Antonio Graceffo. The first in series of articles in which Graceffo, an adventure travel writer, looks back at his experiences in Taiwan. Funny, irreverent, and sometimes a bit shocking, you'll discover the Taiwan tourists never know.
by Antonio Graceffo. The Taklamakan Desert, also called The Desert of Death, is considered to be the most dangerous desert in the world. My plan was to travel 544 km (about 388 miles), under my own power, along the famous Silk Road, from the oasis town of Aksu to the oasis town of Kashgar.
by Antonio Graceffo. In Phnom Penh, a woman sits in the small market near Stan Mien Jay, trying to think of some way to augment her family’s meager income. The answer is a very unusual bank, and micro-credit.
by Antonio Graceffo. The fifteenth day, of the tenth month, of the Khmer calendar marks the Pchum Ben festival. This is a time when the spirits of the dead ancestors walk the Earth. And the living can ease their suffering by offering them food to eat.
by Antonio Graceffo. Put a Chinese-speaking Italian-American, from Brooklyn in the holiest of Buddhist temples, and watch the racial harmony flow. One reviewer of his articles said, "Now I know why there are no ambassadors from Brooklyn."
by Antonio Graceffo. Living gently on Mekong Island in Cambodia
Once the summer resort of the British Government in South India, today Munnar, Kerala is sprawling tea plantations, winding lanes, rolling hills and "picture book" little towns.
by Bob Fisher. Some events are literally and metaphorically earth-shattering. The Peace Park in Hiroshima is a memorial to one of those moments, acknowledging the real costs of nuclear war, and awakening us to the need for humans live in peace.
by Robert Painter. Try to imagine a meandering 300-foot long tunnel that lets you walk among over 3,000 living sea creatures. Imagine viewing the underbelly of a shark or ray as it swims directly overhead, so close you could touch it except for the glass enclosure. And that's only the beginning of the excitement of Guam.
by Chris Millikan. Romantic tales of tropic isles floating in pristine waters lured us far away to Fiji…joining the ranks of Rudyard Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson. Exploring Fiji’s best, we madly scrambled in-and-out of tiny domestic planes and on-and-off launches and island-hopped through an ambitious itinerary.
Australia and New Zealand
by Keith Kellett. As our bus approached Coober Pedy towards the end of the afternoon, the setting sun came out, and lit up the red desert sand and the yellow grass. The pinky-white mullock heaps from the opal diggings for which the town is famous glowed ghost-white in the gathering darkness.
Coober Pedy, we were told, derived from Aboriginal words meaning roughly white man digging in holes, and what they're digging for is opals. Indeed, it's often called the "opal capital of the world". Since 1915, when the first opals were discovered by Willie Hutchinson, it's been a magnet for prospector and buyer alike. It also makes a great tourist destination. Read about Coober Pedy: Truly Offbeat Australia
by Keith Kellett. The town of Kuranda, in the coastal hills beyond Cairns, in northern Queensland is a rather arty-crafty sort of place, a holdover from the Sixties, when there was a thriving hippy colony here. But it was originally founded in 1873 by miners in search of the gold that had been discovered in those thickly forested hills. Other valuable minerals were also found nearby. But there was something else that really put Kuranda on tourism map. Read more...
by Keith Kellett. I’ve been enthusiastic about the coral reef ever since I read R.M. Ballantyne’s book The Coral Island when I was about eight years old. The author painted a vivid picture of a coral reef, and I was particularly moved by the description of Jack and Ralph taking the non-swimmer Peterkin to see these undersea marvels. Because I can’t swim very well, I always identified with Peterkin, and thought for a long time that these sights were off limits to me. In those days, people didn’t travel much anyway, and those reefs might just as well have been on the Moon. But that has changed. Read more...
by Emily Lawrence Gazal. It is hard to imagine a more welcoming, peaceful and civilised place than the Mornington Peninsula, one and a half hours drive south of the Australian city of Melbourne, in the state of Victoria.
by Keith Kellett. The River Murray is sometimes described as Australia’s Mississippi. It’s rather an inaccurate description, because nowhere near as much traffic was generated as it was on its American counterpart. But, in 1986, the Mississippi really came to the Murray when the Murray Princess was built.
by Ian Robertson. Experience the Tasmanian wilderness just a few steps from a sparkling champagne (or James Boags Draught, if you prefer). Tasmania does a great job of surrounding pure indulgence with wilderness.
by Jennifer Eisenlau. For someone who dislikes being nude in front of strangers, I seem to find myself undressed a lot.
by Victor Block. As a waitress at the Just Cafe‚ told me, while I sipped a steaming bowl of fresh seafood chowder: "We have no banks, no doctors, no junky T-shirt shops -- and no stress." And 120 miles of walking trails for a 674 mile island.
by Linda Fasteson. Only nine days in Australia, including travel time. Too short to see a continent larger than the United States, so Linda decided to focus on the greater Sydney area. She was not disappointed. In fact, Sydney has become her favorite city.
by Fyllis Hockman. Outrageous pampering at a deluxe lodge. Fyllis reports she had to be dragged away when her stay was over. Read her latest Postcard from and you'll see why
by Leona Baldwin. Read the fantasy and reality of a working farm vacation. WWOOF?
Without National Borders
by Imbar Golt. Today would be my first diving experience. Organizing the dive itself was a whole project. How often do they get a blind woman wanting to dive?
Grandma Was a Shaolin Monk: Travel all the way around the world and you wind up back where you started
by Antonio Graceffo. The wisdom of Grandma echoed in the teachings of the Shaolin monks, explored in this new book by Antonio Graceffo. If you make a conscious choice to change jobs, start a business, earn more money, lose weight, finish a degree, or achieve any goal or dream, then do it. If it will make you happy, then do it. But don’t ever let anyone bully you into feeling bad about who you are. You are the way you are supposed to be. And you are beautiful.
This is not only one of the perennial questions asked of travel writers, it's also one we often ask each other. And here are some of the answers.
"There's a chance peace will come in your life, please buy one..."
From: Peace Will Come (According to Plan) by Melanie
Sure, it's the official home of Santa Claus, but there's more to see and do... and enjoy
Enchanting rice terraces in the morning mist, fragrant flowers at every turn and ribbons of sandy beaches snaking around the coast. What Bali lacks in size, it more than makes up for in sights, tastes and sounds.
Beautiful Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands archipelago, is perhaps best known as a lively holiday destination popular with families and groups of nightlife-loving friends. But there is much more to Tenerife than vast hotel complexes and all-night discos. A stunning volcanic landscape, pristine beaches, a lush interior and sleepy fishing villages make this a real island of contrasts and visitors to Tenerife could be scaling a snow-capped mountain one day, relaxing on a sunny beach the next.
Amsterdam is famous for more things than any other city on earth. On the one hand people think of coffee shops and the Red Light District, on the other, history, architecture and canals. A trip to Dam needn't cost too much either with plenty of free ways to enjoy the city.
Sitting east of Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula forms the eastern edge of the Hauraki Gulf and the western edge of the Bay of Plenty. After seeing the sights of the city, the peninsula’s natural beauty and easy pace will lull you into a fine holiday ease whilst letting you get away from the more heavily touristic areas.
The Canary Islands is famous for its rich culture and tradition that has always attracted the attention of both locals and tourists. The Tenerife region is famous for handcrafts, cuisine and great historical monuments that define its transition from the pre-colonial era to the modern generation. Volcanic eruption created these islands and is still visible at Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote, where steam forms on the surface when water is poured into the hollow pipes. And there's so much more!
Experience Costa del Sol's enchanting ability to conjure the sun, and summon the aura of ancient days by embarking on a Spanish quest. Here, visitors hop into a metaphorical time machine and journey back to medieval days.
Mode of transportation plays a major role here in how one chooses to soak in their travel experience. What about a motorized vehicle?
Updated March 28th, 2013