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We were excited to explore two of the three southern Italian boot regions: Basticata (Instep) and Pulia (Heel). The other boot region is Calabria (the toe). ‘The North of Italy may have the Euros, but the South has the Soul.” Slow-traveling fosters careful planning and promotes boundful energies. However, once one is actually on the road these factors proved to be essential: An informed and calm navigator; a regional paper map (we used the Michelin Tourist & Motoring Atlas 2019); careful attention to the driving laws and being aware of the residents driving nuances, and finally, hitting the “Avoid highways” option on Google Maps makes for additional enjoyment and discoveries. As slow-traveling seniors, we are inspired by art, informed by culture and motivated by curiosity. Although everything on our agenda had been pre-planned, one of the marvels of slow travel is discovering what has not been planned: Slow travel and…
We lived in the village of Sablet for two months which turned out to be the best location for us to explore Provence and Languedoc in southern France. We visited 56 villages, cities & towns and these were our favorite places: Châteauneuf du Pape The village, population 2,200, spreads down the hill from the 14th century chateau, along narrow streets lined with wine shops and cellars. A beautiful village center. All around are vineyards, many carpeted with large, round stones, found on the Rhone river beds. The stones soak up the sun during the day and reflect back at night to warm the vines of those grapes. We stopped for a cafe creme on the Place de la Fontaine, where there are a couple of cafes and boulangeries, before a short walk uphill to find the summer papal palace from the 1300's. Although the winds were fierce (40-45 miles per…
There is More to the Cotswolds than Rolling Hills and Grazing Sheep: 5,000 Years of History and Architecture in the Cotswolds of England Many years ago we lived in Oxfordshire, England, and our daughter was born in a little village near Oxford. This year we revisited our old stamping grounds in and around Oxfordshire, as well as the rest of the Cotswolds region in England. The Cotswolds have a very Beatrix Potter feel - No, they are not located in the lakes region, and you will not find Jemima, Peter, or Squirrel Nutkin. However, you will find hedgerows, Ha Ha’s, stiles and thorps that are reminiscent of her region. Pastoral villages with names like Burford, Chipping Norton, Morton on the Marsh and Great Rissington dot this storybook land. Buried among the warm golden-honey bedrock of Jurassic limestone are those massive areas of rolling hills, and sheep grazing in the meadows.…
The Salish Sea is a huge area encompassing much of the area between Vancouver Island in Canada to the southern end of Puget Sound, but it mainly refers to the waters of the Georgia, Rosario, Haro and Juan De Fuca Straits between Canada and Washington State. Many groups of the indigenous Salish people made their homes along these shores and gave the region its name. A multitude of over 400 islands dot the waters of the Salish and it has over 6,000 square miles of coastline. I chose to visit three islands: Fidalgo, Whidbey, and San Juan Island. Anacortes sits near the northern tip of Fidalgo Island and is called the gateway to the San Juan Islands. I drove over the Swinomish Channel bridge which connects the island to the mainland and began to explore its scenic beauty. It has much more to offer the visitor than just a ferry…
My first trip to Europe forty years ago started with a group tour to Vienna and then on to other countries in Europe. I fell in love with the totally intact old city and vowed one day to return to explore Vienna in more depth and see the rest of the country. This year my wife and I finally did that. While Austria is a relatively small country by size (around the size of the State of Maine), it is definitely one of the crowning jewels of the many spectacular countries throughout Europe. It has so many distinctive regions with charming towns and villages perched along its rivers or nestled in lush green valleys within the Alps. I spent several months planning the three week trip, which included calculating travel distances by car particularly in the mountainous region, identifying several unique sites off the beaten track as well as those…
Today is the day we have looked forward to; the reason we flew half-way around the world. Today we are to climb up to see Bhutan’s famous monastery, Tiger's Nest. It’s a long way from the U.S. to Bhutan. If you take a globe and put a finger of one hand on the U.S. and a finger of the other hand on Bhutan, you will find your two fingers at nearly opposite points. And it’s not all that easy to get there. There are no direct flights from the U.S. to Bhutan, so you fly through Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Singapore, or Thailand. We flew from San Francisco to Delhi, India where we spent a night. The next day we boarded a DrukAir (Bhutanese Airline) plane for the three-hour flight (over the Himalayas and through Kathmandu) to Paro, the only airport in Bhutan. The view of the snow-capped Himalaya Mountains (including…
Mardena knew what had happened, she said, as soon as she heard that “thump, thump, thump.” It was my head, bouncing down the staircase of our guesthouse in Luang Prabang, Laos. I’d gone downstairs to check that the night clerk had requested a tuk tuk to take me and my wife Mardena to Luang Prabang airport at 6:00 the next morning. Our flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was scheduled for 7:30, and I wanted to make sure that we’d get to the airport in plenty of time. The clerk confirmed he’d ordered the tuk tuk, and I headed back up the stairs. Ten or twelve steps up, my right hip gave out; I grabbed for a nonexistent railing and fell head first back down the staircase. My wife rushed down from the second floor and the clerk hurried over. “I’m okay,” I mumbled. My blood was smeared all over the…
It was on the third day of our cycling trip up the coast of Uruguay that it hit us: the countryside looks familiar. We woke that morning to fog – a dense gray mist that covered everything; including the lighthouse outside our hotel window, the large dark boulders that faced the waves of the Atlantic Ocean below, and the eucalyptuses forests that lined both sides of the road. It shrouded the countryside as we started our ride. Beneath the fog rolling green hills stretched as far as we could see, cattle grazed on pasture grass, and golden wheat fields waved in the breeze. On the other side of the roads, waves drenched the empty sand beaches. As we rolled along, we were struck by how similar this was to the coast of Oregon, or South Carolina, or Maine. But here we were, on the other side of the world. Como…
Pacific island nations are a common blind-spot on the holiday destination radar for Europeans. Until recently that part of the world has been prohibitively distant and/or expensive to journey to for many of us who've yet to emigrate to Australia (and some who have). Well, the times, they are a-changin'. Budget air carriers springing up between Europe and South-East Asia (like Scoot and Finnair) have slashed the cost of a hop over to the Pacific vicinity threefold over the past two-to-three years. With that said, the next time there's a week to spare, check out Vanuatu. An archipelago of 83 islands stretched over about 1,300 kilometers and home to roughly 250,000 permanent inhabitants, Vanuatu's capital Port Vila on Efeta island is a mere 3.5 hours flight northeast of Sydney and merits every second of the trip. Tourism comprises a comparatively huge chunk of its economy, yet Vanuatu remains so undiscovered…
Saturday, 01 September 2018

Madrid: The Literary City of Amor

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“And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed.” – Pico Iyer Due to the heat wave that has come from North Africa, I feel sweat running down my spine as I walk to my poetry class in Madrid. 1.6 kilometers each way exactly. And every day when I get back to my dorm room, I must change my sweat-drenched shirt. This becomes a cycle. My heat-based study-abroad cycle that doesn’t allow me to experience the city like I want to. 35 degrees Celsius. This is the temperature almost every day. The heat keeps me indoors as much as possible. Like the rest of my peers, I have a routine. Breakfast: toast with a crushed tomato spread and olive oil, a typical Spanish breakfast. After breakfast,…

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