Jabbing his pole like a one-pronged pitchfork into the slow red river of rock, the ashtray salesman pulled out a hot wad of lava. I scrambled back as he swung it by me and plopped it into a mold. His partner snipped it off with big iron clippers and rammed it into shape. Dropping the now shapely mass into a bucket, the water did a wild jig. ...Read more
Life in Barcelona is an engaging mix of Madrid-style love of life and Parisian elegance and taste. Spain's second-biggest city is one of the hottest tourist destinations in Europe, with more than 7 million visitors a year, so its popular pedestrian boulevards can become human traffic jams.
Despite its notorious crowds, there's plenty to enjoy. ...Read more
In the hearty town pub of Olomouc in the Czech Republic, egged on by the locals around me, I order the "Guttery Breath of the Knight of Lostice" — Olomouc's infamous stinky cheese. It comes with a lid, mints, and the offer of a toothbrush. (The fun-loving menu notes they only have one toothbrush, so I decline.)
Olomouc (pronounced OH-la-mootz...Read more
I’m in Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera. It’s twilight and I’m eating at La Mere Germaine (Momma Germaine), a restaurant that got its start feeding hungry GIs in World War II. Germaine’s grandson runs the place and he’s at my table – artfully filleting six different fish before lovingly ladling on the broth.
He explains ...Read more
As I fingered the jagged green marble of a chipped-up fireplace mantle, my guide told me the story. This lodge – which sits like a James Bond fantasy atop an alpine peak – was a gift to Adolf Hitler for his 50th birthday in 1938. His inner circle all contributed. And, according to legend, the fireplace was a little extra from Mussolini. In ...Read more
I spent the day walking on Inishmore. It’s one of the weather- and wave-beaten Aran Islands which, on a blustery day, seem to be gulping seawater off the west coast of Ireland. Locals, keenly aware that they’re on the west fringe of Europe, are fond of saying, “The next parish over’s Boston.” An elfish, black-clad farmer, determined to...Read more
When sightseeing my way through Stockholm — which has a longer list of must-see attractions than any city in Scandinavia — I take full advantage of the local tradition of the fika — Sweden's ritual coffee break.
Swedes must drink more coffee per capita than people in just about any other country. The fika is to Sweden what the siesta is ...Read more
I’m high in the Swiss Alps in a tiny mountain hut on a perch called Ebenalp. Here, a spry grandpa in a sweater as worn as his face pulls a wide-eyed child onto his lap to teach him to drum with old wooden spoons, as the old-timer next to him pumps on his squeezebox. Tall, sloppy mugs of beer stoke the commotion. I’m immersed in the ...Read more
Since Phoenician times, octopi have been the main catch for the villagers of Salema, located on a still-sleepy patch of the Algarve, Portugal’s popular south coast. And the fishing process has changed little in several thousand years. At the crack of dawn, I wait at the beach for my local friend, Sebastian, who’s agreed to take me out to ...Read more
Germans are famous for excelling. While notoriously well organized and efficient, they are also experts at relaxing. Explore Germany's Black Forest--with its venerable trails and world-class mineral spas--and you'll know what I mean.
A mix of Edenism and hedonism, the Black Forest is popular with German holiday-goers and tourists looking for ...Read more
Vernazza’s strollable breakwater creates a little harbor, rare on this rugged Italian Riviera coastline. Grabbing a comfortable hollow in a boulder on the tip, I study the arrangement man and nature have carved out here over the last thousand years. Crumpled hills come with topographical lines: a terraced, green bouquet of cactus, grapevines, ...Read more
The villagers of the Swiss Alps have an endearingly intimate relationship with the nature that surrounds them, the history of their valley, and the folk legends that make that history even more interesting. And, taking a hike there with a local comes with as many cultural insights as it does alpine views. I’m spending my day walking with my ...Read more
Years ago, when I got my history degree, I said to myself, “I’d better get a business degree, too, so I have something useful.” But I’ve learned over the years that if more people knew more about history, our world would be a better place. History is constantly speaking to us. Travelers enjoy a privileged way to hear it — and sometimes...Read more
Of the great cities of Europe, four are worth a week of sightseeing: London, Paris, Rome, and Istanbul. And of those, Istanbul offers the most thrills for the best price. With every visit, I simply get out and stroll.
The historic and touristic center of Istanbul between the Hagia Sophia Mosque and the Blue Mosque is virtually traffic-free, ...Read more
When I tell my British friends I’m going to Blackpool, their expressions sour and they ask, “Oh, God, why?” My response: Because it’s a carnival-esque tipsy-toupee, ears-pierced-while-you-wait place, where I can experience working-class England at play.
For over a century, until the last generation, Blackpool, located on the west ...Read more
“For the Sienese life story: You’re born...there’s the Palio...and then you die.”
That’s how my friend Roberto explains the importance of Italy's world-famous horse race, the Palio di Siena, which takes place twice every summer on July 2 and August 16. The city’s residents hurl themselves into the traditional revelry of the event ...Read more