It’s fascinating to me how differently travelers can perceive the same place.
For Americans, Barcelona — Europe in general, for that matter — is a cultural destination. We come to tour the architecture of Gaudi, see the museums of Dali and Miro, walk through Catalonia’s ancient Jewish ghettos, and sample the molecular gastronomy for which the region is lately famous.
The best souvenir I ever heard of was a giant wheel of cheese that my friend Era smuggled out of her native Albania.
This was not just any cheese. It was 20 pounds of stinky, sheep-milk kashkaval, the hard cheese found throughout the Balkans. And of course, such an item is virtually guaranteed to be on the U.S. Customs no-no list for importation; had they searched her luggage and found the wheel, it could have been quite the scene. But they didn’t, and Era was eating Albanian sheep cheese all year.
There was a time when a vacation in Argentina automatically meant Buenos Aires. The country’s capital city — home to tango, Latin America’s biggest Jewish community and a third of the Argentine population — was, for many North Americans, the only place on the tourism radar.
In the nicest possible way, very little ever changes on Martha’s Vineyard, an island of green cliffs and shingled cottages off the coast of Cape Cod.
For decades, the Vineyard week has followed a delightfully predictable schedule. Wednesday and Saturday mornings bring the farmer’s market at West Tisbury; everyone stocks up on local lettuce, beans and flowers for weekend dinners.
You hear a lot about Detroit these days, and not too much of it is positive. You hear about the travails of the long-struggling automobile industry, the staggering unemployment rate and the inexorable population decline. They're all related, of course, and together these facts tend to cement the image of a once-mighty metropolis now past its prime.