05/17/2011 | | Travel Writer | Travel

Whether to go to Provence, France’s lavender-scented south, is a no-brainer. But shaping an itinerary from the myriad lovely villages and vibrant cities can be daunting.

The colorful, teeming streets of Marseilles beckon to some, while others head for the winding lanes and rolling fields that inspired Van Gogh — or possibly drove him further into his starlit nocturnal madness.

05/10/2011 | | Travel Writer | Travel

Some of the world’s oldest known civilizations have inhabited the Eastern Balkans, where worn-down mountain ranges punctuate the vast Thracian plain.

Yet many of the region’s cities have little to show for those ancient roots. Centuries of war, imperialism, poverty and even natural disasters have left much of the area lacking in opulent architecture and quaint historic cores like those found throughout Western Europe. And visitors accustomed to those more accessible destinations can find themselves frustrated by a lack of tangible urban history.

05/03/2011 | | Travel Writer | Travel

Did you know there are palm trees on the English coast? Neither did I. Like most of us, my mental image of the U.K. was shaped by earlier experiences in gray, rainy London and gloomy Scotland, and by the perpetual sodden chill in countless British novels. Can you imagine “Wuthering Heights” under a sunny blue sky?

04/27/2011 | | Travel Writer | Travel

One of the most distinctive things about California’s Pacific Coast Highway is how little it has changed over the years. Those heart-stopping curves along dusty cliffs, the vast Pacific Ocean crashing on rocky shores below, the towering evergreens that block out the sun around Big Sur? It is scenery as massive in scale as it is timeless.

04/18/2011 | | Travel Writer | Travel

When I was growing up, my parents never actually traveled anywhere, other than the predictable summer shore excursion — and of course, South Florida in the winter.

But that didn’t stop them from engaging in lively fantasy.

“Bud, wouldn’t it be romantic to go to Venice together?” my mom would rhapsodize, eyes shining at the prospect of gondolas and gelato. “Or Firenze! I remember shopping for gold jewelry on the Ponte Vecchio was I was 20…”

04/12/2011 | | Travel Writer | Travel

That Los Angeles is a car town — perhaps the consummate U.S. car town — is taken as a given by travelers, whose queue at the LAX car rental counter is a time-honored ritual.

But with gas around $4 a gallon and soul-crushing traffic jams, fed-up locals and savvy visitors are increasingly bucking convention, and taking the bus.