Travel

Hilary Larson's travel tales and tips.

The Spontaneous Intimacy Of Travel

04/29/2014
Travel Writer
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“Are you Jewish?” my seatmate asked me about five minutes into the Amtrak ride from New York to Philadelphia.

The question might strike some as unnervingly direct, but New Yorkers are famous for that. And it was far from the most personal question I’ve been asked by someone I’ve known for less time than it takes to make coffee — someone with whom the only apparent connection is a passenger fare.

Exchanges with fellow travelers are among the more indelible imprints of travel. Wikimedia Commons

An Escape For L.A.’s Turkish Jewish Community

04/23/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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Avalon, Catalina Island — It’s no more than a short cruise from busy Los Angeles, but once here, you’ll think you’ve sailed to a far-away paradise.

Palm trees frame the harbor in Avalon, on Catalina Island.  George Medovoy

Medieval History, With Lavender

04/18/2014
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Overlooked and underrated, the French city of Perpignan reveals its charms to those with the patience to look.

Perpignan, best known as a transit hub for the beaches of the Languedoc-Rousillon, has the misfortune to be located amid a region of surpassing visual splendor and historic import. Were it a city in Hungary or Romania, it would surely be a major draw. But Perpignan’s quintessentially Gallic streetscapes, riverside quays and plethora of medieval architecture are hardly unique in this corner of France.

The quintessentially Gallic streetscapes of Perpignan. Henri Moreau

Celebrating Jewish Food In Clinton-land

04/08/2014
Travel Writer

April in Little Rock, Ark., brings a myriad of Southern blossoms,  warm afternoons and a flowering of Jewish culture.

The Arkansan capital makes a diverting and attraction-rich stop for cross-country drivers on Interstate 40, which cuts across the United States from Wilmington, N.C., to Barstow, Calif. Already home to a prominent civil rights-era history, Little Rock has lately attracted tourists with Bill Clinton’s presidential library and museum.

A replica of President Bill Clinton’s Oval office in Clinton Center. Courtesy of Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau

Urban Design At Its Best

04/01/2014
Travel Writer

It’s a pity Ildefons Cerda wasn’t more famous.

That was my conclusion as I strolled along the streets of his chef d’oeuvre, the Eixample (ay-SHOM-pla) neighborhood of Barcelona. The Catalan city planner created such a singular masterpiece of urban design that professionals the world over make pilgrimages to this elegant district, drawing inspiration from its sunlit angles and human scale.

Gaudi’s Casa Mila, the most famous of the “cut-corners” buildings in Cerda’s Eixample neighborhood. Wikimedia Commons

Tips For The Summer Driving Season

03/25/2014
Travel Writer

Over the past several years, my husband, Oggi, and I have rented more cars than I can count. This is not because we are carless New Yorkers with a weekend travel habit. Rather, it’s because both of our careers keep us in a state of constant mobility, with shifting home bases across two continents.

The author’s husband, in a rental car, pulling into a bed-and-breakfast in Calogne, Spain. Hilary Larson/JW

Bourbon Street And Jewish Life In Santa Monica

03/18/2014
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When did Santa Monica, the laid-back hub of Los Angeles’ beach communities, turn into Bourbon Street?

I pondered this as Oggi and I spent an hour and a half inching our rented Nissan along jam-packed beachside lanes that reminded me less of California and more of Manhattan’s 14th Street at rush hour. Thousands of young people — many clad in green on St. Patrick’s Day, others draped in gaudy strings of beads — strolled in leisurely herds along Main Street and Broadway. In some spots, the sidewalks were as jammed with pedestrians as the roads were with cars.

A Jewish tableau decorates the Israel Levin Senior Center on the Venice boardwalk.  Hilary Larson/JW

Virtues Of ‘The Valley’

03/11/2014
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Like valleys everywhere, the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles is defined by its surrounding mountains. Smoky purple and taupe, the jagged peaks are visible through the smog from every vantage point.

The sculpture garden at the American Jewish University.  Hilary Larson/JW

Keeping The Jewish Past Alive

03/04/2014
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The night clerk at my hotel in Lisbon’s port district was complaining. Too many immigrants, he groused. Brazilians, Cape Verdeans, Angolans — the breadth of Portugal’s erstwhile empire is visible on every street in downtown Lisbon. The clerk darkly suggested a link to increased prostitution.

A fountain in the old Jewish quarter. TRAM CREDIT: Alvegaspar / FOUNTAIN: Jose Manuel

Where Jewish Culture Runs Deep

02/25/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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There are a few reasons why a New Yorker will feel at home in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the second-largest city in South America: he has to negotiate busy streets and assertive natives, and take the “subte” (the subway) to get around. He can always find pizza and he gets to choose from an abundant roster of cultural events. But with its decaying colonial architecture and unique blend of gentility and bellicosity, Buenos Aires is also a true mix of Europe and South America.

A plaque commemorating slain Israeli leader Yitzchak Rabin in Buenos Aires’ Retiro neighborhood. Caroline Lagnado/JW
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