Hilary Larson's travel tales and tips.

Coping With European Unrest

11/05/2012 - 19:00
Travel Writer

My mom is used to me trotting around the world. But the relentless news about European unrest has gotten her worried, and she’s not alone: I’ve heard a lot of fretting in recent months from would-be travelers put off by riots in Madrid, cars set on fire in Athens, anti-Semitic speeches in Budapest, and British university protests.

Tourists, like these in Italy, are enjoying themselves despite an uncertain political climate across Europe. hilary larson

In The Shadow Of The Andes

A stop on the global Israeli travel circuit, this time in Cusco, Peru.
Travel Writer
11/05/2012 - 19:00

If you’re not familiar with the international Israeli travel circuit, then it may come as a surprise that Cusco, Peru — fabled city of the Incas and gateway to Machu Picchu — has one of the liveliest Jewish scenes in South America.

What’s more, that scene is almost entirely itinerant, composed of visiting Israelis and the businesses that cater to them. Lima, the capital, has a settled Jewish community with synagogues and museums; Cusco has Hebrew-language tour guides and hummus on the menu.

From the shadows at the edge of Cusco’s central square, the peaks of the Andes are visible in the background. Photos/Elena Fihma

‘Shtetl By The Yarra’

Melbourne boasts a tight-knit, tradition-bound Jewish community and an elegant dining scene.
Travel Writer
11/05/2012 - 19:00

It’s a facile analogy, Nina Bassat acknowledges, but in Australian shorthand, Sydney is the country’s San Francisco; Melbourne is its Los Angeles.

A sunny, sprawling cosmopolis on one edge of the world, Melbourne at first glance has quite a lot in common with L.A., explained Bassat, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, the state of which Melbourne is capital.

Melbourne’s Federation Square, whose architecture has divided locals. Greg Bartley/Tourism Victoria

Jewish Culture Thriving In The High Desert

10/22/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

Cool adobe nights, fiery hot chili peppers: in Santa Fe, some things are classics. As 2012 winds down, New Mexico is celebrating its first 100 years of statehood, and the emphasis is on what makes this region timeless.

Much of the festivity takes place in Santa Fe, where the contrast between New Mexico’s relative youth and the city’s 400-year-old heritage is particularly sharp. A century ago, after all, the Palace of the Governors was already three centuries into life as America’s oldest public building; the plaza had bustled for generations with artisans and traders.

Shopping in downtown Santa Fe. Photos by Douglas Merriam/

History Amid The Palazzos

10/15/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

Having spent time in Taranto, Italy, I am a member of a very small club. Whenever I mention I was writing about Taranto — even when I take care to emphasize the first syllable — people immediately confuse it with the better-known (and more-visited) Canadian burg.

There isn’t much information online about Taranto, an Italian naval base that sits at the northwest entrance of the Apulian peninsula. What little press Taranto does get is usually negative: corruption, pollution, the usual Southern Italian scourges.

A narrow, picturesque street in Taranto. Hilary Larson

Jewish Revival, After The Storm

10/09/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

Michael Weil opened my eyes to a different way of looking at New Orleans’s most beloved landmarks.

The executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans talked me through an itinerary of his favorite Jewish sights in his adopted hometown, which also happen to be the icons that every visitor wants to see. As he did, he made me realize how deep the city’s Jewish roots actually go, and how thoroughly Jewishness permeates the post-Katrina landscape.

Longue Vue House. Photo: Jean-Paul Gisclair

History On The Harbor

10/02/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

For all the city’s vaunted history, what’s most compelling these days about Baltimore is shiny and new.

That would be the tasteful, decades-in-the-making redevelopment of the Baltimore Inner Harbor, as successful an urban-renewal project as any I’ve ever witnessed.

Much has been written about the myriad malls, chain eateries and middlebrow amusements at the harbor’s core. You can take the snobby approach, or you can let the weekend crowds speak for themselves: few downtowns along the Northeast Corridor boast such a vibrant scene.

Old pirate ships and new condos at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, top. Above, historic Fell’s Point. Photos by Hilary Larson

Fall Beckons On The Cape

09/23/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

It was Friday of Labor Day weekend, and traffic was weirdly light as I sped through Providence, R.I., en route to Martha’s Vineyard. Cars were scarce as I approached the Cape Cod Canal; from there it was just me and pine forests all the way to Woods Hole.

About a decade ago, September and October came into vogue as the new July and August. But traffic on the Cape and the Islands has visibly diminished this September, even though the ocean is as warm as ever, the long afternoons just as golden and the blue skies as clear.

The fall harvest on Martha’s Vineyard, top. Above, the Edgartown lighthouse. Photos by Hilary Larson

An Alpine Idyll

09/10/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

As is probably obvious to regular readers, your intrepid correspondent is not much of an athlete. Scaling the French Pyrenees, therefore, was something I planned to do from the comfort of a car — the passenger’s seat, no less, since my lack of coordination extends to manual transmission.

So I put my husband, Oggi, in charge of the gears and settled in for a drive through twisting mountain passes, green valleys and Alpine villages.

Prats de Mollo, top, in the French Pyrenees. Above, the narrow alleys of Céret. Photos by Hilary Larson

Where Everything Is Big

09/03/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

Everything in Texas is bigger, and Texans won’t let you forget it. Talk with a Houstonian about his city and the superlatives just keep coming: it’s the fourth-largest city in the nation, home of the world’s biggest medical center, site of the largest Conservative congregation in the U.S.

Yes, Houston has actual mega-synagogues. Here in the Bible Belt, where churches are mega-churches, synagogues come supersized as well.

Houston’s Holocaust Museum, in the city’s park-side Museum District. Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau
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