Hilary Larson's travel tales and tips.

A Newly Trendy Paradise

01/07/2013 - 19:00
Travel Writer

Ah, the South Seas! When you hear the name Tahiti, do you think of Gauguin? Or “South Pacific”?

January getaway: An aerial view of Bora Bora, which neighbors Tahiti. Courtesy of

This City Rocks

01/01/2013 - 19:00
Travel Writer

Maybe it’s because I’m a born-and-bred East Coaster from a long line of born-and-bred East Coasters who rarely, if ever, ventured west of New Jersey.

I guess that’s why for me, the West Coast feels like the far edge of the world — a rugged frontier where the sun sets over the unimaginable vastness of the Pacific, where people wind down at night while most of the world is firmly into the next day.

Frank Gehry’s Experience Music Project rock-and-roll museum with the Space Needle in the background.  Tim Thompson/Courtesy SCVB

Five Must-See Spots In ’13

12/25/2012 - 19:00
Travel Writer

More than once, taking in all the chaos of 2012, I thought about making a year-end list of destinations to avoid rather than places to go.

But optimism got the better of me. And so the theme for 2013 is renewal — seeing the familiar with fresh eyes, uncovering novelty in well-trodden regions. Here are my top picks for travel in what I hope will be a wonderful year for all:

Milford Sound in New Zealand.

Paradise With Plenty To Do

12/17/2012 - 19:00
Travel Writer

St. Thomas, the cosmopolitan hub of the Caribbean, is for New Yorkers who want to get away — but not from it all. In a region of sleepy cays and solitary beaches, St. Thomas bustles with commerce, nightlife and the Caribbean’s liveliest dining scene.

The peaceful bays and pristine beaches are there, too, for those who want them. But in this duty-free outpost of the U.S. Virgin Islands, where people drive on the left, there’s plenty to do even on a rainy day — including visits to a spectacular aquarium and one of the oldest synagogues in the Americas.

An aerial view of Charlotte Amalie, the island’s only real city. USVI Department of Tourism

A Whale Of A Trip

12/10/2012 - 19:00
Travel Writer

While my relatives were improvising with leftover turkey, I spent the recent holiday obsessed by a remote outpost of the Russian Federation: Chukotka.

Chukotka is the easternmost peninsula in Asia, just across the Bering Strait from Alaska (this is the part of Russia Sarah Palin might have seen from her window). The vast, frigid territory is larger than Texas but has only about 50,000 residents. And amazingly, those locals are trying to persuade outsiders to come visit — despite a lack of transportation, a brutal climate, and a location not too far from the North Pole.

Sledding across Chukotka, top. Above, whale bones on the tundra.

An Only-In-Frisco Chanukah

12/03/2012 - 19:00
Travel Writer

Last year, I wrote about Chanukah activities in San Francisco.

This year, the topic is Christmas.

Yes, Christmas. Those ever-hip San Francisco Jews not only know how to celebrate Chanukah in wildly original style; they’ve also got Christmas covered. An array of events around town ensures that no bored Jew, in town for a visit and staring into closed shop windows, has to make do with Chinese and a movie.

Comic Judy Gold, headlines this year’s “Kung Pao Kosher Comedy show.

Echoes Of Spanish Jewry

11/26/2012 - 19:00
Travel Writer

Dry as dust, with buildings as ageless and golden as the plains that surround it, Salamanca, Spain, feels like a place where Don Quixote might unpack his rucksack.

Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor, by day. Photo courtesy Salamanca Tourism

The Lure Of Jewish History

11/19/2012 - 19:00
Travel Writer

With its quaint pastel houses, palmetto courtyards and candles flickering from colonial window frames, Charleston, S.C., is an atmospheric place at Christmastime.

But every year, more of those candles are lit for Chanukah, the original Festival of Lights.

Magnolia Plantation, top. Above, the sanctuary of the historic Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. PLANTATION CREDIT:

A Southern Cone Shtetl

11/12/2012 - 19:00
Travel Writer

It’s already November, which means that if you haven’t yet booked your holiday in Punta del Este, you had better get moving.

The Southern Cone’s premier beach resort, Punta del Este, Uruguay, is the favored getaway for well-to-do Jewish families from Montevideo and Buenos Aires. Both capitals are a short hop from this favored spit of coastline, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Río de la Plata, and where beaches can feel as glitzy as nightclubs.

The Ralli Museum in Punta del Este. Courtesy Ralli Musuem

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
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