Hilary Larson's travel tales and tips.

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

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
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