Hilary Larson's travel tales and tips.

Jewish Humor On The Continent

08/27/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

The European Day of Jewish Culture has officially matured, at least by Jewish standards: this Sept. 2, it turns 13.

The event — a continent-wide celebration around an annual theme — has grown in both scope and participation over the past dozen years. This year’s theme is “The Spirit of Jewish Humor,” a particularly appealing topic and one rich with material.

A street in Rome. From Italy to Norway, an effort to demystify Jewishness. Hilary Larson

A ‘Superior’ Destination

08/20/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

When I was a child, I spent every summer in Massachusetts waiting for the blueberries to ripen. Every day my dad and I would take our morning walk through forests thick with berry brambles, and I would inspect the delicate green buds, waiting for that magical day when they would ripen into a juicy, blue-black snack.

It turns out I’m not alone. Throughout Michigan, and especially in the resorts and forests that line its Lake Superior shore, summer crowds eagerly greet the berry crop with festivals, bakeoffs and all manner of pastry.

The famous Miners Castle rock on the Upper Peninsula. Brenda St. Martin/NPS

Munch, Grieg And Beyond

08/13/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

The eerie spectacle of round-the-clock sunshine has given way to shadowy nights in the Norwegian city of Bergen, but August days are still long and golden.

In midsummer, the quaint harbor area, Bryggen, can feel like an open-air party. Crowds throng the outdoor cafés and fill the quaint medieval alleys; fishmongers haul in their slippery wares as tourists snap pictures of Europe’s most colorful fish market. Against a backdrop of green mountains, the vivid reds and yellows of Bergen’s wood-frame houses are reflected in the North Sea.

In Bergen, crowds throng the outdoor cafés before the onset of long winter days. Bergen Tourist Board/Per Elde

The Culture Of The Midwest

08/06/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

From time to time, I like to revisit noteworthy stops along America’s great cross-country Interstates. Many such stops wouldn’t normally come to mind as vacation destinations, which make their offerings all the more serendipitous.

The Butler Institute of American Art’s Andrews Pavilion, above. Top, Winslow Homer’s “Snap the Whip,” housed within. Butler Inst

Mistakes New Yorkers Make In Europe

07/30/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

There are certain ideas that New Yorkers take as articles of faith. We think of ourselves as the world’s savviest, able to pinpoint the genuine and bypass the second-rate.

But as I’ve spent more time in Europe over the past several years, my assumptions have been upended, one after another, by the way my Continental friends and relatives actually see their turf. Along the way, I’ve made a mental list of these truisms – a catalog of classic mistakes that New Yorkers (or any well-informed American travelers) make abroad.

Here are the top four:

Tourists swarm to Barcelona’s Boquería market, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Ognian Danailov

The Art Of The Mob

07/23/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

Las Vegas is hot in July — really, really hot. That didn’t stop the pioneers, though, or the gold miners, or the railroad investors. And it certainly didn’t stop legendary Jewish mobsters like Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky. They weren’t the types to stop and shvitz when there was good money to be laundered.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts opened in March. Geri Kodey

Along The ‘Sephardic Path’

07/16/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

I kept meaning to go to Girona. The Catalan city in the Pyrenees is the regional standout on the Caminos de Sefarad (“Paths of Sepharad”), an evolving Spanish network of Jewish heritage sites.

But in June, it was already summery-hot; the beach beckoned, and Girona lies inland. So I headed north along the Costa Brava, toward another, smaller city on the Camino list: Castelló d’Empúries.

Castelló’s charming old town. Hilary Larson

Jewish History Unearthed

07/10/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

It takes patience and a little imagination to explore the narrow, hushed streets of Barcelona’s Jewish District. Deep in the Gothic Quarter, the medieval heart of the city, more than a thousand years of Jewish history reveals itself in tiny fragments here and there, like a scavenger hunt.

Barcelona’s Antiga Sinagoga, in the Jewish “Call.” Photos by Hilary Larson

The New Jewish Heritage Push

07/02/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

Five hundred years after Spain expelled its Jews, it wants them back.

I stepped into the brilliant sunshine of a plaza in Catalonia, and the first thing that caught my eye was a banner — in Hebrew. Above it, in Catalan, read the translation: “Noah’s Ark: A Holiday Exhibition” at the Museum of Miniatures and Microminiatures.

Besalú, an enchanting village in the shadow of the Pyrenees. Hilary Larson

From Dr. Ruth To Ladino Songs

06/25/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer
From Tanglewood’s 75th to 80 years at the modern-dance mecca Jacob’s Pillow, it’s a season of anniversaries in the rolling green hills of the Berkshires.
Picnickers on the lawn at Tanglewood. Courtesy BSO
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