Travel

Hilary Larson's travel tales and tips.

The Lehigh Valley, A Low-Key Berkshires

04/30/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

Years ago, when a cousin became engaged to a doctor with a practice in Pennsylvania steel country, the whole family was anxious. Could their urbane New York girl find happiness in the rolling green landscape of the Lehigh Valley? And would she be the only Jew?

The new galleries at the Allentown Art Museum, top.

In The Balkan Countryside

04/23/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

I’m increasingly convinced that if you want to really see another culture, especially in the globalized West, you have to get out of the cities and into the countryside.

The central square in Koprivshtitsa, in the countryside east of Sofia. Hilary Larson

The Titanic, And Beyond

04/16/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

It says something about Belfast’s troubled political past that the Northern Irish capital would rather be known for a shipwreck.

2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the much-heralded launch and subsequent spectacular sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic, the vessel that sold a zillion movie tickets. Belfast, home to the shipyards that built the behemoth, has been capitalizing on this claim to fame ever since — and in this centennial year, the mood is so celebratory it’s easy to forget the Titanic was actually a colossal failure.

Titanic Belfast, a waterside complex compared to the Sydney Opera House.

The Authenticity Bind

04/09/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

Lately, while reading about other people’s travels, I’ve noticed a recurring phrase. It’s expressed in different ways, but with the same ominous sense of urgency, the gist of which is: “Get there before it’s too late.”

Or: “I give Bucharest another three years, max.” (Then what?) “Go to Olinda now, before it’s gone.” (To where?) “In five years, Apulia will be Tuscany.” (Heaven forfend!)

Italy’s Cinque Terre, best seen from afar these days as it has been harmed by overtourism.

A Green Getaway

04/02/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

I ran into an Irishman in a Barcelona hair salon in February, and when I told him of my plan to visit his country for St. Patrick’s Day, he replied: “Oh, St. Patrick’s Day is a U.S. holiday — an Irish-American thing, really.”

Well, I felt like a rube. But then I remembered how, years ago, lots of smug people told me not to expect pizza in Italy before my first trip there, claiming the dish was an American invention (advice that, obviously, was way off base).

Trinity College, which straddles the heart of downtown Dublin. Photos by Amy Larson

Still Reinventing After All These Years

03/26/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

We all think we know Fort Lauderdale, a sunny winter escape as familiar to many of us as the Upper West Side.

Fort Lauderdale is the airport we fly into (Miami is strictly for international travel, and then only reluctantly). It’s the spring break of myth, the destination for Chinese food at Christmas with the grandparents. More recently, halted cranes and foreclosures have added an unsettling note to these palm-lined boulevards.

The Fort Lauderdale skyline at twilight. Photos courtesy of visit Florida

Down East Culture

03/12/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

The urge to get away for a weekend may be primal, but New York’s sprawl can make it tough to find a true change of scene. A half-hour outside Los Angeles or San Francisco, you leave buildings behind for wild mountains or oceanfront cliffs. A half-hour out of Manhattan, and you’re still mired in traffic.

But with enough patience, I-95 is the conduit to a rustic New England adventure. With a terrific Jewish Film Festival, a Dégas exhibit and last-of-winter discounts, March is the perfect time to explore one of my longtime favorite cities — Portland, Me.

Portland’s harbor is just a stone’s throw from downtown.

Beyond The Theme Park

03/05/2012 - 19:00
Travel Writer

Many of us New Yorkers grew up believing that Florida begins at West Palm Beach and ends at Miami. And for a lot of us, Florida is like Brigadoon — a place that only exists during sporadic intervals, or more accurately, during the interval from Thanksgiving to Passover.

In this mindset, Orlando and its Central Florida environs serve only as a theme-park escape from cruddy weather. But there’s another Orlando that’s a grownup world away from cartoons, castles or celluloid.

Winter Park’s downtown, with veterans’ memorial, top. Above, the new Tiffany Wing at the Morse Museum of American Art.

Beyond The Pitch, A Sense Of Cool

02/27/2012 - 19:00
Travel Writer

It’s springtime in Manchester, London’s gritty northern sibling, which sits quietly ignored by most visitors to the U.K. Though nary a green shoot has yet this year to emerge from the ground, a glance around reveals a city in long-awaited blossom.

Salford Quays, the former industrial waterfront on the Manchester Shipping Canal.

A Portuguese Paradise

02/20/2012 - 19:00
Travel Writer

As you survey the deep blue Atlantic that surrounds Madeira and gaze over volcanic peaks with the scent of orchids in the air, you may feel like you’ve discovered a lost paradise.

Nearly 600 years ago, Portuguese explorers probably felt the same way when they stumbled upon the uninhabited island. There were no humans on these virgin shores — just lush green valleys thick with riotous pink blooms, waves crashing on blackened cliffs and hundreds of colorful birds. Is it any wonder those sun-struck sailors were inspired to pursue the Age of Discovery?

The beach at Porto Santo. cruise ship off Funchal. BEACH: Duarte Andrade SHIP: Francisco Corela
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