Almost purely by accident, my husband and I ended up in a wild, raw landscape of olive groves, crumbling white-stone walls and vast blue sea views at every bend in the road. We were in Apulia — or Puglia, as the Southern Italian region is known locally — in search of that perfect Italian beach vacation: a little culture, a dose of history, but mostly gorgeous scenery and golden sand.
If you think New Englanders are friendly, you’ll love New Scotlanders, inhabitants of the region more commonly known as Nova Scotia. The liveliest and most diverse of Canada’s three maritime provinces offers a warm welcome to travelers, a wealth of Jewish heritage and plenty of local culture — from fiddling in pubs to Titanic artifacts.
This time of year, as beaches still beckon on warm afternoons, fall foliage explodes with color to charm the most ardent leaf-peepers.
One hot, sticky August night on the Spanish coast my husband and I were trying to sleep. The open window of our budget hotel room let in an intermittent breeze off the sea. Unfortunately, it also let in the groans, rumbles and shrieks of garbage trucks and tour buses on the street below.
Every year for the past decade, the entire continent of Europe has spent the first post-vacation weekend in September celebrating 2,000 years of Jewish culture, from its most ancient aspects to its modern incarnations. There are bagels in Brussels, lectures in Lyon, concerts in Krakow, screenings in Sofia.
It’s the European Day of Jewish Culture: a grassroots, pan-cultural and pan-religious event whose aim is to recover and delve deeper into the richness of the continent’s Jewish heritage.
It’s fascinating to me how differently travelers can perceive the same place.
For Americans, Barcelona — Europe in general, for that matter — is a cultural destination. We come to tour the architecture of Gaudi, see the museums of Dali and Miro, walk through Catalonia’s ancient Jewish ghettos, and sample the molecular gastronomy for which the region is lately famous.
The best souvenir I ever heard of was a giant wheel of cheese that my friend Era smuggled out of her native Albania.
This was not just any cheese. It was 20 pounds of stinky, sheep-milk kashkaval, the hard cheese found throughout the Balkans. And of course, such an item is virtually guaranteed to be on the U.S. Customs no-no list for importation; had they searched her luggage and found the wheel, it could have been quite the scene. But they didn’t, and Era was eating Albanian sheep cheese all year.
There was a time when a vacation in Argentina automatically meant Buenos Aires. The country’s capital city — home to tango, Latin America’s biggest Jewish community and a third of the Argentine population — was, for many North Americans, the only place on the tourism radar.