Travel

Hilary Larson's travel tales and tips.

Feeling The Roman Presence

06/19/2012
Travel Writer

The ancient Romans were an ambitious lot. At the zenith of their empire, they controlled a good swath of the world’s prime real estate, from London and Iberia all the way to Cairo and Jerusalem.

All around the Mediterranean rim, the heart of Roman territory, you stumble across ruins of this once-mighty civilization. The Roman Forum is just the best-known example of a genre whose brick walls, stone burial markers, and still-solid archways are visible from Salamanca to Sofia.

Tarragona’s Plaza del Rey by night. Alberich Fotografs/Tarragona Turisme

Old World And New Collide

06/12/2012
Travel Writer

According to that most scientific of sources, Wikipedia, the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area in Germany is the fourth-largest metro area on the Continent — eclipsed only by such marginally European burgs as Moscow, Istanbul and London.

In other words, Rhine-Ruhr is the industrial heart of the country lately in the public consciousness as Europe’s economic engine. A drive through this West German sprawl reveals the scale of German enterprise — and a devotion to the local beer, Kolsch, that borders on obsessive.

The market in Cologne’s Old Town. Courtesy www. koelntourismus.de

Unspoiled, With Green Gables Too

06/05/2012
Travel Writer

‘You can’t possibly swim there,” insisted my husband, Oggi, surveying the turquoise waters of Prince Edward Island.

Prince Edward Island is, after all, way up in Canada. It’s further north than Maine, and nobody really swims there except for bears.

The French River on PEI, complete with lobster boats. Tourism PEI/John Sylvester.

Ill Winds

05/29/2012
Travel Writer

When you travel a lot, sooner or later, a trip ends in the emergency room.

The first time it happened to me was summer vacation, 1986. Violently ill, I received a diagnosis of mild appendicitis at the E.R. and was sent home. When my appendix ruptured the next day, we returned and I was whisked into surgery.

It all turned out fine in the end. And in the intervening decades, rural resort-area hospitals like the one on Martha’s Vineyard have drastically improved, thanks to partnerships with better-equipped affiliates in nearby cities.

Why are we more vulnerable when we’re away from home?

Mile-High Culture

05/15/2012
Travel Writer

Growing up near New York’s Metropolitan Museum, I had no idea how lucky I was to have access to a room full of Clyfford Still’s wild, uninhibited canvases. With their signature vertical drips of paint, they reminded me of the water damage on the wall of our spare room. When I told my dad this, he always said I’d appreciate Still when I got older: “He’s one of the giants.”

Denver Library, Denver Art Museum, top; patrons at DAM; work by Clyfford Still. Colorado Tourism Office

The Marrakesh Express

05/08/2012
Travel Writer

The first thing you may notice about Marrakesh, especially if you arrive in the morning, is how cool and fresh the air is. Here on the desert fringe of the Atlas Mountains, chilly, star-filled nights give way to a searing daytime sun. The antidote to this arid climate, as generations of Western visitors have found out, is a cup of fresh-squeezed juice from a fruit cart.

The Jardin Majorelle, built by the painter of that name, in Medina. Fondation Jardin Majorelle

The Lehigh Valley, A Low-Key Berkshires

05/01/2012
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

04/24/2012
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

04/17/2012
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

04/10/2012
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.
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