Hilary Larson's travel tales and tips.

A North Sea Spring

Travel Writer

Deep in Scotland’s wild and craggy north, Aberdeen is a springtime destination that’s evergreen.

This is a region that is timeless in its wide verdant expanses, its year-round drizzly chill, the awesome history in its forbidding stone castles and their awesome history, and its cheery corner pubs.

It’s a corner of Europe — literally — that manages to be both stoic and warmly welcoming. Even in a place where the all-time record high temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit, there’s plenty of fun to be had amid the misty Scottish gloom.

An aerial view of Aberdeen and the North Sea, top. Above, a downtown street in the “Granite City.”

History, Culture Amid The Magnolias

Travel Writer

There’s no spring quite like a Southern spring — and no better city to bask in magnolia blooms and warm afternoons than Charleston, S.C.

This spring promises to be particularly lively in Charleston, where a host of upcoming events are planned for the sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War. It was right here at Fort Sumter that America’s defining conflict broke out, 150 years ago this April.

Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, the oldest U.S. synagogue in continuous use, is a centerpiece of Charleston’s Jewish community.

American Culture On The Charles

Travel Writer

For me, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has long been the best place on earth to experience American art, in all its breadth and historical context.

And with the recent opening of the much-anticipated Art of the Americas Wing, designed by Foster + Partners, the MFA offers a compelling new argument for visiting Boston. If you do nothing else here, the America wing’s 53 new galleries are worth the trip — and with Harvard’s collections largely closed for renovation, art lovers can spare the extra time.

Exterior and interior views of the new Art of the America’s Wing of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Courtesy of   Boston Museum

Pretty In Pink

Travel Writer

As New Yorkers were rummaging for umbrellas and trench coats last weekend, the coming summer’s first enthusiasts were sunning themselves on the pebbly beaches of the Côte d’Azur. March afternoons in the 70s are why Nice, France’s sunniest city and the capital of the fabled Riviera, has been popular with hedonists since Roman times — and with Jews for at least 800 years or so.

An overview of Nice, top. Above, the city’s Promenade des Anglais.

Ground Transportation

Travel Writer

I remember how amazed I was, many years ago, when it first dawned on me that a plane between cities could be the cheap option.

It was around 1999, the dawn of European discount air travel, and I had to figure out the cheapest ride between Paris and Nice. The train cost over $200; the flight, about 20 percent less, and it shaved six hours off the trip.

On the Northeast corridor, a trip by train or bus might just be the ticket.

Welcome To ‘Portlandia’

Travel Writer

‘Portland, Oregon, is like everything that’s good about San Francisco, but without the bad parts,” announced my sister — and as a longtime, devoted denizen of the latter city, she ought to know.

Drop-dead beautiful, outdoorsy and hip? Check. Funky coffee houses? Double check. Infectiously earnest foodie scene, with great restaurants and a cool vegan subculture? Check. Laid-back, welcoming Jewish community? Check.

“All that, yet the streets are clean, and the parking is ridiculously easy,” swooned my sister.

Downtown Portland framed by the snowy peaks of Mt. Hood. Travel Portland

A New Brazilian Beat

Travel Writer

There may be no more dramatic landscape than the sculptural green mountains curving majestically around the sparkling bays of Rio de Janeiro. And there may be no better time to finally see this glorious city than in the months after February’s Carnival celebration, when prices drop and crowds are pleasantly thin along the fabled beaches.

Rio’s famous Copacabana beach. The city’s new energy is most apparent along its legendary waterfront. Hilary Larson

For The Love Of Shopping

Travel Writer

The hottest new shopping destination in Sofia, Bulgaria is a shiny, glass-clad monolith on the busy highway between downtown and the airport. Called simply “The Mall,” its facade is plastered in a riot of international name brands: Carrefour, Zara, Benetton. There isn’t a Cyrillic letter, or a Bulgarian name, in sight.

The interior of the Hali, the vast covered market that is a dizzying mélange of East and West. Hilary Larson

Israel Capital Of Cool

The new face of a hip Jerusalem
is giving Tel Aviv a run for its money.

Travel Writer

The sandy stones of
Jerusalem’s ancient center, bathed in the golden light of afternoon, speak of a history that is as ancient as it is eternal. As you stroll through the Old City, in the hush of Shabbat or the bustle of a daily worship hour, the sensory weight of tradition is almost overwhelming.

Santiago Calatrava’s Chords Bridge, a symbol of the new Jerusalem.

Kiwi Cool

Travel Writer

Just as it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere for the barfly, winter-jaded New Yorkers can take comfort in knowing that somewhere on this planet, it’s feeling like summer.

Down in the balmy Southern Hemisphere, February and March are lounge-by-the-pool months — and nowhere more so than in Auckland, New Zealand’s rising capital of cool. If you’ve been hankering for Oceania, are passing through the South Pacific, or simply have miles to burn, head for Auckland, where locals turn every summer day into an outdoor party.

Auckland, New Zealand’s “City of Sails,” boasts one of the world’s most scenic harbors and a full schedule of cultural events.
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