Hilary Larson's travel tales and tips.

Balkan Elegance

Travel Writer

Some of the world’s oldest known civilizations have inhabited the Eastern Balkans, where worn-down mountain ranges punctuate the vast Thracian plain.

Yet many of the region’s cities have little to show for those ancient roots. Centuries of war, imperialism, poverty and even natural disasters have left much of the area lacking in opulent architecture and quaint historic cores like those found throughout Western Europe. And visitors accustomed to those more accessible destinations can find themselves frustrated by a lack of tangible urban history.

The Ancient Theater in Plovdiv, a 1,000-year-old amphitheater with preserved steps and graceful white columns. Hilary Larson

England’s Improbably Sunny Corner

Travel Writer

Did you know there are palm trees on the English coast? Neither did I. Like most of us, my mental image of the U.K. was shaped by earlier experiences in gray, rainy London and gloomy Scotland, and by the perpetual sodden chill in countless British novels. Can you imagine “Wuthering Heights” under a sunny blue sky?

St. Ives, in Cornwall’s western end, has long been a haven for visual artists. Hilary Larson

The ‘1’ And Only

Travel Writer

One of the most distinctive things about California’s Pacific Coast Highway is how little it has changed over the years. Those heart-stopping curves along dusty cliffs, the vast Pacific Ocean crashing on rocky shores below, the towering evergreens that block out the sun around Big Sur? It is scenery as massive in scale as it is timeless.

A view of the Pacific Coast Highway.

It Takes Two To Travel

Travel Writer

When I was growing up, my parents never actually traveled anywhere, other than the predictable summer shore excursion — and of course, South Florida in the winter.

But that didn’t stop them from engaging in lively fantasy.

“Bud, wouldn’t it be romantic to go to Venice together?” my mom would rhapsodize, eyes shining at the prospect of gondolas and gelato. “Or Firenze! I remember shopping for gold jewelry on the Ponte Vecchio was I was 20…”

He likes culture, she likes views — what’s a traveling couple to do?

Venice And Santa Monica, Without The Ubiquitous Car

L.A. Beach Towns

Travel Writer

That Los Angeles is a car town — perhaps the consummate U.S. car town — is taken as a given by travelers, whose queue at the LAX car rental counter is a time-honored ritual.

But with gas around $4 a gallon and soul-crushing traffic jams, fed-up locals and savvy visitors are increasingly bucking convention, and taking the bus.

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.
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