Hilary Larson's travel tales and tips.

Mistakes New Yorkers Make In Europe

07/30/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

There are certain ideas that New Yorkers take as articles of faith. We think of ourselves as the world’s savviest, able to pinpoint the genuine and bypass the second-rate.

But as I’ve spent more time in Europe over the past several years, my assumptions have been upended, one after another, by the way my Continental friends and relatives actually see their turf. Along the way, I’ve made a mental list of these truisms – a catalog of classic mistakes that New Yorkers (or any well-informed American travelers) make abroad.

Here are the top four:

Tourists swarm to Barcelona’s Boquería market, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Ognian Danailov

The Art Of The Mob

07/23/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

Las Vegas is hot in July — really, really hot. That didn’t stop the pioneers, though, or the gold miners, or the railroad investors. And it certainly didn’t stop legendary Jewish mobsters like Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky. They weren’t the types to stop and shvitz when there was good money to be laundered.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts opened in March. Geri Kodey

Along The ‘Sephardic Path’

07/16/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

I kept meaning to go to Girona. The Catalan city in the Pyrenees is the regional standout on the Caminos de Sefarad (“Paths of Sepharad”), an evolving Spanish network of Jewish heritage sites.

But in June, it was already summery-hot; the beach beckoned, and Girona lies inland. So I headed north along the Costa Brava, toward another, smaller city on the Camino list: Castelló d’Empúries.

Castelló’s charming old town. Hilary Larson

Jewish History Unearthed

07/10/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

It takes patience and a little imagination to explore the narrow, hushed streets of Barcelona’s Jewish District. Deep in the Gothic Quarter, the medieval heart of the city, more than a thousand years of Jewish history reveals itself in tiny fragments here and there, like a scavenger hunt.

Barcelona’s Antiga Sinagoga, in the Jewish “Call.” Photos by Hilary Larson

The New Jewish Heritage Push

07/02/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer

Five hundred years after Spain expelled its Jews, it wants them back.

I stepped into the brilliant sunshine of a plaza in Catalonia, and the first thing that caught my eye was a banner — in Hebrew. Above it, in Catalan, read the translation: “Noah’s Ark: A Holiday Exhibition” at the Museum of Miniatures and Microminiatures.

Besalú, an enchanting village in the shadow of the Pyrenees. Hilary Larson

From Dr. Ruth To Ladino Songs

06/25/2012 - 20:00
Travel Writer
From Tanglewood’s 75th to 80 years at the modern-dance mecca Jacob’s Pillow, it’s a season of anniversaries in the rolling green hills of the Berkshires.
Picnickers on the lawn at Tanglewood. Courtesy BSO

Feeling The Roman Presence

06/18/2012 - 20:00
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

06/11/2012 - 20:00
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.

Unspoiled, With Green Gables Too

06/04/2012 - 20:00
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

05/28/2012 - 20:00
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?
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