Travel

Hilary Larson's travel tales and tips.

A Capital Of Culture

01/14/2014
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Each year, the European Union designates two of its cities as Capitals of Culture. Lesser-explored or smaller burgs get a turn in the spotlight; more venerable destinations have the opportunity to show off what’s new. And with so much media focus on the problems of Southern Europe, it’s perhaps fitting that the EU Commission decided this year to highlight two relatively tourist-free cities from the continent’s northern tier: Umea, Sweden, and Riga, Latvia.

Scenic Riga is a European Union Capital of Culture this year and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Kaspars Garda

My Five Must-See Destinations For 2014

01/08/2014
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Some years, given a world full of tempting travel choices, I have a tough time honing in on the top five or so destinations. Not this year. 2014 looks to be an exciting year of Jewish rebirth and rediscovery for places as far afield as Latvia, Jamaica and Poland. Meanwhile, as Jewish life continues to coalesce and flourish in the big New World cities, L.A. and Sao Paulo offer some clear advantages this year. These are the places I’m most excited to explore in 2014 – and here’s why:

As an upcoming European Capital of Culture, Riga is a choice travel destination this year. Photo courtesy Riga City Council

The Best And Worst Of 2013

12/31/2013
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It’s Christmas Day as I write this column from a hotel room in Los Angeles. Outside, the weather outside is 85 degrees, and crowds are mobbing every public space that is open on the holiday: Rollerbladers whiz down the beach boardwalk, the Persian cafés are full of Muslim and Jewish families enjoying a free afternoon for tea and pastry, and nearly a month after Thanksgivukah, little blue-and-white Stars of David still dangle in the neighborhood fro-yo store. Just the right atmosphere to contemplate the best and worst travel experiences of 2013 (stay tuned next week for suggestions about the hottest Jewish destinations of 2014.)

Modern travel — often thrilling, not always pretty. Wikimedia Commons

Miami Beach: Return Engagement

After an absence of more than 30 years, a traveler confronts a changed, but still very Jewish, city.

12/24/2013
JTA
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Miami Beach, Fla. — Everyone knows that Jews and Miami Beach go together like horseradish and gefilte fish. Matzah balls and chicken soup. Corned beef and rye. Chopped liver and … you get the picture.

An aerial view of the iconic Fountainebleau Hotel, designed by Morris Lapidus. Photo courtesy JTA

Holland’s Dutch Treat

12/17/2013
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When friends and family in Northern Europe pressed me for a wintertime visit, I confess to a certain reluctance. I thought that if the brief, pallid afternoons of a New York winter give me the blues, Berlin and Rotterdam were likely to do me in altogether.

Downtown Rotterdam glistens in the snow. Claire Droppert

Not Just For Israeli Weddings

12/10/2013
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In this week’s special pullout section on Jewish lifecycle events (Celebrate), I write about Cyprus — and its resort town of Larnaca — as a hotspot for Israeli weddings. But with the island’s first synagogue in modern times, an inviting seafront and a culturally diverse historic district, Larnaca is an intriguing vacation choice even if you’re not getting hitched.

An Old Town square in Larnaca. Photo courtesy Cyprus Tourism Organization

Seeing The ‘Lights’ Of Jasper’s Dark Sky

12/03/2013
Special To The Jewish Week
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Jasper, Alberta — “If I didn’t have a spiritual aspect to my interest in astronomy,” said David Levy, “I wouldn’t be doing it. For me, it is everything.

Canoes on the shore of Beauvert Lake at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. George Medovoy

France In The Caribbean

11/26/2013
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It’s midwinter and as frostbite sets in on your hike to the subway, you’re pining for a beach. But your spouse disdains the Caribbean, preferring the cosmopolitan pleasures of Europe.

The beach at Anses d’Arlets. Antoine Omare

The Language Barrier

11/19/2013
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My friend Kathy recently returned from a trip to France. It was her second trip to the country, after perhaps a 20-year interval; for her husband, who was there to collect a journalism prize, it was the first time in France. They spent a few days in Paris, and then traveled up the Norman coast.

Some signs — like this one, in Italy — need no translation. Hilary Larson

Good Skiing And Some Jewish History, Too

11/12/2013
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Who knew there were mountains in Poland? It’s certainly cold enough to ski in winter, but most of this vast, northern country is notably flat.

Winter fun in Zakopane. Hilary Larson
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