CELEBRATING CITRUS IN MENTON
by Barb Harmon
Located in the South of France with a picture-perfect medieval old town, belle epoque villas, and a yearly average of 316 days of sunshine, it is easy to see why the seafront town of Menton is called the Pearl of France. It has also earned the title of the Lemon Festival Capital of the World. Every February when it hosts the Fete du Citron it becomes apparent why Menton has kept this well bestowed title for 84 years.
THE FIRES OF MY CHILDHOOD: About the Iranian New Year: Iran
by Reza Khodamehri
If you ask an Iranian, how was the Festival of Fire in your childhood, he may answer you, I loved it, I loved to play with the fire, to jump over it, to measure myself with the other children, who could jump higher and wider and to stay awake all night long.
EVEN GONDOLAS NEED SOME LOVE: Venice, Italy
by Ann Harrison
When Ezra Pound arrived in Venice, he took rooms near a walled garden on the Rio San Trovaso, opposite a squero (or gondola building yard). Only a few squeri now remain in Venice, although at the height of her powers some ten thousand gondolas served the city. The gondoliers’ knowledge of the canals is legendary, and legend holds they are born with webbed feet, to help them walk on water.
SIGNS OF THE TIME- LAS VEGAS FASCINATING NEON BONEYARD - USA
by Noreen Kompanik
Las Vegas has always oozed glitz and glamour with its multitude of casinos, top entertainers and high rollers. But, no more than in the days of the Rat Pack, Liberace and Elvis, when millions of visitors flocked to a booming Las Vegas – often referred to as “Glitter Gulch” in its heyday. Even today, as people close their eyes and think of Las Vegas, nothing comes to mind more often than those magnificent, pulsing multi-colored neon signs in the middle of the desert that beckoned travelers and guests to fabulous Las Vegas.
SHAKER LIFE AT PLEASANT HILL, KENTUCKY
by Wynne Crombie
Shakers starting arriving at Pleasant Hill somewhere around 1805. As early as 1816 they were producing enough surpluses of brooms, preserves, packaged seeds and other products to begin regular trading trips to New Orleans. By the mid-1850s it was home to approximately 600 Shakers occupying 250 buildings and almost 2800 acres of land.
TRAVELLING THROUGH THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE: Korea
by Devan Hawkins
The two Koreas are certainly different worlds. Over 60 years of separation has had a dramatic effect. The languages they both share, although still mutually intelligible, have diverged. So if the two Koreas are not only divided by a border, but also in these other fundamental ways — is there hope for reunification?
CHRISTMAS ON THE COSTA BLANCA: Torrevieja, Spain
by Darlene Foster
Christmas in Spain is a month long party consisting of numerous fiestas, parades, fireworks, brass bands, markets and food, lots of food. In our part of the Costa Blanca, it starts with a number of events celebrating Torrevieja´s Patronal Fiesta, dedicated to the patron saint of the city.
A CONFEDERATE MEMORIAL WITHOUT CONTROVERSY: Alabama, USA
by Connie Pearson
In these days of distaste for the Confederate flag and all it represents, North Alabama continues to take great pride in preserving Pond Spring, the home of "Fightin' Joe" Wheeler, the only former Confederate general buried in Arlington Cemetery.
MEET THE BANYA LUKA (BANJA LUKA): Bosnia
by Marijana Dujovic
Banya Luka is the main city of territory Republica Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the wars during the 90s, this region become mostly territory of Orthodox residents, but you can still meet families of other religions.
SIGHTSEEING IN CHICHICASTENANGO ON MARKET DAY: Guatemala
by Troy Herrick
Stepping out of the bus at Chichicastenango on market day is like being hit right between the eyes. You are met by a loud seemingly chaotic atmosphere filled with unintelligible languages, the smell of burning incense and traditional herbs and a sea of bright colored clothing.
WHERE THE DEER ARE MESSENGERS OF THE GODS: Nara, Japan
by Anne Harrison
Founded in 710, Nara was Japan’s first permanent capital. (Until then, each new emperor established a new capital.) Nara rapidly became one of Asia’s most splendid cities. It also became a major centre for Buddhism. For many, this area of Japan is sacred. As are the deer, for they are the messengers of the gods.
HACIENDA PUERTO LIMON: Tayuticha, Costa Rica
by Mary Ann Olson
Every year, thousands of coffee lovers flock to the Hacienda Puerto Limon Plantation to see how one of the world’s finest organic coffees is harvested and processed. And for a bonus, visitors get to walk amongst some of the most tranquil countryside in the world and explore a historic hacienda.
LIVING MANDELA'S STREET: South Africa
by Ray Mwareya
This is one of South Africa's most famous streets – the only one in the world to have housed two Nobel Prize winners (Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu) – and it has long been a must-see tourist attraction. Every tour to Soweto - Africa's biggest township - stops at Vilakazi Street. There is a famous reason why.
A DAY AT A SPANISH MEDIEVAL MARKET: Spain
by Darlene Foster
We enter the historic part of Orihuela City by the town hall and are immediately transported back in time. The town is decked out medieval style. A feast for all senses, we are greeted by colourful tents, the smells of exotic spices, teas, paellas, fresh baked bread, pastries, and goat milk soap.
A JOURNEY TO THE TOBACCO FIELDS IN VIŃALES: Cuba
by Megan Kennedy
As I look out onto the Vińales Valley and into the tobacco fields below, a sense of calmness washes over me. Founded in 1875, following the expansion of tobacco cultivation in Cuba, Vińales became a World Heritage site in 1999. The valley is devoted to agriculture, mainly tobacco.
COMFORT FOOD IN THE HEART OF CHINA
by Brian K. Smith
In the Muslim quarter of Xi’an there are countless vendors selling many dishes that use mutton or beef with eastern spices as the base. In the neighborhood near my hotel just a few blocks of walking took me to an amazing Muslim restaurant where they served a dish called du wah (pita bread soaked in lamb soup).
EXPERIENCING STRANGE CHINESE BEER
by Lawrence Hamilton
The only thing worse than being sober, is being drunk on Chinese alcohol, or so I thought. Luckily my imaginings were wrong. For the discerning eye, there is a whole world of completely random and strange beers that seemingly pop up out of nowhere and in the most unlikely of places.
A WALK WITH THE KOBO DAISHI: Japan
by Anne Harrison
Sacred even before the Daishi established his monastic retreat here in 816, Koya-san is only two hours by train from Osaka. Farmers with conical straw hats worked fields cultivated for centuries. It was a scene lifted straight from the anime of Hayao Miyazaki (famous for classics such as Spirited Away and My Friend Totoro).
A WALK WITH THE KOBO DAISHI: Japan
by Anne Harrison
Sacred even before the Daishi established his monastic retreat here in 816, Koya-san is only two hours by train from Osaka. Farmers with conical straw hats worked fields cultivated for centuries. It was a scene lifted straight from the anime of Hayao Miyazaki (famous for classics such as Spirited Away and My Friend Totoro).
A TRADITIONAL INDIAN WEDDING SPECTACULAR: India
by Marsha Rexford
We had accepted the gracious invitation of our dear friend and former professor, Mohan, to attend his niece's wedding in New Delhi. He assured us that a traditional Indian wedding was an experience not to be missed. Typically lasting the better portion of a week, it is a lavish celebration.
THE LAND OF MONASTIC TRADITION
Ireland - by Troy Herrick
Ireland has been called the Land of Saints and Scholars. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, brought Christianity to the island in the 5th century CE. Within 100 years of his arrival numerous monastic settlements had sprang up. Two sites not to be missed are Glendalough and the Rock of Cashel.
Sri Lanka - by Clare Gleeson
If Rupert Brooke had visited Nuwara Eilya he would have felt completely at home. The Sri Lankan hill station, developed by the British in the mid-19th century, retains many legacies of the Raj, despite more than 60 years of independence. Nuwara Eilya is proud of its Englishness.
A STRANGE AND EROTIC DISPLAY AT HAESINDANG PARK
Samcheok, South Korea - by Lawrence Hamilton
I had heard next to nothing about South Korea’s coastline. I was surprised to find that it was beautiful and rugged, and even more surprised to find along that coastline a park filled with statues of penises. Not just a few penises, but lots and lots of penises.
EXPLORING LEGENDARY WENCESLAS SQUARE
Prague, Czech Republic - by Megan Swanik
My greatest and simplest joy while living in Prague was undoubtedly the frequent walks I took, meandering aimlessly down forgotten cobblestoned streets, pausing to sit beneath the unparalleled charm of some of the best-preserved architecture in the world.
CROSSING PATHS WITH A PRINCE
Cody, Wyoming - by Karin Leperi
It’s not often in my life that I can say I had a brush with a Prince. In fact, now that I look back on a lifetime of worldly experiences, I can’t ever remember running into royalty. Well, as it turns out, that’s exactly what happened on a recent trip of mine to Cody, Wyoming. To be more exact, I crossed paths with the Prince of Monaco while visiting Buffalo Bill Cody’s old stomping grounds in the town that bears his name - Cody, Wyoming.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF POETRY
Iceland - by Luke Maguire Armstrong
There are a number of theories out there about why Iceland is such a land of blossoming poetic. Though I met one expat, living there who thought the famed of the Icelandic poetry tradition was hype, my experience was that Iceland is a place where poetry lurks around every corner.
HARIDWAR, GATEWAY TO GOD’S ABODE
India - by Shweta Bhardwaj
The River Ganges or Ganga as it is sacredly called in Hindi is considered to be the life line of India. Haridwar is ... one of the oldest living cities in India, it is mentioned in the ancient Hindu scriptures. In Sanskrit ‘Hari’ means lord Vishnu and ‘dwar’ means gate. Hence, gateway to lord’s abode.
THE NUBIAN BOATMEN OF THE NILE RIVER
Egypt - by W. Ruth Kozak
We’re on our way to board a boat that will take us to visit the island temple of Philae. Hanan, the Egyptologist explains, “These dark-skinned people are Nubians. They live in settlements along the river.” She tells us that because of the lack of tourists due to recent political unrest, these souvenir hawkers and boatmen are struggling to make a living.
Tuscany, Italy - by Peppa Martin
What faithfully happens, as summer turns to autumn in Tuscany, is that people come down with a pernicious fever - let’s call it ‘acute funghiosis’ - which causes a delirious devotion to truffles. Truffles are discussed with the same intensity and fervor usually reserved for Plato.
PHALLIC POWER: THE LEGACY OF A DIVINE MADMAN
Bhutan - by K.D. Leperi
I’ll admit to not recognizing the structure of a giant penis on a commercial building at first, thinking it was some elaborate design that I just didn’t get. Initially, I was somewhat taken aback by the penile projectile, but then I began to philosophically contemplate why decorated penises adorned many buildings and homes.
THE BALKANS: THE QUIRKS of ALBANIA and KOSOVO
Am I in Tirana or Vegas? - by Angela Lapham
The ongoing transformation of Albania and Kosovo means several ‘quirks’ are set to disappear. Visit now! As well as these attractions, you’ll enjoy fascinating histories, a liberal Islam rarely communicated to the West, and people delighted to welcome you into their country.
PUEBLO INGLES: SPEAKING ENGLISH FLUENTLY LEADS TO IMMERSION IN SPANISH CULTURE
La Alberca, Spain - by Roy A. Barnes
The sightseeing and culinary temptations afforded there take second place behind the opportunities to really connect with some of Spain’s populace thanks to the Madrid-based language training firm Diverbo. Spaniards who want to learn to become more fluent in English come together with English speakers.
THE ROOTS OF FLAMENCO IN GRANADA
Spain - by Inka Piegsa-Quischotte
When we arrived, I told the tour guide that I would now make my own way and meet the coach in time for the return trip. “Where do you want to go?” he asked, apparently a bit miffed. But I had something else in mind. “I want to go to Sacromonte, visit the caves and follow the roots of Flamenco,`I replied. “Tourist traps,” `he sniffed,” and anyway the performances are only at night”. Little did he know what I found.
THE BRITISH INFLUENCE
Barbados - by Nina Koo-Seen-Lin
A winter holiday to the beautiful island of Barbados is always a joy - a chance to escape from the humdrum of our everyday routines and those never-ending mundane hours in the office. But don’t be too surprised to find a home from home waiting for you in the sun! Apart from the weather Barbados has a few similarities to Britain.
THE MUHAMMAD ALI MOSQUE
Cairo, Egypt - by Mark Greene
As I rode in the back of a van through the crazed highways of Cairo, Egypt in complete wonderment at the abandonment of all traffic laws, the first thing I truly noticed was the Citadel and the twin minarets of the Muhammad Ali Mosque that loomed over the city and the Nile River to the west. It is an edifice that confronts you even from miles away.
FORGET WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT HIROSHIMA
Japan - by Josie Sampson
A city almost entirely wiped out in the space of a few seconds ... 68 years on, the tireless efforts and tenacity of its citizens mean that modern-day Hiroshima is a booming region of art, culture, economics and government. Despite its dark legacy, here we present you with a city that’s harbouring much more than the ghosts of the past.
NEW YEARS AT THE TOURNAMENT OF ROSES PARADE
Pasadena, California USA - by Larry Zalatel
Known as America's New Year Celebration, the annual Tournament of Roses Parade features spectacular floral floats that are completely covered with natural materials. According to parade rules, every inch of the floats must be covered with flowers or plant material, most of it applied by volunteers in the last weeks of December.
A LOVE AFFAIR WITH MOLDOVA’S PARKS
Moldov - by Angela Lapham
Where in the world can you access free, high-speed internet surrounded by trees; water cascading through a stately fountain; wedding parties posing for photographs; and the presence of twenty eight literature greats - all whilst being entertained by pop singers and folk bands? It may come as a shock to learn you’re in the Republic of Moldova.
NEW LIFE IN OLD GUATEMALA
Central America - by Jonathon Engels
Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción is now internationally identified as Guatemala City, one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Locally, it is known simply as Guate, and tourists avoid it. On the other hand, the previous capital, known as Antigua Guatemala (“Old Guatemala”), receives over a million tourists annually.
ETHNIC EATS IN EUROPE
by Larry Zaletel
A people’s culture is defined not only by their traditions and values but also by their food and drink. Food brings people together especially when they gather around the dinner table. Although the food may be prepared differently in Europe, have an open mind and enjoy new flavors and sample the scrumptious delicacies.
DISCOVERING JAMDANI SARIS
Bangladesh - by Paola Fornari
We are weaving our way through the heavy Dhaka traffic towards the eastern suburbs. I heard about Jamdani saris a while ago when I admired a woman wearing one at a reception. I was amazed by the delicate designs woven into the floaty gossamer fabric. So I hire Mithu to take me to visit the factory.
INVISIBLE - A MYSTIC TALE
Fiji - by Maiyan Karidi
After being invited to join a traditional Kava ceremony in this small village on the main island of Viti Levu, Fiji, I discover a most mystifying legend which also seems to be invisible to the outside world. The villagers are preparing for the Sunday ‘lovo’, a Fijian earth oven, used to cook vegetables and on special occasions, a pig.
AFTERNOON TEA AT DANESFIELD HOUSE
England by Angela Allman
Afternoon tea is a time-honored tradition in Britain, and this is my first proper tea experience. It is believed that the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna, started the fashionable trend in the 19th century. The Duchess began ordering tea and snacks to her room to ward off hunger and lift the afternoon ‘sinking feeling'. She then began inviting her friends around, and the trend soon spread like wildfire throughout the country.
CHRISTMAS WITHOUT SANTA CLAUS
Athens, Greece by W. Ruth Kozak
One of my most memorable Christmases was the first Christmas I spent in Athens, Greece in December 1982. It was my first Christmas away from my family and without Santa Claus. Christmas the traditional Greek way was very different than I was used to but I managed to find some decorations and tiny lights, bought a small bay-leaf tree and made myself a Christmas tree.
FLYING PROUD AND HIGH
Jaipur, India by Anuradha Shankar
Flying high over the Jaigarh Fort, the colourful flag provides a welcome contrast to the brown, which dominates the landscape. This is the flag of the erstwhile royal family of Jaipur, and flying atop the fort named after one of its greatest ancestors, it signifies the importance of the royal family, which lingers on in spite of the fact that they no longer rule the city.
SEEING SAPA IN THE FOOTSTEP OF MAY
Vietnam - by Anna Nguyen Thi Quynh Nga
Sapa greeted us with a thick layer of fog. Never before had I seen a whiter shade of green where long rows of trees along the winding road are only half existent behind many layers of fog. Maybe here, because it is so high, the clouds are being mixed up with the scenery. I wondered if this is how it looks like in heaven.
DUBLIN MIXES GUINNESS, JOYCE, AND THE STONE AGE
Ireland - by Ken McGoogan
300,000 people are set for the Gathering in Ireland. Some will be tracing their ancestors. Others will come to see the monasteries, or to follow in the footsteps of James Joyce. Many will make their way to the Guinness Storehouse, where visitors journey through the 250-year history of Guinness and finish up in the Gravity Bar, free pint in hand.
A CULTURE THAT MARKED HISTORY: Philippines
by Patrick Del Rosario
Are you planning to visit the Philippines for a vacation or for business trips? There are some things you should know about Filipino culture and how they treat tourists in order for you to maximize the excitement and fun you can experience on your stay in the Philippines. Here are some of the most popular aspects of Filipino culture that you will encounter on your visit.
A SWISS TAPESTRY: Switzerland
by Tom Koppel
At the inviting Swiss hamlet of Andeer, the upper Rhine, only 10 metres wide, cascades in waterfalls and rapids through a rocky gorge. Outside a cheese shop, a sign bears verses of folksy doggerel. Freely translated, it reads “ Milk, cheese, curds and cream, help our people get up steam.” The message is hardly surprising in a country known for its dairy products.
THE PADAUNG GIRAFFE WOMEN
Bagan, Myanmar by Paola Fornari
'Would you like to see the giraffe women?' 'No.' My guide seemed a bit taken aback by my blunt reply, but he didn't insist. To me, the idea of going to ogle at women whose necks are lengthened by the rings they wear on them - and worse, have my photo taken beside one - disgusted me.
THE WICKLOW MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
Exploring Celtic History in Ireland - by Becky Garrison
During my first trek to Ireland, I decided to visit Glendalough Valley, one of Ireland’s most popular destinations. While the monks abandoned “Monastic City” centuries ago as a result of political and religious upheavals,” the remains of a 6th century Christian monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin remain the centerpiece of this town.
Slovenia - by Larry Zaletel
It is an awakening visiting the country of my family's heritage. There is much to see and learn, understanding about the village and adjusting to the differences in customs, the diversity of rural life and the outlook on life in general. This is an opportunity to observe and live village life on a daily basis.
KAUAI’S CHICKEN RUN
Hawaii - by Teresa Adamowski
y first image of Kauai is from high above on the final approach to the Island. The vibrant red earth is a stark contrast to the intense cerulean ocean. The dirt is red due to the fact that the high iron content of the volcanic soils has had plenty of time to oxidize, especially with the wet conditions of the island. Incidentally, Kauai is the rainiest place on Earth.
SWAYING PALMS AND FLOATING BOATS
Kerala, South India - by Raj Niranjan Das
As we are transported from the world of traffic snarls, chaos, hectic work and continuous meetings to the world of lagoons and greenery, we stood awestruck. We were on one of the numerous houseboats parked on the very famous Vembanad Lake in Alappuzha. Travellers from all over the world have a fascination for the renowned houseboat rides on this lake.
HAIDA GWAII - LEARNING ABOUT THE CULTURE IN HAIDA LAND
Canada: Queen Charlotte Islands
Here I was on a late morning sitting on the front porch of a beach front property with a commanding ocean view. I had stayed the previous night inside my friend's family modest if not slightly dilapidated seaside bungalow. As I sipped a murky stale coffee I tried to analyze why everything appeared topsy-turvy to me since arrival at Masset Indian reserve, Queen Charlotte Island.
GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS
A cool, quiet, elevated, sparsely populated country less than an hour's flight away is just too tempting, especially when that country's progress is based on GNH - Gross National Happiness - rather than GDP. And if you're looking for different - different from anywhere in the whole world - Bhutan is where you'll find it.
THE NAVAJO’S LONG WALK
Arizona, United States
You can tell that thousands of Navajo Indians have walked up this canyon. Years and years of constant steps have worn natural footholds up and down the orange walls. They look as if they've been intricately carved. And in a way, they had been."Could you ever get lost up here?" Amanda asked Calvin, our sure-footed Navajo guide."No." He answered.
DANCING TO A DIFFERENT DRUM
I was just a college girl majoring in art history when I became smitten with the architectural genius of Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926). Captivated by Gaudi's unconventional, whimsical and gravity-defying architecture, I yearned to visit Barcelona where I could see his creations "in the flesh."
AN HERITAGE CHRISTMAS AT BURNABY VILLAGE MUSEUM
Canada, British Columbia
Warm Christmas cheer greeted me and made it a pleasant winter's outing when I visited the Burnaby Heritage Museum. From the blazing coloured lights to the Victorian Christmas decorations I was quickly transported into the spirit of the Holiday Season.
A TRYST WITH ROYAL GUJARAT: Gondal, India
Gondal may be a quaint little town of Gujarat and most tourists to Gujarat may not even be aware of its existence, but once they set foot on this charming town and savor the famed Gondal hospitality, a majority of the visitors and guests turn out to be repeat visitors who develop some sort of a love affair with the palaces of Gondal.
THE MANY FACES OF MACAU: People's Republic of China
Macau is a unique story among the world’s most popular tourist destinations, as it’s one of the few to pull off a successful -- if you measure success by wealth and money -- transition from a quiet sleepy port town into the top gambling destination in the world, eclipsing even the bright lights of Las Vegas.
BETWEEN THE BEACHES AND THE BARRIO: Trinidad, Cuba
While all of Cuba is dripping with historical significance, there are few better examples of the rich and colourful history of the island than Trinidad de Cuba. The expeditionary Diego Velazquez founded Santisima Trinidad (Most Holy Trinity) in 1514. The city was officially declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
WOOFING - THE NEW WAY TO WORK AND TRAVEL: Alaska
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is a website that matches farmers with willing workers. The farmers receive free help around their property, while the “woofers” get a free bed and meals (usually healthy organic food), a unique experience, and if they’re lucky, a primer in small-scale organic farming practices.
THE QUEST FOR KONA COFFEE: Hawaii
Tropical Hawaii conjures up images of warm temperatures, sandy beaches, palm trees, hula dancers and … freshly-brewed Kona coffee. The latter is certainly one of my fondest memories of the islands. I reserve this treat for weekend and holiday consumption only as I can relax and appreciate the rich, smooth, satisfying flavor that it provides.
EMBROIDERING A COLORFUL CROATIAN FESTIVAL: Đakovo, Croatia
Đakovo’s biggest traditional festival in the summertime is the Đakovacki Vezovi which literally means "Đakovo Embroidery" because Slavonian embroidery is a well-known Croatian craft. The 43-year old festival lasts for 2 weeks. Starting from mid June, people come to Đakovo to enjoy the best of the Slavonian traditions - delicacies, wines, arts, music and horse breeding.
FIND STARS AND STRAWBERRIES: Dayton, Tennessee
I decided recently that it was time to go to Dayton as a tourist and found it to be a unique little town that is preserving its historical heritage. I turned off Tennessee Highway 27 in Rhea County at the entrance arches and lampposts marking Dayton as a Historic Main Street Community, one of twenty-two such designated communities in the state of Tennessee. Just inside the entrance is the Chamber of Commerce. I stopped there and found a pamphlet with a walking tour of a six block downtown district with historical places marked with Appalachian Quilt Trail Stars.
EXPERIENCING HORSE RACING CULTURE: Louisville, Kentucky
Kentucky and the city of Louisville are to horses what North Carolina is to NASCAR. I got a chance to see some of the inner workings of Churchill Downs while meeting some very famous world class athletic celebrities of the four-footed kind, then relaxed at a horse racing-themed bar.
THE TERRACOTTA TRAIL: Kolkata, India
While planning for a small vacation around Kolkata, I saw some pictures of the Terracotta temples of Bishnupur and that instant I knew I have to go there. The bright red temples were so inviting that I dropped my plans to visit Shanti Niketan and instead headed for this temple town.
FEAST OF ST. RUPERT: Salzburg, Austria
My congested breath puffs out in visible clouds as I lumber down the trail from my hostel. In my hazy, fever-induced state, it takes me a while to clue in that large groups of people are headed in the same direction, toward Salzburg’s Altstadt (Old Town). I Underneath the looming hilltop fortress, the town is quaint, baroque, and lit up like Vegas.
AN INDIAN COMMUNITY IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC: Fiji
Santosh Kumar, a young artist, squats in a sprawling Hindu temple, designing a poster-size painting. Featuring the voluptuous goddess Lakshmi, it will become a huge outdoor billboard announcing Diwali, the annual festival of lights.
CUBAN SCENTS: Havana, Cuba
Cuba smells of cigar smoke and guava. The rich, earthy smell of cigars assails you as soon as you step off the plane, as portly airport officials smoke Cuba’s finest. The guava takes longer to place. It’s juicy, pink flesh and tart taste accompanying almost every meal. But Cuba also smells like history, like revolution, hardship and triumph.
BAFFIN ISLAND! O CANADA! Nunavit, Canada
I have always dreamed of travelling to the Arctic North, a land full of wonder, mystery and adventure. Somehow, I felt a “calling” in my heart. I often wonder, maybe in my past life I was an Inuit or a polar bear, yearning to return back to where I belong? I finally decided to realize my dream. So I pack all my heavy winter clothing and set off to Baffin Island.
GETTING INTO THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT: Nuremberg, Germany
This city of half a million people might really overwhelm you the first time you venture into it. But because many of the city’s major attractions are within its old city walls and because of its very user-friendly and extensive public transport system, Nuremberg soon becomes small town manageable.
THE CIDER ROUTE IN NORMANDY: France
“Normandy is proud of their apple trees,” my French friend told me. There was certainly ample truth in it as the Cider Route (La Route du Cidre) was proposed in 1973 to let people discover and appreciate the great quality of the wine in the region of Pays d’Auge.
THE RED-ROSE CITY: Marrakech, Morocco
The beautiful Royal city of Marrakech, known as the ‘red city’ because of its pink-tinted buildings, nestles like a rose-quartz gemstone near the rolling foothills of the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains. Marrakech is a spectacle of exotica.
DOING THE LA DE DA - Detroit’s Hamtramck Neighborhood
Following Big Daddy down the street playing “Doing the La De Da” on the accordion was just one part of a fun-filled morning I spent in Hamtramck, the city of 25,000 surrounded by metropolitan Detroit. It is just a short distance from the center of Detroit and the cultural center of the Detroit’s Polish community.
TOKYO, JAPAN: Standing Room Only In Shibuya
I was in Shibuya, a Tokyo district familiar to any moviegoer. It’s all the points of the compass compacted into the city’s busiest road crossing. Pedestrians line up like the start of a marathon and take over the road, leaving Bill Murray hangdog in the middle. His foreignness is clear in his stillness for, in a place that’s constantly moving, the most Japanese of experiences are to be found by standing up.
FLORIDA: Miami's Indian History
You can’t visit Miami without being reminded of the Seminoles, the Miccosukee and the Tequesta, South Florida’s native American ancestors. What better pastime for a rainy Friday afternoon than leaving the glamour of South Beach behind and diving into the exciting history of the Indians with a visit to the Historical Museum of Southern Florida.
A MUSEUM FOR BEDOUIN CULTURE: Kibbutz Lahav, Israel
I always wanted to visit the Joe Alon Center - the Museum of Bedouin Culture near Kibbutz Lahav, northeastern Negev Desert (Israel). My wife and I named a date in the middle of the week, avoiding the the Shabbath (Sunday) drivers and off we went. It was a long drive to the center through an area rich in archaeology and scenic beauty with Bedouin encampments along the way.
RUBBING OFF LUCK AT A TURKISH WEDDING: Turkey
I was thrilled, when I was recently invited to a Turkish wedding. The invitation immediately raised an important question: what gift to take? Tradition requires the guests to give money or gold or both. Luckily, every jeweller has a selection of gold coins, adorned with a red silk bow and a pin for just that occasion. That’s it. No wedding list, no towels or toasters.
TAMADA THE TOASTMASTER, PATRIARCH OF TRADITIONAL GEORGIAN FEASTING: Republic of Georgia
The tamada is not a mere ‘toastmaster’. He is the collective soul of the Georgian people. He is warm and welcoming, a proud father and a dedicated son, a patriot, and an admirer of women. He is an incurable romantic, deeply nostalgic, and he has a kind word for everyone. There is not a feast too informal for him to attend. If there is wine – and there always is – there is a tamada.
TRADITION - OKINAWA'S LUNAR NEW YEAR: Japan
Fireworks illuminate the faces of Americans and locals as glasses are raised and toasts are made to another peaceful year on Okinawa, Japan. While the Americans' New Years celebration is coming to an end, the Okinawans' will continue on through the night until the first sunrise of the new year.
DODGING BANDITS IN SARDINIA
“Are you sure this is wise?” he had asked. I was engrossed in reading The Rough Guide: ‘ … bandit capital … between 1901 and 1954, Orgosolo - population 4,000 – clocked up an average of one murder every two months.’ Always the adventurer, I dismissed his worry. “Of course it’s wise,” I reassured him.
MAKING CHRISTMAS MEMORABLE: Germany
Christmas in Germany is taken really seriously and has much historical significance. Decorated Christmas trees originated in Germany in the 16th century when Christians started bringing decorated fir trees into their homes.
WELCOME TO FOODIE HEAVEN: Penang, Malaysia
In Penang, Malaysia, the Jalan Sungai Pinang is a street crowded with food stalls, and frequented nightly by local Penangites who come to taste their rich treats. Some of the richest gastronomic experiences can be had in the markets of Penang. Street vendors at these markets prepare hot dishes with fresh ingredients right before your eyes.
ĐAKOVACKI VEZOVI: EMBROIDERING A COLORFUL CROATIAN FESTIVAL: Đakovo, Croatia
The 43-year old festival lasts for two weeks. Starting from mid June, people come to Đakovo to enjoy the best of the Slavonian traditions - delicacies, wines, arts, music and horse breeding. The last day of the celebration, always a Sunday, attracts the largest crowd. The grand day this year was on July 5.
CELEBRATING MALTESE HERITAGE: Mdina’s Flower and Pageantry Festival
They call it “The Silent City,” but Mdina in the tiny Mediterranean country of Malta is anything but silent on this April day. It’s Mdina’s (pronounced Medina which is Arabic for city) annual flower and pageantry festival, marking the beginning of spring and also commemorating the warlike history of this alluring walled settlement.
AN OKINAWAN BULLFIGHT: Uruma Okinawa, Japan
Bullfighting is a traditional Sunday pastime in Okinawa and earliest records show it has been a spectator sport since at least the 17th century. Unlike bullfighting in Spanish speaking cultures, there is no Matador to face the bull; it is one bull challenging another and neither will be seriously injured or die in the event.
MATE MATES: Socializing Uruguayan Style
I’ve been invited to matear, Uruguayan style. Mate is a national social pastime here. The mate is a calabash: you fill it with a bitter dried leaf called yerba, add boiling water, and sip it through a bombilla – a silver straw. The set of mate, bombilla and yerba are also referred to as mate, and the verb, matear, means to sip it.
SAVORING COOKING EXPERIENCES IN ASIA: The Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand
I love serving my dinner guests Phad Thai and having them ask, “Where did you learn to make this?” I enjoy their surprised looks when I reply, “At the Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok. And, how do you like the lemongrass drink? I learned to make it at the Governor’s Residence in Myanmar.
CELEBRATING FRENCH-CANADIAN HERITAGE: Maillardville B.C.’s Festival Du Bois
It’s almost time for the evening show to go on and the enormous tent is already crammed to capacity. Long tables are set up, banquet style, occupied by hundreds of people, some of them sporting toques and sashes, some enjoying plates of French Canadian cuisine and a glass of beer or wine. The atmosphere is definitely festive.
TIBETAN MAGIC: Mcleod Ganj, Upper Dharamshala
Serene and sunny, this seems like a great day to explore this little Tibetan settlement, which is often known as Little Lasha. Located in Upper Dharamshala (Himachal Pradesh), Mcleod Ganj is the home of his Holiness the Dalai Lama and the head quarters of the Tibetan Government in Exile. Home for several Tibetan refugees, this mountain village is packed with compact houses, shops and monasteries.
LA VIRGEN DE LA YEMANJA: Montevideo, Uruguay
Today, 2 February, is the feast of the Virgen de la Yemanya: the patron of fishermen. This evening, after dusk, people will flock to the Rio de la Plata, dressed in white, bringing gifts for her: sweets, clothes, and jewellery - gold chains, necklaces and watches. The gifts will be sent out to sea on paper and cardboard boats, to sink to the bottom, or be washed up on the shore.
CELEBRATING CHINESE NEW YEAR: Hong Kong
I was fortunate to be in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn as much as we could about the traditional celebrations. From our Western viewpoint, Chinese New Year is like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year celebrations all rolled into one.
NEW YEAR’S IN THE NEW WORLD - A CUBAN SAFARI: Bariay Bay, Cuba
Today is New Year’s Eve, the most important national holiday in Cuba, as on January 1, 1959 the dictatorial government of General Batista was overthrown. This year, 2009, thus holds particular meaning: the 50th anniversary of the Revolution led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. But today I am seeking a place of much older historical significance.
CHANUKAH: DEDICATED TO THE POWER OF MIRACLES - Israel
Israel holds a special place in my heart and in my travel experiences. I have been there many times and each uplifting experience has proved to be both crucial and miraculous in my life. As I say the blessings and light each candle on the menorah this Chanukah, I attribute a miracle to each flame burning brightly, illuminating “My Israel Miracles”.
THE FORTIFIED CITY: Nauplion, Greece
On my first visit to Nauplion, in 1978, I recall it only as a dusty little town dominated by an impressive citadel, with a small Venetian fortress out in the Bay. Recently, on a quest to explore Greece‘s medieval past, I decided to return there. What I learned was that Nauplion has been a fortified city since the Bronze Age, and an important part of Greece’s history of the struggle for independence. It has been a major port since the Bronze Age.
THE GHETTO OF VENICE: A Visit to Judaism’s Historic Past
Traveling in Europe, from Spain to Germany there are remnants of lost civilizations with little signs of current Jewish life. Of course there are exceptions, but they just do not seem to balance out the wealth of synagogues that have been turned into museums or churches. However, when I arrived in Italy, I discovered a pulse of Jewish life.
TRADITIONAL BOAT BUILDING: Lessons In Environmental & Cultural Preservation in the South Pacific
My husband, Isaac Bingham won a Watson Fellowship to fund a year-long project titled Savants of the Sea: Boat Building on Two Sides of the Pacific. Although I am not a boat builder by trade, I was overjoyed participate in the project.
CELEBRATING THE ARTS & CULTURE: Maui, Hawaii
At Maui’s most Hawaiian hotel, the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, Lahaina, Mike White, the enthusiastic general manager has encouraged his staff to participate in Project Po’okela (excellence), which stresses the importance of knowledge and pride in Hawaiian Culture and provides hospitality, helpfulness, respect and honesty, giving visitors an enriched vacation experience.
NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL, UK'S BIGGEST STREET PARTY: London, England
When the Trinidadians first arrived in England they longed for their elaborate carnivals back home. Dressed in elaborate costumes, pounding on steel drums they began a small procession through the streets. Now, some 42 years later, the Notting Hill Carnival has become a full-blown Caribbean celebration, second only to that held in Rio.
THE MYSTERY OF OUR HISTORY: Discovering Alert Bay, BC
When we descended the ferry at Alert Bay I looked around with anticipation. An elaborate gateway carved with ‘Namgis First Nation, Gilakas’la Welcome' greeted us. Down Front Street, which ran forever along the waterfront was the Namgis Burial Grounds dotted with numerous totem poles interspersed with a few crosses to mark the graves.
MARKET DAY: Vushtrri, Kosovo
In Vushtrri, market day is always on Friday. I followed the old man down the steps and into the traffic circle, which was jammed with trucks, their beds piled with potatoes and other vegetables, but most of all—now that winter had begun—with cabbages. More trucks were arriving behind us, and they drove up onto the sidewalks and circled us like a wagon train under siege.
AN EASTER PILGRIMAGE: Patmos, Greece
Patmos, a small island with about 2,000 residents, is one of the Greek Dodecanese Islands near the Turkish coast. It was once noted for its shipbuilding and trade and many of the traditional mansions have been restored. Today Patmos is known mainly for the Monastery of St. John the Theologian and for the pilgrimage at Easter, which attracts visitors from all over the world.
LAND OF THE UNEXPECTED: Papua New Guinea
If you want to be transported into another world visit Papua New Guinea. From the town site of beautiful Madang, palm trees sway in the warm breeze, and turquoise waves lap on the beaches of deserted islands. It is literally a scene from Robinson Crusoe.
GUNG HAY FAT CHOY - CELEBRATING THE LUNAR NEW YEAR IN CHINATOWN: Vancouver, Canada
A West Coast mist that quickly turned into an icy downpour didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the spectators or stop the lions and dragons from dancing in this year’s Chinese New Year’s parade. From marching bands, politicians, police, banner waving martial arts groups and pretty dancing girls, there was entertainment for all ages.
INSIGHTS FROM TUSCANY - THE ART OF SIMPLICITY: Prato, Italy
It strikes me that aside from the bicycle horn, the only sound I hear on this small street in Tuscany is the foreign chatter of a content population. It is as if the harsh industrial world of machinery, pollution, and environmental distress has been left at the town border.