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By Frank Viviano

Barga, Italy —
A peculiar marriage of wild celebration and tacit mourning takes place each year on August 16 in Barga, the hilltop Tuscan town where I’ve lived for two decades.

Its people dance in the piazzas to the music of accordions and mandolins. Outdoor markets hum with shoppers until well after midnight. Dazzling fireworks explode over its Medieval cathedral and ramparts.

This is the feast of San Rocco, a centuries-old holiday dating back to the most lethal pandemic in world history. It commemorates the ardent re-embrace of life after the inconceivable horrors of the 14th century’s Black Death – in which Barga’s Serchio Valley almost certainly played a critical role.

Over the brief span of four years beginning in 1348, the Plague carried off up to 60 percent of Europe’s entire population, leaving an indelible scar in the collective memory.

As harrowing as our struggle with… Continue reading

By Steve Anzalone

The pandemic’s impact on me as a traveler became crystal clear when, a few months ago, standing in line to re-enroll in the TSA PreCheck program, I pondered something unimaginable just a few years earlier:  Was PreCheck worth the $80? Would I be doing enough travel ahead to justify the investment?

Count me among the millions of Boomers now getting back on the horse.

Sidelined for so long by Covid and facing adjustments to retirement and the indignities of advancing age, we are traveling again. Our circumstances vary. We will have stories to tell.

My story is about a small first step and a small victory for optimism. I forked over the $80 and proceeded full speed ahead with the trip on the drawing board.

Truth be told, it wasn’t really my first post-Covid travel. During those heady days between a second booster and the arrival of… Continue reading

Back in 2003, during a round trip flight from New York to Bali, I had layovers in the Dubai International Airport in both directions. Located in the United Arab Emirates on the Arabian Peninsula, it’s a convenient stop between the East Coast of the U.S. (or Europe) and Southeast Asia.

Even then, the airport had a kind of fantasy-land feel to it, with the latest technologies and striking decor. It has since become the world’s busiest airport for international travelers, having served well over a billion passengers on more than 7 million flights.

Now, though, many of the passengers are leaving the airport to enjoy a vacation or long stopover in Dubai itself, which has taken the fantasy-land feel to new heights (literally). It’s become kind of a cross between Las Vegas (without the “sin city” element) and Disney World (without the humidity and mandatory high prices, though you can… Continue reading

Ecuador, a relatively small nation (about the size of Nevada), packs a wallop for its size — offering a remarkably diverse set of natural and cultural attractions.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to all four of its main regions: The Andes (including the colonial-era city of Quito); the Amazon basin; the Pacific coast, anchored by the city of Guayaquil; and the Galapagos Islands, 600 miles out in the ocean. All are memorable.

In this informative and engaging piece, contributing writer Robert Waite continues his recent journey through Ecuador by taking us to Yasuni National Park and the Napo Wildlife Center deep in the Amazon rainforest. Here’s his report:

By Robert Waite

Yasuni Park, Ecuador – There are two indigenous tribes located in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, the Tagaeri and the Taromenane, who have had virtually no contact with the outside world.

I say “virtually” because there have been… Continue reading

By Robert Waite

Quito, Ecuador – There are three things to keep in mind when planning a visit to Quito, capital of Ecuador.

First, it is high. Not Cusco-high, but — at 9,350 feet (2,850 meters )– you’re 2,000 feet (610 meters) higher than Mexico City. It may take you a few days to acclimate.

Second, it is hilly. As one who once lived on Russian Hill in San Francisco, I thought I knew hilly, but Quito even beats the City by the Bay.

Third, it is old. The present-day city was established by Spaniards in 1534, almost 100 years before the founding of Boston. And indigenous peoples lived here for centuries before that.

And if I were to add a fourth, it would be not to miss the surrounding countryside, known for its mountains, lush natural beauty, and a chance to straddle the Equator itself.

The Archbishop’s former digs… Continue reading
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It’s Mardi Gras time in Louisiana, and not just in New Orleans.

Several years ago I was in Lake Charles, Louisiana, during Mardi Gras, and while the carnival festival there is more low-key than in New Orleans, it’s said to be the second largest in the state.

Along with a few other visiting travel writers, I was invited to ride on the local Convention and Visitors Bureau’s float, which led the midday parade. Best of all, we were also invited to throw out beads and candies to the folks lining the parade route.

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People had camped out all morning to get a prime spot, bringing their folding chairs and coolers stocked with cold drinks, many wearing Mardi Gras colors: purple, green and gold. They also wore beads, funny hats, sequined outfits, and various Krewe T-shirts, indicating allegiance to the various social clubs that build and run the parade floats. (There’s… Continue reading

Ever since my own visit to Panama, I’ve considered it one of the “essential countries” for travelers.

And not just because it harbors a canal vital for global commerce. Panama also connects two continents (North and South America) and is a key link in a chain of countries (including neighboring Costa Rica and Colombia) that claims some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet.

For older baby boomers, it’s also an enticing location for retirement, offering comparatively low prices and modern amenities.

Contributing writer Robert Waite recently visited Panama and returned with this informative report:

By Robert Waite

Panama City – When I think of airlines and stopover programs, Icelandair comes immediately to mind.

For no extra charge, they allowed you to stop over in Reykjavik when flying from North America to Europe. They often threw in discounted hotel stays and a trip to the hot spring-fed Blue Lagoon.

But… Continue reading

Here are some of the travel books I’ve been reading the past few months, any of which would make a nice gift for the hodophile among your family, friends, colleagues — or for yourself, of course.

They’re selected to get those travel juices flowing again (if they aren’t already).

The Road Trip Survival Guide

By Rob Taylor (Tiller Press, 2021)

Even as the Covid epidemic was dealing severe blows to airline, cruise, and international travel, domestic road trips were zooming in popularity in 2020-21, making this practical yet enjoyably written guide a timely read.

Penned in a folksy style, Rob Taylor encourages readers to “explore at their own speed” and modify his suggestions as needed to fit their own circumstances.

That said, just about any road-tripper (novice or experienced) can find loads of tips within these pages. Divided into five sections — Planning, Packing, Road Trip Food, Safety, and… Continue reading

Here are the answers to our previous post, A Ghoulish Halloween Travel Quiz.

1. If you want to visit the countries where Halloween originated, where would you go?

a. Romania and Bulgaria

b. Germany and France

c. Ireland and Scotland

d. Hungary and Slovakia

The correct answer is C, Ireland and Scotland. Halloween has its roots in ancient Celtic myths, and modern-day American Halloween traditions evolved from those brought by 19th-century Irish immigrants to the U.S.

2. Where would you find the world’s longest, deepest haunted “house”?

a. Lewisburg, Ohio

b. Rapid City, South Dakota

c. Blackfoot, Idaho

d. Lexington, Kentucky

The correct answer is A, Lewisburg, Ohio. The haunted “house” is actually located in a 3,500-foot-long cave located some 80 feet underground, complete with thousands of bats.

3. What European castle is said to have inspired Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula?

a. Neuschwanstein, Germany… Continue reading

If you’re looking to expand your Halloween fun beyond handing out candy to trick-or-treaters or dressing up like ex-presidents at costume parties, take our Halloween travel quiz. You might even pick up an idea or two for your next ghoulish holiday.

Some questions are easy, some are harder — but we’re betting you don’t stand a ghost of a chance of getting all the answers right without ghoulgling!

1. If you want to visit the countries where Halloween originated, where would you go?

a. Romania and Bulgaria

b. Germany and France

c. Ireland and Scotland

d. Hungary and Slovakia

2. Where would you find the world’s longest, deepest haunted “house”?

a. Lewisburg, Ohio

b. Rapid City, South Dakota

c. Blackfoot, Idaho

d. Lexington, Kentucky

3. What European castle is said to have inspired Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula?

a. Neuschwanstein, Germany

b. Bran Castle, Romania

c.… Continue reading

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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