The news out of Paris is beyond imagining — fire is ravaging Notre Dame Cathedral. As I write this, Parisian officials fear catastrophic damage and perhaps total loss of this world treasure — with late word that its towers and façade may be saved. French President Macron has vowed to rebuild.
For the millions who have visited and loved and worshipped in this magnifient edifice — with so much historic, artistic, and architectural glory — as well as for residents of Paris who have been privileged to view it on an almost daily basis, the news is heartbreaking. And for those who have not had the good fortune to see it and now perhaps never will, words cannot express.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to Paris — from my first visit in 1966 until my latest visit three… Continue reading
Chinese New Year (also known as Spring Festival), starts on February 5 this year and continues for 15 days.
It’s the most important festival time of the year in China — when millions of Chinese travel to their home villages and cities to be with family or friends for holiday reunions.
One of the world’s most celebrated festivals, Chinese New Year is also a star occasion in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and some other Asian countries as well as Chinatowns around the world. And in recent years, the celebrations in New York, London, Vancouver, Sydney and other overseas cities have spread out of Chinatowns.
Parades with dragon and lion dances and fireworks, family feasts, and, on the final day, a Lantern Festival illuminated by red lanterns are all traditional.
This is the Year of… Continue reading
I hope you’re all having a wonderful holiday season.
Now, as promised last week, here are the answers to our Merry Christmas Travel Quiz. In case you missed the earlier post and would like to take the quiz, I’m listing the answers at the bottom.
1. Christmas Island was discovered by British Royal Navy Captain William Mynors on December 25, 1643, hence the name. Which ocean would you travel to to spend the holiday season on Christmas Island?
a. The South Pacific
b. The South Atlantic
c. The Indian Ocean
d. The Antarctic Ocean
2. Which U.S. state would you travel to in search of a town named Santa Claus?
3. Where would you travel to retrace the footsteps of the original St. Nicholas,… Continue reading
While I’m recovering from a hand injury that makes it difficult to type (you may laugh, but it’s true!), I’m reprising our Merry Christmas Travel Quiz from a previous year.
Fortunately, it’s an “evergreen” — meaning it won’t pass its expiration date anytime soon, and which conjures up images of Christmas trees as well.
So good luck, and try to resist googling the answers — I’ll have them in my next post.
Christmas is a popular time to travel, especially for baby boomers escaping cold weather (those who live up north) and/or taking advantage of their empty nests (if applicable). And if you have grandkids you don’t want to part with at Christmastime, you can always take them with you!
One option is to put together a Christmas-themed vacation. But how much do you really know about where to find… Continue reading
You may have experienced it yourself when battling humongous lines to enter San Marco in Venice, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, or the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, or when you found yourself in a wave of fellow travelers struggling to get a peek at the changing of the guard at palaces in London, Athens, or Prague.
You may have been put off by hordes of drunken revelers in Amsterdam, Mallorca, or Berlin (of which, we trust, you were not one yourself).
You may have found small Alaskan ports or Croatian islands too overrun by your fellow cruise ship passengers to appreciate the beauty that attracted you to such cruise itineraries in the first place.
You may have sought out privacy in Iceland’s hot springs, only to find them packed with Game of Thrones fans drawn… Continue reading
Test your travel knowledge!
Travel photographer Dennis Cox has created this beautiful poster — a collection of his “photo paintings” from two dozen top travel icons around the world — and he’s offering a free poster to the first person who can correctly name all the icons.
Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your answers and we’ll do the rest.
If you’re a winner, you can choose this poster or one of many other artistic travel photo posters he has created. Subjects include The Art of Cruising, The Great Wall of China, European Castles, and the Colors of India, among others.
Nikko, Japan, is just 72 miles (120 km) and two hours north of Tokyo by train, but seems a world apart.
Situated at an elevation of more than 4,200 feet (about 1,300 meters) and sporting crisp, clean mountain air, Nikko’s central area reminded us of an alpine village, including some chalet-style architecture and a roadside stand dispensing crêpes.
A mountain river tumbles through a gorge and forests fill the mountains. Hot springs, hiking trails, lakes, and waterfalls grace Nikko National Park, which borders the city of 85,000. And UNESCO World Heritage Sites are within walking distance of Nikko’s central square.
Nikko National Park and a World Heritage Shrine
While Nikko is an extremely popular day trip from Tokyo, we stayed overnight and are glad we did. It gave us time to absorb the atmosphere and explore Nikko’s main claim to fame, Toshogu,… Continue reading
Eighth in a Series
Just an hour by train from Kyoto, Nara is a sometimes-overlooked jewel of a city that has played a key role in the historical and cultural life of Japan.
Often visited on day trips from Kyoto — certainly possible if you get an early start — Nara is well worth an overnight stay to keep from being too rushed. We stayed two nights and didn’t regret it, even though we had to change hotels after one night due to a booking error.
If you have more time, Nara is also a convenient base for exploring the surrounding countryside and villages filled with history, hot springs, and, in season, cherry blossoms.
Nara Park and World Heritage Sites
Japan’s first permanent capital during the 8th century AD before the imperial base was moved to Kyoto,… Continue reading
Seventh in a series
Taking a public bath in Japan can be a wonderfully relaxing experience — as long as you know the rules.
Our introduction to the baths came at Kyoto’s Funaoka Onsen, located on a nondescript street about a half hour’s walk from our Airbnb.
Here one can slip into a variety of hot and even hotter mineral-water pools, both indoors and out, and remain there until you start to boil. There’s also a sauna in case you need some roasting.
The residual effect is incredibly soothing and the perfect way to unwind after a day spent sightseeing or climbing small mountains.
Funaoka onsen is one of Kyoto’s oldest and finest public baths, though the most picturesque and authentic onsen are in the countryside and fueled by Japan’s multitude of hot springs.
But… Continue reading
Sixth in a Series
At first, it wouldn’t seem that heading to some of Kyoto’s most popular attractions during cherry-blossom season would qualify as an escape.
But the key to finding the peace and quiet we were seeking amid the throngs, my wife Catharine and I found, was to just keep walking — and climbing — once we got there.
On the same day we visited the Ryoan-ji Zen rock garden and the Kinkaku-ji temple (Golden Pavilion), we boarded an antique narrow-gauge railway that carried us in romantic style to Arashiyama on the western outskirts of Kyoto. (You can also take more modern trains from Kyoto station, or take a bus or the subway.)
It was obvious when we arrived that however they had gotten to Arashiyama, a good portion of everyone visiting Kyoto had conspired to visit at the same time as… Continue reading