By Robert Waite
Homes, France – Nothing better illustrates the personality gulf that separated Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Jefferson than how they spent their time in France representing a fledging United States.
Franklin expended much effort navigating the city’s drawing rooms, entertaining comely women of status with his banter and wit.
Jefferson, on the other hand, ventured far afield. Unlike Franklin, his primary focus was not the fairer sex (or at least not the Parisian fairer sex – perhaps because he was accompanied to France by Sally Hemings), but rather civil engineering.
And the French engineering feat he most admired was the Canal of Languedoc, today better known as the Canal Midi.
Constructed in the 17th Century, the canal transverses France north of the Pyrenees and unites the Mediterranean with the Atlantic.
So transfixed was Jefferson by this marvel that in May of 1787 he spent
nine days on horseback… Continue reading
I admit I was a little surprised several years ago when I toured the entire island of Ireland and discovered that St. Patrick — the patron saint of Ireland and largely credited with bringing Christianity to he country — actually did much of his missionary work in and is reputedly buried in County Down, which is now part of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
It was a quarter-century ago (April 1998) that “The Troubles,” as they were called — an often violent class-related and sectarian three-decade conflict in Northern Ireland between those who wanted to remain in the UK (mostly Protestants) and those who wanted to break away and join the Republic of Ireland (mostly Catholics) — ended in the Good Friday Agreement to settle the issue peacefully.
Because my grandfather was a Protestant born in County Fermanagh, in what is now Northern Ireland, before he… Continue reading
You may have heard about a site called ChatGPT, where you can try out an artificial intelligence (AI) writing tool. Depending on the user, the technology (created by OpenAI) has generated a combination of excitement and fear.
Almost like magic, you can give it a prompt and, within seconds, the chatbot will spill out prose about any subject imaginable, in the style you request. You can even ask it to sprinkle in some typos and grammatical errors if that suits your purpose.
Seventh-grade theme paper about the significance of the Battle of Hastings, complete with a run-on sentence or two? Piece of cake. Outline for a dystopian mystery novel set in Victorian England? No sweat. Presentation on the importance of widgets for your next Monday meeting? Take the weekend off — you’ve got it covered.
And since it’s original copy, more or less, teachers, editors, or your employers theoretically can’t… Continue reading
By Dr. Michael Lovely
If you are traveling with a disability, planning a trip—especially internationally—can meet with daunting obstacles.
A recent survey by MMGY Global, Portrait of Travelers with Disabilities: Mobility and Accessibility, revealed that of more than 2,700 respondents (those who either have a disability and use a mobility aid, as well as their caretakers), nearly all (96 percent) have faced accommodation problems, flight problems (86 percent) or other transportation problems (79 percent).
Accessibility challenges can happen at nearly every stage of a travel journey, from transportation to lodging to sightseeing. Traveling internationally, where accessibility can vary dramatically by country and even within a country, can present special difficulties.
John Sage, founder of Sage Traveling—a travel company specializing in disability travel in Europe—knows this well. He’s traveled to more than 140 European cities in a wheelchair, assessing the accessibility of each location.
“In general, older… Continue reading
Of all the cruises I have taken, three ports stand out as the most stunning (especially if you sail into them at sunrise or sunset): Istanbul, with its mosques and soaring minarets; Kotor, Montenegro, a medieval village on a pristine bay — and my favorite of all, Malta.
Malta’s port, Valetta, is a city of forts, turrets, palaces, cathedrals, and ancient walls dating from the 1500s, when the Knights of St. John (of Crusader fame) moved here from the island of Rhodes.
As our guest contributor Harley Burke points out, Malta has myriad attractions meriting a stay well beyond the standard cruise ship stopover. And don’t miss the smaller, more rural island of Gozo, reachable by ferry and home to some fascinating prehistoric sites (along with beaches and hiking trails).
By Harley… Continue reading
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
Venice has always been one of my favorite cities. If there’s a more beautiful city in the world, I haven’t found it. And millions of other people would say the same.
And therein lies the problem: Millions of people visiting (and tromping through) one of the most fragile cities on the planet — at the rate of 80,000 per day in summer, far outnumbering Venice’s own residents.
After all, the city is built on a lagoon, canals snake through its heart, and its centuries-old palazzos, churches, and art treasures are subject to erosion, flooding, and tsunamis of tourists as well.
It’s been called a “poster child for overtourism” — meaning, simply, too many tourists for its own good, compounded by massive infusions of cruise ship passengers and other day-trippers. It’s remarkable that any gondolier worth his stripes can maneuver his full craft through the gondola-traffic-choked canals and still… Continue reading
With the European Union announcement that fully vaccinated travelers should be able to fly to Europe at some point this summer, sufficiently jabbed baby boomers can take advantage of some truly exceptional airfares currently being offered to the Continent.
There are also some lower-than-low airfares to Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and within the U.S. Some are almost mind-boggling.
But you have to know where to look — and just as important, when to look.
That’s where the website ThriftyTraveler.com comes in.
By subscribing to its Premium service ($59.99 a year) you’ll get email notifications of hot economy-class airfare deals around the globe within minutes from the time they appear — which is good, because some of these deals disappear within a matter of hours. Thrifty Traveler considers a fare worth writing about if it’s $250… Continue reading
A headline in a press release about an offering this year in the “Oscars gift bag” — a bulging mix of high-end swag presented to Academy Award nominees in five top acting and directing categories — caught my eye today.
I was even more intrigued when I continued reading from the release, which was distributed by Visit Sweden USA, the Swedish tourism organization:
“When the whole world turns its eyes to the Oscars on April 25, Sweden’s remote lighthouse island of Pater Noster will once again be in the spotlight.
“While just four actors and one director will bring home the gold in the top individual categories, all 24 Oscars nominees receive a gift bag including a stay at this lighthouse turned hotel perched at the… Continue reading
I admit I was a little surprised several years ago when I toured the entire island of Ireland and discovered that St. Patrick — the patron saint of Ireland and largely credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland — actually did much of his missionary work and is reputedly buried in County Down, which is now part of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
It was less than a quarter-century ago (April 1998) that “The Troubles,” as they were called — an often violent class-related and sectarian three-decade conflict in Northern Ireland between those who wanted to remain in the UK (mostly Protestants) and those who wanted to break away and join the Republic of Ireland (mostly Catholics) — ended in the Good Friday Agreement to settle the issue peacefully.… Continue reading