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This fresco from Pompeii illustrates the decadence of upper-crust Roman dining — pass the vinum, please; anyone for sala cattabia?

As I was browsing through some of my late mother’s memorabilia on Roman times — she taught classics at George Washington University for years — I came across an interesting set of recipes attributed to M. Gavius Apicius, said to have lived in the time of the emperor Tiberius (AD 14-37).

Tiberius, stepson of Augustus Caesar, was reputedly a nasty fellow and some of the contemporary Roman cuisine seems to reflect that. (More on that in a moment.)

Apicius himself was reputed to have spent a fortune (one hundred million sesterces!) on food and, when facing starvation due to his eventual impecuniousness, drank a vial of poison. But before that he had written two cookbooks and established himself as the Mario Batali of his day.

According to an author named… Continue reading

The inimitable box of fried clams has helped put Ipswich, Massachusetts, on the culinary map

In his latest guest post, Bob Waite had me hooked with his first mention of fried clams, one of my favorite culinary indulgences.

And by the time I had finished reading his piece, I was salivating for a return trip to Cape Ann, a seafood haven and resort area that includes Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Bob grew up in Ipswich on Cape Ann, and writes here about his hometown and nearby Essex — one of which invented the fried clam (though both claim it). But wherever it was born, the Cape Ann area indisputably remains king of the clam. And that’s good enough for me.

By Robert Waite

Ipswich, MA – While many Americans back in the day were getting their kicks on Route 66, I was getting my thrills from the sea on Route 133.… Continue reading

Here’s a nice infographic from Ireland Walk Hike Bike, serving as a reminder for foodies (or anyone who likes to eat) looking for some of Europe’s tastiest and most scenic and culturally rich regions.

It’s by no means comprehensive — France doesn’t make an appearance — but who needs a reminder that French food is some of the best on the planet?

Ireland may be better known for Guinness than the food that goes with it, but I can certainly vouch for the seafood on Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula, where I once spent a week on a hiking trip eating nothing but fish for my main course three meals a day. I hadn’t initially intended to do that, but after a couple of days it became a challenge of sorts that I couldn’t resist — and I was glad I didn’t.

Tuscany, of course, is famous for its food,… Continue reading

This hostel in Nuremberg, Germany, is attached to a castle. Photo by Catharine Norton..

This hostel in Nuremberg, Germany, is attached to a castle. Photo by Catharine Norton.

For baby boomers, saving money on accommodations can be tougher than for young travelers.

Dormitory-style hostels and CouchSurfing may have much less appeal than for those in their 20s or 30s.

Camping — at least the type (unlike “glamping” or glamorous camping) that leaves you trying to get a decent night’s sleep in a bag on the ground — can be tough on the back (with legitimate concerns that you might not be able to straighten up at all in the morning).

But, as guest poster Jesse Miller contends, “It’s still possible to enjoy a five-star housing experience without paying a five-star price.” The key, Miller says, “is to live like the locals do. This means avoiding more traditional options (such as pricey hotels and resorts) and immersing yourself in opportunities to interact with the… Continue reading

This is the fifth and final post in guest contributor Myles Stone’s reflections on his recent two-month stay with his family in Hoi An, Viet Nam, more than 40 years after the end of the war that roiled America and in many ways changed baby boomers’ lives and world views forever.

But now it’s a new era in this beautiful Southeast Asian country, where the vast majority of the population was born after what they call the American War. (Even when I visited Viet Nam in 1997, there was little anti-American resentment.

Myles offered eloquent observations about the history of the war in his previous post during a visit to the ancient imperial capital of Hue, but now it’s time to move on to one of Viet Nam’s greatest contributions to world culture: its cuisine, which happens to be my own regional favorite.

As usual, this post is illustrated by… Continue reading

View of the Blue Ridge Mountains from atop Crabtree Falls. Photo by Lia Norton

View of the Blue Ridge Mountains from atop Crabtree Falls. Photo by Lia Norton

During our recent visit to Charlottesville, Virginia, where our daughter, Lia, lives and works, my wife, Catharine, and I had the chance to leave the city a bit and explore the attractions of the nearby region.

Since it was our third visit to Charlottesville, we had already toured Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, and the Jefferson-designed University of Virginia campus, sporting some of the country’s finest architecture. Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Now it was time to see some of the nearby cities, take some scenic drives, negotiate some hiking trails, absorb some additional culture, visit some wineries, and even make a pilgrimage to the factory that produces my favorite potato chips. (Special thanks to Lia, her boyfriend, Mike, and their trusty Prius for chauffeuring us around.)

So here are my top… Continue reading

Fourth in a Series: 

The entrance to one of our favorite tavernas on Milos, Merthismeni Politeia. Photo by Clark Norton

The entrance to one of our favorite tavernas on Milos, Merthismeni Politeia. Photo by Clark Norton

During my week on the Greek island of Milos, I saw no Mexican restaurants, no sushi bars, no French bistros, or even a Chinese take-out joint.

Yes, there were casual cafes that served pizza, burgers, or crepes as part of their offerings, but no dedicated ethnic eateries or American fast-food places.

All this was fine with me. My family and I ate Greek food three times a day — more if you count the occasional snack — and never got tired of it.

Not only was it almost invariably fresh and delicious, but the variety in selection  and  preparation  far surpassed what you might expect to find in a Greek restaurant in the United States. Our diet went way beyond the familiar gyros,… Continue reading

A whitewashed church overlooks Milos' harbor. Photo by Catharine Norton

A whitewashed church overlooks Milos’ harbor. Photo by Catharine Norton

Milos — one of Greece’s sun-soaked  Cycladic islands that include the better known Mykonos and Santorini — had not been on my radar until a Greek-American friend of ours suggested it might be the perfect place for a three-generation vacation.

The three generations? My wife, Catharine, and I — first-time grandparents as of six months ago — our son, Grael; daughter-in-law, Nona; and our young grandson, Conrad, making his first trip abroad, brand new passport in hand. (Well, not in his hands — though he would have liked to have gotten hold of it, along with anything dangling and shiny.)

Because we’d all be traveling with a baby, we didn’t want anything too hectic and crowded — that eliminated Mykonos and Santorini — but we did want a good choice of lodgings, restaurants,  cafes, and beaches, as… Continue reading

Elfreth's Alley: The oldest residential street in the U.S. Photo by Charles Ridgeway.

Elfreth’s Alley: The oldest residential street in the U.S. Photo by Charles Ridgeway.

Quick Quiz:

What city in the U.S. can claim the first American:

  • Public school (1698)
  • Residential street (1702)
  • Library (1731)
  • Independent hospital (1731)
  • Fire-fighting company (1736)
  • Meetings of the U.S. Congress (1774)
  • First university (1779)
  • Public Bank (1780)
  • Daily Newspaper (1784)
  • Stock exchange (1790)
  • Circus (1793)
  • Manned air flight (1793)
  • Art museum and school (1805)
  • Carbonated water (1807)
  • Theater (1809)
  • Natural history museum (1812)
  • African American university (1837)
  • Advertising agency (1869)
  • Zoo (1874)
  • Merry-go-round (1867)
  • Ice cream soda (1876)
  • Cafeteria-style restaurant (1902)
  • Funeral home (built as such) (1905)
  • Thanksgiving Day parade (1919)
  • Totally air conditioned building (1932)
  • Cheesesteak (1932)
  • Girl Scout cookie sale (1932)
  • Fully electronic computer invented (1946)
  • Slinky (1948)
  • Polio vaccine (1960)

Not to mention (though I’m mentioning them anyway): the first U.S. Mint, the first department store, the first botanical garden, the first opera… Continue reading

A simple Bangkok noodle stand can rival the best restaurants in many other cities.

A simple Bangkok noodle stand can rival the best restaurants in many other cities.

My recent post on The World’s Top 10 Cities took food into consideration, but also considered many other factors — such as scenery, sights, general ambiance, ease of getting around, friendliness of the residents, etc.

My list of The World’s Top Seven Food Cities includes several of those listed in my Top Cities post, but eliminates some and changes the rankings of others. (Like my Top Cities post, I’m sticking with international cities only, eliminating American cities because I’m partial to my former homes — San Francisco and New York — and would also have to include New Orleans and maybe Savannah, and by then I’d be more than halfway through my list.)

For starters, I’ll axe Jerusalem, Barcelona, Budapest, Venice, and Florence from my international food list, even though I’ve had some very… 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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