Holiday Travels – Part Nine

One of my annual, late-year blog traditions finds me posting a bit of fond nostalgia about holiday season travel memories from years past. I am snowed in from work as I write this, but my absence merely kicks off a mid-December “stay-cation” that is long overdue; I shopped for holiday airfares to both New York City and Chicago, and while I ultimately had just enough frequent flier miles for a free round-trip ticket, I passed at the last minute, knowing that I would still spend mad money not only seeing the sights but also buying food and drink for whichever friend/friends would end up putting me up for a few days. Okay, had I been able to score “Hamilton” tickets I may have pounced – resulting credit card debt be damned – but as things stand currently, return trips to both the Big Apple and the Second City will have to wait.

As for the annual holiday travel posts, I neglected to make such a post in November or December of last year, which seems odd considering I rang in New Year’s Day of that very year in warm, wonderful Nicaragua! It was my first trip to Latin America since moving back to the States from Mexico with my tail between my legs. Likewise, it was my first trip to Nicaragua, and my first time meeting longtime online friend José, whose family hosted me at their seasonal home in Nicaragua’s former capital, León.

León, Nicaragua (2016-17)

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Photo Locale of the Month – November 2018

For today’s post, the penultimate monthly photo feature, I wanted to “go big or go home,” to use a popular saying. My posts in this four-year series have covered such disparate places as Chicago, Iguassu Falls, Yellowstone, the Okavango Delta, China’s Great Wall, and – twice – my beloved Mexico City.

Some of those places merit a spot on my top ten travel wonders of the world list – a list that I started many years ago, as part of a bigger (top 100? top 1000?) project that I never finished. I wasn’t sure what place to feature that truly measured up. As I perused last month’s photo entry – Trier, Germany – it hit me: India’s most entrancing city, visited on the same round-the-world trip that brought me to Trier. I am talking about the Hindu holy city of Varanasi.

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Haunted Houses around the U.S.

Ah, October. Second only to summer in general, October is my favorite month of the year. I am indifferent to pumpkin spice everything, but what I like about October is the fall colors, the end of stink bug season, and the abundance of horror movies and haunted houses. I have posted before about the former but never about the latter.

I suppose this post could have come earlier in the month, as we are just three days away from Halloween-proper as I write this. Still…better late than never.

Below is a selection of three haunted attractions from around the country that I have had the opportunity to visit. Keep reading to learn more…if you dare. Continue reading “Haunted Houses around the U.S.”

Photo Locale of the Month – October 2018

Although it has been awhile, I have written before of my love affair with Germany, arguably Europe’s most dynamic country…and certainly the continent’s contemporary economic powerhouse. From the picturesque crags of the Alps in the south to the liberal port cities of Hamburg and Bremen in the north, Deutschland has something on offer for nearly everyone.

The most famous river in Germany, the Rhine, is lined with a series of factory towns that contribute to the country’s robust economy. It is along the southern banks of a different river. the Moselle, that one of my favorite cities resides…just far enough off the beaten touristic path to feel perfectly undiscovered. Trier, the oldest city in Germany, is home to a cluster of Roman ruins, the northernmost collection in mainland Europe.

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Photo Locale of the Month – August 2018

In many ways, Scandinavia is the best region of Europe in which to travel. It is safe, clean, and progressive. The fish is fresh, the summer days are long, and the green space is plentiful. Finally, the level of spoken English is often better than even, it sometimes seems, what you’ll find in the United States…making travel here a breeze.

Last month’s photo entry about Suomenlinna, near Finland, was only the first blog post about the wonders of the region; a tremendous narrative oversight by yours truly. For August, let us cross the border to the east into Sweden, my favorite country in the region. The coastal town of Kalmar, which ranked number one on my list of the top ten small cities and towns in Europe, is home to one of Scandinavia’s greatest wonders, Kalmar Castle.

Continue reading “Photo Locale of the Month – August 2018”

Four Days in Kaintuck

Ever since I moved to East Tennessee four years ago, I had it on my radar to check out Mammoth Cave National Park, three hours to the west and just 30 miles north of the Tennessee-Kentucky state line. I had long known that the cave system includes the largest-mapped single cave in the world, famous not only for its size but also for such geological features as Frozen Niagara. What I didn’t know was that the national park that manages the cave also includes over 80 miles of hiking trails, dotted with sinkholes and natural springs and rich in native wildlife.

I discovered this first hand six weeks ago.

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Photo Locale of the Month – July 2018

July is a terrific month for visiting Scandinavia. For one thing, the long daylight hours mean that sidewalk cafes and public squares bustle as late as 9 p.m. or even later. For another thing, kids are off school, so museums aren’t mobbed with the usual field trip crowds. For another thing still, the weather is quite pleasant in mid-summer, so it makes it easy for those of us who do not hail from there to see why countries such as Norway, Denmark, and Finland rank so high on quality-of-life meters.

Take Finland. I had a chance to visit that country’s capital, Helsinki, on part of a much longer trip in 2009 that also included time spent in South Africa, Greece, and Russia. It was early July when I arrived, and except for one rainy day, I had mostly sunny skies and long afternoons rife for exploring at a time of year when the sky didn’t grow dark until 11 p.m. One day even found me taking a dip in the Baltic Sea! (Please don’t try that at home, Loyal Reader.) The highlight was taking a ferry past some of the city’s outlying Susiluodot Islands to its fortress and museum complex of Suomenlinna.

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People around the World: The Americas

Over the past several months, I have shared a series of portraits – staged and unstaged – of people from various ports of call around the world. The last three entries focused on the Eastern Hemisphere, broken down as Africa, Asia, and Europe. For today’s entry, I thought I’d “cross the pond” to North, Central, and South America.

I hope you enjoy the photos in this latest entry in the series, as well as the stories behind them. 🙂

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Photo Locale of the Month – June 2018

China has been in the news a lot recently – and for all the wrong reasons. It seems that China’s current premier, Xi Jinping, continuing the efforts of his predecessor, Hu Jintao, to bring the country into the 21st century, has enraged the U.S.’s own orange Cheeto, one Donald J. Trump, with his bullying stance on trade. Not only that, it has long been suspected that China has sold weapons to dictators like Kim Jong-un and Bashir al-Assad, further infuriating his pompous orangeness.

But forget that for a moment. China, already an old nation when Greece was in its infancy, is a treasure trove of history and sightseeing riches – never moreso than in its ever-changing capital, Beijing, home to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

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Greece is the Word

I have been doing my Photo Locale of the Month feature (click here for the latest entry on the subject) for three-and-a-half years now, and sharing general travel memories via this blog since November, 2012. Yet somehow, I barely even mentioned anything about Greece, or the three wonderful weeks I spent there in 2009.

I took a gander through my Greece photo galleries – Athens, Rhodes, Crete, Santorini, Olympia, and Delphi (in that order) – and was delighted to “rediscover” the birthplace of olives and the Olympic games, of grape leaves and ouzo, of crumbling amphitheaters and restored Minoan palaces, and of azure Aegean waters and the stunning Samaria Gorge.

A few of the photos were of people, places, and experiences I had long forgotten about. Talking about “the American situation” with a stumblebum in an Athens park (who then asked me to buy him a drink). Getting lost on the way back to my hostel from Lykavitos Hill (where I had gone to watch the sunset). Taking a boat ride to hot springs off the coast of Santorini, only to learn that said springs were a half-mile swim from the boat and that I had to jump overboard to even attempt the trip (and to find that the springs were barely lukewarm, let along hot).

Greece doesn’t get as many tourists as other Mediterranean countries such as France, Italy, and Spain. According to the World Tourism Organization, even Turkey received more international tourists than Greece in 2016!

But while I love Paris, Florence, Barcelona, and Istanbul as much as the next person, there is something special about Greece. From its bustling cities to its sleepy villages to its pristine beaches to its craggy peaks, “Greece” is the word this summer.

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