Impressions of Colombia

Impressions of Colombia

It’s impossible to get a complete sense of a country in a month. But here are some impressions we formed while traveling in Colombia, in the upper northwest corner of South America: Colombia is really big: You could fit California and Texas inside it and still have room for New Jersey. Apart from a week… Read More

From Colombia to Your Cup

From Colombia to Your Cup

The thing our friend AJ was most excited to see in Colombia was coffee fields. As the former owner of a coffeehouse, AJ knows all about how to turn roasted beans into a great cup of coffee. But she knew less about what happens to those beans before they get to the United States.  To… Read More

Corcora Valley and Botanical Garden

Corcora Valley and Botanical Garden

Colombia’s central Andean region is an area of amazing natural beauty. From our base in Filandia, we took day trips to two places that showcased that beauty. In the Val de Corcora, we went horseback riding among the world’s tallest palm trees: the endangered wax palm, Colombia’s national tree. At the Quindio Botanical Garden, we… Read More

Filandia: Colombia’s Most Colorful Town?

Filandia: Colombia’s Most Colorful Town?

After leaving Bogota, our first base in the Andean region of west-central Colombia was the little town of Filandia (population 7,000), a prettier and more authentic alternative to the backpacker hotspot of Salento nearby. Filandia has plenty of shops and restaurants and small hotels, mainly to serve the coffee and cattle farmers in the surrounding… Read More

Christmas in Colombia

Christmas in Colombia

Surprisingly, this is only the second time that Melissa and I have been outside the United States at Christmas. The first time was in Penang, Malaysia—a mainly Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist island where Christmas celebrations were minimal. This year, in predominantly Catholic Colombia, Christmas themes are everywhere. So we’ve been missing our loved ones at… Read More

Echoes of My Grandfather in Coffee Country

Echoes of My Grandfather in Coffee Country

Whatever I expected from the small towns in Colombia’s coffee-growing valleys, it wasn’t to be reminded of my Grandpa Howlett on every street corner. According to family stories, at the beginning of World War II, my grandfather worked for an advertising agency, one of whose clients was a vehicle manufacturer named Willys-Overland Motors. At the… Read More

What a Difference a Day Makes: Bogota

What a Difference a Day Makes: Bogota

On Isla Grande, as we lay in bed before getting up—trying to stay as cool as possible under a mosquito net and a rusty ceiling fan—we heard roosters crowing, dogs barking, the swish of a rake cleaning the sandy yard, and people calling out to each other as they walked or biked down the dirt… Read More

Life on the Big Island,  Colombia’s Isla Grande

Life on the Big Island, Colombia’s Isla Grande

I have a love-hate relationship with tropical beaches. I dream about them, long for them, and then when I visit one, I remember all the things that photos of turquoise water and palm trees don’t show: the salt spray that sticks like glue to your sunglasses, the sand that gets everywhere so you never really… Read More

Tropical Torpor in Colombia

Tropical Torpor in Colombia

Our first experience of South America was heat and beating sun—the kind of heat that made us feel like we were back in Southeast Asia. That’s because we landed in Cartagena on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, a city that was one of Spain’s major ports in the New World and a prime target for… Read More

Riga Scenes

Riga Scenes

There’s more to Latvia’s capital than Art Nouveau. This gallery of scenes from Riga includes the giant Central Market (housed in former Zeppelin hangars), some of the city’s grand monuments, a few of the rare medieval buildings that survived bombing in World War II, displays of traditional Latvian clothing and knitting, and some unusual exhibitions… Read More

Riga Art Nouveau

Riga Art Nouveau

If you ever come to the capital of Latvia, don’t forget to look up! Riga has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in the world. That style was popular from around 1900 to 1914, a period when the city’s population almost doubled and hundreds of apartment buildings were built—each vying to look modern and… Read More