Yearly Archives: 2015

Favignana Island: A Better Place for Tourists Than for Tuna

Favignana Island: A Better Place for Tourists Than for Tuna

After taking a break, we’re resuming posting about our travels in Sicily in September with our friends AJ and baby Francesca. Off the northwest coast of Sicily lies a trio of islands called the Egadi. Lumps of stone and scrubby vegetation, for centuries the islands offered residents only two main sources of income: fishing the… Read More

The Norman Conquest, Sicilian-Style

The Norman Conquest, Sicilian-Style

Sicily is one giant history lesson. As in so much of Italy, each layer of civilization was built over some earlier layer. In Sicily, those layers include Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Norman, and Spanish cultures. Palermo was the island’s capital city for those last three cultures, but the Normans were the ones who left the… Read More

Palermo Life

Palermo Life

You never know what you’ll find wandering around Sicily’s capital city, Palermo. It could be a busy street market, an artsy new boutique, a sidewalk cafe, a dusty park, or an old church. (Churches of every era are tucked around corners all over the city.) It could be wonderful little architectural details high on the… Read More

Drippy Goodness in Palermo

Drippy Goodness in Palermo

When visiting a region, Melissa and I rarely travel in a straight line. The slow road usually ends up being a very zig-zag path. That was the case in Sicily. After spending time in Siracusa in the southeast of the island, we visited a couple of hill towns nearby that are famous for their Baroque-style… Read More

Siracusa in Pictures

Siracusa in Pictures

The first stop on the Chris, Melissa, AJ, and baby Francesca trip to Sicily was the city of Siracusa on the island’s southeastern coast. We stayed in the oldest part of the city, the small peninsula of Ortigia, which juts into the sea on high walls. It’s a place of narrow alleys and wide piazzas,… Read More

Things I Learned in Siracusa, Sicily

Things I Learned in Siracusa, Sicily

Our first stop on the island of Sicily was the seaside city of Siracusa, which first rose to fame as an ancient Greek colony (known as Syracuse). We rented an apartment in the oldest part of the city, a small peninsula called Ortigia. Wandering its streets and exploring its churches, museums, shops, and eateries taught… Read More

A Tale of Five Cities

A Tale of Five Cities

During our time in Flanders (northern Belgium), we visited five historic cities. I was going to describe them in order of preference, but it proved impossible to rank them; each one has something interesting the others lack. So I’ll tell you about them in the order we visited. That said, if we have one travel… Read More

The Netherlands in Pictures

The Netherlands in Pictures

Amsterdam is a bustling city, full of art, culture, canals, tall old houses with fancy gables on top, bicycles, graffiti, souvenir shops, McDonalds, marijuana cafes, and, most of all, tourists. It’s alternately grubby and charming, with something for every taste—a place where the hottest tickets in town are Madame Toussaud’s wax museum, the Anne Frank… Read More

Old and New Netherlands

Old and New Netherlands

With 10 days between our housesits in Denmark and Belgium, we set off to the Netherlands to binge on art and architecture. I expected to revel in old things—17th-century paintings and traditional canal houses with decorative gables. I didn’t expect to find so many modern things to love. Read More

Quirks of Denmark

Quirks of Denmark

Every time we visit a new country, we’re struck by the ways in which it differs from other places we’ve been. As we leave Denmark for the Netherlands, here are some notable characteristics of Denmark (or at least of the places we were, Copenhagen and southern Jutland). This list is based on our observations, things… Read More

Denmark’s Oldest Town in Pictures

Denmark’s Oldest Town in Pictures

Ribe, Denmark—the oldest surviving town in Scandinavia—is one of the prettiest villages we’ve ever seen. Although popular with tourists, it doesn’t feel hokie or crowded (even in August). A stroll around town reveals a pretty little riverfront, where pleasure boats are moored; museums about Danish art and about the Viking presence in Ribe; and lots… Read More

Danish Archaeology Museums in Pictures

Danish Archaeology Museums in Pictures

Both Haderslev, where we housesat for a friend, and Ribe, which we visited during our stay, have good archeology museums. Ribe’s focuses on the town’s early years as a Viking trading post and a center of glass making. Haderslev’s focuses on Iron Age items excavated in the area, including a horde of Germanic weaponry and… Read More

Surrounded by History

Surrounded by History

An hour’s drive from our housesit in Denmark, Vikings were making glass and casting bronze on a riverbank 1,300 years ago—right where we strolled on a windy afternoon. Ten minutes away from our house, just on the other side of Haderslev, the weapons and accoutrements of more than 200 Germanic soldiers were ritually flung into… Read More

Outings Around Haderslev

Outings Around Haderslev

Whenever it has stopped raining for a few hours (which hasn’t been all that often), we’ve taken an opportunity to explore more of the area around our housesit. We discovered the library in Haderslev, a big, modern space next to the town’s little lake. Most of the cafes and restaurants in Haderslev aren’t set up… Read More

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay

Nowhere is Singapore’s futuristic architecture on better display than at Gardens by the Bay, a large botanic garden that showcases plants from around the world in a mix of natural and manmade wonders. Two giant glass domes cover the indoor gardens, while the outdoor space is dominated by towering metal “supertrees” covered in plants, which are the… Read More

Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo

Singapore is home to one of the best zoos in the world, known for its realistic habitats. Highlights for us were the white tigers, the surprisingly feisty giant tortoises, and the primates—especially the orangutans, baboons, and chimpanzees, who were able to live and play in large family groups. Read More

Singapore Street Scenes

Singapore Street Scenes

In search of cheaper hotels, spicy food, and a less antiseptic experience, we stayed in Singapore’s Little India neighborhood. There, traditional Chinese shophouses (like those we saw in Malaysia and Phuket, Thailand) have been brightly painted and repurposed to serve the thousands of southern Indian and Sri Lankan workers who live in the neighborhood or… Read More

The Ancient Town Next Door

The Ancient Town Next Door

Haderslev, Denmark, the town nearest to where we’re housesitting, deserves better. It doesn’t receive a single mention in the Lonely Planet guidebook for Denmark, and the friend we’re housesitting for gave the impression that it’s a fairly uninteresting place. So we weren’t expecting much Read More

At Home in Denmark

At Home in Denmark

We’ve settled into our housesit in Denmark, in the hamlet of Over Aastrup (a collection of houses and farm buildings, a community meeting hall, and an old church) a few miles outside the town of Haderslev in southeastern Jutland. The house is small and rustic but pleasant, Read More

On Being an American in Vietnam

On Being an American in Vietnam

One thing people have asked us about our travels in Vietnam is whether we experienced any hostility because we’re Americans. The answer is basically no. Sometimes, on asking and hearing our nationality, people would noticeably bristle Read More

Hanoi in Pictures

Hanoi in Pictures

Hanoi (a city I loved) is a frustratingly difficult place to convey, in words or pictures. I often wished for much more time–and much cooler weather–to wander and better explore this city, which seemed full of fascinating moments waiting to be captured by my camera. Read More

City Life in Hanoi

City Life in Hanoi

Our month in Vietnam began and ended in the capital, Hanoi. It’s hard to convey the feel of this crowded, noisy, friendly, and fascinating city, but I’ll try (though Melissa’s pictures may do a better job than my words). Read More

An Bang Beach

An Bang Beach

With temperatures in Hoi An hovering around 90F, we left the muggy town for a few days in a rental house at nearby An Bang beach. There we introduced AJ’s baby, Francesca, to beach life, including playing in the waves, lounging under palm-thatched sun shades on the sand, and eating lots of local seafood. Read More

Eating Our Way Through Hoi An

Eating Our Way Through Hoi An

While in Hoi An, Melissa, AJ, and I took the wonderful half-day Taste of Hoi An Food Tour, in which we got to sample 43(!) local dishes in a culinary extravaganza. The tour began with a walk Read More

Hoi An by Lantern Light

Hoi An by Lantern Light

The town of Hoi An, Vietnam, was a major trading port from the 15th to 19th centuries, until its river harbor silted up and trade moved 30 kilometers north to the port of Da Nang. During its heyday, Hoi An attracted traders from Read More

Hue: The Abode of Emperors

Hue: The Abode of Emperors

Despite having only about 300,000 residents, Hue (sounds like “way”) is one of the most famous cities in Vietnam. It was the nation’s capital for 143 years—the seat of the 13 emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty, Read More

Phong Nha Cave Gallery

Phong Nha Cave Gallery

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in central Vietnam was created to protect part of the biggest limestone (karst) region on Earth. It’s home to some of the planet’s largest caves—one of which, Phong Nha, is easy to visit by boat. Gliding along the cave’s river, we marveled at the massive, colorful, intricate shapes formed over millennia by water dripping through… Read More

Above and Below Ground in Phong Nha

Above and Below Ground in Phong Nha

Vietnam is famous for many things—its military victories over France and the United States, its beautiful green landscape, its noodle soups—but did you know that it also has the world’s largest cave? That cavern, located in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in central Vietnam, made history in 2009 when it was measured at 75 miles… Read More

Tam Coc Area Scenes

Tam Coc Area Scenes

Most visitors come to Tam Coc for a few hours on a bus tour, just long enough to take the famous river ride. Being slow travelers, we stayed in Tam Coc for several days. That gave us time to go out on the river twice and to walk among the beautiful rice fields and limestone hills… Read More

Tam Coc River Trip

Tam Coc River Trip

Ninety kilometers south of Hanoi, the small town of Tam Coc sits amid some of the most famous scenery in Vietnam: a series of tree-covered limestone hills rising from a plain of rivers and rice paddies. Small row boats—which local people often paddle with their feet—carry visitors on tours through this watery world. A popular river… Read More

Travels with Francesca

Travels with Francesca

Traveling with a baby does pose this problem: We’re generally too busy traveling with the baby to write about traveling with the baby. Every day that the baby gets fed, changed, washed, played with, and coaxed to sleep a couple of times feels like a victory. If we also manage to see some sights, post… Read More

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

During the Vietnam War, Americans tried unsuccessfully to win over the “hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese people. They might have fared better if they’d traveled with 10-month-old Francesca Ferraro. Read More

Vietnamese New Year in Hanoi

Vietnamese New Year in Hanoi

We landed in Vietnam on Tet, the first day of the new year according to this country’s lunar calendar. That wasn’t our plan, but airfares were especially cheap that day (like flying on Christmas Day back home). Tet resembles an American Thanksgiving in that people travel far to spend time with their families Read More

Gallery: Chiang Mai Temples

Gallery: Chiang Mai Temples

Some of the most interesting things to see in the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand are the beautiful Buddhist temples and monasteries (called wats) that appear every few blocks in the old quarter. They’re peaceful places of carved and gilded wood, sweeping tile roofs, gold-leaved or emerald-green Buddhas, and every style of religious… Read More

Gallery: Misc. Chiang Mai Scenes

Gallery: Misc. Chiang Mai Scenes

Random scenes from around Chiang Mai, including street art, Thais’ penchant for odd little figurines, a very Western-looking mall (with some key differences), street food, people hanging out or heading home from their labors, and some very strange examples of English. Read More

Gallery: Chiang Mai Cafes & Selfie Spots

Gallery: Chiang Mai Cafes & Selfie Spots

The neighborhood where we stayed in Chiang Mai, Nimmanhaemin Road, is full of trendy cafes and shops crowded with local university students and Asian tourists. One thing they all love doing is taking pictures of themselves with the many silly statues that are set up in front of shops and restaurants to lure the selfie crowd. For… Read More

Gallery: Chiang Mai Flower Festival & Market

Gallery: Chiang Mai Flower Festival & Market

Our time in Chiang Mai coincided with the city’s yearly flower festival, which featured parade floats made of flowers and pretty orchid displays in a local park. After enjoying the blossoms, we strolled though the Saturday night street market, held in what was (and still is) the silversmiths’ district just south of the old city. Read More

Chiang Mai: The Bad, the Good, and the Silly

Chiang Mai: The Bad, the Good, and the Silly

Before we post about Vietnam, where we are now, we want to finish some posts about Thailand, where we were last. The northern city of Chiang Mai is billed as one of the top tourist attractions in Thailand. Frankly, we’re not sure why. It makes a useful jumping-off point for treks into the nearby mountains,… Read More

At the Top of Thailand

At the Top of Thailand

When Thai people find out where we’re from, they often ask “It’s cold there, with snow?” Thinking of recent reports from our friends back home, we answer an emphatic “yes.” Such is Thais’ fascination with the idea of cold weather that in January they’ll drive to the top of the country’s highest mountain, 2,565-meter (8,415-foot)… Read More

Northward Bound

Northward Bound

After getting our visas renewed in Phuket, we decided to head to the city of Chiang Mai in the far north of Thailand—a journey of almost 1,000 miles. We broke it up by staying for a few nights in the completely untouristed towns of Surat Thani and Phetchaburi. Both had wonderful night markets to stroll… Read More

Andaman Sea Kayaking Gallery

Andaman Sea Kayaking Gallery

Here are scenes from an amazing day-long kayak trip we took with John Gray’s Sea Canoes Company in Phang-Nga Bay (part of the Andaman Sea east of the big Thai island of Phuket). The trip featured visits to hidden lagoons inside limestone islands reachable only through sea caves at low tide. Along the way, we… Read More

An Extraordinary Day

An Extraordinary Day

It’s not every week that you get to kayak through a cave into a beautiful hidden world—that is, unless you’re a guide for John Gray’s Sea Canoes. For decades, this company has been taking people on nature tours in Thailand’s gorgeous Phang-Nga Bay and has earned a great reputation. While we were in Phuket, we… Read More

Phuket Gallery

Phuket Gallery

Thailand’s largest island, Phuket, draws millions of travelers each year with its huge beach resorts and party atmosphere. After two weeks on much smaller islands, we went to Phuket for more prosaic reasons: Read More

Rats and Rabbits and Goats, but Why?

Rats and Rabbits and Goats, but Why?

One thing we’ve noticed on some Buddhist temples in Thailand is unexpected animal symbols. Elephants, monkeys, and peacocks all show up regularly in temple carvings or murals, and all have royal or noble associations. But what about the temple we saw that had large carvings of white rats around it?  Read More

Back to Normal Life for a While

Back to Normal Life for a While

Four months of traveling seems to be the point at which life on the road starts wearing on us. Interesting as it is to always have new experiences, our brains are feeling full to bursting from navigating a new country every month and trying to learn about its culture, history, and language. Read More

Koh Ngai Gallery

Koh Ngai Gallery

Warning: If you’re struggling through a cold northern winter, the pictures in this gallery may offend you. Or they may help you daydream your way through the next blizzard. Our second island stop in Thailand was Koh Ngai. We couldn’t resist the lure of an island so small and quiet  Read More

Koh Lipe Gallery

Koh Lipe Gallery

From Malaysia, we headed north to Thailand, hopping from island to island in the Andaman Sea like birds (by plane and boat), never setting foot on the mainland. Our first stop was Koh Lipe (koh means island in Thai). It’s a small but rapidly developing island with beautiful beaches of white powdery sand. Read More

Penang in Pictures

Penang in Pictures

Here’s a photographic sampling of the various things we enjoyed in George Town, the capital of Penang, Malaysia. They include street scenes full of traditional architecture, ornate Chinese temples, bustling cafes, Read More

Fun and Funky Penang

Fun and Funky Penang

Our third and last stop in Malaysia was Penang, an island on the northwest coast of the Malay Peninsula that for centuries was a trading post for Chinese, Indian, Arab, and European ships. Starting in the late 1700s, it was controlled by the British East India Company, Read More

Tea and Moss and Lots of Rain

Tea and Moss and Lots of Rain

With eastern Malaysia experiencing heavier-than-usual monsoon rains, our plans to visit Teman Negara, a mountainous national park containing some of the world’s oldest jungle, had to be abandoned. In search of somewhere green to relax between our time in various Malaysian cities, we opted for the closer and tamer Cameron Highlands. Read More

Kuala Lumpur in Pictures

Kuala Lumpur in Pictures

Flying from one of the smallest and quietest Southeast Asian capitals (Vientiane, Laos) to one of the biggest and most bustling (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) was a bit of a culture shock. We weren’t prepared for skyscrapers, high-rise apartment buildings, multilane toll roads, mega shopping malls, subway systems, and so much else that felt like the… Read More

Impressions of Malaysia

Impressions of Malaysia

By “The Slow Road” standards, our planned visit to Malaysia—one country, three locations, in 12 days—was a whirlwind trip. Originally, we hadn’t intended to go to Malaysia Read More