Yearly Archives: 2018

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

Riga, Latvia: The Good, the Bad, and the Pickled

Riga, Latvia: The Good, the Bad, and the Pickled

After visiting Estonia, we took the bus south to Riga, the capital of Latvia, where we rented an apartment for a week. Riga is a great city for walking around. It has broad avenues, a network of downtown parks that provide shade on hot summer days, and lots of interesting things to look at. Our… Read More

Images of Estonia

Images of Estonia

Estonia’s capital city was an important trading post on the Baltic Sea for more than 800 years. Its walled medieval quarter is full of stone towers, cobbled streets, old houses and guild halls where German-speaking merchants and craftsmen did business, and churches with ornate spires. It’s fun to wander around when the cruise ship tourists… Read More

Impressions of Tallinn

Impressions of Tallinn

We really enjoyed visiting the capitol of Estonia. Here are some reasons why, along with other impressions. Tallinn is compact and crowded. It has a medieval core of cobbled streets lined with painted stone houses and churches from the 1300s to 1500s, when the city was a major German trading post in the Hanseatic League… Read More

Impressions of Estonia

Impressions of Estonia

With two weeks free between stints at our Swiss house sit, we headed north to the Baltic Sea to visit Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, and Riga, the capital of Latvia. Tallinn is the farthest north (almost 60 degrees latitude) and the farthest east in Europe we’ve ever been. It’s also the first place we’ve… Read More

A Preschooler’s View of Switzerland

A Preschooler’s View of Switzerland

Four-year-old Francesca Ferraro, our unofficial goddaughter, is a well-traveled kid. She’s taken trips with her parents to Istanbul, Venice, and southern France. And she and her mom, AJ, have traveled with us in Vietnam, Sicily, and Oaxaca, Mexico. When we did our house sit on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland last summer, we were struck by… Read More

Renaissance Mantua

Renaissance Mantua

Our second stop in Italy on the way to Switzerland was the town of Mantua—or, as the Italians call it, Mantova—about 2 hours east of Milan. We chose Mantua as our northern stop because we wanted somewhere quiet after Rome, so we stayed away from bigger cities in the area, such as Bologna and Verona… Read More

Medieval Orvieto

Medieval Orvieto

A reader recently asked us to say more about why we go to the places we visit and what we like about them. So here goes: After our housesit in Rome, we had four days until the beginning of our housesit in Switzerland. We decided to spend that time in Italy rather than Switzerland because… Read More

Answer Me These Questions Three

Answer Me These Questions Three

(Sorry, I can’t resist a Monty Python reference. That title comes from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”) There’s a travel podcast that Melissa and I often listen to called “The Amateur Traveler.” At the end of each episode, the host asks his guest expert three questions about the place they’ve been discussing. Here are… Read More

Personal Pilgrimages

Personal Pilgrimages

When you think of pilgrims in Rome, you think of devout Catholics in awe as they approach the seat of the Church, St. Peter’s Basilica. But the city is full of people on personal pilgrimages of all kinds. Whenever I’m in Rome, I try to visit as many churches and museums as possible that contain… Read More

The Joys of Coming Back

The Joys of Coming Back

A first visit to Rome is amazing. A second or third visit is great in a different way. The first time, you race to see all of the most important sights of Ancient Rome (the Coliseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, imperial palaces) and Renaissance Rome (St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museums, and… Read More

From 2017 to 2018: What We’re Up To

From 2017 to 2018: What We’re Up To

Early last year, Melissa and I decided that 2017 would be our personal Year of the Mountain. We’d spent a lot of 2016 in flattish places, so we were yearning to see high things on the horizon. We’re usually lousy at keeping New Year’s resolutions, but we did a good job with that one: In… Read More