Category Archives: Travel

Last Stage of the Winter Road: Tromsø to Kuusamo

As the dog sled slashed across deep snow, young Inuit men and women raced alongside, jumping on and off the sleds, hooting and laughing, teasing one another in the blinding white plain. I watched from beside a wood fire, and wondered: aren’t they COLD? They were on a screen in the town square of Tromsø, Norway, a glowing town above the Arctic Circle. This Inuit-directed film, “One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk”, was opening the Tromsø International Film Festival. Standing in a light snowfall before that screen, hot coffee cup in hand, I began to sense the cleansing power of snow and fire. Continue reading

Winter Road: Solo female traveler of a certain age

“It’s medicinal!” said the young gold-haired woman working the bar in an 800-year-old cavern. Pulling out a case with heavy goblets lying on blue velvet, she poured out shots of a thick, dark liqueur. The goblet was cool and heavy in the hand, and the liqueur tasted of berries, seeds and winter night. Welcome to Riga: fourth stop on the road from London to Finland.

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Winter Road: Rotterdam to Vilnius


Moving across the northern coast of Europe in winter, some evil old ghosts rise up from the frost-blasted landscape – but also new art, music, and the first sparks of the new year.

My ship from England lands in Rotterdam at the end of December. I roam around new architecture in the old working sea port. A sweep of new bridges tower over Hotel New York, where thousands of Dutch immigrants once set sail for New York. In World War Two, the Nazis razed Rotterdam. Today, spiky new buildings sprout up, preening over empty streets.

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The Winter Road: Harwich to Hook of Holland

IMG_7983I’m typing this seated by a floor-to-ceiling porthole on the Stena Brittanica ship. Outside it’s dark, yellow and red lights scattered across a vast blackness. Inside, it’s all fake wood paneling, 60s-style swivel chairs, a pulsing TV screen, and a sea of cheerful, mostly white, Netherlands families playing board games, the click of dice. We’re sailing from Harwich, England to Hoek van Holland, the port near Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Check-in took just a few minutes, because tonight the UK still belongs to Europe.

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A taste of Mexico City

IMG_3402I recently, unexpectedly found myself living in Mexico City for ten spring days. I found it has a hot art scene, independent bilingual bookstores, lovely leafy neighborhoods with old colonial architecture, and world-class food. As soon as you sit down at most restaurants, the chef sends out homemade hot sauces and tortillas. Then you sit back and enjoy the ride. Some of the best meals I scarfed down were at:

Pasillo de Humo– On the second floor of a food hall in colonial Condesa, this modern, airy restaurant specializes in Oaxacan food, including fiery, earthy moles. I went there on my first day, a Monday, and was impressed by the family that had a full mezcal bar wheeled out to their table. At lunch. Continue reading

Anti-capitalism in… Geneva?

IMG_20151220_010751Conservative Geneva turns out to be livelier in the middle of the night than it is at 10 am. The Swiss city is so famously quiet there’s a Facebook meme comparing the weekend here to life after the apocalypse. But a walk home from factory-turned-club l’Usine early Sunday morning led past the after-effects of a protest on Rue de Coutance: “Burn the banks”  spray-painted on the bank branches, “Free drugs” on the pharmacy, an Anarchist A on Starbucks and a “Yiihaa” whoop on Manor, one of the city’s two staid department stores.

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Angels over Lyon

IMG_20150619_171557From time to time, when the lunacy of life as Swiss bureaucrats gets to be too much for us, my partner and I hop a train to somewhere where the dinner options extend beyond new ways to melt cheese. Lyon is just a couple hours away from Geneva – and as a place to self-medicate by
overeating, it’s unbeatable. Even if you don’t want to fork over your life savings for a meal by Bocuse or one of his proteges, you can easily get a plate of local mushrooms cooked by people who mean it.

In Lyon, walk down the street from the train station for a bit and you’ll get smacked in the face by a view of the river or the Basilica, hovering gold on a hill top in the night sky. At night, the streets fill with young people hopping the bars and arguing about whatever it is they study at the local university.

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