Europe

Algarve, Portugal – Sun and Sea

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Algarve, Portugal – Sun and Sea

Portugal’s southern coast, known as the Algarve, is famous for its 100 miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches and 300 days a year of sunshine. It has long drawn Europeans, and it’s true that some of the coastal development is dense and unattractive. Yet the region remains mostly unspoiled, and especially in the western Algarve you find quiet towns and villages, dramatic cliffs and rock formations, beautiful coves and grottos, intimate beaches. I took an early bus from Seville to Lagos, the westernmost of the coastal towns. I had bought a ticket on a “directo” bus, which I...

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Pestana Palace Hotel Lisbon

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Pestana Palace Hotel Lisbon

At the mouth of the Tagus River, about 6 kilometers from the center of Lisbon, is the historic neighborhood of Belem. Belem is characterized by many distinctive buildings and landmarks, including the Jeronimos Monastery built in 1459, and the Tower of Belem. Also found here is a modern construction, an arts complex, the Centro Cultural de Belem, and the Belem Palace, the official residence of the Portuguese President. The presence of so many beautiful buildings is due to the fact that Belem suffered the least destruction in the great Lisbon earthquake and tsunami of 1755. So the royal...

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Wandering the Streets of Old Malaga

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Wandering the Streets of Old Malaga

Malaga is an old port city with some 3,000 history since the Phoenicians landed and used the harbor for salting fish. They were followed by the Greeks in the 6th century B.C., then the Romans who ruled for six centuries, and under which Malaga prospered as a trading post. Today it’s a city rich in historical references, but its also a lively city with a modern and artful edge to it. With layers of history and culture waiting to be discovered, or absorbed in a meandering way by the fortunate traveler with a bit of time, the old city center is a joy to explore on foot. There is the...

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Moscata–Malaga Wine–Cleopatra’s Wine

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Moscata–Malaga Wine–Cleopatra’s Wine

Moscata, Moscatel, Muscat of Alexandria, Malaga Wine — there are many names for it. Originating in North Africa, it is a white wine grape of the muscat family. It is an ancient wine — one of the oldest genetically unmodified wines still in existence. Cleopatra drank it, ancient Greeks and Egyptians cultivated it, and ancient poets and bards celebrated it. In the 17th and 18th centuries Malaga Wine had become a booming industry. In the 19th Century during prosperous times in Malaga, the sweet Malaga wine was the favorite of English Victorian ladies, and the wine export trade became big...

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Cafe Alto

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Cafe Alto

Cafe Alto, just off the Leidseplein, was a welcoming little club, and everything I had hoped for on a night out in Amsterdam. Our arrival was timely—before the band set up on the small stage and with tables still available. The place is small and with nightly entertainment and no cover charge, it surely must get crowded. Besides the right kind of crusty, funky ambiance, drinks were moderately priced and the acoustics fine. The caliber of musicians we were treated to was impressive—and the music got better with each set. We stayed for set after set, and round after round. The clientele was an...

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Rembrandt and the Dutch Soul

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Rembrandt and the Dutch Soul

Thanks to the loan of a museum pass from a local friend, I was able to obtain a hard-to-get ticket and entrance time to a new major retrospective of the works of Holland’s greatest master, Rembrandt van Rijn. The exhibition was devoted to Rembrandt’s works from the last years of his life in Amsterdam, from 1606 until his death in 1669. The exhibit consisted of 90 paintings, drawings and prints that showcased Rembrandt at the height of his powers. “Emerging from the shadow of tragic personal losses and financial setbacks, Rembrandt produced some of his finest works in his...

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Sicily Travel — a Sicilian Idyll

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Sicily Travel — a Sicilian Idyll

Winter in Italy and Sicily in 2012 was called the Grand Gelé, or the Big Freeze. One of the coldest winters in modern Italian history – the canals in Venice froze – didn’t deter our Sicily travel plans. One advantage of traveling in Winter — you have the attractions all to yourself. These images are impressions of our road trip circumnavigating the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea — Sicily. Taormina—tourist delight Perched atop a lofty hill overlooking the Ionian Sea is the lovely town of Taormina, the first stop on our Sicily itinerary. Mt. Etna … on the road to Siracusa After...

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A Trip Through Provence et le Cote d’Azur

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A Trip Through Provence et le Cote d’Azur

A ten-day exploration of the charms of the French Riviera and the grandeur of a Rhone River cruise. The following is a detailed report that follows our trip itinerary and includes traveler’s notes on the places we visited, impressions of our river cruise and hotels, meals and wines we enjoyed, notes on some hotels and excursions we made either with a group or on our own. Part 1: Nice, Eze, Aix-en-Provence, Arles Days 1-2 PARIS CONNECTION. Our 10-½ hour flight from San Francisco is not too painful, until we arrive Charles deGaulle airport, which is undergoing major renovation. Unfortunately...

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