Go ahead, ruin your vacation

From the Parthenon to the pyramids, nothing conveys man’s imprint on the inexorable sweep of time like ancient ruins. Romantic, mysterious and more or less falling apart, they are the true thrillers of the traveler’s landscape. But the moody majesty of the Roman Forum or Acropolis is hardly secret. Even the deserted streets of Pompeii and rock-cut temples of Petra, in Jordan, draw big crowds. Tourist invasions can’t dim their appeal, but many ruins that rank among the world’s best are both stunning and blissfully unsung. Prime example? The Roman colosseum at El Djem, in Tunisia. It’s a bit smaller … Continue reading Go ahead, ruin your vacation

Hail Grande (Petite) Bretagne!

Flung like a defiant forearm against the Atlantic, Brittany is as near to New England – literally and figuratively – as France gets. Its vast, wind-bitten littoral is the province of old salts and a magnet for nature lovers, and is mostly unsuited for the sorts of gentrified seaside resorts one finds up the coast in Normandy. Brittany is all cliffs and wide, deserted beaches, villages with sturdy granite houses, and fractured coasts of pink granite. To get a sense of the social texture of the region, one only has to consider its name in French, Bretagne – suggesting its … Continue reading Hail Grande (Petite) Bretagne!

How to Score a Free Hotel Room in Manhattan*

*sort of   If someone had told me 10 years ago to book a hotel room in Long Island City, which lies just across the East River from Manhattan,  I would have scoffed. Not because I’m any kind of  New York snob (I could take it or leave it) but because frankly there weren’t that many hotel options. In fact, there might not have been any at all. Fast forward to holiday season 2015 and the situation has changed dramatically: hotels are sprouting up in the industrial-trendy district of Long Island City faster than mushrooms after a downpour, and though … Continue reading How to Score a Free Hotel Room in Manhattan*

Bonjour Brussels. Pleased to meet vous

Paris is finished, but Brussels is just beginning. It is blessed with bad weather that fuels creativity, whereas weary Paris cannot seem to shake off the burden of being a brand name. From social crises to fashion runways, there is a palpable sense that the French have simply run out of ideas. And no, Louis Vuitton opening a starchitect ‘fondation’ inside the ho-hummiest in Europe does not qualify as a new idea. They are by and large a convention-loving lot, the French, and the weight of an only sporadically glorious history (but a lot of history) tends to keep a … Continue reading Bonjour Brussels. Pleased to meet vous