‘Death in the Afternoon’ in Madrid and Sevilla

“Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death,” wrote Nobel Prize-winning novelist Ernest Hemingway. Observing this gory yet elegant cultural tradition in Spain, I better understood his lifelong obsession.

Viking Discoveries Down the “Blue” Danube

When Johann Strauss entitled his famous 1866 waltz “The Blue Danube,” he must have been wearing blue-tinted glasses or simply drunk. This river is no more blue than I can waltz. However, its banks are lined with magnificent buildings, charming villages and three European capitals. It also unites a formally divided continent.

Spring Flower Power in the Netherlands

Tulips at Keukenhof gardens in Lisse, Netherlands

Holland in the Netherlands is synonymous with tulip. This iconic flower not only is displayed in the millions there and worth billions of euros, it is responsible for the world’s first futures market.

Three Times a Mimmo and Charm in Italy

Chez Mimmo, Florence, Italy

Some of the best memories from my university semester in Paris were from Italy. Two 20-year-old Americans on the loose in Venice, Florence and Rome led to some tall tales … literally. And Italian men lived up to their charming reputation.

Belgium Brings out Paganism in Catholics During Carnival

Aalst, Belgium carnival

Carnival is the oldest, largest party in the world, celebrated in more than 50 countries. Ironically, this pagan tradition was preserved by the Roman Catholic church … In Belgium, A + B = C as in Aalst plus Binche equals carnival.

Emerald Isle of Ireland Shines in Torrential Rain

Ireland Skellig Coast

For all of its rain, Ireland sure is sunny. It’s the friendliest country I’ve ever visited out of nearly 100 worldwide. If you think Americans are friendly, just wait until you meet the fun-loving, story-telling, joke-cracking, “craic”-making Irish. They will scoop you up in their beers, laughter and tales within minutes of meeting.

Inadvertent Culinary Tour in Tsakonian Villages of Greece

When you think of Greek cuisine, surely tzatziki, moussaka, baklava and feta cheese made in 100 ways comes to mind. But what about candied eggplant, quince marmalade, kormos me biskota, koulourakia, sage tea, cream of chestnut, glyko karydaki, halite and petimezi? Welcome to the agricultural paradise of Greece’s southern Peloponnese peninsula.

Grapes of Wrath in Barcelona for NYE

Park Guell Antoni Gaudi Barcelona, Spain

My parents, sister and I once went to Barcelona, Spain for New Year’s Eve. It was the first time all of us traveled in Europe together. And it threatened to be our last with an innocent blunder on my part.

Unsilent Night for Christmas in Luxembourg

Luxembourg City night Grund

When my sister moved to Luxembourg — the smallest country in Europe after its six microstates — it took my parents and me coming to visit her for Christmas to inspire her to turn on her oven. That was six months after she moved into her apartment. This simple joy turned into a narrowly averted disaster.