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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Imagine sipping Glühwein (hot mulled wine) under the stars, upstaged by millions of Christmas lights in every direction. There are also endless stalls in sight selling hot foods on a stick, twisted, spiced and/or roasted as well as holiday trinkets you don’t need but buy anyway … Pop! Dream over. It’s 2020, the year without a Christmas market.
The Arctic encompasses the northern tips of several countries, including Sweden. Known as Lapland or Sámpi there, it is home to original Ice Hotel where ice sculptors compete annually to design the best room to sleep.
When my typically non-outdoorsy sister asked me to go to Norway, I thought “You’re asking me to go to hiking, biking and kayaking in Norway? No way!” And of course, I immediately said yes … It was “A Tale of Two Sisters” (as opposed to cities) in the “the season of light” as Charles Dickens would say.
Following on the heels of the U.S. presidential election, ironically, I was in the birthplace of democracy: Athens, Greece. As I stared as the magnificent Acropolis while ballots were being counted in America, I prayed that Athenian democracy would prevail there. As it turns out, a modern Pericles “trumped” Julius Caesar.
The famed wine region of Bordeaux, France is full of gastronomic delights and even unexpected surprises … think of a private, behind-the-scenes tour of a Grand Cru estate, including a barrel tasting and blending lesson!