Gauja River Valley and the Rose of Turaida

Gauja River Valley and the Rose of Turaida

Ask any Latvian what the most charming town in the small Baltic country is, and chances are you’ll hear the name Sigulda. Situated in the Gauja River Valley at the entrance of Latvia’s largest and oldest national park, Sigulda is a place steeped in mythos and natural beauty. More so than the historically Hanseatic Riga and the preened seaside of Jūrmala, Sigulda elucidates Latvia’s close connection to nature.  Continue reading “Gauja River Valley and the Rose of Turaida”

Jūrmala: Latvia’s Seaside Riviera

Jūrmala: Latvia’s Seaside Riviera

Thirty minutes outside of Riga is Latvia’s favorite seaside resort, where miles of silica sand finer than powdered sugar sooth the soles and the sultry fragrance of bristly pines boosts the spirits. It’s a place where families, friends, and lovebirds flock to embrace a slower pace of life. This is Jūrmala. Continue reading “Jūrmala: Latvia’s Seaside Riviera”

Exploring Riga’s Past and Present

Exploring Riga’s Past and Present

On the flat, sandy plains where the Daugava River rushes into the gulf lies Riga, largest of the Baltic cities. At first sight, the Latvian capital looks worn around the edges and none too cheerful, but gently peel back the frosty layers of chrome and steel and an inner vibrance will reveal itself. Continue reading “Exploring Riga’s Past and Present”

Malta: Between Worlds

Malta: Between Worlds

On a map of the world, you might overlook them entirely. The three islands of Malta, Gozo, and Comino form hardly a fleck in the Mediterranean Sea, but man has known about them since neolithic times. Over the course of five thousand years, their spring green acres and ochre cliffs have harbored settlers from far and wide. Continue reading “Malta: Between Worlds”

An Ode to Toledo

An Ode to Toledo

Broken fragments of ice hovered motionlessly over a dreadfully frigid Tagus. It was a somber sight all around; the cheerful Spanish glow I had grown so accustomed to was nowhere in sight. On the ground, brown tamarinds lay trampled and suspended between a state of decay and perpetuity under the morning frost. Suddenly, out from the dense fog, a lone jogger burst forward. Swishing silently past in Stygian polyester tights, he vanished as quickly as he emerged, disappearing down a smoky slope. Had I arrived in Toledo, or had I awakened in Homer’s Meadows of Asphodel? Continue reading “An Ode to Toledo”

Turks and Caicos: Beautiful by Nature

Turks and Caicos: Beautiful by Nature

“I’m here preparing the beach for you, putting the sand in the right spot.”

And with those words, I was set. A chance to see Kelano and his enticing promise of a Caribbean boat party were all it took for me to book a three-leg, eighteen-hour journey across the hemisphere and uncharted waters. Tracing several circles around the North Atlantic, my finger found its resting spot on the map. There it was: Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. Up until then, I only knew that Kelano’s “Provo” lay somewhere off the coast of Cuba, and that it had, according to him and more than a few others, the world’s most spectacular beach. As I studied its outline, I felt my heart drum with a reverberating anticipation. The tropical islands of the West Indies had always appeared to me as a sort of beautiful yet surreal artisanal splatter, but finally, I could see the haze lifting before me.

Continue reading “Turks and Caicos: Beautiful by Nature”