The Strait of Gibraltar. It’s a breathtaking view, just a narrow passage of water, where the North Atlantic becomes the Mediterranean, separating two continents. Europe and Africa, close together like a pair of lips anticipating a kiss. On the Spanish side, Tarifa. Chilled and relaxed, it’s a kite surfer’s paradise with long stretches of beaches and mountain ranges nestled in the background. On the Moroccan side, Tangier. Sprawling and melancholic, it’s a bustling port city built into craggy bluffs, where dreamy-eyed poets once smoked and drank mint tea in cafes, Middle Eastern flavors coat the air, and the past hasn’t quite yet caught up to the present.

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What’s your definition of the perfect day? Mine is spending an afternoon in Seville, eating tapas and drinking either sangria, cerveza Cruzcampo, or tinto de verano at a local restaurant where the décor is old-fashioned, the walls are lined with bottles of wine, and from the ceiling hangs air-dried meat. Seated outside, I can feel the sun’s warmth on my shoulders and look up to see plump oranges dangling from tree branches People pass by, making loud steps on the cobbled streets. What’s that off in the distance? Just the world’s largest cathedral.

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When it comes to eating out, I’m up for a challenge. Cash only, no problem, I’ll run to the ATM and forget about those bonus points. No wi-fi, great, you don’t need a cell phone to eat. Have to walk uphill for half a mile and then meander down some sketchy alleyway to get to your place, alright, I’m in. Serve me seafood I have no idea what it is or how to eat it, game on. Read More

The mistake of any good traveler is trying to see and do everything at once. Time is an enemy, working against you. Only so much light in a day. But when you stop and pause and ask yourself what do you really want out of the experience, time becomes an ally. Do you really need to see every church, palace, cliff, mountain, beach, or sunset? Eat at every restaurant, sample every beer or wine? Of course not. It’s better to relax, go at your own pace, and enjoy the moment before its slips away. Savoring one really good meal is better than six rushed ones. Being fully immersed in a place is better than sprinting through dozens. Going for a lazy, afternoon stroll is always preferable to a mad dash. Read More

Porto. Some places just speak to you. There’s no explanation. It has the right vibes. Feels authentic. Incorporates the perfect blend of modern and old. For some reason, you can see yourself staying there indefinitely. That’s the concept of home, a place where you belong in a world constantly tilting and shifting. Read More

Madrid is a hard city not to like. On paper, it’s nothing special. There’s no distinguishing, iconic landmark that’s worth traveling halfway around the world to see. No Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Parthenon, or Colosseum. But still, it has it, that feel. You want to go everywhere at once. Take it all in. Get lost. Eat tapas at every restaurant, sip sangria or vermouth from every bar, and explore every crook, corner, and alleyway. You leave wanting more, wishing you had more time. Read More

 

French cuisine is all about the experience. A meal is something to be savored and enjoyed; a marathon, not a sprint. First order of business, wine, which the waiter brings to you and pours at the table. Next, freshly-baked bread, eaten plain or with butter or Pâté. Then it’s on to the main course (that is if you don’t opt for appetizers). The air-dried ham is cut fresh on the spot at a station near the table. The slow-cooked beef chuck, drenched in a red wine sauce, is tender and juicy; every bite heavenly. The vegetables taste like they were plucked right from the garden. The mashed potatoes creamy and flavorful. It is the perfect meal, worth every euro. Read More

 

Normandy. The first thing that comes to mind is D-day and the beaches where thousands of Allied soldiers lost their lives during WW II. My great grandfather fought in that war. As a replacement soldier he came after D-day, but still landed on Omaha Beach when he shipped over to France from England. I thought of him and his experience, as I walked through the beaches and cemetery, taking in the area I had known only through history books and war movies like Saving Private Ryan. Read More

Seeing a big city in short bursts, either on a long weekend or even during a week, has all the excited energy of a one-night stand or short-lived romance with no strings attached. It’s fun, random, but also temporary, a vacation from reality or like being drunk without the hangover. But how much do you love that same place after trying to make a living there? After spending countless hours in traffic commuting to and from work or dealing with daily crowds? After experiencing the bad, not just the good? After starting to see it through the eyes of a local, not just a tourist?

Perhaps, you’ll fall more in love with the place or maybe the initial allure will start to wear off. I’m not a believer of love at first sight. Anything lasting and great takes time. For me to say I love Paris I would have to stay there for at least a year or two. Enough time to find a familiar grocery store, bar, neighborhood, or coffee shop. Something that says this is home, this is where I belong. This is my slice of Paris.

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Iceland, it’s a landscape like no other. A cold paradise greener and richer than imagined from a remote island in the North Atlantic. Everything about it is beautifully strange. The language. The food. The brutal, volcanic landscape. And yet it’s capital city Reykjavik has all the comforts and contemporary charm you’d expect from a European country despite its lack of proximity to the continent.
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