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Women on the Road Blog

Solo travel tips for women like you - the first Tuesday of every month >>

(and to say thank you I'll send you the 'list of 9' indispensable items I NEVER travel without!)

History, Culture, Traditions and the Arts

A place is mostly its people so when I travel I like to understand why a place is the way it is: what shaped it, how the culture evolved, why the buildings are the way they are, how customs have survived or are under threat… and I try to look at these things from a woman’s perspective.

The Unusual and Not-So-Secret Brotherhoods of France

She wears a leprechaun green hat, her velvet cape wrapped around her body in the cold. Around her neck hangs an olive green ribbon, holding up a bronze medallion. The operative word is olive. Meet Madame Laget, one of the few women in the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Olive Tree, a not-so-secret organization [...]

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What the Heck is a European Capital of Culture?

Guimaraes, European Capital of Culture

And what does that have to do with a bunch of cows migrating across downtown Marseille? Plenty. Because the transhumance  - the migration of herds between pastures - was staged during Marseille's tenure as European Capital of Culture for 2013. Yes, culture, one of those terms so broad it could strangle you. It can mean the arts... painting, theater, dance, poetry, [...]

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My Accidental Dinner Date with Royalty

Iftar dinner Abu Dhabi

I didn't know what to do with my hands. I thrust one out to shake his, but that didn't feel quite right. I hung my arms by my side and that felt worse. Finally I compromised. I clasped my hands together in front of me, waiting for a sign from each of the white-clad Arabs [...]

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How We Celebrate Bastille Day in France

French Air Force 14 July

Bastille Day is July 14 - but you'll find the French celebrating several days beforehand. Like this. The Fête Nationale, as it's called here, or le 14 juillet, is the perfect excuse for a long weekend, often combined with the summer holidays. The weekend before it is usually labelled 'black', a dangerous driving day during which everyone [...]

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The Countless Legends of Girona

Girona, Spain

Once upon a time, in the days of the Egyptian god Osiris, there lived somewhere to the south a giant monster with three heads, called Gerió. Seeking to enlarge his empire he headed north where he built a castle and founded a city that would one day bear his name: Geriona, today's Girona. Or not. Perhaps Girona [...]

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Catalonia’s Castellers: A Peek Behind the Scenes

Castellers Vila de Gracia Barcelona

Imagine an agile six-year-old clambering up the face of a five-story building, waving from the top, then slithering back down. Leaves your throat dry, doesn't it? Yet several times a week, that's exactly what happens when the Castellers de la Vila de Gràcia rehearse their castells, or human towers. "It's not as dangerous as it looks," said Helena [...]

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A Cut Above: The Ongoing Tradition of FGM

Domtila Chesang

It is a sunny day, hot even in December as Christmas nears in a rural village in Kenya, up somewhere near the borders of Uganda and what is now South Sudan. There is a festive spirit and the young girls are gathered and song and dance reverberate across the hills of West Pokot, bracing for [...]

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The Cuban Embargo: Memories of the Mouse that Roared

It was 1999 when I arrived on a two-month assignment to cover Cuba and my first thought as I left the airport was: "This country is a survivor." Already into its fifth or sixth metamorphosis since the revolution overthrew a corrupt dictator, Cuba had become friends with the Soviet Union, survived the Eastern Bloc’s demise, crawled through the lean [...]

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Guérande Fleur de Sel: The Salt Harvester

Aerial view of Guerande salt ponds

Marie-Thérèse Aumont picks out a black speck from the snowy mountain of fresh salt. "It's alien, it shouldn't be here," she says crossly. "This entire mound might be contaminated." That would be bad news indeed, given the amount of work it takes to harvest a pile of salt here in the Guérande peninsula (pronounced gay-rawnd) in northwestern France's Loire-Atlantique [...]

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The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles

I feel a bit like Hermione Granger scurrying along the shifting staircases of Hogwarts as I duck in and out of the labyrinth. I’m in a bookstore, looking for books I may never find. Accustomed to linear shelves where each tome logically follows the next, I lurch along rows that loop and snake intricately along the [...]

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When Art Takes Over: The Case of Nantes, France

Great elephant machine in Nantes, on the Machines de l'Ile

What do you do when people consider your city dull, boring and grey - and won't visit? You try something different because you know, deep inside, that your home (in this case Nantes, France) is anything but non-descript. You just have to bring out its beauty. Nantes did this with a single word: art. "We decided to develop [...]

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Once Upon a Time with Queen Victoria in Aix-les-Bains

Grand Hotel Aix les Bains

She may not have been the first, but Queen Victoria's presence in the French alpine town of Aix-les-Bains is probably among the best-known and most fondly remembered. Bluntly said, she put Aix (as it's known by those on a first-name basis with the city) on the map. In the latter years of the 19th century, you couldn't walk a [...]

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