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People and Places

Susie of Arabia: From Florida to Jeddah

Susie of Arabia

A former police officer and travel industry professional, Susie Khalil’s American life changed dramatically in 2007 when she followed her Saudi Arabian husband back to his homeland – and she has lived there ever since. Her award-winning blog Susie’s Big Adventure was once banned – it sheds some light in life in one of the…

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My Accidental Dinner Date with Royalty

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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Catalonia’s Castellers: A Peek Behind the Scenes

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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The Surprising Sights of San Francisco

If I were looking for naked men, Latino street art and hippies within minutes of one another, I’d head to San Francisco. I don’t surprise easily so, San Francisco, well done! From the slightly perplexing to the jaw-dropping jolt, here are a few of the surprising sights of San Francisco that caught my eye during two visits in July and…

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There Was a Time in Communist Albania

Albania used to be the most communist of communist countries – but you’d never know it today. Evidence of the world’s strictest Marxist-Leninist regime has all but disappeared. What’s left are bunkers, thousands of ugly, concrete domes of which more than 700,000 were built to keep out ‘the enemy.’

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Up Close and Personal at the Istanbul Grand Bazaar

Walking into the Istanbul Grand Bazaar on a crowded Saturday afternoon can give even the bravest of shoppers a meltdown. With its nearly 5,000 shops, hundreds of thousands of visitors a day and come-hither merchants, even an expert shopper would be forgiven a moment’s hesitation at what is believed to be the world’s most visited attraction. (estimates are between…

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Girona. Barcelona. David. Goliath?

Girona vs Barcelona

How a smaller, more provincial town not only survives but thrives next to a much larger urban neighbor is a bit of a mystery. It’s common for people to visit Barcelona on weekend city breaks from around Europe, and the Catalonian capital’s name is the upstart darling of the travel set. How then can little…

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Barcelona Highlights, Unconventionally

El Born Barcelona

It’s not my first time in Barcelona but it’s definitely my most offbeat – and slightly adventurous: I arrived by train after a 13-hour journey from Santiago de Compostela, stayed in a luxurious flat, shopped for food at the upmarket La Boquería and was whipped around the city in a motorcycle sidecar. This came about because I applied –…

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