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People and Places

My Perfect Hour in Venice

The shrillest sound of early morning Venice is no sound at all. As I slide across the cobblestones, my rubber soles grip the alleys, sticky but silent. The sun and the moon are invisible, in that tiny wedge of time when dawn is darkest and daytime about to announce itself. Even the motorized vaporetti boats have taken a break…

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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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Hate LA? No way!

Few cities seem to generate such extreme opinions as Los Angeles. Do a quick online search and the ‘I Love LA’ crowd will be mirrored by the ‘I Can’t Stand LA’ contingent. Many of the ‘love LA’ers are paid to say so – the marketing and tourism boards, and the hotels and businesses anxious to draw visitors. So what…

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The Geneva Flower Clock and Other Snapworthy Sights

We have a history, Geneva and I. As a child I visited often, courtesy of my father’s obscure international job. In time I returned for a year to study law. As I stepped off the night train from Paris my first encounter would be with just that – the law. Exhausted, I lugged my two suitcases across a deserted…

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When Art Takes Over: The Case of Nantes, France

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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Visiting Oakland: Does It Get a Second Chance?

Sitting across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, Oakland is a bit of an unruly kid brother, smaller, rebellious and trying hard to be noticed. When questioned, friends arch their eyebrows in wonder: Why Oakland? Well, take a look at the Fox Theater and tell me. Wouldn’t you make the trip just for this magnificent building?…

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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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