Category UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Borrowed scenery: Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion and Beijing’s Summer Palace

My standard travel practice involves avoiding anything that smacks of shiny; palaces, treasuries, and—most dreaded of all—collections of silver tableware.  Nevertheless, I wanted to see the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto.  HOB and I had both read Yukio Mishima’s novel The Temple of the Golden Pavilion and were curious about this temple which had been rebuilt […]

Nara’s Kasuga-taisha shrine and the divinity of nature

After we had to cancel our pilgrimage hike across the Kii Peninsula because of Typhoon Hagibis, HOB and I visited the tourist information center in Nara to try to find another hike.  I read that there was a primeval forest nearby and wanted to see if we could hike there.  The friendly man at the […]

Kyoto’s Moss Temple: nature’s social contract

In 48 hours: one flight from Chicago to Tokyo, one bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, nine subway rides, one bus and one frantic taxi ride after a different bus didn’t show up as scheduled.  We arrived at the Moss Temple just in time for the admission slot which our hotel managed to reserve for […]

The dress code is linen at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple

HOB and I used to take a staycation every spring.  We’d run around Chicago, visiting far away neighborhoods, going to concerts and plays, and walking around with an architecture book doing self-guided tours.  On several of these vacations we took the train out to Oak Park, our visits always seeming to coincide with an event […]

“Full Fart Forover” in Røros, Norway

Oh hey, we’re in Norway. I know, I know, why would cheapskates like us be traveling in one of the world’s most expensive countries?  What happened was, I was looking at airfares online and I saw flights to Norway for $333 round-trip from Chicago.  How could I resist? So I bought two tickets to Oslo with […]

The Unfinished Chapels of Batalha: architecture shocks sky

There’s a monastery in the town of Batalha that looks as it is carved from crystalized honey.  One of my finer life choices was to spend an entire day looking at it. (Okay, full disclosure, I probably would have crammed in at least one other monastery in our itinerary that day had the bus schedules […]

Draw your family: prehistoric rock art of the Côa Valley

Arriving at the site of the 22,000 year old rock art in northwestern Portugal was uncomplicated—too uncomplicated.  I enjoyed getting there so much that I was hoping to drag the experience out more.  After sharing jeep ride with our guide from the Museu do Côa and another couple, we hiked a short distance through a […]

Jerónimos Monastery: first person to spot the phallic gargoyle wins a free corn dog

Do yourself a favor and go see Jerónimos Monastery, a Manueline-style UNESCO World Heritage Site just outside of Lisbon.  Do yourself another favor and get there early.   HOB and I did arrive early, though not early enough to avoid a giant line.  While this was annoying and the catalyst of predictable marital discord (why, […]

Porto: you can skip ahead to the sardines

Every country has what I call “the circuit.”  The circuit is the travel itinerary most tourists follow (Rome-Florence-Venice-eat lots of gelato-fly home).  When I put together our Portugal itinerary, I stuck to the circuit much more than I usually do.  HOB was having problems with his foot and I couldn’t anticipate if he’d be able […]

The gods at Shuanglin temple are caged panthers

Before visiting someplace I’ve never been, I need to first project myself there in my imagination.  I do this by picturing one essential cultural experience.  It could be seeing an artwork, walking through a cathedral or listening to a particular sort of music.  Without this initial mind-travel, I can’t conceptualize doing something so strange as, […]