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September 25, 2017

Sicily: Cefalu


Duomo di Cefalù from the piazza.

Acknowledging the distinctive combination of Arabic and Norman architecture, UNESCO has designated the 12th Century Arab-Norman buildings in Palermo and Cefalu as a World Heritage site. The Normans were known as brutal conquerors. Less well known was their tendency to assimilate culture elements from the people they conquered. After the Normans ended Saracen rule in northwestern Sicily, they embraced Arabic architecture and constructed numerous distinctive buildings that combine the Norman and Arabic styles. UNESCO honors this cultural fusion with its World Heritage designation. (more…)

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September 19, 2017

Malta: Popeye Village


Popeye Village

Malta has tons of highbrow attractions. Valletta is a must see city. The island has pretty beaches and centuries of history. We could have spent all of our time in Malta walking through ancient ruins or learning about the country’s extensive war history. But we didn’t. (more…)

August 12, 2017

Malta: Valletta


Ricasoli East Breakwater

Malta’s jewel is its capitol Valletta. Valletta sits on a well-defended peninsula surrounded by its sheltered harbors. The fortifications and walls that ring the central city speak to Valletta’s military importance. Malta’s history reads like a “Who’s Who” of Mediterranean civilizations. The Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Saracens, Aragonese, the Napoleonic French, and the British have all left their marks on the island nation strategically positioned in the Mediterranean Sea to the southwest of Sicily. (more…)

July 16, 2017

Sicily: Scicli


San Bartolomeo, one of several attractive churches in Scicli Sicily.

I must admit to having a minor obsession with completing travel orientated lists. If I read an intriguing list of places to see, there’s a risk that it could become a goal. For example, several years ago Frommer’s published a list of the must see alpine passes in Switzerland. We’d planned on driving the southern route through Switzerland. Once I saw Frommer’s list, we added detours to our route so that we would visit all five passes Swiss passes mentioned in the article. As it turned out the passes were a worthy goal; the route is spectacular. Nevertheless, even if Frommer’s list was completely lame, it was unavoidable that we would visit all of the passes. Lists must be completed. (more…)

July 8, 2017

Sicily: Modica


Monochromatic Modica

Sicily’s southeastern corner is our favorite area of the island. This portion of Sicily includes a cluster of communes that UNESCO designated as a World Heritage site in 2002. Collectively UNESCO refers to this area as the “Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto.” (more…)

April 29, 2017

Sardinia: Su Nuraxi di Barumini


Looking up one of towers at Su Nuraxi di Barumini

On the way from Oristano to the southern Sardinia port city of Cagliari we paused to see Su Nuraxi di Barumini. (more…)

April 17, 2017

France: Porto Corsica


Ota Corsica’s port is a popular beach destination, at least in the middle of summer. But as we learned when we visited in the middle of November 2016, Porto is a seasonal resort; most everything closes for the off-season. With few tourists the town has a weird “redrum” feeling. If a young Jack Nicholson suddenly appeared, we were definitely bolting out of the town. (more…)

April 9, 2017

France: Great Saltworks of Salins-les-Bains and the Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans


A tunnel beneath the saltworks at Salins-les-Bains brings brine to the drying pans.

Salins-les-Bains and Arc-et-Senans are in the Jura and Doubs departments of France, respectively. Both administrative departments are on France’s eastern border with Switzerland. As of 2015 Jura and Doubs were part of the larger administrative region of Franche-Comté, the only region of the continental portion of France that we hadn’t visited. But by the time we first arrived in Franche-Comté in 2016 it turned out that we already had visited all of the administrative regions of continental France. How did that happen? At the start of 2016 Franche-Comté was consolidated into a larger region, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. A legislative act eliminated Franche-Comté before we could visit. (more…)

April 8, 2017

Switzerland: Bern


An interesting fact: Switzerland has no formal capitol. Instead the country has a federal city, the place where most of the federal governmental buildings (parliament, executive, administration) are located. That city is Bern. (more…)

March 18, 2017

France: Côte d’Or


The commune of Vosne-Romanée

Burgundy’s most famous and most expensive wines originate in the Côte d’Or appellation, a band of vineyards extending from the southern outskirts of Dijon to Santenay. On the east side of this limestone escarpment the vineyards spill down the hillside onto the valley floor. A designated 60-kilometer long road route through the vineyards, the Route des Grands Crus, takes oenophiles (more…)

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