Highlights: Argentina and Uruguay

November 2011

“Tell me about your trip,” our friend Allison says. “How did it go?”

The scene is a second-floor sushi restaurant near downtown Orlando, looking out across the road at a block building shared by a bridal store and a mixed martial arts dojo. It is our usual place, Karimé and mine, where we began to plot this adventure. Now three days later, she and I sit with Allison, just in town from Oakland on business. Allison peppers us with questions: “Where did you go? How did the two of you get along?”

In Around the World in Eighty Days, Phileas Fogg tells tales over bitters at his private London club. “What adventures did you have, old boy?” his listeners would ask. “What marvels did you see?”

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Highlights: Chiapas and Yucatán, México

November 2016

Mérida’s little airport could use some signs. How I could end up with three other people in the wrong part of the A gates is beyond me. In my defense, it was five in the morning.

Terminal 2 in México City is a much better organized departure point than the chaos of Terminal 1 in which I had arrived eleven days before. I had only one hour to make my connection today. I made it with fifty-five minutes to spare.

It’s been twenty years since I last was in México. Much has changed. The airport is more modern, in places. The country is more modern, too. There seems to be a more stable middle class, although there’s still much poverty. Services are better than I recall.

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Highlights: Copenhagen

August 2015

A pale blonde girl in a black bathing suit dives head first into the canal. She comes up for air with a gasp from the gray water. All along this side canal in Christianhavn, young women are taking the plunge with thrilling screams or are lying on blankets in the grass taking in the sun.

It is a glorious day, warm and sunny, a real summer day. And in a cold weather country, these glorious summer days are few. So you have to take advantage of them.

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Highlights: Norway

July-August 2015

Laundry day in Oslo. Eight days in Norway have left me with dirty clothes and smelly hiking shoes. I’m holed up in the Laundromat Cafe in Oslo, just opposite the Bislett Stadium where Sebastian Coe set a world record in the mile run when I was in high school.

Your clothes take a beating in a country like Norway, what with the weather and outdoor activities. I’ve been rained on, waded through muddy water, climbed to a precarious waterfall overlook, driven, boated, trained, ferried, bused, and slept in a hostel. The least I can do is leave this place smelling pleasant.

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Highlights: Italy

December 2005

When you think of Italy, you think of summer. Sunny Italia. The Amalfi Coast, bella Tuscany, and La Dolce Vida. These are what bring the crowds.

Late autumn in Italy is closer to the onset of a Northern winter. The crowds are gone. The stone streets of Florence, the Spanish Steps in Rome, are quiet. There’s no line to see the Statue of David. The vibe is more Antonioni than Fellini. It’s not Rick Steves’ Italy, that is for sure. You trade the sunny picture postcard for a quieter, more accessible visit. Just bring your overcoat.

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Majelle Gardens

Highlights: Morocco

Bab Boulejoud

Bab Boulejoud, Fes

I’ve been reading Paul Bowles. It is a cliché. I like books about doomed expatriates done in by the complexities of exotic lands: The Alexandria Quartet, The Comedians, Under the Volcano. Bowles is most famous for The Sheltering Sky, but I am reading a later novel, Let It Come Down, written a few years before the riots that ignited the drive for Morocco’s independence.

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