Travelers' Intercom

Fyllis Hockman fashioning perfume at Tijon Parfumerie — Saint-Martin. Photo by Victor Block

People who travel to the French/Dutch Caribbean island of St. Martin and spend all of their time on the beautiful beaches or shopping for bargains are missing a below-the-radar attraction.

For a trip that my husband, Victor, and I took in December 2019, I looked online for things to see and do and found that, on the French side of the island, visitors to the Tijon Parfumerie (1 L’Esperance Grand-Case MF 97150, Route de l’Espérance, Grand-Case, Saint-Martin; can use techniques from France to create their own unique perfume or, for men, cologne.


Typical monigotes in Puerto Villamil. Photo by Rod Smith

There are only so many New Year’s Eves we get to experience in our lives. One of the most memorable for my wife, Karen, and me was on Dec. 31, 2019, in the town of Puerto Villamil on the Galápagos island of Isabela.

December 31 started out with various organizations and vendors gathering on the main square, where a large stage had been set up at the end of the dirt street. In the afternoon there were two soccer games, the first with young males, then one played by females.

People were celebrating with each other throughout the day, and there was music in the evening....


My wife and I took a tour of India in November-December 2019, and I thought I would share what I learned about obtaining a tourist visa.

Any US citizen planning to visit India as a tourist must get an e-Visa in advance. Per India’s Immigration and e-Visa portal (an official government website,, “… you cannot apply for a visa at the airport. You need to have an e-Visa before travelling to India. Then you can get the visa stamp in your passport when you arrive.”

(You may see references to getting a visa on...


Prior to embarking on a 7-country cruise in late October 2019, my wife, Patti, and I spent four days in China, and while in Shanghai, Patti discovered that she was blocked from accessing her Gmail account.

I learned from the desk clerk in the hotel we stayed at that all Google services (including Gmail, search and Maps) are blocked in mainland China, as is Yahoo.

We were able to access Google in Taipei and Hong Kong, so we used Gmail there.

I recommend obtaining an alternate email account for China travel. I have several email accounts; my AOL (owned by Verizon) and...

Street in the Quartier Mazarin, Aix-en-Provence, France. Photos by Stephen Addison

Aix-en-Provence is not one of France’s more sought-after destinations by international travelers, but the city is pleasant, very walkable and affluent. Plane trees are abundant and accentuate the city’s French ambiance.

The city was a favorite of Cézanne, so there are plenty of Cézanne-related sights and activities. It’s also a great base for exploring Marseille, a 40-minute drive away. You can spend the day touring gritty and busy Marseille, then return to the welcome elegance and calm of Aix-en-Provence for the evening. 

Flanked by very wide...

A canal near our Airbnb apartment in the centre of Amsterdam. Photos by Alan T. Ramsay

My wife, Thea, and I have visited Amsterdam in the Netherlands several times over the last few years, most recently in June 2019. We often get asked by friends and family for advice about visiting there, so I came up with the following notes.

Amsterdam is a great city for just “chilling” — wandering around the centre, enjoying a coffee or beer, watching people, window-shopping, etc.

Beware of bicycles. Cyclists will ring their bells and expect you to jump; you have to be nimble! What I found confusing was that roads have both cycle tracks and...

The <i>Aranui 5</i> anchored off Bounty Bay, Pitcairn Island. Photo by Jim Hamel

My wife, Betsy, and I participated in the initial voyage of the “passenger/freighter” M/V Aranui 5 from Tahiti to Pitcairn Island, Jan. 10-22, 2019.

We saw many interesting cultural, archaeological and geological features on the atolls of Tahanea and Amanu in the Tuamotu archipelago, on the Gambier islands of Mangareva and Aukena and on the Austral islands of Rapa and Raivavae — all part of French Polynesia. Residents of these islands welcomed us with music, dancing and food, all of which were good.

Betsy has trouble deciding which island she liked best:...

Castello de Gargonza. Photo by Bill Kemp

My wife, Paula, and I took the “Village Italy in 14 Days Tour” from Rick Steves (Edmonds, WA; 425/771-8303, in May-June 2019. Counting a repeat-traveler discount and a payment-by-check discount, we paid $4,200 per person, not including airfare.

The tour emphasized food and wines, with an extensive cooking class and many wine tastings included in the price. We visited Siena and Assisi as well as smaller, out-of-the-way places in central Italy. We had a tour guide throughout and also a local guide in each of the towns.

One of the highlights of...