Focus on Archaeology

View of the Mediterranean from the terrace of our apartment “Promenade” in Nice.

The last thing I expected to find in the French Riviera city of Nice was the ruins of a 2,000-year-old Roman city. The Mediterranean, miles of beaches, the famous Promenade des Anglais adjacent to those beaches, yes. Several fabulous art museums, certainly. Cafés, bistros, restaurants, of course. But a Roman city just a few miles from Nice's alluring beachfront was a surprise.

Located in the upscale residential area of Cimiez in Nice, with villas set in lush gardens, what...

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The Grand Tomb at Hili Archaeological Park in Abu Dhabi. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

Late one February afternoon in 2018, my husband, Paul, and I arrived at Hili, an archaeological site 6 miles north of the oasis city of Al Ain in Abu Dhabi.

At first, we were confused. What we saw before us was different from most of the archaeological sites we had visited around the world, including those we had just visited a week or two before in Oman, Abu Dhabi's neighbor to the southeast.

At Hili, it is not just rock or stone remnants from the past lying on the...

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My husband, Paul, and our guide exploring the ruins of Al Baleed’s largest mosque — Oman. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

The city of Salalah lies on the southern coast of Oman beside the Arabian Sea, about 600 miles southwest of Muscat, the country's capital. It is in this area of Oman that the frankincense trade flourished for hundreds of years, beginning perhaps as early as the third millennium BC.

From ports along Oman's southern coast, frankincense traveled by land and sea not only to other parts of Oman and the Arabian Peninsula but east to China and India and north and west to Mesopotamia...

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Walking on top of the medieval walls of Ávila — central Spain. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

Sixty miles west of Madrid lies one of my favorite places in Spain: the small city of Ávila (population 58,000). Four decades ago I wrote two books of walking tours of European cities. Ávila was one of the 24 cities included in those books.

One of the reasons Ávila ranks as special is its magnificent stone walls that encircle the city, among the best preserved in Europe. I wanted to walk along these walls again and revisit the medieval city they enclose. I also wanted to see...

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The Temple of Debod in Madrid, with two pylons in front and a reflecting pool. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

In October 2017, my husband, Paul, and I rented an apartment in the iconic Plaza Mayor in the oldest section of Madrid. Using this apartment as our base, we enjoyed life Madrileño-style, spending weekdays viewingGoyas and El Grecos in the city’s many top-notch museums and weekends strolling in Retiro Park and hunting for treasures in the Rastro flea market.

At night, we nibbled tapas (appetizers) in the ubiquitous tapas bars of our...

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My husband, Paul Lalli, in front of a photo of the grand staircase of the <i>Olympic</i>, sister ship of the <i>Titanic</i> — Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

Ask anyone what the greatest disaster at sea is that they can think of and almost invariably the answer will be “the sinking of the Titanic.” 

Shortly before midnight on April 14, 1912, the Titanic, on her maiden voyage from Europe to New York, struck an iceberg and sank within three hours early on the morning of April 15. Only 705 survived. More than 1,500 died in the cold waters of the North Atlantic.

My husband, Paul, and I flew to Halifax, Nova...

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Re-created Vikings’ blacksmith shop and church — Norstead, Newfoundland. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

He is generally credited with being the first European to “discover” the New World. If you think that the “he” is Christopher Columbus, think again. Nor was the year of discovery 1492, as most of us were taught in grammar school. It was AD 1000.

The one who should be credited with the “discovery” is Leif Erikson (his name in Old Norse is Leifr Eiriksson), whose father was Erik the Red and whose ancestors originally came from Norway. 

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Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro, otherwise known as El Morro — Cuba. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

Quartet of Havana fortresses

Havana’s long, rich history stretches back to the time of Christopher Columbus. 2019 will mark the 500th anniversary of the founding of this city on the island of Cuba in the Caribbean. Because of its strategic location, it is not surprisingly a city especially rich in fortresses. Four of them stand within sight of each other on either side of the bay leading into Havana Harbor.

Why so many fortresses? In 1511, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar...

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