Features

The dramatic façade of Saidnaya Monastery.

As part of the first group of American tourists to be admitted to the country since the civil war began in 2011, I traveled by land with 10 other guests from Beirut, Lebanon, to Syria on Oct. 20, 2019, in what was to prove to be an extraordinary adventure. The trip was arranged by Spiekermann Travel Services (Eastpointe, MI; 800/645-3233, mideasttrvl.com). 

I had no idea how (or if) we were going to reach Damascus because nationwide antigovernment protests had just broken out...

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One of the many roaming dogs we saw, catching some rays on Muri Beach.

My partner, Mike, and I wanted to get away for Thanksgiving 2019, preferably going somewhere warm and new to us. An Outside magazine article got me thinking about the Cook Islands. With no high-rises or big resorts, the islands have a wonderful, laid-back charm, perhaps reminiscent of the Hawaiian islands back in the ’50s. 

I called my cousin, who had been there twice, for a bit of advice. My cousin had loved it there, and by the end of the week, so did we!

Getting...

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Lions crossing the river from Moremi to Khwai.

When I returned from my December 2017 Botswana safari (April ’18, pg. 33), totally captivated, I made a promise to myself that I would return to that stunning part of the world.

I contacted the tour operator I used previously, Roger Turski at Safari Lifestyles (phone +267 760 61186, safarilifestyles.com), almost immediately, setting into motion an itinerary informed by Roger’s patient guidance and high level of knowledge.

Many factors were weighed, including a...

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The city walls of Dubrovnik. Croatia.

In May of 2019, my husband, Lynn, and I met his sister and her spouse in Dubrovnik, Croatia, to begin a 2-week independent road trip. While planning this adventure to Croatia and Slovenia, everyone wanted to focus on UNESCO World Heritage Sites, so we decided to add an overnight at Mostar, in Bosnia & Herzegovina, as well.

Direct to Dubrovnik Our direct flight from Frankfurt, Germany, arrived in Dubrovnik in the late afternoon, and the first glimpse of this ancient, walled city...

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Having dinner at Gozobi Restaurante in Oaxaca. Except for the lady in glasses, these are my housemates, with Eunice, in black, on the right.

I have always found Spanish to be a melodious language. However, because I didn’t speak Spanish, and my preference is to travel independently, I found myself having to rely on people working in the hospitality business for my travels in Spanish-speaking countries. English is already my second language, and it took me years to become fluent, so I worried that learning Spanish would be too hard, but a chance encounter in February 2018 changed my mind.

While visiting Villa de Leyva...

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David at the doors to the Sheki Caravanserai.

Our friend David booked a September 2018 tour to Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia with his wife, Brenda, then invited my husband, Ken, me and our friend Norman, whom we met last summer in his hometown of Glasgow, to join him. David chose a company in Tbilisi that provides small-group tours (no more than 16) for a reasonable price.

Advantour Caucasus (phone +995 322 323 000, www.advantour.com) took exceedingly good care of us while showing off the Caucasus for a cost of about $3,000 per...

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View of the iconic Sydney Opera House.

July is midwinter Down Under — not the best time to visit many parts of Australia but the ideal time to visit the tropical Top End. So when a fare of $665 per person, round trip from Denver to Sydney, popped up for travel in July 2019, my wife, Kathy, and I just had to grab it.

Getting there

Following a Delta flight from Denver to Los Angeles, we caught our connecting Virgin Australia flight to Sydney. We had splurged on the “Economy X” upgrade for $155 per...

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Chef Massimo Tomarchio showing the class how to prepare caponata, which included eggplant, zucchini, pine nuts, raisins, capers and other goodies.

At the beginning of February 2019, my wife, Sandra, and I escaped the cold of Minneapolis for the warmer Mediterranean climate of Taormina, Sicily, traveling with Road Scholar (Boston, MA; 800/454-5768, www.roadscholar.org) on a 10-day trip titled “Cooking in Sicily.” The tour was organized around four cooking school sessions and a number of excursions around eastern Sicily, including a winery tasting and lunch.

Our group of 10 travelers would be based in Taormina, on the...

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