We were lost for hours on our drive from Burgos to Santiago but discovered incomparable landscapes.

Following a wine-focused cruise through Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, France and Spain, which ended in Barcelona in September 2016, my friend JoRene and I decided to explore the Basque Country of Spain (and France) by car. 

My preferred method of travel is to be independent and meander. The experiences that can be had are so much more serendipitous when you’re not on a schedule or traveling with a group. There are pluses and minuses with both, but this mode of travel...

Dhammayangyi Temple, the largest one in Bagan.

Over the past few years since  my retirement from the Foreign Service, my wife, Lili, and I have cruised around the world several times, taken independent trips to places where ships did not regularly dock and surpassed the “100 mark” of countries and territories visited. 

However, we realize that there is still a lot more to see before we finally settle down (if that ever happens). 

When we learned that there was a 180-day around-the-world trip...

The Karneval crowd in Düsseldorf’s Altstadt.

There are many cities and sites that spring to mind when considering a trip to Germany — the historical Cold War landmarks of Berlin, reflections of Bavarian culture in Munich or the musical legacy of Leipzig — but Düsseldorf might not make it to the top of most travelers’ lists. However, like Rio, New Orleans and Venice, Düsseldorf has a long tradition of enthusiastically celebrating Carnival (Karneval in Deutschland). 

Fortuitously, I was invited to join in...

Suburban homes near Port St. Mary spread across a picturesque valley.

In October 2016, my husband, Mike, and I visited one of the oldest democracies on Earth. You might think I’m talking about Iceland, but, no, the place with the oldest continuously meeting parliamentary government is the Isle of Man.

Iceland’s parliamentary democracy, the Althing (Alþingi) was established in 930, but it lapsed for a number of years. The Isle of Man’s Tynwald was established in 979 and has met every year since then.

Located in the middle...

The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.

After a short family visit to Australia and a return trip to San Francisco in December 2016, we decided to head to Asia, taking advantage of a perk afforded to retired and active US military members: traveling free (“space available”) on US military aircraft. 

Off we went to nearby Travis Air Force Base, from where, after four flights (and incredible luck), we landed in Singapore.

Starting in Singapore

Because of the spontaneous nature of our trip to...

Overlooking our anchorage during a visit to Îles des Saintes.

Guadeloupe, in the southern Leeward Islands, is an overseas region of France that has all that one could hope to find on a Caribbean island: beautiful beaches, coral reefs galore, waterfalls, mountains, tropical rainforests, great food, friendly people and French culture. So where do the Guadeloupians go when they want to take a vacation? The neighboring island groups of Îles des Saintes and Marie-Galante are good choices for a day, a weekend or more. Îles des...

Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier, much reduced in size from what I saw on my first visit 21 years ago.

“The Northwest Passage” — words that have excited Europeans for hundreds of years. 

The quest for a navigable northern passage to deliver goods from Europe to Asia and return stimulated seafaring explorers to try and try again over centuries to sail through the Arctic from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Finally, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen made the transit between 1903 and 1906 on a gasoline-powered converted fishing vessel. It wasn’t until...

Brașov ’s main square.

Following time spent exploring Bulgaria by car in June 2016 (see last month’s issue), my husband, Fred, and I departed Nessebar and headed for Brașov, Romania. 

We arrived at the border at around 3:30 p.m. and paid the 10-lev toll ($5.60) to cross. We also purchased the vignette (€8, or $8.70, one week) that was required for driving on Romania’s motorways.


As we drove into Brașov, where we would spend the next four days, the first...