Nicaragua, 2010

Our first excursion to the taboo lands of sandinistas and epicenter of the Iran–Contra affair. With the Cold War long fizzled, we found welcoming people, untouristed cities and empty beaches. And all with an ease and sense of security not often felt in Central America.

Paul and I completed a week-long circuit from colonial Granada, to the volcanoes on Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua and finally to the chill Pacific coast town of San Juan del Sur, surfing capital of the world. Sad to leave the sultry tropics, we arrived home to a blizzard in wintry Maine — vowing to return again to explore more of Nicaragua.

South West Coastal Path, Cornwall — England, 2004

South West Coastal Path in Cornwall, England (2004)

For our first visit to Cornwall, we decided on a gentleman’s ramble (Paul, Mark and myself) on the South West Coast Path, which stretches an impressive 630 miles (1014 km) through Devon, Cornwall and Dorset.  We decided on a 69 mile (110 km) westbound section starting at The Lizard peninsula and ending in the charming town of St Ives.

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San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, 2004

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Just before starting a new job, I headed south of the border for my first trip to Mexico, and it was love at first sight.  It was a delight to be with my Mom and Ray in such a beautiful, friendly and accessible town.

Set in the mountains of Guanajuato state about 4 hours north of Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende was strategically important during the Spanish colonial period serving as a military and commercial stronghold on the silver trail connecting the mines of Zacatecas.  Two of San Miguel’s favorite sons, Ignacio Allende and Juan Aldama, played critical roles during the War for Independence from Spain.

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Dales Way — England, 2003

In September the Five Musketeers (Paul, Mark and Amy, teenage Bart and myself) hoofed the 84-mile (135 km) Long Distance Footpath in Northern England from Ilkley in West Yorkshire to Bowness-on-Windermere at the edge of the Lake District.

Not a strenuous walk but gorgeous vistas and perfect weather — a great time for family bonding.  At pub stops, underage Bart managed to progress from Half Shandies (half pint beer/lemonade mix) to multiple pints of ale in a mere five days!  No doubt he’s one of the family.

Cumbria Way — England &
Snowdonia — Wales, 2002

Cumbria Way — England, Snowdonia — Wales, 2002

Our third long-distance ramble in the United Kingdom, the Cumbria Way drew Paul and I forth from the southern Lakes District north to Carlisle on the Scottish border.  Our journey began with uncharacteristically fine weather during our overnight stay in the friendly seaside community of Ulverston on Morecomb Bay.

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Snowdonia — Wales, 2002″

England and Spain, 2001

2001 England and Spain

In the surreal and tense wake of the 9/11 al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in the United States, we headed off to England on the first flights out after a week of quiet skies due to the air travel ban.  We needed to get away, stretch our lungs and legs in the English countryside.

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Cuba, 2001

¡Viva Cuba Libre!

In the waning days of the Clinton administration, we threw caution to the wind and booked flights from Toronto to Havana, realizing a lifelong dream of mine to visit Cuba and taste firsthand the spicy history, politics and culture of this proud island nation.  Although illegal for US citizens to spend money in Cuba without authorization, we decided to buck this restriction and Trade with the Enemy.  We are Americans after all and Freedom is our established right and responsibility.

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Iberia and Morocco, 2000

A circuit through the al-Gharb (Algarve, Portugal), across the Strait of Gibraltar to al-Magrib (Morocco), then back to the Iberian Peninsula through al-Andalus (Andalucia, Spain) — a journey through Arabic lands!  We met in Madrid having traveled from London via different means:  I arrived fresh via 1.5 hr British Midlands flight, and Paul weary and worn from a 36 hr slow train odyssey through France and half of Spain.

The next night we took the sleek and shiny Ferrol “Rias Gallegas” train to Galicia where at dawn we crossed into Portugal and arrived in Porto for a seaside lunch, then onto Lisbon.  We made a side trip to visit the Castelo dos Mouros, an Arabic hilltop castle dating from the 8th century, and to taste the queijadas, or delectable cheese and spice pastries I has “discovered” on my first trip to the area in 1990 and had since enjoyed at Chave d’Ouro (“Golden Key”) Portuguese bakery across the street from my East Cambridge apartment where I lived after university.

From the seaward capital we headed to southern Portugal, the Algarve to enjoy a couple days of beachy R&R then to hip Tarifa, Spain. The hills around this town were dotted with wind turbines, symbol of Spain’s emergence as a green energy superpower.  We then departed Europe from Algeciras en route to Tangiers, gateway to the great African continent.

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England and Ireland, 2000

To celebrate Dad’s retirement from a long and distinguished career as a British Literature teacher, the family (Erik, Paul, Kelly and Dad) flew from the Midwest to Glasgow where I met them.  After a quick tour of the School of Arts and other Charles Rennie Mackintosh architectural gems, we departed urban, proletariat Glasgow and drove south to the English Lake District.  We rented the pleasing self-catering Fairfield Cottage on the outskirts of Grasmere village.  We enjoyed great views of the surrounding fells and fields, full of green splendor and pastures of bleating sheep.

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