Portugal Travel Guide

An art deco bookstore with a the most beautiful gilded staircase. A castle more colorful and crazy than Neuschwanstein. Rocky coasts and white beach sands and surf. Port wine. Grilled suckling pig prawns bigger than your hand. Colorful tiled homes. The most elegant capital city in Europe. An 18th century Baroque library. Lighthouses at the ends of the Earth. Portugal is full of beautiful surprises, and for these, and so many other reasons, it’s become one of my favorite destinations.

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A Great Fire in Portugal

During my last trip to Portugal, I stayed at a bona fide palace, complete with flying buttresses, a butler, a maze garden. It was hotter than the dickens, and one night while we were there, something tragic happened not far outside the castle walls while we were sleeping. Here’s a story about waking up to the smoke of the worst Portuguese wildfire in recent memory – and the false security of staying in a fortress.

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Getting Trapped in an Elevator in Athens

It was pretty much the worse case scenario: no water, no phone reception, 100 degrees outside and no air conditioning, no emergency bell, no way to alert anyone, and getting hotter by the minute. Read on to find out how we survived this traumatic ordeal and my husband go-go-gadgeted a way out for us. I’ve been taking the stairs ever since.

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Segovia, a Day Trip from Madrid and a World Away

Segovia is just over 50 miles away from central Madrid and a world apart. The UNESCO world heritage city, with its historic downtown, gothic cathedral, and soaring fortress of El Alcázar (which is said to have inspired Disney’s Cinderella castle), makes for an easy and worthy day trip from from Madrid.

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The Best Free Things to Do in Madrid

Some of the best things I did in Madrid last week were totally free (or so cheap they might as well be). Eating African hot peppers and 6€ Senegalese stew in Lavapies (Madrid’s version of Queens), a week’s worth of free museum nights standing in awe in front of Guernica and Las Meninas, and staying out until 3AM with friends (and all the rest of Madrid).

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Two Romanias

Romania came out from behind the Iron Curtain over 25 years ago, but it’s still a country with one foot in the past as it moves resolutely into the future. It’s all factories and multinational corporations and big box stores and neo-Gothic McMansions built by Roma families next to crumbling grey apartment blocs and roads clogged with flocks of sheep and an inscrutable bureaucracy that would make Kafka’s head spin. We experienced all this and more during our last visit to Romania, where my husband and I were setting up a new factory. Here’s a story about doing business in Romania, the new land of unbridled opportunity.

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Florence, 15 Years Older

Florence is a city by which you measure your life every time you returnevery time you return.

On my first visit, the city made clear the tasks ahead in growing up. Not just becoming an adult, but a citizen of the world, as I so deeply wanted to be. And it sent me on my way with a parting kiss, a small souvenir of what was yet to come. Continue reading “Florence, 15 Years Older”

A Virgin in Florence

I was only 15 the first time I visited Florence, and I had traveled there with class of high schoolers (and their parents) on one of those fully supervised, completely American Grand Tours of Europe meant to turn us into cultured young ladies and gentlemen in 10 days or so. Florence, perhaps the grandest city on the Grand Tour, was one of the last stops.

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