The counterculture of Greenwich Village in New York City is legendary, although these days you’re more apt to see downsized Wall Streeters roaming around at midday rather than artists or activists. History is cyclical, however,  and Washington Square Park, the epicenter of many social, political and cultural movements, is being renovated and of course there is a controversy.

The diehard Villagers still have a huge voice in the politics of the neighborhood. The park is a landmark, 10 acres in size and nearly 200 years old. It has seen hangings, burials, countless graduations, generations of kids, dogs, joggers, seniors, and drug dealers—you name it, it has happened in THE PARK, as I called it growing up on its West side. Continue reading »

2 Comments | Filed Under Budget Travel, California, Family Travel, Feature, Urban Parks

While some billionaires may have the opportunity to enjoy leisure travel into space these days, most of us will remain earthbound, having to content ourselves with gazing at the night sky as our ancestors did, imagining creatures, gods, or other symbols in the starry heavens.

But our vision is limited by our eyes and the incomprehensible distance between us and the celestial bodies we wish to see. Not many of us have easy access to observatories to view the cosmos through powerful telescopes, although opportunities for backyard astronomers are better than ever now with improvements in home telescopes. But to get a glimpse into deep space and marvel at the extraordinary beauty of what’s out there we can look at the images sent back to Earth from the Hubble Telescope, which was put into orbit by the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990. Since then its transmitted astounding photographs of what it sees light years away, and now astronomers have chosen what they consider Hubble’s top ten images. Take a look and contemplate our place in the cosmos.

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Feature, Space, Travel

It’s not me who’s stranded, as I’ve just returned from Rapa Nui (Easter Island, about which I’ll write more in the coming days) to Santiago de Chile. My 20-year-old daughter Clio, though, has written me from southernmost Patagonia, where her progress has been slowed partly by her learning the ropes on her first major trip to southern South America, partly because public transport connections were less than perfect (she spent a night sleeping in the bus terminal at Río Gallegos, Argentina), and partly because public workers’ strikes have slowed the border crossings on the Chilean side of the border (in one instance, she had to wait five hours to cross from Chile into Argentina). Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Argentina, Chile, South America, Student Travel

Studying Abroad is one of the most expansive experiences a young student can have, not only living and studying in a country, but being able to travel widely while away from home. I was lucky when I studied in France many moons ago because the dollar was strong and a semester abroad was actually less expensive than a semester on campus in Connecticut.

Nearly every weekend I took off for London, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Holland or Italy. I remember sewing a Canadian patch on my backpack before a foray through Europe because of the palpable dislike for Reaganomics and small acts of terrorism against Americans: small potatoes compared to travelers’ fears today. Continue reading »

2 Comments | Filed Under Africa & Middle East, Argentina, Budget Travel, Ecuador, Europe, Feature, France, Hike/Backpack, Netherlands, Rome, South America, Spain, Student Travel, Travel, United Kingdom

Without running a Google search or checking a current almanac, most of us probably wouldn’t know that our Earth contains 757 countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups, and major states and provinces. Certainly most of us wouldn’t consider it possible to visit them all. Most of us would be wowed if we made it to 100 countries. Even 50 is pretty darn good. But all of them?

Charles Veley and others of his ilk aren’t like most of us. They want, and intend, to go everywhere. Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Africa & Middle East, Asia, Australia, Books, California, Cruises, Europe, Feature, North America, Paris, Sailing, South America, Travel

I teach yoga at my son’s pre-school on Fridays and we always do Sphinx pose. We talk about the mythical half man, half lion creature and I will often ask if anyone knows where the real Sphinx lives. Last week I was able to add that a new pyramid was discovered beneath the desert sands in Egypt. The three- to five-year-olds weren’t that impressed, but I must say I thought it was exciting news.

The new structure is 4,300 years-old and archaeologists think it is the tomb of Queen Sesheshet, the mother of Pharaoh Teti, the founder of ancient Egypt’s 6th dynasty.  Mothers were greatly revered in ancient Egypt: another great teaching moment. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Archaeology, Cairo, California, Desert Travel, Egypt, Family Travel

The place most people think of when hearing about a taste of France in Canada is Quebec, the French-speaking province with cosmopolitan Montreal and the walled old town of Quebec City. But San Francisco Chronicle Deputy Travel Editor Spud Hilton has a different take and a different place in mind: Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, an archipelago of eight tiny islands (only three are inhabited) off the coast of Newfoundland that not only offer a taste of France, they are France. Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Canada, France

Sometime in the 1980s the QE2 came to San Francisco and I remember thinking she was a marvel among marvels. After all, at 963 feet and 70,000 tons she was the world’s largest cruise ship and dwarfed the other vessels I’d seen over the years docking at the piers beneath my home on Telegraph Hill. Not long after, or maybe before, my memory is fuzzy, the ship was commandeered by Margaret Thatcher to serve as a troop ship during the 1982 Falklands War.

In January 2007 she returned to San Francisco, diminished in size by the behemoths that followed her. The current “world’s largest cruise liner” is Freedom of the Seas at a staggering 1,112 feet and 160,000 tons. That’s more than twice the weight of the QE2, which is almost beyond comprehension, literally holding a small town of 4,300 passengers and 1,300 crew on 15 passenger decks. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Africa & Middle East, California, Cruises, Dubai, England, Feature, Travel, United States

When you imagine exploring the dreamtime world of Australia’s Outback, especially the searing deserts of South Australia, be sure you plan your journey during the right season or you may snag more than you can handle. This year, to make sure that no one makes this mistake, officials will close the Simpson Desert from Dec. 1 to March 15—the Australian summer—to avoid tourist deaths and protect emergency personnel who might have to risk themselves to save stranded visitors. Continue reading »

2 Comments | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Australia, Camping, Desert Travel, Feature, Travel

I woke up this morning to find out our six-year-old, Abyssinian Guinea Pig , Felix, was on his way out.  At six, he was considered “frail elderly” and I knew he wasn’t long for this world.  He died this morning in my eldest son’s arms and we wrapped him in a shroud and placed him in a doll cradle. We lit candles and incense and both boys bawled until giant tears and snot trails rolled down their faces.

It’s Veteran’s Day and I’d had all the good intentions of taking a walk through a military cemetery in San Francisco’s Presidio, a stone’s throw from our office. It is a wonderful and moving experience any time of year, with great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Hike/Backpack, Northern California, Presidio, San Francisco