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Archives - Northern Europe

Learning Through Cooking in Aix-en-Provence, France

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by Caitlin Cote and Olivia Cicci
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Top 5 List, Spring in Europe 2015

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by Melissa Cicci
Whether off-the-beaten-path or iconic tourist spot, I find a little magic in every stop I make while traveling. But some places are more memorable to me than others, and often I suspect it's because they've been shared with my husband and good friends. Here then my top 5, highly personal and subjective, experiences in Europe this spring, in no particular order.
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Hunting the Lights

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by Nick Walton
The temperature is dropping by the minute as lazy snowflakes fall, dancing in the clouds of steam from my breath. Lifting the visor of my helmet, I drink in the cold, fresh air; it bites at my lips and eyes as flakes of ice wash up from the snowmobiles in front. Time is running short; tension is building as we race through the darkness, eyes peeled towards the sky, headlights whipping across through the thick snow. The hunt is on.

The Northern Lights are an elusive prey. They come and go as they please, their green, pink and purple bands appearing in the inky sky in moments, dancing, taunting, only to vanish so quickly you’re forced to ask if they were ever there. And sometimes, just sometimes, they come out in a staggering display that reaches across the sky, captivating the imagination. It’s those epic lights that we’re hunting for tonight.
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London's Cool Winter Wonders

Winter in London is quite a long way from the Dickens version of events: for one thing, snow is less a pretty backdrop, more harbinger of transport hell, and A Christmas Carol-style redemptive cheer usually gets replaced with widespread Christmas shopping and January sales-induced panic. Bravely, though, Londoners tend to go ahead and enjoy the city when it’s cold. There are plenty of cool things to do in London in winter, and if this means sticking indoors behind a pane of foggy glass, all the better. Read More...

Urban Walks - London's East End, Bishopsgate to Bethnal Green

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The canal walk feels like a behind-the-scenes tour through local life here, and that’s the magic of it. You stroll a few feet from peoples’ bedrooms in brightly-painted houseboats, marvel at the sleek new warehouse conversions on the opposite bank mixed in with decrepit actual warehouses, peer into peoples’ back gardens that open out onto to the water... it’s all so normal, really, but all so utterly interesting. When I turn a corner and the evening light’s at the right angle, the canal looks like a stream of gold.
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A Foodie's Pilgrimage to Brixton, South London

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Saturday morning in Brixton Village, South London: sunshine pours in through the covered market’s high windows, kids charge up the aisles on scooters and colourful cafés heave with brunching groups. Once due for demolition, the Village is now a weekend pilgrimage for Londoners who’d never normally go further south than Waterloo Station. Cafes, boutiques and record stores moved in among the fishmongers and grocery stalls, and a buzzy new food destination was born.
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Summer in St. Ives, Cornwall

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The coastal walk - just follow the acorn signs - led past tropical gardens with palm trees, Agapanthus and giant fuschia, past houses with boats in the driveway, and down a narrow, rocky path to the beach. I slipped off my sandals and sank my toes into squeaky-clean, fine golden sand as I walked to the Atlantic shoreline - nothing but ocean to the horizon and the gulls for company. The turquoise-blue-fading-to-clear-lapis colored water licked around my ankles, teasing me to go further. Walking along the beach at Carbis Bay, under an impossibly blue sky last summer, I could only smile in disbelief that I was still on mainland Britain. Welcome to St. Ives and the Cornish Riviera.
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'Love' Ljubljana, Slovenia

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Ljubljana has one of the youngest, coolest, friendliest, and most fashionable populations I've encountered. The Hapsburg-era buildings sparkle in the sunlight, and at night in the lights reflected off the Ljubljanica River.
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Hiking Through the Charente-Maritime, France

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Preparing to embark on my third walking tour in France - en pie - my big worry was, “am I going to get there?” The Icelandic volcano eruption had already caused a two-week delay for my friend, who was preceding me and with whom I would meet up in Paris. But all seemed okay; my airline assured me that it was a go, my pack was ready, and I was off. This time, the hike would be on the southwest Atlantic Coast, in the Charente-Maritime area, north of Bordeaux, an area of beautiful salt marshes and rugged coastline.
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WWI Memories in France and Belgium

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by Samuel Xavier Cicci
The countryside in northern France and western Belgium is beautiful. Endless fields stretch out for as far as the eye can see. As a visitor, it’s difficult to imagine the death and destruction that once took place on the tranquil landscape and in nearby market towns. Our first stop on a tour of WWI memorials was at Vimy Ridge, in the Nord-Pas-de Calais region of France. Vimy was a major site in the Battle of Arras, where in 1917, Canadian soldiers overcame and pushed back the German line. Canada suffered enormous casualties here: more than 10,000 men wounded or killed.
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A Corner of Hibernia, Northern Ireland

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My husband and I needed to be in Newry, a small city just over the border from the Republic of Ireland, for an event in late August. We decided to spend three or four days exploring beforehand. We had been to the better-known Republic on several occasions, and love the friendliness of the people and the spectacular scenery, but had avoided Northern Ireland for all the wrong reasons. We were pleasantly surprised to find the same Irish charm and friendliness, but with a touch of British reserve.
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In Search of the Holy Grail - Belgian Beer

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For beer lovers there is no pilgrimage destination like the beer halls of Belgium, and the historic city of Antwerp brings class to your next glass of golden beauty. There is a hushed tone and an almost imperceptible intake of breath as I browse the drinks list at one of Antwerp's 2,500 rustic little beer bars. The list is daunting – some dark, some light, some lethally strong. Finally I pick a beer, the most exotic sounding I can find, and the bartender smiles; I've passed the tourist's test by not ordering a Stella.
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Voyage from Leiden

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George Soule was barely out of his teens when he sailed toward an uncertain future in North America. From our perspective, we’d always thought he’d sailed from England. But recently, we came to understand that many of the pilgrims who’d sailed on the Mayflower began their journey, not in England, but from across the North Sea, in Holland.
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Celebrating "L'amitié" in the South of France

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Bonne chance. A dear and generous friend rented a spacious stone house in the Provençal village of Pernes les Fontaines to celebrate his 50th birthday. Guests came and went for three weeks. Each day began with the early risers filling the breakfast table with presents from the local patisserie. Chocolat du pain, almond sweets and croissants. Coffee was French pressed of course...
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Belgium by Rail and Foot

In an idle chat with two friends last winter, I discovered that none of us had been to Belgium. That surprised us as we were all well traveled in Europe and the other two had been born and raised there. We made the decision to visit Belgium together in the spring. We particularly wanted to see the old Flemish cities, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp. We parted with promises that each would research possible itineraries. Read More...

A Chateau, A Vicomte and Louis XIV

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The splendid Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte lies at the heart of French Brie, a pastoral countryside of vast arable fields. Commissioned by Nicolas Fouquet, the Chateau tells a story of greed, ambition, extravagance, social aspirations, royal power and imprisonment.
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Dzhen Dobri from Krakow, Poland

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From the end of the 15th century till the start of the 17th, Poland enjoyed world-class status. Its empire stretched from the Baltic almost down to the Black Sea: it produced timber, rye, salt, coal, and other coveted exports. My paternal grandparents hailed from a small Polish town near Russia called Machover. And my husband’s paternal grandparents came from somewhere in Silesia. So he and I were doubly excited to finally visit Poland.
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Seeing Russia: Beyond Red Square

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Throughout our two-week stay in Russia, we rode the rails in style between Moscow, Helsinki and St. Petersburg. My daughter and I talked long past midnight in a petite compartment just for two as the overnight train from Moscow cut its way through the inky Russian night.
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White Nights in Helsinki

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Wandering Helsinki’s streets during White Nights is a dreamy pleasure. In this part of the world in midsummer, the sun doesn’t wane until the early morning hours. At about 4a.m., the sun announces itself again with the determination of a Finn, knowing that once fall and winter set in the days will be unbearably short. Finland is not on most Americans’ short list of travel destinations. It should be.
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