Category Archives: Travel

Travel  At the races in Bangkok

The Royal Turf Club in Bangkok

The Royal Turf Club in Bangkok

On a Sunday afternoon, an American traveller discovers a favourite Thai pastime: racing horses at the Royal Turf Club — Four Seasons Magazine.

My wife and I visited our daughter Emilia in Thailand in March 2013 when she was there as an elementary school teacher. During our first weekend there, she and her friend Ian showed us a side of Bangkok beyond Buddhas, tuk-tuks and Khao San Road. They took us to one of the city’s two race tracks. It was an incredible experience, and Four Seasons Magazine bought the story. The story can be read here.

Ian, channeling Bukowski, on the rail studying the odds before the next race.

Ian, channeling Bukowski, on the rail studying the odds before the next race.

Excerpt: Ian goes to the rail to study the horses. He’s channeling Bukowski with a smoke in one hand, a whiskey in the other. I hang behind him, taking in the scene. The lush grass track is bordered by a row of blooming rose bushes. The infield has ponds, palm trees and a par-3 golf course. The jockeys in their colourful silks look young enough to be my daughter’s middle school students. And, as if to emphasize that we’re a long way from Churchill Downs, the peaked rooflines of the lavish Marble Temple shimmer in red just beyond the first turn.

Travel  Roman Holiday: Three Spectacular Domes

The glorious ceiling inside St. Ignatius of Loyola in Rome

The glorious ceiling inside St. Ignatius of Loyola in Rome

In this travel story, published here, I wrote about three of my favorite domes in Rome. There are hundreds of them, of course, and favorites can shift from day to day. But these? They are always near the top, and always worth visiting again and again.

Excerpt:  “Rome is a city of domes. There are scores of them topping churches and cathedrals, baths and basilicas. They are visually arresting from street level. But with three domes in particular, a special experience awaits you if you get closer, if you look closely, or if you’re there at the right time.”

Travel  The power of journals: Reliving the Lewis and Clark expedition

Lewis & Clark statue

I wrote in September 2014 about two of my favorite characters from history — explorers Lewis and Clark – and a thing we have in common: keeping journals.  Here’s the link.

Excerpt: “I must admit that I’m as captivated by Lewis’ pen strokes as his paddle strokes. He was and remains the ultimate journalist, producing vivid descriptions of everything from the wingspan of a white pelican to the psychological and physical condition of his men (“. . . many of them have feet so mangled and bruised with the stones and rough ground . . . that they can hardly walk or stand . . . still they remain perfectly cheerful”). His language is elegant and precise — sharp as a photograph and just as telling.”

Travel  AOL Travel: Popes John Paul II, John XXIII: A Saint’s Cousin on Being a Pilgrim in St. Peter’s Square for a Canonization


On the occasion of Pope Francis canonizing two of his beloved predecessors in April 2014, Zach Everson at AOL Travel asked if I would write about story about the spectacle of canonization in Rome from the perspective of someone who had a good reason in 2005 to attend one. I was glad to do it. The story is here.

Excerpt: “On that memorable day, my family and I –- more than 60 of us from America, each of us bursting with pride –- crowded into St. Peter’s Square for what was Benedict’s first canonization ceremony. Rome goes crazy for these events. Stores and restaurants, not to mention buses and cars, are festooned with posters of the saints-to-be. Everywhere we looked in the vicinity of the Vatican, we saw our family name and cousin’s gentle smile. We felt like special guests at a giddy global block party.”

Travel  AOL Travel: Falling in love, Italian style

People in a pizzaria

I wrote this travel story for Zach Everson, a former student of mine at Wake Forest now an editor at AOL Travel. I actually wrote it originally in the summer of 2006 while in Calabria doing research and reporting for my book. It was one of those classic Italian encounters that makes the country so irresistible to travelers — even in the most unexpected places and circumstances.

Excerpt: “Now listen, I just talked with my wife long distance and each of my daughters; I’m entirely devoted to them. And yet, I feel like I’m falling in love. Right there in the pizzeria with the woman with the light brown hair.”

The photo is stock, not actual.

Travel  Travels in Thailand: Lessons From the Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha of Wat Po

Our daughter moved to Bangkok in October 2011 during the worst flooding in a century. We worried from afar, what with the dire images on the news. But when we spoke with Emilia, she sounded calm, extraordinarily so. She credited Buddha. No, she hadn’t converted to Buddhism. She wasn’t praying, chanting, or meditating. She was merely observing. When we visited her two years later, we understood. The full story is here.