Warmth & Happiness

Scandinavia continues to be the world’s happiest region, with Finland, Iceland and Denmark firmly holding on to the top three spots in the World Happiness Report of 2020 – despite the uncertainty of the pandemic. That same year, the Finnish sauna was added to UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage list, a sign of how integral the sauna is to almost every Finn’s household.

Is there a correlation between happiness and warmth? Perhaps.

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I Segesta You Visit Sicily

Apologies for the pun.

As a long-time fan of the television show, Golden Girls, Sicily was at the top of my travel list even before I officially formulated a travel list. From a young age, my favorite way to start a story was, “Picture it, Sicily, 1922…” the same way the acerbic matriarch Sophia prefaced hers.

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In Search of Vikings

From cunning seafarers to merciless warriors, the myths and legends of Vikings have captured the imagination for generations. It is documented that they reached faraway shores from Newfoundland to Constantinople, yet nowhere else in the world can you truly get a sense for their fascinating way of life than in Norway.

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How much to tip your ambulance driver and other advice when traveling with COVID

After two years of successfully evading the virus, it finally caught me 4,000 miles away from home.

Driving between sublime places like Florence, Siena, and Lucca, you can catch a glimpse of the mundane side of Tuscany. The strip malls, the car dealerships. The industrial parks with empty loading docks. The barren fields with crumbling structures festooned with graffiti. The red tiled roofs of homes that dot the side of the highway. Details that never make it into brochures or into the stories you’ll share with your friends when you get back home.

I, on the other hand, was desperately trying to memorize it all. Making note of landmarks and highway signs, as they zoomed by the window of my ambulance.

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UNESCO’s Lesser-known Treasures

On your travels throughout the Mediterranean, you will undoubtedly come across a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Italy alone is home to the most places with that designation at 58, and Spain and France are close behind with 49 and 48, respectively. The icons, like the historic center of Rome, the works of Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, and the Acropolis in Athens only begin to scratch the surface of the treasures this region holds. Below are four destinations where you can explore UNESCO Sites that may not be as well-known as their aforementioned siblings, but are awe-inspiring nonetheless and play an equally important role in preserving our shared history.

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The Art of the Baltic: Cruising Northern Europe

There is nothing that I long for more than to look toward the horizon and see a legendary castle illuminated by a golden sun. From the Scandinavian architectural treasures of Denmark and Finland, to the awe-inspiring art of Russia and Germany, the glorious countries that encircle the Baltic Sea are the epicenter of beauty, elegance, and splendor…and just the journey we can all use.

Thinking about a voyage to Northern Europe in 2022? Here are a few of my favorite ports:

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In Search of Enchantment: Tenerife’s Anaga Mountains

The term Isleña, meaning island girl in Spanish, is what we call my grandmother. A term of endearment exclaimed whenever she walks in the door. ¡Llegó la isleña! (The island girl is here!) I grew up thinking it was a reference to our Cuban heritage, but when I became more inquisitive about our family’s lineage, I discovered that her nickname was a tribute to her Canary Island roots. Her father emigrated to Cuba from Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the nickname, along with a strong emotional connection to Spain, was passed down to her.

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Shakespeare in Paris

I think every writer has a Parisian fantasy that revolves around Shakespeare and Company. Opposite of Notre-Dame in the heart of Paris, there is no greater setting. Adding to the romance, this is the bookstore where James Baldwin hung out, where William Burroughs researched medical books for Naked Lunch, where Anaïs Nin drank Bordeaux straight out of the bottle, where Ernest Hemingway often showed up drunk, and where Allen Ginsberg howled naked.

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Twists and Turns in Tenerife: Canary Islands Wine Tour

Good company, good wine, good welcome,

Can make good people.

(Henry VIII, 1.4.6-7)

I boarded a small van with a group of strangers. We exchanged pleasantries and discovered that we were all in Tenerife for different reasons, some for pleasure others for business and me for a little of both. But it was our shared love of wine that was the reason for our paths crossing on this impromptu tour.

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Mediterranean Must-eats

Anthony Bourdain’s final book World Travel: An Irreverent Guide will be published this fall. It’s slated to be an illustrated collection of Bourdain’s reflections on his favorite places to visit and eat. It was his TV show that gave me the courage to explore places through food. While at home I am a finicky eater, but when I’m abroad I force myself to be as open as possible. When I’m anywhere in the Mediterranean, though, I don’t have to try that hard. Every. Single. Things. Is. Delicious.

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Leather at First Sight: Shopping in Florence

Illustration by Explore Magazine

We were about to start our dinner when the notion of love at first sight was brought up. Our group went around the kitchen and shared their views, which ranged from a resounding rejection of the entire theory to a sweet and serendipitous how-we-met story.

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