Breakfast in Campo de’ Fiori

The taxi driver didn’t know the names of the streets, but he knew the way. When the car could go no further, he parked at the edge of Campo de’ Fiori in the heart of Rome and pulled our suitcases from the trunk. Once his hands were free, he dispatched his directions. A long, exaggerated…

The Oyster Poaching Mastermind of Connemara

I wanted to write about the sometimes mischievous ways that Ireland’s oysters made it from sea to table in decades past. But this kind of story — no news hook, no service element — can be a tough sell in today’s travel writing climate, where the focus of many pieces is all things timely and…

That One Perfect Summer

For weather, circumstance, or both, there is usually one summer that firmly stands out in memory. For many of my Irish friends, that summer is 1995, when Ireland enjoyed an unusual run in warm, sunny days and summer afternoons were filled with swimming, ice cream, and tending to sunburns. For me — among memories of…

Solo in Tokyo

It’s Saturday morning. You pick up the newspaper and open the travel section. As a travel writer, this weekend ritual can be research, but once in a while, there’s also regret. Regret that you did not pitch the story that is now in front of you, often written beautifully. Regret that you did not take…

Behind Locked Doors

You don’t know you’re in a lock in, when you’re first in a lock in. The changes are subtle. You might look up between sips of your pint, perhaps when it’s nearing the end of the glass, to see the blinds drawn tight. The barman, usually standing upright and busying himself behind the bar, might…

Sharing the Strand with Seamus

My feet were always wet in Dublin. If the leather of my shoes was soaked through on the walk to work in the morning, they would remain wet all day. If I sat at the desk by the window, with a heater near the baseboard, they would be warm and wet. Otherwise, they would be…

Hands Like Shovels

I’m not always the most prolific Tweeter, but in honor of St. Patrick’s Day this year — when there is so much bad content being published about Ireland — I suddenly had a flurry of things to say in 140 characters. These were some of my favorites: The Irish don’t eat corned beef, and they…

A Glimpse of Greece

When we write, there are stories that don’t make it into the final draft. They may not support the argument of what we are working on, but we are unwilling to completely let them go. This glimpse of life about the island of Ithaka is an example of one such story that didn’t find a…

Color Saturated Cartagena

“Here, we dry ourselves with the power of the sun.” This was the response to my question about where to grab a towel, before stepping into a boat for a snorkeling tour off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia. Holding a snorkeling mask and flippers, I wondered how well I’d applied my sunscreen that morning and…

A Taste of Virginia

How does an oyster find its way to your plate? These briny bivalves have been a favorite of mine for years, but until recently, I didn’t ask too many questions about them. As I navigated my way through New York oyster bars, I began to wonder. How long does it take for an oyster to…

Spontaneous Travel

I remember the first time. I was 10 years old, tucked away in my room reading. As I turned the pages, I marveled at their ability to swallow me whole and spit me out somewhere far from home. I did not yet know the thrill of physically stepping foot in these faraway places, of the…

Long Live the Greeks

Managing to take my eyes off piles of produce in a bustling Greek market, I noticed something. Despite the deep fried pastries smothered in honey I had just eaten with a frothy little coffee, everyone around me was remarkably healthy. Stalls were run by husband-and-wife pairs in their 80s, moving quickly from one sale to…

An Italian Postman

I could walk for hours in the foothills of Campania and never encounter a soul. Each afternoon I left the rural Italian village I was calling home to head out on a daily walk. I spent mornings studying the language over a cappuccino, and when my brain could absorb no more, it was time to…

The Spritz

I was awake before school children singing songs came barreling down the lane. Closing the door quietly behind me, I entered a labyrinth of laneways without a map. I crossed bridges over still water, peered into cheese shops with the shutters still down. On this February morning, Venice was still very much asleep. The few…

My First New York

One book laying around my apartment is  My First New York: Early Adventures in the Big City. In essays as short as a single sentence or rolling on for several pages, artists, chefs, comedians, rockers, and writers who all call New York home describe what it was like to arrive in the Big Apple and…

At the Olive Mill

The back of the truck was full of burlap sacks of olives. It was time to go to the mill. After participating in the hand-picking of olives in Costa Navarino, it was now time to witness the next step of the process. As the workers moved their green netting to the next tree to start…

The Art of Olive Picking

‘The tree bears more fruit when it feels threatened’ I was told, while watching a burlap sack fill with 100 pounds of electric green olives. ‘That’s why we prune the trees so severely, to encourage more fruit.’ It was a sunny October day in the southwest Peloponnese and the first day of the local harvest….

Travel Sins

I blame Yeats. I was reading a collection of his poems at a sidewalk café table on a strangely warm afternoon in Dublin’s city centre, when his musings on young love distracted me from my surroundings. The waitress dropped the check pulling me out of my reverie, and as I reached under the table with…

Lessons from Angelina

I once lived in a little mountain village in Italy and my closest neighbor was Angelina, a woman in her 80s. On a particularly cold March evening when the wind began to howl, I heard a knock on the door. It was Angelina holding a heavy, warm blanket. She winked as she placed it in…

Not Vertical in Paris

Every article you read about Paris is magical. This is not one of those stories. While I have had my fair share of wonderful Paris moments (leisurely lunches at sunny sidewalk cafes, decadent molten chocolate cake at 2 in the afternoon, strolling over a bridge with that signature accordian music in the background) I was…

Grapes, Goulash, and a Glass of Wine

Would you get your hands dirty in the name of goulash and a good glass of wine? One October day in a village along the Rhine River in Germany, this question was presented to me. I looked up at the steep hillsides, full of ripened Riesling grapes just waiting to be picked. Wondering when I…

An Invitation from Wolfgang

The third time I went to Berlin I knocked on the door of a German filmmaker named Wolfgang. It already felt like winter in the beginning of November, and he was wearing a pair of fuzzy slippers and smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. Wolfgang rents out an apartment in the Mitte neighborhood, adjoining his own spacious…

Massimo and his Music

With the final steps into Vernazza I was truly famished. I vowed to never again attempt a 2.5 mile hike having only a cappuccino and pastry in my stomach. I was arriving into the second village of Cinque Terre (the five villages) along the Ligurian Coast in Italy. The day before I had traveled on…

The Stranger in the Window Seat

The flight from Malta to Catania, Sicily is only 30 minutes and it took 20 minutes before we started talking to Enrico. As the plane approached Catania, my trusty travel partner with his Italian skills asked politely, ‘Do you think we’ll able to see Mount Etna before we land?’ Enrico pulled off his fabulously trendy…