Agatha Christie: The Mystery Maven Who Traveled the World

Chances are, wherever you travel, you’ll find an Agatha Christie paperback. With eighty detective novels and story collections to her credit, Christie’s work has been translated into 130 languages and ranks third in sales behind the Bible and Shakespeare. She loved nothing more than going away and was utterly fearless about trying new destinations. Of her “foreign travel books,” she later would write, “if detective novels are escape literature, the reader can escape to sunny skies and blue water as well as to crime in the confines of an armchair.”

Troll-spotting, Art Nouveau and an Egg Reveal the Charms of Norway’s Sunnmøre Region

Walking through Ålesund in the Sunnmøre region of Norway is necessarily a slow stroll; there’s just too much to take in. Most of the 66,000 inhabitants of this main city in Southern Norway depend on the sea for their livelihood, and there’s even a fishing museum celebrating its heritage. But this does not look like a fishing village. Towers, turrets and imaginative ornamentation decorate graceful buildings in shades of pink, yellow, blue.  Small details – faces, flowers, animals – give each a unique design. It feels as if I have wandered onto the set of a fairy tale. And as with any good fairy tale, this happy ending began with a disaster.

Yorkshire – Inspiration for Dracula, the Brontës and All Creatures Great and Small

Yorkshire is the United Kingdom’s largest county–about 3.6 million acres—and boasts a turbulent history that rivals entire European nations. In the late Middle Ages, the city of York was second only to London in status and wealth. Today, Yorkshire’s rolling hills are dotted with great houses and the ruins of once-magnificent abbeys. The Transylvanian Count Dracula emerged from his coffin-ship on Yorkshire’s North Sea shore. No matter the political, economic, or religious tumult that rolled northward, Yorkshire retained its stunning natural beauty. Yorkshire’s dales and moors are inspiration for several of the English-speaking world’s greatest novels. Some far-flung parts of Yorkshire have earned the moniker “God’s Own Country” for their curiously enticing bleakness. Yorkshire began life as the seat of Roman operations in Britannia (71-400AD) and, for much of the 9th century, was home to Danish Vikings. That era collapsed with the arrival of the Normans, followed by the disastrous “Harrying of the North” by William the Conqueror’s troops. (The Danes lost, badly.) Norse heritage lives on in place names like Whitby, Sheffield, Scarborough, and, according to some recent scholarship, in the very physiognomy of Yorkshire’s people.

Europe’s Christmas Markets Delight Holiday Travelers from all Regions and Religions

Europe’s Christmas markets are magical places. Bundled up in warm jackets with woolen scarves and mittens, people of all ages enjoy the sparkling lights, scents of evergreen, tastes of mulled wine and holiday cookies. Some markets add Ferris Wheels and merry-go-rounds; others offer the chance to feed real reindeer. The Christkindlmarkt just outside the Cologne cathedral is distinctive for its full schedule of Christmas entertainment, from holiday choirs to Punch and Judy puppet shows.

York’s Magical History Tour, From Hot Baths to Hot Chocolate

When the London train pulls into York’s Victorian Station, doors open onto an earlier time. Under the grand sweep of the station roof, travelers scurry about as if they were seeking Gate 9¾ and the train to Hogwarts. Outside, narrow streets twist through ancient neighborhoods beneath the looming towers of York Minster. In this city, where the line between fact and fiction often blurs, ghosts abound.

Cycling Ireland’s Backroads Past Churches, Castles, Sheep Farms and Pubs

Cycling the lightly traveled backroads of West Ireland affords time to intimately experience the country, its people and their history. Until recently, only experienced cyclists even attempted such a ride. Motorists would fly past as brightly colored cyclists peddled laboriously up hills, their bikes burdened with panniers filled with clothes and heavy equipment. Cycling seemed more exhausting than enjoyable. But with the advent of ebikes and specialized cycling tours, beautiful and fascinating areas now are accessible to nearly anyone. And one of the most bike-friendly places to take such a tour is along the west coast of Ireland.

What makes this type of tour so satisfying is the pace (avg. speed 11 mph) and proximity of being so close to the land and the people you meet along the way. You can stop whenever you like to appreciate an historic marker, a beautiful garden or scenic overlook when traveling on a bicycle. There’s something about the physical exertion necessary to get from place to place that connects a rider with the land more deeply than if he arrives by bus, train or car.

Vienna Offers More than Mozart, Museums and Hapsburg Palaces

Dining at quirky cafes near the city’s oldest farmer’s market, dancing in a music festival on an island stretching along the Danube river – it’s hard to imagine Vienna as just a monument to Imperial glory. It was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire before becoming the center of the Hapsburg Dynasty and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which included 15 different nationalities. Then came two world wars and a dreary period of postwar recovery. Vienna seemed overshadowed; stuck in the past, getting by on opera and apple strudel. But today Vienna is a city humming with creative energy. The grand 19th-century buildings that define the city co-exist with cafés, galleries and boutiques in revitalized neighborhoods.