Europe

Looking for the perfect box of chocolates? Sweets expert Kerrin Rousset of Sweet Zurich gives her tips on what to look for when buying chocolate.
Whimsical box of decorated chocolates, Switzerland

It’s the time of the year where I start ordering gift baskets or a box of chocolates for certain far-flung relatives. Before my trip to Switzerland earlier this fall, I would have flipped through a Harry & David catalog, ordering whatever bonbons looked the tastiest. Now, though, my chocolate knowledge has been raised, thanks to […]

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Noticed on the road: More luxury hotels seem to be including free mini bars to their high end guests.
hotel mini bar

One of the biggest arguments that I have with my husband when we’re on the road together concerns the hotel  mini bar. I avoid them like the plague, preferring to save money by buying snacks and money at a nearby grocery store. Whereas he can’t seem to stay out of them, rationalizing that ease of […]

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Switzerland is so pretty, it looks fake. That’s why I’m selecting a shot of Lucerne for this week’s Photo Friday.
Skyline at Lucerne, Switzerland

This week’s Photo Friday (#FriFotos) theme is “skylines.” Instead of a world capital or big city, I wanted to present the quaint beauty of Lucerne. Switzerland, which I visited for 10 days in September. Switzerland knocks you over the head with its cuteness, to the point where it’s almost ridiculous. “Really? Cows AND blue skies […]

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Dreaming of St. Petersburg? Tips for navigating the lengthy Russian tourist visa application.
Church on the Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg

This article previously ran on Frommers.com. It’s inspired by the application process that I went through for my September trip to St. Petersburg. Because we were traveling independently – yet still as a group – we had to get Russian visas. Several in our group found the process took so long that they weren’t able […]

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Where does Santa live? The Finns (and many other Europeans) say Lapland, which has profited greatly from the exposure.
A visit with Santa, Lapland, Finland

  The business of Santa is alive and well in Lapland, which seems to have cornered the market on all things St. Nick, at least for Europeans. On my recent trip to Finland, I found that Rovaniemi’s campaign, more than 50 years in the making, to serve as Santa’s hometown has paid off handsomely for […]

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Fascinating Finland: My new Finnish glasses

by Chris on November 21, 2011

How a stern Finnish counter clerk named Anna found me glasses that I finally love.

My hatred of glasses goes back more than 30 years, when an optometrist  put a pair on me and said, “Does that seem better?” He had no idea. Until that day, I had always seen the world in shady outlines, a beautiful blur that fueled my imagination (even if it did cause me to trip […]

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Photo Friday: Cal Pep’s Creme Brulee

by Chris on November 4, 2011

This week’s Photo Friday: A dessert from Cal Pep, which serves the best tapas in Barcelona
best tapas in Barcelona

This week’s #FriFotos theme is Trick or Treat – so we thought we’d go the sweet route and post a photo of a mouth-watering dessert from Cal Pep, which serves some of the best tapas in Barcelona (I mentioned them before in my post on where to eat in Barcelona). Cal Pep looks somewhat diveish […]

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Fascinating Finland: Finnish food

by Chris on November 1, 2011

Finnish food: If you don’t eat fish or reindeer, you may be out of luck. But for those who do, the simple ingredients and clever preparations will win you over.
Finnish cuisine, salmon

I grew up in Minnesota, so I knew a bit about the good – and bad – aspects of Scandinavian cuisine (lutefisk, never again!). But I was surprised to discover that the simple flavors and natural ingredients of Finnish food suited me, and we ate well on our visit, particularly in Helsinki and Lapland. I […]

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Finnish design: It’s a way of life in Helsinki, where the architecture and shops reflect the country’s innate quirkiness.
Finnish design, Helsinki

What surprised me the most about my visit to Finland is that Finnish design is not just something that you see in the shops of Helsinki. It’s a way of life, and one that reflects their history and innate quirkiness. When babies are born, the Finnish government gives the family a box full of goodies, […]

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Fascinating Finland: The Cult of the Sauna

by Chris on October 24, 2011

No one loves a sauna like the Finns. A look at Finnish sauna culture.
Finnish sauna

In September, I made my first trip to Scandinavia when I took the train throughout Finland, hitting Helsinki, Lapland and a few other towns. In a way, though, it seemed quite familiar; the result of growing up in Minnesota. All throughout my trip, people kept mistaking me for a native Finn, even though I never […]

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