Adventures in Ornithography; or, the National Aviary

Let me give you a little insight into the AsparAdventure Clan’s road trips. Dad drives, Mom rides shotgun, and every once in a while she says – sometimes shouts – “Bird!” To which my father replies either “Yes, there is,” or “I can’t stop the car right now.” My mom has a thing with birds. … More Adventures in Ornithography; or, the National Aviary

Grown-Up Boxcar Children: Detroit’s Cargo Houses

Imagine rebuilding a city in today’s day and age. What are the considerations you’d make? What values or mission would you try to stick to when designing your new city? Comfort? Luxury? Fashion? What about: Sustainability? Durability? Cost effectiveness? Detroit’s in a bit of a unique position right now, in that it’s going through a … More Grown-Up Boxcar Children: Detroit’s Cargo Houses

Bringing Peace and Love into the World: Detroit Abloom

Once upon a time, Detroit was a happening place. We were right up there with Chicago as far as the social scene goes – we had huge department stores, fashionable restaurants, nightclubs played by some of the best musicians around, grand theaters, and magnificent houses. When the auto industry depressed and people started moving to … More Bringing Peace and Love into the World: Detroit Abloom

He’s baaack: John Knox and St. Andrews Cathedral

He’s baaaaack. And he’s brought a vengeance. We left John Knox aboard the French galleys in 1547, doing slave labor. He’d been captured by the Catholic forces which had stormed St. Andrew’s Castle. After that, he spent several years imprisoned in France. Upon his release, he had a bit of a rough time rehabilitating. He … More He’s baaack: John Knox and St. Andrews Cathedral

Relaxing Quayside

Sometimes, after you’ve been traveling around, walking all day, touring castles, ducking into shops, and learning all sorts of things about a new place, it’s good to just sit back and relax. Sometimes you can do this by curling up in your hotel room with a good book, and just forget about what’s happening next. … More Relaxing Quayside

Butchers, Benches, and Boggarts: The York Shambles

History books often try to describe what a medieval street would have looked like, and tour guides try to paint pictures in your mind, often in vain. Sometimes, it’s just really hard to imagine what used to be there but isn’t anymore. Many cities in Europe still maintain their medieval layout, such as Edinburgh, Rome, … More Butchers, Benches, and Boggarts: The York Shambles

Crannogs, Clans, and Covenanters: Eilean Donan Castle

For the last few years, people from all over the world have been flocking to Inverness and the surrounding countryside to find the seat of the Mackenzie (and maybe the Mackenzie’s nephew). While Castle Leoch does have some basis in fact – it’s based on Castle Leod, a Mackenzie stronghold northwest of Inverness – it … More Crannogs, Clans, and Covenanters: Eilean Donan Castle

Motown on Show: The North American International Auto Show

When ESL teachers first land in a new place, their students immediately start asking all sorts of questions about where the new teachers are from. What is it like there? What do you eat there? What do you do for fun there? How many people are there? In my case, there’s one thing that people … More Motown on Show: The North American International Auto Show

Il Miracolo del Campo 60: The Italian Chapel of Orkney

Idle hands make the Devil’s handiwork. Your grandmother’s worn-out words of wisdom ring especially true in situations of enforced confinement. I have to believe that those words were playing on repeat in the minds of British officials in charge of POWs during World War II, and the POWs were quickly assigned a different type of … More Il Miracolo del Campo 60: The Italian Chapel of Orkney

The Light of the North: St. Magnus Cathedral

St. Magnus, Earl of Orkney, was a man of extraordinary distinction, tall, with a fine, intelligent look about him. He was a man of strict virtue, successful in war, wise, eloquent, generous and magnanimous, open-handed with money, sound with advice, and altogether the most popular of men. He was gentle and agreeable when talking to … More The Light of the North: St. Magnus Cathedral

Operation Sunshine and Sangria: Eating in Mallorca

Read, eat, travel. But not necessarily in that order. And sometimes all at once. Our trip to Mallorca was motivated largely by the need for sunshine and tasty things. In fact, the whole jaunt was dubbed ‘Operation Sunshine and Sangria,’ and earned itself its own hashtag on Instagram. But we didn’t only drink our way … More Operation Sunshine and Sangria: Eating in Mallorca

Leakey’s Bookshop

My mom likes to help me plan my weekend adventures. I’ll tell her I’ve decided to go someplace, and my Facebook chat is instantly filled with lists of things to do in that place. It was no different when I went to Inverness last fall. One of the suggestions my mom sent me was Leakey’s … More Leakey’s Bookshop

La Lonja: Merchants, Guardian Angels, and Ships

Walking along the promenade in Palma de Mallorca, you’ll notice that the buildings along the seaside are different from the other buildings in the city. They’re older, they’re more stylized, and they’re más grandiosos than the other buildings around the city. La Catedral is one of them. The other is La Lonja (lah lohn-ha; Spanish … More La Lonja: Merchants, Guardian Angels, and Ships

La Catedral de Mallorca: The Cathedral of Light, the Sea, and Space

Some buildings are impossible to miss. Even in cities where the skyline is dominated by skyscrapers, one or two will stick out, like the Empire State Building or the Willis Tower (still pronounced Sears Tower in Chicago, by the by). In Europe, though, you’ll notice that there are very few skyscrapers. Being places of long … More La Catedral de Mallorca: The Cathedral of Light, the Sea, and Space

City of Literature and Festivals: The Edinburgh International Book Festival

I’ve mentioned before that Edinburgh is a UNESCO World City of Literature. And that a great many of the greats of English literature have ties to Edinburgh. And that Edinburghers love reading. And that they have bookshops like Americans have Rite Aids. Well aware of its own literary character, Edinburgh also plays host to the … More City of Literature and Festivals: The Edinburgh International Book Festival

Book of Kells

Tucked away in a back corner of Trinity College Dublin’s campus is an old classroom building which has been retrofitted with all the modern bells and whistles. There’s climate control. There are heat sensors. There are relative humidity monitors. There are low-level soft lights. Alarms. State-of-the-art display cases. Proximity monitors. A gift shop. All of … More Book of Kells

To the Presses

One of the great things about traveling by yourself is that you get to do whatever you want to do without thinking about whether or not someone else will enjoy it. I was recently in Dublin for a few days, and, being by myself, I was able to have one solid day of lit-nerding around. … More To the Presses

Magnificent Beasts

If you ever take a tour out of Edinburgh, there will come a moment when you’re driving down the M9 when the tour guide will interrupt themselves mid-sentence and shout, “Get your cameras ready – look over here to the left!” Then, while you’re zooming by at 60 miles an hour, you’ll catch a glimpse … More Magnificent Beasts