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

Word on the Water

I love books, boats, and cats. It’s not a very well-kept secret of mine. Most people figure that out very quickly. A friend of mine in Poland was no different. After a bit of chit chat, he deduced my likes (I’d brought Flannery to Poland, effectively bestowing her with the moniker The Expat Cat, I … More Word on the Water

A Three Hour Tour

Back in the day, few places could rival Venice as a sea power in the Mediterranean. Dubrovnik did, though. In all the time that Venice tried to do away with its rival, Dubrovnik stood firm on the promontory out into the Adriatic Sea. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that they still has a bit … More A Three Hour Tour

The McLeod Story

A Lowlands laird invited all his friends to his grand hall, newly built, for a feast celebrating its completion. The lairds came from all around, from the Lowlands, the Highlands, and the Islands, for the party. At the dinner, the host grabbed one of his guests, a laird from the Isle of Skye, by the … More The McLeod Story

The Fairy Glen

Scotland is a land of well-educated people. Since times immemorial, Scottish people have been on the whole better educated than their English counterparts (sorry, Limeys). Some of the greatest Enlightenment thinkers – Adam Smith, David Hume, Francis Hutcheson – came from Scotland. Some of the greatest writers of all time – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, … More The Fairy Glen

Blood and Wine

I don’t write very much about nightlife. That’s because I don’t usually find nightlife that interesting. Give me a glass of wine and a good book any night. But, every once in a while, something comes along that’s too good to pass up. One of the great things about living in a city is that … More Blood and Wine

Burns Night

Whether or not you’re particularly literarily inclined (as I am), when you come to Scotland you’ll notice that there are references to one literato everywhere you look: Robert Burns. Good old Rabbie Burns was born on January 25th, 1759 in a small farming village on the west coast of Scotland, near Ayr. After his father died, … More Burns Night


If you walk down George VI Bridge south of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, you’ll come across a statue of a dog. Across the street behind the statue, there’s a pub that shares the dog’s name: Greyfriars Bobby. Behind the pub is the church from which both take their name: Greyfriars Kirk. Named for the … More Greyfriars


One of my favorite things to do at Christmastime is visit a Christmas market. It was something that I started doing in Chicago, and it became a tradition of sorts to visit Christkindlmarket on Daley Plaza on Black Friday (my family and I being allergic in the extreme to superstores on this particular day). I’m … More Julemarked

Quel Beau Lieu!

Everyone knows that the highlands are beautiful, but every once in a while someone says it. In the year 1230, a group of monks, called the Valliscaulians, built themselves a priory just outside Inverness. The location was ideal for them: It was close enough to the city to have some help in emergencies, far enough … More Quel Beau Lieu!

Uisge Beatha

Queen Victoria was a big fan of Scotland. During her reign, she decided that it would behoove her to see how the people of her nation lived. She also realized that her kingdom extended beyond England, and she traveled accordingly. In 1842, five years after taking the throne, she made her first trip to Scotland. … More Uisge Beatha