The Lore of Folk Music in Canada

“On most spare weekends for the past seven years, Mrs. Fowke has loaded a portable tape recorder and a bottle of whisky (an essential ice-breaker) into her battered Peugeot and driven through the farmlands of southern and central Ontario hunting for old singers and older songs. She’s found plenty. Since 1957 she’s taped about a […]

The New Colossus

I spent a lot of time in China in the early 2000’s, trying to make up for an overly euro-centric upbringing. I knew there was a world I’d overlooked, and hadn’t been taught about in school, a missing hemisphere. I’d read books like Ernst Gombrich’s History of Art which ignored the “East” side of the […]

The cultured pearl of Clayoquot Sound

Fans of fermentation know that, undisturbed and with the right food and environmental conditions, wild yeast will thrive and create magic. Through history one could say that humans have behaved in a similar fashion. Geomancers and lovers of ley lines can surmise why a particular time and place gives rise to cultural richness to rival […]

Taliban Cheese from Corsican Hill Country

When Conde Nast wanted to call Michael to congratulate him for making their global list of Travel Specialists (again), they found his telephone curiously out of range (again). And that’s because Michael’s a man who jumps at an opportunity, as his travels during this Covid year have shown us. While the rest of us responded […]

In the Name of Nebbiolo

Remember dinner parties? The ever-gracious host. The ebullient storyteller who commandeers the conversation. The witty chap in a blazer – a date on his arm and a quip on his lips. The elegant lady in a well-tailored dress which flatters but doesn’t reveal. Her kid sister with a contagious laugh and plummeting neckline. Sigh. It’s […]

La Tournée des Grands Ducs

La Tournée des Grands Ducs (literally, The Tour of the Grand Dukes) is a common saying in France to refer to painting the town red, Dionysian style, or rather … Russian. The term has it roots in the habits of two Grand Dukes of Russia – Vladimir and Alexei –  the mischievous sons of Emperor […]

Cider: Asturias’ Stream of Consciousness

I’m at heart a wine nerd, but you don’t need to twist my arm to sample other brews and libations, particularly if partaking will gain me deeper insights to a place or a people.  When I travel, my first quest is always to find out what the locals drink and, at times, how they’re supposed […]

The Man with the Donkey

Last November between lockdowns, I made it down to Turkey for a glorious trip accentuated by a moment of pure serendipity. Making my way down the Aegean coast, I was in touch with a friend back home, and let him know I was headed to the Troy/Gallipoli area, known as Çanakkale – a place I’d […]

Cosmic Venice

Swish, swoosh — the oar smoothly fends the water. Quite the statement, the Venetian way of rowing: proudly standing up, and facing forward, eyes into the future.  Swish swoosh, the roar rhythmically breaks the green surface of the lagoon. The pungent smell of salt and shallow marshes. An island here, another there, and more as […]

ISO Piccante

I laughed a little too hard recently when reading Anne Lamott’s words, “By the end I was deteriorating faster than I could lower my standards”. I cannot be the only human whose covid days, home-cooked meals and masked conversations have become excruciatingly banal.  We’re all yearning for discovery, spice and a rollicking time anywhere but […]

The Original Influencer

Twenty something, rebellious, and by all accounts, “randy”. A young English poet named George Gordon Byron (“Lord” to all but those who knew him well) swept through the small enclave of Sintra in 1809, penned a few lines of what would become Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, and sent letters home to friends declaring Sintra the most […]

The Syncopated Pulse of a Rumba

Castro and the revolution reached Havana on 9 January 1959.  Two years later to the month, while reducing the US embassy and stoking the early embers of the Bay of Pigs, he and Ernesto “Che” Guevara went golfing at the Havana Country Club Park, a sprawling chunk of the city, rolling hills, manicured greens.  It […]

Finding My Way North – the Camino de Santiago

I’ve found that the old dictum “hindsight is 20/20” has taken on new meaning this year. My realization has been that for much of my adult life, travel has defined my most significant moments. I don’t want to come off sounding like some Instagram travel influencer racing around the globe to collect passport stamps for the […]

Changes in Burgundy’s Wine Harvest Reflect a Bigger Picture

On the one hand, isn’t it lovely to see an image of such unchanging tradition? Cart horses being used to transport the grapes being picked by hand in Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune, with the picturesque village of Pommard in the background, under a beautiful August blue sky… Lovely. On the other hand, hang on a […]

How to paint in watercolor

Sidewalks and the paved parts of the urban landscape have a funny definition in some Asian cities.  On the Silk Road after midnight, the roads and sidewalks become the communal domicile, as beds are dragged out into the streets to enjoy the cool breeze of the desert nights. Hanoi and Bangkok are two cities so […]

Canoes, Kayaks and Snowshoes – It’s the Getting There

Next week I embark on my annual canoe trip with a group of close friends. We typically stick close to Algonquin Park, as our cottage is located there, making it an easy jumping-off point. Plus the joy of a post-trip ice cold beer in the sun on the dock is hard to pass up. Ontario has […]