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Essays, Guides, Food


Catalan Summer Solstice Festival Is Fire

Each year throughout Spain, particularly in Catalonia’s Girona Pyrenees, as the sun reaches its zenith, summer begins with a celebratory bang: the Fire Festival of Sant Joan’s Eve, claiming to eliminate evil spirits, cure disease, and cleanse souls. Rhythmic drums beat. Horns blared down the street. From our apartment’s shallow Juliet balcony in old Girona,…

The Eiffel Tower: French Icon, Once Disputed, Now Cherished

Daybreak cast a hazy pastel backdrop beyond the trellised silhouette. Once viewed by Parisians as a blemish upon the skyline, this wrought-iron structure now proudly stands as France’s most celebrated icon. Our body clocks, not yet adjusted from Pacific Standard Time, woke us in the early morning darkness on the first day of our first…

3 Southern US States, 3 Universities, 3 Styles

Join our adventure in the story links below. Discover how three college towns gave us three completely different experiences. Each campus showed us an array of southern charm and character, each with distinct qualities. The pastel-colored University of South Carolina was warm and welcoming with a personalized approach. The classically inspired University of Georgia was…

A Whirlwind (literally) of Grandeur in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama

Our first visit to the state of Alabama started out with a bang—of lightning, that is. The whipping wind in Birmingham warned us of the brewing storm. Then, upon our arrival, Tuscaloosa greeted us with a tornado warning. That morning was relatively warm. We had just driven from the University of Georgia in Athens to…

Finding a Haven at the University of Georgia

Jubilant students on TV rushed to ring a chapel bell as Georgia beat Alabama in the college football national championship game. A few weeks later, we find ourselves standing at that same bell hanging from within a white trussed tower. A student marches eagerly up to ring the bell with vigor, a tradition first recorded…

Guided by Warm Charm at the University of South Carolina

Just a couple blocks from the South Carolina State House, we enter through one of two openings in the brick “Horseshoe Wall” that once protected the campus from burning during the Civil War. The cozy atmosphere invites us in. A brick path leads us into a tree-lined park setting where two centuries of pastel-colored history…

The Space Needle’s New Vibe

Mostly improved, but missing one thing—the restaurant The centerpiece of the 1962 World’s Fair, the futuristic Space Needle got a $100 million renovation—mostly for the better—using 176 tons of glass to achieve a lighter and brighter feel. Although, now something’s missing—actually, replaced. This time around we opted to enjoy the Space Needle from on the…

A Gothic Treasure: The Valencia Silk Exchange, La Lonja de la Seda

Light streams between a forest of spiral stone columns. Each support twists upward, branching into a delicate web of ribbed groin vaults overhead. This airy—seemingly weightless—volume exalts Valencia’s commercial hub, unique to its time. The History of This Temple of Trade When Pere Compte (renowned master builder from Girona) began construction of this trade center…

Streamlining Our Life: Less Things Means More Experiences

A Personal Journey—How downsizing upgraded our lives and revealed what’s really important to us, in this moment. It may seem counterintuitive, particularly for an architectural designer amid a pandemic, to sell our house and move into an apartment. But that’s exactly what we did. We let go of the “American dream.” As homeowners for the…

Travel Guide to London: Kensington and Chelsea

As I poked between the iron gate, I heard a voice warn, “No photos.” I looked up from the estate to see a gentleman emerge from the buildings to kindly deliver his message. I was just there for the architecture. Beautiful details called to me, begging for my admiration. And although I was no threat,…

Gluten-free Banana Oat Muffins

These gluten-free banana oat muffins are made with whole oats and can be made vegan. Try both the smooth blended version and the heartier whole oat version.

Coconut Thai Curry Tofu and Squash

This spicy Thai-inspired dish combines coconut milk and Thai red curry paste to create a creamy sauce for tofu and butternut squash, perfect to serve over rice.

Coffee in Italy: How Tradition Upholds Artistry and High Standards

The dapper barista steamed the milk with precision, poured the creamy froth over the shot of robust espresso in a rhythmic swaying motion, then slid the cappuccino onto the bar with a slight nod. As I sipped the luscious intensity, I tasted Italy. The day officially began. The taste lingered with both me and Aaron…

How Pizza in Rome Will Entice You to Savor Perfection

He wore a collared SS Lazio shirt, tucked beneath his round belly with a sweatband and three pairs of glasses on his head. This wacky waiter served more than just pizza—he indoctrinated foreigners on proper Italian dining decorum. Our desire to experience the Romans’ Rome began our first night, two blocks from the Tiber River…

4 Pasta Dishes You Have to Try in Rome

One October day in Ancient Rome, a shepherd wandered with his flock into the hills of the Apennine Mountains carrying three ingredients: pasta, cheese, and pepper. He mixed them over a fire to create a basic dish of velvety sustenance. Two thousand years later, the proud waiter at Felice a Testaccio in the 20th rione…

Travel Guide: Vatican City

The world’s smallest country is also home to the Pope. However, not only Catholics make their pilgrimage to the Vatican, but people from around the world come in droves. Vatican City is a city-state politically separate from, but geographically surrounded by the city of Rome. The Vatican’s 3 main attractions Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and…

Travel Tale: From Overload to Awe in Vatican City

Corralled beneath ornate ceilings in halls of maps and tapestries, the crowded gallery corridors felt like an elegant livestock chute extending the length of a dozen football fields. From there, we were shoved into a smaller-than-expected chapel packed with tourists. This should have been a moment that forced my mouth agape as I wrapped my…

Travel Guide: How Florence Inspires a Higher Standard and ‘Slow Tourism’

Stunning architecture and sculpted masterpieces, natural regional food and wine—Florence is sure to delight your perspective alongside your tastebuds. No wonder it’s such a popular destination. You really can’t help but fall in love with Florence. Italian Pride and Passion: Learn about Italian quality.Florentine Beauty Abounds: Discover the hot spots.A New Look Beyond Crowds: Consider…

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