The Windows of Arles, France

A collage featuring 9 colorful windows in Arles, France. Some are shuttered; others have flowerpots, or laundry adorning them.

Arles, France circa 1888: If you were to peek through the window at 2 Place Lamartine about this time, it’s likely you would’ve seen Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh at work in his studio. Van Gogh lived in Arles for about one year, spending part of that time in a building that’s since been called the Yellow House.

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Shades of Blue: Capturing the Island of Malta in Azure & Indigo

With perpetually-blue skies and a location in the heart of the Mediterranean, Malta naturally seems defined by the color blue.

If you’re a fan of blue, as I am (it’s my favorite hue), you’ll be delighted to find that it’s often Malta’s color of choice for much more, including its classic doorways, wooden balconies, and traditional fishing boats.

We called this southern European country home for twelve months; it’s hard to believe that two years have passed since we left it!

During our year in Malta, there were certainly moments when we were “feeling blue” — whether because of challenging neighbors (who let their children run wild until the wee hours of the morning!), or pollution, or notoriously-bad traffic.

However, in hindsight, it’s the happy memories that we made in Malta that remain at the forefront of my mind, like when we went sailing, or watched locals harvest sparkling sea salt, or took part in festa celebrations, or met a world-famous diving dog named Titti.

In this piece, I’ve focused on Malta’s blue accents, including the island’s sky, sea, architecture, and other details. I hope you enjoy the series!

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A Sanctuary for the Lovable and Threatened Donkeys of Split, Croatia

In a pine-shaded park overlooking the sea in Split, Croatia, a fuzzy donkey emerges among a cluster of joggers, dog-walkers, and families.

The passersby stop and smile, delighted to encounter such a creature in Croatia’s second-largest city. Some people snap photos of the grey donkey with their phones. A father and his young son ask the animal’s handler if they can stroke the animal’s muzzle. Eventually, the donkey wanders off, searching for the ideal patch of greenery to nibble upon. She seems content when she finds a grazing place. It has commanding views of the sparkling Adriatic Sea and neighboring islands.

With a short attention span, the donkey trots off again, stopping next to an abandoned phone booth. Seemingly unrelated at first, the juxtaposition of the two is symbolic in that both animal and booth were once considered essential in daily life. Today, in most parts of the world, they’ve both been rendered obsolete by technology.

Not long ago, donkeys were commonplace in the Mediterranean — beasts of burden that sometimes carried weight greater than their own. They toted water and food and helped to mill grain. But today, because of new forms of transport, the animals’ numbers have shrunk dramatically. By some accounts they are approaching extinction in their native environments.

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Finding Tranquility in Thailand: Exploring Sukhothai Historical Park

The thermometer flirted with 40°C (104°F) as we wandered from one marvelous temple to another in Thailand’s Sukhothai Historical Park. The scent of frangipani blooms danced in the air, and powdery dirt coated my skin from my knees to my toes.

All was quiet. It was a refreshing change from the bustling markets and hectic streetscapes of the city.

I tried to imagine what these grounds would have looked like 700 years earlier, when the Sukothai Kingdom was at its apex and this was the capital of the Thai Empire. Back then, Sukhothai had around 80,000 residents.

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Blown Away by Orange, France: An Afternoon Admiring the Roman Theater and Triumphal Arch

I’d read about Provence’s unforgiving mistral wind, and now I was battling it in the Ancient Roman theater in Orange, France.

The sky was a clear, brilliant blue on this autumn day, but frigid gusts grew stronger the higher I climbed. Struggling to maintain my footing, I tried to channel lessons learned from years of doing balancing poses on a yoga mat. I could taste a grit in my mouth, the dust of limestone ground down over the millennia.

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Sculpting Tomorrow’s Artisans: The Stonemason School in Pučišća, Croatia

Venturing into Pučišća’s Stonemason School feels like entering another era. The soundtrack is the hammering, sanding, and chiseling of stone. A snow-white dust dances in the air, hugging every surface, and carpeting the ground. Classic urns, intricate fountains, and a regal lion fill the school’s sun-drenched workshop. Indeed, the only details that may transport you back to the present are the sweatpants, t-shirts, and earbuds worn by the aspiring stonemasons.

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A Descent into Malta’s Mystical Hypogeum

Forgotten for millennia, Malta’s subterranean Hypogeum offers a fascinating look into the island’s mysterious Temple Builders.

Believed to be one of the oldest prehistoric underground temples in the world, the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is a mysterious and impressive engineering marvel crafted by Malta’s ‘Temple Builders’. Little is known about the sophisticated Temple Builders and why they eventually vanished from the island, leaving only their temples behind. Incredibly, some of their structures predate Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid at Giza.

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A Guide to Exploring Valletta: Malta’s Tiny, But Mighty, Capital City

Malta’s capital, Valletta, is a grande dame undergoing rapid change. With more than 300 monuments crammed into the city’s small peninsular borders, Valletta has one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world. This means that there are lots of things to do in Valletta, whether you’re an architecture aficionado, military-history buff or passionate wanderer eager to see a city reawakening from a long slumber.

Shawn and I were delighted to have called Valletta home this past year, living on one of the city’s most infamous streets – a narrow lane which was once a red-light district that lured sailors. When we first learned we’d be moving to Malta for Shawn’s studies, we thought we might develop island fever living on a tiny island nation for twelve months. Surprisingly though, there was so much to experience in and out of Valletta that our weekend calendar was always replete with activities.

A decade before moving to Valletta, I also played tourist in the capital city, making it my home base during a long-weekend visit. Back in 2006, Valletta was eerily quiet. Half of the city’s buildings were boarded up and abandoned. Accommodation in Valletta was so scarce that I literally had to sleep in a spacious maid’s closet for one night, until a proper room became available. Coincidentally, ten years later, my future in-laws would choose to stay at a boutique hotel located just across the street from the same guesthouse in which I stayed as a solo female traveler in 2006. It’s funny how life comes full circle like that!

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