The Windows of Arles, France

The southern French city of Arles has ties to the Ancient Romans and Van Gogh. It’s also home to some enchanting windows.

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

The Mediterranean island of Malta is awash in color. But its blue details might be the most captivating of them all.

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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The Windows of Heidelberg, Germany

Paying homage to Heidelberg, Germany, my home for a decade.

A collage showcases 9 decorative windows in the Altstadt (or Old Town) of Heidelberg, Germany

The German city of Heidelberg is perhaps best known for its romantic castle ruins, its highly esteemed university, and its Old Town, which is studded with mostly baroque architecture.

Having lived in Heidelberg for 10 years, the city means additional things to me though.

It’s where I held some of my first real world jobs, where I came to know myself, and where my husband and I were married. The city also served as the backdrop for introductions to new friends, as well as meet-ups with loved ones from back home who made the journey overseas to see me. It was my launching pad for exploring new lands, my window on the world for an entire decade.

I left Heidelberg in 2011, and for six years, I didn’t return “home.” However earlier this month, Shawn and I made a return visit to this special city on the Neckar River.

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Finding Tranquility in Thailand: Exploring Sukhothai Historical Park

One of Thailand’s most popular ancient sites, Sukhothai boasts atmospheric temple ruins and UNESCO World Heritage status.

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

The Provençal city of Orange, France plays host to formidable Ancient Roman architecture — and the mighty mistral.

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

What to see and do in the captivating Mediterranean city of Valletta, Malta.

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 called Valletta home for one year. We lived on Strada Stretta, which was once one of the city’s most infamous streets.  It’s a narrow lane that used to form part of Valletta’s red-light district—a magnet for sailors.

When we first learned we’d be moving to Malta for Shawn’s studies, we thought we might develop island fever by spending so much time in a tiny island nation. Surprisingly though, there was so much to experience in and out of Valletta that our weekend calendar was consistently filled with activities. We left at the end of 2016.

A decade before actually moving to Valletta, I also played tourist in the capital city, making it my home base for 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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Exploring Malta’s Roman Roots at the Domus Romana Museum

From magnificent mosaics to marble statues, the Domus Romana Museum offers a wonderful peek at the island’s ancient Roman heritage.

Malta was ruled, occupied and colonized by a great number of different peoples throughout the last few thousand years. Not surprisingly, since the island is in the heart of the Mediterranean, the Romans were among them.

Situated just outside the popular and atmospheric walled city of Mdina is the small Domus Romana Museum. It was once a townhouse for a Roman aristocrat living in the ancient Roman town of Melite, in what is now Mdina and Rabat. (In Latin, domus means ‘home’ or ‘residence’.) It’s believed that it was built in the 1st century CE.

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Putting Malta in the Limelight: Valletta’s Manoel Theatre

Opened in Valletta in 1732, the Manoel Theatre has hosted knights, generals, and heads of state.

From the outside, Malta’s Manoel Theatre is handsome, but unassuming. Step through its main entrance and into the theater though, and the 285-year-old Valletta structure is dazzling – bringing to mind a gilded jewelry box or a terraced wedding cake.

Stopping by this Maltese landmark on an overcast morning uncharacteristic for sunny Malta, Shawn and I were greeted by Josette Portelli, a veteran employee who has been with the Manoel Theatre for more than 40 years.

Upon entering, Josette’s colleagues fumbled with the complicated switchboard at the back of the seating area, trying to illuminate the theater. Soon, the space went from pitch black and mysterious, to opulent and inviting. A delicate chandelier high overhead was the stunning focal point among a sea of smaller crystal sconces, bathing the 65 or so theater boxes with mood lighting.

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