As Halloween approaches, children — and more than a few adults — are deciding on their costume for this spooky holiday of ghosts, goblins, candy, and horror flicks. Skeletons have always been a staple costume, whether it’s a glow-in-the-dark bodysuit variety or a mask or makeup job largely hidden by an oversized hood on a Grim Reaper outfit. As for the other 364 days of the year, real ones have long been put on display for the devout to revere, and fake ones for Mexican communities to celebrate on the Day of the Dead. Skeletons and skulls have been depicted in art or gravestones for centuries as a symbol of our finite time on earth, fighting a guaranteed losing battle against the sand hourglass. They could be positively frightening (say, in the promotional poster for the movie Evil Dead 2) or rather amusing (as in a Scooby-Doo episode). However you react to them, they invariably promise the same denouement: The end is always near. Read more about the top five skeletons and skulls in the world >
When the summer heat becomes too oppressive and you’re tired of sitting in enclosed air-conditioned rooms, one of the best ways to cool off is to hop on a boat, whether it’s your own private tricked-out yacht or a workaday municipal water ferry. A refreshing breeze kicks in as the speed increases, cooling your overheated skin and providing a pleasant reprieve. The ride gets more interesting, of course, when you’re traveling and you find yourself on a luzzu in Malta, a paddleboat on the Alabama River, a pletna in Slovenia, or a high-speed catamaran in Saint Martin. Read more about the world’s top five boat rides >
This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, a key date in the Christian calendar when millions of Christians around the world commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem — a fateful day that launches Holy Week. Depicted in art for centuries, Palm Sunday is an unmistakable scene, whether it’s been rendered on a canvas or, as in most of the ones that really impressed me, stained glass. Read more about the top five Palm Sundays >
All around Amsterdam, I had been noticing a formidable number of restaurants touting their pancake menus. I didn’t realize what all the fuss was until I read up a bit on this traditional Dutch mainstay, and then I was intrigued when I learned just how creative pancakes can get in the Netherlands. They’re not your typical grilled batter with maybe some blueberries or chocolate chips thrown in. At The Pancake Bakery, a menu of 79 different types will make you completely reevaluate your notion of what a pancake can be. Read more >
Every spring, as we bid winter goodbye, the time comes to terminate our hibernation and return to the outdoor world. One visually invigorating, and very gentle, way to re-acclimate ourselves is to visit a botanic garden. These oases of flora, very often in the heart of concrete urban clusters, can stir your soul, as the annual rebirth begins and plants, birds, animals, and insects get busy once again. Read more about the top five botanic gardens in the world >
If you celebrate Easter, then you most likely start your day by preparing a big holiday meal, tearing into a chocolate bunny, watching your children search your home for hidden colored eggs, or putting on your Sunday best — including the obligatory bonnet — for the Easter Mass. The most important day in the Christian calendar brings with it the most powerful image as well: Jesus on a cross. Although it’s His resurrection that Christians celebrate today, it’s this Good Friday image that solidifies what His life and teachings were all about. Since that pivotal day at Golgotha, the Crucifixion has been represented countless times in countless cultures in countless media — paintings, sculptures, stained-glass windows, and more. Read about the world’s top five crucifixes >
I’ve booked vacations around available time off from my job, around seasonal weather in my destinations, around fluctuating airfares and hotel rates. But only once did I plan a vacation around a flower.
Spring in the Netherlands is all about the tulip. Given the fairly short lifespan of this iconic flower in the country that sparked the “Tulipomania” in the 1630s that nearly ruined it, I had little leeway in the weeks I wanted to spend here. So, with some careful planning, I arrived at the best time of year, when tulips of all varieties and colors greeted me wherever I went — in parks, markets, planters, and shop windows. But it wasn’t until I visited Europe’s largest garden, Keukenhof, and its seven million flowers that I truly appreciated my good timing. Read more >