Ville-Veikko Valtonen

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Ten hidden gems of Europe

There’s no place like Paris, Barcelona or Rome - but Europe has untouched corners that match the big hitters on beauty and charm, and with far fewer tourists. Take the road less travelled with these ten hidden gems of Europe.<p>1. Burg Satzvey, Germany<p>Whisper it: this fairytale castle is a short ride …

Exclamation-Point-Worthy? Buenos Aires!

I had been hearing about “the steak” for three years. My boyfriend, Andy, took a trip to Buenos Aires and has been raving about the Argentine beef he had at La Cabrera Norte ever since. So when I finally made it to the South American hot spot a few weeks back, I had to try this by now almost …

In Search of Pura Vida: The Magic of Costa Rica

<i>A simple breakfast and stunning view at Nayara Hotel.</i><p><i>Pura</i> <i>vida</i> is a simple phrase that means "pure life." It is a greeting heard as frequently as "hello" -- on every street corner, restaurant and even home in Costa Rica. At the beginning of my travels to La Fortuna de San Carlos in the La Ajuela …

Life on the Water: Honduras' Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge

A thick leathery body floated over the glassy green water surface as we glided by the edge of the swamp in our motorized wooden boat. Our local guide …

The Best Hangover Foods From Around The World

Throughout most of the US, hangover foods owe a lot to the country's Anglo roots — salty, greasy, fatty foods like bacon, eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, or anything fried — the notable exception being the parts of the country where Hispanic culture abounds (think <i>menudo</i>, Mexican beef stomach soup).<p>…

Toucans, Flycatchers and Woodpeckers - A Birder's Paradise in Honduras

On our last day at Pico Bonito, we awoke before dawn, determined to carry out our mission: to search for the famous toucan.<p>The Pico Bonito National …

Istanbul Has Its Act Together

While I was in Cairo, I kept thinking the Egyptians should check out Istanbul. Both are megacities with over 10 million people. Both come from a poor and chaotic recent history. While Cairo struggles, Istanbul is zooming ahead. Just driving into town from the airport, I noticed landscaping along …

Istanbul's Grand Bazaar Hums Along

I enjoyed updating our Istanbul guidebook's Grand Bazaar chapter. While the main streets of the vast market are jam-packed with cruise groups and other tourists, explore into the back lanes and you find yourself far from the tourist scene. I was able to peek into amazing and surprising worlds. At …

Two Wonderful Madrid Restaurants

I'm an old-fashioned food and wine snob who has eaten all over Spain for 40 years. Today I'm going to highlight two Madrid restaurants I find myself going to these days at least once a week. (There is a third one on my beat as well, the Taberna Arzábal (Calle de Menéndez Pelayo, 13) but much has …