Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
Typical street scene in Cavaillon, France, gateway to the Luberon region

Click on title to view photo in large format. This sleepy street scene in Cavaillon, France might make you think nothing much happens in this village. In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Situated in the heart of Provence, Cavaillon hosts two popular weekly markets. Additionally, with its location at the foot of the Luberon Mountains, it is the gateway for people who come from around the world to hike its trails and climb its rock faces. If that’s not enough, Read More

Oppede-le-Vieux, a lesser known but very beautiful hilltop village in Provence, France

Click on title to view photo in large format. Oppede-le-Vieux is one the lesser known but very beautiful hilltop towns scattered across Provence, France. These towns emerged during medieval times, when it was common for bands of raiders to sweep through the plains, pillaging and killing everything in their wake. The locals fled to high ground, building encircling walls that provided protection against the hordes. Read More

Lavender Fields in Provence France

Click on title to view photo in large format. The Lavender fields in Provence, France reach their peak between mid-July and the beginning of August each year. For more than a month, the air of Provence is saturated with the sweet musky scent of lavender as the blooms are harvested. They are sent to local distilleries, where their fragrance is used in soap, lotions, shampoos, and essential oils. Some of the stalks are trimmed, banded and hung upside-down to dry. When cured, they are sold as bouquets or sachets. Read More

Neoclassic City Hall in Toulouse, France

Click on title to view photo in large format. When I first visited France some years ago, I noticed that every town had a building named Hôtel de Ville. Without any French language skills, I just assumed they were hotels. I remember thinking that it must be a huge chain, as I saw their properties were in almost every town. When I finally figured out that the term Hôtel de Ville was French for City Hall, I felt a little sheepish. Read More

On the surface, Hiroshima, Japan, was like any other large metropolitan city. Traffic streamed down the broad boulevards. Trams trundled noisily past on tracks set in the middle of the street. People hurried along sidewalks under a searing sun. Yet from the moment I set foot in Hiroshima, I felt wrapped in a cloak of peace.

War leaves its marks on cultures as firmly as it does on individuals. The devastation suffered from the A-bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima at the end of WWII might easily have left the Japanese a bitter, resentful, war-mongering people. Instead, they have become the nation most passionately devoted to nuclear disarmament and world peace.

This quest for peace pervades everyday life in Japan. On the Limousine Bus from the Airport, an announcement instructed that mobile phones be set to quiet mode. The hour-long ride was eerily silent, without a single phone ringing or word being uttered. Passengers on trolleys are prohibited from talking on their cell phones or playing music. In other destinations around the world, I endlessly wait for crowds to clear so I can take a decent photo. But at the eternal flame and Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, Japanese tourists queued automatically, patiently waiting for their turn to pay respects or snap a photo.

The Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima is a must see when visiting Japan

The Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima is a must see when visiting Japan

The Atomic Bomb Dome sits just a few hundred meters from the hypo-center of the devastating nuclear blast. The bomb was detonated 600 meters above the ground to cause the maximum possible destruction. A conference was underway in the building that day; everyone in attendance was instantly incinerated. Thousands of children who were in the city center, helping to tear down old wooden buildings to create fire breaks, were also killed. Almost everything within a three-mile radius was flattened. Remarkably, the Atomic Bomb Dome survived. Read More

Entrance to the spectacular Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto, Japan

Click on title to view photo in large format. I’d been walking half a day in scorching heat when I arrived at the gorgeous entrance to Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto, Japan. I looked up the steep steps and questioned whether I really wanted to tackle yet another temple complex. Perhaps the entrance was all I needed to see. In the end, I wiped the sweat off my brow and plodded up the stairs. A bit further on, past several smaller, pretty temples, I rounded a corner and found a ticket office. Again, I considered whether I should just call it a day, but something made me pull out my wallet.

Beyond the ticket window I stepped out onto the broad Kiyomizu Stage, which hangs over the front of the Main Hall of Kiyomizu-dera Temple, and got my first shock. Read More