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Stories by Derek Ray

Discover San Diego's native heritage

The Pala and Kumeyaay: a pre-Spanish history.

Few people know that San Diego County has more American Indian reservations than any other county in the nation. Native American tribes have lived in the area for over 12,000 years. Today, a majority of ...

A taste of Southern Italy: Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast

Sorrento is well positioned as the gateway to several locations of interest in southern Italy, including Pompeii, Capri, and the spectacular, meandering Amalfi Coast. But the town of 17,000 is also worth exploring in its ...

Go green in Encinitas

Day tripping to a couple North County public gardens.

When most people think of Encinitas, the beach is probably the first thing to come to mind. Moonlight and Swami’s are two of the best in the county. But the seaside community is also home ...

Essential Budapest

A guide to the Eastern European city's classic treasures.

Few people are aware that Budapest is actually two cities, Buda and Pest, situated along the banks of the Danube River. Most visitors stay in Pest – it's got more to offer in terms of ...

Mystical Glendalough, Ireland

An hour from Dublin, find ancient ruins, hiking trails and postcard beauty.

As I walked near the mist-shrouded lakes beyond the ruins of the Glendalough monastery, it was easy to imagine there were magical creatures just beyond my field of vision. A misty morning stroll past the ...

Small-town Italy: a Tuscan welcome, Greve in Chianti

8th in a series. Derek Ray finds good wine and the simple life in Tuscany.

While visiting Florence, I took the opportunity to spend a few nights in a little town about 30 kilometers to the south called Greve in Chianti. The Chianti region, well known for its Chianti Classico ...

Small-town Italy: Orvieto and Civita

7th article in a series on the country's lesser-visited charms.

For hundreds of years, Orvieto was a major stopping point along the road from Florence to Rome. It was so highly regarded through the centuries that it is only one of two cities outside of ...

Small-town Italy: Vernazza

Explore this highlight of northern Italy's Cinque Terre.

Life seems mellow and tranquil in the tiny, idyllic seaside town of Vernazza in Italy’s Cinque Terre. But the community suffered a traumatic experience in October 2011 when torrential rains led to a flash flood ...

Small-town Italy: Montelupone

Hilltop jewel in the Marche region.

The Marche region of Italy is rarely included among travel itineraries to Italy. It’s also scarcely mentioned in most guidebooks – yet this may simply enhance its appeal among travelers who yearn to forge a ...

Small-town Italy: Varenna

Serenity on Lake Como.

Varenna is a stunning, yet underrated, jewel on Lake Como just north of the more well-known and widely visited Bellagio. If you’re looking for a tranquil atmosphere to accompany magnificent views of the lake, Varenna ...

Small-town Italy: Urbino

Urbino, a former center of culture during the Renaissance, has largely been forgotten by tourists due to its location in the Marche region of Italy. But, despite having far fewer visitors than its more glamorous ...

Small-town Italy: Civitanova Marche

Chill out on the Adriatic coast.

If you’ve visited the major sites in Italy and yearn for something unique and different, consider Civitanova Marche, a pleasant seaside village with a distinctive local flavor. The little fishing town and seaside resort in ...

Small-town Italy: Conegliano

Rome, Venice and Florence are all amazing experiences, but it’s also nice to just relax in a small Italian village with the locals and experience Italian culture in a different way. Few Americans have heard ...

Frontier soul: Anchorage, AK

It was my second day in Anchorage and I was lost. Winding along side streets in a residential neighborhood, trying to find my way back to the main highway, I noticed a vehicle with a ...

Riding the Reunification rail

Discover authentic Vietnam on the Saigon–Hanoi train.

I’ve always loved riding trains: Pacific Surfliner, Starlight Express, Eurail, etc. The sound of the train whistle never fails to spark my wanderlust, and I find the combination of comfort and adventure when riding the ...

Serenity in the Channel Islands

Visiting Channel Islands National Park is like entering a time machine and being transported back a few hundred years to a wild and natural, pre-automobile, pre-industrial California. Located off the coast of Ventura, the Channel ...

Mesmerizing Mycenae

Window into the ancient world.

About 1.5 hours outside Athens, Mycenae is one of the essential stops for any visitor to Greece with an interest in ancient history. Arriving here, you're awed not just by the site and the ruins, ...

Moab, Utah – and the Man Who Quit Money

This outdoors epicenter makes an ideal base for Arches & Canyonlands explorations.

I didn’t see the gorgeous rocks that surround Moab, Utah, when I drove into town on a chilly November evening. My mind was swirling with images of the enormous chasms I had viewed at Canyonlands ...

Delve into Delhi

A visit to India as an independent solo traveler is a unique challenge mentally, physically and logistically. I arrived in Delhi in the middle of the night, worked my way through the bustling crowd, and ...

A Guide to Zion

Experience Utah's arguably most scenic national park (7 hours from S.D.).

Just don’t get sidetracked in Vegas. That’s the key to arriving in Zion National Park from San Diego within a day with enough daylight left to explore the canyons. The park, located in the southwest ...

Homer, Alaska

Escape from it all in the "halibut fishing capital of the world."

In 1896, Homer Pennock arrived in a sleepy seaside hamlet in southern Alaska hoping to strike a fortune. He managed the Alaska Gold Mining Company, but his mining ventures ultimately failed. Pennock left the area ...

L.A. Day Trip: Watts Towers and Eames House

I braved Carmageddon II on a September Saturday and visited L.A. to explore the individual creations of two iconoclastic L.A. visionaries. Located in vastly different sections of L.A., the Watts Towers and Eames House represent ...

Alaska's Spectacular Drive along the Turnagain Arm

It takes little time after heading south from Anchorage to be exposed to some of the most stunning scenery Alaska has to offer. The Seward Highway, connecting Anchorage with the Kenai Peninsula, has been justly ...

Seward, Alaska: Gateway to Kenai Fjords

See fjords, glaciers and an abundance of wildlife.

“Listen to the glacier talking to itself,” our guide urged us. I listened to what sounded like thunder in the distance, followed by cracks and pops as if someone was breaking a gigantic stick. A ...

Deep into Denali

With six million acres of wilderness, Denali National Park in Alaska is one of the largest national parks in the country. If you enjoy seeing wildlife in their native habitat, your time here can be ...

San Juan Capistrano: A SoCal Treasure

Just 61 miles north of San Diego up the 5 Freeway, San Juan Capistrano is one of the truly historic sites of Southern California. The town is probably best known for the swallows that return ...

Literary London

a tour of the Bloomsbury district

The Olympics in London are a celebration of the world’s greatest athletes, and the city will be hopping this summer with the sweat and excitement of the summer games. But if you yearn to indulge ...

Mysterious Encounter in Bangkok

There are events that happen occasionally while traveling that are destined to remain mysterious and unexplained. It may be a chance encounter, a brush with fate, or something that brings to mind the Shakesperean quote ...

A Long Weekend in Sequoia and Yosemite

On a whim, I decided to drive up to explore a spectacular stretch of California natural beauty for a four-day vacation: Sequoia National Park and Yosemite. I hadn’t been to Yosemite for years, and I ...

Hopping and Crawling through Dublin

“I don’t know where they went. There are usually plenty of them here.” My Servas host in Dublin had driven me up to Phoenix Park overlooking Dublin to see the herd of deer that could ...

Enchanting Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Thai rainy season greeted me in the form of monks in flowing orange robes holding little umbrellas. Their smiles beamed at me through the thick mist as I sauntered through the old section of ...

Pastoral Life, Medieval History: Kilkenny, Ireland

"We have relatives in L.A., and they are amazed at how different our way of life is here than what they are used to." My Servas host elicited a chuckle out of me as we ...

Spring Days in Dingle, Ireland

Dingle, the northernmost of three peninsulas along the southwest coast of Ireland, was annointed “the most beautiful place in the world” by National Geographic Traveler a few years ago. It had been recommended to me ...

Paradise, Thai-Style: Beaches and Islands of the Andaman Sea

I first became intrigued with the beaches and islands of Thailand while reading an account about a family selling their home in those halcyon days when the real estate market was skyrocketing. They intended to ...

Ambling in the Everglades

Get with the gators in Everglades National Park.

At 1.5 million acres, Everglades National Park is the third-largest national park in the U.S. It is, nevertheless, half the size it was a century ago. Once you’re away from the visitors and crowds, the ...

A Day in Provincetown, Cape Cod

Cape Cod’s most popular destination, Provincetown, is on the furthest tip of the peninsula and offers New Englanders and travelers alike a relaxing spot to refresh and recharge. A 90-minute ferry ride out to Provincetown ...

Hip Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

"In Ho Chi Minh City, there are eight million people and five million motorbikes," my guide informed me as we slowly wound our way through this bustling city en route to the Củ Chi tunnels. ...

Exploring the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

“I think that thing is staring at me,” someone in our tour group remarked nervously. No, it wasn’t a wild animal spotted while hiking through the wilds of Vietnam. It was the fish proudly displayed ...

Ayutthaya, Thailand: City of Buddhas

The ancient Thai capital of Ayutthaya, about eighty kilometers north of Bangkok, is a worthwhile day trip if you’re staying in Bangkok. To really appreciate Ayutthaya, it helps to know a little about its history. ...

An Ecuadorian Christmas in Quito

Over Christmas break in 2009, I chose to participate in a brief volunteer project in Quito, Ecuador, working with street kids. Once my volunteer stint was over, I wasted no time exploring this magnificent city ...

Montaña de Oro State Park, California

"Come forth into the light of things, Let Nature be your teacher." ~ John Muir I don’t know if John Muir ever visited what is now Montaña de Oro State Park, but the bard of ...

Do's and Don'ts in Bangkok

Bangkok is the introductory city to Asia for many Americans, and the hectic pace and traffic may remind New Yorkers and Angelenos of home. A city of eleven million, Bangkok can be a slow crawl ...

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: A Study in Contrasts

Kuala Lumpur is, above all, a city of contrasts. The capital of Malaysia is an interesting mix of the historic, traditional Asia and the modern, hip Asia. Its ethnically diverse population of Malays, Chinese and ...

Mellow Out in Topanga, California

When you’re staring at a deer beneath a grove of oak trees, it might be difficult to realize that you’re within the city limits of Los Angeles. Topanga is a hilly, wooded oasis located within ...

Hanoi, Vietnam: Looking Toward the Future

Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital and second-largest city, is one of the most beautiful capitals in Asia. Most well known to Americans for its role in the Vietnam War, Hanoi celebrated its 1,000th birthday in 2010. As ...

Khao Sok National Park, Thailand: World’s Oldest Evergreen Rainforest

Many travelers to Thailand head from Bangkok to one or more of the beautiful beaches and islands in the southern part of the country. Just a few kilometers inland from these beaches is Khao Sok ...

Siem Reap, Cambodia: Beyond the Angkor Temples

If you’re in Siem Reap, Cambodia, you’re most likely there to see the magnificent Angkor temples. But if you get “templed out” or have additional time, Siem Reap has more to offer. Many of the ...

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is about midway between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi up the Vietnamese coast. If you’re traveling between the two largest cities in Vietnam, it is the perfect spot to take a break. ...

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

One hundred and fifty years ago, a French naturalist wandering the jungles of Cambodia stumbled upon an archaeological gold mine. Hidden in the jungle were several temples built by a succession of rulers of the ...

Bali: Land of a Thousand Temples

I was concerned that the reality of Bali would not match my expectations. I’d heard raves from friends and read amazing accounts of the alluring island in Indonesia. I was excited – but also prepared ...