Taking a slow train in Spain
In an age of high-speed train travel, said Andrew Ferren in The New York Times, I decided to do something perverse: Tour “virtually every medieval market town or fishermen’s cove” on the coast of northern Spain via narrow-gauge railway. My whistle-stop journey ran from the green hills of Galicia “to the snow-capped mountains of Cantabria.” Fellow passengers ranged from villagers heading to a nearby favorite butcher to English cyclists doing “in-depth research” on local wines. I departed from Ferrol, the birthplace of the late dictator Francisco Franco—noting that the equestrian statue of the town’s famous son has been “surreptitiously relocated” to a naval museum. In picturesque Viveiro, I hopped off to explore the tidy houses and galleries along the harbor, and to dine on grilled octopus. In Asturias, I hiked along the Navia River through a huge park known for its “crashing waterfalls, Roman mining towns, and Celtic ruins.” The province of Cantabria, reminiscent of Switzerland, is dominated by the Picos de Europa mountain range. “Sounds of cowbells and bagpipes ratchet up the region’s extraordinary alpine-Celtic-maritime mystique.”
Contact: Feve.es

Delhi through the centuries
Delhi, the capital of India, was once known mostly as the home of government clerks. It’s now a “global hub for fashion, media, business, technology, and manufacturing,” said Peter Jon Lindberg in Travel + Leisure. An outsize city of 17 million, it contains “the world’s biggest Hindu temple” as well as the largest shopping mall in South Asia. Old Delhi, or Shahjahanabad, was founded in 1638. In the 1920s the British moved their colonial capital to a site five miles away. “Here they created a grand, European-style city from scratch and called it New Delhi.” Today the name Delhi refers to both parts of this astonishingly green city, which is ripe with gardens, parks, and even a jungle. Among the attractions at Lodi Garden are the tombs of Afghan emperors. Connaught Place, dating to 1931, is one of the city’s two primary markets, long famed for its trendy shops, restaurants, and cinemas. Like New York’s Times Square, its “arcades grew dirty and derelict” over time. Lately, however, the area has been enjoying an energetic rebirth. Contact: Delhitourism.com

A nonbeliever in Lourdes
“Six million people visit Lourdes every year,” said Susan Spano in the Los Angeles Times, “including 100,000 volunteers and 80,000 ill and disabled pilgrims seeking cures for their afflictions.” This year marks the 150th anniversary of the day in 1858 when Bernadette Soubirous, an illiterate 14-year-old girl, claimed she first saw the Virgin Mary in a grotto outside of town. As a non-Catholic “still struggling with her faith,” I went to this small town in the foothills of the French Pyrenees mostly out of curiosity. Today the grotto is surrounded by hotels, shops, and restaurants. Joining a long line of pilgrims carrying flowers and candles, I walked to the famous grotto at the base of an 80-foot cliff. Some visitors collected water from a nearby spring. Later I joined a candlelit procession. Bernadette herself became a nun, never returned to Lourdes, and died at age 35 after a “brief, hard life.” I came away impressed by her example—to accept life as it comes, and
not to complain. Contact: Lourdes2008.com

Aboard a Caribbean windjammer
My first night aboard the Royal Clipper was truly scary, said Lauren Viera in the Chicago Tribune. I tried to overcome seasickness and slept with my life jacket tucked at my feet. The next morning, the captain jovially greeted a few green passengers as he explained, “If it’s not rolling, something is wrong.” I was one of 223 passengers to set sail around the Windward Islands of the Caribbean on the five-masted ship, which “looks like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean.” A trip under wind power isn’t the cushy experience most cruises provide. “It’s the real deal”—the way people used to get around. Fortunately, the weather improved during the rest of the journey. We sailed in sun through the Lesser Antilles, and explored the white sand beaches of Antigua. We shopped at Fort de France on the French island of Martinique, and visited little-known Terre-de-Haut, whose tiny harbor is too shallow for ships operated by major cruise lines. Two of the passengers were white-haired British ladies pushing 90 who were making “their sixth Royal Clipper cruise.” Contact: Starclippers.com