Podcast host Lea Lane describes favorite delights of spring travel -- food, flowers and festivals -- from the magnificent to the hilarious.
-- She starts with food, remembering gorging on "spargle," the white gold (asparagus) of Germany. Food festivals are delicious ways to have fun. And one food festival in England involves a nine-pound cheese that rolls down a hill.
-- Spring flowers are Lea's next delight -- colorful wildflowers on roadsides and fields of yellow rapeseed. And gardens, including painter Claude Monet's at Giverny, outside of Paris; and Keukenhof, "the most beautiful spring garden in the world," outside of Amsterdam.
-- Religious festivals celebrate rebirth and cleansing in strange ways. Spring ones include colorful Holi in the Hindu world, where people douse each other with colors and Sonkgran, in the Buddhist world, where everyone douses themselves with water, especially in Thailand. Las Fallas, a Spanish celebration, honors St. Joseph, with huge puppets.
-- Semana Santa, Holy Week highlighted by Easter, is celebrated around the world, but no where more beautiful than in Seville Spain and Antiqua Guatemala, where processions involve robed participants and carpets of flowers.
-- Non-religious festivals include Sechselauten, where a creature called a Boogg is burned to end the winter season. And the King's Birthday in the Netherlands, when everybody wears orange and goes shopping at a huge flea market.
-- In the U.S. there's a sand-sculpture festival in Florida, rodeos out west, Patriot's Day in Boston, and baseball spring training.
-- And as in every episode, we end with special travel memories. Lea shares two unforgettable spring anecdotes: one in the New Zealand (in November), and one in the Greek Islands. Both are surprising, and both are delightful!
Podcast host Lea Lane has traveled to over 100 countries, written many travel books, including Places I Remember, and has contributed to dozens of guidebooks. She's @lealane on Twitter and blogs about travel at forbes.com . Contact her at placesirememberlealane.com.
Please follow Places I Remember with Lea Lane wherever you listen to podcasts, and if you enjoy, leave a 5-star a review on Apple! New travel episodes every Tuesday.
* Transcript edited for clarity.
Lea Lane 00:04
Hi, I'm Lea Lane, an award-winning travel writer and author of Places I Remember: Tales, Truths, Delights from 100 Countries. On this podcast we share conversations with travelers about fascinating destinations and memorable experiences around the world. I love interviewing passionate travelers. But sometimes, I have so many ideas, I want to do something on my own. So I'm going to talk about spring, and I thought I'd wing it this time. I have lots of experiences in Places I Remember. So let's talk about food, flowers and festivals and have some fun. Seems like we waited an awfully long time this year for a feeling of renewal. So I'm delighted to highlight springy things right now. And when I think about spring, I think about food. I've traveled all over the world and lots of places have special spring foods. And I can remember some of them just off the top of my head that are kind of interesting. And if you've never tried them, you might want to look them up when you go to some of these far off places. One is fiddlehead ferns. It sounds kind of funny but they're delicious in the spring, course lamb, asparagus rhubarb, something called shad roe which is little fish eggs. These are delicious. But the thing I remember the most of the food I remember the most in traveling was in Germany in May. They have something called spargel. If you've ever had that, you know it is delicious. It's white asparagus. It doesn't taste like green asparagus. It tastes sweeter. And the people go crazy in Germany, I think other parts of that area. Other countries too but I know they're they have it for breakfast, they have it for lunch, dinner, and very often the same way they serve it with butter and sprinkled bread crumbs on top. And it is so delicious and signs go out right away in the spring. I think it was May when I was there. But signs are up in every restaurant, we have spargel, and the locals call it white gold because it's very expensive, but they eat it constantly for a little while in the season in spring and then they don't eat it the rest of the year. So they don't get tired of it. But I do remember that is one of my very favorite foods I've ever eaten. And I think of spring when I think of spargel
Lea Lane 02:26
There are food festivals all over the world is a bacon festival in Sacramento, California. There's a herring festival in Denmark is a dumpling festival in Hong Kong where they have a dragon boat race. But my favorite food festival I have not gone to it is called Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling. And it's in England and the revelers tumbled down a hill after a nine pound round of Double Gloucester Cheese. And whoever naps the cheese wins it. That sounds like fun. And I guess you spend some calories rolling down the hill. So that fascinates me. As far as flowers, well, you can just drive anywhere along the roadsides and see beautiful wildflowers I think of the red poppies in Provence, France and I think of the yellow fields beyond them. There's something called rapeseed and it's, it's it's kind of canola oil plant and it's bright yellow. So you have the red and the yellow. And I see that in my my eyes. When I think of spring it's in the back of my head all the time. When I think of flowers, those beautiful contrast of colors of just beautiful wildflowers, of course their gardens. Two of my favorites are je Verni that's Monet's garden, the painter Monet outside of Paris, and if you know his water lilies, he painted them based on his pond and his garden and of course his houses there with a beautiful yellow kitchen and flowers all around and if you go there in spring, it's spectacular.
Lea Lane 03:59
But my very favorite spring garden and it is only a spring garden. It closes after springtime is known the world worldwide it's Keukenhof, it's outside of Amsterdam. There are over 7 million spring blooms on almost 80 acres and tulips and hyacinths, daffodils, lilies and roses and you know it goes into early summer as well but the best time to visit is late April early May, if you can pull that time and just just to be there then everything is blooming. And you can walk around there and have local foods and just there you know there are ponds and and there's a beautiful estate you can visit. And just outside of Keukenhof you have the tool of fields themselves. If you take a car you can just drive along and if you take a train as a double decker I would sit on the top deck and look at those gorgeous blankets striped blankets of tulips. It is gorgeous.
Lea Lane 04:58
Festivals, okay. I have some festivals that I love And I've been to some of them, I haven't been to others, but I'm looking very closely at them. Most of them are based on religion and cleansing or rebirth, the idea of rebirth and spring. Of course, this St. Patrick's Day, everybody knows about that one. It's celebrated in more countries than any other national festival. And I think the festivals in New York and Savannah, Georgia rival those in Ireland. The customary traditions, of course, are wearing green clothing and shamrocks, which St. Patrick used to explain the Holy Trinity. I never realized why they were shamrocks. But that is why and there are parades and music and dancing and feasting and lots of whiskey. Because the Lenten restrictions are officially lifted for that day. I like the fact that a lot of the American cities turn their rivers green. Chicago does it Tampa, San Antonio. Savannah used to do it but they didn't stay green because of the tides, so they turn their fountains green. And then there's the Green River in Charlotte. And not only is it green, but the people can be doused green too.
Lea Lane 06:06
Which reminds me of the most colorful festival in the world. And one that is getting extremely popular. I've seen lots and lots of ads and pictures all over it's called Holi festival H O Li. It's celebrated during February and March in areas with large Hindu populations, and it uses color to celebrate good over evil at the nighttime bonfire before the celebration people sing and dance. But the next day is the fun part because people wear white and then they throw dye powder. They squirt water guns and colored water filled balloons and children and adults and rich and poor all our happy colorful mess. I have never been there, but I sure want to go. What water is to Sandgren color is to holy and Sandgren is a Sanskrit word for astrological astrological passage.
Lea Lane 07:01
It means a change to transformation. And the Buddha's New Year is celebrated with song grand after the spring X Equinox. So that's when their new year happens. So I have not been there either. But it sounds like it is a little less colorful but certainly interesting and fun. The morning start out at the Buddhist temples and you offer food to the monks and you purify the statues of the Buddha with water and the young people in the elders are also in the purification process. And then the family members go home. They pay tribute to their ancestors, they clean their houses everyone dresses up. It's very lovely. And some people enjoy the firecrackers that are set off on April 13 to ward off the bad luck in the new year. But the best part of Sandgren to me is in Thailand Water Day The most notorious water fight of all time I still visit their local monastery. But Psalm grand has morphed into an absolute revelry across the kingdom. In Chiang Mai. The streets are close to traffic, and they're packed with young people for the world's biggest water fight. Water balloons, water guns, even elephant trunks are used to get you drenched the ultimate in wet and wild. Sounds like fun. Another fun celebration based on religion is celebrating St. Joseph it's called last fall us and it's a traditional Spanish celebration. And the follow us are the big puppets giant puppets. They're made of paper mache, wood and wax. And every day this goes on from March 19. The puppets are paraded in this decorations and music and residents in traditional costumes and pie as in every restaurant. But on the final day after a massive bonfire and fireworks. All the followers are set alight in Grand blazes so you have fire we have fire we have water, we have color all these festivals celebrate life in spring. A little more somber. A little more. Well known is Semana Santa Holy Week, which is in March April in Seville. A spectacular Easter festivity were very intricate, intricately crafted religious statues are paraded through the streets, with processions of Brotherhood's and traditional robes. It's very somber, but there's plenty of feasting afterwards. A similar ceremony is held in Antigua, Guatemala, I have been a part of that. And I think perhaps that's the most beautiful of all. within 24 hours layers of sand are placed on antiguas cobblestone streets and then covered with multicolor sawdust, decorations, pine needles, flowers, It's exquisite their natural carpets called alfombras. And as the participants in purple robe Shuffle Along the route, all the foamer scatter, they're gone. It's a very somber, but very Beautiful feeling of Evanescence of the end of something and the beginning of something. It's a very beautiful ceremony. And people come from all over the world to see this.
Lea Lane 10:11
There's a few non religious festivals I like to because they're quirky. One is called Sechseläuten. It's celebrated in Zurich in Switzerland. And this is 12 foot tall creature called a Bogg, BOGG, he looks scary, and he's burned to represent the end of winter. On April 20, the church bells ring their parades, six o'clock, there's the burning of the bogg. And according to the locals, the faster the bogg's head explodes, the better the summer will be. Kind of reminds me of Groundhog Day, where the shadow is a prediction of how long winter lasts. But my favorite part is that afterwards, sausages are grilled on the burning embers of the bogg's pyre. Very, very sensible. Another holiday that's kind of quirky in a strange way is Queen's Day in the Netherlands, which was commemorated on Queen Beatrix his birth even though Her Royal Highness was born in January, with the crowning of her son, William Alexander, the holiday became kings day or conics died and is celebrated on April 27, which is conveniently his birthday. So there's a official ceremony and then this is huge County, countrywide fleamarket. So you can buy yourself a present. There are lots of local festivals all through spring, I like one in Clearwater Beach, Florida. It's called the pure 60s sugar sand festival. Lots of sculptors come and they use tons of sand 1000s of tons of sand, and it's beautiful, but the art lasts only a short while like a beautiful wedding cake.
Lea Lane 11:51
I guess that spring course there's rodeos in the West, is the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Spring Show. And there's the Boston Marathon, which is not run this year, but it usually leads up to Patriots Day on April 20. At the Old North Church, the lanterns are lit on April 19, as they have been since 1875. And in nearby Lexington and Concord, reenactments, parades, tours and special events commemorate the opening battle of the revolution. And then of course, baseball fans head to Fenway Park, which reminds me that there's spring training and there are wonderful things called baseball camps. If you know a baseball fan, you can give him or her the best gift of all, and they can meet all the players and it's just fabulous. I have lots of favorite spring memories, but I'm going to give you two of them. They both deal with lodgings and one is in New Zealand. Now springtime in New Zealand is in November. And I was there then and the lupins were spring flowers and lupins were everywhere. I was traveling around from manor house to manor house. I was writing an article for an upscale magazine. So I was staying at really beautiful places. I got to this one lovely place it late at night. I just went into my room. I didn't have dinner. I just went to sleep. The next morning, I open the curtains. And they're right in front of me. I mean, right? Exactly on my patio, right maybe three feet away, where hundreds of sheep and lambs grazing away. I was at a sheep farm I had no idea. It was something I just can't forget was one of my favorite memories. Because it was a surprise. It is another logic I remember. And I was in the Greek islands doing a chapters for a guidebook for Fodor's. And I was on the island of Lemnos. And it was late April I think and I hadn't made a reservation. I figured I could get you know, lodging. I knew how to do it. I was kind of aware of that. But for some reason, no place was open. And I was stuck. I'd had no place to stay that night. One big hotel, took pity and said okay, you can come. We're not ready to open. There's a skeleton crew. Nobody's living here, but you can stay here. It was kind of like staying in The Shining. And the hotel. You know, nobody was in there. And it was kind of scary. But I just could run in the halls and I could sing and I just had the whole place to myself. And in the morning I went down and I made breakfast in a big steel stainless steel kitchen. I remember I had yogurt and honey and walnuts. I had a ball. It was something I don't recommend doing. Because you should always have your you know, your reservations, at least for the beginning and the end of your trip. But it was a wonderful experience. I will never forget it. And that's the kind of thing you know, the hard stories and the scary stories and the funny stories are the ones you remembered the most. And those are two of them. Just two of them. Anyway, if you liked this little solo talk of mine in my episode Should I do them every once in a while connect with me, let me know on my website places I remember Lea lane.com. And if you want to follow my travel writing, I write five posts a firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time, go out safely and make your own spring travel memories
Lea Lane 15:21
Thanks for sharing travel memories with us. My book, Places I Remember, is available on Amazon and in bookstores, in print, on Kindle, and I read the audio version. Please subscribe to this podcast and consider giving us a review. Until next time, join us wherever in the world we're going.