Focus on Archaeology

Tower of the Winds in the Roman Agora in Athens. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

I’m standing at the entrance to the Athenian Agora (Adrianou 24; phone 30 210 321 0180 or 0185) in Athens waiting for my husband, Paul, to pay for our entry tickets. The line on this sunny afternoon in October 2021 is unexpectedly long.

As I wait, I notice a small group of tourists also waiting while their guide stands in the ticket line. As they chatter away in English, one of the agora’s guards sidles over to them offering a bit of advance information preceding their...

Gravesite memorial to two sisters: Demetria and Pamphile – Kerameikos Archaeological Park, Athens. Photos by Paul Lalli

KERAMEIKOS: Athens’ ancient cemetery

I am standing in Kerameikos, one of Athens’ oldest cemeteries. At first the site seems lonely, even desolate, somewhat like my life since COVID-19 sidetracked me after March 2020. 

Back then, I had just returned from a long trip to New Zealand and Australia, with my mind full of memories and my suitcases full of souvenirs. I was already planning new trips to Greece, to France and to Italy in the coming months. I imagined...

The Templo de Santiago in Mexico City. (Note the parishioners gathered around tables near the side entrance for an al fresco breakfast.) Photos by Julie Skurdenis

There are some places we visit that capture our minds and hearts for a long time afterward. Sometimes forever. For me, Mexico City is one of those places. It has been since I first visited more than 40 years ago.

Mexico City is everything I look for in a destination: lovely accommodations in all price categories, wonderful cafés and restaurants, lots of museums and sights, archaeological sites, artists’ markets and green spaces plus the less tangible but necessary vibrancy and...

La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios on top of the Cholula pyramid. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

For me, Mexico is inextricably linked to its pyramids. Yes, there are colonial-era churches to visit, plenty of them, plus markets full of color and activity, miles of beaches, fiestas throughout the year and — let’s not forget — the fabulous food. But it’s the archaeological sites that keep drawing me back.

Mexico is rich in archaeological sites, many of which boast pyramids built by Mexico’s great Mesoamerican civilizations, including the Olmec, Maya,...

“Minyi Puru” by Jakayu Biljabu — Yiribana Gallery, Sydney. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

For me, Sydney is the gem of Australia, a vibrant city famed for its iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge and for its proximity to superb ocean beaches, like Manly and Bondi.

Sydney is a relatively young city. British captain James Cook “discovered” the continent of Australia in 1770. Although Portuguese seafarers might have reached Australia 250 years before Cook did, according to some historians, and Dutch seamen arrived in the 17th century at least 150 years before him...

Wooden <i>pātaka</i> with elaborate carvings — Auckland War Memorial Museum. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

For three weeks in February 2020, my husband, Paul, and I explored much of New Zealand. Of the six areas we visited — Auckland, Bay of Islands, Queenstown, Franz Josef Glacier, Christchurch and Rotorua — Rotorua was easily our favorite (Oct. ’20, pg. 27).

This was primarily because of the richness of Māori culture found in and near this city located on North Island, one of the two major islands making up New Zealand (the other being South Island). As if Māori culture...

Woodcarving of Māori rowers in the Te Wairoa museum, near Rotorua. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

Undoubtedly, New Zealand is a country of spectacular beauty. Consisting primarily of two large islands — the North Island and the South Island — it is in the South Pacific Ocean. New Zealand is a land of snow-covered mountains, deep lakes, long fjords and verdant valleys as well as gentle hills, sandy and craggy coastlines and farmland.

I first visited many years ago. The opportunity to return came in February 2020. Besides the abundant natural beauty that my husband, Paul...

The Municipal Museum in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. Photos by Julie Skurdenis

Buenos Aires has always been one of my favorite cities. I try to visit as often as I can to enjoy its elegant cafés, superlative steakhouses, ubiquitous street and flea markets, great museums and parks and, above all, tango, of which I can’t get enough.

But when cosmopolitan living gets a bit much — especially on month-long visits — my husband, Paul, and I like to slip away for a few days to a far simpler place. Our getaway place is not even in Argentina but is just...