Personal Journeys


March 23, 2003|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

Together at last in Nuevo Laredo

By Evan L. Balkan


Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, is not likely to show up in any tourist brochures. In fact, the only tourism office in the town is housed in a cramped, one-story building in a residential neighborhood.

Nuevo Laredo is a crossing point for hundreds of Mexican workers who are employed in various places in Laredo, Texas, just across the Rio Grande. Each day the Mexicans cross by foot and car, then turn around and go back at night.

The exodus from the other side is not nearly as large -- mostly Americans searching for a few bargains to take back home, where things are considerably more expensive. In short, Nuevo Laredo is an interesting place, but nothing spectacular.

Why then does this town rank as one of my all-time best travel experiences? Easy: I was there with my brother.

Erik is five years older than I am. When we were growing up, those five years created a considerable gulf. But as we got older, the gap seemed to shrink. Then Erik moved to Atlanta, and I don't see him very often. In November, Erik and I, along with our parents, all went to San Antonio for Thanksgiving at my sister's house.

Erik and I often play geography games -- trying to best one another on how many different countries we've visited (or continents, oceans, seas, mountain ranges, etc.). Last year, we found ourselves thousands of miles from one another. While I was trekking through the Alps in Switzerland, he was climbing volcanoes in Hawaii; while I was exploring the desert in the American Southwest, he was dancing with Masai warriors in East Africa. We realized that we have never really been anywhere together, and Mexico, a mere three hours from San Antonio, provided an opportunity to do just that.

The day after Thanksgiving, we got up before dawn, jumped in the rental car and sped through desolate South Texas until we reached the border. We parked the car in Texas and walked across the Laredo Bridge. I have entered countries by plane, boat, car, bus, even horse. But this was the first time Erik or I had walked into a country.

We ducked into a few market stalls, people-watched in plazas, ate a phenomenal lunch under a palm tree, and romanticized our surroundings perhaps more than they deserved. And then we went back to San Antonio. In all, we were in Nuevo Laredo maybe eight hours. The next day, I was back in Baltimore and Erik was back in Atlanta.

I've got loads of photo albums stuffed full of pictures from around the world. Nuevo Laredo will fill scarcely a page. But Nuevo Laredo with Erik will remain at the top of the list for memories.

Evan L. Balkan lives in Baltimore.

My Best Shot

Jacqueline Thomas,

Ellicott City

Autumn in Venice

My husband and I took a long-awaited trip to Italy last September. This is a view from St. Mark's Square in Venice, looking across the Grand Canal on an autumn morning when the tourists had gone home and the gondolas were at rest. I think this scene captures the mood of this serene island city.

Readers Recommend

Coral Cay, Panama

Elaine Ozol, Baltimore

A short boat ride from Bocas del Toro, Panama, through the mangrove islands dotting the waters of the Caribbean, is lovely Coral Cay. Snorkeling there reveals colorful coral, sponges and numerous brightly colored fish. Quaint gazebos provide shelter for lunch.


Barbara A. Miller,

Bel Air

While vacationing in New-foundland, we spent several days in St. John's, the capital. We were having coffee at a pastry shop, and as I looked across the street, I noticed the very old buildings on our side perfectly mirrored in the new glass buildings across the street. This is typical in St. John's, where the old and new complement each other throughout the city.

Let Us Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

* My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

* A Memorable Place -- In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you, about the nostalgia a certain place evokes, about the power of a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. (Cash value: $150.)

* Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

Because of the volume of responses, photos and manuscripts cannot be individually acknowledged or returned. Submissions from all categories may be used for Readers Recommend, and upon submission become the property of The Sun.

Send by fax to 410-783-2519, or write to: Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278, or e-mail to Be sure to include your name and phone number.

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