Best of Susan Spano: 4 summer travel ideas

Many readers have been asking us: Where is Times Travel Writer Susan Spano? Susan is in Beijing, where she is learning Mandarin, and she will be returning to the Travel section this summer. For those of us who miss her and her writing, here are a few stories she filed before she left.

ASIA Peace accord beckons travelers back to Nepal
The all-seeing eyes of Buddha stare blankly over Katmandu's Palace Square from a massive, wooden portal. The door is shut tight. But standing here on the very day in November when Maoist rebels signed a peace accord ending 10 years of turmoil and isolation in Nepal, you could almost hear the giant door crack open, bidding visitors back.

Africa">AFRICA Seeing the 'big five,' plus one in South Africa's Zululand
Bagging the "big five" at a game park in South Africa usually means seeing lions, leopards, buffaloes, rhinos and elephants. But for a different breed of animal lover, it's about catching sight of frogs -- the painted reed, banded rubber, Natal sand, foam nest and snoring puddle.

EUROPE Return to Italy's glorious Lipari Island
Lipari, the capital of a seven-island archipelago north of Sicily called the Lipari Islands or the Aeolians, has a sporadically dramatic history: It was the source of shiny, black obsidian for the Mediterranean basin in the Neolithic Age, a Greek colony, the scene of naval battles between Rome and Carthage during the Punic Wars, plunder for North African pirates, a place of exile for opponents of Mussolini in the 1920s.

OUTDOOR & ADVENTURE Sierra camping bliss, without roughing it
No pain, no gain. That's what people always say to get you to do something hard, like carry 30 pounds of gear on your back, sleep on the ground, eat freeze-dried food and go without a bath. But if you had the chance to get into the wilderness without such hassle -- be honest now -- wouldn't you take it?