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Photos of Rome’s street artists

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Creative expression in Rome isn’t limited to museums and churches. It’s out in the open, if you know what to look for and where. We sent photoblogger Jessica Stewart out to capture street art’s various incarnations—stencils, graffiti, chalk drawings, even break-dancing. Check out the results in our slide show.

Stewart moved to Rome four years ago, after completing degrees in art history and Renaissance studies, and began posting at RomePhotoBlog. Her photographs are on display through July 31 at Al Vino Al Vino (via dei Serpenti 19) and will be included in a show at Hobo Art Club (via Ascoli Piceno 3), September 11-25.

I chatted with Stewart over pizza at Il Maratoneta in Rome’s San Lorenzo neighborhood this spring and, more recently, traded emails to get her impressions of the evolving street art scene.

Posted by: Kate Appleton

Entire Article: BudgetTravel

Google Launches Its Facebook Page

Friday, July 31st, 2009
Apparently Google Didn’t Have a Facebook Page

Google quietly launched an official Facebook page this week. Although that quiet didn’t stop the page from attracting over 264,000 fans already so far.

Google has two favorite pages listed – the AdWords page and the iGoogle page. Both of them have been around longer. iGoogle came on the scene last month it looks like, and the AdWords page has been around for quite some time. It doesn’t look like Fans of the Official Google Facebook Page will be getting access to much more than Official Google Blog posts, but that could certainly change in the future.

Google seems to have been more interested in communicating via Twitter in the past. A while back the company launched a slew of Google accounts for various products, and have acquired piles of followers on those.

By Chris Crum

Article from: WebProNews

Paris Essentials

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Home to more than 10 million people, the “City of Lights” is majestic in its architecture and artistic heritage. More than a destination of pleasurable externals, bourgeois absolutes and just-baked baguettes, Paris is great sightseeing, incredible shopping, and leisure dining that always comes with desserts in the form of delicate trays of the finest chocolates and macaroons.

Paris is so much more than the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame and the Louvre. This trip, stroll the Marais and shop along rue des Francs Bourgeois or walk under the arches of the oldest square in Paris, Place des Vosges. Take time to explore the Latin Quarter to see the church of St. Severin, the Sorbonne and rue Mouffetard — not just because it’s where Joyce, Orwell, Balzac and Hemingway once lived, but also for the rows and rows of fresh food glistening like bouquets of colorful gems under the street market’s faded French blue-striped awnings. Stop by the booksellers’ stalls along the banks of the Seine around Notre-Dame for antique and second-hand books, comic strips, postcards and posters at great prices.

Saint Germain-des-Pres and the stately Church of St Sulpice’s beautiful Delacroix murals are a must-see this trip — as is the St. Germain Church, the city’s oldest church — before heading down the neighborhood’s enchanting streets, through the old squares and artists’ studios that surround it. Don’t forget to leave time to head up to the little village of Montmarte and the old cobbled streets where Renoir, Lautrec and van Gogh lived and worked; there are wonderful views of the city.

Paris is basically divided twice, first into 20 municipal quarters called arrondissements and second by the Seine, which divides the city into the Right Bank to the north and the Left Bank to the south, linked by 32 bridges. Two of those bridges connect to two small islands at the heart of the city: Ile de la Cite, the city’s birthplace and site of Notre-Dame, and Ile St-Louis, a moat-guarded oasis of 17th-century chateaux. The quarters spiral out like a snail, beginning with the first arrondissement. Included in these 20 “neighborhoods” are well known areas like Montmarte, Montparnasse and the Marais.

The best way to find an address is by checking out the arrondissement first. This is indicated by a number followed by “e” or “er,” which in English means “th” or “st” (i.e., 7e, 1er). It’s also indicated by the last two digits of a postal code (i.e., 70007 = the 7e).
What to See
What weighs 7,000 tons and has 1,665 steps and 10,000 light bulbs? The Eiffel Tower! This breathtaking landmark was built by Gustave Eiffel (did you know he designed the framework for the Statue of Liberty?) for the 1889 Universal Exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the French Revolution and was opened by the Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VII of England.

louvre paris pyramid blue sky The Louvre is the world’s greatest art museum — so it really doesn’t matter if you’ve been here before since there’s no chance you’ve seen it all. Collections divide into Asian antiquities, Egyptian antiquities, Greek and Roman antiquities, sculpture, objets d’art, paintings, and prints and drawings. Obviously, the top attractions (and most likely the ones you’ve seen) are the “Mona Lisa” and the 2nd-century “Venus de Milo.”

Note: Avoid the never-ending lines to enter through the Pyramid. Instead, come in from the Carrousel de Louvre mall on rue de Rivoli or, even better, through the Louvre’s Metro stop.

Moulin Rouge has been putting on its famous show since 1889. Of course, being immortalized by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and known for the risque can-can didn’t hurt either. It’s still fabulous with plenty of feathers, sequins and of course, gorgeous semi-naked showgirls. It’s open every night.

The 164-foot Arc de Triomphe was planned by Napoleon to celebrate his military successes, but wasn’t finished for another 20 years after he took a trip to Elba. It has some magnificent sculptures, and the names of Napoleon’s generals are inscribed on the stone facades. There is a small museum halfway up the arch devoted to its history (you can actually climb to the top). France’s Unknown Soldier is buried beneath, and the flame is rekindled every evening.

Although it’s probably easier to take the elevator up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, you can also climb 387 steps up to the north tower of 12th-century Notre-Dame for a nice view of the city. It was here in 1804 that Napoleon crowned himself emperor and then crowned Josephine as his empress. When planning your visit, keep in mind that the cathedral is open year-round from 8 a.m. until nearly 7 p.m., but the towers and crypt are operated by the National Monuments Centre and have more limited opening hours.

Musee d’Orsay is in fact a magnificent 1900 railway station that now houses a superb collection of Impressionist art from 1848 – 1914, including major works from Degas, Monet, Renoir, van Gogh and Gauguin. If you don’t have lots of time, browse the Upper Level to see the enormous railway clocks in addition to some of the museum’s best exhibits.

There’s little left of the Bastille, and its remains are pretty much surrounded by a neighborhood filled with an array of popular cafes, clubs and the Opera Bastille, completed in 1990. The Colonne de Juillet dominates la Place de la Bastille, marking the site of the prison that was stormed at the start of the French Revolution in 1789.

Entire Article: IndependentTraveler.com

Mexico shuts Cancun beach, alleges sand was stolen

Friday, July 31st, 2009

MEXICO CITY – Surprised tourists found their little piece of Cancun beach paradise ringed by crime-scene tape and gun-toting sailors on Thursday.

Environmental enforcement officers backed by Mexican navy personnel closed off hundreds of feet (dozens of meters) of powder-white coastline in front of a hotel accused of illegally accumulating sand on its beach.

Mexico spent $19 million to replace Cancun beaches washed away by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. But much of the sand pumped from the sea floor has since washed away, leading some property owners to build breakwaters in a bid to retain sand. The practice often merely shifts sand loss to beaches below the breakwaters.

“Today we made the decision to close this stretch of ill-gotten, illegally accumulated sand,” said Patricio Patron, Mexico’s attorney general for environmental protection. “This hotel was telling its tourists: ‘Come here, I have sand … the other hotels don’t, because I stole it.’”

Patron said five people were detained in a raid for allegedly using pumps to move sand from the sea floor onto the beach in front of the Gran Caribe Real Hotel. The hotel is also suspected of illegally building a breakwater that impeded the natural flow of sand onto other hotels’ beaches, he said.

An employee of the hotel’s marketing office said nobody was available to comment on the allegations. Authorities said the hotel owner ignored previous orders to remove the breakwater.

A knot of angry tourists gathered around the closed beach.

Some were irked by the sight of police tape and “Closed” signs.

Maria Bachino, a travel agent from Rocha, Uruguay, said by telephone that she had booked a beachfront room in Cancun, only to find herself cut off from the clear, bathub-temperature waters that lure millions to Cancun each year.

“They promised us a beach,” said Bachino. “This is very unpleasant, we feel bad. This is intimidating,” she said of the armed navy personnel who participated in the raid.

Patron said he regretted any inconvenience for tourists, but said the government is planning projects to restore beaches throughout Cancun in an orderly, environmentally responsible way.

“I apologize to the tourists for this problem, but it is a question of enforcing the law,” Patron said.

By MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press Writer

Article from: YahooNews

Airlines’ plan to reduce routes may raise fares

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Struggling carriers need more revenue
Airline passengers will see fewer nonstop flights, less-convenient travel options, and possibly higher ticket prices and fees in the coming months as major carriers make big capacity cuts this fall season for the second year in a row.
Earnings reports for the April-June quarter this week showed airlines are desperate to raise revenue as they head into their traditionally slow period.
Six of nine major U.S. airlines reported profits in the quarter, but sales were down for most as a result of weak demand and lower fares. For seven U.S. airlines and their regional affiliates, the June yield — or average price a person pays to fly one mile — was almost 19 percent lower than a year earlier, according to the Air Transport Association.
“I think you’re really going to see overall less service, but you’ll still have service,” said Bob Jordan, Southwest Airlines Co.’s executive vice president of strategy and planning.

Entire Article: The Tennessean.com

Treasure Hunting Vacations

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Search for gems and pirate booty ’round the world

Making money while on a vacation isn’t a common occurrence—unless you get lucky on the slots. But if Vegas isn’t your style, don’t worry, you can still come home from a trip with your purse a little fatter. There are legends of buried pirates’ treasure that was never found, gold that has still been seen in California rivers, and caves in the Midwest that abound with jewels and gems of all kinds. Although treasure hunting vacations may not make you millions, there is a good possibility of finding diamonds or gold—and even if you don’t, looking is half the fun.

Entire Article: ForbesTraveler.com

A bicycle trip through Thailand becomes a tribute

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Four months after her husband died of a heart attack, she pedals through a land full of guardian spirits. It seemed natural that his spirit would follow her there.

One single strand of string bound us together: 17 travelers, 32 guardian spirits, four guides, and a Buddhist monk. We all sat on mats in front of the monk waiting for something to happen.

“The Ageb and his helpers will put jasmine leis around your necks and unwrap a ball of twine to encircle the group like a spirit corral, as he chants his prayers to call in the entities who have strayed,” said Piak, one of our soulful Thai bike guides, who had been doing this for 20 years.

Before starting any important journey in Thailand, a master ageb, or retired monk, is invited to call the wayward spirits together, reuniting them in a ceremony called Bai Sii for safeguarding the traveler.

“After he is satisfied that the spirits are assembled, he will take the string and rewind it to make your bracelets, tied on the left wrist for women, placed on the right for the men in our group. You must wear the bracelet at least three days for protection. Don’t ever cut it, or it will bring you bad luck,” Piak said.

Our ceremony was for protection during our bicycle tour through the tropical farmlands and jungle forests of northern Thailand from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai — seven days and 210 miles of mountain biking over the Golden Triangle. The term applies to the opium-growing region where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), and Laos converge, but our group would stay safely on the Thai side.

It was my first solo bike trip in 36 years without my husband, Howard, who died of a heart attack four months before. Perfectly healthy, he left the house at 7 a.m. to go biking with friends. I called from the bedroom, “Goodbye, honey. See you for happy hour. I love you.” He never came home.

We had planned to take this trip together. I mustered up the courage to go in celebration of his life. It looked good on paper. Jennifer Lampshire from Backroads helped me book the trip.

“I don’t want to go with a bunch a guys or too many couples,” I blubbered over the phone, and she searched the upcoming trips and found me the right combination. My husband and I had toured Bali, China, Costa Rica and many other countries over the years with Backroads so I knew I’d be in good company even if I wasn’t very good company myself.

That night, assembled around the pool at our first hotel, we lighted fire balloons to send away bad luck. Rice paper domes heated with bees wax candles silently floated up, disappearing into the moonlight.

“This is always done for the king’s birthday,” said Ghing, another Thai guide, “and for many other celebrations.”

We hadn’t even really started biking yet, but the trip was bound to be blessed in many ways unimaginable.

Bike to shop or shop to bike?

We were 12 women and five men on this bike adventure, and I didn’t know a soul. Several of the women were hard-chargers, racing the guys up every hill, never missing a chance to extend the maximum mileage for the day. One of the women, a Brazilian beauty, had started riding only six months before the trip. I was somewhere in the upper middle, meaning that I was strong but lazy. We were a varied lot of cyclists. But, besides biking, we had one thing in common: shopping.

“There’s a great custom silk shop back in Chiang Rai,” said Lynny, our American guide, who had discovered the shop on her last group tour. Lynny was direct from San Francisco and was quite the natty dresser, even in bike clothes, which can be pretty grim.

“We’ll have a van available to take you and your bikes back to the Legend Resort after lunch. You’ll have time for a quick shower, and then our driver will escort you to the shop and wait for you to bring you back. Who wants to go?”

Full Article: LATimes

Etiquette 101: Tipping Guide

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Whom to tip, how much to give, and how to give it—in more than 35 countries around the world.
So you just had a five-star meal in Qatar. Or went scuba diving in beautiful Bohol in the Philippines. Well, lucky you! But how do you express your appreciation for the service you received? Are you in a country where tipping is customary and required? Appreciated but not expected? Or virtually unheard-of? The truth is, tipping rules vary by country, by region, and by scenario. A modest rounding up of the check may be fine in some places and insufficient in others. A few small bills left on a night table might be gladly picked up by housecleaning staff in one hotel and scrupulously shunned elsewhere. Such uncertainties can throw an uneasy shadow over even the most exhilarating jaunt in a new land. That’s why we’ve spelled out guidelines for the most common tipping situations in more than 25 countries, from Switzerland to Syria to Singapore.

Entire Article: Conde Nast Traveler

British Airways ends free meals on short flights, blames recession

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

British Airways is scrapping all free meals — except breakfast — on its short-haul flights as the airline continues to trim costs amid a recession-driven downturn in demand for travel.

BA said Wednesday that the decision to cut meals on flights lasting less than two hours would save the airline around 22 million pounds ($36 million) each year.

Entire Article: USA Today

London Tour

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

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