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ON THE FLY

Fighting Swine Flu with Foot-in-Mouth

by Barbara S. Peterson

To hear the airlines tell it, it isn't swine flu we should be worried about, it's the foot-in-mouth disease that appears to have been contracted by Vice President Joe Biden. 

Many of you may have heard the Veep's response to a question from Matt Lauer on the Today show on what the public should do to protect itself against the deadly flu: "I would tell members of my family--and I have--I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now. It's not that it's going to Mexico; it's you're in a confined aircraft where one person sneezes and it goes all the way through the aircraft," he said.

The airlines quickly shot back: "Vice President Biden's comment that people should avoid air travel in response to the [swine] flu outbreak was extremely disappointing,"  said James C. May, head of the Air Transport Association of America. "The airlines have been working daily with government agencies, none of whom suggest people avoid air travel, unless they are not feeling well. The fact is that the air on board a commercial aircraft is cleaner than that in most public buildings."

Continue reading "Fighting Swine Flu with Foot-in-Mouth" »

WORD OF MOUTH

This Summer's Hottest Boutique Music Festivals

Outsidelands
Andrew Bird plays last year's Outside Lands festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
Photo: gussifer l thecoloradoawesome.com on Flickr using Creative Commons

by Ondine Cohane

Where to catch Lily Allen, Kraftwerk, Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Franz Ferdinand, Kings of Leon, and other music-fest faves this summer

What: OUTSIDE LANDS, August 28-30
Where: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
The Vibe: Jack Johnson and Ben Harper are alumni of this West Coast eco-chic festival, now in its second season, which attracts surfers and hippie rockers with day jobs, and mixes jam-band acts with edgier alternatives.
What to Bring: Stay hip and hydrated with the latest from Blue Q, an eco-conscious accessories company that specializes in water bottles ($18).
Don't Miss: The wine-tasting tents--sample the latest Napa vintages, plus super-fresh Hog Island oysters.
In the Hood: Take a side trip to hike along the beautiful Point Reyes National Seashore, an hour north of San Fran (nps.gov/pore).

What: HOVE, June 22-23,
Where: Tromøy Island, Norway
The Vibe: One of the Continent's most exciting and eclectic showcases after only two years (Jay-Z headlined in 2008), this carbon-neutral festival attracts outdoorsy types because of its bucolic Scandinavian countryside setting--think fairy-tale forests, pristine beaches, and clear, fish-filled lakes.
What to Bring: Want to keep up with crazy Scandi style? Pack a graphic bag by Finnish textile authority Marimekko ($469).
Don't Miss: The Killers, headlining this year's lineup, along with Franz Ferdinand, Fleet Foxes, and the Ting Tings.
In the Hood: Check out the former home of Henrik Ibsen, the country's most famous playwright, which is now a museum in nearby Grimstad (gbm.no/ibsenmuseet.html).

Continue reading "This Summer's Hottest Boutique Music Festivals" »

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Erg Chebbi Dunes

Ergchebbi

Dream Trip 2009 is up and running! For inspiration, here's another of our favorite entries from last year:

On a sand dune camel ride, it takes a pretty unimaginative traveler not to conjure Lawrence of Arabia reveries. And it's hard to look at Dream Trip 2008 finalist Tiffiny Aasen's winning image from her trek along Morocco's Erg Chebbi (and read her evocative description of her adventure) without hearing the cinematic masterpiece's sweeping soundtrack in your head.

"Driving along the winding road from Marrakech through the High Atlas Mountains in a minivan," Aasen writes, "our driver hummed along with the oud, darbouka, rabab, and taarija instruments that played on his cassette. The music brought life to the adobe structures that speckle the valleys stretching out 14,000 feet below. The contrast created upon emerging from the green winding life of the Atlas onto the dry straight road leading to the Erg Chebbi Dunes was the first hint at the powerful experience that was to come. Later, with the sands set aglow at sunset, I perched high on a camel and met my guide's gaze for this photo."

Share your travel photos and memories in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You could be just a few clicks away from a $25,000 trip to anywhere you choose.

BOOM BOX

Béla Fleck's African Banjo Adventures

by John Oseid

New York banjoist Béla Fleck is known for having stripped his instrument of its southern redneck veneer. In the new documentary Throw Down Your Heart, he goes a step further, literally, to the disparate nations of Uganda, Tanzania, the Gambia, and Mali in search of the banjo's roots.

Throw Down opens in rural Uganda where Fleck joins a handful of men playing a marimba the size of a minivan (it's shown briefly in the movie trailer above). As you watch him on his pilgrimage, you find that Fleck plays with anyone, anywhere. Like Anania Ngoglia, a charmingly rakish and blind Tanzanian thumb piano player with an unworldly singing voice. In Dar es Salaam Fleck hangs out with a group of young Masai singers and jams in a bare-bones nightclub. In the Gambia, akonting musicians teach him how to carve a gourd and build their three-string cousin to the banjo. And the great Malian singer Oumou Sangaré, regal in all her finery, acts as both muse and mother hen. Her sublime vocals and his strumming accompaniment on her slow song "Djorolen" ("Worry") are a highlight.

In the end, who knows if Fleck really finds the roots of the banjo. And who cares? The film is 97 minutes of kick-ass experimental music. Just ask the cute tykes shaking their hips and swinging their arms in nearly every scene.

More music:
* The film's 18-song sound track includes collaborations with some premier African artists who didn't make it into the film and could well earn Fleck a tenth Grammy.
* Fleck is currently performing with Oumou Sangaré, the Malian kora master Toumani Diabaté, and many other prominent artists as part of his Africa Project tour. He'll also be playing at Madison Square Garden on May 2 for Pete Seeger's ninetieth birthday party.
* Writer James Truman visited Mali and discusses the links between American and African music in his November 2008 Traveler feature "Where the Music Lives."
* Boom Box: An unabashed gusto for music of the world.

DAILY LINKAGE

Daily Linkage: Photo Crazy

Peter_funch_babel_tales
Photo: Peter Funch

Today's Picks
Still recovering from Monday's Air Force One photo-op/screw-up, we dedicate this post to those travel photographers and filmmakers who know their way around Photoshop: 

Artist Peter Funch brings the weird back to New York City's streets with Babel Tales, while Paris gets tweaked beyond recognition by Alexandre Duret-Lutz. 

If we had this camera, we'd take the next transpacific flight and reshoot our Adventure Capital of New Zealand video.

And yes, we know Earth Day was last week, but you can never go wrong with the Big Picture

Elsewhere
The economic news may be ugly, but as long someone can make $10K writing tweets for a Sonoma winery or $100K for blogging (and living) on a tropical island, it can't be all bad.

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Yangtze River Song

Yangtze

Dream Trip 2009 is up and running! For inspiration, here's another of our favorite entries from last year:

One of travel's biggest disappointments is traveling halfway around the world only to find the locals abandoning their old ways to embrace the same bits of Western culture you left at home. Sipping Starbucks instead of tea in Beijing. Going for McDonald's instead of venison above the Arctic Circle. Abandoning dashikis for second-hand T-shirts in Africa. In our ever-globalizing world, one of the biggest challenges can be finding the authentic before it disappears.

On a trip to China, Dream Trip 2008 finalist Sharon Kosboth was able to witness a bit of genuine culture--a farmer dressed in a traditional raincoat--on an offshoot of the Yangtze River that the Three Gorges dam would soon flood.

"We were on a tourist boat excursion through the Lesser Three Gorges of the Yangtze River in China," Kosboth writes. "It was a rainy, dreary day, and we were somewhat tiring of the scenery. We boarded a small boat where we found this happy young boatman. He unexpectedly put on, and then proudly modeled, a local Chinese farmer's raincoat for us. He rowed for a while and then burst full voice into a local folk song. On a gray day, in the middle of a remote (and soon to be inundated) area of the world, his joy of life radiated like a beacon."

Share your travel photos and memories in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You could be just a few clicks away from a $25,000 trip to anywhere you choose.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER

Geographic Expeditions' Trip with Good Karma

Geoex
Distant Mount Kailash is one of the highest mountains in the world never to have been climbed, due to its religious significance.
Photo: Geographic Expeditions

by Brook Wilkinson

I love the idea of volunteer vacations (you can read about my own experience in Cambodia here). So when tour operator Geographic Expeditions' Pilgrimage and Service Trip to Mount Kailash in Tibet came across my desk, I had to spread the word.

Mount Kailash is considered the center of the universe by Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists; every year thousands of them make the trip there to walk around the mountain, an act meant to bring good fortune. But these pilgrims leave behind piles of trash, so Geographic Expeditions has organized a trip to pick up some of this detritus. What I really like about this trip is that GeoEx doesn't boast that its clients' efforts will save the world in one fell swoop. In fact, it states clearly in its brochure that the trip's "progress will only make a small and temporary dent in the enormous task of truly 'cleaning up,' but the goal is to inspire others and set a precedent for environmental stewardship in this region." That's a much more realistic promise than you'll hear from many voluntourism companies. When people care enough about the environment to fly halfway around the world to pick up garbage, you can bet the locals notice. (GeoEx also promises that its guides will help clients differentiate the pilgrims' offerings from everyday rubbish.)

The 24-day trip--July 22 to August 14--includes six full days of picking up garbage around Mount Kailash, after which you'll have finished your own circuit of the mountain, plus time in Lhasa and Kathmandu. If you're looking to do some good on your next trip, I highly recommend this thoughtful, fascinating itinerary.

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Sailing Australia

Australia

Dream Trip 2009 is up and running! For inspiration, here's another of our favorite entries from last year:

Some travelers use a trip as a chance to gain a new expertise (cooking classes or golf lessons, anyone?), but Dream Trip 2008 finalist Charles Pezeshki found an opportunity to hone a skill that seeks to run in the family: On his cruise aboard a sail-powered yacht, he scampered up the masts and ropes like an old hand. At the same time, he captured a Pirates of the Caribbean-worthy picture:

"My great-grandfather was the captain of a clipper ship that rounded the Horn six times," he writes, "so when I sailed on the Coral Trekker in 2005, it was up the yardarms and out on the boom for me, helping to unfurl the canvas as we left Whitehaven Bay. We were 40 feet above the deck with no safety harnesses. The wires cut into my feet, but I held on tight as the wind blew. Afterward, as I lay in the bowsprit netting, satisfied, looking for dolphins that would surf off our bow wake, I took this photo with my panoramic camera."

Share your travel photos and memories in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You could be just a few clicks away from a $25,000 trip to anywhere you choose.

The Global Gourmet

In Wine, Beware of Rare

Tres Picos
A good kind of "rare" wine.

by Clive Irving

One of the most deceptive terms used for a wine is "rare." You can usually find the word being deployed at two extremes: the expensive and the affordable. One of the world's greatest wines, Romanée-Conti, is rare because its vineyard is less than four and a half acres in size and produces only about 450 cases of unequaled pinot noir a year. A bottle of the 2005 vintage could set you back a cool $9,500. To die for, literally: One sip and you've gone to heaven.

At the cheap end, you can find wines that are rare not because of small acreage but simply because few people know of them. But beware the kind of hype you find--for example--on an airline wine list with this kind of language: "The Pecksniff family has been cultivating this small vineyard in Amador County for six generations, producing a Zinfandel rich in mineral power, a real find." Translated, that means the wine buyer has been able to get 400 cases at a bargain price.

It is heartening to find a wine that is still relatively under the radar and yet notably full of local character. The Campo de Borja region in northeastern Spain was given an official denomination in 1980, but nobody noticed until recently. The Global Gourmet enjoyed a bottle of the 2005 vintage with the Tres Picos label last year in Valencia. Recently, he introduced the 2007 vintage at two small gatherings in the offices of Condé Nast Traveler, to much acclaim. One sign that the wine maker is serious about the condition of his product is the weight of the bottle itself: It has the heft of a gold-plated Burgundy's bottle, despite what this must add to the shipping costs. The deep, dark wine is an astonishingly deft mingling of fruit, spice, and tannins that delivers the finest qualities of the grape, Garnacha (otherwise known as Grenache). Even better is the price: between $14 and $16 a bottle. For the 2007 Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha Campo de Borja, see klwines.com.

Further reading:
* The Global Gourmet talks Bordeaux
* Catch of the Day: International noshables

DAILY LINKAGE

Daily Linkage: On Mapping Flickr Photos and Swine Flu

Manhattan Apple Store
The Apple Store on Fifth Avenue. 
Photo: Othermore on Flickr
using Creative Commons
 

Today's Pick
Quick, what is the fifth most photographed building in New York City? Studying geotagged data from 35 million photographs uploaded to Flickr, computer scientists at Cornell have discovered that the building is (virtual drumroll...) the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue! They also learned that while New York is the most photographed city in the world, London hosts four of the most photographed landmarks. Check out the New Scientist for the names of those landmarks as well as the scientists' account of how Flickr statistical analysis can provide insight into "what the world is paying attention to."

Elsewhere
No doubt, most Daily Travelers have already encountered mapped versions of the spread of the A (H1N1) swine flu. Here's a version on Google Maps. MSNBC.com takes the state-by-state approach. For the money, however, BBC.com hosts the most interactive swine flu map, thanks to a slider that allows users to track its spread over time. We hope not to see many more updates.

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Antarctica's Icy Edge

Antarctica

Dream Trip 2009 is up and running! For inspiration, here's another of our favorite entries from last year:

Distant and extreme, Antarctica is the quintessential far-flung destination for many a seasoned traveler. (It was the ultimate destination of our 2007 Dream Trip winner, whose Dream Trip prize landed him near the bottom of the earth after a six-week odyssey through South America.)

Dream Trip 2008 finalist Abbie Urish, too, felt the pull to visit Antarctica, but it wasn't until she reached the icy edge that she truly understood the frozen continent's power. There, she captured a striking image that makes the viewer contemplate Antarctica's massive scale as well as its fragility.

"After layering up," she writes, "we filed into Zodiac boats to sightsee. Staring into the black icy waters was mesmerizing--yet more stunning was the submerged ice that caught light below and suddenly made the waters seem Caribbean with light teal shades. I was enthralled looking down but glanced up just in time to catch this amazing ice formation with our Russian ship right next to it."

Share your travel photos and memories in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You could be just a few clicks away from a $25,000 trip to anywhere you choose.

WORD OF MOUTH

More for the Wish List: South Africa

Capetown
The One & Only Cape Town.

by Ondine Cohane

I have been thinking about South Africa a lot this week. Mostly because of the recent election, of course, but also because my husband has some South African guests staying with us. Regardless of what you think of Jacob Zuma (and I will stay out of politics here), there is no disputing that the country has plenty to attract tourists: wine, wildlife, and gorgeous natural surroundings from bush to beach.

Cape Town is consistently a reader favorite at Condé Nast Traveler, and with the opening of a One & Only resort there this month, the city is going to become even more popular. Nelson Mandela and Mariah Carey were among the boldfaced names at the grand opening, and it sounds like it is going to be an impressive property with a 3,767-square-foot infinity pool (I am trying to visualize that), a huge spa and fitness center, both a Gordon Ramsay Maze and a Nobu restaurant (the first in Africa), and gorgeous views of iconic Table Mountain.

When I visited Cape Town in the early '90s I stayed at the beautiful Mount Nelson Hotel before going on safari in Botswana, but there are great places to see game in South Africa. I got an e-mail from a friend this week asked whether she should stay at Singita or Londolozi lodge for her honeymoon. I am sure she would be happy in either spot, but if you have visited them, let me know which you would choose. Another option would the brand-new Cliff Lodge, a two-bedroom retreat with its own swimming pool and dining room and the latest addition to Richard Branson's Ulusaba Private Game Reserve. Apparently Christian Slater was the inaugural and very happy guest.

Further reading:
* Ulusaba's Cliff House has an opening special: Before June 30, 2009, you can stay 4 nights, pay 3 nights; stay 5 nights, pay 4 nights; or stay 7 nights, pay 5 nights. This came to us by press release, but it's not yet online, so call the property directly to inquire.
* Travel Wish List 2009

DAILY LINKAGE

Daily Linkage: Sachs Machine

Jeffrey_sachs_dt
Photo: Sebastien Cailleux / Portfolio

Today's Pick
When not tagging poverty fighter Jeffrey Sachs with new nicknames such as the "Willy Loman of Anti-poverty Products" and "International Man of Misery," Portfolio.com reports on the challenges Sachs is facing getting various governments and billionaires on board the anti-poverty train during the worldwide economic crunch.  Don't miss the map ("Where's Jeffrey?") detailing a recent monthlong travel itinerary completed by Sachs.  How do you match up?  Condé Nast Traveler profiled Jeffrey Sachs in 2008.

Elsewhere
Watch SouthWest's rapping flight attendant, if only for the look of bewilderment on some of the passengers' faces.

THE AGGREGATOR

The Hostel Comes of Age, Along with Its Clientele

LisbonLounge
Lisbon's Lounge Hostel
makes the greypacker grade

by Sara Tucker

Pink-slipped baby boomers and retirees are hoisting backpacks and heading to Europe and beyond this summer, lured by cheap airfares and beds that range from low-cost to no-cost. Among those ready to receive them: upscale hostels that offer far more comfort than their rustic predecessors while providing "a built-in social life for travelers" (New York Times).

"Greypackers" is the term coined by blogger Ben Groundwater to describe this new breed of traveler. "It's not a bad thing," he asserts. "That's what I want to be when I grow up."

With no job to curb their freedom, some of these old-timers are hitting the road for months at a stretch.

"The number of people taking a gap year has increased massively over the past 12 months as unemployment soars," reports the Daily Mail. "American Express Insurance has almost doubled its sales of gap year travel insurance to those aged between 30 and 50 since August."

For advice on travel insurance and other grown-up concerns (e.g., what to do with one's mortgage and car payments while on the road), mature travelers are turning to Web sites like Backpacking for Grownups, which advertises itself as "a useful resource for any grown-up in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, or even 80s or 90s looking to take a career break, gap year, or go traveling with a backpack."

Further reading:
* The official hot hostel list (the Guardian)
* Europe's top 10 boutique hostels (MailOnline)

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Woman at Ellora Caves, India

Gulf Stream IV

Dream Trip 2009 is up and running! For inspiration, here's another of our favorite entries from last year:

"Pink," the legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland once famously observed, "is the navy blue of India." The style arbiter was talking about the bright color's ubiquity on the Subcontinent. But Dream Trip finalist Linda Morrison's winning entry, captured at the Ellora Caves, a temple complex in the Indian state of Maharashtra, attests to the hue's power. The vibrant sari stands in stark relief against the basalt walls and makes the viewer contemplate the contrast, and the timelessness of India itself.

"I happened to spot this Indian woman walking through the site," Morrison writes. "The vision reminded me of the continuity of life in this ancient country, and the place of religion in the lives of the people of India. It is not unlikely that this scene could have occurred centuries ago instead of in the year 2008."

Share your travel photos and memories in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You could be just a few clicks away from a $25,000 trip to anywhere you choose.

BOLDFACE

Rihanna and Katy Perry Chill Out in Barbados

PlayaBrava
How to lose a guy in ten days?
Take a girlfriend getaway
on the beach.

by Beata Loyfman

We can't blame Rihanna for staying out of the spotlight lately, what with the Chris Brown fiasco still swirling and nosy paparazzi stalking her everywhere. In times like these, a girl really needs a friend, so when we saw photos of Rih and fellow pop star Katy Perry boating in Barbados, we thought the trip was the perfect antidote to recent events.

If you're going through personal drama, there's nothing like an escape to sunny shores. And South America has some of the best beaches this side of the Atlantic. Luckily, you don't have to throw darts at a map in hopes of finding the perfect south-of-the-equator strand, because we've done the legwork for you. We surveyed 9,000 miles of coast and came up with 13 favorites in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. (Well, actually we made Deputy Editor Hanya Yanagihara do it, since we didn't want to get sand in our hair.)

Note: If a celebrity friend is footing the bill, you might want to suggest business-class seats on LAN airlines so you can fly south in comfort. The tickets are on sale now, so you don't have to feel like a total mooch.

ON THE FLY

In-Flight Wi-Fi Report: Flyers Bemoan Loss of Foxhole

Sleepy
Looks like soon, the subway will be the businessman's only safe nap zone.
Photo: muzzanese on Flickr using Creative Commons

by Barbara S. Peterson

With as many as 800 planes in the U.S. morphing into mile-high Wi-Fi hotspots in the next two years, here's a thought that may not have occurred to the airlines: Some fliers are less than thrilled that one of their best excuses for ducking an annoying colleague or a last-minute work assignment may be snatched away from them.

That, at least, was the buzz among some pin-striped business types at an Airfinance Journal conference in Manhattan this week. According to one source, groans were heard when the topic arose. If the boss could fire off a demand while you're trapped in an aluminum tube, you're stuck--can't exactly sneak out to lunch, can you?

It appears that in-flight Wi-Fi providers are aware of this issue. Row 44 president Gregg Fialcowitz recently suggested in an interview that users who would rather read or nap can fall back on that time-honored excuse: "the system is down."   

"We recognize the technology will annoy some, if not many," Fialcowitz conceded.

Continue reading "In-Flight Wi-Fi Report: Flyers Bemoan Loss of Foxhole" »

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Giraffe Fight Club, South Africa

Giraffefightclub

Dream Trip 2009 is up and running! For inspiration, here's another of our favorite entries from last year:

An African safari can involve a lot of planning (where to go, when, and what shots you'll need) and expense (upwards of $500 per person per day for a luxe tour). And once you get out there on the veld, the whole thing can seem like a lot of time and money spent just to look at tall grass.

But when you spy one of Africa's iconic animals in its natural environment, as Dream Trip finalist Sarah Schaare did, the payoff is worth it.

"Driving in Kruger National Park there wasn't an animal in sight," writes Schaare. "Then, out of nowhere, we saw a giraffe's head hovering over some trees. Then a second one popped up. They kept coming closer, a slow strut with a slight sway/swagger of their long necks. They stopped not far from where we had parked and started this weird synchronized dance; then the big guy launched a hip-check (captured in this shot), right before he whipped around his long neck in a complete arc and slammed into the other one. It was over. The giraffes disappeared into the brush, and we just sat and stared. At that moment, we knew we had just witnessed Giraffe Fight Club."

Share your travel photos and memories in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You could be just a few clicks away from a $25,000 trip to anywhere you choose.

BOOM BOX

Mali's Rokia Traoré Rocks

by John Oseid

I was thrilled when Malian singer-songwriter Rokia Traoré took home the Best World Music award at France's Victoires de la Musique ceremony last winter. I've been a big fan for years, and just a week earlier, I had witnessed her bring a Brooklyn College crowd to its feet.

At the Zénith de Paris, Rokia sang her driving blues rock number "Zen" (watch the performance above). It's a song about doing nothing ("J'ai eu le courage de ne rien faire" goes the refrain, for you Francophones), in which her delicate voice is backed by the plucking rhythm of an African thumb piano.

The daughter of a diplomat, Rokia is fiercely proud of her Malian roots, but she's not wedded to any popular ideas of West African music. It's unusual, for example, to find a female Malian guitarist, but watch how the waifish singer wields her big rockabilly Gretsch on Jools Holland's popular BBC music show. First, she sings "Zen" again, and she then picks up her guitar and jams on "Tounka," a song about illegal immigration. The musician with the white head wrap is making that cool banjo-y sound on a traditional ngoni string instrument.

Except for the Gershwin standard "The Man I Love," all the tunes on her new gem of an album Tchamantché (the word means equilibrium) are her own compositions sung in a mix of French and Bambara. If American radio wasn't so banal, Rokia Traoré would be all over the airwaves here.

More music:
* At Rokia's Brooklyn show, she was joined by South African anti-apartheid activist and singer Vusi Mahlasela. Check him out on vusimahlasela.com.
* This summer you can find Rokia playing at top festivals and stages all over Europe. The events are listed on her MySpace page.
* Rokia's Web site includes a set of videos. "Dounia" is an elegant paen to Mali's rich cultural heritage.
* Boom Box: An unabashed gusto for music of the world.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER

Earth Day: Globetrotting for Good

YesWeCan
Yes we can!

This being Earth Day, we thought that we would bring to your attention the Condé Nast Traveler Challenge: Globe-trotting for Good, an international competition for travelers and members of the travel industry to share their ideas for promoting global citizenship.  If you believe in the power of travel to do good, by all means participate. The winning ideas will be promoted in the September 2009 "Power of Travel" issue of Condé Nast Traveler.

Further reading:
* In 1963, writer Paul Theroux joined the Peace Corps, shaping both its future and his view of the world. (Cue President Obama's new appeal to public service.) Read "The Lesson of My Life" to find out how his life changed after becoming a teacher in Africa.
* You don't have to wear a hair shirt and dig a well to give back when you travel. Here are eight great trips that connect you with the world.
* Make a difference: Travel right, do good.

HEALTH & BEAUTY

Amy Darland's Top 5 Sustainable San Francisco Picks

International Orange
Darland's Zen-like yoga space
at International Orange.

by Mollie Chen

Amy Darland opened San Francisco wellness center International Orange seven years ago, naming it after the color of the Golden Gate Bridge. Since then, Darland and her co-founders Melissa Ferst and Kary Chendo have gained a cult following for their top-notch yoga classes and all-natural spa services. Their gorgeous (and sustainable) Pacific Heights space has seven treatment rooms, a light-filled yoga studio, and a front desk fringed with bamboo. In addition to handpicking all the products that are used at the spa, Darland has her own line of organic products made from ingredients her parents grow on their New Mexico farm. Below, her picks for enjoying San Francisco's sustainable side:  

* Rainbow Grocery, a worker-owned co-op in the Mission for the best in sustainable, fresh foods.

* California Academy of Sciences, especially Thursday night after-hours fun.

* Eco Citizen for "eco-couture" and clothing in Russian Hill.

* Spring eco-home store: one of International Orange's exclusive SF retailers of IO organic products, located in Russian Hill.

* Pizzeria Delfina in Pacific Heights: Just around the corner from IO, this pizza joint adheres to admirable sustainable practices and sources ingredients locally.

Further reading:
* Responsible Traveler Brook Wilkinson is also a fan of the California Academy of Sciences.
* Rooms at San Francisco's newly opened Good Hotel start at $89 per night--and the green details are impressive.

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: The Monkey King, Beijing

Monkeyking

Dream Trip 2009 is up and running! For inspiration, here's another one of our favorite entries from last year:

A too-packed itinerary and a fear of not being able to understand the language can keep potential audience members from seeing arts performances when they travel. Which is a shame, because seeing an iconic or even an experimental work can be the most rewarding part of a trip.

Dream Trip finalist Franziska Raspa managed to squeeze in a performance of the Monkey King on her trip to Beijing, and she captured a winning image of the title character: "a rebellious trickster," she describes, "who can change shapes, use kung fu, and travel 180,000 miles in one leap.

"The story is a subtle criticism of repressive authority in the country and has been popular for centuries," she continues. "[It's] a good story, a fun performance, and memorably Chinese."

Share your travel photos and memories in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You could be just a few clicks away from a $25,000 trip to anywhere you choose.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER

Does Private Jet + Around the World = Green?

Gulf Stream IV
Looks green so far...
Photo: GJC1 on Flickr
using Creative Commons

by Brook Wilkinson

At first I thought it must be an April Fool's joke. A green round-the-world trip by private jet? But Safari Air, the company behind this supposedly eco-friendly venture, is serious. They think that by simply offsetting the carbon emissions of the flights, their passengers' consciences will be clear. Think again.

Responsible travel is about a light footprint. A trip by private jet is anything but. The eight passengers who will fit on board Safari Air's Gulfstream IV would do much better to book economy-class tickets on a commercial airline: The more bodies you pack onto a plane, the fewer the harmful emissions per passenger. I also wish Safari Air's itinerary involved a little more time at each destination; as is, tour participants will jump from one iconic sight to the next (the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids) in just three weeks, as if these were merely items on a to-do list. Will they witness the gut-wrenching poverty just outside the gates of the Taj Mahal, or will they be whisked from their five-star hotel to the Taj's back entrance in an air-conditioned Mercedes, every beggar kept more than arm's reach away?

The only thing green about Safari Air's round-the-world trip is the price tag: $144,500 per person. For that kind of money, you could take a completely comfortable and much more green trip with one of the honorees in Condé Nast Traveler's World Savers Awards . . . and still have enough left over to build a school in Tanzania or a medical clinic in Indonesia.

Further reading:
* Carbon offset kiosks are coming to SFO
* Join the Condé Nast Traveler Challenge and tell us how travelers can contribute meaningfully to the lives of local people
* Responsible Traveler: Making a difference
 

DEALS

Fly LAN to South America in Style

Lan
The business of flying: LAN's flat beds make for a cozy landing.

by Beata Loyfman

You may have noticed that Latin American destinations have been popping up on the Daily Traveler quite frequently these days. And with good reason. Amazing deals south of the border are flying faster than you can say seviche. We recently told you about finds in Costa Rica, Belize, and Mexico. But what if you want to go even farther south? To Chile, say, where December is synonymous with "bikini," or to Argentina, where the grilling is good?

Well, you're in luck. LAN has just slashed prices on its business class flights to Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru by almost 50 percent. Yes, half off. And these aren't just your regular plane seats; these have flat beds, gourmet meals, and high-tech TV screens. Ordinarily, a 13-hour plane haul is about as appetizing as day-old sushi, but with these amenities, you'll be praying for delays.

The discounted rates are available only until May 15. Buena suerte!

Further reading:
* Check out LAN's high-res-screened TV that has 55 channels
* For more travel discounts, go to the Daily Deals section on our sister blog, the Perrin Post. Wendy Perrin and her team rigorously vet every offer they publish to make sure it represents good value for your dollar.

The Global Gourmet

A Pissoir by Any Other Name

Urinal_rising_dt
The Urilift emerges.

by Clive Irving

The Global Gourmet served his apprenticeship in the art of eating and drinking in the Paris of the early 1950s. Only six or seven years after World War II, family-run restaurants were numerous, cheap, and devoted to classic French cooking. Six- or seven-course dinners, with several bottles of good wine, were normal. Something else also seemed integral to the city's nocturnal amenities--the pissoir. Facing a long ride home on the Métro, many a replete gourmand found relief in these street urinals, which were part of the urban iconography along with magazine-vending kiosks and the Art Deco subway stations.

Now, like the cheap restaurants, the pissoir has become a scarce relic of less-sophisticated times. So it was with some surprise that the Global Gourmet discovered that the pissoir has been reincarnated in a new, high-tech form called, mysteriously, the Urilift.

Strolling through Smithfield, London's still fully functioning meatpacking district, he encountered a small excavation in progress. A sign announced the imminent arrival of a Urilift. Further research revealed this to be a retractable street urinal. It rises from a cavity at night and retracts at dawn, leaving no trace except a circular panel embedded in the pavement.

The Urilift, say its makers, "is the underground solution to indiscriminate urination." Smithfield, like the old Les Halles district of Paris, is a nexus of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. In other words, a serious challenge to peripatetic (and indiscriminate) bladders. The Urilift can accommodate three patrons at a time, and in the case of "people who may have trouble with their co-ordination" is generous in its drainage and hygienic in its disposal methods.

The name is awful, isn't it?  Given the technology, it should be renamed the iPissoir. For a complete account of the device's rationale and gifts, go to Urilift.com and watch the video.  No kidding. 

Further reading:
* The Global Gourmet on London's Modern Pantry
* Clive explores the unique chemistry of Europe's most innovative architecture ("The Fame In Spain," January 2008)

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