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THE AGGREGATOR

The Everglades Python Hunt

Big-snake-hunt-Florida-Everglades
Photo: heartajack on Flickr using Creative Commons

by Sara Tucker

Not to be pushy, but you've simply got to read this update from Naples Daily News intern Whitney Bryen on the big snake hunt going on in the Florida Everglades. Hilarious, scary, sad, and somehow important all at the same time, her article begins: "Seven men with snake hooks and pocket knives will not cure the problem of pythons in the Everglades, but that doesn't stop Shawn Heflick from trying."

Earlier this month, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar ("prodded by alarmed Floridians") held a no-nonsense, tough-on-snakes press conference to get things rolling. "Burmese pythons are an invasive species that have no place in the Everglades and threaten its delicate ecosystem," Salazar said. "We are committed to aggressively combating this threat, including having trained and well-supervised volunteers hunt down and remove snakes." The Sun Sentinel has more, including this info: "A python hotline has been established for public reporting of pythons. The number is 305-815-2080."

Finally, no serious news story would be complete without punditry. The Great Florida Snake Hunt makes sense at least from a political standpoint, writes Mark Lane, a columnist for the Daytona Beach News-Journal. What does it really mean when a U.S. senator announces to the press that "we need to get a grip on pythons" and "there's one way to do this: Kill the snakes"? Find out here.

Also worth a peek this week:
* Smartphones tackle invasive species (National Geographic)
* How swimmers "could play a profound role" in climate change (Wired)

DISPATCHES

Hong Kong Is Partying

Lan-Kwai-Fong-Hong-Kong
The main drag in Lan Kwai Fong, a Hong Kong neighborhood
that becomes a nonstop party on the weekends
.
Photo: Lisa Limer for Condé Nast Traveler

by Dinda Elliott

The U.S. economy may still be in a slump, but Hong Kong is partying on a Wednesday night. My 17-year-old son, Linus, and I have just arrived after a 16-hour flight from New York. The Four Seasons, our hotel for the night, seems to be packed with mainland Chinese. I hear nothing but Mandarin: shaved-headed men chattering into cell phones, large groups sprawled in comfy arm chairs. I tell Linus that it's hard to imagine that 25 years ago, these people would have been wearing Mao suits.

Wide awake with jet lag, we wander up D'Aigular Street--bustling at 10 p.m.--to Lan Kwai Fong, a hip enclave of restaurants and pubs, where we find crowds of well-dressed young investment bankers spilling out of super-chic bars with bottles of beer in their hands. Smoke oozes from a hookah bar. We are bouncing from place to place, trying to figure out where to get a bite to eat. Within three seconds, it seems, we hear five competing pop songs blaring from adjacent clubs. Shabby tenement buildings hum with an army of air conditioners; overhead, there's a jungle of pipes and flyblown, peeling gray walls. "It's gonna be a good good night," a Chinese singer croons, arms clapping overhead.

Linus and I escape up a side street--I hear it's known as Rat Alley--and order some delicious Malaysian chicken curry noodles and Indonesian nasi goreng fried rice, which we eat sitting on stools at an open-air table. Warm air blows over us, from the row of giant wheezing air conditioners working overtime to keep the restaurants cool. I pull out the South China Morning Post, the local English-language broadsheet, which reports that the mainland Chinese and Hong Kong stock exchanges tumbled 5 percent today as a result of fear that China's banks are going to slow down their lending. But you would never know there are any economic troubles from the hyperkinetic scene among the young movers and shakers here.

Further reading:
* Dinda's Dispatches from Malaysia: "Sexual Politics, Malaysia Style," Penang's Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Obama-mania, bargaining at markets, and an interview with Anwar Ibrahim
* China for Sale (CNT, October 2006)
* Hong Kong Reloaded(CNT, October 2005)
* Dispatches: On the road

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Morocco's Erg Chebbi Sand Dunes

Erg-Chebbi-Morocco-dunes

Today is your last chance to enter our 2009 Dream Trip Contest! You have only until 2 p.m. Eastern Time to enter for a shot at winning a $25,000 vacation to wherever you choose. So far, we've had more than 19,000 contenders. For inspiration for your own entry, read our take on a submission that caught our eye:

As we wrap up our 2009 Dream Trip Contest, Photo of the Day highlights a prayerful image, with best wishes for all who have tried their luck by entering. Dream Trip entrant asherah9 took this picture on Morocco's Erg Chebbi, the largest collection of dunes in the country.

"We slept in tents and woke just before dawn to climb the dune in time for the sunrise," writes asherah9 in the Dream Trip entry "Guide Me to Beauty." "Just before we reached the top, my guide held out his hands as though in prayer to the morning sun, and I snapped this picture. What a magical morning on top of the dune."

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.

ON THE FLY

Airlines' Sick Policies Need Rx

Swine-flu-travel-protection-mask
Sick and traveling: To tell
or not to tell? Airlines don't
always make it easy to know.

Photo: Rescue Dog on Flickr
using Creative Commons

by Barbara S. Peterson

We just heard from a reader facing a tough decision: A day before his family of five was set to fly from California to Italy, his son got diagnosed with the H1N1 virus. But when he called the airline to see about delaying travel plans until the boy recovered, he was told he'd be slapped with a $1,000 change fee ($200 per ticket).

"I am not a rich person, but the $1K won't be the end of the world. I just wonder how families with less means would react. My guess is that most people would still travel knowing that they are sick if they had to eat the cost."

Duh! And, our correspondent went on, "It's interesting to me that the government and airlines do not take special consideration for [this] pandemic disease."

Good point. It seems that the airlines are talking out of both sides of their mouths when it comes to the swine flu outbreak. We're told that we shouldn't travel; indeed, the advice from physicians is to stay inside and away from the general public for at least a week. And yet when people do the right thing, for example inform the airline of their conditions, they get penalized.

Continue reading "Airlines' Sick Policies Need Rx" »

JUST IN

The Dreamliner Problem Gets Worse

Boeing-787-Dreamliner
A Boeing artist's rendering of the 787 Dreamliner
Photo: Courtesy of Boeing Image

by Clive Irving

The Seattle Times is reporting today that Boeing's 787 Dreamliner may not be able to make its first flight until next year. If this is the case, Boeing will face rising anger from its airline customers and punishing demands for compensation due to late delivery. More critically, the structural flaw causing the delay is no longer likely to succumb to a quick fix. In fact, the latest revelation calls into question the integrity of the design.

When Boeing revealed the flaw, it said that there were 18 ruptures on each side of the fuselage at the junction with the wings. Translated into lay language, this puts the focus on the part of the structure that carries the most severe loads--what is called the wing box. The flaw was found in May during static tests in which an entire airplane that never leaves the ground is subjected over a long period to continual stresses similar to those in flight, and then some: The stresses are taken to "ultimate load," over 50 percent more than would in reality occur.

Until today, experts had assumed that the 787 wing failed near that point of maximum stress. Now, according to the Seattle Times aerospace reporter, Dominic Gates, it seems that the wing surfaces began to rupture well before the maximum stresses were applied. That being so, the test flights would have been pointless. Maneuvers would be severely constrained by fears of structural failure in the air.

At the heart of this crisis is Boeing's use of plastic composites in place of metal.  

Continue reading "The Dreamliner Problem Gets Worse" »

BOOM BOX

The Bayou and Bollywood in Brooklyn


The video to one of Kailash Kher's early hits, "Teri Deewani," has all the drama of a Bollywood tale

by John Oseid

These days, the Celebrate Brooklyn series at the Prospect Park band shell is a hot ticket. (Well, a free ticket, really.) Under a towering grove of trees and evening breezes, picnicking families join hipsters to check out top music-makers from around the globe. Last weekend, I discovered two spectacular live performers.

Twenty years ago, the infectious Buckwheat Zydeco party song "Ya Ya" turned me on to Cajun music. Don't know what took me so long to finally see the Louisiana legend boogie a crowd like he did Friday with his band Ils Sont Partis. His repertoire includes a great Creole version of Hank Williams's "Hey Good Looking," and I loved "Jackpot," off an album of the same name. At one point Buckwheat put down his signature accordion to show his chops on the Hammond B3 organ. After hearing his version of Jimmy Cliff's "Let Your Yeah Be Yeah" off his new release Lay Your Burden Down, I ordered the album post-haste.

Continue reading "The Bayou and Bollywood in Brooklyn" »

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Mexico Musicians

Mexico-musician There are just two days left in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest! You have only until July 31 to enter for a chance to win a $25,000 vacation to wherever you choose. So far, we've had more than 17,000 contenders. For inspiration for your own entry, read our take on a submission that caught our eye:

In travel, as in life, sometimes you start out looking for one thing and then end up (happily) finding another. So it was with Dream Trip entrant normans, who traveled near Oaxaca, Mexico, to find the Tule Tree, one of the world's biggest plants.

"While I was concentrating on how to photograph this giant biomass, a local father and son duo of musicians came over to serenade me," writes normans in the Dream Trip entry "The Musicians". "Their performance was distracting, so I gave them a few pesos and asked in my poor Spanish that they stop playing. They misunderstood and played even louder until I tried with more vigor and pesos to persuade them to stop. Receiving money to cease playing was beyond their comprehension; the boy's face melted into a look of frustration and bewilderment. My photo of his expression is more memorable to me than all the photos I finally took of the Tule Tree."

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.

Video

Toronto: The Starchitecture Scene

Condé Nast Traveler's Kate Maxwell bops from the Four Seasons Centre to the Art Gallery of Ontario to the Royal Ontario Museum to get a feel for the city's big-name architecture. What next? A peek into Toronto's up-and-coming neighborhoods.

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Banff Mountain Photographer

Banff-peak

The end is near! You have only until July 31 to enter our
2009 Dream Trip Contest for a chance to win a $25,000 vacation to wherever you choose. So far, we've had more than 17,000 contenders. For inspiration for your own entry, read our take on a submission that caught our eye:

Today's Photo of the Day, submitted by desertbill in the Dream Trip entry "Top of the Mountain," is one part call of the wild, and another part thrill of the voyeur. While we're taking in the scope of the Canadian Rockies in Banff National Park, we're also spying on another photographer taking in the same scene: It's nature photography made meta.

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

Help Clean Up Aruba

EMBRACE
Hyatt Regency Aruba employees and guests sprucing up the ruins of the Bushiribana smelter.

by Brook Wilkinson

The reef internship I wrote about last week might be a long shot, but if you're looking to include some volunteer work in your next beach vacation, consider the Hyatt Regency in Aruba. The resort has committed to helping preserve local cultural attractions through its EMBRACE project, which stands for "Employees Maintaining, Beautifying, Revitalizing Authentic Cultural Elements." Every few months, a group of Hyatt employees and guests go out and spend a few hours cleaning up a historic site. (Yes, the employees who would otherwise be working at the hotel that day are still paid.) The next volunteer day will take place on August 25 at the Balashi Gold Smelter Ruins, a relic of the island's nineteenth-century mining industry. You can spend the morning lending some sweat equity to the volunteer project, and the afternoon lazing on the beach. Not a bad combination, if you ask me.

Further reading:
* How can we open the joys and benefits of travel to more people? Enter your idea and you could be featured in the November issue of Condé Nast Traveler.
* Responsible Traveler: Making a difference.

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Bali Schoolchildren

Bali-School-Children
The end is near! You have only until July 31 to enter our
2009 Dream Trip Contest for a chance to win a $25,000 vacation to wherever you choose. So far, we've had more than 17,000 contenders. For inspiration for your own entry, read our take on a submission that caught our eye:

We're well into summer vacation here in North America, so the image of children rejoicing at the end of the school day is downright unseasonal. But Dream Trip entrant adrobnick's photo of just-dismissed students in Bali skipping for joy is too sweet to wait for September to highlight.

"On a day-trip to Bali's villages, temples, and rice paddies, we shot this picture of several young schoolchildren being released from school for the day," writes adrobnick, a teacher, in the Dream Trip entry, "School's Out!" "It reminded me of my own students, and of the universally shared joy of being let out of school at the end of the day."

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.

Video

Calgary: Cowboy Up!

Home to the world famous Calgary Stampede, this city brings out the cowboy (or cowgirl) in all visitors. Condé Nast Traveler's Mark Schatzker climbs the Canadian Rockies, takes on a mechanical bull, and indulges in a dish called prairie oysters.

WORD OF MOUTH

The Importance of a Good GM

Sherwin
James Sherwin
Photo: Courtesy of the Mark

by Ondine Cohane

As far as I am concerned, you can't overestimate the importance of a good hotel general manager, someone who is responsible for handling  every whim of guests--dealing with any complaint large or small--as well as making sure everything from the restaurant service to room cleanings happens in the most timely, professional, and effortless manner possible.

It may be a cheesy reference, but I always think of the hotel manager in Pretty Woman, who doesn't bat an eyelash at the strange requests of Richard Gere and Julia Roberts and schools her on etiquette (the character was supposedly based on Jack Naderkhani, the general manager of the Raffles L'Ermitage in Los Angeles). James Sherwin is a similar legend in the hospitality business, a charming Brit who used to be the GM at the Carlyle and before that worked at London properties like the Connaught. He is the perfect gentleman and never reveals the secrets of his many celebrity clients--in fact, he is so beloved that he has become a regular fixture on the New York social scene. When he left the Carlyle a couple of years ago to start a consulting business, I wondered where he might pop up next.

This week I got my answer: Sherwin is going to be at the helm of the newly renovated Mark hotel on 77th Street in Manhattan, which just had its soft opening last Monday. Expect a huge overhaul by the fabulous Jacques Grange (he designed many of Yves Saint Laurent's chic retreats and is one of France's most renowned interior designers), a Jean Georges restaurant with 24-hour room service, and a Frédéric Fekkai salon. With Sherwin on board, I bet it is going to be one of the best hotels in New York.

Further reading:
* "Calibrating a Hotel for the Luxury Market," The New York Times on the Mark
* Word of Mouth: The buzz worldwide

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: North Korea Festival

North-Korea-festival The end is near! You have only until July 31 to enter our 2009 Dream Trip Contest for a chance to win a $25,000 vacation to wherever you choose. So far, we've had nearly 17,000 contenders. For inspiration for your own entry, read our take on a submission that caught our eye:

North Korea is in the news again, with the Hermit Kingdom going head-to-head with the United States about when, how, and with whom representatives of the isolated country will talk about its newly minted nuclear program.

Dream Trip entrant ernestinsitka gives us this reminder that in addition to the country's scary diplomacy, there are the equally disquieting, eerie performances of casts of thousands, known as mass games.

"While on a short trip to North Korea, our small group attended the annual Arirang festival in the country's largest stadium," ernestinsitka writes in the Dream Trip entry "Arirang." "It was spectacular."

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.

Video

Quebec City: The Ancien Régime

Condé Nast Traveler's Kate Maxwell channels Quebec's past at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, the Place Royale, and the Musée de la Civilisation before catching more modern fare at Théâtre Petit Champlain.

JUST IN

Only in the Hamptons

Yiddish

by Clive Irving

Temperatures are rising in the Hamptons, that summer playpen of the rich and infamous. The notoriously snarled only major highway, Route 27, has ten-mile tailbacks between Bridgehampton and East Hampton. What is a poor native to do when confronted with some of the world's most aggressive drivers? Resort to Yiddish.

This novel solution appears on adjacent flyers on Main Street, Sag Harbor (above). Once loved as the "Unhampton," Sag Harbor these days, with its docks full of mega-yachts owned by those shrewd enough to have taken the money and run, is as blighted as any place else by road rage. The twin tutorials offered here, on defensive driving and vernacular Yiddish (same phone number), could produce some vivid encounters. Having been rear-ended by a cell phone-addicted Range Rover driver, the victim should--before calling the cops--yell, "Meshuganah!" at the perpetrator, many times, in rising volume. Politely translated, it means mad person. Other suggestions, anyone?

THE AGGREGATOR

Revenge of the Sea Creatures

JoeJr
Mmmm... We think ice cream
when we see this, too

Photo: mrpattersonsir on Flickr
using Creative Commons

by Sara Tucker

This week's news is studded with giants, from a 55-pound MoonPie that was sliced up and served in Wapakoneta, Ohio, to an invasion of giant squid off the coast of San Diego. Let's start with the MoonPie. Wapakoneta is, of course, the birthplace of Neil Armstrong, who executed his "giant leap for mankind" forty years ago. Because Armstrong himself was unable to attend the anniversary celebration in Wapakoneta on Monday, visitors to the Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum had been promised instead a life-size replica of the astronaut carved out of cheese. The sculpture was delivered on time and without incident (the maneuvers required a forklift, explains TimesOnline), but on Monday it was nowhere in sight. That's because on Sunday, according to a local news source, "the air conditioning in the museum automatically turned off overnight, causing the cheese to start melting. Part of the sculpture slid off the base. As of early afternoon, only the base remained on display inside the museum. Guests who were lined up, slowly making their way through the exhibits, were audibly and visibly disappointed when they saw what was left."

Meanwhile, weather systems in Asia were preparing their own version of the cheese debacle:

"Eager solar eclipse gazers beware," warned China Daily as millions gathered on roof- and mountaintops to view what had promised to be a spectacular event: "Dense clouds may spoil your pent-up excitement by obscuring the view."

"Tourists who've traveled from around the world to see this are scrambling to change their plans," reported another news agency, "consulting satellite maps, cloud counts, and good old-fashioned instinct in hopes of finding a hole in the clouds anywhere. (Some are re-booking plane tickets last minute, others are staying put. It's a tough call."

Continue reading "Revenge of the Sea Creatures" »

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Malawi Well

Malawi-girl-water The end is near! You have only until July 31 to enter our 2009 Dream Trip Contest for a chance to win a $25,000 vacation to wherever you choose. So far, we've had more than 16,000 contenders. For inspiration for your own entry, read our take on a submission that caught our eye:

There's a lot to say about the desperate need for clean drinking water in Africa. (For starters, see Condé Nast Traveler Deputy Editor Dorinda Elliott's article "Matt Damon's Good Work Hunting", outlining the actor's support of well building on the continent, and the check out the magazine's Five & Alive Fund, which helps provide safe drinking water there.)

But words cannot encapsulate a basic need as expressively as the image that Dream Trip entrant stevorevo captured in a Malawi village, where the inhabitants had to walk a mile for fresh drinking water before the non-profit that stevorevo runs helped built a well.

"This girl is drinking from the new well for the first time," stevorevo writes in the Dream Trip entry "Essence of Life". "I was able to drink with the people of the village, which created a special bond between us. Every time I look at this photo, I am reminded of how important it is to bring clean water to those in need."

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

Hawaii: A Perfect Getaway

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

Say you're honeymooning on a remote island somewhere in the Pacific (let's call the region "Hawaii") and all you want to do is hike its volcanic cliffs, swim in its pristine waters, sniff plant life, and generally lounge around being gorgeous with your new spouse. Is that too much to ask? Well according to Universal's newest flick A Perfect Getaway, it is. The film follows an adventurous couple who get caught in a tangle of murder and wet t-shirts as they battle to survive a mysterious killer. Coincidentally, the film is set on a Hawaiian island--what are the odds?

Clearly, our young protagonists didn't do their homework. Had they read the July issue of Condé Nast Traveler, they would have known the best spots to visit where you'd have to work pretty hard to find a mysterious killer. Thankfully, we're here to make sure you never make that mistake.

And since this year is the archipelago's 50th birthday, we've brought you our picks for the best surf, drive, beach, and view of Hawaii at 50 along with a handy slideshow. Plus, find out what Hawaii's famous locals have to say about these magical islands. Aloha!

CATCH OF THE DAY

Your Favorite U.S. Diners, Mapped


View Your Favorite US Diners in a larger map

by Julia Bainbridge

Well, I promised on Tuesday that we'd make a Google map of your favorite diners if I got enough suggestions. And I have! My team and I have been fielding responses here on the Daily Traveler, on our Twitter account, and from anyone who walks through the halls of the Condé Nast Traveler offices. Click on the map above to see what diners are getting thumbs up--maybe you, like me, will find a new love.

Further reading:
* Bemoaning the loss of my favorite diner, Joe Jr.'s, in New York
* James Beard honors five classic American restaurants
* Catch of the Day: International noshables

ON THE FLY

Jet America Flops Before It Opens

JetAmerica

by Barbara S. Peterson

Father of deregulation Alfred Kahn, the Cornell economist, once quipped that "maybe it's sex appeal, but there's something about airlines that drives investors crazy." A perfect example of this syndrome--minus, perhaps, the sex appeal--came this week as the latest low-fare wannabe, JetAmerica, confirmed the obvious: It wasn't getting off the ground anytime soon.

JetAmerica, if you recall, was offering a new twist on an old marketing gimmick. The airline, which was to serve Midwest cities like Lansing, Michigan, from Newark Airport, promised to practically give away a handful of seats on its flights at fares from $10 to $20. (Remind anyone of Skybus? That was another short-lived airline founded by the same entrepreneur, John Weikle.) Its Web site promises refunds on the roughly 25,000 tickets it had sold.

As Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Mosley explained, the airline was technically a public charter, meaning it didn't operate any planes itself but instead planned to contract for the flights with a "real" airline--and under the DOT's rules, monies collected by a charter firm must be held in escrow. The DOT said it hadn't had any complaints yet from customers who'd bought tickets.

The fiasco calls to mind other ambitious airline deals that have stayed stuck on the tarmac. Of course it's no mystery why--it's the economy, stupid--but it all makes you wonder why anyone in his right mind would go near anything with wings.

Read after the jump for a list of other recent flops.

Continue reading "Jet America Flops Before It Opens" »

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: The Back of the Taj Mahal

Back-of-the-Taj-Mahal Wanwisa Posner, the winner of last year's Dream Trip Contest, has just gotten back from her $25,000 adventure. Read what Wanwisa has to say about her travels in her blog entries over at the Perrin Post, and take a shot at winning your own vacation of a lifetime by enrolling in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You have until July 31 to enter. For inspiration, here's a  recent submission from our Dream Trip Gallery.

At first glance, today's Photo of the Day appears to be a straightforward framing of the iconic landmark of the Taj Mahal. On closer inspection, something is a little off: Since when has there been a field of marigolds in the grounds of Agra, India's famed mausoleum?

Dream Trip entrant dmaij solves the mystery while describing a travel memory in the Dream Trip entry "A Backwards Taj".

"Across the Yamuna River and opposite the Taj Mahal, my friends and I had a chance to look at a wonder of the world in a way that most visitors never consider," writes dmaij, who wandered the plantings and foundations of an unbuilt, mirror-image Black Taj that the widowed builder of the Taj Mahal planned for his own internment across the river from the tomb of his beloved wife. "As I walked along the central axis of the garden next to meters and meters of wildflowers, I imagined the young Shah Jahan in mourning and how he approached the tomb from the river--not the series of gates and manicured gardens all the tourists maneuver through today."

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

Eva Ayllón and Novalima: Two Top Afro-Peruvian Acts


"Quema la vida, quema la muerte" (Burn life, burn death), sings Novalima vocalist Milagros Guerrero in this sharp video for "Coba Guarango"

by John Oseid

How many of you Peru-ophiles know that a half-million Peruvians are of African descent? Few, I'll bet. But Afro-Peruvians have long been making their own music, from festejo and vals dance music to my favorite, landó, a bluesy sound with Angolan roots. Last week, two of the scene's stars made a convert of me.

Eva Ayllón brought her supercharged voice to the Blender Theater, a converted cinema in New York's Gramercy neighborhood. In addition to an African djembe drum, her tight group featured the signature Afro-Peruvian quijada de burro, a donkey jawbone that acts as a rattler, and the cajón. I'm amazed at the sundry sounds that can be coaxed from the simple wooden box drums. You can hear Ayllón's slow love song "Adoro" and the brisk, jazzy call-and-response "Akundun" on her vibrant new album Kimba Fá.

Novalima is an acclaimed young group that fuses hip-hop, dub, reggae, and various electronic sounds with robust Afro-Peruvian percussive beats. In support of their new album Coba Coba, they performed spiffed-up versions of traditional songs like "Se me Van" at Le Poisson Rouge.

Afro-Peruvians have long been migrating to Lima from their coastal communities. Ayllón and Novalima are shaping their new sounds there, but they both perform songs in praise of their black heritage and rural roots. You won't find a single panpipe on stage, though--we're a long way from Machu Picchu.

More music:
* Here's a video of Eva Ayllón performing the classic folk song "Toro Mata" (The Bull Kills). Check her MySpace page for dates for upcoming European shows.
* With cutting-edge bands like Novalima, the three-year-old Cumbancha label has already made itself a world music leader.
* Out of nowhere, an Afro-Peruvian restaurant and music space just opened in Midtown Manhattan. I'll be heading to the Tutuma Social Club soon.
* Boom Box: An unabashed gusto for music of the world.

JUST IN

Paris Lowers VAT, Wallets Unaffected

by Gerry Dryansky

My morning coffee at my favorite café here in Paris comes to 2.2 euros, or more than three dollars, but there's been a change on the check. The VAT that used to be 19.6 percent is now 5.5 percent. The overall price remains the same. 

France's restaurateurs have been lobbying hard for a cut in the VAT. Since the beginning of the month they've won their cause. The economic crisis, which has seen their clientele drop, was an argument in their favor. It went: lower the VAT and we can lower our prices. A study revealed by the French minister Patrick Devedjian, shows, however, that only 30 percent of independent restaurateurs and café owners have passed on the reduction by lowering prices.

The difference for the customer would come to 11.8 percent. Which means that, say, steak frites at a modest bistro will be about three dollars cheaper--roughly $30. Most restaurants that have lowered their prices have done so selectively. Nothing legally obliges a place to pass on the reduction to clients, but if it has an official sign that says "La TVA Baisse, Le Prix Aussi," it has to pass it on regarding at least 7 items.

For the rest, eat and bear it.

Video

Montreal: Canada's Very Own Paris

Boutique hotels, cool cafés, open-air farmers' markets, and plenty of young musicians. Oh yeah, and eight different foie gras plates in one restaurant. Condé Nast Traveler's Kate Maxwell bikes, dances, and eats her way through Montreal.

Bonus: Airfare Watchdog just informed us of a great flight deal this weekend, $216 roundtrip from New York (JFK) to Montreal. Act fast and you could be munching on a croissant by Saturday.

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