Once upon a time there was a book titled Europe on $5 a Day. Well before that there was the concept of the Grand Tour, when English aristocrats would travel Continental Europe at leisure and at will with little concern for the costs, because they could afford it. Somewhere between those concepts lies the reality for most Americans today. Finding a limitless supply of funds is beyond the reach of most of us, but obtaining the equivalent of the 1950s $5-a-day adventuring in Europe is equally impossible, isn’t it? Well, pretty much, but there is an alternative, as the New York TimesFrugal Traveler Matt Gross reports. He did his own version of the Grand Tour, on a low budget, and didn’t break the bank. Maybe you can too.

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We make a pilgrimage to Coney Island every summer when I visit my family in New York City. It is a long and eventful subway ride from Manhattan to the tip of Brooklyn. It reminds me of my childhood: the thrill of the rides, the joy of winning a crappy stuffed animal, the Nathan’s hot dog, the skee ball frenzy, the mix of cultures and characters and so much more. Now, one ingredient in the classic summer recipe is gone. Astroland has closed, yet another New York gem unable to make it in these hard times. The three-acre amusement park, inspired by the 1960’s space race, was one of my favorite spots. A recent article in the New York Times laments the loss. The iconic rocket ship that bears its name in the shadows of the Wonder Wheel has been a backdrop for many a photo in my family. One day when I was a kid, we were headed to Coney Island for a family outing, and a 94-year-old neighbor scoffed, with a twinkle in her eye: “Coney Island, that place was seedy in 1905.”  That’s what I love about it! I often recommend a trip out to Coney Island to friends who ask me for my New York favorites. I’ll have to see what it is like minus Astroland.

2 Comments | Filed Under Amusement Park, Family Travel, Feature, New York

Nanaimo barsThe sinfully-rich Nanaimo bar takes its name from the city of Nanaimo on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. This calorie-laden dessert was first mentioned in local cookbooks in the 1950s. Today the three-layer bars are kept next to the cookies and muffins in most British Columbia cafes.

To prepare the base layer, combine half a cup of unsalted butter or margarine, a quarter cup of granulated sugar, and five tablespoons of cocoa powder in a double boiler over the heat. Add a beaten egg, mix well, and pour into a mixing bowl. Stir in half a cup of chopped almonds or walnuts, one cup of grated coconut, and two cups of graham wafer crumbs. Press the soft mixture firmly into an ungreased eight-inch square pan and put the pan in the refrigerator to chill. Continue reading »

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On a scorching hot day in San Francisco I took my kids to the free Power to the Peaceful Concert in Golden Gate Park. My boys love Michael Franti’s music and my older son is good friends with his son. Last year we got back-stage passes. This year it was a blast, but hard work keeping the boys hydrated and tough trying to explain why so many people concerned with the health of our country and planet were smoking so much. We enjoyed the music and entire scene. We danced, sang, ate a picnic and took in the scene and message of the day. It was a huge crowd, primarily bikini-clad young women and shirtless young bucks. My boys wanted to take their shirts off. I let them for one song, but was so worried about heatstroke, I made them put them back on and keep their hats on. Although alcohol was not sold, I feared for many folks, who I’m sure would suffer from the heat that night. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under California, Concert, France, Paris, San Francisco, United States

With Caribbean hurricane season in full tumult it’s possible you’ll end up in San Juan, Puerto Rico with time to kill between flights, so what’s there to do besides hang out at the airport? If you have a minimum of a few hours you can see and do a lot: tour the famous castle El Morro; wander the blue-stoned streets of Old San Juan; luxuriate at a nearby beach; even escape to El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest system. But be careful to watch the time because it’s easy to get lost in your surroundings. In fact, people have got lost in the rainforest. A few years ago an American biologist got disoriented and ended up spending a week or more wandering around the jungle, surviving on what he could scavenge. Continue reading »

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You’ve seen it on postcards, in photo galleries, in museums, and in Hokusai’s famous woodblock art, 36 Views of Mt. Fuji. The elegant perfect cone of Mount Fuji, only 60 miles from Tokyo, is a national symbol, a near mythical place for the Japanese, and one of the world’s most popular mountains to climb. As the official climbing season winds down the numbers are in: a record 247,066 people scaled the peak in July and August. Think about it: over two months that’s 3,985 people per day! If you want to experience the Japanese culture in all of its variety, be there with all of your Tokyo neighbors, and no doubt have a spiritual experience, climb the mountain next summer.

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Getting around Paris is fun. The metro is so easy to figure out, on time and goes nearly everywhere. In summer it can be hot and a bit stinky, but it’s almost a game using the maps or a Plan de Paris (a little book that has every neighborhood and metro stop, every street and bus line cross referenced and easy to find if you have your eye-glasses handy) to map out your trip. When I was a student in Paris I loved to jump on the metro, pick a random stop and then get out and explore. It’s pretty hard to get lost with a Plan de Paris, and I suggest all visitors buy one upon arrival.

Once you’ve traveled by metro it’s also great to get above ground. One of my favorite things to do is take the bus… any bus. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Books, California, Family Travel, Feature, France, Museums, Paris, Uncategorized

According to the international consultancy group Mercer, as quoted in Mercopress Noticias, Buenos Aires is getting more expensive for foreigners. That’s no surprise—anyone who’s spent any time in town the last couple years can tell you that costs of hotels, restaurants, taxis, and other services are all rising rapidly. What’s surprising is that Mercer, whose annual cost of living survey for expatriates around the world appears only in part on their website, says that Buenos Aires still ranks 138th out of 143 cities worldwide, making it nearly the cheapest major city in the world (Asunción, in neighboring Paraguay, is the cheapest). The most expensive is Moscow, and São Paulo (25th) is the most expensive in South America. Continue reading »

2 Comments | Filed Under Feature, Travel

Buy Wind Power by Larry Habegger

First it was the lifesized sculptured cows in Chicago, then the oversized decorated hearts in San Francisco, and now it’s the Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet environmental awareness campaign in major cities in the U.S. and elsewhere. This “public art with a purpose” campaign began in Chicago in 2007 and is on display in San Francisco right now, in one of the city’s most beautiful places, Crissy Field, part of Presidio National Park along the bayfront near the Golden Gate Bridge. Thirty-five lavishly decorated globes line the footpath from East Beach to the Warming Hut, all with a singular message about what we can do to reduce global warming. Themes run the gamut from Food for Thought to Don’t Idle, Use Public Transportation, Population Awareness, Green Office, Take Simple Steps, and Listen to Our Children. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under California, Family Travel, Museums, Travel, United States

The Canadian travel website GoNanaimo.com has come up with a concept that addresses rising fuel prices and climate change. The Nanaimo 50-Kilometer Holiday includes seven self-guided tours within a 50-kilometer radius of Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. As gasoline prices go up, vacationing locally becomes more attractive and Vancouver Island has a lot to offer. The 50-Kilometer Holiday includes two walking tours within Nanaimo and five driving/bicycling tours to nearby mid-island destinations. Each tour is carefully crafted with a printable version and map.

Continue reading »

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