I was about three years old when I saw my first train depot. I remember staring in wonder at the vapor clouds spewing off those gigantic locomotives in the Minnesota winter while a couple, seemingly oblivious to the outside world and acutely aware that their parting may be for a long, long, time, hugged and kissed and hugged and kissed.
But for me the awe was for that giant shed of ironwork and glass, the silver rails, the growling iron beasts waiting for departure from the Milwaukee Road Depot on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis.
Looking back, I can see that the place was pretty mundane compared to the grand railway stations of the world. Even by American standards it wasn’t much, but I would only learn that later. At the time I thought traveling by train was the greatest adventure imaginable, and part of that wonder was due to the grand spaces where trains began and ended their journeys, where passengers boarded and disembarked. Continue reading »
One of the benefits (if there are such things) to the current economic implosion is the sudden affordability of services or destinations that were once out of reach for many. Iceland went figuratively bankrupt this fall when the banking crisis pulled the rug out from under the country’s economy, and Icelanders needed to scramble to find ways to make ends meet.
One way was to push tourism up the scale of importance and hope to draw visitors to pump needed foreign currency into the ailing system. According to Madeline Drexler in the Los Angeles Times, this produced a clever promotion from the tourism industry: Halfpriceland, the new affordable Iceland. And it turns out to be true. The U.S. dollar trades for almost twice the number of krona it did a year ago, making prices comparable with those in the U.S. Continue reading »
Studying Abroad is one of the most expansive experiences a young student can have, not only living and studying in a country, but being able to travel widely while away from home. I was lucky when I studied in France many moons ago because the dollar was strong and a semester abroad was actually less expensive than a semester on campus in Connecticut.
Nearly every weekend I took off for London, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Holland or Italy. I remember sewing a Canadian patch on my backpack before a foray through Europe because of the palpable dislike for Reaganomics and small acts of terrorism against Americans: small potatoes compared to travelers’ fears today. Continue reading »
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Without running a Google search or checking a current almanac, most of us probably wouldn’t know that our Earth contains 757 countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups, and major states and provinces. Certainly most of us wouldn’t consider it possible to visit them all. Most of us would be wowed if we made it to 100 countries. Even 50 is pretty darn good. But all of them?
The place most people think of when hearing about a taste of France in Canada is Quebec, the French-speaking province with cosmopolitan Montreal and the walled old town of Quebec City. But San Francisco Chronicle Deputy Travel Editor Spud Hilton has a different take and a different place in mind: Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, an archipelago of eight tiny islands (only three are inhabited) off the coast of Newfoundland that not only offer a taste of France, they are France. Continue reading »
Sometime in the 1980s the QE2 came to San Francisco and I remember thinking she was a marvel among marvels. After all, at 963 feet and 70,000 tons she was the world’s largest cruise ship and dwarfed the other vessels I’d seen over the years docking at the piers beneath my home on Telegraph Hill. Not long after, or maybe before, my memory is fuzzy, the ship was commandeered by Margaret Thatcher to serve as a troop ship during the 1982 Falklands War.
In January 2007 she returned to San Francisco, diminished in size by the behemoths that followed her. The current “world’s largest cruise liner” is Freedom of the Seas at a staggering 1,112 feet and 160,000 tons. That’s more than twice the weight of the QE2, which is almost beyond comprehension, literally holding a small town of 4,300 passengers and 1,300 crew on 15 passenger decks. Continue reading »
If you still party like its 1999, but consider yourself to be Green, you might want to check out the new Dutch Green Disco in Rotterdam. Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, is often described as a gritty port city with a vibrant night life. Now it is also home to the Club Watt: a nightclub for the new millennium. As 2009 fast approaches, this is nightlife that is more in tune with today’s environmental concerns. Described as a sustainable Dance Club, the nightspot boasts a dance floor that gathers energy from the dancer’s movements. The club also advertises rainwater-fed toilets, heat created by the amplifiers and other musical equipment, as well as a robust recycling program.
Clubbing is never going to be a carbon neutral endeavor, with all the electricity needed for strobes, disco balls and audio equipment, but if you are planning a trip to Holland you might want to check out the latest in “hybrid” hotspots.
Now that the Beijing Olympics are fading into memory, how about competing in the Pythian Games, the pan-Hellenic precursors to the Olympics we know today? Obviously we can do this only in our imaginations, but a visit to Delphi, where the games were held — especially in the early morning before the crowds arrive — can stimulate dreams of ancient glory. It all began this way for Tim O’Reilly on a recent trip:
“I ran the 100 yard dash in the Pythian Games. I came in last, of course. Even though the echoes of other runners were only in my imagination, I wouldn’t want to take away any of their glory. (I’m also realistic about my foot speed :-)) Continue reading »
My boys and their peers are soccer freaks. We recorded nearly every game possible for the 2006 World Cup and I would love to take the family to see the 2010 games in South Africa. I was recently pondering the possibility and checked out some ticket prices for the events. Interest in soccer is growing every year in the United States and is certainly strong in the San Francisco Bay Area.
A recent article in the New York Times chronicled the opening of a Soccer Museum, where else but in Sao Paulo, Brazil. An elite sport that has become a sport for the masses, it has great lessons to teach both on and off the field. Continue reading »
Cherries were twelve-Euros (about 18-dollars) a kilo, a coffee in an un-trendy, un-touristy area, six-dollars, and it seemed the only deal on food was, predictably, baguettes and wine. I was stuck, trying not to spend too much money on my unplanned trip to Paris this August. I was visiting to help a friend though surgery and had not budgeted for the trip. Luckily, cooking in her adorable apartment was pleasant and she was nice enough to treat me to a few lovely meals. The dollar, however, was so weak it was painful. I know Paris well, however, and know where to find deals, where to shop and how to live cheaply while still enjoying my stay. Here are a few simple things I did that saved me a lot, without compromising my visit too much. Continue reading »