The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics are coming to a close and I must say I have an Olympic sized hangover. I have stayed up way too late, too many nights, watching even preliminary runs and way too much commentary.
The 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics was also a Canadian affair. It was the last Olympics where Cold War rivalries played out on the world sporting stage. It was the year of the Jamaican Bobsled team and Eddie the Eagle, the courageous Scottish everyman who soared in the ski jump, or at least gave it his best.
For Olympic nerds, like me, it was the year of the Battle of the Brians in figure skating where the American Brian Boitano won the gold. I remember most of all the amazing scenery, Lake Louise and the stunning aerial photography of the Canadian Rockies. A two-hour drive from Calgary, Banff is to Calgary what Whistler is to Vancouver. Continue reading »
My grandparents golfed, cruised and often traveled in tour groups. They would bring things home for me from their travels, such as a Norwegian sweater, a Scottish blanket (I still use it after all these years) and a turquoise ring from a Native America Reservation they loved to visit in Arizona — wonderfully traditional stuff.
My parents are way more adventurous, but it still would probably stress them out to travel the way I often do: informed, well read, but ready to alter my plans at any moment. I have to hand it to them though, for folks in their 70s, they are pretty inspirational.
Just like a concerned parent, I fretted when my father traveled to Myanmar on his own and when my mom and her best friend took a whirlwind trip to Greece and Turkey. They are young at heart and never wanted to follow a travel formula, which is in part why I love to travel so much. Continue reading »
Images from Haiti are heartbreaking. Such disasters, with their mind-boggling destruction — earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, wars — are difficult to witness, even on television. So much suffering from Mother Nature and the hand of man.
The day before the tragic earthquake in Haiti I was reading a heart warming story in The New York Times about another area of the world rising from the ashes. The Balkans, recovering from the unspeakable atrocities of the 1990s, had some good news to share. A train linking Sarajevo and Belgrade was now back on track after nearly 20 years.
The route, famous in the region, was once a literal link between Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims in this part of the world that was once known as Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia had been famously knit together by Communism and Tito, but the cohesion couldn’t hold and the region exploded into war and chaos following Tito’s death and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The bridges were targeted in the bombings and were a major challenge to rebuild. Continue reading »
Every year around this time the New York Times (and other publications) publish lists of their favorite destinations for the new year. Often places on the list are obvious, often not, and sometimes there are real surprises.
On the Times’s list this year I’d put Copenhagen, Shanghai, and Costa Rica in the first category, Damascus, Bahia, and Istanbul in the second category, and Shenzhen (China), Koh Kood (Thailand), and Montenegro in the third.
Number 1 on the list, however, is Sri Lanka, and that’s a place I’d put at the top of my list for this year, a country I last visited in 1979. The island is just emerging from three decades of civil war and finally, one hopes, can put such strife behind. The island is rich in archaeological treasures, ancient culture, exotic (from a Western perspective) wildlife, and pristine beaches. Not to mention the home of a revered relic, “Buddha’s Tooth.” It’s time for a return visit.
Spud Hilton reported in the San Francisco Chronicle the other day a new spin on the top 10 lists we always see at this time of year. Not the best beaches or golf courses or hot cities for the new year, but the Developing World’s 10 Best Ethical Destinations.
The list was compiled by Jeff Greenwald and Christy Hoover at EthicalTraveler.org, a nonprofit organization (part of the Earth Island Institute) that urges travelers to spend their travel dollars in ways that protect human rights and minimize impacts on the environment. They acknowledge that no country on the list is perfect (what country off the list is?) but they found lots of hope and inspiration in many places. Continue reading »
Global Warming was the topic in Copenhagen last week, but in Sweden, the buzz is all about construction of the 20th annual ice hotel. The little Lapland village of Jukkasjärvi, 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, is the site of this ephemeral art project and ultimate boutique hotel experience. You can let out your inner Santa as you sleep and dine on ice in this annual giant igloo extravaganza.
The building process spans November and December. Artists from all over the world come to help build the frozen palace, and each week a new “wing” of the hotel is open to guests. This year, headline artists came from Chile, Bulgaria and Japan. The 2009/2010 Ice Hotel will have 62 rooms. A live webcam lets you keep up with this extreme architectural endeavor.
This year’s creation features an Absolut Vodka ice bar, an ice cinema, an ice chapel, ice family rooms and ice suites. Four thousand tons of ice is used each year. Room rates start at about $300. Guests sleep on reindeer skins and the accommodations are surprisingly cozy, according to a colleague who made the trip a few years ago.
It is of course the darkest time of the year, but if you visit this part of Sweden now you may get a chance to see the famed Northern Lights or maybe the occasional flying reindeer. You can check out our Triporati Sweden Ice Hotel video and see for yourself…this is certainly the ultimate place to chill.
Every year around this time we hear railing against the commercialization of Christmas, and the exhortations to shop and buy and give do get tiring, but they’re nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around a long time, since the Middle Ages, as the many Christmas markets across Europe attest.
The oldest, in the French city of Strasbourg in Alsace on the German border, has been active since 1570. Georgia Hesse, in the San Francisco Chronicle, ably describes the appeal of such markets and the particular draw of Strasbourg, where visitors stroll the lanes where Goethe, Gutenberg, and Albert Schweitzer once wandered.
Many markets last through New Year’s Day and some even run through the Epiphany on January 6, but others close up shop on Christmas Eve, so hurry, time’s running out.
“What’s up dude iguana,” my two-year-old cheekily said to one of the many iguanas roaming the ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza on a visit to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula a few years ago. The archaeological site is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site. We were shocked at how few restrictions there were at the time, and I cringed when my toddler climbed all over the ancient structures. We welcomed the freedom, and yet it was disturbing to witness visitors literally loving the site to death.
Climbing to the top of the central pyramid with our son in a backpack was one of those peak travel moments, part Rocky, part Raiders of the Lost Ark. Negotiating the narrow steps, worn from centuries of foot traffic, exacerbated my festering fear of heights. Continue reading »
Can you imagine having the Grand Canyon to yourself? No traffic to the South Rim, no hordes at the visitor center? Henry Shukman in The New York Times takes us on a long hike below the rim during the best time of year for exploration: now.
Why now? Because nobody’s there in winter, and because the sun is your friend, not your foe, when the temperatures drop.
But no matter the season, a hike to the bottom of the canyon is a challenge even for fit hikers. The relentless downhill (a full mile in elevation) takes its toll on the knees, only to force you to turn around and climb back up a mile to get out. But it’s the best way to appreciate the stunning landscape, with layers of rock chronicling the earth’s development, the oldest being almost two billion years old. And challenging as it may be, even an eight-year-old can do it, as Henry’s traveling companion, his son Saul, proves.
After more than 20 years of wrangling, the Chinese government has granted the US media company the right to build a fanciful park in one of China’s largest and richest cities. A Disney park already exists in Hong Kong but the Shanghai venture will be the first in Mainland China.