In the U.S. ghosts and goblins come out on Halloween, but in Mexico the celebration begins the night after, on November 1, Dia De Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. In many communities, families spend the night in cemeteries to commune with the spirits of their departed loved ones, decorating their graves with marigolds and elaborate candies of sculls and skeletons, setting up feasts of the dead’s favorite foods.

Respectful foreigners are welcome to participate in these private, solemn celebrations, and many find their own meanings in these rituals. Barbara Robertson certainly did, as she writes about her otherworldly Day of the Dead experience in Los Muertos, a story published in The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2008.

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Can 2500 Aussies be wrong? It’s all a matter of opinion in a survey asking what Australians consider the least appealing Australian city to visit on a holiday. The web site asked users to pick their least favorite and the answers are surprising. Canberra, the capital, came in first (well, last, as in, least favorite), which isn’t too big a surprise, but Sydney came in second. In other words, one of Australia’s premier cities is the second least favorite place for Australians to visit.

Continue reading »

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In its annual “destination scorecard” of historic places, National Geographic Traveler has ranked Argentina’s “Mendoza Wine Estancias” as the tenth-best of 109 destinations around the world. According to Traveler, its wineries and vineyards, are “in excellent shape, relatively unspoiled, and likely to remain so.” It describes the city of Mendoza, as “a pleasant walking city with lots of cultural activities and nice parks,” and notes an “amazing number of first-rate restaurants in both the city and countryside.”

Traveler rates its destinations according to half a dozen criteria: 1) environmental and ecological quality; 2) social and cultural integrity; 3) condition of historic buildings and archaeological sites; 4) aesthetic appeal; 5) quality of tourism management; and 6) outlook for the future. By all these standards, Mendoza ranks high.

For more details on Mendoza and vicinity, please go to Southern Cone Travel.

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Last week I wrote a post about the sad reality of British Pub closures. Well now some good news for diners and drinkers this side of the pond. It seems the recession has created a new trend in restaurant and café schedules. Many owners, in order to make ends meet, are expanding, yes, expanding their hours and menus. A recent article in the New York Times entitled: “As Checks Shrink, Restaurants Stretch Hours” describes how in New York City, many watering holes are now open for breakfast or even the traditional dead zone between lunch and dinner.

Feeding and hydrating the growing legions of unemployed and frugal foodies has not only altered the hours of business but transformed restaurants’ repertoires. Some high end places are expanding meal service and creating cheaper menus to attract cost conscious diners. With more time on our hands, we may want to take a break from the economic woes of our time, turn off the tube, unplug and get out and partake of some frugal breakfasts or pre Happy Hour libations. Certainly for visitors to the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps, making it even easier to find what you crave whenever you crave it is good news.

Have you noticed this trend in your neck of the woods?

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, Food, New York, Pubs, Restaurants, United States

The water below barely rippled, a sheet of blue reflecting star sapphire or lapis lazuli, brilliant in the morning sun. From my spot on the bowspirt it looked impossibly distant. For more than two years I’d dreamed of being in this place, high above the Aegean Sea with the sun on my shoulders and that deep blue bleeding into indigo like a memory long forgotten.

I took a deep breath, gazed at the horizon, looked down once more, then dove toward that memory. Down, down, arms reaching, chin tucked, feet pointed, down to the sea, slicing without impact into that lapis pool, cool silk caressing my skin. Down, down, into that radiant mystical sapphire that dazzles like a sunrise, like a shooting star, like a full moon glimpsed through autumn trees. Down into that blue that is so blue it feels like it’s reaching into the cosmos. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Canoe/Kayak, Cruises, Feature, Sailing, Travel, Turkey

The Columbia River Gorge is one of the best board sailing destinations on earth (for example, watch this video and this one too). In spring and summer, when it’s hot inland and cold on the coast, the low inland pressure sucks coastal air up the gorge. As the gorge narrows, it acts like a wind tunnel, creating winds of phenomenal speeds. But some days the wind just doesn’t blow. And that’s when you just paddle around with your dog.

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It is Indian summer in the San Francisco Bay Area, or as locals like to say:  “Earthquake Weather.” It’s no secret: late October is one of the best times of year to visit San Francisco and environs. I had been hankering for some outdoor time, so we planned a hike with a friend and her son last Sunday. It had been sunny and sweltering for days, beautiful, crisp and clear, just painful to be indoors. Murphy’s Law, the day we headed out to Point Reyes it was foggy and cold. I actually prefer hiking when it’s a bit blustery, so we weren’t too upset, and when my friend suggested we meet at the Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station. I heartily agreed, looking forward to a warm cup of coffee and a treat.  Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, Family Travel, Food, Hike/Backpack, Travel, United States

Last week I got a note from the operator of a small tourist lodge in Tierra del Fuego asking me what I thought the impact of the current global economic crisis might be on this summer’s season. On the surface, of course, it makes sense that people whose mutual funds have lost a third of their value might be reluctant to spend money traveling great distances but, at the same time, there’s a certain logic in going against the grain. I’d never suggest that people should throw away their retirement funds on a two weeks’ vacation but, just as investor Warren Buffett recently said, he’s moving his money into U.S. stocks because of the financial meltdown, international travelers may find they’ll get more for their money in traveling to the Southern Cone countries. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Argentina, Chile, South America, Uruguay

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 »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Archaeology, Europe, Feature, Greece

When I lived in London during the downtrodden Thatcher era, the local pub was a sanctuary, a respite from the cold, foggy, dismal daily life, a life I now look back at fondly. I’m not much of a beer drinker, I much prefer wine, but who wouldn’t love the cozy warmth, the expected smoky haze and the watering hole atmosphere? Sure, it was more of a guys’ scene, I remember the blokes I lived with counting their pints, squeezing in a fifth one before last call, as I nursed my shandy: a disgusting combo of beer and “lemonade” (British 7-Up). They used to stagger home, while I fretted about who would make it without face-planting into a neighbor’s yard. OK, so the scene did get old after the novelty wore off, but I never tired of the yummy pub-grub and the feeling of camaraderie. Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Feature, Food, Pubs, Uncategorized