Archive for the ‘journeys’ Category

Places to Go – Mendocino Coast, California

North Coast, California. A glorious new preserve for the public.

A rocky coastal view from the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands

A rocky coastal view from the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands

One hundred and thirty miles north of San Francisco, the moody bluffs of the Mendocino Coast have long been a spectacular place from which to observe marine life: passing humpback whales, sun-happy sea lions, foamy waves strewn with kelp. The incorporation of the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands — nearly 1,300 acres — gives hikers new access to a contiguous 12-mile stretch of coastline and fields of wildflowers, cypress forests and cliff areas (some overlooking dramatic blowholes, pinnacles and sea caves), much of it previously off-limits to the public.

And Congressional proposals to include the north coast lands as part of theCalifornia Coastal National Monument have been introduced, which would mean better protection and more funds for maintenance; plans also exist to extend the California Coastal Trail through the new preserve.




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Places to Go – Christchurch, New Zealand

The rebirth of a quake-ravaged city.

ChristChurch Cathedral, by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban

ChristChurch Cathedral, by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban

Three years after two large earthquakes devastated central Christchurch, the city is experiencing a rebirth with creativity and wit — thanks to the ingenuity of its hardy residents — and is welcoming tourists back again. Though much of the central city has yet to be rebuilt, entrepreneurs and volunteers are finding surprising ways to make temporary use of empty lots and bring life back to the downtown. The Gap Filler program, begun a couple of months after the first quake in September 2010 and expanded after a more destructive second quake in February 2011, has created an open-air performance space made of blue pallets, a dance floor with coin-operated music and lights, and even a nine-hole mini-golf course in vacant lots across the city. The Greening the Rubble campaign has since the 2010 quake been planting temporary gardens on the sites of demolished buildings. To replace the badly damaged 19th-century ChristChurch Cathedral, a magnificent transitional church by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban opened in August with sturdy cardboard tubes for the roof. Businesses are also trickling back downtown. One bar, built inside shipping containers, has a name that encapsulates the spirit of the entire city.


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Places to Go – Belize

More flights and lodges in Central?America’s eco-frontier.

The beach at El Secreto. El Secreto Resort

The beach at El Secreto. El Secreto Resort

Twenty years ago, when Francis Ford Coppola opened Blancaneaux Lodge in western Belize, relatively few travelers had ventured into this small Central American country. Slowly they arrived, many of them curious to witness the scenery that had captivated the film director, which he described in an email as “completely remote, with a beautiful pristine river you could drink the water out of and the most star-studded night sky I had ever seen.” Since then, upscale rustic hotels have cropped up all over Belize — there’s the one-year-old El Secreto in Ambergris Caye, for example, and Belcampo, an eco-lodge and sustainable farm in the south that’s about to unveil a sophisticated redesign — adding to the lure of rain forests, Mayan ruins and coral reefs. It helps that Belize is easier to reach: Delta recently announced nonstop flights from Los Angeles to Belize City, and regional carriers like Tropic Air have expanded their routes, connecting Belize to resorts like Cancún and making remote towns like San Ignacio more accessible.

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Places to Go – Cape Town, South Africa

A place to meditate on freedom,?and the creative life that followed.

Cape Town - South Africa

Cape Town – South Africa

When Nelson Mandela was incarcerated at Robben Island prison, he found inspiration in Cape Town. “We often looked across Table Bay at the magnificent silhouette of Table Mountain,” he said in a speech. “To us on Robben Island, Table Mountain was a beacon of hope. It represented the mainland to which we knew we would one day return.”

Cape Town’s importance to Mandela, who made his first address there as a free man, will doubtless draw many visitors in the wake of his death. The country has transformed itself since Mandela’s imprisonment, but there’s still much to be done. Many in Cape Town have been grappling with that challenge, including its creative class, which has been examining whether inspired design can solve some of the issues stemming from years of inequality.

The city formally takes up that issue this year during its turn as World Design Capital. Cape Town is celebrating design in all its forms, putting on fashion shows by students and established designers alike, hosting architecture open houses, welcoming the public into artists’ studios and folding the annual visual arts spectacular Design Indaba conference this past February into the design capital program. Also part of the lineup are locals seeking to rejuvenate impoverished black-majority townships:The Maboneng Lalela Project turns township homes into galleries and performance spaces; Foodpods constructs sustainable farms, giving residents access to healthy produce; and the Langa Quarter project seeks to make the precinct a cultural tourism destination.
Cape Town is again reinventing itself, and the world is invited to its renaissance.

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Places to Go – Atlanta

Downtown Atlanta- A revitalized city center welcomes ?new museums and streetcars.

The home where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born will be one of the sites linked by the new Atlanta Streetcar. Erik S. Lesser

The home where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born will be one of the sites linked by the new Atlanta Streetcar. Erik S. Lesser

Atlanta plans several ribbon cuttings in 2014, but the main event is the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, scheduled to open in May next to the Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia Aquarium downtown. The 42,000-square-foot, environmentally friendly museum will feature permanent galleries devoted to domestic and international rights struggles and will house the Martin Luther King Jr. papers owned by Morehouse College. By midyear, visitors will be able to take the new Atlanta Streetcar on a 2.7-mile loop that will link the park to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and other stops. Another parkside attraction, the 94,000-square-footCollege Football Hall of Fame, host of the N.C.A.A. season.


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Places to Go – Athens

Out of an economic crisis, a city surges back.

A bar scene in the Monastiraki neighborhood. Eirini Vourloumis

A bar scene in the Monastiraki.

Vibrancy and innovation can bloom even in hard times. Exhibit A is Greece’s ancient capital, which was hit hard by the global read more

Places to Go – Aspen Colorado

Ditch those poles. Art and bike trails await.

Cycling in Aspen. Jeremy Swanson

Cycling in Aspen. Jeremy Swanson

This ski town has a big development off-piste: The long-awaited reinvented Aspen Art Museum will open its doors this summer. The 33,000-square-foot space, designed by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, is meant to reflect the mountain experience. Visitors first take a lift to the roof and take in the view from the sculpture garden before descending to tour the galleries. There is also plenty of news for outdoor types this year, too, with new mountain biking trails planned throughout Aspen and Snowmass, a new mountain skills center and expanded lift-serviced biking.

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Places to Go – Albanian Coast

On a rugged shore, Europe at its best..

What if you could combine the rugged beauty you’d find on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast with the ruins of an undiscovered Turkey or Greece, all wrapped in the easygoing nature characteristic of rural Italy — at a fraction of the cost? Turns out you can, on the coast of Albania. The roughly Maryland-size country, between Greece and Montenegro, sits about 45 miles east of Italy on the eastern shores of the Adriatic and has limestone-ringed beaches, ancient ruins like Butrint and waterfront inns where you can stay for less than $50 a night. Rampant development threatened to turn it all to concrete in the years after Communism, but a new government took office in September on promises of keeping the coast authentic. Head to villages like Qeparo, within sight of Corfu, where you can kayak past Cold War submarine tunnels, swim by abandoned forts and watch the tide rise during a dinner of fresh fish at an inn called the Riviera. This is Europe when it was fresh and cheap.

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Let’s Travel. Shot across 5 weeks, visiting 15 different cities in 10 countries.

Time glints as a gleaming adventure around the world is experienced.

Let’s Travel.
Shot over 5 weeks, visiting 15 different cities in 10 countries.

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Are Smartphone’s Smart while traveling abroad?


So you want to use your smartphone while traveling abroad. But choosing an affordable method can seem mind-numbingly complicated. Should you buy an international roaming plan? And if you do, what does 100 megabytes of data get you anyway? Perhaps you need a hot spot pass? Or a SIM card? If you don’t want an eye-popping phone bill, it’s essential to decide before you’re on the plane.

“The pain you can get from just a couple of mistakes can be big,” said Bill Menezes, a principal research analyst covering mobile services for the technology research firm Gartner.

With a little planning, however, you can stay in touch and on budget. Let’s walk through the three simplest ways to do just that, from the most obvious to more creative (and cheaper) solutions.


Phone Company Plans
Major domestic phone carriers offer prepaid voice and data packages designed for foreign travel that you can buy before you fly, the option many people feel most comfortable choosing. The cost of a text message or the cost per minute of a phone call is fairly straightforward (check your phone company’s website for pricing). But the cost of data — sending text-only emails, posting photos on Facebook, checking into Foursquare, searching the Web for the addresses of restaurants and monuments — is not.

Verizon, for example, has a global data plan that includes 100 megabytes of data for $25 a month. (Yes, you pay the full amount even if you’re traveling for only a week.) That’s 25 cents a megabyte. Not exactly cheap. Yet it is when you compare it with the $20.48 for a single megabyte that you would have to fork over if you didn’t buy the plan and instead decided to pay as-you-go in a city like Rome. The cost of these plans — or whether you can use them at all — depends on factors including your phone carrier, the type of phone you have and where you plan to use it. Yet any data package, like Verizon’s 100 megabyte option, prompts a broader question: What exactly can you do with 100 megabytes?
As it turns out, not much.

Srini Devadas, a computer science professor at M.I.T., said sending emails doesn’t eat a lot of data, but the fun stuff does. “It’s the photos and videos and the maps,” he said, explaining that emailing a single high-resolution photo is 2 to 5 megabytes. He estimated that a 10-minute video call would be about 24 megabytes.

Companies including Verizon and AT&T have megabyte calculators on their websites that let you estimate how much data you’ll need by selecting the things you plan to do (send emails, upload photos, surf the Web) and for how long. For instance, based on AT&T’s figures, visiting 50 web pages equals about 50 megabytes. Thirty social media posts with photos are roughly 10 megabytes. Downloading 10 songs? Forty megabytes. Boom: You just burned through 100 megabytes. And forget about 4G video streaming. According to Verizon’s figures, that’s 5.8 megabytes a minute. In other words, you would blow well over 100 megabytes watching a 30-minute episode of your favorite television series.

None of this is a science. How much data you use depends on a variety of things, including the resolution and size of your photos and videos. Always opt for the lowest when sending or uploading. Another way to save: When walking around a city, use offline mapping apps like City Maps 2Go andOsmAnd, which can work without an Internet connection. (Such apps can take a toll on your phone’s battery life so consider the time-honored tradition of carrying a paper map.) And of course patience will save you money: Spend the day taking all the photos and videos you want but upload them later using Wi-Fi at your hotel.

Willing to get a little creative? Mr. Menezes of Gartner suggests looking at T-Mobile’s “simple choice” plan. For $50 a month you get unlimited talk, texting and data on your home network but also unlimited data and texting in more than 100 countries at no extra charge. There’s no annual service contract either. See where he’s going with this? If you select the $50 a month plan, you’ll have unlimited data and texting in dozens of countries for a flat fee. (Phone calls to the United States are 20 cents a minute; calls to landlines in some countries are free.) And if you have an old phone that’s compatible with T-Mobile, you can use that rather than spend money for a new phone. Obviously T-Mobile didn’t create this plan for people to use it for, say, a month and then cancel, but you could, without penalty.

Still, everything comes at a price of one sort or another: Some tasks, like streaming music and video, will be slow when you’re abroad. To remedy this, T-Mobile sells high-speed data passes, but these are not ideal for heavy data users. For instance, it’s $15 for a one-day 100 megabyte pass and $50 for a 14-day 500 megabyte pass. If, on the other hand, you plan do a lot of texting and use your data mainly for emails, social networking and Web browsing, the “simple choice” plan might be right for you.

Bottom line: Phone company plans are not always the most affordable way to go, but they offer one-stop shopping directly with your carrier.


SIM Cards
Travelers who want to make local calls at their destination sometimes buy a SIM card (a microchip that can be inserted into a cellphone) from a provider other than their home phone company, which gives them a local phone number — and local calling rates. To do so, your phone must be “unlocked,” allowing it to be used on another network. Ask your phone company if it will unlock your phone (it might not) or search online for a phone that’s already unlocked (Amazon’s cellphones and accessories department has an “unlocked phones” category where you can find a used one for less than $50). At your destination you’ll need to visit a newsstand or mobile phone store to buy the SIM card (American suppliers generally charge much more), then activate the card with instructions that are, alas, sometimes in another language. You won’t be using your own phone number if you go this route. And because you’ll have a local number, if anyone in the United States calls you and doesn’t have an international calling plan, they’ll get socked with a fat bill. (Check with your provider about SIM cards and calling plans, as there are special rates for some places, including Mexico.)

Bottom line: If you’re an inexperienced traveler or, as Mr. Menezes pointed out, visiting someplace where you don’t speak the language, there can be a learning curve involved in using a SIM card that you may not want to tackle. But this continues to be one of the best ways to make cheap local calls.

Hot Spots
If you use a lot of data and want to avoid overage fees, your best bet is to turn off data roaming and buy an unlimited pass for citywide Wi-Fi instead. One company, Boingo, offers one-month unlimited mobile Wi-Fi access for two devices at more than 700,000 hot spots worldwide for $7.95. This is a recurring subscription, so if you want the service for only a month, you have to cancel, but there’s no fee for doing so. If you were to use Boingo in London, for example, you would discover that there are 32,209 hot spots in public spaces, 721 in restaurants and 244 in retailers. You can see city maps with hot spots at
Wi-Fi opens up a whole new set of affordable uses for your phone, like making voice calls and texting. Download Skype before you travel and you can make free phone calls (as long as both parties are members). You can text free too, using apps like WhatsApp. Note, though, that calls and messages through these services are free only if you’re using them over free Wi-Fi. Data charges apply when you’re not.
In some cities, you don’t even have to buy a Wi-Fi pass, thanks to free public networks. Paris, for instance, has more than 250 free hot spots. Apps like Free Wi-Fi Finder, which works even if you shut off data roaming, can help you locate Wi-Fi.
Alas, free public Wi-Fi has a significant downside: Users are at risk of “sniffer” attacks, designed to steal information like IDs and passwords. Professor Devadas advised against using Internet browsers to log onto websites like Gmail, Yahoo and Facebook. You would be wise not to do your banking either. It’s less dangerous to download email through inboxes you configured in your phone’s operating system. But of course the safest option — and neither you nor I want to hear it — is to avoid free hot spots altogether.
Bottom line: If you use a lot of data and are willing to gamble with free public Wi-Fi, you’ll save serious money.
As you can see, each method has its pros and cons. Just be sure to choose before you travel. And remember: You’re exploring someplace new. Soak it up. Put down the phone.

A look at the amount of data it might take to perform some common tasks on your smartphone when traveling, based on estimates from Srini Devadas, a computer science professor at M.I.T.*
Sending an all-text email: 1 to 10 kilobytes.
Sending an email with high-resolution photo attachment: 2 to 5 megabytes.
Uploading photo to a social media site: 1 to 5 megabytes, depending on resolution.

Uploading a 3-minute video to a social media site: 5 to 15 megabytes.
Making a 10-minute video call: 24 megabytes.
Watching a 30-minute standard-definition video: 30 to 90 megabytes.

* These numbers may differ from those of your phone carrier. How much data you use depends on factors including the type of phone, the resolution and size of the photos and videos you’re uploading or downloading, and the proximity of cell towers.

Courtsey : Stephanie Rosenbloom | NY Times

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