Destination: Europe

Did Canaletto Paint Venice as Tourists Wanted to See It?

The Economist’s Prospero blogger thinks so. In a recent post, he describes a new exhibit at London’s National Gallery, Canaletto and His Rivals, as “painted propaganda,” and argues that the Venice depicted in its paintings bears little resemblance to the real deal:

The sun always shines in Venice; the sky is always blue. This is how visitors like to remember that most beautiful island city. Not coincidentally, that is how Canaletto most often painted the place. His clients, after all, were Grand Tourists, many of them back home in dark English country houses, worrying about farm rents. They longed for the gorgeous, licentious place their memories turned into paradise.

(Via The Daily Dish)


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Let Us Now Praise Tour Guides

Here's to the men and women willing to go off script

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My U-Turn Over Greenland

I was flying home to Los Angeles from Germany this week when, mid-way, the pilot made an announcement: We would be turning around and flying more than an hour back to Iceland to drop off a sick passenger. We weren’t told much about the elderly passenger; I saw him stand before he was led off the plane, which I took to be a good sign. In any case, it made for what I imagine to be a rare sight on the seat-back flight tracker:

Photo by Jim Benning

A Cup of Coffee and a Soft Chair

A Cup of Coffee and a Soft Chair Photo by visualpanic via Flickr (Creative Commons)

After 14 months traveling overland from Beijing to Istanbul, Joel Carillet faced a gingerbread latte -- and a series of unexpected fears

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Thoughts From the Amerika Section of a German Grocery Store

Cheese Zip By Terry Ward

Amid the Cheese Zip and the Marshmallow Fluff, Terry Ward remembers what it means to be American

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Oktoberfest 2010: By the Numbers

Spiegel crunches some remarkable numbers from the 200th edition of the Munich festival: This year’s partiers consumed a record 7 million liters of beer, stole 130,000 of the famous glass mugs and consumed 117 roasted oxen. Impressive stuff. But the list of lost items is probably my favorite:

One hearing aid was also found, as were a leather whip, a live rabbit, a tuba, a ship in a bottle, 1,450 items of clothing, 770 identity cards, 420 wallets, 366 keys, 330 bags and 320 pairs of glasses, 90 cameras and 90 items of jewellery and watches.

(Via The Daily Dish)


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Venice Faces Backlash Over ‘Grotesque’ Billboards

I don’t get it. Why would a city that’s banned shirtlessness, pushed back against souvenir vendors and fought a war against pigeons—all in the name of preserving the urban scenery—allow its most famous views to be obliterated by building-high billboards?

But that’s just what Venice has done, and the results are hideous. And the Mayor’s response to criticism over the ads? “If people want to see the building they should go home and look at a picture of it in a book.” Nice.


U.S. Issues Travel Alert for Americans in Europe

The State Department alerted U.S. citizens in Europe yesterday to “the potential for terrorist attacks.” From the alert:

Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks. European governments have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack and some have spoken publicly about the heightened threat conditions.

The government suggests U.S. travelers in Europe register their travel plans, but not cancel them. The Under Secretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy added some context in a teleconference:

We are not, repeat not, advising Americans not to go to Europe. That is not - this is an alert, and we put out an alert, as you said - as I’ve said, and I think you’ve noted, to ensure that American citizens are aware of the possible incidents.

Now, we tell them that - basically, to use common sense if they see unattended packages or they hear loud noises or they see something beginning to happen that they should quickly move away from them. These are common sense precautions that people ought to take - don’t have lots of baggage tags on your luggage that directly identify you as an American, know how to use the pay telephone, know how to contact the American embassy if you need help.

And very importantly, as it says in the Travel Alert that we put out today, register - and you can do that online and the website tells you how to do it - register with the American embassy or consulate in the location you’re visiting so that if you need help, we might be able to find you, and if anyone inquires about your welfare and whereabouts, should there be, tragically, an incident, we would know how to reach out to you.

The vagueness of the alert has baffled and frustrated some travelers.

In follow up stories, however, some news organizations are noting specifics. CNN points to intelligence chatter about “Mumbai-style attacks,” referring to the “commando like attack featuring small units and small firearms” across the Indian city in 2008. ABC reports several European airports are among potential targets.


The Art of Digital Travel Panorama Photography

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Like many places, Istanbul chuckles at efforts to capture it in a photo. Here's one way to get the last laugh.

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For Sale: Britain’s ‘Most Remote Pub’

The Guardian’s Andrew Gilchrist reports that the Old Forge, a pub in Western Scotland reachable only by a long hike or by boat, is in need of new ownership—and that the current owners “won’t be selling to anyone who won’t keep its spirit alive.” Here’s Gilchrist’s take on that spirit:

From hikers to yachties to locals, anyone who has ever been to the Old Forge will tell you it’s a special place. It’s not just the food, from its Skye crab to its haggis lasagne, that’s fantastic; it’s not just the fact that its local ales, such as Red Cuillin, go down a treat after a day out on some of west coast’s finest peaks; nor is it just the ravishing view out across the bay at dusk, to those giant knuckles of rock encircling the still waters. No: it’s the whole party spirit that seems to affect the place as the sun goes down. Drums, guitars and fiddles line the walls - and they are not there for show.

“Your pals are no bad on the guitars,” the barman told me one night, after an evening of everything from Burns to the Proclaimers, from Biffy Clyro to George Michael. “You know, if they keep the place going, we’ll no shut.”


Expat Pleasures: Jimmy Buffett, Live in Paris

Jim Manzi is living in Paris, where a recent Buffett concert has him reflecting on the expat experience:

One of the many great things about living here is the fun of having typically American experiences completely out-of-context. The annual late-September Buffett concert in Paris has become, like the seven-a-sides in Hong Kong, a ritual gathering point for expats for thousands of miles around. This created a hilarious Anglophone bubble in the middle of Paris. About the only French I heard came from Jimmy at the mic (who, having lived here years ago, still seems to have pretty passable French).

A surprising number of his songs reference the city. In fact, he closed the concert with a great acoustic version of He Went to Paris, which is a song that Bob Dylan cited as one of his favorite tunes by one of his favorite songwriters. Though not many of us here are living a Lost Generation literary life, it still felt very bonding.

I can relate. One of my favorite weekends, during the year I lived in England, was spent preparing a makeshift Thanksgiving dinner and tossing a football around the backyard with other North American students—funny, since pigskin and pumpkin pie are no part of my life at home, however “typical” they are supposed to be. As Manzi points out, context is everything when you’re living abroad.


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