Destination: Portugal

World Travel Watch: Penalties for Touts in Delhi, Tourist Tax in Lisbon and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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World Travel Watch: Dengue Fever in Brazil, Strikes Across Europe and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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European Flesh and the American Prude

European Flesh and the American Prude Alexandra Beier/Reuters

Exploring Europe, exploring travel as a political act

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A Traveler’s 10 Best Musical Discoveries

Contemplating and celebrating the world of travel

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R.I.P. Conchita Cintron, Woman Matador

The Peruvian matador’s debut performance dates back to 1937. She died in Lisbon at the age of 86.


Leave Home Without It

Contemplating and celebrating the world of travel

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Hoscar the Grouch

Hoscar the Grouch Photo by Big Richard C via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo of Lisbon Lounge Hotel by Big Richard C via Flickr (Creative Commons)

It’s the Hoscars! No, it’s not an Oscar party with your friend from Rome, but rather Hostel World’s ranking of the top 10 hostels in the world, based on the opinions of some 800,000 hostel bookings in 20,000 different properties. We heard that backpackers the world over were scratching themselves with anticipation and/or scabies while waiting for the 2009 winners to be announced. The top dog: Travellers House in Lisbon, part of a clean sweep of the top three by Lisbon hostels.

Meanwhile, hostel fans on the other side of the Atlantic are out of luck, as no American—neither North nor South—properties made it on the list. It’s proof positive of something, probably the lure of Spectravision at a Motel 6. Even so, do take the list with a grain of salt, as even old travel writing greybeards like Leif Pettersen have yet to grace the sheets at any of the top 10.

Check out the top ten below.

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Lisbon: ‘City of Breathtaking Light at Noon’

In a heartfelt story in the Globe and Mail, John Doyle describes how he first fell in love with Lisbon several years ago, and recalls taking his mother there for her 70th birthday to share the delights of the city with her. I’ve never been to Lisbon, but Doyle’s love letter to the “city of luscious pastries and ambrosial port wine” has bumped it up a few notches on my never-ending list of places to see.

Photo by Free-Secret-Life* via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Tags: Europe, Portugal

The World Hum Travel Zeitgeist: Less Money, More Adventure

Lisbon, Portugal (pictured) and the rest of Europe are top of mind this week—particularly Europe on the cheap. The Big Apple, the debut of Virgin America and the Island of Tiki round out the Zeitgiest. Have a look.

“Hot This Week” Destination
Yahoo! (this week)
Lisbon, Portugal

Most Popular Page Tagged Travel
Del.icio.us (recent)
10 Ways to Keep Europe Within Reach
* We’ve unearthed some fine tips, too.

Most E-Mailed Travel Story
New York Times (current)
10 Ways to Keep Europe Within Reach

Most Popular Travel Podcast
iTunes (current)
Beautiful Places with Tony Farley
* This week: North Dome

Most Read Feature
World Hum (posted this week)
James Teitelbaum: Escape to the Isle of Tiki

Most Viewed Travel Story
Telegraph UK (current)
New York Shopping: The Best of the Big Apple

Most Read Weblog Post
World Hum (posted this week)
How I Scored a New U.S. Passport in One Day

Most Viewed Travel Story
Los Angeles Times (current)
Virgin America Returns the Frills to Flying

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No. 15: “Europe, Europe” by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

To mark our five-year anniversary, we’re counting down the top 30 travel books of all time, adding a new title each day this month.
Published: 1989
Territory covered: Sweden, Italy, Hungary, Portugal, Poland, Spain, Germany, Holland, Finland, Romania
Once upon a time, Europe was fascinating. There was much more to the continent than the endless pension and immigration debates we hear so much about today. In Europe, Europe: Forays into a Continent, Hans Magnus Enzensberger captured some of that old fascinating place. His book is filled with the rich, complicated, maddening, exhilarating patchwork of cultures that have mixed and clashed on the continent for thousands of years. Visiting just before the fall of communism, Enzensberger was concerned with politics, but mainly as a window into culture. He explored and skewered national character without reverting to stereotypes. In fact, he investigated stereotypes, turned them inside out, and made them at once amusing and insightful. Enzensberger has a gift for this, and for identifying minutiae that make even the most boring country in the world (Sweden) riveting. “Europe, Europe” is one of the few books written about the continent before the fall of communism that remains as relevant, vibrant and hilarious as when it was first published. What’s more, it’s one of the best travel books written about Europe in any era.

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Porto, Portugal

Population: 249,633 (2005 est.)
Coordinates: 41 8 N 8 40 W
People and things often lend their names to places on the map, but on occasion, locations themselves can come to describe physical entities. Port, for instance, a rich, sweet variety of wine, is known as such because since the 17th century, English merchants have been loading ships in Cale—later Porto, or Oporto—on the Iberian Peninsula with this fortified alcohol. Portugal’s second-largest city clings to the Atlantic coastline and is a gateway to the numerous terraced vineyards in the Douro River valley to the west.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) is the editor of the Oxford Atlas of the World.

Tags: Europe, Portugal

Rick Steves: The “Perambulating, Mildly Mischievous Mister Rogers” of Guidebook Writers

Sunday’s New York Times Magazine featured a colorful, upbeat profile of Rick Steves, the man “in the aviator-style eyeglasses” who is behind the Europe Through the Back Door travel empire. Writer Sara Corbett tailed Steves around Portugal as he updated one of his guidebooks, “blitzing” into hotels for undercover inspections, ensuring his tips and observations were still up to par. Corbett’s story covers a lot of ground, from Steves’ humble travel beginnings to “Ricknicks,” the legions of followers who spot him in Europe as he makes his rounds and dote over him as though they have met the Buddha. Corbett also delves into Steves’ politics. “He is anti-Bush and antiwar, and in this time of high patriotism, some have even accused him of being anti-American,” she writes. “For the most part, though, Steves is careful to be outspoken about only his conviction that travel, done his way, can transform the most narrow-minded American into a citizen of the world. ”


Portugal’s “Melancholy Beauty”

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel Travel section yesterday featured a terrific story by Jason Wilson, the editor of Hougton Mifflin’s annual Best American Travel Writing anthology. Wilson wrote about the Alentejo region of Portugal, where cork trees grow and drunk bullfighters gather in bars to watch Spanish bullfights. “Beginning a little more than an hour east of Lisbon, most tourists overlook the plains as they pass through on their way to the Speedos-discos-and-boozy-sunburned-Brits debauchery of the Algarve beaches,” Wilson writes. “By contrast, the Alentejo, the poorest, most sparsely populated part of Portugal, is a beautiful, melancholy place with blistering, sun-baked summers and chilly winters, vineyards and olive groves, castle ruins and hill towns. It’s similar to how I imagine some parts of Tuscany must have been 20 years ago, before the lip-smacking Anglo-American joie de vivre types took over.”

Tags: Europe, Portugal

Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry

If you haven’t heard of the European nation of Molvania, birthplace of whooping cough, among other claims to fame, you’re not alone. The country doesn’t exist. Nevertheless, a recently published guidebook has all the visitor’s information you’ll need, including tips on understanding local customs.

The guidebook, “Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry,” is a spoof of travel guidebooks. It’s a brilliant idea. According to a story on BBC.com, co-author Tom Gleisner said the idea for the book was hatched while backpacking in Portugal. He raves about Molvania. “It’s a very beautiful country now that radiation levels have dropped to acceptable standards,” he reportedly told BBC TV.

The book’s Web site is terrific, offering all sorts of insight into the country’s history and culture, including this item: “Molvanian is a difficult language to speak, let alone master. There are four genders: male, female, neutral, and the collective noun for cheeses, which occupies a nominative sub-section of its very own.” The site’s front page features Bill Bryson’s enthusiastic blurb: “Brilliantly original and very, very funny. If you buy only one guidebook to Molvania this year, let it be this one.” You can’t argue with that. 


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