Destination: San Francisco

The Myth of the Carbon-Neutral Air Traveler?

By 2025, air travel could hurl nearly 1.5 billion tons of carbon annually into the environment—about a half of what the 457 million people at the 27-nation European Union currently emit. If you care about the environment, this is a terrible trend to ponder on an international flight.

I’m in Athens, Greece, now spending the holidays with my family but my flight from Denver, Colorado, did its small part to pollute the earth, producing some 5,243 lbs of CO2, according to the TerraPass carbon footprint calculator. I felt bad, to some extent, but air travel is the most efficient way to visit people and places when we’re on tight schedules. (And there are many other things we can do to be better eco-travelers until the day all planes can run on biofuel, but that’s another blog post altogether.)

Some airlines already offer travelers opportunities to buy offsets that would help pay for carbon-reducing projects or programs (and perhaps reduce their eco-guilt). And San Francisco International Airport is set to become the nation’s (and perhaps the world’s) first airport with self-service kiosks where travelers can swipe their credit cards to buy carbon offset credits.

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American Beer: Beyond Bud Light

I’m not sure I agree with the Toronto Star’s theory that the rise of quality craft beer in the United States is a new trend. It seems to me that anyone who’s been paying attention has known there’s more to the American brewing scene than the Silver Bullet and the King of Beers for quite some time. Still, I enjoyed Josh Rubin’s take on the state of the beer nation and, among things, its “hop-heads.” Whlle we’re on the subject, if you’re headed to Denver, Portland or San Francisco this summer, Fodor’s suggests beer-related tours, festivals, brewpubs and day trips in those “hoppy cities.”

Related on World Hum:
* Rural Pubs in Ireland Becoming ‘So Yesterday’

Photo by spcummings via Flickr (Creative Commons)


Will Mr. Newsham Go to Washington?

Perhaps. Brad Newsham, author of the travel memoir Take Me With You, announced via email that he’s collecting signatures to become a write-in candidate to represent California’s 9th District, now represented by Democrat (and National Passport Month supporter) Barbara Lee. Newsham explained that he disagrees with her on only one issue, “but it’s a fundamental issue for me, and perhaps for you: the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. For me, this issue is so important that it eclipses all others.” Newsham, pictured here running naked on a Hawaiian beach, has been rallying for the pair’s impeachment.


‘Strange Travel Suggestions’ and the Art of Telling a Good Tale

Travel stories are usually told in writing, or on film, or over a meal. But Jeff Greenwald is the rare travel writer who has turned his tales into a one-man stage show. It’s called “Strange Travel Suggestions,” and I caught it at last year’s Book Passage travel writing conference. I found it funny, fast-moving and surprisingly compelling. Judging by the enthusiastic response from others in the audience, I wasn’t the only one. In the show, Greenwald celebrates adventures in far-flung places. Even better, with audience input, he captures that addictive (and often elusive) sense about travel that anything can happen around your next turn.

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2007 Travel Movie Awards: Entirely Arbitrary and Non-Comprehensive Picks

In honor of this weekend’s Oscars ceremony, I’ve put together a few shout-outs to some of my favorite travel-related movie moments of the year. These picks make an odd collection, but each one made me curious about a place I’d never been, or made me see one that I had visited in an entirely new light.

Best Turning of a Romantic Travel Cliché on its Head
2 Days in Paris
Plenty of movies show people falling in love, in two days, in Paris. In fact, in a global vote for the most romantic city in the world, Paris would probably be John McCain to everywhere else’s Mike Huckabee. So it’s a bold move on director Julie Delpy’s part to chronicle the unraveling of a relationship there instead.

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No Peace Center for Alcatraz

San Francisco voters rejected a proposal this week to turn Alcatraz Island—the former prison site and ridiculously popular tourist attraction—into a “global peace center.” Whew. Given the rough U.S. economy, I’m afraid any move that could threaten the bustling Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary souvenir T-shirt industry could be this nation’s ruin. Sure, peace center T-shirts would sell, especially in San Francisco, but they wouldn’t do Federal Penitentiary numbers. For a vicarious visit and a few grim statistics, here’s video of the approach to the island from a tour boat:

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The Unexpected Pleasure of an International Terminal

After a fun and invigorating four days at the Book Passage Travel Writers conference in Corte Madera, California—the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to a travel writers’ Woodstock, complete with karaoke—I headed to San Francisco International Airport yesterday for my first flight on the new Virgin America airlines. I’d been looking forward to the flight and the highly touted entertainment system, which on the gleaming white seatbacks looks like a giant iPod. The flight and entertainment were great. I’d happily fly Virgin America again. But the highlight wasn’t the plane.

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JetBlue’s New Blogger: C. Montgomery Burns

It’s a publicity stunt, sure, but one that might help JetBlue get back some of its mojo after its February meltdown. As part of the massive hype for the upcoming The Simpsons Movie, C. Montgomery Burns—known best as Homer Simpson’s boss at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant—has taken over the blog of former JetBlue CEO David Neeleman. From his first entry: “Smithers entered my chambers this morning, toting wretched tales of congenial customer service and overly indulgent amenities on your JetBlue Airways. And for what… your precious passengers? Soon, the riff raff will demand ‘fair treatment’ from all corporate overlords, like myself. Well, not in my chemically prolonged life-time.”

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In San Francisco, the Search Goes on for the Summer of Love

Photo by yahnyinlondon via Flickr, (Creative Commons).

It’s been 40 years since the famed Summer of Love, when San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood became either the embodiment of brotherhood and sisterhood or, in the words of the Beatles’ George Harrison, full of “hideous, spotty little teenagers.” I tend to believe more in the latter characterization, not because I experienced it (or was even alive) in 1967 but because around the turn of the millennium, when I lived in San Francisco, I saw a lot of “spotty little teenagers” there and that colors my impression. Don’t get me wrong. I like the Haight, and I still go there often when I’m in San Francisco. It’s got an all-time great music store, Amoeba Music; an excellent and cheap pizza place, Fat Slice; and a fine bookstore, The Booksmith, among other things. But I never really felt that Summer of Love spirit.

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The World Hum Travel Zeitgeist: Beer, Buzz Aldren and the City by the Bay

Travelers kept the Grand Canyon Skywalk top of mind this week, as well as San Francisco, Jackson Hole and ways to stretch their travel dollar. Here’s the Zeitgeist: 

Most Viewed Travel Story
Los Angeles Times (current)
Insider’s Tour of San Francisco’s Chinatown

Most Read Weblog Post
World Hum (this week)
Jessica Smith of MTV’s ‘Laguna Beach’ Named Let’s Go Spokesperson
* She allegedly did a very bad thing.

Most Viewed Travel Story
Telegraph (current)
Sheer terror
* Sheer terror? Skiing Jackson Hole’s Corbet’s Couloir must be really scary.

Most E-mailed Travel Story
New York Times (current)
Urban Human Hounds Tracking Down the Beers
* A must read if you want to “basically run around a lot and end up at a bar.”

Best Selling Travel Book
Amazon.com (current)
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
* We’ve lost count how many weeks in a row this has topped the list. It’s been that long.

Most Read Story
World Hum (this week)
A Very Long Way to the Hong Kong Cafe

Most E-Mailed Travel Story
USA Today (current)
Soft Caribbean Cruise Market Could Mean Savings for Passengers
* Just don’t get too giddy and end up like these people.

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Amy Tan’s San Francisco: ‘This City is Like an Opera’

When visiting San Francisco, Amy Tan says, bypass Chinatown and instead head for the Richmond. The author of The Joy Luck Club and occasional rock ‘n’ roller offers the good advice—tourists tend to go to Chinatown, while locals and newly arrived immigrants make Clement Street a vibrant place to eat and shop—and reveals a handful of her other favorite haunts in a “Their Town” round-up in the Washington Post. Tan is a Bay Area native who grew up hearing the “siren’s call” of the city in the 1960s.

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The World Hum Travel Zeitgeist: Beauty and the Borat

The most gorgeous city in the United States—that would be San Francisco—steps into the Zeitgeist spotlight this week, along with Hawaii, road tripping, airlines of all sorts and the nemesis the government of Kazakhstan, Borat.
Top United States City
Conde Nast Traveler (Readers’ Choice Awards)
San Francisco
* The city has finished first in the magazine’s survey in 18 of its 19 years. Guess readers can’t get enough of this view.

Most Blogged Travel Story
New York Times (current)
Affordable San Francisco

Most Popular Page Tagged Travel
Del.icio.us (current)
RealTravel

Most Viewed Story
World Hum (this week)
Oprah Winfrey, Amanda Congdon and the New Golden Age of the Cross-Country Road Trip

Most Popular Food & Travel Story
Netscape (current)
Airline Will Cater to Smokers

Top Ranked Travel Podcast
Podcast Alley (October)
808Talk
* 808 is the area code for Hawaii, which seems to have already rebounded after the recent 6.7 earthquake.

Best Selling Travel Book
Amazon.com (current)
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir
* The New York Times has the first chapter of Bryson’s memoir of growing up in 1950s Iowa.

Top International Route Airline
Conde Nast Traveler (Readers’ Choice Awards)
Singapore Airlines
* The carrier has also topped its category for every year of the magazine’s survey but one.

Most Read Weblog Post
World Hum
A Week in the Life of American Airlines

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A Los Angeles-San Francisco Bullet Train?

Michael Dukakis (the guy who taught us all that one bad photo-op can ruin your whole presidential campaign) makes the case in today’s L.A. Times for a high-speed train connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco. We know, it’s a pipe dream. But we can dream, can’t we?


R.I.P. California Map & Travel, Cody’s Books

Today, we pay our respects to two great California bookstores we’re losing or already have lost. California Map & Travel Center, the fine Santa Monica travel bookstore whose L.A. roots stretched back to 1949—an eternity in L.A.—recently closed shop. The small Pico Boulevard store was crammed with guidebooks, narratives and globes, and it sometimes hosted readings. I once saw travel editor and writer Thomas Swick read there on a book tour, to an enthusiastic audience. The store was profiled here in better days. The other big loss, of course, is Cody’s Books, an institution on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. The store, which stocked all kinds of books, will close July 11. Two other Bay area Cody’s locations will continue to operate, but it is the Telegraph Avenue store, a stone’s throw from the UC Berkeley campus, that is so beloved among book-lovers.

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No. 9: “The Innocents Abroad” by Mark Twain

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: 1869
Territory covered: Europe and the Holy Land
Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad marks a turning point for both the author and American travel writing. In 1867, Twain boarded the ship the Quaker City for a five-month Journey through Europe and the Holy Land, and he convinced the Daily Alta California, a San Francisco newspaper, to pay him $1,250 to file letters from abroad for publication. He sent 51, and those, along with a few others written for newspapers in New York, comprise “Innocents Abroad.” The dispatches, followed by lectures he delivered based on his travels, helped establish Twain’s voice as an American original. During Twain’s lifetime, “Innocents” was his most popular book, and today it remains perhaps the most celebrated travel book by an American writer. Some critics credit its longevity to its fresh approach: It was written from a different angle than most travel books of its time. As Twain writes in the preface:

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