by Joanna Kakissis | 03.24.09 | 3:34 PM ET
Because even amphibians need a place to get away from it all. The Frog Hotel in Edinburgh is more like the Bates hotel in “Psycho” than some smooth-lovin’ honeymoon inn soundtracked by Barry White, said Robert Henderson, Scottish coordinator for the Community Service Volunteers’ Action Earth campaign. But dark, dirt-scented ambience, complete with a compost cafe full of bugs and and a tiny ramp leading to a sleeping area, is just what gets frogs in the mood to schmooze.
Henderson’s group is encouraging people to put Frog Hotels in their gardens and yards in the hopes of preserving biodiversity in urban areas. It could work out really well for the frogs unless one of the hotels ends up next to a chef fond of cuisses de grenouille.
by Rob Verger | 03.24.09 | 1:30 PM ET
Want to buy a British airport?
Last week the United Kingdom’s Competition Commission ruled that BAA—the company that owns seven airports in the U.K.—is required to sell London’s Gatwick and Stansted airports and one of two airports in Scotland.
This, the Economist reports, could perhaps improve conditions at Heathrow, which sees 67 million people a year. Speaking of that congested airport, the Economist writes: “Ideally, an expanded Gatwick or, to a lesser extent, Stansted could relieve the pressure. But crowded Heathrow generates plenty of profit and Gatwick and Stansted are also owned by BAA, so reducing congestion is not the firm’s top priority. Splitting ownership of the airports should encourage competition between them.” (Read the Commission’s full report via their website.)
Meanwhile, in reaction to the news, the Times of London offers 10 ways to improve airports, and also has put together a video that shows unhappy conditions at different airports in the world, including a lonely bag left out in the rain in Madrid, nasty weather at Chicago O’Hare, and yes, the “Airport Auntie.”
by Eva Holland | 03.11.09 | 3:46 PM ET
We’ve written before about crime novels being a prime source for vivid place-based writing. But how about traveling vicariously through the now-ubiquitous crime show? I’d argue that television travel can be just as effective and enjoyable.
Of course, a forty-four minute episode doesn’t allow for the same richness and depth of detail as you’d find in a book, but you can pack a lot of local color—both sights and sounds—into even the briefest street scene. Think of the all-powerful CSI franchise: from the juicy opening shots of the Las Vegas strip or the Manhattan skyline—sorry Miami, I just can’t handle Horatio—to the plot lines often derived from existing local traditions, quirks or trends (think the original CSI’s frequent tributes to Vegas’ wild mob-ruled past), each of the shows is deeply rooted in its host city. And while the main story lines are certainly glitzed up and sensationalized (not to mention acted out by improbably attractive law enforcement officers), you can still pick up a lot of legit local detail from them: I first heard of narcocorridos in a CSI episode about the Mexican community in Las Vegas, and saw handball played for the first time in an episode of CSI: NY—now, walking around Queens during my stay here, I see the game being played daily.
by Eva Holland | 02.26.09 | 4:27 PM ET
Sure, London can be one of the world’s most expensive cities, and the pound has offered a punishing exchange rate with most other currencies over the past few years. But, having done the “starving student” thing there in my grad school days, I’ve always believed that the U.K. remains a prime destination for travelers on a budget. For every pricey West End stage production there’s a free, world-class museum, and for every swank celebrity-helmed restaurant there’s a tasty meal in a cozy pub. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof: 10 free cultural gems, courtesy of the Guardian, and, from the Independent, the country’s 50 best cheap eats. Both are good lists—the Guardian’s in particular gets bonus points for avoiding the best-known London freebies, like the Tate Modern, in favor of more obscure (and more geographically diverse) cultural institutions.
by Eva Holland | 02.20.09 | 4:27 PM ET
The Oscars are looming, and in keeping with the season I’m thrilled to announce my second annual Travel Movie Awards. As I noted last year, these picks rate high on the arbitrary scale and are not intended to be comprehensive: this is just a collection of movies (and movie moments) from the past year that got me thinking about travel, and about places new and familiar.
Most Adorable/Unusual Tale of Indie Love in New York
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
There is never any shortage of romantic comedies set in the Big Apple, but most directors opt to focus on the entanglements of young professionals (bewildered new-to-the-city female journalists, more often than not), and to set the action in or near Central Park. “Nick and Norah,” in contrast, follows a pair of suburban, straight-edge teenagers through the live music venues of lower Manhattan—and captures my heart in the process.
Slate’s Dana Stevens said it better than I can: “Some people really were made for each other ... and New York does look beautiful by night. You got a problem with that?”
by Michael Yessis | 02.04.09 | 8:21 AM ET
- World Hum contributor Tony Perrottet drives Australia’s Great Ocean Road.
- Scott McCartney: “Perhaps no other consumer-service business is so rule-bound as the airline industry.”
- Travelers can now link Delta and Northwest frequent flier accounts.
- Arjun Basu meditates on the size of airports.
- Photos: The making of an Interstate highway (via Coudal)
- Slate calls Aung San Suu Kyi “the world’s most effectively sidelined leader.”
- These baggage handlers at Edinburgh Airport “played tig” while waiting for planes to land.
- I LEGO N.Y. is currently the most emailed story at the New York Times.
- Video: Did you know Steve Martin was on Flight 1549?
- I’m fantasizing about a future of travel that involves this.
by Eva Holland | 02.03.09 | 3:47 PM ET
Movie tourism: to some, it may be an embarrassing, empty and needy exercise. But to me, it’s at worst a harmless detour from more weighty travel fare, and—in a best-case scenario—can even be a surprisingly illuminating way of looking at the world. By chasing the spots where ghosts of film crews past still linger, you can find yourself stumbling on unexpected treasures, or seeing well-worn landmarks in a new light.
I’ve dabbled in the practice before, but this year I’ve decided to get serious. During my present stay in New York City, and beyond, I plan on seeking out some major movie-making landmarks, and (naturally) sharing my findings here.
by Eva Holland | 02.02.09 | 4:47 PM ET
There’s something inherently funny about most promotional tourism videos. Maybe it’s the inevitable score swelling dramatically, or the cheesy tag lines, but it’s rare to find one that doesn’t make me giggle and roll my eyes. Still, there are some that are more memorable—and more eye-roll-worthy—than others. I’d like to honor those extra-special specimens here, in an occasional series.
First up, “Telly Savalas Looks at Aberdeen”: A quota quickie, narrated by the “Kojak” star, that aired ahead of the main feature in movie theaters in the 1980s. Between the reference to “black gold” (the first time I’ve heard the term since the Beverly Hillbillies remake) and Telly’s declaration that he was “captivated by everything” he saw—while the camera panned across a parking lot—I was sold. Take a “look-see” (to use Telly’s word) after the jump.
by Eva Holland | 01.29.09 | 12:17 PM ET
Turns out that Margaret Atwood—the acclaimed author of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Alias Grace” and “The Blind Assassin,” among others—is also a serious nature-lover. Atwood will be cruising the Scottish isles this spring as a guest lecturer on board the M/V Andrea; this press release notes that she is a “keen birder” and the current co-president of the Rare Bird Club. Who knew?
by Michael Yessis | 01.26.09 | 8:12 AM ET
- Ed Vulliamy drives the length of the U.S.-Mexico border. Or, as he calls it, “Amexica.”
- Is Mexico City now the world’s greatest food city?
- Paramedics bought Big Macs for stranded AeroMexico passengers in Portland. That might be the only pleasant news from the incident.
- The “tourism gold rush” has subsided in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Blame Mugabe.
- Toronto wrestles with its identity.
- USA Today explores the question of whether the Obama presidency will influence travel to the U.S.
- Super Bowl travel packages are “not exactly a hot ticket.”
- Looks who’s taking on the bad travel economy: William Shatner.
- Motherwell. Glenrothes. New Cumnock. These three towns are in the running for the most dismal in Scotland.
- Crapstone. Titty Ho. Penistone, These and other snicker-worthy place names in Britain have had bloggers, Tweeters and New York Times readers snickering all weekend. Myself included.
by Michael Yessis | 10.02.08 | 5:57 PM ET