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Photo of the Day (12/16/09)

Taken outside Tyn Church in Prague, this shot by uncorneredmarket does a lovely job of capturing an important aspect of the Czech Republic's holiday season. Christmas markets offer visitors a variety of Czech crafts and food that are served up with twinkling lights and evergreens.

A cup of hot wine, a traditional beverage of such markets, would make a perfect accompaniment for such an evening.

If you have captured an aspect of your travels, send your best photos our way at Gadling's Flickr photo pool. One might be chosen for a Photo of the Day.

The music beat in Dakar: Another version of West Africa

Grant's series "Into Dakar" brought back memories of my own travels there. For another intimate look into life in Dakar, check out, "The Songs of Senegal" a recent article in the New York Times. For me, reading the article was a trip back to an evening I spent in Farafenni, The Gambia, dancing to a live performance of Youssou N'Dour.

If you travel to The Gambia or Senegal without taking in the music scene, you'll miss a vital part of each country's vibrancy.

As Seth Sherwood, the article's writer, points out, Dakar is one of the least touristed music centers in the world, but one of the most vibrant. This means for anyone traveling there, you can easily become immersed in a scene that is not meant for you.

Last minute flights may be cheaper than the bus

Searching for travel deals feels like playing a game show where how to get a winning number is unclear. It's like hunting in a jungle where the frequent hunter has the edge. Timing remains the wild card.

Being flexible and not assuming the outcomes makes the difference between snagging a deal or paying more than you feel happy paying. The one that makes you whine.

Case in point: A friend of mine bought a round-trip ticket to New York City from Columbus for $240 two weeks ago for a trip next week. He smacked his forehead when I told him I bought a ticket last Saturday for $138 total. My trip is tomorrow.

The price surprised me as well. Before buying a bus ticket, expecting Greyhound would be much cheaper since it usually is, I searched plane fares last Friday "just in case." Surprise, surprise.

But, I also learned--again-- the importance of not hesitating. I waited until Saturday to buy the ticket while ironing out life's logistics, thus missed out on the flight I wanted. Delta's prices had almost doubled.

Another search found the $138 price on American. The hesitation, though, means flying out at 5:40 in the morning. Blech! Still, the less than two hour plane ride is $30 cheaper than the 14 hour bus ride. Factor in the cost of the bus from LaGuardia into Grand Central Station and I'm still $8 ahead.

While hunting for your own deal, keep the following points in mind.

First snow: Eight winter activities for budget friendly fun

With the first snow comes thoughts of winter's smorgasbord of budget friendly travel options. Fall festivals and foliage tours are long gone. What was missed has been moved to next year's got to go agenda.

The first snow is a reminder that winter, like other seasons, has a timetable that waits for no one. To make the most of winter, create a checklist of what you'd like to do. Plan for those winter outings before it's too late. Don't be left behind wondering where the winter went.

Here are 8 winter activities to put on your list of things to do before the spring thaw comes and crocus appear.

Photo of the Day (12-9-09)


This photo titled "Peace" by jrodmanjr, the fellow who took it, is a lovely depiction of an alley away from the hubbub of a city. As he noted, time away from the souks in Dubai, the city with the tallest building in the world, was well needed.

In the comment section, he also gives details about why he framed the shot the way that he did. If he had moved the camera to the right, "the bright clutter, crates, and trinkets ended up to be too much of a distraction. "

As it is, we become the witness to the life of a man who reads in quiet repose.

If you have captured a quiet moment of repose, or any other sort of moment, send it our way at Gadling's Flickr photo pool, It might be chosen as a Photo of the Day

Sarah Palin and Hawaii don't mix? About comfort zones vs going rogue

Here's a tidbit about Sarah Palin that caught my attention. According to her dad, Palin left college in Hawaii because being around too many Asians made her feel uncomfortable. Interesting. Sarah Palin attributes her leaving the Aloha State after just one semester to too much sunshine for an 18 year-old---as in beaches and academics are not a great mix for an Alaskan gal. Read Palin's book Going Rogue:An American Life and you'll get Palin's version.

Whether Palin found hitting the books in Hawaii too difficult-- or the number of Asians there too disconcerting, either option brings up the topic of comfort zones travel and going rogue.

People like Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods and Bizarre World thrive on traveling outside of their comfort zones. To them, outside of the comfort zone is a comfort zone. A place where most people feel comfortable might cause them an unsettled feeling. Put a person like Zimmern in the middle of a Wal-mart in the U.S. and he or she might feel creeped out.

Southwest gains a passenger midflight

When a Southwest Airlines flight took off from Chicago Midway Airport today bound for Salt Lake City it had 123 passengers. When it landed, there were 124. The addition joined the flight at 30,000 feet somewhere above Denver.

As one of the passengers discovered, the floor at the back of an airplane can work fine as a delivery room in a pinch. Luckily, there was a doctor on board who could help deliver the baby. Southwest medical personnel on the ground gave instructions via radio.

In the case of this baby, they'll be a story to tell later. Instead of claiming that a stork was in charge of the delivery, the family can tell tales of a jet plane bearing responsibility for the speedy arrival time.

An ambulance took the mother and new baby to a hospital in Denver after the plane was diverted there. Hopefully, this is the kind of flight delay the other passengers were happy to be a part of. I can't imagine that it would have helped matters if any grousing was going on.

I wonder if the mom can sign up the baby as a frequent flier and get any credit for the baby's portion of the flight?

People with guide dogs have been denied flights and a hamburger

Guide dogs are nothing new. Most commonly known for helping people who are blind navigate the world around them, they are gaining use in helping people with other types of disabilities. Also called service dogs, some are now being used by war veterans with post traumatic stress disorders. The more service dog use increases, the more likely they will be part of the traveler's scene. Unfortunately, not everyone who works in the service industry knows the laws and rules that protect service dog owners. This has created a few snafus.

There is a current lawsuit against McDonald's for a situation that started with the refusal of service. When Luis Carlos Montalván, a former U.S. army captain who was wounded in Iraq, came to a McDonald's in Brooklyn with his service dog, he was told he could not bring the dog inside. Montalván complained to the company CEO which resulted in a sign installed at the restaurant indicating that service dogs are welcome.

The lawsuit came about after this incident because Montalván claims that when he returned to this McDonald's after the sign was installed, he was denied service by a different manager. When Montalván later came back with a camera to take a picture of the sign that said he should be able to have service, two employees accosted him.

In another recent guide dog incident, a blind couple and their dog were denied boarding on a Jetstar plane in Australia even though the airline does allow people with service dogs to fly. [Jaunted]

In both of these cases, the problem arose because the people who worked for the organization weren't aware of the rules of an organization or the law. I would bet they hadn't come across someone with a service dog before either. As much as a service dog looks like a regular dog, it's not. Guide dogs are not pets.

What are the laws anyway? In the U.S. the Department of Justice outlines them quite clearly. In essence, a person with a service dog cannot be denied service. Period--except from what I can tell from reading the guidelines, if the dog is barking during a movie or if it acts up somewhere. Since service dogs are taught not to bark or act up, such behavior would be unlikely.

If you do see a service dog, don't pet it when its harness is on. That means it's "working" with an important job to do.

Parents' worse nightmare: Their child is in trouble overseas

For the past couple of days, two stories have been appearing in various forms in the media--one splashier than the other, but both are what parents nightmares are made of. These are the situations they hope they don't get a phone call about. One is about Amanda Knox, the college student who is in an Italian jail waiting to see if she will spend years there if she's found guilty for murdering her roommate in a crime that reads like an outlandish tale-- perfect for a murder mystery novel. Evidence is not conclusive.

The other story is about Devon Hollahan, an English teacher who vanished from the streets in Frankfurt, Germany at two in the morning when his friend was asking for directions after they attended a Portugal and the Man concert. Hollahan was about twenty feet away from his friend whose back was turned just long enough for Hollahan to disappear unnoticed.

In both cases, the parents of Knox and Hollahan, two people in their early twenties, are part of heartbreaking scenarios and a testimony to the worst that can happen when children grow up past childhood and travel miles past their parents' admonitions to be careful.

Such news is hard enough when it happens within ones own country. When it happens in a foreign country, parents find themselves in positions dealing with horrific situations in places that may have different procedures than their own country. The legal system in Italy works differently than the one in the U.S., for example.

Ultimate recyling project: Building a soda bottle classroom

What happens when Peace Corps volunteers, the non-profit organization, Hug it Forward and a bevvy of school children and teachers in Guatemala recycle plastic bottles and trash? A school classroom.

The collected bottles were stuffed with trash and used to form the walls for a classroom addition at a school in Granados, a small mountain town in the Baja Verapaz region of the country. Amazing.

This video shows how the project was done. The music is a fitting addition to a project that brought the widest smiles to dozens of faces.

Imagine what might happen if similar projects happened on a massive scale world wide. There are a lot of plastic bottles on the planet.

For another version of a building project that fits into travel and activism, check out this gallery on house building with teens, college students and adults in Mexico through Amor Ministries, another non-profit that welcomes volunteers.

  • The Winding Road.
  • View
  • Squaring the Foundation
  • Mixing Cement
  • Pouring Cement
  • Rock Collecting

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