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Author Topic:   Travel
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From:Des Moines, Iowa
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posted April 07, 2008 09:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for AuthorAuthor   Click Here to Email AuthorAuthor     Edit/Delete Message
Hemingway haunt gives discounts to "poor Americans"

By Philip Pullella2 hours, 40 minutes ago

Harry's Bar, the famed Venice watering hole where Ernest Hemingway held court over hearty food and stiff martinis, is offering a discount to "poor" Americans suffering from a weak dollar and subprime blues.

The decision by the owner of the restaurant, one of the most expensive even when the U.S. currency is strong, underscores the growing concern about the weak dollar among tourism operators in Italy and elsewhere in Europe.

A sign posted outside the restaurant at the weekend reads:

"Harry's Bar of Venice, in an effort to make the American victims of subprime loans happier, has decided to give them a special 20 percent discount on all items of the menu during the short term of their recovery."

When the euro was introduced as the continent's common currency in 2002, a dollar bought about 1.10 euros. Today it gets about 64 euro cents, making prices seem astronomically high for most Americans.

"Since the start of January, we noticed a drop in (American) customers of between five and 10 percent and now that we are in April its looks really frightening," Arrigo Cipriani, 76, Harry's owner, told Reuters by phone from Venice on Monday.

ENIT, Italy's national tourism board, said in a report this month that the "strong devaluation of the dollar compared to the European currency and signs of a recession are currently the greatest obstacle to American tourism toward Europe."

Harry' Bar was founded in 1931 when Giuseppe Cipriani, a barman at a Venice hotel, opened it with money an American named Harry Pickering had given him to pay off a loan.

He named the bar and his first son Arrigo (Italian for Harry) -- the current owner -- in Pickering's honor.

Hemingway made Harry's Bar his Venice headquarters. He mentioned it in "Across the River and Into the Trees," which was published in 1950 and which he wrote on the lagoon island of Torcello while living in an inn owned by the Cipriani family.

Cipriani, whose family company owns high-end restaurants and food shops in New York, Venice, Hong Kong, London and Sardinia, says even well-heeled clients look for discounts.

"You would be surprised how people like to have a discount on their bill whether they are rich or poor," he said, adding that a full meal with wine at his Venice restaurant could set someone back more than 200 euros ($314.5).

Cipriani, who said the discount will apply only to the restaurant part of the tab and not the bar, said Americans in Venice need not bring their passports to his restaurant in order to get a discount.

"We will judge by the accent and if we make a mistake, we will give a 20 percent discount to the English as well," he said.

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posted May 07, 2008 01:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
The 10 most stylish cities in the world
London tops list of cool capitals, thanks to its cosmopolitan vibe
By Nicola Ruiz
updated 10:31 a.m. PT, Wed., May. 7, 2008

Paris has La Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. New York is home to Fifth and Madison avenues. And shoppers need look no further than Via Monte Napoleone in Milan, Italy, for the latest pręt-a-porter.

But none can match London's cosmopolitan vibe. One third of the city's population was born outside Britain; that's 2.3 million Londoners sharing their cultural style, fashion and cuisine. This mix gives tremendous vibrancy to the city, the world's most stylish according to a recent survey.

"The only downside to London is its safety and expense," says Simon Anholt, editor of the journal "Place Branding and Public Diplomacy" and author of the 2008 City Brands Index survey on which the rankings, released last month, are based. Anholt also consults with city and national governments on policies, investments and strategies for improving their national reputations. "But these two factors also help its image: If it was too safe people wouldn't find it as exciting, and if it was cheaper it would get less respect."

Sydney, Australia; Rome; Barcelona, Spain; Melbourne, Australia; Berlin; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Madrid, Spain, round out the top 10.

The Anholt City Brands Index surveyed 18,000 people from 18 countries. Cities were judged on lifestyle, buzz, multiculturalism, cultural life and attractiveness. Respondents, for example, were asked to rank 40 cities on climate and weather, pollution and the physical attractiveness of buildings and parks. They were asked how warm and welcome they expect the people of each city to be, and how important each city's contribution to the world has been over the last 30 years in the areas of science, culture and government.

"The smarter governments have always looked at their city as a brand that needs to be marketed," says Anholt. "But one of the effects of globalization is that competition has become incredibly intense between cities for tourists, investors, business [and] major events, so proper attention to reputation is now mandatory in a way it never was before."

Capitals of cool
London landed atop the list in part because almost one-third of the world's population (including those in Australia, India and Canada) has ties to the British Commonwealth and consider London the financial, fashion and music capital of the world. The announced 2012 Olympics also gives it a stylish stamp of approval.

Its ability to produce charismatic leaders doesn't hurt either. When he came to power in 1997, Prime Minister Tony Blair launched the "Cool Britannia" campaign positioning London as cool, hip and happening to a world audience. The advertising slogan was an attempt to rebrand Britain as progressive, forward-looking and diverse, while promoting "Brit pop" bands such as Oasis, the Spice Girls and Blur.

It seems to have worked. "It has history [and] a multi-cultural population," says Philip Kotler, professor of international marketing at Northwestern University and author of over 40 books on place marketing. "It's the world financial center, art center and antique center, and has a dynamic quality of energy."

While Paris came in second, Anholt says it's done less to deserve this elite spot than other cities. With no notable new buildings going up since the Arche de La Defense 20 years ago, and few new crowd-pleasing events of late, Anholt says that Paris, like Rome and Milan, is riding on its reputation.

"It's almost cliché that Paris is one of the most stylish cities," he says. "It's burned into the global, popular culture. Particularly in developing countries, people expect that in Paris they'll get the best food and fashion as well as a chic lifestyle. It could turn into an awful place for many years and it still wouldn't lose that reputation."

If you want to surround yourself with beauty, however, Paris is still the place to go. When asked to rate a city's beauty, 50 percent of survey respondents said that Paris was very attractive, 46 percent felt that way about Rome, 29 percent about New York and only 5 percent found Beijing attractive.

Milan, which scored 15th on the most stylish list, was selected as the city that made the most important contribution to the world — with fashion — followed by Washington with politics, Madrid with culture and Tokyo with technology.

Of course each city has its own unique reputation to maintain. While some governments aim for their city to be perceived as safe and clean, others work to crank up their cool factor.

"Holland is viewed as solid, reliable, efficient, wealthy and boring, but Amsterdam is considered much more stylish ... it's all about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, and the city governments want it to keep that edgy, cool appeal," says Anholt, who adds that Amsterdam, ninth on the style list, is one of the few cities that passes the "cool T-shirt test." "If you put ‘I heart Amsterdam' on a plain, white T-shirt, it will sell for more than if it were just a plain, white T-shirt."

Sydney also passes Anholt's cool T-shirt test and surprisingly to all but those who enjoy living in this vibrant city, it ranks third in the most stylish list ahead of New York, Rome and Barcelona.

"Everyone loves Australia," says Anholt. "It's a fantastic brand, and it basically all comes down to Crocodile Dundee. That film did wonders for the image of Australian cities. It's had so much airtime all over the world and Australia is now perceived as the perfect country: warm, rich, welcoming and civilized."

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posted May 07, 2008 08:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for RobinRafe   Click Here to Email RobinRafe     Edit/Delete Message
Thanks for the info, Fred.

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posted May 09, 2008 11:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for HORACEFROMHOLLYWOOD   Click Here to Email HORACEFROMHOLLYWOOD     Edit/Delete Message
7 tourist traps you love
Story Highlights
See the best floats from past years at Mardi Gras World in New Orleans

Join the crowds at the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square in Key West

Rent a bike and ride around Mackinac Island in Michigan

By Liz Webber
(Budget Travel) -- Back in September, Budget Travel asked for feedback about bona fide, no-holds-barred tourist traps that readers loved anyway. Here are the top picks.

Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Dolly Parton knows how to put on a show. The Dixie Stampede outside her theme park in Tennessee is a "North vs. South" extravaganza with thundering buffalo, horses leaping through fiery hoops and rib-tickling ostrich races. If Dolly's showmanship isn't enough, there are plenty of activities to enjoy. "Pigeon Forge ... is absolute fun and enjoyment," said Carl Wisnesky of Falls, Pennsylvania. "Lots of shows: breakfast shows, lunch shows, dinner shows. Great restaurants, nationally known ribs, and wonderful, reasonably priced food at diners, like Mel's. Plenty to keep you and your family enjoyably entertained." (3849 Parkway, 800/356-1676,, $45, kids $22)

Wall Drug Store, Wall, South Dakota

When Ted Hustead opened his first Wall Drug Store in 1931, he was hard-pressed to find customers. So Ted set up signs along the highway advertising free ice water, and Wall Drug Store has been the rest stop of choice for motorists in South Dakota ever since. Today, Western-themed statues -- from Wyatt Earp to General Custer -- fill the halls of the 76,000-square-foot shopping complex, which also includes a modest water park, a mining-and-panning simulation and a 25-foot T-Rex that roars every 12 minutes. "It was here I first discovered what a tourist trap really is!" said Corie Lindemann of Coon Rapids, Minnesota. "Now, it is so camp and nostalgic, it just makes us laugh. Reading the billboards all across the state is still the most interesting thing about the drive to the Black Hills." (510 Main St., 605/279-2175, See the tourist traps

Mardi Gras World, New Orleans, Louisiana

If you've ever harbored dreams of starring in the New Orleans Mardi Gras parade, or just want to know how participants construct such elaborate floats, check out Mardi Gras World. The museum showcases the best floats from past years (a giant sea dragon! a 15-foot Cleopatra bust!) and houses a workshop where workers glue and hammer together next year's creations. Even locals can't resist romping among the Mardi Gras masterpieces. "I took my brother there during his recent visit, and we had more fun than two adults should --playing dress up in the costumes, then taking photos beside our favorite floats," said Melissa Combs of New Orleans. "We laughed like we were kids!" (233 Newton Street, 800/362-8213,, $17, kids $10). Rolling by the river

Hoover Dam, Nevada/Arizona Border

The Hoover Dam is big. Really big. In fact, it's downright colossal. The dam, completed in 1936 and 726 feet tall, is composed of enough concrete to pave a 16-foot-wide highway from San Francisco to New York City. "It's really a fascinating tour, and the enormity of the structure is awesome," said Sally Ridenour of Salem, Oregon. But she especially liked the dam's tongue-in-cheek mementos: "The souvenir t-shirts are great: I WENT ON THE DAM TOUR AT HOOVER DAM." (30 miles southeast of Las Vegas on U.S. Hwy. 93, 702/494-2517,, tour $30, children under 8 not allowed on the tour)

Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square, Key West, Florida

Sword swallowing plus chainsaw juggling plus a dog on a tightrope equals the perfect sunset stroll? Clearly Key West's nightly ritual offers more than just another pretty photo op. Streets fill up with performers like Jace and Jean the Juggling Machine, Bible Bill and local legend Will Soto, who's been juggling and tightrope walking in Mallory Square for 20 years. "It is such a wonderful tourist trap, but the sights are well worth it," wrote Patti Porco of Chantilly, Virginia. "The sunsets are always something special to watch, but the fun is in watching the street performers as well as their audiences, who both entertain while you wait." (305/292-7700,

Cliff House, San Francisco, California

For gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean, few places beat Cliff House, which was rebuilt in 1909 after a fire. The neoclassical marvel earned raves from Sarah Blanke of Portland, Oregon: "Actually, not so much the actual house, but the [neighboring] mechanical museum of antique coin-operated novelty machines of all sorts and the walk-in camera obscura." Unfortunately, since Sarah visited, the mechanical museum has moved to Pier 45 at Fisherman's Wharf (415/346-2000, But the camera obscura still projects a fantastically detailed view of the coast in a building on the grounds, using a trick with light and mirrors that's similar to the inner workings of a submarine periscope. Stroll the grounds for free, pay $3 to see the camera obscura or dine at one of the two indoor restaurants that face the ocean. (1090 Point Lobos, 415/386-3330,

Fort Mackinac and Mackinac Island, Michigan

Following the American forces' unexpected success in capturing British outposts during the American Revolution, the British moved Fort Mackinac, brick by brick, from the Michigan mainland to Mackinac Island. It remained in British hands until 1796. The fort closed in 1895; today it stands as a public monument to its long history as a military outpost. Carol Feider of Midland, Michigan, says: "Mackinac Island is a total tourist trap, and I love it. Renting a bike and riding around the island. Touring the fort and watching the guides shoot the cannon. Taking the horse-and-buggy ride. And, of course, buying fudge." (231/436-4100,, adults $10, kids 5--7 $6.25)

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posted May 17, 2008 09:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for HollywoodProducer   Click Here to Email HollywoodProducer     Edit/Delete Message
Eat like a local: Seattle
Story Highlights
The crępes at La Côte Cręperie pair nicely with hard ciders

Kingfish Café features a menu of sublime soul-food classics

Smith is a lodge-themed bar with 40 different beers

By Karla Starr
(Budget Travel) -- An authentic cręperie, a homey Ethiopian place and a down-home soul-food joint are among the city's favorite eateries.

Green Leaf

Imagine a Hanoi café crossed with a tiki lounge and you're close to understanding the appeal of Green Leaf, located in the International District. The hour-long wait is instantly forgotten once you've tasted the bucket-size bowls of pho. Good luck trying to squeeze your way out. (Happily, the restaurant is adding a second floor, doubling the amount of space.) 418 Eighth Ave. S., 206/340-1388, entrées from $7.

La Côte Cręperie

The neighborhood of Madison Valley has been generating buzz for its French restaurants, including this authentic cręperie. Packed since it opened in January, La Côte uses dense buckwheat in its savory dishes, while sweet options include a tatin crepe made with carmelized Red Delicious apples. Pretty much any of the crepes pairs nicely with one of the hard ciders. 2811 E. Madison St., 206/323-9800, crepes from $4.


Linda Derschang's new venture (she also owns Linda's Tavern and Viceroy) is a lodge-themed bar with 40 different beers. Tyler Palagi's menu includes alphabet soup and devils on horseback (dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in pancetta). 332 15th Ave. E., 206/709-1900, entrées from $10. Drink beer better

Kingfish Café

When sisters Laurie and Leslie Coaston decided to open a soul-food joint, they traveled around the U.S. in search of ideas. The result of their quest is a menu of sublime classics: buttermilk fried chicken, fried green tomatoes and a sweet-potato pecan pie that's baked by the Coaston sisters' mother, Geraldine. 602 19th Ave. E., 206/320-8757, entrées from $11.


This quirky spot seats only 17 and takes no reservations. Owner Phred Westfall pairs obscure wines with chef Laurie Riedeman's eclectic dishes, including ribs wrapped in a garlic waffle and a bread pudding made with pear and blue cheese. 3309 Wallingford Ave. N., 206/547-2317, entrées from $18.


Seattle has one of the largest Ethiopian populations in the U.S., and of the many restaurants in Little Addis Ababa, none are as homey as Meskel. After all, it's in a converted house. The generous main dishes -- the gomen be siga (beef ribs and collard greens) and the doro wat (braised chicken) are popular -- come with stacks of spongy, filling injera bread. 2605 E. Cherry St., 206/860-1724, entrées from $9.

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posted May 18, 2008 04:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for AuthorAuthor   Click Here to Email AuthorAuthor     Edit/Delete Message
Tibetan tourism suffers after protests, crackdown
Number of visitors plummets more than 80 percent from 2007, bureau says
The Associated Press
updated 12:59 p.m. PT, Sun., May. 18, 2008
XIAHE, China - Labrang, one of the great Tibetan Buddhist monasteries famed for its sacred scriptures and paintings, was nearly deserted over the May Day holiday.

A few pilgrims in traditional robes turned prayer wheels. Several young monks kicked a soccer ball on a dirt field.

Tourism, an economic lifeline for many in this chronically poor region, has plunged since Tibetan protest against Chinese rule flared across a broad swath of western China in March, prompting Beijing to flood the area with troops. Foreigners are still banned, and until recently Chinese were advised to stay away.

In years past, thousands of tourists descended by busloads on the town of Xiahe in Gansu province with the 18th century Labrang monastery. A billboard proclaims the area an “AAAA grade scenic tourist spot.”

The number of visitors has plummeted more than 80 percent from last year's 10,000, said Huang Qiangting with the Xiahe Tourism Bureau.

“It's because of the incidents in March,”' said Yuan Xixia, manager of the Labrang Hotel, whose 124 rooms were mostly vacant during the national holiday. “I haven't seen a tour bus on the street for days.”

In mid-March, two days of protests in Xiahe turned violent, with demonstrators smashing windows in government buildings, burning Chinese flags and displaying the banned Tibetan flag. Chinese media have said 94 people were hurt in Xiahe and surrounding towns in March, though that number is difficult to verify.

Some expect business to remain slow until after the Beijing Olympic Games in August, when travel restrictions may be further eased. The streets were quiet immediately after the Olympic torch reached the top of Mount Everest, a peak considered sacred by Tibetans.

A shortening of the May Day break this year to three days from seven contributed to the drop in tourism. But most industry executives said the riots and tense security were the primary culprits.

The affected area includes not only Tibet but also the nearby provinces of Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan, which have had sizable Tibetan communities for centuries.

South of Xiahe, five counties remain sealed off in Sichuan, where protests bubbled up anew last month, part of the most widespread demonstrations against Chinese rule since the Dalai Lama fled abroad nearly a half-century ago.

Nearby areas that are open such as Jiuzhaigou, a picturesque valley of lakes and waterfalls surrounded by mountains, are seeing fewer visitors, travel agents said.

“This used to be the hottest season for tourists,” said a woman working at the Forest Hotel in Sichuan's Aba county, the site of most of the unrest. She gave only her surname, Xie. “But we haven't seen any tour groups since March.”

Meanwhile in Tibet's capital of Lhasa, where Chinese authorities say 22 people died in violent riots in mid-March, hotels are almost empty at what should be the start of the busy tourist season.

At the Lhasa Hotel, only half of the 400 rooms were filled, said a staff member, Zhuoma, reached by telephone. Like many Tibetans, she uses one name.

The falloff in business is a blow to a ruggedly exotic but poor region where the government has encouraged tourism to provide a much-needed boost.

A tourism boom was under way in Tibet, generating new demand for guides, hotels and other services. Tibet had 4 million visitors last year, up 60 percent from 2006, the official Xinhua News Agency said, boosted by a new high-speed railway to Lhasa. Tourism revenues hit $687 million, more than 14 percent of the economy.

Beijing is eager for the area to regain its popularity. State media have run numerous, cheerful pieces on life returning to normal.

“A trickle of Chinese tourists began arriving in ethnic Tibetan areas of west China over the May Day holiday, sparking hopes of a revival in the tourism industry after the unrest in March,” read one report by Xinhua.

“Lhasa seems busier and livelier than what I imagined,” tourist Wang Fujun from the southwest city of Chengdu was quoted as saying on Xinhua as he snapped photos outside the Potala Palace.

But that impression seemed an exaggeration in Xiahe.

“Since what happened in March, no one dares to come here anymore,” said a roadside fruit and vegetable vendor who, like many, refused to give his name for fear of retaliation from authorities.

“At this time of the year, the streets, hotels are all usually full. I normally sell all my produce in one day,” the vendor said, pointing to strawberries and watermelons piled next to leeks and lettuces. “Now, it takes me three days to sell the same amount.”

Shopkeepers sit listlessly behind glass counters or in front of their stores, chatting with neighbors. Tibetan coin-studded leather belts, popular with Japanese tourists, hang unsold in a tiny store. Eateries offer only limited menus, the lack of customers discouraging owners from buying food.

“Last year, this place was full everyday. Tourists from all over China, as well as France, Germany, England,” said the owner of a 50-seat cafe serving a local specialty of beef fried rice along with Western-style chicken burgers and french fries. “This year? Nobody.”

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posted May 19, 2008 10:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for AuthorAuthor   Click Here to Email AuthorAuthor     Edit/Delete Message
Here's an interesting story about what to do if caught in a natural disaster while traveling.

How travelers can get through natural disasters
Companies play the God card, but you've got some cards up your sleeve, too
By Christopher Elliott
Travel columnist
updated 7:10 a.m. PT, Mon., May. 19, 2008

Talk about adding insult to injury.

When a natural disaster strikes — like the recent earthquake in China or Myanmar’s devastating cyclone — travel companies like to play the God card. Unless everyone is looking.

The God card — technically, the Act of God clause, a legal term for, “circumstances beyond our control” — basically means your airline, cruise line or hotel owes you nothing. After all, the tragedy wasn’t their fault.

Miss your flight? Sorry, nothing we can do about that hurricane. Couldn’t get to the port on time because of a wildfire? Hey, don’t look at us — we’re not arsonists. Couldn’t make it to the hotel because your house was flattened by a tornado? Not our problem, and oh, P.S., you still owe us for the room.

That’s what happened to Carol Knight when she prepaid for her hotel in Key Largo, Fla., recently. As it turns out, a hurricane had made similar plans, and the storm forced the resort to cancel her reservation. She believed she would get a refund. “I was given a cancellation number,” she remembers.

But Knight didn’t get her money back, and a dispute with her credit card failed to recover the $721 she’d been billed for a nonexistent vacation. Fortunately, I was able to help her get a refund with an assist from her travel agent.

When a natural disaster strikes, a happy ending like Knight’s is unusual. After having the God card played on them, travelers are often left to fend for themselves. Perhaps the only exception is when everyone is paying attention to the tragedy. During a major disaster, when TV cameras are pointed at the carnage, airlines sometimes issue exceptions to their onerous ticket change rules.

If it weren’t for the catastrophic loss of life that led to this action, it might be amusing to watch the process unfold. One airline will issue a statement promising to waive certain fees, and then the other carriers will pull a “me-too” by either bending some of their rules or sweetening the offer. And then, the moment the tragedy is out of the public eye, airlines quietly delete these exceptions from their Web sites, lest anyone think they might ever set aside to their strict and customer-hostile policies again. (I should note some prominent exceptions, including American Airlines, which publishes a blanket hurricane policy on its site — permanently.)

Generally, hotels are equally insensitive. No surprise there. They’re in the business of making money from their rooms, and when the inn is closed, they’re earning diddly-squat. They’re going to try to keep your money, and yes, they’ll play the God card if they can.

As a traveler, your goal must be to stop them from invoking the “Act of God” clause and to start acting responsibly. Here’s how to navigate the dangerous and uncertain waters of a natural disaster:

What if you can’t travel because of a natural disaster?

Pack a good policy
Having a good travel insurance policy can make the difference between weeks of worry and peace of mind about a refund. Consult with a knowledgeable travel agent and research the policies that are available before buying one. The right insurance will help you get a prompt refund when your vacation is canceled because of a natural disaster. And the wrong policy? Let’s not even go there.

Call your agent and work the phones
When Mother Nature gets in one of her moods, you’ll congratulate yourself for using a travel agent. This is one of those times when a good agent proves his or her value, despite what some readers of this column have suggested. But it’s a team effort. While you agent is applying pressure for a full refund, it’s no time to rest. Phone your airline, cruise line or hotel and find out if you can get your money back, too. Read your contract carefully before letting your fingers do the walking. For example, some resorts have hurricane “guarantees” that might apply to your situation.

If you can’t get there, push for a replacement
Your first order of business is to secure a full refund. That’s where a good agent and insurance policy can come in handy. But plan B ought to be a replacement vacation. Most major travel companies will, when pushed, offer credit for a make-up vacation. If they don’t, there’s still Plan C: asking your travel agent to make things right. Some major online agencies will step in and issue credit to their customers, even when the travel companies they do business with say “no way.” For example, here’s one person who missed her cruise because of a blizzard, but in the end, received a full refund for her vacation from her tour operator.

What if you’re on vacation when a natural disaster strikes?

End the vacation
Although being in an exotic destination when a tragedy strikes can be fascinating — you might be thinking, “Wait until I tell everyone back home about this!” — it’s generally considered bad form to be kicking back as the rescue crews arrive. Unless you want to turn your vacation into a volunteer vacation, you need to end it now. Never mind the fact that staying there can be dangerous. In March, a British tourist probably waited too long — or maybe he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time — when he was killed in a freak avalanche triggered by a storm. It’s a dangerous world out there.

Get home safely
When tragedy strikes and you’re already on the road, your first priority is to get home without getting hurt. Phone your travel agent and then call your airline to make arrangements. You may be forfeiting a few days at your hotel or skipping out on a tour you had planned, but you can work on a refund once you’re back in the States. If you’re overseas, contact the closest U.S. embassy or consulate and let them know need to get home. Here’s more on how to let the government know of your whereabouts.

Play the victim card
So your travel company is going to play the God card? Well, here’s a card you can play — it’s called the victim card. You’ve just been caught in an earthquake, hurricane, tsunami or volcanic eruption, and you need to get outta there quickly. Even though travel companies don’t want to bend their rules for you, they can and they often will do it when you inform them of your circumstances. Maybe your resort got burned to the ground by a raging wildfire, flattened by a tidal wave or carried out to sea by a cyclone. Speak up! The people on the other end of the phone are human, and they are capable of compassion. They just need a little encouragement.

When disaster strikes, don’t let your travel company read you chapter and verse from its contract, and don’t let it play the God card. Remember, whether you’re about to go on vacation or you’re already there, you’ve got options — and a card or two you can play as well.

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posted May 19, 2008 12:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Woody: Barcelona, Si; Russia, Nyet
Appearing at a news conference in Cannes, where his latest movie, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, had its world premiere over the weekend, Woody Allen was asked by an enthusiastic fan/reporter from Uzbekistan when he might make a film in Russia or Central Asia. To the reporter's chagrin, Allen suggested that he was unlikely ever to do so. A few years ago, he said, he took his family for what was planned as a five-day holiday in Leningrad. "I was there for about two hours and I went to the travel agency in the hotel and I said, 'Get me the first reservation out of here, I don't care where it goes.'" He said that he has been told that things had changed since then, but "it would take a lot to get me back. I don't travel well."

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posted May 19, 2008 05:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Hello Kitty is named Japan tourism ambassador By TOMOKO A. HOSAKA, Associated Press Writer
Mon May 19, 3:11 PM ET

Hello Kitty — Japan's ubiquitous ambassador of cute — has built up an impressive resume over the years. Global marketing phenom. Fashion diva. Pop culture icon. Now the moonfaced feline can add "government envoy" to the list. The tourism ministry on Monday named Hello Kitty as its choice to represent the country in China and Hong Kong, two places where she is wildly popular among kids and young women.

Officials hope that tapping into that fan base will lead to a bigger flow of tourists into Japan, and closer toward their goal of attracting 10 million overseas visitors every year under the "Visit Japan" campaign.

Last year the number of foreign tourists traveling to Japan hit a record high of 8.35 million, up 60 percent since the government began the marketing effort in 2003.

Arrivals from China and Hong Kong, who accounted for 16.5 percent of visitors to Japan last year, are poised this year to become the second-largest group of tourists after South Koreans.

At a press conference, Sanrio Co. President Shintaro Tsuji called Hello Kitty's new appointment "an honor" and pledged to "work hard to attract many visitors."

Japan's other goodwill tourism ambassadors include Korean singer Younha, Japanese actress Yoshino Kimura and Japanese pop/rock duo Puffy AmiYumi.

Although this is the first time the tourism ministry has tapped a fictional character for the role, the foreign ministry in March inaugurated blue robo-cat Doraemon as Japan's "anime ambassador."

Designed in 1974 by Sanrio, Hello Kitty first appeared on a plastic coin purse. Her image today has become one of the most powerful brands in the world, adorning some 50,000 products in 60 countries.

In China, Kitty-fever has already broken out.

A multi-million-dollar musical featuring Hello Kitty opened earlier this year in Beijing and is in the midst of a national tour. "Hello Kitty's Dream Light Fantasy" is then scheduled to travel to Malaysia, Singapore and the U.S. over its three-year run.

According to her official profile from Sanrio, Hello Kitty lives with her family in London. It does not mention how often she visits Japan.

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posted August 28, 2008 05:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Wish-list author's death fuels Web 'bucket lists'
Remarking on Freeman's death, bloggers listed what they'd like to do
updated 9:39 a.m. PT, Thurs., Aug. 28, 2008
The accidental death of an American author who wrote the adventure travel guide "100 Things to Do Before You Die" has prompted an online rush to draw up "bucket lists" — catalogues of activities to do while alive.

Dave Freeman, an advertising executive who co-authored the 1999 book with friend Neil Teplica, died on Aug 17 at the age of 47 after hitting his head in a fall at his California home.

The book spawned a publishing genre of wish-lists but ironically Freeman's family said he had only managed to tick off about half of the recommended journeys in his book before he died. Combined, Teplica and Freeman had sampled most of them.

In "100 Things to Do Before You Die" the authors write: "This life is a short journey. How can you make sure you fill it with the most fun and that you visit all the coolest places on earth before you pack those bags for the very last time?"

Suggestions included running with the bulls in Pamplona in Spain, taking a voodoo pilgrimage in Haiti and attending the Academy Awards in Los Angeles.

The concept hit the big screen this year when Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman played two terminally ill men fulfilling a wish-list in the Hollywood movie "The Bucket List."

It also sparked a wide variety of other lists of must-dos before you die, such as the travel book "1,000 Places to See Before You Die," the book "1,001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die" as well as the essential movie, books and food lists.

Remarking on the irony of Freeman's death, bloggers suggested what should appear on their own wish-lists, ranging from travel to religion.

"If this isn't a reminder of how short life is, I don't know what else could drive that point home," wrote Sarah Pauling, 32.

"I could be doing so much more with my life! With that in mind, I'm going to come up with my own list of things I want to accomplish before I die, and set out to achieve them ... Sometimes you just gotta live like you were dying."

Her list included writing a book, learning how to surf and planting a herb garden.

Blogger Alana Morgan said Freeman's sudden death also inspired her. "While a "bucket list" is usually a "check if off" kind of list, mine seems to be more of a list of things I hope to be able to do right up until the fateful day."

Another blogger, Heather, said she had decided to write her own list in honor of Freeman which included going on an African safari, meeting Keith Urban and having three to five children.

"I loved the movie "The Bucket List" and ever since then I have been thinking about the things that I want to do before I die. I am only 22 years old so I have a long life ahead of me (I pray)," she wrote.

However not everyone was convinced that life needed a list.

"Let this be a lesson to all of us - don't tempt fate! I will never make a 100 list, bucket list or any other list of things to do before I die. It almost assures you of an unfortunate accident!" wrote blogger Teddy.

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posted September 02, 2008 08:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Laurie's Road Trip Ambition

2 September 2008 9:04 AM, PDT

House star Hugh Laurie is determined to ride across America on a motorcycle - his final ambition before he turns 50.

The British actor hits the landmark age next year and he insists that buying a vintage motorbike for a road trip across the U.S. is top of his list of things to do.

He says, "I'd like to ride a motorcycle across America, but not just any old motorcycle - one with a sidecar. That'd be fantastic.

"Every day I get a little bit closer to the F-word."

But Laurie admits that despite his advancing years, there are still a lot of professional ambitions he would like to achieve in his life.

He adds, "I don't have a single complete show or movie or anything else that I could look at and say, 'Nailed that one'. But endless dissatisfaction is, I suppose, what gets us out of bed in the morning."

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posted January 03, 2009 11:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for a   Click Here to Email a     Edit/Delete Message
Rainbow Room to close restaurant, citing economy
20 mins ago

NEW YORK – The recession has reached the ritzy Rainbow Room, the special-occasion spot that overlooks midtown Manhattan from high above the tourist-attracting Rockefeller Center skating rink.

WNBC-TV reports that the owners plan to shutter the Italian-themed Rainbow Grill restaurant temporarily while keeping the establishment's bar, banquet space and dinner-dancing going on the 65th floor of the RCA building.

The Rainbow Room has symbolized glamour since it opened in 1934, during the Great Depression.

Cipriani International chief operating officer John Higgins told WNBC the decision was "due to the current economic crisis" and a lease dispute.

A spokeswoman for landlord Tishman Speyer didn't immediately respond to a call seeking comment Saturday.


On the Net:

Rainbow Room:

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posted January 04, 2009 03:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for RobinRafe   Click Here to Email RobinRafe     Edit/Delete Message
It's all about the view. The food wasn't very good.

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posted March 05, 2009 02:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Lively's Tour Convinced Her To Chase Fame

Blake Lively was persuaded to become an actress after her actor brother Eric Lively treated her to a whirlwind trip across Europe.

The Gossip Girl star's older sibling, a former child actor, wanted to inspire his sister to find a job that allowed her to travel the world, and so he pulled her out of school and whisked her away to Europe to show her the world.

She explains, "It was the winter holidays. He told my mom that he would be taking me out of school for two weeks and he ended up keeping me out for a month and a half.

"That was the plan all along but he knew they wouldn't let me miss so much school.

"I was 15, he was 21. It was an amazing trip; he took me to London, Cambridge... Rome, Brussels, Cologne, Florence and Paris, staying everywhere from five-star hotels to hostels."

But not everything about the trip was thrilling: "Every single day I would dread going to lunch with him, because every single day he'd be like, 'What are you going to do for a living?'"

However, Lively will always be grateful for her brother's intervention - because she learned so much on her tour: "I got a much better education about world history in that month and a half than I did in the entirety of my high school life."

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posted May 22, 2009 01:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message

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