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Archive for November, 2007

White Days, White Nights

By Linda Tancs

Are you dreaming of a white Christmas at the Winter Palace? If so, start packing your mukluks (leave the stilettos home) and ushankas and head to St. Petersburg’s Hotel Astoria for their special White Days package. Valid now through March 31, 2008, the 3-day package includes buffet breakfast each morning, a ticket to the Hermitage and a Russian Table (no, not roulette) in the Davidov Restaurant.  As you sample from eighty or so vodkas and dine on the finest caviar on earth, enjoy the hotel’s view of the gilded cupola of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, which dominates the city’s skyline. Also nearby are the Winter Palace and Hermitage, Peter and Paul Fortress and Mariinsky Theatre. Be sure to buy your matryoshkas at Nevsky Prospekt, the main shopping mecca.  After your 3-hour tour of the city’s highlights, you’ll be ready for your complimentary Russian classical leaf massage at the spa.  Chances are, you’ll never look at an oak leaf the same way again.  The Mongols managed to conquer Russia in winter.  In great style, so can you.

The Perils of the Antarctic

By Linda Tancs

Perhaps the words of science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson, “First you fall in love with Antarctica, and then it breaks your heart” should be changed to “First you fall in love with Antarctica, and then it breaks your boat.”  The perils of Antarctic expeditions were underlined with the recent sinking of the Explorer.  Thankfully, all passengers and crew survived.  There’s no doubt that the wind-driven and swiftly moving ice of the Antarctic imperils any vessel there, but with today’s post-Titanic advances in mapping and sonar technologies, how–and why–does an Explorer-type incident occur?  After all, we can trace a mad cow to its birthplace on a farm anywhere in the world.  Is an iceberg any less significant?  Maybe it just comes down to the numbers involved, but polar research will be driving climate science and experimentation in the years ahead.  That should bring the safety of polar travel to the forefront.

High Oil Prices Affect High Seas

By Linda Tancs

A presumably unwelcome surprise awaits many current and prospective cruise passengers:  a fuel surcharge to offset oil prices nearing $100 per barrel.  Surcharges currently range from $5 to almost $8 per person per day, with some taking effect in a matter of days.  Check with your cruise company for details.  If you pay your balance early on an existing reservation, you may be able to avoid the extra fee.

Travel Waiting Made Manageable

By Linda Tancs

So here’s the short story for this year’s Thanksgiving travel:  rain and fog caused travel delays in the East; whereas, the Midwest and West fared better.  Weather conditions are an unpredictable variable in airport delays, but other conditions, like security waiting times, are relatively manageable.  Check your wait times ahead of time at www.flightstats.com.  Wait times are approximate based on historical averages.

Thanksgiving Parades

By Linda Tancs

The best known Thanksgiving Day parade is arguably the venerated and nationally televised Macy’s production in New York City, stepping off at 77th and Central Park West each year at 9 am.  This parade, originating in 1927, is not the country’s oldest, however.  That honor goes to Philadelphia.  They’ve been parading since 1910, stepping off at 20th and Market at 8:30 am.  In second place is Detroit’s parade, originating in 1924 and stepping off at 9:25 am at Woodward and Mack.  Everyone loves a parade, and now you have three good reasons to join in–from the couch or the bleachers.

Mauritius Readies for More Upmarket Tourism

By Linda Tancs

In 2008 Mauritians will welcome another luxury resort overlooking the Indian Ocean, courtesy of Intercontinental Hotels. There was a time when Mauritius was an overlooked pearl in the middle of the Indian Ocean, frequented by rock stars and royalty. Well, the secret’s obviously out as its coastline undergoes more and more development. The crucial issue is whether the natural beauty of its coastline can–and will–be preserved before it turns into the African region’s version of South Beach.

Alaska’s Bridge Going Nowhere

By Linda Tancs

Alaska’s $300 million Bridge to Nowhere finally has a destination:  Neverland.  The abandoned project would have linked Ketchikan with Gravina Island (population: 50).  Apparently it’s infinitely more feasible to link Point MacKenzie (population:  230) with Anchorage, at double the cost.  Might this process merit a second look?  As Thomas Jefferson said, “Delay is preferable to error.”

Beaujolais Arrives in Time for Holiday Tables

By Linda Tancs

It’s the third Thursday of November, and you know what that means:  Beaujolais Nouveau makes its annual debut just in time for the holiday table.  Made in the Beaujolais region of France from the gamay grape, Nouveau is harvested and sold within a matter of weeks, which explains its flurry of publicity at wine shops this time of year.  Because it’s relatively light as far as reds go, it’s a great accompaniment for turkey.  À votre santé!

Eurostar Bids Adieu to Waterloo

By Linda Tancs

Not even an industrial strike in France affecting the Metro and train service to Calais and Lille can rain on Eurostar’s parade.  Beginning today, Eurostar leaves its roost at Waterloo for new digs at St Pancras offering a higher-speed line to Paris and Brussels.  Commuting time will now be just over 2 hours to Paris and just under 2 hours to Brussels.  Those morning croissants might still be fresh when you get there.

The Most Expensive Dessert in the World

By Linda Tancs

You can search the world over for a trifle sweet truffle but, according to Guinness World Records, you won’t find one as pricey as that served at an eatery on East 60th Street in New York City.  The restaurant, known appropriately enough as Serendipity 3, offers a chocolate sundae concoction comprised of worldwide cocoas (or is that cacao?), whipped cream, edible gold (we’re not talking 10 carats here, but does it leave a metallic aftertaste?) and shavings from the venerable La Madeline au Truffe.  What is La Madeline au Truffe, you ask?  That’s a haute piece of chocolate truffle (with a little Perigord thrown in for good measure) created by Connecticut chocolatier Fritz Knipschildt.  This consummate confection is served in a golden goblet ringed with a diamond bracelet and eaten with–what else–a gold souvenir spoon.  That’s right–a souvenir.  You might as well have something by which to remember this $25,000 gastronomic delight.  Besides a lighter bank account, that is.

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