Posted at 1:26 PM ET, 02/19/2009

Insta Q&A: Turquoise Coast Is a Turkish Delight

Christina Talcott

My only regret after spending 10 fantastic days in Turkey last fall is that I didn't experience it by sea. Between the mosques and mystery of Istanbul and the country's spectacularly beautiful interior, I just ran out of time. Reader Carol Stern, on the other hand, is planning a visit with a friend for next fall and has wisely allotted a couple of days for a cruise. Smart move, Carol. She writes:

We would like to take a short two- or three-day cruise along one of the coasts. Can you make a recommendation? Also, we do not want to travel with a tour. Any suggestions for how to get around and where to go? So far we have Istanbul, Izmir and Cappadocia on our itinerary.

Carol, you've picked the perfect bases for a two-week visit. Istanbul, of course, is a must-see, and your timing is great, since the city's spiffing up for its reign as Europe's City of Culture in 2010, with hip new hotels, galleries and more. Izmir is the gateway to Ephesus, one of the most spectacular Roman ruins in the world. And Cappadocia has an otherworldly landscape that will leave you gasping in awe, no exaggeration.

For getting around, I recommend taking internal flights between your bases -- the distances are relatively vast. I flew from Istanbul to Cappadocia to Izmir. You can also rent a car (only for the brave), hire a car and driver (expensive) or take buses (time-consuming). There are no trains to speak of.

For your cruise segment, there are tons of options for a gulet (wooden boat) trip along the Aegean or Mediterranean coasts -- I'd choose the latter (how can you resist something called the Turquoise Coast?). You'll have to get yourself to one of the port cities like Bodrum, Marmaris or Fethiye. I recommend working this out in advance with a good travel agent or online company, because the choices are overwhelming once you get there. Tom Brosnahan's Turkish Travel Planner -- which is just about the best site I've found on visiting Turkey -- is a great place to get started, and has a good section on cruising.

Anyone out there taken a gulet cruise and have recommendations for Carol?

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Posted at 10:04 AM ET, 02/19/2009

Bird Strikes, Cell Phones on Planes, Refunds and More

Christina Talcott

Here are some of the latest flying-related stories, big and small:

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's... Avian Radar! The Seattle-Tacoma Airport is the first airport in the world to install avian radar. The goal is to detect bird movements to avoid avian collisions like the kind that caused a U.S. Airways plane to crash-land in the Hudson River on Jan. 15. The three radar systems at the airport are part of a research collaboration between the University of Illinois and the FAA in the hopes that the new technology can prevent bird-plane collisions in the future.

Cell Phones on Planes:
While passengers have long been instructed to turn off cell phones on planes, apparently pilots needed a similar warning [PDF]. While it's not clear whether cell phone signals are actually dangerous during takeoff and landing, I'd want my plane's pilots and crew being as cautious as possible.

Buffalo Crash Investigation: Officials are investigating crew error, the effect of ice and other avenues to determine the cause of the Continental Connection Flight 3407 crash outside of Buffalo last Thursday that killed 50 people. The investigation is expected to take a year.

Recession Refunds: In either a sign of desperate gimmicry or compassionate consideration, JetBlue announced Tuesday that they'll refund tickets to passengers who lose their jobs between now and June 1. The airline has a lengthy list of requirements, though, to issue refunds. Still, those hoping for a vacay but fearing a pink slip might want to take note of the offer.

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Posted at 8:05 AM ET, 02/18/2009

Too Bad Waterford Didn't Make Crystal Balls

Christina Talcott

For years, visitors to Dublin have been taking side trips (and getting lost on the way, it must be admitted) to the town of Waterford, 100 miles south. Its presence on the Irish dance card was attributable in large part to the world-famous crystal company located there and especially the Waterford factory tour, which drew more than 300,000 patrons a year -- one of the biggest tourist attractions in Ireland.

But, as a reader informed us during a recent online chat (thanks, "London"!), Waterford has apparently become another casualty of the economic crisis. The factory itself closed on Jan. 30. The workers staged a sit-in almost immediately, and as of now Waterford remains closed.

The crystal company, part of Waterford Wedgwood PLC, says it's looking for a buyer, but the future of the factory and its tours is very much in doubt. Gone, at least for now, are the glass-blowers and etchers and the Times Square exhibit devoted to the spangly orb Waterford designed for New York's millennial New Year's Eve ball drop.

Regular readers of CoGo will remember that it was just a few months ago that Waterford unveiled its latest creation, a new 12-foot Times Square ball, which descended from its pole for the first time this past New Year's Eve. A high-tech effort composed of 2,668 Waterford crystals, the ball was not only designed not only to make that annual descent for years to come but also to be visible atop its pole year-round. It sits there now, apparently, shivering in the February wind.

Prospective visitors to the Waterford factory might want to check the company's Web site -- even though as of now it gives no indication that the factory is even closed.

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Posted at 7:48 AM ET, 02/16/2009

Get Movin': Travel Deals, Contests

Carol Sottili

* If you're thinking of heading to Killington, Vt., to ski, take a look at the resort's Web site first. The Killington Deal Grabber offers lift tickets for $50 beginning at 8 a.m. Monday (Feb. 16) for travel the week of Feb . 21-27. Walk-up rates start at $77 for a daily lift ticket, so the savings are considerable.

* Virginia is going to give away 40 trips in 40 weeks to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its Virginia Is for Lovers campaign. The trips range from two to seven nights, and will cover all regions and interests. One trip will be awarded every week beginning Feb. 20.

* Abercrombie & Kent is launching its redesigned Web site Feb. 19. Starting at 10 a.m., it will start offering five percent savings on five itineraries. Every 30 minutes, savings will increase by five percent, to a maximum of 60 percent off the retail price by 3 p.m, but only if the trip is still available. Trips to Botswana, Zambia, Egypt, Kenya, and Spain are included in the promotion.

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Posted at 7:36 AM ET, 02/13/2009

Insta-Q&A: Hooking a Fishing Guide

Christina Talcott

Not being a fisherperson, it's hard for me to appreciate the lure of salmon fishing in Alaska -- but I can definitely appreciate the results. Salmon's not only delicious, it's one of the most healthful foods you can eat. And since the fish is also apparently a lot of fun to catch, it's spawned a whole tourism industry up in Alaska. The fish can be caught year-round, but the best time is during the summer, when, according to the state's tourism office, "they can literally choke streams and rivers with their vast numbers."

Sounds tempting. But how to choose an outfitter? That's the topic of this week's Insta-Q, which comes from Stephanie Sefcik of Vienna. She writes:

My husband and some friends would like to go salmon fishing in Alaska this summer. Can you recommend some places to go? Looking on the Internet, there are so many areas and choices.


This kodiak probably knows where the fish are biting. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife/Alaska Division)

Stephanie, one place to start is Travel Alaska, the state's tourism office, which has a detailed list of companies offering salmon fishing trips, so you can compare itineraries and prices. Of course, there's nothing like a personal recommendation.

So how about it, readers?
Anyone out there been there, done that, and can recommend a location and/or outfitter?

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Posted at 3:46 PM ET, 02/12/2009

Forbes Magazine Names America's Most Miserable Cities

Christina Talcott

Every year, Forbes Magazine crunches numbers and comes up with what it deems the "most miserable" cities in the U.S. This year's list holds a few surprises.

But first, here's an explanation of the method:

We compiled our rankings by looking at the 150 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S., which meant those with a population of at least 378,000. We ranked those metros on nine factors: commute times, corruption, pro sports teams, Superfund sites, taxes (both income and sales), unemployment, violent crime and weather. The corruption category is new this year. (And D.C. still didn't make the list? Shocking!)

Cities such as Flint, Mich., and Modesto, Calif., routinely make the list every year. But in the wake of the election and that iconic night in Grant Park, we're a little surprised that Chicago snagged the #3 spot. Of course, its most famous resident did trade his Hyde Park digs for a fancier mansion in less snowy climes, and as for corruption... well, how could anyone forget this guy?


It's miserable on Miami's South Beach? Really? (Alan Diaz/AP)

Here are this year's Top Ten:
1. Stockton, Calif.
2. Memphis
3. Chicago
4. Cleveland
5. Modesto
6. Flint
7. Detroit
8. Buffalo
9. Miami
10. St. Louis

Do you agree or disagree about any of these picks? Or is there someplace you'd nominate for next year's list?

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Posted at 7:08 AM ET, 02/12/2009

EasyHotel: Easy on the Wallet

Christina Talcott

Everyone knows about EasyJet, the low-cost European airline with a penchant for the color orange that's giving major carriers a run for their money across the pond. But what about EasyHotel? The good news is that it's run by the same folks, the bad news is that the rooms have orange walls, and the better news is that you can get rooms in London, Zurich and other places for a steal.


A standard room at the EasyHotel at Lexham Gardens in London. (easyGroup)

But first, a caveat: Just as EasyJet has made its money by offering a no-frills experience where each extra perk costs, well, extra, EasyHotel rooms have redefined the postage stamp accommodation experience. The best-priced rooms are window-less and a minuscule 64 to 75 square feet (basically enough room for a double bed and an open suitcase), plus a phone booth-size private bath. Flat screen TV's hang from the walls (you'll need 5 pounds a night to activate one) and housekeeping, if needed, will run you another 10 pounds.

But before you say you'll die of claustrophobia, just remember this number: 65. Dollars, not pounds. That's about how much a room costs total for two people at the EasyHotel in Earls Court at present. (Rooms at the chain's Heathrow property start at a rock-bottom $37.50 and there are other properties throughout London as well as a few other cities in Europe.)

Sure, it'll be like sleeping in a tangerine, but hey, the Hilton Olympia not far away starts at a hundred bucks more than a postage stamp of one's own. And you don't get any orange walls.

That we know of.

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Posted at 10:17 AM ET, 02/ 6/2009

All Aboard: $1 Bus Tickets to New York

Carol Sottili

Tripper Bus is the latest discount bus service to offer rides for as little as $1 each way to New York. The bus will begin making the trip Feb. 13. It'll go between Manhattan (34th Street and the northwest corner of 7th Avenue) and Bethesda (7525 Old Georgetown Rd., between Wisconsin and Commerce, across the street from the Bethesda metro station), with continuing service to/from Arlington (near the Rosslyn metro stop on North Moore Street between McDonalds and Burger King).

Cheapest fares will be $1 each way plus 50 cent service fee. Once they sell out, seats will go to $5 and then $10 each way before reaching the regular fare of $25 each way.
The bus will offer electrical outlets and wireless Internet.
Tripper Bus Service is the latest player in a crowded field that includes Vamoose (offers service between New York, Bethesda and Arlington for $25 each way), Megabus.com (offers service between New York and Washington starting at $1 each way) and BoltBus (offers service between New York and Washinton starting at $1 each way).

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