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Lost and Found in Spain: Windmills, Wine, and Tapas

windmilljpg

With two days to drive from Madrid to a resort in Marbella on the Costa del Sol, my traveling companion and I wanted to see something of the Spanish countryside. If you've been to Castille-La Mancha, you know the countryside is rather flat and uninspiring, which can make for a long, boring drive. We are both interested in history and architecture, and also wanted to sample some of the local wines. So as we headed south on the A-4 highway, I used our GPS to look for some interesting diversions off the main route, and found two that only added an extra hour to our drive, and led to a great lunch as well.

Anybody familiar with Don Quixote will remember his "battle" against the windmills, and will probably find Campo de Criptana a worthwhile side trip. At the top of a hill in the center of this small town are 12 windmills from the 16th-Century, like the one faced by the famous knight-errant. Two of them are open for tourists to explore, and you can learn how medieval Spaniards used wind power to grind wheat into flour. An art studio nearby exhibits (and sells) paintings and drawings of the "molinos."

Our second stop was at the Museo del Vino in Valdepeñas. The wine museum has several rooms that explain the climate and soil conditions in the region, the types of grapes grown in the area, and the history of viniculture in Spain, including the efforts the locals went through in the Dark Ages to continue making wine despite official objections by the Muslims when they controlled the area. The exhibits also include farm implements and tools used in winemaking from grape crushers and hand pressers to the enormous barrels where wine is aged. We stopped for tapas at La Fonda del Alberto, Calle Cristo, 67, Valdepeñas for a delicious meal. A glass of vino blanco, some delicately grilled calamares, langostinos cocidos and pulpo a la gallega, and we were ready to get back on the highway and continue our journey south.

See also: José Andrés: Chef's Tour of Spain and A Tapas Tour of Spain.

 

Photo by Ron Harris

Tag Boat: Graffiti Collective Turns Ship Into Art Project

geisha boat graffiti

Many old cruiseliners may end up stripped for parts, but the Duke of Lancaster is proof that one man's scrap can become another's sprawling, blank canvas.

According to a CNN report by Sheena McKenzie, a graffiti collective recently cut a deal with the owners of an abandoned ship beached on Wales’ Dee Estuary, and invited artists from around Europe to start spray painting the vessel, while also pondering the theme of corruption. Some highlights: Three suit-and-tie-clad monkeys sitting on bags of money, some cartoonish pirates and a demon riding a uniformed pig.

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3 Great New Orleans Music Venues

New Orleans music

We asked Alison Fensterstock, a consultant for HBO’s Treme, for her top three venues in the Big Easy—winner for Best Music Scene in our America’s Favorite Cities survey.

D.B.A. has a great mix of local rock, soul, and brass in an intimate setting.”

“The corner of St. Claude and Elysian Fields is a burgeoning music district. Drop into Hi Ho Lounge for acoustic bluegrass.”

Saturn Bar, a dive in Bywater with a thrift-store feel, hosts casual sets from neighborhood musicians.”

Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Trip Doctor: World Economic Forum Releases 2013 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index

The World Economic Forum just released its 2013 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index, a report that evaluates 140 destinations across the world based on safety and security, environmental sustainability, and cultural and natural resources, among other "pillars" of tourism.

Among the findings:


° Switzerland is the best overall place in the world for tourism.

° In a further blow to its floundering travel industry, Egypt ranks last for safety and security, behind Yemen (139) and Pakistan (137). Kenya is ranked no. 135. Finland, meanwhile, is the safest place to travel.

° Sweden, Switzerland, and Finland take the top three spots for environmental sustainability. Oil-rich Kuwait comes in last.

° Brazil, Australia, and the United States are the best destinations for natural resources. Sorry, Rihanna, Barbados ranks near the bottom at no. 133 in this category. Haiti brings up the rear.

° Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States are the top five places for cultural resources, edging out contenders France (8), Greece (25) and Italy (7). South Korea (no. 10) is the only other non-European country to break the top ten in this category. (Thank you, PSY?) In last place: Burundi.

The whole list can be found at the World Economic Forum's official website.

Have a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

Christo's Latest Comes to Germany

Christo art sculpture

If you missed The Gates in Central Park, the Wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin and the encasement of The Pont Neuf bridge in Paris, then you might want to take a trip to Oberhausen, Germany to play catch up with Christo.

The world-reknown artist has created a new work called Big Air Package, a monument to space that's made up of 6,250 cubic feet of air wrapped in translucent fabric and tied with rope. It's the largest envelope of nothingness without an internal skeleton known to mankind. The sculpture will fill The Gasometer, a landmarked industrial structure erected in 1927 and decommissioned at the end of World War II that formerly served as a gas storage facility and is now a featured attraction of the European Route of Industrial Heritage.

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Trip Doctor: London's Best Walking Tours

London Walking Tours

Fox & Squirrel: Itineraries focus on arts and culture and highlight topics such as fashion and food. From $48.

Guild of Registered Tourist Guides: Tours are led by guides who specialize in everything from the monarchy to the music scene. From $213.

London Walks: With more than a dozen drop-in walks daily, it’s perfect for last-minute planners. From $14.

Amy Send your dilemmas to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @afarles on Twitter.


Photo by Christian Kerber

Chicago with Kids: Spring Break in the Windy City

visiting chicago with family

Perhaps not the most obvious choice for a spring break, Chicago can keep a family happy—if not warm and dry—when school lets out. The city welcomed us with open arms during a blustery spring break week when our 'Plan A' vacation fell through. Here are some basic tips for a terrific time with the kids in the Windy City:

If you’re planning on hitting more than a few museums and skyscrapers, buying the Chicago CityPass ($94 for adults, $79 for kids, 11 and under) not only makes economic sense but it allows you to skip the lines at most of the participating venues. The passes saved us from standing in line in the sleet outside the Shedd Aquarium one day and we felt pretty smug sweeping past the hour and a half wait at the Skydeck. Waltz up to the desk and buy the passes at the first venue you visit, and they're valid for the next nine days.

Museum of Science and Industry This magnificent edifice in Hyde Park, between Lake Michigan and the University of Chicago campus, is one of the last remaining buildings of the 1893 Columbian Exposition (you know, from The Devil in the White City!). The museum offers engaging high- and low-tech exhibits—from the physics of basketball (kids pre-set the velocity and angle of a cannon that launches a ball across the grand hall and into a basket on the far balcony) to how cow manure can be turned into fuel (From Poop to Power!). A longtime favorite of Chicago kids, the museum was fully interactive before the word involved touchscreens. You can easily find enough varied and interesting activities to fill an entire day. Don't miss the retro make-your-own-molded-plastic-souvenir machines at the submarine, farm, and space exhibits.

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Trip Doctor: Paris's Best Walking Tours

Paris Walking Tours

Black Paris Tours: Explore places made famous by notable African Americans such as Josephine Baker. From $91.

Paris Muse: Art historians and educators lead excursions to museums including the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou. From $91.

Paris Walks: Centuries-old local lore brings the city to life on itineraries such as “Paris During the Occupation.” From $16.

Amy Send your dilemmas to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @afarles on Twitter.

 

Photo by James Merrell

Trip Doctor: Rome's Best Walking Tours

Rome Walking Tours

Context Travel: The company has walking tours in 21 European cities, plus a robust collection of 50 itineraries in Rome. Outings are led by master’s- and Ph.D.-level scholars in such disciplines as archaeology and urban planning. From $75.

Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome: Food writer Minchilli leads market tours in Campo de’ Fiori and Testaccio; sample local delicacies along the way. From $195.

Amy Send your dilemmas to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @afarles on Twitter.

 

Photo by David Leventi

Trip Doctor: Madrid's Best Walking Tours

Madrid Walking Tours

Wellington Society of Madrid: Join one of the dozen walks offered by Stephen Drake-Jones, a history professor and longtime resident. You’ll get his lively perspective on topics including Hemingway’s Madrid (past clients include the writer’s niece, Hilary), the Hapsburgs, the Prado and Modern Arts museums, and the curiosities and anecdotes of old Madrid, with stops at historic taverns. From $76.

Amy Send your dilemmas to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @afarles on Twitter.


Photo by David Nicholas

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