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Adventure Blog

May Odds and Ends

Buzz Poole
05/22/2012 - 06:15
Gary Greff sculpture along Enchanted Highway, Jim Wilson via The New York Times

How many countries have you visited?: While some folks might be inclined to count airport transfers as a "visit" the answer to this question can be even more subjective than you might expect. Lonely Planet's Tony Wheeler realized as much after recently applying for a Russian visa. The UN members list, according to Wheeler, counts 193 countries, not including places like Palestine or Taiwan. But, as Wheeler explains, on the Russian paperwork, the "UN list is there and a lot of colonies, Gibraltar for example. Antarctica is there and some of the sub-Antarctic islands, but not the biggest of the lot South Georgia. Islands (Malvinas) is there, but not the Falklands." How do you count countries? 

The club sandwich international cost index: Not only is how you count the number of countries you've visited subjective, but so too is the definition of a club sandwich. To me, a true club sandwich is nothing but three slices of toasted white bread smeared with mayonnaise, between which crisp lettuce, perfectly ripe, thick slices of tomato, and crispy bacon are tucked. Apparently, some folks include slices of hard-boiled eggs. Regardless of how you feel about the egg slices, Hotels.com has crunched the numbers on the prices of a club sandwich served in a hotel, relying on data collected from 750 hotels in twenty-six countries. The final verdict? Don't ever order a club sandwich from a hotel in Paris, unless you have an expense account that will never be questioned. In fact, it is probably best to avoid the sandwich in most of northern Europe.

Ernest Hemingway, reporting: How things have changed: "Paris in the winter is rainy, cold, beautiful and cheap. It is also noisy, jostling, crowded and cheap. It is anything you want—and cheap." So wrote Hemingway in a February 4, 1922, piece for The Toronto Star Weekly. There is no indication as to whether or not Hemingway tried a club sandwich in Paris, but the piece does rave about how the exchange rates favored travelers using the US or Canadian dollar. It is worth checking out all the pieces Hemingway filed for the paper.

Road trip: Working out of fourteen national offices, The New York Times bureau chiefs and national correspondents spend a lot of time on the road chasing stories. Covering so many miles, they have opinions about their favorite drives. While unsurprising choices like California's Route 1, otherwise known as the Pacific Coast Highway, and the dramatically moutainous Highway 285 running southwest out of Denver, Colorado, appear, there are some great suggestions that might just inspire an impromptu road trip. Describing North Dakota's Enchanted Highway, Monica Davey writes: "Rarely do giant, man-made creations add serenity to a wide-open view. But in North Dakota, where seemingly endless stretches of rolling wheat fields, cattle ranches and solitary farmhouses can leave a traveler with little memory of time or distance, it is possible."  

Let your feet be the power: Does anyone really like being in crowded places? Sure, busy shopping areas and popular tourist attractions brim with energy and excitement, until the crowds become annoying. Well, according to this National Geographic story, startup company Pavegan Systems has come up with an ingenious way to utilize heavy foot traffic in the name of green energy. This summer, the company's green rubber tiles will be used for their largest project to date, the Westfield Strafford City Mall in east London. As the article explains: "The squares aren't just ornamental. They are designed to collect the kinetic energy created by the estimated 40 million pedestrians who will use that walkway in a year, generating several hundred kilowatt-hours of electricity from their footsteps. That's enough to power half the mall's outdoor lighting." Just think of the energy that could be generated by pedestrians bustling through Times Square or beneath the Eiffel Tower.

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