Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Toyota Prius family: A moving bank ledger

When Toyota’s Prius showed up on our shores in 2000, it was a wedge-shaped, hybrid-powered aberration. Now it’s safe to call it a revolution. A dozen years later, four Prii variants crowd the automaker’s showroom floors, while their Hybrid Synergy Drive powerplants have found room under the hoods of many other models in both the Toyota and Lexus line-ups. When judged by first-quarter auto sales, the Prius family is now the globe’s third best-selling nameplate with nearly a quarter-million units sold, according to Automotive News (just behind two traditionally powered super-sellers, Ford Focus and top dog Toyota Corolla). 

Toyota Prius VToyota Prius VThe now-ubiquitous - if you live in the eco-conscious Bay Area, as I do - Prius hatchback ($24,000 to $29,805) has paved the way for three recent additions to the fold: the Prius v wagon,Prius Plug-In and Prius c, this last being the economy version of the original four-door, if such a thing doesn’t sound redundant. 

The Prius v ($26,550 to $30,140) doesn’t look all that different from the original hatchback, but it somehow manages to offer up 60 percent more cargo room in its slightly stretched rear quarters. To be specific, the v is six inches longer, three inches taller and an inch wider, and its resulting 34 cubic feet of hauling space is meant to signal buyers with family-focused lives - kids, animals and sports gear galore - that they need not go the mini-ute route. The v provides space without much of a dent in Prius hatchback’s vaunted 50 mpg rating, offering a respectable 44 city and 40 highway.

The Prius Plug-In Hybrid ($32,000 to $39,525) offers yet another proposition. For anyone who truly has short commutes as part of their daily routines, here is a Prius that offers up around a dozen miles of gas-free driving thanks to its lithium-ion batteries, and the usual frugal driving experience in non-EV mode. But as its price tag indicates, this super-green iteration of the Prius can, if loaded up, set you back some serious money. That may cause some shoppers to recalculate the entire fuel-saving proposition that all hybrids use as a potent lure.

Toyota Prius cToyota Prius cFor this reason alone, the newest Prius c - which stands for city - just might be the purest Prius of the bunch. After four days with a demure blue c, whose price tag alone was reason to smile ($18,950 to $23,230), I came away wondering if my own personal fleet shouldn’t include a no-nonsense, four-door people mover whose gas gauge barely budges. Toyota may brag about offering the best city mileage “of any car without a plug,” but that boast becomes mighty real when you spend a day running errands and the gas gauge refuses to move off F. 

To say the c is a no-frills machine is understatement; it makes a loaded Prius Hybrid Plug-In feel like a Bentley. And big hills give the c’s 1.5-liter, 99 hp engine considerable pause; a few times I had to hit the hazards lights to let the BMW behind me know it was going to be a while. 

But one has to admire the utter purposefulness of this newest Prius sibling, whose only mission seems to be to ferry folks around town (but not country) without costing the driver a dollar. In fact, the one gauge function I became obsessed with was a readout indicating how much money a trip had cost me from power-up to power-down. Two miles to the kids’ school, 35 cents. Going to pick up a stranded soccer team member, 45 cents. Welcome to the modern age: the car as moving bank ledger. If that’s the way you roll, the Prius family should meet yours.

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“No Hand Man” motorcyclist attempting hands-free 525-mile ride

Phil Comar has a bit of a double life. The 63-year-old Adrian, Mich., man works as a motorcycle safety trainer, teaching proper techniques to new riders. But for the past 20 years, Comar has been putting extra danger into his Harley rides by training himself to steer without using his hands. This weekend, he'll attempt to beat his own world record for charity by riding 525 miles hands free, without stopping. That's one way to keep from being distracted.
Comar -- nicknamed the "No Hand Man" -- says he encourages no one to follow in his wake and attempt to go 70 mph without using the handlebars. "I am about as close to being a professional as anyone has been when it comes to riding with no hands," he says, telling The Cincinnati Enquirer that he's never had an accident.
After Comar's father died in 2008 from Parkinson's disease, Comar began a series of fund-raising rides. His first ride in 2010 went 314 miles; last year he attempted the same 525-mile trip from the Mackinac Bridge to Covington, Ky., but only made 327 miles -- still good enough for the Guinness Book of World Records. His bike has a couple of modifications to make the trip, namely an extra fuel tank for range, but there's no secret device to keeping it on the road beyond Comar's legs.

Keeping a 550-lb Harley cruiser going straight without hands might not sound so hard. But as the video from one of Comar's rides shows, steering with your body requires a whole different set of skills. It looks impossible to make the smaller, constant corrections as you would with handlebars, and Comar has to plan ahead for any combination of traffic and turns. While a freeway offers far fewer corners, it also raises the speed to dangerous levels; Comar takes some precautions by having chase vehicles and another rider always nearby.
There are easier ways to raise money for charity, and if you want to help Comar reach his goal of $25,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, you can donate here.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

10 Stunning sunsets Photo

photo by cgmb

photo by Banyan
photo by lizzybe1
Venedig, Italien
photo by Cabo Outfitters

photo by ozlem-burak
photo by tripavarice
Panama City Beach, Florida
by jjctraveler
Samoa, Südpazifik
photo by debdestiny
St. Lucia, Karibik
photo by Tom57LiverpoolUK
Rangali Island, Malediven
photo by monand

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Is Berlin The World's Rudest City?

Berlin is an increasingly popular destination for travelers, particularly for younger travelers looking to get weird. While locals don't mind the influx of cash, they do mind the influx of chaos and this week has seen anti-gentrification and anti-tourism protests from locals tired of listening to visitors party until the wee hours of the morning.
The question is now what course Berlin will take. The art-friendly city may now be the rudest city in the world as far as travelers are concerned.
Though Burkhardt Kieker, director of VisitBerlin, has been quick to point out that his city hasn't had as long as Paris or London to build up tourist infrastructure and that the anti-tourist sentiment may not be widespread, the fact is that many cities simply never learn to get along with tourists. Even New York, which welcomes roughly 50 million visitors annually, has often struggled to overcome a reputation for brusqueness. Tourists who dare to walk slowly are pushed out of the way and cursed at creatively. This is part of the New York experience.
But standoffishness and rudeness can become a major problem for a city's dependence on tourist dollars, which is why the posters telling tourists to stay away will be taken seriously in Berlin. Germans, it turns out, already have something of a reputation.
Earlier this year, an international poll conducted by Skyscanner determined that travelers have the worst opinion of Parisians as hosts and, well, the French in general. Other nations with particularly unfriendly people included Russia and U.K.
Germany ranked quite high on the list. Apparently the locals are determined to keep their spot.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

13 of Europe's hidden hot spots

Americans can't get enough of Paris, as becomes painfully clear each summer, when it swarms with tourists.

Relief waits a train ride away in Île de Noirmoutier: You'll be greeted by the scent of mimosa and the sight of bobbing yachts and families picnicking on the beach.

Thankfully, Europe is still full of under-the-radar gems like this French retreat. And we can't resist spreading the word about the latest emerging hot spots, from Eastern Europe's hippest art scene to a sleepy district of lakes and castles.

It takes extra effort, sure, to reach these European spots, but the reward comes with that sense of being let in on a fantastic secret -- and the opportunity to experience a place rooted in local tradition before it's really discovered and altered. And if you just can't forget Paris, consider you'll probably get to transit through one such glittering European hub along the way.

Matera, Italy
Once abandoned, this ancient Italian town carved out of a limestone gorge has been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to repopulation by artists and hippies. Take a dip in its natural rock springs before touring cave dwellings and other relics of the past.
Tourists are taking their sweet time to get the message about this starkly beautiful, monochromatic town of ancient architecture. Yet Matera has been a favorite of film directors (Pier Paolo Pasolini, Mel Gibson) for decades, and Francis Ford Coppola is opening his sixth hotel in nearby Bernalda, where his grandfather was born.

Carved out of a limestone gorge, the millennia-old town in the southern region of Basilicata -- the arch of Italy's boot -- was abandoned for decades, until artists and hippies began repopulating it in the 1950s and UNESCO declared the old town a World Heritage Site in 1993.

From the natural-rock pool at the Locanda di San Martino, you can float while surveying the sassi (ancient cave dwellings) and hundreds of rock churches that date back to the Byzantine era.

Fermanagh Lakelands, Northern Ireland
Fermanagh, a quiet but beautiful lake district, presents opportunity for flights of Gaelic fancy. Tour storybook castles, misty lakes and imposing mountains while staying at Crom Castle, an ancient estate where many host weddings.
Northern Ireland's self-styled lake district isn't as dramatic as its English sister, which has given it reprieve from the millions of visitors who come to the region's shores. Here, instead of membership-only clubs and helipads, you get crenellated castles from the 17th and 18th centuries, misty loughs (lakes), and views of the distant Donegal Mountains.

For a truly Irish experience, stay in the west wing of Crom Castle, the historic seat of the earls of Erne for more than 350 years. Its 1,900 rolling acres are filled with every possible amenity to fulfill your outdoor Gaelic fantasies -- and reachable within a two-hour drive from Belfast or Dublin.

Muhu Island, Estonia
On the tiny island of Muhu -- accessed by an ice road in winter -- you'll find working windmills, thatched cottages, a 13th-century pagan church and 700-year-old Padaste Manor. Despite its age, the manor is suited to modern guests.
On the tiny island of Muhu -- accessed by an ice road in winter -- you'll find working windmills, thatched cottages, and a 13th-century pagan church. The population is only around 2,000, but this island 100 miles from Tallinn is rich with tradition, dating back to 1227 when an army of Christians crossed the ice and ended the Estonian Crusade.

Padaste Manor may not be that old, but it still has some 700 years of history under its Danish-style eaves. Experience what a descendant of one of those crusaders (the last private owner, Baron Axel von Buxhoeveden) thought of as impeccable taste in the hotel, whose outbuildings merge the old world styles of St. Petersburg (to the east) and Denmark (to the west).

Matarranya Region, Southern Aragon, Spain
The Matarranya region of Spain, the country's answer to Tuscany, sits at the intersection of three ancient kingdoms and offers leisurely and economical escapes like the Hotel Torre del Visco.
Spain's answer to Tuscany is striped with vineyards and rivers, then dotted with olive groves and tree-lined peaks. It rests at the confluence of the ancient Aragon, Valencia, and Catalonia kingdoms, and the feeling is still a bit regal (one can imagine a king, on horseback, hunting for buck).

The pace of life is typically slow, leaving plenty of time for long walks in the hills, mountain-bike rides, and visits to vineyards. The center of it all is at Hotel Torre del Visco, a 15th-century palace in Fuentespalda (population: 368) that is often host to Europe's remaining royalty; its remoteness is hard to match elsewhere. And it's surprisingly affordable -- about $200 per night including breakfast; seems even landed gentry like a good deal. Wander the labyrinthine fortress and pretend you're on the set of the Spanish version of "Game of Thrones."

Lewis Island, Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Travelers searching for solitude will relish Lewis Island, a tiny haven where time stands still. Overhear conversations in Gaelic, stroll quiet beaches and enjoy homegrown elegance at five-star restaurant Auberge Carnish when you feel like reentering society.
Thrown into the North Sea, out past Skye, is a tiny island that only the hearty Scottish could conjure. Lewis is part of the Outer Hebrides, but it's also a world of its own. Its beaches look straight out of the Caribbean -- careful, that water is cold. The language is still Gaelic, and Harris Tweed (from the island adjacent) is worn even in summer.

You can breathe in the smell of peat being cut and head out for a fishing jaunt in the choppy waters. For a little socializing, there's Auberge Carnish, a five-room farm retreat with a restaurant overlooking the rocky bay. Owners Richard and Jo Leparoux grow their own produce and breed chicken and lamb to create the best meals this side of Skibo Castle.

Île de Noirmoutier, France
If you think quaint village living is still too far from nature, Île de Noirmoutier's marshes, dunes, forests and beaches will suit your tastes.
Lovingly called the Poor Man's Île de Ré, this nature destination on the Vendée coast is rife with wildlife: on the beaches, in the marshes and dunes, and in the forest. Take the TGV from Paris, and four hours later you'll be greeted by the scent of mimosa blossoms, even in winter, and the sight of yachts grabbing the wind for white-knuckle races.

For families, this is French paradise -- picture your kids harvesting oysters and their own salt for a beach picnic, exploring the aquarium and the nature reserve teeming with birds, then curling up with a good book back in the villa. As if they'd even think of cracking open that iPad here.

Lodz, Poland
Poland's third-largest city, with a hodgepodge of religious and ethnic backgrounds, does not dissapoint the budding art critic. Known for being the hub of Polish filmmaking, the city offers heritage cuisine, music, a carousel and plenty of places to throw parties.
The third biggest town in Poland comes from industrial roots (it was called the Manchester of the East), but lately, for culture, few evolving Eastern European cities can compare. Art in all forms is everywhere -- from Hollylodz, the center of Polish cinematography (its film school has three Oscar-winning alumni, including Roman Polanski) to the Lodz Atlas Arena, where Elton John will perform in Summer 2012.

Along Piotrkowska Street, one of the longest in Europe, there are more than 100 bars, often heaving with live music, and restaurants serving fantastic Polish and Jewish dishes (try Anatewka, where a violinist serenades guests). All roads eventually lead to Manufaktura, a 74-acre 19th-century industrial campus now filled with shops, museums, a carousel, cinemas, party spaces, and everyone you need to meet in Lodz.

Bergen, Holland
How is Bergen described to visitors? The Hamptons, with clogs. Take a bicycle for a spin along cobblestone streets before relaxing on the terrace of your rental villa or the city's sunny beaches.
Historically, artists and writers came here to be inspired by the coastline, just a 45-minute ride from Amsterdam, but Bergen has seen a recent influx of the newly monied, creating a scene that suggests the Hamptons with clogs. The good news is that if you're not lucky enough to own a local vacation home, you can rent one of the funky, if basic, villas scattered around for a few hundred dollars a week (try
The luncheon spot SB Noord, whose weather-worn wooden terrace is strewn with chairs, overlooks the sunniest spot in the Netherlands. Rent a bike to cycle to the beach (three miles from town) and the pine forest, then head for microbrews and calamari at Fabel's, all done up in oak and bluestone and set beside a ruined church and cobblestoned streets.

Ikaria, Greece
A six-hour ferry ride from Athens, Ikaria is Greece's isolated wonderland. Indulge in fried seafood, alcohol, a swim in crystal clear waters or a stroll past stone walls from the 5th century B.C.E. before checking into the seaside Cavos Bay Hotel.
Thanks to its remote placement six hours by ferry from Athens, the island of Ikaria has all the beauty of the Aegean Islands, without the crowds. Perhaps it's the fresh air, crystal waters, and abundant food, but Ikarians mysteriously live long (and full) lives. They are four times more likely to pass their 90th birthdays than Americans, despite eating heaps of fried fish and rich dips, not to mention smoking and drinking wine by the carafe-load.
Check into the six-level Cavos Bay Hotel, where every pared-down room overlooks the sea. Don't bother bringing a watch; nothing happens "on time" here. So go for a leisurely swim at Seychelles Beach and stroll along the ancient stone walls that date back to the 5th century B.C.

East Anglia, United Kingdom
Not many do, but if you venture a stone's throw from Cambridge University, you'll happen upon a countryside gem. East Anglia's winding roads are dotted with sheep, thatched villages, churches and gorgeous estates like Sandringham, the queen's holiday mansion.
Built up by the wool trade centuries ago, East Anglia fell off most travelers' maps when that industry declined. Cambridge, at the heart of the region, has been one exception, but if you can look beyond the university town's ivy-strewn stone buildings, you'll be rewarded with thatch villages; Holkham Hall, the first Earl of Leicester's Palladian mansion; and Sandringham, where the queen and her ancestors have holidayed for generations.

Along winding roads dotted with sheep, you'll also find the antiques'-lovers towns of Lavenham and Long Melford, the 640 medieval churches of Norfolk, and the only two-Michelin-starred restaurant around, Midsummer House. Unless twee B&B owners and their cats are your cup of tea, explore by day and return at night to Cambridge's Varsity Hotel & Spa, where Londoners come for weekend breaks to row along the River Cam and relive their glory days at "uni."

Rovinj, Istria
While the Croatian city is busy most of the year, an off-season stay in Rovinj gives a traveler free reign of Istrian beaches, wine-minded restaurants and even a design hotel.
The Istrian Peninsula is the best of Tuscany and Venice rolled into one languid destination. Hillsides nurture vineyards, preservation-minded towns lie just steps from the beach, and Croatians live off the same land their great-great-grandparents did. Though some towns are overhyped (see Porec and Pula), the most built-up of Istrian tourist destinations can actually be its most atmospheric -- if you time it right.

During the off-season, the crenellated town of Rovinj feels like a quiet Siena writ small, its 18th-century bell tower of the Church of St. Euphemy standing guard above the spartan cobblestoned streets below. Try the local vintages at the romantic Wine Vault restaurant, then spend the night in the region's first design hotel, The Lone, whose swooping nautical shape commands prime real estate in a deep forest beside the Adriatic.

Ticino, Switzerland
Italian in spirit but Swiss in name, Ticino presents travelers with politeness, white-glove service, sunbathing elites and an opportunity to stay in Villa Castagnola, a former residence of the czars.
The capital city of Lugano is also the spiritual home of Italians in Switzerland, which adds a sexy slouch to an otherwise buttoned-up country. True, there is a Michelin-starred restaurant (the Galleria Arté al Lago), and Ticino is only a motorboat ride from the paparazzi-happy Lake Como region, but because this is technically Switzerland, the trains always run on time (to the ticking of Patek Philippe watches), and a politeness and white-glove service perseveres.

Spend your nights in the Villa Castagnola, the former residence of the czars on the shores of Lake Lugano, and you'll be instantly initiated into the lifestyle of long lunches, boat trips to the lake, and perfectly toned guests sunning themselves in the private gardens. Hiking and biking are popular activities, and there just happens to be Alpine skiing up the hill.

Formentera, Spain
Formentera, Ibiza's quieter counterpart, is a land of unspoiled beaches, palm trees and sunset cocktails. Those looking to rub elbows with big names can let loose at boutique hotel Gecko Beach Club.
True, Kate Moss and Jade Jagger have been spotted on Formentera, but this Balearic Island is still far removed from the tabloid headlines and flash of its sister, Ibiza. A ban on beachfront building has kept the thumping clubs and flophouses that serve them from coming ashore, leaving the unspoiled beaches and the rustle of palm trees as backdrop and soundscape to a holiday of sunset cocktails and afternoon siestas.
Still, if you're looking to sunbathe with Leo and his ilk, you'll find them at Gecko Beach Club; just avoid August, when the Spaniards somehow manage to bring the party to this bohemian haven on earth.

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William, Catherine on high stakes mission for UK Inc.

Malaysian PM Najib Razak; Britain's Prince William; Malaysia's king Sultan Abdul Halim Mu 'adzam Shah and his wife Queen Haminah Hamidun; Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge; and Razak's wife, Rosmah Mansor pose for a picture during an official dinner at the royal residence, the Istana Negara, in Kuala Lumpur on September 13.

 Royal tours don't come cheap, especially when they involve traveling to the other side of the world.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are making their way through four countries in little over a week.

They're taking in all sorts of sights including the skyscrapers of Singapore, the jungles of Borneo and an island paradise in The Solomon Islands. It's fast, furious and at times fun. But it's also part of a high stakes mission to retain Britain's position on the world stage.

Catherine and William are traveling with a small team including a David Manning, a key adviser and former British Ambassador.

Catherine gives first overseas public speech

On the ground they also have backup from local diplomatic missions. The costs of (scheduled) flights and security alone will easily go into six figures, and most of this expense will be met by the British taxpayers.
So how does the Foreign Office justify the outlay, especially in an era of fierce public spending cuts? Well, they see it as an investment.

The couple is representing the queen on this tour; they are promoting their own interests, such as conservation and hospice care; but they are also promoting British interests.
William and Catherine head to Malaysia

In Singapore they called on the prime minister and president. The photo opportunity looked like it could be a bilateral meeting of political leaders but without the politics, so it was all smiles, which makes for a more appealing picture.

Will and Kate visit Singapore

The duke and duchess visited a Rolls Royce engine factory in Singapore. William talked about the country being a hub for British businesses operating in Asia: "British business now has some £25 billion ($40B) invested here -- a massive vote of confidence in this dynamic country." It reads like a pamphlet from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) -- the body responsible for promoting British business abroad.

The difference between a UKTI pamphlet and a Prince William speech is in the audience numbers. Unlike the pamphlet, William's speech appeared across the world's media and Catherine provided an accompanying photo opportunity by flexing her biceps in front of a vast aircraft engine.

Rolls Royce can't buy that kind of publicity and the British government knows it. Specifically it is the young royals -- Catherine, William and Harry -- who have the power to draw this kind of attention. The other royals just don't hold the same interest. Did you even know that William's uncle and aunt, The Earl and Countess of Wessex, are on their own tour of Canada right now?

Catherine and William did more to promote UK Inc. in Malaysia, all under the watchful gaze of a vast media press pack. All the major local, Australian, U.S. and UK TV networks are following their every move, as are print reporters from across the planet.

Meanwhile, the great and the good are queuing up to rub shoulders with the golden couple, which itself presents the Brits with a unique networking opportunity.

Royals have always had a diplomatic role. In Britain, they used to hold absolute power but these days they work with government to provide soft power abroad.

There are discussions currently under way to bring the royals to crucial emerging markets like China, India and Russia. You can't put a price on such royal missions, but the British government have, in Catherine and William, found a unique vehicle to promote national interests, and they are making the most of it.

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Smoked-Duck Salad with Walnuts and Raspberries

  • Smoked-Duck Salad with Walnuts and Raspberries
    © Lucas Allen
  • Traditional southwestern French flavors—meaty duck breasts, duck cracklings, toasted walnuts and nut oil—pair with sweet, tangy raspberries and slightly bitter frisée to make this completely original salad.

  1. 1/2 pound smoked duck breast—skin and fat removed and reserved, breast thinly sliced crosswise
  2. 1/2 cup walnuts
  3. 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  4. 2 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  5. 1 small shallot, very finely chopped
  6. 3 tablespoons walnut oil
  7. 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  8. Salt
  9. Freshly ground black pepper
  10. 6 ounces frisée lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces (6 cups)
  11. 3 cups packed torn Boston lettuce
  12. 1 cup raspberries

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the duck skin and fat in a pie plate and bake for about 15 minutes, until crisp. Drain on paper towels, then break into pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast for 8 minutes; coarsely chop.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the vinegar with the mustard and shallot. Gradually whisk in the walnut and vegetable oils. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add the frisée, Boston lettuce and walnuts and toss to coat. Top the salad with the raspberries, sliced duck breast and cracklings and serve.


Pour a lightly fruity Bordeaux rosé with this salad.
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Smokin' Sweet Chicken Wings with Cherry Barbecue Glaze

Cherry preserves with habanero chile create a fabulously sticky, sweet and spicy glaze for grilled chicken wings. Glaze them just before serving so the sugars don’t burn.


Smokin' Sweet Chicken Wings with Cherry Barbecue Glaze
© Lucy Schaeffer

  1. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  2. 1/2 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, finely chopped
  3. 1 large habanero chile, seeded and minced
  4. 3/4 cup cherry preserves, preferably sour cherry
  5. 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  6. Salt
  7. Freshly ground black pepper
  8. 3 1/2 pounds chicken wings, tips discarded and wings split
  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the chopped sweet onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add three-fourths of the minced habanero chile and cook for 1 minute, just until softened. Scrape the onion and habanero into a blender, add the cherry preserves and lime juice and puree until smooth. Return the cherry glaze to the saucepan and bring it to a boil over moderately high heat. Stir in the remaining minced habanero chile and season the glaze with salt and black pepper. Transfer the glaze to a small bowl.
  2. Light a grill or preheat a broiler and position a rack 8 inches from the heat source. Season the chicken wings all over with salt and black pepper and grill over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and crispy, about 20 minutes. Alternatively, broil the wings for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are crispy.
  3. Transfer the chicken wings to a large bowl and toss with one-third of the cherry glaze. Return the wings to the grill or broiler and cook, turning once, just until sticky and caramelized, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken wings to the bowl and toss with another one-third of the cherry glaze. Transfer the glazed chicken wings to a serving platter and serve with the remaining glaze on the side.
MAKE AHEAD The cherry glaze can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before using.

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Top 10 Must See Places in China

1. Beijing
BeijingBeijing is the capital of the People's Republic of China, the center of the nation's politics, culture and international exchanges and a moden metropolis full of vitality. Beijing is one of the six ancient cities in China together with Xian, Luoyang, Kaifeng, Nanjing and Hangzhou. It had served as the capital for the dynasties such as Jin (1115 AD - 1234 AD), Yuan (1279 AD -1368 AD), Ming (1368 AD -1644 A D) and Qin (1644 AD - 1911 AD).

Top attractions in Beijing:
Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, the Great Wall, Ming Tomb, Hutong, Lama Temple, Beihai Park, Beijing Capital Museum, Yashow Market.

2. Xian
XianXi'an, also called Changan is the largest city in north-west China. It had served as the nation's capital for 13 dynasties such as Western Zhou (11th century BC - 771 BC), Qin (221 BC - 206 BC), Western Han (206 BC - 24 AD) and Tang (618 - 907) for more than 1000 years. It is famous for historical importance.

Top attractions in Xian:
Terra-cotta Army, Banpo Museum, Huaqing Hotspring, City Wall, Big Goose Pagoda, Shaanxi Provincial Museum, Xian Great Mosque, Forest of Stone Steles Museum.

3. Shanghai
ShanghaiAs the largest city in China, Shanghai is located in central-eastern China, confronting the East China Sea. Shanghai is mainly sectioned into two parts: Pudong (east of the Huangpu River) and Puxi (west of the Huangpu River). Pudong is the new development zone. Shanghai has two airports - Shanghai Pudong International Airport ( PVG ) and Shanghai Hongqiao Airport. Shanghai Pudong International Airport caters for international flights while Hongqiao for domestic flights.

Top attractions in Shanghai:
Shanghai Bund, Shanghai Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Xin Tian Di, Shanghai Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai Huangpu River.

4. Guilin
GuilinLocated by the banks of the Li River, Guilin has gained fame both at home and abroad for its featuring scenery: verdant mountians, unique rockeries, crystal water, various caves, stones of numerous shapes. The many ethnic minorities live here that include the Zhuang, Yao, Hui, Miao, Mulao, Maonan and Dong. They add the much colour to the cultural life of the city.

Top attractions in Guilin:
The Li River, The Reed Flute Cave, Elephant Trunk Hill, Seven Star Park, Guilin Folded Brocade Hil, Fubo Hill, Solitary Beauty Hill, Longji Terraced Field in Longsheng, Fengyu Cave in Lipu County Guilin.

5. Yangtze River
Yangtze RiverYangtze River cruising should be on the list for those who seek for romantic escape and travel with their family or friends. Yangtze River is winding through the mountains and the cities from the west to the east entering the East China Sea near Shanghai with a total length of over 6300 km, ranking the third in the world, only shorter than the Nile and Amazon.

Top Attractions along Yangtze River:
Chongqing City, Fengdu, Baoshizhai, Wanxian, Shennong Streem, Lesser Three Gorges, Three Gorges, Three Gorges Dam and Yichang City, Wuhan City.

6. Lhasa Tibet
Lhasa TibetTibet is a place lonely from the rest of the world with the winding hills of the high plateau and the amazing Himalayas. Today in the age of information, people can easily get to the mysterious place with jet aircraft, highways, now even trains! Lhasa is the political and cultural capital of Tibet. Lhasa means in Tibetan "The land of gods". There are numerous scenic spots and historical sites in Lhasa Tibet.

Top Attractions in Tibet:
Potala Palace, Nobulingka, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, Ganden Monastery and Jokhang Temple being the most worth visiting. Shigatse is the second biggest city in Tibet. Shigatse means in Tibetan "The Estate that materializes one's Dream ". Tashilhunpo Monastery is its main historic attraction. Mt. Kailash, in western Tibet is holy to both Hinduism and Buddhism.

7. Jiuzhaigou Sichuan
Jiuzhaigou SichuanSituated in the depths of the mountains in the border area of Nanping, Songpan and Pingwu counties in Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in the northwestern Sichuan Province, Jiuzhaigou is a fairyland named after the Nine-Village Valley, which is the living place of nine Tibetan villages. The valley is about 50 kilometers long. In 1992, It was listed as the world natural heritage list of UNESCO.

Top attractions in Jiuzhaigou Sichuan:
Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, Qingchengshan & Dujiangyan Irrigation System, Emei Mountain and Giant Buddha of Leshan, Jiuzhaigou Scenic Area, Huanglong. top

8. Lijiang Yunnan
Lijiang YunnanLijiang is situated in Yunnan Province of south China. It is on UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage list. It has the history of over 1,300 years. Lijiang is inhabited by Naxi people. It is under the administration of the Naxi Autonomous County. It stands on a plateau at 2,600m above sea level. It is well known for its natural scenery and green vegetation. It has the Jade Dragon Mountain as its backdrop. The old town blends naturally with the natural scenery. Thel local Naxi people has developed a culture called "Dong Ba Culture". Classical Naxi music is considered as the "living musical fossil" due to its long history.

Top atractions in Lijiang Yunnan:
Ancient Town Lijiang, Yulong Snow Mountain, Tiger Leaping Gorge.

9. Zhangjiajie Hunan
Zhangjiajie HunanZhangjiajie City is located on the west mountians of Hunan Province. Under the administration of Zhangjiajie City, there is a district called Wulingyuan District where the Wulingyuan Scenic Area is located. The Wulingyuan Scenic Area is sectioned into 3 parts: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park; Tianzi Mountain and Suoxi Valley. Most of the visitors stay at the Wulingyuan area instead of the city center of Zhangjiajie City. In December of 1992, Wulingyuan was included in the World Heritage List by UNESCO.

Top attractions in Zhangjiajie Hunan:
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Tianzi Mountain, Suoxi Valley Nature Reserve.

10. Silk Road in China
Silk Road in ChinaThe Silk Road has a history of more than 2,000 years. It actually started from Chang'an ( the present Xian, Shaanxi Province ) in the east and stretched to Rome, Italy in the west. The ancient silk road went through Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai provinces, Ningxia Hui and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions and then extended over the Pamirs, further extending to Central and West Asia. And finally the silk road met the east bank of the Mediterranean Sea and Eastern Europe. The Silk Road had the total length of over 2,485 miles and over half of which is within China.

Top attractions along the Silk Road in China:
Lanzhou, Wuwei, Zhangye, Jiayuguan Pass, Dunhuang, Hami, Turpan, Urumqi, Loulan, Korla, Kuqa (Kucha), Aksu, Kashgar (Kashi), Hotan.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Loire Valley and Central France

Loire Valley and Central France - Region

Known as the garden of France and the cradle of the French language, the Loire Valley is home to luxurious chateaux, rolling hills and immaculate gardens. The Middle Ages and Renaissance come to life as you peruse the castle in Ussé that supposedly inspired both the Sleeping Beauty story and fairytale Renaissance gardens like at Villandry. Artists such as Leonardo Di Vinci and Rodin flocked here to work on their masterpieces, and even the King of Pop wanted to buy his own castle in the area in the 1990s. You'll fall in love with the Loire's natural beauty and easy living faster than you can properly pronounce Château de Chenonceau. Burgundy is much more than a shade of red here, and local winemakers take their tannins seriously. Sip a glass of Chablis as you slowly float down the Bourgogne canal on a barge. Local delicacies include escargots, Dijon mustard, and Bresse chicken. Whether you see the luxuriant landscape from the comfort of a car, a bicycle or a hot balloon, it's worth taking the time to slowly drink it all in.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Danger of turbulence remains safety threat to air travel

Frequent business traveler Allen Crockett learned a painful lesson about how wind turbulence can jolt even big airline jets.

He bolted for the lavatory before landing during what had been a calm American Airlines flight from Chicago to Raleigh, N.C., in 2006. But the MD-80 suddenly lurched violently, banging Crockett's left knee against the toilet bowl to partially tear a ligament and his right hand against molding to rupture a tendon.

"Two surgeries later they still hurt," says Crockett, 50, a wireless sales executive from Clayton, N.C., who flies 125,000 miles a year.

As the skies have grown safer without a fatal U.S. airline crash in nearly four years, air-safety analysts warn that wind turbulence — which can bounce a plane dozens of feet while landing or taking off and hundreds of feet while cruising — lingers as a rare but real way of getting hurt when flying. About a dozen people suffer serious injuries in the air each year because of turbulence.

"It's the last of the unanticipated threats," says Christopher Herbster, associate professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. "It's one of the last really big hazards for things you don't know are out there."

Reports from the National Transportation Safety Board reveal that since the start of 2007, at least 49 crew members and 14 passengers were seriously injured, which typically means a trip to the hospital, in flights over the U.S. Dozens more suffer minor injuries each year.

Airlines must report incidents with injuries or serious damage to the plane to the NTSB, and they occasionally report less-serious incidents. The reports describe passengers breaking ankles or fracturing ribs while dashing to the lavatory or simply leaving a seat belt unfastened. Flight attendants are hurt even more often and often worse when thrown across the cabin like dolls or crushed by beverage carts.

The cost of violent turbulence to passengers and the airlines comes in the form of personal injury, damage to planes and occasionally emergency landings. But the industry doesn't compile or put a dollar tag on them, says Airlines for America, the group representing major U.S. airlines.

Air-traffic controllers warn pilots about storms. Pilots try to dodge rough spots. But despite precautions, turbulence is a threat to any flight.

"Even Air Force One has to fly around the thunder," President Obama said in apologizing for a late arrival July 19 in Jacksonville.

And when it hits, the only real precaution passengers have against being injured is their seat belts.
Turbulence causes

Turbulence comes generally in two ways: One is often called wind shear, when wind changes speed or direction, either vertically or horizontally. The other is when air moves up and down, subject to buoyant changes, such as in a thunderstorm.

Either way results from the aircraft traveling through changes in air currents. Herbster compares these changes in air speeds to a river in which there can be mild ripples on the surface when moving slowly or whitewater flowing faster around rocks.

"As the river flows faster, the surface becomes chaotic," Herbster says. "If it flows fast enough, you get rapids."

The hazard with clear-air turbulence is that the jostling wind isn't signaled by clouds like a storm is. Pilots try to warn each other about rough patches, but the system is imprecise.

"If it's reported turbulence, they will try to get to an area higher or lower, where there is no turbulence or deviate the route around the turbulence," says Al Yurman, a safety consultant and former NTSB investigator. "But the clear-air turbulence is unexpected."

In the worst cases, pilots make emergency landings to get medical care for the injured. NTSB reports describe:
•A June 12 United flight from Houston to New York hit severe turbulence at 22,500 feet over Texas. The pilot landed in Lake Charles, La., because two flight attendants were seriously injured.
•A flight attendant and an elderly passenger she was helping to the lavatory were hurt when a thunderstorm popped up quickly at 38,000 feet over Louisiana on June 28, 2010, jolting an American Eagle flight from Greensboro, N.C., to Dallas. The flight attendant was unable to walk and the passenger was bleeding from the mouth, so the pilot landed in Longview, Texas.
•A passenger who had been up from her seat was found unconscious and bleeding on the floor of a Continental flight from Rio de Janeiro to Houston on Aug. 3, 2009, after two or three "very large jolts." The pilot landed in Miami.

Toni Higgins, a former flight attendant for Midwest Airlines, was thrown against the ceiling from her jump seat and knocked unconscious during a flight from San Francisco to Milwaukee in 2003. The turbulence coming off the Rocky Mountains unlatched overhead bins. Oxygen masks dropped. Passengers screamed.

"It's almost like a bucking horse," says Higgins, who now trains union leaders at the Association of Flight Attendants.

Because of the injuries, the pilot made an emergency landing in Denver. Passengers held onto Higgins, who lay immobilized on the floor with her pelvis fractured in three places, and another flight attendant, who broke her leg in two places. "I ended up in the trauma hospital for nine days and was out of work for 11 months," Higgins says.

Hazardous workplaces 

Turbulence is part of why airlines are a hazardous place to work. More than eight out of every 100 air transportation workers were injured in 2010, which was higher than most industries other than health care and construction and public safety, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"These are not your usual workplace situations," says Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, who has worked for years to apply federal workplace safety standards to flight attendants.

NTSB reports describe the risk of not remaining strapped into seats during a flight:
•On March 20, a Southwest flight attendant fractured a rib while trying to strap into her seat before three jolts hit the flight from Tampa to Phoenix while cruising over Oklahoma.
•On July 11, 2009, a Republic Airlines passenger broke his ankle while returning from the lavatory before landing in Indianapolis from Washington, D.C. The passenger left his seat despite a flight attendant warning him it wasn't safe because of moderate turbulence.
•On July 10, 2009, a JetBlue flight from New York was descending toward Fort Myers, Fla., "dropped about 20 feet instantaneously," followed by a quick lurch up in less than a second, despite no signs of trouble on radar. The seat-belt sign had been on for four minutes, but one unbuckled passenger fractured two ribs when she slammed into the stowed tray table in front of her and another passenger in a lavatory suffered two spinal fractures.

Carol Margolis, a travel consultant and author, says she quickly forgot her disappointment with a messy lavatory on a Delta flight a few years ago from Salt Lake City to her home in the Orlando area when "the plane felt like it literally dropped out of the sky." Passengers screamed and cans rolled away from the beverage cart, she says.

"I hadn't yet closed the bathroom door and the turbulence had the accordion-style door slamming into my hand over and over again," she says.

Avoiding all turbulence has proved elusive.

Air traffic controllers scan weather radar to warn pilots about storms they can fly around or over. In a relay system dating to the 1940s, pilots describe the location and height of rough patches to controllers to pass along to colleagues flying the same routes. "We tell everyone else," says Dale Wright, director of safety and technology for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

Ground-based radar can peer through storms and can even observe turbulent air traveling away from thunderstorms, but the equipment to see clear-air turbulence has been too large historically for the nose of a plane.

Costly detection equipment 
Kennedy Space Center has equipment that can see changes in air movement with height because wind shear can affect rocket launches. Herbster compares this ability to seeing the wavering images around the gas nozzle while refueling a car, as the light bends while passing through gas fumes.

Herbster says it would be possible to place similar equipment in places such as the mountains near Denver to monitor the wind shear that makes clear-air turbulence. But he says it would be costly to deploy a network of such devices.

Airlines take precautions. American Eagle asks pilots to avoid thunderstorms by 20 miles, although that still left the June 2010 flight vulnerable to a thunderstorm that bloomed up 5 miles ahead.

Because of a March 2009 turbulence accident, Delta changed its manual: from flight attendants "should be seated immediately" to "must be seated with seat belts and shoulder harnesses secured" when facing moderate or severe turbulence.

Safety experts stress the importance of remaining belted in as much as possible during flights.
But Michael Barr, a safety expert who flew with the military and is now a senior instructor at the University of Southern California, says captains must gauge how long to keep the seat-belt sign lit because frustrated passengers will ignore it if left on for too long.

"You're damned if you do or damned if you don't if you're the captain of the airliner," Barr says.

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