The banks of the River Seine in Paris might be a UNESCO World Heritage site, but that historical marker hasnâ€™t stopped the city from indulging in a little creative adaptation. This summer the cityâ€™s ongoing initiative to reclaim the river comes into its own. Les Berges, literally The Banks, is part of Mayor Bertrand DelanoÃ«â€™s greater plan to reduce car traffic and increase â€œsoftâ€ methods of transportation. (Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Sadik-Kahn, take note.) Transit options like the Velib bicycle share program and the Autolib electric car sharing form one pillar of the plan. Pedestrianization of the banks of the Seine and of Place de la RÃ©publique are another. Cultural programming and spot infrastructure aim to bring people back to the river, while activating sites with new functions: the Georges Pompidou highway, on the right bank, has been transformed into an urban boulevard in an attempt to share the public space between motorists and pedestrians; the Left bank quays, between the Royal Bridge and the Alma Bridge, have been closed to traffic and turned into an 11-acre promenade. What makes the plan unique, aside from the macro strategy involved, is a requirement for flexibility: temporary structures must be capable of being moved, extended if popular, taken down quickly if ineffective. This applies even to large-scale proposals like The Emmarchement, a 600-seat amphitheater which links the Musee D’Orsay to the river and serves as the starting point for an immersive riverside walk.Â (Flexibility is also useful for environmental reasons. Paris is overdue for its â€œ100-year flood,â€ which last crippled Paris in 1910.) Some portions of Les Berges will become part of the programming for this yearâ€™sÂ Paris Plage, the popular annual beach that takes over the banks of the Seine between July and August. (Originally criticized as an excess of public expenditure, the Plage has become a beloved tradition, expanding to three different areas along the river.) Another part of Les Berges includes a series of floating barges called Archipel, which opened next to the Sewer Museum in late June. The five barges are planned in accordance with the biodiversity map of Paris. The semi-aquatic vegetation between the barges cleans the banks of the Seine while the landscaping offers different opportunities for the public to experience the space. Each island barge – archipelago, get it? – has a different theme with plants native to Paris. According to projectâ€™s website: For the lazy, the chairs of the island mists are waiting for you; for the wild, find the open aviary bird island; for the romantic, walk in the tall grass prairie of the island; for those seeking the country, sit in the shade of an apple orchard on the island. And for anyone interested in the future of what an urban experience could entail, walk along the banks of La Seine.
The most developed of the 40-strong chain of islands that constitutes Turks and Caicos, Providenciales – or Provo, as the locals call it – is no mere gateway, but a destination unto itself.Â Pristine nature and crystal blue waters coexist easily alongside chic hotels and elaborate spas. And since Provo is also a nonstop flight from New York, the powdery Turks and Caicos beaches are a lot closer than you’d imagine.Â READ MORE
If youâ€™re like me youâ€™ve long dreamed of Cuba, the faraway, so close island off the coast of Florida thatâ€™s been off-limits to US citizens for more than fifty years. Rich in history, culture, and all that glorious music, itâ€™s an American travelerâ€™s version of Snuffleupagus: a rare creature able to be seen by everybody but us. Insight Cuba, a leader in small group people-to-people travel, is about to change all that. As travel to this enigmatic island is made legal for only the third time in fifty years, this licensed tour operator has me salivating at the chance to explore the once-forbidden island with a sweepstakes, running now through June 17th. To take part, ‘Like’ the Insight Cuba Facebook page and enter via the “Win a Trip to Cuba for Two” tab at the top. A winner will be selected at random on June 18th and receive a free trip for two on the tour of their choice: Undiscovered Cuba, Cuban Music & Art or Classic Cuba.Â The grand prize includes round-trip airfare from Miami to Havana; first-class accommodations, meals and activities; an Insight Cuba tour leader and Cuban guide; entrance fees; in-country ground transportation and transfers; 24-hour emergency service and maybe most important of all, a U.S. Department of the Treasury License and Letter of Authorization. Underdeveloped,Â stubbornly unchanged for decades,Â the revolution and the resulting embargo may have decimated the travelÂ industryÂ in Cuba, but it didnâ€™t kill it. AndÂ theÂ irresponsible policies of our own government have done nothing toÂ squelchÂ the abiding curiosity about ourÂ neighborsÂ 90 miles to the south.
Tourists are being warned to cover up on certain public beaches in the United Arab Emirates or face the consequences of showing too much skin. Authorities in Ras al-Khaimah, the northernmost emirate in the UAE, have posted signs on public beaches warning of possible fines for revealing swimwear, such as bikinis and banana hammocks. Located 60 miles northeast of Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah is one of the least popular emirates for tourists, but the decision still highlights the cultural challenges facing the UAE as it attempts to balance its booming tourism industry with the sensibilities of its conservative citizens. Many local women choose to wear the modest abaya to the beach and few enter the water to swim. In Dubai and Abu Dhabi tourists can wear bikinis on the beach but are advised to cover up when visiting other public areas, such as malls. In 2010, a British woman was arrested after she stripped off to a bikini in the Dubai Mall following an altercation with a local who complained about her wearing a low-cut top. Throughout the mall, signs urge women to “wear respectful clothing”. Similar messages are flashed up on LCD screens in most shopping malls across the United Arab Emirates. Reality is so complex that equally valid observations from differing perspectives might seem to be contradictory, but one thing’s for certain: in the UAE skin is not in.
The first sight we see upon docking at Aegina is a line-up of pony and traps waiting to tramp tourists around the main town. Uh oh. Perhaps the proximity of the island to Athens makes it more of a tourist hub than originally anticipated. (Even though by all outward appearancesÂ there seems to be at mostÂ five identifiable tourists wandering the esplanade, and the klatsch of carriage drivers are too busy smoking and talking to pay us any heed.) We opt for ice cream – pistachio, natch – and a pause to look at our options.
A Tampa Bay, Florida church has become a sensation thanks to hundreds of people flocking to see the mystical face of Our Lady of the Poultry. Well, not really, but with large round windows resembling eyes and red roof tiles giving the appearance of a beak, the â€˜chicken church’ is attracting a curious fan club. Congregants at the Chicken of Church by the Sea say they regularly spot passers-by stopping to get a memento of the unusual-looking building with a roof that spreads out like a pair of red wings. Threads have appeared online dedicated to the building, with hundreds of users trying to find out more about the ‘Chicken Church’. Could a meme be far behind? For the record, the church on Madeira Beach was founded in 1944 by a group of fishermen; it’s lighted cross used as a nautical landmark to guide them back to land. And the church’s bird-like features are actually a cleverly disguised compass – its wings represent East and West, while the beak and tail symbolize North and South – giving new meaning to the lyric “Jesus, show me the way”.
I can think of no better way to end my short visit to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago than today’s catamaran sail aroundÂ the Caribbean coast. My destination: a little peninsula affectionately known as No Man’s Land,Â whichÂ more than lived up to the promise of its nickname. As always, click then double-click the image for greater detail. Â And yes, the water really is that Crayola shade of Â blue-green.
Don’t let the boarded up window on the side of the road dissuade you, Jemma’s Sea View Kitchen has one ofÂ theÂ best views in Tobago. And yes, like the sign says, it’s a proper treehouse, too, resting in the boughs of an Indian almond tree. (Which goes a way towards explaining why the breeze from the sea – and the panorama of Goat Bay and Little Tobago – isÂ so fine.) It’s also a popular location for home cooking, Trini-style: curried shrimp, fish stew, grilled lobster, and a handful of old-fashioned herbal drinks like maundy fizz. Beyond having a niceÂ pieceÂ of fish or fruit, I’ve never had an affinity forÂ CaribbeanÂ cuisine. It’s so boring – and starchy. Not so TrinidadÂ and Tobago, however; the influence of FrenchÂ andÂ Indian flavors combine to create dishes that are unique, like roti, a thin Indian bread piled with potato, chana and curried chicken, doubles, which I’ve already gone on about, and pelau, a rice and chicken jambalaya that’s closer in spirit to paella. Two new additions to the favored list, thanks to Jemma: breadfruit pie,Â whichÂ has all the texture and taste of a really creamy mac ‘n’ cheese and tanya fritters, a crunchy hush puppie made of ground provisionsÂ with a healthy kick of cayenne. Does the rest of theÂ CaribbeanÂ know what’s going on here – or do they just not care?