rick steves: virtual tour guide

For the past few years, Rick Steves’ Audio Walking Tours of Europe have been a big hit on iTunes, racking up more than 4 million downloads. And podcasts of his Travel with Rick Steves radio show have reached an even wider audience online than the one broadcast over the airwaves. Rick Steves’ Audio Europe, a smart new app designed for iPhone, iPad, or Android, organizes all of this free content so you can easily access information that relates to your individual travel plans. Unlike most travel apps on the market, it also works offline. So once you’ve downloaded a selection of files, they’re saved on the device and an internet connection is no longer needed – saving you the cost of pricey European data charges or the hassle of finding a good WiFi connection. Handy PDF maps that complement the app’s audio tours can be also viewed on the device or printed from a computer beforehand.

At the heart of the app is Steves’ series of 25 self-guided audio tours through some of Europe’s most important museums, sights and historic walks, plus 200 tracks of travel tips and cultural insights from his radio shows. The simple and intuitive interface is unique because you can download and play not only audio files but also guided audio tours segmented by chapters with photos. It all sinks in more deeply and fluidly with Rick’s voice keeping your eyes focused on the surrounding sights, too, instead of buried in the crook of a guidebook. Best of all, it comes in the trustworthy voice of everyone’s favorite public television travel geek.  And it’s free.


southern food stories

Led by food columnist John T. Edge, Southern Foodways Alliance is a non-profit cultural organization with an addictive blog that celebrates and shares Southern food traditions. They’ve also been collecting oral histories from BBQ pitmasters, Southern winemakers, bartenders, and farmers for years.  Now thanks to a cool new bit of technology from Broadcastr, stories which used to be housed in an online archive are alive in the places where they were told. Using the free iPhone app, each interview is pinned to a GPS location – making it handy for streaming the lives and legends of the immediate vicinity into your headphones. It’s a DIY audio guide that changes as you move through the world. For the armchair ethnographer (or if you’re just a food whore like me) you can listen to all of SFA’s food stories – like May Walker Archie espousing the virtues of barbecue at New Zion Church in Huntsville, Texas or Leslie Scott of Greenville, Kentucky on the distinctive curing process that goes into Scott Country Hams – on an interactive online map. One thing’s for certain:  it’ll make you hungry for more.


live blog: on the grid

One of the problems of traveling internationally with the trusty iPhone is the curse of those nefarious data roaming charges.  Phone companies charge you through the nose for every byte you use, making many of the handy travel apps out there prohibitively expensive if you’re accessing them overseas.  As an experiment, I turned off data roaming and attempted to use Google Maps, which relies on GPS to triangulate position.  Here’s the result:  a blinking locus which showed my exact position and moved as I moved.  The absence of data, however, also meant the comical absence of a map.

The Paris2Go app makes a great alternative.  Only $.99, it includes a fully downloaded map of Paris – it’s large, so you need to connect your phone to the computer to synch it – so I don’t need to waste precious bytes pinpointing my location and I can still zoom in on every nook and cranny of the City of Light.


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