BELLEVUE, Wash. - Trips to Yosemite, Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu and eight other World Heritage areas are being jointly promoted by Expedia.com and the United Nations Foundation.
Proceeds from the effort will go towards fostering locally run tourism enterprises at lesser-known World Heritage sites. The first site to benefit from the program will be Sian Ka'an, Mexico, a pristine natural area on the eastern coast of the Yucatan peninsula.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has designated 812 places in 137 countries as World Heritage sites based on their unique environmental, historic or cultural significance.
The 11 destinations being promoted at http://www.expedia.com/worldheritage are Pueblo de Taos, N.M.; Prague's central city, in the Czech Republic; Taj Mahal and sites near New Delhi, India; Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park; Yosemite National Park in California; the Great Pyramids and Nubian Monuments in Egypt; Chichen-Itza and Uxmal, near Merida, Mexico; the fortified town of Campeche, near Merida, Mexico; Angkor Wat in Cambodia and other Buddhist temples throughout Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam; Machu Picchu, Cuzco and the historic center of Lima, Peru; and the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania.
For more information about the project or to donate, go to http://www.friendsofworldheritage.org.
Expedia is based in Bellevue, Wash.
Christmas in Europe
NEW YORK (AP) - Shop in the holiday markets of Munich, visit Charles Dickens' house in London or ski the slopes of Megeve in the French Alps.
That's what Bon Appetit magazine is recommending for spending the holidays in Europe.
The magazine's December issue highlights Munich's biggest and most famous Christmas market, the Munchner Christkindlmarkt, where you'll find handmade crafts and festive foods. Local goodies include five-pound fruit breads, two-foot-long sausages and dessert dumplings called Dampfnudel. Vendors sell handmade wooden toys and ornaments in the city's central square, the Marienplatz, while art objects ranging from fine to funky are sold in Schwabing, Munich's bohemian neighborhood. At the Viktualienmarkt, game vendors sell rabbit, venison, duck and goose.
In London, a holiday visit might include shopping (bargains at the Portobello Road Market; high-end suits and shoes on Savile Row and Jermyn Street), followed by a stop at the Mayfair branch of the Chocolate Society, an emporium for cocoa connoisseurs. Try people-watching at The Blue Bar at The Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge, check out the four-story museum that was once Dickens' home on Doughty Street, and have afternoon tea at The Ritz hotel's Palm Court.
In Megeve, you'll find medieval churches, horse-drawn sleighs, bakeries, cheese shops and charcuteries. Sports include snow polo and snow golf as well as skiing. You can stroll mountain trails, eat gourmet food at Le Puck, Le Prieure or Le Refuge, and relax at a spa. But bring your most stylish boots and parka; they don't call this place Saint Tropez in the Alps for nothing.
PARIS (AP) - French officials are emphasizing that tourist attractions have been unaffected by the recent rioting in Parisian suburbs.
"There are no difficulties at the Palace of Versailles or at the Eiffel Tower," said Jean-Francois Cope, government spokesman and budget minister, at a press conference with foreign reporters. He added that France had not noted a "significant or spectacular" drop in tourist reservations, and that the arson attacks, clashes with police and other violence had largely been confined to poor immigrant neighborhoods.
So far, Air France-KLM and Aeroports de Paris - which operates the French capital's two main airports, Orly and Roissy Charles de Gaulle - say they have not noticed any reduction in passenger numbers or increased cancelations. Detailed passenger figures from both companies will not be available until later in November.
But Medef, France's main employers' organization, has warned that the consequences for France's economy could be "very serious."
The riots have "sullied the image of France and raised questions about the country's attractiveness" for both investors and tourists, Medef President Laurence Parisot told Europe-1 radio.
Lewis and Clark
WARRENTON, Ore. (AP) - It was the kind of weather Lewis and Clark would have recognized. Rain pounded down, and a chilling wind whipped through a crowd that gathered Nov. 11 as Oregon and Washington marked the bicentennial of the explorers' arrival.
The explorers and their expedition spent 106 days at a fort they began building here on Dec. 10, 1805, and it rained on all but 12 of those days.
The structure, Fort Clatsop, was the western terminus of the 1804-1806 Voyage of Discovery led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
A 50-year-old replica of Fort Clatsop that had been the centerpiece of the Lewis and Clark National Park here burned down in October. Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins says an investigation traced the blaze to a small fire that had been built on an open hearth in one of the barracks to add to the ambience of the historic recreation. Apparently the hearth fire was not fully extinguished when the fort closed to visitors at the end of the day. It spread and ignited the building that night.
A replacement structure will be built, and new design elements will include a fire detection system, Jenkins said.
The Warrenton event was among 330 events that have been or will be held commemorating the bicentennial. Four major or "signature" events remain in the commemoration's final months next year. They are:
-June 14-17, Lewiston, Idaho, commemorating their experiences among the Nez Perce Indians.
-July 22-25, Pompeys Pillar National Monument and nearby Billings, Mont., commemorating Clark's travels on the Yellowstone River.
-Aug. 17-20, New Town, N.D., commemorating the return to the homeland of their female Indian guide.
-Sept. 23-24, St. Louis, Mo., commemorating the return to St. Louis, where the expedition launched.
For details, go to http://www.lewisandclark200.org/index.php?cID39.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - The Cambodian government has begun offering 300 battery-powered bicycles for tourists to rent while visiting Angkor archaeological park, Cambodia's main tourist attraction, an official said.
The introduction of the environmentally friendly transport was part of the government's efforts to reduce noise and pollution in and around the country's ancient city, said Seung Kong, deputy director-general of Apsara authority, a government's agency managing Angkor complex.
The bicycles rent out for $4 per visit during the daytime. There are 14 repair stations within the park where tourists can have bicycles fixed or have batteries recharged during the tour.
Battery-powered bicycles boost the rider's pedal power, increasing speed and making uphill climbs easier.
Ice Age trail
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate has approved a bill to establish an Ice Age Floods National Geological Trail from Montana to the Pacific Ocean.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. and other Western lawmakers, would create an auto route stretching from Missoula, Mont., to the Willamette Valley in Oregon and tell the story of the Ice Age floods.
The four-state route would be managed by the National Park Service, in partnership with the private Ice Age Floods Institute and other groups. Interpretive centers, signs, exhibits and roadside pullouts would be used to tell the story of the floods that tore through the region 15,000 years ago.
"Celebrating the unique geological history of the Pacific Northwest by creating a national trail will boost tourism... and provide a valuable educational tool," said Cantwell. "This is something the whole region can take pride in."
The Park Service testified against the bill earlier this year, telling a Senate subcommittee the idea is too expensive. Developing interpretive sites and buying land across the four states could cost between $8 million and $12 million, said Donald Murphy, Park Service deputy director. Operating the trail would cost $500,000 a year.
Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., has sponsored a similar bill in the House.
For more information, visit http://www.iceagefloodsinstitute.org
LONDON (AP) - International travel to European destinations increased by 4.6 percent during the first seven months of 2005, with most growth attributed to short leisure trips, the World Travel Market says.
But the World Tourism Organization predicts travel growth will slow to 3.5 percent for the remainder of the year, bringing the average increase in Europe for 2005 to 4.2 percent. Growth in 2004 was 5.1 percent.
The largest driver of growth is leisure travel, which has been fueled by the increased availability of low-cost, no-frills airlines, the report said.
"You cannot underestimate the impact low-cost carriers have now," said Piret Kallas, research coordinator for Enterprise Estonia. "The EasyJet flight from the UK has brought in an additional 19,000 visitors so far in 2005, which obviously has huge financial benefits."
Trips are more frequent - up 4 percent in the first eight months of 2005, the report said. But they are shorter; there was a 5 percent decrease in the number of nights spent at a destination. Overall trip expenditures have increased by 1 percent, the report said.
Among Europeans, Germans travel most, followed by Britons.
The July terror bombings on London's transport system might have kept some tourists out of the British capital - visits to London museums during July declined on average by 17.8 percent, according to Visit London's Visitor Attraction Monitor. But the Tourism Industry Emergency Response group has reported that inbound tourism should finish ahead for 2005 because of high levels at the beginning of the year.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - Steamboat Springs Ski Area will send more safety staff to the mountain this winter to try to curb reckless skiing and snowboarding.
Reckless snowriders will have their passes suspended for 30 days, and could lose them for the rest of the season for repeat offenses.
"It's to have the communication necessary to change the culture out there and improve the etiquette of skiers," said Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations.
The campaign is being called SlopeWise, and in addition to safety it is hoped it will make snowriders feel more comfortable.
Chris Diamond, president of the area, told the City Council that he was tired of snowriders who collide with people below them and blame it on others skiing unpredictably.
"We somehow got into this whole 'He cut me off thing,'" Diamond told the council. "It's got to change. We will put a bigger team of (safety) volunteers on the mountain, and there are going to be consequences."
The SlopeWise campaign spells it out clearly. "No matter how skilled you think you are, if you are unable to avoid other people or objects, then by definition, you are out of control."
The area will employ 12 paid, full-time courtesy patrollers, compared with eight last year. There will be 18 volunteers, up from four. They all will get special training.
Some snowriders, including aging baby boomers, have told the ski area to do more about out-of-control skiers and snowboarders. Families with young children also have complained.
Trips of a lifetime
NEW YORK (AP) - Dine with an ambassador in Prague, bathe at a Hindu temple in Bali or hunt for truffles in Italy.
These are among 50 trips of a lifetime described in the December issue of Conde Nast Traveler.
The magazine says the key to accessing such unique experiences is finding the right middleman. But experts with access are getting easier to track down, thanks to travel companies that are packaging behind-the-scenes visits to monuments, rituals and even public figures around the world.
Some of these experiences are for gazillionaires only - for $30,000, you can arrange for a walk-on role in a Broadway show! But others are affordable. In Bali, for around $100, you can undergo ritual purification at the Tampaksiring Holy Spring Temple on the grounds of the Prsidential Palace, while the same sum will buy you dinner with the U.S. ambassador and his wife in their palace home in Prague.
Hunting for white truffles with a local expert and his dogs in Piedmont or Tuscany, followed by a meal in which your bounty is prepared by a private chef, runs $3,500, but chasing wild boar with spear-wielding villagers and their dogs in Fiji costs just $150. Other unusual trips include access to palaces from Bulgaria to India and private tours of archaelogical and artistic treasures in Florence and China.
For details on these and other trips, check out the magazine's December issue.
NEW YORK (AP) - Which island should you head to if you love golf? Where's the best shopping in the Caribbean? What destination do you pick if you're looking for the most beautiful beaches?
Fodor's "Caribbean 2006" guide can answer these questions and many more. The book profiles 25 Caribbean destinations, from Anguilla to the Virgin Islands, with separate sections on destinations in countries comprised of more than one island (like St. Vincent and the Grenadines).
The "Island Finder" chart in the front of the book can help you decide on the right island for you, depending on your priorities. Fodor's says the most beautiful beaches in the region are found in Anguilla, Antigua, the British Virgin Islands, Grand Cayman, the Dominican Republic, the Grenadines, the Turks & Caicos Islands, and St. John. For the best shopping, Fodor's recommends Grand Cayman, St. Thomas and St. Bart's. The best nightlife, the books says, is on Aruba, Puerto Rico and Trinidad.
Fodor's rates the golf courses most highly on Barbados, Little Cayman, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Nevis and the Grenadines, while the best islands for families, according to the guide, are Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Kitt's, Nevis and St. John.