Archive for March, 2011

SXSW: Austin Food Scene

Austin’s SXSW festival isn’t just for music fans, interactive geeks and film snobs anymore; it’s also for foodies. There are dozens of food trucks set up along the streets, and the choices range from mild to wild. Festivalgoers can make a pit stop at Before The Cone food truck, which is set up outside the Convention Center, to pick up a waffle cone filled with bacon and a mixture of decadent ingredients.

If you’re looking for something a little tamer, then visit Short Bus Subs. These guys serve up deli, chicken and veggie sandwiches with unique names, including the “Hot For Teacher,” “Summer Vacation,” “The Cheerleader” and “The Pep Rally.”  And don’t be bashful, there are other food trucks to sample, including Mighty Cone, Flip Happy Crepes, Torchy’s Tacos and Hey Cupcake!

There are lots of opportunities for foodies to mix and mingle at SXSW. Food bloggers and Tweeters hold bleet-ups or tweet-ups to sample some of Austin’s offerings. The Big Texas Beer Tweet-up provided beer connoisseurs the opportunity to hang out and sample a variety of beers with local, self-proclaimed “Twunkards” (tweeting drunkards). Others joined the TacoJournalism’s Taco Mafia for breakfast tacos after a long night of SXSW parties.

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South By Southwest News and Notes

Thousands of people converged at the Austin Convention Center for the second day of South by Southwest, one of the largest music festivals in the world.  The popular festival runs from March 11 to 20, and it has something for everyone.

Within the past few years, the festival has expanded to include SXSW Film, one of the world’s premier film festivals focusing on new directing talent. In 2007, the festival organizers took it a step further, by adding SXSW Interactive. This portion of the festival attracts web creators and entrepreneurs, which creates a great breeding ground for new ideas and creative, emerging technologies.

The festival also includes SXSW ScreenBurn to highlight the video game industry, and Style X to showcase new talent in the fashion industry. SXSW Comedy was added for the first time this year to provide comedians with several new venues to perform their acts.

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The devastation in Japan after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, but if you need a lighthearted distraction here are the travel stories that had us scratching our heads.

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Cyndi Lauper sings during airport layover: While on tour in South America, the singer belted out “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” to stranded passengers at the Buenos Aires airport. [YouTube]

Toddler put in overhead locker: Flight attendant fired over alleged peek-a-boo game, but child’s mother is outraged. [Herald Sun]

Delta passenger slips past security with stolen boarding pass: TSA is investigating the incident at New York’s Kennedy airport. [HuffingtonPost]

Continental cuts flight staple: Claims it will save airline $2.8 million annually. [CNN]

Homeless thrive as tour guides: Offer ‘Unseen Tours’ in London for roughly $10, “depending on your circumstances.” [Gadling]

An earthquake and resulting tsunami hit Japan on Friday causing at least hundreds of deaths and affecting travel plans around the globe. Reuters reports that most US airlines canceled most of their flights to and from Japan on Friday. American Airlines canceled all of its flights.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Japanese air carriers canceled hundreds of flights and that airlines throughout Asia and Europe diverted or suspended flights to Tokyo Friday.

In Japan, All Nippon Airways reports that it canceled some flights to Tokyo Narita Airport, and its midnight flights from Tokyo Haneda on March 12 have been canceled.  Japan Airlines says it’s flights are experiencing “irregular operations and that Sendai Airport has been closed.

British Airways reports that flights to Narita and Haneda “have been disrupted.”

States along the U.S. west coast have issued warnings to residents to stay away from beaches as the tsunami approaches the region. It was expected to reach California shortly after 11 a.m.

demistifying
Photo: Mount Kilauea erupting March 6 in Hawaii (USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory)

Mount Kilauea attracted a slurry of national media attention on March 7, a few days after the Big Island volcano began erupting from a new location, and hot lava spewed up to 80 feet into the air. Major media outlets from California to New York picked up the story and splashed it around the globe.

I’m currently living on the Big Island about 20 miles from the volcano, so it wasn’t long before I received concerned phone calls from friends, along with an e-mail from my mother on the East Coast. “Let me hear from you,” she wrote — her way of asking if I’m still alive. Like most non-Hawaiian residents, my mom doesn’t realize Kilauea has been erupting continuously since 1983.

Volcanic activity is nothing new on the Big Island, but the recent activity is significant and is being closely watched by the U.S. Geological Survey and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where Kilauea is located. USGS scientists said the eruption is the first of its kind in 14 years.

“Unpredictability is the key [to Kilauea],” said Mardie Lane, a park ranger at HVNP, during a phone call on Monday. “We’re dealing with Mother Nature at its best and it can change quickly.” She stressed the importance for visitors to follow park guidelines and not enter closed areas of the park. READ MORE

High Oil Prices Spark Airplane Fees

Rising fuel costs has prompted airline carriers to look for ways to increase revenue. One idea is to charge travelers for items that were once free, including on-board sales of food, drinks, pillows, blankets and entertainment. Industry officials say airlines prefer complex fees to additional fare hikes because people will quit buying tickets if airlines raise prices too high.

American Airlines, United-Continental and Delta are among the carriers considering various new fees. The airlines have proposed charging customers for seat assignments, where a family of 4 will start paying anywhere from $10 to $16 to choose their seats.

Elite or business and first-class passengers would be exempt from the airlines’ proposed seat assignment fee. Travel experts believe airlines will waive the fee for travelers who book a flight and choose their seat within the last 24 hours. But fliers may pay a fee if they want to choose and confirm their seat well in advance.

Other proposed fees include charging for customized travel, including fancy food and champagne in economy class, security-line services and travel-concierge services.

Kilauea Volcano Increase Tourism

The eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano has sparked an increase in the number of tourists who want to check out the spectacular lava show. According to the National Park Service, there has been an increase in visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park since last Saturday when the volcano started spewing lava up to 65 feet in the air.

The Park recommends the patio of the Jaggar Museum inside the national park and the Kalapana View Site, outside the park, to view the fiery lava flows. Air-tour companies have added some flights to accommodate demand even though a 1,500-foot temporary flight restriction has been imposed around the volcano.

Visitors can call the lava hotline at (808) 961-8093. Are you interested in checking out the lava show in person? Take a look at Travel Channel’s list of Hawaiian lava-flow tours and other volcano-related activities. Check out our Hawaii lava flow photos, too.

Lincoln Inauguration
Photo: Abraham Lincoln’s Inauguration, March 4, 1861 (Library of Congress)

In the 4 months between Abraham Lincoln’s election in November 1860 and his inauguration on March 4, 1861, momentous changes rocked the foundations of the still-young United States of America. Fearing that Lincoln’s election spelled doom for the South’s slavery-based social and economic system, South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas seceded from the Union. The first stirrings of what would eventually become the bloodiest war in American history took place in the standoff between South Carolina and Federal troops over Fort Sumter. In his First Inaugural Address Lincoln attempted to steer a course of compromise, but by then the path to Civil War had reached the point of no return.

March 4, 2011, marks the 150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s historic inauguration, and several events are planned around the country to mark the occasion. From Washington, DC, to the Chickamauga Battlefield, commemorative lectures, performances and parades are scheduled. Check out our slideshow of Lincoln destinations to plan your own Lincoln-themed vacation. And don’t forget the other presidents — we’ve got that covered, too.

TSA Agent Linked to Drug Dealers

A TSA agent was arrested for helping a drug dealer get past security at Buffalo’s Niagara International airport on Tuesday. According to The Buffalo News, 43-year-old Minneta Walker was watched for months after federal agents became aware of her ties to local drug dealers.

The Buffalo TSA bust is the most recent example of a crackdown on airport crime over the past year. In February, 2 TSA workers at New York’s JFK airport were arrested for stealing nearly $40,000 from passengers. Just 2 days before, a Newark Liberty Airport supervisor was charged with stealing $30,000 over a 13-month period.

Students Warned To Avoid Mexico for Spring Break

After an increase in Mexico’s drug violence, the Texas Department of Public Safety wants college students to rethink spring-break plans south of the border.

Public Safety Director Steven McCraw encourage students to stay on the US side of Falcon Lake, a popular fishing and boating spot on the Rio Grande border. According to MSNBC.com, it’s also the same area where David Hartley was shot and killed last September.

“Drug violence has not discriminated — innocent bystanders and people who may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time are among the casualties,” McCraw said in a written statement on Tuesday.

Officials are also warning students to travel with caution in popular destinations, including Cancun and Acapulco, where “various crime problems exist.”

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