Archive for September, 2013

Photography by Mikhail Lavrenov / Spaces Images / Aurora Photos

Though Monaco is best known for its glitterati, you don’t have to be a jetsetter to ogle the stunning vista of Monaco Harbor. More »

 

Baseball legend Ted Williams greets visitors at the Hitters Hall of Fame. (Photo by Darren Garnick)

First-time visitors to Tropicana Field might be surprised to see a Ted Williams Museum across from the concession stands. After all, why would a legendary Boston Red Sox star be celebrated in the home of the Tampa Bay Rays? Doesn’t this museum belong at Fenway Park?

It turns out that Williams, aka “The Splendid Splinter,” spent much of his retirement years in Citrus County, FL, and helped raise funds for a baseball diamond-shaped museum that opened there in 1994. Poor attendance — the rural county is far off the tourist radar — forced the museum to relocate in 2006. The Rays offered to house the 10,000-square-foot facility when it was clear that the Red Sox didn’t have the space.

The quality and rarity of the baseball memorabilia at the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame is on par with the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Williams’ childhood baseball bat and glove are here, as are his fishing tackle box (he’s also in the Fishing Hall of Fame) and artifacts from his service in World War II and the Korean War. Yet, there’s also plenty to see for the fans of the other 29 Major League Baseball teams.

The Hitters Hall of Fame honors the greatest offensive players in history, including both current and retired players. “Kids want to see the stars of today,” explains executive director Dave McCarthy. “Once they get pumped up about players they can relate to, there’s a window for them to get excited about the history.”

The 2013 Hitters Hall of Fame inductees were Darrell Evans, Lou Piniella, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Sandy Alomar Sr. (Photo by Darren Garnick)

When you first walk into the museum, which is only open during Rays home games, appearances can be deceiving. The first floor is a small group of display cases and a painting gallery by artist-in-residence Justyn Farano, whom on most days visitors can watch in action. But at the back of the room, a staircase leads to an exhibit area 10 times as large.

“A lot of visitors tell us that they enjoy us even more than Cooperstown,” says McCarthy. “I don’t think we have a more impressive collection, but I think people love seeing this stuff in a ballpark setting. For every wine and cheese guy out there, there are 100 beer and hot dog guys — we’re a museum that caters to the beer and hot dog guy.”

Another difference from Cooperstown: This Hall of Fame honors all-time hit leader Pete Rose, who was banned from the MLB for gambling on Cincinnati Reds games while he was the manager. McCarthy says he’s been flooded with compliments for including Rose.

“Most fans feel that he should be forgiven. The crime doesn’t fit the punishment. He didn’t throw games. He bet on his own team to win,” he says. “The steroids era is another story — we’re steering away from that whole mess for now.”

Tropicana Field’s “Touch-A-Ray” Tank looks like it is spilling over the centerfield wall, but that is an illusion. The rays’ swimming area is confined to the observation deck. (Photo by Darren Garnick)

Outside the gates of the Ted Williams Museum, there’s a bevy of family-friendly activities. Kids can pose for their own Topps baseball cards for $5 each and there’s a coloring wall where they are challenged to draw Raymond, the blue furry mascot of the Rays.

There’s also a giant fish tank in the centerfield stands, teeming with real rays of varying sizes. Staff from Tampa’s Florida Aquarium instruct fans how to safely touch and feed the animals without disturbing them. Lines are usually long, so be sure to show up early.

With the Tampa Bay Rays currently fighting for one of the Wild Card berths in the playoffs, the Hitters Hall of Fame could potentially be open for business deep into October. Regardless of how the Rays do, fans planning the ultimate baseball road trip should mark February 1 on their calendars. That’s when the new inductees are officially honored.

In addition to the ceremonies for the Class of 2014, which has yet to be announced, the Ted Williams Museum hosts a fundraising dinner on the Tropicana baseball diamond and invites fans to participate in photo and autograph sessions with up to 2 dozen retired and current stars. So far, confirmed guests include Cy Young Award winner David Price, Grant Balfour, Tony Oliva, Denny McClain, Ron LeFlore, Darrell Evans and Oscar Gamble.

“Players tell me that they’ve never had dinner on a Major League Baseball field before,” McCarthy smiles. “It’s a night when they become little kids again.”

For more information on the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame, visit TedWilliamsMuseum.com.

By Darren Garnick

 

Baseball season isn’t over yet, and the tailgating is getting as good as ever – especially if you’re a Milwaukee Brewers fan. Tonight at 9|8c, don’t miss the finale of Fandemonium, when Adam Richman hits the state known for its beer, cheese and sausage for a little baseball action.

As he wanders the parking lot of Miller Park, Adam finds some bold brats and a pretty remarkable grill. Check out this sneak peek of tonight’s episode: And if you happen to find yourself in Milwaukee, don’t miss our travel guide for some of the best cheese around!

Sun Catcher

Here she comes … Miss America … and Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and the Dalai Lama — all in this week in photos. There are more familiar faces in our weekly travel news roundup, so let’s get to it.

Gadling has the scoop on how you can spend your next vacation with your favorite celebrities, including Britney Spears, Jackie Chen and Daniel Craig.

 The Daily Traveler got a first look at Jet Blue’s premium lie-flat “suite” seats — and provided pictures as proof.

We’ve already established Nomadic Matt is our type of traveler. This week, he brings us this gem about a 70-year-old couple who bucked tradition and traveled the world.

Our friends at Fathom Away got to play Cinderella for a night in Venice at the Aman Canal Grande Venice.

Last, but not least, Wired brings us the curious case of the 103-year-old car phone.

As an expert in how to travel the world on $50 a day, Matt Kepnes, aka Nomadic Matt, is definitely our Type of Traveler. Since this Boston native quit his day job in 2006 and started travel blogging at 23, he’s gone on to visit 70 countries, hundreds of cities and 6 continents. On his No. 1-ranking travel site, Nomadic Matt (and in his book, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day) Matt dispenses tips on how to travel longer, better and cheaper. We caught up wtih Matt, who’s currently on tour in Europe, to answer your questions. Whether you’re seeking to become a world traveler yourself or start your own successful blog, Matt’s got the insider look at what it takes.

Traveling Type: How did you get started travel blogging?
Nomadic Matt: I created my blog in 2008 as an online resume in the hopes of becoming a freelance writer. I wanted to write guidebooks and in a roundabout fashion, that’s what I do.

What’s your blog about?
I teach people how to travel the world on a budget.

How many countries, cities and continents have you traveled to?
I’ve been to 70 countries, countless cities and 6 continents. I’m only missing Antarctica.

What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
Picking a favorite place is a little like picking your favorite child. It just can’t be done, but I would say my top 3 are Thailand, Sweden and France.

What’s your favorite place to get away from it all?
My apartment. I love sitting on my couch, ordering Chinese food and watching movies. That’s my vacation!

What’s one place you would just as well not see again?
Vietnam.

For the budget traveler, what budget-friendly spots should they put on their radar?
Greece, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Ukraine and Nicaragua, to name a few.

What’s your must-have item when traveling?
For me, I never travel without my iPhone. I love music too much. It makes me tremendously calm and happy, so I always like having access to my music while traveling. It’s especially great on long, long bus rides.

What’s your favorite travel app?
I don’t use apps other than ones related to airline loyalty programs, so I can check my miles. I would have to say my app is now my favorite. I’m building an app that will help people track expenses and budget their money on the road.

Tell us your funniest travel story/experience.
I once got lost in a jungle in Costa Rica with a few friends. We took the wrong path, got lost and before we knew it, it was nighttime and we didn’t have a flashlight. In retrospect it was funny. At the time, we were really scared.

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten while traveling, and where was it?
The best thing ever? Tough question. I’ve had so many delicious meals. If I had to pick one meal that stood out, it would definitely be the paella I had while in Valencia, Spain. That was phenomenal.

What’s the best hostel or hotel you’ve ever stayed at?
My favorite hostel in the world is The Flying Pig in Amsterdam, though it’s a bit on the pricey side. For absolute value, I love Aboriginal in Budapest. That place is a great bargain, with great stuff and a big breakfast.

Where’s “home”?
New York City.

What would you recommend to travelers visiting your hometown?
My hometown is a little suburb outside of Boston but we do have the Deane Winthrop House, which is one of the oldest historic houses in the area and famous for its slanted walls!

Any recommendations for anyone wanting to start a travel blog?
Be an expert in something. A general blog isn’t good. Focus on a topic, no matter how narrow, and be the best at it.

What’s No. 1 on your bucket list?
Going on safari in East Africa for 3 months.

Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images

Last January, the Costa Concordia cruise liner sank off the Italian island of Giglio, leaving 32 people dead and several unanswered questions. This week, an $800-million massive salvage effort by a 500-person crew — the largest of its kind — righted the 114,000-ton vessel. Three things we’ve wondered in the year since the tragedy took place.

Who was responsible for capsizing the cruise liner? The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, still faces multiple manslaughter and causing a shipwreck charges and is due back in court on September 23. Lying low since his house arrest was lifted, Schettino claims he’s been made a convenient scapegoat for the tragedy, according to The Guardian. Five employees of the Costa Cruise company have already been convicted of multiple manslaughter and negligence charges.

What happened to the 2 lost victims? So far authorities have found no sign of cruise waiter Russel Rebello and passenger Maria Grazia Trecarichi’s remains. Rebello was last seen helping passengers off the ship. Trecarichi was celebrating her 50th birthday with her 17-year-old daughter, who survived.

What’s still inside the wrecked ship? Divers worried a “toxic stew” of rotting food, spilled oil, paint thinners, insecticides and liters of carbon dioxide would be leaked if something had gone wrong and broken the ship apart, CNN reports. Costa Cruises still hopes to return passengers’ possessions found amongst the abandoned tableware, shoes and mattresses.

This was only the first step in removing and scrapping the 952-foot ship, and soon, all eyes will turn to Schettino’s trial. For now, we’ll leave you with time-lapse footage of the Costa Concordia being righted. The 19-hour, Monday-into-Tuesday operation has been condensed into roughly 30 seconds by BBC.

Photography by Michael Hanson / Aurora Photos

Kayak, swim with the manatees, dive or snorkel. You can do it all in the crystalline waters of Belize. Ambergris Caye. More »

Start your moon gazing. Sept. 19 marks this year’s Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, which commemorates the end of summer … and the advent of a new season, similar to the American Thanksgiving. According to Chinese tradition, this annual harvest celebration occurs on the 15th day of the eighth month, on Chinese calendars, typically in September or early October, around the autumnal equinox.

That timing spells a good reason to hit up NYC’s diverse neighborhoods: In NYC’s Chinatown, you’ll want to try to the sweet tasty mooncakes, which have been flying off pastry-store shelves over the past few days in anticipation of the holiday. The round cakes are a symbol of the full moon and good fortune. And who wouldn’t want to eat to that?

On the West Coast, LA Chinatown will host its 75th annual Mid-Autumn Moon Festival on Saturday, Sept. 21. The festival, which will take place in Chinatown’s Central and West Plaza, will include hands-on cultural workshops and cultural performances, as well as a busy Asian night market.

Can’t make it to LA or NYC? Check out these other top things to do in September to round out the month. One way or another, look out your window tonight: There’s bound to be a bad moon rising.

Photography by iStock

n summer, Santorini (the colloquial name for Thira) teems with tourists. More »

With Hispanic Heritage Month now underway, mark the month-long commemoration with a weekend trip. Hundreds of national park sites and cities nationwide, from Florida’s Ybor City to California’s Santa Barbara Mission, highlight the rich cultural heritage and contributions of Latino-Americans with roots in Spain, the Caribbean, Mexico and Central and South Americas. Here are some of our top picks for Latino-American heritage sites worth exploring in both the continental US and its territories.

1. San Juan, Puerto Rico
Go sightseeing in San Juan and explore colonial-era forts like Castillo San Cristóbal, powder houses, bastions and even an old city wall. Only 12 national park areas in the United States (and its territories) have been named World Heritage Sites; this is one of them. Dating back to the Spanish Colonial era, San Juan was one of the key frontiers of Spanish conquistadors due to its prime location at the western edge of the Caribbean.

2. Santa Barbara Mission, California
See the “Queen of All Missions” in Santa Barbara, CA. In the late 1700s, Spanish Franciscans founded the Santa Barbara Mission, the tenth of 21 missions to be founded by the order. Today, the mission continues to be an active church. Take a tour of the grounds, including the mission’s historic cemetery, which serves as the final resting place for Native Americans and early settlers of Alta California, as well as the historic garden, which contains plants representative of the Mission era (1769 to 1836), including olives, grapes and citrus trees.

3. San Antonio, Texas
Texas’ most-visited city is imbued with Hispanic heritage, having been founded by a group of Spanish explorers and missionaries in 1691. Some of San Antonio’s top attractions speak to its Hispanic and Latino heritage — see Historic Market, the largest Mexican shopping center in the city, and Mission Concepcion, founded in 1716 by Franciscan friars (and the best-preserved of the Texas missions). Plus, enjoy these other fun things to do in San Antonio, and chow down at the best San Antonio River Walk restaurants before checking into any of these San Antonio River Walk hotels.

4. Castillo de San Marcos (St. Augustine, Florida)
Constructed by the Spanish between 1672 and 1695, Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the continental US — complete with plenty of ghost tales. Located on the shores of Matanzas Bay in St. Augustine, FL, the fort’s dark history includes inquisitions, massacres, starvation and one twisted love triangle, in short a great lockdown investigation for the Ghost Adventures team. Learn all about Castillo de San Marcos’ history, as well as the unsettled spirits at the old St. Augustine fort.

5. Ybor City, Florida
Known as Tampa’s Latin Quarter, this historic neighborhood northeast of downtown had to make our list. Founded in the 1880s by cigar manufacturers and their thousands of immigrant workers predominantly from Spain, Cuba and Italy, Ybor City still holds tight to its cigar-making roots. Take a trip to Tampa to get a history lesson in cigar making — plus, sink your teeth into a Cuban sandwich at local favorites like La Tropicana.

6. El Morro National Monument
Head to New Mexico to see El Morro National Monument. In the 1500s, Spanish conquistadors discovered this shaded oasis in the western desert; today, see graffiti left behind by previous visitors — signatures, names, dates and (sometimes embellished) stories of their travels on the great sandstone promontory.

For more places to visit nationwide, check out this list of American Latino Heritage sites.

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