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China to build high-speed rail link to Europe

By Sean O'Neill
updated September 29, 2021
Courtesy <a href="http://mybt.budgettravel.com/_High-Speed-Train-China/photo/7834416/21864.html">Rold/myBudgetTravel</a>

It may be that—other than wanting six-weeks of vacation a year and aspiring to speak more than one language—there's no clearer sign of an un-American sissy than someone who's thrilled by high-speed trains. And if you're as big of a fan of trains as I am, the latest plans for high-speed trains probably make you drool.

London to Madrid in 8 hours? Beginning in 2012, the two cities should be linked by high-speed rail. You can already speed between London and Paris in a little more than two hours. This route will be connected to a new high-speed train to Madrid, which will be reachable within five-and-a-half hours.

But even more surprising was the news this week that China is in negotiations with 17 countries to build a high-speed rail network to Europe.

From London, you could visit Beijing in about two days' time, according to Daily Telegraph.

From Beijing, you could connect Singapore or Vietnam via planned high-speed railways.

Of course, all that is more than a decade away. But what's pretty astonishing is that the plan seems serious. China sees the rail link as a "New Silk Road," reports China's official news agency. Cargo along with passengers would be carried. But the trains in and of themselves would help China re-brand itself on the world stage as a cutting-edge technological power.

Think China isn't up to the technological challenge? Think again. In January, the country opened the world's fastest high-speed rail line between the cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou. The train travels at an average speed of 217 m.p.h. In its first months of service, the cars have been 98 percent full, suggesting that ticket prices may eventually cover the costs of operations. (See a video, here.) Another high-speed link, between Zhengzhou and Xian, home of the Terracotta Warriors, opened in February.

So what do you think? Traveling two days between London and Beijing would still be much longer than the current 11 hours of flying time between the two capitals. If it was built by 2025, would you take The Trans-Eurasian Railroad? Or would you prefer to fly?

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Rome: The time is ripe for blood oranges

Nothing heralds the arrival of spring in Rome like the first whiff of a blood orange. Vendors cut open the succulent citrus fruits to show off the crimson flesh to shoppers at the Testaccio market near the Aventine hill (Piazza Testaccio, open Mon-Sat, 7am to 1pm) and the Biological Market in Trastevere (Via Cardinale Merry del Val, open the second Sunday of every month). Coffee bars throughout Rome serve freshly squeezed blood orange juice, spremuta, with a touch of sugar. For an exceptional spremuta, swing by Caff&egrave; delle Arance, Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, 2 (arance means oranges in Italian). Don't delay as the availability of the blood oranges is fleeting. Italians adhere strictly to the tradition of seasons&mdash;eating food when it is ripe or not at all. The idea that these sweet oranges will only be around for a few short weeks somehow makes them taste better. Blood oranges, like most seasonal fruits, come with a long history of folklore. In the 17th century, when blood oranges popped up in Sicily, they were thought to come from poisoned trees. Instead they are the product of a natural mutation. The red color comes from anthocyanins, which give cherries and apples their red color. But the Sicilians, then under Arab control, thought they were harmful and avoided eating them for nearly half a century. The theory eventually evolved that the oranges brought healing powers. Elderly Sicilians devour the oranges to ward off the late-winter flu and pregnant women rub the juice on their bellies to ward off stretch marks. Across Italy, ice-cream makers produce blood orange gelato during this season, and restaurants lace traditional salads and dishes like duck and pork with the fruit. RELATED ROME COVERAGE Roman snacks for any craving Italy menu decoder (PDF) Video: How to order coffee like a Roman


San Francisco: 5 walking tours

San Francisco is a walker's city. So think like a local and try a walking tour when you're in town, instead of taking a stereotypical bus tour. Walking tours are an excellent way to get an insider perspective of the city, whether you're interested in must-see landmarks or more uncommon sites. In our opinion, the five listed here are well worth the money. Downtown: San Francisco Architecture Walking Tour Even people who work downtown don't know about most of the hidden rooftop gardens, unmarked passages, outdoor sculptures, and architectural wonders in the area, like the Hallidie building, which was the first structure in the world to use a "glass-curtain wall". Guide Rick Evans's knowledge of the history and architecture of the city is impressive, and he often includes tidbits on future city plans in this two-hour tour. If you're staying downtown, this is an easy first activity&mdash;and you'll be an expert by the end. $20. Reservations required. Meet at the lobby of the Galleria Park Hotel, 191 Sutter Street. Mission District: Latino Mural Art The arts organization Precita Eyes offers walking tours of more than 50 of the Mission District's famous public murals, which are a testament to the neighborhood's rich Latino culture. See the murals up close; scenes and styles range greatly, from celebrations to children's art to modern works by local emerging artists. The guides on the hourlong tours explain the history and significance of each mural and also include information about the artists and how the murals are made. from $10 for adults, $5 for kids and seniors, $2 for children under 12. Reservations not required. Tours are offered Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Various meeting locations. Private tours available by appointment. Note that maps of the Mission's murals are also available at the center for self-guided tours. Pacific Heights: Victorian San Francisco The iconic Painted Ladies are a must-see for any visitor, and this guided tour takes tourists around the neighborhood to see even more beautiful homes. Guides describe what life was like back in the Victorian era. Wear comfy sneakers: The hilly tour offers ample opportunities for fabulous views of the city and the Bay. Free. No reservations required. Tours offered Sundays at 2 p.m. Meet at 1801 Bush at Octavia. Want more? Check out sfcityguides.org for 50 free walking-tours. Chinatown : Alleyway Tour Young tour guides who grew up in this San Francisco enclave lead you through the hidden back alleys of the "real" Chinatown while sharing the history and culture of the 'hood&mdash;plus a few secrets. The non-profit company also cares about current community issues, giving this two-hour tour a socially conscious bent. Highlights include Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat Sen's former house, old opium dens, and Ross Alley, where movies like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom were filmed. $18, cash or check only. Reservations required at least five days in advance. Tours are offered Monday&ndash;Saturday. 11 a.m-1 p.m. Meet at the upper level of Portsmouth Square (near Washington and Kearny), across from the Hilton Hotel's bridge. Downtown, Chinatown, North Beach, and Fisherman's Wharf: The Barbary Coast Trail This tour follows the historical society's gold sidewalk markers that point out important landmarks. Get the backstories behind sights like the North Beach hangouts of the Beats (including Jack Kerouac's favorite barstool) and the Pony Express Headquarters, plus a few historic ships and Coit Tower. You'll also hear the seedy side of the Gold Rush days. You can opt to only do parts of the tour or tackle the whole 3.8 miles from downtown to Fisherman's Wharf. $22. By appointment only. The tour is one way, but it parallels the Powell-Hyde cable car line, so you can hop on the cable car to get back. For a self-guided option, MP3 audio tours and maps are available for download, starting at $9.


Will you like a destination? Scientists say, "Ask a stranger."

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London: Street art beyond Banksy

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