Free bikes in Spain
Barcelona launched its bicycle borrowing program last March and has just announced that it will increase the number of available bikes from 1,500 to 6,000 by the program's second anniversary. You have to sign up online with a credit card and wait for a registration card to be mailed to you. Since the system posts letters to addresses within the country, your best option is to enter into the website the address of the hotel where you'll be staying. Then notify your hotel so they'll know to look out for it. A spokesperson for Barcelona's program has confirmed that this process should work smoothly for American visitors.
Weekly subscriptions are €1, or about $1.40; the first 30 minutes are free. You can cycle for up to two hours at a time. The system is open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays, but closes between midnight and 5 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays. More info can be found on bicing.com (in Catalan and Spanish only).
Seville recently launched a public bike program with 1,500 bikes parked at 150 stations across the city...
The system requires that you subscribe for a week (or year), which you can do at kiosks at every bike stand. (We're looking into whether the machines accept credit cards without a chip in them. Updates on that will be posted within the week.) A downloadable map—and more details—are available—in Spanish only—at www.sevici.es. A weekly subscription costs €5 (about $7) and the first 30 minutes are free.
Note: Córdoba also has a free bicycle program but it only involves 35 bikes.
It's a Texas Yamboree!
Growing up in Texas, I saw some of the world's most inventive festivals. From the Texas Rose Parade to the much less-enticing Mosquito Festival, my fellow Texans will use any excuse for a party. Last weekend, I returned to my hometown of Gilmer just in time for the East Texas Yamboree, an annual festival that draws over 100,000 visitors to an otherwise tiny town of 5,000 residents. One of the oldest folk festivals in Texas, the Yamboree began as annual celebration of the county's Great Depression cash crop. The affair, celebrated with a fiery hometown pride, has grown to a three-day carnival and pageant. The most amusing event of the festival is the Yam-decorating contest. Yams are painted, bedazzled, and festooned by K-12 students to mimic pop-culture icons, animals, and virtually anything else that can be patterned from a yam. With categories such as yamimals and yam-beings, the contest embraces bad puns. This year's crop included a Superyam (complete with the title "Superyam saves Yamopolis")... No small-town festival is complete without a pageant to crown a monarch. Here, it's the Yam Queen. Local high school senior girls engage in a cutthroat competition for the throne. The winner is the young woman who sells the most festival tickets. Recent winners have raised between $30,000 and $60,000... On pageant day, the contestants wear billowing dresses and perform "swivel, swivel, turn, turn" waves from atop community-decorated floats in the Queen's Parade. Elsewhere, I had an entertaining glimpse into the luxury life of show livestock, witnessing cattle and pigs being coiffed with blow-dryers and meticulously brushed for the judge of the livestock show. Near the livestock tents, the fairgrounds also offered an array of local goods from homemade jams to locally grown fruits and vegetables (including raw sugar cane), not to mention oddball items, such as a marshmallow-shooting gun for $5.—Liz McKenzie. RELATED: Slide show of wacky festivals EARLIER: Blog readers swap stories of wacky festivals. Learn more at yamboree.com. .Photos by Liz McKenzie, who last blogged here about Air New Zealand.
Picture of the day: Navajo bull-riding
Bull riding at the Navajo Nation Fair on the Navajo Nation. Photo by Randy Allen, picture editor of The Sacramento Bee, from his fabulous portfolio at fotki.com/randypictures. Wanna Be a Travel Photographer? We need readers to shoot not only our cover photo, but photos through the magazine! Show us your skills by posting your best travel images on a photo sharing site such as Flickr or Snapfish, and then send the links to Letters@BudgetTravel.com. You might be one of the several people we plan to send out to photograph stories!
Ready, set, coffin race!
On Saturday, October 27, locals in Manitou, Colo., will celebrate Halloween as only they know how—with the kooky Emma Crawford Coffin Races. Costumed impersonators of Emma, a 19th-century gal buried on nearby Red Mountain, ride on coffin-like contraptions pulled by teams of four mourners. (Emma supposedly still haunts the mountain even though her coffin washed away years after her burial.) A parade and awards for the best Emma, the most creative coffin, and the best overall entourage complete the daylong event. Click to launch our slide show of past contestants and aspiring Emmas! Does your hometown have its own quirky Halloween tradition? Share your stories by posting a comment below. A photo of three-time champions, The Crystal Hillbillies, courtesy of Andra DuRee Martin. RELATED: A month-by-month guide to wacky festivals
Crash Hong Kong's biggest party
Each winter, Chinese New Year celebrations bring business to a halt for three days: Costumed dancers and drummers parade through the streets, fireworks burst over Victoria Harbour, and locals turn out for horse races, sales, and temple prayers. Festivities begin on February 7, 2008 for the Year of the Rat, which is luckier than it may sound (those born in the Year of the Rat, the first sign of the Chinese zodiac, are typically considered ambitious, charming leaders). Chinese New Year is a tricky time for visitors to navigate Hong Kong, so it's safest to opt for a tour package. If you book by October 31, you'll lock in a price of $1,029 per person for Globus's Chinese New Year in Hong Kong package. It covers five nights at the Harbour Plaza, reserved seats for the parade, a dinner cruise during the fireworks show, a cable car ride to Victoria Peak, and a trip to Stanley Market—the place to find silks, paintings, and toys. Note that airfare and arrival/departure fees are not included. You can find details on another Chinese New Year package, which does include airfare, in the November issue's 40 Best Deals section: Party Like It's 4705. A photo of Victoria Harbour and the Hong Kong skyline taken during an afternoon ride on the Star Ferry (Kate Appleton). RELATED: Trip Coach: Hong Kong and Hong Kong Gets Green.