Fresh-Air Fun in Europe: 3 New Outdoor Sights
Lately, European destinations have found novel ways to make the great outdoors more accessible for their citizens—and, by extension, for visitors. Here are three recent examples of outdoorsy ingenuity.
Great Western Greenway, Ireland
It’s called the Emerald Isle, so why not tour it in the greenest way possible? The first 11 miles of Ireland’s longest off-road cycling and walking trail opened last year, linking the coastal towns of Newport and Mulranny; a 15-mile extension added in June runs past Rockfleet Castle, the 16th-century home of pirate queen Grace O’Malley. Bike rentals are available through Newport Bicycle. newport-bicycle.com, $17 a day.
Tempelhof Park, Berlin, Germany
When Tempelhof Airport closed in 2008, Berlin was left with 950 weedy acres, a 3-million-square-foot terminal, and a jumbo-jet-size question: What to do with all this space? The city chose the most surreal option: Leave it as is, and call it a park. Catch this postapocalyptic expanse of abandoned runways and planes while it’s still untouched—a beautification plan begins in 2013. visitberlin.de/spot/tempelhofer-park.
Madrid Rio Project, Spain
Sure, Madrid has the Prado and the King, but it’s always been a bit jealous of one piece of Barcelona real estate: the Mediterranean. At last, the capital has found a way to go coastal. Opened in April, the Madrid Rio Project is a 6.2-mile green belt along the Manzanares River, formerly cut off from the city by a highway. It’s now home to sleek footbridges, bike paths—and the city’s first beaches. esmadrid.com/madridrio.
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European Lodging: 3 Cool Options for Fall
Planning a trip to Europe? There are countless fantastic places to stay. Here are three places that caught our eye for this fall. Stylish Spanish Seclusion A rustic farmhouse has travelers running for the hills. Córdoba and Granada are less than 60 miles away, but try not to dwell on Casa Olea’s high-profile neighbors. In this pocket of Andalucía, it’s all about the blissful isolation of the Sierra Subbéticas, an untouristed swath of rugged limestone hills and dusty olive groves. British owners Tim and Claire Murray-Walker visited over 50 farmhouses before stumbling on the ruins of this 150-year-old olive farm. Inspired by area villages, the duo turned to local carpenters to restore the six-room guesthouse’s whitewashed walls, exposed beams, and cobblestone floors. They’ve spruced the place up with “green” additions, such as solar panels and a boiler that uses leftovers from a local olive mill to heat the property. But they never let these elements intrude on traditional design: tinajas (earthenware jugs), colored-glass Granadino lights, and a dining-room table made from a trillo, a donkey-drawn threshing board once used to separate wheat from chaff. — Nicholas DeRenzo Casa Olea On Carretera CO-7204 Priego de Córdoba casaolea.com From $139 for a double, including breakfast A Room of One’s Own A legendary British estate opens its doors—and gardens. Virginia Woolf fans, take note. It’s hard to believe that Priest’s House once served as a simple eat-in kitchen. The 500-year-old house in southern Kent, England, has long been something of a satellite to its glamorous neighbor: Sissinghurst Castle, home to flamboyant novelist (and Virginia Woolf paramour) Vita Sackville-West. In 1967, Sackville-West’s family passed the entire estate to Britain’s National Trust, but it wasn’t until last year that Priest’s House was opened to the public as a holiday cottage. The building is a wonderful example of Elizabethan architecture: original wood beams, glorious windows, a huge central fireplace. Its three bedrooms are designed to reflect the pastoral surroundings, with walls in soft blues, greens, and lavenders, while the Victorian antiques from Lincolnshire and the occasional touch of whimsy (a pear green claw-foot bathtub) keep it all from feeling as stodgy as the Queen’s handbag collection. And then there’s what’s outside. The surrounding landscaped grounds, among the most visited gardens in all of the U.K., close to the public each day at 5 p.m. But renters can take in the yew hedges and rose bushes for as long as they fancy. — Rachel Mosely Priest’s House Biddenden Rd., near Cranbrook, Kent nationaltrustcottages.co.uk From $1,790 for four nights, sleeps six Luxury Across the Lagoon A vineyard inn brings a dose of calm to Venice visitors. Venice is always beautiful, but with all the art shows, the churches, the crowds, the gondolas, the Carnevale craziness, and the pigeons, it can be as restful as a triple espresso. At the Venissa Ristorante Ostello, you can still absorb the city’s energy—then unplug. The inn is actually located 45 minutes by vaporetto (water taxi) from the bustle of St. Mark’s Square, amid the artichoke fields and pastel villages of Mazzorbo, one of Venice’s 100-plus outlying islands. Opened last year by the prosecco-producing Bisol family in a converted 19th-century walled vineyard, the inn’s six rooms pair antique, hand-painted Venetian armoires with fanciful modern touches like jewel-tone paisley rugs and bathroom mirrors cut in the shape of songbirds. The on-site restaurant keeps it local, too, with seafood from the Adriatic, rare Alpago lamb from Veneto, and organically farmed produce such as sweet peas and wild garlic straight from the hotel’s gardens. — Nicholas DeRenzo Venissa Ristorante Ostello Fondamenta Santa Caterina, 3 Mazzorbo venissa.it From $85 per double with shared bath MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Affordable Europe: In Italy, Bargain Lodging Top Budget Travel Destinations for 2011 World's Best New Boutique Hotels Under $150
Get Behind-the-Scenes Access to New York City’s Off-Limits Architectural Gems
The weekend of October 15-16 marks the ninth annual Open House New York Weekend, when regular Joes and Janes can get guided tours of some of New York City’s most famous buildings and monuments, as well as special reservations-only access to city spots normally off-limits to visitors. There’s a $5 fee for these top-secret spots, but all other tours are free. So what’s on the list? Anything you can imagine. Spread across all five boroughs, locations include the catacombs of Brooklyn’s famed Green-Wood Cemetery, the closed-to-the-public third phase of Manhattan’s High Line Park, Louis Armstrong’s home in Queens, the azalea gardens at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx, and even a Tibetan art museum in Staten Island. How can you get involved? Check out the full list here. For those sites requiring reservations, act fast, as spots tend to sell out quickly. As of press time, there are still dozens of destinations with openings. And many museums and historical sites will be offering first-come, first-served tours—no reservations required. If you could get behind-the-scenes access to any space in New York City, where would you go? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: New York's Best-Kept Secrets 50 Reasons You Love New York City Great Classic Buildings
What Do You Love/Hate Most About Your Local Airport?
Whether your local airport is a modest domestic terminal or one of the nation's largest international hubs, we all have things we love and hate about our regional transportation facility — developments and setbacks, eateries new and old, efficiencies and inefficiencies. As I travel around the country, I am constantly struck by a fierce contrast of disappointment and pleasant surprise. I guess I, probably like many travelers, have long since given up on U.S. airports, which seem to have fallen so far behind some of their international counterparts that it appeared we had reached the point of no return. And yet, little by little, there looks to be signs of improvement both on a smaller scale — a revamped terminal here, an impressive new dining venue there — as well as on a larger scale with some airports undergoing major overhauls or being completely rebuilt, as is the case with the O’Hare Modernization Program. Anyone who has done the Delta shuffle, involving two terminals, a shuttle bus and several lines at John F. Kennedy International Airport as the terminal submits to a massive renovation project knows a thing or two about the two steps forward, one step back we are all experiencing on the airport improvement front. As a woman constantly on the run, I am often relieved to see an XpressSpa in my departure terminal for a quick massage or that mani-pedi I never got around to in between trips. The first XpressSpa opened in Terminal One at JFK in January 2004. There are now 33 locations in 13 airports across the U.S., and three locations at the Amsterdam Airport Schipol in the Netherlands. I have also been impressed with the upgrades to the JetBlue terminal at JFK (Deep Blue Sushi comes to mind) and the Delta terminal at LaGuardia (um, there's also a Five Guys in LaGuardia's Central Terminal), which both now have some notable dining establishments and convenient and cute wireless seating areas. And who knew that there is a great wine bar with great nibbles, Surdyk's Flights, hiding at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport? What about you? What do you love/hate most about your local airport? Any great hidden gems? Shops or dining venues you care to share? Let us in on your airport secrets. More from Budget Travel: Airport Hotels With Unexpected Perks We want to know your airport secrets! 5 airport innovations worth praising
The Amazing Wild Horses of North Carolina
On a tiny island on North Carolina's Crystal Coast, a herd of beautiful wild horses is surviving—and thriving—in the wake of Hurricane Irene. When I was researching an update on the status of North Carolina's Outer Banks, which were hit earlier this year by Hurricane Irene (and are doing much better, thanks), I came across the uplifting story of Aftermath. And I have to share. Allow me to introduce the Shackleford Horses, a wild herd that inhabits the nine-mile-long island of Shackleford Banks, part of North Carolina's Crystal Coast, at the southern end of the Outer Banks. People often can't resist calling the diminutive animals ponies, but as romantic as "wild ponies" may sound, they are actually just small horses. The Shackleford herd's important fans include the National Park Service and the Foundation for Shackleford Horses. Both institutions regularly perform a horsey census, complete with photo IDs, to monitor herd numbers. During the storm, the horses had no access to shelter. Post-Irene, the Foundation undertook the task of recounting to make sure everyone was okay. To her astonishment, Carolyn Mason, the Foundation's hands-on president who led the count, actually discovered a small population increase. A mare, Anastasia, had foaled a colt. In keeping with herd tradition, the tyke was named with the same first letter as his mother. The name? Aftermath. When I asked about the moment of discovery, Mason said, "I feel like I've been given a gift each time I first see a new foal. Anastasia, the mare came forward slowly, and Aftermath stayed right beside her. I was totally surprised and fascinated—and just tried to be quiet, take my photos, and not intrude." (Take a look at photos from that day in the Foundation's Facebook photo gallery.) Mason says tourists are welcome to ferry over to Shackleford Banks to see the horses. "While it is not in the best interest of either horse or person to get too close, people should look, photograph, and enjoy the wild horses for the unique part of North Carolina that they are," said Mason. On that note, I suggest a fun, weekend jaunt to the Outer Banks. Fly into Coastal Carolina Airport in New Bern and snag a rental car. Bed down in the quaint city of Beaufort, at the lovely Pecan Tree Inn. Make room for at least one meal each at local-institutions Blue Moon Bistro and Beaufort Grocery. Be sure to see the newly renovated Cape Lookout Lighthouse on nearby Core Banks island. And, of course, top off your trip with a visit to see the wild horses of Shackleford Banks and, if you're lucky enough to spy him, Aftermath. — William Bailey MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Louisiana's Hurricane Museum Leave Every Child Behind: Biking the Outer Banks Ahoy Matey! Check Out These Pirate Museums