How the Italian cookie crumbles
Planning to visit Rome? If your trip includes visits to the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, or frankly any other monuments near the historical center, you'd better think twice before bringing drinks or snacks with you.
City Hall has instituted a ban on eating near major tourist sights, which stays in effect through October—i.e. until all the tourists go home. Munchers caught ignoring the mandate will have to pay a fine of about $80.
This weekend: Wine (and more!) in Washington
If you find yourself near Kirkland, Wash., a suburb northeast of Seattle, you'll definitely want to join the town's locals for a party by the water. Starting Friday at 2 p.m. and running through Sunday, this neighborhood right on Lake Washington will play host to Kirkland Uncorked, a festival of the "greatest hits" of festivals—wine, gourmet food, arts and crafts, and jazz. Vino is definitely the star of the show; be ready to taste more than 100 selections from about 20 Washington state wineries. The festival is free; admission to the Wine Garden for tastings is $25 at the door (see Wine Garden hours here). The event is in Marina Park, 25 Lakeshore Plaza Dr. and nearby downtown Kirkland, about a 20-minute drive from downtown Seattle. Come for the wine, stay for the dogs and cars. Sunday is the CityDog contest, where local dogs will compete for the cover shoot of Seattle's CityDog magazine. You can enter your pooch's pout for only $10; proceeds go to Pasado's Safe Haven. There's also a classic car show, featuring hundreds of hot rods and the like. PREVIOUSLY Oregon and Washington Getaways, From $89 Seattle: Eat Like a Local
Rick Steves shares impressions of Iran
After lengthy negotiations and paperwork, travel guru Rick Steves received the go-ahead to take a film crew to Iran for a 10-day shoot in May. They passed through Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz, and Persepolis. Steves considers the forthcoming show to be a valuable window into Iranian culture—especially given the increasingly tense political relations. The show won't air on public television until January 2009, but you can get a preview at Steves's blog, which he updated from the road with fascinating anecdotes and photos. I recently chatted with Steves about the trip and how daily life has changed since his prior visit in 1978, when Iran was on the eve of transforming from a monarchy to an Islamic republic. On his recent return, Steves found the "decadent" society he remembers ("miniskirts were shorter in Tehran than Paris") replaced with a top-down theocracy. But he tried to observe the country without cultural judgment. "I didn't want to go to a mosque and think of it as menacing, but rather as a beautiful community activity," he said. Steves made a point of attending a Friday prayer service while in Esfahan, where he joined 5,000 worshippers and armed guards in a mosque with a bright mural reading "Death to Israel." Ruminations he later posted to his blog include initial feelings of apprehension, familiarities he noticed in the service, and unexpected moments like when he made eye contact with a worshiper who winked back or when he caught another man checking a cell phone. Steves was generally struck by a lack of spirituality. "I learned that if you really want your populace to be spiritual, the worst thing you can do is require it of them," Steves said. "I found Turkey to be much more spiritually alive than Iran." As he met individual Iranians in different places, Steves tried to understand what was important to them. "I've never had so much fun talking with people," he told me. No one could guess where he was from, and when Steves revealed he was American, he says they were most concerned about how he viewed their president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and President Bush—and how he was going to edit the footage of Iran. "They just assumed that I was going to spin it to sound pretty scary," said Steves. The crew filmed at the University of Tehran, and Steves was disheartened by the lack of student expression: "a strictly enforced dress code, no non-conformist posters, top-down direction for ways to play, segregated classrooms and cantinas, and students toeing the line." But he did point out that there are more women than men in higher education. While riding the subway, Steves noticed women-only cars, and brought them up in conversations with Iranian women. "They think of it as respect for women to provide a women-only car; they're not required to go in there, but they have the option." The Iranian government requires women to wear headscarves. Steves discussed the ways that many locals expertly, even stylishly, wore their scarves and how "a wisp of hair could be ravishing." The restrictive dress code also puts an emphasis on facial features that has created an obsession with perfecting noses. Steves's slide show includes a photo of a woman—one of many he encountered—noticeably recovering from a nose job. Even female tourists must cover their heads, and anyone traveling independently needs to hire a local guide (unless visiting relatives). However, Steves said the policy didn't seem to be strictly enforced. "I met a lot of Europeans using a Lonely Planet guidebook, and they technically had a guide, but he was off somewhere having tea." Iran wants to boost its number of Western visitors, according to Steves, who believes the country will challenge but also charm Americans. As for the footage of his trip? "I hope people will get the same value out of the show that they get when they travel to a place—that they will better understand it," said Steves. He added that many Americans don't even realize Iranians are Persian, not Arab. "We can all learn more about Iranians, regardless of politics or agenda; I'm bold enough to say it's practical to know somebody before you bomb." What are your reactions to his trip? Would you consider visiting Iran? PREVIOUSLY Persepolis: An Artist Depicts Her Iranian Childhood Real Deals: Iran Guided Tour, 13 Nights, $1,600
This weekend: Go hog wild at the new Harley museum
I bet you've never been to a museum opening that features a tattoo artist, a live motorcycle bike build, loud rock bands, and lawn games. But that's what you'll find this weekend at the opening of the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. The weekend party will happen at the museum's 20-acre lot downtown, starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The outdoor part is free; admission to the museum costs $16 for adults. Unlike its existing factory tour in Wauwatosa, Wis., about 10 miles away, the museum will have a large gallery that showcases the evolution of its cruiser-class bikes. The company displays some of its most famous models, including an iconic Series One from 1903, a '56 motorcycle owned by Elvis Presley, and the King Kong (which took 40 years to customize). The museum's standard hours will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, though it will stay open until 8 on Wednesdays. (Directions, here.) As noted, admission is $16 for adults. [Factory tour details: Tours happen during the summer, which this year means through August 30. They're free, but tickets are limited and given on a first come, first served basis. Tour times are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.] MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL How a gearhead and his wife took a fun tour of Europe.
Affordable Europe: Dining wisely in Paris
Alexander Lobrano is Gourmet’s European correspondent and has just published Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City's 102 Best Restaurants. He recently told us that, "even with the dollar in bad shape, it's still possible to eat extremely well in Paris for modest prices." Here are a few of his general suggestions, and then some specific addresses. Bon appetit! 1) Skip pricey hotel breakfasts. If breakfast isn't included in your hotel rate, head for a corner cafe instead. For small splurges, I suggest Ladurée on the rue Royale in the city's heart and Angelina on the rue de Rivoli. Both serve breakfast. 2) It's fine to ask for tap water. By French law, all restaurants are obliged to bring you a "carafe d'eau" if you ask for one. Bottled mineral water only boots up your bill, and soft drinks are pricey. 3) Drink house wine. In France, these are usually quite good. And happily, more and more restaurants are offering wine by the glass and the carafe as well as by the bottle. 4) Picnic! It's a great way to save some money and also have the fun of visiting one of Paris's wonderful outdoor food markets. The Marche d'Aligre in the 12th arrondissement has great prices and is open every day but Monday. 5) Go ethnic! Paris has two large Asian neighborhoods—in the 19th arrondissement and the 13th arrondissement behind the Place d'Italie. Both of them teem with great-value restaurants, including one of my favorites, Le Bambou, which serves delicious, home-style Vietnamese cooking. Another Vietnamese gem is Au Coin des Gourmet, 5 rue Dante, 5th arrondissement. (Bonus tip: Asian restaurants are among the few in Paris to often offer buffet-style eating. The phrase to look for if your hoping to come upon a buffet is, a volonte, which roughly translates to help yourself.) 6) Skip restaurants with a view. They charge a premium. Go to places with good atmosphere but not necessarily great window views. Here are a couple of such romantic spots that won't be total wallet-busters: Josephine-Chez Dummonet, 117 rue du Cherche Midi, 6th: Just the kind of old-fashioned Paris bistro that's made for hand-holding on the Left Bank. Mon Vieil Ami, 69 rue Saint Louis en l'Ile, 4th: Delicious modern French bistro cooking at this stylish place on the pretty Ile Saint Louis. Walk home afterwards along the banks of the Seine. For both of these restaurants, reservations are recommended. 7) Lunch early. Plan to have your main meal at noon when many restaurants offer extremely good-value, prix fixe lunch menus. Some of my favorite, "good buy" restaurants in Paris (Find more in my book Hungry for Paris.) Itinéraires, new, 5, rue de Pontoise in the Latin Quarter.—Talented young chef Sylvain Sendra has just moved to this pretty dining room from his tiny and very successful restaurant Le Temps au Temps in the 11th. Wonderful market-driven cooking, i.e. changes almost daily and follows the seasons. Le Petit Pontoise, 9, Rue Pontoise in the 5th arrondissement—Friendly service, fair prices, delicious French bistro cooking. Bistrot du Dome, rue Delambre, 14th arrondissement—This is the lower priced annex of the v. expensive Le Dome, one of the best fish restaurants in Paris. Two other great picks: Le Mesturet, 77 rue de Richelieu in the 2nd arrondissement. La Ferrandaise, 8, Rue Vaugirard, 6th arrondissement. EARLIER Paris: An ace food blogger shares her perfect Parisian food day Our Affordable Europe series.