Istanbul: Where to get your sugar fix
My girlfriends and I had our share of adventures during a week in Istanbul. There was the time I almost got left behind at a bus stop somewhere outside the city, and the many times we fended off catcalls from Turkish guys, as I blogged about earlier.
One afternoon we took a break from the mosques and bazaars to try the dessert restaurant Özsüt in Sultanahmet, which reportedly has the best rice pudding in the city. I was immediately overwhelmed by the menu—a dozen pages filled with pictures of mouthwatering pastries, cakes, puddings, and ice cream.
Our waiter told us some of the delicacies were finished, meaning not available, but there was still plenty to choose from. I finally settled on the çikolata framuaz, a decadent cake with layers of chocolate and raspberry mousses.
I didn't realize until I got home that Özsüt was a chain—there are 40 locations in Istanbul alone, according to the website. Even so, I feel like I've discovered a secret I should pass on to anyone planning a visit to Istanbul. —Liz Webber
This Weekend: The nation's largest garden tour
It's easy to laugh at Virginia's tourism slogan, Virginia is for lovers—I should know, because I'm from there and that's been the slogan for as long as I can remember. So just put the slogan aside. Virginia is a beautiful state, and right now its springtime beauty is on display in a big way: There are a few days left in Virginia’s 75th Historic Garden Week, which ends on April 27. The Garden Club of Virginia sponsors the event and says that it is "the oldest and largest statewide home and garden tour in the county." It's definitely large, with more than 250 gardens, homes, and historic sites taking part. A handful of hotels and B&Bs; have special offers connected to Historic Garden Week, which you can view here. Highlights include the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond and Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, just outside of Charlottesville in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And if you can't make it by this weekend, keep in mind that both of those places, and many others on the tour, are open year-round. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL We asked experts to recommend a garden anywhere in the world. You'll dig their answers. What's new in Charlottesville, Va. A dozen distinctive destinations nationwide to visit this weekend.
Deals: Travel like Indiana Jones
In honor of the new movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Expedia has created travel deals either based on or inspired by Indy's escapades. Trips go to locales such as India, Nepal, Jordan, and Egypt, and include thrills such as an elephant safari and a night tour of the Amazon (without snakes, hopefully). The full list of deals is available at www.expedia.com/indianajones. Sample deal: Egypt Tour from $2,299 A 10-day escorted tour round trip from Cairo with transfers and local transportation (train, plane, bus, boat), five nights' hotel, a three-night Nile cruise, one overnight train, a desert camel ride, and more. International airfare isn't included. Book by: Sept. 31. When: Until Dec. 31, 2009. Single supplement: $1,200. Expedia, 866/925-1793, expedia.com. MORE Watch BudgetTravel.com's narrated video of the ancient desert city of Petra, where Indy is pictured above. [CORRECTION: This blog post originally said that the picture above was a still from Raiders. In fact, it's a still from The Last Crusade. We regret the error.]
D.C.: A new museum, dedicated to a free press
Today in Washington, D.C., the Newseum opened on Pennsylvania Avenue diagonally across from the National Gallery of Art. It's a 250,000 square-foot museum honoring journalists, who many Americans feel are out of touch with their fellow citizens, and the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of the press. (On the side of the modernist façade, the First Amendment* is etched in giant letters.) The Newseum has seven levels of galleries, theaters, and retail shops. There are exhibits on the past five decades of news history, a collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photography, a mock-up of a TV newsroom where you can play reporter, and a sobering permanent exhibit on how the events of September 11th were covered. You'll also find wall panels that list the reporters who have been killed while doing their jobs. In all the hoopla, the roughly $450 million project was criticized by media gadfly Jack Shafer on NPR as a "vanity operation." (He's calling for a boycott, and recommends that travelers instead go to the Paley Museum in New York City.) Still, the Newseum might be worth a stop, especially for families looking for a different type of attraction on the National Mall. The Newseum uses the latest technology in its displays. And c'mon, taping a "report" in front of a simulated White House? That's just cool. (It may become even cooler for kids after MTV launches its new reality TV show about journalism, The Paper, next week.) Decide for yourself with a virtual tour. Tickets are $20 apiece. *Corrected 3:02 p.m. ET: The First Amendment is printed on the side of the building, not the Fourth, search and seizure (as originally posted, due to an editing error). ELSEWHERE The Washington Post offers tips on navigating the Newseum.
Gear: Under-$600 laptops now perfect for travelers
Ultra-portable notebook PCs have come down in price in recent years, from $1,700 for the OQO and Vaio a few years ago, to $500 now. Today, for instance HP introduced the 2133 Mini-Note PC that costs about $600 once you add basic Microsoft software to it. That makes it competitive with the similar Eee PC, launched last month for $299 with Microsoft Office for an additional $199 (for $498 total). Many travelers may have a few good reasons to buy a second PC for vacations. For uploading photos when a digital camera's memory card gets full. Or for entertaining the kids at a hotel room, without risking damage to your main home PC that contains your precious files. Or for using the Internet to plan and book local activities at your destination. Here are details on the two newest, most promising laptops for travelers: HP offers a $599 version of the 2133 Mini-Note, which comes loaded with Microsoft Vista Home Basic, an Internet browser, 1.2GHz Via processor; and 100-odd gigs of memory (for storing images and other files). I recently played with the device under the eyes of a publicist and was impressed. Its 9 inch display and keyboard were wide enough for use for a a couple of hours at a time. Its anodized aluminum shell seemed tough enough to take a beating. And at 2.6 pounds, it felt light enough to tote in a backpack. Here are the favorable reviews from , PC Magazine, and ComputerWorld. Earlier last month, rival manufacturer ASUS introduced a line of ultra-portable computers that also include Microsoft Windows. (Up until now, ASUS machines have only run the Linux operating system.) These machines cost about $500, loaded up. I played with one at a local store (J&R;). It seemed ideal for traveling, weighing only 2 pounds. Its 7 inch screen and its keyboard were wide enough for leisure use but tiny enough to fit into a backpack. Both companies' machines seem ideal for travelers for another reason: They have built in shock protection. In other words, these PCs have solid-state disks, reducing the number of working parts that are easily breakable. HP's devices even come with sensors that automatically detect sudden changes in movement and disconnect key internal parts to prevent damage in case of sudden impact. Each machine mentioned here has enough memory to store your digital photos. And each has Internet access so you can stay connected on the road. DVD drives are usually an external accessory, for about $50 to $100. EARLIER Freebie: Get 1,000 prints digitized. A money belt that's actually a belt. Freebie: Photoshop hits the Web.