Live from Rome: Snow!
Snow has been falling steadily over the Forum, Trevi Fountain, and the rest of Rome today for the first time since 2005—and at its heaviest in 24 years. The snow (la neve) has naturally thrilled Romans and tourists alike; Reuters reports that the Pope himself was spotted peering out of a Vatican window.
Like D.C., Rome isn't used to dealing with more than a few flurries, so roads are backed up with traffic. Buses and the metro are running with limited delays, according to BusinessWeek, and the Colosseum is temporarily shut. Ciampino airport was closed this morning, but has since reopened.
You can see photos submitted by locals to the Rome-based newspaper, La Repubblica, here.
Rome's coolest vantage point for these kinds of storms? Inside the Pantheon, where you can watch snowflakes falling through the oculus, a round opening in its dome.
Vietnam: Dinged dong means deals
We recently named Hanoi one of the top budget travel destinations for 2010, and in the past week, it became an even more attractive spot for American travelers. This week, the Vietnamese dong was devalued by more than 3 percent, on top of an cut of 5 percent a few months ago, and the dollar is stronger than ever against it. Compare this to Japan, where the dollar recently fell to a 14-year low against the yen, or Thailand, where the greenback hasn't fared well in 2009 against the baht. Check out our reasons for visiting Hanoi, Vietnam's leafy, atmospheric capital, this year. EARLIER 30-plus readers spill their secrets about Vietnam Tricks for Navigating Southeast Asia's Islands Custom-Made in Saigon
Rome: Fried treats for Carnival
There are two main ways to tell it's Carnival season in Rome: children dress up in costumes, tossing colorful paper confetti in the streets; and everyone, regardless of age, indulges in frappe and castagnole, deep fried sweets. Rectangular strips of dough, frappe get deep fried until golden brown and then dusted with confectioner's sugar. These days, you can also find the lighter frappe al forno (baked not fried) as a concession to the diet conscious. Castagnole are chestnut-sized balls of dough—similar to donut holes—that are deep fried and rolled in sugar. Some are soaked in liquor or filled with cream or ricotta cheese, making this dense dessert even richer. Bakeries, delis, and markets throughout Rome will be selling the baked and fried versions of frappe and castagnole until mid- to late-February. You can't really go wrong, but these shops are among the best: Roscioli (via dei Chiavari 34), Forno Campo de' Fiori (Piazza Campo de' Fiori 22), and Biscottificio Innocenti (via delle Luce 21). Go all out and request "un etto," or 100 grams. PREVIOUSLY Carnival festivities and other great February values in Rome. Roman snacks for any craving
London: A sequel to Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber's new musical—Phantom of the Opera II: Love Never Dies—has its opening night in the second week of March. Last week, Andrew Lloyd Webber previewed the title song to his long anticipated sequel to a star-studded private audience at the South Bank Show awards. Theaterland here in London has been buzzing ever since. The show itself has its world premier at the Adelphi in the West End on Tuesday March 9. Tickets can now be reserved. While they officially go on sale February 26, tickets can be reserved in advance through the show's official website, from $40. The show is set a decade after the mysterious disappearance of the Phantom from Paris. He has moved from his lair in the Paris Opera House to haunt the fairgrounds of Coney Island. According to Lloyd Webber, "this show is a rollercoaster ride of obsession and intrigue…in which music and memory can play cruel tricks…and it sets out to prove that, indeed, love never dies. "The Phantom of the Opera" itself (which was based on Gaston Leroux's French novel) has been seen by over 100 million people worldwide, making it the most successful stage show in history. LoveNeverDies.com MORE More Budget Travel tips on visiting London
Follow-up: New York City's The Jane hotel
We've written before about The Jane, a New York City hotel offering ship-cabin-style rooms for solo travelers, starting at $99 a night. There are also 30 double rooms, called the Captain's Cabins, available at the hotel. At 250 square feet, the Captain's Cabins are suited for double occupancy and offer private bathrooms (the 50-square-foot regular rooms share a communal bathroom down the hall on each floor). The Captain's Cabins came online for booking about a month ago. The Jane is located in the far West Village—also known as the Meatpacking District, characterized by its hopping clubs and nightlife. Currently, there's a special offer going on through the end of February: Regular cabins start at $79, and the Captain's Cabins start at $209 a night. Usually, the Captain's Cabins start at $250 a night and go up to $300. So you can save more than 15 percent for bookings in February. Of course, it's snowing like mad here (and getting dark at 3:30 p.m.), so you can see why rates are reduced. But New York City in the snow has its own romantic charm. See our full review of The Jane here. For more on New York City, check out our city page, and leave your comments, questions, and suggestions.