London: It's Robin Hood month
This month's debut of the Hollywood epic "Robin Hood"—starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett—has spawned a bunch of Robin Hood-themed events in England.
While we don't know if Robin Hood truly existed or was merely a creation of medieval poets, we're certain that Sherwood Forest (where he supposedly lived) is one of the oldest and most majestic forests in Britain. It covers 450 acres of protected beech and birch woodland dotted with more than 1,000 magnificent oaks, most of which are over 500 years old. There are exhibitions devoted to the history of Robin Hood at the Sherwood Forest visitors' center, which is just outside of the village of Edwinstowe.
Also worth a visit is Nottingham Castle in the city of Nottingham itself. A one-off exhibition by Sonja Klaus, the set designer for the movie, showcases the film's props, weaponry and costumes worn by Crowe (Robin) and Blanchett (Marian). And medieval jousts and archery competitions will be taking place in the castle grounds throughout May.
Other Nottingham attractions include the Galleries of Justice history museum, Byron's former home of Newstead Abbey and the Caves of Nottingham Museum—showcasing caverns under the city which have been used as dwelling places since Saxon times.
The highlight of the area remains the forest, though, which is magical to walk through. The largest tree is the Major Oak, which was a big even in the Middle Ages when Robin Hood was supposedly firing his arrows. Today it is more than 800 years old and weighs more than 23 tons. You can easily imagine Robin Hood hanging out behind the trees, after having poached the king's deer and robbed from the rich to give to the poor.
London: 4 Top Jogging Paths
The recent London Marathon has inspired Londoners with an urge to shed their winter beer bellies and work on their six-pack abs. You see lycra-clad joggers everywhere. New arrivals looking to keep up the fitness regime during their stay will find that London's a great place for urban running. Here's the best of three routes. The Thames Path, location: central London to the eastern and western suburbs This pedestrian path fringes both banks of the river Thames for 180 miles, cutting through the heart of London and offering the chance to enjoy one of Europe's most scenic jogs. Runs vary from stretches along one bank to loops taking in both banks and two bridges. To take in the most famous sights as you run begin at Tower Bridge (subway: Tower Hill) and jog to Westminster Bridge finishing up at the Houses of Parliament (subway: Westminster), a run of five-and-a-half miles. The Hampstead Loop, location: north London You never leave the city on this hilly run, yet with the muddy footpaths, extensive stretches woodland and welly boots and Labradors you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in the heart of rural England. The run begins at urban Kentish town subway or prettier Hampstead. From either location it climbs up onto Hampstead Heath, a huge hilly park covered in woodland and offering sweeping views out over London. Either option gives a run of four to five miles. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, location: Central London Central London's biggest green space is criss-crossed with running tracks. The longest is the outer circuit, a long oblong loop taking in the entire park and adjacent Kensington Gardens and passing Kensington Palace and the Princess Diana Memorial. The total distance is four-and-a-quarter miles and the park can be reached via the following subway stations: Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch, Lancaster Gate, Notting Hill or Bayswater. Richmond Park location: south London In the far south of the city is one of the largest urban green spaces in Europe, so much so that it is home to herds of wild deer. Hampstead Heath in the north has wonderful views out across the city, whilst Battersea Park a mile south of Victoria rail station across the Thames is the only large park in Central London which abuts onto the river. MORE There are many more jogging route options in London, with maps on run.com. Budget Travel's picks for hotels in London
New York City: 5 best May values
2-for-1 museum admission It's not easy to compete with the likes of the Met and MoMA. But New York City supports dozens of fascinating, less crowded museums worth a look, especially this month. Through May 31, the Museum Discovery Pass offers unlimited 2-for-1 admission to the following: the American Folk Art Museum ($9); the Asia Society Museum ($10); the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art on Staten Island ($5); the recently expanded and relocated Museum of Chinese in America ($7); the Noguchi Museum in Queens, whose collection encircles a sculpture garden ($10); the Rubin Museum of Art devoted to Himalayan works ($10); and the Studio Museum in Harlem ($7 suggested donation). Print out the pass from a museum website before you go. One more deal worth flagging: the Museum of the City of New York is free on all Mondays in May. The return of Water Taxi Beaches Get your Memorial Day beach-and-burgers fix without the traffic by heading to one of these free urban beaches accessible by public transportation, including water taxi. The original Water Taxi Beach—a sandy stretch of Long Island City, Queens, facing midtown Manhattan—reopens for its fifth season on May 1. The South Street Seaport outpost at Pier 17, in view of the Brooklyn Bridge, is re-branding as Water Taxi Beach & Beer Garden as of opening day April 30. So you can expect a more expansive beer list and lots of communal tables set up near the Fish Shack. Guest DJs get the party vibe going on nights throughout the summer (mostly free, $10 cover for Turntables on the Hudson series, ages 21+ at night). The third beach location, on Governors Island, won't open until June 5. A botanical garden's tribute to Emily Dickinson For its ambitious new show, the New York Botanical Garden filled its Haupt Conservatory with daisies, tulips, roses, jasmine, and other varieties that the 19th-century poet so lovingly tended at her Massachusetts home. Thirty-five of her poems, full of floral imagery, are placed near corresponding plants and act as a guide as you stroll through the show (free audio tours are also available). Gardening demos and poetry readings continue through the closing weekend of June 13, with special plans for Mother's Day Weekend, May 8-9, and Ballet and Poetry Weekend, May 15-16. The All-Garden Pass isn't cheap, but its $20 cost covers the Emily Dickinson show, all other exhibits and garden areas, events, activities, and tram tours. Bronx River Pkwy at Fordham Rd, the Bronx. Free theater before it's famous Earn some bragging rights by attending a free reading at York Theatre Company; these in-the-works musicals sometimes go on to win awards and sell out theaters on and off Broadway. Two of the three developmental readings slated for May are New York-centric. Trav'lin recounts the romantic ups and downs of three couples in 1930s Harlem with a fitting jazz soundtrack (May 20, 7 p.m.), while The Age of Innocence takes on Edith Wharton's tale of repressed love in the insular high-society world of 1870s Manhattan (May 27, 7 p.m.). Reserve in advance, and stick around for a post-reading discussion. The Theatre at Saint Peters, 619 Lexington Ave., 212/935-5824, ext. 524. Food vendors take over Ninth Avenue Dime-a-dozen street fairs shut down city streets frequently in summer, filling the air with music and the smells from sizzling food stalls. The Ninth Avenue International Food Festival is one of the standouts and comes early in the circuit, when the weather is just getting gorgeous and before street-fair fatigue sets in. This year, the festival takes place the weekend of May 15-16, 9:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m., with folk performances on the 16th. Come hungry so that you can sample treats supplied by neighborhood businesses, for instance, pork with mole sauce from Tacocina, phyllo pastries from Poseidon Greek Bakery, and gumbo from Chantale's Cajun Kitchen. Proceeds go to support community programs. Ninth Ave., 42nd to 57th Sts., rain or shine.
London: On Golden Hinde
In 1577, many years before he defeated the Spanish Armada, the great English buccaneer and Sir Francis Drake became one of the first sailors to circumnavigate the world in a wooden galleon called the Golden Hinde. Along the way, he made what was probably the first European landfall in California, naming it Nova Albion. He also captured one of the largest hordes of treasure ever taken — paying off the English national debt in one fell swoop. On his return, the Hinde became so famous that it was put on public display on the south bank of the Thames here in London — the earliest recorded example of a ship being preserved for public posterity. And while it rotted away, a full-sized working replica has replaced it and remains harbored on the river. It, too, has circumnavigated the globe and sailed over 140,000 miles — many more than the original. The replica Golden Hinde is in a prime spot — a few minutes walk from both the Tate Modern and Shakespeare's Globe. And unlike both of those sights it's a real hit with kids. It's possible to visit the ship anytime between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on a self-guided tour. But it's far better to come on one of the activity days. May is set to be a busy month for these, with 23 days of organised activities, from guided historical tours and full day living history days. On May 8 and 22 there are pirate fun days, when kids have the chance to dress up as pirates, participate in a series of re-enactments and generally run riot on the boat. And on May 29 the Golden Hinde will be staging one of its summer sleepovers — and overnight living history tour for children between 5 to 10 years old (accompanied by an adult), which includes an afternoon and evening of costumed activities, a Tudor dinner, and sleeping out on the gun deck amongst the cannons. A Tudor breakfast of bread and cheese is provided in the morning, followed by a snack of hot chocolate as you return to the twenty-first century. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Check out our London City page Find hotel suggestions and travel tips
Paris: New phone booths offer free Internet
On April 9, the city of Paris and Orange telecom unveiled a dozen "experimental" phone booths that offer free Internet and multimedia services. These booths are scattered throughout the city (handy map, here), with four located in areas that have a high number of visitors — the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, ChampsÉlysées, and the Marais. The promise In addition to traditional phone calls, these booths promise to let users browse the Internet and view and send emails. These two services are currently free, with log-on time limited to 10 minutes. Users can also search for local services near the booth, including restaurants, pharmacies, banks, hotels, train stations, etc. This mapping service will always be free, but there will eventually be a charge for using the Internet. The reality In theory, these booths could be a godsend for travelers who need to look up information, quickly check for an email, or locate a service. But how well do they really work? To find out, I took one of the new booths for a test drive yesterday afternoon and found the following: The Surf's Not Up. For the moment, it's not possible to visit the website of your choice. Orange promises that this will change if the booths make it past the experimental phase, but for the moment your choices are limited to a handful of pre-selected sites. The Touch Screen is Tricky. I found my email provider among the small number of available sites (Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail) and was able, after 3 or 4 tries, to successfully enter my password using the booth's touch screen keypad. Scrolling down the page, however, was almost impossible, and composing a reply using the touch screen might take far longer than the 10-minute allotted time. The Search Didn't Find. One of the prime services that these booths are advertising — the ability to locate nearby businesses — wasn't working when I tried to use it. I pressed the buttons to find "pharmacies" and "restaurants" and stood waiting without results until my session time expired. It's all in French. We are in France, so I suppose this makes sense. But offering navigation in multiple languages, as is done with ATMs, subway ticket booths, and Velib' stations, would add significant value to this service for visitors. The future These dozen new booths are being tested for a period of six months before evaluation by the Mayor of Paris. If the booths work well, JCDecaux (the advertising company that finances Velib') may implement them on a national level in 2012. Where can you find these new booths in Paris? • Eiffel Tower — Quai Branly, western pilar, 7th arrondissement • Champs Élysées — 48 avenue des Champs Élysées, 8th arrondissement • Montmartre — 16 boulevard de Clichy, 18th arrondissement • The Marais — 1 rue de Rivoli, 4th arrondissement • La Villette — 219 avenue Jean Jaurès, 19th arrondissement • Place d'Italie — 213 boulevard Vincent Auriol, 13th arrondissement • Saint-Michel — 20 boulevard Saint Michel, 6th arrondissement • Saint-Germain — 142 boulvard Saint Germain, 6th arrondissements • Near the Grands Magasins — 40 boulevard Haussmann, 9th arrondissement • Montparnasse — 77 boulevard du Montparnasse, 6th arrondissement • Bercy — 26 rue des Pirogues de Bercy, 12th arrondissement MORE Budget Travel's Affordable Paris coverage