Readers' best reflection photos

By Kate Appleton
October 3, 2012
Courtesy <a href="">dougmcj/myBudgetTravel</a>

Thanks to all the readers who submitted photos of reflections—and took the time to share thoughtful, fascinating stories about where and why the shots were taken. You blew us away. The result is our best and longest reader slide show yet.

These 24 outstanding shots include giraffes drinking from a waterhole in Namibia, the opulent pool at Hearst Castle, a glacial lake in Iceland, and a row of columns by a mosque in Abu Dhabi. See for yourself in our slide show.


Wildlife | Rainbows | Nighttime


We're collecting your photos of Mexico. Upload them through myBudgetTravel, tag them, and check back in the coming weeks for a slide show of the best submissions.

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London: 4 restaurant chains that are affordable and homegrown

Sometimes, you just want a quick bite without paying a small fortune&mdash;and without succumbing to the temptation of an overfamiliar yet predictable McDonald's either. In London, it's possible to find piquant pepperoni on an Italian pizza, a wholegrain sandwich packed with organic veggies, or a brie-and-bacon-stuffed French croissant, if you know the affordable spots to look out for. Here's a cheat sheet: Ready to Eat? Try Pret a Manger Pret serve pre-prepared sandwiches, salads and lunchtime snacks in slick brushed steel and chrome food bar throughout London (and increasingly in New York). Ingredients are delivered fresh every day and as the name suggests, the huge menu steers away from standard English sandwich fare, aiming for food with a dash of Gallic panache. Instead of ham and tomato sandwiches, Pret offers Brie, tomato and basil baguettes. There are Pret takeaway shops all over the city. Look for the distinctive magenta and white placards. Sandwiches and a drink from $6. Portuguese fried chicken at Nando's London's more up-market answer to KFC offers chili-pepper spiced Portuguese peri peri chicken in sit-down restaurants with real crockery and metal cutlery and decorated with splashes of Mediterranean color. Spiciness comes in grades&mdash;lemon and herb is for chili novices, then there's medium, hot and extra hot; which in spice-loving London will blow the roof off most American mouths. Nando's are ubiquitous; see an online map. Average price for 2 courses with a drink $20-25. Value-Priced, Decent Pizza at PizzaExpress This British chain offers the antidote to the spongy, cheese saturated shopping mall pizza. At PizzaExpress, Italian-style, thin-crust pizzas are prepared in open-plan kitchens, fired in super-hot gas ovens and whisked to marble tables in a matter of minutes by sharply dressed young wait staff. Our favorite is the Fiorentina, with fresh spinach, grana padano, free range egg, garlic oil and olives. Look for the royal blue and white placard near almost every subway station in London. Average price for 2 courses with a drink $20. There are 10 PizzaExpresses across town. See a list here. Curry in a Hurry at Masala Zone Indian curry has (thankfully) eclipsed soggy Fish and Chips as Britain's national dish. An end of the week or after work 'Indian' is a national pastime and washing down a hotter-than-hell Vindaloo of Phall and right of passage for adolescent British males from Land's End to John o'Groats. This small London chain offers curry in cool contemporary surrounds&mdash;with retro-chic 1930s posters and artifacts, mood-lighting and buzzy young crowd. If you're new to the menu and spice-shy opt for a mild Chicken Korma, cooked in butter and coconut. There are Masala Zones in Covent Garden, Soho, Earl's Court, and Camden. Average price for 2 courses with a drink $25. FUN FACT Did you know that most McDonald's locations in London sell the Chicken Tikka Snack Wrap? MORE LONDON INFO Check out our London City Destination page, with hotel recommendations, interactive map, and an "ask a local expert" feature


New York: Secrets and savings in Central Park

Did you know that Central Park has free activity kits at various visitor centers? You can borrow one as long as you have a photo ID you can hand over as a deposit, just like when you rent shoes at a bowling alley. Click these links for more info&hellip; Chess &amp; Checkers House: Channel your inner Bobby Fischer with chess and checkers game pieces for play on one of the facility's 24 mosaic-topped tables. Belvedere Castle: Grab a Discovery Kit backpack filled with binoculars, a bird guide, and colored pencils and paper for self-guided birding discoveries in the Ramble. North Meadow Recreation Center: Stay active with a Field Day kit tote bag packed with a wiffle ball and bat, cones, a playground ball, and other sports equipment for play around the North Meadow. Charles A. Dana Discovery Center: See what's biting in the Harlem Meer with catch-and-release fishing equipment, including fishing poles, bait, and basic instruction. FREE AND AFFORDABLE GUIDED PARK TOURS Another free park feature: a variety of guided walking tours (led by volunteers) offered year-round, including Amble Through the Ramble, a stroll through the park's 38-acre woodland, and Views From the Past, a journey through the beginnings and history of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux's urban masterpiece. And for those willing to spend a little money to get a more personalized experience, custom walking tours with an advanced-level guide can be arranged for groups of up to 25 people ($12 per person, $100 minimum cost). And if you really want an unparalleled park experience led by a true insider, try one of the park's new private van tours, in which Sara Cedar Miller, official Central Park photographer and historian and best-selling author of Central Park An American Masterpiece and Seeing Central Park, helps you design your own themed itinerary. Miller is uniquely qualified to share never-published secrets and stories about the 843-acre park. Among the suggested options is a Garden Tour, in which the curator of each garden visited joins in on the tour. The high level of expertise is reflected in the price: A one-hour tour for up to seven people is $500 and includes one free signed copy of Miller's most recent book. All of these activities come courtesy of the nonprofit Central Park Conservancy, which raises funds and manages day-to-day operations of the park. FUN FACT Another lesser-known fact: Becoming a member of the Central Park Conservancy can save you money year-round&mdash;not just inside the park, but all over NYC. A $50 one-year "Gardener" level membership ($48 of which is tax-deductible) gets you access to the Central Park Perks program, which offers discounts to nearly 100 hotels, restaurants, stores, museums, and other activities citywide. Perks include two-for-one admission at The Museum of the City of New York, National Academy Museum, and The Paley Center for Media (admission at each is $10); 10 percent off room rates at the Hilton Garden Inn Times Square, Loews Regency Hotel, and InterContinental The Barclay; and 10 percent to 15 percent off the bill at restaurants like One Fish Two Fish, Penang, and Sarabeth's, among many others. MORE Check out our New York City destination page! With hotel reviews, an interactive map, and a forum where you can ask trip-planning questions. Get city event listings at Newyorkology and Manhattan User's Guide.


London: A new center at the Natural History Museum

The city's spanking new, chrysalis-like, bug-shaped museum is offering canap&eacute;s and concerts amongst the Madagascan hissing cockroaches. The Natural History Museum's $127 million Darwin Centre (opened in September 2009), looks like an eight-story-high termite egg. It's bizarrely propped up against the grand neo-Romanesque 19th-century edifice which houses the main museum galleries. Inside the new building, a winding, slowly ascending walkway leads visitors past fish-tank like galleries showcasing the museum's collection of over 17 million insects and arachnids, three million plant specimens and, at the apex of the egg, white-coated entomologists beetling away in what must surely be the world's first open-plan lab. Interactive displays alongside exhibits have the pinioned bugs spring to life on screen, where they can be examined and scrutinised at leisure, magnifying body parts or clicking on menus explaining everything anthropoid from spiracles and chitin to insect sex. And there are games and educational exhibits for kids. It seems an unlikely place for tapas and chardonnay, but the Darwin Centre has an increasingly popular bar, attracting young workers for happy hour as much as post-museum drinkers. The Blue bar serves cool cocktails (we liked the blueberry bellini), bottles of pilsner, European and new world wines and up-scale bar snacks and light food (a seafood platter for two costs $28), to the accompaniment of live jazz. If you stick to beer, a round of drinks in the Blue Bar will set you back no more than it would in a London pub. Darwin Centre is open until 10 p.m. on Fridays (and slightly later on the last Friday of every month). See for more information. You need to reserve free tickets in advance. Meanwhile, the Natural History Museum itself is free, and is open until 5:50 p.m. most evenings. At the South Kensington stop, on the Circle, Kensington, and Piccadilly Tube lines.


San Francisco: Google maps famous, favorite places

Quick quiz: What is the favorite place of slow-food diva Alice Waters? It's Zuni Cafe, her "home away from home." At least, that's what Google Map's Favorite Places told us. Zuni Cafe is just one of the suggestions on Google's Favorite Places page, which lists and maps locations that in-the-know (and usually very famous) locals love. You can map celeb recommendations worldwide, but we like to keep it local: Mayor Gavin Newsom's favorite hidden sandwich spot is the Mint Cafe, for instance. And the Decemberists' bass player, Nate Query, says the city's best jazz spot is Yoshi's. In this foodie town, the recommendations are heavy on the gourmet, but there are also tips on antique shops, beaches, and cocktail lounges. Google has even set up real live markers that look like map pin-points outside some establishments (see photo), so you know when you're walking by a favorite. Who knows, maybe you'll even run into your favorite local celeb while you're there.