This weekend: Meet the mushers in Alaska's Iditarod
And we thought the weather in the Northeast was bad this week. On Saturday, 67 mushers will begin to compete in the Iditarod, Alaska's 1,131-mile dog-sled race, and temperatures during parts of the race could drop below zero. Brrr!
The Iditarod, a tradition since 1973, starts in Anchorage and traverses snow-covered tundra and barren terrain before ending in Nome, a city on the Bering Sea. (Some checkpoints along the way include Finger Lake, Eagle Island, Elim, and White Mountain).
Racers (and their teams of 16 dogs each) usually take between 10 and 14 days to finish the grueling race. Even though the winner gets a hero's welcome in Nome, the last to finish the race also gets an award—the Red Lantern. Longest time for the Red Lantern, ever? 32 days, 15 hours, 9 minutes, and 1 second. Ouch.
View the mushers on Saturday at the Campbell Creek Science Center in Anchorage for free. The site is about 7 miles outside of downtown Anchorage, where the teams will take off, and provides free parking, restrooms, exhibits, and warm drinks.
Follow the Iditarod virtually with the GPS Tracker for about $20.
The most beautiful airport in the world?
I had never heard of Samui Airport until I visited it last month during a trip to Samui, an island off the eastern coast of Thailand. It instantly became my favorite airport in the world. Here's why: • At the departure gates, free pies and fruit juices (blueberry, orange, or pineapple) are offered at a counter. And they were delicious! • The lounge is full of wicker chairs and couches with plush upholstery. • A children's playground lets kids unwind, but at a quiet remove from the other waiting passengers. • The airport takes advantage of the tropical weather by having an open-air design. Fresh-cut flowers decorate all sections. • Airy, modern, and superclean bathrooms. • An airline representative circulates through the departure lounge, pre-clearing passengers for departure and thus circumventing the need for lengthy waiting boarding lines. • Free Wi-Fi. • The TVs are silent, with closed-captioning. And they're tuned to sports news, not financial or political news. To quote another passenger I overheard, "This airport is so pretty, I'd spend the night here." EARLIER The world's best airports (with picks from our readers)
A hotel without borders in Linz, Austria
The honor of European Capital of Culture 2009 goes to Linz, which has obliged with a slew of cultural projects, including the Pixelhotel, whose rooms are scattered in six locations. (Linz is Austria's third largest city, right on the Danube and not far from the Czech border.) These Pixels make use of unconventional spaces while still providing conventional amenities like a minibar, a TV, daily cleaning service, and Internet access. A one-time cabinetmaker's workshop, Pixel im Hof transformed a freight elevator into a walk-in closet and installed a '60s vintage camping trailer—with the suggestion guests think of it as an adjunct living room. There's more of a true living room vibe at Pixel in der Textilpassage, which has throw pillows and multiple plush levels for lounging. Its elevated island connects with Nimmerland or "Neverland," a literally kid-size play room. (Adults, bow your heads!) Pixel in der Textilpassage shares a building with an art gallery, but it's one-upped by Pixel in der Galerie, an actual gallery whose owner, Simone Feichter, has outfitted it with specially designed angular furniture. Rates from €87 ($110) for all Pixels except Pixel am Wasser—a moored houseboat with three renovated cabins that go for €107 ($136) or more. Book by calling 011-43/0-650-743-79-53 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. RELATED Photos: Awesome Art Hotels The New Boutique Hostel Italy: The Town That Became a Hotel
How much is an airplane bathroom worth to you?
We've all become more or less resigned to paying airlines for services that until recently were free. Coughing up $15 or so to check a bag—any bag? Fine. Paying for in-flight food or a mighty power-nap sack? Fine again, maybe. But what about having to pay to use the bathroom? Everyone's favorite publicity-mad cheapskate carrier, Ryanair, has managed to do what it does best: Get people riled up. This time it's a proposal to start charging people £1 to get into the airplane bathroom—the plan would be to put coin slots on the doors. The chief executive, Michael O'Leary, billed this idea as a net gain for the world, saying that Ryanair's always looking for ways to "lower the cost of air travel to make it affordable and easier for all passengers to fly with us." Ryanair's marketing team did make the necessary backtrack, admitting that "Michael makes a lot of this stuff up as he goes along." Another employee, however, also made it clear that there's "no legal requirement for an aircraft to have a toilet on board." In other words, Ryanair could start charging for potty access if they really wanted to. And so that got us thinking. If airlines did start charging for bathroom access, what do you think a reasonable fee would be?
Top Chef finale: New Orleans highlights
In its two-part season finale, Top Chef traded New York for New Orleans, where Mardi Gras celebrations were heating up. Here's a recap.Houmas HouseSeason five finalists found out here that they'd have another competitor in their second-to-last elimination challenge: Leah, Jaime, or Jeff, contestants who had already been told to "pack their knives and go." These eliminated chefs created dishes judged by New Orleans native Emeril Lagasse, who favored Jeff's crawfish and grits. Houmas House itself offers a taste of the antebellum south. The 21-room Greek Revival mansion, completed in 1828, survived the Civil War and produced 20 million pounds of sugar annually in the late 1800s. Tours are $20 for the mansion and gardens or $10 for the gardens: 36 acres of lagoons, fountains, blooming camellias, crepe myrtles, and other exotic flowers. Hotel Monteleone When they weren't busy cooking, the chefs retreated to Hotel Monteleone's cushy digs. This grand hotel in the heart of the French Quarter has 655 guest rooms and suites with amenities like marble bathrooms and plush robes. Despite the luxe setting, accommodations come with a reasonable price tag. This week, for example, rooms start at $179/night. Emeril's Delmonico After wining and dining at Emeril's Delmonico—Lagasse's renowned Creole restaurant on Saint Charles Avenue in the Garden District—the finalists took over the kitchen to create their own Creole-inspired dishes. Tip: The restaurant has an "After Work on the Avenue" happy hour, weeknights, 5-7 p.m. Typical small plates include dirty rice boulettes with Creole mustard sauce ($4), house made charcuterie ($10), and mini muffulettas ($7), and cocktails are half price (from $4). New Orleans Museum of Art The Krewe of Orpheus, a group that puts on one of the most lavish Mardi Gras parades, hosted a masquerade ball at NOMA. For the second-to-last elimination challenge, chefs served gumbo, beignets, and seafood dishes, hoping to win raves from the Krewe and the judges. Carla's oyster stew and savory beignets were a hit, but Fabio's gumbo and grits, muffuletta, and Cajun/Italian pasta were deemed mediocre—the Italian Stallion's New Orleans journey ended there. Walk through the Freeport-McMoRan Great Hall, the stately space with towering white columns where the masquerade was held, and check out NOMA's French and American art collections and its five-acre sculpture garden. Adults $8, kids $4, garden free. Creole Queen The last episode began with a rare quiet moment for Carla, Hosea, and Stefan, who sipped coffee aboard the Creole Queen, an old-school paddlewheel riverboat. Climb on board yourself and see New Orleans via the Mississippi River on one of its Big Easy Harbor Cruises. During the 90-minute ride, you'll float past the French Quarter, St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, and other N'awlins landmarks. Adults $25, children 3-12 $13. Commander's Palace It all boiled down to a final challenge at this historic Garden District restaurant: creating a three-course meal that showed off the chefs' skills and personalities. Of course, there was a twist. Each chef had to whip up a last-minute fourth course featuring a local ingredient—such as alligator, which Hosea gleefully assigned to Stefan after drawing knives. Commander's Palace has been serving Creole and American specialties since 1880. Treat yourself to a lunch of caipirinha lacquered gulf fish ($20) or sugarcane grilled pork chop ($17), and accompany it with one of the 25 cent martinis. —Heather Eng RELATED A DIY Top Chef Tour of New York City 25 Reasons We Love New Orleans