What is the most memorable place you've ever visited?
It's not unusual for images of iconic destinations like the Grand Canyon, Paris, and Prague to spark inspiration for a trip. Art museums and the Internet are flooded with gorgeous photography, paintings, and videos of classic spots.
Last week, for instance, I stumbled across a stunning series of photo montages by Swiss artist Corinne Vionnet, who pieced together "hundreds of snapshots of tourist locations found on the Internet" and overlayed them to create one unified portrait of each.
The resulting photos are recognizable—you can easily make out the Brooklyn Bridge and Chichen Itza, say—but also otherworldly. It's a slideshow worth spending some time with.
Still, nothing recently has captivated my attention more than an interactive online video series produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFBC). It pays homage to—of all places—Pine Point, Ontario, a former mining-town turned ghost-town.
It was the very first place NFBC contributors Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons ever visited, and, it seems, it has haunted them ever since.
Recently, they went online to see what had become of their first travel-love and discovered, to their surprise, that the town no longer exists. After the mines there shut down in 1987, the Canadian government shut the town down, too. Less than a year later, it was wiped clean off the map, and its residents relocated.
This discovery prompted Shoebridge and Simons to look more closely into Pine Point: what became of the people who lived there, what happened to the buildings and roads, and—most importantly—why, exactly, it stayed with them.
The video series they made as a result is curious and singular: a mash-up of audio interviews with former residents, archival findings played out in scrolling text, old snapshots floating across the page.
It's about 20-minutes long, and I played it twice through in a row. Something about it haunted me, just like the town haunted Shoebridge and Simons.
For me, that place is Sebago Lake, an idyllic shore retreat in southern Maine. It was the first place I ever visited solo, as a 19-year-old, so ready and eager for a change of scene from my hometown in suburban Ohio that I leapt at the chance to teach rock climbing to 12-year-old girls at a Sebago Lake summer camp. I haven't been back since—but my thoughts return there often. It's the place that made me love travel.
What is that place for you? We'd love to hear about it. Perhaps it could even be a contender in our Coolest Small Towns contest next year…
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Ireland: Travel to the Emerald Isle is affordable now
Traveling to Ireland is a dream that will pop into many American heads this month. On March 17, several U.S. cities celebrate the Emerald Isle's patron saint, St. Patrick, with parades and drinking. But parades won't be enough for some Americans, who would rather see Ireland itself. Top of mind is the capital, Dublin, one of our picks for top budget travel destinations in 2011. Lodging prices in Dublin are the lowest of any major city in Western Europe, and restaurants are similarly well priced. The government is about to kill its tax on air travel, making visits cheaper. To boost tourism, Irish officials are planning an event to be called either "The Gathering 2012" or "The Irish Homecoming" an effort to encourage people of Irish heritage worldwide to visit Ireland in 2012. We'll keep you posted as more details come out about the event. Ireland hopes to re-boot its economy, which has been particularly battered by the global financial crisis, by encouraging more people to visit. It hopes to capitalise on the interest in ancestral tourism brought about by the publication online of the 1901 and 1911 censuses, which made it easier for people of Irish descent to trace their ancestry. Working against Ireland is the rising value of the euro and the rising fuel prices that are hiking airfares. Online deals that combine flights and lodging while giving you maximum flexibility are one of the best ways to save because companies can offer discounts "hidden" in the total price of the trip without launching a price war with competitors. Case in point: Real Deal: Dublin, Air/4 Nights, From $399 In related news, yesterday Google Street View was updated (in Google Maps and Google Earth) to include views of some of Ireland's most gorgeous destinations, such as the Rock of Cashel, the fortress that was the capital of ancient chieftains. Those fresh views may inspire you to book a trip. Early spring is a lovely time to visit Ireland. Dublin is compact enough that you can see a lot of it quickly, especially if you follow our "Dublin on the Fly" tips. Be sure to read our Eat Like a Local cheat sheet, too. Go north for the wilder authentic Celtic side by visiting Ireland's County Donegal. Be sure to check out our picks for cool Irish castles. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Dublin: One of Our Top Budget Travel Destinations for 2011 The Real Castles of Ireland: Slide Show Which Ireland Is Right for You? Real Deal: Dublin, Air/4 Nights, From $399
11 places we'd rather be on a Wednesday
Wednesday is the hardest day of the week. It's closer to the weekend than Monday, but Saturday and Sunday seem so far away after two days in the office. That's why it's prime time for daydreaming about your next vacation. Each Wednesday we ask our Twitter followers where they would rather be (#WishfulWednesday). Your responses the past two weeks inspired us so much that we decided to compile a slideshow of all of the places you're crushing on. In some cases we were even able to suggest a deal to help you get there! From Bora Bora (shown here) to London—join us on a photo tour of the places where you'd rather be right now. Are you on Twitter? Follow us: @BudgetTravel See more from Budget Travel Top 10 Most Travel-Inspiring Films 5 Surefire Ways to Offend the Locals Secret Hotels of Paris
Readers' best cherry blossom photos
March brings an explosion of pink and white cherry blossoms around the globe. To celebrate this annual rite of spring, we've assembled your best shots, from the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens (above) to a palace courtyard in Seoul. Look out for icons like the Eiffel Tower and Mount Fuji framed by blossoms, plus unexpected locales like the cherry-tree-lined Main Street in Brevard, N.C. See all 18 photos in our slide show. Inspired to see the blossoms in person? Here are strategies for avoiding the crowds at the popular National Cherry Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C. And check back soon for our roundup of the best festivals worldwide! RECENT READER SLIDE SHOWS Winter | Coastlines | Funny Signs NOW IN SEARCH OF... We're collecting your photos of glaciers and gardens. Upload them through myBudgetTravel, tag them, and check back in the coming weeks for a slide show of the best submissions.
7 reasons to look on the bright side of air travel
It's easy to get caught up in the doom-and-gloom stories of rising fuel (and ticket) prices, corrupt TSA agents, and those pernicious baggage fees. But there is a silver lining—if you squint hard enough! Airports all over the country (and the world) are rolling out improvements to make the air travel experience more comfortable, convenient, and streamlined. Here, a timeline of seven noteworthy developments from the last few months. 1. OCTOBER 2010: Tokyo's Haneda airport debuted a fun-tastic international terminal, complete with a shopping area designed to look like a traditional Edo village, a café with its own planetarium, a soft-serve green tea ice cream vendor, napping lounges (not just for elites!), and free Wi-Fi throughout. Best of all, a new monorail and train connections provide access to downtown Tokyo in under 30 minutes. 2. NOVEMBER 2010: Delta installed 200-plus iPads at JFK gates for checking flight data, playing games, and ordering food delivery from airport restaurants. 3. DECEMBER 2010: Minneapolis-St. Paul International added touch-screen directories (or Digital Concierges) at either end of its Terminal 1, which display terminal maps, options for hotels and ground transportation, flight information, and menus for in-airport restaurants (along with the approximate walking times to reach them). 4. JANUARY 2011: A brand-new, massively expanded St. George Municipal Airport opened in Southern Utah, giving better access to the national parks in the lower half of the state. All the better to live out those 127 Hours-inspired itineraries! (Bonus: It's actually kind of pretty, with a two-story wall of windows and lots of curved-wood panels.) 5. JANUARY 2011: Top Chef Master Rick Bayless opened Tortas Frontera, an upscale Mexican sandwich shop in Terminal 1 of Chicago's O'Hare airport; Bayless has another O'Hare restaurant in the works, too. 6. ONGOING: Delta is in the process of adding electronics-charging stations (with both USB ports and 110-volt outlets) at 19 U.S. airports. Keep an eye out for them in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Memphis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York (JFK), Salt Lake City, Boston, Columbus, OH, Hartford, CT, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Nashville, Norfolk, VA, Omaha, NE, Pittsburgh, Portland, OR, Seattle and St. Louis. 7. COMING SOON: Minute Suites, the rent-by-the-hour nap rooms that debuted in 2009 at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, make their way to Philadelphia National Airport this spring. Have you noticed any upgrades in your own local airports—or any you've passed through? Post your report in the comments! See more from Budget Travel Top 10 Ski Deals This Season 10 Islands to See Before You Die 5 Surefire Ways to Offend the Locals