Monday, December 27, 2010

Germaphobes Guide to Air Travel

{Photo by contraption}
So I get a little paranoid about germs.

Well, sometimes. Hey, that’s a good thing, right?

Whether or not you’re a germaphobe, if you ever find yourself on a plane – and, according to statistics, 769 million of us do – you definitely want to check out CNN’s story on what can be found festering around your seat. Some things I knew; some things I didn’t. Think that plastic-wrapped blanket has been through the wash? Think again. And don’t even get me started on the lavatory.

Got tips on avoiding travel germs? Spread ‘em! (tips, not germs, folks.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Happy from Ping!

To my Ping Pals,

The end of 2010 has been a bit hectic pour moi, but look out because Got the World on a Ping is coming back with a vengeance! What will 2011 bring? We shall find out it together. In the meantime, here’s wishing you and yours many, many Heinekens – or whatever your drink of choice – in the New Year!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Calling All Shutterbugs

{My entry; Burmese Girl, Inle Lake}
Are you a shutterbug? Do you like to win free stuff? Read on! 

Each month Travel & Leisure hosts an online photo contest. Users (you must be a registered user to enter) can submit as many photos as they wish for each contest, which feature a different theme, including Locals, Views, Beaches, and My Favorite Place.

Monthly prizes include Amazon Kindles and Murval luggage. All monthly winners are entered in the Grand Prize giveaway, which is a trip for two to Hawaii. Not too shabby!

So what are you waiting for? There’s free loot to be won!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Today In Travel News

Zen Habits offers tips on how to travel lightly. WWBP? What Would Buddha Pack?

My Kugelhopf recounts her delicious visit to the Salon du Chocolat in Paris. Macarons for miles.

To market, to market. BBC dubs Toronto's Kensington Market a "loveable hodgepodge." Loveable? Okay. But is it bang on?

New York Times readers rate Jet Blue's "All You Can Jet" pass. Sadly, Jet Blue may not offer this deal again. Thirty lashes for Jet Blue.

National Geographic Channel premieres its seven-episode television event, Great Migrations, tomorrow night. The Nat Geo team crossed 420,000 miles, 20 countries, and all seven continents for this production. Check out the previews here.

Fall back! For those readers in the US, don't forget to set your clocks back one hour tonight! 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dracula. Vlad Dracula.

Happy Halloween, my Ping peoples!

In the spirit of All Things Hallow, check out Huffington Post's homage to "The Impaler" - Vlad Dracula - with a photo essay of his gorgeous hometown, Sighosoar, Romania.

In the spirit of All Things Cute, check out these adorable trick-or-treaters that came by my door tonight. Tip: Kids either love Twizzlers or hate 'em. And they're not afraid to tell you. Either way. 

Trick or treat! How are you spending your Halloween? 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Giddy Up

I'm going to be out of pocket for the next couple of days, but wanted to leave you with something to ponder:

Which (current or former) Supreme Court Justice is honored in the National Cowgirl Museum's Hall of Fame?

a) Sandra Day O'Connor
b) Ruth Bader Ginsburg
c) Elena Kagan
d) None of the above. Jean's been reading way too much Wikipedia.

Answer to come when I return! 

Updated 10/31/10
Answer: First female member of the US Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor

Sunday, October 24, 2010

British Invasion

{Photo by HeatherOnHerTravels}

First, there was Pret A Manger.  Preservative-free happiness in the shape of sandwiches, desserts, croissants, and other tasty bites from across the pond.

Then, walking down 7th Street NW, I see a sign for Wagamama, home of “positive eating and positive drinking” - and lots of Pan-Asian noodles.

DC is experiencing a full-on British Invasion – and I love it!

Pret A Manger DC
18 & Eye Streets, NW, 202-403-2992
11th and F Streets, NW, 202-464-2791

Wagamama DC
418 7th Street, NW (opening soon)

Outside the Beltway?
Pret – located in New York, Chicago, Hong Kong, and throughout the UK (obviously).
Wagamama – locations in too many countries to count. Click here to see if yours is one of the lucky ones.

Pret or Wagamama – who would win in a cage fight?   

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Frugal Fun: Online Book Swappin'

If you’re anything like me, you like a good travel guidebook. Not that I necessarily read them from cover to cover. Booking a trip to a new city makes me feel like I have the right to go out and buy a shiny new book. So I do. Then they sit. On my bookshelf. Collecting dust well after the trip is over.  Don’t get me wrong – some guidebooks, I cherish! Let’s Go Europe 1998 from my semester abroad? It’s a keeper. But, as for the rest, well, they need to go. 

Thus, I present you with PaperBackSwap.  Here’s the deal: 

You post a book (or books) online that you’d like to swap. A fellow member likes it? You mail it to them. Then, you receive a "credit" to order a book from the rest of the four million plus selections available from the swapping community. Your seller, in turn, mails it to you for free (as you’ve absorbed the cost of sending your book, so do they). 

And there you have it. Old books off-loaded. New books received. The only cost incurred is postage. Pretty sweet, right? I know!

Gaga for guidebooks? Cherish forever or swap wildly? 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Those Crafty Bastards...No, Really.

Presented by alternative newsweekly Washington City Paper (WCP), Crafty Bastards Arts & Crafts Fair took place earlier this month in the Adam’s Morgan neighborhood of DC. And who are the Crafty Bastards, you ask?

For the past seven years, WCP has demonstrated its continued support to the indie craft community by throwing this annual event to showcase handmade alternative arts and crafts.  Patrons can discover – and purchase – fun and funky new items and meet the artists who created them. In turn, the artists show off, sell their loot, and get to know their audience. Everybody wins!

Here’s a look into this year’s bastardom.

A blimp constructed from Monopoly money

Rad skate decks

Golden Girls tea towels
(Which sold out 30 minutes after I shot this photo.
Do you know what a great gift this
would have made for dozens of my friends?!?)

Super cute, adoptable pooches from Lucky Dog Animal Rescue!

Tricked out tees

Cat rainbow buttons
(Really, I didn’t know how else to describe this.)

The day grew warm in the sun. Thankfully, the good folks at
Casey Trees were handing out these cute fans!

You can learn more about Crafty Bastards by checking out their blog.

Until next year, you Bastards…when that Golden Girls tea towel will be mine!

Supporting local artists? Who’s your favorite Crafty Bastard? 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Around the World in 30 Bytes: All About Pumpkin

{Photo by D Sharon Pruitt}
"Around the World in 30 Bytes" is a recurring series focusing on what’s shakin’ in the food blogosphere and in my virtual recipe box.

October is my favorite month of the year. The leaves are turning, the air is brisk, and Starbucks' pumpkin spice lattes are in full effect. All is right with the world...but back to pumpkin. Puree it, chop it, bake it – I’m just crazy about pumpkin! 

Thus, this edition of 30 Bytes is in homage to that sumptuous squash.

Belgium Byte: The Yvestown Blog’s Pumpkin Soup. Mmm...coconut milk...

California Byte: 101 Cookbook’s Roasted Pumpkin Salad. For the healthy pumpkin lover in all of us. 

New York Byte: Smitten Kitchen’s Pumpkin Bourbon Cheesecake. Pumpkin + Bourbon + Cream Cheese = Fab.

Oklahoma Byte: The Pioneer Woman’s Pumpkin Cake with Whiskey Whipped Cream. So I like to cook with liquor. What?

Oregon Byte: Noble Pig’s Pumpkin Caramel Bars with Bacon. The Holy Grail of savory-sweet pumpkinosity. All hail Cathy!

Smashing pumpkins? Share your favorite pumpkin recipe!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Like Outer Space? Got $200K? You're Golden.

{Image by Acbo}
“Space…the Final Frontier.”

Captain James T. Kirk zipped around the solar system in the USS Enterprise free of charge and probably got a nice government pension to boot. Want to fulfill your Star Trek fantasy? You can start by hopping on Virgin Galactic’s suborbital spacecraft and travel 62 miles above the planet. It’s no Enterprise, but thrilling to us Earthlings nonetheless. In just a few seconds, space travelers venture almost 2,500 miles per hour – over three times the speed of sound. Weightlessness! The view!  Space odyssey indeed.

If handing over Sir Richard Branson US$200,000 is too much for your wallet, you can check out Space Adventures, who will offer a similar experience for only US$102,000. Though, I must say, space travel is no area I would plan to bargain shop. 

For further thoughts on space tourism’s imminent boom, check out

Yay or nay - Is space your final frontier?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Where Am I?

Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, more than 20,000 people - plus countless little guys like these - currently inhabit this area made famous by a scientist's fateful infatuation with its native bird. (I'm simplifying, of course).

Where am I?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Football v. Futball

{Photo by Bringsverd}
American football season is in high gear as I discovered 90% of the people I know watched the Washington Redskins v. Philly Eagles game on Sunday, fierce rivals they are (Skins won, thankyouverymuch).

Never quite an American football fan - despite my fierce love of Friday Night Lights - I do love watching soccer or “football,” as I suppose anyone outside North America would refer to it. Watching The World Cup in South Africa was one of the highlights of the summer. Passion! Shorts! Vuvuzelas!  90+ minutes of running and kicking and playing their hearts out…I felt that I was right on the field with them. (Well, as much as I could while sitting on a bar stool drinking beer.) And I’m still sick about Ghana.

Alas, we have to wait until 2014 for the next World Cup. Though there’s plenty of other soccer/football throughout the US until then, this feels like the only event in the sport that garners so much national attention.

So, for now, I have Sunday night American football. To which I say, “meh.”

Football or futball: Who wins your match?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Stepping Up To Fight AIDS

On Saturday, I proudly participated in AIDS Walk Washington for the fifth consecutive year. This annual 5K supports the ongoing efforts of DC’s Whitman-Walker Clinic.

Established in 1978, Whitman-Walker serves more than 10,000 individuals throughout DC with specialty health care services for the LGBT community and those living with HIV/AIDS. Their services include primary medical and dental care; counseling and treatment for mental health and addictions; HIV education, prevention, and testing; and legal services.

This year, over US$700,000 was raised for the clinic! Here are some highlights...

The walk began and finished at Freedom Plaza, leading right down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol.  

Many walked in honor of a loved one.

These ladies comprised a few of the many volunteers
who cheered on the group along the route.

Canines also came out to support the cause!

And then of course, there was some silliness... 

And you even got free hugs at the finish line! 

I would like to extend special congratulations to Team 1Life - the team I proudly walk with - who last year raised US$3,800 and this year raised over US$5,600! What a phenomenal team!

For those readers in SoCal, there’s still time to register for AIDS Walk Los Angeles taking place on October 17. Those in Texas can join AIDS Walk Austin on the same day.

Exercising for good? Tell us about your cause! 

Friday, October 01, 2010

Be The Change

{Photo copyright}
A few years ago, I traveled to Tibet, where I had the honor of visiting Braille Without Borders (BWB), an NGO that teaches Braille and vocational skills to blind and hearing-impaired children in the Tibetan region. Many in Tibetan society believe blindness is punishment for doing something wrong in a past life. As a result, many of these children are shunned by the public, some even their families. BWB’s work has changed the lives of countless Tibetan children, and their story is nothing short of incredible.

Founder Sabriye Tenberken, a blind woman from Germany (and future Nobel Peace Prize nominee), traveled on horseback - alone - throughout the region to investigate to the possibility of providing training for blind and visually impaired Tibetans. On her journey, she met Dutch engineer Paul Kronenberg, now her husband and co-founder of BWB. There was no previous study for blind students; therefore, she had to develop her own Tibetan script for the blind with the help of a Tibetan scholar.

Sabriye and Paul’s organization began in 1998 with one elementary school for six children. Today they run a preparatory school for children ages 5-15, vocational training (including medical massage and physiotherapy), and the Self-Integration Program, which gives children the self-confidence and base knowledge to integrate themselves into society. In addition, they have now ventured into India, creating the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs (IISE), which offers leadership training for future social innovators who want to make the world a better place. 

BWB is also featured in the award-winning documentary Blindside, which recounts how Sabriye, Paul, and six of their students attempt to summit Lhakpa Ri, the 23,000 foot peak beside Mount Everest.

I was truly moved by their story and felt privileged to see their work in person. I feel they wholly embody Mahatma Ghandi’s appeal to “be the change you want to see in the world.”

There’s so much more to learn about BWB. You’ll find more information on their programs and students on their web site. If you’d like to donate towards their inspiring work, please click here.

Who inspires you to "be the change"?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Beyond Bonjour, Hola, and Privet

Want to combine a little education with your travel? Go beyond learning how to say "hello," "thank you," and "where can I find beer?" ("Wo finde ich Bier?" in German, if you're curious.) What better way to study a language than in its native country! Here are a few schools where you can scratch your academic itch.

{Photo by ilkerender}
Want to conquer Spanish in South America? Check out the Espanex Spanish Language School in Argentina. Their programs range from “Standard Spanish” to “Extreme Spanish and Paragliding.” Extreme indeed! You can even sign up for a class pairing Spanish and Tango, should you put your dancing feet to the test. Their web site also directs folks to internships and volunteer opportunities throughout Argentina. Campuses are located in Buenos Aires, Cordoba, and Bariloche.

{This could be you!}
Parlez-vous français? Non? You can rectify that by studying in Paris at Alliance Française, located a mere three blocks from the famed Luxembourg Gardens. With over 1,000 establishments in 136 countries, Alliance Française prides itself on being the leading cultural network worldwide. They offer both day and evening classes for beginners and advanced speakers. Prefer a more low-key location for your French study? Take a look at French in Normandy.

{Meet this lady personally at Peterhof}
Craving caviar, opulence, and copious amounts of vodka? Russia’s calling! You can study right in the heart of historic St. Petersburg at Liden & Denz. The only Russian members of the International Association of Language Centres (IALC), they offer courses for academic, leisure, or business purposes as well as teacher training and classes for seniors. Liden & Denz also have a campus in Moscow, should your travels take you there.

You can find handy reviews of these and other language schools across the globe at My Language Travel.

Atención linguaphiles! Share your language study experience.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Today In Travel News

Southwest acquires AirTran. CNN says it's thumbs up for Air-Trannies.

Huffington Post's Matthew Long sounds off on respect - or lack thereof - for gay and lesbian travelers.

The Washington Post reviews Catherine Price's 101 Places Not to See Before You Die.

Only 668 days until London 2012. Russell Brand hosting the Opening Ceremonies, please.

Tnooz releases the most popular US travel websites. Ping hasn't made the list....yet.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Travelzoo beckons, “Let me guide you, my Children of the Recession…”

Planning a trip to DC? Check out Travelzoo’s hotel deals.
I am a Travelzoo VIP. Impressed? Well, there’s 20,999,999 other Travelzoo VIPs so don’t get too excited. And you can be one, too! What’s Travelzoo, you ask?

Travelzoo publishes the best travel deals available from over 2,000 travel companies. According to their web site, their team researches, evaluates and tests thousands of deals to find those with true value and recommend only deals whose accuracy and availability they can confirm. I’ve booked a few trips through Travelzoo and can personally say I’ve yet to be disappointed. Deals include not only flights, but hotels, vacation packages, cruises, and even theater tickets.

This week’s highlights include:

$49 & up – American Launches New Fall Fare Sale (each way)

$69.50 – New York City: Orchestra Seats to Mary Poppins; save $52

$240 – Grand Opening: NYC Times Square Hotel, 40% OFF

$1288 – Tokyo 5-Night Vacation incl. Tour & Airfare

To jump on Travelzoo’s discount bandwagon and get their weekly Top 20 newsletter, click here.

Traveling to a city outside this week’s deals? Check out Bing Travel. Bing’s "farecast technology" searches various sites for the best fares and actually predicts airfare pricing. Should you buy now or hold out for the price to drop? Bing will steer you in the right direction. Kind of like the Psychic Network, but legit. (No offense, Dionne.)

Frugal travelers unite! Where do you find the best travel deals?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Two years ago, I traveled to the Brazilian Amazon.

It was there I experienced a few firsts…

First ride in a sea plane.
(Water landings = awesome!)

First spider monkey sighting.

First tarantula-in-the-wild sighting.
(Note: photo is blurry because the person taking it – might have been me – was a bit startled, a little frightened, and maybe nearly capsized her canoe.)  

First Brazilian sunset.

First Victoria amazonica.
(ie ginormous Amazon lily pad)

First viewing of the Meeting of the Waters,
where the amply named Rio Negro meets the sandy-colored Rio Solimões.

Rainforest adventurer? What was your Amazonian first?
(Keep it clean, people.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fromage a Go Go

{Photo by Justus Hayes/Shoes on Wires}

When traveling, I love tasting local cuisine. However, there’s one meal I must have, regardless of locale, where the menu remains the same – wine, baguette, cheese. Perch yourself on a park bench and you have The Voyeur’s Picnic! What better way to feel the rhythm of a city/town/hamlet than with vino and fromage in hand? 

Here’s a guide to finding the best cheese and people-watching spots in some of my favorite cities:

Amsterdam – Abraham Kef
Did you know there’s an entire town in The Netherlands named Gouda? Guess who got really excited when she learned that little piece of trivia? Sadly, I never made it to Gouda, but enjoyed cheese from the same name in the country’s capital city, Amsterdam. New York Times-approved Abraham Kef can meet all of your pasteurized and unpasteurized needs. Where to noche? Canals, baby, canals! Marnixstraat 192; Tel: +31-20-626-2210.

 Bangkok – Quintessence
Always a bit of a challenge to find a plethora of artisanal cheese in Asia, Bangkok’s Quintessence provides the cheese-lover with over 300 varieties. Pick your rind then head to Lumphini Park to watch joggers and tai chi practitioners while you imbibe. (Yes, I recognize the irony.) 116/1 Soi 23 Sukhumvit Road, BTS: Promphong; Tel: +66 (0) 2 662 3578.

Chicago – Pastoral
Ken Miller and Greg O’Neill can provide your entire picnic in one stop – wine, bread, and artisanal cheeses to boot. Take your sack full of goodies and walk over to Millennium Park to watch people interact with Cloud Gate. Lakeview, Loop, and Chicago French Market; Tel: +1-773-472-4781.

Montréal – La Fromagerie Hamel
One of the best ways to enjoy beautiful Montréal is on foot. When the dogs start barking, rest up on a bench in Lafontaine Park with some cheese, charcuterie, and bakery bits from La Fromangerie Hamel. Five locations; Tel: +1 514-272-1161.

Seattle – Beecher’s Handmade Cheese
Home of the “world’s best” macaroni and cheese, this lively shop is just steps away from Pike Place Market. Grab a few hunks, find a spot on the dock, and watch Puget Sound go by. If you’re in need of a caffeine fix or simply crave a touristy photo op (no judgment), the original Starbucks is just a saunter down the street. 1600 Pike Place; Tel: +1 206-322-1644.

Fellow fromage lovers! Where do you get your fix? 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Around the World in 30 Bytes - Inaugural Edition!

I love blogs. I read travel blogs of course, but what really got me trolling the blogosphere was food. Glorious food! I found cooking tricks and techniques from across the globe by some very talented food bloggers. So here’s a new recurring “series” called Around the World in 30 Bytes to share what's bookmarked in my virtual recipe box.

Today’s edition is All About Schokolade.

Atlanta Byte: Bakerella’s Congo Bars. Cookie walks into a bar and meets Brownie. Passionate love ensues. 

Cape Cod Byte: Vanilla Sugar’s peanut butter, chocolate chunk, and bacon cookies. Do I really need to elaborate?

Nashville Byte: Ezra Pound Cake’s chocolate orange fondue. I know it’s still a bit warm here in the northern hemisphere, but, for me, fondue is a four seasons affair.

Paris Byte: David Lebovitz’ banana and chocolate upside down cake. David shares hundreds of delicious recipes on his blog. Check it out and bake away. Then send me some.

Sydney Byte: Almost Bourdain’s Kit Kat and Jelly Bean birthday cake. Line an iced cake with Kit Kat bars?? Sold.

Byte me! What’s your favorite food blog?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gettin' Salty in Portland has named Portland, Oregon as one of their September Top Picks. I couldn’t agree more!

Earlier this year, I traveled to Portland with my friend Erin on a whirlwind trip through the Pacific Northwest. Friendly folks, mild climate, and good brew are phrases that come to mind. I didn’t spend nearly enough time there, but here are some highlights:

Light Rail

As a car-free, public transportation patron for the past eight years, I found Portland’s light rail to be a winning system. Easy to use, clean, and runs frequently. Really all you can ask for in public transport – yet somehow rarely find.

Tax-free Shopping

Did you know there’s no sales tax in Oregon? Neither did I! You can support one of Portland’s many independent retailers and still have leftover cash in your pocket for that pint of Rogue. Speaking of…


BridgePort, Widmer Brothers Gasthaus Pub, McMenamins...and that’s just the beginning, folks.

Powell’s Books
Probably one of the most well-known independent bookstores in the US (now with seven stores in the Portland area), pop in here to buy new or used books, attend a book reading, or lessen your travel load by selling them your used books. Want to support the indie book scene from your desktop? Powell’s entire inventory is available for online purchase.

Gourmet Sea Salt
Sadly, we had no time on our trip to visit The Meadow, a gourmet shop specializing in sea salt, among other items. I nearly wept. Why, you ask? Sugar Maple Smoked Sea Salt? Bacon Barbeque Chef Salt? Black Truffle Salt?? You’d cry, too. For salt fanatics outside Portland, you can order online and also follow their mighty good-lookin’ blog, Salt News.

Struck by its dramatic natural beauty and vivacious cultural scene, I’m determined to make it back to Oregon soon to revisit Portland, explore the coast, and hit up some wineries.

Plus, I really, really want some black truffle salt. Seriously.

What’s your favorite stop on the “Oregon Trail”?