The US Allows You To Go To Cuba, If Your Name Is Beyonce Or Jay-Z

Cuba off limits? No way.

Forget travel restrictions… if you’re Beyonce that is.

For their fifth wedding anniversary, Beyonce and Jay-Z picked Havana as the spot to celebrate their marital bliss, and were granted the right to go by the United States Treasury Department.

Although the Obama administration has eased restrictions on travel to Cuba, most Americans have to jump through lots of bureaucratic hoops to receive permission to get there.

What happens when a famous person gets to do what most of the rest of us don’t? It causes a bit of a media storm. Beyonce was referred to as a tool of “Castro propaganda” and the trip was highly criticized. Maybe the Obama administration was chalking it up to “cultural exchange”?

Wherever you stand on the Cuba issue, the Beyonce/Jay-Z effect has done one thing: bring U.S.-Cuba relations front and center in traditional media. If TMZ is talking about it, it must be important.

[Photo credit: JMParonne]

GeoEx Introduces 5 New Adventurous Destinations For 2013

GeoEx has five new trips for 2013As one of the best adventure travel companies on the planet, GeoEx (formerly Geographic Expeditions) is always looking for opportunities to visit new and unique destinations. For 2013, they’ve added five such places to their line-up, giving travelers a chance to explore the cultures and landscapes of some of the most fascinating countries on the planet.

The five new itineraries include a 10-day trip through Kipling’s Burma, which takes travelers to Myanmar to explore sacred temples and cruise the Irrawaddy River. GeoEx will also return to Cuba this year, taking guests on a trip though that nation’s living history. Those longing to experience Africa will be enthralled with their excursion to the iconic Namib Desert, where they’ll track wildlife in Namibia’s remarkable wilderness. A visit to Eastern Turkey will take travelers on a tour through the past, visiting the sites of numerous ancient empires, while the new Sri Lanka Explorer itinerary is an adventure that wanders from beautiful beaches to lush rainforests, before continuing on to mountain heights.

These new options are just a sampling of what GeoEx has to offer. The company organizes trips to just about every corner on the globe and chances are if there is a destination you want to visit, they can help you get there. Check out their full catalog online and you’ll begin to get a true sense of all the travel opportunities that they can provide.

[Photo Credit: GeoEx]

Happy 100th: 15 Places To Celebrate Centennials In 2013

A new year isn’t just the time to look ahead, it’s also the time to look back and commemorate. 2013 marks plenty of centennials, from the birth of civil rights activists to metro lines. Here is your chance to not only explore new destinations, but also learn a little bit about the past with a list of places that all have something worth celebrating this year.

If you’re looking to help celebrate a few centennials in 2013, look no further.

Glacier Park Lodge, Montana, USA
Opening to guests on June 15, 2013, the Glacier Park Lodge has become a focal point of the park. Built on the Blackfeet Reservation, the land was purchased from the Piegan, a tribe of the Blackfeet Nation, and at its opening, hundreds of Blackfeet Indians erected teepees around the lodge. Today it features 161 rooms and can accommodate up to 500 people.

National Museum of Fine Arts, Cuba
Located in Old Havane the National Museum of Fine Arts houses both a Cuban specific collection as well as a universal one, including ancient art from Egypt, Greece and Rome. The museum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tour de France, France
One hundred years of mountain stages, yellow jerseys and champagne finishes, Tour de France 2013 should be a momentous occasion. The centennial edition kicks off in Corsica on June 29, and in an attempt to celebrate the beauty of the country that is its namesake, the route is 100% in France, the first time in 10 years.
Washington State Parks, USA
If there ever was a time to take advantage of the outdoors in the Pacific Northwest, it’s this year. For Centennial 2013, explore the state’s extensive network of beautiful spaces, complete with yurts, rustic cabins and the occasional mountain goat.

Metro Line 8, Paris, France
Serving some of the City of Light’s most iconic stops like Invalides, Opera and Bastille, Métro Line 8 was the last line of the original 1898 Paris Metro plan. Opened on July 13, 1913 (one day before French independence day), it is the only Paris underground line to cross the Seine and the Marne above ground, via a bridge.

Grand Central Terminal, New York, USA
An iconic hub of travel, Grand Central Terminal in New York City is known for its Beaux-Arts architecture, and the pure romanticism of adventure that it induces. After almost a decade of renovation, on opening day on February 2, 1913, it welcomed over 150,000 people from all over the city. It’s no surprise that Grand Central Terminal has a year of events planned, and maybe it’s time we all took a commemorative train ride.

Soccer fields, USA
The U.S. Soccer Federation is celebrating its 100 years on the field with a variety of events throughout the year, but a special emphasis will be on the U.S. Women’s National Team’s matches, and the U.S. Men’s National Team’s campaign to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which means for soccer fans, there are plenty of places around the country to celebrate.

Konzerthaus, Vienna, Austria
Home to the Vienna Symphony, the Konzerthaus is a hub of classical music. With a goal of emphasizing both traditional and innovative music styles, it hosts several music festivals a year. In a season it hosts over 750 events, resulting in around 2,500 compositions.

Rosa Parks Museum, Montgomery, Alabama, USA
Civil rights activist Rosa Parks would have turned 100 this year, and in her honor the Rosa Parks Museum is coordinating the Rosa Parks 100th Birthday Wishes Project. They have been collecting words and inspiration from visitors and 1,000 will be chosen from the Montgomery area and 1,000 from around the state and country. Take part in the celebration on February 4, Parks’ birthday.

Bangladesh National Museum, Bangladesh
One of the largest museums in Southeast Asia, the Bangladesh National Museum started out as Dhaka Museum in 1913. Besides the standard collections of archaeology, classical art and natural history pieces that national museums are traditionally known for, it also illustrates the freedom struggle that ended in the liberation of Bangladesh.

Museo Teatrale alla Scala, Milan, Italy
Attached to the famous Scala Theater in Milan, the Museo Teatrale alla Scala holds over 100,000 works that relate to history, opera and ballet. In the hallways you’ll find musical instruments and portraits of great singers to have graced the theater. A must for any classical music or opera lover.

Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh, Scotland
The 82-acre Edinburgh zoo, is home to the UK’s only Giant Pandas, which are a huge hit with locals. They also have a Squirrel Monkey cam for your viewing pleasure. With over 1,000 animals, the zoo has an extensive list of activities to celebrate its 100th year.

Karachi Race Club, Pakistan
You rarely hear of people traveling to Pakistan for the horses, but the Karachi Race Club has now been attracting racing fans for a full 100 years. The biggest racecourse of Pakistan, seven to ten races are held at Karachi Race Club every Sunday.

Konzerthaus, Vienna, Austria
Home to the Vienna Symphony, the Konzerthaus is a hub of classical music. With a goal of emphasizing both traditional and innovative music styles, it hosts several music festivals a year. In a season it hosts over 750 events, resulting in around 2,500 compositions.

Line A, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Opened to the public on December 1, 1913, Line A was the first line of the the first working subway system in the southern hemisphere. Today it is used by over 200,000 people a day. Until recently, some of the line’s original La Brugeoise trains were still in use, but are now slated to be replaced by more modern day cars, and the line itself is set for reconstruction in mid-January.

[Photo credits: davidwilson1949, ChrisProtopapa, s4nt1, infrogmation, Diego3336]

Cubans Set To Travel, Now Free To Come And Go

cubans

Starting today, travel for Cubans is a whole new ballgame, mainly because they no longer need an exit visa to leave the island nation. That might not sound like much to get excited about but for Cubans, that exit visa was seen as a major obstacle for those who wanted to travel in the past.

In the past, U.S./Cuban relations have made leaving Cuba difficult for its citizens. To get off the island, travelers had to get a letter of invitation from the person they wanted to visit, pay a $200 fee and get permission to be away from work.

“As far as I know, Cuba is the only country with these rules. They shouldn’t exist,” argued Yenier Prado, who had to wait four months to get his exit permit in a BBC report.

Now, Cuban travelers with a valid passport can stay away for two years instead of 11 months and extend that time further, skipping the fees and permission/invitation to travel. Better yet, Cubans who left illegally over eight years ago will be able to return to Cuba, no questions asked.
The idea is that by making it easier to travel, more Cubans will work and study abroad then come back to Cuba with their new skills and money.

As a developing nation, Cubans will still need visas to visit most places around the planet. The United States issues about 20,000 immigrant visas for Cubans each year. Still, this marks a great step in the right direction.

Over the years, many Cubans tried getting to the United States via homemade rafts and were often picked up by cruise ships in the area, only to be eventually returned to Cuba. That’s because of what is referred to as the Wet Foot/Dry Foot rule, which allows those who make it to the shores of the United States to stay while those intercepted are returned, as we see in this recent video:



[Photo Credit- Flickr User flippinyank]

Photo Of The Day: Urban Decay In Cuba

photo of the day

Oi from Rio de Janeiro, where I’m traveling and soaking up some serious holiday sun. Staying at a guest house in bohemian Santa Teresa, I got to talking to artists and curators from all over the world the other night about cities. We talked about cities going through urban renewal and creative renaissance, such as here in Rio, Berlin, Havana, and even Detroit. The meaning of the phrase “ruin porn” made sense across multiple languages and cultures, and how popular that type of photography is with travelers. Today’s Photo of the Day shows some urban “decay” in Cuba‘s Havana, but I wouldn’t call it a ruin. It’s a more hopeful image; we can imagine that it’s not a decaying building, but a house in transition. The fraying image of the Cuban woman and the colored buildings are proof that someone tried to make it beautiful.

Share your beautiful urban images in the Gadling Flickr pool for a future Photo of the Day.

[Photo credit: Flickr user irr.licht]