Learn Spanish With Lonely Planet’s Fluent Road

Learn Spanish Fluent Road
Courtesy of FluentRoad.com

Traveling to Spain or Latin America this summer and want to say more than “Donde esta el bano?” (though, that’s an important one to know)? Lonely Planet has just launched a new online foreign language program, Fluent Road, partnering with Spanish language program Fluenz. The focus is on Spanish for now, but you can choose from dialects from Argentina, “neutral” Latin America, Mexico, or Spain.

Fluent Road is designed for travelers to get the basics before a trip: Spanish for transportation, finding accommodation, ordering food, etc. It’s also a good stepping-stone to a more intensive learning program, and travelers could easily work up to a Fluenz course after completing Fluent Road. What differentiates this from other language learning like Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur is a dissection of the language, showing you how Spanish works and providing explanations, not just rote immersion. Fluenz founder and avid traveler Sonia Gil guides you through obstacles, pronunciation, and practice speaking, writing and reading as a native speaker and “language geek.”

As with all online learning, you can go at your own pace; there are 30 video lessons that can be completed in one to six months. Other useful features include the ability to record yourself to compare pronunciation a native Speaker, and customizable digital flash cards to help practice. You can also contact the teacher and program designer via Twitter.

Take a free 12-hour trial now, subscriptions start from $9 for a month to $30 for six months of access, at www.fluentroad.com.

Photo Of The Day: Guatemalan Ice Cream Truck

Photo of the Day - Guatemalan ice cream
Adam Baker, Flickr


I’m traveling in Sicily this week, and was reminded how crummy the aptly named Continental breakfast can be in this part of Europe: a cup of coffee (the only time of day it is socially acceptable to have a cappuccino, incidentally) and a roll or small pastry. While I’m not a person who starts every day with steak, eggs and a short stack, the Italian “breakfast” makes me yearn for an English fry-up, or the protein-heavy array of cheeses in Turkey and Russia. The good news (for me, at least) is that in Sicily in the summer, it is customary to have gelato for breakfast. An ideal scoop of a nutty flavor like pistachio, tucked inside a slightly sweet brioche, makes for a quite satisfying breakfast sandwich. Ice cream is a thing we tend to eat more of on vacation, and it’s always fun to try local flavors and variations. You know, in the name of cultural research.

Today’s Photo of the Day by Flickr user AlphaTangoBravo shows an ice cream cart in Guatemala. Guatemalans love to add strawberry syrup to their ice cream, and carts are found year-round in Antigua, but sensitive stomachs should be warned: the street cart stuff is likely to cause worse than an ice cream headache.

Share your travel food photos in the Gadling Flickr pool (Creative Commons, please) and you might see it as a future Photo of the Day.

Video Of The Day: Modern Day ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’

Before beginning his doctorate in biomedical sciences, “Alex the Adventure Biker” took a break to realize his lifelong dream: to ride a motorcycle through the Americas. Over the course of nearly a year and a half, he rode his bike through 22 countries as he made his way from El Paso, Texas, to Argentina and then back up through Brazil and all the way to Alaska – a journey of more than 82,000 miles.

“In short I drove solo half way around the world, through interstates, highways, dirt roads, no roads, mud, rivers, through hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, rain, hail, sun shine, snow, ice roads you name it and I made it back,” the adventurous biker wrote on his website. Ride along and check out the varied landscape as he saw it (and some disco dancing, too) in the video above, which was created from more than 600 hours of footage.

Three New Experiential Eco-Fashion Trips Taking Off This Summer

This summer, three new eco-fashion-oriented package tours will offer the chance for ethical designers, makers and consumers to meet artisan communities, take workshops in craft production and see the impact of their conscious purchasing decisions.

While different in structure, these trips all offer the chance to travel along an artisan product’s supply chain, from visiting farming communities in Ecuador, to knitting with naturally dyed alpaca yarn in Peru, to shopping finished products in Guatemalan boutiques.

Even for people who don’t geek out on beautiful textiles and hand looms, these trips offer a different way to travel, one that emphasizes connections with the people behind your souvenirs.

Awamaki-Kollabora Collaborative Crafting Workshop

When: May 25 to June 2, 2013
Where: Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Perfect for: Students, or travelers who seek an authentic off-the-beaten-path experience
What: “A cross-cultural tour pairing you with a Rumira knitter to develop a Kollabora knit item using local, hand-spun alpaca yarn. We trace the entire creation of your project through hands-on engagement: visiting alpaca farms high in the Andes to source fleece, learning to spin fleece into soft yarns, dyeing yarn skeins with native plant dyes alongside Quecha weavers, and studying the local backstrap loom.”
Accommodations: Home-stays with Awamaki’s host families.
Side trips: Incan ruins, markets in Cusco, Machu Picchu.
Organized by: Kollabora, an online community for DIY inspiration, projects, skills and supplies, in partnership with Awamaki, a non-profit that supports artisan groups in Peru’s Sacred Valley.
Price: $1,799, which includes home-stay accommodations, most meals, day trips, guides and crafting materials. Fee does not cover international airfare to/from Cusco, visas, travel or health insurance, tips and personal purchases.
For more information: Visit the trip description page or email peru@kollabora.com.Mercado Global Insight Trip: Community Empowerment

When: June 30 to July 4, 2013
Where: Lake Atitlan and Antigua, Guatemala
Perfect for: People who are curious about social enterprise models and their impact on communities. Mercado Global also offers a Women Helping Women trip for women interested in mentoring and a Financial Empowerment trip for people interested in the entrepreneurial side of rural artisan businesses.
What: “An exclusive week-long journey that fuses service, leadership, and once-in-a-lifetime cultural exchange. Attendees will meet the indigenous Maya women we partner with in the Guatemalan highlands and learn about how their transformation into leaders has impacted their families and their communities.”
Accommodations: Four-star lodging in Lake Atitlan and Antigua.
Side trips: Boat trip to Santiago Atitlan, tours of colonial Antigua.
Organized by: Mercado Global, a social enterprise that links rural indigenous artisans to international markets in order to break the cycle of poverty.
Price: $1900, which includes accommodations, all meals, local transportation, guides and translation and staff support. Fee does not cover airfare.
For more information: Visit the website or contact Leah Vinton at community@mercadoglobal.org.

Fashion Designers Without Borders Immersive Sourcing Safari

When: July 22 to 28, 2013
Where: Quito, Tena and Otavalo, Ecuador
Perfect for: Fashion industry professionals who want to explore opportunities to collaborate with developing world artisans. Other sourcing safaris have taken place in Kenya and Guatemala.
What: “Climb volcanoes, trek the Amazon and get lost in cloud forests. Ecuador’s atmospheric landscapes, resources and people will enchant you. Recognize new opportunities in accessories development. Appreciate the unique resources of this truly magical place.”
Accommodations: Four- to five-star hotels in Otavalo (in the Andes), Quito and Tena (in the Amazon).
Side trips: Activities at an Amazon jungle lodge, trip to the Inga Alpaca Farm, tour of colonial Quito.
Organized by: The Supply Change, a consultancy that connects the fashion industry with global artisan communities, in partnership with The Andean Collection, a line of handcrafted accessories with a social mission.
Price: $4000, including accommodations, meals, day trips and local transportation. Fee does not cover airfare.
For more information: Visit the website or contact Chrissie Lam at chrissie@thesupplychange.org.

[Photo Credit: Mercado Global]

Can You Afford To Stay At A Celebrity-Owned Hotel?

Tennis star Andy Murray, one of the U.K.’s most famous athletes and the reigning Olympic gold medalist, recently purchased the Cromlix House Hotel near his hometown of Dunblane, Scotland. Now closed for renovations, the country manor is expected to reopen in the spring, in time for the 2014 Ryder Cup golf tournament.

Perhaps more than any other sport, tennis requires its stars to become globetrotters. The biggest tournaments take place in the world’s most cosmopolitan locales – Dubai, Paris, Madrid, Miami, Shanghai, Monte Carlo – and as much, a multimillionaire star like Murray should know what constitutes a fine hotel.

Still, he’s the rare athlete that has made a foray into hospitality, a hobby (or investment) favored by Hollywood celebs. There’s no shortage of A-listers in the hotel game. And – surprise – staying under their roofs isn’t always a big-budget proposition.

Actor John Malkovich offers the cheapest access to star style. He’s a (reportedly hands-on) investor in The Big Sleep, a chain of budget hotels in England. Basic but contemporary, they advertise rates starting at £29, and reviews commonly cite rates around £50. In Dublin, U2’s Bono and The Edge revamped The Clarence, and rates at the historic property starts at a modest £109.

Director Francis Ford Coppola owns five hotels in Belize, Guatemala, Argentina, and Italy. Both of his top-rated resorts in Belize, Turtle Inn (pictured, top) and Blancaneaux Lodge, ring in under $300 in the offseason (and start upwards of $350 in high season). But La Lancha, his Guatemalan lakefront rainforest lodge, offers rooms in the low season for $125.Stateside, there aren’t many deals to be had. Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort in Utah is hard to book for less than $250 per night. Doris Day’s longtime pet-haven coastal hotel, Cypress Inn in Carmel, California, has online rates starting at $185 (plus $30 per pet – a small price for getting to frolic on the beach off-leash and accompany owners to all 12 restaurants). Cooking-show royalty Paula Deen rents her two-bedroom beach house on Georgia’s Tybee Island, named Y’all Come Inn, for around $295 per night.

Yet those rates don’t come close to the prices that Richard Gere and Robert DeNiro command at their New York properties. Gere co-owns Westchester County’s luxurious Bedford Post Inn, where getaways start at $400 per night. DeNiro’s posh pad in downtown Manhattan, The Greenwich Hotel, runs $525 and up – topping even Donatella Versace’s resort on Australia’s Gold Coast, the grand Palazzo Versace (pictured), which starts in the $300 to $400 range per night.

[Photo credits: top, Turtle Inn by Coppola Resorts; bottom, Palazzo Versace]