Google Makes Travel Easier For Lazy People

Google Takes on Hawaii's Hiking Trails
Google’s ongoing world digitization is opening up some very cool travel experiences to people sitting in front of their laptops and tablets. Now, rather than spending thousands of dollars, lots of vacation time and a decent amount of physical exertion to see these places, you can arrive by a click and multi-task your exploring as you commute to work, procrastinate a project or tune out in a meeting.
Last fall Google Maps debuted a “street view” of the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs, allowing armchair travelers with no diving or even swimming ability to take a peek at the world’s greatest underwater treasures.

More recently the site teamed up with the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau to feature Hawaiian hiking trails on Google Street View. Hiking guides on the Big Island will carry Google’s cameras on roughly 20 of the Islands’ best trails, stitching together a 360-degree experience that people can enjoy anywhere.

Another recent addition to Street View will please Harry Potter fans who can’t make the trip across the pond to London’s Warner Bros. Studio Tour. Muggles can now tour Diagon Alley and the wizarding shops it houses through Street View.

Google Maps isn’t the only thing bringing travel experiences to the masses. Though still in its infancy, Google Glass is expected to change the way people document and share their travel experiences. This year a Running of the Bulls competition invited two Google Glass users to Pamplona to view the annual San Fermin festival events. While the Glassers aren’t expected to actually run with the bulls (too bad, that’s something we wouldn’t mind having Google do for us!), they’ll be watching the bull run from a balcony and sharing the experience via a daily webcast.

It’s doubtful that Google’s online presentations will actually keep people from wanting to experience these places in real life, but we’re intrigued about what other experiences will become available to interactive travelers. Climbing Mount Everest? Surfing Jaws? Space travel?

Where do you want your maps app to take you next?

Video Of The Day: Woman’s Painful Escape While Running With Bulls

A woman narrowly outruns a trio of bulls stampeding through the streets, only to find herself having a run-in of a different kind. Her painful escape is a reminder that running of the bulls ceremonies often result in serious injuries, most of which aren’t directly caused by bulls. In Pamplona, Spain, the most famous location for this type of event, between 200 and 300 people are injured during the runs each year. Most injuries are minor, but according to Wikipedia, 15 people have been killed in Pamplona since record keeping began in 1924 – most by goring or suffocation. If the idea of being chased by bulls still sounds like a good time, the tradition is running strong in cities and towns throughout Spain, Portugal and Mexico.

[Video: Mortationparkour on YouTube]

BBC mapping tool Dimensions creates unique mashups

Ever wondered about the size of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome? Or the how long the infamous Running of the Bulls route is in Spain? The BBC has a great new mapping tool, called Dimensions, to help give visitors and interesting perspective on these unique sights, historical marvels and famous events. Dimensions drops the outline of famous cities, tourist hot-spots and historical points of interest onto a Google Maps view of any postal zip code, creating a uniquely personal context for these well-known places.

To give Dimensions a try, stop by the BBC’s new website, over at www.howbigreally.com. You’ll be presented with nine different topics to map, pulled from a mix of news topics and places: The War on Terror, Space, Depths, Ancient Worlds, Environmental Disasters, Festivals, The Industrial Age, World War II Battle of Britain and Cities in History. As you browse the various choices, dropping the maps onto your hometown, unique insights come to light. For instance, who knew the camp at Nevada’s Burning Man Festival was bigger than the Chicago Loop? Or that the circumference of the Moon is about as big as the entire United States?

BBC Dimensions isn’t just a fun toy. Taken in the larger context of journalism and travel, it represents an innovative way to put news stories and tourist destinations in perspective. Our experience of the world is ultimately derived from what we know. By helping us understand important places in a new way, BBC Dimensions makes the abstract something more than mere stories in a newspaper or photos in a guidebook. A new type of map to help us make sense of the world.

Photo of the Day (06.14.10)

Ever been in a situation that caused you to analyze every decision you made leading up to you arriving in that moment? I remember one time when I was on stage at a sex show in Amsterdam. There was a man in a gorilla suit that was – shall we say – anatomically correct. And his phallus discharged a liquid that I dearly hope believe was water. I don’t know why I was on that stage nor do I recall what my role in the audience participation segment of that show was. I just know that it was awkward. And erotic.

As for the gentleman on the ground in this photo by Flickr user MurrayJ3, well, he’s probably screwed. And he most certainly wonders how the hell he ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. One can only assume that alcohol and/or hubris was involved. But probably just alcohol.

Have you run with the bulls in Pamplona? Have pictures of other amazing festivals or wild travel adventures? Upload them to our Flickr pool and we might choose your photo to feature as a Photo of the Day.

The Original Running of the Bulls

Each week, Gadling is taking a look at our favorite festivals around the world. From music festivals to cultural showcases to the just plain bizarre, we hope to inspire you to do some festival exploring of your own. Come back each Wednesday for our picks or find them all HERE.

Most people outside of Spain got their first glimpse of los encierros (The Running of the Bulls) thanks to the 1926 Ernest Hemingway novel, The Sun Also Rises. Inspired by Pamplona’s San Fermín festival, his novel in turn has inspired millions to visit, and even participate in, this most unusual and iconic celebration. What few people realize, even in Spain, is that Pamplona is not the only place where los encierros are performed. To experience the most historic of these fiestas with an authentic flair, head inland to Cuéllar.

The small Segovian village of Cuéllar, north of Madrid, has been hosting its own running of the bulls, Los Encierros de Cuéllar, the last week in August every year since 1499 (and possesses historical documentation referencing dates as early as 1215), a celebration which few outsiders have witnessed.

Despite the town’s modest fame, tourism from the surrounding villages can double the town’s small population over the week of the festival, giving a welcome boost to the agricultural economy.

A foreign visitor to Cuéllar, Spain, which is relatively hidden away and known only to those with a family or geographical connection, will find that the town is as interested in them as they are in it and its celebrations, and they will feel welcomed and encouraged to take part.

Want to learn more about this lesser-known Spanish festival? Keep reading below…To kick off the festival, the peñas (groups of friends) convert garages and storage spaces into makeshift dens where they can eat, drink, and gather for the week. The peñas then parade in the town square for the pregón, or opening ceremony, where the guest of honor (usually a minor Spanish celebrity) addresses the crowd and the queen of the fiesta is presented. What ensues is a heady mix of drinking, street parties, tapas (fried pig’s ear is one local specialty, exquisitely prepared by the Las Bolas cafe, Calle de San Pedro, 20), live music, and, of course, the running of the bulls.

It is the locals that make this rural Spanish festival really special and most are more than happy to indulge visitors with stories of the fiesta and the village’s history. One former fiesta queen, Cecilia, now in her late nineties, loves to share stories about strange, inexplicable happenings at the fiesta. In one of her favorites, a local man was cornered and attacked by a bull years ago and left miraculously unharmed, but stark naked.

While Cuéllar may seem like another world, travel there is simple. Daily buses from Madrid’s central station carry passengers from the capitol in 90 minutes, adding accessibility to the charm and wonder of the place known to its residents as “la isla en un mar de pinos,” or “the island in a sea of pine trees.” Want to check out this year’s festivities? Make your way to Spain at the end of August to check out this great Spanish celebration.