Photo of the Day (8/12/2007)

I have to admit that my first reaction to this shot by Gadling Flickr contributor sarah.and.michael, was “someone got a new macro lens!”. As an amateur, very infrequently professional photographer myself, I immediately wanted to go to Ebay and buy myself a new macro lens. Alas, at $400 a pop, though, I think I’ll still hold back. And so, in the meantime, I have to content myself with lovely photos like this one, that shows a couple of flower stems in front of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

Crossing the “Ditch”

Ask any seasoned explorer and he/she will tell you that there are few “big firsts” left to do. Sure, the bottom of the ocean still holds a lot of promise since, as scientists say, some 70 percent of the deep ocean has never been explored. But up on the surface, there are few places man has not trod, and few big accomplishments he has not already made. Well apparently one of these firsts is crossing a stretch of nasty water known as The Ditch. The Ditch stretches between Australia and New Zealand, and according to this site, it has never been crossed in a two-man, human-propelled boat (aka kayak).

In late 2007, James Castrission and Justin Jones will kayak over 1000 miles across the Tasman Sea, from Australia to New Zealand. If they pull it off, it will be the first ever crossing and the longest two man kayak expedition ever undertaken. The pair have loaded up a finely-tuned, state-of-the-art two man kayak that looks more like a pace ship than a boat. They’ve got GPS and communication devices and have trained intensely for the effort. All the details of their prep can be seen here. Sounds like an amazing, perilous journey. We wish them well.

Any first-time visit to a city brings a host of potential problems. Among them, especially for the more budget-oriented, is finding a decent hotel to stay in, one that promises a measure of comfort and convenience, as well as cleanliness. Face it, if you look around on the Web for hotels, many of them appear quite different online than they are in person. This has happened to me before, for sure. Online the place looks lovely and well-tended. But when you get there, cockroaches skitter into the shadows and those pearly-white walls you saw on the Web site are soiled with water stains.

Well, if you are heading to Europe any time soon, you might be able to avoid this problem. A new site called offers video tours of European hotels. The site was created by managers of Expedia Europe, so you can be relatively sure the quality of the site is good. And it is. It is not only well organized, it is good-looking and easy to use.

I clicked through several of the tours and thought that if were were heading to, say, Paris, this could be a very useful research tool. In fact, I imagine that we’ll be seeing a lot more sites like this that allow you to check out tourist sights, restaurants and more. If a picture says a thousand words, a video says a million. Give it a look-see to see what I mean.

Reasons to Love San Diego

It’s hard to read this list of reasons to love San Diego from Budget Travel without picturing Ron Burgundy pointing at you and saying, “Stay classy San Diego”. Or maybe that’s just me. It’s not that I’m NOT a big fan of California’s southern most city. I actually lived there and taught windsurfing a loooong time ago on Mission bay. But taking a look at this list, I realized how much the city has changed since all those moons ago. A few of the classic SD stand-bys are there. Places like the world-class Zoo and Torrey Pines. But there are some lesser-known spots listed like dog beach and the 18,000-square-foot Newport Avenue Antique Center, the latter of which has little appeal to me, but is, I’m sure, a great inspiration to swap meet-o-philes everywhere. Laid-back, but still urban, San Diego makes for a great long weekend if you’re in California and is, of course, just a hop skip and an enchilada away from Mexico. The list here provides a solid start if you’re heading there looking to explore the city.