Tennis legend Martina Navratilova to climb Kilimanjaro

Martina Navratilova to climb Kilimanjaro54-year old tennis legend Martina Navratilova is in Tanzania this week where she’ll be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa at 19,340 feet. She is making the climb to raise funds for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting sportsmanship and a code of conduct in athletics, around the world.

The nine-time Wimbledon singles winner has never been above 12,000 feet before, so the altitude could prove to be a bit of a challenge. She lives in Aspen, Colorado however, so has a good level of acclimatization before ever arriving on the mountain. Navratilova doesn’t seem too concerned about the challenges of the climb though, as she has called the trek “just a basic hike.”

She does hope to raise 100,000 euros, or about $134,000 through the donation page on the Laureus webpage. A little more than half of that amount was already raised before she after left for Africa.

While still playing professional tennis, Martina was viewed as one of the toughest competitors to ever set foot on the court. During her long career she won 167 individuals titles, including 31 Grand Slams, and dominated the sport like no woman before or since. When she reaches the top of Kilimanjaro, she plans to hit tennis balls off the summit of course.


Galley Gossip: Celebrity passenger claimed to have special powers

Tom Cruise.

It’s not often I get to start a Galley Gossip post with that name! But that’s the name several readers mentioned after I asked if they could guess which celebrity passenger offered to assist an unconscious woman with his “special powers” on the airplane. Honest to God, I wouldn’t joke about something as serious as this!

It’s interesting to note that Gary Busey, Depak Chopra, Uri Geller, and the Director General of the FBI were also mentioned as celebrities possibly possessing a very unique power. Tom Cruise, however, won the poll by a landslide with twenty-three votes. I wonder if Mr. Cruise is even aware that so many people believe him to be to powerful?!

“Tom Cruise has one power, jumping on Oprah’s couch!” said a reader named Jeff after I posed the question.

Another reader named Neil said, “It’s true. Tom Cruise had special powers over my wife at one time. She’s outgrown him though.”

Now that I’m thinking about it perhaps Tom Cruise does have – or had – special powers! Then again maybe I just have a lot in common with Neil’s wife! Whatever the case, I do know that the celebrity passenger in question was not Tom Cruise, or any one of the other people mentioned above. Unfortunately I am unable to name the passenger (I’d like to keep my job), but I will tell you exactly what happened. Just remember this is Galley Gossip, first class 767 galley gossip to be precise. That said I’m fairly certain the source is a reliable one.

THE STORY …Years ago a celebrity passenger boarded a flight in Dallas. He and his bodyguards took up the entire first class cabin. That’s twenty-two seats on a 757. At some point during boarding one of the bodyguards informed the lead flight attendant that while the celebrity usually didn’t mind signing autographs, he wasn’t feeling well that day and wanted to be left alone. He then told the flight attendant that no one in their party would be needing anything during the flight and that they didn’t want anyone passing through first class unless absolutely necessary. That included the flight attendants. I should mention here that this happened before 9/11. Later on in flight a passenger seated in coach went unconscious. As a flight attendant passed through first class to grab the medical equipment, the celebrity passenger stopped her to ask what was going on. After the flight attendant informed him of the situation, the celebrity offered his assistance, and that’s when he mentioned his special powers.

Did the unnamed celebrity really have special powers? Maybe. Maybe not. According to the flight attendant involved in the situation it was hard to tell if the unconscious passenger came to because the celebrity had touched her with his special power or because her husband had become so overly excited by such a hugely famous person trying helping his wife that he kept knocking her in the arm while exclaiming the celebrities name over and over again. Then again it could have been a combination of both. So don’t underestimate a star’s power!

Photo courtesy of Cristilive

Learn the local celebrities – International travel tip

If you’re going overseas, especially for a longer trip like with studying abroad, a good way to ease the culture shock is to study up on the names in the news.

Every country has their own TV, movie, sports and political stars, and that’s who people will be talking about. If you want to be able to keep up with the local chatter, do a little studying before you leave so that you know who’s making buzz and why.

Being ready to name drop a few celebs will really make an impression on the people you meet as you travel.

[Photo: Flickr | cikaga jamie]

‘Tombstone Tourism’ on the rise, allows you to get close to your favorite celebs

Strapped for vacation cash? Spend a day with the dead. “Tombstone tourism” is on the rise. See fabulous artwork, enjoy nature and get within six feet of some of your favorite celebrities. Better yet, admission is always free. It’s a grave-cation!

Did you know that before Disneyland opened in 1955, Forest Lawn Memorial Park cemetery in Glendale was the number one tourist destination in the Los Angeles area? Or that the popularity of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn as a recreation site led to the establishment of Central Park in Manhattan in 1858?

Cemeteries, those places most of us strive to stay out of, are once again popular tourist destinations. Why? Part of the reason is that cemeteries, and historic cemeteries in particular, have become more “tourist-friendly.” With the rise in cremation (ashes and urns take a fraction of the space of a traditional burial plot) older cemeteries, many of which are essentially filled up, now have room for thousands more permanent residents. And they want us to visit. They’ve got free maps, ice cream socials, trolley tours, hayrack rides, lantern tours, outdoor movies, plays, concerts and more. Of course, they’d like us to consider staying there… forever. Not to worry; there aren’t any high-pressure sales tactics. Cemetery administrators are very patient people.

Whether you’re on a star search, looking for a place for a pleasant stroll or want to view and touch fabulous art, you’ll find it all in America’s historic cemeteries. Here are a few top tourist-friendly cemetery picks. Even if you don’t plan to be in these locales in the near future, you can always fly there by plugging the GPS coordinates into Google Earth.

WESTWOOD VILLAGE MEMORIAL PARK (34 3’31.07″N 118 26’30.47″W)
You won’t need a map for this postage-stamp-size cemetery just a stone’s throw from Rodeo Drive. There are hundreds of celebrities at your feet and in crypts. Of course, the most visited celebrity is Marilyn Monroe. And the empty crypt next to her? Reserved for the man who first exposed her in all her glory to the public: Hugh Hefner.FOREST LAWN GLENDALE (34 7’30.65″N 118 15’11.15″W)
This is the cemetery that started the trend of vast rolling lawns and flat markers. They have free maps that show you where to find full-scale replicas of Michelangelo’s David, the Labyrinth at Chartes, France, the Paradise Gates in Florence, Italy and much more. Forest Lawn is famously reticent about disclosing the location of celebrity graves, but you can find many of them in the recent book, Forever L. A..

Forest Lawn’s most recent A-list celebrity is Michael Jackson, who’s in the Holly Terrace mausoleum (34 7’23.95″N 118 14’51.83″W). You can even get married in one of Forest Lawn’s chapels, often for a fraction of the cost of a traditional chapel. Indeed, in 1940 Ronald Reagan married Jane Wyman at the Wee Kirk o’ the Heather chapel.


ST. LOUIS #1 CEMETERY, NEW ORLEANS (
29 57’32.89″N 90 4’15.89″W)
Urban legend has it that burials in New Orleans are above ground because of the high water table (from time to time people who were buried in the traditional way would percolate up to the surface). While that’s not the real reason for above ground burial in New Orleans, there is a long tradition of placing bodies in tombs and mausoleums rather than in the waterlogged earth.

Begin your tomb tour just off the French Quarter at St. Louis #1, New Orleans’ first permanent cemetery. It’s easy to spot the tomb of voodoo queen Marie Laveau: it has dozens of X’s scratched into the surface.

CAVE HILL CEMETERY, LOUISVILLE (38 14’36.91″N 85 43’35.36″W)
Pick up a box of fried chicken and make your way to this very tourist-friendly cemetery. Cave Hill rightly touts itself as an arboretum and has long been popular with Louisvillians as a place to stroll or jog. Thanks to a thriving artistic community, there’s a bonanza of fabulous sculptures dotting its immaculate grounds.

And don’t forget to pay your respects to Colonel Sanders. There’s often an empty red and white box or two reverentially laying beneath his bust. The cemetery staff will be happy to give you directions and a free map.


GREEN-WOOD CEMETERY, BROOKLYN (
40 39’29.23″N 73 59’40.56″W)
Green-Wood Cemetery, which was founded in 1838, was modeled on Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. It’s one of America’s most tourist-friendly cemeteries: just ask and they’ll give you a large foldout map, which pinpoints locations of famous residents. They also have a bookstore, conduct docent-directed trolley tours and sponsor lectures.

In the fall, Green-Wood participates in Open House New York and always opens some of their private mausoleums. Green-Wood is the last known address of many of New York’s late nineteenth century movers and shakers including Horace Greeley (“Go west young man”) and master designer Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Douglas R. Keister is a graveyard guru, who Sunset magazine said “has done for cemetery exploration what Audubon did for birding.” His 39 books include four books on cemeteries such as Stories in the Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography. Read his blog on Red Room. The photos above are all courtesy Douglas R. Keister.

Photo of the day (7.29.10)

Some of the best travel photos tell a story or capture a stranger in a private moment. This candid portrait of a woman in Tel Aviv, Israel reading in a window by Flavio@Flickr does both beautifully. What is she so absorbed in reading? It could be an alarming news story or a love poem, or she could just be catching up on the latest Lindsay Lohan antics. At any rate, her image tells an interesting story and invites the viewer to contemplate what could be going on inside the window.

Do your photos have a great story to tell? Upload them to Gadling’s Flickr group and we might use one for a future Photo of the Day.