Travel gems and hidden secrets from

The winners of’s Million Mile Contest have been announced and their essays are posted on the website. Some essays offer a unique angle about a place where people might miss certain details if they didn’t know where or how to look.

The winner, Elizabeth Dwoskin of Brooklyn, New York wrote about Parque Lage, a jungle park in the middle of Rio De Janeiro. Within the reserve is my kind of place–Saint Teresa, a neighborhood of artists who live in 19th century mansions. Not one artist per mansion, but up to twenty. For her essay, Dwoskin won one million OnePass miles from Continental Airlines.

Here are the runners-up essays about particular places. They are quick, interesting reads that stimulate ones own memories about what made a particular travel spot at a particular time special. I’m thinking about the day I spent riding a motorbike around Skopelos, Greece.

Along with each essay are links that lead to more details about each location.

Three travel sites have gained more power

What do and now have in common? Both of these blogs have been snapped up by CondéNet, the publisher of SFO*Media, the previous publisher of these two travel blogs is now under the CondéNet umbrella.

Does this mean that or will look different? Will they be different? Not necessarily. Both will continue in their blogging world ways with Jaunted honing in on popular culture travel and HotelChatter continuing to provide the latest news bits and tips about hotels and lodging around the world. Add Concierge’s focus on upscale, trendy travel to the other two, and that’s a powerful travel trio.

What does this mean for me, you might wonder? CondéNet now has more reach when it comes to marketing and attracting big money advertising. There will be more coordination between the three sites, so you might notice crossover information. It also says that the media world is recognizing that the people who are reached by travel blogs are mighty in numbers, are passionate about travel, and they have some money to spend. These are forces to tap into.

Europe on budget. Yes, it is possible

If you are ready to visit Europe, even with the Euro soaring against the dollar, you might want to consider some of the money-saving ideas has put together.

Read this article to get’s tips for budget-conscious travelers to Europe in the following areas:

  1. Spas. They don’t have to be expensive.
  2. Cruises. They can help you budget and save (if you pick the right ship)
  3. Culture. Visit Europe’s grand churches and cathedrals. See concerts there for cheap
  4. Food. Visit local markets for authentic and cheaper meals
  5. Transportation. Rent a bicycle in bike-friendly town. Use public transportation.
  6. Accommodation. Camping doesn’t have to mean roughing it
  7. Beaches. Visit off-the-beaten path beaches
  8. Airlines. If you plan it well, budget airlines can save you a bunch.
  9. Destinations. Eastern Europe is a big on culture and small on prices. Spend more time in Europe’s countryside to save money.

One of my favorite tips was staying in an apartment hotel, instead of a regular hotel. I have done this several times in London and always liked the experience. It’s not quite as personal as staying in someone’s house, looking at their family photos, but it definitely has more character than your typical hotel. Details here.

Après-ski with the best of them

It has been a while since “après-ski” meant simply “after skiing.” Today, après-ski is a whole philosophy. What you do after you ski often means more than how you ski, which is undoubtedly good news for people like myself. has compiled a list of 13 best après-ski activities in the world. Here are the first 7 to give you an idea:

  1. Ultimate Suite — The Penthouse at the Sky Lodge, Park City, Utah (What’ll Snow You: Tickling the ivories on the baby grand piano in the 338-square-foot living room)
  2. Most Crackling Public Fireplace — The Great Room at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, Beaver Creek, Colorado (What’ll Snow You: The fireplace is a full three stories tall.)
  3. Niftiest Night Light — Hotel Alyeska, Girdwood, Alaska (What’ll Snow You: Watching the Northern Lights in your pajamas-and wondering if it was all a dream in the morning)
  4. Ultimate Spa Treatment — Virgin Touch Spa, The Lodge, Verbier, Switzerland (What’ll Snow You: Sweet relief provided by Sir Richard Branson’s own massage therapist.)
  5. Hottest Private Hot Tub — Game Creek Chalet, Vail, Colorado (What’ll Snow You: The bubbly views from 10,500 feet)
  6. Most Crackling Private Fireplace — The Chalet at Twin Farms, Barnard, Vermont (What’ll Snow You: The aroma from the fireplace, matched only by the perfumes from the award-winning kitchen)
  7. Finest Place to Drink Al Fresco — Le Chamois, Squaw Valley, California (What’ll Snow You: The California sunshine)

Get the full list here.

By the way, après-snowboarders are also welcome.

Where did you head to this Thanksgiving?

More than likely, the turkey bones from yesterday’s dinner are now in a dumpster somewhere. Perhaps, you’ve made turkey soup already or some sort of casserole for tonight’s dinner. Maybe you’re pondering jumping into the shopping frenzy.

If you went home for the holidays–or you’ve ditched your family all together for a vacation at some spiffy location, hopefully, everyone will get back to where he or she needs to by the end of the weekend. Unless, you will still be on vacation. Good for you.

I’m kind of curious about where everyone went. I stayed home and invited people over. As I watched part of the Macy’s Parade on TV this morning, I thought that from the look of the crowd, there’s a lot of people who headed to New York City for the weekend. The streets are packed. Some folks are New Yorkers, but certainly most aren’t. You can’t really see the parade all that well unless you go early. From what I’ve experienced, many New Yorkers just as soon watch the parade on TV. This photo was taken at this year’s parade by typho and posted on Flickr. See the crowds?, also curious about people’s Thanksgiving habits, has a feature “Escape the Family” where people are leaving comments about where they are spending the holiday. Mexico, Florida, Prague, Hawaii and Puerto Rico are a few of the places. This is one resource for getting ideas for next year.

Oh, before I forget, did you know that Roto-Rootor’s busiest day is the day after Thanksgiving? That’s the #1 drain unclogging business in America.