Ricky Gervais’ travel show “An Idiot Abroad” hits US TV

Fresh off his Golden Globes controversy, British comedian Ricky Gervais’ latest project has hit US television. An Idiot Abroad is a travel show for non-travelers, featuring radio producer and comedy savant Karl Pilkington visiting the seven wonders of the world. If you’ve seen HBO’s animated podcast The Ricky Gervais show, you’re already familiar with Pilkington’s moronic and occasionally brilliant insights. After expressing little interest in global travel, Gervais and his comedy partner Steven Merchant decided to send Karl around the world (Merchant hopes to expand his horizons, Gervais just sees it as an elaborate practical joke).

In the first episode, Karl travels to China and expresses bafflement with Chinese street food, toilets, and even the Great Wall. The show’s funniest moments come when he experiences moments of culture shock and weirdness common to even the most seasoned travelers. I’d love to see Karl’s take on general travel problems – airport security, flying, and getting lost – as well as more of his interactions with local people around the world. He seems curious and open to the world, and has written a companion book for the series, which will culminate in an eighth episode with his thoughts and impressions about his travels.

An Idiot Abroad airs Saturdays at 10pm on the Science Channel and is available for download on iTunes. The next episode takes Karl to India to see the Taj Mahal.

Photo and video courtesy of The Science Channel.

Photo of the day (7.23.10)

A travel mascot injects levity into a journey. Photographing one’s mascot in various exotic locations is an often hilarious way to articulate a narrative string for a journey. This image of a tiny robot on the Great Wall by cjthekid is playfully awesome. It neatly juxtaposes the old and the contemporary; the durable and the disposable.

Poke around cjthekid’s Robot Travel Association 5000 photo set and you’ll find additional images of this little robot in China and Mongolia. I look forward to seeing where this little robot will show up next.

Anyone with similarly whimsical images of mascot-like objects perched on popular tourist sites or elsewhere for that matter should submit said images to the Gadling Flickr Pool. You might just have your image selected as our Photo of the Day.

Three Intrepid Travel deals for Mother’s Day

Are you standing in stores, staring at shelves and scratching your head? Figuring out the perfect Mother’s Day gift is always tough. In the end, you can’t afford what you want to get her, buy her something that sucks instead and try to look like the thought is really what counts. Every year, you go through it, and the outcome is the same. Until 2010.

Make this the year you do something different for your mother, giving her the chance to get away from her kids for a while. Here are three deals for Mother’s Day (which is May 9, this year) from Intrepid Travel:

1. The Kimberly
You can save 20 percent – that’s $338 – on Intrepid’s eight-day “Spirit of the Kimberly” excursion in northwestern Australia, which includes the Mimbi Caves, crystal clear pools, rare fossils and ancient rock art.
New price: $1,352

2. Grand China
Send your mother down the Yangzi River as part of a 21-day trip focused on cruising the most famous rivers in the world. Mom will get to enjoy the culture, countryside and archaeological sites offered up on this trip, and you’ll save 20 percent ($711).
New price: $2,844

3. Rome to Istanbul
Mom will spend her day on the Greek island of Santorini, relaxing because of her children – not despite them. This is only one of the 16 days on this trip, which includes Italy and Turkey, as well … not to mention a $558 savings.
New price: $2,232

Check out our other Mothers Day coverage here.

10 great zip lines from around the world (videos)

Roller coasters and other such thrill rides are fun, but imagine reaching speed of up to 100 miles per hour on a metal cable, with nothing more then a harness, a helmet… and the air below you.

Around the world, zip lines have become an adrenaline seeker’s favorite, literally allowing you to hurtle through awe-inspiring landscapes at jaw-dropping speeds. In some cases, the mere presence of a zip line can be a decision-maker between two competing travel destinations. Not sure about all this? Strap in and enjoy the ride on these videos, which feature some of best zip lines in the world.

At a height of 918 feet, speeds of up to 100 mph, and spanning just over a mile, Sun City, South Africa boasts the steepest, fastest, tallest zip line on the globe. On this particular line, the rider zips down the cable while flat, rocket-like. This particular zip line gives the rider the experience of being able to fly like a bird… well, like a very, very, very fast bird.

Glide through rain forest terrain and enjoy the breathtaking view of the local volcanoes in Costa Rica, one of the world’s most popular zip line destinations. This particular video showcases just a fraction of a full zip line tour that’s a total of 1.7 miles — and because of its amazing first-person perspective, it’s un-miss-able.

Pro tip: This particular company also has night tours offering the possibility of seeing volcanic eruptions and nocturnal rain forest creatures (like vampires!).

Riders can enjoy the aerial view of Alaeloa Valley in Hawaii from a zip line. The scenic ride is 2,000 feet long and is fantastic for adventurers seeking a different perspective of the beautiful island landscape.

Forget hiking from one mountain to the next! This zip line offers riders a quick and exhilarating alternative. In Vancouver, British Columbia, this line ranges from Dam Mountain to the peak of Grouse Mountain, and zooms along at up to 49 mph. Not only does the line offer riders excitement but, of course, there’s also a wonderful view.

Labadee, Haiti is home to a 2,650-foot-long zip line that glides over crystal clear waters. The line begins on the top of a mountain and cruises over a stretch of ocean giving riders a spectacular view of the surrounding scenery. Towards the end of the line, the rider sails almost within reach of the gentle waves below.

On the longest zip line in the United Kingdom — located in Stirling, Scotland — riders can observe the gorgeous mountains nearby. This zip line offers riders the chance to travel on a cable that spans 1,397 feet and flies above lush, forested terrain.

Hoonah, Alaska is the self-proclaimed home to the tallest and longest zip line in the United States. The zip line reaches speeds of 60 mph, spans a mile of Alaska sky, and hurtles ocean-ward from a height of 1330 feet high. Watch this video, and you’ll know immediately why the town is called HOONAH!!!

Visitors to the Great Wall of China have an insanely fun way to get to a lower section: an intense zip line ride. Fly over blue waters and get amazing (albeit short) views of The Great Wall.

Shoot through a rain forest canopy on this zip line in Puerto Rico. With the trees whizzing within arm’s reach, riders get a quick view of the lush native rain forest and a fun adrenaline rush.

At the Moaning Caverns in California, visitors can get an overhead view of the area at speeds of around 40 mph. The cable stretches 1500 feet and is a great thrill for adrenaline junkies.

So… where are you headed first?

First snow: Eight winter activities for budget friendly fun

With the first snow comes thoughts of winter’s smorgasbord of budget friendly travel options. Fall festivals and foliage tours are long gone. What was missed has been moved to next year’s got to go agenda.

The first snow is a reminder that winter, like other seasons, has a timetable that waits for no one. To make the most of winter, create a checklist of what you’d like to do. Plan for those winter outings before it’s too late. Don’t be left behind wondering where the winter went.

Here are 8 winter activities to put on your list of things to do before the spring thaw comes and crocus appear.

1. Go tubing: For anyone who wants the thrill of speeding down a snow packed hill, but is not fond of the idea of falling (count me in on this one) tubing is an excellent option. If you have the physical skills to sit on the ground and get back up again with or without help, you can tube. The beauty of tubing is that people of various athletic abilities and ages can enjoy the same experience at the same time.

Many ski resorts have added tubing hills to their repertoire. From the Poconos in Pennsylvania to Copper Mountain Ski Resort in Colorado, the cost for tubing is quite a bit less than the cost of a ski lift pass. Plus, there’s no equipment to rent and you can enjoy the warmth of the ski resort’s lodge like any skier who forked out more money than you did.

2. Take a winter hike: Although hiking might seem more suited for warmer weather, winter hiking offers another look at outdoor beauty. Plus, there’s a level of solitude for reflection, part of what winter months invite. Sections of the Appalachian Trail are one possibility. For options that offer the opportunity to find out more about nature and natural history of an area, check your state’s park system. Many have an organized winter hike like Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio does. This park’s winter hike is January 16.

3. Go cross-country skiing or snow shoeing: Where there is snow, you can cross-country ski or snowshoe. City and town parks, logging roads or trails that have been specifically for either sport are waiting for you. The Enchanted Forest in northern New Mexico is one such place. To see if either sport is a good fit, head to a trail on Winter Trails Day. This winter, January 9th is the day to bundle up and strap on skis or snowshoes. Rentals are available.

4. Build a snowman in an unusual place: Where there’s snow perfect for packing, you can build a snowman. By building a snowman in a place that’s more public than your yard, you add to other people’s winter fun. A favorite memory of mine is watching people build a snowman on the Great Wall of China.

For people who live where it never snows, don’t pass up a chance to indulge in a snippet of childhood if you happen to have traveled to a place where it does–London, England, for example.

5. Sip hot chocolate, mulled wine or another hot beverage made extra warm by alcohol by a fire crackling in a stone fireplace. This is where you enjoy a winter wonderland by looking out a window. Where does one find such an experience? Ski lodges and hotel lounges and lobbies are perfect places for indulging in an afternoon or evening of relaxation in a comfy chair. Going solo? Bring a book. You don’t have to be an overnight guest to enjoy such pleasure.

6. Visit an historic village to learn about winter life in the olden days. At an historic village, costumed interpreters demonstrate how life was lived in yesteryear. Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts is one of the more extensive historic villages. The sticker price is not exactly budget friendly. For the cheapest option, head to the Slate Run Living Historical Farm in Ohio. It’s free. I repeat. Free.

7. Bird watch at a local park, a nature center, a refuge or another area known for bird watching. Check out Critter Watch, for best winter birding spots in Colorado. In Ohio, the newest bird watching place is the Grange Insurance Audubon Center, one mile from the heart of downtown Columbus. It’s located on an important migration stop next to the Scioto River.

8. Ice-skate at a city’s outdoor rink or a frozen pond. Many cities open skating rinks in their downtown’s to attract people. One of the most famous is the skating rink at Rockefeller Center. There are other less touristy skating options in New York City, however.

If you’re planning to head to any other city, see if there is an outdoor skating rink there. Skating on a city’s downtown rink is an active way to enjoy the city’s architecture while becoming part of the city’s scene. Skate rentals are available.

Some city parks and zoos like Buhr Park in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Columbus Ohio, also offer ice-skating with skate rentals available.