Last Chance to Get to Greenland on the Cheap

Okay, it’s not at the top of many people’s travel lists. Who thinks about Greeland? Well, I do, and I’ve wanted to go for a while. Hurtigruten is pretty sympathetic to this fact and has a new deal that makes it pretty easy to get it to one of the most remote destinations in the world … but, you have to act fast. This deal expires on August 31, 2009, and space is limited.

Hurtigruten’s new ship, MS Fram, has 318 berths and takes its guests around a seascape that hasn’t changed in 5,000 years. On land, much is frozen in time as well, with Hurtigruten’s passengers able to move among villages that have seen little of what the rest of the world would call progress. Eqip Sermia Glacier, icebergs in Disko Bay and Jakobshavn Ice Fjord (a World Heritage Site) are on the itinerary, as well as guided walking tours of Inuit towns, such as Qeqertarsuaq, Ukkusissat, Itelleq and Ilulissat.

Curious about the deals? Check them out after the jump.

“Three Countries – One Deluxe Ship” – a At a savings of 64 percent to 67 percent ($8,667 to $13,117 in savings), the voyage starts in a European country and ends in New York (by way of Canada). Along the way, you’ll explore one of the world’s most remote destinations (Greenland), and guests on the 18-day voyage aboard the MS Fram are treated to a unique historical perspective as they are joined by Benedicte Ingstad, the daughter of the famed explorer Helge Ingstad. Ms. Ingstad joined her parents, Anne Stine and Helge, on their expedition to L’anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland in 1960, where they discovered and excavated what is believed to be the “Vinland settlement” of Leif Eriksson from around AD 1000 – 500 years before the Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of North America. Other highlights include visits to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: L’anse Aux Meadows, Red Bay (provisional World Heritage list) and Gros Morne National Park. The September 22 departure ranges from $4,249 to $7,249 and include flights from New York/Newark, one night hotel in Copenhagen.

“25% Off + 2 Hotel Nights” – This deal results in a cost savings of $1,990 to $5,745 per person and comes with a pretty hefty perk: two free hotel nights in Copenhagen, Denmark. Guests will have a chance to poke around the medieval city. And, the stop in Denmark stretches the 8- and 15-day Greenland sailings into 10- and 17-day vacations. The reduced prices for the four August and September departures are $4,597 to $15,862 per person.

“Go Solo And Save” – Interested in checking out Greenland on your own? Solo travelers can pay the same rate as if they were sharing a cabin, a savings that can reach 47 percent ($3,065 to $19,034 off brochure prices). Single passenger prices are $6,129 to $21,149.

Free NYC Dessert Fest

Back in February, Annie mentioned a “recessional special” for a New York City dessert tour, and then in April, Jeremy broke down the cool dessert spots for New York City dwellers. It seems the Big Apple isn’t short on shopping its sweets, and there are plenty of sweets to be had in Manhattan even though summer is coming to a close.

If you’re looking for a cool activity to satisfy your sweet tooth, you’ll be happy to learn that the Free NYC Dessert Fest is still taking place each month. It is a free walking tour, centered solely on succulent desserts. Purchase of desserts are optional & additional.
This month will mark the tour’s 10th consecutive monthly tour of the city’s neighborhood sweet spots. The walk explores the Upper West Side, which has 5 delicious eateries where you can sample everything from cookies and cupcakes to hand-made French chocolates. Or if fruitier fare is more your palatable, mouth-watering apple tart or cheesecake might just satisfy that stomach of yours.

To help support the good work of Food Bank For New York City, a non-profit helping to feed the hungry, Walking Tours Manhattan asks for a $5.00 donation per person. 100% of all donations go to charity. Since December 2008 tour donations have helped feed 39 New Yorkers for a month.

Meet our tour guide with the red ball cap saying Walking Tours Manhattan on Sunday August 23, 2009 at 11:00am at Magnolia Bakery, 200 Columbus Avenue at 69th Street. The dessert tour lasts 1.5 hours, and expect to walk a little over 1 mile.

For additional neighborhood dessert tours, visit

Undiscovered New York: Strolling “Brownstone Brooklyn”

Welcome back to Undiscovered New York. It’s often said that New York is a city made for walking. Between one of the world’s largest subway systems and an increasingly pedestrian-friendly city government, walking is typically the easiest (and most enjoyable) way to get around town.

In fact, walking isn’t just a practical way to get around. One of the great pleasures for any New Yorker is the leisurely stroll of his/her chosen neighborhood of residence. Within any given block you’re likely to encounter the sights, sounds and smells that give New York its particular personality – the bright green awnings of the neighborhood bodega, the thwack of rubber against concrete at the local handball court, or the gently wafting scent of fresh-baked loaves of bread.

Although just about all of the city of New York is a great place for walking, it’s only in Brooklyn that walking reaches its purest form. Don’t get us wrong, Manhattan’s got plenty of accessible pavement, and Queens and the Bronx are sidewalk friendly too. But there’s just something about Brooklyn and its stately rows of elegant old Brownstone houses, placid parks and tiny storefronts that has particular appeal.

This week at Undiscovered New York, we’re taking you on a leisurely tour of one of Brooklyn’s most famous old Brownstone neighborhoods: Brooklyn Heights. And we’re doing it the way Brooklyn was meant to be seen – by foot. Interested in walking one of New York’s most beautiful old neighborhoods? Curious to see where authors like Tom Wolfe and rocker Bob Dylan once lived? How about an interesting look inside Middle Eastern culture in New York City? Let’s take a stroll through “Brownstone Brooklyn…”
A Walk Through Brooklyn Heights
As the settlement of New York began to grow rapidly in the early 1800’s, a new “commuter town” appeared along the banks of the East River opposite downtown New York. This new neighborhood, now known as Brooklyn Heights, became home to street after street of grandiose mansions, tall, shady trees and stately Brownstones. If you’ve heard of the beauty of Manhattan’s West Village, imagine an area just as beautiful – except minus all the gawking tourists.

Brooklyn Heights is one of the easiest, most beautiful and interesting spots to kick off your Brooklyn walking tour. Take a stroll along beautiful Pierrepont Street, stopping at the ornate building that houses the Brooklyn Historical Society. In addition to being a beautiful building, the site is filled with exhibits on the Borough’s history.

Just a block south is the commercial strip of Montague Street, lined with cafes and restaurants. Rock legend Bob Dylan claimed to have lived along this historic strip in his song Tangled Up in Blue. Then make your way south along Hicks Street, pausing to admire the majestic 19th Century facades. Book-lovers might also want to check out 5 Montague Terrace, once home to novelist Thomas Wolfe in the 1930’s.

Down Atlantic Avenue
Just south of Brooklyn Heights is Atlantic Avenue, one of Brooklyn’s most prominent East-West thoroughfares. A walk along this interesting and rapidly changing strip of Brooklyn will take you through the heart of some of the Borough’s more interesting businesses and landmarks. Between Clinton and Court Streets lies a strip of Middle Eastern restaurants, groceries and bakeries. Neighborhood favorite Sahadi’s stocks a wide variety of dry fruits and nuts as well as Middle Eastern specialty food products. Stop into nearby Damascus Bakery for a piece of Baklava or some of their famous pita bread.

Just a little further east, near the corner of Atlantic and Hoyt, you begin to enter one of Brooklyn’s more famous antique districts. The area’s biggest hub for antique and vintage furniture of all kinds is Horseman Antiques. Covering over three floors, Horseman stocks everything from vintage sofas to stained glass. For something a bit more modern, keep going just down the street to artez’n, a quirky shop specializing in locally produced artwork and gifts.

Budget Travel: San Francisco

Frequently at the top of the best US cities lists, San Francisco is many visitors’ favorite, but might not be the first on the mind for cheap travel. But this easy-natured, west coast city, known for its counterculture, sourdough bread, and colorful Victorian homes, boasts just as many quaint neighborhoods and other understated gems as it does tourist landmarks. Easy on the eyes, easy on the heart-strings–now consider it easy on the budget.

Getting in: All of the major airlines fly into SFO, including JetBlue and Southwest. You should find ample options from United, since the airport is one of the airline’s hubs. If you’re staying outside of the city proper, consider the two other airports in the area: Oakland (OAK) and San Jose (SJC).

From SFO, the local commuter train (BART: Bay Area Rapid Transit) is your best bet to your hotel or hostel. It can drop you off at eight stations within the city itself. A one-way trip to one of the downtown stops is $5.35. Otherwise, a door-to-door shuttle (such as QuakeCity or SuperShuttle) costs $15–17.

If a slower pace is more your style, catch a Greyhound bus and disembark right in downtown San Francisco. Amtrak also stops nearby, but you’ll need to make your way ten miles from the closest stations in Oakland and Emeryville, in the East Bay.


Where to stay: Hostelling International offers reliably inexpensive options with their downtown and Fisherman’s Wharf hostels. Downtown is all about the location–just a block from Union Square, it’s in the heart of the city that’s renowned for capturing ours. The Fisherman’s Wharf location is more peaceful and removed–housed in the historic buildings of park-like Fort Mason. (It’s a bit of a misnomer: walking to Fisherman’s Wharf will take about 15 minutes.) Both come with free wi-fi and breakfast, and free or low-cost tours. But it depends on what you’re looking for–stores and nightlife outside your doorstep, or sprawling lawns and views of the Golden Gate Bridge? Either way, at about $25-27 for a dorm, and $69-75 for a private room, the price is right.

At hotel price, but still relatively reasonable is Good Hotel. It’s a new addition to the City by the Bay, and a new premise to the hotel world–it’s been billed as “the first hotel with a conscience.” What does that mean? Their decor is made of recycled goods, amenities are made of sustainable materials, and the hotel can link guests with philanthropic “voluntouring” events while they’re in town. Prices seem to range from $76–230, but they’re offering a winter sale right now–20% off a 3-night stay through March 5, 2009.

What to see: There’s only one reason to head toward Fisherman’s Wharf–to take the ferry to Alcatraz. The infamous jail-island is one landmark that lives up to its reputation. Self-guided audio tours lead you through the prison cells (and back in time) with stories of inmates like Al “Scarface” Capone and the “Birdman” Robert Stroud. As an extra bonus to the $26 cost, the ferry ride also makes for excellent bridge- and skyline-viewing.

Don’t let the hills fool you–San Francisco is a walkable city. If you’re up for an urban hike, you can join a free walking tour by San Francisco City Guides, or embark on your own. Choose the natural setting of Golden Gate Park, or ramble through any of the neighborhoods for distinctly different walks. A walk through North Beach (the Italian district) could include everything from perusing poetry at City Lights Bookstore and taking a cappuccino at Caffe Trieste to watching the wild parrots circle overhead at Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. See what sights, sounds, or people pull your interest to linger or change your plans. At the very worst, hop on a cable car or one of the vintage street cars to bring you back where you started.

Who says all of the good things have a big price tag? The Saturday farmer’s market at the Ferry Building is as bustling as any other event in the city, and it’s ripe with the season’s best produce–grown on local, organic farms. Sampling is encouraged!

Just as exhibitions rotate in and out of the city’s museums, so do free days. Once a month, the admission fee is waived for many of the city’s art and cultural museums. That means the first Tuesday of every month at the de Young, which greets you in the entry courtyard with an Andy Goldsworthy sculptural installation. Then again, you can always enter the observation tower for free–you’ll get a great 360° birdseye view of the city. Or else, be one of the first to visit the new California Academy of Sciences, which reopened in September 2008 and features a four-story rainforest, planetarium, and a living roof that grows native plants. Stop by on the museum’s free day–the third Wednesday of every month.

If you find yourself needing to indulge a bit after all of the walking and skimping, consider Kabuki Springs and Spa for a relatively cheap afternoon ($22-25) at the communal bath and sauna, Japanese style. Just be sure to check the calendar before you go: the baths are designated solely to men or women on alternating days, and Tuesday is the only co-ed day. Or for a big (in all ways: hats, costumes, voices, fun) San Francisco experience, splurge on a ticket to Beach Blanket Babylon, a music review that spoofs the latest in pop culture–now in its 34th year.

City Surf’s Audio Walking Tours for the “Un-Tourist”

According to City Surf, “Guidebooks show you which neighborhoods are cool to visit, we show what’s cool IN those neighborhoods.” Indeed, City Surf has created audible walking tours of some hip Toronto hang-outs, including Kensington Market, St. Lawrence Market, Yorkville, and The Annex.

To use the tours, you download one of the 30-40 minute tours, load it into your iPod, and hit the streets. Rather than having your nose buried in a guidebook, you slip on your earbuds and listen to what makes the area unique. Spaced out, listening to your iPod, you’ll look just like a local.

The only downside is that the tours run $9.99 CAD (about $9 US) per download. A little steep? Maybe. But the music-filled sample tracks City Surf has posted sound like they’re brimming with great insider tips that’ll let you experience the city the way the locals do. I’ve never gone on an audible walking tour of a neighborhood. I imagine I’d have to do it twice: once to learn the tips; and a second time to feel like I’ve really immersed myself in the place.

Not heading to Toronto? Montreal and Vancouver tours are in the works.

[Thanks, Ali!]