The city might have a new name, but King George's colonial legacy is still everywhere. By Dilip D'Souza.
It’s just a nondescript shed. But if there’s a more telling descriptor of my city’s essence, of a certain schizophrenia that runs in the veins of some of us who call this place home, I have yet to find it. Tucked on a quiet lane between Elphinstone College and the National Gallery of Modern Art, the shed is smack in the middle of the buzzing downtown precinct where most tourists in Bombay—yes, I call the city Bombay—mill about. Yet it’s a good bet most of them haven’t even heard of it.
Manzoor Ansari, an Indian Muslim flute seller, plays one of his wares to attract buyers. (Arko Datta/Reuters)
If you go, put your eye to a hole that’s at about chest level. Let your vision adjust to the darkness. You’ll notice a button. A coat. A uniform. A man in that uniform. Behind him, a second man in uniform, wearing one of those colonial-era pith hats. Two larger-than-life statues are housed in this unassuming little shed, dusty and cobwebbed.
Just a few steps away is the sprawling museum complex with its great white British-made dome. Nearby are the Rajabai Clock Tower and Bombay University’s pristine convocation hall, with sun streaming through its delicate stained-glass windows. Just beyond, you’ll find the High Court, all high ceilings, lofty turrets, and musty staircases. And thronging everywhere, nearly any time of day, are crowds of officegoers, lawyers, supplicants, vendors, college students, sugar-cane-juice sellers, and tourists.
Booker International finalist Josip Novakovich on the miracle on marshland, the city of steeples.
Peter the Great patterned the city after Amsterdam, and even though St. Petersburg is newer than New York by almost 100 years, in some places it feels a thousand years old—a few buildings seem to be a cross between Roman ruins and German palaces. The building walls, usually between three and four feet thick, host basement cafés and restaurants where you can’t get a cellphone signal. The walls are moist, and smell like rivers, because the city was built on marshland.
The Alexander Column at the center of Palace Square, St. Petersburg. (Bernd Jonkmanns/laif/Redux)
In the center of the city, when I lived in St. Petersburg, I often walked through the intricate urban design and strange history. The cathedral on Canal Griboyedova, which looks like a pleated cake, mostly in blue and gold, is named Spas na Krovi, the Savior on Spilled Blood. Here Alexander II, a great reformer who abolished serfdom, was killed by a team of anarchist assassins, a script pretty closely followed later on by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo.
One day, almost immediately after arriving in the city in 2006, I strolled into the Summer Garden and looked at the low palaces across the Fontanka River. According to a guide who spoke through a megaphone with a crackling sound from a tourist boat, in one of the palaces anybody caught practicing cannibalism during the Great Siege was hanged. A million froze and starved to death, and only about a hundred cases of cannibalism were recorded.
Still have not pinpointed cause of battery failure.
This is supposed to be comforting? Boeing said Friday that it will resume commercial 787 flights in “weeks, not months”—although the company said it had not yet pinpointed what caused the aircraft’s battery to fail. About a third of the safety tests have been completed, and Boeing chief project engineer Michael Sinnett said the new design has measures to contain fires from spreading if the battery overheats or there is a fire.
With four free days on her hands, Kara Cutruzzula takes off in search of turtles and the meaning of ‘vacation’ on the idyllic beaches—and blackjack tables—of Puerto Rico.
Give it up. The snorkeling mask isn’t going to fit over your glasses, so stop trying to adjust the straps, you idiot. Enjoy the moment. There are turtles to see.
Aerial View of Culebra Island. (Jean du Boisberranger/Hemis/Corbis)
The idiot is me—I’ve somehow found myself swimming off the shores of Culebra, a tiny island of Puerto Rico. Vacations are as mysterious to me as weekends are to the Dowager Countess of Grantham. What are they? Who engages in such frivolity? Most important, how do they make everyone so happy? Armed with four days of free time, I’ve decided to find out. I start by holding my glasses in my hand instead of fussing with the mask.
To some people a trip to the Caribbean would be just another weekend, a fast getaway from the grind. (How quick? JFK to SJU airport is three hours and 42 minutes.) I’m under no delusions about this being the most foreign place in the world—it’s probably one of the least, actually. You don’t need a passport to travel here from the U.S., and the biggest cultural barrier is distinguishing oeste (west) from este (east), which isn’t even essential unless you’re driving. But this doesn’t really matter.
An industrious tourism tsar makes a very hard sell.
“It’s a package,” says Haiti’s glamorous young tourism minister, Stephanie B. Villedrouin, good-naturedly referring to the undeniable and politically incorrect truth that her good looks help with a hideously difficult job.
A man visits the waterfall of Saut d'Eau, Haiti. (Emiliano Larizza/Contrasto, via Redux)
Villedrouin, who is barely 30, has spent two years selling her impoverished, politically tumultuous, tragedy-scarred country as a tourist destination. In that time, as part of the Haiti hard sell, she has launched a luscious new logo (a red hibiscus superimposed over the sun) with a come-hither tagline (“... experience it!”) that went up last year on a big billboard on a highway running through Miami. She’s pushed through a shiny, live-music-filled terminal at the Port au Prince airport; stitched up Haiti’s first package tour deal in 25 years with one of Canada’s biggest charter carriers; secured expert assistance from Mexico’s tourism development agency; overseen the opening of one luxury hotel and the building of others; and launched 20 tourism development projects across the country. And in late January she attended the laying of the first stone for a new international airport at the picturesque southern seaside town of Les Cayes.
Additionally, she gamely deals with journalists and others who may focus more on her face and figure than her job. Villedrouin, a happily married mother of three, is unembarrassed to be described as a poster girl for Haiti’s most audacious proposition ever: that a country synonymous with poverty and tragedy can seek to give people pleasure. And grow its economy at the same time. “I consider myself a [tourism] technician,” she shrugs, “Haiti can—and should—have some of the Caribbean market, which is 21.5 million tourists per year and is increasing by 4 percent every year.”
Novelist Alison Moore on why her city has so many dungeons and caves—appropriate for the 'birthplace' of Robin Hood.
There are hundreds of caves beneath Nottingham, cut into the sandstone over the centuries by the city’s inhabitants. Some were cold, damp homes for the poor; some were extra rooms under medieval houses—a way of adding an extension without incurring a tax increase. Some were dungeons: deep bottle-shaped cells. There was a chapel, a brewery, and a tannery. More recently, dozens were used as air-raid shelters during the Second World War—one, underneath a cigarette factory, could hold 8,000 people.
'Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem' pub, reputedly the oldest coaching inn in England. It is carved into the rock and connected with a labyrinth of sandstone caves at the foot of the Castle in Nottingham. (Tristan Gregory/Camera Press,via Redux)
Some of these caves are open to the public. There are “cave bars”—Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is a pub carved into the cliff underneath Nottingham Castle. Others are private cellars. A few have even been converted into ironically expensive homes. Quite a number, though, have failed to survive housing improvements, the building of new office blocks and department stores, a new railway and wider roads. Drury Hill was a narrow, cobbled lane famed for the huge rock cellars underneath its houses, but was bulldozed in the 1960s to make way for a shopping center. On the site of the old Town Gaol, on top of the now concrete-filled medieval dungeons, today there is one of the largest contemporary art galleries in the U.K.
The pull between history and progress is a contentious issue in Nottingham. Billions of pounds have been spent on transforming the city center. For some, the development is entirely positive, providing first-rate venues and facilities, creating new jobs and economic growth. For others, proud of Nottingham’s architectural legacy, the regeneration has only contributed to the erosion of the city’s character, the loss of historic buildings and independent shops, and the proliferation of new bars.
Pilots and flight crews sign petition to overturn.
More than 9,300 people have signed a petition by the Flight Attendants Union Coalition to reverse the Transportation Security Administration’s new policy allowing small knives, golf clubs, baseball bats, and other sports equipment on planes. “Our nation’s aviation system is the safest in the world thanks to multilayered security measures that include prohibition on many items that could pose a threat to the integrity of the aircraft cabin,” said the coalition. The coalition is made up of five unions and 90,000 flight attendants. The pilots association also expressed its resistance, saying it believes terrorism is still a “real threat.” If not overturned, the new policy will go into effect April 25.
Why did a Dreamliner battery explode? A new National Transportation Safety Board report suggests that the risk of such an event were seriously underestimated.
Firefighters called to deal with smoke detected on a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 parked at a gate at Boston’s Logan International Airport in January faced a more dangerous situation than was disclosed at the time. A report on the emergency released by the National Transportation Safety Board today not only reveals this but also shows that the cause of the emergency has still not been detected and that the risks posed by the use of lithium-ion batteries in an airliner were seriously underestimated.
The damaged battery case from a fire aboard a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner airplane at Logan International Airport in Boston earlier this month is displayed inside an investigation lab at National Transportation Safety Board headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)
When a Japan Airlines station manager, responding to an emergency call, boarded the 787 through the gate from which arriving passengers had disembarked half an hour earlier, he found that intense and caustic-smelling smoke was billowing through the floor into the rear of the cabin from a battery compartment in a bay below.
In that bay, the report reveals, members of the airport’s aircraft rescue and firefighting team were struggling to understand what was happening. They saw that the source of the smoke was a battery unit and that, in addition to the smoke, there were two separate spurts of flame and a white glow about the size of a softball.
With over 200 days spent on the road each year, professional traveler Andrew Evans knows where to go and what it takes to get there. Nina Strochlic on his advice for nomadic novices.
In his day job, Andrew Evans does what most of us pay to do for just a week or two of vacation each year. As National Geographic Traveler’s “digital nomad,” he spent 276 days on the road last year, starting in southern Mexico to explore the Mayan calendar and ending in Scotland for New Year’s. So far, the 37-year-old Evans has been to all seven continents and more than 100 countries, travelling via train, boat, private jet, camel, horseback, and dog sled. He’s sailed across the Atlantic twice, summited Kilimanjaro, and (literally) run the length of Liechtenstein—all while keeping his 24,000 devoted Twitter followers fully abreast of his every move.
Andrew Bret Wallis/Getty
It all started three years ago, when Evans pitched an unconventional idea to National Geographic Traveler editor in chief Keith Bellows: what if he were to travel the 12,000 miles from Washington, D.C., to Antarctica bus by bus and write up the story as he went via 140-word Twitter posts? At the time, Twitter was relatively underutilized by journalists, and Evans was the first person to pitch an entirely digital story to the publication. The idea befuddled the magazine’s staff, who didn’t see tweets as story bites. But Bellows saw potential, so Evans set off on a bus that departed from the National Geographic Society’s headquarters, live-tweeting the entire way.
“I realized it wasn’t just about updates. You could actually tell travel stories in real time, and I was really fascinated by this. I thought, you know, all travel memoir and literature is in the past tense. It’s people remembering their trip, whereas suddenly I was writing the trip as it happened,” Evans says. “I didn’t just tweet. I was actually telling a story, and line by line when you put it all together it forms a long-form narrative of the trip. It was live. It was present tense.”
He’s a photographer who was lucky to grow up during Australia’s surf revolution. The pioneer talks to Josh Dzieza about his new book.
Kara Cutruzzula combs the beaches—and blackjack tables—of Puerto Rico for the meaning of ‘vacation.’
In ‘Mapping Manhattan,’ explore the city via 75 New Yorkers’ personal geographies. By Allison McNearney.
Travel writer Sara Wheeler, famous for her stories of polar expeditions, returns home to her city: Bristol.
Need to plan your next grand adventure? From Burma to Cuba, 12 places to see this year. By Nina Strochlic.