Tuesday 15 Apr, 2008

Travel Tidbits: Navigating the Louvre

The Louvre in Paris claims to be the world’s largest museum. With more than 35,000 works of art and more than 652,000 square feet of exhibition space, it’s easy to get lost among the masterpieces.

Globespotters recommends a handy solution to navigating the paintings, the sculptures, the treasures: a new multimedia gadget called the XP-vision.

The device, which was introduced last November and can be rented for six euros, includes a small video screen and headphones. You can choose various tours, or even customize one, through the vast collection. One of the best features is a virtual map, which helps you find your way through the maze of rooms.

Read on for more Travel Tidbits …

• Amsterdam is planning a new underground city, according to London’s Daily Telegraph. The plans call for 1 million square feet of underground retail, leisure and parking facilities. It’ll cost 7.4 billion pounds (or roughly $15 million). Don’t plan on seeing it anytime soon, though. Construction is due to begin in 2018 and take 20 years to complete. At which point, today’s high school seniors will be 48 years old.

Photo: maja_x1 via Flicker

• Munich recently scrapped plans to build a German high-speed monorail line. The Transrapid line, which uses magnetic levitation, would have been cool. It would have been super fast. And it would have been expensive. When the price tag ballooned from 1.85 million euros to 3 billion, government officials derailed the plan. The only Transrapid line currently running is in Shanghai, China (above).

• Speaking of Munich, the New York Times just labeled it “Germany’s Hot Spot of the Moment” … even without the Transrapid.

• Looking for “a small gem of a museum in Madrid”? After checking out Madrid’s Golden Triangle of art museums—the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemizsa—Globespotters suggests the Museo Sorolla, the house and studio of artist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida.

Intelligent Travel passes on this nugget: China will open an additional 97 airports by 2020, according to China’s General Administration of Civil Aviation’s latest airport development plan. Citing the CIA Factbook, Treehugger tries to put this in perspective: There currently are 5,143 paved runways in the United States vs. 403 in China.

• Zimbabwe’s financial troubles have only worsened since we wrote about the currency in January. The inflation has gotten so out of hand that Zimbabwe just introduced a bill worth 50,000,000 Zimbabwean dollars. It’s worth about a buck—yes, $1 US—on the black market.

• Calvin Trillin writes about the “Last Days of the Rickshaw” in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, in the April issue of National Geographic. Of course, the article is accompanied by amazing photos from Ami Vitale.

• “The Simpsons” is no longer airing on morning TV in Venezuela, the BBC reports. Authorities pulled the programming because they deemed it “inappropriate” for children. Instead, Caracas TV station Televan is airing “Baywatch Hawaii.” Umm … what?

• Want to see a giant squid? Visit Paris’ National Museum of Natural History. Measuring more than 21 feet, Wheke (as the squid has been named) was preserved in its natural condition by a plastination process, according to Gadling.

• One of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite haunts, Harry’s Bar in Venice, tweaked American tourists last week by offering a 20 percent discount to “poor Americans” affected by the weak dollar and subprime loans. Gadling, World Hum and Foreign Policy Passport all  had their takes.

• Rick Steves dubs France’s Mont St. Michel “magnificence on a mud flat,” and he calls Ostia Antica “Italy’s most underappreciated sight.”

• Gadling points out that French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants French cuisine to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Chew on that one!

• Don’t exactly know what to make of this one: Controversial rap and hip hop artist Kanye West launched his own travel Web site, Kanye Travel Ventures, where you can book flights, hotels, cars. (Insert own punchline here.)

• And, finally, Gadling has an update on one of our favorite pet topics: space travel. An aerospace company called Xcor is challenging Virgin Galactic in the newest space race.