Thursday, December 17, 2009

Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! Kala Christouyenna! Buon Natale! Joyeux Noel! Froehliche Weihnachten! Gledelig Jul! Nollaig Shona! Vrolijk Kerstfeest!

Happy Holidays from Mondo Explorer! Since this is the time of year to have fun with friends and family, take a little time to reflect on things past, and, in general, just enjoy life, here are some things that we hope will make you smile, maybe make you think a little too, and definitely get you into the holiday spirit!

Did you know that . . .
. . . it takes the average Christmas tree about 15 years to grow before it’s ready to be sold.
. . . Christmas was actually outlawed by the Puritans in Boston, Mass for a few years during the late 1600s.
. . . the legend of Santa Claus most likely originated in what we know now as modern-day Turkey some time in 280 A.D. with a monk named St. Nicholas who is said to have traveled the country helping the poor and sick. He later became known as the protector of children and sailors, and by the late 1500s, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe.
. . . the popular Christmas Poinsettia plant was first imported to the U.S. from Mexico.
. . . the first Christmas trees appeared in Strasbourg, Germany in the early 1600s and were not imported to places like the United States until the early 1800s, where it took about twenty five years to become the widespread custom that we know today.
. . . the Hanukkah dreidel, a four-sided spinning top associated with the Jewish holiday, was used by the Jews to escape persecution. When Jews gathered to study the Torah, they would bring along a dreidel to pull out in case dissenting soldiers passed by. They would quickly hide the scripture and begin spinning the top when soldiers approached, which many oftentimes spared them their lives.
. . . in some Celtic traditions, mistletoe is believed to posses magical powers, including the power to heal and to increase fertility.

Enjoy one of our holiday recipes, on the house!
Eggnog Martini (makes one):
1 oz of eggnog
1 oz of Frangelico
1 oz of vodka
2 tbsp. crushed ice
nutmeg or cinnamon for topping
Mix all ingredients and shake well in cocktail shaker. Pour through a strainer and sprinkle with your choice of nutmeg or cinnamon. If Celtic, go stand under mistletoe and wait for magical powers to begin.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Mondo Explorer's International RSVP: Art Basel Miami Beach

It's that time of year again, when artists, collectors, gallery owners, patrons, celebrities, and visitors alike flood into Miami for the second leg of Art Basel (the first is held in Switzerland during the summer where, incidentally, Brad Pitt is reported to have dropped about $1 mil earlier this year for one work), undoubtedly the most popular art show in the country, and perhaps even, worldwide.

Art Basel Miami Beach will take place on December 3-6 this year--four days of endless exhibits, cocktail receptions, lectures, forums, parties, film screening, concerts, and socializing. Lest we forget, Art Basel may be a head-swimming, overwhelming, whirlwind of a week where art enthusiasts from around the globe convene in a frenzy to exchange ideas, business cards, and, of course, art, but it is also one of the most significant cultural outposts of the year. True, while giving your close attention to every exhibit is next to impossible (this year more than 250 galleries from around the world will display works by over 2,000 artists, with stations scattered throughout the Miami Beach Convention Center and also throughout the city itself), we've learned that it's best to follow your interests, go with the flow, and keep in mind the old adage that quantity does not equal quality, so be selective with your time (and money).

And, like sitting front row at a haute couture fashion show, hearing a piece of music that's just been composed, tasting food at a new fusion restaurant that you know no chef has ever thought of before, or reading a novel that changes the way a generation thinks about itself, Art Basel gives one the feeling that you are watching culture itself in the making. And, the best part is, for a price, you can even take a little of this culture home with you.

Tickets for Art Basel range from $20 for one evening to $75 for a permanent pass. For more information, visit

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

This Fall in Music

Summer might be widely-known the best time of year for music festivals, but we beg to argue that the next few months (Sept.-Nov.) offer some pretty sweet music to be heard from around the world. And, as most of the fall festivals are three- or four-day events, it’s the perfect plan for a three-day weekend getaway, which is usually the only kind of vacationing you do during the fall months anyway. Here are our top five picks for the best fall music festivals -- if you love music, you have to make it to at least one of these outstanding events:

1. Austin City Limits (Austin, Texas USA) Oct. 2-4, Big names like Dave Matthews Band, Kings of Leon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Walkmen, John Legend, and Pearl Jam share the weekend with tons of other up-and-coming bands or indie groups. Perhaps the most treasured music festival in the U.S., Austin City Limits is almost like a religious pilgrimage for music lovers who find their mecca in the middle of Texas’ state capitol.

2. Festival de Jazz de Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain) Oct. 18-Dec. 6, You’ll find a broad spectrum of jazz musicians in various locations across Barcelona over more than a month this coming fall. This year will mark the festival’s 41st year in a city that has a long-established reputation for jazz appreciation and will open with world-famous American jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who played with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and even Carlos Santana.

3. Voodoo Festival (New Orleans, Louisiana USA) Oct. 30-Nov.1, Eminem, Lenny Kravitz, Kiss, Widespread Panic . . these are just a few names out of well over fifty bands of all kinds that will converge for three days over Halloween at New Orleans’ City Park. It’s wicked fun . . .

4. Woodstock (Johannesburg, South Africa) Nov. 27-30, South Africa’s largest music festival, Woodstock will celebrate 10 years in just a few months as musicians, BMX riders, paintballers, and campers converge at Riversand Farms along a river for four days of music at all hours of the day and night, shopping, playing, swimming, eating, and camping. This particular festival is most popular among young people, and this year one of the newest highlights on one of the many stages will be the Hip Hop tent.

5. 53rd International Festival of Contemporary Music (Venice, Italy) Sept. 25-Oct.3, Dozens upon dozens of composers, musicians, music students, and fans from around the world come together for over a week in Venice of musical synthesis, this year’s festival titled “The Body of Sound.” From Flamenco to American Blues to classical even to electronic music, the festival will take place at Teatro Piccolo Arsenale and Teatro alle Tese and will feature a wide variety of performances, workshops, conferences, among other events.

Want more travel info? visit

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Good News For Flyers: U.S. Air Fares See Largest Drop on Record

About a month ago, the Department of Transportation reported the largest quarter-to-quarter drop in U.S. domestic air fares ever recorded. From the last quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2009, average prices for domestic tickets dropped a whopping 9.1 percent, with the average ticket price falling to $315. While this may not seem like much of a break, compare that with the record high prices for fares reported last year at $360, and travelers are seeing a substantial break this year in most ticket prices in the U.S. Of course, these statistics don’t include any other fees paid at the airport or on the aircraft, so don’t figure in all of those annoying baggage charges here. Also interesting to note in the DOT’s first quarter report: Huntsville, AL saw the highest average air fares, while the lowest are to be found in Long Beach, CA, Oakland, CA, Burbank, CA, Dallas Love Field, and Las Vegas. So, looking for one last mini-vacation to round out the summer? Fly on the cheap to places like Dallas or Vegas -- will tell you everything you need to know about exploring these dynamic cities like a local.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wifi on Planes: The Next Big Travel Trend?

Welcome to the new trend in air travel. In the last few months alone, Aircell, a flight technology company, either has already installed or is in the process of installing its WiFi internet system called GoGo on nearly 500 airplanes including American, Virgin America, Air Tran, Delta, and United. JetBlue and Southwest are also reportedly testing WiFi equipment and considering adding it to some flights. Of course, this new in-flight service that may revolutionize air travel for the average passenger does come at a price to the customer. Gogo’s flight plans range from $5.95 for single flights up to 1.5 hours to $12.95 for a singe day pass on one airline to their most expensive plan at $49.95 for 30-day WiFi access on one single airline. For the travel industry and government officials, in-flight WiFi has opened a veritable Pandora’s Box of issues having to do with on-board technology and communication devices, namely, cell phones, which has added fuel to the fire of an already heated debate. Personally, surfing the net while flying does sound like a mighty convenient perk, but if it opens the door to cell phones, I'm not so sure that I like the idea of spending a few hours stuck in a what might sound like a noisy call center. Besides, isn't there something deliciously relaxing about being forced to turn off the blackberry and the computer for a few hours? What excuse will we have now?

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Inaugural Editor's Blog: Where We Are, Where We're Going, and How We're Going to Get There

Welcome all to the new weekly editor's blog for MondoExplorer! Over the past few months, MondoExplorer has added a number of new features, cities, and services to its readers, and now, it's time to open up the conversation about the places we explore, the people, businesses, and events we cover, and basically any and all things travel-related. Here's what we've got going on now: MondoExplorer is currently in the process of adding over 20 new U.S. cities to its roster of city guides, and we've added a number of new Explorers to our team who know these cities like the backs of their hands and are ready to tell you all about it, from a local's point of view. In addition to our insider city guides, MondoExplorer has also added an expanding feature section that provides up-to-date true travel advice, feature stories, news, announcements, and other useful tips. So, with all of this going on, we'd like to start hearing from you, too--and this is the perfect place to start. Every week we're going to be discussing--sometimes in-depth and sometimes just a few thoughts or our top picks for the week--what's going on in the world and how we can all, myself included, make the most of the places we visit (and the places where we live) by exploring things in new, unexpected ways. So let's get started . . .

Here's one of the stories that's been on my mind this summer as I've been doing research for MondoExplorer, and one that I'm anxiously awaiting to see come to fruition . . . Recently, new strides have been made in the plans to construct a high-speed railway station that would link several cities across the U.S. Even just yesterday it was announced that forty states expressed their enthusiasm and support for the railway, which Pres. Obama is championing, and which would be funded in part by federal grants and stimulus monies.

I have to say, when I first heard about the plans for the railway, I thought, "finally!" and then immediately imagined myself in a kind of Murder-on-the-Orient-Express-moment (minus the murder, of course)--white linen tablecloth dining, jazz piano tinkling in the background, sipping champagne while the rocky interior of some snow-capped mountain whizzed passed my window in a blur of grey and green. Having lived in several places in the world where train travel is a part of everyday life before settling in Miami (guess I'll have to adjust my day-dream, no snow-capped mountains here), I've ridden the unassuming train in and out of the city, but never on extended rides or overnight trips--and never anything half as glamorous as I have in my mind. And, despite the obvious convenience of a high-speed rail, the thing that comes to my mind (after fashioning myself as a kind of modern-day Bacall riding the rails in fur and diamonds, again not exactly a South Florida reality) . . . the thing that comes to my mind, is The City.

The U.S. is known across the globe for its sprawling freeways (which have an interesting enough history in and of themselves, but I'll save that for another post), ever-expanding suburbs, and basically for its disconnected, disjointed structure that makes constant and extended car travel an absolute must. Who can imagine living for any real length of time in Dallas, Atlanta, or even L.A. without a car? Not so in other major areas of the world where high-speed railway travel is the norm.

So, my question is this, assuming that the railway system changes the way that Americans travel, how will it change the way that we live and build our cities? How will it change the way that we effectively conceive of the city itself? And the small town, the suburb, the outskirts? What might they look like in a country where no-fuss, affordable, rapid transit forges a link between cities that might possibly turn the modern freeway system into a web of outdated wagon trails? A little dramatic, maybe, but obviously these and many more issues will be raised in the coming months as funding for the project (which is estimated at a cost of over $100 billion) gets underway and the real conversation about how this new system of transportation will ultimately affect the country begins.

Either way, I'm excited to see these changes discussed and believe that it's long overdue--I wonder if a small mink stole is too much for the Florida heat? Well, maybe I could just carry it . . .

Saturday, July 18, 2009

New Mondo city guides

Check out our new city guides

Inspiring travel quotes

These are the most inspiring travel quotes we found in our explorations

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” - St. Augustine

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” - Henry Miller

"Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone. - The Dhammapada

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” - Martin Buber

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” - Paul Theroux

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” - Tim Cahill

"Everywhere I go I find a poet that has been there before me." - Sigmund Freud