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IT—Inside Traveler
By Jessie Johnston and Emily King

What is IT? Inside Traveler is the latest addition to our online domain, a "travelblogue" we'll update twice per week with frontline travel news from our staff, contributors, and savvy readers. We'll take you behind the scenes—into our in-boxes, staff meetings, and suitcases—to give you the minute-we-hear-it info that can't wait for the newsstand.

May 18, 2006:

Don't Leave Home Without IT

The day Jessie left for China (we know, another China posting, but it's worth it, we promise), our books editor received the new Knopf MapGuide to Beijing in the mail. She passed it on to Jessie, who slipped it into her carry-on before making tracks to the airport.

And boy was she glad she did. The small, slim volume—containing six foldout maps of major neighborhoods—was so useful Jessie left it with her hostess at the end of her trip. Not only are the new guides easily portable with clearly legible maps, but they contain practical details (prices, opening hours) about key sites in each area, as well as map-specific recommendations for restaurants, bars, shopping, even massage parlors. The series covers favorite cities from Miami to Marrakech, as well as a few larger destinations, including Normandy and Majorca. Tuck one in your left cargo pocket, and you're good to go.


Reverse Gratuity: Maids Give Tips


IT generally hates press releases. Not only do they clutter our desks, but we feel guilty trashing them, contributing evermore to this country's paper waste problem. That said, when we do get something worthy of sharing with our readers (one in, say, 200), we are surprised and tickled. Here goes it:

"Cleaning 101… National Trust Historic Hotels of America offers ideas on how to achieve a home you'll be proud of for all seasons. A tip or two from these professionals, who tackle hundreds of rooms every day, will ensure that you'll pass the white glove test every time."

Here are our favorites (and a few accompanying thoughts):
1. Polish silver with toothpaste. (Mmm. Minty fresh fork.)
2. Clean vinyl shades with fabric softener dryer sheets.
3. Remove heel marks from waxed floors by using an ordinary pencil eraser or a tennis ball on a stick. (Are tennis balls on sticks standard issue for executive housekeepers?)
4. Wash hairspray off mirrors with very hot water instead of window cleaner.
5. Remove fresh blood stains with hydrogen peroxide. (…after the police leave.)
6. Get blood out of throw pillows, rugs, and upholstery with shaving cream.
7. Treat red wine stains on carpet with white wine. (Use same bottle to treat accompanying hangover.)


From May 16, 2006: 

When Not to Go to China

In a nutshell, don't go when we did. Not that IT's resident Canuck didn't have a blast during her recent week in Beijing, but she could have planned it a little better, timing-wise.

She made two mistakes. First, by arranging to visit during her English-teaching friend's vacation, Jessie unwittingly arrived during one of China's three "golden weeks", nationally observed seven-day holidays that occur around the Chinese New Year (in January or February), International Workers' Day (May 1st), and China's National Day (October 1st). All students, all teachers, and most workers get these weeks off, and many of them take the opportunity to travel.

So, the Forbidden City? Not so forbidden. Mao's mausoleum? Closed! The Summer Palace (whose Chinese name, Yiheyuan, is often translated as "Garden of Peace and Harmony")? Probably more peaceful when there aren't thousands upon thousands of rubber-neckers crossing the 17-Arch Bridge and moseying down the Long Corridor.

Or, at least, the sections of the Long Corridor not covered in scaffolding. Which brings us to Jessie's second piece of bad timing: not waiting until after Beijing's 2008 Olympics. In anticipation of the quickly approaching Games, China is sprucing up many of its most celebrated historic sites. In Beijing alone, major sections of the Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, and Yonghegong Lamasery are hidden behind screens of bamboo scaffolding, and will presumably remain so until the hordes of the sports-mad descend in two years. And while they may require some restoration again after the hordes withdraw, we suspect it won't happen all at once, so you'll get more Confucius, less construction.


Suite Sixteen

Not every daddy can shell out $203,000 on his little girl's birthday bash like Amanda's father did in Episode 203 of MTV's My Super Sweet 16. Dropping $2,500 for your daughter and her friends to spend one night at a Hyatt hotel? Now, that's another story … or, so the Hyatt hoteliers hypothesize. According to Hospitality.net, HyaTTeen Suite 16 is the company's new ploy to tap into the spoiled-girl-birthday-party market.

While IT's parents wouldn't pop for more than a chicken-fried steak at Maddox Ranch House and a "Birthdays are a Drag" party (the birthday girl donned a pin-stripe suit and feather boa), we would have loved the Hyatt package: limo transportation, "plush Kashmere Spa Robe," Cranium games, eight-person room-service dinner (and breakfast), and—here's the kicker—"a commemorative birthday picture frame for the birthday teen to take home." Not included: Ciara and her 1, 2 step. Lucky Amanda.


E-mail your feedback and tips to InsideTraveler@ngs.org.

Bookmark IT!
www.nationalgeographic.com/traveler/extras/blog/blog.html

Emily King, a native Utahn, is the assistant to the editor at Traveler. She hopes her colleagues won't find out about her fear of flying. Oops. Jessie Johnston is a researcher at the magazine. A Vancouver transplant, she currently has seaweed stashed in her desk. Yum.


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