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IT—Inside Traveler
By Jessie Johnston and Emily King

June 15, 2006:

The Summer Road Trip


Rand McNally recently released the results of its Great American Road Trip Survey, which polled nearly 4,000 consumers from all 50 states. IT was quite amused by the press release, so we thought we'd highlight a few of the results:
 
* More men than women think gas stations on the road provide suitable restrooms.

* 76 percent of respondents said they usually take a road trip for their vacation.

* Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California were the top-ranked destinations for parents and children.

* Most popular in-transit pastimes: looking at passing sights (67 percent) and playing games (63 percent). Surprisingly unpopular was singing (24 percent).

* Top road disagreements: Personal space/seating arrangements (54 percent), when to stop for breaks (27 percent), where to eat (11 percent), and what radio station to listen to (8 percent).

* Who navigates? Mostly Mom (47 percent), followed by Dad (41 percent).

* Visiting relatives is the number one road trip destination for women when they are traveling without children. Men prefer national parks.

* Road trip memories fell into a few main categories:
            —Accidentally leaving a loved one behind
            —Being chased by animals or attacked by bugs
            —Desperately needing to use the restroom or getting car sick
            —Getting lost
            —Cars breaking down, running out of gas, or receiving speeding tickets
            —Torturing siblings

Do you remember being endlessly tortured on road trips to Disneyland? IT does....


Bard in the Yard

IT recently enjoyed a glorious evening of scenery and greenery at the D.C. Shakespeare Theatre Company's annual Free for All in Rock Creek Park's Carter Barron Amphitheatre. The excellent production of Pericles, combined with the inherent pleasure of getting something for nothing, got us thinking about free outdoor Shakespeare and where else to find it. We did a little research and made some interesting discoveries.

Like most people, we were familiar with New York's venerable Shakespeare in the Park. We were intrigued to learn, however, that the Public Theatre is not alone in presenting William's works among the willows of Central Park. Other major cities where a first folio fix can be found for free include Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Baltimore and L.A. This isn't purely a bicoastal phenomenon, though. Skint Shakespeareans in the heartland have a host of options, from Kansas City and Lansing to Columbus and Cleveland. In fact, wittily named free Shakespeare festivals (Free Will in Louisville, Atlanta's Shake at the Lake) are spread from New Haven to San Pedro and everywhere in between.

We must confess we were shocked (in a good way) to find so much free Billy available. We were more shocked (and in a not-so-good way) to learn how little there is in the rest of the English-speaking world. In all our searching, we located one Canadian troupe and a single Australian company providing professional al fresco Shakespeare for the masses. And in the Bard's homeland? We couldn't find any. To which we say: Get with it, Brits. If Texas can support two such companies, IT thinks you should be able to swing at least one.


From June 13, 2006:

Look Before you Leave

Navigating an unfamiliar city? Worried you won't recognize the exclusive hideaway recommended by your in-the-know co-worker? IT has found an ingenious tool designed to alleviate all "it should be right here" stress.

When the folks at A9 (Amazon's search engine) launched their own version of the Yellow Pages, they spruced it up with a feature called BlockView. It's a database of 35 million street-level photos of storefronts that allows searchers to not only find the contact info for the business they're hunting, but also see what it looks like. The photos are displayed in sequence, so you can take a virtual walk down the street before you take a physical one.

When the search engine added a map function, they incorporated BlockView and expanded its coverage from the original 20 million images. To date, A9's squads of trucks armed with GPS systems and digital cameras have descended on 24 U.S. cities, including biggies like Miami and Houston, and smaller favorites like Portland, OR, and Fargo, ND.

IT probably wouldn't have driven past Sushi-Ko so many times this weekend if we'd looked it up before going for dinner.


IT Travels with Meghan Aftosmis

Meghan Aftosmis, who used to have Emily's job, wrote to tell IT about how she's putting her Traveler experience to use, by traveling! She offers tips for Italian shopping (and eating):

"Venetian glass—Once you get to Venice, everyone says to go to Murano, the island that hosts most of the glass-blowing studios and workshops. Great. So you get there and there are so many stores. My friend and I spent four hours wandering in and out of them. It wasn't until our last stop—The Murano Art Shop (Fondamenta Navagero 57; +39 041 736879)—that we spoke to a store owner, Stefano Stefanoni. We learned from him that some of the shops on Murano don't sell authentic Murano glass—some is shipped from China! To get the real thing, always check for the Murano glass trademark. I wasn't buying anything that day, but I was tempted in his studio: reasonable prices and authentic work. He accepts e-mail orders from the U.S.

"Leather in Florence—Leather markets and factory shops are everywhere, but I found two places that I especially loved. The first, where I bought a purse, is called Leo (Via dei Neri, 42r; +39 055 2741028). The owner carried such great styles—a little trendy, but still classic—and at the best prices I'd seen. I paid $190 for a large over-the-shoulder brown leather purse. The other place I was impressed with was the Leather School. We had to really look for it, but once you're there, you can watch the workers make all sorts of pieces—stitching and working the leather. It's incredible to see how much work goes into their products. They also have a showroom of pieces for sale. Everything was gorgeous—a bit pricier, but worth it.

"Cinque Terre pesto—I knew the beaches and hiking trails would be beautiful (they are!), but who knew (I didn't!), that the Cinque Terre were famous for pesto. I love pesto, so I tried it in almost every restaurant. My two favorites: Baja Saracena on Piazza Marconi in Vernazza, a pizza place with the most delicious pesto pizza—I ate it on the breakwater, watching the sea roll in. And Trattoria Via Venti (Via XX Settembre 32) in Monterosso. They served a local style of pasta called troffie tossed, of course, in pesto sauce. One of the best meals I had in Italy."


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

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Emily King, Traveler's assistant to the editor, aspires to be on the cover of Fast Company. Researcher Jessie Johnston is traumatized enough by the photo on her National Geographic staff badge.


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