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IT—Inside Traveler
By Jessie Johnston and Emily King

November 16, 2006:

Par Avian: Turkey in the Mail

If you've opted not to ditch the relatives for Thanksgiving, but still don't feel like cooking, we have a solution. Order your turkey dinner from Flagstaff House Restaurant—the only Mobil four-star restaurant in Boulder, Colorado— which is selling the feast online for overnight delivery to any location in the U.S. The "heat and serve" dinner for four—including roasted butternut squash soup; organic free-range turkey;  a creamy gratin of Yukon Gold and sweet potatoes with nutmeg and tarragon; seasoned dressing made from brioche; cinnamon-and-clove-infused tomato jelly (in lieu of cranberry sauce); dinner rolls; and Chef Mark Monette's signature pumpkin chai cheesecake with macadamia nut crust—is $178 plus overnight shipping and handling. Orders must be placed by November 16, 2006 (today!).

For those who'd rather travel for their four-star Thanksgiving meals, try Michel Richard Citronelle in Washington, D.C., Campton Place Restaurant in San Francisco, Nana in Dallas, or Gilt in New York City. Who else is offering special T-day meals? Check OpenTable's Thanksgiving page for a list of restaurants and a description of what each has to offer. Amen.

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Tour Iran and Come Back Glowing?

IT asked Genevieve Contey (a graduate student working on a special project for National Geographic Traveler) to report on two Iranian tourism initiatives. One might inspire you to search for that old lead vest of yours—the other, just a good camera:

"Ever fantasize about being a UN weapons inspector? Get a little giddy over WMDs? Iranian President Ahmadinejad recently announced plans to organize a cottage tourism industry around the country's nuclear plants. Tehran's announcement for proposed 'nuclear tourism' came in the midst of forthcoming United Nations Security Council sanctions: The UN and the U.S. government allege that Iran intends to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapons program, a claim that Tehran fiercely denies. Ahmadinejad himself insists the enrichment program is for 'peaceful purposes' only. To support his claim, he's allowing tourists to visit nuclear facilities.

"According to Al Jazeera, 'possible attractions for tourists would include the uranium conversion facility outside Isfahan, the uranium enrichment plant in Natanz or the Islamic republic's first nuclear plant being built in the southern city of Bushehr.' As of yet, no details have been released as to the nature of these visits (can we go inside?) or when these visits will be legalized, so don't scramble for your potassium iodide pills just yet.

"The president has also offered an incentive to bolster the country's tourism industry in general. According to a November 1 Associated Press story, Iran's Tourism and Cultural Heritage Organization said it will pay Western travel agents $20 for every American or European tourist brought into the country.

"Although it may seem like a lot, this $20 is a small price to pay—if it works—for improving public relations and getting Western, specifically American, tourists into the country. Because the United States and Iran have not shared diplomatic relations since the 1979 attack on the American Embassy in Tehran, the country hasn't been a significant tourist destination for Americans. The country's ban on alcohol and mandatory head covering for women haven't helped travelers' perceptions either.

"While sterile labs, hazmat suits and weapons-grade centrifuges may not spark your wanderlust, you may want to try some of these options on for size: trekking along the Silk Road, windsurfing on the Caspian Sea, haggling for an exquisite Persian rug in Tehran's Grand Bazaar, or admiring the marvelous architecture of Isfahan, the ruins of the ancient city of Persepolis, or any of Iran's six other UNESCO World Heritage sites."

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November 14, 2006:

Sleep Easy: Introducing the DreamSack

IT contributor Anne Marie Johnson is an avid traveler who struggles with a compulsion to be clean. Beyond always carrying Purell in her purse, she has one product she simply can't travel without:

"Amongst other things, traveling is a departure from familiarity. This leap into the unknown is usually rewarding: the crunchy feel of salt from the Dead Sea, the taste of Burgundy in Burgundy, the vision of a sunset over the savanna. Yes, these are memories that remain visceral long after the end of a voyage. However, on the way to these magic moments of wanderlust, one can also be confronted with some less-than-savory realities. For this germophobe, a night or longer in a sketchy hostel, ratty roadside motel, or bedraggled B&B can take the lust right out of wandering.

"Happily, there is a solution in the aptly named DreamSack. The original DreamSack is a portable silk sack, sewn on three sides, ensuring that you will never spend another sleepless night stiff with panic trying to avoid contact with a set of yellowed, less-than-hygienic sheets. It can also be used as a sleeping bag liner to add warmth on a cold night. The DreamSack is 34 inches (86 cm)wide, weighs less than a pound, and folds to fit into its six-by-three-and-a-half-inch (15 by nine cm) stuff-bag. Although made of silk, it's machine washable. The good people at DreamSack have also started to make pillow cases, because if the sheets don't seem clean…well, you get the idea. A DreamSack costs $62, which will probably end up saving you money; just think of all those $2-a-night hostels you can stay in—lice-free."

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IT Voluntours

The combination of travel and service work, or voluntourism, is hitting the mainstream—catching the attention of college students, professionals, and, get ready for it…Travelocity. The online travel agency has recently launched Travel for Good, partnering with several nonprofit organizations to make it easier for travelers to access volunteer opportunities around the world.

Travelocity is a newby, though, in a field already populated by established nonprofits like Globe Aware, which offers volunteer vacations in Peru, Costa Rica, Thailand, Cuba, Nepal, Brazil, and other locations. The one-week trips have been called a "mini Peace Corps" and cost around $1,000. Closer to home, Take Pride in America is a clearinghouse of volunteer opportunities throughout the U.S. The site doesn't explicitly link volunteering to travel, but you can easily plan a trip around one or more of their service activities.

Writer Joshua Berman's blog The Tranquilo Traveler offers a personal perspective on this burgeoning travel trend as he details his 16-month-long honeymoon volunteering in Northern India, Sri Lanka, and Africa, with the American Jewish World Service Volunteer Corp. Berman, who volunteered with the Peace Corps in Nicaragua from 1998 to 2000 and has authored several travel guides, describes voluntouring as "the best way to get beneath the skin of a culture that a tourist normally sees. When you have a role within the community it opens up all kinds of doors. It gives you a deeper experience than traveling for recreation. And you learn and make lifelong friends."

For more detailed information on how to take a volunteer vacation, check out National Geographic Traveler's article on family service trips, VolunTourism International's website, and the volunteer travel listings provided by Transitions Abroad. World Volunteers lists humanitarian, conservation, and archaeology volunteer opportunities in their books (and online for book owners).

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Emily King, Traveler's assistant to the editor, wants to visit the pyramids of Giza before they're just a suburb of Cairo. Researcher Jessie Johnston hopes to see Machu Picchu before it becomes an Angkor-style jungle gym.

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