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IT—Inside Traveler
By Jessie Johnston and Emily King

December 7, 2006:

Chill out in Vienna

As per usual, chief researcher Marilyn Terrell has led IT to yet another interesting locale and offers an alternative antidote to jet lag:

"If you happen to be waiting around in the Vienna airport for a connecting flight and you don't have time to take the cool 16-minute nonstop City Airport Train into town, and it's 9 a.m. Austrian time and 3 a.m. your time, and you want to reset your internal clock as quickly as possible, here's a convenient place to sit in the sun and soak up those jet-lag-reducing rays.

"Exit the airport terminal, where smoking is inexplicably allowed (but only in restaurants and bathrooms) and walk across the street past the parking garage to the Vienna International Airport Office Park.

"In front, there's a sunny plaza with tables and chairs belonging to the curiously named chillout@lounge. Order a caffeine-filled coffee mélange (with hot milk), which comes on its own little ceramic tray with an oddly tilted glass of water and a square of yummy chocolate (more caffeine). It's sheltered from the wind and there's nothing to block the sun, provided it's shining, so you can bask 'til it's time to board your flight. Worked for me!"

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Wired Wanderlust: Family Travel Blogs

Family travel doesn't necessarily mean piling into the station wagon with armloads of Mad Libs, granola bars, and pillows anymore. IT has scoured the Web to nab some of the best family travel blogs floating around in cyberspace.

Reader Lisa Dee wrote in to share her favorite travel blog, Soul Travelers 3, which "is a great portrayal of a traveling family." This family of three from Santa Cruz is currently traveling the world with stops including Brussels, Provence and Egypt (soon!). As this risk-loving couple travels the world with their six-year-old daughter nicknamed "Mozart," they document their journeys with colorful photographs and vivid descriptions.

Follow grandparents Jane and Ken as they spend a year in the beautiful country of Italy with their "much loved grandson," Casey. Jane, a devoted blogger and grandmother, records each detail in their blog Casey, Italy and Other Good Stuff. The posts can get a bit verbose, but Jane finds off-the-beaten-path treasures—like Etruscan archaeological areas—that are free from tourist crowds. Our favorite part of the site, though, is Casey's blog, in which he records life in Italy from his own, eight-year-old perspective. 

The Family Travel Journal began when John and Louise, a couple from Virginia, adopted their daughters from Chongqing, China in 2002 and 2004. Currently the posts are China-centric, but the family plans to continue their globetrotting ways, and will visit Antwerp soon.

Have a favorite family travel blog of your own? Send the link to assistant online editor Mary Beth for possible coverage in an upcoming post.

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From December 5, 2006:

Away in a Market: European Christmas Shopping

Locals and tourists alike love Europe's year-round open-air markets for their fresh produce. In December, many European cities (especially in Germany) take the concept to the next level with the opulence of their annual Christmas markets. IT asked part-time Belgium resident Amy McKeever to round up three of her favorites:

Nuremberg, Germany, describes itself as a "true Christmas city" and proves it with its formidable market, from December 1 to 23. You can browse for tree ornaments and buy "Nuremberg Plum People"—figures made from prunes and walnuts—at any of the over 150 tastefully decorated red-and-white stalls. The city, which frowns on use of plastic fir garlands as decor, presents the most beautiful stalls with gold, silver, and bronze "Plum People" awards. The Christmas Angel, with her long golden curls and dress, opens the market each year and makes many charitable appearances in the run-up to Christmas.

If you're looking for something smaller, try the Christmas market in Monschau, Germany (weekends until December 23). When you arrive in this town near the Belgian border, a line of wooden booths snakes through Old Town's cobblestone streets, ending at the main market square. Monschau looks lovely in the snow, but if you need warming up, stop in one of the local restaurants for some schnitzel or, even better, grab a mini-mug of glühwein from one of the many vendors. The mugs are specially designed for the Christmas market, and people often take them as souvenirs (though you're not supposed to).

The capital city of France's Alsace region, Strasbourg switched hands between France and Germany numerous times over the centuries. Now it is squarely a French city, but with a German feel and a Christmas market to rival those of its neighbor. From November 25 through December 31, markets and celebrations are held across the city, from the single-spire cathedral to the old village called "Petite France." Tour the city center starting in Place d'Austerlitz (the place to buy a traditional Bredle cake), then browse the masses of twinkling booths in front of the cathedral, stand under the giant Christmas tree in Place Kléber, and finish up with more shopping at the christkindelsmarik at Place Broglie.

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IT's Healthy

As we've said before, IT is all about healthy eating. We've also recently spent a lot of time in airports and planes (more on that next week), so we're thrilled about a couple of new studies on healthy eating for air travelers.

Two weeks ago the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (described by the Washington Post as "a medical group that advocates for vegetarianism") released its annual Airport Food Report, surveying 13 major U.S. airports. The report bases airports' scores on the percentage of their restaurants serving "at least one vegetarian entrée that is low in fat, high in fiber, and cholesterol-free." Overall there was a 13-percent improvement over last year, with all but one of the previously surveyed airports showing a higher score (last year's number-one Chicago O'Hare went down a point). Top-rated was Orlando, with a score of 97 (up from its eighth-place 76 last year), and described by PCRM as offering "a bounty of healthy choices." Other top scorers are Detroit, San Francisco, Newark, and Dallas/Fort Worth. The report's "most improved airport" award goes to Houston, which upped its 2005 score of 46 by 30 points. Despite a 27-point improvement, Las Vegas remains in last place for the third year in a row (with a score of 69).

None of this matters, though, if you're prone to arrive late at airports (like Jessie) or often find yourself with a boarding pass marked SSSS (Jessie again), and therefore don't have time to chow down before you take off. In that case, you'll want to check out last week's Airline Snack Food Investigation on Nutritionist Charles Platkin looked at the snacks dished out on six major airlines, and assigned each a rating of one (lowest) to five (highest) stars. Each airline's assessment includes its score (with a quick explanation), the healthiest option available, and the total calories, cost, and contents of the snack packages offered. United topped the list with five stars, and Continental and JetBlue tied for second with four stars each. Coming in last is Delta, whose "tasty delights" are dismissed by Platkin—"You'll be very hungry after eating Delta's entire snack pack"—and IT's very own frequent flier, Emily: "The parmesan peppercorn cheese spread tastes good until you finish it," she says, "at which point you feel sick and hungry."

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While she hates Delta's cheese spread, Emily King, Traveler's assistant to the editor, loves the Biscoff cookies served on their flights. Researcher Jessie Johnston wishes airlines would stop giving vegetarians margarine for their rolls. "We eat butter!"

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