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Shoestring-Jun2009 This month’s desktop calendar preview at left.

As usual, the image and download instructions can be found under the “For Your Desktop” tab.

Enjoy!

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What’s going on at the blog? Inquiring minds want to know!

There are lots of good changes coming soon — check out the beta version of the new site here.  How do you like the new look?  Something broken in your browser?  Leave a message in the comments.

For the next couple of weeks, continue to check this page while everything gets sorted out at the new domain.  When it’s time to change your bookmarks and your rss feeds, I’ll let you know.

shoestring-mar2009Since I was hoping to launch at the beginning of March, I’ve been sitting on this month’s desktop calendar.  No longer!  Download a piece of spring for your computer by clicking on the “For Your Desktop” tab above.

Finally, I will be at the ITB here in Berlin for the next five days, making contacts with fellow travel bloggers and travel professionals.  If you’ll be there, do send me a message via the contact tab.  Let’s network!

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Shoestring-Feb2009It’s the first of the month (rabbit, rabbit), and you know what that means:  February’s calendar desktop is now ready for download.  Preview of the image at left.

If you’re not sure how to change your desktop wallpaper, follow the easy instructions in the For Your Desktop tab.

Enjoy!

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I love capitols — can’t get enough of their marble halls, gilded domes, dark wood paneling and hundreds of tiny desks (at least they always *look* tiny from the viewing gallery) with multicolored voting buttons.  They capture a regal era removed from our own with a permanence found rarely in modern architecture.

While in DC at the beginning of January, my destination of choice was the new visitors’ center at the U.S. Capitol.  On the way, I passed the inauguration grounds with stage building in progress, pictured on Tuesday.  (Where did you spend your inauguration day? Share your stories in the comments.)

In sheer contrast to the classical American dome is that of the German Reichstag, whose glass dome by Sir Norman Foster was added to the building after reunification.  The overarching theme of Germany’s new governmental architecture is transparency, with buildings and offices as visible as possible.  From the visitors’ area of the dome, it is possible to look down into the plenary room below, as pictured here.

Reichstag, inside view

A visit to the Reichstag is fun and free — check all the details for making yours a smooth one in this previous post.

Follow other Photo Friday participants here.

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I’m sadly making my way back across the Atlantic today, but before I go, I wanted to share a picture from my brief visit to New York City.  This fair maiden guards the Columbus Circle entrance to Central Park, which I walked from top to bottom on New Year’s Day.

Gateway to Central Park

Have you already completed your first travels of 2009?  Have something planned for January or February?  Please share your destination in the comments.

  • Follow other Photo Friday participants here.
  • Download this month’s free desktop calendar here.

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shoestring-jan2009Happy New Year!  Back by popular demand, January’s calendar desktop is ready for download.  Reader Paul requested this snowy scene from my last Photo Friday post, and I’ll never let it be said that I don’t aim to please . . .  Preview of the image at left.

If you’re not sure how to change your desktop wallpaper, follow the easy instructions in the For Your Desktop tab.

Making three different versions of the calendar each month was tedious, so I’m giving it a go with just one.  If you find that the calendar is cut off or the image is otherwise wonky, please send me a message and let me know.  Include your screen dimensions and I’ll try to create and post a version that works for you. 

Have you been missing the calendar too?  Leave a comment below.

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Hope everyone had a nice holiday and has recovered from and repented for any gluttony they may have participated in. 🙂 Just two reminders and a belated photo this Monday morning.

First, it’s your last chance to get your suggestions in for the running Reader Tips Contest for New York City and Washington DC. I’m still waiting to hear *your* best tips and tricks before I take off on Wednesday, so please add your comments on the linked post.

Second, today is the final day to make your donation to the Passports with Purpose fundraiser/raffle for Heifer International. If you’re interested in winning, chances were best on the prizes linked here or here. The drawings will be held tomorrow.

Finally, a tardy Photo Friday entry from the chilly wilds of northern Minnesota:

snowy berries

Though the cold keeps us indoors and the ice and snow off the slippery roads, there are some mornings too beautiful not to appreciate winter, right?

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‘Tis the season to make a numbered shopping list!  Thankfully, the no-budget traveler is easier to shop for than you’d imagine.  If you’re still looking for ideas, take a look at last year’s list, then follow me after the jump for another 20 items for under $20 (18 under $10) your favorite travel fiend.

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Vicky Cristina BarcelonaTuesday is discount day at one of the largest English-language (i.e. not dubbed) cinemas in Berlin.  On tap this week was Woody Allen’s newest, Vicky Cristina Barcelona.  Though a sadder movie than I expected, what disappointed me most was the portrayal of one of those three title characters — can you guess which one?

The film is set in — surprise! — Barcelona, and while every review you’ll read will extol the gorgeous sweeping views of the enchanting city, it felt more like they spent a few days shooting at spots around town before retreating to other locations.  Would that Spain had been more influential in the plot.  As written, the film and its romantic intrigues could have easily been set in any other number of romantic, European, Mediterranean locales. 

La Sagrada Familia ceiling

One of the first things Vicky and Cristina do upon arriving in town is a pilgrimage to La Sagrada Familia, the masterwork-in-progress of architect Antoni Gaudi.  Vicky is pursuing a master’s in Catalan culture (without, I might add, much ability to speak Spanish), inspired by the works of Gaudi and the dulcet strains of the Spanish guitar.  If you’re not familiar with his work, Gaudi’s style was influenced by art nouveau and his whimsical architecture, like La Sagrada Familia, detail on door (Pontius Pilate)that of Hundertwasser, is usually fiercely loved or hated.  For lovers, it is easy to take in a great variety of his works in just a short visit to the city.

Making La Sagrada Familia unique is that it remains under construction, over 12 decades since breaking ground and eight decades after Gaudi’s accidental death; work continues despite setbacks from a civil war, two world wars, and the near-complete destruction of Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, sculptural detailmodels and plans.  Workers hope to finish by 2026, the centennial of Gaudi’s passing, though with any construction project of this magnitude, it is unclear whether or not they will achieve this goal.  If you could ignore the modern equipment, it would be like stepping back a thousand years, when many cathedrals across Europe were built, each taking hundreds of years to complete.

The church, open at 9 a.m. daily, is located near the subway station bearing its name.  Admission fee:  10 euros adults, 8 euros students.  Included in the admission price is entrance to the church and two on-site museums.  The site has two excellent gift shops with a variety of reasonably-priced Gaudi gear and a wide selection of postcards.

La Sagrada Familia stained glass

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At the confluence of the Moselle and Rhine rivers in the lovely city of Koblenz, Germany, stands a large Deutsches Eck, Koblenz, Germanymonument called Deutsches Eck (German Corner).  Originally dedicated to the empire of Kaiser Wilhelm I, its partial destruction in WWII led the remnants to serve as a memorial to German unity until 1989.  It was rebuilt by Koblenz in 1993.

Climbing inside the central structure (below the statue) affords views along both river banks and of the town itself.  Koblenz is a well-maintained city with abundant plantings and whimsical fountains and figures sprinkled throughout.  The center of town is dominated by pedestrian shopping areas, though it’s easy to find refuge from inclement Church Steeples, Koblenzweather in the indoor (and partially underground) Löhr Center mall at the edge of this area.  The monument is at most a 15-minute walk from the central bus or train stations.

Given its location, the area is popular with river-cruising tourists.   You don’t need to commit a week, however — one- or three-hour boat trips are readily available at standard rates.  In the summer, it is possible to make a leisurely daytrip all the way from Cologne or Bonn by boat.

The monument (admission: free) has many details to be discovered by visitors.  Each of the German states are represented by a plaque in the rounded area while their flags grace the waterfront.  I’m a sucker for reliefs like these giant carved stone snakes above the benches at the base of the monument.  For younger visitors, there is plenty of open space for running, climbing and jumping.

Stone Snakes, Deutsches Eck, Koblenz, Germany

Koblenz can be reached by bus from Frankfurt/Hahn airport and, if the timing is right, is an enjoyable day out for any passengers connecting on low-cost carriers with a long layover.

Find (and join!) other Photo Friday participants here.

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