In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Mescal goes hip in Mexico City
Think of mescal and you probably picture a worm floating in cheap, rough liquor. But in Mexico City, the spirit has become fashionable, with specialist mezcalerías serving high-quality versions of the drink. And there’s not a dead grub in sight …
This post first appeared on the Culinary Backstreets blog
The sap of the spiky maguey plant has long been used by the indigenous peoples of Mexico to prepare pulque, a milk-coloured, viscous drink that has roughly the same alcohol content as beer. When they arrived in Mexico, the Spanish were introduced to pulque. Used to imbibing harder stuff, however, the conquistadors experimented with distilling a mash made out of the maguey plant, in the process inventing the beguiling spirit known as mescal.
Previously a liquor considered the province of the poor and working classes, mescal has in recent years become one of the trendiest and most popular alcoholic drinks in Mexico, with more than 150 different brands now on the market. (Tequila, made from blue agave – a kind of maguey – and produced within a specific region of Mexico, is the best-known member of the mescal family.) The rise in mescal’s popularity has led to a proliferation of mezcalerías, wine bar-like spots that specialise in pouring the drink. In Mexico City in particular, mezcalerías have popped up in nearly every neighbourhood, and their numbers keep growing.
Corazón de Maguey (“heart of the maguey”), located in the bustling neighbourhood of Coyoacán, offers up a two-for-one special, with an excellent selection of craft mescals as well as superb food. The venue was opened in 2010 by Los Danzantes, a restaurant group that a decade earlier purchased a palenque, or distillery, in Santiago Matatlán, in the state of Oaxaca, south-west Mexico, and began making its own brand of mescal. Named Mezcal Alipús, or Los Nahuales in the US, the brand is a joint venture among four producers that are attempting to keep the tradition of authentic, local mescal distillation alive.
The germiest surfaces on planes and in airports
If you’ll be among the 24 million people expected to be in an airport and on a plane this Thanksgiving holiday period, Charles Gerba, the University of Arizona microbiology professor known as “Dr. Germ,” has some important travel advice for you: Pack light and carry hand sanitizer.
Gerba, whose travel souvenirs often include test swabs from airplane lavatories, has identified the three germiest spots on airplanes — toilets, tray tables and the latches on overhead bins.
He’s found the norovirus, the influenza virus, diarrhea and MRSA on airplane tray tables, which he says are rarely disinfected. The latches on overhead bins also get “lots of touching, but no cleaning.”
Gerba says an average of 50 people (up to 75 on budget airlines) use the lavatory each flight and warns that even if everyone bothered to wash their hands before exiting, this is the ickiest spot on a plane. “The tap water shuts off on you when you try to wash your hands and the sink is too small for people with large hands,” he said. Gerba has found that the lavatory exit door on airplanes usually has E. coli on it after a long flight.
He advises travelers to use hand sanitizer to clean their hands after leaving the lavatory or, better yet, “hold it if you can.”
But don’t assume you’ll find complete relief once you make it to the terminal.
“If airplanes are number one, (lavatories at) airports are number two,” said Gerba. He used to rank gas station restrooms high on this list, but has noticed that many service stations no longer even have restrooms available for customers.
Montego Bay, Jamaica has it all
The answer is Montego Bay. The question? Where can you find many of Jamaica’s best beaches, best festivals, best golf courses, best luxury hotels and best historic sites? It’s not that other parts of the island — which just celebrated it’s 50th year of independence — don’t have a lot to offer, but in Montego Bay — Jamaica’s second largest city — you can find many of the top sites all in one place. A nice bonus — it’s just 3 km from Sangster International Airport, where most international flights land, so you can begin your holiday minutes after touching down.
Beautiful beaches are the main reason for Montego Bay’s enduring appeal. Eighty years after some early tourists, among them a famous British osteopath, declared the waters had curative powers, Doctor’s Cave Beach remains one of the standouts. It’s now part of Montego Bay Marine Park (Jamaica’s first national park), which protects a variety of marine life among the coral reefs and is good for snorkelling.
It’s all about the water in Montego Bay — or MoBay, as it’s affectionately known. After the beach, the Aquasol Theme Park, and horseback riding in the sea (with Chukka Caribbean Adventures), there are two other water-based experiences worth checking out in the Falmouth area because they can’t be done very many places.
One is a pleasant one-hour ride on a bamboo raft down Martha Brae River — a quintessential Jamaican experience through the lush countryside. Another is a trip to Glistening Waters, billed as “Jamaica’s only natural nighttime attraction.” Boats take you out for a 35-minute tour on the luminous lagoon, which is filled with microscopic organisms that emit phosphorescent light when agitated. You can also swim, and the restaurant serves authentic Jamaican cuisine before or after the tour.
Did eclipse cruise miss the money shot?
It was the spectacle that wowed the nation, but a passenger claims his dream of watching the total solar eclipse yesterday was shattered when the cruise ship he was travelling on arrived to its viewing spot late.
Thousands had lined beaches and lookouts in Cairns and Port Douglas to watch as the solar eclipse plunged Queensland’s far north into darkness at 6.39am.
However, passengers who had paid more than $799 for a 10-night cruise on the Pacific Jewel around the Pacific Islands missed out on the spectacle, according to the man, who wishes to remain anonymous.
The cruise had been promoted as offering “best view” of the spectacle, but he claims it was botched when the cruise sailed on a longer route to its destination.
“The ship simply headed towards the wrong position in the ocean,” the passenger told news.com.au.
“(It went) on a longer route that took us away from the eclipse… As a result, we were an hour late and thus unable to witness a unique moment in life for many of us: a total solar eclipse.”
“I’m an astronomer and I was baffled by this mistake and I had to check it again and again, I couldn’t believe it.”
David Jones from Carnival Australia, which owns P&O, denied the passenger’s account but said the ship experienced some heavy weather conditions on the way to view the eclipse.
“Pacific Jewel left earlier than scheduled and made good speed going north but was slowed by some heavy weather conditions on the way,” Mr Jones said.