In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Worlds of food carts in New York
This round-the-world trip can be completed in an afternoon, costs less than $100 and comes with hot sauce.
From Tibetan momos (dumplings) to Uruguayan alfajors (cookies), the food consumed on New York’s Eat The Street tours offers a taste of immigrant life in the world’s most ethnically diverse neighborhood – the borough of Queens, where more than 160 languages are spoken.
“You could find a nibble of anything here,” said Andrew Silverstein, who guides the food cart-noshing tours in conjunction with Feet in Two Worlds, a non-profit organization focused on immigrants in America.
A quick subway ride from the glitz of Manhattan, the bustling thoroughfare of Roosevelt Avenue in the Jackson Heights section of Queens provides a gritty mix of Indian groceries, South American travel agencies and immigration lawyers’ offices under a lacelike canopy of elevated train tracks.
Sidewalks are dotted with coppery stains left by South Asian men who chew betel nut and are crammed with a virtual United Nations of food carts run by immigrants cooking up a taste of home.
First stop on a recent tour was the momo cart run by Kunchock “Rodney” Rebgee, 32, who emigrated from Tibet four years ago.
“This is what is eaten by the nomadic people because they have animals,” said Rebgee of the meat dumplings that were a staple of his childhood.
Silverstein put the role of the food cart into perspective. “One of the first steps for an immigrant community to take hold is to be able to get their native food,” he said to his four followers as they chewed their momos.
Tunisian tourism shows signs of recovery
Figures suggest that holidaymakers are returning to Tunisia as political tensions ease following last year’s “Jasmine Revolution”.
Figures released by the Tunisian National Tourist Office indicate that more than 31,000 Britons travelled to the country in May, a 34 per cent increase on the number of British visitors in the same period last year.
The numbers currently stand at about 14 per cent less than they were in May 2010, a record-breaking month in terms for visitors from the UK, with slightly more than 35,000 Britons entering the country.
The news was welcomed by Tunisian tourism officials.
“The UK has proved to be one of our most resilient markets and I’m delighted to see visitors returning to Tunisia in such numbers,” said Wahida Jaiet, director of the country’s tourism office for the UK and Ireland.
“I’m confident that the UK and Irish markets will continue to grow,” she said.
“Now is a great time to visit Tunisia as the country enjoys a new-found freedom and optimism. There is plenty to bring visitors back to Tunisia again and again.”
Mehdi Houas, the former tourism and commerce minister, said that Tunisia’s revenues from tourism had dropped by around 50 per cent in 2011 to about £800m.
Rome’s famous Trevi fountain is crumbling
The estimated 200,000-euro ($250,000) cost of repairing pieces that fell from the facade of Rome’s beloved Trevi fountain will be covered by an Italian mineral water company, according to a report in Britain’s The Telegraphnewspaper. Acqua Claudia is the benefactor.
“My company sells water from Rome and I felt that I could not remain indifferent to the needs of the Trevi Fountain, which is a symbol not only of Rome but of water,” said Mauro De Dominicis, an executive from Acqua Claudia. He told the newspaper he hopes other companies will step up and contribute to a full restoration of the fountain, where visitors toss a coin into the fountain and usually make a wish.
A traditional wish is to return to Rome; now, the hope might be that the historic landmark be returned to its former glory.
The 250-year-old Baroque fountain seen in La Dolce Vita, Roman Holidayand the star of the 1954 movie Three Coins in the Fountain, has suffered damage.
According to a report in the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper, parts of “ornate stucco reliefs have crumbled from … Rome’s baroque masterpiece, making it the latest in a series of Italian monuments to suffer damage and reigniting a row over Italy’s commitment to protect its heritage.”
Workmen put up scaffolding around a section where bits of a gargoyle’s head and leaves fell over the weekend above the centerpiece statues.
City officials attributed the damage to water infiltration including that from an unusual winter snowfall, the Guardiansaid. Italy’s Green Party complained about the slowing of the flow funding to maintain monuments.
Other affected tourist sites include the Colosseum, where stone fell from a wall last year. Roman emperor Nero’s palace has been closed since a roof collapsed, the Guardian said. Italy is in financial crisis, and civic funding is less plentiful.
Squat no more! Thailand moves to western-style toilets
Hate those squat toilets which are common throughout Asia? Well, we have some good news.
Thailand has announced plans to scrap squat toilets in public facilities and replace them with western-style, sit down loos.
The announcement is sure to be welcomed by female travellers who struggle to work out how to use a squat toilet – which is basically little more than a bowl in the floor – without splattering urine onto their calves or feet.
Thailand’s Health Ministry made the announcement this week, Thailand English daily The Nation reported.
Deputy public health minister Surawit Khonsomboon said the program was necessary to assist the country’s aging population – but it is sure to appeal to tourists as well.
Thailand was the fourth most popular destination for Australian travellers last year after New Zealand, Indonesia and the US.
While most public facilities already have sit-down toilets, many shophouse restaurants, gas stations and other businesses still have them.