Escape Artists offers up a global discourse ranging from great finds close to home to adventures far afield. You'll find weekly travel deals here, too. Share your road wisdom, rave about great finds and rant about roadblocks that get in the way of a great trip.

Contributor: Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.

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Posts about International travel

Gluten Free Traveling

Posted by: Sarah Johnson Updated: January 9, 2015 - 4:44 PM

You know the Boy Scout motto “be prepared”? I feel like adopting that when I travel since I follow a gluten free diet. Venturing away from home when you have special food requirements may seem overwhelming, but I haven’t let it stop me from seeing the world and have adopted some tricks to make it manageable.

Research your destination ahead of time - most restaurants now have menus posted online. I’ve found that if you call when they are not busy they are happy to suggest some options. You can also print gluten free dining cards that are available in more than 50 languages online for free.

Even if you don’t check your bag, there are some things you can bring through security - apples, bananas and oranges hold up well, don’t need to be refrigerated and are easy to eat on the go. Individual packets of nut butter are smaller than three ounces and provide some protein. Live by a grocery store that has a bulk section with the ingredients listed on the bin? It’s fun to make your own trail mix.

If you’re traveling internationally and will be served meals and/or snacks on your flight, call the airline ahead of time and request a special meal. When I went to Germany, the gluten free meal was chicken with broccoli, carrots and rice with a fruit cup and salad. (The snack before we landed was a banana with an Udi’s gluten free chocolate chip muffin, which was much more appealing than the processed egg sandwich everyone else was eating.) I try not to worry about leaving my comfort zone - sometimes it’s easier to find gluten free food in foreign countries. In Peru, the standard side dishes are potatoes and rice and one of their specialties is pollo a la brasa (similar to rotisserie chicken).

Not only can visiting a farmer’s market or going to the grocery store in a new place be a good way to find real food, it can also be a great free sightseeing option. (At a grocery store in Amsterdam, I saw drinks with Hello Kitty and Spongebob Squarepants on them.) If your hotel offers rooms with a refrigerator, Greek yogurt with fruit or string cheese with gluten free crackers are good snacks with some protein that don’t need to be cooked.

An added bonus to bringing my own snacks means less time spent sitting in restaurants waiting for food and more time (and money) I can devote to maximizing my sightseeing time. I can’t wait to discover more tricks.

Delta brings on the warm-weather destinations

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: September 18, 2014 - 11:05 AM
News from the Travel Desk:
Delta Air Lines announced that it is bringing back its nonstop seasonal service between Liberia, Costa Rica, with Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. Seasonal service between San Jose and Minneapolis/St. Paul will be reinstated. Delta will also offer flights to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic from MSP during the cold months, when demand for such warm-weather destinations peaks.

Flights will be operated using Airbus A320 and Airbus A319 aircraft.

To chaperone or not

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: March 20, 2014 - 3:03 PM

No rest for the weary: I chaperoned once when my daughter’s class spent a few days and nights on a Wisconsin farm. Turns out I was no match for the five first- through third-graders in my room. They finally got to sleep around midnight. Like the children, I returned home exhausted. So when a reader called to ask if she should head to Italy as a chaperone for her daughter and some classmates, my muscles tensed. (Chalk it up to flashbacks.) She had only five days to decide, and the trip would cost her $4,100.
I knew what I would do. But I tried to be judicious, realizing that such a decision depends upon the individual. Would she take delight in seeing the world through the wide, excited eyes of youth, or feel ripped off when the schedule deprived her of a leisurely morning cappuccino?
As the reader said, “I don’t know which should play a bigger role, the destination or the situation.” It’s an interesting conundrum. If you’ve been a chaperone on an international trip, we'd love to hear about your experience.

Couch safari

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: December 18, 2012 - 3:10 PM

Can't travel to Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, the focus of last week's top Travel story? Now you can take a virtual trip there to see the wildlife. In fact, researchers at the University of MInnesota would like you to do that, and play scientists at the same time. As part of a project called Snapshot Serengeti, researchers have set up 225 cameras in the park to capture wild creatures, from lions strolling through the grasses to hyenas that sometimes chomp on the cameras. Log onto the site, and you'll be given a picture-driven tutorial on how to identify the various animals, from aardvarks to warthogs, a treat in itself for animal lovers. After the tutorial, you can begin looking through the captures (what the site calls a collection of three images captured when an animals movement triggers the cameras to shot) and identifying the animals and their behavior (based on simle descriptors such as "moving" and "interacting"). Speaking of capture -- the whole exercise caught my attention. When you get an image of African grasses through the tell legs of a giraffe, how can you stop?


Theme park is flush with possibilities

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: December 4, 2012 - 11:13 AM

Here's an oddball head's up for travelers: South Korea recently launched a unique kind of theme park. The Restroom Cultural Park  highlights the history of toilets. This news may not nudge you to nab a ticket to Seoul, but it did prompt Roto-Rooter Minneapolis to issue a press release commending the theme park.  The new sight is in the town of Suwon, a 30 minute train ride from Seoul. Just so your trip there doesn't all go to waste, stop by the walled fortress of Hwaseong Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This from PR Newswire:

"In recent news, South Korea has gained a lot of pop culture media attention from the rise of "Gangnam Style" to cosmetic trends for men. Now, the innovative nation is responsible for bringing a new theme park to the world. According to a recent Daily Mail article, earlier this year the "world's first toilet theme park" opened, aptly named the Restroom Cultural Park. Created by Sim Jae-Duck, a visionary and aficionado in the toilet market, this theme park features a gallery and sculpture garden of toilet-themed art. Roto-Rooter Minneapolis, part of America's leading plumbing and drain service company, celebrates this new park, citing it as an important reference for those interested in learning more about plumbing and its history.

According to a recent press statement from Roto-Rooter Minneapolis, the company comments, "When people are asked about the history of plumbing, they are most likely only going to be able to remember the lessons they learned during their school years about the Roman aqueducts. South Korea's Restroom Cultural Park shows that the innovation of plumbing is part of global innovation that continues to be treasured by cultures across the globe. Although many may not appreciate the presence of toilets in their everyday lives, this theme park can help individuals gain perspective about the importance of modern plumbing."

The article expresses how the theme park manages to showcase the design of toilets, by using a toilet-shaped building to house the art gallery. In the article, theme park employee Lee Youn-Souk explains the importance of the destination, "We just focus on eating every day, and we sometimes overlook the importance of the toilet. We already know upon waking up in the morning we should go to the toilet but people don't want to talk about this." In agreement, Roto-Rooter Minneapolis explains that this park helps bring the subject of toilets into greater conversation. In its press statement, the company explains, "Perhaps this theme park will get people talking about ways they can improve water conservation and waste-reduction efforts, such as by using ultra-efficient low-flow toilets."

According to the article, the park's host city of Suwon continuously celebrates the importance of sanitation, even awarding local businesses for having optimal toilet facilities. Roto-Rooter Minneapolis concludes in its press statement, "Sanitation is an increasingly important factor in modern plumbing, so it is great that this city has made so many efforts to perpetuate those values."



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