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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As a kid, I loved traveling by train. And one of the biggest reasons was where they started and ended their journeys. Glorious buildings, gawk-inducing for their size, scope and architecture.
I grew up in Nashville and was crushed to see Union Station later fall into disrepair before being resuscitated as a hotel (photo below). I can still picture myself at Union Terminal in Cincinnati near old Crosley Field and Grand Central Terminal in the City That Never Sleeps.
So coming across this compilation of once-beautiful, now-abandoned train stations was bittersweet, mostly the first part.
As airline fares go up and the way they treat us go down, I imagine I'm not the only one who wishes this country would take a serious look at making passenger trains, and the stations from which they embarked, a viable part of our culture again.
Not holding my breath, though.
It would be interesting to know how close the newish downtown Minneapolis library came to making this compendium of the world's 25 most beautiful public libraries.
Perhaps a bigger question is how feasible it is to actually be able to focus on reading or research in a space such as the one below, in Paris. (Only three of the 25 are from the U.S. of A., by the way.)
If you are heading to France via Air France, take note: The airline has cancelled flights and is making ongoing adjustments due to a strike by aviation workers that began today. Despite the actions, Air France is operating a majority of its flights. The strike is expected to run through Thursday, Feb. 9. According to a press release from Air France, the airline expects to operate 85 percent of its long-haul flights and 80 percent of its medium-haul flights. They have canceled or rescheduled some flights, but only 4 long-haul flights, according to the Washing Post.
If you are scheduled to fly the airline during the strike, you will be able to postpone or alter your flights. If you proceed with travels, Air France suggests passengers ensure their contact information is thorough and accurate. You can change your plans or update contacts and check the current flight schedules at the airline website.
Every day around noon on our Celebrity Solstice cruise through the Caribbean, Captain Gary would come booming over the loudspeaker and give the thousands of passengers longitudinal information we didn't understand, distance information equally confusing (sea miles vs. regular miles?) and the he'd sign off with a little joke. Three examples and I quote: "Man who walks in front of car will get tired; man who walks behind car with get exhausted and man who stands on toilet will get high on pot."
On New Year's Eve, hour after he deftly U-turned to drop off a passenger in St. Maarten for undisclosed reasons, we saw Capt. Gary sipping champagne with the revelers around the pool deck. He cemented his amiable personality on the last night in the big theater after the standup comic suggested next time, the over-70 crowd avoid napping in public spaces because, well, it's hard to be sure they're napping.
But now, after the shipwreck off Italy, I'm lefting wondering a could things:
How rigorous is Captain Gary's training and certification?
Will the cruise industry survive with its floating Old Country Buffet, very 20th century (two formal nights in a week, really?) ways?
But mostly, I'm left with a sense of gratitude for Captain Gary and his mates, for steering us clear without us ever thinking twice about safety or life and death drama that unfolded in the Mediterrean. So, thanks Gary, for the jokes, songs and getting us into port.
An expectant mother recently asked about getting a passport for her yet-to-be-born baby. She's wondering how quickly she can get it done as she's due in early October and hopes to bring the newborn overseas for the Christmas holiday.
I went to the resident expert, Robert DeWitt, director of the Minneapolis Passport Agency.
“Babies can get passports the minute they are born,” he said. That enthusiasm notwithstanding, in practice it’s a different matter.
To get a passport for a minor, the child must be present at the time of the application and so should both parents. If one parent can’t be there, though — because she’s recovering in the hospital, for instance — the other can bring along a completed, notarized “statement of consent.” Filling that out and getting it notarized before the hospital visit, though, would require the impossible (or a leap of faith): knowing the minor’s name and birth date.
Her best best is to drive as a new family to a “passport acceptance facility,” such as a government service center or a post office, once she and the babe are dismissed from the hospital. She'll need the baby’s birth certificate, both parents’ IDs and a passport photo for the baby, which she may be able to obtain through the hospital or the passport facility.
Since she is due in early October, she should have no problem getting the passport in her hands before the family departs in December. Routine passport applications are being processed in four to six weeks.
Anyone in urgent need of a passport can head to the Minneapolis Passport Agency. This office, at 212 3rd Av. S., can process applications within a few days, but should be used only by the truly desperate. The fee for an expedited passport is $60 in addition to the cost of the passport itself, which is $105 for a minor.
Click here for more information and to print passport application forms.
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