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Haute Hostels Put to the Test in Europe

Written By wartini cantika on Senin, 29 April 2013 | 17.35

Djamila Grossman for The New York Times; Ed Alcock for The New York Times; Lourdes Segade for The New York Times; Joao Pedro Marnoto for The New York Times

Clockwise from top left: lobby at Plus Berlin; the Independente in Lisbon; Plus Berlin hallway; The Loft in Paris; Violeta Boutique in Barcelona; a sign at Plus Berlin. More Photos »

With the wine tasting in the lobby bar approaching, I rinsed the green-tea shampoo from my hair, grabbed a towel from the queen bed and settled into a Philippe Starck chair, espresso in hand. A flat-screen TV flickered in the next room of my suite, but I was more captivated by the view that lay just beyond the glass doors of my balcony: the orange tile roofs of Lisbon, washed in the glow of a setting sun.

Was this really a hostel?

It was hard to believe that these expansive private quarters and this late 19th-century town house that was formerly the Swiss ambassador's residence really belonged to a genus whose name evokes backpacks, bunk beds, shared showers and the amenities of a local jail.

The business card on the vintage writing desk dispelled my doubts. "Hostel," it read, just underneath the name of the two-year-old establishment, the Independente. "Hostel & Suites," to be precise.

The two seemingly mismatched words are a testament to the astonishing evolution in European hostels. From London to Lisbon, from Iceland to Istanbul, hostels are undergoing a classy rebirth.

A rooftop Jacuzzi at Bunk in Istanbul; a cinema room at Design Hostel Goli & Bosi in Split, Croatia; a sleek basement nightclub in One80° Berlin: Whether they bill themselves as "design hostels" or "boutique hostels" or "hostel and suites," these new accommodations are striving to raise the standard of an institution that was once the lodging equivalent of a Greyhound bus.

"We need to redefine hostels," said Carl Michel, the executive chairman of Generator Hostels based in Britain, whose mission statement declares its intention to "dispel the hostel myth with boutique hotels that are stylish and contemporary, central, safe and affordable."

Once a family business with two traditional hostels in London and Berlin, Generator was bought in 2007 by a European private equity firm, Patron Capital, and now exemplifies the haute hostel boom. With an iPhone app and a brand-name chief designer in Anwar Mekhayech (whose résumé includes clients like Soho House), the group has opened splashy hostels in Copenhagen, Dublin, Venice and Hamburg over the last few years. Barcelona and a second Berlin site will make their debut this year, and more locations are in the works.

"The idea is to roll out about 12 to 15 hostels by 2015," said Mr. Michel, a former commercial director for British Airways.

Other hostel enterprises are building at a similar clip.

"We are in the watershed period at the moment," said Kash Bhattacharya, the author of a guide to high-end hosteling called "Luxury Hostels: Europe," which will be downloadable as an e-book from his site, budgettraveller.org, next month.

The catalyst has been Europe's slumping economy, which, Mr. Bhattacharya explained, "has led to falling commercial property prices and plenty of vacant building spaces in key city-center locations."

Simultaneously, he said, the recession has created new types of travelers.

"The rise of mature backpackers means that hostels are no longer the preserve of 20-something backpackers," he said. "Hostel owners are now realizing that they can upgrade their facilities to cater to a wider audience."

Four years ago, my colleague Jennifer Conlin reported on these "mature backpackers" and the upgraded hostels that had trickled into Europe. The trickle is now a flood. During a whirlwind week, I slept in and sized up haute hostels in Paris, Lisbon, Barcelona and Berlin: palatial suites and shared cramped rooms; immaculate bathrooms and group showers; convivial communal dinners and lonely solo meals; elegant welcome gifts and unwelcome odors.

The goal was to travel incognito and put each haute hostel (indeed the whole concept) to the test. Could these new crash pads provide classy, comfortable, affordable alternatives to hotels? Were "design hostels" worthy of their grandiose labels?

On a January afternoon, I ambled past the Asian grocers and halal butchers of the Belleville neighborhood in Paris when a gigantic work of urban art on the side of a building flashed into view.

Seth Sherwood, based in Paris, is a frequent contributor to the Travel section.


17.35 | 0 komentar | Read More

Pursuits : A Bar Sprint in Cocktail-Crazed San Francisco

Heidi Schumann for The New York Times

Clockwise from top left: a Daisy Italiano at Comstock Saloon; an Alligator Alley at Trick Dog; a Smuggler's Rum Barrel at Smuggler's Cove; a Polar Bear at Trick Dog; a pisco punch at Comstock Saloon; and a banana daiquiri at Smuggler's Cove.

As any boozehound worth his salt-rimmed glass will tell you, the City by the Bay is New York's only real rival for American cocktail supremacy. Yet the last time I was in San Francisco was in 2006, which was also, coincidentally, the year I began covering the cocktail beat. And in the accelerated world of mixological invention, seven years might as well be a few generations. In February, I decided to head West to reacquaint myself. The trick: I had a lot of catching up to do, and only a few nights to do it in. A whirlwind bar crawl — sprint? — ensued. I encountered a cocktail scene that features distinct leanings (citrus, pisco, Chartreuse, mezcal), but like New York's, one that is also impressively varied. Did I survive? You'll have to read to the end.

THURSDAY

Trick Dog, San Francisco's bar of the moment, seemed a good place to start. This Mission District spot is the work of Josh Harris, Scott Baird and Jason Henton, who call themselves the Bon Vivants. The bar's look is all cement and open space, but the atmosphere manages to be warm. The clever cocktail list fans out like a paint wheel, the drinks named after actual Pantone colors. In the Polar Bear, aromatic and clear as melted snow, smoky mezcal is soothed by crème de menthe and vermouth. The Alligator Alley gives the mouth a savory shellacking with a base of olive-oil-infused gin. The highball pairings are oddball, but if ever a spirit cried out for Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray soda, it's aquavit.

Not too far away is Beretta, a haute pizza palace with cocktail cred. The place bubbled with a youthful din. A young blonde in braids and a leather jacket hugged a paperback copy of "Othello" in one hand, a flute of rosé Champagne in the other. I ordered an Airmail, a sort of fat, swaggering daiquiri made with honey and sparkling wine.

At Bar Agricole, in the SoMa neighborhood, adjacent to the Mission, a long, wooden ramp leads past under-the-stars seating to a bar serving Thad Vogler's cocktail program, widely considered one of the most advanced in town. The choices of spirits behind the bar is very selective, and the drinks well made. The spicy-fruity Bourbon Old-Fashioned, for example, is made with house-made stone-fruit bitters, giving what might otherwise be a standard drink an edge of individuality.

Back in the Mission, Dalva is a good-enough bar with a better one, appropriately called the Hideout, in the back. If there's a theme to the décor, it's irony: a Farrah Fawcett poster on one wall, a mounted jackalope on another. The space was packed, like every other tavern this night. The drink special, Lydia's Lunch, was straight out of the crisper: cucumber, lime, celery bitters, all on a base of gin. Fresh produce was once what distinguished the San Francisco cocktail world. It hasn't quite relinquished that calling card yet.

FRIDAY

At 6 p.m., a collection of disparate people lurked outside an unmarked door at the corner of Jones and O'Farrell. On opposing corners, others loitered outside aging S.R.O.'s with perhaps more discernible purpose. The door finally opened. Welcome to Bourbon & Branch, a time portal to 2006, when neo-speakeasies were the thing. There is a rigor to the entry process: please wait here; these are your seats; I'll take your coat now. But, like many bars of its type, B&B is friendly once you're inside. The darkened space, with its tin ceiling and shadowy booths, is beautiful. Patron ages range from 20s to 60s. And the drinks are good: The Frank Lloyd Wright is dry and lightly spicy; the Stiletto, contrary to its name, full-bodied. Delve further in and take a couple of rights and you enter the velour-wallpapered Wilson & Wilson, a speakeasy-within-a-speakeasy.

Just across the street is Tradition Bar, run by the same team as B&B. It's easier to get in, but harder to get a bead on. Booths called "snugs" look made for 19th-century trysts. The thick drinks list contains several thematic mini-menus, including a catalog of barrel-treated spirits, like a Russell's Reserve Rye with a Chartreuse finish. The Afternoon Tea Sour, categorized as a "Traditional Public House" drink, tastes like tea and cakes in a glass. It all feels a bit mixed-up, but the drinking ain't bad.

Next up: a quick dash into Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen, which is vibrant and convivial — instant fun. The Negronis on tap have become a city tradition. A little later, while drinking pisco sours at Cantina, a relative old-timer, Duggan McDonnell, an owner, commented: "This town loves its Negronis."

Further confirmation comes at my next stop, A/Q, where a man cries: "I'll have a Negroni on the rocks. I mean, it's Friday!" I go with a Fool's Wager, maybe the darkest gin cocktail ever: Islay Scotch, sweet vermouth and Gran Classico Bitter rough those junipers up.

SATURDAY

I walked into darkness. Was Smuggler's Cove closed? No, I heard burbling water and Bobby Darin. Slowly, my eyes adjusted. On the ceiling were shapes resembling barrels and crates. A group of four sipped from a bowl, recently set aflame, through straws as long as fireplace matches. I had indeed found a Polynesian wonderland and arguably the best tiki bar in the country. Here, the banana daiquiri, mixed with house-made banana liqueur, is an elegant revelation, not a joke. The Expedition, eight ingredients strong, is anchored by a deep espresso note from Bittermens New Orleans Coffee Liqueur.


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Creativity Flows Along a Rugged River in Zurich

Tourists have long flocked to the big-name designer stores along Zurich's ritzy shopping street Bahnhofstrasse, situated on the left bank of the postcard-pretty Limmat River. But another river flows through the city — the rough and rugged Sihl, once a spectacle for its bouts of heavy flooding that lasted until the early 20th century. Today, it's a lure for nature-loving residents thanks to the paved Sihlpromenade walking path lined with magnificent plane trees. Recently, a new crop of high-minded shops, a spirited mix of the homespun and worldly, have sprung up along or near the Sihl, turning its riverbank into a haven for shoppers looking for an alternative to Bahnhofstrasse.
— RATHA TEP

Pictured: Hans Mars


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In Transit Blog: Calendar: Coming Events in Detroit, Vienna, Las Vegas

Movement Electronic, Music Festival, Detroit The city that the journalist Charlie LeDuff recently noted has fallen on such hard times that its dead are being moved to more desirable locations still maintains its status as an incubator of electronic music. Its signature event, the Movement Electronic Music Festival, May 25 to 27, features heavy hitters like John Digweed and Squarepusher (right) and an audience no doubt full of young bohemians.

Coffeehouse Conversations, Vienna Interested in a Unesco-sanctioned cup of joe? Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations, a new series of informal gatherings (in English) meant to connect visitors with local residents, is holding its third monthly installment on May 11 at the august Cafe Museum. Unesco recently recognized the unique heritage of Viennese coffeehouse culture, which predates even Mozart.

Vegas Uncork'd, Las Vegas This gambling capital's alternative branding has been successful enough to spawn a food festival called Vegas Uncork'd (right). Part marketing endeavor, part foodie haven, the festival, from May 9 to 12, shines a spotlight on chefs who have set up shop in casinos, including François Payard and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It'll be the safest bet in town.


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Haute Hostels Put to the Test in Europe

Written By wartini cantika on Sabtu, 27 April 2013 | 17.35

Djamila Grossman for The New York Times; Ed Alcock for The New York Times; Lourdes Segade for The New York Times; Joao Pedro Marnoto for The New York Times

Clockwise from top left: lobby at Plus Berlin; the Independente in Lisbon; Plus Berlin hallway; The Loft in Paris; Violeta Boutique in Barcelona; a sign at Plus Berlin. More Photos »

With the wine tasting in the lobby bar approaching, I rinsed the green-tea shampoo from my hair, grabbed a towel from the queen bed and settled into a Philippe Starck chair, espresso in hand. A flat-screen TV flickered in the next room of my suite, but I was more captivated by the view that lay just beyond the glass doors of my balcony: the orange tile roofs of Lisbon, washed in the glow of a setting sun.

Was this really a hostel?

It was hard to believe that these expansive private quarters and this late 19th-century town house that was formerly the Swiss ambassador's residence really belonged to a genus whose name evokes backpacks, bunk beds, shared showers and the amenities of a local jail.

The business card on the vintage writing desk dispelled my doubts. "Hostel," it read, just underneath the name of the two-year-old establishment, the Independente. "Hostel & Suites," to be precise.

The two seemingly mismatched words are a testament to the astonishing evolution in European hostels. From London to Lisbon, from Iceland to Istanbul, hostels are undergoing a classy rebirth.

A rooftop Jacuzzi at Bunk in Istanbul; a cinema room at Design Hostel Goli & Bosi in Split, Croatia; a sleek basement nightclub in One80° Berlin: Whether they bill themselves as "design hostels" or "boutique hostels" or "hostel and suites," these new accommodations are striving to raise the standard of an institution that was once the lodging equivalent of a Greyhound bus.

"We need to redefine hostels," said Carl Michel, the executive chairman of Generator Hostels based in Britain, whose mission statement declares its intention to "dispel the hostel myth with boutique hotels that are stylish and contemporary, central, safe and affordable."

Once a family business with two traditional hostels in London and Berlin, Generator was bought in 2007 by a European private equity firm, Patron Capital, and now exemplifies the haute hostel boom. With an iPhone app and a brand-name chief designer in Anwar Mekhayech (whose résumé includes clients like Soho House), the group has opened splashy hostels in Copenhagen, Dublin, Venice and Hamburg over the last few years. Barcelona and a second Berlin site will make their debut this year, and more locations are in the works.

"The idea is to roll out about 12 to 15 hostels by 2015," said Mr. Michel, a former commercial director for British Airways.

Other hostel enterprises are building at a similar clip.

"We are in the watershed period at the moment," said Kash Bhattacharya, the author of a guide to high-end hosteling called "Luxury Hostels: Europe," which will be downloadable as an e-book from his site, budgettraveller.org, next month.

The catalyst has been Europe's slumping economy, which, Mr. Bhattacharya explained, "has led to falling commercial property prices and plenty of vacant building spaces in key city-center locations."

Simultaneously, he said, the recession has created new types of travelers.

"The rise of mature backpackers means that hostels are no longer the preserve of 20-something backpackers," he said. "Hostel owners are now realizing that they can upgrade their facilities to cater to a wider audience."

Four years ago, my colleague Jennifer Conlin reported on these "mature backpackers" and the upgraded hostels that had trickled into Europe. The trickle is now a flood. During a whirlwind week, I slept in and sized up haute hostels in Paris, Lisbon, Barcelona and Berlin: palatial suites and shared cramped rooms; immaculate bathrooms and group showers; convivial communal dinners and lonely solo meals; elegant welcome gifts and unwelcome odors.

The goal was to travel incognito and put each haute hostel (indeed the whole concept) to the test. Could these new crash pads provide classy, comfortable, affordable alternatives to hotels? Were "design hostels" worthy of their grandiose labels?

On a January afternoon, I ambled past the Asian grocers and halal butchers of the Belleville neighborhood in Paris when a gigantic work of urban art on the side of a building flashed into view.

Seth Sherwood, based in Paris, is a frequent contributor to the Travel section.


17.35 | 0 komentar | Read More

Pursuits : A Bar Sprint in Cocktail-Crazed San Francisco

Heidi Schumann for The New York Times

Clockwise from top left: a Daisy Italiano at Comstock Saloon; an Alligator Alley at Trick Dog; a Smuggler's Rum Barrel at Smuggler's Cove; a Polar Bear at Trick Dog; a pisco punch at Comstock Saloon; and a banana daiquiri at Smuggler's Cove.

As any boozehound worth his salt-rimmed glass will tell you, the City by the Bay is New York's only real rival for American cocktail supremacy. Yet the last time I was in San Francisco was in 2006, which was also, coincidentally, the year I began covering the cocktail beat. And in the accelerated world of mixological invention, seven years might as well be a few generations. In February, I decided to head West to reacquaint myself. The trick: I had a lot of catching up to do, and only a few nights to do it in. A whirlwind bar crawl — sprint? — ensued. I encountered a cocktail scene that features distinct leanings (citrus, pisco, Chartreuse, mezcal), but like New York's, one that is also impressively varied. Did I survive? You'll have to read to the end.

THURSDAY

Trick Dog, San Francisco's bar of the moment, seemed a good place to start. This Mission District spot is the work of Josh Harris, Scott Baird and Jason Henton, who call themselves the Bon Vivants. The bar's look is all cement and open space, but the atmosphere manages to be warm. The clever cocktail list fans out like a paint wheel, the drinks named after actual Pantone colors. In the Polar Bear, aromatic and clear as melted snow, smoky mezcal is soothed by crème de menthe and vermouth. The Alligator Alley gives the mouth a savory shellacking with a base of olive-oil-infused gin. The highball pairings are oddball, but if ever a spirit cried out for Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray soda, it's aquavit.

Not too far away is Beretta, a haute pizza palace with cocktail cred. The place bubbled with a youthful din. A young blonde in braids and a leather jacket hugged a paperback copy of "Othello" in one hand, a flute of rosé Champagne in the other. I ordered an Airmail, a sort of fat, swaggering daiquiri made with honey and sparkling wine.

At Bar Agricole, in the SoMa neighborhood, adjacent to the Mission, a long, wooden ramp leads past under-the-stars seating to a bar serving Thad Vogler's cocktail program, widely considered one of the most advanced in town. The choices of spirits behind the bar is very selective, and the drinks well made. The spicy-fruity Bourbon Old-Fashioned, for example, is made with house-made stone-fruit bitters, giving what might otherwise be a standard drink an edge of individuality.

Back in the Mission, Dalva is a good-enough bar with a better one, appropriately called the Hideout, in the back. If there's a theme to the décor, it's irony: a Farrah Fawcett poster on one wall, a mounted jackalope on another. The space was packed, like every other tavern this night. The drink special, Lydia's Lunch, was straight out of the crisper: cucumber, lime, celery bitters, all on a base of gin. Fresh produce was once what distinguished the San Francisco cocktail world. It hasn't quite relinquished that calling card yet.

FRIDAY

At 6 p.m., a collection of disparate people lurked outside an unmarked door at the corner of Jones and O'Farrell. On opposing corners, others loitered outside aging S.R.O.'s with perhaps more discernible purpose. The door finally opened. Welcome to Bourbon & Branch, a time portal to 2006, when neo-speakeasies were the thing. There is a rigor to the entry process: please wait here; these are your seats; I'll take your coat now. But, like many bars of its type, B&B is friendly once you're inside. The darkened space, with its tin ceiling and shadowy booths, is beautiful. Patron ages range from 20s to 60s. And the drinks are good: The Frank Lloyd Wright is dry and lightly spicy; the Stiletto, contrary to its name, full-bodied. Delve further in and take a couple of rights and you enter the velour-wallpapered Wilson & Wilson, a speakeasy-within-a-speakeasy.

Just across the street is Tradition Bar, run by the same team as B&B. It's easier to get in, but harder to get a bead on. Booths called "snugs" look made for 19th-century trysts. The thick drinks list contains several thematic mini-menus, including a catalog of barrel-treated spirits, like a Russell's Reserve Rye with a Chartreuse finish. The Afternoon Tea Sour, categorized as a "Traditional Public House" drink, tastes like tea and cakes in a glass. It all feels a bit mixed-up, but the drinking ain't bad.

Next up: a quick dash into Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen, which is vibrant and convivial — instant fun. The Negronis on tap have become a city tradition. A little later, while drinking pisco sours at Cantina, a relative old-timer, Duggan McDonnell, an owner, commented: "This town loves its Negronis."

Further confirmation comes at my next stop, A/Q, where a man cries: "I'll have a Negroni on the rocks. I mean, it's Friday!" I go with a Fool's Wager, maybe the darkest gin cocktail ever: Islay Scotch, sweet vermouth and Gran Classico Bitter rough those junipers up.

SATURDAY

I walked into darkness. Was Smuggler's Cove closed? No, I heard burbling water and Bobby Darin. Slowly, my eyes adjusted. On the ceiling were shapes resembling barrels and crates. A group of four sipped from a bowl, recently set aflame, through straws as long as fireplace matches. I had indeed found a Polynesian wonderland and arguably the best tiki bar in the country. Here, the banana daiquiri, mixed with house-made banana liqueur, is an elegant revelation, not a joke. The Expedition, eight ingredients strong, is anchored by a deep espresso note from Bittermens New Orleans Coffee Liqueur.


17.35 | 0 komentar | Read More

Creativity Flows Along a Rugged River in Zurich

Tourists have long flocked to the big-name designer stores along Zurich's ritzy shopping street Bahnhofstrasse, situated on the left bank of the postcard-pretty Limmat River. But another river flows through the city — the rough and rugged Sihl, once a spectacle for its bouts of heavy flooding that lasted until the early 20th century. Today, it's a lure for nature-loving residents thanks to the paved Sihlpromenade walking path lined with magnificent plane trees. Recently, a new crop of high-minded shops, a spirited mix of the homespun and worldly, have sprung up along or near the Sihl, turning its riverbank into a haven for shoppers looking for an alternative to Bahnhofstrasse.
— RATHA TEP

Pictured: Hans Mars


17.35 | 0 komentar | Read More

In Transit Blog: Calendar: Coming Events in Detroit, Vienna, Las Vegas

Movement Electronic, Music Festival, Detroit The city that the journalist Charlie LeDuff recently noted has fallen on such hard times that its dead are being moved to more desirable locations still maintains its status as an incubator of electronic music. Its signature event, the Movement Electronic Music Festival, May 25 to 27, features heavy hitters like John Digweed and Squarepusher (right) and an audience no doubt full of young bohemians.

Coffeehouse Conversations, Vienna Interested in a Unesco-sanctioned cup of joe? Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations, a new series of informal gatherings (in English) meant to connect visitors with local residents, is holding its third monthly installment on May 11 at the august Cafe Museum. Unesco recently recognized the unique heritage of Viennese coffeehouse culture, which predates even Mozart.

Vegas Uncork'd, Las Vegas This gambling capital's alternative branding has been successful enough to spawn a food festival called Vegas Uncork'd (right). Part marketing endeavor, part foodie haven, the festival, from May 9 to 12, shines a spotlight on chefs who have set up shop in casinos, including François Payard and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It'll be the safest bet in town.


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Update : In Mexico, Eco Concerns Where Sea Lions Romp

Written By wartini cantika on Kamis, 25 April 2013 | 17.35

Joe Ray for The New York Times

Looking back at Cabo Pulmo, Mexico, from the Sea of Cortez.

Something big zoomed by in my peripheral vision. I whipped around for a better look, but whatever it was had disappeared into the permanent twilight of the underwater world. Was it a gigantic grouper? A small whale?

Either was possible, 30 feet below the surface of the Sea of Cortez, which separates the Baja California peninsula from the Mexican mainland. But the shape and high velocity of the apparition were strange. I couldn't place it until another one appeared, then another, and soon more than a dozen, twisting and turning around us seven divers, coming eye-to-eye close before speeding away: sea lions.

I should have figured it out sooner; I knew we were diving near a colony of the pinnipeds. But while I'd seen any number of sea lions above the water line, lolling in the sun or awkwardly dragging their blubbery bodies from rock to rock, I hadn't imagined them transformed into these svelte underwater missiles, each one larger, stronger and faster than a human.

I was scuba diving in Mexico in the Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, a 27.5-square-mile ecosystem with an unusual history and an uncertain future. At least 226 fish species live in the park, and it is home to the only living hard coral reef in the Sea of Cortez. But environmentalists fear that a major resort development could significantly alter this delicate fringe of Baja, both above ground and underwater.

Though I had been visiting the region for 15 years, I'd never been scuba diving in this spot. I was finally motivated to take the plunge because of the threat of impending damage. Today Cabo Pulmo remains hard to reach and full of sea life, but in a few years, the reverse could be true.

Underwater, a current carried us past the sea lion colony, and as we began to ascend, sunbeams lighted up schools of tropical fish: sergeant majors in their jailhouse stripes, Moorish idols trailing scimitar fins, giant hawkfish covered with squiggly Keith Haring lines. Back on the surface, a green turtle, one of an endangered species, circled our small motorboat.

After diving I retreated to the village of Cabo Pulmo, another unusual ecosystem. Perched on the edge of the reef, this dot on the Tropic of Cancer lies just 60 miles from the megaresorts of Los Cabos, but feels like a world apart. It is accessible only via a dirt road that runs along the southeastern shore of the peninsula, where you're as likely to encounter cows and rattlesnakes as other cars. When I asked for a key to my bungalow at the Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort, I was told they didn't use them.

The town has perhaps 250 residents, including locals from one-time fishing and ranching families as well as refugees from Canada, the United States and mainland Mexico who spend some of the year here. Even as nearby parts of the peninsula have changed exponentially over the last decade, bringing big-box stores and an expanding network of paved roads, power lines and cellphone towers, Cabo Pulmo has remained sleepily off the grid. Solar power and generators provide electricity. Water comes from a well or is trucked in. I counted one grocery store, five restaurants and three dive shops that were regularly open.

Also known as the Gulf of California, the Sea of Cortez is a 62,000-square-mile finger of water with a distinguished list of admirers. The ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau called it "the world's aquarium." In 2005, Unesco declared 244 islands and coastal areas in the Sea of Cortez, including Cabo Pulmo, a World Heritage Site. In 1940 John Steinbeck traveled the length of the sea with the marine biologist Edward F. Ricketts and penned "The Log From the Sea of Cortez," a blend of science, philosophy and travelogue. Of Cabo Pulmo Steinbeck wrote:

"Clinging to the coral, growing on it, burrowing into it, was a teeming fauna. Every piece of the soft material broken off skittered and pulsed with life — little crabs and worms and snails. One small piece of coral might conceal thirty or forty species, and the colors on the reef were electric. The sharp-spined urchins gave us trouble immediately, for several of us, on putting our feet down injudiciously, drove the spines into our toes."

In the '70s and '80s, though, overfishing decimated the region's sea life. Local people lobbied to protect the area, and in 1995 the Mexican government made Cabo Pulmo a national park, banning fishing. This turned out to be a huge environmental success: between 1999 and 2009, the fish population grew by 463 percent, according to a study from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography — the biggest such increase ever measured in any marine reserve in the world. It was also an economic success, as one-time fishermen became dive, snorkel and kayak guides.

Consternation about the reef surfaced again in the late 2000s, when a Spanish developer announced plans to build a complex with 30,000 hotel rooms less than seven miles north of the park. The company's vision for Cancún-style sprawl was the opposite of the low-key eco-tourism that has taken hold in Cabo Pulmo. Conservationists noted that construction runoff can kill coral reefs, as can too many clumsy divers. A coalition led by Mexican environmental organizations protested; President Felipe Calderón responded by canceling permits for the megaresort in June 2012.


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Heads Up : Giving Fast Food a Good Name in Washington, D.C.

Vanessa Vick for The New York Times

Shopping at Almaala Farms at the Union Market in Washington.

Washington's culinary scene has traditionally been known for its power restaurants: clubby spots, often run by celebrity chefs, where political movers-and-shakers cut deals and charred steaks. But recently, the city has embraced the flip side of fine dining. Several casual spots have opened, offering fresh, inexpensive, vibrant fare that gives fast food a good name.

The Union Market (1309 Fifth Street NE), perhaps the centerpiece of this development, is a gleaming food hall in a gritty northeast corner of the city. Since opening in November, it has hosted local farmers, butchers and other artisanal vendors offering quick, casual bites.

At Rappahannock Oyster Company's stand at the market, diners perch at a long counter to slurp Chesapeake Bay shellfish and sip wine. A few feet away, the popular area food truck, Takorean, has established a brick-and-mortar presence for its Korean-inspired tacos, while the whimsical soda fountain Buffalo & Bergen blends egg creams, floats, and cocktails infused with house-made syrups in original flavors like orange sassafras or spiced blackberry.

"There are high-quality groceries — the little farm stand sells really nice lamb chops," said Roy Edroso, a regular market customer. "But I keep coming back for the prepared food. It's terrific."

Cured meats are the focus at DGS, or Delicatessen Grocery Store (1317 Connecticut Avenue NW; 202-293-4400), a modern spin on a Jewish deli. Nearly everything — pickles, pastrami, corned beef, the Reuben sandwich's sauerkraut, even the crowning dollop of mustard — is house-made. An airy dining room features an open kitchen, brick walls and shelves displaying jars of pickles, while a takeout counter dispenses quick sandwiches at lunchtime.

Elsewhere, it's an actual fast-food chain that's pushing the genre's boundaries. Chipotle Mexican Grill chose Washington to test its new Southeast Asian dining concept, opening its first branch of ShopHouse (1516 Connecticut Avenue NW; 202-232-4141) in Dupont Circle in 2011. The restaurant features the same industrial-chic ambience, fresh ingredients and cafeteria-style service as its Latin parent. Diners combine noodles or rice with grilled meat or tofu, wok-blistered vegetables and sauces like tangy tamarind vinaigrette or searing red curry. The venture has been so successful, the company is planning a second outpost in Georgetown, as well as one in Los Angeles.

"D.C. has a very international population and a lot of new customers open to trying new kinds of food," said Chris Arnold, the communications director for Chipotle Mexican Grill. "There are a lot of the same characteristics as New York, but without the spotlight glare."

Two doors from ShopHouse, the bright and buzzy salad emporium Sweetgreen (1512 Connecticut Avenue NW and other locations; 202-387-9338) tosses locally sourced vegetables into creative combinations like the spicy sabzi, which mixes baby spinach, roasted broccoli, quinoa, a squirt of sriracha and chile-carrot vinaigrette. A chalkboard menu lists the provenance of many ingredients, like Maryland goat cheese or kale from Delaware. Opened by three Georgetown University undergraduates in 2007, the business has expanded to 12 Washington-area stores.

"There's a high density of very educated young professionals here," said Nicholas Jammet, an owner. "They're conscious of how food is grown and raised, but they don't want to cook."


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In Transit Blog: For Silicon Valley High Fliers

Mineta San Jose International Airport, Silicon Valley's launchpad in San Jose, Calif., received the city's approval this month to negotiate a lease with Signature Flight Support to build an elite corporate jet center. Five of the seven hangars in the 29-acre, $82 million facility will be reserved for planes owned by Google executives, including Eric Schmidt (above).


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Frugal Traveler Blog: Taking the Paraguayan Route to Iguazú Falls

Visitors to Iguazú Falls, the 1.7-mile-long snaking series of waterfalls that is South America's chaotic response to buttoned-down Niagara, have three choices: one, the Brazilian side (where it's spelled Iguaçu), known for its panoramic views of the falls; or two, the Argentine side, with its pathways winding above, below and all but straight through the tumbling cascades.

I went with option three: the Paraguayan side.

Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, just across the Paraná River from Brazil and about two miles from Argentina, does not have many tourist amenities, but it does offer its own form of chaos that is to commerce what the falls are to nature: a free-for-all tax-exempt shopping zone where yellow moto-taxis and exhaust-belching buses weave around throngs of border-crossing shoppers buying knockoff Gap sweat shirts, deflated soccer balls, underpriced appliances and just about everything else under the sun. (And, for the shadier transactions the city is known for, under the moon.)

Why stay in notoriously seedy Ciudad del Este? First, I was already in Paraguay. Second, there is cheap lodging: the shabby-but-professional Hotel Mi Abuela, near the center of the action, cost me 145,000 guaraníes a night (about $37 at 4,000 guaraníes to the dollar).

But really, it was because I didn't see much appeal in the one-trick-pony tourist towns that serve the falls: Brazilian Foz de Iguaçu and Puerto Iguazú on the Argentine side. I'll take seedy over scene-y any day. And from the first minutes of my visit, Ciudad del Este did not disappoint. Sticking my head in a laundromat to ask how much it would cost to clean a pair of particularly dirty pants, the man in charge responded: "Is there blood? Because we don't work with blood."

Was it safe? That depends on your definition of safe, of course, but by day, with the dusty, hot streets thronged with shoppers, it didn't seem any worse than any other pickpocket-friendly central market area. But at night, that area is largely deserted and creepy. Though I could have headed to the nicer parts of town, I instead had an early dinner at one of the quiet Chinese restaurants on Boquerón Street, where the spicy tofu with a bit of shredded beef ($5; mysteriously, the menu was in dollars) at Miu Miu was a nice change from the heavy Paraguayan dishes I'd been eating for a week.

On the first of my two full days, I hopped on a local bus and took the 20-minute ride to Itaipú Binacional, the world's second-biggest hydroelectric dam, co-run by Paraguay and Brazil. Actually, I got off about 500 yards short of the visitors' entrance and walked through scores of peaceful protestors — workers who built the enormous dam in the 1970s and '80s and claim to have been cheated out of the money and benefits they were owed. Several were strapped to crosses bearing the Paraguayan and Brazilian flags.

It's good that the protestors are there (and have been since December) because the official tour of the dam is, not surprisingly, quite idealistic, ignoring labor issues as well as the sort of environmental ones raised with most dam projects (destruction of flora, displacement of locals). It's free to enter on the Paraguayan side, but the tours are only in Spanish — although you get plenty of printed literature in English, and on my tour the guide went out of her way to translate for a few non-Spanish speakers. (Tours on the Brazilian side costs 24 reais – about $12 – but you can request one in English.)

Controversies aside, the dam is impressive. Among the stats I heard on the tour: 60 thousand tons of earth had to be moved to construct it; the metal in the dam is enough to build 380 Eiffel Towers; 700 cubic meters of water a second shoots through each of 20 white tubes, creating energy that supplies about 80 percent of Paraguay's electricity needs and 20 percent of Brazil's.

I was back well before noon and took off straight away for the Brazilian side of the falls, crossing the border on foot – passing other pedestrians burdened with shopping bags and boxes – and catching a 2.90-real bus to the Foz de Iguaçu terminal and a free transfer for the bus labeled "Parque Nacional." (You can also take a bus from the Paraguayan side for 4 reais, but there's no free transfer at the terminal. Note that the bus does not stop at immigration – Paraguayans and Brazilians don't need to get stamped – so you should go to the immigration checkpoint, get a stamp, and catch the bus right outside.)

It's easy to be disappointed by hyped-up tourist attractions – who actually enjoys elbowing their way to the "Mona Lisa"? – but Iguazú Falls will get to even the most jaded of travelers, in part because photos don't really capture its full grandeur.

After paying 41.60 reais and taking a brief bus ride in the park, I walked along a pathway that connects various viewing platforms. Hundreds of falls spread out over the serpentine 1.7 miles; some are vast and powerful, some are staggered and spill over an island in the middle, some are almost dainty.

At the grand finale, near the Garganta do Diabo, or Devil's Throat, the walkway extends over a briefly calm section of water until you're practically surrounded by falls – to one side, dropping down from above and to the other, dropping off into an abyss below. It's mind-boggling, unless you've been to the Argentine side first; in which case it's … just kind of O.K.

That's because though Brazil and Argentina are bitter rivals in many areas — including soccer, economics and grilling meat — here, there's no question Argentines have outdone their neighbors.

I didn't know that until the next day, when I took a different bus (labeled "Puerto Yguazú"; 20,000 guaraníes) from Paraguayan passport control through Brazil and into Argentina, switching at the Puerto Iguazú bus terminal for another bus to the falls. (That one cost 30 pesos, $6 at 5 Argentine pesos to the dollar). Though technically you need a Brazilian visa just to pass through, conventional traveler wisdom (and many guidebooks and sites) says it's O.K. True law-abiders can take the less-convenient ferry.

The Argentine side shows its superiority from the beginning. Instead of boarding yet another bus, you pay your 170 pesos and get on a relaxing open-air train, which takes you through the park trailed — at least the day I did it — by constant clouds of yellow-orange butterflies, as if you're in a Disney film.

There are far more pathways on the Argentine side, and their pseudo-rustic wooden railings give them an attractive adventure-in-the-jungle feel. I started by walking a footbridge across several stretches of river above the falls until I emerged at the edge of the Devil's Throat, where water first churns and then explodes in such unfathomable volume that it looks to be erupting from the center of the earth. Meanwhile, those same butterflies went flitting out over the edge, which struck me as quite daring.

The two other routes go along the top and bottom of another stretch of falls, and are just as gorgeous as the Devil's Throat is terrifying. There are a few semi-panoramic views that are not quite as good as the ones from the Brazilian side but are absolutely acceptable substitutes. (In case you're left with any doubt that nature could crush your tiny self in a millisecond, you can pay an extra 150 pesos to take a boat ride right up to the bottom of a few of the falls.)

There are bonuses on both sides: I saw more rainbows in two days, easily, than I have the prior four decades of my life combined. And there is plenty of wildlife beyond butterflies. The cute-at-first, eventually annoying coati — aardvark-like mammals that are extremely good at stealing your food — are everywhere. Capuchin monkeys are common. And on my way out on the second day, I saw two totally legitimate toucans, far more colorful and impressive than anything I've ever seen on a box of Froot Loops.

Basing myself in Ciudad del Este meant less time around the camera-toting masses headed to the falls. I enjoyed parachuting in on dingy cross-border buses, picnic in hand (and I especially thank the staff at Hotel Mi Abuela for providing a bag for me to nab – with permission – a ton of chips from the breakfast buffet for daylong snacking).

I must end with bad news on the frugal front. Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay all charge American travelers $160 for entering their country, what they call reciprocity fees for what the United States charges their citizens for a tourist visa. For Argentina, you pay online before your trip; for Paraguay, you pay upon arrival by air to Asunción (or, if coming from elsewhere, apply at a consulate); for Brazil, you go through the mind-numbingly bureaucratic tourist visa application at your local Brazilian consulate. (Yet another reason to skip the Brazilian side.) Skipping Paraguay, of course, is also an option, unless you were already there – as I was – or are really into seedy border crossings – as I am.


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Hiking Through History, With Your Daughters

Written By wartini cantika on Rabu, 24 April 2013 | 17.35

Jack Hitt

Tarpley, left, and Yancey Hitt, during the walk they took to Santiago with their father, the author, in 2010.

The best miracle happened outside the town of Portomarín. There'd been a number of them on this family trip — with my wife and two daughters — walking the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. That July morning my youngest daughter, Yancey, and I stepped out of a forest and onto a field — and, it seemed, into a previous century. Hundreds of pilgrims milled about, locals sold trinkets, jugglers wandered by, musicians played, people handed out refreshments and offered showers at a community center.

Suddenly a stranger stepped up to me and said, "Excuse me, did you lose your camera?"

He then handed me my camera and explained that he had found it in the grass. He had clicked through a few photos, looked up and, at that instance, Yancey's blaze of red hair — right there in the picture taken the day before — emerged from the forest.

I started riffing about the road to Santiago and serendipity, how when you slow down one's pace to that of an ox then ... The man cut me off with the simple language of miracles. "Thank St. James," he said, and walked away.

And there we were, my 13-year-old and I, looking at each other as the lugubrious issue of Old World religion shambled forth. Miracle — how to even talk about the sacred? (Sex was so much easier.)

Still, this stranger's nod at the pilgrimage's patron ("Santiago" is Old Spanish for St. James) provided me with an opening — to talk about how the Camino de Santiago was founded in the ninth century when a peasant discovered the tomb believed to be that of Jesus' apostle James in a cave in northwestern Spain; about how the road had been reinvented for so many reasons — as a recruiting station for armies resisting the Moors, and later as a tourist economy pioneered by the Cluniac monks in the late Middle Ages. It was littered with relics and stories of miracles, and every possible segue into a father-daughter chat about spirituality and the possibility of being a true pilgrim even in the age of atheist champions like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens.

But Yancey rolled her eyes, and the message was clear: save it, Dad, for another day.

I had already walked the road to Santiago two times and written a book about it. So, a few summers ago, when Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen reworked some of the material from my book into a movie ("The Way"), the two girls decided it was time to tackle the camino as a clan.

As a practical matter, there are few family outings easier than a pilgrimage: a backpack and sleeping bag each, a few changes of clothes, sunblock. The less stuff, frankly, the better. We rented a car in Santiago, drove to Bilbao and then walked west for some 200 miles.

There's nothing quite like quitting one's comfy hotel after a breakfast of chorizo and café con leche, hoisting a pack and walking out the door. The transition into hobo is immediate. Meandering through a Spanish city with a backpack is hardly arduous, but then the outskirts come, and then a dusty trail alongside asparagus fields, and soon sweat and fatigue. And there you are, in a brute animal slouch, lugging the weight of your own self and belongings, watching the miles go by very, very slowly, the sun hissing just outside your sunglasses. When we pulled into a pensión that night, we soaked our steaming feet in cold water. If it hadn't been for extreme hunger, we would never have made it downstairs for dinner.

There are five main Spanish pilgrimage routes to Santiago. The most commonly taken is known as the French road, which enters Spain at Roncesvalles (where Roland blew his horn as the Saracens slaughtered Charlemagne's rear guard, if heroic verse can be trusted). It is 650 miles from there to Santiago.

Spaniards accommodating pilgrims are well into their second millennium of doing so. There are comfortable hotels along the way, and most villages have a hostel specifically for pilgrims, costing no more than a few euros.

Jack Hitt is the author of "Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route Into Spain," and, most recently, "Bunch of Amateurs."

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 23, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated the site of the westernmost point in Europe. The westernmost point in continental Europe is Cabo da Roca, Portugal, not Finisterre, Spain.


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Q&A: Finding the Flavors of Charleston, S.C.

Before Ted Lee and his brother, Matt, became the ambassadors of Southern cooking known as the Lee Bros., they were just those Yankees who moved from New York to Charleston, S.C., as children. Their status as outsiders gave them "a sense of wonder as it relates to the food of Charleston," Ted said recently.

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Peter Frank Edwards for The New York Times

Martha Lou Gadsden serving at Martha Lou's Kitchen.

He still recalls the taste of his first boiled peanut at age 9. "You shell it, and it dribbles down your fingers," he said. "It was revelatory."

The new book that he wrote with his brother, "The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen," conveys that wonder through recipes for conch fritters, fried shrimp and deviled crab, inspired by some of the city's most beloved restaurants and shops.

Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Mr. Lee on how visitors can sample Charleston's home-cooked cuisine. 

Q. What's the one meal visitors must have when they go to Charleston?

A. A Lowcountry oyster roast. Charleston is a port city, so you had all of these influences coming together: Scots-Irish, Spanish, English, Portuguese, German. The oyster roast is the culinary through line, from the Native Americans to present day. An oyster roast — it's a community thing you do in your backyard when there's a chill in the air — but you can get a great approximation of it year-round at Bowens Island. The current owner is Robert Barber, and it was started by his grandparents. Real characters. They collected vintage TVs; some of them were on, some not.

Now it's a pavilion on stilts over the marsh. On the ground floor oysters are steamed open on a metal sheet over a brick pit. Wood smoke is essential. These cluster oysters come straight from the marsh; they are bracingly salty. Sometimes I throw a little lemon on them, a shake of Tabasco. And as part of Mr. Barber's modernization program, now you can drink a delicious Palmetto Pale Ale with them.

Q. Any food traditions particular to spring?

A. Tearooms in churches around town. It's a misnomer because actually they serve lunch; parishioners cook as a fund-raiser for the church. Every spring The Post and Courier publishes the dates and times the tearooms are open on its site. This is a classic way to experience that midcentury home cooking you find in "Charleston Receipts," one of the first Junior League cookbooks. It's Charleston okra soup; she-crab soup, a bisque with crab meat, roe and sherry; a pimento cheese sandwich; a Huguenot torte, with apples and pecans, for dessert. They'll also sell homemade jams and preserves, and that's a great way to get a souvenir like a hot pepper jelly.

Q. Where else can you find home-style classics?

A. The place to start is Martha Lou's Kitchen, a very unassuming place on Morrison Drive. It's fried whiting over grits for breakfast. It's smothered pork chops with long-cooked green beans or lima beans. This is an institution owned 30 years by Martha Lou Gadsden, who cooks there every day, and if she isn't, her daughters do. Dave's Carry-Out on Morris Street is another workaday place that does fried food brilliantly. Whole-fried flounder with hoppin' Johns. This is food that everyone eats in Charleston.

Q. Say you're renting a house or apartment in Charleston.

A. A great idea. So many great places on Airbnb or VRBO, and reasonable. I once rented a wonderful house on St. Philips Street and this really cool loft on Broad Street. Then you could try your hand at Lowcountry cooking.

Q. Where do you get ingredients?

A. The Vegetable Bin for produce. Harris Teeter for groceries. Backman Seafood, outside of the city, sells fish from the region's waters. It's blackfish, sheepshead, crabs, oysters. The sort of freshness only like what we saw when we traveled to Japan.


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The Getaway: How to See the New Pope in Rome

Maurizio Brambatti/European Pressphoto Agency

Pope Francis at his first general audience last month in St. Peter's Square.

So you're off to Rome and in addition to seeing the Colosseum, you want to see the new pope. But how?

Your best bet is to attend a general audience (also known as a papal audience), a weekly gathering that the American Catholic Church in Rome says includes prayers, blessings and a homily. It is not a Mass but, rather, a chance to listen to the pope and mingle with other attendees. (The rocker Patti Smith was among the most recent visitors.)

Tours both old and new enable those now flocking to Rome for a glimpse of Pope Francis, who assumed the role last month, to get a seat at an audience. There are weeklong romps through the Eternal City that include tours of ancient Rome and Assisi. There are half-day excursions with transportation to and from your hotel. And there are no-frills affairs for those who simply want to be escorted into the audience from just beyond St. Peter's Square.

Lasting about an hour and a half, audiences draw thousands of people and take place on Wednesday mornings in St. Peter's Square or in the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall. (During the summer, the general audience may take place outside of Rome at Castel Gandolfo.) Tickets are free and you can get them yourself, but to ensure admission, you should request them weeks in advance (and then pick them up in person in Rome).

There are a few ways to do that, according to the American Embassy to the Holy See in Rome. You can contact the American Catholic Church in Rome (Church of Santa Susanna) through the Web site Santasusanna.org, or e-mail the Bishops' Office for United States Visitors to the Vatican at visitorsoffice@pnac.org; you may also send a fax to (39-06) 679-1448. Another option is to write to the Vatican: go to the Web site Vatican.va, choose your language, click on the "Prefecture of the Papal Household" link and then download the ticket request form, which you must fill out and mail (not e-mail) or fax.

If you'd rather pay a tour company to get tickets for you and provide a guide to take you there, you have several options.

ItalyVacations, the sister company of Perillo Tours, the family-owned travel company, offers one of the more full-blown tour experiences: a six-day "Meet Pope Francis" package starting at $879 a person (based on double occupancy). The trip — "a great, cultural experience centered around the new pope!" as Perillo's Web site puts it — includes a seat at the general audience, a tour of the Vatican Museums and a day trip to the cities of Assisi (the birthplace of St. Francis, for whom the pope took his name) and Orvieto. Hotel accommodations, round-trip airport transfers and daily breakfast are also included; airfare is not. A complete itinerary is at Italyvacations.com.

Another travel company, Central Holidays, is introducing a six-day "Celebrating the New Pope in Rome" package starting at $709 (based on double occupancy). The tour is not unlike Perillo's: in addition to attending an audience, it includes guided tours of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, an excursion to Assisi and Orvieto, hotels, round-trip airport transfers and daily breakfast: Centralholidays.com.

For those who want to attend the general audience yet aren't interested in a weeklong tour, there are day tours that include round-trip transportation between major hotels and the general audience. Gray Line, for instance, will take you by bus past sites like the Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza Barberini, Via Veneto, Villa Borghese, Piazza del Popolo and its Egyptian obelisk, and Castel Sant'Angelo before arriving in Vatican City. About $46 for adults; $37 for children: Grayline.com.

City Discovery, another sightseeing company, also charges around $46 for adults; $37 for children. Its "Papal Audience With Pope Francis" half-day bus tour includes stops at the Piazza dell'Esquilino, Republic Square, the Mermaids Fountain, Villa Borghese, Castel Sant'Angelo and St. Peter's Square: City-discovery.com.

Should you be averse to group travel, you can sign up for a program that offers little more than an escort to the general audience. No group bus trip. No lunch. Your guide simply meets you at Vatican City. Viator.com, a site that culls tours and activities from local guides and offers online reviews about them, has such a tour. For $42 you receive a seat at the general audience and commentary from a guide about the history of St. Peter's Square and the papacy: Viator.com.

If you have time and patience, you may want to procure the tickets yourself and go it alone. That said, some tour operators promise guests a seat during the audience (many people end up standing). The companies also take away the hassle: no need to book so far in advance, pick up tickets in Rome or navigate through the throngs of people.

Will there be a general audience when you visit Rome? It's typically a weekly affair but check the Web site of the American Catholic Church in Rome (see above). There may be changes during holidays and in the summer. For the pope's near-term schedule, there's — what else? — the Pope App. It's free and enables you to be reminded of a general audience ("udienza generale," in Italian, on the app) an hour before it begins, or just as it's beginning. The app also has news, text of the pope's previous audiences and other speeches, and a live feed tab.

Another way to see Pope Francis is to attend his Sunday Angelus at noon in St. Peter's Square. You do not need a ticket, though you do need to arrive early. While Pope Francis has chosen to live in the Vatican guesthouse rather than the Apostolic Palace as his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI did, according to news reports, he still delivers his message from the study window of an apartment in the palace.

Follow Stephanie Rosenbloom on Twitter @stephronyt.


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In Transit Blog: Parks, Museums and Budget Cuts

The across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester may have vanished from public consciousness a couple of news cycles ago, but travelers visiting national parks and monuments and museums in Washington this summer will find sporadic reminders of them, testimony at a recent Congressional hearing suggests.

The Smithsonian Institution will occasionally close some galleries in its art museums beginning May 1. "We're trying to juggle things to have less impact on the public," said Linda St. Thomas, a spokeswoman. "But every museum will be open every day for normal hours," she said of the museums and the National Zoo.

There will also be shorter hours, fewer services and reduced maintenance at many national sites, said Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the National Park Service. "Grass may be a little longer and trash cans may not get emptied as often as they normally would, but that's probably the only major thing that visitors will notice this summer" on and around the National Mall. (The Washington Monument is closed because of damage, not sequestration.)

The parks and the Smithsonian are contending with a 5 percent cut. Like many political standoffs, this one shows no signs of ebbing, so plan your vacation accordingly.


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Brazil, Where the Beautiful Game Struts

Written By wartini cantika on Selasa, 23 April 2013 | 17.35

Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times; Lianne Milton for The New York Times

Clockwise from top left: Fans in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo; Pacaembu Stadium in São Paulo; fans in Santos; on the beach in Rio; Museum of Football in São Paulo. More Photos »

The banner-waving, anthem-singing fans of Rio de Janeiro's Flamengo club formed a billowing mass of ruby-and — black-clad humanity. They moved not only in reaction to the ebbs and flows on the field far below, but also to the samba beat pounded out by musicians in the midst of the grandstand mayhem around me and my friend Doug. The bands had not stopped playing, and fans had not stopped chanting, in the 18 minutes since the game began.

Then, on the field far below, a precision passer on the rival team Fluminense launched the ball straight for their top scorer. As nonchalantly as flipping a light switch, he scissor-kicked a strike past the keeper into the far left corner of the goal. Or as it is known locally:

"Goooooooooooool!"

On the other side of the stadium, the Fluminense fans — outfitted in green, grenadine and white — erupted, but they were so isolated, so far away, that they looked and sounded like television static with the volume turned way up. On our side, the samba ceased. The fans slumped — for about 10 seconds.

Then the Flamengo samba machine swung back into action. The fans started singing again, a love song to their team. Their banners waved like mainsails in a storm. Mourning would wait for later: Flamengo eventually lost 1-0. But in Brazil, telling fans to stop cheering because the opposing team scored would be like telling a D.J. to stop the party because someone danced badly.

In Brazil, soccer is not just a game, it's a national drama. One of Brazil's great 20th-century playwrights and novelists, Nelson Rodrigues, recognized that the sport trumped even his own craft in defining the nation. "Abroad, when you want to learn about a people, you examine their fiction," he wrote. "In Brazil, football plays the role of fiction."

You can find variations on that particular brand of drama across the Brazilian soccer scene, almost all year round, in Rio and São Paulo and at smaller stadiums in lesser-known cities.

Here's when you probably won't find it: during the World Cup, which Brazil will host from June 12 to July 13, 2014. It won't be in the stands when, say, Cameroon plays Serbia, or when France squares off against the Uzbeks. The World Cup will be a good party, guaranteed — and the handful of games the Brazilian side plays will be all-out spectacles. (Good luck getting tickets for those matches.) But the best time to experience true Brazilian soccer — or, more accurately, futebol (foo-tchee-BOW) — will be outside the parameters of the Cup.

That said, it is not simple to plan a soccer trip to Brazil. I had an advantage as a Portuguese speaker who had lived in the country for two years. Others might find it more difficult. The complex league schedules are largely unavailable in English. You'll have to find your way to the stadium, choosing between public transportation and sometimes pricey taxis. Even where to sit can be a consequential decision.

And you'll always have to be ready for the unexpected: Engenhão, the very stadium where Doug and I watched the Flamengo-Fluminense game, was closed last month for structural repairs. And there have been other black eyes for the country as it ramps up to the Cup. At the end of last month, an American woman was abducted and gang-raped in the popular Rio district of Copacabana. Police had to use tear gas recently after fans clashed when tickets ran out for the inaugural match of the new World Cup stadium in Salvador. (Six people reportedly sustained minor injuries.) As is often the case with travel in developing countries, things can be less predictable and more chaotic than you may be used to at home.

But none of those should dissuade you from experiencing soccer in Brazil. The phrase "the beautiful game" did not originate in the country, but it accurately describes the fluid and frequently dazzling play you'll see. After attending six games last fall, I concluded that Brazilians speak soccer fluently, while everyone else has an accent.

My guess is that many Americans (and other travelers) don't explore the admittedly complicated world of Brazilian soccer because they think it's too dangerous or, more likely, have no idea how. Here, then, is a guide on the whens, wheres and how-tos.

When to Go

The first thing you have to know about Brazilian soccer is that it is played nearly year-round. There's no spring training or long, wait-till-next-year periods of inactivity. Between two consecutive league seasons and a handful of national and international tournaments, the biggest teams play virtually nonstop, except for about a month in late December and early January. The first few months of the year are dominated by state leagues: all 26 Brazilian states, as well as the Federal District in and around Brasília, have them. (Games are generally on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.) By May or June, the more exciting four-tiered national league starts. By the time the season ends in December, there's a national champion.

But the action doesn't end there. Top finishers in the national tournament earn berths in the next year's Libertadores Cup and South American Cup, two regional tournaments that run concurrently with parts of the state and national seasons. There's also the Brazil Cup, a separate national competition with a knockout tournament format. And occasionally, the national team (that is, the one that goes to the World Cup) will play a "friendly" match against visiting foreign squads. (This year, from June 15 to 30, Brazil hosts the Confederations Cup, stopping league play.)

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 19, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of starting players from Santos in Brazil's World Cup winning teams in 1962 and 1970. The 1962 team had 4 starters, including Pelé, who was injured early on in the tournament; and the 1970 team had 3.


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From Their Mouth to Your Ears

If you're the sort of traveler who avoids group walking tours because they're not to your liking or not in your budget, it doesn't mean you have to wander the ruins of Pompeii without hearing how the city perished, or visit London Bridge without being told of its roots in Roman times. You don't need a group tour; you just need a smartphone.

Many local government Web sites offer free audio walking tours that you can download. In Bath, England, there's the Jane Austen tour created by Bath Tourism Plus. (Austen lived in Bath and two of her novels, "Northanger Abbey" and "Persuasion," are set there.) Failte Ireland, which promotes tourism, offers free audio tours of Dublin's castles, cultural institutions, Croke Park Stadium (home of the Gaelic Games) and, of course, the Guinness Storehouse. And if you're going to Amsterdam, the city's tourism Web site, I Amsterdam, has free audio tours that will take you to neighborhoods beyond the city's center.

Heading to London? Check out the free maps and audio tours from The Guardian newspaper. There are podcast walks of Kensington Gardens, the Thames and Oxford Circus, as well as ghostly haunts. To celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens last year, themed tours were added, including the city of London as it appeared to Dickens; sites from the London of David Copperfield; and a stroll that retraces Oliver Twist's walking route from Angel Islington to the courthouse of Mr. Fang.

Some London attractions also have free tours, like the London Bridge Audio Tour, which includes the bridge, Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market, the London Dungeons, HMS Belfast, City Hall, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.

Searching for podcasts on iTunes will turn up several itineraries, like Frommer's Day by Day Audio Walking Tours, self-guided strolls from the travel guide company, which are about $5, though the 15-minute Da Vinci's Paris tour is free. Beginning in the Louvre, it leads listeners through a few of the spots mentioned in "The Da Vinci Code."

Speaking of the Louvre, museum lovers should check the Web sites of the museums they plan to visit because many of them — including the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and the Museu Picasso in Barcelona — have their own apps with art and explanations that you can download free to your phone.

And then there are the free apps (some use sound; others use text):

City Walk. The "lite" version of this app from GPSmycity.com is free and includes a city map, photos and attraction details that you can read, yet no tour map or turn-by-turn navigation (for that you'll have to spend a few dollars to upgrade). The series is available for major cities including Paris, Florence, Rome, London, Barcelona, Dublin and Prague. Information: search the iTunes store for "city walk."

HearPlanet (Lite): Audio Guide to the World. This app is not a traditional audio walking tour. Rather, it uses your phone's GPS system to identify nearby landmarks; then the app tells you all about them — just as a flesh-and-blood guide would. Information: Hearplanet.com/app.

Rick Steves' Audio Europe. The veteran travel show host leaps off the television and into your ear, leading you through museums and historic streets in cities in Austria, Germany, Greece, England, France, Turkey and Italy, among others. He'll even escort you on a stroll through Amsterdam's red light district. Information: Ricksteves.com/news/audio-tours.htm

TripAdvisor Offline City Guides. The hotel review site's travel app includes self-guided tours (under "suggested itineraries") through beloved neighborhoods in more than a dozen European cities using your phone's GPS system. Information: Tripadvisor.com/apps-icityguides.


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In Transit Blog: Walkabout – 4/22: Smooth Flying as Sequestration Hits; Upgrading Eurostar

Walkabout

A weekly capsule of travel news curated by our writers and editors.

Sequestration So Far Despite the start of furloughs for air traffic controllers resulting from government spending cuts, most commercial airline flights took off smoothly last night and this morning. The real test will come later today, when traffic ramps up. (USA Today)

Rail Upgrade Eurostar, the high-speed train company connecting London with Brussels and Paris, is undergoing an overhaul, rolling out a new fleet of trains by 2015 and broadening its destination network. (CNN)

Dreaming Again Boeing's 787s could be flying again within weeks, a major milestone for the innovative passenger jets that have been grounded since January because of battery problems. (New York Times)

What's German for 'Canceled'? … Lufthansa, the popular German carrier, has canceled most Monday flights — all but 32 out of over 1,700 — because of a staff strike over better pay. (BBC)

… And Spanish for 'Quick'? The language course Destination Spanish (and its cousins, Destinations French and Italian) claims to teach tourists vocabulary and rudimentary conversation in the length of a short plane ride. A writer gives it a test drive. (Guardian)


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In Transit Blog: In San Antonio, Viva la Fiesta!

Globespotter: San Antonio

A snapshot of destinations around the globe.

Texans love to boast about the republic they enjoyed after divorcing Mexico, but no place celebrates the six flags over the state quite the way San Antonio does. The city has started its celebration of its history called Fiesta, whose signature event is the Battle of the Flowers parade on Friday. 

More than 100 events take place as part of the festival, which is particularly embraced by those with Mexican and Spanish roots. Celebrations range from flower shows to battles of the bands to parades. Some events are held in sacred places, including Alamo Square and La Villita — the city's historic arts village and first neighborhood — and others in balmy backyards.

One popular celebration takes place on Monday night. Embellished river barges meander along the waterway with city officials and leaders on board. The riverfront where spectators gather is converted to a child-friendly park: amid the folding chairs and oak trees are cascarones — eggshells that have been filled with confetti and sealed with pastel-colored paper — that children can crack over one another's heads, sending bits of blue, green, and neon pink bursting into the air.

As for the Battle of Flowers parade, a tradition begun by local women in 1891 to honor those who died in the Alamo and celebrate the victory at San Jacinto, spectators can expect motorized floats adorned with artificial greenery, replacing the horse-drawn carriages decorated with fresh blooms of the earliest incarnations. But many of the parade's traditions remain intact. Texas women donning yellow dresses still run it. And the city still appoints a king and queen of April merrymaking, a custom that dates back to the 19th century. "King Antonio" reigns over the city for a year, riding in cavalcades and on floats, his blue military attire festooned with glittering medals. He shares the spotlight with the "Rey Feo" — the people's King — who is meant to be a counterpart to an aloof Spanish monarch. And flanked by the Queen, who, along with other young San Antonio women, make their debut during Fiesta in hand-beaded dresses, replete with 12-foot long trains and headpieces that  can weigh upwards of 50 pounds.

For all its regal pageantry, Fiesta is democratic in spirit. Its events are open to all comers, and many are sponsored by nonprofits and military organizations seeking to raise funds for scholarships and charitable causes. Rey Feo candidates compete to raise $150,000, for example, and the Texas Cavaliers donate net proceeds from the River Parade to their charitable foundation.


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On Trails Less Traveled in Europe

Written By wartini cantika on Senin, 22 April 2013 | 17.35

Walking trips are the ultimate in slow travel, allowing tourists to take well-trod paths through Cinque Terre in Italy or around the Ring of Kerry in Ireland at their own pace. Strollers seeking more solitude who try Europe's less celebrated regions often find that the trade-off is less service. But that doesn't have to be the case. For explorers seeking quiet pathways, a few outfitters offer pioneering routes and a comfortable place for you to put up your feet at day's end. Here are a few.

Portugal

THE ROUTE Rota Vicentina, a 210-mile-long Atlantic coastal path from Santiago do Cacém in Alentejo to Cape St. Vincent in the Algarve, was completed last May. It connected local footpaths that trace rural clifftops and empty beaches.

THE OUTFITTER The England-based company InnTravel organizes self-guided inn-to-inn walks on the Rota Vicentina over seven nights. The route passes small villages, offshore sea stacks, wave-bashed headlands, sand dunes and fishing harbors. Hikers travel 6 to 11 miles a day, averaging about four to six and a half hours on foot. Each morning the service sends your luggage forward to the hotel where you'll stay that night, freeing you to amble with just a day pack.

DATES AND RATES Anytime until June 9, resuming Sept. 7 to Nov. 3; from £625, about $937 at $1.50 to the pound, per person, double occupancy, including hotel, seven breakfasts, four dinners, five picnic lunches and luggage shuttles. (44-1653) 617-000; inntravel.co.uk.

Spain

THE ROUTE The northwest region of Asturias encompasses the rocky highs and river valleys of the Cantabrian Mountains and lush pastures and lakes protected by Somiedo Natural Park.

THE OUTFITTER Judy Colaneri of Spanish Steps, who divides her time between Aspen and Spain, has been leading trips along Spain's long-distance Camino de Santiago route for nearly 17 years. She now also operates a guesthouse in rural Asturias that serves as the base of "walk and talk" language-learning vacations. Instructors begin the day with a lesson over breakfast highlighting terms that might be encountered (from "walking sticks" and "boats" to "blisters") followed by 8 to 10 miles of hiking (usually three to five hours). Overnight stays at the eight-room converted farmhouse, Hotel Fuentes de Lucia, include cooking classes and trails outside your doorstep. There are also hiking programs for yoga aficionados and painters.

DATES AND RATES May 11 to 18 and June 15 to 22; 1,200 euros, about $1,535 at $1.28 to the euro, per person, double occupancy, including breakfasts and dinners. (877) 787-9255; spanishstepsretreats.com.

France

THE ROUTE Walks in the Mediterranean island of Corsica cover diverse terrain, from rugged mountains and pine forests to pocket beaches.

THE OUTFITTER Intrepid Travel's new walking trip focuses on nature from a highland base in the central Corsica village of Bocognano. Five days of the eight-day trip are taken up by guided walks in the Corsica Regional Nature Park that may include treks beneath granite peaks, through chestnut forests or across mountain meadows, depending on the group's interest and the conditions. Most walks depart from the village itself, though they occasionally begin with a mountain railway ride in order to reach more remote areas of the island. Participants, a maximum of 16, spend each night at the family-run Hotel Beausejour that overlooks a river valley and the imposing Monte d'Oro range.

DATES AND RATES Departures June 2, 9 and 16 and Sept. 1 and 8; from $1,230, including breakfasts, dinners and five lunches. (800) 970-7299; intrepidtravel.com.

Croatia

THE ROUTE The Istrian Peninsula in northern Croatia, across the Adriatic from Venice, includes Roman ruins and hill towns encircled by vineyards that bring Tuscany to mind.

THE OUTFITTER Vermont-based CW (formerly Country Walkers) offers a new walk on the Istrian Peninsula designed for independent travelers who seek control over their itinerary but don't want the hassle of planning hotels, guides and transfers. Based at the seaside Hotel Monte Mulini in Rovinj, travelers spend four days exploring the peninsula, beginning with a two-hour guided tour of the historic port, once a part of the Venetian Republic. A driver-guide spends the next day and a half with travelers, visiting interior hill towns, a winery and the Roman amphitheater in Pula and arranging optional coastal, vineyard or mountain walks like one on Mount Ucka whose summit offers panoramic views of Kvarner Bay.

DATES AND RATES Anytime; from $1,998 per person, double occupancy, including breakfasts. (800) 464-9255; cwadventure.com.

Romania

THE ROUTE Maramures, the rugged northwestern region that borders Ukraine, has dense woodlands, rustic farms and traditional villages with wooden churches and houses trimmed in elaborate wood carvings.

THE OUTFITTER Ramona Cazacu, an independent Romanian guide, leads custom-designed English-speaking village-to-village tours throughout the country, though she says she particularly likes remote Maramures, where walks offer opportunities to meet the locals out raking hay or wearing folk costumes en route to church on Sundays. Though none of the walks are extreme and they largely take place amid rolling hills, most of the paths are unmarked, making a guide vital. A week's tour of Maramures for up to 14 travelers involves walking and occasional driving between rural villages with stops to meet a wood carver and visit churches or cafes. Travelers mainly lodge in private guesthouses that serve traditional homemade meals.

DATES AND RATES Departures continuous, based on availability; seven-day trips, 990 euros a person, including lodging and most meals. (40-723) 191-755; myromania.com.ro.

Czech Republic/Germany

THE ROUTE From Prague to Dresden, the mountainous Czech-German border area contains lightly traveled historic regions and dramatic scenery of Bohemia and Saxony between its urban end points.

THE OUTFITTER This new eight-day itinerary from Wayfarers Walking Vacations travels through regions variably called Czech Switzerland or Saxon Switzerland, depending on which side of the border you're on. Paths pass timber-frame houses, medieval monastery ruins and the haunting towers, arches and gorges of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains that inspired artists of the Romantic Movement. Jana Kotalikova, who is an art historian, leads groups of up to 16, covering seven to nine miles per day. Though the heart of the trip involves walking, the group travels roughly 75 miles north by car from Prague to start the walk in rural Jitrava, and later enters Dresden by boat on the River Elbe.

DATES AND RATES Departures are June 15 and 22, and Sept. 14 and 21; $4,295 per person, double occupancy, all-inclusive. (800) 249-4620; thewayfarers.com.


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T Magazine: Paris Takes a Crack at Lobster Rolls

This spring, another iconic American comfort food is taking Paris by storm. On the edge of Les Halles, the former screenwriter Mathieu Mercier's Lobster Bar has been packed ever since it opened on April 2, with stylish young Parisians who are showing off their amour for the Eastern Seaboard by knowing what a lobster roll is without being told. Mercier, an amiable Swiss guy married to a New Yorker, first found lobster love during a holiday in Maine as a boy. At a beach shack, he wanted a burger, but they were sold out — so he reluctantly settled for a lobster roll and immediately got bitten.

"From one visit to America to the next, I craved a good lobster roll," says Mercier, who finally decided to make himself happy and deliver Paris from its obsession with burgers by tempting the locals with lobster instead. The rolls he serves are made with Brittany lobster, bien sûr, although he confides that he doesn't taste a huge difference between the Old World (Homarus gammarus) and New World (Homarus americanus) lobsters. "The best method is to steam the lobster for a minute, so that the meat doesn't stick to the shell, and then grill it," says Mercier, who consulted New York's Mary's Fish Camp and Pearl Oyster Bar for tips on how best to make a lobster roll.

To my Connecticut-reared taste buds, the only thing American about Mercier's riff is the slightly sweet and caky oblong roll the lobster meat is daintily piled into. Otherwise, in another swell example of how one culture improves on the cuisine of another, this baby is as French as Charles de Gaulle's nose, since it's lightly dressed in a tarragon-bright vinaigrette. And while Mercier's take on New England-style claws-and-tails is good, he's not the only one in Paris these days with lobster on his mind.

The "lobster croque" served at the just-opened Jeanne B bistro in Montmartre is drop-dead good, too. The creation of the restaurateur Frederic Hubig-Schall, it's an elegant and original riff on lobster sandwiches with focaccia-like bread spread with Mornay sauce and grated Parmesan, which is then grilled, garnished with herbs and served with a light tomato-and-lobster-tamale vinaigrette.

The lobster club sandwich served at Ralph's, the in-store eatery at Ralph Lauren's Saint-Germain-des-Près boutique, is excellent, too. And if you're coming to Paris before April 30, you will want to taste the lobster sandwich at Café Prunier. (This is a special offer sandwich, but may be continued if Parisians take to it.) Created by the Polish-born chef Renata Dominik, it's the best lobster sandwich I've ever eaten on either side of the Atlantic. Why? It's made with toasted, freshly made Moroccan flatbread, impeccably cooked lobster tossed in a light honey-and-Xeres vinegar sauce, fresh herbs, including dill and chervil, fresh grapes, and orange and pink grapefruit sections. Unlike the mayonnaise-slathered lobster rolls I grew up on, everything about this sandwich is there to showcase the taste of the lobster itself, which is why this one is just as perfect as a pearl.

Café Prunier, 15 Place de la Madeleine, Eighth Arrondissement; 011-33-01-47-42-98-91; prunier.com.

Jeanne B, Jeanne B, 61 rue Lepic, 18th Arrondissement; 011-33-01-42-51-17-53; jeanne-b-comestibles.com.
The Lobster Bar, 41 rue Coquillière, First Arrondissement; lobsterbar.fr.

Ralph's, 173 boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Sixth Arrondissement; 011-33-01-44-77-76-00; ralphlaurenstgermain.com.


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Brazil, Where the Beautiful Game Struts

Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times; Lianne Milton for The New York Times

Clockwise from top left: Fans in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo; Pacaembu Stadium in São Paulo; fans in Santos; on the beach in Rio; Museum of Football in São Paulo. More Photos »

The banner-waving, anthem-singing fans of Rio de Janeiro's Flamengo club formed a billowing mass of ruby-and — black-clad humanity. They moved not only in reaction to the ebbs and flows on the field far below, but also to the samba beat pounded out by musicians in the midst of the grandstand mayhem around me and my friend Doug. The bands had not stopped playing, and fans had not stopped chanting, in the 18 minutes since the game began.

Then, on the field far below, a precision passer on the rival team Fluminense launched the ball straight for their top scorer. As nonchalantly as flipping a light switch, he scissor-kicked a strike past the keeper into the far left corner of the goal. Or as it is known locally:

"Goooooooooooool!"

On the other side of the stadium, the Fluminense fans — outfitted in green, grenadine and white — erupted, but they were so isolated, so far away, that they looked and sounded like television static with the volume turned way up. On our side, the samba ceased. The fans slumped — for about 10 seconds.

Then the Flamengo samba machine swung back into action. The fans started singing again, a love song to their team. Their banners waved like mainsails in a storm. Mourning would wait for later: Flamengo eventually lost 1-0. But in Brazil, telling fans to stop cheering because the opposing team scored would be like telling a D.J. to stop the party because someone danced badly.

In Brazil, soccer is not just a game, it's a national drama. One of Brazil's great 20th-century playwrights and novelists, Nelson Rodrigues, recognized that the sport trumped even his own craft in defining the nation. "Abroad, when you want to learn about a people, you examine their fiction," he wrote. "In Brazil, football plays the role of fiction."

You can find variations on that particular brand of drama across the Brazilian soccer scene, almost all year round, in Rio and São Paulo and at smaller stadiums in lesser-known cities.

Here's when you probably won't find it: during the World Cup, which Brazil will host from June 12 to July 13, 2014. It won't be in the stands when, say, Cameroon plays Serbia, or when France squares off against the Uzbeks. The World Cup will be a good party, guaranteed — and the handful of games the Brazilian side plays will be all-out spectacles. (Good luck getting tickets for those matches.) But the best time to experience true Brazilian soccer — or, more accurately, futebol (foo-tchee-BOW) — will be outside the parameters of the Cup.

That said, it is not simple to plan a soccer trip to Brazil. I had an advantage as a Portuguese speaker who had lived in the country for two years. Others might find it more difficult. The complex league schedules are largely unavailable in English. You'll have to find your way to the stadium, choosing between public transportation and sometimes pricey taxis. Even where to sit can be a consequential decision.

And you'll always have to be ready for the unexpected: Engenhão, the very stadium where Doug and I watched the Flamengo-Fluminense game, was closed last month for structural repairs. And there have been other black eyes for the country as it ramps up to the Cup. At the end of last month, an American woman was abducted and gang-raped in the popular Rio district of Copacabana. Police had to use tear gas recently after fans clashed when tickets ran out for the inaugural match of the new World Cup stadium in Salvador. (Six people reportedly sustained minor injuries.) As is often the case with travel in developing countries, things can be less predictable and more chaotic than you may be used to at home.

But none of those should dissuade you from experiencing soccer in Brazil. The phrase "the beautiful game" did not originate in the country, but it accurately describes the fluid and frequently dazzling play you'll see. After attending six games last fall, I concluded that Brazilians speak soccer fluently, while everyone else has an accent.

My guess is that many Americans (and other travelers) don't explore the admittedly complicated world of Brazilian soccer because they think it's too dangerous or, more likely, have no idea how. Here, then, is a guide on the whens, wheres and how-tos.

When to Go

The first thing you have to know about Brazilian soccer is that it is played nearly year-round. There's no spring training or long, wait-till-next-year periods of inactivity. Between two consecutive league seasons and a handful of national and international tournaments, the biggest teams play virtually nonstop, except for about a month in late December and early January. The first few months of the year are dominated by state leagues: all 26 Brazilian states, as well as the Federal District in and around Brasília, have them. (Games are generally on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.) By May or June, the more exciting four-tiered national league starts. By the time the season ends in December, there's a national champion.

But the action doesn't end there. Top finishers in the national tournament earn berths in the next year's Libertadores Cup and South American Cup, two regional tournaments that run concurrently with parts of the state and national seasons. There's also the Brazil Cup, a separate national competition with a knockout tournament format. And occasionally, the national team (that is, the one that goes to the World Cup) will play a "friendly" match against visiting foreign squads. (This year, from June 15 to 30, Brazil hosts the Confederations Cup, stopping league play.)

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 19, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of starting players from Santos in Brazil's World Cup winning teams in 1962 and 1970. The 1962 team had 4 starters, including Pelé, who was injured early on in the tournament; and the 1970 team had 3.


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