Canals built America. They were the vital veins of commerce and trade before the railroads took over. New York’s Erie Canal comes to mind, but that was just one of many that helped to define a young United States in the early 1800s. Navigating these winding waterways were canal boats, which came in all shapes and sizes over the years. They were designed for long trips between ports and were pretty nifty for 19th century engineering–many of them complete with folding sails and a raisable keel.
Most canal boats from that era are long gone, but the Lois McClure shines new light on how these vessels worked and what life was like on board. Lois McClure is a perfect replica, built like the schooners of their day. Launched in Lake Champlain (Burlington, VT) in 2004, the McClure spends a good amount of time on the go, using the same canal systems its progenitors once did. Except it’s not a ship of commerce, but one of education, stopping at various ports to show the public just how intricate these vessels were.
Americans like to go to places that are geographically weird—for example, a road or bridge where you can be in more than one state at once. The Four Corners monument also comes to mind. It’s just a thing about us. Perhaps not as popular outside the United States, virtually every country on Earth that uses the metric system has a Kilometer (or Kilometre) Zero, a point from where distances to other parts of said country are measured. All roads lead to somewhere, but they have to start somewhere, right?
Since we spent so much time in Spain, it’s no wonder that we found the Spanish Kilometre Zero. Not surprisingly, it’s in Madrid, since these markers are usually in capital cities. It’s right in the middle of Puerta Del Sol, a public square. It’s not hard to find, but it’s actually fun to hunt for it without GPS and your smartphone, which is why we’re not including a map link to it. Go out and be adventurous, young reader!
Spain’s marker is fancier than most; the “origin of the radial highways”. It is also frequently, though inaccurately, referred to as the geographical center of Spain. But it’s close enough.
Looking for something fresh? How about just a sample? Tapas? Atmosphere? Mercado San Miguel in Madrid has just that!
We don’t really know what drew us to Madrid’s Market of San Miguel. As far as offbeat attractions go, it’s not like it’s hard to find, since it’s in the center of the city, near Plaza Mayor. But the chic iron and glass structure—recently renovated since our first visit to Spain in 2008—called out to us.
Maybe it was the oversized saw tooth fish on ice that was smiling at us (see above), or the casual European atmosphere at the height of the Spanish summer, but San Miguel is a good stop for something different and relaxing, especially if you came a long way like we did. We didn’t eat anything.
We didn’t buy anything. We just explored. Sometimes that all you need to do to experience a place. It just works. And for all you hardcore foodies out there, this might just be your version of heaven. Enjoy!
We thought we saw it all when we walked into the micro hotel at London Gatwick Airport (which was really freaking cool!), but Hotel Zephyr captivated us in a different way. The rooms resemble staterooms on a cruise ship, complete with porthole windows and private balconies with spectacular views. The lobby and common areas have circular benches, murals with a modern twist (like Popeye the Sailor with tribal tattoo sleeves), games galore, and walls lined with the doors of old shipping containers—a fitting touch for the Bay Area.
But it wasn’t until we ventured out to the hotel’s courtyard that our flashback to childhood was complete. From the oversized game of Connect Four to a Ping-Pong table that’s not actually a table—but a giant pipe straight out of Super Mario World—to the periscope that provides guests with a view over the hotel’s fence, this is truly what Hotel Zephyr is all about (and markets itself as): a playground for adults! It’s a really great way to unwind after spending the day exploring this magnificent city.
Oh, and the food is great, too!
Located in San Francisco’s famous Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, Hotel Zephyr is only a short walk to Pier 39, which we also found time to explore later on that evening.
Okay, so there’s not really a guy inside this giant digital clock, but let’s just pretend there is. Still, some guy had to film himself “changing” the hands of the clock, every minute, every hour…or maybe they were on a budget and just duplicated a couple minutes of footage. But if you’re bored while waiting for a layover at the Amsterdam airport, you can always watch the show.