Be There In a Minute With Bill Newcott

The terra cotta warriors of Xi'an have stood at attention for more than 2,000 years.

 The terra cotta warriors of Xi'an, China, have stood at attention for more than 2,000 years        

(Bill Newcott photo)

Video: The Acropolis (And Donuts)

Two thousands years of history stand gloriously in the Aegean sun. And just down the hill: The best donuts anywhere. 

Video: Antwerp: City of the Severed Hand

 A city of spires, gold-trimmed houses and World War II history,  this  Belgian town also has a pretty grisly origin legend. Antwerp also holds profound significance for millions of American immigrants, and is  the only place I know where you can drink beer under the watchful gaze of hundreds of plaster saints. 

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Quick Travel Takes

Romantics (Heart) NY

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New York is the world's most romantic city, if you believe SpaSeekers.com, which has ranked 66 cities for the most marriage proposals reported on social media. Following the Big Apple on the Worldwide Romantic Index: London, Los Angeles, Chicago, Sydney — and, coming in at a surprising #6, Paris (athough the City of Light did gain honorable mention as the most sexually active city). 

Gorilla Your Dreams

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     You don't just walk up to a gorilla in the wild and say "Howdy," according to the folks at African Safaris and Travel. Here are their great ape-friendly tips: Stay at least 21 feet away, or else the gorillas will stop acting normal...keep your voice down...to prevent spreading diseases among gorillas, don't eat, drink, or (gasp!) smoke anywhere near them...no flash photography...and don't stay longer than an hour. 

Fly With the Flu?

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 It's not just flu season in the U.S. — those nasty bugs are world travelers, just like you. That's just another reason to buy travel cancellation and interruption insurance. To avoid getting sick while traveling, the insurance company Allianz suggests you drink plenty of fluids, especially on planes, to prevent germs from lodging in your nose and throat.  You can even buy designer face masks from MyAir (above). 

Beat the Early Morning Flight Blues

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Lots of people take advantage of low-cost off-airport parking at nearby hotels — using a private lot can save you 80 percent or more off airport prices. But if you're on an early morning flight you  might be able to do that one better: lots of hotels have stay-park-fly packages that include a room the night before your flight. I've found that, even including the hotel night, this can be a cheaper option than parking at the airport. Check travel sites like TravelZoo and  ParkSleepFly for deals.  

Vow? Wow!

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The largest mass marriage vow renewal ceremony ever will be on two Princess Cruise ships sailing out of Los Angeles in February. On the Royal Princess, the ceremony will be officiated by Trista and Ryan Sutter, the first Bachelorette couple to wed. Meanwhile, Love Boat star Gavin MacLeod will officiate on the Regal Princess. Representatives from the Guinness Book of World Records will be on hand to make sure it's all on the up-and-up. 

New Year — New Zealand

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Yes, it is literally on the other side of the Earth, but New Zealand is closer than ever this year thanks to new nonstop routes from Dallas to Auckland and Los Angeles to Christchurch.  Plus, you can see everything — from the island's geothermal geysers to its remote lodges and memorable cities — while leaving the planning to trustworthy companies like Abercrombie & Kent, Ker & Downey, and Swain Destinations. 


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Up the creek: without a paddle in Asheville, NC

CharlotteFive (The Charlotte Observer) Sept. 22 2019

You’ve seen those clickbait come-ons that show a joyful mountaintop or seaside selfie accompanied by text that says something like: “One moment she was smiling at the camera. What happened next will horrify you.”


I’ve got one of those pictures: Me and my wife Carolyn, her sister Jackie and her husband Matt, all grinning in blissful ignorance as we drift gently on inflated tubes along the French Broad River near Asheville, North Carolina. Matt, holding the camera, is barely in the frame. The rest of us are all smiles behind him, about an hour into our three-hour tour.


Yes, that’s right: a three-hour tour. 


High above the frame, but about to command our full attention, was a wall of black clouds, sweeping over us like a shroud. Within three minutes of that carefree photo, a pounding rainstorm the likes of which mankind has never witnessed would pour upon us as if God Himself were siphoning out the swimming pools of Heaven.


A few hundred miles to our north, I’ve no doubt the curators of Kentucky’s Noah’s Ark Encounter were gazing at their weather apps and murmuring, “Well, we finished this thing just in time.”


‘A BACK-ALLEY MUGGING’

This wasn’t even one of those storms that introduces itself with a gentle how-do-you-do of occasional droplets. No, this was a back-alley mugging; a middle-of-the-night grizzly bear attack, a Kim Jung Un execution by anti-aircraft missile of a downpour.


“Are you there?” I yelled through the impenetrable curtain of rain. Above the deafening slap of gumball-sized droplets on the river and our rafts, I heard only the sputtering of my thoroughly saturated companions.


You might think my life would have passed before my eyes at a moment like that, but I actually rewound only an hour or so, to when we had innocently pulled into the launch facility of Zen Tubing, about two miles from downtown Asheville. 

The late-morning sun smiled from on high, and our phone apps cheerfully reassured us that while there was rain in the forecast, by the time it arrived we would be happily sipping margaritas at nearby White Duck Tacos. 


We’d already signed the requisite waiver when I noticed a prominently placed sign that warned we were on our own: in case of bad weather, no one would be coming to rescue us. 

  

“If it starts raining during your trip, continue down the river,” the sign said.  “If it starts thundering or lightning, pull over to the bank and stay in your tube…Once the thunder/lightning stops, continue your trip.”


“Hmph,” I’d said to myself. “I’m sure glad we’re ahead of the weather.” (READ MORE)

 

SEE MORE

Read the whole drenching story of Bill's doomed river raft trip here.

A Visit to Old St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York City

Everyone knows the soaring Neo-Gothic church on New York's Fifth Avenue — but decades before that St. Patrick's was built, this beautiful church in lower Manhattan served as the cathedral for the City of New York.

About Me

My Journey

Lowell Thomas Award-winning travel writer and editor; former Expeditions Editor of National Geographic Magazine and Travel Editor of AARP the Magazine

How I got started

The New York World's Fair--who knew there was such a big world out there?

Top destinations

I could live out my days on Santorini!

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