sexta-feira, 25 de novembro de 2011

Mini guide to Vermont, USA

Vermont’s rolling farmland, emblazoned with fall foliage, yields rich and varied produce. (Mark Newman/LPI)

Vermont is a slice of “Old World” New England with sleepy pre-Revolution towns, green mountains and rolling farmland stretching to the Canadian border. And with maple syrup, artisan cheeses and microbreweries, it’s a culinary force to be reckoned with.

Created in 1910, the Long Trail is a 250-mile north-south path and the USA’s first long-distance hiking route. Day hikers enjoy the views from the Green Mountain National Forest. The Green Mountain Club visitor centre has routes (00 1 802 244 7037).
Snow Farm Winery, situated on the island of South Hero in Lake Champlain, is Vermont’s first vineyard. You can sample its much-vaunted whites or an ice wine – a dessert wine made from grapes frozen on the vine. The vineyard hosts free concerts in summer (00 1 802 372 9463; open May-Dec).
Vermont has more craft brewers per person than any other state – the Magic Hat Brewery in Burlington is possibly the most celebrated and eccentric. Their “Artifactory” tour ends with the chance to try seasonal and experimental concoctions (00 1 802 658 2739; free).
The Robert Frost Stone House Museum in Shaftesbury was once the great poet’s home. And just a short distance away is the picturesque town, Old Bennington, where Frost is buried (museum closed December-April and Mondays; £3).
From anti-Vietnam War to nuclear disarmament demonstrations, the folks from the Bread and Puppet Museum in Glover have been staging politically charged, life-size puppetry performances for decades (00 1 802 525 301; 753 Heights Road, Glover; closed Sun; free).
Eat and drink
Vermont’s finest producers gather every Saturday at Burlington Farmer’s Market. As well as vegetables, artisan cheeses and meats, many stalls offer soups, stews and breakfast sandwiches (8:30am-2pm; cakes from £4.50).
One of Burlington’s most experimental restaurants, the Bluebird Tavern might offer smoked fallow deer or mussels with smoked almonds on its menu. There’s also live music (00 1 802 540 1786; dishes from £7).
One of the best restaurants in the state, Pangea in North Bennington mixes and matches New England produce with more international influences. Try the grilled mahi-mahi with ginger broth or Maryland-style crab cake with remoulade (00 1 802 442 7171; mains from £11).
A teaching kitchen for the New England Culinary Institute, Montpelier’s Main Street Bar and Grill describes itself as a gastronomic “production lab”. You can watch its students at work in the open-plan kitchen, and the Sunday brunch buffet is popular (00 1 802 223 3188; mains from £14).
Said to be haunted, the White House of Wilmington is a colonial revival mansion with views of Deerfield Valley. Mains might include homemade crab cakes, roasted Vermont duckling or Cajun pork. There’s a pretty heavyweight wine list, too (00 1 802 464 2135; mains from £18).
A ‘40s building with rustic wood-panelled rooms and brightly coloured quilts, the Inn at Mad River Barn is one of the last old-time Vermont ski lodges. There’s a massive stone fireplace, deep leather chairs and a deck overlooking landscaped gardens (00 1 802 496 3310; VT 17 Waitsfield; from £60).
A boarding house since 1908, Sunset House is the only bed and breakfast in the centre of downtown Burlington within walking distance of the waterfront. Four cosy guest rooms are tastefully decked out with antiques and ceiling fans (00 1 802 864 3790; 78 Main St; from £75).
The Inn at Shelburne Farms was once the 19th-century summer mansion of a wealthy family connected to the Vanderbilt dynasty. Inside, spacious rooms still display reminders of the previous occupants, with antique furnishings and ornate fireplaces. Don’t leave without exploring the hiking trails around the outlying countryside (00 1 802 985 8498; closed Oct-Apr; from £100).
The Inn at Round Barn Farm in Waitsfield is a decidedly upscale bed and breakfast – cosy rooms feature gas fires, antiques and canopy beds. Most overlook the meadows and the Green Mountains, plus there’s a hearty breakfast with Vermont roasted coffee (00 1 802 496 2276; from £110).
One of New England’s grandest hotels, Equinox in Manchester traces back to the 18th century and was frequented by Theodore Roosevelt and Ulysses S Grant. It’s now a luxury complex – bag a room in the Charles Orvis Inn with its own library and veranda (00 1 802 362 4747; 3567 Main St; from £160).
When to go
Winter sees throngs of skiers descend on Vermont’s resorts, while summer is festival season – the Discover Jazz Festival brings jazz luminaries to Burlington in June. Autumn is best for landscapes, with swathes of forest turning rusty red and amber.
Getting around
Public transportation is neither frequent nor widespread in rural New England, so the easiest way to get around Vermont is by car. Hertz, Alamo and Avis operate car hire centres at Burlington International airport (from £60 per day).
Getting there
Delta Air Lines flies from Heathrow to Burlington International airport via New York JFK (from £430). British Airways flies from Heathrow to Boston, Massachusetts (from £360). Greyhound buses run between Boston and Burlington (from £31).

Extracted from BBC - Travel. whith Lonely Planet

quarta-feira, 23 de novembro de 2011

Nasa gets ready for Mars mission

Nasa gets ready for Mars mission
By Jonathan Amos
Science correspondent, BBC News

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is the biggest, most capable robot ever built to land on another planet.

It is expected to lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on Saturday.

Lift-off is actually a day later than originally planned, to give engineers time to replace a problem battery in the spacecraft's Atlas rocket.

The one-hour-and-43-minute launch window will now open at 10:02 local time (15:02 GMT). MSL's cruise to Mars should take eight-and-a-half months.

The rover will aim to touch down in an equatorial depression called Gale Crater, where it will use its suite of 10 instruments to assess whether the Red Planet has ever been habitable.

It is not a life-detection mission as such; the $2.5bn robot cannot identify microbes or even microbial fossils. But it can assess whether ancient conditions could have ever supported organisms.

This means Gale must show evidence for the past presence of water, a source of energy with which lifeforms could have metabolised, and a source of organic compounds with which those organisms could have built their structures.

Gale has been chosen as the landing site because satellite imagery has suggested it may well be one of the best places on Mars to look for these biological preconditions.

quinta-feira, 10 de novembro de 2011

Colombia seeks a new, clean image

Colombia seeks a new, clean image
By Huw Cordey

Tourists have long flocked to Cartagena on the Caribbean coast

In 1993, while working in South Dakota, USA, I met a rancher who said, "So, you're from Britain. Isn't that where gangs are killing each other with machine guns?"

"Are you sure you're not thinking about somewhere else?" I replied.

"No, it's definitely England. You know, it's like a religious war - Catholics killing Protestants."

"Oh, do you mean Northern Ireland?" I asked.

"Yep, that's it," he said.

As it happened, the week before, I had read an article about gun crime in the States.

According to this report, three times more people died as a result of bullet wounds in Wichita, Kansas - an ordinary town in the Midwest - than in Northern Ireland, then at the height of the conflict.

My point here is about perception. It does not take much to form a negative opinion about a place.

Not so 'hostile'
And so it was, when I started to plan my trip to Colombia.

Colombia has worked hard to reduce the production of cocaine
Ask what Colombia is famous for, and the most likely response will be "cocaine, Farc (the left-wing guerrilla group) and Pablo Escobar", the notorious drug lord, now deceased.

It is a country that has had an almost permanent presence on the BBC's hostile environments list.

I imagine - in a light-hearted way - that, when the hostile environment committee meet, they start each session with the words: "So, apart from Colombia, what else have we got?"

I had been told by people in Colombia that things had changed, but as I tentatively emerged from Bogota's airport, I wondered how much.

While waiting for Francisco Forero, my contact, would I be bundled into the back of a car filled with gun-toting kidnappers?

Continue reading the main story
From Our Own Correspondent

Or would someone come up to me and say, "Ay, gringo, you want drugs?"

Someone did approach me, but only to politely ask whether I was looking for a taxi into town.

It was all very normal and, when my lift did show up and we drove into the city to a local restaurant, that seemed pretty normal too.

"Is this typical?" I asked Francisco.

"Sure," he said. "Of course, there are places I wouldn't want to go on my own at night in Bogota, but isn't that true of any city?"

Tracked by radar
The following day, we were the guests of Jorge Londono, a wealthy Colombian businessman, at his private nature reserve an hour's flight from Bogota.

It was my first insight into Colombia's troubles.

Before taxi-ing onto the runway, we were required to check in with the anti-narcotics police, who inspected Jorge's plane and examined our ID cards against the submitted paperwork, which doubled as our permit for where the plane was overnighting.

Once in the air, we would be tracked by radar and possibly spotter planes as well.

Later the pilot pointed out the plane's transponder - a device that sends a continuous signal back to a control tower.

I was relieved to see it. Without one, the air force is legally entitled to shoot the plane down.

All this security has one goal - to stop the free flow of drugs across the country - and it seems to be working. Increasingly drug operators are moving elsewhere.

New image
To understand just how much Colombia has changed over the last few years, you cannot do much better than ask Francisco and Jorge.

Shakira - Colombia's biggest export?
Francisco is head of Google in Colombia and, while satisfying his passion for photographing Colombia's wild places, he has travelled to the country's most remote corners.

Jorge, on the other hand, has hotels in 21 cities, which he visits regularly, and business is beginning to boom.

He is also something of an adventurer himself, having just jet-skied 1,000km (600 miles) through undisturbed jungles to the Orinoco river.

So, with their combined experience, I gave them a map of Colombia and asked them to mark areas I should not venture into.

They drew three small circles on Colombia's borders - two with Venezuela and one with Ecuador.

They represent less than 5% of the country. When I ask where neither of them would want to go, Jorge scribbles a small dot in one of the circles and Francisco agrees.

Admittedly this was hardly an exacting analysis of Colombia's security issues but it does seem to express what many Colombians are beginning to feel.

Ask the new generation of Colombians what the country's biggest export is now and they are more likely to say the global singing sensation Shakira (she of the gyrating hips) than cocaine.

And what of Farc?

Well, it appears they are on the retreat too, not just the group itself but in the minds of Colombians.

In a national survey last week, only 3% of respondents expressed any sympathy for the cause.