To the ends of the Earth

Polar expeditions attract travelers intrigued by plight of penguins and bears

The Smart Traveler

October 15, 2006

FROMMER'S 500 PLACES TO TAKE YOUR KIDS BEFORE THEY GROW UP

Frommer's / Wiley / $19.99

Holly Hughes is a travel writer, an editor and, most important (at least for this book), the mother of three, so she presumably knows her stuff on a professional and personal level. In this entertaining tome, she has divided the world into 15 thematic chapters, from large and small cities to historic places to sites of war and peace. Each destination has an age range for children. She includes familiar sites, ancient sites, sports sites, train rides, art museums and more. A fun book for browsing and dreaming.

JUNE SAWYER

MEXICO

Tourists warned of violence

The State Department issued a public announcement last month about "the rising level of brutal violence in areas of Mexico." Recent incidents, it said, included hundreds of narcotics-related slayings; random shootings on highways outside Mexico City, Nuevo Laredo, Tijuana and other areas; kidnappings of U.S. citizens; and murders of Mexican and U.S. citizens. American residents and visitors to Mexico "should exercise extreme caution when in unfamiliar areas," the State Department advised. The announcement, issued Sept. 15, expires March 15.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

AIR TRAVEL

Gossip in the friendly skies

Ever wonder what the cabin crews on planes think of the passengers they serve? If you want to find out, go to airlinecrew.net, a Web site "connecting crew members worldwide," where flight attendants spout off on everything from the best uniforms (British Airways is the big winner) to their least-favorite passengers (mothers with badly behaved children). The "celebrity sightings" thread within the Galley Gossip forum makes for the best reading -- posting after posting of who's naughty and who's nice in the air, from the pope to Prince Andrew.

NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

GEAR & GADGETS

If you can't do the sport, watch it. Bushnell's Xtra-Wide 4-power binoculars catch the action with a panoramic 900-foot field of view at 1,000 yards -- twice the viewing area of standard binoculars. I found the wide-angle lens particularly useful for following stadium sports such as football and soccer. Or, watch the whole orchestra (or herd of wild animals) with one glimpse. The focus-free binoculars weigh about 12 ounces, have pop-up rubber eyecups for comfort, and come with a carrying case and neck strap. Xtra-Wide Binoculars list at $100 but are cheaper online. Information: 800-423-3537 or bushnell.com.

JUDI DASH

ENGLAND

In search of Harry Potter's home

What do Harry Potter, Thomas the Tank Engine and Black Beauty have in common? Their stories are set in England, as are those of Mary Poppins, Paddington Bear and Peter Pan. Hoping to lure more young visitors to Britain, the National Tourist Office recently capitalized on this children's literary heritage and put together an interactive Web map of hundreds of story locations. They range from Platform 9 3 / 4 in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to the real Secret Garden, at Great Maytham Hall. The map can be downloaded at storybookengland.com.

NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

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