Dan Forth blogs about the world of travel as he sees it.
Travel and technology walk hand in hand. From Ipads to laptops, James DeRuvo gives us the latest on technology for the mobile world.

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Book Passage’s Elaine Petrocelli Talks Travel Books

Elaine Petrocelli

Elaine Petrocelli

Elaine Petrocelli is co-founder and president of one of the top bookstores in the West. Book Passage is a center for world famous authors to come and sign new books but also Elaine points out that the store is noted for discovering authors that later gain world wide fame and win major literary prizes. The store is successful in a day when book stores are getting rarer. It engages the community and also hosts a series of conferences through the year featuring writers at all stages of the craft. She talks with Paul and Elizabeth about the 22nd Travel Writers and Photographers conference and how it has grown and become a place where new writers are encouraged.

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Dennis Palumbo’s Mystery Novel Night Terrors As Travel Guide To Pittsburgh

Dennis PalumboMystery novelist Dennis Palumbo joins Paul and Elizabeth to discuss his novel, Night Terrors as a travel guide to Pittsburgh. He evokes a sense of place that allows readers to follow the action in actual locales in the city he clearly loves. Dennis provides a short essay about the idea of place in his mystery Daniel Rinaldi series.

Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), Dennis Palumbo is a licensed psychotherapist and author of Writing From the Inside Out. He also blogs regularly for The Huffington Post and Psychology Today. His mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand, and elsewhere, and is collected in From Crime to Crime. His acclaimed series of mystery thrillers (Mirror Image, Fever Dream, and the latest,  Night Terrors), feature Daniel Rinaldi, a psychologist who consults with the Pittsburgh Police.

What do the recent films Unstoppable, The Dark Knight Rises, and Jack Reacher have in common? They were all primarily shot in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and environs. Why? Probably because of its undoubted cinematic appeal. Pittsburgh has a sprawling network of ethnic neighborhoods, steep hills and rolling streets, venerable buildings and parks, and the famous Three Rivers. Not to mention some handsome tax breaks provided by the state for today’s filmmakers.

These same vivid, colorful traits (minus the tax breaks) hold true for a spate of recent novels, particularly mysteries and thrillers, set in the Steel City. Authors such as Kathleen George, Thomas Lipinksi, and K.C. Constantine have made good use of Western Pennsylvania’s unique flavors and tints, and of the cluster of small, industrially-depleted towns that surround the urban core.

I must admit, I’m prejudiced about Pittsburgh as a setting for mysterious goings-on. I was born and raised there, and graduated from Pitt. Though I’ve lived in Los Angeles for many years, the city still exerts a powerful pull on my memory. Which is why, when deciding on a setting for my own series of mystery thrillers, I chose my home town.

But not just for nostalgia’s sake. Pittsburgh’s an amazing place, an amalgam of old and new, a shot-and-a-beer town colliding with the Information Age. The steel mills I used to toil in during summers between college semesters are all gone; in their place are sleek, modern buildings where software designers and MBAs work. Run-down sections of the city have been gentrified, with the higher real estate values and tony shops that signify such startling changes. With its huge financial endowments—-from such fabled families as the Mellons, Carnegies, and Heinzs—-Pittsburgh’s become known as much for its state-of-the-art universities, museums and hospitals as for its sports teams. As well as its innovation. For example, it’s currently the world’s pioneer in nanotechnology.

In many ways, it truly represents the transformation of blue collar into white collar. Except that the vestiges of the old Pittsburgh I grew up in are still felt around the edges, still apparent in the weathered turn-of-the-century buildings, the ethnic neighborhoods, the immigrant values and loyalties.

Traits I know about all too well. As a child, my parents were horrified when they learned that, during lunch at school, I’d often trade my homemade fried eggplant sandwiches for more “American” peanut butter-and-jelly. Now, an adult visitor to Pittsburgh will find gentrified, trendy restaurants where similar classic Italian food is highly prized (and over-priced).

As mentioned, I worked for two summers at J&L Steel Works, part of seventeen miles of steel mills that no longer exist. Along with my fellow students, I wore the traditional yellow hard hat that marked me as a newbie. And made us a much more convenient target for the soda bottles, tuna fish cans and other refuse dropped on us from above by the crane operators. Part of the blue-collar way of life in the mill back in the sixties, as were the ethnically-separated work crews and the occasional visits by Teamsters, unloading “misplaced” goods from the backs of trucks. Then there were the longed-for breaks from the mill’s relentless heat, when, having fallen into an uneasy truce, we college kids and veteran mill hunks sat together on the tar-paper roof, overlooking the Monongahela River, drinking Cokes and listening to Pirates games on transistor radios.

For better or worse, that Pittsburgh, like its steel mills, is pretty much gone. No better example comes to mind than when my mother’s brain tumor was removed last year by a radical new surgery in a world-famous hospital unit, one of whose previous patients was the Dalai Lama. Part of a complex of new buildings—like so many springing up in the urban core—whose construction required the demolition of the older ones which had stood before.

No matter how welcomed or needed, change comes with a psychic cost. This is as true for a city as it is for an individual. I believe it’s certainly true for Pittsburgh. And it’s this tension between old and new, darkness and light, that makes it a fascinating place, and a great environment for a murder mystery. As more and more authors are beginning to discover, as they lead their characters down the mean streets of Pittsburgh…

 

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Gary Arndt Explores The Caribbean’s Little-known Treasures

EasterIsland Gary ArndtGlobal Travel Correspondent, Gary Arndt checks in from Saba in the Caribbean as he explores both well-known and little-known islands on his global odyssey. Check out his blog at everything-everywhere.com for more on Gary’s travels.

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Book Passage Writers Conference Helps Travel Writers

Don George 2013Author and editor Don George joins Paul to talk about the upcoming Book Passage travel writers and photographers conference and workshop. Designed to help both established writers and newbies develop the art and craft of travel writing, the conference enters it’s second decade of helping writers. This year Elizabeth Harryman joins the faculty and she tells us about some of the  things she has learned as a leading editor.

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Fido’s Best Friend Is DogTrekker.Com And A Bone

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERADog Trekker is simply the most reliable of dozens if not hundreds of websites devoted to traveling with fido. Most importantly, everything on the site is vetted by not only travel experts but dog experts who are familiar with the local region it covers in California. And most important of all is Kayla, shown here at Nick’s Cove, Marshall, CA, who is better known as K.K. She has traveled the state, and beyond, and given her bark of approval to dog friendly hotels, restaurants, beaches, lakes, wineries, boats, trains, stores, ballparks and much more. She gives her personal approval to her favorite ‘4-paws up’ experiences as determined by her wags/minute and smiles/mile. DogTrekker.com is gearing up for a summer of fun for fido and the website is packed with suggestions for places to go and even tips for staying healthy and avoiding nasties like rattlesnakes.

As the weather warms, rattlesnakes come out of hiding—and sometimes into the path of dogs and their people. Although they are inherently shy and will get out of your (and Fido’s) way if they sense your approach, rattlers strike when provoked, and curious dogs who don’t know the consequences can provoke merely by investigating the source of an unfamiliar smell. Snakebite prevention should be on the mind of anyone who ventures into nature with a dog. If the two of you spend a lot of time hiking or hunting, you may want to check into the benefits of formal aversion training. Rattlesnake aversion training (also called “snake-break” or snake avoidance training) isn’t fun for you or your dog read more:

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Book Passage Hosts The West’s Leading Literary Workshop For Travel

Don George 2013Travel writer and editor, Don George joins Paul to talk about the plans for the 22nd annual Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference, held in Corte Madera just north of San Francisco August 8 to 11. Don is co-founder of the conference which each year attracts major travel book authors. Don also explains how he teaches a one-day course on travel writing just before the conference by taking students out to Point Reyes and giving them a hands on experience in writing about the place. Book Passage is one of the leading independent books stores in the United States. Don and Paul talk about the evolution of travel writing and how it is evolving today. Elizabeth Harryman, co-host of Traveling and Travel Editor of Westways magazine will be a member of the faculty this year.

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David DeCandia Blends A World Of Tea For Coffee Bean And Tea Leaf Stores Around The World

120726100603_dave-picking-teaPaul and Elizabeth chat with David De Candia about the world of tea. His title at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf® may conjure images of him sitting surrounded by cups of tea to taste or of him directing an operation of blending and bagging leaves in a large room. A certified tea specialist and master blender, De Candia’s job description is, in fact, much more complex and includes traveling to tea growing regions around the world to sample and buy teas directly from individual estates with whom he has forged relationships; evaluating and blending teas at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s Camarillo, CA, Roasting & Distribution facility; spearheading the company’s Caring Cup global initiatives; acting as a teacher, judge, and panelist at tea conventions and expositions; and educating the company’s team members. De Candia, of course, simplifies it further by saying, “Tea is who I am.” He’s involved with the brand’s tea cultivating process from seed to cut and spends almost two thirds of every year traveling to various tea estates across India, Sri Lanka, the Himalayas, China, and Africa.

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Christian Science Monitor Weekly On Disconnected Vacations

01_JUN03Monitor Staff Writer, Dan Wood joins Paul and Elizabeth to discuss his recent article on disconnected vacations. He talks about folks who have turned off their social media and electronics to vacation without doing anything. And he discusses people who wouldn’t dream of giving up their electronic connections to the world. It’s a thought-provoking article that provides insight into an emerging social trend.

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Expats In A Fantasy In A far Land The Slovak Republic

ImageJoEllen Zumberg and Scott Burgess moved from London to a small town in the Slovak republic. Theay are learning the language, making friends and have even found sushi in Bratislava. Paul and Elizabeth chat with them over Skype about life in their village, the challenges and joys. Check out their blog at Whose idea was this anyway.

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Boingo Wifi Tip For May

boingo logoChristian Gunning joins us with an update of where wifi is going and for the traveler it’s good news. Christian joins us regularly at OnTravel to share his expertise about travel and wifi.

Boingo’s award-winning Wi-Fi service offers access to more than 600,000 Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide across the company’s aggregated global network, spanning more than 100 countries in partnership with more than 125 Wi-Fi network operators. The Boingo Wi-Finder app helps users find premium Boingo hotspots and the best available free hotspots worldwide through a color-coded location directory, and helps them connect securely using the Boingo VPN.