Hi from Rick: Rockin' in London
|Rick's in London doing guidebook research — while rockstars nearby bring world hunger to the center stage.|
As I write this, London is abuzz. Two hundred thousand people are gathered in Hyde Park, just a few blocks from my hotel. I can actually hear The Who singing "We Won't Get Fooled Again" out my window. Between acts, Bill Gates takes the stage to explain that we have the knowledge and resources it takes to end world hunger. All we're lacking today is the will to do so. Twenty years ago the "Live Aid" concert raised money. Today the "Live 8" concert is raising awareness. All that energy is being directed at the "G8" — leaders of the world's eight leading industrialized nations, who are meeting this week in Gleneagles, Scotland. The fate of Africa today — and the health of our planet tomorrow — is in their hands.
Even in my hotel, the world seems to be struggling to come together. The Polish girls who serve breakfast and clean my bathroom earn barely enough to survive in this most expensive city in Europe. (What I pay per night in this modest hotel, they pay in a month to share a nearby flat). But things are improving. Before Poland joined the EU, employing Easterners was an under-the-table operation, rife with exploitation and abuse. Today the work is legal, there is a minimum wage, and the British government provides free English classes.
At the same time, the helpful hand of government is making my room unbearably stuffy. According to the desk clerk, if I were to fall out of an open window, the hotel would be liable for "corporate manslaughter." To prevent this, every window has been rigged to open just a crack, so I can slowly suffocate in London's summer heat. My travel tip for today: family-run places (not held to corporate liability standards) throw open their windows and let travelers breathe easy.
I've been in Europe for just two days (with 68 to go). Even through my jet-laggy haze, I know I've already learned a bundle. And this month's Travel News will teach you a bundle. Articles include the intimate latest on Ireland from guidebook co-author Pat O'Connor, a surprising correspondence from a Danish B&B host to an American traveler who signed her email "pray for our troops," and my recent USA Today article on how our weaker dollar can actually enrich your travel experience.
Meanwhile, my son Andy is ten days into his first parent-free European adventure. His web blog makes it very clear that he's a normal and healthy teenage boy, swimming in an exciting world of temptations. You can bet I tune in regularly! Today he's on the Riviera, dealing with the decision of what to do next: run with the bulls, or hike with the Alps?
One thing Andy has learned is the importance of his guidebook to make the right decisions. To give our readers a jump on my upcoming 2006 editions, I've just uploaded my new chapters on Barcelona, Madrid, Santiago de Compostela, Granada, and Nerja on the Costa del Sol. You'll find links to these, as well, in this month's Travel News.
Uh-oh, Pink Floyd is about to take the Hyde Park stage. I think I'll run over and see how close I can get.
Rick, from London