More Than Half of The London Underground Is Above Ground

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Many years ago, I wrote a travel guidebook for London, so I like to think of myself as fairly knowledgeable when it comes to the British capital. But I was surprised by some of the bits of information in this infographic created by Hull Trains and a little freaked out over the plague pits.

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After the Apocalypse

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h/t Tom Gauld

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Perfect Travel Photos

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I long ago gave up on the notion that I could take great travel photographs. In fact, now I generally leave the camera home and shoot random pics with my iPhone. Still, these travel photography hints from Ampersand Travel may make a better photographer of me yet.

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Books Onboard

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I don’t know how this vintage steam locomotive found its way to the middle of a bookstore in Shenyang, China, but I’m onboard with the concept of trains in bookshops. Along with the engine, they are using the old carriages for bookshelves.

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Book Fairies Underground

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There are many terrific “book sharing” programs around the world, but my favorites are always the projects operated by small groups of generous, dedicated book lovers. Books on the Subway is one of those heartwarming projects that makes a place like New York City habitable. Run by two Brooklynites, Rosy and Hollie, who call themselves “book fairies”, Books on the Subway is exactly what it says on the tin. The pair of bibliophiles leave donated books in subway cars and on platforms for MTA riders to pickup and read for free. They hope that the books will then be passed along to other readers. You can learn more on their website and follow the project on social media.

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Taming the Pippi Savage

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Paris can be a glorious city, but sometimes the streets reek of urine from pippi savage (wild peeing). Now a team of entrepreneurs has developed a clever solution to this urban menace. The Uritrottoir (the name combines the words for urinal and pavement) is designed to look like a planter and it turns human urine and straw into compost for public parks. This seems like a great idea for many other cities with the same public urination problem, but where is the female version?

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Think Globally, Act Locally

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I was shocked to discover that the Bronx, a New York City Borough with a population of 1.4 million people, has no bookstores. Although the Bronx has undergone an amazing transformation during the past decade,its last remaining bookstore chose to shut down in December. But you can help local crusading bibliophile and entrepreneur Noele Santos bring books back to the Bronx by supporting her Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

Back in September, Santos won a start-up competition sponsored by the New York Public Library and has been using the seed money to get “The Lit bar” off the ground. Every little bit helps.

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London’s Smallest Library

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London’s Borough of Lewisham is home to the city’s smallest public library. The Lewisham Micro Library was created by local resident Sebastian Handly, who purchased the old phone box from British Telecom and outfitted it with shelving, lighting, and a diverse collection of books. Three years on, the mini-free library is still going strong, with wide community support. You can find out more about the library and learn more about replicating this brilliant project on Facebook.

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Covering Nineteen Eighty-Four

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Tourists Go Home

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Last week, the city of Barcelona finally said enough to uncontrolled tourism. The municipal government voted to impose the most sweeping ban on tourist accommodations seen anywhere in Europe, along with added measures to regain control of the city from rampant tourism.

All new hotel construction is banned in central Barcelona. That includes popular districts of the Barri Gotic, Raval, Ribera, Eixample, Gracia, Poblenou, and as far as Montjuïc. The expectation is that over the next decade hotels beds in the city center, especially in the Ciutat Vella, will decrease and that the neighborhoods will regain some of their residential character.

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Barcelona’s strategic plan for tourism also incorporates significant increase in taxes for vacation rental properties, big jumps in tour bus parking fees, bans on scooters and Segways, and crackdowns on nuisance bars in tourist areas.

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If this seems draconian for a city that earns 12 to 15% of its revenue from tourism, please consider that the city population is just 1.6 million, while it gets 32 million visitors a year. With a majority of tourists coming between April and September. Of that number, only eight million stayed in hotels.

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All of this makes me feel a bit guilty, although on my last trip to Barcelona I went during March and I stayed in a licensed rental apartment. I think that the city government needs to limit the number of cruise ships, which dump thousands of tourists in the heart of Barcelona each day. These day-trippers spend little and clog the streets of the Barri Gotic, Barcelonetta, Raval, etc.. The other big problem stems from bus tour passengers who also flood the center city making it impassable for residents. And in the area of accommodations, it might be better for the municipal government to work with Airbnb and other rental companies to limit units in the city center and to manage unlicensed rental properties. What’s your take on this?

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