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Sailing with Jacques Pépin, Stonehenge on Steroids: The View from AFAR

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Welcome to This Week in Travel, the latest and greatest news and tidbits from the world of travel. Think of this as a primer that will give you everything you need to know to plan upcoming trips. In addition to providing you with the most important consumer travel news, author Matt Villano also will give you suggestions for good reading, a spotlight on new gear, and a peek at travel companies worth following. If you have questions or comments, Tweet them at @afarmedia. Thanks!

Without question, the biggest global travel news this week came out of the South England countryside, where archaeologists discovered another Stonehenge less than two miles from the one people have been visiting for centuries. An archaeologist at Bradford University who leads the project described the new site—which is still underground—to The Guardian as “Stonehenge on steroids.” Considering the first Stonehenge is the best known prehistoric monument in Europe and is one of the most frequently visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this discovery could have a major impact on how tourists interact with ancient history in that part of the world. (Of course history buffs think the discovery also will help to shine light on what these giant henges were used for.)

Foodies cheered this week at news of a new European cruise offering from Oceania Cruises. The 1,250-passenger Marina sails from Venice to Rome, and spotlights master chef Jacques Pépin. The voyage will include book signings, meet-and-greets, and a special culinary demonstration hosted by Pépin. Guests also will be treated to specially designed menus in the restaurants, epicurean-infused shore excursions, and hands-on cooking classes in the state-of-the-art Culinary Center onboard. Fares start at $3,899 per person; the trip leaves Nov. 1.

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Nearly half of American travelers are dissatisfied with the security clearance process when they fly, according to a new survey from SITA, which provides technology and telecommunications services to the air travel industry. Survey data, which was released Wednesday, indicates 43 percent of 1,411 responding travelers say they are “unhappy” with the security experience, while 29 percent of respondents are unhappy going through passport controls. These numbers are higher than the global averages of 36 and 25 percent, respectively. The same study found that 95 percent of passengers were happy when they had time to relax before boarding the aircraft. Though to a large extent these findings tell frequent travelers what they already know about TSA, the data also provide fresh perspective on strong and weak points in the current air travel system.

Custom travel company Black Tomato released its roster of 2016 trips this week, and the options sparked some serious wanderlust. Among the highlights: A trip to view the Northern Lights by camping on Iceland’s Langjokull glacier, a hike up Indonesia’s Mount Batur volcano to view the best solar eclipse in years, a VIP excursion to experience the Palio di Siena horse race in Italy, and a sojourn to India’s Mehrangarh Fort under the brightest full moon of the year. Black Tomato officials said that because space is so limited, they expect most of these trips to sell out quickly.

A boutique hotel in Beijing is about to get a whole lot swankier—at least for one day next week. The Opposite House, located in the city’s Sanlitun neighborhood, will turn its lobby into a pop-up bazaar Sept. 19 to celebrate the beauty of artisan China. The event, dubbed Beshan Gai in Mandarin, is expected to bring together 30 different vendors from around China who will sell hand-crafted or hand-reared specialty products. Some of the items for sale were expected to include Kashgar carpets, Yunnan ham, and Fujian rice wine. The bazaar is the brainchild of WildChina Travel, a tour operator that specializes in luxury tours to some of the nation’s most faraway spots.

There aren’t many people who can say they’ve visited every country on Earth. Albert Podell is one of them, and he wrote about the quest in a Sept. 2 article for The Atlantic.Podell names the toughest countries in the world to visit, including Saudi Arabia, Chad, Nauru, Sudan, and Angola. Though this piece isn’t long, the author’s detail is compelling.

Meaningful travelogues are a dying breed in this age of shrinking editorial, but Rich Cohen’s piece about Lake Michigan, in the Aug. 30 issue The New York Times hearkens back to a time when writers had space to strut their stuff. The piece chronicles a trip Cohen took this summer, during which he and his family circumnavigated the lake, stopping in cities and towns along the way. The prose is flowing, the descriptions sharp. (Too bad the story is followed by a litany of corrections.)

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Another piece worth reading this week actually doesn’t have many words at all; instead, it’s an illustration series published on the new website Cultures & Cuisines. Contributing writer Kiratiana Freelon takes readers through the ABCs of Brazilian tastes, best-loved favorites, and cultural touchstones, with illustrations by Drew Gilbert. The complete series will be posted on Instagram over the month of September.

Check out the Qliplet, a new travel tool that went on sale at a discounted rate through an IndieGoGo campaign this week.The device is a carabiner with panache. It has a heavy-duty clip for consolidating bags or other items and holding them to larger objects. It also has a super-strong rotating hook that can be used for other stuff—everything from (more) totes to jackets to milk jugs (really) and more. The hook also can be used to support the carabiner. In particular, the Qliplet seems well-suited for family travelers who find themselves having to schlep lots of kid stuff on big trips.

Chargerback, based in Carson City, Nevada, has developed a Web-based lost-and-found platform for airlines, hotels, and theme parks to help passengers get their stuff back. In the two years since the company launched, its technology has reunited travelers with missing items including a pet snake, a prosthetic leg, and a bag containing $30,000. The system is pretty simple; travelers enter information about missing items into the Web interface and travel providers receive the dossier so they can locate the lost items. Once a travel provider finds the item, Chargerback returns it for a small fee (usually $9.95). CEO Ranson Webster says the number of recovered items is growing exponentially. Check ‘em out.

Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In more than 18 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Alaska Airlines, and more. He is a senior editor for the Expedia Viewfinder blog from Expedia, and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association, and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.

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