If You Don't See the Northern Lights on This Cruise, Your Next Trip is Free

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iStock

Even if you wait for the best time of year and scope out the perfect spot, seeing the Northern Lights in person is never a guarantee. The visibility of the aurora borealis on any given night depends on multiple factors that are tough to predict. But one cruise line is confident they can take you to the light show—so confident that they’re promising a second trip on them if you miss the Lights the first time, Travel + Leisure reports.

The Astronomy Voyage from Hurtigruten Cruises leaves Norway between October and March, traveling from Bergen to the Arctic town of Kirkenes and back. During the 12-day tour, passengers are treated to views of Norwegian landscapes and wildlife and, if all goes according to plan, the Northern Lights in all their glory. In its first 10 years, the voyage has never gone all 12 days without at least one clear look at the aurora borealis, but if year 11 marks a break in that pattern, customers have no reason to worry. Hurtigruten promises to send them on a free six- or seven-day cruise next year to give them another shot at the experience.

“We know that no trip to the Arctic Circle is quite complete without experiencing this highlight (pun intended!) at least once on your journey,” the website reads, “so your Hurtigruten experience will be one with zero regrets.”

When passengers aren’t sky-gazing on the deck, they can sit in on presentations from the ship's own onboard astronomer or visit the Tromsø Planetarium (the northernmost planetarium in the world) during one of the ship’s many stops. Admission to the planetarium is included in the roughly $1,970 ticket price, along with meals and access to an English-speaking tour guide. The aurora borealis guarantee is also included in the fare, but considering that the current season is projected to be one of the best for viewing the Northern Lights until 2025, it’s likely that no one will need to redeem it.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

Paris Responds to Its Public Urination Problem By Installing Open-Air Urinals

Thomas Samson, AFP/Getty Images
Thomas Samson, AFP/Getty Images

In between stops at the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, sightseers in Paris might notice some unusual new landmarks marking the city's streets: bright red, open-air urinals. As NPR reports, the so-called "Uritrottoir" (a mashup of the French words for urinal and pavement) have been installed in response to the city's public urination problem, and residents aren't happy about it.

Peeing openly on the streets has been an unofficial tradition in the French capital since the pre-Napoleon era. Relieving oneself on city property is a fineable offense, but that hasn't stopped both tourists and locals from continuing to do it, subjecting bystanders to both the unwelcome sight and the lingering smell.

Now, Paris is taking an if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em approach to the issue. Uritrottoir have popped up near some of the city's most famous spots, such as Île Saint-Louis, overlooking the Seine, and Notre-Dame Cathedral. They're about the height and size of trash cans, with a receptacle that's meant to catch pee, not litter. Inside the Uritrottoir, straw and other composting materials absorb the urine and its odors, eventually breaking down into a compost that will feed the plants growing from the top of the box. A conspicuous sign of a man peeing posted above the urinal lets passersby know exactly what the contraption is for.

The built-in planters are meant to present the public urinals as something beautiful and functional, but many of the people who have to look at them every day aren't buying it. Fabienne Bonnat, a local art gallery owner, told CBC Radio, "It's an open door to exhibitionism. Who likes to see that?"

Another Île Saint-Louis gallery owner, who didn't wish to be named, told Reuters, “We’re told we have to accept this but this is absolutely unacceptable. It’s destroying the legacy of the island. Can’t people behave?"

The first three toilets were installed in March with a fourth appearing in July. The city has plans to add a fifth urinal, despite the uproar they've already caused.

[h/t NPR]

After Seven Years, Melbourne Has Been Displaced as the World's Most Liveable City

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iStock

We should all move to Vienna. That's what the Economist Intelligence Unit recommends: In a new report, it ranked Austria's capital as the world's most liveable city. With a score of 99.1 out of 100, Vienna beat out Melbourne for the top spot, which the Australian city had held onto for the past seven consecutive years. This is the City of Music's first time being number one.

The survey ranks 140 cities worldwide based on five categories: stability (including crime and terrorism); healthcare; culture and environment (including level of censorship, temperature, and cultural offerings); education; and infrastructure (including public transportation, housing, energy, and water). Overall, there were improvements in safety and stability this year for the countries surveyed.

Vienna scored a perfect 100 in four out of five categories. The only area in which the city could use a tiny bit of improvement is in culture and environment—though its 96.3 score is still pretty impressive.

The cities that scored best on the list tend to be mid-sized with low population densities and located in wealthy countries. The world's biggest urban centers, such as New York, London, and Paris, may be popular places to live for their unbeatable food and culture, but high levels of crime, congestion, and public transportation issues make quality of life less desirable and drag them down in the rankings.

The top 10 most liveable cities are:

1. Vienna, Austria
2. Melbourne, Australia
3. Osaka, Japan
4. Calgary, Canada
5. Sydney, Australia
6. Vancouver, Canada
7. Toronto, Canada
8. Tokyo, Japan
9. Copenhagen, Denmark
10. Adelaide, Australia

And here are the 10 least liveable cities:

131. Dakar, Senegal
132. Algiers, Algeria
133. Douala, Cameroon
134. Tripoli, Libya
135. Harare, Zimbabwe
136. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
137. Karachi, Pakistan
138. Lagos, Nigeria
139. Dhaka, Bangladesh
140. Damascus, Syria

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