Escapes: We can make you an Instagram star

The Guadalupe neighborhood of San Miguel de Allende, north of the historic core, is known for its growing collection of modern murals that bring a touch of whimsy.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Happy Halloween. We have a ton of stuff that will soothe you, not scare you. We’ll teach you how to become an Instagram star, tell you where to catch the first L.A. visit of the legendary Polar Express, share some good news about Global Entry and explain why you should pay attention to your intuition in the End paper, which, not surprisingly, comes at the very end.

All of this plus Vegas’ hottest show and a how-to on getting a cab, Uber or Lyft to take you safely home from LAX. Let’s jump on our broomsticks, and… away.

Picture yourself as a great photographer

“I do consider myself an amateur photographer,” L.A. Times staff writer Christopher Reynolds said of his photography, “maybe a ‘pramateur’ on my best days.” After some photo instruction from Javier Barras of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Reynolds created a veritable primer on the town’s photographic possibilities and a compendium of photo tips that offer good advice no matter where you are.


His main takeaway from Barras, Reynolds said, is “so simple that it’s almost embarrassing: Slow down.” Barras recommends using a tripod, not because “it stabilizes the camera (though that is valuable) but [because] it forces a photographer to think harder and more deliberately about what to include and exclude.

“Going forward, I plan on building a few slowing-down techniques into my routine so that whether I’m armed with a tripod or not, I don’t rush too quickly into snapping this and that.”

Viva Lost Vegas

Not Elvis. Tim Burton has staged the show at Vegas’ Neon Museum. The creator of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Corpse Bride” has pieces in this collection that bear his inimitable touch (“Spiral-Eyed Girl” and “Flying Saucers” among them). If you can’t make it for Halloween, the show continues through mid-February, Mary Forgione writes.

Train’s a-comin’!

And not just any train. The Polar Express will visit Southern California for the first time, offering a chance to head to the North Pole of Chris Van Allsburg’s well-loved children’s story. The train will depart from Fillmore and Perris; Mary Forgione provides other details.

LAX Global Entry office reopens

The Global Entry office at 11099 S. La Cienega Blvd. closed suddenly in June when personnel were sent to the border. That left Long Beach as the nearest available place to try to schedule the interview required of first-time applicants and, occasionally, some renewing card holders. Wait times grew longer, and applicants’ patience grew shorter. Now, more than four months later, the LAX Global Entry office has reopened and can schedule interviews.


Cruise ship? Cost savings

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to see Norway’s fjords or Alaska’s glaciers. Or maybe you’ve dreamed of seeing the gin-clear waters of the Caribbean or the sun-drenched Mediterranean. And then you say, “not happening,” not because you don’t love to travel but because all of us have budgets to consider. Rosemary McClure explains how a cruise can open the door to places that might otherwise be outside your budget.

Uber, Lyft and taxi pickup has a new home at LAX

On Tuesday, LAX initiated its new LAX-it lot near Terminal 1, where you can catch your rideshare or flag a taxi. You can walk if you’re in a nearby terminal, or you can take a shuttle bus. Christopher Reynolds tells you how to navigate the new rules.

Happy high seas holiday

“Star Trek” alum and LGBTQ activist George Takei will be a guest lecturer on a holiday cruise aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. Takei will speak about his internment as a child during World War II — which he recounted in his memoir “They Called Us Enemy” and discussed at a recent Times Book Club event — and about rubbing elbows with a host of celebs.

Mendocino for the magic... and the meals

I’m not vegan, but I notice I feel much better when I eat only plant-based foods. That’s partly what attracted me to Dorothy O’Donnell’s Weekend Escape to a Mendocino resort where the cuisine is gourmet and vegan. Come for the grub, stay for what she describes as a “chill New Age vibe.”

What we’re reading

Nigel Richardson, writing for the Telegraph, poses this question: What is it with tourists who feel they must conquer things? Ricardson cites the rush to climb Uluru / Ayers Rock in Australia before the Oct. 26 deadline that will keep hikers off a place sacred to the Anangu people.

To Christopher Reynolds’ point in his photo tips story mentioned above, don’t snap a picture without talking to the subject first. In Kyoto, Japan, the penalty could be a fine of about $100, broadcaster NHK reports. Enough locals in the Gion district have complained of tourists taking geishas’ photos without permission and pulling at their kimonos that they’ve banned photography in its private alleys.

If you love Notre-Dame, you’ll be drawn to Ken Follett’s “Notre-Dame: A Short History of the Meaning of Cathedrals,” published this week. Even if you don’t give a whit about it, you may still be drawn to this short book, full of the kind of writing that has made Follett a best-selling author. His heartbreak as he watched the Notre-Dame burn April 15 is almost palpable; his description of Charles de Gaulle’s victorious march to the cathedral after Paris’ liberation is a study on how power is conferred … upon oneself.

What you’re reading, and maybe writing to

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End paper

“I just don’t think I can do this,” I told the fellow who was riding a Harley next to the one I was driving. We were warming up the bikes in preparation for an event at our national convention.

I was right, which isn’t often the case but was this time. Within seconds of saying that, I took a sharp turn and went down. Fortunately, I wasn’t going fast. The bike was fine, which was good because it wasn’t mine. I was mostly fine except for a black eye, ruined glasses, plenty of bruises and some road rash on my face. My pride, however, was in tatters, proving once again that it goeth before the fall.

That lesson about heeding your own voice, inner or outer? It’s a good one, especially for travelers. It’s true that sometimes we need to be braver than we think we are, but this wasn’t one of them. The bike was too big and heavy for me. I’m not quite as strong (or tall) as I was 20 years ago when I started riding. I knew all that. I just didn’t listen. The good news? Flab may be unattractive, but it proved an excellent protective coating.

Next time, deep breath, brain engaged, consequences imagined and weighed. Then decide. And maybe I’ll hit the right mixture of courage and cowardice before I hit the ground.

No matter where you are, travel safely and well, and we’ll be here to welcome you home, preferably in one piece.