How many people know that minors traveling to Mexico either alone,
with one parent or in someone else's custody require notarized
consent from nontraveling parents?
On a recent press trip, among a group of six travel writers --
traveling with their children and, except for one, without spouses
-- only three knew of this U.S. State Department provision.
Of those who did not know, one was turned away at the airport
and did not make the trip, one was able to contact her husband and
hurriedly find a notary at the airport and the third -- a colleague
of Insider's -- was traveling with her husband.
Because our colleague's husband was returning alone on a
different flight, however, the reporter had a letter drafted and
notarized in Mexico for the trip home.
The letter was not asked for on the return journey, but it's a
good idea to have one, we were told, particularly for parents who
have last names different from their children's.
The primary purpose of the provision -- though it is not spelled
out in the State Department's Consular Information Sheet, at travel.state.gov/mexico.html -- is to prevent
kidnappings, especially by noncustodial parents.
It is worth noting that at no time during the trip-planning
stage did anyone -- the PR firm that sponsored the trip, the travel
agency it used or the airline -- mention this provision to the
If ever there were an opportunity for value-added service, this
was it, sounds like.
Count off, one-two
Insider went a-punkin pickin' with a couple of kids over the
weekend at Heaven Hill Farm in Vernon, N.J., about 90 minutes
northwest of New York.
Every year, the farm has an autumn
festival featuring hayrides to the pumpkin fields, a mini-crafts
fair, food vendors, carnival rides, a hay maze, haunted hayrides at
night and a haunted barn.
But what haunted us most was the sign the farm had posted near
its exit, which was done half in fun, we're sure, but made us
shiver, nonetheless, at the thought of trying to shepherd more than
a handful of kindergarteners in a place with so many
We had only two little ones in tow, but before we left, we
counted heads anyway.
Lonely Planet puts out a good little Italian phrase book. We
were leafing through the book during a night flight to Venice,
attempting at once to brush up and to put ourself to sleep
(perchance to dream, in Italian?), when we came upon a most curious
entry, in the section on gender inflections.
In compiling the guide, the editors sensibly cited examples
useful to travelers: un treno, a train; un orario, a timetable,
But then this, to point out "irregular" nouns requiring uno
instead of the "regular" masculine un: uno studio, a studio; uno
zaino, a backpack; uno gnomo, a gnome.
A gnome? ... We rubbed our eyes. What could be the significance
of gnomes, here?
Are there gnomes in Roman mythology, similar to the trolls of
Germanic legend? Did Michelangelo -- on commission from some patron
and out to make a quick florin -- sculpt a series of lawn ornaments
out of his precious Carrara marble, and we just didn't know about
Neither of these, according to an Italian tour guide we spoke
to. Rather, the phrase book's editors wanted to give an example of
a noun with the "commencing digraph" gn.
Now, the best-known gn word among non-Italian-speaking Americans
is probably gnocchi, for the dumplings usually made from
But this would not have been a good example, as the word is all
but nonexistent in its singular form, gnoccho. So uno gnomo it is,
the plural being gli gnomi -- as if one weren't enough.