London, Rome, Paris Top TripAdvisor’s Most-Reviewed Cities List

iPad screen showing Trip Advisor website - online hotel arrangements
Alamy

The litany of year-end travel-related lists continues. Today, it’s TripAdvisor, which unveiled its most reviewed cities. Leading the way: London, Rome and Paris, according to the Telegraph. The top U.S city was New York, which ranked fourth overall — a stunning blow for American exceptionalism.London venues received 459,000 reviews, 96,000 more than Rome.

According to the Telegraph, “TripAdvisor features more than 260 million monthly visitors and its community has contributed more than 125 million reviews and opinions to the site, up from 75 million reviews and opinions a year ago.”

Herod the Great’s Tomb May Not Be His

Herod
Wikimedia Commons

Israel is a country filled with ancient sites. One of the more popular ones to visit is the Herodium, the palace of the infamous Herod the Great, now part of a national park just outside Jerusalem. Herod was a lavish builder and created quite the crib between 23-15 BC. The historian Josephus, writing half a century after Herod’s death, says that when the king died in 4 BC, he was laid out on a gold bed in a tomb at the site.

Back in 2007, an archaeological team uncovered a tomb at Herodium and proclaimed they had found Herod’s final resting place. Ever since it’s been a popular stop for tourists who wander about the ruins of the palace, baths, and synagogue of the Jewish king who pledged allegiance to the Roman Empire.

Now another group of archaeologists say that it’s not the tomb of Herod. They say the 32×32 ft. tomb is too small for a king, especially one famous for his grandiose building projects such as the desert fortress Masada and the rebuilding of the Second Temple. Most royal tombs were larger and included coffins of marble or gold rather than the local limestone found in this structure. Royal tombs also had large courtyards in front of them so people could come pay their respects, something lacking in the Herodium tomb.The researchers suggest it was the tomb of one of Herod’s family.

Archaeologists have been quick to discover the tombs of famous people in recent years. The discoveries of the tombs of Caligula and the Apostle Philip have both been disputed. Now it appears that Herod will return to the long list of famous people for whom their final resting place remains a mystery.

Avoiding Scams And Thieves While Traveling Abroad

Flickr user Modenadude

My wife and I had just left the Musee D’Orsay when a young woman came running up to us clutching a ring.

The pretty brunette spoke in halting English, saying she saw it drop to the ground as we walked by. After a quick scan of our fingers, we told her we weren’t missing any rings, but she placed the ring in my hand and insisted we take it for friendship. Before my heart could swell with the joy of international love and brotherhood, she then asked for money for a cup of coffee. At that point, I realized it was a scam and handed her back the ring, which she no doubt tried to foist onto another hapless tourist couple.

While our stay in Paris was overall a wonderful experience, criminals threatened to put a damper on our trip. Before our flight out of Charles de Gaulle Airport, we would be accosted by other scam artists several more times, and my wife was pick-pocketed on the Paris Metro. Luckily the hipster shorts I bought in a Parisian boutique were so tight, I could barely get my fingers into my pockets, let alone a common thief do the same.

Unfortunately, theft and scams are all too prevalent in most major metropolitan areas. Staff members at the Louvre actually went on strike for a day earlier this year, protesting the unsafe working conditions caused by thieves and scam artists. Bob Arno, co-author of Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Crime While Traveling, estimates about 70 percent of Barcelona tourists will be approached by a street criminal; of those incidents, about 33 percent result in the loss of valuables.

According to the US government, Paris, Barcelona, London, Rome, Amsterdam and Naples have the highest number of scam artists looking to take advantage of naïve or distracted tourists.

Travel expert Rick Steves recently noted some of the most common international travel scams and ways tourists can avoid them. Other advice to consider:

  • Forgo purses or strapped bags in favor of body wallets or buttoned pockets.
  • Leave fancy jewelry or expensive watches at home. Don’t flash expensive electronic equipment –- particularly iPhones, thieves love them –- around. Have the number for the local police department saved in your phone.
  • Keep your passport and other important documents in the hotel safe, after you’ve scanned or photographed them and saved them in a file-sharing app or program like Evernote or Dropbox.
  • Stay alert. While you might be tempted to buy that second bottle of wine after dinner, realize drunk tourists are easy targets.

What are your tips for staying safe abroad?

Tourists In Venice Shocked By €100 Coffee Bill

Caffe Lavena Venice Italy
Richard, enjoy my life! Flickr

It’s no secret that Europe is an expensive travel destination, but sometimes even Europeans are shocked to discover just how pricey their homeland can be.

A group of tourists from Rome got a nasty shock after enjoying a caffeine fix at a café in Venice. The travelers had taken a seat outdoors at the well-known Caffe Lavena in St. Mark’s Square where they drank four coffees and three liqueurs as they listened to live chamber music. However, things turned sour when the bill arrived, showing the group of seven owed €100 (about $134) for their drinks. The frustrated tourists say they didn’t realize that a €6/person music surcharge would be added to their check, resulting in a bill €42 higher than they were expecting.The café defended themselves by saying that all the prices were clearly listed in their menu, including the music surcharge and the €6 cost of a coffee.

This isn’t the first time tourists in Italy have been outraged by an unexpectedly high bill. Earlier this year, a group of British tourists were blindsided by a €16 charge for gelato at an ice cream shop in Rome – the story garnered so much attention it prompted the city’s mayor to apologize for the incident. And a few years back, a restaurant in Rome was actually shut down after it charged a Japanese couple €695 ($930) for a meal. Their receipt listed pasta dishes costing €200 and an obligatory tip of €115.50.

Have you ever been ripped off during your travels?

‘Soccer Ball-Sized’ Swarm Of Bees Disrupts Flight

Andy Hay via Flickr

Travelers have grown used to numerous airline interruptions, but Wednesday’s delay of a US Airways flight from Charlotte may have been a first.

A “soccer ball-sized” swarm of bees descended upon workers towing Flight 2690 from the gate, causing them to hastily retreat. Passengers on the Indianapolis-bound plane had no idea what was happening until the pilot announced over the intercom that the jet was under attack from the winged insects. No bees managed to make it into the aircraft.

Help arrived a short time later in the form of beekeeper Jimmy Odom, who drove the bees and their queen away from the runway. Odom said the bees were docile and merely looking for a new place to hang their hive.

The 1:15 p.m. flight, which had already been delayed 30 minutes for an unrelated mechanical issue, finally took off around 4 p.m. It’s not known if any passengers were stung by missed connecting flights.

Flight 2690’s misfortune was just one of the mishaps happening at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport that day. A plane flying to Rome from the airport was rerouted to Philadelphia after mechanical issues popped up above the Atlantic Ocean. And earlier in the day, a moving walkway caught fire in one of the concourses, forcing an evacuation of the smoke-filled terminal.