Great Comeback Cities For Travel

comeback cities - Detroit love
Flickr, Michigan Municipal League

Recently, the former automotive boomtown of Detroit made history by filing for bankruptcy, making it an easy butt of jokes on Twitter and in the news. However, Motown has also been making strides to become America’s great comeback city, with artists and entrepreneurs lured by cheap rents, and innovative projects happening all over town (disclosure: I’m a big fan of the city, and so is the New York TimesFrank Bruni). Detroit has more than a few great things going for it, including architecture, museums and sports, and tourist dollars could go a long way in helping the city recover. Can it become a tourist destination again?

Some of the top tourist destinations in the world were once no-go zones for travelers, suffering from financial crises, war, natural disasters and rampant crime. Here are a few of our favorite comeback cities:Berlin: One of the world’s most resilient cities, Berlin has been through war, occupation and one gigantic divide, and come back to thrive. In the decades following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, East Berlin in particular has become a hipster mecca, due to some of the lowest prices in western Europe for nightlife and a vibrant art and design scene. While not everyone welcomes the gentrification, the German capital is continuing to gain millions of foreign tourists each year.

Buenos Aires: A mix of hyperinflation, government corruption and mounting debt led to riots and an economic crisis in Argentina in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The country has stabilized and the peso value has risen, but it’s affordability has made it increasingly attractive to travelers in the last ten years, making it the No. 1 tourism destination in South America. Buenos Aires is opening more boutique hotels each year, ensuring a place every year on lists such as Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot List of new hotels.

New Orleans: A longtime favorite for the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, along with events like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, New Orleans was profoundly affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Tourism is the biggest source of employment in the city and a major factor to its economy, and the disaster made visitor numbers plummet. Louisiana’s recovery has been slow but steady, and major infrastructure improvements brought on by this year’s “Super Gras” have helped the Big Easy come back.

New York City: Visitors to the Big Apple have topped 50 million, spending billions of dollars in the city annually. While New York has never suffered from lack of tourists, the 1980s crack epidemic and surge in crime gave it an image of being a violent, dirty and dangerous city and visitor numbers dipped. Like Detroit, it also faced possible bankruptcy in 1975 and President Ford was infamously (mis)quoted to tell NYC to “drop dead.” The terrorist attacks in 2001 caused another slowdown in visitors, but it’s now one of the safest, most visited cities in the world.

Tokyo: While Tokyo was not as devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami as other parts of Japan, it definitely felt the hurt with a sharp decline in tourism, major damage to national infrastructure, and radiation concerns. Foreign visitors are now exceeding the pre-disaster levels, though seismologists worry that an even bigger earthquake is due to hit Tokyo.

An honorable mention must go to the countries in the former Yugoslavia, especially Croatia and the cities of Belgrade and Sarajevo. Twenty years ago, who could have predicted the popularity of the Dalmatian coast as a beach destination, or the battle-scarred Serbian capital as a nightlife hotspot? They aren’t quite seeing the same tourism numbers as the destinations above, but they should be on your travel radar. Istanbul and Beirut are also favorites for their many comebacks and reinventions, though the effects from current events are already being seen in the local tourism industries.

What are your favorite “comeback cities”?

Antarctica Continues To Heat Up, As A Cruise Destination

Crystal Cruises

Antarctica is the southern most continent on Earth and can reach temperatures as low as −129°F (−89°C). But to cruise travelers, the home of the South Pole is one of the hottest new destinations around and cruise lines are sending them there in ever-increasing numbers. Once seen as a place of treks for hearty explorers, burly men of substance and adventure travelers, luxury cruise lines are finding Antarctica a popular choice, offering a variety of itineraries.

In ‘Antarctica For Sissies? Hardly, As Luxury Cruise Line Turns New Page‘ Gadling reported luxury line Seabourn refitting Seabourn Quest to make 21- to 24-night expedition sailings later this year. The 450-passenger ship will sail from Buenos Aires, Argentina, stopping by Montevideo, Uruguay, then the Falkland Islands before spending five days in Antarctica, running Zodiac landings to a variety of ridiculously amazing places.

Now, Crystal Cruises is sailing to Antarctica for a Christmas/New Year’s cruise beginning December 21, 2013. The Buenos Aires-Valparaíso voyage aboard 922-passenger Crystal Symphony sails through Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Falkland Islands, Drake Passage, Cape Horn, and the Chilean Fjords, going ashore on the Antarctic continent multiple times.Unique to the Crystal version of Antarctica, passengers can fly, hike, and zodiac over and on the icy continent and overnight at the Chilean Eduardo Frei Antarctic Base (INACH). Neither are cheap rides though, prices start at $7,450 per person.

Ice Melting in Antarctica From Underneath

Learn Spanish With Lonely Planet’s Fluent Road

Learn Spanish Fluent Road
Courtesy of FluentRoad.com

Traveling to Spain or Latin America this summer and want to say more than “Donde esta el bano?” (though, that’s an important one to know)? Lonely Planet has just launched a new online foreign language program, Fluent Road, partnering with Spanish language program Fluenz. The focus is on Spanish for now, but you can choose from dialects from Argentina, “neutral” Latin America, Mexico, or Spain.

Fluent Road is designed for travelers to get the basics before a trip: Spanish for transportation, finding accommodation, ordering food, etc. It’s also a good stepping-stone to a more intensive learning program, and travelers could easily work up to a Fluenz course after completing Fluent Road. What differentiates this from other language learning like Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur is a dissection of the language, showing you how Spanish works and providing explanations, not just rote immersion. Fluenz founder and avid traveler Sonia Gil guides you through obstacles, pronunciation, and practice speaking, writing and reading as a native speaker and “language geek.”

As with all online learning, you can go at your own pace; there are 30 video lessons that can be completed in one to six months. Other useful features include the ability to record yourself to compare pronunciation a native Speaker, and customizable digital flash cards to help practice. You can also contact the teacher and program designer via Twitter.

Take a free 12-hour trial now, subscriptions start from $9 for a month to $30 for six months of access, at www.fluentroad.com.

Video Of The Day: Modern Day ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’

Before beginning his doctorate in biomedical sciences, “Alex the Adventure Biker” took a break to realize his lifelong dream: to ride a motorcycle through the Americas. Over the course of nearly a year and a half, he rode his bike through 22 countries as he made his way from El Paso, Texas, to Argentina and then back up through Brazil and all the way to Alaska – a journey of more than 82,000 miles.

“In short I drove solo half way around the world, through interstates, highways, dirt roads, no roads, mud, rivers, through hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, rain, hail, sun shine, snow, ice roads you name it and I made it back,” the adventurous biker wrote on his website. Ride along and check out the varied landscape as he saw it (and some disco dancing, too) in the video above, which was created from more than 600 hours of footage.

Polo Anyone? A Quick Guide To The World-Class Sport

poloThe Miami Beach Polo World Cup is an annual event that draws players and spectators from around the world. Each year, more than 10,000 fans and competitors come from South America, Russia, Switzerland, Malaysia and other countries to be in and be seen at the world-class event. Done Miami-style, complete with fund-raising events, exclusive parties and fashion shows, tickets run up to $450 for a VIP pass. But unlike many other south Florida events, this one also has free general admission, enabling just about anybody to experience the Miami social scene.

Still, like experiencing other events while traveling, knowing a little of what polo is all about is not a bad idea.

Beach Polo is a team sport, played on horseback where winning means scoring more points (goals) than the other team. Goals are scored by driving the brightly colored, inflatable ball between goalposts. Each game has four, seven-minute periods called chukkers. Each team has three players and they change horses (polo ponies actually) after each chukker. Two umpires watch for fouls granting free hits. Fouls occur mainly when one player crosses another player who is following the ball on its exact line of trajectory.
While polo dates back 2,500 years, Beach Polo is a Dubai-created event that started in 2004, with the Miami Beach event beginning in 2005.

Actually two events, the Women’s Polo Cup takes place on Thursday, April 25, featuring eight women’s teams in a one-day series of round-robin championship matches.

The three-day men’s tournament runs Friday April 27 through Sunday April 29 with six teams that include some of the world’s top-ranked players. Sponsored by Argentinean sports and leisure clothing manufacturer La Martina, this year’s tournament will feature Miami’s DJ Irie, whose Irie Foundation will be an official beneficiary non-profit organization alongside Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami.

Beach polo is a lot like arena polo, but other forms include cowboy polo, elephant polo, camel polo, cycle polo, canoe polo and kayak polo as we see in this video:




[Photo credit - The Polo Life]