Gadling reads the Sunday travel sections

The Miami Herald this weekend turns its travel section over to a celebration of Jane Woodward, travel editor, who is looking back on a lifetime on the road. The impetus for this nostalgia piece is that she is right on the verge of visiting her 100th country, no small feat. Sure, there’s a lot of “look where I’ve been” in this package, but I sorta liked this lead essay as a summing up of a traveler’s life (so far). As travelers, we’re visited as much by memories of where we’ve been as we are by dreams of where we’ll go next.

I like travel-food stories, the kind that deal in the culinary specialties of a particular place: Bbq in North Carolina, Clam Chowder in Boston, the wonders of San Francisco sour dough bread. Having never visited Cincinnati (or Ohio, for that matter), I had no idea that the city was famous for its chili. After reading Ben Chapman’s dispatch in the Washington Post, I now know what I’ll eat should I ever find myself there.

There’s a lot out there these days about Cuba (proof that journalists travel in packs). The San Francisco Chronicle has a pretty long dispatch from Spud Hilton, who sets off to explore Havana. Thankfully, he keeps the Hemingway references to a minimum. (For more Cuba coverage, our own Brenda Yun has been filing regular stories from her recent visit to the island. Check them out here.)

Over at the Boston Globe, Tom Haines travels to Nebraska and the Platte River for a piece on the annual migration of the sand hill cranes, which brought to mind the wonderful opening pages of Richard Power’s The Echo Maker.

The Indianapolis 500 will celebrate its 100th year next month. Writer Beth D’Addono takes us the Motor Speedway for a little history lesson in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The unexpected travel story of the week goes to Barbara Brotman of the Chicago Tribune, who writes of a vacation spend in Georgia climbing and sleeping in trees. Indeed.

Lame travel story of the week goes to the Seattle Times, which falls back on a reliable gimmick travel sections often employ when they don’t have anything else to write about: the “vacation at home” feature, where residents are encouraged to do as the tourists do and book into a local hotel.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you to the latest post by the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler, Matt Gross — not because it’s anything special, really, but because he gives a huge shout out to Gadling and our own Heather Poole.

Gadling reads the Sunday travel sections

Happy Easter everyone. For anyone looking for some respite after a day of brunching and family, there are some good travel stories out there this weekend.

In the Washington Post, Canadian writer Erik Heinrich takes us to Kazakhstan, or more specifically the steppes of Central Asia’s largest country, on horseback, where he spends time with the rugged cowboys that work this high country.

The Boston Globe as a dispatch from Joe Ray about an unusual surfing spot — unusual, that is, against what we normally think about in terms of surfing: He hits the waves of France’s Atlantic coast, known as the Côte Sauvage.

Tony Perrottet travels to southern Utah in the New York Times, where he hikes into Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Over at the LA Times, there’s a good story from Amanda Jones, who takes the slow boat down the Peruvian Amazon.

Since it’s April, why not a story about Paris? The Chicago Tribune’s Josh Noel gets into the distinctions between the City of Light’s Left Bank and Right Bank.

When a lot of people think of the Spanish island of Majorca, they think nonstop partying and lots of British and German tourists. It is that, of course, but there is a quieter side to the island as well, as Julie Myerson describes in the Financial Times.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal Europe‘s weekend edition has an interesting story from Stan Sesser about the specialty streets of Hanoi.

Gadling reads the Sunday travel sections

Washington Post travel writer Scott Vogel pulls triple duty this weekend, producing the newspaper’s “Europe 2009” package with three stories: from London, Florence and Berlin. The dispatch from Florence is the best of this bunch, the one from Berlin easily the worst, a tour through cliche as he moves from museum to museum to museum, focusing entirely on Berlin’s troubled past without making much of an effort to link it to how this vibrant city lives today.
For a more insightful look into the mindset of modern day Germany, check out Nick Kulish’s interesting essay on German rigidness in this weekend’s New York Times, a piece that seems to me to qualify as much as travel writing as commentary.

The Times travel pages are a little thin today. Writer Christopher Shaw gives us a rugged tour through France’s Dordogne. I like the mode of transportation he opted for this journey: a canoe. Also, Frugal Traveler Matt Gross muses on the benefits of Twitter for the traveler…not exactly new.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’ve always had a thing for Canada’s Maritime Provinces, especially Newfoundland, which I fell in love with on the page in Annie Proulx’s 1993 novel The Shipping News. So I was with interest that I read Phil Marty’s dispatch from The Rock in today’s Chicago Tribune, as he attempted to drive across most of the island. I’m fascinated by people who live in remote places, and Marty introduces us to some.

Over at the San Francisco Chronicle, staff writer Spud Hilton cruises down Australia’s languid Murray River about an old fashioned river boat, a lazy journey in a country with many of them (I mean this in a good way).

The Los Angeles Times’ travel section promises it is “taking Southern California on vacation.” But with features as a visit to a nearby wind farm, it seems the newspaper is running out of places to go.

Luckily the Ottawa Citizen does have places to go, in this case some cool recommendations on a road trip you can take from, say, Edmonton to Yellowknife, a remote outpost up in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Who wouldn’t want to go to a place called Yellowknife?

The Financial Times calls on veteran travel writer Jan Morris for a dispatch from her native Wales, where she considers the mountain Arenig Fawr and the surrounding area of Gwynedd. As you would expect from someone writing about their own homeland, Morris’ essay drips with nuance and a sense of place — she’s the kind of writer that actually names the things she sees.

Finally, tease of the week goes to the Houston Chronicle, whose travel section front page, under the headline “Wish You Were Here,” promises a piece on a 12-day Mediterranean journey. Click on the article, however, and all you have is a lot of confusing reader-generated vacation suggestions. Lame.

Gadling reads the Sunday travel sections

Recently I marked my second anniversary of moving to Berlin. So I guess I’m particularly well-disposed to my adopted city at the moment, which is why I admired Nick Kulish’s piece about literary and artistic Berlin in this weekend’s New York Times.

Kulish, the Berlin bureau chief for the Times, knows the city well and I felt captured not only the odd, biting humor that Berliners are known for in Germany but also the fact that a very good case can be made for this formerly divided city being perhaps the most artistically vibrant and important in Europe.

Jayne Clark visits that other Mayan coast in Mexico — the Costa Maya, not to be confused with the Riviera Maya — and the town of Mahahual in this weekend’s USA Today.

Recently, the Washington Post announced that it was canceling its travel blog in favor of publishing more original content on the newspaper’s travel page throughout the week. I took this to be great news, not least of all because the travel blog seldom had anything interesting to say (no pithy dispatches from travel staffers on the road, it read like a bunch of writers sitting in the office everyday). This weekend, the Post gives you a primer on hiking the Appalachian Trail and journey through Brittany by an American expat in France, Robert Camuto.

I usually stop reading any travel story that begins in an airport or on an airplane (“I looked out the porthole to see cars the size of toys…”). I’m glad I didn’t in Camuto’s case, because it took a good stab at capturing one of France’s more rugged regions. Would have been nice to meet a few local characters, though…

It’s been five years since I was last in Belfast, so I was interested in Bert Archer’s piece about the Northern Ireland capital in this weekend’s Toronto Globe and Mail. His conclusion: Belfast is an undiscovered European capital that has put a lot of distance between itself and the Troubles, the recent shootings there notwithstanding.

Moving over to another Canadian paper, the Vancouver Sun publishes an interesting profile on The Nicest Travel Writer in the World — Rick Steves. Who knew Steves was an advocate for legalizing weed?

Back in the US, the San Francisco Chronicle gives us a dispatch by Edward Guthmann from Jackson, Mississippi as he travels through the city in the footsteps of its favorite literary daughter, Eudora Welty. Cliched as they are, I’m a sucker for the literary footsteps story — Steinbeck in Salinas, Lawrence in Taos — and once even added my own very minor contribution to the genre.

Also in the Chronicle, former Travel Editor John Flinn praises ExOfficio’s quick-drying nylon briefs. As far as I’m concerned, he’s just following Gadling’s own resident nomad Tynann, who endorsed these undies last year.

Finally, do you remember when the South Florida Sun-Sentinel produced an improbably good travel section (improbable because it’s not a major metro paper) and was an oft-pitched publication for adventurous travel writers? Sadly, those days are long gone. Last year, the Sun-Sentinel laid off long time Travel Editor Tom Swick and since then as become a real snooze fest if you’re interested in anything outside of Florida — this weekend’s section offering the most updated proof.

Gadling reads the Sunday travel sections

I don’t think that the New York Times’s TMagazine probably counts as a Sunday section, but the Spring 2009 edition has just been published and it amounts to some of the better travel reads you’re going to find on the Internet these days.

I especially enjoyed John Wray’s long piece from Liechtenstein, the best thing I found online this weekend. He captures the oddness of this little principality — home to secretive banks, a thriving postal stamp industry and not much else — wonderfully. Liechtenstein’s smallness (it’s the sixth smallest country in the world) in fact is a boon to travel there: Where else can you go from the rugged Alps to a lush valley in about, oh, 10 minutes? You can see a lot of diversity in a small space, and what Wray probably gets the most right is how the sheer size of this place shapes the way people there view the outside world. Reading the piece made be remember my time in Liechtenstein: An exhilarating bike ride I once took from the high alpine town of Malbun to Triesen, screaming downhill all the way and hardly touching my brakes, and the sound of cowbells clinking in the dark of night as I walked late between Liechtenstein’s capital, Vaduz, and Schaan, its largest city (in Liechtenstein, it’s nothing to walk between towns and cities).
Judged against this piece — in other words, travel writing as a real window to a foreign place — this weekend’s travel sections were a little lame.

Still, although I’ve tauted the Financial Times in the past as a good place to look for travel narratives, I’m liking its weekend section more and more as time goes by. Today Oliver Balch travels in the footsteps of a Chilean poet I’d never heard of, Gabriela Mistral, and the result is an interesting journey through Chile’s Elqui Valley.

The best descriptive turn of phrase this weekend goes to Amanda Jones in the LA Times, where she details a trek through Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, a range she says looks like a “poorly healed scar” if viewed from above.

The New York Times’ proper travel section has a few stories. Matt Gross, the “Frugal Traveler,” reports on the best dining deal in Northern Italyaperitivi, the tables of delicious, free snacks that cafes and bars set out on around Happy Hour time that in some places, notably Milan, can amount to a whole meal. Costa Rica’s days as an unknown travel destination are long gone, but writers still flock to it for those “this country has it all” kinds of stories. Ethan Todras-Whitehall is only the latest, with his dispatch about heading there with his father. Michelle Higgins asks, ala Jon Krakauer and Mt. Everest, whether Antarctica isn’t getting a little too popular with tourists.

This seemed to be the weekend of writers loafing about on expensive safaris. The worst of the bunch is Shoba Narayan’s hunt for tigers and elephant’s in India published in the Washington Post. As if trying a little too hard to counter the recent “Slumdog Millionaire” hype, Narayan — who, we’re told, lives in Bangalore! — shows us an India of luxury resorts and comfy, Land Rover safaris during which you really have to be careful not to spill your masala chai on yourself. Fundamentally I don’t mind this, it’s just that she goes out of her way to brag about how expensive her amenities are (upwards of $800-$900 a night in one case). This makes the whole piece both seem rather insensitive to the realities of India (and I’m not talking ‘Slumdog’ here) and smack of a paid junket.

And then there is this sentence early in the dispatch about her resort: “I felt absurdly happy because of an additional amenity: The laundry service was free, or rather, it was included in Aman-i-Khas’s stratospheric rates.” Really, Shoba?!

David Abel fairs better during a journey across Southern Africa for the Boston Globe.

Back in the States, the Philadelphia Inquirer gets a jump start on spring by telling you how to enjoy the cherry blossoms of Washington, DC, soon to hit their glorious peak (and cherry blossom season in the District is really something to behold).

Finally, I headed over to the Miami Herald to see if travel writer/editor Jane Wooldridge had been anywhere interesting. I’ve admired her work in the past, and was hopeful at seeing her blog, Travels with Jane. Seeing a dispatch from a cruise conference and not much else, it seems Jane is maintaining a blog about the act of not traveling.