Explore five cities with a “bad rap”

I grew up in Detroit. I love my city and will be the first tell anyone who thinks it’s nothing but a boarded up hellhole just how wrong they are. But I know Detroit’s bad rap comes not only from suburb-dwellers and business travelers who just breezed through, but also from the media that portrays it as a city with nothing to offer other than casinos and a punchline. But maybe the tide is changing. Anthony Bourdain went to Detroit – and liked it! And now Jaunted has included Detroit on its list of Five Cities with a Bad Rap that are still worth visiting.

Detroit is recommended for its passionate people and Motown soul, along with great food from every culture. In addition to my hometown, the list includes Kingston, Jamaica – for the hospitable people and cheap flights, Madrid, Spain – which despite its reputation as a haven for pickpockets still lures visitors with fine art and tasty tapas, Naples, Italy – where the government is making an effective bid to clean up the ancient streets, and Oakland, California – San Francisco’s little sibling, where the crime to culture ratio doesn’t lean in the direction you might assume.

With the exception of Madrid (which still sees hundreds of thousands of tourists per year), one benefit of visiting these traditionally shunned-by-tourists cities is that there are fewer crowds and a cheaper cost of travel. Plus, your tourism dollars can help the city governments invest in infrastructure, make the cities safer and cleaner, in the hopes that one day they can shed their bad reputations.

London pickpockets are giving the money back

Visitors to London may find that if they aren’t careful, they could wind up with some strange fingers in their pockets or purses. And while that’s nothing new, this time it might not be a bad thing. A group of former pick-pockets is working the streets of London this month, but instead of stealing money, they are giving it away to their unsuspecting “victims”.

The “put-pocketing” plan is being funded by a local broadband provider called TalkTalk and carried out by 20 former-pickpockets who want to make up for the wrongdoings of their pasts. Between July 1 and the end of the month, at least £100,000 will be given away, mostly in £5 and £20 increments, as a marketing promotion for the company. The covert deposits are taking place in busy areas like Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Oxford Circus and on the Tube. According to the Communications Director of TalkTalk, the areas where the money will be given out were strategically chosen “as we want to give the money to people who actually need it.”

While it would be nice to find an extra £20 note in my pocket at the end of the day, I think I’d stay vigilant. I’m sure there are still a number of unreformed pick-pockets out there who, if they get their hands into your bag, will not be kindly leaving you some cash. And now they have the perfect alibi if they get caught: “Of course I wasn’t stealing your wallet. I was giving you money!”

[via Reuters]

Pickpockets in Copenhagen? A Gadling blogger’s victim story. Part One

Yep, it’s happened. My wallet was taken out of my daypack-style backpack in Copenhagen, Denmark on Monday. And yes, I know better than to have my credit card with it. As much as it was a bummer to lose the money, the credit card put me on edge.

I think I’m better now.

I found out the wallet was missing when I went to pay for items I was buying at Tiger, Denmark’s answer to the Dollar Store. It didn’t matter how cheap the items were since I didn’t have my wallet when I went to pay. I discovered the bag open and the wallet gone at the cash register after everything was totaled. The bagged items not to be purchased by me were left with the guy at the counter.

After retracing our steps, just in case the wallet somehow dropped out and somehow no one would have picked it up, we went to the main police station to report it missing. The police officer gave me a phone to use and pointed out the number for VISA in a big book on the desk.

Even though I couldn’t remember my credit card number, I was connected to someone in the U.S. who is with the bank that issued me the credit card in the first place. Within minutes, the credit card was canceled and a new one should be arriving in the mail soon. If we were staying in Denmark longer, I would have been able to have a credit card mailed to the address where we are staying with friends. With less than 24 hours left to be in Denmark, there was no point in that.

The police officer did file a report and I have a copy. The copy is in Danish, but I asked for the English version of the form to attach to it. I also asked the person who I talked with from the bank to write a note about when I called and make a notation about the only two times I’ve used the card since I’ve been in Europe. I have the receipts for those two transaction. Hopefully, this will be the end of this saga.

I was concerned about having only twenty U.S. left and a few Danish coins for our trip back to Columbus. We arrived back home without having to spend another dime. My friend gave me money with no strings attached when we went to Tivoli Gardens so I would have some money to spend.

The plus side is that my driver’s license was not in my wallet. That’s one less thing to hassle with, although I do need to get another AAA and health insurance card.

By the way, when I started out on the trip, I wasn’t keeping my money in my wallet, but in a passport pouch. Once my daughter and I started staying with friends, I became more lax.

Don’t be lax –EVER– is my new motto.

When in Rome…Keep an Eye on Your Purse

If someone mentions Rome, a lot of things come to mind. You might think of museums, fountains, narrow streets, the pope, the history….the petty thieves. A recent post by Elizabeth Rosenthal on IHT’s Globespotters blog relates how Rome, while a great city and popular tourist destination, is not the idyllic spot some might expect. Pickpockets and bag snatching artists are out in full force in even the nicest of neighborhoods.

Rosenthal relates a story of a cell phone being plucked from a cafe table when the owner averted his eyes for mere seconds, and another about how she had her wallet taken out of her backpack…on two occasions…along the same street.

I recently posted about Cambodia seeing a rise in bag snatching. While the same kind of “wild west atmosphere” that some people think characterizes Phnom Penh is nowhere to be found in Rome, it does seem ironic that two cities with totally opposite images suffer from the same problem.