Monthly Archives: January 2021

A Five Year Difference

In 2016, Travel & Leisure, which has close to 5 million subscribers, suggested that people go to Lanai. It was in 6th place on their list. Lanai is the almost circular, mostly unvisited Hawaiian island with only one town and only 3,000 people living on it. I only know 2 people who have been there, and they both said there was not much to do. Of course, this would be heaven for some visitors. Ruth & I have never been to Lanai so maybe it’s time. In 2021, T&L recommends that its readers go to The Black Hills of South Dakota.

I suspect that many travelers go to The Black Hills for the first time to see Mount Rushmore. Once is enough for an attraction like this for me because you look at it but then what? The last time we went through the Black Hills Ruth & I focused on the nearby Badlands. One time my son and I went to The Black Hills in June and it snowed a lot. As a result, we spent several days exploring the many caves in the area. It was fun, and we were struck by their diversity. No two were alike.

T&L #5 destination in 2016 was Iran. Why? This year it’s Birmingham, AL. While there, anyone can experience the Heaviest Corner on Earth according to tripadvisor or see the relatively new and award-winning Civil Rights Institute.

#4 this year is Montana’s Big Sky Country only 18 miles north of overwhelmingly popular Yellowstone National Park. The #4 in 2016 was Lille, France.

#3 this year for Travel & Leisure is Massachusetts’ Berkshires. These mountains in the far western part of the state hold many wonders. Ruth & my favorite place in The Berkshires is the Clark Art Institute, which is both unusually located and very popular. The Clark almost always has its rare Caravaggio on display. #3 five years ago was one of T&L 3 domestic destinations in its top 10, Richmond, VA, the South’s Confederate capital during the Civil War.

#2 in 2021 is Astoria, OR. This is one of the best destinations for travelers in the United States. Ruth & I have been to Astoria many times but not to visit its many attractions recently. Head for my archives, see Astoria’s waterside maritime museum, go to Fort Stevens, cross the Megler Bridge and experience Lewis and Clark’s first winter choice of locations and now an interpretive center just south of Long Beach, see where they actually spent the winter at Fort Clatsop, and sample the fabulous Oregon Coast. My favorite town is Gearhart. #2 in 2016 for this magazine was Guadalajara, Mexico.

#1 in 2021 for T&L is the Alaska coast. Most people see this scenic wonder from a cruise ship. Will this type of travel return by summer? Doubtful. That leaves the ferry or flying and probably renting a car. Ferries to Alaska from Bellingham, WA to Skagway resume on March 20. Reservations are now available. The ferries are a great way to see Alaska, but boarding one this year will probably be tough. Many people expect to visit a National Park this summer and will be disappointed when they try to book campsites and motels near their park choice. One of the least visited and beautiful is Washington State’s 2-part North Cascades National Park. #1 five years ago was Bocas del Toro, Panama’s 2nd city.

Hank


What A Difference!

I just compared Travel & Leisure Magazine‘s top 10 destinations of 2016 with their best of 2021. What a difference five years make! COVID-19 has certainly devastated the travel industry. The main difference is that in 2016 seven of this magazine’s top ten recommendations were foreign. This year they are all domestic. This tells me as I prepare to get the vaccine and return to travel not to plan any overseas flights. Travel & Leisure‘s predictions of the best places to go this year will have to be reworked and published during 2021 if the current situation changes rapidly, which I see little chance of occurring. I can’t see the world opening up to American travelers any time during 2021. With the problems of getting available vaccines, waiting for the 2nd dose, and the inability to know who is safe to sit next to for a long flight, we will be lucky to see a few things in the USA this year.

Both of Travel & Leisure‘s (T&L) 10th choices were domestic and not that far from each other. In 2016 this magazine recommended going to Asbury Park, NJ. In 2021, it suggested we visit The Catskills in New York State. Ruth & I are familiar with the Adirondacks but know less about The Catskills. You can read about The Catskills on travelandleisure.com, but be warned that most of the entry is about accommodations not attractions.

T&L’s #9 choice in 2016 was Frankfurt, Germany. In 2021 it was another New Jersey destination, Cape May. This southern New Jersey seaport has devoted itself to Harriet Tubman. She worked there during the summer of 1852, and a museum devoted to her tells about her time there. Ruth & I thoroughly enjoyed The Tubman Museum in Macon, Georgia, in 2019. I was so impressed with it that I wrote about it and her in September, 2019 in “The Tubman Face on the $20 Bill”. Cape May became an important place in the history of the Underground Railroad thanks to her presence, and this year may be a good time to learn about her since interest in putting Tubman on US currency has been revived. The rest of the T&L entry is about Cape May accommodations. I would recommend taking the ferry to Lewes, DL from Cape May and exploring the current President’s state. Pronounced LOO-is, this Delaware seaport founded in 1631 by Dutch settlers has a museum called the Zwaanendael devoted to nautical things and local history. and it has several other attractions. Delaware is so small that a visit to its capital Dover is possible as is seeing the rich attractions in the north part of the state like Winterthur, Delaware’s biggest tourist lure, and the towns of Newark and New Castle.

Travel & Leisure‘s eighth choices were the Douro Valley in Portugal 5 years ago and Burlington, VT, in 2021. Douro will be hard to get to, but Burlington, Bernie Sanders home, is possible. On Lake Champlain, growing Burlington is Vermont’s largest city. The T&L entry focuses on bars, restaurants, and markets but is helpful. Burlington’s attractions include the Ethan Allen homestead and the vast Shelburne Museum devoted to Americana.

#7 in 2016 was 1 of the 4 cities in China that Ruth & I have been to, Hangzhou. It’s a great place to see but not, I think, in 2021. For this year T&L suggests you go instead to Buffalo, New York, which has the advantage of being close to Niagara Falls. This city is said to be both growing and losing population, depending upon whom you read and believe. Go and find out for yourself why it’s on Travel & Leisure‘s mind in 2021.

Hank


Towns Named Ashland

The thing that shocked me about Ashland was how many there were of them. There are at least 32 Ashland’s in the USA, and most are stand alone communities although one of the larger ones is the Ashland in California that is in Alameda County in the Bay Area. The next big shock is how many of the Ashlands were named after Henry Clay’s home in Kentucky. One of the few exceptions is Ashland, CA that was named for the Oregon ash tree.

The most famous Ashland is the one in Oregon and the only town with this name that I have spent any time in. Sixteen miles from the California border, Ashland, Oregon, is home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which is seasonal and in several theaters. However, it was cancelled in 2020 because people could not sit next to each other to watch a play. Ashland, OR is often called the best small arts town in America because of this festival, which Ruth and I have attended. Ashland is a sweet town of about 20,000 Oregonians.

The other Ashlands that have a population of about 20,000, which puts them in the larger category for towns with this name are the ones in Kentucky, a stand alone Ohio River community not all that far from Henry Clay’s Ashland.

The Ashland in Delaware is famous for its historic covered bridge. The Ashland in North Carolina is not the same as the city of Asheville, home to the famous and much visited attraction called the Biltmore Estate. The Ashland in Tennessee that has close to 5,000 citizens is a stand alone town not too far from Nashville. It has the word “City” attached to its name. Two Ashlands are basically historic homes like Henry Clay’s. They are the ones in Maryland in the Washington, DC area and the one in North Carolina that was built in 1840. The Ashland in Wisconsin is a stand alone community south of the vacationer’s delight called The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in the far northern part of the state.

I have learned over time that certain states are more likely than others to have towns with the same names as towns in other states. Those states include Ohio, Wisconsin, and Illinois. I attribute this to the settlement patterns of farmers.

Hank


Scams

There has to be a lot of frustration out there. Today I decided to write about travel scams. Ruth & I have been victimized 4 memorable times. Three of the incidents occurred in Italy. The frustration now has to do with the internet. It’s not simple or easy to use any more. The last time I wrote about travel scams, I began on page one and was done by page 3.

Yesterday I was intrigued with a page one entry by the Travel Channel. “11 Common Travel Scams and How to Avoid Them” by Steve Larese interested me, and I began looking among them for the 4 I had personally gotten involved in; but I knew better than to respond when a stranger asked me for the time, tried to tie something on Ruth or my wrist to gain control, asked if we wanted to have a drink with him, or offered to take our photo. These are common scams and none of the 11 applied to us, but they did remind me of the week we spent in Madrid when we were far more naive. We experienced a scam being perpetrated on us each and every day and learned by observing. One night we were mugged in the underground because I made the mistake of photographing very public Christmas decorations. By the end of the week we recognized both scammers and their methods.

I moved on to page 3 where I read Forbes ” 4 Travel Scams To Watch Out For Now” written in 2020. The 4 included “Scammers Posing as Airline Agents” that involved a summer trip to Europe. Since travel to Europe is difficult or impossible now with the virus I moved on quickly. The choices now seemed to duplicate information already covered, and the scams covered both repeated and ranged from 4 to 24.

By page 6, I was tired of the subject and recalled days gone by when I would not need to ever read beyond page 5 and mostly stopped cruising any subject after page 1. But on page 6 I was stopped by the Huffpost’s 40 travel scams that included a thown baby, an expensive taxi driver, and the overly helpful local. I recalled climbing into and out of expensive taxis in Istanbul and Mexico City and the many helpful locals I have avoided, but I have never experienced a thrown baby. I have heard about this, however, and remembered a tour guide in Argentina warning us not to rent a car in Bolivia because parents might push one of their children in front of it to put us into insurance hell. I began wondering how many more pages were ahead of me on this subject.

By page 9 the entries were at least becoming more specific. I read Trip Savvy’s “5 Common Travel Scams in Los Angeles”. It wasn’t until page 18 that I paused on the first non-travel entry. The article was about international financial scams. On page 27 I paused at USA Today’s most common travel scams by country in Europe. Travel scams finally came to a halt on page 28.

The most difficult travel scam to affect us deeply occurred in Brussels, Belgium. I was left to watch all of our possessions in a train station we had been warned about. Alone with luggage was our first mistake. Then I fell for the old scammers trick by responding to a question about where something was. After I gave directions, I looked down to realize that a new piece of travel luggage was missing. The bold scammers later contacted our family in the US about the supposedly found missing bag, but we never tried to get the bag or its contents back.

Hank


The Future

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the world. Recently the Global Cities Institute at the University of Toronto projected that Mumbai, India, will be the biggest city in the world in 2050 with 42.4 million people living there. However, it hedged its prediction by saying that Mumbai won’t be #1 for long. This struck me as wise because no one knows the future. Who could have predicted a worldwide pandemic in 2020?

India has 2 other megalopolises on the Global Cities Institute’s top 10 list, Kolkata and Delhi. Delhi is, in fact, #2 and a candidate for world’s largest city in 2050 when it will be home to more than 36 million people, but according to the World Health Organization, India has had almost 11 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 but only 153,470 deaths. Delhi is known to be choking from poor quality air and a very unhealthy environment. The Indian Government may have to limit growth. The same is true for Mumbai, Kolkata, and other Indian cities that are also experiencing frequent power outages.

China has more than 100 cities with a million or more inhabitants. I remember being shocked to find that one city we went to from Shanghai named Hangzhou had more than 10 million people. I expected it to be much smaller. However, the highly regulated people in China, which is better at limiting population growth in cities than India, is projected to have zero cities in the top ten in 2050.

Wuhan, the suspected source of COVID-19, is among China’s largest cities. It ranks #10 according to chinahighlights.com. This information was updated in January, 2021. There are 7.9 million people living in Wuhan and 11 million in the metro area, which has experienced only 3,869 deaths from COVID-19 so far with new cases declining. Wuhan is like Beijing in that it’s not a coastal city. It’s an inland transportation, high-tech, and education hub on the Yangtze River and a very old city.

David Satterthwaite a Senior Fellow for IIED, the International Institute for Environment and Development, did a study for them that was released in March, 2020. He admitted to not knowing some of the cities he was reporting on like Kenya’s Kiambu. It and other Kenyan cities like Ngong and Ruiru are experiencing rapid population growth. Lagos, Nigeria, and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, are already among the candidates for largest in the world for population in 2050. All 5 of these or another African city might become the largest in the world by 2050. Satterthwaite sadly reported that the 3 cities with the largest declines in population at the present time are Detroit, Khulna, a city in Bangladesh, and Aleppo in war-torn Syria.

The worldwide final death toll from COVID-19 is still unknown. The name of and impact on the world of the next pandemic are also not known. All that is certain is that one will happen.

Hank