“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.” – Samuel Johnson
The Bellavista neighbourhood in Santiago, Chile!
I don’t normally do this.
Honestly, I have tried to stay away.
But when I saw Lonely Planet’s list of 2012‘s top ten cities they published this week, well….I couldn’t resist.
So for this week’s Rock Fever, we are going to break my self-imposed ban on Lonely Planet and examine their choices.
Why, you ask, have I banned guidebooks from this world-renowned publisher? Well, because I was scarred one too many time by prices wildly mis-reported and a focus on guzzling alcohol rather than actually traveling.
So instead of Lonely Planet, when I travel I find my hand lingering over the pages of Rough Guides for Europe and Footprints for South America. By the time I finished my round-the-world trip, I ditched travel guides completely for the wise words of fellow travelers and locals!
Ok, I will now step off my soap box and explain why I have suddenly returned to the Lonely Planet suggestions: because they’re not half bad!
Reason two? More than any travel guide, what you will need to plan interesting travel is variation and a list/friend/guide who can give you those new suggestions.
So here is your ten travel suggestions for next year (with my own comments, thanks to my very own travels in most of the cities).
London for the Olympics this year!
Lonely Planet’s top city? London, England of course. Seemed like a no-brainer, really. What with the capital city hosting the Olympic Games next year. I hear what Lonely Planet is saying: it will be multi-cultural, the red carpet will be rolled-out and the East-End will be featured, but….I worry. I’m not a crowd person and London is not the kind of city where public transportation is reliable on any given weekend let alone during the Olympics. My suggestion? If you have not been, make London a stop in 2012, but don’t bother for the Olympics. London will always provide culture and diversity, so you will also never be let down!
Number two: Muscat, Oman. Huh? My thoughts exactly. The capital of Oman, Muscat has a population of a little more than a million people, it also lies on the Arabian Sea and along the Gulf of Oman with the Western Al Hajar mountains dominating the landscape. Now we have geography, but why visit? According to Lonely Planet, Muscat is revamping with trendy, designer outlets, Old Town souks and “wacky water sports” enlivening the coastline. Apparently the Muscatis are also genuinely interested in visitors! When are you booking your flights?
Next, we head to Asia and Bengaluru (Bangalore) in India, which Lonely Planet calls the Elvis of South Asian megacities. The site of much of India’s information technology development and the capital of the Indian state of Karnataka, Bangalore is also known as the garden city. Accordingly, a lively music and art scene, as well as, a state of the art metro have grown to entertain and save the population from growing traffic, respectively. So why not add a little spice to your itinerary in 2012?
Of course if Europe is closer for you, number four is Cadiz, Spain. A lovely little city in the south of Spain, complete with cobblestoned streets leading to cafe-lined squares, Cadiz is also a destination for surfers! But all of these delights, which I experienced while awaiting to board a tall ship in 2001, are not why Lonely Planet picked it. Nope, instead in February Cadiz transforms to host a 10-day “bender” of drinking, singing and dancing otherwise called carnival. The locals? Well they will be donning lipstick and neon wigs to perform satirical skits! Even better? Unlike Seville or Cordoba (Cadiz’s neighbours), Cadiz is more budget friendly while also offering a “true” Andalucian living!
Take a boat ride in Stockholm, Sweden!
Number five is one of my favourites too: Stockholm. What a stunning city that should attract every Bermudian! An archipelago, Stockholm offers islands to lose yourself and sailing for days! But when you are not water logged, you will have to dodge the perfectly coiffed, beautiful Swedes (it’s not a joke or rumour, they really are all beautiful!) to visit the designer shops, bohemian bars and the extensive parks that dominate this beautiful city. My only addition would be to visit outside of Stockholm! While I was there I went to see Sigtuna, which is the oldest town in Sweden. Read about it on my website: www.robynswanderings.com!
Six takes us to Guimaraes, Portugal. A northern city in Portugal, Guimaraes has a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list, yet receives very few visitors. Odd. According to Lonely Planet (LP) we should go because the city is a filled with red-roofed, colonnaded buildings, punctuated by mansions and palaces that centre onto a spiky, crenellated castle. For 2012, this city was also anointed the European Capital of Culture!
Overlooking Santiago, Chile
I’m sorry to see my city was only listed at number seven: Santiago, Chile. Yes, my city. I loved Santiago when I visited in 2009. It is one of the most under-appreciated cities in South America and is often overshadowed by Buenos Aires. But you should give this city a chance! It is surrounded by the Andes, giving you a glimpse of these white peaks anywhere in the city. Fancy some wine? Well the vineyards of Concha y Toro are only a hop-skip away from the city and if skiing is also your thing, you will also be in luck! Many tours offer one or two day trips from the city for some of the best skiing. Fancy staying in the city and you will love the bohemian Bellavista neighbourhood which features outdoor bars, gallons of tiny restaurants and a mountain to climb afterwards with stunning views of the city and the Andes. Honestly, I don’t know why you wouldn’t spend a week here!
Next on LP’s list is Hong Kong! Technically part of China, Hong Kong is constantly struggling for further democratization and this year should see rallies infused with theatrics, songs, dance and poetry! With 11,000 restaurants, I cannot believe I haven’t been to Hong Kong! Offering everything from shopping to gallery and bars in Soho, there are also walled villages and hiking easily accessible! Read about some of a fellow wanderer’s travels in Hong Kong, Emily Ross, on www.robynswanderings.com.
LP’s next pick is in the US: Orlando. This choice struck me as odd, but ok, let’s hear it LP. Their first explanation is on February 25 and 26, the city will be hosting the 61st NBA all-star weekend, which “brings much of the basketball and music worlds together.” Of course there are the theme parks (which, honestly I thought of), but apparently Orlando is also getting hip. The boho ‘Milk District’ is a neighbourhood on the rise and is filled with a “motley crew” of eateries, soaked in microbrews and tattoo parlours (perhaps in that order!)
Finally LP visits “down under” for their last pick: Darwin, Australia. According to them this frontier town has a great nightlife filled with markets and restaurants, with a world-class wilderness area nearby. The waterfront precinct even has wave pools, bars and eateries and on the East Coast there are galleries filled with Indigenous art.
Ok, well I think I have found my next stops! Have you? Which city(ies) would you add to the list?
Until next week, stay warm, dry and visit www.robynswanderings.com.