All images by Greg Gross and property of I’m Black and I Travel unless otherwise identified. All rights reserved.
The Los Angeles Times Travel Show is history for 2012. Lots to tell you about.
It’s been a busy January — two major travel trade shows in the Los Angeles area two weeks apart. The second one, the Los Angeles Times Travel Show, wrapped up last Sunday at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The first one, the Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show, took place in Long Beach two weeks earlier.
More about all that later. There’s a lot to pass on to you from the past weekend.
Don’t look now, but Mexico’s on the comeback. They had one of the larger pavilions on the exhibition floor, presenting both national tourism information and regional info from Baja California, Baja California Sur and elsewhere. All of them were pulling heavy crowds both days, and that was good to see.
It could be that we’re finally starting to lose our hysterical fear about going to Mexico, which has always had a lot to offer the traveler.
(Just FYI, TV chef and professional culinary antihero Tony Bourdain, he of the popular Travel Channel series “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” was down in Baja California last week, checking out the food and drink scene in Tijuana and Ensenada. If his tweets are to be believed, he came away impressed. I’m not surprised.)
Two of the biggest sponsors of this show are a couple of relative underdogs in international tourism that are trying to raise their travel profiles in their respective parts of the world. In the Americas, that’s Ecuador.
They’re pushing a concept they call “conscious tourism,” an amalgam of sustainable tourism, eco-tourism and what they call simply “a good way to live.” Diverse climate, diverse geography, diverse cultures. Being considered the gateway to the famed Galapagos Islands doesn’t hurt, either.
Farther north — much farther, actually — you had the folks from Frontiers North selling polar bear tours on what they call their “Tundra Buggy.”
Think hotel built on an all-terrain-vehicle configured like a train, which allows you to get nice close-up shots of polar bears — without becoming Tourist McNuggets.
Polar bears may be the most beautiful of all the bear species, but why do you have to see them from an armored vehicle when you can see grizzly bears from your car in a place like Yellowstone National Park? Because polar bears are one of the few animals on the planet known for stalking human beings.
The shrinking polar ice cap may be turning polar bears into an endangered species, but when you’re within tooth-and-claw range of one, the endangered species is you. Hence the Tundra Buggy.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the Titanic, and both Ireland and Northern Ireland, where she was actually built, are going all out to commemorate it.
As part of the commemoration, there’s a guesthouse/restaurant in Belfast, North Ireland called Rayanne House that re-creates the dinner served to First Class passengers aboard the Titanic.
They’ve reduced the original 11 courses to nine, but even that sounds ridiculous:
- Canapes a’L’Amiral
- Cream of Barley Soup, finished with cream and Bushmills Whiskey
- Asparagus and Watercress Salad with Champagne–Saffron Vinaigrette, served with Roast Squab
- Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce garnished with Cucumber and Fresh Dill
- Rose Water and Mint Sorbet
- The entree — Pan~Seared Filet Mignon topped with Foie Gras and Truffle drizzled with a Cognac, Madeira and Red Wine Reduction served with Potatoes Anna, Creamed Carrots and Zucchini Farci
- Spiced Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly and French Vanilla Ice Cream
- Cheese and Fruit
- Coffee and Petit Fours
Forget the iceberg. That meal alone would’ve been enough to sink me.
The Rayanne House head chef, Conor McClelland, showed how those courses were prepared and passed out samples, describing, as he did so, how men would get themselves “suited and booted” for an evening of dining, drinking and cigars that would start around 6:30 p.m. and last until midnight.
“You have to remember that back then, ships didn’t have all the shows and entertainment that cruise ships have today,” he said. “On the Titanic, your entertainment was the food.”
Turkey was well represented this year at the LA Times show, as they were at the Long Beach show. If you think about it, the country is actually a dual gateway — between the continents of Europe and Asia and also between the Christian and Muslim worlds.
It’s a Muslim nation that wants to be treated as a part of Europe, and that fact alone ought to be enough to make it worth a look. All the history, the glorious architecture, the great food, the modernity and the famously friendly people could just be treated as a bonus.
As usual, the emphasis was on safaris, and the interest level among the show-goers was off the chain. Africa travel providers generally don’t take up the largest amount of space on the exhibition floor, but they definitely were pulling more than their fair share of the crowd.
Regular IBIT readers know that safaris really aren’t my thing, but even I managed to find one that hooked my interest, on two levels.
The outfit is called Rhino Africa Safaris. It organizes trips in part to help raise funds to help African rhinos, which are being devastated by some of the most cruel and vicious poaching you can imagine.
And the trips it organizes include…wait for it…bike tours.
Bike tours, in Africa. If I say that aloud too many times, I want to start packing. Immediately.
PBS’ European travel guru, Rick Steves was here both days of the show and packed the show’s largest meeting hall both days.
If there’s a travel expert who knows more about European travel than Steves, I haven’t seen him. He’s always got some useful insights on how to, in his words, “carbonate your travel experience.”
The bad part: He makes you sit through a seemingly endless string of sales pitches for his books and his tours and his bags to pick up those bits of insight.
This year those bits included:
- Get out of your car or off the bus and engage with the locals. Put yourself in the mix. Don’t worry about not speaking the language; he doesn’t, either.
- The best way to beat the tourist mobs in popular destinations: Become what IBIT calls a “travel guerrilla.” The tour buses dominate a place during the day? Make it a point to own the night or at least the late afternoon/early evening, after the tour buses have withdrawn and the locals start to reclaim the place. Even better, spend the night, and have both the early morning and the nights there to yourself. If you’re on the bus yourself, wander off the programmed routes and stop and discover the place for yourself.
- Castles: Find a ruined one that doesn’t draw tourist buses. You may have it, and its history, all to yourself.
- If you’re planning your own itinerary, the cheapest fare may not always be the most efficient. Do what works the best for your trip. If you don’t, your “cheap ticket” could actually end up costing you money.
- Don’t be afraid to see Europe on your own. Most big-bus group tours, in Steves’ view, amount to little more than “a self-imposed hostage crisis.”
- If you’re visiting several European countries, start with the ones culturally closest to what you’re used to at home and work your way up to the more exotic destinations. As he put it, “Why get diarrhea early?” Also, the more exotic the destination, the cheaper it’s likely to be, so save the bulk of your shopping for last.
- Don’t be afraid to go to any country that truly interests you. Statistically, Europe overall is a lot safer than the United States, so don’t be afraid to visit, don’t be afraid to go on your own and don’t give in to what he called “our news hysteria.”
- Open-jaw trips, in which you arrive in one destination and return home via another, might make more sense for you than a simple round-trip flight. I’ve done these myself and he’s right.
Another good speaker was veteran travel writer/broadcaster Rudy Maxa, who had to contend with the whirring and screaming from the zipline next-door as he spoke.
He spoke of the new Department of Transportation rules that require airlines to reveal all the costs of a given airfare — including all their taxes and fees — up front.
(Not surprisingly, some of the airlines are chafing against this rule, especially Spirit Airlines. More about that in coming blog posts.)
But in Maxa’s view, the new DOT rule that the mainstream news media have been overlooking is that you now have the right to cancel an air reservation within 24 hours — without penalty. He says that’s huge, and he’s right.
He’s also big on the idea of not paying retail prices for anything when it comes to travel, and he mentioned a few sites on the Web that can help you with that.
For hotels, he mentioned Jetsetter and a href=”http://www.bloomspot.com/” target=”_blank”>Bloomspot.
However, a third site he named, France’s Voyage Prive, sounds a bit shaky:
“Voyage Privé stopped publishing travel deals on the U.S. website. We sincerely thank you for your continued loyalty and your interest in the offers we secured for you.
We would like to invite you to join our unique partner ideeli to gain exclusive access to luxury hotels and resorts around the world, as well as sought-after brands in fashion home and beauty – all at up to 80% off : JOIN IDEELI NOW >
Despite the closure of the US website, Voyage Privé continues its business in other countries around the world, and we would be delighted to see you join one of our alternative exclusive clubs: United Kingdom | Brasil | France | Spain | Italy
If you have a booking with us, please be assured that your booking will not be cancelled. For any inquiry, please contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at +1 877 456 3459.
The team at voyageprive.com”
As always, there was a lot more at this show than I can bring you in any one blog post, so expect to hear a lot more over the coming months.
The world is traveling in 2012. What are you doing this year? Got passport?
Edited by P.A.Rice