A roundup of the good, the bad and the bizarre from the world’s best travel media
A gritty French port city remakes its image. A problematic airliner runs into more problems. The concept of couch surfing takes a hit. And an African airline sets out to create its own low-cost spinoff.
MARSEILLES — THE UN-PARIS
For years, this French Mediterranean port city had a three-pronged image problem in the eyes of would-be travelers:
- It was old and rundown.
- It was the gateway to the rest of Europe for illegal drugs from abroad, and
- It wasn’t Paris.
But as the New York Times is reporting, a wave of new hotels and restaurants, coupled with a revitalized waterfront and better public transit, coupled with great Mediterranean climate, great beaches and a lively ethnic mix, is prompting visitors to view Marseilles in a better light.
All of a sudden, not being Paris doesn’t seem like such a handicap.
DREAMLINER: THE NIGHTMARE CONTINUES
When a Boeing 787 Dreamliner arrived in Japan last month for a week of tests with All Nippon Airways, it looked as if the Dreamliner was finally ready to leave its history of problems behind.
Comes now word that Air India has been told by Boeing that it won’t be getting theirs until December, a delay of two months. The same report, from India’s DNA (Daily News & Analysis), says that even after the tests, ANA is still waiting on its first Dreamliner.
Two months is no big deal, right? Especially for a state-of-the-art new airliner that promises more comfort and fuel efficiency.
But Boeing is already more than three years late delivering the Dreamliner. In those three years, the cost of each airplane has gone up by more than half, to nearly $200 million.
The DNA story doesn’t really tell us how Air India officials reacted to this latest delay, but I’m guessing they’re not amused.
Meanwhile, Boeing’s main rival, Airbus, is building a new fuel-efficient competitor to the Dreamliner.
Will this fiasco ever end?
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BED AND BEWARE?
Since 2008, there’s been a growing buzz about Airbnb, an online service that has more or less institutionalized what’s known as “couch-surfing.”
Basically, Airbnb hooks up people looking for a cheap place to stay with people wanting (or needing) to rent out part of their home — all over the world. The owner makes a little money; the renter saves a ton over regular hotels. It’s made world travel affordable to more people — in some cases, for the first time in their lives.
It’s also made Airbnb into a billion-dollar enterprise.
Lately, however, we’ve seen another side of this arrangement.
As reported in Tech Crunch, one Airbnb host in San Francisco described coming home to her apartment to find it had been robbed and wrecked. And the initial response she got from Airbnb was less than sympathetic.
Another came home to to find that his place not only had been vandalized, but that his Airbnb guests had left “meth pipes everywhere.”
Airbnb is now scrambling to make things right. Meanwhile, the cops are after the cretins who ruined the lady’s apartment. Hopefully, their next out-of-town guest lodging will have bars on it.
Still, the whole episode reminds us that it’s not just the buyer who needs to beware.
TONY x 2 — “THE LAYOVER” IS COMING
We told your earlier that Anthony Bourdain was producing a spinoff to his popular cable TV foodie/travel show “No Reservations” for the fast-approaching fall season. Well, we now have a launch date.
The folks at Eater.com has the particulars here.
When it comes to freedom to roam the world without visas — and without the accompanying visa fees — where you live matters. And on that score, our good old US of A is one of the best places on Earth from which to hold a passport.
But not the best.
According to the British financial magazine The Economist, the country whose passport will let you visit more of the world’s countries without a visa is Sweden, tops on a list of 20 nations.
Actually, they’re in a three-way tie with Finland and Denmark, with Germany and Japan close behind.
The United States? We’re sixth.
You can see the entire list in The Economist graphic here.
And now, here’s this week’s Digest:
from USA Today
Long flight delays that leave passengers sitting endlessly on the tarmac had been thought dead and gone thanks to tougher new federal aviation rules. Surprise: they’re making a comeback.
from Associated Press via Yahoo! Travel
All over the country, airlines operating small passenger planes to and from rural American airports are getting millions of dollars in federal subsidies, even if they aren’t carrying a single passenger.
from News.com.au (Australia)
Among the videos offered these days to passengers on flights of the Australian national airline Qantas is a documentary film entitled “The Female Orgasm Explained.” Uhhh…
from the New York Times
How to beat the high cost of roaming abroad. Not you, your cellphone.
Delaware is great cycling country.
from USA Today
Ten great places to explore urban neighborhoods in North America. What makes this list remarkable is that one of their top ten urban communities is in, of all places, Detroit.
Also from USA Today, ten of the best cities to explore by bike. And unlike the first list, most of these winners are west of the Mississippi.
from Fox News
A collection of ten common travel scams around the world. See, learn and avoid.
from Cruise Critic
Size is not the only way in which all cruise ship cabins are not created equal. Cruise Critic readers weigh in with their choices for the best lodging at sea.
Getting in the air game: Kenya Airways putting together its own low-cost regional airline to serve East and Central Africa. The name: Jambo Jet, the word “jambo” meaning “hello” in Swahili. If they embrace and maintain high maintenance and safety standards, KA could launch a revolution in regional African air service.
from We Blog the World
A night in Dakar. The capital of Senegal may be called “the Paris of Africa” by some observers, but it’s decidedly more African than Parisian. And that can be both a good and a bad thing.
from The Guardian (London UK)
This definitely is not a good thing: Piracy of the sort that has terrorized fishing boats, freighters, oil tankers and even cruise ships off the coast of Somalia are now on the upswing off West Africa. Naval officers and maritime officials in Nigeria are meeting with the US Navy to plot countermoves.
from France 24
Speaking of Senegal, an historic bridge in the old colonial capital of Saint-Louis is getting a much needed makeover and safety refit.
Foodies’ delight: the Vancouver Summer Night Market.
Spend your vacation in a treehouse. No? Not even if the trees in question happen to be the tallest and oldest living things on Earth?
from the New York Times
Five months after the disastrous earthquake/tsunami/nuclear emergency, travelers are still trying to figure out how to deal with Japan. Those who set their fears aside are finding bargains.
from Smarter Travel
Five cheap European travel destinations, four in Eastern Europe and the fifth being Turkey.
from The Spectrum
A cruise down the Mekong River reveals the breathtaking beauty and bitter history of Vietnam.
The ST crew didn’t list Poland among their cheap Euro-spots, but they could have. Cheap eats in the city of Krakow, a burgeoning tourist destination in one of Europe’s cheaper destination countries.