Expert Travel Reviews

Visiting America’s Most Endangered Places

April 28, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Here’s an avant-garde idea for a vacation: travel the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of the “11 Most Endangered Historic Places.” According to The New York Times, it takes more than perilous looks to make the list. Instead, “the trust selects what it considers important examples of the nation’s architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk of being destroyed or irreparably damaged,” Robin Pogrebin writes. This year’s list includes a special emphasis on the threat to Modernist buildings. In alphabetical order, this year’s most endangered historic places are:

  • Ames Shovel Shops, Easton, MA
  • Cast-Iron Architecture of Galveston, TX
  • Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles, CA
  • Dorchester Academy, Midway, GA
  • Human Services Center, Yankton, SD
  • Lāna‘i City, HI
  • The Manhattan Project’s Enola Gay Hangar, Wendover Airfield, UT
  • Memorial Bridge, Portsmouth, N.H. to Kittery, ME
  • Miami Marine Stadium, Virginia Key, FL
  • Mount Taylor, near Grants, NM
  • Unity Temple, Oak Park, IL

The slim good news for these sites is that since development has slowed, they face less threat of demolition for new construction. And the trust has a good track record of protecting the buildings that it names to the list. In 22 years, only six of the 211 designated sites have been torn down. Still, it’s worth visiting these places today because as the recession deepens, they might not be there tomorrow.

For more about the list, visit the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

United Airlines’ Controversial New Policy

April 20, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Last week, United Airlines introduced a controversial new policy that requires passengers who need more than one seat-belt extender and who cannot put their seat’s armrests down when seated to purchase an extra seat. If no empty seat is available on the flight, the passenger must wait for the next flight or forgo his or her travel plans with United. While United is not the only airline to enforce such a policy, it has come under fire from the Association for Airline Passenger Rights (AAPR) for shelving its customer service standards in favor of profit and irresponsibly packing in passengers in coach too tightly.

Could the new rule do further damage to the flagging airline industry? A 2008 survey showed that airline customer satisfaction had reached its lowest level since 2001. Passengers cited problems with delayed and overbooked flights, lost baggage, and baggage-checking fees, to name only a few of the complaints. In that survey, United ranked as only the sixth-most satisfactory airline, well behind Southwest, American, Continental, Delta, and Northwest, respectively.

What do you think? Is United’s rule fair or fradulent?

Hot Spots: Adelaide, South Australia

April 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Flocked by parklands and vineyards and peppered with churches, Adelaide enjoys a slower pace of life than some of the other state capitals, calling up its German and English history (Adelaide is the only capital settled by English free settlers, though it was originally inhabited by the Kaurna people) while also edging towards a more cosmopolitan flair. Adelaide tends to get overshadowed by cities like Sydney and Melbourne, but it has many pleasures in store for lovers of wine, food, art, and coastal life.

Adelaide, with a population of 1.1 million, claims the distinction of having more restaurants per person than any other city in the country, as well as the distinction of producing about half of all Australian wine. For the epicure or just the foodie, this is a winning combination for a gastronomic vacation. Some of Australia’s finest restaurants such as the Grange and Petaluma’s Bridgewater Mill call Adelaide home, as does the National Wine Centre, which showcases Australia’s wine industry.Prominent varietals in the Adelaide region include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon. And for a quintessentially Adelaide experience, one can’t beat the Adelaide Central Market for the sights, sounds, and tastes of the city.

Art and culture lovers can bask in a number of attractions such as the beautiful Adelaide Botanic Gardens, the Art Gallery of South Australia,Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, and Adelaide Festival Centre, to name only a few. Or just stroll along North Terrace, called the city’s “culutural boulevard.” The influx of Asian immigrants after the Vietnam War and, more recently, African refugees, have added to the diverse cultural milieu about Adelaide. Perhaps owing to the heightened sense of multiculturalism, the city’s arts scene has also flourished in the past 30 years, engendering the Adelaide Festival of Arts and Fringe Festival, as well as the Adelaide Film Festival, Adelaide Festival of Ideas, and Adelaide Writers’ Week. Music acts that hail from Adelaide include The Audreys, Hilltop Hoods, I Killed the Prom Queen, and The Superjesus, among others.

For outdoor lovers or just anyone seeking recreation, the city’s many parklands provide a fresh-air arena for exercise, barbeques, and scenic strolls. The city’s Park Lands Trail Project a 24 kilometer trail encircling the city and is accessible to cyclists, runners, rollerbladers, and people in wheelchairs. A number of private and public rose gardens also make for good environmental sightseeing, particularly in spring and summer. If you don’t mind traveling on foot, walking is one of the best ways to see the city. The Adelaide City Council has created a number of free, self-guided walking tours that can be downloaded from the council’s website.

Amidst eating, drinking, and soaking up the sites of the city, don’t forget to spend some time at the coast, which extends from the Le Fevre Peninsula to Sellicks Beach and offers pristine beaches belted by blue waters for swimming, surfing, or just sunbathing. Glenelg is the most popular beach destination, dotted with shops and cafes, but it’s also worth dropping by Henley Beach, Semaphore, and Christies Beach for fun in the sun. Or visit Port Adelaide, the city’s marittime heart, for museums, dolphin-watching, markets, and more.

When should you go? South Australia’s Mediterranean climate makes almost any time a good time to visit Adelaide.