Where to Go in 2016? The Hot, Must-See Cities? Who Cares? Go Where You Want To Go

As my fellow travelers can attest to, there will be New Year’s list of the hot cities to visit in 2016. New York Times goes all out on their lengthy list. To me, it just seems like a low of random places. How about a list of places NOT to go to?

If you haven’t been someplace, go there. That’s your hot spot. It doesn’t get easier than that.

For me, I’ll have a grand announcement in a couple days that will mean big things for this six-month blog. Destination wise, I’ve got South America on my radar after the Summer Olympics.

Have a great New Year’s, see you on the other side.

Louis’ Lunch in New Haven Is Ground (Beef!) Zero For Hamburger Travels

It’s ridiculously simple, and wonderfully masterful — fresh ground beef cooked medium rare, cheese, tomato and onion on white toast. Adding anything else would be a crime against hamburger humanity.

Located near the Yale University campus in New Haven, Conn., Louis’ Lunch is a historic institution worthy of a 10-hour Ken Burns documentary. They invented the friggin’ hamburger for crying out loud.

As their website states: One day in 1900, a gentleman hurriedly walked into Louis’ Lunch and told proprietor Louis Lassen he was in a rush and wanted something he could eat on the run. In an instant, Louis placed his own blend of ground steak trimmings between two slices of toast and sent the gentleman on his way.

louis-lunch6

One hundred years and then some later, Louie Lunch hasn’t much changed. Its one of the few places in America that hasn’t been franchised out, renovated or updated. It moved in the 1970s, but remained fully intact.

You have three gas broilers and an old-timey toaster behind the counter. The hamburgers are cooked sideways. Orders are taken on paper. No credit card machines. No garbage cans. A chalk board for the pie of the day and soda selection from local beverage maker Foxon Park.

louis-lunch5 louis-lunch4

The menu: hamburger/cheeseburger, potato salad, potato chips, drinks, pie, coffee. Of course, don’t ask for ketchup because your dumb ass ain’t getting any.

The dining room can fit 20-25 people at a time. Ingrained in the wood are etching from generations. The individual booth with the desks can barely hold your small paper plates of food.

louis-lunch3 louis-lunch2

If you get there at opening at 11am, you won’t find a wait like I did today. During warmer days and when school is in session, expect a line out the door.

As for the burger, it’s amazing. It helps that the place is a living museum. Two burgers, potato salad and soda is $18.

The Food Truck Scene in Bilbao on a Sunday Night

One minute you are on an evening walk with pintxos on your mind, the next your confronted with gleaming food trucks offering all sorts of goodness. Pintxos vs. Food Trucks. Decisions, decisions.

On my first night in Bilbao, a Sunday night, I was walking along Campo de Volantin towards Ernesto Erkoreka Plaza when I saw crowds lining up for food trucks. Everything looked and smelled amazing. My mind was saying “Pinxtos, Pinxtos, Pinxtos. Oh shit. Hot dogs, burgers, grilled meats.” It was extremely tempting looking at the menus, even though I couldn’t read what they were selling since it was in Basque.

If I was a local, I would be hitting this place up as often as I can, but since I’m a dopey traveler, I need to forge forward to Casco Viejo and Plaza Nueva and take in more traditional Basque eats. I didn’t come all the way to Bilbao to eat out of a truck. I can do that in any city in America.

Here’s what I saw:

bilbao-food-trucks-1

bilbao-food-trucks-2

bilbao-food-trucks-3

bilbao-food-trucks-4

bilbao-food-trucks-6

 

bilbao-food-trucks-7

Where I Stayed in Cape Town — Mandela Rhodes Place Hotel

Recounting my accommodations on my month long journey, I focus on Cape Town and the Mandela Rhodes Place Hotel, also listed as Three Cities Mandela Rhodes Place Hotel & Spa.

Before I get into the reasoning on picking this hotel, let set the scene when I checked into my room. I opened the door to my room on the 6th floor and had a momentary panic set in. Greeting me was a long halfway into a full-sized apartment. There were two bedrooms (one with a king sized bed, another with two full beds), two full bathrooms, a fully outfitted kitchen with dining table and a living room with two couches. “This has gotta be a mistake. Should I check to see if this is the right room?”

I looked at my confirmation print out and did the conversation again. It was around $80 a night with taxes included. I eventually checked my credit card and I was not over-charged. So I was going to be living large in an apartment for four nights. Too bad it was just me. It could fit a family of four. I didn’t have enough stuff to spread out.

Again, travel in South Africa is so cheap and that goes for accommodations as well. I was debating whether to stay downtown with a short walking distance to BoKaap and the main drag of hip eaters and bars on Bree Street or opt for the hipsterville area of Woodstock. Downtown is much more convenient to the main sights, but keep your head of a swivel because there are lot of homeless at night. I did get followed a few times while being begged. There’s a lot of security around but if you feel things are not right around the place you’re at, just call up an Uber even if it’s five blocks away.

As for the hotel amenities, there are three eateries on the ground floor and a decent pool with a view of Table Mountain on the roof. On the 99 degree day, that pool was such a relief. The staff was a major help in booking my wine tour and when I didn’t have the correct electrical plug adapter for South Africa.

It’s a definite five star rating. It’s ranked 48 out of 105 on TripAdvisor with 4.5 stars.

Vienna Gets My Vote For Best Christmas City in the World

Of all the cities I’ve been to once, Vienna would be the place I’d like to revisit. It’s a wonderfully preserved city that combines classic architecture and old world mystique. There’s never a dull sight when you walk through the streets.

Although I was there in 2009 at the end October, the slight chill in the air and the beginnings of the Christmas markets gave me the sense of what it’s like during Xmas time.

So pretend these photos were taken during Christmas time while your eating your Christmas goose and figgy pudding.

vienna1

vienna2

vienna3

vienna4

vienna6

vienna7

vienna8

vienna9

 

 

Beer Voyage — Devil’s Peak Brewing Company in Cape Town

Since I returned, I had to convince my craft beer crew about the scene in Cape Town. The city and Western Cape is  best known as a wine destination. In fact, when you past passport control at the airport, you are greeted with a sign that says, “Welcome to the Wine Capital of the World!” The folks in Napa Valley I’m sure will snicker at that.

In any event, the 40+ craft breweries in the Western Cape converge into Cape Town with its burgeoning food scene. In the center is Devil’s Peak Brewing Company in Woodstock. It’s the lone brewery that is also a full-service restaurant.

Woodstock is the “cool part” of Cape Town, meaning it was once the dangerous, warehouse strewn area that has turned itself around and become an epicenter of artists, shops, restaurants, bars, a hip hotel and the famous Neighbourgoods Market. Again, what’s wrong with gentrification?

Devil’s Peak occupies a two-story warehouse, with the taproom on the top floor. As you can see in the photo, it’s a large space with a bar and outdoor terrace where you can look at an empty street. The day I went was when it was 99 degree high, so I welcomed the open space.

As for the beer, it’s legit. I drank my way through all the taps through flights and tasters. As I mentioned previously, drinking and eating in South Africa is deliciously cheap. Eight 3-4 oz. tasters, duck sliders and tip costs me $13.

Here’s what I had:

  • Cold War Stout — Russian Imperial Sout
  • Black IPA
  • Imperial IPA
  • Woodhead — Red Ale
  • American Pale Ale
  • The King’s Blockhouse — American IPA
  • Lager
  • First Light Golden Ale

There are few other craft breweries in the area that I didn’t have a chance to visit like Woodstock Brewery and Garagista Beer Co.

devils-peak-brewery1

Where I Stayed in Casablanca — Hôtel Club Val d’Anfa

Recounting my accommodations on my month long journey, after living it up in Marrakesh I took a train to Casablanca. For me, this was just a long layover of two nights before my long journey to South Africa. I just needed a place to reboot for a day, do laundry in the sink and explore the city on the one full day I had.

Casablanca is a sprawling city where the major transport hubs are spread out around. The airport is a good 30-40 minutes from city center, so no matter where I stayed, it wasn’t going to be near the major attractions. Thus, I picked the area along the beach front figuring it would away from the congested and crowded city center. The sunset over the ocean helped as well.

I didn’t do much research into finding a hotel because they all looked the same in the beachfront area. Hôtel Club Val d’Anfa was cheap at $75 a night via Expedia, had a pool, free WiFi and bar/lounge. I didn’t need anything more than that.

The hotel itself was fine. It’s a little on the old school side with elevators that can fit two people at a time. The interiors could use a little sprucing up. It doesn’t help that it smells of cigarette smoke everywhere because Morocco is not a smoke-free country.

The room I got was huge but it was really weird. I’ve never encountered anything like this. The toilet was in a closet-like room away from the bathroom near the room entrance. So the bathroom is a shower, tub, sink and bidet. No place in there to take a tinkle or drop a deuce. Thus, when I did my business. I had no place to wash my hands right there. I had to walk over to the bathroom to wash and touch doorknobs with dirty hands. There has to be an explanation for this from a structural and plumbing standpoint where they couldn’t fit a toilet in the bathroom.

You do great fresh fruit and Moroccan treats in your room, which I gobbled up. My room faced the traffic circle outside, so just close the windows and you won’t hear a thing.

On TripAdvisor, it’s ranked 8 out of 72 with 4 stars, which seems about right, maybe 3.5 with the cigarette smell. The only reason to stay longer than 2 nights in Casablanca is if you are on a business trip.