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The Top Five Travel Stories of 2016

Congrats everyone, you made it through 2016. Hopefully, you got to cross off some destinations and took a lot of photos that you used to make your social media followers jealous. Your reward is that you get to make 2017 the best 2017 in the history of mankind.

It’s an understatement saying 2016 was a crazy year in the global scheme. Something might happen between when I post this and Saturday night 23:59:59 EST. Let’s take a look at five stories that dominated the travel space.

Global Politics Affecting Travels, Good and Bad — There was Brexit, the U.S. election and the attempted coup in Turkey. Brexit caused global markets to freak out, but three days later all loses were regained. The long-term effects remain to be scene, but now, it’s great for U.S. travelers because the Euro is almost equal to the U.S. dollar ($1 = 1.05EUR) and the British Pound is the best I’ve ever seen at 1.22GBP.

That’s the good. The bad is if the new U.S. administration will crack down on people traveling from Muslim countries. It also remains to be seen if the changing U.S. policy will cause people to rethink their plans on visiting the America. I hope not, but what do we know.

Terrorism: Turkey had a bad year beyond the July coup attempt. More bombings in Istanbul make visiting not that appealing. As I’ve said before, nobody is going to blame if you alter your plans, but remember you’re more likely to die on the cab ride from the airport than a terrorist bombing.

Then with major attacks in populated public spaces in Berlin, Brussels and Nice, it gives you pause if you’re planning on visiting. Here in America, you have mass shootings in Orlando and Dallas that reflected badly on cities.

Idiot Passengers Making Headlines on a Daily Basis: You can pretty much find a story every day about a flight having to turn around or make an emergency landing because somebody drank to much, started a fight or freaked the fuck out. Just today, a bickering couple forced a Delta flight to turn around.

The two that made the most headlines involved Trump. There was the guy who was banned for life from Delta for yelling about Trump and screaming about Hillary bitches. The other were the two people who were kicked off a JetBlue flight for yelling at Trump’s daughter Ivanka. I’m baffled by people’s stupidity and it’s obvious that these people are mentally ill.

In any event, let’s hope your next flight is incident free or has Richard Marx to protect you.

Alaska Airlines and Virgin America Merging — The latest news is that the Justice Department has given the all-clear on the merging on the two budget airlines. As for changes, Alaska Airlines has said that it will be “business as usual … for fliers traveling on Alaska Airlines and Virgin America. You should interact with either airline as you normally would.” Code sharing will be the likely result with frequent flier miles used for either airline

Increased Number of Summer Travelers Means Longer TSA Lines — This will be a familiar refrain every summer. All the more reason to stick locally between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

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In Assassin’s Creed, Malta and CGI Recreates 1492 Sevilla, Spain

In theaters now is the latest video game turned motion picture Assassin’s Creed starring Irish-German superstar Michael Fassbender. Rotten Tomatoes tabulated a 19% score with critics, but 66% with audiences. I’ve seen it and I lean towards the audiences.

As in the game, the main character’s DNA is hacked to transport them to their ancestor’s memory to an historic city and time. The movie and the game combines my favorite things — travel, history, an open world to explore and doing something by yourself.

The games take place in cities you can visit where you can wonder what it would be like to climb historic sites and then kill somebody from afar. Cities like Renaissance Florence, Rome, Constantinople, Paris, colonial Boston and New York and, the most recent game, Victorian London.

Rather than redo a storyline from the movie, the film makers created their own by setting the past story in the Spanish Inquisition of Andalusia, circa 1492. You can guess what historic figure makes a cameo, which is customary in the game.

While some of the set pieces where filmed in Spain, Valletta, Malta stands in the for the intense city chase scenes that showcases the franchise’s parkour and hand-to-hand combat. The city has also been used in films like Munich, Midnight Express and World War Z.

There’s a scene set in Sevilla’s Cathedral, but anybody who’s been there can tell you that it wasn’t filmed there. That would be a tall order to shut down the city’s most popular attraction for filming a movie based on a video. It looks like CGI took care of the set design.

Since the movie hasn’t done well at the box office, a second installment doesn’t seem like a possibility. We’ll just have to wait until the next video game release to see where it will take the gamer next.

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Hopefully, Richard Marx Will Be on Your Next Flight

One minute you’re on a Korean Air flight to Seoul — enjoying a crappy movie like Suicide Squad or something — then the next thing you know, Richard Marx and Daisy Fuentes is taking down a deranged passenger. What did they put in the drinks?

That’s what exactly happened on a flight from Hanoi to Seoul, and it was capture on social media. A passenger went bonkers, attacking flight attendants and other passengers. I know, a person can only take so much of the middle seat.

Just to give younger people a little background, Richard Marx was a pop star from late 80s who sang such soft rock/adult contemporary hits like “Don’t Mean Nothin” and “Right Here Waiting.” Daisy Fuentes was an  MTV presenter in the 90s. It’s news to me that they’re married, and apparently still have a career where the can travel Asia.

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Well, I’m glad they lived to tell the tale.

I once had James Blunt on a flight from Budapest to London, but his services were not needed. He was in the army so I felt safe that if anything happened, he could be ready for action.

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If You Need Another Excuse Not To Go To Paris, Rats Have Taken Over

Your romantic stroll along the Seine River in Paris might be interrupted by more than tourist groups, mimes and street performers.  Rats have become an epidemic in the City of Light.

We’re not talking about the singing, dancing kind that are voiced by Patton Oswalt. These are disease spreading pests that have stressed local authorities. At the beginning of the month, the city was forced to close public parks in order to “declare war” on the rats by laying down hundreds of traps.

On top of this, there’s a danger in using rat poison that can tamper the city’s water supply. So far, nothing seem to be working.

To make matters worse, locals and tourists have been leaving out food for pigeons that are being stolen by the pests. In the big picture, if you’re going to leave out food for pests, might as well make it a quality baguette.

This being one of the most romantic cities of the world, the rats are reproducing at an alarming rate. One rat can created hundreds of offspring. City Hall believes that there are 4-6 million rats in the city.

The reason for the rise is due to early freezing weather, littering and pollution in the city.

Have fun with your visit to Paris. Send me a postcard!

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It’s Hard to Find African Food in Cape Town

There’s an interesting article from NPR about the international culinary scene in Cape Town. It’s a result from having one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world and the general political stabilization.

With the influx of tourists, travelers and honeymooners comes a drawback — you need to go well outside the city limits to find traditional African food. It goes without saying, when you go to Italy, you want Italian. When you to go to Japan, you want sushi, ramen and yakitori.

Cape Town’s restaurant scene has gotten quite buzzy. Cape Town is now listed by Lonely Planet as one of the “world’s tastiest destinations,” alongside the likes of Buenos Aires and the Italian piedmont. Two area restaurants are included among TripAdvisor’s 25 top fine dining spots in the world. Last year, readers of Conde Nast Traveler picked Cape Town as the world’s best food city.

Yet the restaurants that are being widely hailed have menus that would offer nothing new to diners in London or Paris. Indigenous cuisines and ingredients are simply not offered to the vast majority of restaurant patrons.

The local economy does need to cater towards tourists, but since the ingredients are local, you are kind of, sort of eating African food.

Which brings me to something I had to research before going there last year. What is African food? I’ve had Ethopian, but that’s not close to South African cuisine. Being a New Yorker, I have not come across any South African-focused menus.

Braii is a South African barbecue, which not exactly a type of sauce, it’s more of a tradition. It’s meat, a certain type of sausage and a pap, a starch. I found it in Johannesburg along with their traditional dessert, malva pudding.

Also a popular South African dish is bunny chow and IT’S NOT BABY RABBIT. It’s a curry-base stew served in a hollowed out bread, similar to Indian dishes.

This you might be able to find at Mariam’s Kitchen, which has two locations in downtown Cape Town. It’s a cafeteria-style lunch place that features the Indian-influenced African cuisine that’s lacking in the city.

In the heart of Cape Town, there are about a half-dozen restaurants that proudly announce themselves as serving dishes of the African continent, with names like Marco’s African Place or the Africa Cafe. But those are restaurants that cater to tour groups, with the focus not on food but the entire experience, complete with animal skins hanging on the walls, marimba bands and waiters wearing boldly-printed shirts.

“We don’t really get that many local people,” says Samantha Harwood, night manager at Mama Africa. “We as a restaurant are not your African heritage food meal. It’s what a tourist can handle.”

So basically you’re getting the sanitized, Disney World Epcot version of African food. Thus, you’ll have better luck in Joberg or Durban getting the local flavor.

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60 Minutes Showcases a Revitalized Medellin, Colombia

Sunday night’s 60 Minutes news program showed an interesting story about how Columbia ended a half-decade of war, debilitating poverty and a never-ending drug trade to be a symbol of how a country can rebound. As a result, tourism to the country has double in the past two years.

The first part of the segment showed how an ad campaign and a Christmas outreach ended a war with rebels. It wasn’t easy and politicians nearly struck it down, but not a single shot was fired. President Juan Manuel Santos earned the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for it.

Correspondent Lara Logan traveled from Bogota to Medellin to see a city that’s unrecognizable from a decade ago. In the 80s-90s (and if you’ve seen the Netflix show Narcos), Medellin was the cocaine and murder capital of the world.

The formula to turn it around is simple, and I’ve seen it first-hand in cities like Belfast, Bilbao and Johannesburg — invest in public transportation, the arts and small business. Former Medellin mayor and Antioquia governor of  Sergio Fajardo showed the modern buildings, arts centers (like MAMM, Museo de Arte Moderno) and nightlife that’s making Medellin a top destination in South America.

The focus of the revitalization is the escalators and sky buckets that take locals and visitors up the mountain side. The series of escalators, known as Escaleras Electricas De La Comuna 13, will remind you of the series escalators in Hong Kong. The sky buckets is meant to symbolical connect the business area to the working class favelas along the mountain to make it a more united city.

You can watch the report below:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-colombia-after-civil-war-lara-logan/

See How Lame 2016 Was Via Instagram with Best Nine

We still have three weeks and some change left in the epic fail we call 2016. Between celeb deaths, U.S. falling into a dictatorship, Brexit, global warming and lack of flying cars, this year should be quickly forgotten.

Well, somebody took Instagram’s API and used it show you which of your Instagram pics got the most likes to make a 9-picture collage. The website is called 2016bestnine.com. It made me bummed out.

Since I spent most of 2016 unemployed, broke and trapped in North America, my year in review was mehhhhh:

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Four or my photos came from my trip Toronto, two on my way up to Toronto, one in Asbury Park, NJ, one from 2 miles from my HQ and another picture I took five years ago.

Luckily, the makers also took your 2015 Instagram to see how well you traveled. Since I spent 4 months outside my homebase, you can tell I spent the most of the time drunk on craft beer in Africa and eating hamburgers.

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