One of the things I've learned in the high stakes world of international intrigue known as travel writing, locals can be very picky about what tourists call their home. For example, Californians don't like it when you call their state "Cali" -- I learned that the hard way. Getting more specific, natives of San Francisco (or those who have lived in the city long enough* to call themselves residents) really hate it when outsiders call the city San Fran or Frisco.
But maybe "Frisco" isn't that bad? In Making a Case for 'Frisco, writer Peter Hartlaub allows for some leeway in abbreviating the name of his home city. "Pro-Frisco San Francisco currently has two very strong allies," Hartlaub notes. "The Hells Angels and the RBL Posse." But that still doesn't mean that it's ok. "I do think Frisco is a nickname that needs to be earned before it enters conversation...I think Frisco should be reserved for people who live here."
San Francisco is one of the most popular cities in the United States, so it's likely you'll find yourself talking about it at some point. For the ideal pronunciation, Hartlaub looks to a 1995 editorial on the topic: "It's more like SanfrnSISco, all one word minus a syllable."
Read more about the San Fran vs. 'Frisco debate in the comments on Hartlaub's article. (Or don't. Internet commenters can be unreasonable...)
*"Long enough" varies.
Coffee culture is alive and well in America, thanks to caffeine addicts like myself. But it's also doing well thanks to connoisseurs who obsess over cappuccino foams, special roasts, and slow brewing techniques.
About once every quarter, a new list of the country's best coffee shops shows up in my inbox. The latest edition from USA Today looks at the 10 best coffeehouses across the USA. These results, many of which are offbeat (great coffee in Canyon, Texas? Really?) were selected by David Heilbrunn, in charge of a trade show called Coffee Fest, and his colleague Chris Deferio, a coffee industry expert. Here are the places Heilbrunn and Deferio say you should go if you want to get the USA's best coffee right now:
- Charlottesville, Virginia
- Portland, Oregon
- Washington, DC
- Holland, Michigan
- Rancho Cucamonga, California
- Canyon, Texas
- Hood River, Oregon
- Canton, Ohio
Now, check out the full article for details...
We all need a little bit of spice in our lives and many of us find that through travel. But what happens when even travel feels more like a chore? This is where Magical Mystery Tours steps in.
Recently profiled in the Washington Post, the DC-based tour company does all the grunt work of travel planning and research then adds an element of surprise. This is how the service works, according to MMT:
You give us your desired travel dates, desired travel budget, and fill out a survey giving us as many (or as few) additional parameters as you feel comfortable with (for example: you hate places with sand, loathe camping, adore Montana, etc.)
From that information, we will tailor make a vacation for you, trying to keep in mind as many of your preferences as possible. From there, we will let you know a rough time and date you need to be at your travel hub (airport, bus station, etc.).
Then, a few days before your departure you will get a packet of information. There will be a cover letter telling you the weather at your destination so you pack appropriately. Try not to open the packet though! We want you to wait as long as possible to open it for maximum surprise factor. Once you actually open the packet when at your travel hub, you will reveal details about your getaway, such as destination name, reservation information, and things to do near where you are staying.
Are you spontaneous enough to try a vacation to an unknown destination? I think this is one of the most refreshing travel concepts I've come across in a while. Why didn't I think of that?
I love reviewing apps for this site: road trip apps, hotel apps, food and dining apps, etc. I'm constantly adding and deleting apps on my smartphone (ok, my iPhone) trying to figure out what works best for me as a traveler and for everyday.
Wirecutter, one of my favorite sites for tech reviews, published a massive review on the best weather apps for iOS. The winner? Yahoo Weather, which makes use of Flickr's vast pool of location photographs and Weather Underground data. Its beautiful, simple interface is what has made it my go-to weather app, too. But writer David Chartier goes even further in investigating the app's settings and competition. If you're a weather geek, which many travelers are required to be, I recommend taking a look.
Just in time for the Oscars this weekend, the New York Times has an interview with Director Wes Anderson on Finding a Setting that Captures a Scene. Anderson, who has a new film coming out in March, cites the Rhode Island location (Camp Yawgoog) where he filmed "Moonrise Kingdom" as one of the places he "fell in love with." A longer version of the Q&A between the Times and Anderson will appear in the paper on Sunday. Read More...
New York: Portrait of a Mod City, a gorgeous, illustrated book by Zdenek Mahler and Vladimir Fuka, is being republished this month after having been lost since the 1960s. This and three other books are on my list of list of travel books for spring 2014. Read more...
When one thinks of the earth's great animal migrations, thoughts of wildebeests and the African plain probably come to mind. Birdwatchers know, however, that one of the most magnificent annual migratory events happens in the middle of America in Nebraska.
In the March 2014 issue of Smithsonian Magazine, writer Alex Shoumatoff dives deep into the North American migration patterns of sandhill cranes, which descend on Nebraska's Platte River Valley every March. It is estimated that by the end of the month, "80 percent of the world's cranes will converge upon one 80-mile stretch of land."
"Not only the cranes, but some 20 million other migrating birds belonging to 300 or so species stop over on the Platte, including 280 of the remaining whooping cranes, 90 percent of the white-fronted geese that ply the midcontinent, thousands of endangered piping plovers, 30 percent of the northern pintails, 50 percent of the mallards, as well as bald eagles and some two million snow geese. Soon after we travel under Kearney's Gateway (to the Great Plains) Arch, we pass a depression--an old borrow pit--smothered with maybe 20,000 milling snow geese, like a blanket of snow. The geese come earlier than the cranes and clean out many of the cornfields near the river, but there is plenty of waste grain in the central Platte valley to go around. Michael Forsberg, a Lincoln-based wildlife photographer, calls this stretch of the Platte "the pinch in the hourglass" for all these converging northbound migrants."
Photo © Melissa Groo for Smithsonian Magazine
Google is making it easier for travelers to daydream with the introduction this week of the Google Maps Gallery. Arranged like a digital atlas, the gallery gives users several ways to explore detailed maps created by Google or other entities, such as the National Geographic Society or the National Park Service.
Explore simple maps, like this one of Miami and the Florida Keys, browse historical maps of the Civil War or the 1814 Lewis and Clark Trail, or zero-in on the boundaries of the USA's many national parks. Users can generate and submit their own maps for the database, too, which means it will soon become easier to locate travel maps for everything from walking tours to historical sites.
Here are the USA travel stories and news items I'm writing, reading, and tweeting about this week...
- Chinatown Revisited. "People often ask, 'What's your favorite Chinatown?' or 'What do you look for?' I wondered if there was a shorthand I could offer, to sum up the best of the best. And so: fish, dragons, smoke, crowds." Travel through traditional, suburban, and fabricated Chinatowns across the USA with writer Bonnie Tsui. [New York Times]
- Why Chicago Wants to Turn a Struggling Neighborhood into a National Park. The Pullman neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago was a significant site of the early Labor Movement in America. [Atlantic Cities]
- Pico Iyer's Santa Barbara. The world-renowned travel writer writes about his favorite places in his home town for National Geographic Traveler. [NGT Intelligent Travel Blog]
- 9/11 Victims' Family Group Criticizes Memorial Museum Fee. The 9/11 Museum is set to open in New York City in May and it plans to charge a $24 admission fee. Many people aren't happy. [CNN]
- Virginia Restaurants Can Now Advertise Happy Hours. Beer drinkers on a budget traveling to Virginia will finally be able to find out about happy hours before visiting them. [RVA News]
- The Grand Canyon Is Not So Ancient. Scientists now say the natural wonder is approximately five- to six-million years old rather than 70 million years old. [Nature]
Photo: A nod to the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Horse by Erwin Soo
In my annual survey of the year's best museum exhibits, I discovered that 2014 is the year for modern art. Two big modern art shows will be opening in February.
On February 13, Miró: The Experience of Seeing will open at the Seattle Art Museum. Fifty of the Spanish artist's paintings, drawings, and sculptures are on loan from Madrid's Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. The exhibit will run through May 25. Read More...