First, the Grey Lady’s top 10:
- Milan – …”this is the year for tourists to explore its charms, as it hosts the 2015 World Expo…The Expo’s theme focuses on food, nutrition and sustainability practices — a fitting choice for a city steeped in Italian culinary traditions. Highlights will include the Future Food District, a space to explore technological advances affecting the global food chain, and the Lake Arena, an Expo centerpiece with a mirrorlike pond and fountain fed by water from the city’s canals…”
- Cuba – “…Americans wishing to go there will face fewer restrictions, provided their visit is “purposeful” (strictly sun-and-sand holidays are still prohibited)…the economic reforms — however limited — have created a constellation of privately-run restaurants and bars in Havana and provincial towns, many of them in beautiful, restored homes. An effort by the government to reinject life into Havana’s cultural scene has spawned vibrant new venues like the Fabrica de Arte Cubano, where the young, hip and better-off line up on weekends…”
- Philadelphia – “A series of projects has transformed Philadelphia into a hive of outdoor urban activity…Public art installations, mini “parklets” and open-air beer gardens have become common sights…this spring, Philadelphia will get its first bike share program…”
- Yellowstone National Park – “…five new sustainably built lodges, three of which will open in spring, will replace outdated cabins, and new walking and biking paths will link the village with the park’s North Rim Drive…for the first time since 2003, park managers will allow self-guided snowmobile tours, by permit only….”
- Elqui Valley, Chile – “The deserts of northern Chile, whose dry, clear skies and high altitude make for unmatched stargazing, have long been home to some of the world’s largest research telescopes…At least a half-dozen small observatories now cater to stargazers, while family-run hotels offer special domed and glass-ceilinged suites and in-room telescopes…”
- Singapore – “Singapore is turning 50 in 2015, and the ambitious little city-state is pulling out all the stops to celebrate…the riotous Chingay Parade in February, featuring thousands of colorfully dressed performers… National Gallery Singapore opens in the grand former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings, where it will house one of the largest collections of Southeast Asian art in the world…”
- Durban, South Africa – “…its beachfront promenade is lovely and the weather is pleasant year round….The reinvention ofRivertown kicked things off: The city enclave is now home to a popular market, beer hall and, coming soon, a raft of boutiques showcasing proudly local brands (Dirty Indigo T-shirts; Spine men’s wear)…Order a bunny chow, the quintessential Indian-South African fast food (Durban is home to one of the world’s largest Indian communities)…”
- Bolivia – “Claus Meyer’s two-year-old fine-dining restaurant, Gustu,and the Melting Pot Foundation are helping set a new culinary tone around the country by starting Suma Phayata, an official street food tour in La Paz, and renewing interest in high-altitude wine routes in the Tarija region. Adventure excursions also abound, from luxe tent camp trips led by the Chilean operator Explora across the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flats, to community tourism projects on coffee farms in the Yungas region…”
- Faroe Islands, Denmark (but wayyyy north) – “emerged in the last five years as possibly the most secluded destination for avant-garde food…Aarstova’s new fish house, Barbara, will serve the only yearly harvest of the incomparable Faroe Bank cod…the islands are drawing food enthusiasts for their local cheeses and raest, a fermented mutton dish that is a local delicacy…short flight from Copenhagen and Reykjavik.”
- Macedonia – “…Places like the Shar Mountains abound in Alp-like hiking while Macedonia’s wine industry — once responsible for the bulk of Yugoslavia’s supply — is enjoying a rebound with local producers…Macedonia is one of the few places without a McDonald’s — they all closed in 2013.”
The full list can be found here and it’s surprisingly vigorous. There’s a limited amount of the high-drawer bougie-ness that’s so often present in my favorite liberal rag (#NYTOnIt, anyone), there’s a sizeable emphasis on environmental awareness and Europe is only mentioned twelve times. Of course, the NYT screwed the order up – how can Cuba not not NOT be number one?!! Finally, with the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, ordinary Cubans will understand what it’s like to hear “Timber” and “Give Me Everything” on the radio, incessantly. Armando, vaya con Dios, tigre. Give them life. For this rest of this post, I’m only highlighting my top and bottom 5 because 52(innernetz)=TL:DR.
- Medellin, Colombia – I don’t manspread. I don’t mansplain. So, forgive me this one video, becuase, sheeeeesh, the mujeres in this video make <INSERT FAVORITE RAP VIDEO> seem like Sunday school. Medellin, beautifully situated in the Andes with new, innovative gondolas that stitched the poor and rich parts of the city together for the first time, also has a dish called bandeja paisa, which has (get ready): red beans cooked with pork, white rice, carne molida, chicharrón, fried egg, plantain, chorizo, arepa, hogao sauce, black pudding, avocado and lemon #YUMSQUAD #BULKSEASON #TEAMEAT. Plus, you know, Pablo Escobar got murked here at his safe house by a Colombian but really secretly but not so secretly US hit squad if you like that kind of morbid stuff. (I would totally go visit the house.)
- Zimbabwe – My friend at What Is It Like To brought me back a billion-dollar bill from Zimbabwe, a side trip of his when he was studying abroad in South Africa. Ben is a generous friend, but a billion dollars is still a billion dollars, right? Wrong! The inflation rate for November 2008 ALONE was over 79 billion percent. So Ben, thank you for that dollar! Zimbabwe still doesn’t have a national currency(?!), so I figure there are deals to be had, someway, although I would prefer to go if Robert Mugabe, a truly heartless man, gave up his lightweight dictatorship and stepped down.
- Republic of Georgia – There’s an excellent Georgian restaurant on Avenue B in the East Village called Oda House where the the ex-president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, often eats, as he is now co-habitating with his brother in Williamsburg after losing the election in 2013. A Russian-American friend of mine also swears by Georgian food and the wine culture is apparently epic. (From The Times: “…a marked wine trail in Kakheti and wineries (Pheasant’s Tears, Iago’s Winery, Winery Khareba) serving traditional and modern Georgian cuisine. Those varietals will be feted this year at four major events: the New Wine Festival, Wine City Tbilisi at Tbilisifest, Telavino and the Tbilisi Cheese Festival.TasteGeorgia, a new local venture, can arrange food and wine tours, private meals with winemakers and tastings in Kakheti and beyond.”) I also once had a memorably loony cabbie spit poetry about the Georgian landscape, so I’m in.
- Chengdu, China – Do you want to Panda? This is the place. Seriously, the URL is “www.panda.org.cn.” Chengdu is also the capital of Sichuan province (grub=legit) and another one of those Chinese cities of 8 million plus people that you probably have never heard of. (Someday, I’ll take a tour of all those cities, including this one, Chonqqing, Tianjin, and Hangzhou.)
- Kas, Turkey – Turkish food – where to begin? A beach on the Mediterranean Sea – where to begin? Ah, here!
- Orlando – No, just no. Beard Award nominees do not a food scene make. Plus, you give away the beach and, in return, get all the humidity.
- San Antonio – Big shoutout to all my Texan friends who have, to a man and woman, told me the exact same thing about the nation’s seventh-largest city: “San Antonio sucks.” Don’t take my word for it, take theirs – you know it’s bad when people from Houston say a city is ugly.
- Rabat – Out of the 25 or so countries I’ve visited, Morocco was my least favorite, a desperate and downtrodden place. I’ve never been sicker overseas and the Berbers, 70% of the populace, are under the despicable boot of the king.
- Manchester, England – #YNWA and Gerrard is god, forever.
- Tulsa – Think of all the places you have been in the world. Think of all the places you want to go. Is Tulsa on either list?
But, let’s be 💯 about this – if someone’s offering a 🆓/cheap ✈ ticket to any of these places, I’d go anytime and the 🔜er, the better – after all, the goal of this site is “The world. For less!” I mean, I still have never been to Disneyworld 🎢 🎡 🇺🇸 …