The before/after photographs are harrowing: in the first, a
postcard-perfect Italian village, with pine-green shutters and lemon and rose
façades, lapped by the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. In the next, the
same village buried in a horrifying avalanche of mud, its harbor now the color
and consistency of cement.
On October 25, flooding from a freak rainstorm devastated
the town of Vernazza, one of the five villages that make up the celebrated
Cinque Terre in Liguria . Rivers of water and mud cascaded down the steep and
narrow streets, burying the town’s lowest levels in as much as 13 feet of
debris, while also overwhelming the railroad tracks that provided the primary
way in or out of Vernazza. (Part of the Cinque Terre’s allure is that four of
its cliff-hugging villages are accessible only by train, boat, or hiking
Cheesy travel slogans are a dime a dozen. There's something decidedly square in the art of selling destinations, and rightly so. Not only must you lure new travelers, you also have to represent the locals who live in these places—and you probably shouldn't tick them off.
So, it's all the more interesting to notice some chance-taking of late. A few brave tourist boards—hoping to zap awake a sleepy economy, defibrillator-style—have unveiled a slew of over-the-top, playfully arm-twisting slogans.
Sometimes an airline does things right. Not often, true, but every once in a great while. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I rarely have anything good to say about the airline industry. New regulations announced this month by the Department of Transportation are just the latest evidence that the airlines aren't able to offer good customer service on their own, and have to rely on the government to step in and force them to be good corporate citizens. But here's a quick little story that shows maybe, just maybe, things are improving and that at least one airline is doing things better.
David vs. Goliath.
Cain vs. Abel.
Tyson vs. Holyfield.
Sure, those fights were pretty epic, but they pale in comparison to one battle that has been going on since the dawn of time…or, y’know, for a few decades. Or something. I’m talking about the duel between NYC and Los Angeles.
Residents from the bicoastal cities historically have been actively engaged in an extreme competition to be the best of the best. But a new blog, based in of one of those cities (New York), is beginning a campaign to win a different, seemingly unexpected title: rudest.
Eighteen passengers on a Vietnam Airline flight from Hanoi to Paris were injured this morning when their plane encountered severe air turbulence, according to Agence France-Presse. The plane later landed safely at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, and none of the injuries were thought to be serious.
But here's the interesting part: according to the story, these passengers—excuse me while I crank up the old caps lock and put the italics in gear—WEREN'T WEARING SEAT BELTS.
Just in time to ruin your day comes a report that airlines stand to earn $22.6 billion in surcharges in 2011. That's up from $10 billion just two years ago.
The prediction comes from Ideaworks, an airline consultancy, and Amadeus, a tech firm that processes travel transactions. Both companies have a vested interest in airlines making more money through surcharges, so let's hope they're just being optimistic. (Or, I guess, pessimistic, depending on your point of view.)
When I left my native California for New York, people would say (and still do), "You were probably a tanned surfer dude hanging out in hot tubs in Malibu and meditating on hilltops when you weren't partying with rock stars on the Sunset Strip." Which in my case happens to be true. But I still need to remind my East Coast friends that not everyone in the Golden State is like me.
Now, however, I don't have to do any more explaining. A new advertising campaign from the state's tourism department, launching nationwide on Monday, dispels the myths of living in California. Sort of.
Look who's at it again. In its latest marketing ploy to get (negative) attention, Spirit Airlines revealed—and then quickly pulled—its latest well-thought-out (that's sarcasm, folks) campaign: Check Out the Oil on Our Beaches.
The ad was decked out with women in bikinis slathered in tanning oil, along with green and yellow "Best Protection" suntan lotion bottles—the B and P were slightly larger and bolder than the rest of the text...get it??
I have a bee in my bonnet lately about something: When did everyone lose their manners? In the span of ten years, everyone—from the undergrad to the blue-haired grandma—has a wireless device. And everyone seems to be blabbing on it with no regard for their fellow human beings. Cell phone etiquette is at an all time low, if you ask me. And nothing puts my nerves to the test more than having to endure some type A conducting a full-scale business meeting at high volume three feet away from me on the train, in the airport, or on an airplane before it takes off. What will happen when cell phones are fully operable on planes in flight?
Which brings me to the point of my rant: Thank God for Amtrak’s Quiet Car. It’s the one place left on earth where it’s fully permissible to shush your neighbor when he or she answers that cell phone (usually following some really annoying, personalized ring).
In T+L’s November issue I railed against the creep of background music into every corner of the traveler’s world, from airplane cabins to hotel lobbies to spa waiting rooms. I may have been, I now realize, a little harsh. True, most piped-in music functions like sonic novocaine: a fitting sound track for getting your teeth bleached. But there are bright spots. More businesses are realizing that background music need not be anodyne or obvious; that, in fact, a compelling sound track can elevate (pardon the pun) one’s experience of a place as effectively as smooth service or flattering lighting.
So maybe background music is improving. We’d better hope so. Given the sorry state of radio and the recording industry, hotel lobbies and day spas and the like are often the only places people hear new music nowadays. Bebel Gilberto sold a million-odd copies of Tanto Tempo, but how often was she played on commercial radio or MTV? Ditto Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Madeleine Peyroux, and Nouvelle Vague: many if not most listeners were introduced to these artists, consciously or unconsciously, at their favorite sushi bar or Sephora store. (Or, in the case of Feist, via an iPod ad.)