You've come a long way, Zipcar.
The recent announcement that the Avis Budget Group is aiming to acquire the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company for nearly $500 million marked the pioneering car-sharing service's evolution from an upstart launched at the turn of the Millennium to a lucrative brand with serious international potential. Though Zipcar members (a.k.a. Zipsters) may squirm at the idea of a traditional (read: staid) car-rental agency holding sway over their quirky, beloved service, the deal could have great advantages for everyone.
A new floating hotel in Liverpool, England, is already churning the waters of controversy even before it opens. The Titanic Liverpool boutique hotel, set to open this week, is designed to resemble the sinking stern section of the fated ship—complete with two mock smokestacks and a paint job that creates the illusion of a heavy slant.
Over 3,000 exhibitors and 1.85 million square feet of eye-popping innovations later, annual gadget industry gala the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has finally wrapped in Las Vegas, leaving frequent travelers surprised in more ways than one.
An evolutionary, not revolutionary, year for technology, key revelations nonetheless spanned the entire spectrum, including the weird (hooray, Internet-enabled forks), wild (see: self-driving cars), and wacky (enter the robotic spider walkers). Happily, a few—i.e. smartphones and tablets with PC-grade power, Android-powered cameras, and remote home security system—may even make sense to the lay viewer. Big trends in 2013: Smart—a.k.a. online-enabled—everything, mass interconnectivity between gizmos, and growing set-top performance from pocket-sized devices, courtesy of performance-obsessed chipmakers like AMD and Qualcomm.
Related: Best Travel Gadgets
Too busy sprinting between connections to enjoy scene-stealers including 110-inch 4K or OLED (read: ultra-crisp, high-def) televisions and table-sized touchscreens, however? No sweat. Try one of these pocket rockets—among the year's top travel gadgets, and each destined to find a welcome home inside any purse or carry-on—instead. So what if they lack the sheer stopping power of living picture windows the size of billboards? All are infinitely easier to cram in an overhead bin, and infinitely more practical in-flight companion.
The jet-setting ski-crowd has been flocking to Gstaad, Switzerland for decades, but it’s been a century since a proper grand hotel entered the scene. (The early 20th century saw the openings of the Grand Hotel Park in 1910, the Grand Hotel Bellevue in 1912, and the Gstaad Palace in 1913.) Enter the brand new luxury resort, Alpina Gstaad, which opened its doors last month.
So—you've resolved to eat healthier in 2013? We salute you. But if you're worried that the only way to stick to your new strict diet is stop traveling—too many temptations out there!— here's some good news: Your diet is safe in Chelsea, Mass.
That's because, as of New Year's Day, the Boston suburb instituted a tough ban on trans fats in restaurants. That means a serious dearth of French fries, gravy, pies, cookies or anything really good to spread on your morning toast. It's reportedly a tougher ban than either Boston or NYC's similar laws, which allow trace amounts of trans fats—and it makes the Big Apple's impending ban on jumbo sodas seem downright restrained.
Watch out, B.A.—Santiago is South America’s new culinary capital. Our tip sheet.
Head to the buzzy Barrio Italia neighborhood for an espresso and Chocolatón (a wickedly rich chocolate cake) at Café Emporio Da Noi (1776 Avda. Italia). For pizzas and generous charcuterie platters, wait it out at the scene-y Ciudadano (400 Seminario; $$), where reservations are a tough score. The local music spot Café Bar Cinco Minutos (451 Avda. Santa Isabel)offers a small but standout menu, including a gloriously oozy steak-and-cheese sandwich—often called the city’s best.
Compared to Shanghai—let along Hong Kong, Singapore, and that summit of culinary summits, Tokyo—Beijing’s fine dining scene still has a long way to go. There’s a lot of mediocrity swimming in a sea of pretense and new money. At the end of the day, Beijingers are a rough-and-ready lot who prefer Sichuan hotpot in a hole-in-the-wall. We recently ate at S.T.A.Y. (pictured), three Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alleno’s outpost at the Shangri-La Beijing. The service was good, the food above average, but the room was utterly dead—we were one of four tables.
But back to the Sichuan hotpot: Beijing has a pretty comprehensive array of restaurants serving regional cuisines. Ten years ago, most Chinese food fanatics would have told you Taipei and Hong Kong were the best places for Chinese food, Beijing being littered with restaurants that served greasy gristle. (Communism plus Cultural Revolution equals abysmal food.) Since we moved here, I’ve had some solid Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Cantonese, Nanjing, Xinjiang, and even Taiwanese meals here—in nice settings, surrounded mostly by Chinese people.
If your lucky number is one billion, then December 2012 has certainly been a good month for you. Just last week, the music video to hit song “Gangnam Style” by Korean pop-sensation PSY became the first video in history to reach one billion views on YouTube. Less well known is the fact that on December 13th the UN World Tourism Organization declared that one billion tourists had traveled internationally in 2012.
Celebrating this new record, the UNWTO welcomed the symbolic one-billionth tourist of the year at a ceremony held in Madrid’s Museo del Prado. “Your actions count,” said the organization’s Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “That is our message to the one billion tourists. Through the right actions and choices, each tourist represents an opportunity for a fairer, more inclusive and more sustainable future.”
Timed for the event, the UNWTO also unveiled their new campaign, One Billion Tourists: One Billion Opportunities. Encouraging travelers to preserve local heritage, buy local products, and respect local cultures, the One Billion Tourists campaign highlights just how much an impact the global tourism industry has on the world.
According to UNWTO data, international tourism accounts for 9% of the world’s GDP, and for 1 in 12 jobs worldwide.
That’s pretty epic.
Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.
The U.S. Embassy in London is moving to Vauxhall—which is interesting, considering the south-of-the-Thames location. Currently, the area is known for its gay bar scene as well as its scattered but strong food offerings, such as the excellent Brunswick House Café.
The Ballymore Group is heading up a surrounding residential/retail development, complete with a 100-room waterside hotel, called Embassy Gardens. It’s part of the mayor’s Nine Elms South Bank regeneration project, aka London’s “Third City” (after the Square Mile to the east and Westminster to the west). Sir Terry Farrell is the architect, and will incorporate elements of New York’s meatpacking district as well as London’s Victorian and Edwardian mansion blocks. This is all pretty far off (dates pending), but in the meantime, this area is on the up.
Christine Ajudua is Travel + Leisure's London correspondent.
In celebration of the world not ending today*, I decided to start a new blog series highlighting the top social media travel news of the week, for anyone that may have missed the headlines. In the news big this week? Privacy policies.