The night clerk at my hotel in Lisbon’s port district was complaining. Too many immigrants, he groused. Brazilians, Cape Verdeans, Angolans — the breadth of Portugal’s erstwhile empire is visible on every street in downtown Lisbon. The clerk darkly suggested a link to increased prostitution.
There are a few reasons why a New Yorker will feel at home in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the second-largest city in South America: he has to negotiate busy streets and assertive natives, and take the “subte” (the subway) to get around. He can always find pizza and he gets to choose from an abundant roster of cultural events. But with its decaying colonial architecture and unique blend of gentility and bellicosity, Buenos Aires is also a true mix of Europe and South America.
It may be the heart of the beleaguered Rust Belt, but don’t underestimate Cleveland. A recent visit to Ohio’s Jewish and cultural capital revealed a downtown in its second renaissance of recent decades, with enough urban energy to warrant exploration even during these freezing months.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, many a sparkly bauble will be proffered — and many a wedding planned as a result. After the gown is chosen and the venue booked, thoughts turn to my favorite part of any wedding conversation: the honeymoon.
Each year, the European Union designates two of its cities as Capitals of Culture. Lesser-explored or smaller burgs get a turn in the spotlight; more venerable destinations have the opportunity to show off what’s new. And with so much media focus on the problems of Southern Europe, it’s perhaps fitting that the EU Commission decided this year to highlight two relatively tourist-free cities from the continent’s northern tier: Umea, Sweden, and Riga, Latvia.
Some years, given a world full of tempting travel choices, I have a tough time honing in on the top five or so destinations. Not this year. 2014 looks to be an exciting year of Jewish rebirth and rediscovery for places as far afield as Latvia, Jamaica and Poland. Meanwhile, as Jewish life continues to coalesce and flourish in the big New World cities, L.A. and Sao Paulo offer some clear advantages this year. These are the places I’m most excited to explore in 2014 – and here’s why:
It’s Christmas Day as I write this column from a hotel room in Los Angeles. Outside, the weather outside is 85 degrees, and crowds are mobbing every public space that is open on the holiday: Rollerbladers whiz down the beach boardwalk, the Persian cafés are full of Muslim and Jewish families enjoying a free afternoon for tea and pastry, and nearly a month after Thanksgivukah, little blue-and-white Stars of David still dangle in the neighborhood fro-yo store. Just the right atmosphere to contemplate the best and worst travel experiences of 2013 (stay tuned next week for suggestions about the hottest Jewish destinations of 2014.)