Friday, 6 January 2017

What's Hot in Travel in 2017 (Entirely According to Me)

Well, it worked all right last year. So So here's my Hot List for Travel in 2017, randomly based on my recent travel experiences. All items tenuously included because, well, I like them.

1. Lviv is the new Kraków. Seriously people, why aren't you in this Ukrainian city right now? If I didn't have other commitments after my May visit, I'd still be there.

As I said in this blog in June 2016, I love Lviv. It's a beautiful city of faded but glamorous baroque architecture, it has a thriving coffee scene, and it's incredibly cheap right now - as in "tram tickets cost ten cents" cheap.

It's also just over the Polish border and a long way from the Russian-backed insurgency in the east; about 1200km from troubled Donetsk, for example.

Lviv feels exactly like what it is - a piece of Central Europe that's come adrift and ended up in Eastern Europe (it was previously part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, then Poland). Go there. You'll thank me.

2. Los Angeles is more than Hollywood and Disneyland. In 2016 I visited LA for the fourth year in a row, and as usual I discovered a plethora of interesting attractions beyond the city's stereotypical drawcards.

I visited a bunch of great science museums; visited late-night comedy clubs; ate tasty cheap food in the Downtown; and saw a musical in a beautiful old 1920s theatre.

I also hung around cool neighbourhoods such as Silver Lake and Echo Park, and joined an intriguing true crime tour about an infamous unsolved murder.

And that was just 2016! If you scroll down through my North America travel stories here, you'll find loads more quirky LA attractions I've visited over the past few years. Yes it can be difficult to get around, but Uber and the city's expanding Metro rail network can help with that.

3. Polish food and drink. It's come a long way from cabbage and dumplings (though those pierogi are still great). As I wrote here last May, there's an affordable and tasty range of food experiences to be enjoyed across Poland.

These range of the retro delights of communist-era milk bars, enjoying a hipster resurgence in popularity; to interesting fusions of traditional Polish cooking with international ingredients and flavours such as I enjoyed at the Gothic Restaurant within Malbork Castle.

Polish beer and vodka have always been good, but the classics have been joined by an explosion of craft beers. I even enjoyed great Polish cider while in Warsaw. As a local explained to me, when the Russians banned Polish food imports, Poles had to find something to do with the excess fruit. Russia's loss is our refreshing gain.

4. All-inclusive luxury rail journeys. I wrote about rail "cruises" in my 2016 list, but I've recently travelled aboard the Indian Pacific and that's reinforced the appeal of long-distance rail travel.

I hadn't taken this epic 4400km train journey from Sydney to Perth for five years, and in the meantime it's evolved into a truly impressive travel experience.

The food has has become very good indeed, often including ingredients from the region through which the train is travelling; alcoholic drinks are now included with the fare; and the off-train excursions have greatly improved.

Rather than a so-so bus tour or two, the excursions now include, for example, a wine tasting tour and dinner in the Barossa Valley outside Adelaide; and dinner at sunset at a remote Outback siding in Western Australia.

I wrote more about the Indian Pacific journey when I returned east from Perth to Adelaide.

5. Venturing beyond obvious cities and sights. As adventurous as Australian travellers are, I still meet a lot of people whose trips to Europe involve the obvious big-ticket sights and never venture east. Sure it's nice to glimpse the Mona Lisa, but if we spread around to include less-visited places we'd all feel less crowded and more stimulated.

I wrote about this for Fairfax's Traveller site in December, suggesting alternatives to the most popular (and most crowded) European hotspots. Hey, if I can spend a night in Chernobyl, you can dare to visit Budapest.

6. Hotels with windows that open. I can't stand sealed windows in hotel rooms, as sleeping under enforced air-conditioning gives me a headache. I resolve to spend 2017 requesting rooms with opening windows, and I hope you'll join me in that.

7. Airlines upsizing their Economy seating for a proportionate fee. Say, 20% more space for a 20% higher fare. OK, this is more of a wish list item than reality. But we can dream, can't we?