2016 wasn’t exactly the happiest year on record – celebrities dropping like flies, not to mention Brexit and President Trump adding to our woes – but there were a lot of travel industry stories and trends making headlines as well. Here are some of the biggest developments from the last 12 months.
Europe was on high alert
Paris continued to mourn the victims of its terror attack, which happened at the close of 2015. Just days into 2016, the city marked a year since the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
Nice, Berlin and Istanbul sadly became newsworthy for all the wrong reasons in 2016 – Islamic State extremists struck again. These horrific acts have, of course, made people nervous about travelling, but they’ve also highlighted the scarily simple tactics terrorists employ.
It doesn’t feel like 15 years have passed since the 9/11 attacks, nor two years since the 9/11 Memorial Museum opened at Ground Zero. Yet, somehow, they have, and the memorial site at Ground Zero is so familiar and so firmly embedded on the tourist route that a group of lads on a stag party (or bachelor party, to American readers) will nonchalantly pose in front of the two sobering memorial pools, a blow-up doll alongside them.
The stag photos rightly caused controversy this week, but the outrage didn’t extend to the preening and pouting fellow tourists around them. One couple took a kissing selfie, perhaps blissfully unaware of their surroundings or just too self-absorbed to care. The thing is, it’s a privilege to stand at the memorial. It should be a place where you stop to reflect, whether you choose to go to the adjoining museum or not. If you are brave enough to face the Memorial Museum, this is what you can expect.
There’s more to the Big Apple’s retail scene than Macy’s, Bloomingdales and the designer haunts loved by Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. In fact, New York shopping should be on your agenda even if you’re not a fashion fan, because there are some excellent specialist shops to discover on your travels. I’ve picked two of my new favourite niche stores not to be missed.
The Fountain Pen Hospital
With sixty years of pen repairs under its belt, this is a thriving business and a fascinating place to explore. It has survived relocation and the ups and downs of the economy, and is now run by the third generation of the Wiederlight family, brothers Terry and Steve. Inside its doors you can pick up a posh rollerball, browse the latest pen catalogue and check out limited edition fountain pens at well over the $1000 mark. As the ‘hospital’ name indicates, your pens can be repaired in store, and the staff really do know their stuff.
‘The hand and the machine’ is the vague-sounding inspiration for Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, at the Metropolitan Museum. It’s about the high levels of craftsmanship involved in making fashion since 1900, either by hand-sewing and embellishing or using sewing machines and 3D printers in the process. Kind of dry until you realise how important the fashion industry is around the world, how it reflects society, and how many economies it supports. It seems we could all learn from this show.
A chapel in Naples, a Japanese boutique and an American road trip – just some of the catalysts for the clothing seen on the catwalk for Spring/Summer 2016 in New York, London, Milan and Paris, and currently filtering into the shops (as the industry works a season ahead, the current New York Fashion Week is showing Autumn/Winter 2016-2017, in case you’re wondering).
I’ve combed through the Ready To Wear collections and teased out the main places designers are championing this season. They’ll inform what we all wear – whether you buy your clothes from high-end boutiques or the high street – and where we travel.
Even if you’re not that interested in make-up in everyday life, travelling can change that. For one thing, any combination of jet lag, rough ferry crossings, late night road trips and weird eating patterns can play havoc with your skin, and that’s before sizzling heat or bitterly cold winds come into the equation too. Suddenly a slick of colour or a soothing skin cream seems like a very good idea, and it’s the perfect time to invest in travel beauty products.
With a slew of special offers running in high street stores all year round, World Duty Free isn’t always the cheapest place to shop. Rather than pinning your hopes on airport bargains, I suggest you stock up on basics before you travel, and save some room in your suitcase to bring home new and distinctive beauty products – either for yourself or to use as souvenirs. And if you go to South Korea, expect beauty-savvy friends to be insanely jealous, as it’s a mecca for cosmetics.
The Royal Academy’s latest exhibition, Wanderlust, is like being given an intravenous drip feed of retro travel photos, postcards and scrapbook materials. It’s like swallowing hundreds of ‘vacation’ Pinterest boards in one go. For anyone with an incurable sense of escapism, this is a drug, and it’s delivered by a little-known bachelor from Queens, New York, who never went abroad.
A self-taught American artist, Joseph Cornell created mixed media collages using anything from Baedeker’s travel guides to old maps, tickets, compasses, adverts and newspaper clippings, calling his collections ‘explorations’.
A trip to New York shouldn’t be taken lightly, but it’s easy to get bogged down by the sheer amount of recommendations for this city. To make life easier, I’ve picked apart some of the key questions you might have about planning and taking your city break.
Q: I only have one day in New York. What shouldn’t I miss?
Start with an early morning bus tour, which will help you get your bearings. Your best bet would be a hop-on-hop-off tour, starting at 8am, with a 24 hour ticket. I’d recommend seeing One World Trade Centre away from the bus, as it’s best experienced in person. When I last visited the museum and monument weren’t established, but even then it was a sobering place to be.
You want the truth? Not everyone goes on holiday to relax (though mainstream travel adverts might try to persuade you otherwise). Sure, it’s nice enough to do nothing for a few days, but soon the novelty wears off.
Instead of waiting for boredom to set in, take things up a gear and do more of what you love, surrounded by people with the same mad passion for music, media or history as you. I’ve lined up a shortlist of specialist holidays to keep you on your toes.
Capture New Orleans with National Geographic Expeditions
This photo workshop puts you in the midst of effortlessly cool New Orleans, led by Tyrone Turner, a National Geographic photographer. From your base in the French Quarter you’ll visit Jackson Square, Café du Monde, and one of the city’s famous cemeteries, in between attending workshops and getting to know the nightlife scene. In 2015 there are four different departure dates for the trip, and prices start at $1,595pp ( £1059pp at the current exchange rate) without a hotel, or $2,175 (£1444pp) with a hotel, based on two people sharing.
A recent article in the British travel press saw a freelance writer taking her baby daughter along with her around the world. It’s an admirable move and incidentally gives the girl some amazing bragging rights when she grows up, but it made me wonder: could that baby, when an adult, really say she has experienced these countries if she only has photos, and no memories, to rely on?
Whilst the article was about the logistics of working parent duties rather than said bragging rights, it spurred me into thinking about the many different ways we measure ‘doing’ a country or a destination. Just Google ‘travel blog + country counting’ and you’ll see there are plenty of people out there with a tally to monitor. There’s even a prestigious Travelers’ Century Club (American spelling) for those who’ve reached the precious 100 milestone. So, for everyday adventurers not indicted into any club, what could potentially be considered as a valid tick from the list?