Archive for the ‘Tourism’ Category

Service of I Never Thought It Would Happen Here: Warnings about Travel to the U.S.

Thursday, August 15th, 2019


Most American tourists who plan to visit countries that are in the news due to unrest read the State Department’s website to evaluate the danger before booking the trip. International travelers no doubt check in with the keeper of their country’s travel warnings as well.

It breaks my heart that we’re now the subject of warnings by other countries. The potential impact goes well beyond the slap at my national pride and obvious financial repercussions.

Our state department assigns each country with one of four numbers to reflect the safety of travel: 1=exercise normal precautions; 2= increased caution 3= reconsider travel and 4= do not travel. recently focused on South American countries reporting1’s such as French Guiana, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Suriname and 2’s Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Guyana and Columbia to 4: Venezuela.


The reasons for Venezuela’s last level: “The State Department warns of crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, kidnapping, and the arbitrary arrest and detention of US citizens. The agency ordered government employees and their families to leave the country in January 2019. There are also shortages of food, electricity, water, and medicine. The agency warns against travelling between Simón Bolívar International Airport and Caracas at night and not to take unregulated taxis from Simón Bolívar International Airport.”

Claire Parker’s Washington Post article “Gun violence in America prompts Amnesty International and a growing list of countries to issue travel warnings” raised my eyebrows and made me sad: How can this be happening in MY country?

Parker wrote: “A travel advisory the organization issued Wednesday ‘calls on people worldwide to exercise caution and have an emergency contingency plan when traveling throughout the USA. This Travel Advisory is being issued in light of ongoing high levels of gun violence in the country.’ ”

Parker added that Uruguay and Venezuela “have also discouraged their citizens from traveling to the United States, citing this weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, as indicators of danger and a rise in hate crimes. The Japanese Consulate in Detroit, meanwhile, released a statement Sunday calling the United States a ‘gun society’ and urging Japanese nationals to stay alert after the Dayton shooting.”


She continued: “These are just the latest countries and international groups to label gun violence in America a safety concern. In recent years, Germany, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand have issued similar warnings about travel to the United States.”

Shouldn’t Washington pay attention to this dramatic shift in image that points to the United States as an unsafe place to visit–and by extension, doubts about the security of this country as a safe place in which to park money? You’d think that this would be a wakeup call to immediately revise gun sale regulations and enact measures to ensure reasonable private gun ownership for an administration that honors the almighty dollar above all else.

In addition to lives, which seem to be last in a line of priorities for Congress, and the shame of the well-deserved reprimand by the international community, much more is at stake than hotel, restaurant, and airline bottom lines. Real estate and American-owned businesses should be prepared to suffer losses as international investors seek safer havens for their treasure.

And it’s not just violence-by-guns turning tourists away. A Crains New York news alert on Wednesday August 14, 2019 warned: “Chinese tourists sidestep NYC as trade war rolls on.” To end on a fittingly mercenary note, who, in DC, is watching the store?


Service of Visiting NYC in Summer

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

NYC in summer

There are great things to do that don’t cost a fortune when you visit New York City at this time of year. Here are a few and some tips of what to watch out for.

UniqloCheck out free days/evenings at major museums like MoMA which has Uniqlo Friday nights or Brooklyn Museum’s Target free Saturdays once a month. [And visit Uniqlo on 5th Avenue and 53rd Street for fun clothes for women, men and children in a range of styles at moderate prices—downright inexpensive style if you catch a sale.]

Stroll Grand Central Station to see the remarkable architecture and on the ground floor a tourist information window with maps and useful free guides. There are plenty of shops—visit Cursive for gifts and cards—and kiosks with NYC-made merchandise as well as pricey food stalls upstairs and prepared takeout downstairs with plenty of seats. Mendy’s hotdogs are worth a detour.

Bryant Park ChairsThe price is right for a brownbag lunch in Bryant Park behind the 42nd Street Library. Find a chair and table under a tree, catch a breeze and watch the scene, a game of ping pong or bocce. A short stay is restorative.

Fruit stands all over the city sell cherries, raspberries, grapes, figs and more at amazing prices. If you’re near Union Square, drop in on Trader Joe’s wine shop on east 14th Street and the food store a few doors down for treats, serious food and polite service. If you want to stock up on a few cases of wine note that you can’t park for even a minute in front but ask a staffer to load your purchases on a hand truck. They’ll walk the cases to your vehicle.

As in all my favorite cities, walking is the best way to get around. New Yorkers can be testy when they can’t negotiate a cluster of people stopped in the middle of the sidewalk so best keep walking or go to the side to get your bearings or regroup. Read a map on the sidewalk and I bet someone will stop to guide you.

Staten Island ferry 2A ride on the Staten Island ferry is free; the view of lower Manhattan priceless.

Avoid taking rip off pedicabs. I’ve written about them and several times about the bicycle sharing program. I can’t recommend that tourists rent a bike unless they know the traffic rules and are used to riding in vehicular and foot traffic in a city packed with impatient residents.

NYC taxiTake care that your taxi is charging you the city rate. You’ll know if the meter is set at the higher suburban rate, wrote Rebecca Harshbarger in the New York Post, if you see a flashing “rate code 4” message on the TV screen in front of you. [I don’t recall ever seeing it.] She referenced a scandal four years ago when cabbies were caught stealing $millions by up charging the meter. Last year the Taxi and Limousine Commission [TLC] caught drivers overcharging 659 times vs. 2,000 the year before. “The agency uses a GPS-data algorithm that analyzes trip information to catch rogue drivers, who are then automatically hit with a summons,” wrote Harshbarger—a trend going in the right direction.

What are your must-visit places in NYC or best warnings for visitors and residents?


Service of Tourist Symbols: Eiffel Tower, Tower of London, Lincoln Memorial, Grand Canyon & Statue of Liberty

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

 Statue of Liberty

You know you’re in Paris, London, Washington DC, Colorado or New York when you see the Eiffel Tower, Tower of London, Lincoln Memorial, Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty.

“I’m really here!” I say to myself or to anyone who’ll listen and feel a thrill as I approach such sights. But many landmarks and parks haven’t been open to tourists here. Imagine traveling from 50 to thousands of miles only to learn that you can’t get in.

Grand Canyon National ParkAs of Sunday, the Governors of NY, Colorado and other states have opened their landmarks as much for financial as symbolic reasons. Businesses around the sights are suffering losses. [I heard one newscaster say that the Feds will reimburse the states for costs involved when the Federal purse reopens, but haven’t heard this repeated.] Cost to New York to open the Statue of Liberty: $61,000+ a day.

Visitors to the Washington memorials still aren’t able to visit. The West Point band didn’t play in the Columbus Day Parade this year. Note: The debt crisis didn’t affect the Congressional health club which remains open.

Are our symbols as essential as some of the services we’re missing because elected officials  on both side of the aisle have lost sight of their missions? Clearly not.

Yet I am appalled that so many of our proud symbols have been dismissed, disrespected and ill-treated by our leaders, men and women who seemingly won’t budge from their fierce positions for fear of diluting their own political images.

What do these closures say about this country to foreigners? The outcome of political inaction/gridlock is more than embarrassing and discouraging and symbolic of a system that’s gone off track. Is the damage repairable?

Closed door

Service of New York City

Thursday, July 19th, 2012


I love a lot of places around the world and have an affinity for cities. I was born and grew up in New York yet I don’t think I take it for granted.

I like hearing foreign languages when I walk down the street or enter a concert hall. I love cityscapes from office or residential windows. And for an exercise-lazy person like me, this is the perfect place because I race around and walk miles without noticing it. There’s so much going on to distract me in the street and in shop windows that it’s as easy to exercise as to sip a milkshake.

Here are a few more things about New York that I like especially:

Crazy good ideas such as the setup–photo above–that I happened by  last week, between 5th and 6th Avenues, a block from Rockefeller Center. I don’t know if the man on the stool charges for sips. The sink contraption is connected to a fire hydrant–he’s leaning on it. He thought of filling a bowl with water for dogs as well.

nyny-vuillardsmall3We get museum exhibits that feature favorite artists such as Edouard Vuillard. Advertised in the subway, it’s easy to stay abreast and not miss any.



nyny-breadssmall1I adore bread. As a child, tasty bread in this city was nonexistent. You had to go abroad for toothsome options.  Now we have so many delicious types it’s manna heaven.




nyny-bagels-small1Bagels are a favorite–poppy or plain–toasted with butter, sigh. There’s a bagel for every taste. This is the variety in one store.




nyny-pizzasmall199 cent pizza made by a Sikh [whom you don’t see because he’s behind the exiting customers]. We took out Mexican food for years from a place where the cooks and owners were Chinese.




Most people love the place they are from or where they now live. What do you like best about where you are or were born?


Service of Exercise

Monday, July 2nd, 2012


I am concerned about the mid-July rollout of a bicycle share program in New York City because I predict that there will be gory, even fatal accidents all over the place. If only the bike share program focused on less-traveled areas, but it doesn’t.

In preparation, bicycle lanes have cropped up all over the city. I pass one on my way to work every morning [photo above]. The setup in this spot can be scary enough for cars and it cries out for accidents without adding bicycles to the flow. Not only do some bikes ignore their marked lane, riding in and out of the space designated for cars, cabs can be parked to let off passengers to the left of the bike lane, [left as the traffic goes], and still other vehicles come in from the street to the left where there is only a stop sign. Pedestrians know that not all drivers interpret that sign as they should–do bike riders from out of town know this?

morebikelaneuse3Routinely, taxis, vans and speed demons skid and weave through traffic, accelerating with less than half a block of empty space, even on rain-slick roads, showing concern for neither pedestrians nor other drivers. Why will they suddenly become gentlemen and gentlewomen behind their wheels simply because there are potentially 10,000 rental bikes sharing their streets?

There’s little room for indecision in NYC traffic and my guess is that visitors from bike-riding countries, who might jump at the chance to use them, may not be sure of where they are going. Result: Bang, crash!

pedicabApart from messengers and pedicabs, New York City doesn’t have a bike culture although I have a friend who rides everywhere on his. Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch spoke about the failed bike lanes during his administration. On a radio interview last week he said that after they languished pretty much unused, he gave citizens a month to show him they wanted the lanes and when not enough did, he cancelled the program.

The difference is that now people will be able to rent the bikes where in the day, there wasn’t a convenient citywide rental program with 600 locations. Bikes take up a lot of space in people’s often compact apartments and there are fire laws that don’t permit bikes  to be parked in apartment hallways.

bikerhelmetThere are arguments pro and con regarding the benefits/necessity of bike helmets and the city program won’t require them anyway. Safety aside, who, apart from bike owners, would have a helmet handy? Tourists wouldn’t think of packing theirs. The thought of renting a helmet [with cooties] is not appetizing.

Bike riding is healthy sport–good for the heart–though maybe, given the exhaust in big cities, not so great for the lungs. What do you think of the bicycle share program? Will people figure out how to steal them by using fake ID? Will pedestrians be at risk? Will there be lawsuits when riders fall and claim their bike was broken?


Service of Perspective

Monday, May 14th, 2012


Things are not always as they seem.

In Training

infoboothpennstaI was waiting for a train to arrive at Penn Station in NYC and with nothing else to do, I chatted with the Information man, who had no customers at the time. He shared what he described as two silly questions he’s been asked recently: “Is this Penn Station?” was one and “What time does the 3:22 leave?” the other.

I didn’t think that the questions were necessarily silly. If I was from out of town or from abroad, I might want confirmation of the first–it’s impossible to tell that there’s a railroad station tucked into this building from many vantage points–and if the 3:22 was listed as “Delayed,” the second question would also make perfect sense.

Convenient Stats

Financial advisor Ric Edelman told his radio audience the other week about how a major life insurance company diligently searches social security records to learn if any of its annuity clients have died. Why? To immediately cut off payments.

However, the resource is not used to find out if any of its life insurance customers are dead. There’s no benefit to the company to promptly paying recipients their due.

So how does this strategy differ from a bank that keeps a deposit for a period of time–it’s there yet you can’t access it giving the bank time to play with it? It doesn’t. Stockholders love this approach.

Safe Slime

hamburgerReuters’ P.J. Huffstutter and Robert Burgdorfer wrote “‘Pink Slime’ May Force BPI Corporate Staff Cuts,” noting “In March, a public outcry erupted over the filler for ground beef, which is made from fatty trimmings that are potentially more susceptible to contamination than other cuts of beef. The trimmings are sprayed with ammonia hydroxide to curtail the growth of pathogens such as salmonella and E.coli O157:H7.

“Sales plummeted when consumers became aware of the common practice in the industry, despite U.S. Agriculture Department and industry experts saying the beef was safe to eat.”

Philip M. Boffey wrote, “What if it Weren’t Called Pink Slime?” in an op-ed piece in The New York Times. In a taste test Boffey preferred burgers with the filler because they were “more tender.”

This conversation reminded me of my stint as an Air Force wife living in Turkey for two years, [eons ago], which I wrote about before, but it’s again fitting to mention here. We’d buy our groceries from the base facility and because of the length of time it took for foodstuffs to go through the system, hang out on hot runways and linger in warehouses before they hit the shelves, there were bugs aplenty in our flour, cookies, cereal, chocolate chips and such. We were told that the insects were perfectly safe to eat.

The bugs and ammonia hydroxide on fat to create “lean finely textured beef” might be perfectly safe, but are they appetite-whetting? Would a good PR job to change pink slime’s name to LFTB do the trick, as Boffey suggests is what BPI needs to do? PR can do plenty, but even the best can’t remove ammonia or bugs from food.

Can you share examples of instances of things that may not be as they appear because it depends on your perspective?


Service of Tourism

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Portland Museum of Art

Portland Museum of Art

We traveled to Portland, Maine on business and stayed an extra day to enjoy this charming city. We knew immediately that smart, service-minded people directed principal tourist attractions, like the Portland Museum of Art. The museum is open on Mondays during tourist season-Memorial Day through October: So smart.

The guard welcomed us when we visited on a Tuesday, suggesting we take off our winter coats “so that the outer layer will keep you warm when you go outside again,” he said as he ushered us to the coatroom. I’ve been in museums in small cities around the world and have never been so warmly welcomed.

The cashier at a landmark Maine retailer asked me if I liked tart, citrus-y lemon drops and I said, “Oh, yes!” He recommended that I not buy the attractive tin of candy I’d chosen, warning that they were tasteless. “I thought they were so awful that I returned mine,” he admitted. Now that’s service! [I don’t want to get him in trouble so I’m not identifying the wonderful store.]

Fore Street Restaurant

Fore Street Restaurant

Food in Portland was superlative. With auctioneers Annette and Rob Elowitch, owners of Baridoff Galleries Fine Art Auctions, we enjoyed a memorable dinner at Fore Street Restaurant in the old part of the city. Portland natives, the Elowitch’s, whom we came to see, didn’t know us, and yet they insisted we share a meal in their city. They selected Fore Street Restaurant for its ambiance and cooking. The bread, beet salad, oysters and fish were toothsome. Their enthusiasm for their city made them platinum spokespeople.

dimillosAt DiMillo’s we took advantage of an off-season special-two steamed lobsters, perfectly cooked, for $24. Breakfast at Bintliff’s American Café, which PR colleague David Reich recommended, included a blueberry pancake, lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar, of a consistency-perhaps with a Scandinavian influence–unlike any I’ve ever tasted. I was so full of lobster from the night before, and yet I ate the entire pancake it was that light and delicious.

Portland is well worth a detour and a stay. Please share the names of similar destinations that happily surprised you.


Bintliff's American Cafe

Bintliff's American Cafe

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