1192 Slices
Medium 9781628870664

10. DEATH VALLEY

Eric Peterson FrommerMedia ePub

10

DEATH VALLEY

by Eric Peterson

Americans looking for gold in California’s mountains in the winter of 1849–50 got lost in the parched desert here while trying to avoid snowstorms in the nearby Sierra Nevada. One person perished along the way, and the land became known as Death Valley.

Little about the valley’s essence has changed since. Its mountains stand naked, unadorned. The bitter waters of saline lakes evaporate into odd, thorn-like crystal formations. Jagged canyons jab deep into the earth. The ovenlike heat, frigid cold, and dry air combine to make this one of the world’s most inhospitable locations. Death Valley is raw, bare earth, the way things must’ve looked before life began. Here, Earth’s forces are exposed with dramatic clarity; just looking out on the landscape, you’ll find it impossible to know what year, or century it is. It is no coincidence that many of Death Valley’s topographical features are associated with hellish images: Funeral Mountains, Furnace Creek, Dante’s View, Coffin Peak, and Devil’s Golf Course. However, the valley can be a place of serenity as well.

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Medium 9781628871586

4 Cancún

Christine Delsol FrommerMedia ePub

4

Cancún

by Christine Delsol

Cancún, which generates about one-third of Mexico’s tourism revenue, might be the least Mexican city in the country. You can spend your entire vacation without speaking a word of Spanish or exchanging a single dollar for pesos. Since the first three hotels opened in 1974 on a deserted spit of land visited only by local fishermen, Cancún’s Hotel Zone has acquired a phalanx of massive resorts and megamalls, sprawling for 23km (14 miles) like the love child of Miami and Las Vegas. Yet no amount of change has tarnished the gift from nature that put it on the map 4 decades ago: an expanse of soft alabaster sand and a Caribbean sea the color of blue Curaçao. The brochures, in this case, don’t lie.

Cancún today offers more than 32,000 rooms and has an estimated population of nearly 800,000. It is not only the Yucatán Peninsula’s most prosperous city but one of the entire Caribbean’s most-visited destinations. And its influence continues to grow. With precious little real estate left in the Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone), the phalanx of luxury resorts marched relentlessly south down the coast, spurring an aftershock of luxury development along the Riviera Maya. A huge, upscale “city within a city” called Puerto Cancún is under development north of the Hotel Zone, with a marina, hotels and gated communities, a golf club, shopping center, and business complexes. Taking shape north of Ciudad Cancún (Cancún City, or “downtown”) on the mainland is Playa Mujeres, a kind of mini–hotel zone with several hotels, a golf course, and more sublime beaches.

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Medium 9781628870626

11. The Best of Lanai

Jeanette Foster FrommerMedia ePub

The smallest of all the Hawaiian Islands, Lanai was once a big pineapple plantation. Today it is home to two exclusive resorts, hundreds of years of history, one small town, and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. It’s possible to get an overview of this island in a single day: If you catch the first ferry, departing at 6:45am, you can see all my favorite spots (the island’s unusual “supernatural” site, a windswept beach that’s perfect for beachcombing, and quaint Lanai City), plus get in some beach time and still make it back to Lahaina in time for dinner. START: Manele Bay Harbor. Trip length: 68 miles (109km).

 

Manele Bay Harbor. To make the most of your day on Lanai, take the first ferry from Lahaina Harbor, which leaves at 6:45am. Seeing the morning sunlight glinting off the ocean is one of my favorite ways to start the day. Small, picturesque Manele Bay Harbor has a handful of boats ranging from old fishing vessels to luxury high-tech yachts. If you’ve already arranged a 4-wheel-drive rental through the ferry company (Go to page), they’ll pick you up at the harbor and take you to the car-rental company in Lanai City, a 30- to 40-minute trip.

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Medium 9781628872842

2 COLOMBIA IN CONTEXT

Nicholas Gill FrommerMedia ePub

2

COLOmbia in Context

by Nicholas Gill

Once considered the most dangerous country in the world, Colombia, having implemented security improvements over the last decade, is slowly emerging from the internecine bloodshed of the 1980s and 1990s. Homicide rates in many Colombian cities, once among the highest in the world, have fallen below levels of many U.S. cities. Political kidnappings are a thing of the past. Since the early 2000s, a strong military and police presence have made land transportation reasonably safe again. With the conflict with the FARC coming to a close, expect things to get even better.

Thanks to this improved security situation, Colombia is a country ripe for discovery by foreign tourists. Though politically one nation, it is made up of three distinct regions, each with its own customs and traditions. The Atlantic and Pacific coasts, inhabited mostly by descendants of African slaves, are culturally linked to the Caribbean, rich in musical tradition and spectacular tropical scenery. The central and most densely populated portion of the country, crowned by the Andes Mountains, has managed to grow and prosper despite its unforgiving terrain. Dotted by most of Colombia’s largest cities, it is the economic engine of the country. The sparsely populated eastern portion of the country is inhabited by tough, hard-working farmers and traditional indigenous tribes; it’s a land of vast planes, thick jungle, unmatched natural beauty, and, unfortunately, high levels of guerilla activity and cocaine production.

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Medium 9781628871227

2 CHICAGO IN CONTEXT

Kate Silver FrommerMedia ePub

2

Chicago in Context

Chicago has spent the last few years in the national media spotlight, for reasons both inspiring and embarrassing. On the one hand, it’s the adopted hometown of President Barack Obama, the place he got his start in politics and where he still maintains his Hyde Park home. His victory rally in downtown’s Grant Park signaled Chicago’s vitality and influence to the whole world (many of his top presidential advisors were local business and philanthropic leaders before they moved to Washington).

Unfortunately, Chicago must also lay claim to politicians such as former Illinois state governor Rod Blagojevich. “Blago,” a product of the city’s shady Democratic political machine, stunned even cynical Chicagoans with his blatant moneygrubbing and attempts to sell Obama’s former Senate seat to the highest bidder. Obama’s talk about a new era of hope in politics turned out to be short-lived, with his ties to Chicago wheeler-dealers a liability. Blagojevich proved that the old ways of doing business aren’t so easily erased.

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