Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 27.03.2012

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In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel

New York City’s hotel boom absorbs office buildings

USA Today

Two years ago in Manhattan, Hyatt opened its Andaz Wall Street boutique hotel in a former J.P. Morgan office tower, taking advantage of the building’s 21-foot-high ceilings to create its visually striking lobby.

That hotel was on the forefront of a trend that continues today, the Wall Street Journal reports this morning.

New York hotel developers today continue to convert outmoded office buildings into interesting hotels, the story says.

Office buildings have made good targets for hoteliers because they already have commercial zoning and decent locations, the story says. Also, existing hotels haven’t been trading at the pace – or the price – that hotel developers would have liked to make a new project financially feasible.

The Journal says that at least six office conversion projects are underway, mostly in Midtown South and the Financial District.

One of the most anticipated: The chic NoMad Hotel, which is due to open next week at 1170 Broadway, a former office building at 28th Street in Madison Square Park. It used to be filled with small office spaces, but a $100 million revamp changed that.

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48 hours in the 2012 World Design Capital

Toronto Sun

Finland’s capital comes alive as soon as the snow begins to melt and residents start venturing outdoors again, cafes spill onto sidewalks and the city’s modernist architecture sparkles.

While cross-country ski trails and saunas offer entertainment for visitors during the colder months, the city is best explored after it emerges from its long, dark winter.

The next several months will be a particularly exciting time to visit as Helsinki, the 2012 World Design Capital, holds special events related to design and fashion.

The Design Capital events include the opening of a new public sauna in Merihaka. A wooden pavilion made of renewable and recycled materials will be built near the Design Museum to showcase the country’s new generation of artists.

Helsinki’s long and warm summer days also provide a perfect backdrop to events like the two-week Helsinki Festival of theatre, music, circus, and dance, starting August 17. The Flow Festival, also in August, features world-class artists such as Bjork, Bon Iver, The Black Keys, and Feist.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of 48 hours in the city.

FRIDAY

6 p.m. – Start with drinks at Ateljee Bar at the top floor at the historic Hotel Torni, with a 360-degree view over Helsinki. Be sure to check the scenic, if slightly unsettling, toilets.

8 p.m. – Restaurant Sea Horse in Ullalinna offers a perfect introduction to Finnish cuisine, with traditional favorites such as fried herring and Vorschmack served in a dining room that looks little changed from the 1930s.

10 p.m. – Have after-dinner drinks at the tiny Kafe Moskva on Eerikinkatu, owned by film-making brothers Aki and Mika Kaurismaki and known for its Soviet-era interiors and service. The entrance is an unmarked door next to Corona, another Kaurismaki operation with beer and billiard tables.

The Iso Roobertinkatu area is a centre of local night life, packed with bars and night clubs. Newly opened Adams offers a glimpse of the city’s more contemporary scene, and its eclectic sounds and experimental kitchen draw Helsinki’s fashionable set.

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Berlin face-lift

Deutsche Welle

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Enjoy the special pleasure of post-revolution Libya

The National

Trabulus. Ar Roz al Bahr. Bride of the Sea. Roman Oea. The White City. The Havana of North Africa. Whatever its name, Tripoli has been delighting travellers for centuries. Libya is a land of peerless hospitality and greetings that last for minutes; its capital’s architecture encompasses imperial Roman, traditional Islamic, shabby-chic Ottoman, Italian grandeur and oil-boom dictator kitsch.

Set against Libya’s unfathomable history, the four decades from 1969 to 2011, when Libyans had the great misfortune to be ruled by Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, seem the merest blip in the long life of this resilient nation. Yet with Qaddafi gone, the delight of Libyans on the streets of Tripoli is palpable and affecting. There is a special joy in travelling to this bewitching country after its liberation. “Libya hurra! Free Libya!” is a refrain you’ll hear on the streets, where entrepreneurial enthusiasts peddle bracelets, brooches and badges, T-shirts, mugs and tracksuits emblazoned with the old-new national tricolour of red, black and green.

In spite of a declaration of autonomy by eastern tribal leaders earlier this month and reports of sporadic violence, tourists are making a tentative return sooner than expected. Airlines, crucially, have been voting with their wings. Tripoli was Etihad Airways’ first new destination in 2012. Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, Lufthansa, Air France and Alitalia are five of a number of international airlines that are now flying to Libya, with British Airways soon to join them. I have travelled to Libya four times in the last 12 months, twice during the revolution and twice in its aftermath, and already I’m suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

While western governments including the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office are advising against all but essential travel to the capital, some tour operators are more sanguine. “We’ve had absolutely zero problems in terms of security,” says Nicholas Wood, director of Political Tours, which has just led a debut trip to Libya. “I do think things have significantly improved since we were last here in October. None of our group felt threatened at any moment. It’s definitely not the war zone people make it out to be, but you have to be self reliant and plan carefully.”

The last time I was in Tripoli, back in the autumn, was a few days after the Qaddafi regime had fallen.

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