Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The world's friendliest cities

A Condé Nast poll has uncovered what it claims to be the world's most friendly cities. And, no, London is not in the top 10. 

The world's friendliest cities
10. Ubud, Bali
Coming in at number 10 is Ubud in Bali, a cultural and tourism centre and home to a number of spa hotels.

The world's friendliest cities
9. Kilkenny, Ireland
No British city made the top 10 (Edinburgh came 18th), but across the Irish sea lies Kilkenny. The warm welcome might be explained by the number of pubs... when Minty Clinch visited in 2003, she found 88 - one for every 250 inhabitants. There's also an annual comedy festival.
The world's friendliest cities
8. Mandalay, Burma
The last royal capital of Burma, Mandalay is - according to Tim Jepson, who visited for Telegraph Travel in 2011 - "a pleasing place, especially on the river, where men fish from the front of small boats as their wives paddle gently at the stern; where the lakes are full of the scented pale mauve of water hyacinth; and where the Mandalay Palace and ancient Mahamuni Buddha, covered by the faithful over the centuries in layers of gold leaf now six inches thick, still hark back to the old Burma."
The world's friendliest cities
7. Margaret River, Australia
The first of two Australian entries, Margaret River - a town, rather than a city - is ideal for wine-lovers. There are also pristine beaches and a number of national parks nearby.
The world's friendliest cities
6. Paro, Bhutan
Paro was deemed to be the sixth most welcoming city. Rosie Thomas, who wrote about Bhutan for Telegraph Travel last month, said: "Paro itself is a quiet little place set among rice paddies, with a decent museum and a spectacular fortress." The only thing likely to wipe the smile off your face is the landing at Paro Airport. Surrounded by towering peaks, it is one of the world’s most challenging for pilots. Indeed, only eight in the world are currently certified to land here.
The world's friendliest cities
5. Charleston, US
The fifth friendliest city is Charleston in South Carolina, according to the survey. It has been described as "quintessential Old South... one of the most beautiful and historic places in the United States... a heady mix of Gothic southern charm and antebellum style, offering a wealth of history and beauty,"according to the author Kathy Reichs. Justin Webb, the journalist, said it was "like Edinburgh or Bath transferred to an exotic-palm-tree-lined setting, with wonderful architecture and a humid heat which I adore".
The world's friendliest cities
4. Queenstown, New Zealand
The world's adventure capital came fourth in the poll. If surviving a bungee jump isn't enough to cheer you up, the incredible surroundings should do the trick.
The world's friendliest cities
3. Thimpu, Bhutan
The capital of Bhutan came third. So jovial is this Himalayan country that gross national happiness is an official measure.
The world's friendliest cities
2. Hobart, Australia
The Tasmanian capital, Hobart, came second in the reader survey. It was described as a "unique part of the world", with "pristine beauty" and "kind, friendly" locals. Mark Chipperfield, our Australia expert calls it "one of the prettiest capital cities in the world". He adds: "Unlike its mainland counterparts, Hobart has not been scarred by modern skyscrapers and giant shopping malls. Much of the original colonial fabric is still intact, especially around Sullivans Cove with its lovely old warehouses and civic buildings."
The world's friendliest cities

1. Florianopolis, Brazil
You'll receive the warmest welcome in this Brazilian city, apparently. It is known for its white sand beaches, markets, and - of course - friendly locals. Even the airport staff were described as "courteous".

World’s fastest lift to be installed in Guangzhou

Artist's impression of Guangzhou CTF Financial Centre
The fastest lift in the world is to be installed in a skyscraper currently under construction in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, it seems.
The lifts at the Guangzhou CTF Financial Centre, which will be ready in 2016, will be able to reach a speed of 72km/h (44mph), the South China Morning Post reports. This means it will take just 43 seconds to travel 95 floors up the 440m shaft.
The lift is being developed by Japan's Hitachi, which says it will have brakes capable of withstanding the tremendous heat that could be generated if a malfunction occurred. The company will install two of the superfast machines in the building, along with 93 "slower" lifts.
Reports suggest China accounts for as much as 60% of the global demand for lifts, stimulating stiff competition in the sector. At the moment, the world's fastest elevator is in the Taipei 101 tower in Taiwan, and moves at 60.6km/h, a Hitachi official says.
At 530m (1,739ft), the Guangzhou skyscraper won't be China's tallest building - that title goes to the 632m Shanghai Tower. The world's tallest skyscraper is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, but it may be overtaken in 2019 by the proposed 1km-high Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Which Cities Sleep In, And Which Get To Work Early

I’m not a morning person, so I appreciate living in New York. The workday here starts later than in any other American city, and about half an hour later than in the U.S. as a whole.
A decade or so ago, when I was a consultant living in Chicago, I didn’t have it so easy. Work in Chicago begins a little earlier than in New York — about 20 minutes earlier, relative to the local time zone. My bosses nevertheless tolerated me rolling into the office at a bit past 9 a.m. But sometimes I’d travel to cities such as St. Louis and Omaha, Neb., to visit clients. Meetings as early as 6 or 7 a.m. were not uncommon; I was “relieved” from one project after a client caught me nodding off in a meeting.
How much do American cities differ in when they begin work? The Census Bureau collects data on this through the American Community Survey. This data isn’t especially user-friendly, but I figured out the median time Americans begin their workday in each metro area. All the figures that I’ll describe here refer to the location of work — not the location of residence for the workers — since some Americans commute between metro areas for their jobs. These figures also don’t include the growing number of Americans who work from home. All times are local.
As I mentioned, New Yorkers get to work late — at least on a relative basis. The median worker in the New York metropolitan area begins her workday at 8:24 a.m. There’s a buffer of about an hour on either side: 25 percent of the workforce has arrived by 7:28 a.m., while 75 percent has gotten in by 9:32.
The 20 most nocturnal metro areas, by the median time of arrival at work, are as follows:
These cities break down into three rough categories. First are those like New York, San Francisco and Boston, which are home to a lot of young, creative professionals. Next are college towns such as Ithaca, N.Y. (Cornell University); Lawrence, Kan. (the University of Kansas); and Logan, Utah (Utah State University). Finally are cities such as Atlantic City, N.J., Orlando, Fla., and Miami, whose economies are associated with recreation, tourism and gambling. A quarter of the workforce in Atlantic City doesn’t begin its workday until 11:26 a.m. or after.
The metro area with the earliest workday is Hinesville, Ga. The median worker there arrives at work at 7:01 a.m. There’s a good chance she is in the military; the Hinesville area includes Fort Stewart and the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. Military metros account for a number of the earliest-to-work communities, including Killeen, Texas (Fort Hood), and Jacksonville, N.C. (Camp Lejeune). Many of the other early-arriving metros, such as Bakersfield, Calif., rely on farming and agriculture to generate income.
One exception is Honolulu, where the median workday begins at 7:29 a.m. Presumably, some workers there are trying coordinate with the U.S. mainland. This is not true of Anchorage, Alaska, however, where the median workday starts at 7:57, two minutes after the U.S. median of 7:55. While Anchorage is four hours behind the East Coast, its northerly location presents another constraint for some workers: sunrise there doesn’t occur until after 8 a.m. for five months out of the year.
What about those mid-size Midwestern metros, such as St. Louis? Work in St. Louis indeed begins begins relatively early, at 7:50. In Omaha, the median workday starts at 7:48. Kansas City, Mo. (7:51), Milwaukee (7:51) — also places on my consulting itinerary — likewise start their workday just slightly earlier than the U.S. median.
But the majority of highly populous metro areas begin working a little later than the rest of the country. (The chart below depicts the schedule for the 35 metro areas with the largest number of workers.) Washington, D.C., starts work at a median time of 8:07 (although it is prompt: three-quarters of the workforce is in by 9:14). The median worker in Los Angeles begins at 8:05; in Atlanta, at 8:03; in Chicago, at 8:02.
In general, however, the workday schedule is dictated more by the type of work than the location. The earliest-arriving quartile of the workforce in the New York metro has begun work by 7:28 a.m. — quite a bit sooner than the the latest-arriving quartile in Hinesville, which starts work at 8:06. Some of us New Yorkers appreciate our extra half-hour of sleep. But if you’re an early bird or a night owl and want a work schedule that matches your metabolism, changing jobs is a better strategy than changing cities.

Top 13 things to do in New York city

1) 9/11 Memorial
The 9/11 Memorial, on the site of the former Twin Towers, opened on September 12, 2011, in time for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and was easily the most anticipated new project in the city for the past decade. The memorial features two reflecting pools nearly an acre in size each, each filled with the largest man-made waterfalls in North America. Surrounding the imposing structures are the names of the nearly 3,000 victims inscribed on bronze parapets surrounding the pools.
Trust me when I say the pictures of the memorial don’t do the size of the pools justice. I couldn’t help but think back to trips to Niagara Falls when looking down upon the rushing water.
Not surprisingly tickets are hard to come by. Though entrance is free, due to huge interest, tickets must be obtained in advance via their website. A helpful hint for visitors this December who haven’t made reservations far in advance: large batches of tickets for almost any time are made available 24 hours in advance. Log on a day ahead, and you’re likely to snag tickets, as I found out on Thanksgiving last year.
Top 13 Free Things To Do In New York City This December
2) The High Line
One of the world’s premier examples of urban preservation, the High Line is an elevated train line located on Manhattan’s West Side that has been transformed into a public park featuring Hudson River views, natural landscaping and a rotating collection of public art projects. Initially running from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 20th Street, the second phase of the park opened in the summer of 2011 extending north to West 30th Street, with a third phase to come online in the late 2014.
Popular among city-dwellers and visitors alike, the park has become a major draw to a neighborhood once only populated in the evening hours. Check out the many eateries along the way including Artichoke Pizza (10th Avenue and West 17th Street), Chelsea Market (9th Avenue between West 15th and West 16th Street) and banh mi at Co Ba (9th Avenue between West 17th and West 18th streets). Click here for other dining options in the area.
For the High Line hours and directions click here.
Top 13 Free Things To Do In New York City This December
3) Free Central Park Tours
Central Park, one of the world’s most iconic parks, not only offers hundreds of free ways to explore its 843 acres (which makes up 6% of Manhattan if you were wondering), but is also home to daily free tours led by park representatives.
For example, the 45-minute Mid-Park Welcome Tour will take you over streams, under arches and through the woods along a maze of pathways in the secluded 38-acre woodland section of the park (December 2, 8, 21 and 25). The Southern Welcome Tour guides visitors from Grand Army Plaza, past the Pond and Gapstow Bridge, and includes a stop at the Dairy (December 1, 14 and 28).
For a full schedule of all of the park’s free tours, visit the Central Park tour calendar.
Top 13 Free Things To Do In New York City This December
4) MoMA For Free
Still one of the best deals in New York, MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) is free every Friday from 4:00 p.m. until closing at 8:00 p.m. This December you can visit the well-received René Magritte exhibit, focusing on his Surrealist years, as well as American Modern: Hopper to O’Keeffe exhibit, a look at the Museum’s holdings of American art made between 1915 and 1950, including works by O’Keefe, Hopper, Stieglitz and Wyeth.
What’s even better is that you can now receive a free tour of the museum, all for nothing. Head to iTunes or Google Play and download the MoMA app for you phone that includes five tour options, an art index and even background music to play while you browse. Not to be outdone, if you find yourself at the Brooklyn Museum, they also have a free app.
For information about the MoMA iPhone app click here (or for Android, click here). For information about the Brooklyn Museum iPhone app visit here (or for Android, click here).
For hours and information about MoMA click here.
Top 13 Free Things To Do In New York City This December
5) Christmas Markets
Remember when Harry Potter and the crew visited Hogsmeade Village and found themselves in a Dickensian Christmas wonderland? Well, this might be a stretch, but if you happen to go at night after some snow has just fallen to one of the various holiday markets that spring up around Manhattan every December, you just may get the same experience. I know, it’s a stretch, but it’s still a great experience to help get you in the holiday mood.
Head to Union Square for the city’s largest market. Nearby, on Broadway between 13th and 14th street, is Max Brenner, where you can pick up the granddaddy of hot chocolate drinks. Okay, they’re not free, but you’re in Union Square: break out the guitar and earn your keep like everyone else!
Top 13 Free Things To Do In New York City This December
6) Ice Skating In Bryant Park
It may not be as well known as the one at nearby Rockefeller Center, but the free ice skating rink (or Citi Pond for you corporate-minded folks) at Bryant Park is a full $18 cheaper, saving you much-needed cash for the inevitable trip to the emergency room. (Come on, you haven’t done this since you were 10, you think you’re not going to take a few spills?)
However, take note that the skate rentals are $15 if you don’t bring your own pair.
For more information about the rink click here.
7) Christmas in Midtown
Top 13 Free Things To Do In New York City This December
I wouldn’t normally advise anyone to spend too much time in Midtown in December given the throngs of tourists and exorbitant prices charged for everything from coffee to street pretzels. But, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, a large swath of the neighborhood transforms into some the city’s most iconic holiday sights that even a travel snob/Scrooge would have trouble staying away from.
Start at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 50th Street to see Radio City Music Hall with its giant Christmas tree and tin soldiers decorating its marquee, then make your way down 50th Street and through the massive crowds to catch a glimpse of the ice skaters and Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center (last year’s tree was an 80-foot Norway spruce hailing from Flanders, New Jersey).
Across the street on Fifth Avenue are the iconic holiday window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue. After walking by them, head north on Fifth Avenue to see some of the country’s most expensive shops along the famed stretch of Fifth Avenue leading to Central Park. Here you’ll also see some of the most expensively decorated shops as well, including the Cartier Building with its red ribbon wrapping the entire facade and the window displays at Bergdorf Goodman.
Finally, eight blocks north at 58th Street, you’ll come to FAO Schwartz, the world’s most famous toy store (and site of some massive lines come Christmas). To wrap things up, take in the glitzy Plaza Hotel across the street (and grab a bite to eat at the new The Plaza Food Hall), then make your way through the 59th Street entrance of Central Park and stroll down to Wollman Rink and watch the ice skaters underneath one of the world’s most famous skylines.
Top 13 Free Things To Do In New York City This December
8) Winter Garden
Just next door to the World Trade Center site is the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center, a giant atrium that was refurbished after 9/11. All through December you can catch free holiday performances including a holiday music performances by the Turtle Island Quartet, the JDUB Chanukah Bash, and a stage performance by the New York Classical Theater of A {15-Min!} Christmas Carol.
For the full schedule and more information click here.
Top 13 Free Things To Do In New York City This December
9) Barbes
From accordion-playing divas to Slavic soul, Barbes in Brooklyn’s Park Slope offers some of the city’s best and most eclectic variety of free music every night. Drinks are standard price and collection hats are usually passed around after the performances.
If you’re staying in Manhattan, don’t worry about getting lost just because you’re leaving the island. Barbes is literally across the street from the F stop, a 20-minute ride from Midtown.
Top 13 Free Things To Do In New York City This December
10) Jazz at Garage
New York is known for its great jazz, unfortunately it’s also known for expensive clubs too. A night out at Dizzy’s Club for Jazz at Lincoln Center is going to set you back upwards of $35 a set, plus food and a drink minimum.
Instead, head to Garage Restaurant in the West Village where you can catch free jazz every night of the week in this former 1920′s garage.
To really save some money, huddle up at the bar and enjoy the show without having sit down for a full dinner.
Top 13 Free Things To Do In New York City This December
11) Free Juilliard Performances
Heading to Lincoln Center for world-class performing arts? Good news for you, many of the performers you’re paying to see started out just next door at Juilliard, and all of them spent a good chunk of their time performing for free at recitals open to the public. These free performances range from Jazz, Chamber Music, Orchestral, Solos, Dance, Opera and Drama.
For a full schedule of the wide variety of performances, click here to visit Juilliard’s calendar of events.
When you’re at Lincoln Center, stick around for a free performance by the new fountain in the center of the plaza. Designed by the same people who brought you the waterworks at Vegas’ Bellagio, the fountain’s 353 nozzles are able to shoot water 40 feet in the air to create an “aquatic ballet.”
Top 13 Free Things To Do In New York City This December
12) A New England Winter In New York
A good majority of visitors to New York this time of year are from far-flung and usually much warmer locations, and for many of them, this whole northeast United States thing is a novelty to them. Why not try fitting in a whole other region, all while staying in New York?
Stay with me here. Take a short subway ride to Prospect Park, in the heart of Brooklyn, and get your Thoreau on by making your way to one of the four nature trails that meander through the woods — a spectacular sight in the summer, and simply magical in the winter. Snow-draped pines, squirrels foraging in the fallen leaves, a rastafarian drummer playing for loose change: just like a Frost poem.
Finish up with a stroll through scenic Park Slope (like Hogsmeade, but with strollers), and cozy up with a warm drink in front of a roaring fire at nearby Union Hall, New York’s preeminent winter bar.
For information about Prospect Park’s nature trails click here.
For information about Union Hall click here.
Top 13 Free Things To Do In New York City This December
13) Arthur Avenue
Sure, Manhattan has Little Italy, Brooklyn has, well, Brooklyn, but many visitors don’t know that the Bronx has New York’s most intact, most authentic Little Italy this side of the Mediterranean: Arthur Avenue.
Head north to the outer reaches of the outer boroughs to this five-block stretch for the afternoon and wander in and out of the many delis, bakeries, and coffee shops, all with nary a tourist in sight. And dont’ worry, you can be sure every business will be decked-out for the holidays.