Lonely Planet's authors are constantly travelling the globe, doing research to update our guidebooks. Each month Lonely Planet magazine asks them to report back about what's going on where they are, keeping us all up-to-date.
Here's what our authors are talking about this December:
New York street food awards
Robert Reid, Lonely Planet's US travel editor.
New York street food has long outgrown the hot dog. Just note the finalists of the 6th annual Vendy Awards, the city's street-vendor competition. It's less frankfurter, and more chalupa, vegan pastry, even 'gay ice cream.'
'It's definitely not just hot dogs anymore,' says Fares 'Freddy' Zeideia, of the King of Falafel and Shawarma in Queens – this year's Vendy winner. 'You only see hot dogs on Fifth Avenue for tourists.'
He's served falafel – his favourite everyday snack from Palestine, where he left in 1981 – at his sidewalk spot in front of a Queens grocery store since 2002. He's not interested in taking his craft to a restaurant. Or to Manhattan. 'I left restaurant work because I wasn't enjoying it,' he explains, occasionally pausing in our conversation to offer a friendly 'wassup' to a passerby. 'I love being out in the open, here in Queens. I see people I know, watch their kids grow, see if they got a new haircut.'
His spiced, crunchy ovalshaped falafel truly 'shines,' as Freddy claims, but the real heart breaker for me is a chicken and rice platter that overflows the paper plate and comes with a serious kick. It's as good as anything I've eaten in a New York restaurant in months. 'I dubbed myself king,' Freddy says. 'Now no-one can argue.'
The Savoy is back; so is its doorman
Matt Bolton, Lonely Planet magazine writer (he was fired from his job as an envelope stuffer at The Savoy).
Tony Cortegaca has manned the doors at The Savoy for over 20 years. He's worked his way up from kitchen porter to become the man who the likes of celebrities rely on to make sure their stay runs smoothly. He's a fan of the hotel's renovation in Art Deco and Edwardian styles: 'the foyer is filled with light, it looks fantastic', but he's mainly just glad to be back in what he calls 'one of the best jobs in the city'. Here's his guide to being the perfect doorman.
Like people 'I love meeting new people and making them feel welcome. When I see that other people are happy, I'm happy.'
Stay calm under pressure 'The job involves moving guests' cars, and they are often very expensive – Lamborghinis, Bugattis, Ferraris. I have to stay calm. No crashes yet.'
Have a good memory 'Everyone likes their name to be remembered. If I meet someone once, I'll remember their name in a month's time. Twice and I'll remember it for good.'
Treat everyone the same 'I've met Frank Sinatra, Pavarotti and Kim Basinger, but it's important to treat all guests equally.'
Be discreet 'A man once stayed here with his wife in one room and his girlfriend in another! I don't know how he got away with it. In this job, you see what you see, but you have to be discreet.'
Calm at the Pakistan-India border
Lindsay Brown, currently researching the new Lonely Planet guide to India.
Reports have suggested a tempering of the theatrical aggression between guards of each side at the famed border-closing ceremony at Wagah, near Amritsar, with handshakes and a smile replacing fierce looks.
When we arrive, onlookers are jumping to the Bollywood chant Jai Ho. An announcement pricks the ears of my Punjabi companion. It calls for no jeering or slandering the other side. 'That's new to me,' he says. So is the sight of a pair of female Border Security Force soldiers strutting quick-march down to the gates.
Wagah has all the antics to keep it firmly on the 'to do' list when visiting Amritsar, but the biggest cheer now comes as the two flags are lowered towards one another, briefly merging, or so it seems from our viewpoint.
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