Craig Nelson is Managing Editor of Not For Tourists. Translation: he explores cities and writes about them for a living. He’s also proof that majoring in Geography in college can lead to great things – or at least low paying writing gigs. You’ll find him roaming the streets of New York taking bad photos with his iPhone and searching for the best happy hours. Feel free to give a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow along @notfortourists.
1. What’s the most underrated destination you’ve been to?
Granada, Spain. I think most travelers go straight to The Alhambra, and then head off to Seville or the Costa del Sol. I do admit The Alhambra is amazing and is one of the few tourist destinations that are actually worth dealing with the large crowds. But the city of Granada is beautiful with narrow and winding streets, fascinating modern and medieval neighborhoods, and extremely friendly residents.
Most importantly, all the tapas are FREE [Ed. note: Say WHAAAA?]. From the fanciest wine bar to tiny seafood joints to North African hang outs, you’re rewarded with tasty bites of food each time you order a drink. Just jump around to different tapas bars buying local sherry, beer, or wine and you’ll be rewarded with all sorts of culinary delights. Sometimes you can choose, other times it just shows up; but it is always tasty and enough to fill you up after three or 4 drinks.
2. How do you kill time when you’re stuck on a bus or plane?
Trying to break my addiction to the iPhone is futile. I have this app called WunderRadio with stations from all over the globe. There’s something about listening to music live from Brazil on a bus to New Jersey that makes the trip a lot more enjoyable. If I can actually put down the gadgets, I love to read books about cities and travel, especially anything about New York City. For example, I just finished a really interesting book called Nightshift NYC, a sociological look at the people who make the city run when everyone else is fast asleep.
3. What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen or experienced traveling?
A few years back in Mexico, a friend and I realized there were no busses back to Arizona on Sundays from the small town of Puerto Peñasco. So we literally asked the couple next to us in a restaurant if they were driving back to Phoenix that day. Right away they said it would be no problem to hook us up with a ride. We planned to meet up in a few hours, but when the time came only the guy was there and he seemed on edge. There was absolutely no sign of his girlfriend.
We got in the car and drove around for a long time and finally found his girlfriend crying on the beach. As she gets in the car for the four hour drive back, the guy informs us, “Listen. You can still have ride back, but just so you know, after ten years together my girlfriend and I just broke up a few hours ago.” Let’s just say that was the most awkward road trip ever.
4. What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at a new destination?
If I arrive in the afternoon, I try to find a bar or pub that has a few locals hanging around. Grabbing a drink when everyone else is at work is always fun, but it’s also a great chance to strike up a conversation with neighborhood residents who really know their city. If it’s the morning, I just head to nearest independent café for some caffeine and then to the local indie bookstore to get the scoop from the employees on the best things to do in town.
5. If you could give one tip or piece of advice to travelers, what would it be?
Use your travel guide as a tool, not as a sacred text. Coming from someone who writes and edits guidebooks for a living, this may sound strange. The key is to do research and have a good list of places, but also make sure to allow for plenty of down time where you can just roam and explore. That’s what we really try to do at NFT. With our maps you can easily (and discreetly) navigate from one place to the other. We give you a few spots we really like and some detailed neighborhood descriptions so you can get a quick command of the city, and then hopefully you’ll have more confidence to dig deeper on your own. And then, of course, email all the cool new stuff you find!
All Images courtesy of Craig Nelson