What TripAdvisor Doesn’t Want You to Know

My sister and I are headed to Nicaragua for a weeklong vacation. We’ll be flying to Managua early Thursday morning, and traveling to the Corn Islands, Granada, and la Isla de Ometepe.

To plan our trip, we tapped many of the usual travel resources: recent magazine and news stories about Nicaragua, guidebooks, acquaintances who had been there, travel websites and forums. But during this research process, I stumbled upon something I found a bit unsettling.

I was trying to find recent information about safety on Little Corn Island, a tiny, remote, largely undeveloped island in the Caribbean. Moon and Lonely Planet both mentioned how the island has been the site of sporadic violence against tourists, and that women should take caution when traveling there. (The crimes are due to growing tourism coupled with a lack of police presence on the island. Until a few years ago, the island had no law enforcement. Now, it apparently has one police officer.)

On Lonely Planet’s and TripAdvisor’s forums, I found posts about a recent incident that occurred at a Little Corn hotel. According to the posts, two women from the UK were robbed at machete point in their casita, in the middle of the night. “Good to know,” I thought to myself. A few days later, when I tried to pull up the TripAdvisor post, I saw that it was gone. (The Lonely Planet post is still up.)

I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Two other Trip Advisor users commented about the post’s disappearance on a new thread. At that point, TripAdvisor responded with the following message:

“Tragic circumstances occur in every city of the world, including crimes that involve both tourists and locals. We close or remove topics that include graphic descriptions of violent crimes or accidental death and injury; the subject matter does not conform to our rules regarding family-friendly topics and our requirement that forum threads be travel-related discussions.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.”

That explanation didn’t sit well with me. First of all, I think every traveler knows that every destination comes with risks, and that crime can happen to anyone, at any place, at any time. Secondly, it was a travel-related post: It was an incident that could have been reported in a newspaper. I didn’t find the post “graphic” or overblown at all. Plus, I think it’s always good to learn as much about a destination as you can, whether the information is positive or negative. And when it comes to remote destinations that don’t get a lot of news coverage, other travelers can be an invaluable source of info. You can’t help but wonder how much information TripAdvisor is censoring — and what other topics are deemed not “travel-related” or not “family-friendly.”

Once again, others in the TripAdvisor community shared my sentiment. Several members vented their feelings on a new thread, questioning TripAdvisor’s interest in removing the post, and decrying it as a blow against the site’s credibilty.

Another Great CSA Dish

After we dumped the celery, we arrived home with one of the best CSA bounties we’ve had yet. The week’s share included fingerling potatoes, basil, sweet corn, tomatoes, a pepper, romaine lettuce, cucumbers, onions, and peaches.

Since the beginning of CSA season, we washed an cut all the veggies the day we got them to make storing and cooking easier. But a few weeks ago, we decided that it was best to cook as much as we could that day, too. That way, we’d have lunches to bring to work everyday and (in my case) wouldn’t have to stress about finding time to cook the veggies later in the week. (For a few weeks, I couldn’t escape the mental burden of having veggies in my fridge that needed to be cooked, but couldn’t carve out the time to do so.)

So last Tuesday, we set out to use as many veggies as we could in one cooking session. We made horseradish and chive potato salad. We used this fantastic Epicurious recipe to make capellini with sweet corn, basil, tomatoes, and sugar snap peas. Later in the week, we turned the lettuce and tomatoes into a simple salad, and used the sliced cucumbers for sandwiches with smoked salmon and cream cheese. Mmm…

Celery Blows

…and that’s why everyone, including me, was filling up the CSA swap box with unwanted bunches, yesterday.

I find celery to be a pretty useless veggie. When it comes to raw veggies, it’s at the bottom of my list. And while it gives a nice texture to salads and soups, I see it mainly as filler. I always found that the easiest way to pick out bad/inauthentic Chinese restaurants is by how much celery they use in their dishes. And by “how much,” I mean if they use celery at all.

South Street Seaport: NYC’s Best Place for Outdoor Concerts

I don’t go to too many concerts these days, and when I do attend one, it’s usually a free summer show. There’s no shortage of them, and that’s one of my favorite parts of summertime in NYC.

After seeing shows at various venues over the course of several summers, I noticed something strange: I enjoyed the concerts at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 much more than anywhere else. This surprised me because I generally try to avoid the Seaport at all costs. (Well, except for Front Street, which is a little restaurant row north of Pier 17 where tourists rarely venture, for some reason.) I find Pier 17 to be an oddity; it can best be described as hollow. There’s nothing distinctly New York about the place. In fact, it feels more like a cross between a suburban mall and a circus, and I can’t figure out why tourists flock there to shop in stores they could visit anywhere, eat at overpriced restaurants, and gawk at cliche street performers. (Oh look, another silver-painted person!) You could transport Pier 17 to any waterfront city; just look at Faneuil Hall in Boston. Same vibe.

But somehow, when there’s a concert there, Pier 17 becomes great place to spend a Friday evening. The bands are usually unknown, so it never gets too crowded. There’s an area right in front of the stage where people can stand, but we prefer to sit off to the side, closer to the shops, which offers a great view of the performers, as well as other people walking around. And this is the real reason I love concerts at Pier 17: the people-watching is unparalleled.

For such a diverse place, New York can often feel quite segmented, with different groups never really mixing. At every other NYC outdoor concert venue, you get a homogenous group of people based on the location and the act. SummerStage shows that feature indie bands are filled with hipsters and, a bit strangely, with high school and college kids eager to spend a day in the city. SummerStage dance shows can be a bit more diverse, but when it comes down to it, it’s mostly the arty, well-educated crowd. Pier 54 crowds have a bit more variety, but most people tend to be 20 and 30-somethings of the not-quite-hipster-but-almost variety. And any Williamsburg concert? No explanation necessary.

So in that respect, South Street concerts are refreshing. There’s no dominant group there. Instead, it’s a nice cross section of people of all ages that includes locals from all boroughs, office workers hanging out at the end the week, some hipsters and arty people, U.S. and international tourists, families, people who just happened to walk by an see a concert going on, and so on.

Plus, watching the sun set over the water and the buildings of lower Manhattan is pretty sweet, too.

Despite the Blight, We Got Tomatoes

Heirlooms, too! It was a nice surprise to get them from the CSA this week, especially considering that every recent newsletter from our farmer has included a story about how they’re battling the tomato blight.

We made gazpacho from three heirlooms and had the last one sliced over fresh mozzarella.

The Craziest Apt Set-up in NYC

My boyfriend spent the weekend apartment hunting with one of our friends. They saw several places, mostly in Hell’s Kitchen, the UWS, and Morningside; some were nice and large, others were tiny and unlivable. But the scariest/craziest/most ridiculous place they saw was in the West Village.

This two-bedroom was in a prime location near 6th Ave. and W. Houston. But it didn’t have a private bathroom. The toilets were down the hallway behind two padlocked doors. On the “upside,” though, it did have a tub and shower — that was conveniently located in the kitchen, right next to the sink.

This apparently led to an animated discussion about whether it would be worse to share a toilet or shower with strangers. I, personally, would rather share a toilet and have my own shower; there’s nothing grosser than dealing with other peoples’ hair. Except, maybe, washing your veggies in a sink right next to your shower.