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Back in the day I had an opportunity to ski Alta with a buddy and missed out on the trip. I’ve always regretted not going. At lunch we’d check out the latest edition of Ski Magazine and dreamed of making perfect ‘S’ turns in the virgin powder that was waist deep at Alta. It all looked so perfect on those glossy pages and it was! Alta is the Holy Grail for anyone who loves to ski. We were lucky to get fresh snow each morning on our recent trip. The conditions were great. It’s shaping up to be another great season at Alta.
Dreaming of Deep Snow
It’s All About Skiing
The locals all tell the same story, “I came here for one season and it’s my 15th year now.” Another mountain girl told us it’s her 35th at Alta. Somehow these lucky ones have figured it out. It seems that their souls have gravitated to this high place and they’ve found a balance. It all started with the same dream to come and ski Alta. Maybe you too can make it happen. You never know. Do you?
Happy Birthday Alta
Alta is the oldest family run Lift Company in the U.S. and is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Tradition is important to the culture here and change evidently comes slowly. Snow boarders are still not able to swoosh down the slopes in order to protect the powder. We like that Alta is a good steward of past traditions. They seem to have a pretty good thing going on here. It just feels right. Happy birthday Alta.
The Greatest Snow on Earth
So what makes this place so great? The snow has been scientifically proven to be the driest in North America and they get more than 750 inches of it annually. It’s been coined ‘The greatest snow on earth’. Its snows so much at times that you may experience a condition known as 'Interlodge'. When the snow barriers are lowered you’ll know it’s your lucky day! Everyone is required to retreat to one of the five lodges for protection while the snow can be managed. The best part of this situation is you're safe and nobody else can come up the mountain. You’ll be able to ski all the powder you want when the coast is clear and the snow barriers are still down. It’s now your very own private mountain. It’s called a ‘Country Club' day at Alta. How cool is that?
The Greatest Snow on Earth
Something For Everyone
Alta has great terrain for beginners and hardcore skiers alike. It’s a blast to be a kid and learn on the gentle green runs with mom and dad. Daredevils can hike up to ridges on the mountain and descend the chutes that are sloped at 45 degrees too. We rode the Supreme chair to the summit at 10,595’ and traversed the short distance over to Catherine’s area and dropped off into a tree lined powdery chute. It was like floating in the clouds. Peaceful. Exhilarating. Fun. There’s nothing like this back east that’s for sure!
Alta Has Great Terrain for Families Too
Good Service - Good Prices
The lift tickets are reasonably priced at $75.00 per day for adults and $40.00 for a children. The mountain is run as a Lift Company and not a publicly traded Real Estate Development entity. This enables Alta to focus on providing the best on-mountain experience for skiers. If you’re going to stay awhile and want more terrain to ski you can pay a little extra and get upgraded to a combined Alta -- Snowbird lift ticket. Please ask for the ‘One Ticket’ to get upgraded to this service. All together both resorts provide 26 lifts and over 4,000 acres of terrain. If you’d like to save some cash then ski the Sugarloaf chair lift and ride a loop between the two ski areas for free on the complimentary shuttle bus. We didn’t try that but it sure sounds like fun.
Gourmet Dining at Collins Grill
One of our pet peeves is eating cafeteria food on the mountain. It was a delight to discover the Collins Grill, which is located mid-mountain in the spectacularly designed Watson Shelter. The restaurant is located on the third floor and severs up the art of slow food. This is similar to the ‘farm-to-table’ movement, which supports local suppliers and growers. We sampled some great dishes at lunch that included:
Daily Savory Tart - This is a French style “big” pie cut in eighths, made with cream, Clifford Farm eggs, and a thin savory pastry. The flavor changes daily. Yum!
Grilled Salmon Slider - Grilled salmon on house made sourdough baguette with sliced tomato, bacon, capers and a mornay sauce.
Stuart’s Heart of Darkness Cupcake - Named after a customer from California this chocolate truffle is filled individual soufflé cakes. It was as decadent as it sounds. Delicious.
Watson Shelter • Collins Grill
Grilled Salmon Slider
Daily Savory Tart
Stewart's Heart of Darkness Cupcake
When you’re staying at Alta it’s still a family affair regarding lodging. All of the five lodges are family owned and operated and provide comfortable accommodations and excellent service. We recently stayed at Alta’s Rustler Lodge. Please check out the feature review on the main section of our site. If you’re looking for an active nightlife scene then Alta may not be the best place to plan your next ski vacation. If you’re looking to ski your tail off on the greatest snow on earth then you’ve arrived at the perfect place!
Alta's Rustler Lodge
Alta is located in the Wasatch Mountains at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon. It’s approximately 45 minutes east of Salt Lake City international airport. What we like best about it's location is that you can be on the slopes by 1:00 p.m.. if you take an early morning non-stop flight from JFK International Airport in New York.
Alta Ski Area
Little Cottonwood Canyon
Alta, UT 84092
General Information: 801-359-1078
For transportation options to Alta, Utah please visit the Ski Utah website:
Alta's Rustler Lodge: Accommodations were provided by Alta's Rustler Lodge. When you stay at Alta’s Rustler Lodge, you'll experience the cozy atmosphere of a mountain lodge along with superb services and Alta's finest amenities. For reservations please call 888-532-2582.
Alta Ski Area: Lift tickets and mountain guide service provided by Alta Ski Area. General Information: 801-359-1078
Ski 'N See: Ski rentals were provided by Ski 'N See. They have 12 convenient rental & retail locations within minutes of all the major Ski Resorts in Utah. If you are unfamiliar with the area please visit their Rental Rates page to find a recommendation for which location you should reserve your ski & snowboard equipment. If you have any questions concerning our locations please call their Customer Service Hotline: 1-800-722-3685.
Rudy's Executive Transportation Services: Transportation Services for this trip from the New York Tri-Sate area were provided by Rudy's Executive Transportation. Their uniformed chauffeurs are courteous and committed to responding to customers' every transportation need. Since all Rudy's chauffeurs live throughout the Connecticut/Westchester area, they are conveniently located within minutes of your home or office. They are also completely familiar with all locations and routes within the tri-state area to get you there on time, every time. For reservations please call 800-241-RUDY.
The Woodstock Inn is truly the sweetest place to stay in Woodstock, VT. It's located right across from the famous town green, one of the oldest in the country and within walking distance of the town's many shops such the Vermont Flannel Co. (one of my favorites) and a plethora of other quaint establishments.
The Woodstock Inn and Resort
As you enter the Inn and at it's heart is a massive nine foot hearth with the largest logs I have ever seen burning steadily; lapping flames beckon you to stop and sit for a minute in the comfortable arm chairs. I warmed myself with hot coffee surrounded by the slight aroma of wood burning and just relished in the warmth and serenity. The decor and feel of The Woodstock Inn is actually quite unique and the ambience is soothing; it felt like I had chosen the perfect place to rest, restore and explore this beautiful part of Vermont. The Inn has both a rustic charm and a contemporary elegance. There is an intimate feel with a very happy and cordial staff. However, the Inn has the superb facilities that normally accompany a much larger hotel. The Woodstock Inn has its own lovely ski resort, (Suicide Six), three restaurants, two bars, a beautiful brand new 10,000 sq. foot spa, a racquet and fitness facility (with squash, swimming pool and tennis courts), a golf club, and even associated riding stables and trails. The recently renovated rooms and suites, some with wood burning fire-places, generally range from $150-$600.
The Woodstock Inn - Main Fireplace
The Red Rooster Bar
My room was beautiful, with a blended contemporary rustic decor that matched the hotel; the center of the king room was a stunningly crafted, classic, hardwood canopy bed dressed in a colorful handmade woven blanket. The bathroom was shiny, spotless, and furnished with organic Vermont made bath supplies and a sweet scented wick candle.
Hardwood Canopy Bed
Bathroom With Soaking Tub & Shower
While the room and food were great, what I most love about the Inn and Resort is the feel of it as a self encompassing destination with true old world character. There are so many corners within the Inn where one can find comfortable spaces for reflection and conversation, sun rooms, a library, and little cushioned benches and love seats where you see couples playing scrabble, or kids enjoying a chess game while sipping hot chocolate and munching on home made cookies. You have everything you need within the facility or within a few minutes of Resort organized transportation.
The Woodstock Inn
Toll free: 888-338-2745 Address:
Local: 802.457.1100 14 The Green
Fax: 802.457.6699 Woodstock, Vermont 05091
Last night I met my sister at the more rustic of the two hotel's bars, the Tavern, for a pre-dinner drink; we sat next to the warmth of a wood burning fire as we relaxed and chatted. Afterwards, we made our way to the Red Rooster restaurant, the inn's award winning restaurant which uses locally grown foods to prepare its Vermont style classic American cuisine. Suffice it to say that the food was both delicious and delicate, flavorful and subtle, with a unique twist on classics. The evening's meal began with a few small bite size special treats from the chef including savory roasted heirloom beets, scallops with pulled pork Napoleon, and sweet potato apple bisque which was sweet and divine. For appetizers, we had the mussels and the charcuterie board with unbelievable prosciutto and country pate. For dinner we ordered the chef's specials, rack of lamb with potato and turnip au gratin and Day boat Scallops and Lobster with Butternut Squash Risotto with arugula and radish and a pickled rosemary relish. The lamb was amazing and the lobster was smoky and flavorful; the scallops were soft and tender on the inside and just crispy enough on the outside to lock-in their light but potent flavor. Dessert was a Blondie sundae with vanilla ice cream and a toffee crisp which was sensational. We also tried the flour less chocolate cake and pumpkin cheesecake - both quite good as well. Appetizers generally range from $12-$18 and main dishes range from $24-$35.
The Red Rooster Restaurant
Reservations 1.802.457.6671 or reserve online at Open Table .
Sweet Potato Apple Bisque
New England Mussels
Rack of Lamb with Potato and Turnip au Gratin
Day boat Scallops and Lobster with Butternut Squash
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Following our rather extensive gourmet dinner and delicious wine, I ambitiously ordered a movie in the room, opening a window to the clear Vermont air and the occasional snowflake. In the end, the comfort and coziness of the bed and the lure of sleep won though and the movie was left for another time.
If you are looking for idyllic country elegance this Christmas season book a trip to this charming town and lovely resort. December 7-9 is Wassil Weekend in Woodstock which is named one of Vermont's top 10 winter events by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. The village of Woodstock will come alive with traditional Christmas festivities and decorations. Woodstock will be replete with music, craft fairs, holiday games and the culmination of the weekend is the annual parade with more than 50 horses and riders dressed in traditional holiday attire. Of course the nearby ski resorts will certainly be open then as well!
So stay tuned to hear about my excursions today to Simon Pearce, Sugarbush Cheese Farm and Shackleton's fine furniture and pottery shop, but in the meantime discover Woodstock on your own….once you are lucky enough to have found this special town you will want to keep it in your life. Each and every trip will provide new memories and rediscovery, but also opportunities to deepen existing traditions.
KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Sometimes called the Indianapolis 500 of offshore powerboat racing, the Key West World Championship is to draw national and international racing teams to compete Nov. 4-11 in the waters surrounding the island city.
Key West World Championship
The action kicks off with a parade of race boats down Key West’s legendary Duval Street, slated to start at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4. Racing is scheduled throughout the week, with high-speed challenges taking place Wednesday, Nov. 7; Friday, Nov. 9, and Sunday, Nov. 11.
A portion of the 6.5-mile course runs through Key West Harbor, meaning smooth water where racers can achieve speeds above 140 mph and provide fans breathtaking displays of skill and power.
Because water conditions vary along the course, teams can test both equipment endurance and hull and propulsion design during the season-ending championship series. Boats compete in nine classes including the celebrated Superboat class.
On race days, spectators can get an unmatched view from grandstand areas on Key West’s Truman Waterfront — sitting so close they can practically feel the salt spray as boats roar by. The Truman Waterfront can be accessed at the end of Southard Street past Thomas Street and Truman Annex.
On nonrace days, powerboat enthusiasts can view the sleek high-speed boats, watch in-water testing runs and meet racers and crews at the race village, also situated on the Truman Waterfront. Social events for racers and their fans are planned as well, including a Duval Street party where race boats are on display.
General-admission tickets are available, as are all-inclusive VIP spectator passes for the Truman Waterfront grandstands and hospitality tent. Other popular viewing areas include waterfront hotels and Key West’s Mallory Square.
Event information and schedule: www.superboat.com
Key West visitor information: www.fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
Social: facebook.com/floridakeysandkeywest · twitter.com/thefloridakeys · youtube.com/FloridaKeysTV
The one thing about living in New England is that some good things never change. Back in the day, I used to head out for a Sunday drive. There was no better prescription to change your brain chemistry than 'bliping the throttle' on each downshift on a twisty turny road.
121 Restaurant & Bar - Route -121 Bedford, NY
My favorite stretch to unwind was Route 121 from Bedford to North Salem, NY. Driving in the open air on a mid-summer's night or a crisp fall day as the world whizzed by was always exhilarating. The best part of the drive was that just before reaching Interstate-84, there was a great out-of-the-way place called Restaurant 121. It was in the middle of nowhere but, plenty of interesting people gathered there. The bar was standing room only. It was a cool place and I always looked forward to pitting there for some comfort food and a Johnny Walker Blue neat.
Like to Drive? Fire Up Your Ride. Go!
Fast forward ten or so years and I'm back and restaurant hasn't changed a bit! It's exactly how I'd remembered it. It's the same old antique house and wrap-a-round porch. During the summer, it's a great place to sit and have lunch. Inside you'll find a casual relaxing atmosphere that guys can relate to. The dark wood, copper bar, stone wood burring fireplace and Western Americana art all add to the down home decor.
￼￼If comfort food is what you're seeking, then the menu at 121 will be sure to please. It's packed with creative selections like the Arancini Rirrotto Fritter with Porchini Truffles and Parmesan Dip - $8.00 and the amazing Goat Cheese with Caramelized Onion and Slice Tomato Pine Nut Pizza - $14.00. It's wood fired and crafted from the highest quality Neapolitan flour by Capoto. This flour makes the most fluffy and perfectly baked pizza ever. The goat cheese melted in our mouths. Yum.
We especially like the creativity and visual presentation of the seasonal Watermelon Mozzarella Salad with Chopped Basil - $14.00. On a late summer day, sitting on the porch, it was delightful to relax and nibble on this dish!
If you really want to sit and chill for for a while then order a glass of the Schramsberg Vineyards Blanc de Blanc. - $15.00. It's an effervescent sparking wine made from Chardonnay. It paired well with the watermelon salad.
Appetizers: $6 to $10. Pizzas: $12.00 to $15.00. Entrees: $22.00 to $34. Desserts: $6 to $7. Hours: Mondays, 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Fridays, 5:30 to 11 p.m. Saturdays, 5 to 11 p.m. Sundays, 5 to 9 p.m. Open for Sunday brunch starting next month.
121 Restaurant and Bar
Route 121 and Dingle Ridge Road
North Salem, NY
The Wrap Around Porch is Delightful
The Copper Bar is Cool. Get There Early or Lose Your Seat
Cozy Up During the Winter Months in Front of the Fire
The Lower Room is Perfect For Private Parties
The Main Dining Room at 121
The Goat Cheese Pizza is to Die For
My New Favorite - Watermelon Mozzarella Salad - Yum!
Sipping Sparking Wine... Perfect!
Guests traveling on Tauck's new "Botswana, South Africa & Zambia" safari next year will be treated to a once-in-a-lifetime experience – the chance to actually walk with and among a pride of juvenile lions as they play, relax and begin to develop the skills they’ll use later to survive in the wild. This unique opportunity comes during a visit to a lion research center near Livingstone, Zambia, where young lion cubs orphaned in the wild are nurtured and ultimately prepared for reintroduction into their natural environment.
The chance to walk among lions is just one of many amazing experiences on the new Tauck safari. Guests on this small-group adventure (featuring a maximum of just 20 travelers) will also travel offshore from Cape Town, South Africa, to nearby Seal Island, with the chance to perhaps witness great white sharks dramatically snatching fur seals from the waters surrounding the island. They’ll also explore a meerkat colony on Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pan, and get to know the colony’s quirky, energetic and entertaining residents. And they’ll view wildlife in a range of other settings, ranging from open-top, six-passenger safari vehicles to a lavishly restored Pullman lounge and dining cars during a private steam train journey (complete with gourmet dinner) through Zambia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.
The itinerary will also traverse a variety of landscapes, from the dramatic coast of the Cape of Good Hope to deserts and salt plains, and from rainforests and Victoria Falls to marshlands and savannahs. The natural wonders of Botswana, South Africa and Zambia will be complemented by special Tauck “insider” experiences that reveal the countries’ history and culture. For example, in Botswana Tauck travelers will learn about long-held traditions and daily life during a visit to a San Bushmen village. And in South Africa, guests will enjoy a traditional “braai” barbecue dinner at a private home in Cape Town and visit the 17th-century Castle of Good Hope, which dates back to the region’s time as an outpost of the Dutch East India Company.
Price for the 12-day journey is from $8,890 per person, double-occupancy, plus international and on-tour air. Included in the price are all safari excursions, guides, most meals, accommodations in five-star hotels and luxury safari camps, airport transfers, luggage handling and much more. Tauck will operate departures from April through November next year. Those interested can visit their local travel professional, call Tauck at 800 468 2825, or go to www.tauck.com.
More information: Tauck
Six years had passed since I visited San Francisco, which is about five-and-a-half years too late. I love the city, or "The City" as proud citizens often term it. I was eager to return.
A trip highlight was riding the city’s historic streetcars that operate along Market Street. The F-Line runs from the Castro to Fisherman’s Wharf, a prime tourist route. Union Square and numerous other vital spots are also along the line.
A streetcar painted in the color scheme of Boston's original 1940s cars, speeds along Market Street
Seventeen of the line’s 1940s streetcars originate from San Francisco, St. Louis and Philadelphia, (most are from Philadelphia). The cars are painted in various color schemes once found on other U.S. city streetcars, with the city’s name printed on the car’s exterior.
It’s fun to see which car you’ll ride. Some examples: St. Louis, painted green and cream; Baltimore, yellow and gray; Boston, orange, cream and silver with a red stripe; Los Angeles, orange and yellow with silver stripes.
San Francisco first proposed the vintage line back in 1971, but it wasn’t until 1995 that the cars began running. New boarding islands, curbing, planting and widened crosswalks were also installed.
The F-Line fleet also boasts three 1928 streetcars built in Milan, Italy, based on a design originated by Cleveland’s transit commissioner, Peter Witt (the cars are often termed “Peter Witt” cars). They were the first cars that allowed entry by front doors and exit by central doors. Look for the bright orange design.
The streetcars’ interiors are original, although refurbished. Riding the cars is a bit like riding a toy – everything is scaled down (compared to today’s enormous bus windows). Seats are small and narrow and rows of small boxed windows are set low.
Compared to riding San Francisco’s trolley service (more like a bar on wheels as tourists hang from the cars like drunken monkeys), the streetcars offer a genuine experience. Working class people ride the line, just as they did back in the 1940s.
Beck’s Motor Lodge occupies a premium perch along the line at 2222 Market Street. The lodge was built in 1958, when rooms went for $5 a night in the former Irish working class neighborhood. Will Beck lived in a flat nearby. Land was cheap, so he built his dream hotel
Beck’s optimal location and and retro feel can’t be found elsewhere in the area. Various upgrades have been completed over the decades, says owner Brittney Beck, granddaughter of Will Beck.
Beck keeps the blue, yellow and maroon paint job fresh, and her future plans include an outdoor pool and expanded lobby. The rooms are tidy and clean, with such retro touches as 50s-style fabric upholstery on wingback chairs in rooms.
Rates range from $100 to $180 per night and include wi-fi. King Deluxe rooms overlook 15th Street, the quietest part of the building. There are also two King rooms with fireplaces ($180). Parking is free, and all guests have access to a spacious sun deck and laundry facilities.
Learn more about San Francisco’s historic streetcar service.
Visit the Beck’s Motor Lodge website.
Located at New Yor's most fashionable address and just moments away from the festivities of Lincoln Center, The Plaza is ideally situated for guests to take in the glitz and glamour of Fall Fashion Week 2012.
The Plaza Hotel - New York City
Now, chic-seekers can be wined, dined, and beautified at the iconic urban oasis with a welcome bottle of champagne, a $100 Gift Card to New Yorkers’ favorite new dining concept, The Todd English Food Hall at The Plaza, and hair and make-up appointments at the celebrity favorite Warren-Tricomi Salon. Dedicated fashionistas are officially invited to take part in the season’s most buzzed-about event.
The first five packages booked for stays falling over September 5, 2012 will include two invitations to the exclusive Angelo Galasso POLSOOROLOGIO Party in The Oak Room, giving guests the opportunity to rub elbows with New York’s fashion tastemakers and trendsetters.
"The Fall Fashion Week Package" includes:
• Luxurious accommodations in a guestroom or suite
• Welcome bottle of champagne
• Hair style and make-up application at the Warren-Tricomi Salon at The Plaza
• $100 Gift Card to The Todd English Food Hall at The Plaza
• Invitations for guests booked the evening of September 5 to the exclusive Angelo Galasso
• POLSOOROLOGIO Party in The Oak Room (available for first five bookings only)
The offer is available exclusively during Fashion Week between Wednesday, September 5 and Saturday, September 15. Rates start at $865 per night. The offer is valid on a three night consecutive stay and cannot be combined with any other special offer. The offer does not include tax and gratuities, and is not applicable to group bookings of ten or more.
To confirm your Fall Fashion Week experience at The Plaza, please call (888) 240-7775 or book online by visiting: http://www.fairmont.com/the-plaza-new-york
Celebrities always know where the best luxury hotel hot spots are. Wouldn't you like to get the skinny on where they like stay when they on their honeymoons? Check out these luxury 5-star hotels and the famous celebrities that honeymooned there:
Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica - At Peninsula Papagayo
Celebs: Andy Roddick and Brooklyn Decker
Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica
Four Seasons Hualalai - The Big Island Hawaii
Celebs: Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green
Four Seasons Hualalai
Jade Mountain Resort - St. Lucia
Celebs: Kendra Wilkinson and Hank Baskett
Jade Mountain Resort
Hotel Guanahani & Spa - St. Barts
Celebs: Bethenny Frankel and Jason Hoppy
Hotel Guanahani & Spa
As many travelers know, every experience yields a lifetime of stories and after founding Abercrombie & Kent 50 years ago, Geoffrey Kent has plenty to share. Kent is marking this milestone by traveling back to the white continent after 20 years, on Abercrombie & Kent's Classic Antarctica cruise and therefore visiting all seven continents during the Anniversary year. He will join A&K guests on board 'Le Boreal' November 27 – December 10, 2012 to commemorate a special time for the company and engage with the most integral part of A&K – the guests!
"With a trip to Australia already on my docket, this journey will find me reaching all seven continents in A&K's anniversary year — and I could not think of a more fitting way to celebrate," explains Kent. "It's a unique opportunity for me to spend time getting to know our guests — people with a passion for exploration who have made our success possible."
"I first travelled to Antarctica in 1992 and it's been calling to me ever since," says Kent. "Last time I travelled on one of the first expedition ships. I'm looking forward to returning on 'Le Boreal,' which brings an extraordinary level of luxury and style to the ends of the earth."
Kent is eager to create new memories with A&K passengers on 'Le Boreal' and will be hosting a cocktail reception for guests to celebrate, where he will share stories about exploring some of the world's most remote and challenging destinations over the past 50 years. Born in Kenya, he joined his parents in founding Abercrombie & Kent as a luxury safari outfitter with the philosophy of "shoot with a camera not with a gun." With the innate skill of a consummate businessman and the relentless curiosity of a born explorer, Kent created a company that enables travelers to literally discover the world around them - and to do it in a uniquely stylish manner. To this day, he continues to travel the world in search of the kinds of adventures that will surprise and thrill his guests. Classic Antarctica with Special Guest Geoffrey Kent November 27-December 10, 2012.
A quintessential two-week voyage scheduled during the early Austral Summer, the ideal time of year to see Antarctica at its most pristine – with dramatic sunrises and sunsets, massive glaciers and the ice pack beginning to break up. This is the most active time of year in penguin rookeries, with nest building in full swing and early chicks hatching. Highlights of this celebratory cruise include:
Cruise in style and comfort on board MV 'Le Boreal,' the only all-balcony vessel in Antarctica when chartered by A&K
Sail with A&K's pioneering founder, chairman and CEO Geoffrey Kent — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
Discover some of the world's rarest wildlife and terrain on shore excursions with expert naturalist guides
Gain a deeper understanding of the region with enriching lectures by award-winning experts, some of the most seasoned researchers working in Antarctica
Professional photographer and coach Richard Harker shares practical tips on how to capture the beauty of the dramatic scenery and extraordinary wildlife
Fourteen days from $10,995 per person, double occupancy
Hands-On Exploration with the Finest Guides
Shore excursions in Antarctica are designed to educate and inspire, with a carefully-selected team of leading naturalists, geologists, historians, marine biologists, ornithologists and photographers -- experts who give enriching lectures and provide hands-on guidance both on board and on shore, ranging from the practical (how to master your digital camera) to the personal (a first-hand account of overwintering on a remote sub-Antarctic island). With an average of 15 years' experience navigating the Southern Ocean, each A&K Zodiac driver is a certified field naturalist who provides knowledgeable commentary on the twice-daily excursions that take guests into the heart of this once-in-a-lifetime destination. With a guide-to-passenger ratio of 1:12, guests can expect personalized attention.
Adventuring in Comfort
The elegant guest quarters aboard MV 'Le Boreal' are among the most spacious and comfortable on any Antarctic cruise. Private balconies allow guests to appreciate the wildlife and midnight sun at any hour.
A technologically-advanced stabilizing system minimizes the effect of rough seas. Abercrombie & Kent's journeys are the most-inclusive way to experience Antarctica, include pre- and post-cruise lodging and sightseeing in Santiago, charter flights to and from Ushuaia, on-board lectures, twice-daily shore excursions, boot rental, most drinks, and staff and crew gratuities.
To book a journey to Antarctica with Geoffrey Kent, go to www.abercrombiekent.com or call 800 554 7094 to speak to an Antarctic specialist. Travellers unable to get away in November can still save 25% – up to $8,500 per cabin – on December voyages to Antarctica when booked by June 15, 2012.
Prices are per person, double occupancy
Photos available at: http://portfolio.abercrombiekent.com/res/sites/Antarctica
Video at: http://youtu.be/EYwd05vZDDs
The Beverly Hills Hotel has been named the first Historic Landmark for the City of Beverly Hills, as recently announced by the City’s Cultural Heritage Commission.
The Famous Beverly Hills Hotel Pool
Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, The Beverly Hills Hotel opened in 1912 prior to the founding of Beverly Hills itself, and the city grew up around the glamorous hotel. To this day, the iconic property remains at the heart of the star-studded Beverly Hills community, and it is devoting all of 2012 to the 100th anniversary celebration of its heritage not only as a newly-announced landmark and second home to Hollywood royalty, but also as a hospitality standard-bearer for future generations.
In recognition of this coveted recognition, a “Landmark Offer” has been introduced for hotel stays throughout the fall. Guests will receive a third or fourth night complimentary when reserving rooms from September 7 to December 30, 2012. Rates starting at $495 a night.
“We are truly grateful to the City of Beverly Hills for this Historic Landmark honor,” said Christopher Cowdray, chief executive officer of Dorchester Collection. “We have always been inspired by the magic and beauty of our Beverly Hills location, and it has helped provide The Beverly Hills Hotel with an iconic backdrop. As we celebrate our 100th anniversary this year, we look forward to highlighting this new Historic Landmark designation with great pride and joy.”
The hotel’s award as the city’s first Historic Landmark will be celebrated on September 12, 2012 in a special gathering for the Beverly Hills community. The event will include the opening of a historic time capsule, placed at the property’s front red-carpet entrance in 1993 when the hotel closed for a two and a half year refurbishment. The capsule’s location is marked by a gold plaque which indicates it is to be opened during the hotel’s centennial year. While its contents are reportedly ‘unknown,’ artifacts including a cigar from frequent guest Milton Berle and hand-drawings from a frequent celebrity guest are rumored to be inside. A new time capsule will also be planted, and the Mayor’s office will issue a proclamation declaring the ceremonious day “Beverly Hills Hotel Day.” Other 100th anniversary activities for The Beverly Hills Hotel include ongoing dining, spa and anniversary package offerings. An added highlight of the year-long anniversary celebration is the book launch of The Beverly Hills Hotel – The First 100 Years, by Beverly Hills resident Robbie Anderson, great-grandson of the property’s original owner and official historian for the hotel.
“Our new Historic Landmark status inspires us to continue to raise the bar when it comes to service and hospitality leadership,” said Edward A. Mady, regional director, West Coast, USA and general manager. “Dorchester Collection’s philosophy of ‘We Care’ is designed to provide not only an outstanding travel experience for our guests, but also to present a wonderful work environment for our employees and a welcoming local haven for our neighbors. We will ever be proud to call Beverly Hills home, and we thank the Cultural Heritage Commission for this wonderful recognition.”
Zermatt at night. The church marks the center of the village.
When I stepped out onto my hotel balcony in Zermatt, Switzerland, my first impression was simply, "Wow"! North American resorts like Whistler or Vail may have similar terrain, but they certainly don’t have mountains that look as dramatic as the Alps. I quickly realized that this would be the ski trip of a lifetime.
Situated at the southern end of the Switzerland, along the border of Italy, Zermatt is enclosed between incredibly steep mountains and dominated by a quiver of peaks that tower above 14,000 feet. The village was “discovered” by British mountaineers in the mid-nineteenth century, but its roots go far deeper. Roman coins found on the Theodul Pass (the gap between Zermatt and Bruel-Cervinia) indicate that the area was once an access route to Gaul and Helvetia between 200 and 400 B.C. Imagine, a ski resort that is over 2000 years old!
Today, the streets are lined with elegant restaurants and grand hotels and the resort is continually regarded as a world-class destination. Although Zermatt may appear as a real-life Disneyland (complete with its own version of the Matterhorn), its sun-browned stodels and traditional mountain culture allow its authenticity and appeal to persevere.
The train system in Switzerland really does run like clockwork. When I arrived in Geneva, I only had to make a short walk to the station, which was conveniently connected to the airport’s baggage claim area. My train was waiting at the correct gate and departed on schedule – just as the second hand swept past 12. For the next four hours, I was able to sit back and enjoy Switzerland’s sparkling landscape from the cozy comfort of my cabin.
When I arrived in Zermatt, I found myself in a bustling square where ranks of electric taxis, hotel shuttles and horse-drawn sleighs were competing to ferry me to my hotel. Cars are forbidden in Zermatt but never the less, the scene was quite overwhelming as vacationers poured out of the train. Luckily, I had made arrangements beforehand. Waiting for me at the platform was David Court from Alpine Exposure, the owner of a small tour company specializing in ski and snowboard vacations in the European Alps. Within a few minutes, we were loaded onto a small blue electro-wagon and quietly zipping off to the hotel.
David had arranged a room for me at Chesa Valese, a reasonably priced four-star establishment with many pluses. First, it’s literally within walking distance to everything – a great attribute in a car-free resort. Second, at a time of year when it is cold and icy, the hotel’s alpine decor offered warmth and color. Third, the owner and her staff were very pleasant and did everything to make me feel comfortable, cozy and happy.
My room was a traditional “Swiss” style with wood paneling, but also with a touch of flower wallpaper. The bed was topped with a comfy down duvet, the bathroom was large and modern, and the view of the Matterhorn was breathtaking. Breakfast included the an assortment of cereals, yogurts, boiled eggs, juices, coffee, tee, with the good selection of cheeses, cold cuts, fresh fruit, bread, rolls and croissants.
Chesa Valese also offered some surprising amenities including a Jacuzzi and a steam bath, which were a welcome retreat after a long day of skiing.
There’s certainly no shortage of shops that offer ski and snowboard equipment and prices are actually quite reasonable at about $150 for the week (including skis, boots and poles). TiPee Sports is conveniently located next to the Sunnegga lift station and the owner (John Tidy) is a friendly British chap who gave me some great insight about the changes that have occurred since he officially expatriated over 20 years ago.
My skiing experience began with David greeting me at my hotel on the first morning. One of the added benefits of signing up with his company includes three days of guiding – a service that ultimately helps one get familiar with the different ski areas, which collectively, are absolutely enormous.
Powder skiing. The Matterhorn always present in the background.
There are three distinct locations in Zermatt: Sunnegga, Gornergrat and Klein Matterhon. However, if you purchase the International Pass you can also ski in Cervinia and Valtournenche, which are just across the border in Italy yet completely accessible on skis.
Skiing in Cervnia, Italy
It was a clear and sunny day, but David mentioned that snow was expected later in the week, so he suggested that we make the trip to Cervinia, before access would be prohibited. He clarified that, for safety reasons, they close the runs if visibility is poor or if the winds are too fierce. Without a cloud in sight, I doubted the coming of a storm, but I also knew that David has been skiing in Zermatt for over 20 years, so I took his word and we started our long journey up a series of cable cars to the Klein Matterhorn station.
Switaly! David standing at the border of Switzerland and Italy.
From the moment we reached the top, I realized why skiing in Europe is such a different experience from that of skiing in the US, particularly since I grew up skiing in the northeast. The wide open spaces can appear somewhat intimidating at first - especially as most of the runs are above tree-line. And starting at 12,500 feet (the highest lift station in Europe) can also be a bit daunting. But David turns to me with a re-assuring smile and we begin our descent to Cervinia – more than 8 miles away!
There are precious few opportunities in the world to ski over international borders but doing so for this long without ever needing to take a lift was clearly one of my most favorite experiences. I couldn’t imagine anything that could top it – until David took me to Restaurant Bontadini, where we stopped for an amazing lunch of creamy cannoloni, a bottle of red wine, and then a coffee with a freshly made tiramizu. Wow! Italy just got even more beautiful.
Skiing in Zermatt
Just as David had expected, the weather was about to turn so we skied at Sunnegga – an area that is lower and covered more by trees. The skiing was fun, but the visibility was poor. He could sense my frustration so he did what came naturally for any European skier: he suggested we stop for a long lunch.
Having a guide is great. Fresh tracks and no crowds!
We went to Chez Vrony, a mountain restaurant that –at first glance – looked like something of a Swiss cliché hidden among the stodels along the hillside. But the interior was quite a surprise. It was decorated with modern furniture upholstered in black leather and cowhides and from the ceiling dangled an assortment of unique chandeliers made of discarded plumbing material – all the work of Vrony’s brother, Heinz Julen. Foodies will revel in the fact that they raise their own cattle for their beef and make their own cheese in the basement.
We were positioned in a small private room upstairs and started with a glass of Prosecco and the air-dried beef, which is accompanied by curls of mountain cheese, tiny pickled onions, cornichons and freshly baked black bread. My main course was a saffron risotto topped with veal and sage. To drink: a red varietal from the Valais region.
Our starter, two mains, an excellent bottle of wine, and sparkling water, totaled about 165 Swiss francs. Not cheap, but very high quality with a very pleasant surrounding, a friendly professional staff, and certainly a warm escape from an otherwise snowy day.
It turns out that Heinz Julen (Vrony’s brother) owns the most hip spot in town for late night cocktails and dancing. His place is called Vernissage and it is located in the very center of Zermatt.
Vernissage - Zermatt's most eclectic bar, theater and disco.
His place is split into three levels. From the entrance at the top floor one walks down a spiral staircase to the main bar, which, keeping to his style, is bedecked with blocky leather couches and illuminated glass tables that appear to be floating from the floor. A private lounge sits off to the side behind sheer white curtains and, walking out to it, you’ll find that it is actually suspended thirty feet above his art gallery, which is located on the next level below. Walking down those final set of stairs, you’ll also find the dance floor, which becomes quite popular by midnight.
Other hot spots: Hotel Post on the main street (www.hotelpost.ch)
Of all the resorts I’ve ever been to, Zermatt will be my favorite. On the morning I departed, I gazed up at the Matterhorn for one last time. The early sun colored its east face with a warm orange light that off-set the jagged grey crags. Despite the cold weather, the mountain looked inviting and seemed to be saying one last farewell as I was about to board the train back to Geneva. It’s an image I won’t forget and I hope that I will be able to return someday soon.
Undoubtedly, I could have planned this all myself and relied on a resort map while navigating the slopes, but David’s local knowledge truly paid off. His hotel and restaurant suggestions were spot-on and he really does have an instinct for where the best conditions will be on any given day. In the end, he was able to tailor the trip to my own specific needs. Whether I needed an extra little push to get down a black run or just a quick stop for a coffee and apple strudel, he made for a fantastic experience.
For more information about his business, go to: www.alpine-exposure.com
The Summer House :
English Invades Summer House In Siasconset
The Summer House Inn
Todd English is a busy man. Being a celebrity chef, restauranteur, author, entrepreneur, and television personality isn’t as easy as you’d think. How does a guy like Todd ever find time to smell the roses? At The Summer House of course.The picture perfect rose covered cottages and casual elegance of The Summer House is the place to take a deep breath, relax and unwind on Nantucket.
English has been a regular here since becoming best friends with proprietor Danielle de Benedictis when he opened his first restaurant in Charlestown, MA. These two have chemistry. Their amazing energy is the catalyst of an exciting renaissance movement taking place at The Summer House.
So are you ready to break some bread with Todd English? Can you take a little time to smell the roses with us? Let’s settle into Francesca cottage for an unforgettable stay at The Summer House. Come on. You’re invited too!
Read the full story.
Related blog post: Reliant Air's Nantucket Shuttle Service From Danbury Airport To ACK In 35 Minutes
Reliant Air's King Air Turbo Prop
Are you on your way to Nantucket from Westchester or Fairfield County? Would you like to avoid the drudgery of fighting your way to John F. Kennedy Airport, parking your car and clearing security?
The best alternative to this scenario is Reliant Air's Nantucket Shuttle departing from either White Plans (HPN) or Danbury (DXR). The service is provided on a King Air turbo prop at a small premium to JetBlue's offering without all the hassles. Cost is $500 each way per person from Danbury, (DXR) and $575 from White Plans, (HPN).
Today Famtripper.com left early from Danbury (DXR) at 5:00 a.m. to pick up returning passengers heading to White Plans (HPN) on a 6:30 a.m. flight.
I'm happy in the air, especially aboard a King Air. Sitting up next to the pilot in the cockpit with the sun raising over the horizon was a great way to start the new day. There is so much to see on this short 35-minute flight.
We jetted passed Montauk, Block Island, Cuttyhunk, Martha's Vineyard and Tuckernuck Islands before turning right to base and flaring for a picture perfect landing on Nantucket. I turned to Josh the pilot and said, "The flight was way to short. Nice landing." I was happy to be home again on my favorite island. Nantucket.
1 Wibling Road
Danbury, CT 06810
DXR - Danbury
ACK - Nantucket
DXR - Danbury
ACK - Nantucket
ACK - Nantucket
DXR - Danbury
HPN - White Plains
ACK - Nantucket
ACK - Nantucket
HPN - White Plains
It wasn't a bottle of white wine, although in hindsight it's obvious that cold vino would have been the way to go.
A man refreshes at Boulder Falls.
Anyone who has read The Sun Also Rises will understand what I mean when I say I "went Hemingway" on the creek, wedging my water bottle between two rocks, allowing the cold water to do its thing. It was early afternoon and quite hot in the sun - approaching 90 degrees - and as the adrenaline from the morning climb wore off I began to feel my tired muscles. Having learned my lesson hiking to 14,000 feet earlier in the week, I passed on an afternoon cocktail for a healthy serving of hydration.
Looking back that decision seems foolish now, given the calming scenery and how good the sips of wine would have tasted in the heat of the day. As if sitting on the side of the creek and hearing the water flow wasn't enough, the canyon walls, pine trees, blue sky, and cascading waterfall wrapped everyone up in an afternoon comfort. People gathered at the base of the falls, sitting and walking with their ankles in the water, the dogs jumping into the deeper pools. Some had brought picnics, others hammocks and chairs.
That morning I had climbed about 1000 ft to the top of the first flatiron, and needless to say my toes were a bit rough from the journey, from being stuffed into the purposely cozy climbing shoes (reason being a big shoe wouldn't fit in a small hole in the rockface). When I held my feet in the running water and spread my toes, the force of the current performing a makeshift massage, I felt like rehabilitation - both in mind and body - had begun. One man took it a step further, as you'll see from the photos below.
Boulder Falls is located about 12 miles from the cabins of Chautauqua Park (trail open May 1 - October 31), a beautiful drive along the winding road into the Rockies. It's less than a five-minute walk from the road, making it the perfect outdoor sanctuary for people who want to feel good about doing absolutely nothing. My advice would be to bring some friends, and wash down the afternoon with a cold drink.
Cooling off at Boulder Falls.
One of my friends told me that she usually starts to "feel it" around 13,000 feet.
Mountain goats at Quandary Peak.
We were about a mile into the three to four mile ascent, and we had just come across a pack of mountain goats on the snow-covered rocks. The dog chased them as far as he could over the ridge, stopping when the pitch became too intimidating, looking down at the goats that now stood comfortably on the side of the mountain.
I inhaled deeply. We were around 10,000 feet and I knew the air was thin, but I felt like a million bucks - the blue sky, fluffy clouds, wildlife, and distant peaks distracting me from the stress on my body. In a few minutes this would all change - this was no ordinary hill.
Classified as a fourteener, a mountain over 14,000 ft, Quandary Peak is located just outside of Breckenridge (80 miles from Denver). There are approximately 70 fourteeners in the lower 48 states, and 53 of them are in Colorado (numbers may vary depending upon source as each uses slightly different qualification criteria). It's a thing around here, for sure. People keep track of how many they've hiked, and when you tell someone you've hiked your first they are genuinely congratulatory.
I wrote in a recent feature that Denver's urban/outdoor combination attracts an active and athletic population, and now I'm starting to wonder if that might have been an understatement. Those used to living at sea level who consider themselves to be in good shape are in for a surprise - the altitude has a way of humbling visitors. Myself included.
On top of the world at Quandary Peak.
I'll give credit to the Coloradans: Despite being incredibly fit and physically capable, they carry a tremendous amount of respect for the elements and how dangerous these beautiful environments can be. Staying on the trail is an extremely good idea, and hiking without ample food and water is downright foolish. It's a good thing I was going with locals, because I was prepared to set off with nothing more than the water in my Camelback.
Let's put this all in perspective: When I went skydiving over Santa Barbara last year, I jumped out of a plane that was cruising at 13,000 ft. That's stunning to me, and probably explains why I had to stop every five to ten minutes to catch my breath once we hit 12,000 ft. Even though it's only a class 1, the hike to Quandary Peak is all uphill, from the first step to the last. As you ascend the terrain changes from covered paths to exposed rock fields, and you go from simply walking up hill to now stepping up and climbing loose rocks. Stair-stepping, if you will.
Spouts of dizziness and a thumping heart forced me to stop and regroup frequently once we hit the final mile - something I simply had to get used to and accept. While initially frustrated, I did begin to appreciate the way taking a seat brought the surroundings to my complete attention. I can't imagine it's an unlikely scenario for one to put their head down and charge up the mountain and allow the workout to drown out the scenery.
Arriving at the top of Quandary Peak was by no means anti-climatic - just take a look at the photos. The sight lines exploded and people were drinking beer, hanging out (my sorry ass stuck with coconut water). It was really the nonchalance that impressed me, that made me shake my head and laugh. You know, climb 14,000 ft, have a beer, climb down. Whatever.
Check out Colorado Fourteeners for more information on Quandary Peak (and others). Here are the photos of our journey to 14,265 feet:
My favorite days are the ones when I partake in something I never anticipated.
Spaceship Earth at Epcot.
That's the great thing about life and travel - the ability to be surprised by yourself. Things have happened to me on the road that I never would have predicted, the most recent being the experience of drinking hot sake from a plastic cup at an amusement park.
Beauty and the Beast were over by the railing signing autographs for a line of kids, and meanwhile my friends and I were trying to decide betweenKronenbourg and a Grey Goose/Grand Marnier daiquiri in France, one of 11 countries represented at Epcot's World Showcase. I often wondered why a family destination like Disney would sell beer at a frozen lemonade stand, but it doesn't seem to bother a soul.
The average family saves for three to five years to take a trip to Disney (three to five years!), and I suppose that would drive me to drink, no judgement (admission tickets are approaching $80 these days). I'd be making the very best of every minute, for sure. I'm pretty sure Disney is the only place you can get away with having a beer occupy the cup holder of a stroller.
Epcot stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Walt apparently had a vision for a self-sustaining city, however it did not turn out exactly as he envisioned: In EPCOT, Walt set out to create a new kind of city, an ideal community where residents would apply the best thinking and technology to the challenges of transportation, communication, and sanitation. Unfortunately, Walt simply did not live long enough to see this particular dream to reality.
Instead, we have groups of friends attempting to have at least one drink at every country.
Funny how things work out (sorry Walt), but we did have a good time that day walking through the park, sampling the food and drink options in all the countries. I didn't go too crazy: I had a pineapple margarita in Mexico, hot sake in Japan, Kronenbourg in France, andBoddingtons in the United Kingdom. Aren't you proud?
People I've told have taken their jabs - they think I should have gone 11 for 11 - yet I think that's a little aggressive for a number of reasons (cost, longevity, practicality, children).
And no offense America, but I wasn't exactly itching for a six-dollar Bud Light.
Yours truly in Morocco.
Mission Space: Two people have died riding this space shuttle launch simulator(apparently from pre-existing conditions), and they have since taken the intensity down a notch. I could feel it in my chest and senses - the g-forces are strong with this one.
Spaceship Earth: Inside the icon of Epcot, riders witness the development and advancement of communication from the caveman to present day - as well as an interactive look at the future (see photos below).
IllumiNations Reflections: I was worn out by the time this show rolled around at night, but I was happy to have stayed once the fireworks started exploding in the sky. Check out some photos and video of the display.
Soarin': This ride simulates a peaceful hang-gliding flight over the state of California. From the Golden Gate Bridge to San Diego, you'll swoop down from the mountains over the ocean and amongst the redwoods.
Fast passes are free at Disney (it comes as part of your ticket), which means you can reserve a time to come back and "skip the line." It significantly reduces wait time and is easy to use - check out all the details here.
Spaceship Earth Future Photo
Tequila bar in Mexico.
Yours truly in Morocco.
The crew in the U.K.
The crew in Morocco.
The Tampa Port Authority welcomed the announcement by Royal Caribbean International of its plans to replace its current cruise ship serving Tampa, Jewel of the Seas, with Brilliance of the Seas beginning with the 2013-2014 season. Both belong to the Radiance Class of ships, with 2,112 passenger capacity.
Brilliance of the Seas
In May 2013, before Brilliance of the Seas is deployed to Tampa, she will enter dry dock to undergo a major revitalization as part of Royal Caribbean's Royal Advantage program, and re-emerge almost as if she were a new ship. This will involve introducing the highest guest-rated features from its award-winning Oasis Class of ships, to include a greater variety of new onboard dining and entertainment options, revitalized staterooms, and many other amenities including pervasive Wi-Fi, digital way-finding systems and an outdoor LED video wall. Vacationers can choose four- and five-night Western Caribbean itineraries aboard Brilliance of the Seas, sailing round-trip from Tampa and calling at Cozumel, Mexico on the four-night, and George Town, Cayman Islands and Cozumel on the five-night cruises. Aboard select five-night sailings, guests call at Key West, Fla., instead of George Town. Vacationers also can select a 13-night Southern Caribbean itinerary, departing on Oct. 27 from Boston, Mass. to Tampa. These sailing will open for sale on Thursday, May 17.
We look forward to welcoming Brilliance of the Seas to Tampa and believe the ship’s exciting new features will create a fresh buzz in Tampa’s robust cruise market and with the travel agent community,” Richard Wainio, port director and chief executive, said.
Relais Christine :
The Ideal Location
A stroll away from Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter
My ideal hotel is one that is located in the center of the action, but on a quiet street. The hotel that perfectly fits this description in Paris is Relais Christine, on the Left Bank. Located on quiet Rue Christine, Relais Christine is only a short stroll away from iconic attractions like Notre Dame and bustling neighborhoods like the Latin Quarter. Read the review.
As I was boarding the flight in New Orleans that would eventually take me back to Philadelphia, I kept my head on a swivel, scoping out the faces of those around me. I found my seat and focused on the doorway as the people entered, hypothesizing the scenarios of their visits based on expressions and appearances.
There are places around the world where people have a tendency to depart worn out as opposed to rested, and the United States certainly has its share: Any plane out of Las Vegas, for sure, but also Sunday afternoon flights from fiesta-oriented towns such as New Orleans and Miami. Most likely, a handful of passengers on the plane have had a wild weekend, which is good for both people-watching as well as in-flight conversation.
I would have been happy with eavesdropping across the aisle, yet as luck would have it the man who sat down next to me had been in town for a bachelor party. Lucky me, although he also may of felt fortunate - I hadn't been getting much sleep, either.
Beginning of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
The man next to me on the plane said it better than I ever could: Bourbon Street does an incredible job of quarantining all the assholes.
I laughed when he said it. Neither of us were trying to be a prick - we admittedly had both spent some time exploring the scene (and I certainly didn't complain about the strong drinks), but let's be honest: It's no place any local hangs out. It's the same bar over and over, each block relatively the same, and the crowd is a bunch of drunk out-of-towners who are feeling good about themselves and looking to let loose.
No judgement, I played along: I drank a few Jesters and walked the street, saw some women lift up their shirts and danced to a live band. But it wasn't somewhere I wanted to spend all night - I knew there was a time limit to my tolerance.
The good thing is that although it gets the most attention, Bourbon Street is merely the gateway to nightlife in the New Orleans.
Magazine Street eventually dead ends into Canal Street as you drive east on it, running parallel to the Mississippi River and cutting right through the heart of the Garden District (Uptown). Bye-bye Bourbon - this is much more the scene for meeting locals.
Restaurants, bars, and shops line the neighborhood street, and there are significantly less bells and whistles (no party push, no loud clubs that I saw). The majority are locally owned and run with outside seating under the live oak trees, great for walking and menu/window shopping.
With the help of a friend I found a great beer bar called The Bulldog (located between Toledano and Pleasant). If you're ever in town on a Wednesday, they run an interesting special that allows you to keep the pint glass of every beer you drink (you can cash in ten of them for a free T-shirt, but I'd keep the glasses). Happy hour at the Bulldog is legit: 2 p.m. - 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and they have 50 beers on tap and 100 more in bottles.
Frenchmen Street and Marigny:
On the eastern end of the French Quarter is the appropriately named Frenchmen Street, known for its live music scene and lack of neon lights (aka its local feel). This is a great spot to wander after you've had your fill of Bourbon Street.
We walked further east into the neighborhood of Marigny (see map below) and ended the night at Mimi's in the Marigny, recommended to my group by a local and recognized as Best Neighborhood Bar by Where Y'at and Best Bar in New Orleans by readers of The Gambit.
Mimi's serves Spanish tapas until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and has music and dancing on the second floor (either a band or DJ). Expect a younger crowd and a hipster vibe.
My advice: Window shop when you're in New Orleans. Most places do not charge a cover, so be sure to take advantage and pop in to preview the band/atmosphere of a few different spots. Don't decide on specific bars, decide on the neighborhood and let the night take you where it will. With so many bands playing at so many different venues almost every night, visitors could drive themselves crazy trying to pinpoint the perfect place.
Here's a map to help you get your bearings (click to enlarge):
From west to east: Magazine Street (The Bulldog), Bourbon Street, Frenchmen Street, Marigny (Mimi's)
After a few days navigating Beirut’s crazed traffic, the idea of a yacht and open coastline is incredibly alluring. Fortunately my hotel, Mövenpick , has both the yacht and the coastline.
Beirut’s coastline looms long and large from the 40-foot Italian Cranchi yacht. Maybe it’s the champagne, but the city seems to stretch forever as we speed past the lighthouse to the furthest reaches. Rising from the coastline is the Four Seasons newest skyscraper.
I spot the infamous Holiday Inn, yet standing beside that grand old lady, the Phoenicia, built in 1961 and now restored far beyond its original glory. The buildings were at the center of the Battle of the Hotels when factions used the properties as hide-outs, launching artillery fire during the civil war in the mid 1970s.
“Are they ever going to tear that thing down?” asks a companion about the Holiday Inn which was heavily damaged. Actually, I hope they don’t. The hulking tower, torn with gaping holes, seems to stand as the common man’s war memorial now. It was blasted by mortar shells within four days after its opening.
The five star Mövenpick has fared much better. Spread with 90,000 square meters of landscaping, the resort harbors three outdoor pools, a private beach and marina, along with tennis and squash courts. The property has 292 newly renovated guestrooms and suites, including two dedicated club floors.
The hotel pairs nicely with the Beirut that’s largely been reborn - driven by the Solidere development company, founded by former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. In short, Beirut is downright beautiful.
The yacht takes us in and around Pigeons’ Rock, found on Beirut’s western-most tip. The two rock formations tower above us like looming, striated sentinels. The eye level view is fantastic. Far above us on the corniche (Beirut’s popular seaside promenade) locals snap our photo. We wave like movie stars.
After the cruise, Mövenpick ’s Square Lounge on the hotel’s rooftop is an optimal pre-evening starter. Fresh from the cruise and plied with a drink, I’m ready to hit the Hamra again.
Mövenpick's rooftop Square lounge
Mövenpick Hotel & Resort Beirut: www.moevenpick-beirut.com