Where am I?

14 October 2009

I’m not updating this blog anymore — head here to see what’s new.


World’s Weirdest Hotels, Part Deux

13 August 2009

On your next trip, you could be checking into a wine cask, a salvaged 727 airplane, or a room where the furniture defies the law of gravity.

Upside-down stay
At Berlin’s Propeller Island City Lodge, each of the 30 rooms is weird in its own way. The artist-owner, Lars Stroschen, has seen to that. One room, the first built, is made to look like a brightly painted medieval town, with an ultra-mini golf course surrounding the castle bed. Another has furniture attached to the ceiling, another has coffins for beds, and still another has lion cages on stilts (the website claims that kids “love to sleep” in them). Then there’s the Freedom Room, which resembles a prison, complete with a toilet next to the bed—oh, that German humor! 011-49/30-891-90-16, propeller-island.com.
• Photos of Propeller Island City Lodge 1 of 4

Read more at Budget Travel . . .

Every Day a Staycation

19 July 2008

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal had a slightly sad-making article about that thing with the horrible name, the “staycation.” The article’s starts out confusing: “Karen Ash is about to take a weeklong Japanese vacation. She’ll buy postcards and souvenirs at a traditional Japanese market. She’ll admire bonsai plants and view Japanese films. She’ll eat ramen, ordering in Japanese. And she’ll never leave the Bronx.”

But where is this secret Japanese district in the Bronx that’s perfectly suited for a Japanostaycation? If it’s out there, Karen doesn’t know it either, because the video makes it clear that her itinerary include such borough-crossing destinations as the Japan Society and East Village ramen shops. I’m still a little unclear on what constitutes “doing stuff where you live” and what’s an honest-to-God staycation, but it’s good to know that you can at least visit other boroughs without breaking the rules.

Perhaps the next staycation wrinkle will be apartment swaps in the same city. Anyone got a Brighton Beach condo they’d swap for an East Village tenement? We’ll leave the Vornados on for you.

Peter Greenberg

19 July 2008

I just did a quick segment on Peter Greenberg’s radio show. The segment grew out of a post I did for Budget Travel: What Are Travel Agents Good For?

Another good link on the same subject, from my old colleague Chris Culwell, formerly of Fodor’s: When to Use a Travel Agent.

Guest Editing at Budget Travel

17 June 2008

For the next few weeks I’ll be guest editing over at Budget Travel. Here are a few that are up already:

Helpful websites to plan your India trip

Will Olympics 2008 be the gold mine dreamed of?

Get used to those $15 fees

The Best Was the “Young” Part

18 May 2008

Yesterday I went to the Strand with a college friend who was visiting from out of town. The big-box used bookstore was as crowded as possible for any Saturday that’s not leading up to Christmas. First we checked out all the Simon + Schusters, Penguins, Vintages, and New York Reviews of Books laid out on tables, and then we headed deep into the stacks of the poetry section. It was there that a heavyset middle-aged guy with his hands full of books smiled at me and said hello. I thought he was just trying to get to know me in some way that I didn’t really care to be known, so I just smiled and got back to the task of trying to find some Seamus Heaney there. It was only later, when we had to pry ourselves out of Poetry and he said “young men!” that I realized he thought we were both clerks there, ready to help him find whatever we was looking for. I suppose I would have helped anyway, but we were already making good progress in getting through the crowds and heading for the exit.

Packing Light Is Never Easy

22 April 2008

packingshotIf you had to print out all the listings and web sites about “packing light” and take them with you on your travels, there’d be no room for the standard issue Moleskine notebook, copy of Eat Pray Love, and two pair of underwear — you know, the stuff you really need to truly experience a place. There’s no end to the making of packing tips, but luckily the internet will always have enough room to hold them all. A recent post from Go Green Travel Green has an assortment of the good ones — and lots more of them besides.

Read more at Gridskipper . . .

The Schmancy-ist Guide to Bangalore

5 September 2007

bangalore_bookIn 2004, former Faith Popcorn protégé Fiona Caulfield chucked her job to move to India and start Love Travel Guides: “handbooks for the luxury vagabond”. The first title, Love Bangalore, came out this past Valentine’s Day. Its 108 elegant pages are a quick trot through town, with an emphasis on art galleries, fancy restaurants, and even fancier boutiques.

The first thing you notice after picking up a copy is how beautiful and skinny it is, as pleasant to hold as it is to flip through. The web site has all the trigger words for anyone who likes looking at and buying labor-intensive, pretty things: the guides are “crafted with care,” with “handmade paper” and “handwoven,” hand-printed” raw silk covers, plus “hand-stitched” bookmarks. That’s a whole bunch of hands darting in and up and down. Luckily, those hands are of a reasonably large size — we’re also assured that the process was “child-labor-free.”

It doesn’t come cheap. At 1,200 rupees ($29), this is a luxury item in a country where that much cash goes a long, long way (the book is pricier outside of India). Judging by the boutiques selling the book, sales are directed mainly at the high-flying expats in town, with a smidge of fashionista and nightclubber thrown in.

But are expats enough of an audience? The website’s prominently displayed “Retail and Corporate Enquiries” is one clue that the main audience for these book slivers are the big IT companies and BPO’s in town. With any luck, they’ll buy up cartons and pass them out like cups of chai to their clients.

The preciousness of the whole enterprise grates a little, but there’s no reason a book shouldn’t be beautiful and cost accordingly, even when the book’s something as theoretically utilitarian as a travel guide. Definitely grab a copy of Love if you can spare the bones, but first try to get someone in Corporate to buy it for you.

(Full disclosure: I’m updating sections of the upcoming Fodor’s guide to India. It will lack raw silk covers.)

[from Gridskipper]

With a Long Drive Comes Great Food, Young Grasshopper

1 February 2007

GrasshopperGrasshopper, a restaurant/boutique near Bangalore’s southern city limits, is not the place for South Indian food, or for any sort of Indian food at all. What’s served here is carefully prepared, fresh Mediterranean with some Asian touches, and as such it wouldn’t be out of place in one of the swankier neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Add to this the fact that your “dining room” is a quiet garden full of birds, trees, and other wildlife, and you have a spot that feels a million miles away from the traffic and other pressures of central Bangalore.

Read more . . .