Travel + Leisure
February 24, 2011

Looking Back on Bodrum

Peter Jon Lindberg’s “Touring Turkey’s Bodrum Peninsula” was most interesting to me, but the glamorous beach resort he describes is not the Bodrum I remember: I arrived there on a sailboat while traveling with a friend from Alexandria, Egypt, to Piraeus, Greece. We hitched a ride with a student who spoke English and he took us to the top of a hill overlooking Bodrum where the pavement ended. Then, it was just a tiny fishing village. —Carl Bryant, Mercer Island, Wash.

Affordable Villa Rentals?

Is your “Best Villa Rental Agencies” for real? The perfect place in Tuscany for a mere $20,000 a week! Or perhaps a stay in Sicily for $50,850? How about including some more affordable options? —Sandra Mai, Jordan, Ontario

Editor’s Note: “Best Villa Rental Agencies” provided options for every budget (from $780 a week and up). While we did highlight many truly outstanding rentals, the companies listed also offer more affordable ones on their websites.

London Bound

I enjoyed “Literary Guide to London;” however, I don’t understand how you could not include Hatchards, the city’s oldest surviving bookshop. It was founded in 1797 and holds three royal warrants. Hatchards is an institution, and one of my favorite places. —Christine Nelson, Las Vegas, Nev.

Verlyn Klinkenborg missed my favorite bookshop in London: Heywood Hill, in Mayfair. British writer Nancy Mitford worked there from 1942 to 1945 and effectively ran it when Heywood Hill was called up for war service. The two were great friends and corresponded regularly; some of their letters were even published in The Bookshop at 10 Curzon Street, a terrific read. —Tillie Page Laird, Washington Depot, Conn.

Writer’s Response: Any reader who’s been to London will be able to add many favorite bookstores to those I mentioned. That’s the beauty of London for the book shopper—so much variety, so much specialization.

Hot Topic: Highway Robbery

Mark Orwoll’s World’s Strangest Traffic Laws resonated with our readers and users at TravelandLeisure.com. Here, your feedback—and tips.

To Pay or Not to Pay?

Before heading to Italy last year, I was warned about the possibility of returning home to find a ticket in the mail. I was a very cautious driver, but I recently noticed a $35 charge from the car-rental company—for providing my info to the police! Ten months later I haven’t received a ticket, but I understand that the clock is still ticking. If I do get fined, what would happen if I didn’t pay? In any case, I’m leery of ever driving in Italy again. —Karen Collum, Petaluma, Calif.

Mark Orwoll Replies: There are a few possibilities: the fine might be doubled and handed over to a collection agency; the rental company might pay it—and then bill you; or it might eventually be forgotten. Best of luck, and let’s hope this practice is abandoned in the future.

Congested in the U.K.

Last spring I rented a car in Edinburgh, to be dropped off in Manchester after a week in London, where it remained parked—so I was surprised to get a $145 fine from the city for “congest.” There wasn’t any contact information to dispute the charge—only an invoice from the rental company, which never warned me that you have to buy a special permit to drive into central London. —Murray Walker, via E-Mail

Camera Tip

Best investment: a Garmin Nüvi 255W GPS ($180) for Europe, which has a map of traffic camera locations everywhere but Germany (where they’re outlawed) and alerts you when you’re approaching them. —Mark E. Haas, Houston, Tex.

Reader’s Find: A Sustainable Costa Rican Retreat

While driving around Lake Arenal last May, I came upon a sign for Rancho Margot (doubles from $140, including breakfast, a ranch tour, and yoga classes), a “self-sufficient organic ranch.” It’s also a totally off-the-grid resort with 18 beautifully appointed, terraced bungalows. It sits right on the lake, in the middle of a breathtaking river valley surrounded by 148,263 acres of forest. Yoga, horseback riding, kayaking, hiking, and rappelling are just some of the things you can do there. But what I found most inspiring about Rancho Margot is its sustainable approach. It creates its own electricity with hydroelectric turbines and uses energy generated by composting to heat water for showers and a pool (with a swim-up wet bar). Most of the food is produced on the ranch, which has a chicken coop for fresh eggs and a dairy where guests can help make cheese. I’d recommend this place to anyone looking for paradise off the beaten path. —Tomas Loebel, Daytona Beach, Fla.

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On the Beach, All the Time For our lists of top American beaches, affordable beach resorts, and seaside inns, go to TravelandLeisure.com/ideas/beaches-resorts.

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T+L Asks: If You Could Live at Any Hotel in the World, Which One Would You Choose—and Why?

Here are selected responses posted on our Facebook wall (facebook.com/TravelandLeisure) and tweeted to us (@TravlandLeisure).

Tuscany

La Locanda di San Francesco (doubles from $265), a 14th-century palazzo, has the most magnificent views of the countryside. —Anne Bingham, Austin, Tex.

South Carolina

I’d love to wake up each morning with the sun shining into my cottage at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff (doubles from $650)—simple yet luxurious. —Blake Miller Vossekuil, Charlotte, N.C.

Peru

Las Casitas del Colca (doubles from $395, including meals and activities), in Colca Canyon. Fresh air, fantastic food, amazing spa, plus beautiful views. —Michelle Guy Nicholson, Fort Rucker, Ala.

Hawaii

I’d choose Grand Wailea (doubles from $564), on Maui. To swim in the ocean and sit under whispering palm trees every day would be magical. —Laurie Workman Malenfant, Colchester, Vt.

Istanbul

Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet (doubles from $585), a prison turned five-star hotel with the best beds—you feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud. —Caroline Roe, Madison, Wis.

Coming Next Month: If you were to plan an entire trip around food, where would you go—and what would you eat?

Your Hotels Hit List

Here, the most clicked-on hotels on TravelandLeisure.com at press time.

1. Kaawa Loa Plantation, Kealakekua, Hawaii
2. Hôtel l’Oursin, St.-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France
3. Çirağan Palace Kempinski, Istanbul
4. L’Oustau de Baumanière, Les Baux de Provence, France
5. Relais Sant’Elena, Bibbona, Italy
6. Art’Otel, Berlin
7. W Retreat & Spa Maldives, Fesdu Island, the Maldives
8. Sapibenega—The Kuna Lodge, Panama
9. Cavallo Point—The Lodge at the Golden Gate, Sausalito, California
10. Inn at Ocean’s Edge, Lincolnville, Maine

Las Casitas Del Colca

Located in the formerly rustic Parador del Colca, the original seven-room lodge now houses Las Casitas' handsome reception, bar, and restaurant. Guests stay in 20 new cottages - all with private patios and heated plunge pools (great for stargazing on cold nights) - among ponds, stables, gardens, and a small lawn where baby alpacas are bottle-fed by staff and guests. (Alpaca, a common entrée in Peru, is on the menu here, but the meat is tougher than you'd wish.) The hotel excels at thoughtful details, like field guides with pop-up maps of the region, and red-clay flagons of aloe vera and zinc-oxide sunblock - at 10,700 feet, skin burns at the speed of light. Turndown service leaves a sheep-encased hot water bottle peeking from behind a pillow and lit candles ringing the bathtub. The hotel also offers an exquisite on-site spa (try the signature high altitiude Altu massage), trips to Cruz del Condor to see the world's largest birds rise on thermals from the canyon below, hikes, horseback rides, and volunteering at a church in town.

Art’Otel

A unique blend of travel and art, the Art’otel Berlin City Center West is inspired by the works of famed artist Andy Warhol and displays original works throughout its public areas and guest rooms. Each of the 152 guest rooms and suites, along with the lobby, is decorated in vibrant shades of green, purple, red, orange, and blue to complement the hues in Warhol’s artwork. Guest services include a business center, complimentary Wi-Fi, and on-site dining at Factory Restaurant and Bar. 

Cavallo Point Lodge

Opened in 2008, with a prime location half a mile north of the Golden Gate Bridge in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Cavallo Point blends old and new to great effect. Its 142 rooms and suites are set in restored turn-of-the-20th-century Colonial Revival buildings that were onceofficers’ residences at Fort Baker. The lodge has a Healing Arts Center & Spa, an organic Tea Bar, a culinary arts program (sample classes: “Cooking from the Farmers’ Market” and the “Asian Melting Pot”), yoga classes, and one of the most dramatic views of that world-famous bridge.

Inn at Ocean's Edge

Cottage comfort gets ultrastylish at this 32-room inn compound, set on 22 sloping acres fronting scenic Penobscot Bay. In 2008, the managing partners (who also run the Black Point Inn) spent $2 million adding a soaring glass-front pool house with luxury ocean-view suites, sauna and spa treatment rooms, outdoor hot tub, and a granite-framed infinity pool to the property. Rooms vary in size, but all have a Down East barefoot elegance, with nautical shades of blue and white, crisp linens, and mod-cons like Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs. A few have fireplaces and extra-deep soaking tubs. A leafy path lined with artful “walls” of stacked wood leads to the ‘70s retro-chic restaurant (accessible only by foot or golf cart), The Edge, where chef Bryan Dame gives local ingredients a modern twist. The fireside bar and the stone terrace looking onto the birch-lined shore are perfect for pre- or post-dinner drinks.

Sapibenega – The Kuna Lodge

What to Expect: On this two-and-a-half-acre island in the San Blas archipelago on the northeast side of Panama, hammocks swing gently on the verandas of 13 thatched-roofed bungalows set on stilts over the clear Caribbean. Inside, bamboo walls complement simple but colorful furnishings. The lodge restaurant serves local in-season seafood (including lobster and crab), as well as traditional Kuna Indian dishes such as tulemasi, a soup made with plantains, coconut, fish, hot peppers, and lime. Guests dine by candlelight under the stars.

 

What to Do: Hike along the coast to the traditional Kuna village of Kolebir. In the main square, look for handmade molas, colorful embroidered cloth panels made by local women that are used for clothing, purses, and wall decorations.

 

Getting There: Fly from Panama City to Playon Chico. There, a guide from the lodge takes guests by motor canoe on the eight-minute trip to the island.

 

Insider Tip: Sign up for an eco-tour to the mainland rainforest, where a Kuna healer will share hidden knowledge about the jungle.

W Retreat & Spa - Maldives

The design-savvy W hotels group has expanded to the South Seas with a private-island resort in the Maldives. The traditional structures were built with modern materials—tented Teflon fiber ceilings that resemble soaring white sails at the Away Spa replace thatch and wood. Each of the 78 overwater and beach villas comes with its own infinity or plunge pool, and they all have curving decks that take in stunning beach and ocean views. Moroccan poufs with red piping and saturated abstract paintings punctuate white linen and simple wicker furniture. Straightforward and youthful, it’s taking W in a new direction. Check-in at the W Retreat & Spa—Maldives begins when guests arrive at Male International Airport, on Hulhule Island. There are W Welcome Ambassadors to greet them and direct them to the W Van that takes them to the W Lounge, where they are offered food, drinks, and, if they choose, a shower. Meanwhile, W Welcome Agents complete the check-in process before guests board a seaplane for the 25-minute flight.

L'Oustau de Baumanière & Spa

Three former residences in Provençal style (tile floors; arched stone ceilings), 2 swimming pools, an organic kitchen garden, and a stellar French restaurant with a 60,000-bottle cellar.

Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet

Set in the heart of Sultanahmet—a few minutes' walk from Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapı Palace—this property’s century-old Neoclassical building and manicured garden courtyard have hosted hotel guests since 1996. (In its earlier incarnation—as the city’s most famous prison—it was home to longer-term “visitors,” such as dissident poet Nazım Hikmet.) The 65 plush guest rooms here, though outfitted in traditional Four Seasons fashion (genteel wood antique repros, damask upholstery, plush wall-to-wall carpet), are greatly enhanced by the building’s graceful architecture, which incorporates vaulted ceilings and arched windows. Though there’s no swimming pool, the roof terrace, with views across the Sea of Marmara, is lovely in the summertime.

Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort

Whether it's splashing in Maui's best swimming pool all day or relaxing in Maui's best spa, a day spent at the Grand Wailea is synonymous with island luxury. In recent years, the Grand Wailea has led an exciting hyper-local food movement, where many of the resort's food and beverage items are grown or harvested on Maui. A few items, such as resort-grown honey, are sourced right on the property, and there's even a monthly dinner featuring food caught or harvested by hotel staff. Oh, and the 780-room property is set right on Wailea Beach—which in 1999 was voted by "Dr. Beach" as the #1 beach in America.

Çirağan Palace Kempinski

Staying at this former Imperial Ottoman Palace—an elaborate, Arabian-style compound that the empire’s sultans called home—may easily give you delusions of grandeur. It’s hard not to feel like royalty as you stroll through the expansive property, where palms, pools, landscaped gardens, and hammock-dotted paths front the Bosporus. Retiring to your quarters may present the same problem—especially if you’ve booked one of the 31 suites, decked out with rich wood paneling and private balconies.

Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a Montage Resort

With Spanish moss dripping from low-lying oak branches and egrets soaring overhead, life at this plantation-style luxury resort seems to move at the pace of a deep-southern drawl. But the many diversions—a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, fly-fishing, spa treatments, naturalist-led alligator “hunts”—sequestered on 20,000 acres of South Carolina coastal marshland leave little time for ennui. Fifty cottages house enormous rooms and suites (1,150- and 1,350- square feet, respectively), with pine floors, gas fireplaces, and private screened porches.

Hôtel l’Oursin

A petite, 14-room charmer with Provençal flair (embroidered toile bedspreads; carved walnut headboards). Two of the largest rooms face the harbor, with its bobbing sailboats. Walk along the sunny waterfront promenade and stop at one of the numerous outdoor cafés for bouillabaisse, or stroll through the village down to the pebbled Mediterranean beaches.

Ka’awa Loa Plantation & Guesthouse

Each of the five stylish rooms at this tiny B&B (run by gregarious owners Michael Martinage and Gregory Nunn) comes with panoramic views of Kealakekua Bay. A breakfast of eggs, fresh star fruit, and coffee grown on site is served on the 2,000-square-foot wraparound porch. The nearby lava-rock beaches, Kealakekua and Puuhonua O Honaunau, are known for the best snorkeling on the Big Island.

Relais Sant’Elena

A 15-room estate with canopy beds, stone fireplaces, and pasta-making classes.

Hatchards

Passionate bookworms can get lost for hours in this charming old-fashioned shop, the oldest surviving bookstore in London. Established in 1797, the shop has served some of the country’s greatest political and literary figures, including Queen Charlotte, Rudyard Kipling and Oscar Wilde. Contemporary writers are equally enchanted by Hatchards and often hold their only London book signings there, resulting in a spectacular collection of signed editions. Behind the antique green façade, more than 100,000 titles are stacked in every nook and cranny of the four-floor interior, which is also home to gorgeous Georgian reproduction chairs and a warm, knowledgeable staff.

Heywood Hill

A Mayfair landmark for over seven decades, this quaint bookstore has always taken great pride in its carefully composed selection of old, new and antiquarian books. The shop takes even more pride in making sure each customer is paired with the perfect title. Whether you’re looking for a gift or a special edition of your all-time favorite novel, the passionate, conscientious staff is always happy to help. Heywood Hill specializes in fiction, history, travel and darling children’s books as well as novels by Nancy Mitford, who saved the shop from closure in the 1940s when Hill was called into service.

Rancho Margot

This “self-sufficient organic ranch ” is a totally off-the-grid resort with 18 beautifully appointed, terraced bungalows. It sits right on the lake, in the middle of a breathtaking river valley surrounded by 148,263 acres of forest. Yoga, horseback riding, kayaking, hiking, and rappelling are just some of the things you can do there. The ranch creates its own electricity with hydroelectric turbines and uses energy generated by composting to heat water for showers and a pool (with a swim-up wet bar). Most of the food is produced on the ranch, which has a chicken coop for fresh eggs and a dairy where guests can help make cheese.

La Locanda di San Francesco

A 14th-century palazzo, has the most magnificent views of the countryside.

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