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NEWS: Jacques Pepin Partners with Oceania Cruises

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Jacques Pepin, one of the world’s most famous chefs and one of the few who has not previously attached his name to a restaurant, announced yesterday that he will open a signature French bistro aboard the new 1,258-passenger Oceania Cruises’ Marina when it launches late next year.  The bistro, to be called Jacques, will seat approximately 80 guests and will serve Pepin’s signature dishes like pumpkin soup a l'Anglaise served in a pumpkin shell and free-range chicken cooked on a rotisserie. The hallmarks of Pepin’s cuisine are simplicity and high-quality ingredients.

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All Aboard the Maharajas’ Express

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What is being touted as the most luxurious train in the world is now accepting bookings for its first season. And trust me, this ain’t Amtrak.

The Maharajas’ Express has four itineraries of six and seven nights and takes passengers to some of the most exotic destinations on the subcontinent, including Jaipur, Agra (home to the Taj Mahal), Varanasi, Delhi, Mumbai, and Udaipur (voted the best city in the known universe in the 2009 World’s Best Awards), among many others.

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Beer Without the Bruises

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When it comes to German beer, I have some experience--and the scars to prove it. I once received a dozen stitches in my scalp from a misunderstanding with a car door after a long day at Oktoberfest. I have had my hand stomped on by an elderly woman in a drunken crowd of revelers while downing Kölsch at Karneval in Cologne. At the oldest bier hall in Munich, I pulled a back muscle while tapping a massive wooden beer keg (in only two strokes!) with a 20-pound wooden mallet.

200907-b-oktoberfestjpgWhat I have not done, however, is roam the hillsides of Bavaria in search of the finest Noble Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops, or watch how the artisans at Bamberg’s Schlenkerla Brewery concoct their wondrous smoked beer, or explore the history and artifacts at the German Hops Museum in Wolnzach. I confess I have never witnessed the malting process.

It’s enough to make you weep.

But that’s easily corrected on the seven-day Samuel Adams Hopfenpflücken (“hop-picking”) Adventure, organized by the high-end tour company Abercrombie & Kent.

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Hooray for (Italian) Clown Cars!

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The Fiat 500 gets my vote for the car you’d most like to hug, a car that threatens to unload 17 tumbling clowns when it pulls into the middle of the Big Top. Just looking at one makes you want to buy a ticket to Italy—or at least a DVD of Gidget Goes To Rome. The 500 is so small and inexpensive it seems to shout, “I’m a death-defying cheapskate and I don’t care who knows it.” In other words, a perfect car to be introduced into the United States in these trying times.

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Berlin's Historic Temples of Ease

On a recent visit to Berlin I was impressed with a renovated open-air urinal next to the French Cathedral in the Gendarmenmarkt, arguably the most beautiful square in the capital. The location is fitting, as this particular pissoir (the Germans have adopted the French word) is arguably the most beautiful one of its kind in Berlin. Built of steel and painted a traditional hunter green, the Gendarmenmarkt public convenience is sturdy without being merely utilitarian. The building's eight-sided construction, stamped with shell-and-flower medallions, is another traditional feature, giving rise to the generic nickname Café Achtek, or Café Octagon. The ornate cupola, with its horizontal grillwork, is a practical venting system that is also aesthetically pleasing. The paravan, which screens the doorway and gives privacy to those entering and leaving, is topped with lanterns that would be equally at home in the courtyard of a stately manor.

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Kangaroos Run Rampant in France

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If you happen to be driving through southwestern France, do not be alarmed if you notice three kangaroos hopping along the fast lane of the A61 motorway. Vandals—some might call them marsupial liberationists—set loose 15 roos from an Australian theme park outside the double-walled medieval city of Carcassonne. A dozen of the bounders (the kangaroos, that is; not the vandals) were quickly rounded up and returned, while the remaining trio were causing chaos in the countryside.

But this story, originally reported by Agence France-Presse and soon picked up by media around the world, misses the main point, to wit: Who knew there was an Australian theme park in France?None of the stories I found about this incident even gave the name of the theme park or any details beyond its basic components. But thanks to an impressive investigative technique (i.e., Google), we’ve managed to track down the actual location of the Great Macropod Escape.

The place is called Le Parc Australien. Just like in real Australia, you can watch kangaroos do what kangaroos do, pan for gold, pet a wallaby, throw a boomerang, and get clobbered on Victoria Bitter. (Just kidding; you can’t really get clobbered on Victoria Bitter. They only serve Tooheys.) And you can get drunk on the beauty of emus and ostriches, the mournful lowing of the didgeridoo, and the reasonably priced handicrafts.

According to the Agence France-Presse report, the theme park was in the news last October when a pack of hunting dogs made their way inside the perimeter fence and killed 44 kangaroos. We’ll try to keep you posted on the fate of the three missing marsupials.

Blessed Are the Cheese-Makers

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How is life different in Italy than here?Some might say it boils down to this: The USA bails out Ford, Chrysler, and GM; Italy, where they tend to have more style in such matters, has announced it will bail out the Parmesan cheese industry.

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Seems it costs more to make a pound of Parmesan these days than it does to buy it at the local supermercato, so Silvio Berlusconi's government says it's giving the dairymen of Parmigiano Reggiano some financial help to the tune of 50 million euros (U.S. $65 million) to get them through the world economic crisis.
(Read the full article here).

For anyone interested in higher economics, we've broken down some of the key differences between the U.S. and Italian bailouts by focusing on one of GM's cars and a chunk of parmesan cheese:

The U.S. bailout provides for: More Chevy Aveos (yeah, we never heard of them either).
The Italian bailout provides for: Less Parmesan cheese (the feds are buying up the cheese to artificially raise prices).
Tie

The Chevy Aveo: Launched in Korea under the name the Daewoo Kalo in 2002.
Parmigiano Reggiano: Launched in the 13th century, give or take a decade or so.
Point to Italy

Aveo wheel options: Two sizes, 14 inches and 15 inches.
Parmesan wheel otions: One size only.
Point to USA

Price of a 2009 Chevy Aveo (fully loaded): $6.01/lb.*
Price of a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano (fully aged): $4.43/lb.**
Point to Italy

Finaly Tally:
Italy: 2 points
USA: 1 point
Tied: 1 point

* Based on a curb weight of 2,557 pounds and top MSRP of $15,365
** Based on the average top price of 7.50 euros (U.S. $9.75) per kilo

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