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A Travel Blog from the Editors of T+L

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Save the Music—Please! Plus, T+L Playlists

In T+L’s November issue I railed against the creep of background music into every corner of the traveler’s world, from airplane cabins to hotel lobbies to spa waiting rooms. I may have been, I now realize, a little harsh. True, most piped-in music functions like sonic novocaine: a fitting sound track for getting your teeth bleached. But there are bright spots. More businesses are realizing that background music need not be anodyne or obvious; that, in fact, a compelling sound track can elevate (pardon the pun) one’s experience of a place as effectively as smooth service or flattering lighting.

So maybe background music is improving. We’d better hope so. Given the sorry state of radio and the recording industry, hotel lobbies and day spas and the like are often the only places people hear new music nowadays. Bebel Gilberto sold a million-odd copies of Tanto Tempo, but how often was she played on commercial radio or MTV? Ditto Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Madeleine Peyroux, and Nouvelle Vague: many if not most listeners were introduced to these artists, consciously or unconsciously, at their favorite sushi bar or Sephora store. (Or, in the case of Feist, via an iPod ad.)

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Best (Fake) Urban Beaches

Summer’s here and the time is right for packing your towel and sunscreen, hailing a cab to the heart of town, and hitting the beach. Four of our favorite (faux) city beaches:
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Paris-Plage, a network of three sandy oases set up every July and August along the Seine’s Right Bank, complete with chaises longues, boules courts, and palm trees.

Copenhagen’s Havnebadet (“harbor baths”), an industrial pier in Islandsbrygge converted into a beach club and park with space for 600. Barbecue pits, a volleyball lawn, and great city views add to the scene—and you can actually swim in the newly cleaned-up harbor.

Istanbul’s Suada, a chic swimming club by day and bar/disco/sushi restaurant by night with an Olympic size pool—floating in the middle of the Bosphorus.

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And, not least, the latest incarnation of New York’s Water Taxi Beach, this one on Pier 17 next to South Street Seaport, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge (the original WTB, pitctured above, is across the East River in Queens). The new location, which opened Memorial Day weekend, has the same trucked-in beach sand, picnic tables, and DJ’s after dark, but it also offers an expanded menu that adds fish tacos to the usual burgers and dogs, plus—wait for it—mini-golf and skeeball. If that doesn’t release your inner 10-year-old, who knows what will.

(For the best real city beaches, check out this slideshow.)

Peter Jon Lindberg is Travel + Leisure's editor at large.


Photos courtesy of Rui Pereira (Paris-Plage) and Isuru Seneviratne (Water Taxi Beach, Queens)


New Orleans Is a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s Town

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On a recent visit to New Orleans I made the rounds, as is my wont, of my favorite manly haunts—and I’m not referring to strip clubs or steakhouses. NOLA is many things to many people, but it’s especially fertile terrain for the dapper southern (or northern) gentleman. I am neither, but I do like me a good hat, a good suit, and a good shave.

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For the latter I hit Aidan Gill Barber Shop —either the original on Magazine Street or the newer branch on Fulton Street downtown. Their 30-minute, hot-towel “Shave at the End of the Galaxy” is more indulgent than a four-hour lunch at Galatoire’s, and you’ll look a lot better afterward. There are pints of Guinness to sip, 1960s Playboys to flip through, and gleaming shelves of shaving products, from badger brushes to mock-ivory handles to Truefitt & Hill creams and oils.

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Great Food in the Caribbean?!

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It’s fair to say that food at Caribbean resorts usually ranks somewhere between Aeroflot and a high school hot lunch. After a blissful day on a sugar-white beach, mealtime is often your penance, a crummy reminder that not everything was better on the islands.

Why such crummy food?Three reasons:

• the bad ingredients, usually grown in Chile or Peru or some far-flung place, then condemned to weeks in a freighter, a customs storehouse, and a processing plant, until any resemblance to the original has disappeared;
• the exorbitant prices, a result of that import-based economy (which recalls that old joke: Not only is the food terrible, there’s not enough of it);
• the uninspired chefs, who, compelled to cover up rather than celebrate the food, try to distract us with oversauced European dishes or silly, overwrought fusion.

Rarely do you find honest, simple, local cooking. Just like the tomatoes, hotel chefs usually hail from distant corners of the world, so are unfamiliar with Caribbean techniques and ingredients. They might have cooked well in Melbourne or Dublin or Seattle but lose their footing when it comes to breadfruit and mutton and saltfish and callaloo.

Well, change is afoot. On recent trips to the Caribbean I’ve noticed better-quality ingredients (including more homegrown produce) and smarter decisions about what to do with them. Case in point: the Jade Mountain Club, the small, open-air restaurant at the clifftop Jade Mountain resort on St. Lucia.

Allen Susser, of Chef Allen’s restaurant in Aventura, FL, is the consulting chef. His team sources impeccably fresh fish and seafood, much of it from around the island. But the real secret weapon?Top-notch organic produce from Jade Mountain’s own nearby farm. Chalk it up to St. Lucia’s magical volcanic soil, but on a recent visit I sampled the most delicious baby carrots, spicy watermelon radishes, fragrant herbs, tender tat soy and mizuna…. even a ridiculously juicy beefsteak tomato bursting with flavor. When’s the last time you had a note-perfect salad in the Caribbean?

With only 14 tables, Jade Mountain Club is open to non-guests only by reservation. The knockout view of the verdant Pitons is reason enough to come, but you may be just as captivated by the sight of those microgreens. What about you—have you been pleasantly surprised by what you’ve eaten lately in the Caribbean?

Photo by Editor-at-Large Peter Lindberg

Best iPhone Apps: Foodie Edition

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So you already know and love UrbanSpoon, Nearby, Yelp, and LocalEats (an extension of the excellent site WhereLocalsEat.com). What's the next great app for iPhone-toting foodies?

One of our favorites is Locavore, a guide to what's in season in your area (Are brussel sprouts over?Is it time for pea shoots?) and where to find it, with listings of local farmers' markets courtesy of LocalHarvest.org.

Another genius, under-the-radar app: Yum Cha Dim Sum offers appetizing photos of 100+ dim sum dishes, plus English descriptions, the name in Chinese characters, Mandarin pronunciations, calorie counts, and key ingredients (useful for those with food allergies).

Finally, for wine snobs there's, well, Wine Snob, a handy new app for recording and organizing tasting notes (attach photos of labels and geotags of where you found them), as well as the very comprehensive Wine Enthusiast Guide, jam-packed with 70,000 reviews and prices.

So what are your current favorites--and which restaurant and food apps do you feel are overrated?

Peter Lindberg is Travel + Leisure's editor-at-large.

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