The New York City–based scholar, whose new book, The Parthenon Enigma (Knopf), is rewriting ancient history, spills the dirt on a few of her favorite spots.
Q: Are there any great sites in Europe that are lesser-known? A: At his villa in Sperlonga(39-0771/548-028),75 miles south of Rome, Emperor Tiberius created a fantasy world based on Homer’s Odyssey, filling a seaside cave with marble sculptures depicting the exploits of the Greek hero. The Neolithic outer ring of stones at Avebury, in Wiltshire, England, is the largest megalithic circle in the world—bigger than Stonehenge.
Q: Tell us about your dig on Yeronisos Island, off the coast of Cyprus. A: Our excavations have shed light on the period of Cleopatra’s Cyprus rule (47–30 B.C.). We’ve found amulets, potsherds inscribed with Ptolemaic Egyptian script, a stone lion’s head, and more.
Q: Can anyone dig with you? A: I’m proud of our Exec-U-Dig program, which allows one or two donors to come out for a week of exploration each season. Bill Murray joined us in 2006.
Q: Where does a lover of ancient history go on vacation? A: I rarely go anywhere that is largely contemporary. I always travel with a pair of vintage Newmarket riding boots—I’ve galloped on an Arabian horse past the Pyramids in Egypt; fox-hunted in Northumberland, England; and cantered across the French countryside. There’s no better way to travel.
Prague is beloved for its Gothic spires, but just two hours away, in the Czech Republic’s second city of Brno, an architectural landmark of no less significance awaits. Villa Tugendhat—a private residence designed in 1928 by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe—is considered one of the first Modernist houses in Europe and a precursor to the architect’s later projects, such as the Farnsworth House in Illinois and New York City’s Seagram Building. A major reconstruction was unveiled in 2012, the better to showcase the original features that turned the Tugendhat family home into an international shrine for Mies cultists. Mies’s open plan eliminated most interior load-bearing walls, resulting in a sense of free-flowing space. He added little in the way of traditional decoration; instead, the building materials (walls of onyx and macassar ebony; a grid of stainless-steel-clad columns) act as ornaments. Retractable glass windows allow for panoramic views, and the furniture—including the cantilevered Brno and Tugendhat chairs still in production today—was all custom-designed. If you can, time your visit for sundown, when the fading light sets the entire space aglow, and the villa itself illuminates the era when less became more.
Fresh from touring exhibitions in Japan, the United States, and Italy—and a starring role in Donna Tartt’s best-selling novel—Carel Fabritius’s Goldfinch returns to the Hague on June 27. That’s when the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis reopens after a major renovation and expansion, doubling the exquisite museum’s floor space. Keeping the iconic bird company: Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and View of Delft as well as a peerless trove of other Dutch Golden Age paintings.
Back in the 1930’s, John Christie—a wealthy English music lover—married a Canadian soprano, built a small theater in the gardens of his 16th-century country house in the Sussex Downs, and founded the Glyndebourne Festival, an annual summer season of opera. Today, Christie’s grandson Gus (himself married to a soprano, the scintillating American diva Danielle de Niese) heads the prestigious festival, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year. From May through August, Glyndebourne presents six operas, meticulously produced, and staged by a host of directors, from traditionalists (Franco Zeffirelli) to gleeful iconoclasts (Peter Sellars). Above all, the festival is famous for engaging great singers early in their careers, among them Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, and Renée Fleming. Yet not all the magic occurs onstage. Performances, which begin in the afternoon, include a leisurely dinner intermission—long enough for a picnic on the lawn. This season’s new productions include Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata and Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, led by Robin Ticciati, the company’s dashing new music director.
In the fall, Benjamin Millepied, known to many as the choreographer of Black Swan (and husband of Natalie Portman), will take up his new post: director of the Paris Opera Ballet. As a preview, on May 10 the company gave the world premiere of Millepied’s latest work, Daphnis et Chloé, on a double bill with Le Palais de Cristal, the masterpiece by George Balanchine (elsewhere called Symphony in C). The French-born Millepied, a former principal dancer at the New York City Ballet, comes to Paris via California—where he leads the L.A. Dance Project—and is sure to bring a jolt of energy to an institution that traces its beginnings to the court of Louis XIV.
Every year, Laurent Halasz—founder and owner of theFig & Olive restaurants in New York and California—returns to his childhood home of Mougins, on France’s Côte d’Azur, for scenic hikes and inspiration from his mother’s kitchen. Here, he takes us on a tour of the medieval hilltop village.
Eat: “La Place de Mougins($$$$), in a Provençal house, is such a pleasure. Last time I had beef consommé with foie gras and chocolate. For cocktails, don’t miss the classic Piscine, champagne on ice with strawberries, at L’Amandier($$$). And I grew up on olive oil pressed locally at Moulin Baussy, in nearby Spéracèdes.”
6:04 p.m.: It’s early evening, and as you walk back through sage- and wildflower-dotted meadows to Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa, you can’t decide which is more impressive: the light hitting the limestone crags of the Dolomites or the fact that you were actually scrambling over boulders up there this morning. Yes, you earned that hearty Tyrolean lunch you enjoyed a few hours ago—fire-grilled steak, local cheeses, and kaiserschmarrn (caramelized pancakes)—in hotel owner Hugo Pizzinini’s 18th-century cabin, which has been part of his family’s private reserve for generations. You can’t quite believe you booked a mountain bike tomorrow to visit the 15th-century church of St. Catharina in Corvara and its frescoes. And—despite the fact that dinner tonight is at the hotel’s Michelin two-starred restaurant, St. Hubertus—you definitely can’t believe you’re already hungry. $$$
Our abridged, meal-by-meal guide to where and what to eat now.
Breakfast: Fried egg with Potato at L’Eggs Start the day with chef Paco Pérez’s gently fried hen’s egg at his new ou-centric spot in L’Eixample. It’s flecked with black garlic, draped in crisp jamón, and served on a pile of potato batons. $15.
Lunch: Meatball Escudella at El 300 del Born At this historic El Born market turned cultural center, Jordi Vilà puts his own spin on Catalan classics. Here, he uses truffles to elevate deep bowls of traditional pork-meatball soup. $12.
Snack: “Rocadillo” at Roca Bar The Roca brothers—the trio behind the acclaimed (and impossible-to-book) El Celler de Can Roca, in Girona—serve drop-in bites at this accessible offshoot in the Hotel Omm. We love the warm brioches stuffed with lightly smoked eel. $14.
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Dinner: Sea Bass Ceviche at Pakta(pictured) Albert Adrià’s happening spot specializes in Japanese-Peruvian Nikkei cuisine. A highlight of the 24-course tasting menu: this tangy white fish served raw with kumquats and leche de tigre (a citrus-based marinade). $124 for 24-course menu.
Dessert: “La Cirera” at La Pastisseria At his L’Eixample boutique, pastry chef Josep Rodríguez Guerola displays sweet treats like jewels, such as the glazed cherry mousse on a crumbly base of almond and milk-chocolate cookies. $6.
To Go: Jamón in a Cone at Enrique Tomás Spain’s leading purveyor of jamón ibérico sells ruby slivers of fatty, acorn-fed ham in grab-and-go form. At the Carrer de Pelai flagship in the Barri Gòtic, pick up a bamboo funnel filled with ham shavings for the plane ride home. $6.
So you think you can just scooter around Rome like a carefree Audrey Hepburn or Gregory Peck? Think again. Mastering the iconic bike—not to mention the traffic—requires serious know-how. Claudio Sarra of Bici & Baci, which provides Vespas to the St. Regis hotel($$$$), gives us tips on safe navigation.
1. Driving in Rome can be dangerous. Put on a helmet, fasten the chin strap, and slide the visor down to protect against oncoming insetti.
2. Lift the Vespa off the kickstand before starting the engine and giving it gas, or risk losing control and launching it unpiloted into the street (a common mistake).
3. Avoid aree pedonali (pedestrianized zones) and bus lanes, which are marked with yellow paint. Everywhere else is fair game. Well, not sidewalks.
4. Romans hardly follow routine traffic laws, let alone use hand signals; be hyper-attentive for other scooters veering in and out of gridlock, and bypass the busiest intersections.
5. With such narrow frames, parking is a breeze—and free (even in metered spots). Be sure to take your belongings with you, and don’t forget to lock up.
The Istrian Peninsula has all the knockout beauty of the Dalmatian Coast—without the crowds. We found four reasons to explore.
Because its islands and beaches are still a (relative) secret. Leave Venice to the cruise ships. Just across the Adriatic, Istria is laid-back and idyllic—and rocky beaches abound. In Kamenjak Park, near Pula, cliff-jumping into the sea is a pastime. Farther north, you’ll find the popular sunbathing spot Monte Beach, reached via steep stone steps, and the wildly beautiful Golden Bay. Board the crewed wooden cruiser Delfin, based in Rovinj, for daylong trips to outlying fjords and archipelagoes, with stops at St. Andrew (where you can visit a sixth-century monastery), lush St. Katarina Island, and the St. John lighthouse.
Lightweight and rainproof, Burberry’s tartan-lined trench has risen from utilitarian staple to jet-setter’s must-have.
The Origins: In 1879, English outfitter Thomas Burberry invented gabardine, a water-resistant fabric that he used to create comfortable rain gear—a godsend for oft-soaked Brits. London’s first Burberry shopopened in Haymarket in 1891.
Call of Duty: During World War I, the company provided coats to British Army officers to wear in the trenches—hence the moniker.
Once a no-man’s-land overrun by wholesalers, the Sentier district, in the northern part of the Second Arrondissement, has become the city’s neighborhood du jour, pioneered by chef Grégory Marchand and his emerging Frenchie empire. Its new anchor: day-to-night hangout Edgar Hotel($$$), whose casual lobby restaurant serves simple Scandi-tinged dishes such as smoked herring with beets and crème fraîche, and the world’s best frites. See below for a rue-by-rue primer.
All 13 rooms at Edgar Hotel, a former textile workshop, are by a different designer—from upholstery scion Pierre Frey Jr. (stripes; tonal linen) to Carole Caufman, style director of Petit Bateau (sorbet colors; clean lines). 31 Rue d’Alexandrie. $$
New grocery Terroirs d’Avenir has chef-worthy sources. Snap up the same strictly seasonal Kintoa pork, line-caught fish, organic cheese, and AOC charcuterie as all the best restaurants. 7 Rue du Nil; 33-1/45-08-48-80.
Expansive and colorful cocktail bar La Conserverie serves miso salmon bento boxes and neatly composed boissons, such as a refreshing fizz made with Plantation Original Dark Overproof rum, Becherovka (Czech herbal bitters), pear syrup, and lime. 37 bis Rue du Sentier.
Anglo-ish cafés are the trend of the moment, but Lockwoodhas something extra: by day, it’s a coffee shop serving biscuits and gravy; at night, the cryptlike downstairs bar opens, the Jimi Hendrix gets pumped, and the fried chicken and cocktails come out. (The chef is a Texan, and it shows.) 73 Rue d’Aboukir. $$$
Don’t let the Sentier’s endless parade of shiny sportswear put you off: 58M—a calm accessories boutique with Lanvin bags and Michel Vivien’s dignified-sexy heels—is just a few blocks south. 58 Rue Montmartre.
Doughnuts, cheesecake, pastrami on rye—Frenchie To Goserves American classics inspired by Grégory Marchand’s time cooking in New York. His Yankee-approved, deli-style secrets extend to a roster of house-made sauces (Russian dressing; harissa) and drinks (ginger beer; orange pressée). 9 Rue du Nil. $$
Video: The Upper Marais, Another Up-and-Coming Paris Neighborhood
Hotels $Less than $200 $$$200 to $350 $$$$350 to $500 $$$$$500 to $1,000 $$$$$More than $1,000
Restaurants $Less than $25 $$$25 to $75 $$$$75 to $150 $$$$More than $150
Choose an agency. Large companies, such as Hertz and Enterprise or Europe-based Sixt, are best equipped to handle special requests (automatic transmission; GPS devices; children’s car seats). Local agencies often have lower prices but may not offer 24-hour service if something goes wrong.
Book in advance. When reserving online, check hours of operation for rental locations. Airports are usually open every day, but city-center sites may have limited hours, often closing for a few hours at midday and all day Sunday.
Booking a great fare to Europe has become increasingly difficult. Here’s how to bring down the cost of your next transatlantic flight.
First there is the question of timing. According to Kayak, the most-affordable airfares to Europe last year were booked eight to 10 weeks before departure—so you should start researching tickets at least three months out. You’ll find even better prices if your travel dates are flexible. As a general rule, European fares rise for travel beginning in the second week of May and don’t fall again until September. Expedia reports that the least expensive months to fly to Europe are February, March, and November. If you can, look for tickets that depart for Europe on either a Tuesday or Wednesday and return on a Tuesday; they tend to be lower, according to Kayak’s research. (See “Fare Finders,” below, for our favorite sites for finding European airfares.)
We can all agree that after months of polar vortexes and a Winter that refused to quit, the idea of hitting the beach sounds pretty terrific, right? Well, we're almost there. And to help get the ball rolling, we rounded up our favorite 25 beaches in the world.
Combining speed, height, and a totally flimsy harness that in no way looks like it can hold you up, ziplining is sheer excitement meets pure terror – an exhilarating ride atop some of the planet's most gorgeous landscapes. But which lines are worth the zip? From 165ft underground to 1,000ft in the air, here are six of the world's longest, fastest, and wildest.
Germany: 44% off at the Althoff Seehotel Überfahrt
Bavarian Luxury package includes:
• 2 nights in a Deluxe room at the Althoff Seehotel Überfahrt, a 135-year-old resort on the banks of the Tegernsee, near Munich • Round-trip transportation to the Tegernsee Forest Festival, a traditional summerlong Alpine celebration with beer, bratwurst, and live music, or to the Tegernseer Bräustüber, an ancient monastery that brewed the region’s first beer • An hour-long carriage ride through the Bavarian Alpine landscape, with beer and pretzels • A 3-course dinner at a choice of 3 on-site restaurants, including Egerner Bucht, a specialist in Alpine cuisine
Cost: $1,080 ($540 per night)
Book now for travel between June 20 and September 7.
Nepal’s Sherpa community has announced it's pulling the plug on Mount Everest's climbing season in the wake of an avalanche that claimed 16 lives. The news arrives just as Everest was about to enter its busiest season; an estimated 334 foreign climbers were expected to scale the world’s tallest peak in the coming months. Around 400 Sherpas would have guided them.
This week, Catherine Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, visited the breathtaking World Heritage landmark, Uluru, during the final leg of their three-week tour of Australia and New Zealand.
The battle of the OTAs is heating up—first there was a wave of loyalty programs, and now, they’re each outdoing one another when it comes to credit cards. The latest move comes from Orbitz, whose fee-free Visa-backed card was announced earlier this week as a direct challenge to Expedia’s Citi cards. Our verdict? The Orbitz Rewards Visa is about a good a travel card as you can get. Read on for details.
A Canadian hypnotist who tried to sue the Dominican Republic because it rained during his vacation lost not only his lawsuit but also his right to sue anyone (or any place) in the future without the Quebec court’s okay.
April 26 is National Pretzel Day. The EU recently added the soft Bavarian pretzel to its protected origins list (where it joins the likes of Stilton cheese and Parma ham). Now only pretzels produced in Bavaria can be sold as Bayerische breze, or Bavarian pretzel. Accept no substitutes, Damen und Herren.
In 1927, a Garden Club of Virginia flower show raised $7,000 to save some trees planted by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. That initiative inspired Virginia Garden Week—eight days and 250 house-and-garden tours across the state—which begins today.
Luxury guest ranch Resort at Paws Up and the National Cowgirl Museum co-host an annual spring weekend for Calamity Jane wannabes (with lots of banknotes in the saddlebags) that includes trading stories with a Women’s Pro Rodeo champ and a cattle drive on the 37,000-acre Montana property.
Who says there’s not life after travel? Jim Sherman, founder and former CEO of ShermansTravel, is into a new business—a gift box of the month club called Hamptons Lane.
But Sherman (who’s still Chairman of ShermansTravel) hasn’t strayed too far—his new venture keeps alive the globetrotting spirit. Each month, his new company delivers a new box of authentic foods and kitchen products, centered on a theme and sourced from all over the globe.
The inaugural package—just in time for Cinco de Mayo—is Southwestern-themed and includes spices from James Beard-nominated Melissa Guerra; salsa from San Antonio, TX; a lime juicer; and chipotle-spiced margarita salt. Anchoring the box (literally) is a huge lava rock molcajete from Guanajuato, Mexico.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a… flying hotel? Come February 2015, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts will extend its hospitality into the skies and launch its very own branded private aircraft—the first of its kind in the industry. And we’re not talking about a tiny Learjet—this is a Boeing 757 with custom-designed interiors, 52 handcrafted leather flatbed seats, and Four Seasons-worthy onboard dining.
Untamed mountains, green forests, pristine lakes, and wide-open spaces. What better way to celebrate Earth Day than at a U.S. national park? Facebook agreed and put together a list of the top 2013 check-ins from national parks around America.
Top US National Parks:
1. Grand Canyon 2. Yosemite 3. Yellowstone 4. Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts 5. Great Smoky Mountains 6. Zion 7. Rocky Mountain 8. Everglades 9. Acadia 10. Joshua Tree
Interestingly enough, 12 percent of those who checked into a park on Facebook in 2013, live in another country, with the United Kingdom in the lead.
The U.S. cities whose residents are the top visitors to U.S. National Parks are from Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, and Denver.
Wherever you are in the world, Earth Day is the perfect excuse to get outside and enjoy, well, the earth!
Gabrielle Blitz is Associate Social Media Editor at Travel + Leisure.