Going to Disney World but want a break from overflowing Orlando? The comparatively crowdless seaside town of Vero Beach is a two hours’ drive from O-Town’s attractions and offers up clean beaches and affordable places to stay. One, the Vero Beach Hotel & Spa was recently purchased by Kimpton, which means all those perks we love about the punchy hotel brand (kid-sized bathrobes, goodie bags, in-room goldfish)—along with a cocktail hour for adults and a pet-friendly policy—are now in effect.
I just returned from my third trip to Monte Argentario, a dramatic peninsula two hours north of Rome on the Tuscan coast. My sister married a Roman who grew up going to a place called Cala Moresca (or the Moorish Cove), and he's since introduced us to the area, which is better known to Italians than to Americans. (It's a place locals save for themselves.) Here are some of our favorite stops, plus a couple new discoveries:
Back in May, my fiancé and I were all geared up for a trip to St. Martin—until, 24 hours before our flight—Dan realized his passport had expired. After spending a good hour researching expedited passport fees, and realizing there was no way we were leaving the country, I called Jet Blue and priced out fares for all of its beachy destinations—from Long Beach to Fort Lauderdale. Turns out sunny Orlando was the cheapest to fly to (by hundreds of dollars). We reserved a rental car, and the next morning we were off—with no hotel rooms reserved, much less an idea of where we’d end up.
There are plenty of reasons to avoid Amtrak like a bout of indigestion: the frequent delays, the diner food, you get the idea. (No wonder sales have dwindled; only five billion passenger miles were logged in 2000, compared to 17 in 1960.) Still, I’ve always wanted to take a long-distance train trip.
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.
What 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.
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:
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.
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)
Last week I checked in with Shaun White (above), the red-headed snowboarder of winter Olympic fame. The 22-year-old athlete, who also happens to be a pro skateboarder, has signed on to make appearances at Skate Cayman, a summer-long skateboarding camp on Grand Cayman (a fine locale for the world’s second largest skatepark).
I recently returned from a trip to Los Angeles where, truth be told, I wanted nothing more than to steer clear of the typical tourist hot spots while in town. But with my having, oh shall we say, a moderate-to-borderline-obsessive interest in all things celebrity, the one thing I simply couldn’t pass up was a photo op with the infamous Hollywood sign, perched atop Mount Lee. The approach I took, however, was decidedly non-touristy.
What many people don’t realize is that you can actually hike to the very top of Mount Lee. It’s such a guarded “secret” that even the official Hollywood Sign website will have you believe it’s illegal to hike anywhere near the sign. Not the case. There are several roads—devoid of vehicular traffic, save for the sporadic security car—that wind around the mountain, one which goes to the top. As long as you stay on one of these roads, you’ll be fine—just make sure you’re off the mountain by nightfall.
I had to do a double take when I read this week that the Afghanistan Ministry of Tourism announced the official revival of the country's tourism industry:
The government of Afghanistan is going to revive the lucrative tourism industry in the war-torn country, Director of Tourism Department Syed Zamanudin Baha said on Tuesday…
Revive the tourism industry?Now?With U.S. troops battling the Taliban, and civil unrest all over the place?Though, I must admit my curiosity was piqued by their refurbishment plans:
“Rebuilding a couple giant Buddhas is also on the agenda of the government to attract more tourists in the country…” (Taliban militants dynamited the Bamiyan province statues in March 2001.)
On a recent trip to St. Bart's, I spotted the owner of the Revlon empire, Ron Perelman, on his yacht in Gustavia Harbor, a Rockefeller or two shopping in the village of St. Jean, and Jon Bon Jovi having dinner at Eden Rock. Sure, they can afford the prices here—it's the winter getaway of the rich and famous, after all. But what about we normal, not-so-recession-proof folk?Here's my short list for how to do the island affordably:
STAY: The Hôtel Baie des Anges, on the northwest corner of the island, is on one of the prettiest beaches around—it also shares its sands with the tony Hotel Isle de France. The people watching here is great. The really good news?Rates here dropped significantly on Apr. 1 (from $415 to $230 for a double room). (Flamands; 590/27-63-61; doubles from $230)
EAT: The year-old beach-front shack O'Corail is run by a local sister/brother team. He's a fisherman. She runs the restaurant. They serve the freshest-caught fish, straight from his boat. (This is big for St. Barts: seasonality and eating local is just catching on here; neighboring Le Sereno hotel brags about its Madagascar prawns, to illustrate my point.) O'Corail does lunch all week and dinner only on weekends. At lunch, order a rum punch and the spiny lobster salad and watch the dozens of kite surfers fly across the Grand Cul de Sac. (Grand Cul de Sac; 590/29-33-27; lunch for two $60)
DO: Rent snorkle gear at Marine Service and head to Gouverneur Beach. It's secluded, with crystal blue water and the some of the best snorkling on the island: My boyfriend and I spotted French anglefish, sargeant majors, sea turtles, rays, and a nurse shark. (Quai du Yacht Club, Gustavia; 590/590-27-70-34; daily gear rentals, from $20)
Clark Mitchell is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure.