Tough times for tourism? Not in Cartagena de Indias. I recently returned from a long weekend in Colombia (currently a "recession-proof country," according to several economic analysts), and while global markets may be floundering and travel numbers down, this sultry Caribbean city is booming with a wave of new boutique hotels, innovative eateries, and ample old-school watering holes. Here's the scoop:
At least a half a dozen gorgeous properties have recently opened downtown (plug: don’t miss T+L’s It List of Best New Hotels in June!). I settled into the 24-suite Anandá Hotel Boutique (pictured below), a quiet retreat in a restored Spanish-colonial building with carved-wood balconies and three breezy roof terraces. The cool, Zen-like calm is a world apart from the bustling street scene just outside its massive wooden doors.
Question that I get asked all the time: I have a digital point-and-shoot camera that I like, but I want to take my photography to the next level. Can you recommend an easy-to-use DSLR camera that will take great images for years to come?
My new answer: The Nikon D5000.
I am really excited about this camera. It has a lot of the aspects you’d expect from Nikon: wonderful colors and metering, excellent image quality, sharp lens, HD video, but it has a new feature that really gets me—the flip-and-twist LCD screen.
The last time I saw Breckenridge, Colorado, was about 16 years ago through the rear window of my family’s oversized dirt-spattered truck. I didn’t know then how much time would pass before I returned, and for years I treasured my cache of childhood memories: leaping off our porch into a mammoth pile of soft snow; fishing in the stream that ran through our backyard; hiking wildflower-strewn trails that led to abandoned—and in my young mind, mysterious—19th-century cabins. My family moved around a bit afterwards, but for years, Breckenridge set the bar and no place could compete.
Sure, we settled by the ocean, but with a child’s obstinance, I deemed myself a "mountain person." Even later, as I explored new and exciting foreign cities, there remained something untouchable about the small mining town. Of course, as I grew older, I came to understand that a pair of rose-colored glasses had settled firmly on my nose, a realization reinforced by the way Breckenridge was discussed by others in conversation: as a ski resort, and little more. I wanted to explain how beautiful and pure it was there, but held my tongue, thinking that I sounded a bit silly.
Worlds away from the kitschy tourist zone of Waikiki and the rural surf paradise of the North Shore, Honolulu’s Chinatown has recently become the center of the city’s arts community—bringing with it the requisite cafes, music venues and even a whiff of the cool kid aura that permeates other bohemian enclaves in the rest of the country. Of course, you won’t be mistaking the neighborhood for Williamsburg, Brooklyn or the Mission District in San Francisco anytime soon—and that’s a good thing. Like many things in Hawaii, the area is a unique blend of local Asian-American and immigrant cultures, with a dash of edge mixed in (it was formerly the city’s red light district) and its downtown location gives it just the right amount of urban grit, albeit with palm trees and 80-degree tropical weather.
Here are a just a few places (both new and established) that are worth a visit:
I'm in Berlin for the annual ITB travel fair, and last night had one of those magical moments that sometime happen when we travel, a foruitous experience that can't be planned, only enjoyed. Kismet.
We were a small group of magazine people dining at Grill Royal, one of Berlin's restaurants of the moment, overlooking the Spree River from a quay just below fashionable Friedrichstrasse. The massive restaurant is renowned for its beef— entrecôte from Nebraska, Wagyu from Australia, specialty cuts from Argentina—a decidedly gourmet approach to steak. But the menu is varied, with choucroute (dressed sauerkraut), oysters from the island of Sylt, bouillabaisse, and other regional delicacies.
The restaurant decor is minimalist, with spotlighted artwork on the walls, massive columns, dark-wood banquettes. The real decoration comes from the diners themselves—chic, attractive, some young, others young-ish, all wearing fashions you'd find in the cutting-edge boutiques off Unter den Linden a few blocks away.
With my snowboarding skills firmly intact, I decided this season I would head west again (after three years) for some real-deal riding. Here are my highlights from my January jaunt to Vail and Beaver Creek.
Avanti and Pickeroon, Vail (lift ticket $97 a day)—often-groomed, excellent mix of intermediate and advanced slope.
Larkspur Bowl and Golden Bear, Beaver Creek (lift ticket $97 a day)—the bowl was next to empty and made me shout, WOOHOO, multiple times; I renamed Golden Bear “Honey Bear” because it was such a sweet ride.
Favorite après-ski spots:
Garfinkel’s, Lionshead (drinks for two $15)—lots of picnic tables outside, making it easy to spot your friends; I accidentally stayed après après.
Los Amigos, at Vail Village (drinks for two $15)—watch tired experts and out-of-their-league beginners make their last run down the black-diamond Pepi’s Face, and be thankful you’ve already loosened your boots.
I’ve just returned from a blissfully relaxing trip to the deep Caribbean. After the Christmas rush, my family annually escapes to the West Indies for a week of sailing, diving, and, with months-in-advance reservations in place, great food! As French and posh as ever, St. Bart’s seemed virtually unaffected by the unfavorable economic climate—with Microsoft magnate Paul Allen’s 416 foot mega-yacht Octopus in the lead, an unparalleled collection of pristine 150+ footers took up their usual spots on Gustavia’s glitzy dock.
That is, until a powerful tide and unforeseen surge forced the multimillion dollar vessels to leave their front-row seats on the flashy dock and retreat to the outer harbor (where our relatively diminutive sailboat lay), leaving the high-profile passengers to be shuttled in their heels and tuxes to the mainland in lieu of stepping right off their boat onto dry ground. A nice reminder that being on a boat does, in fact, involve being in contact with water!
They must put crack in the fried chicken at Gus's in Memphis. My sister has lived there for years and has always gone on and on about this place. Whenever I'd visit from New York, I wanted real Southern barbecue, whether the Bar-B-Q Shop or the Three Little Pigs. But last month, she insisted. So I went. And I'm a total convert.
Washingtonians are treated to one of the best international dining scenes in the world. Everyone in D.C. knows where to go for the best Ethiopian (Meskerem), best Scandinavian (Domku), and best Trinidadian (Teddy’s Roti Shop). Tucked into different neighborhoods in Northwest, many of the international restaurants in D.C. are quite affordable.
But when I go home to D.C., my favorite place to eat is the Lebanese Taverna. The staff are affable, the vibe is congenial, and the food is uh-mazing. The shared small dishes always makes a dinner feel more like a party. I try and get a big group together so that we can try different things. I can’t leave without ordering the Foole M’daas (fava beans with garlic and lemon) and the shrimp Arak. Trust me on this one.
I'm a huge fan of flying United to SFO—the PS flights are my favorite. Another enticement has sweetened the deal: SFO's Terminal 3, the United terminal, has some terrific new food and shopping options.