Ask T+L: Great Museum Shops, Peru Tour Operators, and Travel Insurance
Q: Can you recommend a few great museum shops? — Joe Niles, Waterloo, Ill.
A: “The Musée des Arts Décoratifs, in Paris, has a well-edited selection of European ceramics. Vienna’s MAK-Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art and the Istanbul Modern spotlight cutting-edge creations. One recent find at MAK: a cotton-and-mesh breadbasket resembling a folded napkin. Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum is worth the 52-story elevator ride for the colorful textiles, while the 18th-century Museo Franz Mayer, in Mexico City, houses an excellent decorative-arts collection. If you’re looking to splurge, the best in Viennese design—from reproductions of Biedermeier wallpaper to J&L Lobmeyr crystal—can be found at New York City’s Neue Galerie.” —T+L contributing editor Raul Barreneche, author of the forthcoming The Tropical Modern House (Rizzoli; March 2011).
Q: I’ve heard that fall is a good time to visit Peru. Which tour operators should we put at the top of our list? —Cara Knight, Athens, Ga.
A: Classic Journeys (doubles from $3,595) organizes a seven-day Peru and Machu Picchu trek, which includes three days in the Incan city and activities such as Andean weaving demonstrations. For more of a physical challenge, try the eight-day Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley route from Country Walkers (doubles from $3,898); in the evenings, you’ll join local Quechua families for homemade dishes of roasted guinea pig. And on the intensive 12-day Walk Through Peru with Off the Beaten Path (doubles from $5,595), you’ll begin in the 13th-century city of Cuzco and scale the 14,700-foot passes of Humantay Peak.
Q: What’s the best way to protect my trip in case of a natural disaster? —Andrew Lovito, St. James, N.Y.
A: Since this spring’s volcanic-ash crisis in Europe, there’s been a sizable (as much as 50 percent) uptick in interest in travel insurance. User-friendly sites such as csatravelprotection.com and accessamerica.com allow travelers to purchase weather-related insurance plans tailored to specific trips. There are four different areas of coverage: trip cancellation, trip interruption, missed connection, and travel delay. Plan costs vary (expect to pay $40 to $80 for every $1,000 of trip expense), so be sure to do the math. Check out sites like quotewright.com that compare plans from a multitude of companies.
Q: I’ll be spending a long weekend in Berlin next month. Where should I stay, and what should I do? —Sue Dyer, Franklin, Ind.
A: The 40 stylish rooms at the recently opened Soho House (doubles from $150), in the bohemian Mitte district, are outfitted with plush white armchairs, vintage record players, and freestanding tubs. Head to nearby Münzstrasse to browse design boutiques. Kitchenware empire Iittala stocks an enviable collection of tinted glassware. In the afternoon, stop by the 103-year-old department store KaDeWe; you’ll find 30 food stalls, an oyster bar, and 3,400 wines. For dinner, the canal-front Restaurant Horváth (dinner for two $112) spotlights regional dishes such as lamb with chanterelles, fresh tarragon, and apricots.
Moderate and challenging walks (and a few small-ship cruises) in 80 destinations around the world with a roster of insider guides, such as Morocco native Saida Ezzahoui, an expert on native flora and fauna. Specializes in a focus on interaction with locals (such as lessons with schoolchildren in India or lunch with villagers in Costa Rica). T+L Trip pick Turkey, Turquoise Coast: Sail from Antalya’s Old Town to Istanbul, with visits to little-known Roman ruins and secluded coves.
Off the Beaten Path
The Bozeman, Montana-based company specializes in itineraries to destinations throughout North and South America (as well as New Zealand, where it offers a two-week backcountry hiking trip on a half-dozen dates each year). Looking to go to Canada? Their adventurous itinerary stops in three of the country’s national parks—Banff, Jasper, and Yoho—where you’ll spot elk, moose, and golden eagles, as part of its Crown Jewels journey. Their Alaska itinerary features a visit to the Chilkat Eagle Preserve and Glacier Bay National Park. The outfitter now gives guests the chance to stay in a private camp near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, set within the world’s largest stand of ponderosa pines. By day, you’ll trek two miles down into the canyon, tour ancestral Puebloan ruins, and bike local trails, all in the hands of expert guides. Come evening, you’ll stay in your own deluxe walk-in tent, outfitted with a memory-foam mattress and mirrored washbasin.
Besides its exemplary collection of German and Austrian fine and decorative art, the Neue Galerie has a jewel-like design shop, highlighted by reproductions of turn-of-the-century tableware by Josef Hoffman, Biedermeier wallpaper, and J&L Lobmeyr crystal.
Musée des Arts Décoratifs
An Art Deco Pullman car, Madame de Pompadour’s writing table, and the bronze bed of 19th-century prostitute Valtesse de La Bigne are just a few of the nearly 6,000 artifacts housed in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts), which first opened in 1905 in the Marsan wing of the Louvre. Managed by an organization called Les Arts Décoratifs, this 10-story Beaux-Arts museum houses only a portion of the organization's complete collection of almost 150,000 pieces, which range from furniture and tapestries to ceramics, toys, and even vehicles. The artifacts date from the Middle Ages to present day.
Istanbul Modern Art Museum
Unbeatable access to experiences around the globe—learning firsthand about a family-run organic coffee plantation in the Galápagos; dining in a private home in Delhi—are woven into every walking-based excursion, from Ireland to Bhutan. Philosophy: That you can get as much of an adrenaline rush from chatting with a shepherd on a remote hillside as from shooting Class Three rapids through the rain forest. T+L Trip pick Costa Rica. Zipline through a forest canopy, hike an active volcano, and learn from locals about their country.
MAK: Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art
The Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art focuses on the importance of design, and its holdings include furniture, china, and textiles dating from the Middle Ages to the present day. Exhibits have showcased works from notable artists, such as Gustav Klimt and Josef Hoffman, and collection highlights include Bentwood chairs by Thonet, Biedermeier sofas, and the 1926 Frankfurt Kitchen designed by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky. Guided tours are available in German at 11 a.m. on Saturdays and in English at 12 p.m. on Sundays.
Museo Franz Mayer
The 18th-century museum houses an excellent decorative-arts collection.
Soho House, Berlin
For years, Berlin’s high-end hotels just weren’t cool. That all changed with Soho House, the London-based members’ club, providing Berlin with a welcome dose of English eccentricity and becoming the overnight choice for the art and fashion set. The restored Bauhaus building bordering the über-hip Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg neighborhoods has 40 guest rooms with wood floors and Midcentury antiques. The lounge, with its red velvet sofas, has become one of the city’s hottest nightspots (business travelers beware: club rules forbid men’s neckties).
This kitchenware empire stocks an enviable collection of tinted glassware.