December 13, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
I've heard the talk. Next year we'll be using new e-Passports, which include an integrated computer chip capable of storing biographic info, a digital photo, and other biometric info. Bye, bye familiar, friendly little passports. I guess the hard copy pages of stamps and visas (and the bragging rights associated with accumulating them) are becoming obsolete. Though we'll be able to use our current passports until they expire, I hope. But I'm a little scared about these Smart Cards. This opens a whole new can of worms about privacy concerns, and the security of the stored information. Know anything more? Fill me in!
Feng Shui'd gyms, McSpa, off-menu spa treatments, lots more traditional water treatments, men-only spas, spa virtual communites (???)… Leave it to SpaFinder to survey the industry and forecast the trends. And some are a little bizarre, to say the least. Massage table in the bedroom, anyone? (The "home-spa integration" thing is going to be BIG.)
Low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines just announced a new version of its Big 'S' Sale with prices starting at $19 each-way for domestic and Caribbean travel. Though serious restrictions apply, and the lowest fares are available for midweek winter travel, Smarter Travel investigated and still found savings of more than $300.
Fly to Mexico on American from $198 R/T. Destinations include Cozumel, Cancun, Los Cabos, Monterrey, Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City. Valid through March 31, book by December 15. This sale is hot!
December 8, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Introducing the tiniest, perfectly portable little external speakers for your iPod. Only two ounces, so you can hide this baby in your purse. At 40 bucks, this is a steal.
A single street in Bangkok-- previously a non-descript alley off Sukhumvit Road-- is now the capital of chic. At the heart of Thonglor's scene (and its style revolution) is H1, a Modernist glass mini-mall, designed by architect Duangrit Bunnag. Easily accessible by the newly expanded underground system, the H1 complex is home to stylish, locally-owned boutiques and one of Bangkok's hottest tables: To Die For. Owned by designer Bhanu Inkawat, the restaurant has a contemporary menu that includes items like vodka and caviar pasta (a little odd, but the trendy crowd raves....) Another draw is the eclectic lifestyle store Geo, stashed with everything from gardening tools to handmade picture frames. The best time to shop is after sunset, when H1 is illuminated with lots of lights.
"Great Neighborhoods/Asia," Travel and Leisure November issue
Bangkok's Chic Street, Time Asia
Bangkok's Revolution in Creativity, International Herald Tribune
2006 marks another big birthday; this time on our side of the big pond. January 17, 2006 is the 300th birthday of Benjamin Franklin—the first founding father to reach this milestone. In honor of this extraordinary man (what career and hobby didn't he pursue?), Philadelphia is hosting year-long celebrations. The most noteworthy is the major international traveling exhibition: Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World, which opens in Philly on December 15, and then travels around to four other museums nationwide, before its final showing in Paris in 2008.
Indulge in another hedonistic eating spree at San Francisco's world-renowned farmer's market. Forget the fruit-shopping, this is a tourist attraction in its own right. Sitting at the foot of Market Street, the views of the downtown cityscape and surrounding Bay are stupendous. Make the rounds sampling succulent fruits with exotic names: pluots, persimmons, pomelos, and also the more traditional strawberries, peaches, and apples. Extraordinary artisans have also set up shop here: Cowgirl Creamery presents delicious aged cheese, like Mt Tam and Red Hawk; Blue Bottle Coffee Co. specializes in organically-grown beans that they roast themselves in six-pound batches; Primavera offers piping hot gourmet Mexican platters. Inside the Ferry Building, more artisans are housed with permanent retail spaces. Thick Greek yogurt, specialty breads, fancy cupcakes; this is heaven on earth.
The best way to see the city's unique and colorful hoods? Why, eat your way around town! Close to the country's most prized and productive farm land, the organic-minded San Francisco is brimming with tasty delights. A mecca for restaurateurs who know their quality cuisine, the city is jam-packed with gems in every distinctive neighborhood.
Rise and shine, with a California sky that blue, it's impossible to sleep the day away.
For the perfect morning coffee, head to Noe Valley's Martha and Bros., a local Latina-owned cooperative that boasts daily delicious roasts. With its boutiques and neighborhood charm, Noe Valley is picture-perfect-cute. Stroll past Noe's colorful Victorians (and charge up the city’s famous inclines) for the next stop in the Mission. Got to feed that growling stomach! Not far from the sloping green of Dolores Park, with the famous mission glowing white in the California sun, Tartine beckons with its exquisite crossaints (oozing chocolate) and beautiful pastries. The line curling out the door and around the block advertise that this is absolutely the best bakery in the city. While in line-- as the aroma of hot bread wafts out of the kitchen-- try not to eat your arm off waiting for the shortbread, bread pudding or Mexican wedding cookies.
Stuffed with bread, head out the door to enjoy a Mission morning. Walk by walls covered in brilliant murals, or artistic graffiti, storefronts plastered with political profanity. And there's people-watching aplenty: from hipsters, to funkified artists, to dog-walkers, to Mexican futbolistas, and beautiful couples from the vibrant gay community of the neighboring Castro. Tired already? Nothing like a quick pick-me-up in the Lower Haight to lure you on. rnm is a paradox of sorts: outrageously hip, yet mellow and laid-back, like its Lower Haight environs. Like most major metropolises, San Francisco succumbed to the "little plates" invasion a few years ago, and rnm has perfected the trend, with plates-to-share like truffle oil pizza. Just to die for. They're not open this early? Knock, knock. I bet you can get take-out. Beg, plead. These guys are cool—after all, this is the Lower Haight. If you can't score some wanna-be tapas, head to Thep Phenom, the best Thai restaurant in town, just two blocks away, for a small bowl of pad thai.
Continue your hike to Hayes Valley, the recently revamped stretch of blocks that all the mags are talking about these days. The tiny little neighborhood somehow emblematic of a "San Francisco renaissance." As if San Fran has ever been uncool? Though right now, Hayes is the height of hip. Boutiques are full of fashion: from shoes to vintage French posters. Your lunch destination? Absinthe, of course, on the corner of Hayes and Gough. In addition to gourmet burgers with Niman Ranch ground beef, gorgonzola, sauteed mushrooms and onions, the weekend brunch is one of the best in the city. Another option is the glass-walled lunch-destination of Zuni Cafe, for its famous raw bar. Enjoy the signature roast chicken for two (spilling delicious stuffing) and buzzing atmosphere, at this prime spot overlooking Market Street.
Full? Too bad. There's too much good stuff in this town! Afternoon delights await! Continue your walking tour to the top of Fillmore and Broadway in Pacific Heights, for a breathtaking view of the bay, golden gate, and small white-houses of the Marina. The land and seascape are almost Mediterranean. Get your caffeine fix at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and then stroll through one of the city's finest shopping streets.
Continue down the hill to Union Street, for more great shopping amongst the yuppies of Cow Hollow. A fabulous walk commences at Fillmore, continues on Union Street over Russian Hill, then down into the land of Italian bistros and cozy cafes in North Beach. Gawk at another vista point, atop Telegraph Hill with the flock of wild parrots which has made the Coit Tower environs its home. Another afternoon coffee break awaits at the famous Caffe Trieste, where the Beat Generation used to wax poetical. Rest your weary feet and daydream about your dinner options: the exquisite Gary Danko, or long-time city favorite, Boulevard, located on the waterfront in the historic Audiffred Building. Ahhhh, San Francisco treats.
December 3, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
We're loving today's candy, with lots of recs for the City of Light. Perfectly mahvelous boutique hotels, more palatial pads, and shopping, of course. (What would a trip to Par-ee be without picking up some pretty paper and ass-squeezing designer jeans?)
December 2, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Vagablond reports today that N'awlins has begun offering the first free wireless internet network owned and operated by a major city. Let's hope the trend catches on! In related news, Gadling's got a great piece about free wifi in the nation's airports. (MSN's top five include Atlanta, Minneapolis, San Jose, Miami, and- um- the hopping metropolis of Albuquerque.)