Today is devoted to travel in Rajasthan. I’ve outlined a circular itinerary through the mythical land of the Maharajahs that I hope will entice you to click and scroll away. But what have I missed? Where would you go, what would you see, on a winter’s trip through India’s cultural oasis? Would you endorse a camel-trek into the dunes of the Thar desert, fully-aware of the sore ass that results, and the nasty stink that the camels emit with each clomp through the sand?
(Photo credits: yours truly and my dear friend Maggie)
Check this out. A recent article in the International Herald Tribune highlighted a fantastic new trend: shopping wars escalating across Asia. With every big city in Asia competing to draw tourists, shopping festivals have become the focus of retail-themed vacations. July’s Great Singapore Sale generated incredible retail sales and record visitor arrivals. For the eight-week shopping fest, 1.9 million tourists indulged in tourism-shopping sprees. And these folks know how to shop. Apparently, more than half tourist expenditure went to shopping. Likewise, Kuala Lumpur has consolidated three discount shopping periods into the six-week Mega Sale Carnival, running from the end of July to the beginning of September. Not to be outdone, Hong Kong has created its own HK Shopping Festival, which transformed the usual slow end-of-summer-season into another peak travel season. Bangkok’s Amazing Thailand Grand Sale also runs during June and July.
What does this mean for consumers? Aggressive marketing campaigns and hefty competition means consumers score big with competitive pricing, give-aways and promotional gimmicks, like free foot massages in Malaysia and Lucky Draw prizes in HK (including diamonds and luxury watches.)
PS. In case you missed the summer’s shopping extravaganzas, never fear. The Dubai Shopping Festival takes place from January 4 to February 5, and includes raffle prize give-aways worth $2.7 million, 100 kilograms of gold and 10 cars.
November 11, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Islands Magazine has put together a pretty snazzy events calendar for this November. Their picks? Hawaii, for the incredible star-gazing of the Taurid meteor showers. (You've never seen falling stars like this!) Moorea, on November 3-6, for Tattoonesia, the island’s first International Tattoo Convention. (Ooops, the revival has already come and gone.) St. Barts on November 16, to taste the first Beaujolais Nouveau wine of the year (six hours ahead of France, confined to the traditional midnight uncorking). And Australia, on November 4-13, for the Whitsunday Fantasea Reef Festival, celebrating the marvels of the Great Barrier Reef.
November 10, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Though perhaps a bit trite after my last news alert, I can’t resist passing on the news about New York’s Chocolate Show. I missed the fashion show opening on the 10th, but Gridskipper and Luxist provided nice descriptive reviews, and reading about it is half the fun! Hurry over to the Metropolitan Pavilion, to get your chocolate fix, before it closes on the 13th.
October 27, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
In the November issue, Outside Magazine just featured the top ten trips in Australia, including treks in Queensland, sea-kayaking in Tasmania and diving the Great Barrier Reef. My favorite experience down under? Ferrying across Sydney’s Harbor to Manly beach, gaping at the Opera House on the way, then gobbling down those scrumptious little meat pies (washed down with local brew) after sunbathing and surfing in this perfect Sydney suburb. Next stop: the Outback. (Is it worth the blood, sweat and tears to get there?)
October 25, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
After five years renovation, San Francisco’s de Young Museum reopened on October 15. The transformation is dramatic; the Pritzer Prize winning architects Herzog & de Meuron (along with SF-based Fong & Chan Architects) have created a state-of-the-art facility out of this landmark cultural institution. (The nifty facade is comprised of dozens of unique copper panels!) The de Young has occupied the same beautiful space of Golden Gate Park since 1895. Collections include American art from the 17th through the 20th centuries, and art of the native Americas, Africa and the Pacific.
The hype is right. This place is sizzling. (Not just the hotties working there.) Last night I tested a wild mushroom dosa (Indian meets truffle oil?) and the best damn lobster I’ve ever had. Make your ressies here.
Head south of the border for Halloween’s biggest party. November 2 is the Day of the Dead in Mexico, a cultural celebration rich in tradition. The graveyard setting may spook you out, but they certainly come to life during this annual festival. On el dia de los muertos, the deceased are welcomed to hang with the living; altars are covered with food, and tombstones are draped with colorful gifts.
Closer to home, check out the annual Halloween exhibit at the Met in New York. This month, Travel and Leisure reports on "The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult" (Sept. 27–Dec. 31). The exhibit shows how affiliates of the 19th-century Spiritualist movement sought to prove the existence of beyond-the-grave communication. Apparently you can even see ghosts in the pix! I’m so there.
October 11, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
It’s that time of year again. The hordes rubber-necking along the nation’s Interstates are the most obvious clue. Fall is upon us, and though you may have missed the stein-clunking, beer-guzzling merriment of Munich’s world famous Oktoberfest, it’s not too late to soak up the season’s best pageantry in other spots around the globe. The Fall leaves are only just peaking. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some top world destinations to check out the autumn leaves.
This little country is all the rage right now, perhaps because of the filming of the cult classic The Da Vinci Code. Devoted fans have been pursuing the film-makers from pillar to post since they begin filming the thriller in June. But Autumn is the best time to visit: the rolling green landscapes are highlighted with distinctive autumn foliage, the northern lights are on show, the whale-watching is stupendous, and most of the tourists have departed with the end of the Edinburgh Festival. Of course, the icing on the cake is off-season rates.
Where to stay? Check out the world’s best golf at Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa in St. Andrew’s. As can be expected from the home of Golf, the resort’s championship course is spectacular and challenging, offering sweeping views of the coastline and sea.
Lucky us-- the Loire Valley is packed with more châteaux than French residents. (Only kidding; my partner-in-crime is French.) In the Autumn, the Valley’s charming villages are blazing with autumn colors, and the vineyards are turning all kinds of crazy colors. It’s also the annual grape-plucking time, and the harvest brings lots of festivals and activities.
Where to stay? Head to the ultimate palace of extravagance: perfume millionaire François Coty’s Château d'Artigny. Like the great historic châteaux of the Loire, the hotel is set in a 65 acre estate with marvelous formal gardens. Hey—if it was permitted—I’d even stake out a room in the cellar-- brimming with 20,000 bottles of delicious Loire Valley wine.
What could be better than wine-tasting in autumn in Tuscany? Now that the summer crowds have thinned, take an autumn stroll through striking Mediterranean scenery. The days are still hot, and the landscapes dotted with olive, cyprus and colorful deciduous groves. As the cultural capital of the region, Florence mesmerizes with historic treasures, artistic masterpieces, and shopping extravaganzas.
Where to stay? Located in the surrounding hills of Florence, Villa San Michele is a magically-restored 15th century monastery, with its façade attributed to Michelangelo. Orient-Express Hotels undertook the massive, comprehensive restoration, with the cooperation of the Florence Fine Arts Society.
Can’t make it to Europe? Take a weekend trip to Montreal, a European style city complete with a vibrant café culture and passion for joie de vivre. Starting in September, Fall’s pageant opens and travels down to the Canadian border, leaving a full color spectrum in its wake.
Where to stay? The fashionable Windsor Arms hotel is decidedly hip. Just thirty yards from the Golden Strip, the 28 luxurious suites are tucked away in luxurious calm. Service is exceptional, with personal butlers discreetly in attendance 24 hours a day.
This is where it's at for fantastic fall foliage. It’s hard to predict the peak of the colors, but this year the eager forecasters are calculating that the colors will be at their best until October 23. (For you avid Foliage Fans, they are even some hotlines you can call for precise forecasting.) Most of the region is covered in woodland, so the landscape is utterly transformed by color.
Where to stay? Head to Boston’s classy and eclectic suburb of Cambridge, where you can stroll through the ivied courtyards of Harvard Yard. The Charles Hotel is luxurious and contemporary, and offers the best Sunday brunch in the nation, at its restaurant Henrietta’s Table.
Leave it to the Chinese to launch an actual “Red Leaves Project” to beautiful the outskirts of Bejing. In 2000, the government meticulously planned a 230-km swath of red leaves which is just now on show. It gets quite cold in late October, so hurry up and book those flights today. (Avoid the Fragrant Hills, 28 kilometers north of Bejing, because of the crowds and traffic. Likewise, the Badaling stretch of the Great Wall resembles a Disney Land Park with tourists and vendors galore.)
Where to stay? The Peninsula Palace Bejing is ideally located just a short walk from The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and all the tourist treasures of the capital. Following a US$27 million renovation, the hotel is the premier address in Bejing.
Forget the leaves. The attraction here is the incredible wildebeest and zebra migration that occurs every October without fail. During the summer months, the herds (made up of millions of animals!) hang out on the savannas of Kenya’s Masai Mara, before returning to Tanzania’s Serengeti plains with the inauguration of the October rains.
Where to stay? To enjoy this spectacle, check in to one of the luxurious camps along the Mara River, like the Mara Serena Safari Lodge. Even the swimming pool and restaurant overlook a watering hole where wildlife congregate to drink.