November 11, 2013
T. Anthony, designer of handmade luggage, has teamed up with The Chatwal hotel (130 W. 44th St.; 212-764-6200; thechatwalny.com) for a limited-edition, five-piece canvas travel set called The Chatwal Collection. The pieces ($1,000–$1,525), meant to capture the feel of 1920s ocean-liner travel, include two suitcases, a hatbox, a jewelry case and a makeup case.
“I’ve always loved T. Anthony luggage and wanted to work with them in some way,” says Joel Freyberg, general manager at The Chatwal. “So I came up with the idea of luggage that was reflective of the hotel and, luckily, they were very responsive.”
The dark red hue, leather details and nickel hardware mimic the hotel’s lobby, which is adorned with red leather chairs, long brown banquettes and nickel appointments on everything from light fixtures to the front-desk bell. The connection is clear. “I wanted the luggage to blend in so well with the aesthetic of the hotel,” says Freyberg, “that it looks like a piece of furniture in the lobby. 445 Park Ave.; tanthony.com.
October 31, 2013
Photo by Chris Colletti
I can’t decide where to take the family this year: Burma or Botswana?
It’s a tricky call. Burma is so hot right now, you’d be lucky to get enough rooms for your family. Botswana works if it’s your Africa trip of a lifetime, but only if you’ve done Kenya—I’m of the opinion that you need to get the Africa clichés out of your system early on: the Maasai Mara, Hemingway’s Chyulu Hills, sitting around the campfire at Cottar’s. For Botswana, contact Will Jones at Journeys by Design [firstname.lastname@example.org; journeysbydesign.com] and ask him about San Camp in the Kalahari [rooms, from $1,100; email@example.com; unchartedafrica.com] and Abu Camp in the Okavango Delta [rooms, from $2,160 a person; 27-11/807-1800; wilderness-collection.com].
For Burma, I was impressed with Catherine Heald at Remote Lands [firstname.lastname@example.org; remotelands.com]. She was the only outfitter I could find with serious experience of the Mergui Archipelago, a string of islands on the country’s Andaman coast that used to be known as a “remote region” (junta-speak for out-of-bounds to most foreigners). Burma isn’t a walk in the park—even if it’s among the most compelling places I’ve been lucky enough to visit.
October 31, 2013
Courtesy of Hotel Adlon Kempinski
Stay: Simply put, the Hotel Adlon Kempinski (Unter den Linden 77; 49-30/22610; kempinski.com/adlon) recaptures the romance of travel. The original was destroyed at the end of World War II, and the reconstruction, which opened in 1997, re-imagines it very well. The location on Unter den Linden is central, and a room with a view of the nearby Brandenburg Gate is worth it. Service is exceptional and the restaurant is excellent; a soft-boiled egg at a recent breakfast wore a little hat to stay warm. In Berlin everyone rides a bicycle in dedicated bike lanes: You can rent one from the hotel, but ask the concierge for an upgrade from the so-so three-speeds parked out front.
See: Berlin’s Museum Island, the northernmost portion of an island in the Spree River, is home to wonderful cultural institutions like the Pergamon Museum (Bodestraße 1–3; smb.museum.com). But if you take a short walk from there along the river, you’ll find the privately financed DDR Museum (Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1; ddr-museum.de), which shows what life was like in Communist East Germany during the Cold War. Climb into an iconic Trabant automobile and take a simulated drive through East Berlin, watch Communist TV programs in a typical living room of the time or submit to questioning in an interrogation chamber. The shop sells egg carriers and other items designed in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic), which disbanded in 1990.
Eat: Spend a day strolling along Bergmannstraße in the hip and culturally diverse Kreuzberg section and stop in at one of the numerous cafés that line the attractive shopping thoroughfare and its adjacent streets. Italo (Marheinekeplatz 4; 49-30/691-5637), located under a striped awning, specializes in Italian fare. You might have a priest pour you a beer at nearby Kreuzberger Himmel restaurant (Yorckstraße 89; 49-30/2574-3888; kreuzberger-himmel.de), part of St. Bonifatius Church, or stop by Curry 36 (Mehringdamm 36; curry36.de) for an addictive currywurst (German sausage, curry powder, ketchup). End things at Vannile & Marille (Hagelberger Straße 1; vanille-marille.de), just a few blocks away, for one of Berlin’s best ice cream cones.
The Berlin addition to the Departures Ultimate City Guides iPhone app will be available in January 2014. Download the app here.
October 17, 2013
Courtesy of La Bandita
Located in central Italy, Val d’Orcia is the Brooklyn of Tuscany, thanks to an abundance of artisanal everything. It is home to small-batch pastamakers, dairy farmers and upstart wineries that have created a bold new class of Brunello. Tiny workshops sell hand-tooled leather goods, textiles and ceramics. The scent of local Pecorino wafts from the many specialty food shops. And two stylish hotels have put a decidedly luxe stamp on things.
Val d’Orcia’s neo-Tuscan verve is most evident in two rustic-chic La Bandita properties situated in and around the Renaissance town of Pienza. La Bandita Townhouse (rooms, from $265; 111 Corso Rossellino; 39-0578/749-005; labanditatownhouse.com), a former convent, sits smack in the middle of one of the most charming towns in Tuscany. The 12 guest rooms are minimalist yet warm, a fusion of crisp Italian linens, honey-colored stone, wood floors and whimsical accents like a handwoven straw bag to be used for shopping. La Bandita (rooms, from $265; Podere La Bandita; 39-333/404-6704; la-bandita.com) is an idyllic villa surrounded by verdant, Cypress-and-sheep-speckled grounds with airy lounging areas, shaded terraces for alfresco dining and an infinity pool. The restaurants offer a set menu of fresh, local fare served at oversized tables. The communal setup lends itself to making fast friends with, well, everyone.
Try the farm-to-table experience at Monteverdi (39-05/7826-8146; monteverdituscany.com/dining), where celebrated chef Paolo Coluccio whips up dishes like lavender risotto. At organic farm Podere Il Casale (64 Podere Il Casale; podereilcasale.it), one crosses peacocks and the random donkey before sitting down to a hearty meal and a drop-dead-gorgeous view of the Val d’Oracia valley. Exquisite cheeses, olive oil, pasta and honey are available for purchase.
Arrange a tasting at smaller, cutting-edge Montalcino/Brunello producers, such as Sesti (sestiwine.com), Cupano (cupano.it.) and Fonterenza (fonterenza.com).
Tucked into Via Dogali, an ancient cobblestone street in Pienza, Officine 904 (16 Pienza Via Dogali; officine904.it), led by a husband-and-wife designing duo, quietly produces some of the most fabulous (and versatile) bags in Italy. The hyper-modern wares can also be purchased online.
October 10, 2013
Courtesy of Butterfield & Robinson
When George Butterfield, founder of the active-travel company Butterfield & Robinson, led a group of travelers on a bespoke wine-focused trip through Germany and France earlier this year, he knew he was onto something special. Based on the success of that inaugural expedition, B&R (with its tagline, “Slow down to see the world”) is venturing beyond its standard biking and walking offerings in 2014 with new Wine Grand Journeys (eight or nine nights, from $14,500; 866-551-9090; butterfield.com).
The three oenological odysseys—Spain and Bordeaux; Germany and France; Italy—will roll through stunning landscapes, with stays in hotels like Castiglion del Bosco (Località Castiglion del Bosco; 39-05/7780-7078; castigliondelbosco.com), an estate in the Tuscan countryside owned by Massimo Ferragamo, and access to wineries that aren’t typically open to the public. Ornellaia and Antinori, a few of Italy’s most distinguished wine producers, are among them.
We spoke with Butterfield about the inspiration behind the trips, what guests can expect and just how much biking is involved.
Q: What is the concept of the Wine Grand Journeys?
A: I wanted to offer trips that weren’t limited by budget or time and were simply the best of the best. They are for people who enjoy the idea of drinking great wine and enjoying insider access while biking and walking through gorgeous scenery and staying in fabulous hotels.
Q: How do they differ from a regular trip with Butterfield & Robinson?
A: Instead of being just biking or just walking they blend both, and they offer access into places that no tour group—not even a regular B&R trip—can usually see, like Gaja in the Piedmont region. At least one of the guides on these trips will have a deep wine knowledge, and the local experts we rely on are recognized in their field. Also, the stays are in small properties that will wow even the most seasoned traveler, like Hôtel les Avisés [59 Rue de Cramant; 33-3/26-57-70-06; selosse-lesavises.com] in Champagne.
Q: How much biking is involved?
A: It is slightly less than on some of our trips—about 20 miles a day compared with 30 to 40. I would say we have a mix of biking abilities as we do on most trips. The Italian trip is hillier than the other two, which is why we are offering electric bikes for those who hate hills.
Q: What is the ultimate inspiration behind the itineraries?
A: I have enjoyed wine and meeting wine-makers for as long as I have enjoyed biking. The idea of combining my passion for “slowing down to see the world” with biking and wine is the inspiration.
October 04, 2013
Photo by Kodiak Greenwood
Every year following the Oscars, after Vanity Fair has thrown its party at Sunset Tower, I take a little vacation to unwind and decompress. This year, craving natural beauty, I flew to San Francisco and traveled along the northernmost coast. My other half was busy making a movie (this is a California story, after all), so I invited one of my oldest friends, Barry Tropp, for a boys’ getaway.
Sea Ranch: We began with grilled lamb at Chez Panisse Café in Berkeley [1517 Shattuck Ave.; 510-548-5049; chezpanisse.com]—I prefer the café to the restaurant—before driving north to the rustic Sea Ranch Lodge [rooms, from $250; 60 Sea Walk Dr.; 800-732-7262; searanchlodge.com]. It’s not the most luxurious place, but it has great character, and the views of the cliffs and the Pacific were staggering. Each morning I ran along the ocean while the seals lay in the sun on virgin beaches.
Carmel: On day three we set off for Carmel, stopping en route at Hog Island Oyster in Point Reyes for the freshest possible shuck-your-own oysters, barbecued and raw [20215 Hwy. 1; 415-663-9218; hogislandoysters.com]. Carmel Valley Ranch [rooms, from $300; 1 Old Ranch Rd.; 866-405-5037; carmelvalleyranch.com], where they serve s’mores every night around a bonfire, is also rife with beautiful runs and hikes. Clint Eastwood’s Mission Ranch Hotel is out there [rooms, from $135; 26270 Dolores St.; 831-624-6436; missionranchcarmel.com], so we stopped for drinks one evening—a classic beauty from the 1800s with a wild field (complete with grazing sheep) between us and the ocean.
Big Sur: The pièce de résistance was the Post Ranch Inn at Big Sur [pictured; rooms, from $595; 47900 Hwy. 1; 831-667-2200; postranchinn.com]: luxe, chic and earthy all at once. My room overlooked the Pacific and had a private porch and a hot tub cantilevered out over the sea. Dining by the fireplace is perfection, like being suspended in Philip Johnson’s Glass House but with a view of the ever-present ocean. After a final day spent at Esalen [55000 Hwy. 1; 888-837-2536; esalen.org] for a massage and a soak in the natural hot springs (we didn’t realize they were clothing-optional until too late), the hardest part was packing up and heading back to L.A.
September 30, 2013
Courtesy of Villa Arcadio Hotel & Resort
Nestled between Milan and Venice, far from the glittering crowds of Amalfi, sits Lake Garda, a retreat so spectacular, one thinks twice about chatting up its riches for fear of spoiling its pristine aura. Its charm lies in the area’s waterfront vistas and its quiet celebration of heritage. The towns are adamantly local; family-run hotels and private palazzos dot the shoreline. The glamour here is found in the distinct absence of glitz.
An ancient convent-turned-boutique hotel offers a slice of Lago di Garda paradise. Villa Arcadio Hotel & Resort (rooms, from $310; 2 Via Palazzina; 39-03/654-2281; hotelvillaarcadio.it) in Salo—with its frescoed walls, terracotta floors, vine-laden terraces and salons—imparts a homey, welcoming air that is at once relaxed and refined. But mamma mia, what a view! Every vantage point offers sweeping panoramas of the lake, mountains and olive groves. Mustering the motivation to venture off the property (and away from its glorious lattes) is a challenge.
When you do leave, rent a Riva boat (complete with a captain) at Arcangeli Centro Nautico (85 Via Pietro da Salo; 39-03/654-3443; arcangelicentronautico.it) and jet around the lake James Bond–style, stopping only for dips in the crystal-clear water. Be sure to visit Pasticceria Vassalli (84/86 Via S. Carlo; pasticceria-vassalli.it), a renowned pastry shop featuring sweets made with citrus fruit grown around Lake Garda, and stock up on local products (leather, honey, olive oil, limoncello) at Salo’s weekend market. For a high-wattage lakeside meal, book a table at the sumptuous Villa Feltrinelli (38–40 Via Rimembranza; 39-03/6579-8000; villafeltrinelli.com) for exquisitely prepared local cuisine.
Northern Italy is known for otherworldly olive oils and wines. A tasting at centuries-old olive-oil producer Azienda Agricola Comincioli (10 Via Roma, Frazione Castello; 39-03/6565-1141; comincioli.it) in Puegnago del Garda offers some of Italy’s brightest flavors. Spa enthusiasts should stop at the mineral springs at 120-year-old Terme di Sirmione (7 Viale Marconi, 39-03/091-6261; termedisirmione.com)—the recently upgraded Aquaria Thermal Wellness Center has a cutting-edge range of heat experiences and body treatments incorporating the famed sulfurous waters.
August 22, 2013
Courtesy of Ski Portillo
Tradition reigns at Ski Portillo in the Chilean Andes. The first lift went up in the early 1930s, making it South America’s oldest ski area. Located about a hundred miles from Santiago, the resort has been owned by Americans (the Purcell family) since 1961. Today guests who book annual all-inclusive ski weeks at Portillo’s rambling, sunshine-yellow hotel appreciate seeing old friends, the red-jacketed waiters who greet them by name in the restaurant and the morning light playing off Laguna del Inca at the base of the mountain. They also appreciate the stellar skiing. August is peak season—the slopes close October 5—and recent heavy snows have left the runs in prime condition.
That’s not to say things don’t change. The first phase of a four-year guest-room remodel debuted in June. Streamlined furniture and wall coverings made of native Chilean lenga wood mix with artisan-crafted wool blankets and rugs. Skiers can now rent several private, classic alpine chalets that sleep up to eight (from $4,950 for four people, including meals and lift tickets; $1,100 per additional guest). Snowshoe routes have been added. But the old-world charm remains: When the road between Santiago and Mendoza (the resort’s main access route) reopens after a snowstorm, a staffer walks through the hotel ringing a bell to announce it.
Ski Portillo lodges just 450 skiers and daytrippers are rare, giving it the feel of a private club. Despite only 35 named runs, the mountain seems much bigger, with above-treeline slopes that offer many ways to the bottom and a wealth of hike-to terrain. Helicopters take off daily (weather permitting) from the hotel, ferrying skiers to untracked slopes 15 minutes away. Après-ski ranges from soaks in the outdoor heated pool and wine tastings to movies, talks and late nights at the disco.
Another Ski Portillo tradition is that several national ski teams train here, including the U.S. men and women and the Austrian men. (Seeing Olympic champ Lindsey Vonn out on a run or recent World Cup winner Tina Maze of Slovenia at dinner isn’t out of the question.) And with the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, approaching, this might be one of the best places in the world to get a look at rising stars, both on and off the slopes. Seven-night stay starts at $1,950, including four meals and lift ticket; Renato Sanchez 4270; 56-2/2263-0606; skiportillo.com.
August 01, 2013
Courtesy of The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs
The North Island of New Zealand is a difficult part of the world to compete with when it comes to gorgeous natural surroundings. And with golf and fishing at the centerpiece of an offering at The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, the stunning assets of the region are highlighted even more. The Fish ‘n’ Chipping package, anchored by a three-night stay in a suite, allows guests to experience two of New Zealand’s most beloved pursuits in grand fashion.
The lodge itself, located on a 6,000-acre sheep and cattle farm, houses 22 suites and a double-suite Owner’s Cottage. Guests are encouraged to enjoy the three private beaches and waterfall (a particularly ideal picnic spot), as well as the two pools and tennis courts. The walk to the spa passes through a forest of totara trees. “Everything here is about the individual, personal experience,” says managing director Jay Robertson.
The new offering extends the charm, starting with a round of golf on the 18-hole, par-72 course designed by David Harman, which is considered one of the best in the world. (Harman traveled to Kauri Cliffs 46 times from his home in Florida while building it.) Fifteen holes provide stunning ocean views—the Cavalli Islands and Cape Brett can be seen—and six of those are located along cliffs.
The fishing leg of the stay offers either four hours of land-based fishing or a four-hour trip in the Bay of Islands, and a private driving tour of the North Island results in a proper fish and chips lunch at Mangonui restaurant, which is known for the specialty. And those who want an even greater immersion can get just that, choosing either a private fish and chips cooking lesson with Kauri Cliffs chef Barry Frith or a golf tutorial—focused on the chip shot, of course—with a local pro. Rates start at $3,190; Matauri Bay, Northland; 64-9/407-0010; kauricliffs.com.
July 25, 2013
Courtesy of The Cultural Landscape Foundation
What do Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey, Biscayne Boulevard in Miami and the sculpture “Spiral Jetty” by Robert Smithson near Rozel Point, Utah, have in common? Each is an outdoor heritage site recognized by The Cultural Landscape Foundation in its online database What’s Out There (tclf.org).
Now newly optimized for smartphones and other handheld devices, the website includes a GPS-enabled What’s Nearby function that signals which of the more than 1,300 cultural landscapes identified in What’s Out There thus far—including public parks, scenic highways, historic cemeteries, industrial campuses and landmark malls—are within a 25-mile radius and worth a visit.
Charles Birnbaum, the visionary landscape proponent who founded TCLF in 1998 to raise awareness of the value of designed landscapes and outdoor spaces, spoke with us about his vision and what is next on his agenda.
Q: Let’s start with the basics: What is a cultural landscape?
A: It’s a broad category that covers designed landscapes, like New York’s Central Park, and vernacular landscapes, like Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon. As opposed to a natural landscape, a cultural landscape demonstrates some sort of cultural overlay or human involvement and can be ancient or modern.
Q: Why did you create What’s Out There?
A: There are lots of architectural guides about designed structures, but there is nothing comprehensive for designed landscapes. The U.S. has an outstanding landscape legacy and What’s Out There, which is free, online and loaded with images and information, makes this fascinating American heritage readily available to millions of people.
Q: Have you visited every site in the database?
A: No [with a laugh], not all the sites. But at least 75 percent.
Q: You live in Washington, D.C. Do you have a favorite landscape there?
A: In my top five is Meridian Hill Park, a glorious 12-acre park just a mile north of the White House. It’s an elegantly terraced, early-20th-century park by George Burnap and Horace Peaslee that features a spectacular cascading fountain inspired by the one at Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati, Italy. There is also the stunningly beautiful Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown by Beatrix Farrand, the only female founding member of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1899.
Q: Last year you added 150 sites in the state of Maine alone. What’s next
A: Virginia and Texas are our target states this year, thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. We’re also planning an international cultural landscape conference for 2015 in Toronto, which has some of the most exciting new parks in North America. And readers should check out "Landslide" on our website, a watch list for at-risk cultural landscapes.