What's New: The Latest in Travel

Courtesy Grand Del Mar

The new restaurant from Alinea chef Grant Achatz, the best way to see South America, Australia’s new outback lodge and more.

Australia’s Wildman Wilderness Lodge

Opened in early April, Wildman Wilderness Lodge’s ten cabins and 15 luxury tents are set on the vast Mary River wetlands in the Northern Territory. This is the outback experience for naturalists who prefer to see gaping-mouthed crocs with a chilled gin and tonic in hand. The 17 acres on which the lodge sits are perfect for bush walks led by indigenous guides who combine a deep knowledge of the land with a spiritual connection to its song lines. There are friendly wallabies, less-than-friendly dingoes and water buffalo with whom only fools trifle.

During the day, guests can lounge at an infinity pool. By night, they gather around the fire pit to watch its sparks mingle with stars. And you can’t help but imagine the beady eyes of the dingoes from just outside the fire’s cast, watching jealously as a chef serves up a grilled barramundi with lemon myrtle aioli and salmon caviar.

A safari tent for two starts at $435 a night; a cabin, $575; wildmanwildernesslodge.com.au.

200 Words on How to Do South America

South America is a big place. You don’t want to go to more than three regions during a two-week trip. The distances are huge and the air routes aren’t terribly sophisticated. Happily, since South America is on the north-south axis, it’s a night flight with no jet lag, so you don’t lose a day.

South America is a quintessen-tial natural environment. When people think of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, they think “Indian,” but you don’t get any of that. In general there’s very little “indigenous” culture in those countries. They’ve all been wiped out.

Uruguay is one of the most underrated countries on the continent. It often—unjustly—fades next to its tango-y, sexier neighbor. But the countryside of Uruguay is like Africa. It looks so much like the Serengeti that it is heart-stopping.

Mendoza, in Argentina, is not my favorite. I find the vineyards quite boring even though I love wine. I prefer the country’s northwest Salta area. For hotels, I absolutely love a place called Fasano Las Piedras (rooms, from $600; laspiedrasfasano.com) in Punta Del Este. The land is breathtaking, and the 1970s ranch house has been beautifully restored. —Lisa Lindblad, bespoke travel agent, willingfoot.com

Hot Pick: Chapel at Grand Del Mar

Though built in 2007, the chapel at San Diego’s Grand Del Mar is an embassy from the Old World. The floor: Italian Vicenza stone. The walls: Jerusalem limestone inlaid with Italian Rossa Levanto marble tiles. The altar: handmade in Arzignano by fourth-generation artisans. And the pews: carved by a Vatican pew-maker. granddelmar.com.


Chicago: Grant Achatz’s Next Restaurant

Chicago boasts no oceanic coast, and the weather, frankly, could sometimes be better. Yet thousands visit each year for the scant hope of landing a table at Alinea, Grant Achatz’s cutting-edge restaurant. In April, Achatz, the coauthor of Life, on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat (Gotham), opened a new restaurant called Next. We spoke with him to ask the question on everyone’s mind: What’s Next?

Q: Unlike any restaurant before it, Next’s menu not only is inspired by a specific time and place in history, but it also changes completely every three months. For instance, you’re starting with a menu inspired by Paris 1906, but in June you’ll introduce a whole new menu. How did you decide on this concept?

It started very simply. When you talk about food and transportive food—food that takes you somewhere—you talk about one particular place in the world and a specific time in that place. Those are the two things that frame the genre.

Q: How did you decide on this specific time and place?

I felt compelled to tell the story that while everyone thinks when you travel back in time, the food is really different, it’s actually not that different. If you look at Auguste Escoffier’s food in 1906, it’s highly refined with an extreme amount of finesse, which is exactly like my cuisine.

Q: How does Next Restaurant feed into, and how is it fed by, Chicago’s culinary energy? That is, how does Next fit into Chicago 2011?

To answer that, you have to go backward. Ask yourself why Alinea didn’t pop up in New York instead of Chicago. This city had one of the best restaurants since 1973, with Jean Banchet’s Le Français. In 1987, Charlie Trotter’s opened. We have Tru, Alinea, L2O and Everest. The scene here is far more established than people give it credit for, and was that way at a far earlier age than people give it credit for. So here we are again, trying to break the mold, and I’m feeling very confident Chicagoans will accept it.

Dinner starts at $40; 953 W. Fulton Market; nextrestaurant.com.

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Viking River Cruises launches four new riverboats—with balconies!…Mr. C, a Cipriani hotel, debuts in L.A. in May….Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio takes over the former Tabla space in NYC….