Conde Nast Traveler

Sleeping with Great Artists in Mallorca

"Courtyard of the Hotel Acatlan," by David Hockney, from his Mexican series 1984-85, one of several Hockneys at the Gran Hotel Son Net.
Photo: Clive Irving

by Clive Irving

Hotel art is generally appalling. For many decades, the notable exception has been La Colombe d'Or, a hotel that sits on a ridge above the French Riviera at St. Paul de Vence and is renowned for being as much an art gallery as a lodging. On the grounds are large murals by Léger and Braque and, by the pool, a Calder mobile. Inside are original works by once hard-up artists who paid for their rooms in canvases, including Picasso, Matisse, and Miró. Then there is the setting and the light, part of the conspiracy of location that bred such legendary talents: Chagall illuminated a chapel in nearby Vence, and a fine gallery of modern greats is also at hand in the Fondation Maeght.

Few hotels, however, occupy such inspiring locales as La Colombe d'Or. So applause, please, for the Gran Hotel Son Net, hidden away in a highland valley of Mallorca. The building is a sensitively restored country estate, or finca, dating from 1672. There you will find works by Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, and David Hockney, among others, as well as some sketches by the Great Wrapper, Cristo, of buildings he sought to enrobe. These are not one-off originals, which would require deep pockets, but they are well chosen from limited-edition prints and are appropriately framed (including a Hockney, whose frame is part of a geometric joke with planes of color) and carefully hung in public spaces.

The Son Net is an example of the kind of luxury retreat that has, in recent years, appeared in the Tramuntana Mountains of western Mallorca. The discovery of the area's beauty began with Robert Graves, who wrote I, Claudius while living on the island and who later settled in the village of Deya for his final years. This also happens to be the location of La Residencia, which introduced to Mallorca new (and expensive) levels of pampering.

Pervasive images of Mallorcan beaches thronged by the tanning torsos of Brits and Germans on package tours are confounded by this other side of an island that is making great efforts to go upscale and go green, harnessing its traditional windmill skills and solar power.The cuisine, too, is making strides with local ingredients and wines that are, for the first time, up to the standards of the rest of Spain. 

Further reading:
* La Colombe d'Or is a Conde Nast Traveler Gold List perennial
* Check for special deals this summer, including four nights for the price of three at the Gran Hotel Son Net

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Tuscan Room With a View


Dream Trip 2009 is well under way! For inspiration, here's a new entry that caught our eye:

We're suckers for a room with a view. (Not coincidentally, that's the name of one of our readers' favorite monthly items in the magazine.) Dream Trip entrant nancyp2503 was just as enamored of the vista from her window of her B&B during study in Italy, an episode captured in the entry "Tuscany in the Morning."

"We tried our best to get up and watch the sunrise but just couldn't make it," nancyp2503 writes of her routine. "When we did wake up, this is what we saw and it was beautiful. Tuscany has a way of showing you the beauty in nature that I have not found anywhere else. I this photo above my fireplace as a reminder on how beautiful the world can be."

Share your travel photos and memories in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You could be just a few clicks away from a $25,000 trip to anywhere you choose.


A New Reason to Hit the Jersey Shore This Summer

A standard "Aloha" room, which has a king bed, flat-screen TV, iPod docking station, and fireplace.
Photo: The Bungalow

by Ondine Cohane

I have never been to the Jersey Shore. Well, actually that's not technically true: I went to see Velvet Revolver perform in Atlantic City. But I haven't ventured to the beaches there, even though plenty of my surfing pals have brought me back good reports. The opening of Bungalow, a 24-room boutique property in Long Branch could change that.

From the up-and-coming design group SIXX (this is its first hotel project) the Bungalow mixes a decidedly laid-back but stylish beach feel with contemporary accessories like lamps from Moss (one of my favorite stores in NYC), gorgeous surf photos by Jeff Devine, and light-filled rooms with huge bathtubs. If you like toys for grown-ups, don't miss the 1940s pool table and a vintage foosball table in the lobby. And I like the sound of the adjacent beach club, Avenue Nuit, designed by hot Brit architect David Collins. Sun-worshipper central by day, party spot after by night, it's got a rooftop pool and an outdoor fireplace.

Further reading:
* André Balazs's chic motel Sunset Beach, one of my favorite beachside spots, has also just reopened for the season in Shelter Island. Rates start at $175 during the week and $370 over the weekends, better prices than years past. And there are few better spots for a mojito with a view on the east end of Long Island.
* Word of Mouth: The buzz worldwide.


How to Talk to Cows: The Etiquette of Agritourism

Photo: publicenergy on Flickr using Creative Commons

by Sara Tucker

A Vermont farmer we know celebrates Cow Appreciation Day in May. That's when her cows are turned out to pasture after months of winter confinement. Friends and neighbors bring covered dishes and watch the cows frolic. A potluck breakfast follows.

Brattleboro honors cows in June with a three-day bovine beauty pageant kicked off by a parade down Main Street; they call it the Strolling of the Heifers (head nod to Pamplona's running of the bulls). The Billings Farm in Woodstock asks us to appreciate cows (and eat ice cream) in July.

For the uninitiated: Certain topics are never, ever discussed at cow fests, particularly around the cows. Read after the jump to learn more.

Continue reading "How to Talk to Cows: The Etiquette of Agritourism" »


Bette Midler and 50 Cent Join Forces to Save Environment

Bette Midler planting trees for her New York Restoration Project in August 2004.
Photo: Adam Chazan

by Beata Loyfman

Bette Midler, 50 Cent, and Dolly Parton walk into a bar.

No, it's not a bad joke, it's what you'll find if you go to Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan on May 19 at 6:30 p.m. The annual Spring Picnic raises funds for Midler's New York Restoration Project, a nonprofit dedicated to developing and maintaining New York's green spaces. For as little as $250 (half of which is tax deductible) you can hang out with Bette and her random celeb pals, have a fun dinner, and contribute to a worthwhile cause. Or if you're a high roller in need of an investment, Bette will sell you a $10,000 table for $8,500 if you pay in cash. Any takers?

Bette recently wrote about the theme of the eighth Spring Picnic (Recession Chic) on the Daily Beast. What would this wealthy gal know about surviving a recession? "I was raised by parents who lived through the Depression and I know how to stretch a dollar tighter than Rush Limbaugh's thong." Ahh, that explains it. Just one question: With such an, ahem, eclectic group in attendance, what will the music selection be? A rap, country, show tunes blend? Perhaps a Depression-era ditty?

Further reading:
* Bette, the showgirl, must go on
* Boldface: Celebrity travels

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Venice Gondola


Dream Trip 2009 is well under way! For inspiration, here's a new entry that caught our eye:

Photographing an iconic travel image comes with a built-in challenge: How do you keep the picture from looking cliché?

With his photo of a Venetian gondolier, Dream Trip entrant sporn avoids the pitfall, showing us a scene that's familiar but that has a central humanity. In the Dream Trip entry "Waiting for a Fare," we see not just the recognizable scene but also imagine the subject's inner monologue.

The image is also a reminder of the universality of the gondolier's work: a driver waiting for someone who needs a ride.

"When I took the picture of this gondolier, it struck me that he's waiting for a fare," the accompanying text notes. "Could I compare this to the long line of Yellow Cabs by Grand Central? Probably not. It wouldn't be some harried business person racing to a meeting but, perhaps, two lovers."

Share your travel photos and memories in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You could be just a few clicks away from a $25,000 trip to anywhere you choose.


The Commuter Pilot Life: Recipe for an Accident?

All 49 passengers and one person on the ground were killed when Continental Connection flight 3407 crashed minutes before its scheduled landing at Buffalo International Airport on Feb. 12, 2009.
Photo: Dave Sherman / AP

by Barbara S. Peterson

Thousands of commuter-airline pilots are increasingly carrying a greater percentage of the two million or so passengers who fly every day in the U.S. But at a safety board hearing in Washington this week, I heard some pretty shocking testimonies about the conditions they endure. Take the case of one Rebecca Shaw, 24 years old, a first officer (or copilot) for tiny Colgan Air. She lived with her parents in Seattle, earned less than $17,000 a year, and "commuted" to work thousands of miles away in Newark by taking red-eye flights to save on hotels or apartment rentals. For a time she held a second job at a coffee shop in Norfolk, Virginia; that's where she started out flying for the puddle jumper. 

Hearing Shaw's story was one of the more disturbing moments during this unusual three-day hearing of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The session was held to examine the circumstances that led to the crash of Continental Connection flight 3407 in Buffalo, New York, on February 12--a flight contracted out to Colgan, of which Shaw was the copilot. Shaw, along with 48 people aboard died--one person on the ground was killed, as well--and it was the worst transportation accident in the country in seven years.

It will take many months before the NTSB comes out with a firm conclusion on the cause of the accident. Crashes rarely have a single cause, anyway; they're usually the result of a series of cascading mistakes. But it was hard to avoid the impression that the crew was far from "ready and rested," as required by airline policies. Those of us in attendance got to hear a lot about the life of an airline grunt: Wal-Mart level wages; catnapping instead of getting a real night's sleep; 16-hour days. All of this prompted Kathryn Higgins, one member of the safety board, to say, "This is a recipe for an accident, and that's what we have here."  

And the tape of the cockpit voice recorder--now available online for anyone to read--revealed a disturbing laxness. The pilot, Captain Marvin Renslow, and Shaw were chatting and laughing when they should have been paying attention to their instruments, which would have given them the first sign of the trouble that ultimately doomed the plane.

Continue reading "The Commuter Pilot Life: Recipe for an Accident?" »


Ayo: The New Soul of Germany

by John Oseid

The gorgeous young German singer/songwriter Ayo has been enormously popular in Europe for some years, and now her soul-reggae sound is fast bringing her a North American audience. Before rehearsing with her band in a Manhattan studio last week, Ayo spoke to me and Condé Nast Traveler photo editor Damian Vincent about her music and her inspirations like her Nigerian father. In Damian's video above, she also treated us to an impromptu acoustic version of her song "Lonely."

Damian and I are looking forward to going to Manhattan's Highline Ballroom on Sunday, May 17, for Ayo's sole NYC show. Then she'll join Erykah Badu and many others on May 24 at UCLA's Jazz Reggae Festival. This week Ayo began appearing with nine other artists, including Liz Phair and Esperanza Spalding, in a Banana Republic ad campaign. The album City Sounds, inspired by the musicians' travels, is available for download upon in-store purchase.

More music:
* The colors are rich as can be in the video for "Down on my Knees," one of Ayo's first hits. Here she performs it live on French TV. One of my favorite tunes, the up-tempo "Slow Slow (Run Run)," is the first of her MySpace downloads. Here's the joyful video.
* Joyful is also the title of one of Ayo's albums, which are available on Amazon.
* Boom Box: An unabashed gusto for music of the world.

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Boy in Bali

Bali Boy

Dream Trip 2009 is well under way! For inspiration, here's a new entry that caught our eye:

Travel pictures of local children can be tricky. Snaps can be so sentimental that they become sappy. Or, if the photos capture poor living conditions, the images can seem exploitative.

Bboykin's Dream Trip entry, Laughing Balinese Boy, keeps away from both danger zones. In this frame, Bboykin shows us a youth whose happiness is infectious.

"Visiting Bali, my husband and I stopped at a temple where people were preparing offerings for a festival," reads the Dream Trip entry. "In addition to preparing food, flowers, and fruits, the women were socializing, the men playing cards, and the children running around playing games. Everyone was friendly and smiling as they invited us to enter and take pictures of the happy occasion. The children vied for our attention, the boys trying out their few words of English and giggling with delight when we answered. This little boy was especially animated, and he expressed for us the openness and warmth we encountered everywhere among the Balinese people."

Share your travel photos and memories in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You could be just a few clicks away from a $25,000 trip to anywhere you choose.


Globetrotting for Good: Enter the Conde Nast Traveler Challenge

A snapshot of the entries so far. Click on the image to enter the challenge.

by Dorinda Elliott

Condé Nast Traveler has joined Ashoka, the global network of social entrepreneurs, for the Condé Nast Traveler Challenge, a series of online competitions to drum up great ideas about how travelers and the travel industry can do good in the world. The first challenge: How can we best promote the idea of global citizenship through travel?

So far we have received 40 entries from 16 countries. It's fascinating stuff -- from a social activist in Namibia who wants to launch a Web site connecting community projects with travel companies, to a student who wants to promote international peace parks and a financial adviser in China who suggests that we should pay Travel Offsets to a human rights organization every time we visit a country with a repressive government. The competition is closing soon, so please take a look and add your own ideas. And vote on your favorites: The winner will be highlighted in the September issue of Condé Nast Traveler!

In This Issue

Fair Trade in Mozambique, a Trip That Gives Back

The Guludo Beach Lodge's beautiful adobe bandas were hand-built by a local workforce.
Photo: Guludo Beach Lodge

Think you have to wear a hair shirt and dig a well to give back when you travel? Think again. Below, a  trip idea from "Eight Great Trips That Give Back," a piece running in this month's issue of Condé Nast Traveler

The coast of Northern Mozambique is a laboratory for combining breathtaking beauty with practical preservation. There are pristine jungle-backed beaches with reef-fringed islands. Marine life is abundant, including humpback whales, which appear from late June through early October. Amy and Neal Carter-James built their luxury eco-resort, Guludo Beach Lodge, here on a white sand beach on the edge of the Quirimbas National Park, not far from the impoverished village of Guludo. Says Amy, "We wanted to find a place where fair-trade tourism could alleviate poverty and provide jobs." Fishermen from Guludo welcomed the prospect of good jobs and agreed to share their beach. The simple, elegant resort was built and staffed by locals. Whitewashed adobe rooms with thatched roofs have plush beds, open-air showers, and verandas with hammocks. Entrepreneurs from the village now offer sunset sails in traditional dhows, beach archery, and fishing outings for guests. Elevate Destinations, a tour operator that specializes in philanthropic trips, just added Guludo to its list. "This is the Seychelles 20 years ago," says Elevate president Dominique Callimanopoulos. "Guludo Beach Lodge is a model for tourism that lifts up local communities."

The Give: For $90, guests can send a teenager to boarding school for a year. Five percent of Guludo's revenue goes to its Nema Foundation, which fights poverty.

The Get: A real connection to the community. The foundation is financing scholarships for 77 teenagers. In 2008, it built 28 water wells, helping more than 12,000 people.

Going Local: Palm rings woven by Guludo village women ($7).

Further reading:
* 7 more trips that give back.
* Paul Theroux on the Peace Corps and the lesson of his life.
* Responsible Traveler: Making a difference.


A School Grows in Zambia

The new outdoor performance space at the Tujatane Trust School, donated by a guest of the Tongabezi Lodge.
Photo: Ryan Damm

by Brook Wilkinson

After a safari in Zimbabwe's Matetsi Private Game Reserve (which I raved about in last week's post), I headed to Livingstone, Zambia, for a few days of R and R near Victoria Falls. Although I stayed at an inexpensive hostel in town, I took the opportunity to check out a few of the more luxurious properties in the Vic Falls area. My scouting took me to Tongabezi Lodge, where the rooms are beautiful and the views over the Zambezi River are stunning. Most impressive, though, was the school started by Vanessa Parker (the wife of Tongabezi's founder) 13 years ago, which is just about to see one of its first graduates off to college in the United States.

Vanessa started the Tujatane Trust School in 1996, intending to fill a few classes with her employees' children. But the demand from the nearby villages was so high that Tujatane now has more than 160 students, and classes from preschool up to seventh grade. The school, which is run entirely on donations, has some of the highest test scores for the area, and it has excelled in national competitions for traditional dance, poetry, and drama (I got to watch a rehearsal when I visited, as Tongabezi guests are welcome to do). 

Most of the students live in mud huts without running water or electricity. Education is their best chance to improve their situations in life, and the meals they receive at school are often the best nutrition they get for the entire day.

Continue reading "A School Grows in Zambia" »

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Cairo Market

Ramadan resize

Dream Trip 2009 is well under way! For inspiration, here's a new entry that caught our eye:

Sifting through contenders for Photo of the Day, we see a lot of: monks in orange robes, feet in the pool, feet in the mountains, and the Eiffel Tower, both in Paris and not. What we don't see a lot of: two really great pictures from the same photographer.

Today's entry is from Dream Trip entrant mich10021, whose image of the preparation of a communal meal in Ecuador we singled out last week. Mich10021 snapped the frame entitled "Ramadan in Khan El Khalili" on a walk through the main souk in Cairo's Old City. The image captures the dizzying feeling of strolling through a market full of strange sights, sounds, smells--and authentic experiences.

"I spent a month in Cairo as Ramadan unfolded," mich10021 writes. "I decided to uncover every inch of the Khan El Khalili market, finding this beautiful corner dedicated to lanterns for locals--no stuffed camels or souvenirs to be seen. I had gone beyond the tourist belt of the market!

Share your travel photos and memories in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You could be just a few clicks away from a $25,000 trip to anywhere you choose.


India: Risk-Free Street Food

One of the many treats on offer
at Haldiram's.

Photo: tasteofparis on Flickr
using Creative Commons

by Michael Snyder

It's a typical situation. You find yourself wandering the congested backstreets of Old Delhi when you experience the sweet and sour smells of pomegranate, tamarind, and yogurt, and the dense, savory scent of deep-fried dough. You turn another corner to find a swarm of people crowded around a particularly popular chaatwallah (a purveyor of some of India's most celebrated street foods), and you are just about to order your very own pani puri when you remember the words of every guidebook and protective Indian auntie you've met: "Don't eat the street food!"

Though most of the warnings against adventurous eating in India are (in my humble opinion) exaggerated, they are not entirely invalid. The chutneys served with many chaats are kept cool with giant blocks of ice made from water of questionable origin, and virtually all chaats are deep fried in oil that, even when perfectly clean, can be heavy enough to throw your digestive juices into a frenzy. The decision to move on is probably a wise one.

Enter Haldiram's. Essentially an Indian fast food chain, Haldiram's uses only light oils and filtered water and is any foreigner foodie's best bet for trying chaat risk free.

Continue reading "India: Risk-Free Street Food" »

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Cheetahs in Kenya


Dream Trip 2009 is well under way! For inspiration, here's a new entry that caught our eye:

It can be hard to take a picture with the kids: They never all look at the camera, they squirm, and sometimes they dash out of the frame. So it is with the family portrait of great cats that Dream Trip entrant JuneMapril captured in Kenya. But the shot, entitled "Just the Three of Us," is something more, an image of feral beauty and near symmetry.

"While out on a game drive in the Masai Mara, I came across a family of cheetahs," the Dream Trip entry says. "I took this picture not knowing what I had until I got home and put the pictures on the computer. It was a perfect framing of a cheetah with her two children next to her."

Share your travel photos and memories in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You could be just a few clicks away from a $25,000 trip to anywhere you choose.


Costa Rica's Best Caribbean Beaches

I snapped this photo of Playa Chiquita at sunset looking southeast toward Punta Uva and Panama.

by Alex C. Pasquariello

We've told you about Banana Azul and Aguas Claras, a couple of gems straddling the rasta-hippie enclave of Puerto Viejo on Costa Rica's south Caribbean Coast. I just got back from a week in this tropical paradise, where the jungle-backed beaches are the real draw. Here's the lowdown on the four best beaches, all within a rented-bike ride of Puerto Viejo.

Playa Negra is a peaceful expanse of black sand that curls from Cahuita National Park south into Puerto Viejo. The farther north you stray from town, the more deserted the beach gets; you won't have to hike to far to find your own patch of sand. Best of all, the palm trees fringing the length of Playa Negra are perfectly spaced for hammocks. Banana Azul, which is tucked into the jungle between Puerto Viejo and Cahuita, rents them out or you can pick up one on the cheap from the vendors along Puerto Viejo's main drag.

Continue reading "Costa Rica's Best Caribbean Beaches" »


Chicago: Hot Town, Art in the City

A rendering of the new Renzo Piano-designed wing at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Photo: The Art Institute of Chicago

by Ondine Cohane

I love Chicago. I started traveling there for work a few years ago, and I immediately became a fan, particularly after discovering some of the city's great hotels and restaurants. Among my favorite stops? The Peninsula for its luxurious rooms and perfect location; the newly refurbished Ritz-Carlton Chicago (which, confusingly, is actually a Four Seasons) for its impeccable but friendly service; Avec restaurant for its encyclopedic wine list and simple but excellent food (it was just nominated for a James Beard Award); and Ikram boutique, which Michelle Obama recently brought into the spotlight. Of course, the fact that the Obamas made their home in Chicago for so many years has given the city a little extra luster.

This month, there's another reason to book a ticket to the Windy City: On May 16, the Art Institute of Chicago will unveil its new Modern Wing, designed by Renzo Piano. Like Piano's lovely addition to New York's Morgan Library (see the New York Times's rave review), this one looks to be a beautifully understated addition, with the quintessential Piano light-filled entrance hall. The 264,000 square feet of new space will increase the Art Institute's size by a third, and museum-goers will enjoy iconic views of Millennium Park and Chicago's skyline (look at the reflection of the buildings on the museum's windows). The inaugural exhibition will feature the most recent work of superstar artist Cy Twombly--and don't miss architectural photographer Judith Turner's abstracts of the new wing.

There are plenty of other exhibits and museums opening around the country to get you in the traveling mood this spring and summer:

* A fascinating exhibit on Pompeii opened on May 3 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

* Fashionistas will enjoy "Model as Muse," which opened May 6 at New York's Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum. While you're there, you might want to pick your favorite model of all time. (I have to go with Veruschka, Christy Turlington, and Daria Werbowy. See, I can't choose!)

* Also in Manhattan, starting May 15, is the Frank Lloyd Wright blockbuster at the Guggenheim.

* Santa Fe debuts its New Mexico History Museum on May 24.

* You can take a look at early-twentieth-century skyscrapers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art starting June 6.

* An exhibition on Georgia O' Keefe and the influence of modernist Arthur Dove on her work opens on June 7 at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Anything I should add to the list? Let me know!

China, Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Great Wall of China


Dream Trip 2009 is well underway! For inspiration, here's a new entry that caught our eye:

Almost as iconic as the Great Wall of China itself are the massive crowds who descend on crenellated structure that snakes over the mountains. That's what makes mfogard's "Great Wall of China" remarkable. Not only does it frame the World Heritage Site in all its recognizable glory, from its vantage point, it hints at the idea of a journey to come -- and it does so without picturing a soul.

"It was a rare occasion just before the Beijing Olympic games that I was able to feel like I was the only one within a country of billions," writes mfogard. "On one of the most famous places in the world, it was incredible."

Share your travel photos and memories in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You could be just a few clicks away from a $25,000 trip to anywhere you choose.


Yankee Stadium: A Bronx Place of Worship

Photo: Hyla Bauer / Condé Nast Traveler

Whenever a new baseball stadium opens, the surrounding chatter quickly veers to restaurant review-land, with column inches and blog posts devoted to covering the $9 microbrews on tap and the $15 pad thai created, licensed, and trademarked by the hot new celebrity chef. 

That wasn't quite the case with the new Yankee Stadium, which attracted a depth of sports architectural coverage not seen since Michelangelo drew up plans for a jai alai court at St. Peter's.

This comparison to St. Peter's is no accident. In some parts, the Yankees are a religion. And the newly opened Yankee Stadium, as Condé Nast Traveler discovered during a confab at the stadium's Tommy Bahama Bar, is as much a house of worship--complete with all its saints (Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle) and artifacts (signed balls, battered bleacher seats) on display--as it is a ball field.

Religion aside, Yankee Stadium makes for a great day-trip.

Continue reading "Yankee Stadium: A Bronx Place of Worship" »


Why We Need Vacations Now More Than Ever

Photo: SMN on Flickr
using Creative Commons

by Sara Tucker

An article about "the science of paying attention" by columnist John Tierney was one of the New York Times' most e-mailed stories this week. What does this tell us? That the subject struck a chord with so many readers suggests what a frazzled nation we are (duh), raising the question: How many e-mailers do you suppose read the entire piece before sending it to a friend (and how many of the recipients cursed the senders for adding to their in-box bulge)? Those readers who managed to stay on task for more than a few paragraphs would have learned that it can take the brain 20 minutes to "reboot" after an interruption and that multitasking is a myth. Another tidbit: The typical human brain "can process 173 billion bits of information over the course of a lifetime."

Not that this is news. "The brain can toggle back and forth pretty well, but it simply cannot concentrate on two things at one time," wrote Data Smog author David Shenk in Slate almost two years ago (in the months since the article posted, the typical brain has processed 5 billion additional bits of information). "So, the more quantity we try to manage, at increasing speeds, the more quality we find ourselves trading away."

What's more, "finding places where one can be properly disconnected is becoming increasingly difficult" in our wired world, reports the Telegraph. "Earlier this year a British man, Rod Baber, became the first to make a call on his mobile from the top of Everest."

Tierney (scribe of the above-mentioned most e-mailed column) speaks for a whelmed populace when he asks, "Is there any realistic refuge anymore from the Age of Distraction?"

Continue reading "Why We Need Vacations Now More Than Ever" »


Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas Christen Tucker's Point

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones welcome Bermuda's newest resort. Now if they could only figure a way out of that triangle...

by Beata Loyfman

These days, many celebs have pet projects: Wyclef Jean's is Haiti, Matt Damon's is Africa, Ashley Judd's is clean water. But few have been so bold as to take a thriving, non-third-world territory under their wealthy wings. Catherine Zeta-Jones and hubby Michael Douglas are two such brave souls. They've been advocates for the posh island of Bermuda for years--in fact, Douglas's family owned the Ariel Sands resort for half a century (until it closed in January for a $100 million makeover). 

Bermuda is notoriously change-averse; its development rules are so draconian that no one has been able to build a luxe hotel there for 37 years. Currently, eight properties are awaiting financing and approval. So when we heard that a resort had actually passed muster and broken ground, we were skeptical. However, to our considerable surprise, not only has Tucker's Point Hotel & Spa been built, but it actually opened on April 30. And who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony? Why, Mr. and Mrs. Zeta-Jones, of course.

Tucker's Point has 88 rooms decorated in a traditional "Brits by the seashore" style as well as a spa, a golf course, and a tennis club, all on 200 acres of greenery. Beware: The Web site is beyond exasperating and refuses to allow online reservations. But it does promise 20 to 30 percent off on advance bookings. So if you call the reservations number (866-604-3764) and say that the Web site is wonky, the resort will honor the discount. Let's hope they fix the HTML, too.

Greece, Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Dreaming in Santorini


Dream Trip 2009 is well under way! For inspiration, here's a new entry that caught our eye:

Is it possible to take a bad picture in Santorini? The Greek island, famed for its blocky white houses and blue-domed churches nestled on cliffs encircling a flooded caldera, is one of the most photogenic spots in the world. It's also a popular European cruise ship port of call.

Today's Photo of the Day, Dreaming in Santorini, doesn't show the classic church tops or any of the familiar doorways framing views of the sea. Instead, it displays a simple flat rooftop, a makeshift bed for a napping pup. The cruise ship plying the Aegean waters in the distance hints at the tourist busy-ness nearby.

"On Santorini, even the stray dogs live the good life," writes Dream Trip entrant ahenry333 about the memory of capturing the image. "Strolling through the village of Oia, I came upon this juxtaposition of dog and boat."

Share your travel photos and memories in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You could be just a few clicks away from a $25,000 trip to anywhere you choose.


El Al, the Pope's Airline

Photo: phinalanji on Flickr using Creative Commons

by Barbara S. Peterson

The upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel, only the third visit ever to the country by a pontiff, is already stirring the expected controversies over his itinerary.

It could be a publicity windfall for Israel's tourism industry, which has been battered by recent violence in Gaza. El Al Airlines, which on May 15 will fly the pope back to Rome from Tel Aviv on a 777 emblazoned with the Vatican insignia, is hoping that travelogue-y footage of a sightseeing pontiff will reassure jittery travelers that it's okay to visit Israel. Of course, security is always an issue in a country that has basically been at war for most of its history.

But other travelers are staying home because of the economy. So for those who want to follow in the pope's footsteps, El Al is offering round-trips that are 30 to 40 percent cheaper than last year's summer fares. If you book on or before May 23, you can grab a $699 round-trip between New York and Tel Aviv; after May 23, the price jumps to $803, and from June 20 through August 19, it's $1,199. And, through May 25, you can get airfare and a five-night stay at Jerusalem's five-star Inbal Hotel for $1,249 per person (based on double occupancy). The airline also has family discounts of 10 percent off for the first child, 50 percent off for the second, and 25 percent off for every child thereafter. And it is discounting business-class tickets up to 40 percent this summer with a round-trip fare of $2,400. (Note: These prices do not include taxes.) Read more about fares and discounts on El Al's Web site.


Bernal and Luna Reunite in Rudo y Cursi

by John Oseid

Fútbol and música, two of my favorite preoccupations. The hit Mexican film Rudo y Cursi, which opens here tomorrow, is full of both. Megastars Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna (of Y tu mamá también fame) play country bumpkin brothers whose fraternal dysfunction destroys their brief, unlikely run as Mexico City soccer stars. Bernal's character Tato "El Cursi" also has delusions of becoming a singing sensation; the film's signature motif is his joyfully cheesy norteño song "Quiero que me quieras." That's him strutting and playing accordion in the video above to the tune you know better as Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me."

The movie's sound track reminded me that the label Nacional Records is producing the most innovative Latin music anywhere these days. I can't get enough of the Mexican Institute of Sound's new release Soy Sauce, a grab bag of funk, rock, cumbia, electronica, and more. "Sinfonia Agridulce" is a brilliant mariachi-in-a-late-night-bar version of the Verve hit "Bittersweet Symphony." I only discovered the Nortec Collective last year, and I can't count how many times I've watched the group's videos "Tijuana Makes Me Happy" and "Tijuana Sound Machine."

More music:
* Last week, Nortec Collective collaborators Bostich and Fussible talked with Studio 360 host Kurt Anderson about the influence of American music on Mexican electronica. Find the group's most recent albums here and here.
* Boom Box: An unabashed gusto for music of the world.

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Ecuador Dinner

Community Dinner

Dream Trip 2009 is well underway! For inspiration, here's a new entry that caught our eye:

Slivers cascade from weathered fingers. In the foreground, a pair of hands cradles something. In the background, a figure inspects an object. Are these prospectors panning for gold? Farmers examining soil?

Dream Trip entrant mich10021 describes the down-to-earth scene captured in the enigmatic image "A Community Dinner":

"I was visiting an indigenous community in Ecuador in an area known for its beautiful Andean landscapes," mich10021 writes. "However, my favorite photo of this trip is not of mountains, it is of the women preparing a dinner outside the local school. The smells, the crackling fire, and the constant stirring and toasting of peanuts will forever be in my mind. I even had a taste of roasted guinea pig!"

Share your travel photos and memories in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You could be just a few clicks away from a $25,000 trip to anywhere you choose.

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