Conde Nast Traveler

Mandy Moore's Work with the Global Fund

Mandy Moore on assignment with PSI's Five & Alive FundMandy Moore on assignment with PSI's Five & Alive Fund

by Beata Santora

About this same time last year, during the 2008 World Savers Congress, Ashley Judd left us speechless by showing how PUR water purification sachets can turn even the foulest sludge into clean drinking water. Her remarkable efforts in Rwanda brought PUR to local communities and opened our eyes to the extreme need for organizations like the Conde Nast Traveler's Five & Alive Fund.

This year, another powerful woman took the World Savers stage. Singer/actress Mandy Moore has been tirelessly working with the Global Fund, distributing anti-malarial mosquito nets in an effort to eradicate HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis in the Sudan.

"Being part of the net distribution was the most humbling experience of my life," said Moore.

Moore described an encounter with a mother in the Sudan whose life was forever changed by receiving one of these free nets. After being constantly ill with fever, her children are now malaria-free and their mother has since dedicated herself to promoting the nets to other women in her community.

"The travel and entertainment industries are so powerful, so influential" said Mandy, " they can inspire real change."


The Committed Consumer

World Savers

by Kathryn Maier 

Picture this: You're on a luxury cruise ship about to transit the Suez Canal. An auction onboard the ship is offering the highest bidder the chance to join the ship's captain on the bridge for the canal transit. Now imagine that the money raised from the auction will buy enough oral rehydration salts to save the lives of 33,000 children in a developing country. Talk about a win-win situation!

That was the anecdote told by Wendy Perrin, Condé Nast Traveler's consumer news editor and moderator of the most recent World Savers Congress panel. The ship was a Crystal Cruise ship, and the money went to the Five & Alive Fund, which supports malaria prevention and treatment, nutritional, and safe water programs for children aged five and under. In her panel, Perrin raised the question: As social responsibility becomes more of a focus, companies are finding new ways to engage travelers in their programs. How can they best spread the message?

Her panelists agreed that travelers all seem to care more about corporate social responsibility now than they did in years past. According to a recent study by Carlson Hotels, 76 percent of travelers said that a hotel's degree of environmental friendliness influenced their decision of where to stay. Some are willing to pay a premium to companies with a high CSR involvement; some simply expect that their companies will be good corporate citizens.

"The traveler's expectation is that the company is going to be green," said panelist Richard Edelman, President and CEO of Edelman Public Relations. "Instead of being the eco-cherry on the sundae, it's in the ice cream."

Perrin asked the panelists which corporate social responsibility initiative had worked best for their brands. The responses:

Gregg Michel, President and COO of Crystal Cruises, said that his guests are really excited about the Five & Alive Fund. Crystal holds about four auctions per year such as the one above, all benefiting the Five & Alive Fund. Through that fund, $5 can buy mosquito nets to protect a mother child from malaria for three years, or $25 can buy anti-malarial antibiotics for 100 children.

Carmen Baker, VP of Responsible Business at Carlson Hotels, said the best ways of engaging consumers are easy and non-intimidating, such as a giving tree located near the front desk of her hotels during the holidays.

Niki Leondakis, COO of Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, said that her company's involvement with Dress for Success is a hit with guests and employees alike. Her hotels hold fundraisers and clothing drives, and have started hiring women who have gone through the program.

Bruce Poon Tip, Founder and CEO of Gap Adventures, said that his company's dollar-a-day program, in which travelers are asked to give one dollar per day of travel, which will go toward a community program, has gotten a big response.

The strongest guest response, according to Tip, came for projects with specific aims, a beginning and an end, where guests know their money is going toward that specific project.

After the tsunami, Gap Adventures identified a specific fishing village that got washed away, and raised funds that went toward buying new boats and fishing nets for the villagers.

So how best to inform travelers of these initiatives? All agreed that new social media--such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs--is key.

Edelman advised that companies participate in all of these, wherever conversations are happening. "The conversation is happening with you or without you," he said. "You may as well participate and add to it."


Words from the World Savers Awards Winners

World Savers

by Julia Bainbridge

Some favorite quotes we jotted down from our World Savers Award winners:

Frank Rainieri, CEO, Grupo Puntacana, winner for educational programs
("Forty years ago, when we began Puntacana, responsible tourism was basically unheard of. Unconsciously, and based solely on what we found to be right, we implemented responsible tourism practices."

Marilu Hernandez, co-owner of the Haciendas, winner for poverty alleviation(
"Tourism is a way out of poverty--if you do it right. It's a serious investment and commitment for the future of a community."

Gap Adventures CEO Bruce Poon Tip, tour operator overall winner(
"It's easy for Gap Adventures to do good because it's in the fabric of our business model. The real pioneers are the larger companies...Condé Nast Traveler has been very brave to walk the fine line of luxury and responsibility, especially in the past three years."

Niki Leondakis, COO of Kimpton Hotels, winner for environmental/cultural preservation
Years ago, Kimpton decided to replace traditional cleaning products with non-toxic cleaners. Once they finally found a supplier, though, the housekeepers refused to use it.

"They didn't like it because it didn't foam and they didn't think it was effectively cleaning the rooms. We created an 'eco road show' around the country hosting training sessions in multiple languages on the value of using non-toxic cleaners. We got their buy in when the ladies stopped having rashes and other skin conditions."


Ken Burns and the National Parks

World Savers

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

We have just watched an exclusive sneak preview of Ken Burns' latest project, National Parks: America''s Best Idea. The film veteran spent the past six years working on this powerful 12-hour film about the history and development of the U.S. National Parks, an incredible 84 million vast acres of what Burns calls "nature's sublime wonderlands."

Burns' film highlights the amazing achievement of the National Parks as the first time in all of human history when land was set aside "not for the nobles or the rich, but for everyone." It's the "the Declaration of Independence applied to the landscape."

As Burns told the audience at the World Savers Congress, the project began as a historical account, but soon evolved into what he described as "the kind of things today's World Savers Award winners are all about--personal transformative experiences."

After seeing the first minutes of this film, there's no doubt that we'll all be tuning in to its September 27 debut on PBS.


2009 World Savers Awards

World Savers

by Julia Bainbridge

At this portion of the World Savers Congress, Condé Nast Traveler honors the airlines, cruise lines, city hotels, resorts, hotel chains, and tour operators that are dedicated to saving their communities and our world. (Hooray!) Click on the category links to find out more about what these companies are doing to give back.

Educational programs
Winner: Puntacana Resort & Club, Dominican Republic, large resort
Runner-up: Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, 74 hotels in 24 countries, large hotel chain

Poverty alleviation
Winner: The Haciendas, Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico, small chain
Runner-up: Gap Adventures, global, tour operator

Wildlife conservation
Winner: Bushmans Kloof, South Africa, small resort
Runner-up: Micato Safaris, Africa and India, tour operator

Environmental/cultural preservation
Co-winner: Kimpton, 48 hotels in 22 North American cities, large chain
Co-winner: Air New Zealand, airline

Health initiatives
Winner: Accor, More than 4,000 hotels around the world, large chain
Runner-up: Hotel Grano de Oro, San José, Costa Rica, city hotel

Being a jack of all trades is a good thing, too. Read about those who are doing it all. And how, exactly, are these awards judged? Read the methodology to find out.


The Economics of Doing Good

Ts_inner_doinggood_090921Panelist Blake Mycoskie, CEO of TOMS Shoes

by Kathryn Maier

In the keynote panel of the 2009 World Savers Congress, moderator Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times posed a question to the panelists: How is the current economic climate affecting businesses' commitment to social responsibility?

The consensus of the panelists was that a commitment to corporate social responsibility makes good business sense --reflected both in profits and in consumer and employee loyalty. 

Goldman Sachs had committed $100 million over five years to its 10,000 Women program, which provides basic business-management education to underserved women, immediately before the economic downturn.  Not only has the firm sustained its commitment, it is also looking at how the commitment can be expanded, according to Dina Powell, Global Head of Corporate Engagement at the firm.  

People want to work for institutions that really are making an impact, she said.

The program has shown results, such as a 44 percent increase in sales among the program's first graduates in Rwanda.

Rachel Webber, Director of Energy Initiatives at News Corporation, agrees with Powell that the ability to show and communicate results is crucial.  Her company's efforts are geared most to minimizing its carbon output.  To say each DVD her company produces generates 1.12 pounds of CO2 may not mean much to a CFO, she said, but these facts can often be translated into dollars, and a case to reduce carbon output can be made that way.  Results can also be seen through consumer support -- for instance, the day that The Sun newspaper gave away an energy-efficient lightbulb with each issue, she said, the paper saw a 400,000 bump in circulation. 

Blake Mycoskie, CEO of TOMS Shoes, has seen a similar response from his customers.  For each pair of TOMS Shoes purchased, his company gives away a pair to someone in need.  His business has seen double-digit growth even in the past year, which he attributes to the philanthropic aspect of his business. 

People are buying less, but are focusing their purchases on things they can emotionally connect to, and that has played in our favor, he said. 

A common challenge that all panelists faced was figuring out the right targets--whether choosing the particular communities as recipients of their philanthropic efforts, or determining a set of sustainability goals for each specific department within the company; all admitted to having had to adjust their targets as they refined their CSR initiatives.  Even so, all agreed that even in this challenging economic environment, their companies would be furthering their commitment to corporate social responsibility.


Welcome to the 2009 World Savers Congress

World Savers

by Julia Bainbridge

"We're at the dawn of a new era," said Condé Nast Traveler's Klara Glowczewska at the opening of the magazine's third annual World Savers Congress. "Business will be transformed, and ultimately in the best possible ways."

There's proof of that in the stats Glowczewska shared with the audience: 75 percent of Condé Nast Traveler readers say that they are influenced by hotels' sustainability practices when booking, and 50 percent would pay slightly higher rates to help local impoverished areas.

"In this economy, people are thinking about larger issues," she said, highlighting the upside of our current economic state. "We're all aware of our interconnectedness."

Today's Congress is all about facilitating conversations that will hopefully inform and inspire those in attendance--and those reading about the event--to move towards sustainable and profitable business. Over the past few months, the magazine has been hosting brown bag lunches with Abercrombie & Kent, Carlson Hotels, Fairmont Hotels, Four Seasons, Hyatt Corp., InterContinental, Kimpton Hotels, Loews, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Starwood, and Vail Resorts, to come together and develop a standard way of measuring water consumption.

"You have enormous power," said Glowczewska this morning, "The services you provide enable people to see the world with their own eyes. There is nothing more important for making us aware." Stay turned to learn more from travel industry leaders as they discuss how to harness that power.


Drinking Accor's Kool-AID

World Savers

by Dinda Elliott

I'm going to sound like I've drunk the Kool-Aid, or worse, that I'm on somebody's payroll, but I swear to you, Accor, whose Sofitel and Novotel hotels cater to business travelers, really gets the idea of sustainable development. This year, Accor won a Condé Nast Traveler World Savers AwardCondé Nast Traveler World Savers Award, which will be presented at the World Savers Congress World Savers Congress on September 21.

The company monitors and conserves water and energy consumption (setting transparent targets for reduction), but it won the award for the amazing work it is doing in fighting AIDS at its 4000 properties around the world. Accor's CEO, Gilles Pelisson, is a crusader for the idea that hotel companies can-and should-do good. I had a chat in New York's chic Novotel with Pelisson a few days ago, overlooking Times Square. The CEO, who lost some friends to AIDS, got emotional discussing what he sees as the hotel industry's responsibility to fight the plague. Accor has persuaded its employees to be tested for HIV/AIDS, a special challenge in Africa where Accor has 111 properties and AIDS still carries a crippling stigma. "If I admit that I am part of the problem, then I believe others will follow," Pelisson said. "I like to see us as doctors for businesspeople. We pamper them, then send them out into the world. But I can also see a dark side, prostitution and ugly things that can happen in hotels, and this is our responsibility. It's not easy to speak about it. But we must." Accor has provided AIDS training to all its employees and hangs anti—child sex trafficking posters prominently in its lobbies.

Pelisson is one of those rare CEOs who sees a larger mission in what he does. "I believe in solidarity at all levels of society," Pelisson told me. "Whether we are in Paris, North America or Africa, we are part of a community. Our hotels are part of people's lives. We must look at what good we are doing, wherever we operate. Through the families of our employees, through our suppliers, we have links and relationships. Whether we want it or not, we are responsible. If we don't care for the environment, and about social issues, then we are not doing our jobs."

Wouldn't it be great if every hotel company approached the world that way?


Further reading:
* Video: Mandy Moore introduces the World Savers Congress
* How can YOU help save the world when you travel? (Perrin Post)
* The program for Monday's World Savers Congress


Hafez Nazeri Plays His Setar

by John Oseid

For a string musician, a broken fingernail will ruin your day. When Persian classical setar player Hafez Nazeri stopped by the Condé Nast Traveler offices recently to share his music with us, he was vexed over just suffering that fate. And then he promptly set to work improvising to the poems of the great thirteenth-century mystic Rumi and gave me goosebumps.

In this video shot by Condé Nast Traveler photo editor Damian Vincent, the 30-year-old NYC-based Hafez talks about how he blends eastern and western sounds with his setar (he calls his customized instrument with two extra strings the "Hafez"). In his master class 14 stories above Times Square, he talks about his love for Persian culture and about modern Iran. I can't wait to see him onstage.

Hafez will perform his Rumi Symphony Project: Cycle One on October 3 at Hollywood's Art Deco gem, the Pantages Theatre, and November 14 at Carnegie Hall. Both shows will feature Hafez's famous father, Shahram Nazeri, on vocals, and members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

More music:
* A collaboration between Hafez and his father, Shahram Nazeri, The Passion of Rumi album was recorded in Tehran in 2007.
* Last year in Boom Box we brought you the Kurdish musician Kayhan Kalhor.


Top 5 Rumors About the Future of Travel

Southwest: Soon to touch down in Paris?
Photo: Jim Frazier on Flickr using Creative Commons

by Barbara S. Peterson

It's not as sexy as show biz or politics, but the airline industry generates its own share of wild rumors and bogus stories. And it's not hard to see why: The airlines themselves have pushed the boundaries of what is plausible; witness their creativity in concocting new fees (see rumor number 3, below). Sometimes we just want it to be true, as in the latest whopper this week: Über-discounter Southwest Airlines, famous for its spartan service on short flights, was said to be seriously weighing long-distance flights to . . . Europe!  South America!  Visions of its trademark $99 fares to Paris or Rio, though, were quickly dashed when the airline trashed the tale as "untrue."

So, what happened? A reporter for Air Transport World, a respected trade journal, interviewed a senior Southwest exec at a Beijing confab, and some vague remarks about international service morphed into an online "scoop." The magazine later backpedaled, and Southwest  made it perfectly clear that it has no interest in "long-distance international flying." (It may start international flights to Mexico, but that's hardly the same.) Seriously, it was pretty crazy when you think about it.  Southwest is a success because it's never strayed from its formula of single-class, no-frills flights using one type of aircraft, the narrow body 737; that's why it can offer low fares--and hire stand-up comics as flight attendants. Why jeopardize all that for the chance to lose a bundle overseas?

Read after the jump for some of the other most persistent rumors.

Continue reading "Top 5 Rumors About the Future of Travel" »


Condé Nast Traveler and Corporate Social Responsibility

World Savers

by Dinda Elliott

We haven't told you about this yet, because we wanted to do some work quietly first. But a week before we host our third Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Congress, it's time to share some news about the progress we've made related to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the travel industry over the past year. Our conference, scheduled for Sep. 21 at New York's Morgan Library, will convene some 250 travel industry CEOs and leaders from the nonprofit world to discuss what more can by done by the travel industry--particularly during challenging economic times--to improve the planet. We will also present the World Savers Awards to this year's winners, which were announced in the September issue.

We're excited and proud to report that over the past year, in addition to covering such environmental and social issues as global warming in Greenland, development challenges in Grenada, and trips that give back   throughout the year, Condé Nast Traveler has hosted a series of brown-bag lunches around our conference table and telephone meetings with a group of leading U.S. hotel companies to discuss CSR, learn more about the challenges they face, and set some goals. Our editors realized that we not only have a platform to speak with our readers through our magazine, but also that we can play a role in helping an important industry conversation.

To their immense credit, Abercrombie & Kent, Carlson Hotels, Fairmont Hotels, Four Seasons, Hyatt Corp., InterContinental, Kimpton Hotels, Loews, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Starwood, and Vail Resorts all took the trouble to join the meetings, sometimes flying across the country--even from London in the case of InterContinental--to do so.

We applaud these companies' commitment to promoting socially responsible practices and, especially, their willingness to work together to solve some very challenging problems. I can tell you from personal experience that these companies' CSR officers are an amazing group of people, passionate and dedicated, and they are pushing relentlessly to expand environmental and social programs, even in the face of a very tough economy.

Further reading:
* Video: Mandy Moore introduces the World Savers Congress
* How can YOU help save the world when you travel? (Perrin Post)
* The program for Monday's World Savers Congress


A Different Perspective on Hotel Deals

The Rosses with their staff at the Journeys Within B&B in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

by Brook Wilkinson

I met up last week with Andrea Ross, one of Wendy Perrin's top travel specialists, and my host during the voluntourism trip to Cambodia that I wrote about in the May 2008 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Andrea and her husband, Brandon, run a Southeast Asia tour operator called Journeys Within, a B&B in Siem Reap, and also a local nonprofit that gives back to the local communities through university scholarships, microloans for small businesses, and more. (With all that and two small kids, Andrea and Brandon have their hands full!)

Andrea had an interesting perspective on the hotel deals that we've been seeing in the last year. "Hotels in Siem Reap are slashing their prices," she said. But how do they make up for these discounts on their bottom line? In many cases, by laying off employees. And that starts a trickle-down effect that she's seeing at home in Siem Reap, and is surely taking place all around the world. People with jobs in the tourism industry are typically well-off in places like Cambodia; they often share their relative abundance with their extended family. When a hotel lets go of one waiter, they may well be taking food off the table of a dozen or more people. And there aren't many other alternatives for that waiter; Cambodia's garment industry (what we think of as sweatshops are attractive employers to many a rural farmer's son or daughter) is hurting as well, now that Americans are cutting back on their material consumption.

I know that hoteliers have some very difficult decisions to make in an economic climate like this one. Having to close your doors forever because you refused to lay off a single employee does no one any good. And I certainly don't blame the travelers who are taking advantage of the deals to be had right now. But I also applaud people like Andrea and Brandon, who have made a commitment not to lay off any of their staff--and as a consequence haven't been able to advertise the bargain-basement prices we see elsewhere. And I ask you, my fellow travelers, to speak up when you're on the road. Encourage the properties you visit not to let got of staff right now, to find other ways to cut costs. Leave a few extra dollars in your room as a tip for the housekeeper who may well be earning less than she did last year. An amount that would barely cover a draft beer back at home could feed that housekeeper's entire family.

Further reading:
* The Autobiography of a Tip (CNT, September 2009): What a difference a gratuity can make
* Responsible Traveler: Making a difference


Mandy Moore Introduces the World Savers Congress

On Monday, September 21, Condé Nast Traveler will host its third annual World Savers Congress. It will be a day of conversation about how we all can limit environmental impact as well as a celebration of the travel industry leaders who are making a difference in the areas of poverty alleviation, health, education, wildlife conservation, and environmental or cultural preservation. (And some who are doing it all).

Special guests will include Ken Burns, Wyclef Jean, Timberland president and CEO Jeffrey Swartz, and Mandy Moore, above, who is an ambassador of the Five & Alive Fund. Watch the video for more on the event. Then, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. eastern time next Monday, you can follow live coverage of the World Savers Congress both on Twitter and on a brand-new Condé Nast Traveler blog. We'll be back later this week to tell you where.


Farm Dining in the Field and at Home

Outstanding in the Field
In 2010, Outstanding in the Field
plans to take its alfresco act to
Europe for a few delicious dinners.

by Bree Shirvell

If you haven't dined at one of Outstanding in the Field's traveling restaurants, it's about time you did. Long communal tables in the middle of wide-open fields are the setting for more than 50 magical dinners at farms throughout North America.

Local farmers, culinary artisans, and community members linger over five-course meals made almost entirely from ingredients produced locally--often only a few feet from the table. It's the chance to meet the people who grow and produce the food, to honor the tradition of the local farm, and to learn about ingredients cultivated close to home.

Can't snag a seat at one of the scheduled dinners (or can't foot the $180 to $220 bill)? Outstanding in the Field: A Farm to Table Cookbook features many of the dishes served over the nearly ten years that the organization has been cookin'. My favorite recipe is the goat's-milk ricotta and spinach gnocchi--it calls for less flour than typical gnocchi recipes, so it's light and almost fluffy. (Find the recipe after the jump.)

Continue reading "Farm Dining in the Field and at Home" »

Ask Conde Nast Traveler

Affordable B&Bs in Tuscany

Last week, Daily Traveler reader Sonia3 asked: Could someone recommend a couple of reasonably priced B&Bs or farmhouses in Tuscany, preferably near San Gimignano? We are traveling in early October.

Our resident Italy expert (and Word of Mouth blogger) Ondine Cohane has some ideas:

"If you can splurge, try Borgo Santo Pietro, outside Siena and not far from San Gimignano. I stayed there last year and loved it--the property was also on our Hot List. I often check out the
section for Tuscany on; I like the edited list and agree with their selections. Another thought is the much more rustic Tenuta di Spannocchia, also outside Siena. I visited with CNT's Consumer News correspondent Brook Wilkinson a few years back, and the property made it onto our Green List. It's affordable and has beautiful grounds, and I love its ethos. Enjoy!"

We second that emotion. Got more questions? Ask Condé Nast Traveler.


Feather Down Farms Getaways

Feather Down tents lie on working farms in New York and Illinois, among other locations.
Photo: Feather Down Farms

by Ondine Cohane

There is nothing like difficult economic times to make you want to disconnect from urban stimulation and all things wired. At least that's the case for me; when I am on a long country walk with no cell reception or iPhone on hand it's infinitely easier to forget what's happening with the Dow or the job market. So I like the idea of the Feather Down Farms getaways, a European company come stateside that basically has you spending your holiday doing farm chores and eating meals of organic, fresh-picked ingredients.

The farm-stay chain is decidedly high-end, with accommodations in spacious tents with wood floors,  bathrooms, wood-burning stoves, and comfy beds that are more B&B than rustic. But outdoorsy activities are salt of the earth, including picking organic vegetables, gathering hay, and milking goats before making cheese that might end up on your make-your-own pizza. There are a number of different farms to chose from in rural spots like the Catskills and Illinois, and the company plans to have 20 to choose from in the next year.

Feather Down Farms sounds particularly good as a family getaway--what kid doesn't like to pet a farm pony or feed the sheep? And I have recently heard of a number of investment bankers and CEOs who have left the rat race to start organic farms--this kind of vacation gives you a taste of whether country living is really for you or an idyll best just dreamed about.

Read after the jump for a look at the tent's interior.

Continue reading "Feather Down Farms Getaways" »


New York City: Set Sail in Memoriam

The schooner Adirondack provides an intimate experience of New York City's landmarks.

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

For us New Yorkers, this is a difficult day. Flags will be lowered, 2,752 names will be read, moments of silence will be observed. Today, just about everything and everyone in New York will reflect on that surreal day eight years ago. Frivolity feels inappropriate and celebrities take a backseat. Not surprisingly, visitors are often left befuddled by what to do in a city of mourning. But there is one New York experience that perfectly encapsulates the traveling spirit, while paying homage to the city.

Each day, two 80-foot schooners from Classic Harbor Line set sail down New York's waterway, offering their guests incredible views of the skyline with free drinks. Photos and picnic baskets are encouraged, and even the most cynical traveler is awed by the Statue of Liberty (which the schooner approaches as closely as the Coast Guard will allow). It's an incredible experience on any day, but the Sunset Sail is a particularly humbling, haunting experience this week. Just as the last moments of twilight fade away, the schooner passes by the twin towers of light, disappearing into the sky like ghosts. Suddenly the whole ship is silent as you and a boatful of strangers share a single profound moment. Needless to say, it's $50 you'll never regret.

Further reading:
* Video: 24 Hours in New York
* Insider's Guide to New York City (CNT, September 2006)
* Boldface: Celebrity travels


Eight Years After 9/11, Security Loopholes Remain

We need smart security that doesn't depend on searching the same innocent
people time and time again as if they were first-time travelers.

Photo: Marc Asnin, Condé Nast Traveler

by Barbara S. Peterson

Two weeks ago, on a marathon trip around the country that took me to ten airports, I suddenly realized that I hadn't removed a plastic bag from my carry-on in months. Not that I wasn't still supposed to, judging from the ubiquitous "3-1-1" signs and the occasional squawks from the loudspeaker. I was just too preoccupied with juggling my shoes, purse, laptop, coat, and other paraphernalia--and I travel light.  

I had had it with this irritating ritual, and I figured screeners would determine that the tiny amounts of shampoo and toothpaste in my carry-on were no threat. And I suppose I was right: Not once did a screener ask me to open my bag and dump out my cosmetics, a humiliation I regrettably had to inflict on scores of travelers during my two-month stint as an airport screener.

Then came news from London last week of a conviction in the case of the accused terrorists whose 2006 plot to bomb transatlantic airliners by using liquid explosives bequeathed us this annoying checkpoint ritual. That was followed by yesterday's foiled hijacking attempt in Mexico involving a crazed preacher who claimed that his juice cans contained explosives (they were filled with sand).

In microcosm, the liquids loopiness encapsulates everything that has gone awry with our response to the breach of airport security that took place on 9/11. For all the money that's been plowed into the TSA (upwards of $40 billion), the charges that it's all just security theater resonate. 

To wit: The TSA, with little fanfare, has been testing new handheld gizmos that are supposed to detect liquid explosives. If they worked as advertised, we'd be able to hang on to our water bottles and bath lotion. 

But one of my former colleagues who still works at a TSA checkpoint at a major airport tells me the real story: It's a farce. "We wave it around and the passenger is really impressed!" he said. "But we know the real story--it doesn't work."

Continue reading "Eight Years After 9/11, Security Loopholes Remain" »

Ask Conde Nast Traveler

A Week in London: Kate Maxwell's Restaurant and Nightlife Picks

On Monday, Daily Traveler reader oneofthoseknights asked: Be in London, UK, 25 Sept.-4 Oct., 2009. Would like to know about 'must-try' restaurants (any cuisine) & nightlife/'mix & mingle' clubs/bars in Victoria/Westminster/ Chelsea areas . . . Pubs serving traditional British food where locals go/hang out?

Here's the lowdown from Condé Nast Traveler senior editor--and London native--Kate Maxwell:

"If you want to splurge, try Gordon Ramsay's three-Michelin-star flagship, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay; Tom Aikens's eponymous resto; or Aubergine, for high-end French fare. My family has a Christmas tradition of going to Bibendum for oysters--the stunning Art Nouveau Michelin building in which it's located is also home to the fantastic Conran Shop. There's a great posh Indian restaurant called Chutney Mary on the King's Road, and you could also check out Bluebird there, which has a buzzy café, bar, and restaurant.

Westminster, Chelsea, and Victoria aren't the best areas for nightlife (Chelsea, in particular, is a Sloane favorite--think rugby shirts with collars up and red jeans, ŕ la Wills and Harry), but there are some good pubs. See the Sloanes in their natural habitat at the White Horse in Parson's Green, a.k.a. the Sloaney Pony. The Admiral Codrington serves food and has a small beer garden; The Red Lion, on Duke of York Street, is a magnificent-looking place; and the Drayton Arms, on Old Brompton Road, has a DJ on weekends. I used to like the Cadogan Arms, a handsome place on the King's Road, when I was a teenager. They served a mean Cointreau and lemonade and accepted fake IDs."

Further reading:
* A Tourist in My Own City: Check out Kate's map from a weekend in London
* The 2009 Hot List restaurants and nightspots in London


Bahamas Music Legends

Bo Hog (on accordion) and friends give a short sample
of their "rake-n-scrape" skills. Note the handsaw player on the right.

by John Oseid

I listen to tons of island music, but apart from that pesky Baha Men hit "Who Let the Dogs Out?," I couldn't name a single Bahamian song or artist. Until now. Senior editor Kate Maxwell's recent frolic in the Bahamas inspired me to do a little digging and I found out the Bahamas has plenty of marvelous musical talents and some real legends.

As part of the September Condé Nast Traveler package, "The Bahamas for Everyone," Kate was serenaded by accordionist Bo Hog and his group in this video shot on a Cat Island beach. The unique "rake-n-scrape" folksy music they play is driven by a handsaw and goombay drum, and is said to come from Cat Island, which sponsors a festival in June.

They call Ronnie Butler the godfather of Bahamian music. He's been singing calypso and other "riddims" since the forties, and his rich baritone voice has made a brand new fan out of me. Here's the history of the country's seminal political event that inspired his signature song, "Burma Road." Butler's songs can be found all over YouTube, including his wonderful version of Harry Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin'."

Born early last century, Joseph Spence was an Andros sponge fisherman and stonemason whose steel-string acoustic guitar fingering techniques have wowed modern-day guitar masters like Ry Cooder and the Grateful Dead, who recorded his "I Bid You Goodnight." Spence was known to use his gravelly voice as an instrument, while his music reflected his strong Bahamian church upbringing, and everything from calypso to folk and blues he picked up as a farm worker in the States. His 1958 The Complete Folkways Recordings is considered a classic, and his music appears in Nonesuch's famous Explorer Series.

More music:
* On her visit to Harbour Island, Kate Maxwell joined an Independence Day street party that featured the kind of drumming used by Junkanoo bands. has the history behind the Bahamas' Carnival-like parades and plenty of pics of stunning costumes.
* The Nassau Guardian pays tribute to Joseph Spence.
* Boom Box: Music of the world


Harbour Island Dive: The Vic-Hum Club

by Kate Maxwell

I like a good Negroni in a classy cocktail joint as much as the next New Yorker, but sometimes only the seedy recesses of a dive bar will do. I've lost whole afternoons drinking warm Becks and shoveling dollar bills into the jukebox at my favorite, Mars Bar on the Lower East Side. So imagine my delight when I found the ultimate dive on Harbour Island, one of the snootiest Bahamian islands, where quesadillas come stuffed with lobster and you can't buy a bikini for less than $200. Vintage license plates line the walls at the wonderful Vic-Hum Club, and beer and rum cocktails--as well as a jukebox that was pumping out exclusively Michael Jackson tracks on our visit (soon after the pop king's demise)--are only part of the story: Sport is the big draw. There are athletic options that put Fat Cat, in NYC's West Village, to shame, including pool and Ping-Pong tables and a basketball court. Admire my shooting prowess (or not) on our Harbour Island video, and make sure you drop by Vic-Hum on your next visit.

Kate Maxwell is a senior editor at Condé Nast Traveler.

Further reading:
* Check out our other Bahamas videos of Exuma and Cat Island
* Tipsy Treat: Our favorite Bahamas rum cake recipe
* The Bahamas for Everyone: Find your perfect isle


Marquis Los Cabos: Mexico Hotel with a Heart

The Marquis Los Cabos, a Mexican hotel that gives back to the community.
Photo: Marquis Los Cabos

by Brook Wilkinson

Did the long Labor Day weekend come and go too fast? If you want to treat yourself to a sun-filled getaway later this month, here's one option that is sure to bring you good karma: The Marquis Los Cabos, right on the beach on the tip of Baja California, is offering fourth and seventh nights for free (just ask for the Mexico Extravaganza Package when you book). Stay for a week, and you'll save almost 30%. Choose either an ocean-view suite or a private casita; the latter have their own private plunge pools. There are also three restaurants, a bar, and a 15,000-foot holistic spa and fitness center, so you need never leave the property.

What makes this hotel a responsible traveler's choice? When the owners opened their doors to guests back in 2003, they also opened a university for their employees. Books and classes are paid for entirely by the hotel, which donates 5% of its annual revenue to staff education and health care. 

The giving back doesn't stop there: The hotel also turns off all its lights for every full moon, lighting the place instead with candles and reducing the energy usage by 25%. And employee uniforms are embroidered by a small community near Mexico City, not a sweatshop somewhere in Asia. With room rates starting at $240 per night, Marquis Los Cabos isn't the cheapest Mexican holiday you'll find, but its heart is in the right place.

Further reading:
* Check out Consumer News Editor Wendy Perrin's Deal of the Day column for more travel deals
* Responsible Traveler: Making a difference


Tipsy Treat: Our Favorite Bahamas Rum Cake Recipe

by Mollie Chen

During the busy season it's near impossible to get a table at the Rock House, one of Harbour Island's prettiest hotels. It sits on a slope, so the open-air dining room is high above the street with a phenomenal view of the harbor. Locals know that the best time to go is around 6:30 p.m. so that the sun drifts lazily below the horizon as you eat. They also know that there is only one way to end the meal: with chef Jenny Learmonth's ultra-rich, boozy rum cake. Ask for a scoop of her homemade honeycomb ice cream on the side--the crunchy crystallized honey gives the dense cake just the right amount of texture.

When I got back to New York, I wanted to recreate the experience for friends so I asked for the recipe. Read after the jump to see how Learmonth makes her rum cake. 

Continue reading "Tipsy Treat: Our Favorite Bahamas Rum Cake Recipe" »


Marrakech On My Mind

Beautiful hand-painted doors, just part of designer Jacques Garcia's vision for La Mamounia in Marrakech.
Photo: Alan Keohane

by Ondine Cohane

Morocco is a big gap in my travel education. Somehow I just haven't had the chance to get there. The hotel scene in Marrakech is one of the most exciting in the world, with a mix of small riad properties converted into boutique hotels and bigger--but still stylish--resorts. Here are some hotels opening in Morocco this fall that you should keep on your radar: 

* Few hotels have as storied histories as Marrakech's La Mamounia. It seems that almost every celeb who comes to town has bedded down there--Winston Churchill and Mick Jagger are just two who come to mind. But the property had started to feel a bit run down, so the grand dame has undergone a multi-million dollar face lift. New additions include three restaurants, a 27,000 square foot spa, and glam interiors by Jacques Garcia, who designed Paris's chic Hotel Costes and the Metropole in Monte Carlo. I am betting that this will be one of the hottest hotel openings of the fall and winter season. Doors are set to open at the end of this month.

* Royal Mansour Marrakech, owned by the King of Morocco, sounds like it will be indeed palatial with 53 individual riads (ranging in size from 1,400 square feet to over 21,000!) set into the ancient wall of the city and covering eight acres of landscaped gardens. The property includes a huge spa with an indoor pool and three restaurants under the helm of Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno. The project is part of the King's "Vision 2010" initiative to promote tourism and jobs in the hospitality sector. When it opens in November, riad prices will range from ¬1,500-¬20,000 per night.

* Later in the year, a new 161-room Mandarin Oriental is opening in the residential area of Palmeraie, about 20 minutes away from the center of town. I saw a few early photos yesterday and it looks gorgeous, with beautiful views of the Atlas mountains and ornate interiors--I call dibs on the blue room! And, of course, the Mandarin Oriental spas are always excellent so I would definitely book a few treatments.

Do you already have a favorite Marrakech hideaway? Let me know your tips.

Further reading:
*"Morocco to the Max" (CNT, June 2006)
* Word of Mouth: The buzz worldwide


Bathing Balkan Beauties

Ivanka Trump has hung out at Hvar's Bonj les Bains, built in the 1930s
and the country's most exclusive beach club.

Photo: Julien Capmeil, Condé Nast Traveler

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

Summer is officially kaput, and as we look back on all the celebrity sightings of the past few months, we can't help but wonder: What was the hot spot of 2009? I hate to get all Carrie Bradshaw here, but the answer is not that simple. There was Tony Blair in Bali, President Obama in the Grand Canyon, Usher and Kate Moss in St-Tropez, and, of course, George Clooney and his Ocean's mates in Lake Como. Plus, who could forget Jack Nicholson's TMI vacay in Cap d'Ail?

But for us, the winner was a last-minute dark horse--Croatia! With A-listers Mickey Rourke and Jay-Z and Beyoncé frolicking on its shores, Croatia's Adriatic coast is the celeb destination du jour. This comes as no surprise to us: Condé Nast Traveler has long been a fan of Croatia. In fact, as far back as March we featured it as Europe's New Riviera. With beautiful beaches, scenic sights, and plenty of affordable offerings, it's a real find.

Even more good news: September and October are shoulder season in Croatia, with mild temperatures but fewer tourists and cheaper rates. Here are our fave picks:

* The Riva hotel on the harbor of cosmopolitan Hvar island, has beautiful modern rooms with sea views for just $250 per night including breakfast.

* On tiny Lopud island, La Villa is an elegant eight-room guesthouse with French windows and a courtyard covered in grapevines. Rooms start at just $100, and there's a seven-person boat that you can hire for $40 per hour--including captain!

* On the mainland, the palatial Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik was built in 1895 and refurbished in 2005 (just in time to make it onto our 2006 Hot List of the world's best new digs). They're running an online-only special for the fall: a two-night stay, plus dinner and breakfast, for $580.

No wonder our Style Director, Mark Connolly, came back from his vacation in Hvar threatening to jettison his fabulous NYC life for the Adriatic shores.   

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The editors at Conde Nast Traveler answer questions and share travel secrets, tips, and dispatches

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