My own travel journey started in May 1968 on a highway ramp in England, with my backpack hoisted and my thumb pointed optimistically toward the English Channel ferry. A queasy stomach belied my confident air: What on earth was a 19-year-old college girl doing in the chilly English countryside, thumbing a ride from truckers? I’d arrived with a proper suitcase and romantic visions of Europe gleaned largely from Three Coins in a Fountain. But, once in London, where the Sixties counterculture was a wild jump ahead of America’s, I traded my valise for a rucksack and melted into the throng of European students.Read More
In the chef world, I’m just a hanger-on, but when my friend Georges Schnyder, head of Slow Food Brazil, offered to show me the surreal path high-end Brazilian restaurateurs are taking these days, I jumped at the chance. What I found triggered both awe and panic; there were ants on my plate. At two Michelin Star D.O.M., dessert was Saúva Ants enthroned on an artisan pottery tray laced in vibrant herbs. My first move was to take a photo, in part because the presentation was so dramatic, but in truth to avoid Chef Alex Atala’s gaze which clearly said: “We spent weeks in the forest gathering these, and hours in the kitchen transforming them into a gastronomic Picasso. Now, please eat.” Of course, I’m not the sort of heathen that shovels Twinkies, but I must admit my Epicurean self-image --- as the woman that will try anything including ‘half chicken eggs’ in Laos (you don’t even want to know) --- was severely compromised at the prospect of consuming this insect tableau. Quelling an impulse to run screaming from the room, I bungee jumped out of my comfort zone and downed the first little creature, which after the disquieting tickle of those tiny legs was pleasantly crunchy and bursting with citrus and ginger.Read More
18th century European sailors risked their lives for more than a year just to glimpse these storied South Sea islands. Once they witnessed the molten sunset, were brushed by the scented breeze, and were embraced by the graceful culture, some abandoned their lives in the West to stay. Twentieth century adventurers were equally enticed. In the 1920s, American James Norman Hall, co-author of Mutiny on the Bounty, led a passionate expat community that preferred nature’s abundance to modern technology, and, in the 1960s, when Marlon Brando established a home on Tetiaroa Island after filming this classic sea saga, his circle of Hollywood glitterati, including Elizabeth Taylor, Quincy Jones, and Robert De Niro, was beguiled as well.Read More
This dazzling swath of mountainside vineyards became the world’s first officially demarcated wine region in 1756; a province so traditional that family dynasties still control the wine estates from their centuries-old manses, and so well preserved the entire valley was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001. Harvesting machines are largely useless on these steep slopes, where most crops are handpicked and often crushed by foot. Yet beyond the wine connoisseurs who come for the new wave of cult table wines, tourists are few, since until just a few years ago those ravishing but hair-raising mountainside roads made Portugal’s Douro Valley nearly inaccessible.
The last decade has brought vast infrastructure improvements such as the sleek new Porto airport, along with roads and tunnels that rival those in the Swiss Alps. In 2016, opening the 5.6-kilometer Marão Tunnel cut travel time out of Porto from a daylong excursion to a pleasant 90-minute drive.Read More
I met Sims Foster a decade ago through a confluence of friends and work when he was the rising star of a high-end, boutique hotel group. His professional mandate was opening restaurants with celebrity chefs, and I was both impressed with his intuitive knowledge of the field and thrilled by the passion he poured into his work. I was also secretly charmed that he hailed from the Catskills region so close to my grandparents’ hotel, Forman’s Manor, where I spent my childhood summers. “Note to self,” I said: “This is one to watch.” A few years later, I wasn’t surprised to hear that Sims was setting out on his own, teaming up with his wife to develop properties near his hometown. After staying and dining at one of his first hotels, I knew he was on the road to creating something very special by pulling threads of the past into the future. Clearly, Condé Nast Traveler agrees, placing his newest property, The DeBruce, on this year’s highly selective Hot List.Read More
It was the rare chance to explore a province suffused in myth and little known to outsiders yet hiding in plain sight. Until recently, Peru’s Sacred Valley has been ‘flyover country’ for most travelers, a place seen in fleeting glimpses from the train between Cuzco and Machu Picchu. Since so few outsiders lingered in this region’s simple hotels or hiked the rough mountain paths, folkways of Peru’s once mighty Inca Empire have remained virtually untouched. Here, women in voluminous pollera skirts and broad brimmed bowler hats still hand weave dazzling textiles from plush alpaca wool and small scale farmers plow fields with oxen, tossing handfuls of quinoa seed from a gunnysack. A difficult destination for the independent traveler, this was an ideal place for Explora, a company known for bringing high-end accommodations to remote parts of South America. So, when we four women learned that Explora Valle Sagrado had finally opened in July 2016, we immediately made plans to visit. Landing at Cuzco airport a bit breathless from the 11,000-foot altitude, we were straining at the reins, eager to peer through this newly opened window to the past and keen to test our bodies against the wilderness.Read More