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In Transit Blog: Three Travel Tips to Navigate the Storm

Written By wartini cantika on Rabu, 31 Oktober 2012 | 17.35

With New York's three major airports closed, here are three fast and free ways to keep tabs on the airlines and your flights.

1. Use Twitter. The airlines are trying to keeping passengers informed with the most up-to-date information on Twitter, even if it's simply to say, as JetBlue did today, that it too is waiting to hear from La Guardia Airport about when it plans to reopen. Here are the Twitter handles for the major domestic carriers:

American Airlines: @AmericanAir
Delta: @Delta and @Deltanewsroom
JetBlue: @JetBlue
Southwest: @Southwestair
Spirit: @Spiritairlines
United: @United
US Airways: @USAirways
Virgin America: @VirginAmerica

Also follow government agencies on Twitter:

Department of Homeland Security: @DHSgov
Federal Aviation Administration: @FAAnews
New York City Mayor's Office: @NYCmayorsoffice
Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York: @MTAinsider
New York City Government: @NYCgov
State Department: @Statedept

It can be helpful to follow the feeds of government officials as well. For instance, Howard Glaser, director of operations for the State of New York and adviser to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, gets right to the point today: "Hope to partially reopen JFK tomorrow. Runway strewn w debris – including boats." His Twitter handle is @hglaser1.

2. Sign up for text and e-mail flight alerts. You can do this on airline Web sites, and it's often the fastest way to find out about departure times, changes and cancellations. Here, for example, is the page for Virgin America's flight alert program. And this is the one for American Airlines.

Also, sign up here for e-mail and text alerts about delays and AirTrain service interruptions for Kennedy, Newark Liberty and La Guardia Airports courtesy of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

3. To reach a customer service representative as quickly as possible, go to GetHuman.com and type in the name of the airline. That will turn up the best phone number as well as instructions on how to speed through any automated messages.


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In Transit Blog: Walkabout - 10/30: Tracking Sandy

Walkabout

A capsule of travel news curated by our writers and editors.

A rundown of coverage of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, including travel advisories and transportation updates, by region:

New York, New Jersey, Connecticut (New York Times)

Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas (Washington Post)

Boston and New England (Boston.com)

East Coast (CNN.com)


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In Transit Blog: A Shortcut for Hailing Taxis in European Cities

Finding a reliable taxi with a fair price is usually a skill tourists end up mastering only by the time they are on their way out of an unfamiliar city. But now visitors to Europe have a shortcut: a new travel booking service called Cabforce.

The company allows users to pay for and book their taxis on the Cabforce Web site or by using an iPhone app — a virtual transaction that allows taxi seekers to skip the hassles of flagging down cabs, haggling over prices and handling foreign currency.

"You always have to struggle with taxis when you are away — who can you trust, do you have the local currency, can you use your credit card, do you trust using your credit card," said Andreas Hansson, the chief executive and a co-founder of Cabforce. "Almost everything about the travel experience can be booked online — why not taxis?"

Cabforce, which was started this year, offers cab service in 25 European cities, including Moscow, Barcelona, Paris and London.


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Frugal Traveler Blog: A 41-Mile, 4-Day, Best-Brazil-Beach Quest

Four donkeys eat seaweed for breakfast. A teenager break dances in the surf. An old man nudges a coconut from a tree. And an entire town agrees on how to misspell "crepes."

Those were the highlights of my end-to-end hike last month along the 41-mile length of the coast of Piauí, a state in northeast Brazil that barely registers in the Brazilian consciousness, let alone guidebooks.

Why would I do such a thing? It started with a pet peeve and an overactive imagination. I had come across yet another article naming the "world's best beaches," a conceit that truly irks me. How could anyone ever declare such a thing with any authority? To create such a ranking you'd have to visit every beach in the world (a task beyond even the most intrepid team of sun-worshipers).

Then I remembered looking at the intriguingly tiny Piauí coast on a map. The mostly inland state sticks a toe into the Atlantic between the much beachier destination states of Maranhão and Ceará. Couldn't I simply walk every inch of its shore, and designate "Piauí's Best Beach" with absolute authority?

I zoomed in on Piauí on Google Maps and switched to satellite view. Two rivers broke up the coast, but aside from those it was pure, uninterrupted sand — no cliffs or ports or naval bases in the way. Although I'm not an avid hiker, I figured four days was enough to walk 41 miles, especially considering the flat terrain. (Funny thing about the sea — it tends to be at sea level.)

I printed the map, deciding to do no further research — to add to the adventure and to avoid biasing the rankings — and booked a flight from São Paulo to Teresina, Piauí's inland capital and a six-hour bus ride to Parnaíba, near the coast. Then I took a crowded minibus to Porto dos Tatus, upriver from my starting line, the isolated northwest tip of Ilha Grande.

Porto dos Tatus is where boats take visitors on tours of the Parnaíba delta. An idle guide named Bal agreed to take me in his boat for 150 reais ($75 at 2 reais to the dollar) to the spit of sand I had pointed to on the map. (He thought I was nuts, but money is money.) An hour or so darting around the mangroves, and we were there. I coated myself in sunscreen as Bal tied my two water bottles together with a shoelace so I could hang them around my neck. Then I slung on my small backpack (with camera, flashlight, toothbrush and two changes of clothing), and was off.

The open sand — no trees were even near the water — seemed daunting under the blazing sun and in temperatures in the mid-90s. But a stiff breeze had kicked up, alleviating the heat. My goal for the day was to reach the other end of Ilha Grande and find a way to cross the river to the town of Luís Correia, about 12 miles away. Bal had told me I'd hit a village halfway there, Pedra do Sal, where I could find lunch. But for now, flat sands and tidal pools to the horizon were all I could see. I set out in flip-flops across the hard sand.

At first, the only attractions were flocks of birds flitting by above, and below, striking tricolor black-and-beige-and-white designs in the sand that seemed computer-generated. But it was thrilling enough to finally see what the landscape looked like after staring at a satellite image for weeks.

Every mile or so, I'd run into actual humans: fishermen who stood in the water casting and pulling in their nets. They were engrossed in their labors and not eager to stop and chat. I came across a dead sea tortoise being consumed by vultures — also not eager to chat — and every hundred yards or so I'd also see a neon-pink-and-purple jellyfish corpse, blown up like a malformed Hello Kitty balloon. Such novelties made the time pass quickly.

I reached dusty Pedra do Sal in a few hours and had a 27-real plate of pan-fried fish and sweet potatoes at a beachfront stand called Bar Farol where, on a weekday, I was the only visitor. At least until I was joined by five extremely polite stray dogs looking for scraps.

In the afternoon, the novelties continued. There were the wind turbines that stretched east from Pedra do Sal, evidence that the cooling wind I had thought fortuitous was instead part of the package. Then I was startled when the harsh daylight began flickering like an impure candle. After about five confounding seconds — Was I fainting? Was the world ending? — I looked up, and realized a turbine was whirling precisely in the line between me and the descending sun.

Night fell just before I reached the river that separated Ilha Grande from Luís Correia, and out came the flashlight. I could see the town lights glittering across the river, but on the Ilha Grande there was not a soul. Time to sleep under a bush, I thought, when I spotted a campfire in the distance.

Thank goodness for boring small towns. Three teenage boys with nothing to do in Luís Correia had come across the river to fish; they were roasting their (lone) catch on a stick over the fire. Sure, they'd take me across, they said, and before long I was boarding their precarious raft, about 3 feet by 5 feet of wooden planks, propelled by some sort of a rowing rudder whose mechanism I didn't quite understand. If I had not been confident I could swim to the other side had anything happened, I would have declined. But sure enough, we made it across and I quickly found a basic bed for 40 reais in the Boa Esperança pousada (small hotel), and an "arrumadinho" — a bowl of rice and beans and assorted meats — at the Bom Lanches food stand.

The next morning, I set out from Atalaia beach, a dreary stretch of sand that was, even so, apparently popular with beachgoers: it was lined with restaurants and bars that were sprucing up for a long weekend. There was also something extremely curious: scattered on the sand in front of the restaurants were little stands advertising "krep's." Not crepes, not krepes, not creps and not even kreps, but, universally, krep's with an apostrophe.

A few miles in, I reached palm-lined Coqueiros beach, and lovely looking resorts and pousadas began to appear occasionally. I stopped for lunch at Alô Brasil, an expansive palm-frond spot with overpriced crab and fish (an appetizer of each, plus a drink, cost 60 reais).

As I rested sore muscles, I realized how much fun I was having. It's amazing how little things — a dead tortoise, a spelling mistake, teenagers roasting a fish — are so much more fascinating when you have no idea they (or anything else) are coming.

When I started out again, another attraction appeared on the beach just ahead: a 17-year-old named Antônio Max, spinning on his head in the shallow surf.

"I'm practicing my hip-hop," he said, pronouncing it HIP-ee HOP-ee, as Brazilians tend to do.

I stopped for the night in Maramar, a tiny, sand-swept town where I was shocked to find a pousada. But its name explained everything: Kite Pousada. I had stumbled upon Piauí's (barely) emerging kitesurfing scene. Kite Pousada is run by a mother-and-son team who charged me 70 reais for a room — a bit much, I thought but I was too tired to bargain.

Also staying in Kite Pousada were the only foreigners I would encounter along the whole coast: a kitesurfing crew made up of a Finn, an Englishman, a Canadian and an Italian. Together we went to eat in the lone open beach bar (more fish and sweet potatoes). They told me the coast was known for its wind, and were intrigued by my hike, which of course I was taking east to west with the wind.

"Actually, I'm going west to east," I said. "I guess that was a mistake."

"A very big mistake," said the Italian.

No matter. The next morning I left the kitesurfers behind and planned to head straight to Macapá, the next town over, where, I had been told, it would be easy to find a fisherman to take me across river No. 2 to Barra Grande. But again an unexpected sight interrupted me: along the white sand of a small bay, a family of four donkeys was munching on seaweed.

In retrospect, it shouldn't have been surprising. Farm animals run loose all over this region, and if someone had asked me, hypothetically, "Would a donkey eat seaweed?" I'd have said yes. But for some reason, I stared. I took pictures. I briefly wished I were starting a band so I could name it Donkeys Eating Seaweed.

Snapping out of my donkey-induced trance, I walked to the mouth of the Macapá River, where a sand bar formed a sort of semi-lake. I watched two kitesurfers speed along and lift off the water, carried by the wind to astonishing heights before landing again. Cool. Not donkeys-eating-seaweed cool, but cool.

With significant rowing assistance from me, a fisherman named Francisco took me across the river to Barra Grande for 20 reais.

I found a crepes place that was actually open — the Bar e Restaurante O Tutuca. When I crossed the Macapá, I had finally left the municipality of Luís Correia and its misspelling ways, so I should not have been surprised that the owner, who goes by just Tutuca, used a different spelling: "creps."

I watched as he ladled batter into oval molds on what resembled a waffle iron, then sliced hot dogs and cheese and placed them in the batter, covering it with more batter and closing the top. The result was a sort of cruller-shaped stuffed pancake. It was delicious.

My goal for the day was the town of Cajueiro da Praia, and I'll admit I couldn't arrive soon enough — blisters and sore muscles had slowed me to a semi-limp. By midafternoon, though, I should have been nearing town, but there was no one, anywhere, to ask. Until, that is, I came across a simple one-story house — unusually situated right at the sand's edge and with a yard surrounded by fencing made from rough branches. It was clearly a local residence, not a fancy beach home. I went to knock on the door.

No need — it was open, and a wiry 70-year-old named Francisco Alves Ferreira was watching a Brazil-Iraq soccer match on television. He wore no shirt and from the dark, leathery skin of his chest, I questioned whether he even owned one.

I WAS pretty close to Cajueiro da Praia, he said: "It's about 10 minutes from here to where that point juts out into the water, and then a bit more than 10 minutes from there, since it's further from the point to the town than it is from my house to the point."

I thanked him. "Do you want something to drink?" he asked. Francisco grabbed a pole and a machete and led me into the impeccable sand yard, where he poked a coconut out of the tree, hacked it open and handed it to me. I took a swig of coconut water and he told me about his seven children and something like 12 grandchildren, scattered around Piauí and neighboring states.

His directions were right; it was 25 minutes to Cajueiro da Praia, where I'd stay at the Pousada Lu (30 reais) before walking the last bit of the coast the next morning, ending at a shrimp hatchery that workers told me sent shrimp to the United States and China.

To be honest, I had completely forgotten about my original goal, to find the best beach in Piauí. But no matter, it would have been impossible to choose a winner. It depends, of course, on who you are and what you want.

I'll go this far: if you're looking for a classically tropical beach, it's palm-tree-lined Coqueiros. If you want solitude, it's those first miles of Ilha Grande. If you're a kitesurfer, it's Barra Grande. And if you're Francisco Alves Ferreira, it's the (as far as I know) unnamed beach with excellent coconuts that can be found 10 minutes west from the point that juts out into the water just before Cajueiro da Praia.


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To Ireland, a Son’s Journey Home

Written By wartini cantika on Selasa, 30 Oktober 2012 | 17.35

Derek Speirs for The New York Times

Clockwise from top left: the Burren, Dingle peninsula, O'Lochlainn pub, boat to Skellig Michael, Carrig Country House, Portmagee, dish at the Greenhouse. Center: fish-and-chips at QC's Seafood Bar & Restaurant. More Photos »

MY mother was mad for the color green. She carpeted rooms in it, upholstered furniture with it and assembled her wardrobe from it, in all of its shades: Kelly and hunter, pistachio and olive, moss and myrtle. For my sister's wedding she wore an emerald dress. I thought back then that she was trying to match her eyes. I realized only recently that something bigger and deeper was at work.

You see, I finally visited Ireland. I say "finally" because I should have gone long ago, in tribute to her, in acknowledgment of the Irish in her background, her blood and mine. But that part of our heritage got lost when she married an Italian and was swept into his Italian clan, which was so thoroughly steeped in its ethnicity — and so exuberant about it — that none other had any chance. She learned to make ravioli and frittata with the best of them, and I grew up thinking of myself simply as Italian, in spite of my pale skin and freckles, which mirrored hers. I even went on to learn Italian and to live briefly in Italy, using it as a base to explore much of Europe. Except for Ireland. Somehow, I kept forgetting about it.

I went in mid-September, and I went mostly, truth be told, because it promised spectacular scenery, bountiful seafood and an infinity of pubs, which my traveling partner, Tom, was especially excited about. We covered as much of the country as we could in a week's time, dipping into Cork as well as Dublin, logging over 700 road miles, lounging beside a lake in the southwest and ambling along a creek in the northwest.

But I also went for a sort of communion with, and investigation of, Mom, who died almost 16 years ago. It was like an adult version of that classic children's book "Are You My Mother?" except that I wasn't a lost bird asking a kitten, a dog, a boat. I was a grown man asking a country.

It was on Day 2, on the road between Dublin and Cork, when it hit me that the greens that decorated Mom's days were the greens that decorate Ireland. You read about them before you come — about their depth, shimmer and variety — but books can't capture the way the hue of the hillside in front of you, fleeced with sheep, will be markedly different from that of the hillside behind you, flecked with cows. Nor can books convey the sudden shift in these colors with the arrival of a cloud or the onset of rain, which seems to fall four or five times daily and would be infuriating were it not the very agent of this verdant patchwork. Beauty has its price, and in Ireland it's a soggy one.

I didn't have relatives to look up or areas of the country to home in on. Mom had never carefully traced her family tree. She knew only that she was a British Isles amalgam and that Ireland was prominent, and maybe predominant, in the mix. Italian-Irish: that's what she told my three siblings and me we were.

And it was time — long past time — to focus on the far side of the hyphen.

I SHOULD make something clear right away, especially since I've already mentioned food several times and, like many travelers, put it at the center of every journey. While Ireland is Italy's peer in natural beauty, it isn't on the culinary front. As a visitor you just have to make peace with that. By eating carefully I ate well, and there were also serendipitous delights, most notably a fish-and-chips that I'll return to in a bit. But certain clichés exist for a reason and hold true over time, which is another way of saying that I had potatoes coming at me everywhere I turned.

In Ireland, "and chips" is a phrase that annotates much more than fish. It's ever-present and all-purpose. One pub near the Rock of Cashel, a cluster of medieval buildings on a hilltop in County Tipperary, advertised a lunch special of lasagna and chips. A fashionable, relatively new riverfront restaurant in Cork named Electric served chips alongside a steak that was already resting on a bed of mashed potatoes, and Electric was a model of spud restraint in comparison with what was actually my favorite among the restaurants I visited, the Winding Stair, in Dublin. There my stuffed cabbage was filled with mashed potatoes and placed beside what tasted like a thin potato purée, which abutted wedges of roasted potato. The kind word for this would be redundancy. The accurate one would be overkill.

FRANK BRUNI, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, was the restaurant critic of The Times from June 2004 to August 2009.


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In Transit Blog: Walkabout - 10/29: Hurricane Sandy Bears Down on East Coast

Walkabout

A weekly capsule of travel news curated by our writers and editors.

Sandy in Real Time Live updates on the hurricane, including transportation closings, evacuations, and flood warnings throughout the East Coast. (New York Times)

Flights Grounded U.S. airlines canceled nearly 8,000 flights through Tuesday, leaving thousands of travelers stranded at airports from Washington up to Boston. (Wall Street Journal)

Stay Put Advice for travelers in D.C . area: Don't move. (Washington Post)

Batten Down the Hatches Tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross on how to prepare for the storm. (Washington Post)


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Explorer: Myths and Mountains in Nepal

Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times

In Mustang, caves in cliffs near the village of Yara. More Photos »

THE tale begins with a demon.

Centuries ago, it destroyed the foundations of a Buddhist monastery under construction in central Tibet. Then Guru Rinpoche, who had brought Buddhism to the kingdom, pursued the demon west, deep into Mustang. The two fought among Mustang's snow peaks, desert canyons and grasslands. Guru Rinpoche prevailed, and he scattered the demon's body parts across Mustang: its blood formed towering red cliffs, and its intestines tumbled to the wind-scoured earth east of the cliffs. Later, people would build a wall of prayer stones, the longest in Nepal, atop the intestines.

On the fifth day of our trek, we stood above the demon's heart. Here, on a hillside, the people of Mustang had built the monastery of Lo Gekar, one of the oldest in the Tibetan world. A lama showed us around. I found no remnants of a demonic heart, but the walls in a dark room at the rear were covered with paintings of fearsome creatures with fangs and blue skin. Tibetans called them protector deities. Our guide, Karma, pulled me over into the shadows and pointed to another wall. I squinted, and saw a statue of Buddha that had been carved from the rock. Or so I thought.

"They say the statue is natural and was discovered this way," Karma said. "People in Mustang have many stories. They believe everything. There are spirits everywhere you look."

Mustang was a caldron of myth, as I discovered on a 16-day trek through the Himalayan region of Nepal in September. Modernity was creeping in to the area, but the stories that people told had evolved little over centuries. As I walked through the valleys and white-walled villages, I heard tales that brought alive the harsh land, a place of deep ravines and stinging wind and ancient cave homes. It had been this way before the kingdom was united under Ame Pal in the 14th century, and the narratives seem as alive today as ever.

I had longed to visit Mustang ever since I got a glimpse of it while trekking the nearby Annapurna Circuit 12 years ago. On the northern arc of the circuit was the village of Kagbeni, with its red-walled monastery. To the north was an expansive gorge carved by the Kali Gandaki River. Beyond lay Upper Mustang, or the Kingdom of Lo, forbidden to those who did not have a permit from the Nepalese government.

This fall seemed like the right time for me to go. As a boy, I had seen my mother embrace certain Buddhist beliefs, and later I began walking paths in the Himalayas in search of something transcendent in the landscape and the abiding expressions of faith. I would soon turn 40, and my first child was on the way. It was time to make a Himalayan pilgrimage at the close of a chapter of my life and the beginning of another.

There was another reason to visit now. Last year, as a wave of self-immolations swept across the Tibetan plateau, China restricted access to the region — which had already been limited since 2008. For tourists, Mustang is a good alternative. It provides a taste of authentic Tibetan culture, and, like much of Tibet, it lies in the Trans-Himalaya, a vast high-altitude desert to the north of the main Himalayan range, which blocks most of the monsoon clouds that dump rain on India and Southeast Asia in the summer.

Last year, nearly 3,000 tourists entered Upper Mustang, according to statistics in a government office in Kagbeni, an increase of more than 25 percent from about three years earlier. But the permit fee — $500 for 10 days, and $10 for each additional day — still deters many travelers. The low numbers, though, are welcomed by those trekkers looking to avoid the busy Annapurna and Everest trails, as well as by some Mustangis, even ones who say the government needs to give Mustang a greater portion of permit revenue.

"Our land is in one of the most beautiful corners of the world," said Jigme Singi Palbar Bista, 55, the ceremonial prince of Mustang. "But if a lot of tourists come, we wouldn't be able to support them all."


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T Magazine: Edible Selby | The Thin Man

In New York City, a tiny pizza shop serving thin-crust pies would scarcely be cause for buzz. In Chicago, land of the deep dish and the generously proportioned Midwestern restaurant, such an establishment is almost an oddity. But novelty isn't the only reason Great Lake, a 14-seat spot started by Nick Lessins and Lydia Esparza in the Andersonville neighborhood, has been drawing crowds. Its tightly edited and fast-changing menu, featuring only three or four kinds of pies a night, incorporates the unexpected, like corn, cream and chives, or, on another, a tomatillo-based sauce — a tribute to Esparza's Mexican lineage. Rather than mozzarella di bufala, Lessins has taken to using sheep's milk cheese, sourced from a dairy in northern Wisconsin. "I tried to come up with something that would fill a niche in the city," Lessins says. "But I spent the most amount of time trying to get the crust right. There just wasn't enough attention being paid to making a really good crust." More…
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Letters: Letters to the Editor

Written By wartini cantika on Senin, 29 Oktober 2012 | 17.35

Choose a Travel Guide Select a City or Destination

Letters
Published: October 26, 2012

To the Editor: Regarding "$150 for a Room in Manhattan? 7 That Fit the Bill, More or Less" (Oct. 21), the key to the low price for the Sheraton Tribeca was probably the fact that it was a Sunday night, not the author's use of Priceline or Hotwire. I learned this trick a few years ago. High-quality chain hotels in Manhattan can offer rock-bottom rates for Sunday nights because that's the night they're most likely to have lots of unsold rooms. Think about it: business travelers stay Monday to Friday and weekend tourists stay Friday to Sunday, which leaves available inventory for Sunday nights. Last January I stayed at the Radisson Martinique at Herald Square for $119 on a Sunday night; two months before, I stayed in an identical room there for $379 on a weeknight. In June, my family and I stayed at a brand new, immaculate DoubleTree Suites property on 29th Street near Seventh Avenue on a Sunday evening and paid $107 (the rate was $119 with a further $12 reduction with my AAA or AARP card). We were walking distance from Herald Square, Times Square and the High Line. That same room would cost $399 for a weeknight.
GERRY MURPHY
West Hartford, Conn.

Connect With Us on Twitter

Follow @nytimestravel for tips, features and photography from all over the globe.

To the Editor: I love how many people say they would never stay at a hotel that had any personality whatsoever. Please, please keep packing yourselves into Sheratons and Holiday Inns, eating at McDonald's, and getting your coffee from Dunkin' Donuts. That leaves all the places with character for me.
KENNETH RANSON
Sandy, Utah

campaign: abTest_previousNext -- 192743, creative: abTest_previousNext_creative -- 308733, page: www.nytimes.com/yr/mo/day/travel/letters-to-the-editor.html, targetedPage: www.nytimes.com/yr/mo/day/travel, position: Box7


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Explorer: Myths and Mountains in Nepal

Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times

In Mustang, caves in cliffs near the village of Yara. More Photos »

THE tale begins with a demon.

Centuries ago, it destroyed the foundations of a Buddhist monastery under construction in central Tibet. Then Guru Rinpoche, who had brought Buddhism to the kingdom, pursued the demon west, deep into Mustang. The two fought among Mustang's snow peaks, desert canyons and grasslands. Guru Rinpoche prevailed, and he scattered the demon's body parts across Mustang: its blood formed towering red cliffs, and its intestines tumbled to the wind-scoured earth east of the cliffs. Later, people would build a wall of prayer stones, the longest in Nepal, atop the intestines.

On the fifth day of our trek, we stood above the demon's heart. Here, on a hillside, the people of Mustang had built the monastery of Lo Gekar, one of the oldest in the Tibetan world. A lama showed us around. I found no remnants of a demonic heart, but the walls in a dark room at the rear were covered with paintings of fearsome creatures with fangs and blue skin. Tibetans called them protector deities. Our guide, Karma, pulled me over into the shadows and pointed to another wall. I squinted, and saw a statue of Buddha that had been carved from the rock. Or so I thought.

"They say the statue is natural and was discovered this way," Karma said. "People in Mustang have many stories. They believe everything. There are spirits everywhere you look."

Mustang was a caldron of myth, as I discovered on a 16-day trek through the Himalayan region of Nepal in September. Modernity was creeping in to the area, but the stories that people told had evolved little over centuries. As I walked through the valleys and white-walled villages, I heard tales that brought alive the harsh land, a place of deep ravines and stinging wind and ancient cave homes. It had been this way before the kingdom was united under Ame Pal in the 14th century, and the narratives seem as alive today as ever.

I had longed to visit Mustang ever since I got a glimpse of it while trekking the nearby Annapurna Circuit 12 years ago. On the northern arc of the circuit was the village of Kagbeni, with its red-walled monastery. To the north was an expansive gorge carved by the Kali Gandaki River. Beyond lay Upper Mustang, or the Kingdom of Lo, forbidden to those who did not have a permit from the Nepalese government.

This fall seemed like the right time for me to go. As a boy, I had seen my mother embrace certain Buddhist beliefs, and later I began walking paths in the Himalayas in search of something transcendent in the landscape and the abiding expressions of faith. I would soon turn 40, and my first child was on the way. It was time to make a Himalayan pilgrimage at the close of a chapter of my life and the beginning of another.

There was another reason to visit now. Last year, as a wave of self-immolations swept across the Tibetan plateau, China restricted access to the region — which had already been limited since 2008. For tourists, Mustang is a good alternative. It provides a taste of authentic Tibetan culture, and, like much of Tibet, it lies in the Trans-Himalaya, a vast high-altitude desert to the north of the main Himalayan range, which blocks most of the monsoon clouds that dump rain on India and Southeast Asia in the summer.

Last year, nearly 3,000 tourists entered Upper Mustang, according to statistics in a government office in Kagbeni, an increase of more than 25 percent from about three years earlier. But the permit fee — $500 for 10 days, and $10 for each additional day — still deters many travelers. The low numbers, though, are welcomed by those trekkers looking to avoid the busy Annapurna and Everest trails, as well as by some Mustangis, even ones who say the government needs to give Mustang a greater portion of permit revenue.

"Our land is in one of the most beautiful corners of the world," said Jigme Singi Palbar Bista, 55, the ceremonial prince of Mustang. "But if a lot of tourists come, we wouldn't be able to support them all."


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To Ireland, a Son’s Journey Home

Derek Speirs for The New York Times

Clockwise from top left: the Burren, Dingle peninsula, O'Lochlainn pub, boat to Skellig Michael, Carrig Country House, Portmagee, dish at the Greenhouse. Center: fish-and-chips at QC's Seafood Bar & Restaurant. More Photos »

MY mother was mad for the color green. She carpeted rooms in it, upholstered furniture with it and assembled her wardrobe from it, in all of its shades: Kelly and hunter, pistachio and olive, moss and myrtle. For my sister's wedding she wore an emerald dress. I thought back then that she was trying to match her eyes. I realized only recently that something bigger and deeper was at work.

You see, I finally visited Ireland. I say "finally" because I should have gone long ago, in tribute to her, in acknowledgment of the Irish in her background, her blood and mine. But that part of our heritage got lost when she married an Italian and was swept into his Italian clan, which was so thoroughly steeped in its ethnicity — and so exuberant about it — that none other had any chance. She learned to make ravioli and frittata with the best of them, and I grew up thinking of myself simply as Italian, in spite of my pale skin and freckles, which mirrored hers. I even went on to learn Italian and to live briefly in Italy, using it as a base to explore much of Europe. Except for Ireland. Somehow, I kept forgetting about it.

I went in mid-September, and I went mostly, truth be told, because it promised spectacular scenery, bountiful seafood and an infinity of pubs, which my traveling partner, Tom, was especially excited about. We covered as much of the country as we could in a week's time, dipping into Cork as well as Dublin, logging over 700 road miles, lounging beside a lake in the southwest and ambling along a creek in the northwest.

But I also went for a sort of communion with, and investigation of, Mom, who died almost 16 years ago. It was like an adult version of that classic children's book "Are You My Mother?" except that I wasn't a lost bird asking a kitten, a dog, a boat. I was a grown man asking a country.

It was on Day 2, on the road between Dublin and Cork, when it hit me that the greens that decorated Mom's days were the greens that decorate Ireland. You read about them before you come — about their depth, shimmer and variety — but books can't capture the way the hue of the hillside in front of you, fleeced with sheep, will be markedly different from that of the hillside behind you, flecked with cows. Nor can books convey the sudden shift in these colors with the arrival of a cloud or the onset of rain, which seems to fall four or five times daily and would be infuriating were it not the very agent of this verdant patchwork. Beauty has its price, and in Ireland it's a soggy one.

I didn't have relatives to look up or areas of the country to home in on. Mom had never carefully traced her family tree. She knew only that she was a British Isles amalgam and that Ireland was prominent, and maybe predominant, in the mix. Italian-Irish: that's what she told my three siblings and me we were.

And it was time — long past time — to focus on the far side of the hyphen.

I SHOULD make something clear right away, especially since I've already mentioned food several times and, like many travelers, put it at the center of every journey. While Ireland is Italy's peer in natural beauty, it isn't on the culinary front. As a visitor you just have to make peace with that. By eating carefully I ate well, and there were also serendipitous delights, most notably a fish-and-chips that I'll return to in a bit. But certain clichés exist for a reason and hold true over time, which is another way of saying that I had potatoes coming at me everywhere I turned.

In Ireland, "and chips" is a phrase that annotates much more than fish. It's ever-present and all-purpose. One pub near the Rock of Cashel, a cluster of medieval buildings on a hilltop in County Tipperary, advertised a lunch special of lasagna and chips. A fashionable, relatively new riverfront restaurant in Cork named Electric served chips alongside a steak that was already resting on a bed of mashed potatoes, and Electric was a model of spud restraint in comparison with what was actually my favorite among the restaurants I visited, the Winding Stair, in Dublin. There my stuffed cabbage was filled with mashed potatoes and placed beside what tasted like a thin potato purée, which abutted wedges of roasted potato. The kind word for this would be redundancy. The accurate one would be overkill.

FRANK BRUNI, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, was the restaurant critic of The Times from June 2004 to August 2009.


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T Magazine: Edible Selby | The Thin Man

In New York City, a tiny pizza shop serving thin-crust pies would scarcely be cause for buzz. In Chicago, land of the deep dish and the generously proportioned Midwestern restaurant, such an establishment is almost an oddity. But novelty isn't the only reason Great Lake, a 14-seat spot started by Nick Lessins and Lydia Esparza in the Andersonville neighborhood, has been drawing crowds. Its tightly edited and fast-changing menu, featuring only three or four kinds of pies a night, incorporates the unexpected, like corn, cream and chives, or, on another, a tomatillo-based sauce — a tribute to Esparza's Mexican lineage. Rather than mozzarella di bufala, Lessins has taken to using sheep's milk cheese, sourced from a dairy in northern Wisconsin. "I tried to come up with something that would fill a niche in the city," Lessins says. "But I spent the most amount of time trying to get the crust right. There just wasn't enough attention being paid to making a really good crust." More…
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Journeys: Park the Pickup: Santa Fe by Bicycle

Written By wartini cantika on Minggu, 28 Oktober 2012 | 17.35

Dorie Hagler for The New York Times

A cyclist in front of Slurp.

THE poet C. P. Cavafy said that a city changes when you fall in love with someone in it. It can also change for less exalted reasons: when, for example, instead of sealing yourself in the personal microclimate of an automobile, you use a bicycle to get around. I happened to grow up in Oxford, England, a city, and country, where biking is a normal means of transport, no more a sport than bipedalism is. But it rains a lot, and I didn't come away with a proper appreciation of the benefits of the bicycle.

But here in Santa Fe, N.M., where I live now, it's a different story. Every day I ride three miles to my office. These days there's an autumn crispness in the air, and an almost detectable scent of frost. Along the way I pass under cottonwood trees, between adobe compounds and past the Capitol building before the morning rush has filled its parking lots, then follow the train tracks for a while along a dedicated bike trail, before reaching the rusty loft where I work. It hardly ever rains, and I have learned to love my bike.

It's a far cry from driving. Something happens to us in cars. In Disney's 1950 cartoon "Motor Mania," Goofy, a nice suburban gent, gets behind his wheel and as the starting motor chokes into life, he simultaneously turns into a raging monster. Yet latent aggression isn't the half of it. It's more about the isolation, the world being reduced to two sterile cubic yards.

America was built for the car, especially out West, where cities sprawl immensely, public transport is a travesty and driving is a way of life. It took me a while to realize that actually, Santa Fe is great for biking. And is only becoming more so. Some city officials and devoted lobbyists have been very busy improving its bicycle credentials. In 2011, Santa Fe received bronze-level recognition as a "Bicycle Friendly Community" from the League of American Bicyclists; this month, the International Mountain Bike Association held its World Summit in Santa Fe; a Bicycle Master Plan was approved in April this year, with the express intention of promoting the bicycle as a means of transport. There are dozens of new miles of bike trails and "bikeways" (bike routes along less-used streets) across the city.

Why is Santa Fe so good by bike? It's a manageable size, reasonably level and very pretty. Its immaculate light has made it famous, as have its sunsets, its glowing adobe buildings and Spanish colonial center, all of which make a great backdrop for the cyclist. Come spring, when the cottonwoods turn bright with leaf, just to be passing through town on a bike, through the blue shade of trees, on any of the bikeways or trails, is a joy. Summer evenings and mornings are glorious for riding, and the fall, with its bright colors, is fine too. Almost wherever you are, you can see the mountains.

The most impressive of the new trails, the Santa Fe Rail Trail, is an 18-mile path that runs across town from the recently developed central Railyard, and snakes into the desert, finally arriving at the railway junction in Lamy, south of town. It starts as a broad, paved track and dwindles to packed dirt, following the rail tracks the whole way. You may even get overtaken by a train that runs nearby. As you move away from downtown, you start to see outlying neighborhoods rolling away over the undulating land. On the ocean, surfers occasionally report seeing dolphins skimming beside them in the waves. Here you may see lizards skipping beside your front wheel, darting off into the sandy shoulder. Chamisa, scrub, sagebrush, pinyon trees, birds and rabbits, and the Ortiz Mountains and Cerrillos Hills on the skyline: it's a different world now. Every so often there's an old wooden girder bridge, like something out of an old cowboy movie.

Near the end, you emerge from between the dry hills, and the whole Galisteo Basin opens before you, copper-colored, broad, with Highway 285 running across it like a margin line on a page.

You wouldn't think you could get lost on a well-marked trail, but once I managed to. I was almost at the end when I found myself riding among daisies and weeds, with no trace of the trail. Finally I had no choice but to ride along the track itself, bumping over the merciless ties. Eventually, I plunged down a dusty bank into a ranch, only to be chased by a furious dog, then saved from it by its owner, who pointed me in the right direction.


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Letters: Letters to the Editor

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Letters
Published: October 26, 2012

To the Editor: Regarding "$150 for a Room in Manhattan? 7 That Fit the Bill, More or Less" (Oct. 21), the key to the low price for the Sheraton Tribeca was probably the fact that it was a Sunday night, not the author's use of Priceline or Hotwire. I learned this trick a few years ago. High-quality chain hotels in Manhattan can offer rock-bottom rates for Sunday nights because that's the night they're most likely to have lots of unsold rooms. Think about it: business travelers stay Monday to Friday and weekend tourists stay Friday to Sunday, which leaves available inventory for Sunday nights. Last January I stayed at the Radisson Martinique at Herald Square for $119 on a Sunday night; two months before, I stayed in an identical room there for $379 on a weeknight. In June, my family and I stayed at a brand new, immaculate DoubleTree Suites property on 29th Street near Seventh Avenue on a Sunday evening and paid $107 (the rate was $119 with a further $12 reduction with my AAA or AARP card). We were walking distance from Herald Square, Times Square and the High Line. That same room would cost $399 for a weeknight.
GERRY MURPHY
West Hartford, Conn.

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To the Editor: I love how many people say they would never stay at a hotel that had any personality whatsoever. Please, please keep packing yourselves into Sheratons and Holiday Inns, eating at McDonald's, and getting your coffee from Dunkin' Donuts. That leaves all the places with character for me.
KENNETH RANSON
Sandy, Utah

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Explorer: Myths and Mountains in Nepal

Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times

In Mustang, caves in cliffs near the village of Yara. More Photos »

THE tale begins with a demon.

Centuries ago, it destroyed the foundations of a Buddhist monastery under construction in central Tibet. Then Guru Rinpoche, who had brought Buddhism to the kingdom, pursued the demon west, deep into Mustang. The two fought among Mustang's snow peaks, desert canyons and grasslands. Guru Rinpoche prevailed, and he scattered the demon's body parts across Mustang: its blood formed towering red cliffs, and its intestines tumbled to the wind-scoured earth east of the cliffs. Later, people would build a wall of prayer stones, the longest in Nepal, atop the intestines.

On the fifth day of our trek, we stood above the demon's heart. Here, on a hillside, the people of Mustang had built the monastery of Lo Gekar, one of the oldest in the Tibetan world. A lama showed us around. I found no remnants of a demonic heart, but the walls in a dark room at the rear were covered with paintings of fearsome creatures with fangs and blue skin. Tibetans called them protector deities. Our guide, Karma, pulled me over into the shadows and pointed to another wall. I squinted, and saw a statue of Buddha that had been carved from the rock. Or so I thought.

"They say the statue is natural and was discovered this way," Karma said. "People in Mustang have many stories. They believe everything. There are spirits everywhere you look."

Mustang was a caldron of myth, as I discovered on a 16-day trek through the Himalayan region of Nepal in September. Modernity was creeping in to the area, but the stories that people told had evolved little over centuries. As I walked through the valleys and white-walled villages, I heard tales that brought alive the harsh land, a place of deep ravines and stinging wind and ancient cave homes. It had been this way before the kingdom was united under Ame Pal in the 14th century, and the narratives seem as alive today as ever.

I had longed to visit Mustang ever since I got a glimpse of it while trekking the nearby Annapurna Circuit 12 years ago. On the northern arc of the circuit was the village of Kagbeni, with its red-walled monastery. To the north was an expansive gorge carved by the Kali Gandaki River. Beyond lay Upper Mustang, or the Kingdom of Lo, forbidden to those who did not have a permit from the Nepalese government.

This fall seemed like the right time for me to go. As a boy, I had seen my mother embrace certain Buddhist beliefs, and later I began walking paths in the Himalayas in search of something transcendent in the landscape and the abiding expressions of faith. I would soon turn 40, and my first child was on the way. It was time to make a Himalayan pilgrimage at the close of a chapter of my life and the beginning of another.

There was another reason to visit now. Last year, as a wave of self-immolations swept across the Tibetan plateau, China restricted access to the region — which had already been limited since 2008. For tourists, Mustang is a good alternative. It provides a taste of authentic Tibetan culture, and, like much of Tibet, it lies in the Trans-Himalaya, a vast high-altitude desert to the north of the main Himalayan range, which blocks most of the monsoon clouds that dump rain on India and Southeast Asia in the summer.

Last year, nearly 3,000 tourists entered Upper Mustang, according to statistics in a government office in Kagbeni, an increase of more than 25 percent from about three years earlier. But the permit fee — $500 for 10 days, and $10 for each additional day — still deters many travelers. The low numbers, though, are welcomed by those trekkers looking to avoid the busy Annapurna and Everest trails, as well as by some Mustangis, even ones who say the government needs to give Mustang a greater portion of permit revenue.

"Our land is in one of the most beautiful corners of the world," said Jigme Singi Palbar Bista, 55, the ceremonial prince of Mustang. "But if a lot of tourists come, we wouldn't be able to support them all."


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To Ireland, a Son’s Journey Home

Derek Speirs for The New York Times

Clockwise from top left: the Burren, Dingle peninsula, O'Lochlainn pub, boat to Skellig Michael, Carrig Country House, Portmagee, dish at the Greenhouse. Center: fish-and-chips at QC's Seafood Bar & Restaurant. More Photos »

MY mother was mad for the color green. She carpeted rooms in it, upholstered furniture with it and assembled her wardrobe from it, in all of its shades: Kelly and hunter, pistachio and olive, moss and myrtle. For my sister's wedding she wore an emerald dress. I thought back then that she was trying to match her eyes. I realized only recently that something bigger and deeper was at work.

You see, I finally visited Ireland. I say "finally" because I should have gone long ago, in tribute to her, in acknowledgment of the Irish in her background, her blood and mine. But that part of our heritage got lost when she married an Italian and was swept into his Italian clan, which was so thoroughly steeped in its ethnicity — and so exuberant about it — that none other had any chance. She learned to make ravioli and frittata with the best of them, and I grew up thinking of myself simply as Italian, in spite of my pale skin and freckles, which mirrored hers. I even went on to learn Italian and to live briefly in Italy, using it as a base to explore much of Europe. Except for Ireland. Somehow, I kept forgetting about it.

I went in mid-September, and I went mostly, truth be told, because it promised spectacular scenery, bountiful seafood and an infinity of pubs, which my traveling partner, Tom, was especially excited about. We covered as much of the country as we could in a week's time, dipping into Cork as well as Dublin, logging over 700 road miles, lounging beside a lake in the southwest and ambling along a creek in the northwest.

But I also went for a sort of communion with, and investigation of, Mom, who died almost 16 years ago. It was like an adult version of that classic children's book "Are You My Mother?" except that I wasn't a lost bird asking a kitten, a dog, a boat. I was a grown man asking a country.

It was on Day 2, on the road between Dublin and Cork, when it hit me that the greens that decorated Mom's days were the greens that decorate Ireland. You read about them before you come — about their depth, shimmer and variety — but books can't capture the way the hue of the hillside in front of you, fleeced with sheep, will be markedly different from that of the hillside behind you, flecked with cows. Nor can books convey the sudden shift in these colors with the arrival of a cloud or the onset of rain, which seems to fall four or five times daily and would be infuriating were it not the very agent of this verdant patchwork. Beauty has its price, and in Ireland it's a soggy one.

I didn't have relatives to look up or areas of the country to home in on. Mom had never carefully traced her family tree. She knew only that she was a British Isles amalgam and that Ireland was prominent, and maybe predominant, in the mix. Italian-Irish: that's what she told my three siblings and me we were.

And it was time — long past time — to focus on the far side of the hyphen.

I SHOULD make something clear right away, especially since I've already mentioned food several times and, like many travelers, put it at the center of every journey. While Ireland is Italy's peer in natural beauty, it isn't on the culinary front. As a visitor you just have to make peace with that. By eating carefully I ate well, and there were also serendipitous delights, most notably a fish-and-chips that I'll return to in a bit. But certain clichés exist for a reason and hold true over time, which is another way of saying that I had potatoes coming at me everywhere I turned.

In Ireland, "and chips" is a phrase that annotates much more than fish. It's ever-present and all-purpose. One pub near the Rock of Cashel, a cluster of medieval buildings on a hilltop in County Tipperary, advertised a lunch special of lasagna and chips. A fashionable, relatively new riverfront restaurant in Cork named Electric served chips alongside a steak that was already resting on a bed of mashed potatoes, and Electric was a model of spud restraint in comparison with what was actually my favorite among the restaurants I visited, the Winding Stair, in Dublin. There my stuffed cabbage was filled with mashed potatoes and placed beside what tasted like a thin potato purée, which abutted wedges of roasted potato. The kind word for this would be redundancy. The accurate one would be overkill.

FRANK BRUNI, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, was the restaurant critic of The Times from June 2004 to August 2009.


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Pursuits: A Lobster Crawl From Massachusetts to Maine

Written By wartini cantika on Sabtu, 27 Oktober 2012 | 17.35

THE concept was a six-day exploration of coastal New England in its full fall glory — quaint towns, twisty roads and an antique or 10. Then lobster became the main event.

Thanks to the Northeast's extraordinary 2012 lobster glut, the much-publicized best harvest in years, lobster was everywhere and abundant. And so, as my wife, Sarah, and I moseyed our way up the coast from Cape Ann, Mass., to Camden, Me. — hiking, museum-hopping and restaurant grazing — we were seized by lobster lust.

That hunger can still be satisfied for anyone wanting to prolong the faded glory of the summer that was, as locals say that lobster is likely to be plentiful past Thanksgiving well into December.

Herewith, then, a quick crustacean-centric tour featuring eight restaurants where Homarus americanus, in seemingly endless incarnations, will remain on the menu late into the fall.

Our first stop was Gloucester, Mass., where, after an afternoon arrival, we left the soothing surge of the breakers outside our room at the Bass Rocks Ocean Inn and headed 15 minutes away to the bustling 80-seat Stone Soup Café in Ipswich, a casual locavore restaurant with a central bar. Lobster was available, and we were in: two bowls of rich, unctuous lobster bisque with tubby Homarus chunks along with sweet, tender lobster in linguine Alfredo with plump shrimp in a full-fat sauce.

The next day, after we finished a four-hour, sun-blessed whale-watch cruise (whales and dolphins providently spotted, by the way), we drove 10 minutes for the full-on primordial lobster experience at Woodman's of Essex, a heritage year-round institution that handles 600 customers on a good day.

There we ordered two one-and-a-half-pound beauties outside at the lobster tank before heading inside for everything else: thick-shredded coleslaw with celery seed, a rich clam-crowded cup of chowder, fried clams, boiled local sweet corn, intense sweet-potato fries and Ipswich ale on tap.

 Splattering deliciousness on our lobster bibs and reaching for the clarified butter, we celebrated the hands-on cave-dwelling dining experience that lobster-fressing shares with Chesapeake crabs, mussels, spare ribs and fried chicken.

A morning later we were shopping and strolling through historic Rockport, Mass., which could not be quainter. From there we headed up to the equally lovable and historic Newburyport, where we had our daily fix at Bob Lobster nearby, across from the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Twin lobsters, consumed on outdoor picnic tables, were gloriously sugary.

As we headed up to Portland, Me. we took several seaside hikes along the way, and had lunch at Sun & Surf on a patio overlooking York Beach while devouring an extravagantly priced ($18.50) lobster roll.

Trending northward, we laced up our walking shoes and ambled a few miles on the Marginal Way in Ogunquit, enjoying the spectacular coastal views. As was fitting, we stopped and paid our respects at the 1948 Lobster Point Lighthouse along the path.

That night, after strolling about Portland, our new lobster base camp, we visited the Salt Exchange and fell hard for the intense lobster risotto, highlighted by flavorful claw and body bits.

We were lucky to discover that our visit coincided with the newly opened, nationally reviewed Winslow Homer show, "Weatherbeaten," at the Portland Museum of Art, which we visited the next day, followed by an obligatory stop in Freeport, Me., at the L.L. Bean outlet and lobsters from right off the boat at the Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster Company, now closed for the season.

Our meander on the next day led us north to Boothbay Harbor, a town where the word charm may possibly have been coined. Lunch was at the snug 74-seat Ebb Tide (run by the same family for 38 years), all shellacked knotty pine and built-in booths. We were awed speechless by the lobster melt, a grilled Swiss-cheese sandwich on thick toasted, buttered bread, chock-full of lobster meat with mayonnaise.

In Camden, Me., we found the Blue Harbor House, a cosseting B&B on Elm Street, a few minutes' walk from the harbor. Immediately upon our arrival we learned that in 45 minutes a well-recommended windjammer cruise would be unfurling from Bayview Landing, so we dumped our bags and speed-walked down to the 86-foot wooden schooner Appledore II. When the sails rose we reveled in the motorless silence and the majesty of a harvest moon (not to mention a bunch of generous Bloody Marys and single-malt Scotches).

We shared our après-cruise dinner at the Graffam Bros. Harborside Restaurant with two new friends made on the schooner. Lobster, of course. We had it steamed; they ordered the Harborside B.L.T. — an amazing bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich on toasted multigrain bread with lobster salad. (Call that a B.L.T.L.?)

On our last day we drove up to see the breathtaking panorama of Camden Harbor from the stone lookout tower on nearby Mount Battie. Then we made the 40-minute drive down the coast on Route 1 to Rockland, Me., to inhale the Maine-centric collections at the well-stocked Farnsworth Art Museum and the nearby Wyeth Center.

Dinner was in Camden at Fresh Restaurant on Bay View Landing; there, lobster joined garlic mashed potatoes along with a wild king salmon.

As we left Camden the next morning for the long drive home, we were surprised to admit that, despite over a dozen lobster meals between us, we still were not sated. Our conclusion? In a year of unexpected plenty, too much isn't enough.

THE LOBSTER TOUR

Bass Rocks Ocean Inn, 107 Atlantic Road, Gloucester, Mass.;  (888) 802-7666; bassrocksoceaninn.com.

Blue Harbor House, 67 Elm Street, Camden, Me.; (207) 236-3196; blueharborhouse.com.

Bob Lobster, 49 Plum Island Turnpike, Newbury, Mass.; (978) 465-7100; boblobster.com.

Ebb Tide Restaurant, 43 Commercial Street, Boothbay Harbor, Me.; (207) 633-5692.

Fresh Restaurant, 1 Bay View Landing, Camden, Me.; (207) 236-7005; freshcamden.com.

Graffam Bros. Harborside Restaurant, 16 Bayview Landing, Camden, Me.; (207) 706-4999.

Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster Company, 36 Main Street, South Freeport, Me.; (207) 865-3535; harraseeketlunchandlobster.com.

The Salt Exchange, 245 Commercial Street, Portland, Me.; (207) 347-5687; thesaltexchange.net.

Stone Soup Café, 141 High Street, Ipswich, Mass.; (978) 356-4222; ipswichstonesoup.com.

Sun & Surf, 265 Long Sands Beach, York Beach, Me.; (207) 363-2961.

Woodman's of Essex: 121 Main Street, Essex, Mass.; (978)768-6057; woodmans.com.


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Journeys: Park the Pickup: Santa Fe by Bicycle

Dorie Hagler for The New York Times

A cyclist in front of Slurp.

THE poet C. P. Cavafy said that a city changes when you fall in love with someone in it. It can also change for less exalted reasons: when, for example, instead of sealing yourself in the personal microclimate of an automobile, you use a bicycle to get around. I happened to grow up in Oxford, England, a city, and country, where biking is a normal means of transport, no more a sport than bipedalism is. But it rains a lot, and I didn't come away with a proper appreciation of the benefits of the bicycle.

But here in Santa Fe, N.M., where I live now, it's a different story. Every day I ride three miles to my office. These days there's an autumn crispness in the air, and an almost detectable scent of frost. Along the way I pass under cottonwood trees, between adobe compounds and past the Capitol building before the morning rush has filled its parking lots, then follow the train tracks for a while along a dedicated bike trail, before reaching the rusty loft where I work. It hardly ever rains, and I have learned to love my bike.

It's a far cry from driving. Something happens to us in cars. In Disney's 1950 cartoon "Motor Mania," Goofy, a nice suburban gent, gets behind his wheel and as the starting motor chokes into life, he simultaneously turns into a raging monster. Yet latent aggression isn't the half of it. It's more about the isolation, the world being reduced to two sterile cubic yards.

America was built for the car, especially out West, where cities sprawl immensely, public transport is a travesty and driving is a way of life. It took me a while to realize that actually, Santa Fe is great for biking. And is only becoming more so. Some city officials and devoted lobbyists have been very busy improving its bicycle credentials. In 2011, Santa Fe received bronze-level recognition as a "Bicycle Friendly Community" from the League of American Bicyclists; this month, the International Mountain Bike Association held its World Summit in Santa Fe; a Bicycle Master Plan was approved in April this year, with the express intention of promoting the bicycle as a means of transport. There are dozens of new miles of bike trails and "bikeways" (bike routes along less-used streets) across the city.

Why is Santa Fe so good by bike? It's a manageable size, reasonably level and very pretty. Its immaculate light has made it famous, as have its sunsets, its glowing adobe buildings and Spanish colonial center, all of which make a great backdrop for the cyclist. Come spring, when the cottonwoods turn bright with leaf, just to be passing through town on a bike, through the blue shade of trees, on any of the bikeways or trails, is a joy. Summer evenings and mornings are glorious for riding, and the fall, with its bright colors, is fine too. Almost wherever you are, you can see the mountains.

The most impressive of the new trails, the Santa Fe Rail Trail, is an 18-mile path that runs across town from the recently developed central Railyard, and snakes into the desert, finally arriving at the railway junction in Lamy, south of town. It starts as a broad, paved track and dwindles to packed dirt, following the rail tracks the whole way. You may even get overtaken by a train that runs nearby. As you move away from downtown, you start to see outlying neighborhoods rolling away over the undulating land. On the ocean, surfers occasionally report seeing dolphins skimming beside them in the waves. Here you may see lizards skipping beside your front wheel, darting off into the sandy shoulder. Chamisa, scrub, sagebrush, pinyon trees, birds and rabbits, and the Ortiz Mountains and Cerrillos Hills on the skyline: it's a different world now. Every so often there's an old wooden girder bridge, like something out of an old cowboy movie.

Near the end, you emerge from between the dry hills, and the whole Galisteo Basin opens before you, copper-colored, broad, with Highway 285 running across it like a margin line on a page.

You wouldn't think you could get lost on a well-marked trail, but once I managed to. I was almost at the end when I found myself riding among daisies and weeds, with no trace of the trail. Finally I had no choice but to ride along the track itself, bumping over the merciless ties. Eventually, I plunged down a dusty bank into a ranch, only to be chased by a furious dog, then saved from it by its owner, who pointed me in the right direction.


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Overnighter: Frescoes and Festivals in an Umbrian Town

Nadia Shira Cohen for The New York Times

The Palazzo dei Consoli, once the place where Parliament gathered in the Middle Ages.

MY family and I made the three-hour drive from Rome to Gubbio, winding around spiraling curves as we approached the medieval Umbrian town on Mount Ingino, only to find that to reach the heart of the historic center we needed to walk up a seemingly perpendicular cobblestone street. Between pushing our 2-year-old daughter in her heavily laden stroller and feeling the sun beam down with fiery concentration, we felt as if we were walking up a wall on this last leg of the journey.

But once we reached Piazza Grande, a central square that, on one side, overlooks the expansive vista of the city and, on the other, ushers visitors into the town's charming streets, we quickly forgave the steep climb.

Gubbio, with 33,000 residents, is the largest commune in the province of Perugia, and has less of a claustrophobic feel than some of its nearby Umbrian cousins like Todi and Urbino. There is a sense of grandness here — with block after block of elegant 14th- and 15th-century faded brick houses, sudden stairways adorned with bright flowers and ever more stunning views as you climb higher into the town. Our plan was to visit for the week, while staying at Fonte al Noce, a resort we'd chosen for its last-minute availability but later happily discovered was filled with similar families — that is, tired parents with small children (our family includes a 7-year-old as well as our toddler) — from all over Europe. Whether you stay a night or a week or longer, you're likely to succumb to the tranquil pleasures of Gubbio.

On the Piazza Grande, we quickly discovered the Palazzo dei Consoli, a towering Gothic building of limestone lined with narrow arched windows. Once the place where Parliament gathered in the Middle Ages, today the palazzo houses an art gallery and museum that offers, in addition to paintings from the Umbrian school and archaeological finds, a glimpse of the famed Iguvine Tablets. We lingered over these seven bronze tablets, created between the third and first century B.C. The inscriptions in an ancient Umbrian language describe the long-ago religious rituals of Gubbio.

Outside the palace, we craned our necks to gaze at the bell tower rising up the side of the palazzo — a slender square structure containing a two-ton bell. Our guidebook told us that the bell-ringers use their feet to ring it. But how did this work? I couldn't picture it: An image of grown men lying flat on their backs kicking up at the enormous bell like babies entered my mind. Later, after happening upon an elaborate costume parade that led to a series of dance performances and an archery contest in the square, we found ourselves seated beneath the tower, staring up at several men stepping forcefully on pedals to put the bell in motion. Mystery solved.

The festival we'd chanced upon was the Torneo dei Quartieri, a crossbow competition among the town districts that is preceded and followed by festivities in the town. Such celebrations are an integral part of Gubbio's cultural life. The Feast of Candles, Corso dei Ceri, which happens every May, is the best known, with three teams racing through town carrying tall wooden pillars resembling large candlesticks, each topped with a statue of a saint. Smaller communal events take place throughout the year.

The number of things to see and do in Gubbio can be daunting, but let yourself off the hook, as we did, and spend a few hours walking aimlessly. This was how we came upon the Fontana dei Matti, or the Fountain of the Madmen. Venturing back down from the Piazza Grande toward the Piazza Quaranta Martiri, where our children had spotted a carousel, we came across some people walking silently around a simple stone fountain. We took a quick glance at our guidebook and realized we were in the Piazza del Bargello. Folklore has it that if you complete three laps around the fountain here, you officially become a lunatic.


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Bites: Restaurant Report: Dabbous in London

With the opening of Dabbous in January, London is suddenly smitten with the delicate, sincere, fragile, locavore "cuisine naïve" that's enchanted Paris and many Scandinavian cities for five years or so. It is a big change from the major-production-values tables with lots of theater and taste-bomb dishes recently popular in London.

Though it's located in plummy Fitzrovia, Dabbous, one of the hardest reservations to land in the city right now, slings a decidedly Shoreditch vibe with a postindustrial faux loft décor — metal mesh partitions, bare wood tables, factory lamps — that improbably comes off as charming rather than arch.

The reason doesn't have to do with the decorating, though, but with the terrific atmosphere created by the warmth and professionalism of the young, mostly male staff members, so proudly motivated by the cooking of Ollie Dabbous, the 31-year-old chef who has been lionized by the British food press. (Mr. Dabbous was also just awarded a star in the 2013 Michelin Guide to Great Britain & Ireland.)

Opting for the eight-course tasting menu, dinner on a September Saturday began somewhat surprisingly with green-pea custard garnished with peas in a pod and mint syrup and ice, a dish that was garden-party pretty but as intricately imagined and assembled as a Fabergé egg.

It seemed late in the season for peas in England, and when queried, the waiter said they had come from Rungis, the wholesale food market in Paris, a fact that immediately conveyed the challenge Mr. Dabbous faces in doing the same sort of produce-centric cooking accomplished by such colleagues as David Toutain at L'Agapé Substance in Paris or Jacob Holmstrom and Anton Bjuhr at Gastrologik in Stockholm.

Next up, fine ribbons of celeriac with muscat grapes and crushed hazelnuts in a pool of celeriac bouillon with dots of lemon oil was decidedly autumnal and vaguely Chaucerian. The following course, a still life of a brown hen's egg filled with silky egg and wild mushrooms cooked with salted butter in a nest of straw, was as deeply satisfying to eat as it was to look at. It also brought to mind Mr. Dabbous's résumé: his self-professed mentor is Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, and he has also cooked at the Fat Duck, L'Astrance, Noma, WD-50, Pierre Gagnaire and Mugaritz, among others.

When Mr. Dabbous dares beyond being just an exceptionally good student he is show-stoppingly brilliant. Witness his braised halibut in a satiny beurre blanc-like sauce garnished with sea herbs, including borage that tasted of oysters, and a dessert of fresh milk curds infused with fig-leaf syrup.

Note that you can also taste Mr. Dabbous's cooking through the snacks menu downstairs at Oskar's Bar, run by his business partner, Oskar Kinberg, the Swedish mixologist.

Dabbous, 39 Whitfield Street; (44) 207-323-1544; dabbous.co.uk. The prix fixe menu is £54, or $85 at $1.58 to the pound. A four-course à la carte meal averages £47. 


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Check In, Check Out: Hotel Review: The Madison in Washington

Written By wartini cantika on Jumat, 26 Oktober 2012 | 17.35

The Madison

Inside the Madison hotel in Washington.

This stately, newly renovated hotel in downtown Washington, a few blocks from the White House, offers rooms from $300 and suites from $1,200 to $4,000.

THE BASICS

The august Madison has since 1963 provided temporary sleeping quarters for many famous (and infamous) characters, from Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson to heads of state including American presidents awaiting a move-in date at the White House. The building, which also includes nine floors of office space, was bought last year for $123 million by Jamestown, an Atlanta real estate investment and management company. The owners have completed a renovation of the 356-room hotel that cost more than $20 million, just in time for the coming presidential inauguration and the hotel's 50th anniversary.

LOCATION

At the busy corner of 15th Street and M Street NW, and not far from Dupont Circle, the Madison is a short stroll from the White House and other attractions including the Renwick Gallery and the Studio Theater.

THE ROOM

No. 927, the elegant, 336-square-foot room that I shared with my partner, had a plush king-size bed with soft cotton sheets that stood against a wall covered in black and white wallpaper busy with sketches that recalled the Revolutionary America era of the hotel's namesake, James Madison. The palette of earth tones included a dark carpet and brown and beige throughout with a touch of red in the coverlet and a pair of pillows. Several lamps, a large desk, plenty of electrical outlets and a regal leather chair with a small hassock made for a comfortable environment that was a mix of traditional and contemporary. The minibar stocked with top-shelf liquor and a Keurig coffee maker added to the luxurious atmosphere.

THE BATHROOM

There were body care products from C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries in a bathroom that was spacious and modern, with a big shower. The color scheme of the rest of the room — white and earth tones — was reflected in the marble countertop and dark wood drawers beneath.

AMENITIES

The lobby was buzzing with well-dressed guests of all ages on a Friday afternoon and evening in early September. At one end is the Federalist restaurant and across the lobby are PostScript, a cafe with a barista bar, and the Lobby Bar. Pictures of James and Dolley Madison share a wall at the lobby bar with other artwork and the many bottles used to make cocktails, including politically themed specialties like the Great Debate (small batch bourbon, blended vermouth, chartreuse and orange peel, $14). The hotel has a small gym and free Wi-Fi. A garage is down the block, but at $40 a night, it's no bargain.

ROOM SERVICE

I ordered an American Breakfast ($24) of scrambled eggs, sausage, toast, home fries, coffee and juice at 9:15 a.m. They arrived hot (and delicious) in under 20 minutes.

BOTTOM LINE

There is a palpable politics/business vibe here that ought to make Beltway dealmaker types feel right at home but may not be ideal for fans of a more cutting-edge boutique experience. If a hotel can be said to have a personality, this one might be an older fella working on a more hip image, someone who has put in the time and money, bought custom suits from Tom James perhaps and looks great, but is graying at the temples nonetheless.

The Madison, 1177 15th Street, NW; (202) 862-1600; madisonhoteldc.com.


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Heads Up: Antwerp, Gilded Once More

Christian Kober/Robert Harding, via Newscom

Museum aan de Stroom (MAS), resembling boxes atop one another, in Antwerp's newly transformed Het Eilandje district.

ANTWERP may have lived its golden age in the 16th century, when spices, gold and other precious commodities from the Far East and the Americas flowed through its port. But these are gilded times as well for the Belgian city of a half-million people on the Schelde River. With the recent economic and political rise of its region, Flanders, and its emergence as a center of fashion and design, Antwerp has flourished, reimagining new neighborhoods out of tired old districts.

The latest neighborhood undergoing this transformation is Het Eilandje ("the little island"), a riverside zone of warehouses, factories and Napoleonic-era docks 15 minutes by foot from the ornate guildhalls of the historic center.

"The Eilandje was the heart of Antwerp's port for 100 years, until mid-20th-century ships became too big for it and new docks were built to the north," said Inge Schoups, director of the municipal archives of Antwerp. In the 1990s, as the city created plans for the district, then in desolation, Ms. Schoups set her sights on a dilapidated 1861 warehouse with six floors and a soaring, glass-roof arcade as the new location for the archives. In 2006, after a meticulous restoration, the building — now called FelixArchief (felixarchief.be) — opened its doors to researchers and to the public, who go for the quirky historic exhibitions (one featured vintage crime reports) as well as concerts and art shows. Its cafe draws workers from the nearby atelier of the fashion designer Dries Van Noten, in another former warehouse with a gray stone facade.

The newest and most dramatic change in the Eilandje is Museum aan de Stroom (mas.be), a 33.5 million-euro ziggurat designed by the Rotterdam firm Neutelings Riedijk Architects to appear as massive boxes of brick-red sandstone and undulating glass balanced atop one another. Known as MAS and opened in May 2011, the museum has gathered a permanent collection of 470,000 ethnographic, folk and maritime artifacts from other Antwerp institutions and mounts exhibitions about the city and its engagement with the world. "It's a very 'glo-cal' story — globalized but local," said Carl Depauw, the museum's director. "Antwerp is a relatively small place with a huge port where more than 170 ethnic and national groups have now come together. Just as the world passes through the port, and has done so for centuries, it passes through this museum."

"Masterpieces in the MAS," the opening exhibition on view until Dec. 30, showcases five centuries of Antwerp art from three other city museums. Included are paintings by Jan Bruegel the Elder, Jan van Eyck, Peter Paul Rubens and James Ensor, along with contemporary works like René Heyvaert's 1981 untitled cross made of bread. The permanent collection galleries feature everything from vintage ship models to a luminous Mayan carved alabaster bowl and other pre-Columbian treasures donated by the noted Belgian collectors Paul and Dora Janssen.

MAS's rooftop observation deck, accessible without paying a museum admission, has sweeping views of port, river and city. One floor below, inventive French-Belgian dishes, impeccable modern décor and seamless service have earned two Michelin stars for 't Zilte (tzilte.be); three-course lunch, 65 euros without wine ($82 at $1.27 to the euro); five- and seven-course dinners, 115 and 135 euros without wine.

With MAS having attracted one million visitors in its first year rather than the expected 300,000, new Eilandje cafes, restaurants and shops have sprouted: among them, the retro cool espresso bar Broer Bretel (broerbretel.be) and BAD (32-3-226-66-73), a bookshop specializing in gorgeously designed coffee-table tomes. Other projects in the works are Red Star Line Museum (redstarline.org), to open in 2013, documenting the wave of 19th- and early 20th-century European emigration through Antwerp to the United States and Canada, and new port offices designed by Zaha Hadid.

"We're just at the beginning of transforming the Eilandje," said Ms. Schoups, the city archivist, whose profession lends itself to the long view. "Come back in five years and you'll see many more changes."


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Q&A: Fishing and Foraging Near Puget Sound

Stacy Lewars

Dylan Tomine with children, Weston and Skyla.

A DECADE ago Dylan Tomine, 46, was an advertising copywriter living in a high-rise in Seattle. He spent whatever free time he had fishing in Puget Sound, but those weekends never seemed long enough.

"I felt like I was tourist," he said. "I wanted to feel more in tune with a specific place, its seasons, tides, weather patterns."

In 2004 he moved his family across the sound to Bainbridge Island, where they now grow their own vegetables, forage for clams and mushrooms and even run a blueberry farm. He still makes trips to Safeway (he hasn't gone totally local) but now he can tell you where to dig for geoduck clams. And he does so in his new book, "Closer to the Ground," which documents a year in his family's life.

Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Mr. Tomine about how to fish and forage around Puget Sound. 

Q. How do visitors find out about places to forage?

A. Local organizations, and not tourist sites, are the best resources because they're the ones with the local knowledge. That would be true for any part of the country. The Web site of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has a ton of local information on clamming and crab harvesting, how and where to do it. It has maps of shellfish beaches and updates on the water quality so you know if it's safe to go digging.

The Puget Sound Mycological Society runs great field trips. The fall is great for those gorgeous chanterelles that roast so well. You go with a mushroom expert, and he shows you how to look for them under black huckleberry bushes and logs beneath big fir trees. And Bainbridge Island Metro Park and Recreation District has a number of one-day classes and excursions for shellfish foraging and berry picking and jam making.

Q. What about places to fish?

A. Salmon migrate and can be anywhere, which is why I recommend going on a charter boat. These guys are out there every day, they know the tides, and they have equipment. A few I recommend are Tyee Charters, A Spot Tail Salmon Guide and Bob Ball at Piscatorial Pursuits, who runs river float trips along the Olympic Peninsula. There are several places where you can fish offshore, too. A favorite of mine is Point No Point — yes, that's the official name — on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Q. Where do you recommend staying?

A. Doing this kind of wild-food-based traveling where you catch and eat your food from a hotel would be difficult at best, and at worst, you'd get thrown out. I suggest renting a house along Puget Sound or the Olympic Peninsula, and VRBO.com has a ton of listings all over. Port Townsend, an artsy community, has great access to fishing, and Bainbridge Island is only a 45-minute ferry ride from Seattle. Kalaloch Lodge, situated on this rocky headland that sticks out into the ocean, also has little cabins you can rent.

Camping's a great option, too. There are so many gorgeous sites on the Washington State Parks Web site (parks.wa.gov). To name a few I love: Fay Bainbridge Park on a gravel beach with beautiful views of Seattle; Fort Flagler on the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca; Scenic Beach State Park on Hood Canal. The best public oyster picking is on Hood Canal.

Q. Do your kids like fishing and foraging?

A. They're naturals, especially at foraging. It's everything kids love: You're outside, you're looking for something specific, and you bring home this prize.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 22, 2012

An earlier version of this article included a reference to a fishing guide from Florida instead of Washington State. The correct guide is A Spot Tail Salmon Guide, not Spottails Charters. 


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