Archive for October, 2008

Experimental Eats

October 29, 2008

While my tastes admittedly run towards low-brow chow, I think I can still recognize a gastronomically extraordinary experience when I see one.

El Bulli, located on northeastern Spain’s Costa Brava, has been voted “the world’s best restaurant” three times in a row.  Most of the fuss centers on their ever-changing “tasting” menu that consists of more than two dozen bite-size courses that are essentially experiments in flavor and texture (a liquid ham croquette, anyone?  Or how ’bout some nice basil foam?).  To get a better understanding of the kind of eats we’re talking about here, take a look at the list of dishes served during one six-hour meal in this blog post from Chocolate & Zuchini.

If you’d like to experience this gustatory extravaganza for yourself, keep in mind the restaurant gets hundreds of requests for every available opening during it’s six-month operating season.  But if you’re a serious foodie, don’t let that stop you.  Roll the dice today by logging onto the El Bulli’s Reservations page.

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Destinations Versus Experiences

October 21, 2008

I was just flipping through the November/December issue of National Geographic Traveler and saw their cover story titled 109 Destinations Rated. While I generally hold the National Geo publications in high regard, this particular article is yet another example of why I believe the editors of most travel magazines just don’t get it.

The problem here is their single-minded focus on destinations. While there’s something to be said for many of the tourist-magnet locations featured in the Traveler story, the reality is that even the world’s most intriguing places pale in comparison to a truly extraordinary experience.

You see, while you may return home from one of these traditional getaways thinking you had (…yawn…) a nice time, that afterglow and the “oh-my-god-that-was-absolutely-the-coolest-thing-I’ve-ever-done” kick that helps define an extraordinary experience are different by several orders of magnitude. In short, we’re talking about vividly memorable exploits that it’s just not possible to feel blasé about.

If you’re unfamiliar with this feeling I’m describing, I’d strongly encourage you to give any of the once-in-a-lifetime adventures you’ll find listed on our Xperiences page a try.  Then drop me a line and tell me if your extraordinary experience doesn’t make your old destination-oriented vacations look kind of pathetic by comparison.

How Sweet It Is!

October 12, 2008

I know from personal experience that there are lots of great places to chow down in New York City.  But I’m also pretty certain that none can touch the giddiness-inducing gustatory delights awaiting visitors to the 10th annual New York Chocolate Show November 7-9.

If that claim seems hard to swallow, take a moment to chew on the three-day festival’s stats: More than 40,000 square feet of exhibit space packed with 60-plus exhibitors offering tastings of the world’s best chocolates, plus cooking demonstrations and chocolate-themed activities for both adults and kids alike.  There’ll even be a tasty assortment of artwork and “haute couture” fashions made with chocolate.

The best part is that tickets to this chocoholic’s dream are a relative bargain at just $28 (12-and-under-types are free with a paid adult admission).  If money’s no object and you’d like to treat someone you’re sweet on to the ultimate chocolate lover’s experience, check out the over-the-top New York Chocolate Show Weekend Escape package being offered by Bittersweet Escapes.

 

Camping On The Concourse?

October 7, 2008

Like it or not, ‘tis the season when countless travelers are likely to be stranded in airports when their flights are delayed or canceled because of severe weather.  Now, however, there’s an alternative to trying to stretch out on one of those oh-so-uncomfortable benches to catch some shut-eye.

The Mini Motel combines a bivouac bag-style indoor tent and inflatable air mattress/pillow with ear plugs, an eye shade, and a reading light.   There’s even a portable alarm clock to make sure you don’t miss your flight. 

As someone who’s experienced his share of delayed and canceled flights, I’m torn between fascination with this product and my desire (obsession is more like it) to travel light. While the package folds flat to fit in a briefcase or backpack, it weighs in at nearly five pounds, enough to make me think twice before schlepping it across the country on the off chance that I might get stranded somewhere along the way.  Maybe it’s one of those deals where you only throw it in your carry-on bag when weather forecasts for an upcoming flight make delays look likely.

 I plan on getting one of these to review but, in the meantime, let me know what you think about this airport “concourse camping” concept.  Is it a godsend to stranded travelers or just one more useless solution in search of a problem travelers don’t need to be burdened with? 

Something Really Scary

October 1, 2008

I admit it:  I haven’t been able to get very excited about Halloween since I became too old to trick-or-treat.  But I have found a much more interesting—not to mention authentic—alternative to all those temporary startle-fests they call “haunted houses” that crop up in cities across the U.S. every October.

I’m talking about the real deal here.  Places where things your rational mind can’t quite explain—call them ghosts, spirits, apparitions, whatever—literally do go bump in the night. 

Earlier this year I stayed at a couple of lodging establishments that have long histories of well-documented paranormal activity.  A friend of mine and I started at New Orleans’ Bourbon Orleans Hotel, a former antebellum ballroom and convent turned upscale hotel in the heart of the French Quarter.  For more on the hotel’s long history of hauntings, click here and scroll down to item number 3.

From the Crescent City we headed about an hour upriver to The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana, a historic bed-and-breakfast some experienced ghost-busters have called the most haunted home in the U.S.  You can find the full story about our extraordinary experience there on the Xperiences page of XTRORD.com but, for now, let’s just say it was something less than a restful night.

If a trip to New Orleans—a city some claim to be the most haunted place in North America—doesn’t fit into your schedule this fall, you can find a long list of equally scary overnight accommodations around the U.S. on the “Great Places To Sleep With A Ghost” page of Bed&Breakfast.com.