June 27, 2009

Great Eats: Chicago, Heaven on Seven

Found in the unlikely location of an upper floor in an office building, this funky, down-home, Louisiana-style cafe is the original link in this popular small local chain. Best items are the gumbo and crab cakes. However, even though the walls are lined with an impressive collection of every brand of hot sauce imaginable, and a selection of current brands is corralled on each table, the jambalaya comes out of the kitchen disappointingly bland.
Heaven on Seven 111 N. Wabash Ave., 7th fl., downtown, 312-263-6443.

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image copyright 2009 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

June 25, 2009

photo gallery of beautiful images of the native Omo people in Ethiopia

These exquisitely beautiful images are probably of the Mursi and Suri people, who live where the Omo River empties into Lake Turkana in Ethiopia.

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June 23, 2009

Great Sleeps: NYC, The Algonquin Hotel

An oasis of serenity, this legendary hotel is just steps from Broadway, two blocks from Bryant Park, three avenues away from the gay and lesbian nightlife scene in Hell's Kitchen, and a couple of subway stops from the trendy, artsy Chelsea neighborhood. Edna Ferber and Dorothy Parker were once part of the hotel's famous Round Table, and Truman Capote once dined there regularly. The cozy, inviting lobby is a popular lounge bar, and the famous restaurant adjoins. In the evening, The Oak Room stages performances. Halls here are papered in New Yorker cartoons (the New Yorker offices are just across the street), and a current issue is in each room. The hotel retains its vintage white marble steps in the stairway between floors. Rooms also have some vintage touches, including small bathrooms tiled in 6-sided white tiles (the plumbing might be the oldest in NYC—hot water takes a while to arrive on upper floors, but arrive it does, eventually). And then there is the hotel kitty, Matilda, a pampered beige Ragdoll longhair who hangs out at the desk—or wherever she likes—and has her own e-mail address. For a shock back to reality, stop at the corner of 44th Street and 6th Avenue and look up, up, up to watch the national debt roll shockingly up, up, up in lighted digits.
The Algonquin Hotel  59 West 44th St./6th Ave., ? 888-304-2047, (800) 678-8946, (212) 840-6800. 12 floors; 174 rooms + 24 suites. Fitness room.

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June 20, 2009

Things to Do: Holland, Michigan, Tulip Festival

video copyright 2009 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

6 million tulips, 1,500 wooden-shoe dancers, 3 parades. It’s never too early to start planning for a trip to see this annual small-town spring festival celebrating the area's Dutch heritage. Fireworks and trolley tours are also part of the fun.
Tulip Time Festival  May; 800-822-2770.

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June 18, 2009

5 Bucket List Train Rides

One is:
Mexico’s El Chepe ventures into the imposing landscapes of the Sierra Tarahumara and into Mexico’s famed Copper Canyon, passing through 87 tunnels and crossing 37 bridges. The Copper Canyon is four times the size of the Grand Canyon – and deeper.
“Mexico’s Chepe train from Los Mochis to Copper Canyon has it all: tall bridges crossing rivers, dozens of tunnels, a winding track that climbs high out of the canyon and, waiting for you at the end, the fascinating indigenous Tarahumara people.” --Eric Lindberg, freelance travel writer/photographer.

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image ©2009 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

June 17, 2009

Sights to See: NYC, Frick Collection

Frick Collection  1 E. 70th St./5th Ave, 212-288-0700. Tu-Sat 10-6, Sun 11-5, closed M. $15, 62+ $10, students with ID $5, under age 10 not admitted, Sun 11-1 pay what you wish. Free audio guide with admission. Jewels of art displayed in this 1914 mansion--which opened as a museum in 1935--include a Rembrandt self-portrait and many jewel-toned El Grecos. Rooms are furnished with 18th-century French furniture, porcelains, and Oriental rugs, and delightful and intriguing French clocks chime on the hour. Though all the artists in the collection, save one, are men, there are many portraits of women.

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June 16, 2009

Sights to See: NYC, Neue Galerie New York

Neue Galerie New York  1048 Fifth Ave./86th St., on Museum Mile across from Central Park, 212-628-6200. Thur-M 11-6 (closed Tu & W). $15, students & seniors $10, under 12 not admitted, age 12 to 16 must be accompanied by an adult; Acoustiguide audio tour included with admission. Modern German and Austrian art and furniture is displayed in this elegantly repurposed townhouse that opened as a museum in 2002. Don’t miss the dramatic black-and-white polka-dot halls on the third floor and the central circular stairway.
          The museum's Viennese Cafe Sabarsky serves delicious Austrian cuisine—spaetzle with wild mushrooms, beef goulash, open-face sandwiches, Black Forest cake.

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June 15, 2009

Sights to See: Malpica, Mexico, cantina

To the left is an image of the town cantina in Malpica, Mexico.

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image copyright 2009 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

June 14, 2009

Things to Do: Amsterdam, Holland, Beer Bikes

"The tolerance of Amsterdam residents is legendary, but the beer bike may have stretched it to the breaking point." 

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June 12, 2009

Great Sleeps: Lake Titicaca, Peru

Perhaps you've heard of Lake Titicaca in Peru, and perhaps you've seen images of the famous reed boats that float there.  But have you heard about the spectacular new Titilaka hotel that opened recently nearby?

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June 10, 2009

Good Eats: Farmers Market, Los Angeles, California

Farmers Market  6333 W. 3rd St./Fairfax, West Los Angeles, (323) 933-9211. Opened in 1934 as a market for farmer’s selling produce to the public, this rambling contemporary souk now is filled with stalls selling all manner of things edible--everything from specialty sausages to prime produce to miniature chocolate Oscars. You can also pick up Daily Variety and some pretty dreadful souvenirs. It is the perfect spot for lunch. And because celebrities have to eat, too, you never know just whom you might spot.

Try breakfast at popular, inexpensive Du-par’s Pie Shop (#211, (323) 933-8446). The buttermilk pancakes are particularly good, and a short stack is quite substantial. Fluffy omelettes, French toast, and fresh bakery goods are also good choices.

For sweets, try Thee’s Continental Pastries (#316, (323) 937-1968), home of delicious cinnamon rolls and the pink elephant cake.

Bob’s Coffee and Donuts (#450, (323) 933-8929) serves classy classics; iLoteria! Grill (#322, (323) 930-2211) dishes up tingas (dry stews), fresh corn tortillas, and a cactus-paddle salad taco filling, not to mention chilaquiles and cinnamon coffee for breakfast.

And then there's Littlejohn’s English Toffee House (#432, (323) 936-5379), where toffee has been made since just after World War II. Yum.

The Grove ((323) 933-9211), a newish upscale shopping center, is adjacent.

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June 4, 2009

Sights to See: The Amazon, Peru, Aqua Expeditions

Aqua Expeditions  12 guest suites; all have outward-facing picture windows and en-suite sitting areas. 3-, 4-, 7-night itineraries. Beginning in the area where "Fitzcarraldo" (one of my favorite movies) was filmed, this 5-star luxury cruise ventures through rarely-seen areas of the Peruvian Amazon. This is the Royal Scotsman meets the Amazon, with sophisticated cuisine on the menu as well as Latin classics. Guests leave the boat on a launch daily with a naturalist guide. Animal viewings might include the pink Amazon dolphin, three-toed sloth, black alligator, and giant river otter. All itineraries include a visit to the Manatee and Dolphin Rescue Center, and in November guests can participate in releasing newborn turtles into the Pacaya Samiria Reserve.

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June 1, 2009

Sights to See: Houston, Texas, The Menil Collection

The Houston Menil Collection museum complex is located on a residential cul de sac. Founder Mrs. Menil, who according to a guide “was deeply protestant and deeply rich,” was able to keep control of the neighborhood by buying up properties and then renting them out. The tranquil green zone features arts-and-crafts cottages throughout--all painted a unifying Rothko grey. It is quite a surprise to find all these striking museums within easy walking distance of each other in a residential area.

The Menil Collection 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400. W-Sun 11-7. Free. Holding one of the most influential private art collections of the 20th century, this museum opened in 1987 to house the collection of John and Dominique de Menil. It is the “mother ship” of this “campus.” Renzo Piano designed the naturally lit, scored-concrete building (he also designed the striking new San Francisco Academy of Sciences), which houses Byzantine, tribal, and modern contemporary art. Though it is a small museum, it has an enormous collection, and the art is in constant rotation.

The Rothko Chapel 1409 Sul Ross St., 713-524-9839. Daily 10-6. Free. Providing a meditative interfaith environment, this chapel features a grey ceiling and mottled light-grey walls hung with gigantic black paintings by abstract expressionist Mark Rothko. Concentrated, very bright natural light streams in through an eight-sided center opening in the ceiling. Add to this mottled-black asphalt tile floors, seating on contemporary black chairs with stainless-steel legs, and a simple sand-yellow brick exterior, and you have a spectacular space in which to reflect. Performances and special events are scheduled regularly.

Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum 4011 Yupon St., 713-521-3990. W-Sun 11-6. Free. This fortress chapel sanctuary displays two of the largest, most important examples of 12th and 13th-century Byzantine wall paintings found outside the orthodox world (the frescoes are on loan from Cypress). Rough-hewn stone and steel is used outside and inside, and a hanging space features frosted glass that glows. In a spare presentation, only a few pieces of ancient art are set dramatically against the modern architecture; think black and white juxtaposed with the color of ancient frescoes.

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