PDA

View Full Version : Interesting Places To Travel


HALBLEU
09-23-02, 05:00 AM
Here is an interesting place to travel for the global strategist

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/22/travel/22FRUG.html

September 22, 2002
Shanghai, Modern but Still Exotic
By DAISANN McLANE


SHANGHAI may no longer have the raffish mystique of its early 20th-century incarnation as a place of guns, girls and gamblers, but a different mythology, no less alluring, has taken its place. With a surreal, Blade Runner skyline poking up from the swampy east bank of the Huangpu River and a stately but timeworn wall of heavy Art Deco buildings defining the west bank, Shanghai could almost be one of those Disneyish theme parks so popular with Chinese tourists nowadays.

The contrasts are irresistible. Tourism is booming in Shanghai — indeed, I heard more American accents there in a weekend than I did in three months living in Hong Kong. Still, my friend Leslie and I didn't have too much trouble keeping our travel costs manageable, despite the four-page list of restaurants Leslie had brought, annotated with dishes and regional cuisines she wanted to sample.

Like many travelers coming from Hong Kong (Leslie lives there), we chose an air-hotel package offered by a travel agency. (Hong Kong may be one of the last places in the world where travel agents, rather than Internet discounters, still dominate the budget trade.) For about $475 a person, our package included a shared room for two nights at the four-star Sofitel Hyland, in central Shanghai's main shopping district, and round-trip air fare. (Had we bought tickets separately, the air fare alone would have been $375.) I wanted to spend a couple of nights in the area of Shanghai known as the French Concession — where foreign traders and famous Chinese figures such as Sun Yat-sen lived at the turn of the century — so we also booked our first two nights in Shanghai, through www.asiatravel.com, at the Ruijin Guest House, where a double room with breakfast came to $89 a night.

The Ruijin, a last-minute inspiration, turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip, especially after we rejected our first room assignment. Though spacious and comfortable, the room didn't have the separate twin beds I'd requested. After a few phone calls to the desk, management resettled us in a far lovelier room described by the bellhop, almost apologetically, as a traditional Chinese-style room.

The chinoiserie Art Deco décor wasn't exactly Ming Dynasty, but we didn't have the heart to quibble, for we were drinking in the fabulous vintage 1930's mahogany furniture, including a drop-dead vanity table with a big round mirror. At any minute I expected to see Gong Li, dressed in one of those silk cheongsams from the movie "Shanghai Triad," come slinking in from the bathroom (alas, that feature of the room was nothing special).

The grounds were even better than our movie-set room. The Ruijin, which was once the Morriss Estate, home of a Western newspaper magnate, is a compound of buildings set on a large landscaped piece of property several blocks square. Some buildings house stylish restaurants and bars, including one, called Colours, that had a large multilevel deck and modern indoor rooms. The bar became our hangout when we returned to the guest house, after yet another round of eating, shopping and sightseeing in temperatures that eventually rose to 98 degrees.

Despite the heat, we were ecstatic to be in Shanghai, spending our first night in the city wandering around the French Concession, with its low, graceful mansions and streets canopied with leafy trees. On Chang Le Road, off Maoming Road, we stumbled across a street lined with elegant ladies' tailoring shops. Their windows were filled with dramatic red silk concoctions meant for Chinese weddings, but they also had racks of beautiful handmade jackets, suits and cheongsams.

The legendary Shanghai tailor, it seems, has survived the era of Mao jackets. Sadly for size-12 me, the readymade items topped out at about size 6. Better make my next Shanghai trip long enough to have something custom-made, I thought, while watching Leslie try on some fabulous black silk dresses, better quality than any I'd seen in Hong Kong, and half the price.

At dinnertime, we were far from any of the places on Leslie's list. But between two dress shops she spotted the Bao Shun restaurant, where several tables of women, as elegantly silk-clad as the mannequins in the shop windows, were picking at dishes of bright green vegetables. "Let's try here," she suggested.

Her instincts were sound, for shortly we were sitting at a round table covered with delicious Shanghai specialties — "drunken" fish fillets in a slightly sweet, almost sherrylike Shanghai wine and mushroom sauce; dou miao, pea sprouts, sweet and still crisp after a stir fry; and the best dumplings I've ever tasted, tiny boiled ravioli-like wontons filled with a mixture of ground pork, mushrooms and some sort of pungent preserved vegetable. The Bao Shun doesn't have an English menu, but Leslie has eaten frequently at Shanghainese restaurants in Hong Kong and knew the names of the most popular specialties. We supplemented that with the trusty "I'll have what they're eating" method, to end up with an amazing supper that cost about $12 for two.

The heat discouraged us from walking too far. So did the pollution that made the skyline of the new Pudong district, on the far shore of the river, look like a city on some "Star Trek" planet where the residents breathe ammonia gas instead of oxygen. It seemed silly to visit Pudong to take elevators to the observation towers of tall buildings that were swimming in gray haze. So our sightseeing the next day fell into a pattern: hop into one of Shanghai's plentiful air-conditioned cabs, and give the driver a destination (Leslie speaks basic Mandarin). We'd then get out at, say, the Yu Yuan Gardens — a pretty complex of gardens, temples and ceremonial houses surrounded by one of the tackiest souvenir plazas I've ever seen, or at Dongtai Road Antiques Street. Then we would walk around until our faces were coated with sticky grime or we could no longer breathe (or both), then duck back into an air-conditioned taxi and move on. This style of touring was possible because taxis in Shanghai are really cheap — most of our rides cost $2 to $3.

In this way, we crammed as many adventures as we could into our long weekend. By day, we rummaged through some of the best, most fascinating flea markets I've seen anywhere. Along Dongtai Road, a series of dark and cluttered little curiosity shops spills down side streets, each overflowing with treasures and junk. (It's all Qing Dynasty, the vendors swear, in English.) We picked through ornamental teacups painted with risqué scenes, "jade" ornaments and pottery before Leslie found her prize at DDT, one of the better shops: a beautiful pale-green silk coat, trimmed with rabbit fur. In a nearby warehouselike market on Fuyou Road, vendors sold everything from courtesans' filigreed gold plated hair pins ($500), to old yellowed family photo albums. I would have thought all this stuff had vanished during the Cultural Revolution, but Shanghai's attic trunks, apparently, are bottomless.

About 15 minutes from the center of town, Duolun Road Cultural Street caters to Revolution and history buffs. Here, vendors sell porcelain figures of Mao along with faded copies of newspapers and magazines from his era, and one shop is devoted entirely to what the owner claims is the world's largest selection of Mao badges and buttons. It's worth taking the trip out to Duolun just to see this assortment of 10,000 plastic and enamel-covered badges, the only "jewelry" permitted during the Cultural Revolution.

Our gastronomic adventures were also impressive. At 1221, one of the restaurants on Leslie's list, we feasted on Shanghai dishes that had some Szechuan twists — like the dry-fried green beans, spiced with hot pepper and sweet black soy vinegar. Cool and modern, the 1221 caters to a mix of expats and Shanghainese, and although it is an elegant place, our meal for two (enough food for three because we overordered) came to only $34 with tip. Another night we ate at a more traditional place, the Meilongzhen, once the meeting house of Communist party officials.

Starting with an array of Shanghai's famous cold "little dishes," like beef with tangerine-peel flavor, and bang bang ji (cold shredded chicken on a bed of rice noodles with sesame paste dressing), we worked our way through four entrees for about $35.

We even managed to squeeze one of Shanghai's priciest restaurants into our budget. Leafing through a copy of City Weekend, a free English-language magazine, I noticed that the stylish M on the Bund had started serving Sunday afternoon tea, at a prix fixe of about $12 a person. Heading there at about 3:30, we found ourselves nearly alone at the elegant Art Deco rooftop restaurant with probably the best view of Shanghai's signature architecture along the riverfront boulevard, the Bund.

We left the Ruijin and the French Concession regretfully one morning, after strolling 10 minutes along a leafy boulevard to visit the house-museum of Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Dr. Sun's house was much as I had expected the home of the great intellectual and political leader to be — Victorian in style, its small rooms filled with Chinese, Latin and English books (or photocopies of their spines, anyway — the originals had been removed). A recorded tour in English comes booming, automatically and a bit startlingly, from speakers hidden behind furniture.

The Sofitel Hyland was comfortable enough — our standard double had twin beds, a newish bathroom with tub and shower, and the usual minibar array — but not nearly as atmospheric as the Ruijin.

Outside, however, on the pedestrian boulevard Nanjing Road East, was atmosphere galore. From late afternoon until almost midnight, Shanghainese families paraded the strip, many dressed in their pajamas or nightgowns to beat the heat. People were shopping and chatting and hanging out, and it felt as if we'd stumbled, unexpectedly, upon a big family party.

I was glad to have the chance to catch Shanghai with its makeup off and its hair down. And I made a mental note: on my next weekend in Shanghai, I will remember to pack my nightgown.

Visitor Information

Our four days in Shanghai cost $683 a person, with hotel, round-trip flights from Hong Kong to Shanghai on Dragonair, shared accommodations, taxis, activities and all meals, plus airport and hotel taxes.

Through Rocksun Travel, Room 808, Yu To Sang Building, 37 Queens Road Central, Hong Kong, telephone (852) 2869 6838, fax (852) 2869 8781, we bought a package for $475 a person that included two airline tickets and two nights' accommodations.

Hotels
Our package provided a standard double room in the Sofitel Hyland, 505 Nanjing Road East, (86-21) 6351 5888, fax (86-21) 6351 4088, www.sofitel.com, in central Shanghai.

We booked two more nights at the Ruijin Guest House, 118 Ruijin 2 Road, (86-21) 6472 5222, fax (86-21) 6472 2277, at www.asiatravel.com, a discount service. The rate of $89 a night for an air-conditioned twin room included an ample breakfast.

Restaurants
At the friendly Bao Shun, 207 Chang Le Road, (86-21) 5403 8883, we enjoyed a range of Shanghainese specialties. A dinner of five dishes was $14 for two without drinks.

The food at the stylish, modern 1221 restaurant, 1221 Yan An Road West, (86-21) 6213 6585, covers the Chinese culinary map. We feasted on about seven dishes, including Shanghai-style smoked fish and shredded beef cooked with rich caramelized onions. Dinner, bottomless cups of tea, and beer came to $34 for two.

Dinner prices at the sleek M on the Bund, 7/F No. 20 Guangdong Road, (86-21) 6350 9988, are high, but their Sunday tea, with pastries and crustless sandwiches, is a bargain at about $12 a person.

Meilongzhen is at 77 Jiangning Road; (86-21) 6217 2796.

Sightseeing
Admission to the Yu Yuan Gardens, (86-21) 6326 0830, is about $3. Have a concierge call before going to be sure it is open.

Admission to the museum in the Victorian house where Sun Yat-sen lived, at 7 Xiangshan Road in the French Concession, is $1.20. Open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily; (86-21) 6437 2954

shadowofdoubt
09-26-02, 09:18 AM
I have a wanderlust that I am finding quite difficult to control. I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for places in the world that might be a site suitable for studying abroad. I am a freshman in college, and must sign up quickly if I want to pursue a scholarship to study abroad. I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter, as well as your favorite places to travel to. I'm hoping someone will come up with somewhere that I had never even thought of.

shadowofdoubt

RickMatz
09-26-02, 03:01 PM
Aix en Provence, in southern France, is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It's a university town. It's part of France's "silicon valley."

Tree lined boulevards, sidewalk cafes, plenty of attractive young women.

It's a terrific place. I highly recommend it.

Best Regards,

RIck Matz

shadowofdoubt
09-26-02, 03:47 PM
Great, thanks for the speedy response.

HALBLEU
09-26-02, 05:17 PM
I have a friend who lives here. ... Great place.

The places to hang out are ...
(1) Cocktails of the Southwest
(2) Morning Hush
(3) Seret's 1001 Nights

Here is an article from NYT

36 Hours in Santa Fe, N.M.
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS


FOR generations, since Georgia O'Keeffe arrived here in the 1920's, visitors have been drawn to Santa Fe for its food, art, limpid sunshine and multiple intersecting cultures. In recent years, however, what summertime visitors have found are crowds. Hundreds of thousands of tourists jam America's oldest capital city from Memorial Day to Labor Day, which makes autumn the ideal time to arrive. The days are still warm, the evenings pleasantly brisk, the street corners filled with the acrid scent of roasting green chilies (you can buy bags of the stuff, warm from the roasters), and the aspen leaves are beginning to look molten. Best of all, Santa Fe regains its ancient, charming somnolence. It's a slow-moving town again, and better for it.

Friday
4 p.m.
1) Of Buildings and Baubles

The streets and stories of Santa Fe converge in the historic downtown Plaza, between Palace Avenue and San Francisco Street, with its graceful, 300-year-old adobe buildings, which now house a Gap and a Subway shop. There's still plenty of old Santa Fe, however, especially along the portal in front of the Palace of the Governors (105 West Palace Avenue). Here, American Indian artists spread blankets and sell handmade sterling-silver earrings and necklaces, and elaborate beadwork. The artisans have been screened by a state agency to ensure that the work is authentic. You can haggle, but prices are a quarter of those at the shops that ring the Plaza.

6 p.m.
2) Cocktails of the Southwest

Margaritas are the lifeblood of Santa Fe, and the finest spot for sipping one is on the outdoor patio of the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, a bar and restaurant about a mile from the Plaza (319 South Guadalupe Street; 505-982-2565). Choose from 20 different tequilas or try the house margarita, also available as a frozen drink. Be judicious: high altitude — Santa Fe sits at 7,000 feet above sea level — heightens alcohol's potency.

7 p.m.
3) Dinner Outside or In

Return to the Plaza for dinner. If the weather is fine, try La Casa Sena (125 East Palace Avenue; 505-988-9232), an elegant Southwestern restaurant near the Palace of the Governors. Its outdoor garden is the prettiest in the city. Too chilly to dine alfresco? Head for the covered courtyard at La Plazuela, in La Fonda hotel (100 East San Francisco Street; 800-523-5002). The high-ceilinged, tiled dining room was designed by Mary Coulter, the lead architect for the Harvey House hotels, which once dotted the West. The best entrees are the "Nuevo Latino" dishes, like salmon marinated in achiote spices and orange juice ($22).


Saturday
9 a.m.
4) Pastry and a Paper

Because the altitude can be draining, sleep late, then brace yourself with a latte, a bear claw pastry and a newspaper (all for about $6) from Downtown Subscription (376 Garcia Street; 505-983-3085), a sunny, wood-and-metal coffee shop and newsstand in the Acequia Madre neighborhood. This area, crisscrossed with skinny streets winding past ramshackle million-dollar adobe estates, is perfect for strolling, gawking and working off that bear claw.

10 a.m.
5) Up on Museum Hill

The downtown historical museums (the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of the Governors) are justly famous, but you'll find more engrossing, idiosyncratic collections on Museum Hill. The Museum of International Folk Art (706 Camino Lejo; 505-476-1200; open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday; admission is $7; children 17 and under get in free) has eye-popping displays of children's costumes and toys, while the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian (704 Camino Lejo; 800-607-4636; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday; free admission), next door, offers total immersion in American Indian culture; its entryway resembles a round, oversize Navajo ceremonial shelter known as a hooghan. Linger on the museums' central plaza. The view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is spectacular.

12:30 p.m.
6) A Simple Lunch

For lunch, diners throng Harry's Roadhouse (9613 Old Las Vegas Highway; 505-989-4629), a rambling, homey restaurant just east of Museum Hill. Sit in the back courtyard if possible and order the blue corn turkey enchiladas with cowboy beans — not fancy but filling and well-rendered ($7.50).

2 p.m.
7) Gallery Road

You can't avoid art in Santa Fe. No other city of comparable size sells so many sculptures, wooden coyotes and retablos, religious paintings on tin. The best and the cheesiest of these are on display along Canyon Road, Santa Fe's mile-long gallery district. The works change frequently, but several places mount reliably intriguing shows, including the Hahn Ross Gallery (409 Canyon Road; 505-984-8434; open daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and to 7 p.m. Friday), which specializes in emerging artists, many local, and the Canfield Gallery (414 Canyon Road; 505-988-4199; open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday), which represents more established painters of more expensive works. Just off Canyon Road, the enormous Gerald Peters Gallery (1011 Paseo de Peralta; 505-954-5700; open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) offers a grand cross section of works, from the poetically modern to the broodingly Western.

6 p.m.
8) Old Adobe Dining

Beat the crowd with an early dinner at the Compound Restaurant (653 Canyon Road; 505-982-4353). Its curvy adobe building finally has cuisine worthy of the architecture, thanks to the recent addition of Mark Kiffin, the chef and owner, who was previously at the Coyote Cafe (once an icon of Southwestern cuisine, now in decline). Entrees are expensive ($24 to $30) but excellent, especially the buttermilk roast chicken.

8:30 p.m.
9) Stepping Out to Samba

End the evening with a port and a samba at
El Farol Restaurant (808 Canyon Road; 505-983-9912), an underlighted and pungent
Spanish tapas bar and nightclub. There's live entertainment most nights and if it's not samba, it's flamenco.

Sunday
7:30 a.m.
10) Morning Hush

Lines form by 8 a.m. at Cafe Pasqual's near the Plaza (121 Don Gaspar; 800-722-7672). Get there earlier and gorge on the ethereal smoked-trout hash ($11.95).

8:30 a.m.
11) Hike and See

Fortified, head for the hills — or, more precisely, Santa Fe Mountain. Hiking trails thread through the national forest here. One of the prettiest is the Borrego/Bear Wallow Trail, about seven miles up the mountain (on Hyde Park Road). This well-marked, four-mile route wanders through Douglas fir and aspen, crossing a creek bed before circling back to the parking lot. It's strenuous but rewarding, with many spots where you can admire the view while surreptitiously catching your breath.

11 a.m.
12) Soak Under the Open Sky

Banish any kinks and bank a little relaxation for your return trip by stopping at the Ten Thousand Waves Japanese Health Spa (3451 Hyde Park Road; 505-992-5025) after your hike. Calm, cedar-scented, and Zenlike, it has private hot tubs (swimsuits optional) set outside beneath the pinyons. Follow your soak with an hourlong hot-stone massage ($127.50) or an Indo-Asian hot-oil treatment ($122.50) and try not to think about the moment when you must, once again, don clothes.


The Basics

Although Santa Fe has an airport, fares are cheaper and flights more frequent into the Albuquerque International Sunport, an hour south on Interstate 25. The venerable La Fonda hotel (100 East San Francisco Street; 800-523-5002) has rooms overlooking St. Francis Cathedral starting at $379. Three blocks off the Plaza, at Las Palomas (460 West San Francisco Street; 800-955-4455), a secluded compound of restored adobe buildings, rooms start at $159. A few blocks away, the Hotel Santa Fe (1501 Paseo de Peralta; 800-825-9876) is the only tribe-owned hotel in the city, and the Indian décor is authentic. Rooms and suites range from $149 to $229. Perhaps the oddest and most romantic hotel in Santa Fe is Seret's 1001 Nights (147 East De Vargas Street; 866-507-1001), decorated by the family that owns Seret & Sons, a furniture and rug importer on East Alameda Street. The hotel has 21 suites, each decorated in a Scheherazadian fever dream style. Not Southwestern, but unforgettable. One-bedroom suites start at $249.

willatlasshrug
09-27-02, 03:48 AM
I've never traveled with long term study in mind, but I have been to a variety of places.

You could study in Australia and probably have an incredible time. The Aussies actually like Americans the same way we like them. Even think we have cool accents.

My sister studied in Sweden and loved it, but I think that also had something to do with her staying w/ a good host family.

Scottland would probably be good, and I like the feel of Edinburgh, which has a university. Maybe not winter semester for either of these last 2 places?

I'm writing this and I'm really starting to think it depends a lot on what you're interested in studying, what climates you want, etc. Tough call, but good luck.

shadowofdoubt
09-27-02, 09:01 AM
Scotland, huh? I never really thought about, but I love the look and feel of the country. I've been to Austarlia, and loved, so that too is a good suggestion. I want to be a writer, so I'm looking for somewhere that will inspire, though inspiration can be found anywhere. I'm going to check on the writing program at Edinburgh, thanks.

HALBLEU
09-30-02, 05:23 AM
Great places to reflect and contemplate.
Seattle is my favorite.
Check the pictures out ...

###
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/29/travel/GARDENS.html

Sanctuaries of Peace and Serenity
By MADELINE DREXLER


A FINE Japanese garden doesn't make a statement; it draws the visitor into a wordless conversation. The garden doesn't show off prized specimens; it sets a single exquisite plant off the path, on a mound of moss, next to a weathered stone. The garden doesn't copy or improve on nature; it stylizes and miniaturizes, and sometimes even dispenses with green entirely.

To the cognoscenti, each element symbolizes something larger. Ponds signify lakes. Stones represent Mount Fuji — or turtles, or cranes. Bridges denote passageways between two worlds. These allusions are drawn from Japan's early animistic religion, Shintoism, which construes rocks and trees as dwellings of sacred spirits; from Buddhist cosmology, especially its austere tributary, Zen; and from classic Japanese literary references. Yet a casual visitor doesn't need CliffsNotes to appreciate these gardens. On a West Coast jaunt this April, as I walked through the Japanese gardens of Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, what bowled me over was the sheer beauty and wit of the arrangements.

Seattle's Japanese Garden was my introduction to both the symbolism and the sensory pleasures of this art form. Tucked into a stream-carved valley within the 230-acre Washington Park Arboretum, its mere 3.5 acres of recovered marshland was transformed in 1960 into a compressed rendering of mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, orchards and a village harbor. The scale may be miniature, but the pleasures are not.

Seattle's design carries out a single traditional style: the strolling pond garden. An essential principle of this style, and one that conveys a sense of infinity within a tight space, is "hide and reveal." Walking along the twisting path, I continually came across new sights, sounds and scents. It was like sauntering through a 3-D scroll painting. Only from a few select vantage points could I view the whole. Just within the South Gate, a flat slab of gray granite, slightly raised, cues visitors that they have crossed a threshold from the noisy agitation of daily life to a more contemplative realm. Sinuous Japanese lace-leaf maples reinforce this transition, drawing one down a wooded path.

A hillside forest of maples, conifers and rhododendrons soon changes character. As I headed north, the lake came into view on the left. Across from the Emperor's Gate stood five impressive shore pines, cropped to emphasize their height. In Japanese gardens, odd numbers are considered auspicious, and vertical lines are a mark of formality. As one looks west, two bridges — one earthen, the other a zigzag of cedar planks — span the lake. The zigzag bridge, a staple of Japanese gardens, refers to a 10th-century poem about a traveler who happens upon a profusion of Japanese iris blooming in shallow water beside an eight-section plank bridge. To the Japanese, the reference is as familiar and evocative as, say, the opening notes of Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring" may be to Americans. Japanese folklore also stamps the bridge's blueprint: evil spirits apparently travel only in straight lines, so that the successive right angles ensure good luck.

From the bridges, you can see brightly colored koi, or carp, in the water and turtles sunning themselves on rocks. The middle of the pond features a mandatory ingredient freighted with meaning: Turtle Island. Here, the contorted pines represent cranes — avian symbols of longevity. The island itself is said to rest upon the back of a giant tortoise, another symbol of eternal life. Beyond the island, at the pond's north end, is a rectilinear cut-stone dock and stone lantern representing the harbor of a fishing village. A bench on the azalea-lined "mountain" above the "village" looks out on a view of the entire plan, nestled among the hills.

The west slope of the garden features a cherry and plum orchard, and a rustic teahouse where monthly demonstrations in the tea ceremony are held. But the dramatic high point is the waterfall. In Japanese gardens, waterfalls are designed to be inconspicuous, like a spring pouring forth from a dark, concealed space. Juki Iida, the Japanese landscape designer who created Seattle's garden, envisioned the waterfall as a seep in the mountain — a mountain painstakingly constructed from hundreds of tons of time-burnished Bandera Mountain granite. Mr. Iida himself set every flat rock in the cascade to create an aural masterpiece. The water constantly shifts direction on the way down, in a rippling melody.

If Seattle's garden is the botanical equivalent of a Michelin two-star restaurant, Portland's is a three-star masterpiece, the most scrupulously maintained and richly cultivated Japanese garden anywhere in this country. Many aficionados consider Portland's the most beautiful Japanese garden outside Japan. Independently financed, the upkeep is not constrained by city budget woes. Six full-time gardeners are assigned to its 5.5 acres, and their attention is obsessive. A part-time moss specialist spends most of his days on his hands and knees, pulling tiny weeds with tweezers.

The Portland garden was conceived by the Japanese landscape designer Takuma Tono, who in 1963 gazed at the desolate site of the abandoned city zoo and envisioned paradise. Mr. Tono planned a fluid jigsaw of four classic Japanese garden styles: a flat garden, a tea garden, a strolling pond garden and a sand and stone garden. Later, an intimate natural garden was added (in the strict Japanese horticultural tradition, natural is a slightly ambiguous adjective, meaning "pruned to look unpruned"). More than the other gardens on my itinerary, Portland's is imbued with a feeling of sanctuary. Partly that's because there are more benches placed in lovely spots off the path and out of sight. Spending a morning there, I could understand why attendance surged during the week after last Sept. 11; the garden had 350 visitors on the anniversary this year.

The best way to approach the garden is through an antique gate at the base of a hill. A steep trail and steps wind up to the main entry (a shuttle bus also runs). Inside are century-old coast pines and, farther ahead, a wisteria arbor, gnarled yet delicate. The arbor frames an 18-foot pagoda lantern — a lilting five-story structure with a lotus-shaped crown representing Buddha.

The strolling pond garden, two-tiered and densely textured, is more elaborate than Seattle's. The still waters of the rock-lined upper pond are set off by a delicately arched moon bridge. The lower pond, brightened by koi and multicolored irises in spring, is clad with hosta, azalea, bamboo and a variety of maples. It looks up to the Heavenly Falls, an acoustically assertive cascade that spills out from what was once the zoo bears' hibernation den. The strolling pond also partakes of another key element of Japanese gardens, "borrowed scenery" — that is, appropriating the landscape outside the garden both for visual effect and to enlarge the garden itself. In this case, the borrowed elements are dark, majestic Douglas firs and Western red cedars of the surrounding hills and mountains.

As I moved on, my ears perked up at a strange, rhythmic clop. This was the deer chaser, an elegant water-fed device that, in its ancestral usage, was intended to scare the animals away from a garden's delectable moss. A bamboo pole fills with water at one end and then tips over, causing the pole to fall forward and water to spill out. When the pole returns to a balanced position, its spout resonantly strikes a stone. Past the deer chaser, down a steep hill, is the most intimate retreat on these grounds: the natural garden. Here, I felt enveloped by greenery. Strategically placed benches enhanced the seclusion. The nearby tea garden, which adjoins a small teahouse constructed without nails, is off-limits to the public.

Up the hill is the sand and stone garden — a dry landscape, Zen's acme of aesthetic irreducibility. Zen monks pooh-poohed transitory phenomena like blooming flowers or changing leaves, preferring a radically stripped-down version of nature. Rocks, raked sand, a patch of vegetation: here was the universe distilled to its essence, which the viewer could embellish with personal thoughts. Farther on, the flat garden contrasted Shirakawa sand from Japan — round, moon-gray grains that hold a deep geometric raked pattern — with outlines of a sake cup and gourd (sake bottle), both symbols of a happy life, invitingly filled in with ruby dianthus.

In Portland's garden, once-practical objects acquire a new, almost dreamlike power. Stone lanterns modeled on those that served as votive objects in ancient temples or as sources of light in tea gardens seem human. Suddenly appearing at a bend in the trail, some loom tall and stately, like a grande dame commanding silence, while others hug the ground like fat little gnomes.

The east end of the garden's wooden pavilion looks out on the Cascade Mountains and nearby Mount Hood. The pavilion was dedicated on a crystal-clear morning in May 1980. As solemn speeches filled the air, the assembled crowd witnessed, to their astonishment, the eruption of Mount St. Helen's. It was history repeating itself; the contemplative Japanese garden tradition sprang up on a chain of volcanic islands.

Having been schooled in Seattle's and Portland's sober and assiduous renditions of the form, I was delighted to see a looser, more fantastical riff farther down the coast. San Francisco's Japanese Tea Garden, in Golden Gate Park, is the oldest continuously operating Japanese garden in the United States and the most visited, with close to a million visitors during some years. It originated in the Japanese Village exhibit of the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, and was loosely based on the Meiji period (late 19th century) of Japanese gardens, when all things Western, man-made, even a little kitschy became popular.

San Francisco's is another stroll-style garden, with 3.8 acres of cherry trees, camellias, Japanese maples, magnolias and black pines surrounding a symbol-laden pond. After the other two versions, what catches the eye here are the exaggerated forms. A steeply arched drum bridge requires the ambulatory skills of a mountain goat — fittingly, it's a favorite spot for marriage proposals and photos. A lipstick red pagoda screams in comparison to the discreet stone statuary elsewhere. A magnificent two-ton bronze Buddha cast in 1790, surmounted by a halo, breaks all the rules. So does the teahouse, which happily serves Coke and candy bars to tour bus crowds.

Yet the garden also offers quiet places of repose. One of the sweetest is a lane paved with smooth river-washed stones and bowered by venerable Japanese maples. At the end of the path is a Zen garden with a dry stream bed ringed by cryptomeria, the tall, conical cedars often planted near Japanese shrines. Sitting on the granite bench, in rare city silence, I grasped why these are called "gardens of the mind."

Visitor Information

Seattle
Japanese Garden, Washington Park Arboretum, 1075 Lake Washington Boulevard East; (206) 684-4725; www.seattlejapanesegarden.org. Open Tuesday to Sunday, March 1 to Nov. 30, 10 a.m. to between 4 and 8 p.m. (depending on the season); $3.

Portland
Japanese Garden, 611 Southwest Kingston Avenue; (503) 223-1321; www.japanesegarden.com. Open Oct. 1 to March 31, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Monday noon to 4 p.m.; April 1 to Sept. 30, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Monday noon to 7 p.m.; $6.

San Francisco
Japanese Tea Garden, Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park; (415) 752-4227. Open daily year round, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (November through March to 5 p.m.); $3.50.

Cardinal999
10-08-02, 11:00 AM
Some food f/ thoughts for those who want to visit the land of the
Rising Sun ...,
----------------------------------------------------------------------
This article was sent to you by someone who found it on SF Gate.
The original article can be found on SFGate.com here:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2002/05/14/DD116861.DTL
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Tuesday, May 14, 2002 (SF Chronicle)
Standing out when you look like everyone else
ANNIE NAKAO

BULLET TRAINS AND sex shops. Cherry blossoms and Shinto shrines.
Visiting Japan can be a mind-bender for anybody. But for a Japanese American, it's a multilayered experience of discovery, reflection and irony.
For me, there was the thrill of suddenly becoming invisible,
blending in effortlessly, undercover in the local masses. That is, until I opened my mouth to speak.

Sadly, the language of my ancestors had pretty much petered out in my family through the generations, something I was unable to explain to the suspicious clerk at the sushi counter, who said, "You aren't Japanese, are you?"
I'd been to Japan twice before, but as a tourist. This time I was on assignment for The Chronicle, and for part of my visit -- when I wasn't being escorted by the Foreign Press Center -- I was on my own in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima.
For the most part, I did well as a pseudo-native, using the few
phrases I knew to negotiate the commuter train system and its hideously complex fare chart, or get cheap food just before closing time at thronged department store basements.
BUT THE JIG was up when some terminally helpful store clerk would rattle off something I couldn't handle.
Loath to transform myself into a foreigner before their eyes, I
would sometimes grunt and move on. Or I'd smile vaguely. Only when cornered,
I uttered the dreaded words, "Can you speak English?"
Few did. But then, how could they have anticipated I wasn't one of them?
To them, I had a Japanese face, and in this relentlessly homogeneous nation, that was enough. Surprise was often the reaction. Or irritation, and even pity from those
who viewed me as mentally challenged. Far cry from the generally
helpful mode most Japanese shift into when confronted with a confused Caucasian.
In any case, it was all a charade, but an enjoyable one. There's a liberation that comes with shedding those racial markers that have a way of coloring daily transactions in American life.
Deep down, I knew that whether I spoke the language or not, there's no way I could be Japanese. It's the same for most descendants of immigrants,
who experience their respective motherlands as both familiar and alien. Take toilets, for example. The Japanese equip their toilets with the same dizzying technology they apply to everything else. In my hotel room, I had no fewer than four buttons on my toilet "console." One of them warmed my
toilet seat to a deliciously toasty temperature. When I sat down, I knew I wasn't in America.

Then there were those encounters with English words all over Japan:
A restaurant named Freshest Hamburger. A music store called Groovy. Massage parlors that are known as "fashion health shops."
FOOD, TOO, WAS both familiar and alien. I was shocked to admit how American my tastes were in Japanese food. Disliking the breaded and fried concoctions that Japanese love, I made do with raw tuna and noodles while pining for teriyaki anything.
Then there were the odd trends Japanese are famous for. The latest:
windup toys that make fun of oyaji, the derisive name given to middle-aged salary-men, who are alleged to be washed up and give off an "old man smell." The toys try to do sit-ups but can't.

On the other end of the generational scale, lanky teens, their hair dyed in a rainbow of colors or in dreadlocks, work hard to rebel in a conformist society. That was a revelation for someone like me, who has spent a good part of life trying to fit in.
In the end, Japan didn't give me any answers -- it just gave me more questions.
E-mail Annie Nakao at anakao@sfchronicle.com.

HALBLEU
10-11-02, 08:10 PM
Since we are in midst of a "Traveling to Asia" theme. Here is a favorite place of some ...

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/13/travel/13FRUG.html
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
October 13, 2002
Bangkok's Back Streets: An Altar, a Cafe, a Massage
By DAISANN McLANE


I WAS the first person to hop on the $2 bus from Don Muang Airport to downtown Bangkok. I got a good seat, or so I thought, but the bus quickly filled with international 20-somethings in shorts and sandals, and my legs were squished together behind a heap of dusty, bursting backpacks.

"It doesn't matter," said a girl with a German accent as she swung her gear into the last remaining microspace between me and the aisle. "We are all getting out at the same stop, ja?"

No I wasn't. These travelers were on their way to Khao San Road, Bangkok's backpacker haven, where guest-house rooms with tissue-thin walls go for $2 a night, and the trance music starts pumping out of the streetside sound systems at 10 a.m.

But I didn't come to Thailand in August to relive my college spring break. And so I jumped off the bus a few stops before the crowd, and headed for one of my favorite streets in Bangkok, and in the world for that matter: Phra Athit Road.

There's a special kind of travel experience that comes with returning to a particular place over and over again. You've seen the big sights and now you can settle into smaller rhythms, dig into one neighborhood, enjoy little adventures. Having visited Bangkok five times in the past three years, I no longer feel an obligation to make the sweaty slog in 98-degree heat to see the King's Palace, the Emerald Buddha, the Vimanmek Museum.

Instead, my itinerary includes stopping to chat with friends I've made on previous trips, like Aa, the delightful Thai-Mexican university student who supervises the computers at the Internet center where I check my e-mail. It leaves room for a daily appointment with Tip, the massage therapist who first worked wonders on my back in 1999, and for breakfast, lunch, dinner — or all three — at Roti Mataba. This tiny hole-in-the-wall on upper Phra Athit serves buttery flat pancakes, as flaky as croissants, topped with rich spicy curries from the repertory of Thailand's Muslim community.

All these activities can be accomplished in a leisurely stroll down the length of Phra Athit, so after dropping my stuff across the street from the bus stop at the Phra Athit Mansion, that's where I headed. The "mansion" is a $22 guest house with grayish sheets and frayed towels, but it has a nice manager, a Chinese-Thai woman whose three fluffy dogs always run up between my ankles as I struggle with my gear when I enter her cluttered ground floor office.

It's upscale for this neighborhood, with big rooms, marble-floored terraces dripping bougainvillea, individual bathrooms with reliable hot water, air-conditioning strong enough to cut through Bangkok's drop-dead humidity, cable TV and the best brochure copy in the world: "The new definition of your life starts at Phra Athit Mansion . . . which will make your life happy all the moment that you expect."

Phra Athit Road is a main artery of the Bangkok neighborhood called Banglamphu. It's narrow as Bangkok thoroughfares go — only two lanes — and it follows, more or less, the bend of the Chao Phraya River, which runs behind the buildings that flank its west side. Banglamphu is one of Bangkok's older neighborhoods, situated on Rattanakosin Island, where most of Bangkok's palaces and temples also stand. (Unfortunately for tourists, the the new Bangkok Skytrain skips the area, since Thais, who revere their royal family, would never have agreed to a train running above such venerable ground.)

In the 1970's, Banglamphu was the main neighborhood for cheap guest houses, before the scene moved over to Khao San, about 10 minutes away by foot, on the other side of a Buddhist temple complex.

When I first started staying along Phra Athit, in 1999, it was a bit sleepy, but I enjoyed being close to the river; I could cross the street, walk behind the buildings and hop on the busy Chao Phraya ferry. I also loved its architecture, which ranges from "baans," grand mansions from the early and mid-20th century, which combine Victorian and Thai elements, to two-story Chinese shophouses, dual-purpose buildings dating from the 19th century. (Phra Athit has long been home to merchants from Bangkok's Chinese-Thai community.)

Overall, Phra Athit seemed a bit down at the heels in 1999, but even then the street was beginning to show potential. A few of the shophouses had been converted into tiny restaurants by Thai proprietors who pursued the bohemian student market of Thammasat University, a few blocks south. At night, crowds of hip young Thais spilled out onto the street from places like Hemlock, where a dinner of rice, appetizers and curry runs about $3.50; occasionally the restaurants had live bands and original art hung on the walls.

Strolling down Phra Athit now, after having been away for about 18 months, I was delighted by what I saw. The handful of hip little restaurants had multiplied to some 15 or 20. There were bookstores, bakeries and boutiques, but the neighborhood didn't feel touristy at all. The new businesses, all owned by Thais, seemed aimed at local people and hadn't displaced the old standby commercial haunts that give the street so much flavor. The Chinese noodle joint, thick with incense and covered with the grit of decades, was still there, as was the paper factory and the little alley that sheltered a couple of grilled-chicken hawkers.

The nicest surprise was finding that the grandest baan on the east side of the street, Baan Phra Athit, now housed a cafe. I ducked from the bustle of the street into the cafe, Coffee and More, sunk into a velvet sofa and ordered an iced tea, which arrived in a glass of slivered ice, sweetened with sugar syrup and laced with lime juice and a musky tangy flavor that took my tongue a minute to identify: galangal, the woody-tasting Thai ginger.

In the next few days, slowly and lazily, I discovered more signs of prosperity on Phra Athit Road. When I stopped for my morning coffee, curry and roti at Roti Mataba, the woman who owns the place asked me if I wanted to move upstairs, to the new air-conditioned second floor. (I didn't, preferring a streetside table in the hope of spotting the trash-hauling elephant who occasionally wanders by, a reflective bicycle lamp attached to his tail.)

Across the street, the hulky cement Phra Sumen Fort had been whitewashed and its adjacent park enlarged and renovated. Also, there was now a narrow riverside walkway-promenade from the park to the Thai Tourism Board's offices at the southern end of Phra Athit. In the evenings, just before sunset, when the air cooled slightly, I joined the parade of chatting, strolling couples there.

It took me a whole morning to find Tip, the massage therapist. But I finally caught up with her, thanks to the twin magic of the extended Thai family — Tip's niece now works at the Khao San center that Tip left — and the ubiquitous cellphone. Tip had saved enough money to open up her own massage center, in a narrow lane just five minutes' walk from the north end of Phra Athit.

As she expertly kneaded my knotty shoulders I got the scoop on the recent boom in Banglamphu. The Thai economy was on the upswing, finally, after the 1997 crash. Thai banks have had low-interest loans available, and owners of small business have been taking advantage of them to start new ventures.

I was happy to hear this, even though it also meant that I had to spend 45 minutes stuck in a taxi the next day, trying to travel less than a mile from Phra Athit Road to the Siam Square shopping mall in the more modern, Western part of Bangkok. I'd never been too bothered by Bangkok's infamous traffic on previous trips. But economic recovery means more cars on the road. The much ballyhooed Skytrain isn't extensive enough to make a dent in the snarls of vehicles that clog Bangkok streets, seemingly at all hours of the day. Every time I tried to venture from Banglamphu, I got caught in it.

The solution, of course, was to stay put on Phra Athit, which suited me fine anyway. Indeed, the five days I intended to stay stretched to seven. There was plenty to see, even more to eat as I worked my way down the restaurant row (my new favorite spot is Bar Bali, at No. 58). My daily sessions with Tip or one of her assistants (a two-hour massage cost around $5.50 before tip) were slowing my body and mind down to Bangkok speed, good for appreciating a culture where every shop, every guest house, every lane, has a little altar to Buddha. I floated in the soupy, hot August air from breakfast to massage to lunch, only once drifting into "serious" tourist mode. (I spent a morning at the cluttered-as-an-attic Bangkok National Museum, a short walk from my guest house, admiring everything from the antique palanquins used to carry royalty to exquisite serene stone and bronze Buddha images from the 9th century.)

But mostly I just drifted, joining, in my own small way, the daily life on and around Phra Athit. I wandered into alleys and down the "sois," or side streets, that wound in mazes, sometimes ending at a wall, sometimes at the Chao Phraya, other times at the gate of an incense-fragrant Buddhist temple.

One little street had nothing but shops that sold larger-than-life-size painted wooden likenesses of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. Another street was lined start to finish with food vendors selling noodles, curries, and sweets — I tried some dried, pressed squid with hot peppers, and then a coconut milk sweet soup with tapioca.

One night, after my massage, I invited Tip to join me at Bar Bali. We ate shrimp with basil leaves and laab nua — fire-spicy ground beef, a specialty of Tip's home region, northeastern Thailand. I asked her if she liked the restaurant's laab — she did — and we got to talking about her home. Like many Bangkok residents, Tip migrated there from a small village surrounded by rice fields. The conversation meandered from local music to local food, and before I could finish my rice we were in the back of a taxi headed across the Chao Phraya to go dancing at Tip's favorite nightclub.

Several hours later, my ears still ringing with the slow, sinuous pop music from northeastern Thailand, I returned "home" to Phra Athit, hoping to catch a few hours of sleep before my next small Bangkok adventure.

Visitor Information

I spent $37 a day during seven days and nights in Bangkok, including hotel, meals, local transportation and a daily two-hour massage. Rates are converted at 44 Thai baht to the dollar.

I traveled to Bangkok from Hong Kong. The round-trip ticket on Thai Airways cost $348.

Places to Stay

The most comfortable place to stay in the area remains the Phra Athit Mansion (22 Phra Athit Road, (66-2) 280-0744 or fax (66-2) 280-0742). The standard motel-issue rooms are reasonably clean, spacious and quiet, with air-conditioning and hot water, a king-size bed, a large refrigerator and private bathroom with tub and shower. The rate is $20 a night for a single or double.

Wandering the back streets that lead from Phra Athit, I found the Villa (230 Samsen Soi 1, (66-2) 281-7009), a family-run guest house in an old Thai house with a lush courtyard. It's dripping with charm but lacking in amenities (the rooms I saw were small and stuffy, with ancient-looking metal fans instead of air-conditioning). But I was put off by the sign at the door-gate: "No Thais Allowed." The price quoted was $10 a night for a small room, which seemed somewhat negotiable.

Places to Eat

Most restaurants have live jazz or folk music in the evenings, and put tables on the street. All serve Thai food, have menus in both English and Thai, and seem to have similar prices; entrees run around $3.50, and a large bottle of Singha beer is $1.75.

At 56 Phra Athit, Hemlock, (66-2) 282 7507, the pioneer restaurant on this strip, continues to serve reliably good food (the stir-fried broad noodles with basil is excellent) in an elegant, almost modernist setting of glass, earth tones and original art.

The food and the atmosphere were a bit better at Bar Bali next door at 58 Phra Athit, (66-2) 629-0318. It's smaller and friendlier; and the décor, as you'd expect from the name, leans toward straw and bamboo. The laab nua, spicy ground beef, was especially good.

Coffee and More, at 102/1 Phra Athit Road, in the ground floor of the Baan Phra Athit, (66-2) 280-7878, is a wonderful oasis of couches, comfy chairs and high ceilings. It serves cold and hot drinks, cakes and pastries, and you can get a light lunch (curry and rice). Drinks are about $1.25, lunches around $4.

Roti Mataba, a tiny storefront at 136 Phra Athit (no telephone) is one of my favorites, serving thick, flavorful curries with flaky wheat breads called roti. For 75 cents, you get a breakfast of one roti and a small cup of curry; a large curry plate with two breads is around $2.

On Phra Athit between Coffee and More and Roti Mataba, a handful of vendors serve noodle soups made to order from an array of meats and vegetables and spices. Tables are available. A meal costs 50 cents to a dollar.

Activities

The Bangkok National Museum has a vast, if not very well displayed or cataloged, collection of Thai crafts, ancient Thai art and royal antiques. It is a short stroll from Phra Athit Road, at Na Phrathat Road opposite the Grand Park (66-2) 224-1370, open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed Mondays and Tuesdays and national holidays. Admission is about $1.

At Tip Massage, 106/12 Samsen Soi 2, (66-1) 809-2418, a two-hour Thai massage costs around $6.

Shopping

A few doors up from Roti Mataba, Passport Books, 142 Phra Athit, (66-2) 629-0694 has a nice selection of books on Thailand in English, and beautiful hand-printed postcards. You can also get coffee or tea.

HALBLEU
11-30-02, 07:19 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/01/travel/sundaytravel/01cheap.html

The Riches of the $12 Room
By DAISANN McLANE

SINCE I began writing the Frugal Traveler column nearly five years ago, people have often asked me what it's like to stay, night after night, in cheap hotels. They say this with half a chuckle, half a grimace, as if unable to decide whether to be amused by, or sympathetic to, someone who travels outside the secure, no-surprises cocoon of standard or luxury hotels.

I assure them I am having a blast hopping from roadside motels to Victorian pensions, and guest houses with bathroom-down-the-hall. But until I started working on a book of essays and photographs of some of the hundreds of hotel rooms I've visited since 1998, I wasn't able to say precisely why I'm always happier sleeping in the less-expensive bed, even when it's doll-sized, lumpy or covered in an atrocious polyester bedspread.

The charm of these cheap hotels became clear to me only when I began poring through box after box of slides. I'd never paid much attention to these photos before, and most of them were taken on the run, in a state of exhaustion. Usually I pull out the camera (and, if I'm feeling particularly ambitious, the tripod) as soon as the bellhop or hotelier shuts the door, even if I'm longing to plop on the bed after a day on the road. (The photo editor doesn't like shots with messy bed sheets.) Working like this, I found it was easy to miss the details that made each of these rooms a surprise, an adventure, a first point of entry to fascinating new places everywhere.

But here they were, and in the frame of each slide I discovered an indelible travel memory. There was the vintage 1940's telephone on the table of the Hotel Lord in São Luís, Brazil, that I'd used to order breakfasts of succulent orange papaya and thick dark coffee. The shuttered windows of the Xieng Mouane Guesthouse in Luang Prabang, Laos, that opened to the Buddhist monastery next door, filled with chanting monks who woke me at dawn. The impossibly tiny cubicle in the Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu, in Tokyo, where I could reach out and touch both walls at once, and where the bathroom was so compact I had to learn how to shower while sitting on the toilet.

Cheap hotels have a personality that is unmediated by designers and corporate honchos. These rooms are quirky, and they are not afraid to engage their guests, sometimes even to shock them. The Künstlerheim Luise in Berlin is run by artists who have turned each of the rooms into an installation. Every time I entered the Hundezimmer, or Dog Room, put my key on the bedside table made from cans of puppy food and laid my head to rest on a pillow propped up in a wicker basket, I was reminded, not always comfortably, of the animal within.

In an inexpensive hotel, ghosts feel freer to roam, shadows linger and stories are told. Extraordinary things happen. Maybe if I'd stayed in an expensive hotel in Galicia, Spain, instead of in an extra bedroom in the home of Doña María, in the village of Camelle, the concierge would have slipped a chorizo sandwich into my backpack as I was leaving, but I doubt it. And I am certain that if I'd stayed in a luxury resort in Angkor Wat, instead of the $18-a-night Golden Apsara Hotel, I never would have met Keo Sithan, the manager, who riveted me with the story of his escape, on foot, from the Khmer Rouge.

Pay more for your lodgings, move up the economic ladder, and your travel comfort may be assured. But if you want travel adventures, stay in a cheap hotel.

DAISANN McLANE, the author of "Cheap Hotels" (Taschen), writes the Frugal Traveler column for The Times.

HALBLEU
12-22-02, 11:09 AM
36 Hours | Boulder, Colo.

December 20, 2002
By HILLARY ROSNER


BOULDER shares dazzling winter sunshine and mountain views
with Denver, half an hour away, and the ski areas a bit
farther afield. But in spirit it is a world unto itself, a
left-wing enclave where Beat poets once found refuge and
the city council recently made the whole town a bird
sanctuary. Besides being the home of the 1,000-student
Naropa University, which describes itself as Buddhist but
nonsectarian, Boulder is the site of the University of
Colorado, which adds 26,000 students to the town's resident
population of almost 100,000. A local technology boom in
the mid-90's sent real estate prices climbing and brought
an influx of outdoorsy young professionals now intent on
preserving their well-heeled bohemian utopia. Boulder is
indeed a nice place to live, but it's also a great place to
visit, particularly when winter temperatures rise into the
50's even as snow covers the Rockies at the western edge of
town.

Friday

7:30 p.m.
1)Home on the Free Range
For quick immersion into the Boulder groove, have dinner at
Sunflower (1701 Pearl Street, 303-440-0220), which serves
nourishing organic fare - with free-range meats - that
appeals to a sophisticated sensibility. The choices include
elk and buffalo, but try the tempeh scaloppine, seasoned
soy-based patties sautéed in a white wine sauce and served
with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes ($17.50). Also excellent is
the seitan and mushroom Burgundy, a rich dish made with
portobello and shiitake mushrooms in a red wine shallot
sauce ($17.95). After dinner, relax at Southern Sun (627
South Broadway), a ski-lodge-style establishment where you
may feel out of place if you're not wearing fleece. Kick
back at a communal table or on a comfy couch and order
Mountain Sun's delicious Isadore Java, a porter brewed with
coffee. Find an opponent for checkers or Scrabble, but
don't get too serious - one night last week a Scrabble set
had several letters missing.

Saturday

8:30 a.m.
2) Morning Ride
Boulder is a bicycle town, with miles of
trails and paths and lots of serious riders pedaling $3,000
dual-suspension models. Rent a serviceable bike at
University Bicycles (corner of Ninth and Pearl Streets,
303-444-4196; mountain bikes are $20 for a full day, $15 a
half day). Head off on the Boulder Creek path, a paved
trail that winds through the city. Toward the eastern end
of the path, watch for prairie dog preserves. On a sunny
afternoon last week dozens of the little critters were
chirping and bowing and scampering in and out of their
holes there. On the western end, the path follows the creek
upstream, rising for four miles through Boulder Canyon. The
views are spectacular but the canyon ride is a challenge.

10 a.m.
3) Nourishment and Stimulation
At Lucille's (2124
14th Street, 303-442-4743), in a quaint little house just
steps from the center of town, start with an order of
beignets ($3.45) and then try the eggs Jennifer, poached
eggs with heaps of spinach and avocado ($8.85) or eggs
Sardou, with creamed spinach and shrimp ($8.40). Don't be
alarmed by the enormous slab that arrives on a separate
plate - it's just the customary biscuit. Stroll off the
calories on Pearl Street, Boulder's downtown shopping
district, where you can buy hand-woven hammocks and Tibetan
dresses just steps from an Abercrombie & Fitch. Part of
Pearl Street is a pedestrian mall, complete with magicians,
musicians and dreadlocked teenage panhandlers. Don't let
them distract you from Peppercorn, a cook's emporium that
features a dizzying selection of cookbooks, or the eight
bookstores within 10 blocks, including some, like the Beat
Bookshop and Left Hand Books, that pay tribute to Boulder's
countercultural tradition.

1 p.m.
4) A Bit of Natural History
For a quick primer in
Colorado's ancient past, visit the University of Colorado
Museum of Natural History (on the campus between 15th and
16th Streets, 303-492-6892). The small museum is home to
the looming skull of a triceratops, as well as other
dinosaur bones and an array of fossils of creatures and
plants. The museum also features Ralphie III, described on
its accompanying plaque as the oldest dinosaur skeleton
found in North America. Other exhibits include Anasazi
artifacts from Mesa Verde in the southwestern part of the
state. (Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.
to 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Free.)

2:30 p.m.
5) Break for Tea
The Boulder Dushanbe Tea House
(1770 13th Street, 303-442-4993) is an ornate pavilion that
was given to Boulder by its sister city, Dushanbe,
Tajikistan. Situated in a little plaza just south of
downtown and bordering on the creek, the tea house is
painted in brightly colored, intricate patterns inspired by
traditional Persian designs. It was constructed in
Tajikistan, then disassembled and shipped to Boulder, where
it was reassembled by four of the original Tajik artists.
(Boulder plans a reciprocal gift of a cybercafe in
Dushanbe.) Relax over one of 80 varieties of tea - perhaps
Puerh tea, grown in Yunnan Province, in China, and stored
underground for up to 50 years before brewing. If you're
hungry, try the Mediterranean salad ($7.25) or the
vegetarian kooftah balls ($9.75).

4:30 p.m.
6) The Long and Winding Road
Drive up Baseline Road to the
top of Flagstaff Mountain. The paved road offers scenic
stops for views of Boulder and beyond, as well as many
access points for trails. Stop at the top and watch the
moon rise over the city - at this time of year, it will be
dark by 5.

7 p.m.
7) Historic Martinis
The Boulderado Hotel (2115 13th Street; 303-442-4344)
opened to the public in 1909. Though its newer wing feels
like a conference center, the old section of the hotel
still conjures up the Boulder of a century ago. The lobby
has a stained-glass ceiling and a cantilevered cherry
staircase; adjacent is the Corner Bar with some of the best
martinis around. Like all good hotel bars, it attracts a
mixed clientele - the lone businessmen sipping Scotch and
locals with their Colorado microbrews. Be sure to peek into
the hallway next door, where objects from the Boulderado's
past (menus, telephone directories, toiletries) are on
display.

8 p.m.
8) Dinner on a Cushion
Leave your shoes - and your cutlery - at the door at Mataam
Fez (2226 Pearl Street, 303-440-4167), a Moroccan eatery
where you recline on cushions on the floor while eating
your entire meal with your hands. Your server begins the
evening's rituals by washing your hands and outfitting you
with a large towel. Then the food starts to arrive, soup
and honey wheat bread followed by a communal plate of
salads involving beets, garbanzo beans, carrots, eggplant,
potatoes and other vegetables and legumes. Next comes
b'stella, a flaky pie that proves exceedingly difficult to
consume without utensils, and then the main course, the
only dish you choose from the menu. (Before ordering
couscous, consider the perils of shoveling it into your
mouth with your fingers.) As you recline on the luxurious
pillows and lick your fingers, a belly dancer will shimmy
and jiggle for you, and might even invite you to take an
impromptu lesson.

Sunday

9 a.m.
9) Get Out and Hike
Some of Boulder's most inspiring trails start from
Chautauqua (900 Baseline Road, 303-442-3282), a century-old
cottage colony and cultural park on the model of the
original Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y.
Preserved and operated by the Colorado Chautauqua
Association, Boulder's Chautauqua is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places and still operates an active
summer program of concerts and lectures. Park in the lot by
the ranger's cottage and take any of the trails west into
the Flatiron Mountains. Some are rocky and steep, others
more open and level. After your hike, stop in at the
Chautauqua Dining Hall, built in 1898, where the brunch
buffet ($12.95) includes breakfast burritos and enchiladas
and melt-in-your-mouth quiche, as well as the usual buffet
fare, served in a sunny dining room.

Noon
10) A Celestial Tour
What better corporate citizen for
Boulder than Celestial Seasonings, the maker of herbal
teas? At the company's plant (4600 Sleepytime Drive,
303-530-5300), you can take a crash course in the art of
tea making and watch the process in action. Step inside the
peppermint room, where bulk bags of mint are stored, and
your sinuses clear instantly; stay too long and your eyes
begin to burn. Filled with warm, fuzzy visions of a happy
tea-totaled planet, you can make your way to the gift shop
for a Celestial souvenir - a box of Tension Tamer tea might
help you recreate the Boulder vibe at home. (Tours are free
and begin on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through
Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.)

Visitor Information

From Denver, take Interstate 25 north
to United States Route 36. Follow it into Boulder, a drive
of about 30 miles. Buses run regularly between Boulder and
Denver International Airport.

The Hotel Boulderado (2115 13th Street, 303-442-4344),
opened in 1909 and was renovated in the 1980's. Rooms range
from $119 to $179 at the standard winter weekend rate. The
Millennium Harvest House (1345 28th Street, 800-545-6285)
offers comfortable and cozy rooms south of downtown for $89
to $165. At Chautauqua, a 19th-century community in the
foothills of the Rockies near downtown Boulder, cottages
can be rented for $94 to $199 a night, depending on size
(900 Baseline Road, 303-442-3282).

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/20/travel/20HOUR.html?ex=1041374498&ei=1&en=46a814f82a082b52

tessalie
12-22-02, 12:43 PM
Hal,

You would make a wonderful travel agent. You definately have me sold!

Tess

Cardinal999
12-24-02, 11:32 AM
Seattle

December 13, 2002
By JENNIFER TUNG


DOWNTOWN Seattle may have its share of glossy retail
attractions, including the flagship Nordstrom, a Tiffany &
Company, a Niketown and even a tiny outpost of Barneys New
York. But for stores with an independent spirit and a focus
on retro-modern design, walk 15 minutes northeast to
Capitol Hill.

Lined with early 1900's brick warehouses, storefronts and
automobile dealerships, the area was a sketchy urban ghost
town 15 years ago. But over the last decade, the buildings
have been reborn as restaurants, stores, galleries, art
studios and bars. Two streets, Pine and Pike, run parallel
between the heart of Capitol Hill and downtown. The blocks
bookended by Interstate 5 and 12th Avenue, known as the
Pine-Pike Corridor, hold furniture and clothing stores that
have turned the area into a destination for the
style-obsessed who will not settle for anything
mass-produced.

Get Ready
Fuel up at BAUHAUS BOOKS AND COFFEE (301 East Pine Street,
206-625-1600), a friendly neighborhood hub known for its
double-height ceiling, worn wood furniture and towering
bookshelves crammed with used film and architecture books.
If it is sunny, take coffee out to a sidewalk table.

Glam Vintage
A pioneer on Pine Street 11 years ago, LE
FROCK (317 East Pine Street, 206-623-5339) is a consignment
shop packed with clothes from the 1930's and 40's, along
with new designer pieces that were used in fashion
photographs and are being sold by stylists. Typical finds
include Fendi and Coach handbags, Giorgio Armani and Donna
Karan men's suits, and women's shoes by Gucci, Dolce &
Gabbana and Chanel.

Antique Modern
The granddaddy of Capitol Hill's midcentury-modern
furniture stores, AREA 51 (401 East Pine Street,
206-568-4782) occupies a circa 1910 Ford showroom that
takes up almost an entire block. It is a cheerful
whitewashed space and houses a mind-boggling, constantly
changing selection of handpicked furnishings. In addition
to standards from Herman Miller, Knoll and Charles and Ray
Eames, the store offers a chance to score a George Nelson
bubble lamp ($300) or a coveted 40's standing surgical
light ($2,000).

Girly Heaven
Jennifer Gallucci is the force behind LIPSTICK TRACES (500
East Pine Street, 206-329-2813), an homage to independent
designers, many of them young women. One wall acts as a
gallery with rotating exhibitions by up-and-coming
Northwestern artists. Another displays obscure art and
fashion books. Look for locally made goods like cabernet-
and green-tea-scented candles, stationery and journals and
record players by a fledgling design business, Truckstop.

Lunch Break
BIMBO'S BITCHIN' KITCHEN (506 East Pine
Street, 206-329-9978) specializes in surly waiters and
tasty burritos and tacos stuffed with fillings both
traditional (rice and beans) and unexpected (herb-roasted
chicken, garlic mashed potatoes).

For Hipster Children
Image-conscious parents should walk two blocks east of the
main drag to BOOTYLAND (1321 East Pine Street,
206-328-0636), a new and vintage clothing store for
children. Babies and toddlers will exude retro cool in
never-worn early-80's Nikes, chunky knit sweaters in earthy
colors and best-selling T-shirts with photos of Bruce Lee
and Elvis ($11 to $13).

The Real Deal
When Marc Jacobs showed 80's-inspired rainbow belts last
year, ATLAS CLOTHING (1515 Broadway, between Pine and Pike;
206-323-0960) had the real thing, along with Diane von
Furstenberg wrap dresses and Jordache jeans. The racks are
now filled with Izod shirts, Adidas track suits and a
veritable rodeo show of Western wear, lacy Gunny Sacks
blouses, men's cowboy shirts and weathered Levi's 501's
($24).

Furniture on Display
Windows with bright green borders draw customers to
CHARTREUSE INTERNATIONAL (711 East Pike Street,
206-328-4844), a sprawling collection of vintage designer
furniture. The five partners scour estate sales all over
the country for pieces by Charles and Ray Eames, Arne
Jacobsen, Vladimir Kagan Hans Wegner and the like. Smartly
arranged vignettes mean that even if visitors do not buy a
thing, they leave with an eyeful of inspiration.

Asian Options
For a departure from the mod aesthetic,
duck into FUGIO (1507 Belmont Avenue, between Pine and
Pike; 206-322-6677) for a wealth of Central Asian home
furnishings. Walk over piles of tribal rugs from Pakistan
and Tibet ($40 to $6,000) and through hand-carved Pakistani
temple doorways ($1,200 to $20,000), and recline on a
Balinese daybed ($2,000) covered with kilim pillows ($25 to
$125). The store also carries pieces by local glass artists
and metal- and woodworkers.

Fab Fabrics and Alligator Bags
A charming shop with a
green and white awning, PRIVATE SCREENING (1530 Melrose
Avenue, between Pine and Pike; 206-839-0759) sells clothes,
fabrics and furniture from the 1930's to 50's. Quirky
treasures include French damask and 50's atomic-print
fabrics ($50 to $110 a panel), alligator handbags ($75 to
$85) and classic Lilli Ann suits ($85 to $125). For
alterations, visit the tailor, Lisa DeFrance, in her sunny
alcove upstairs.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/13/travel/escapes/13FORA.html?ex=1040788844&ei=1&en=d22b785fa07c60e4

HALBLEU
12-29-02, 09:36 AM
Seattle is a cool town. ... I considered it to be a cleaner version of "San Fran". ... It has a great small airport- "Seatac". Most of the time, it is Cold and Rainy. Great place to visit in the summer time. You can drive up north and visit Vancouver BC for some "Real Chinese" food. Not the "authentic" garbage, they serve in some "hick" state like Kansas or Texas. ... Just a great place to "rest".

HALBLEU
12-29-02, 09:38 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/29/travel/29frug.html

December 29, 2002
California Steaming in a Desert Valley
By DAISANN McLANE


SOAKING in the therapeutic water of a natural hot spring is right near the top of my list of favorite things to do on vacation. I've indulged this passion in a medieval Turkish spa in Budapest, the Roman-era baths of Montegrotto Terme in northern Italy and a lushly landscaped hewn-rock pool in the mountains of Akita Prefecture in Japan.

But sometimes those soothing springs are too far away, so some years ago I began scouting around for soaking places that didn't require me to cross seven or more time zones and learn the words for "towel" and "ouch, too hot" in a new language.

Last year I found the perfect spot: Desert Hot Springs, a two-hour drive from Los Angeles. Soothing, low-key and somewhat rustic, yet with all the creature comforts and bargain prices, this little desert town 20 minutes north of Palm Springs made me so happy that I have returned several times, most recently for four nights in October.

The natural springs that bubble under four square miles of Desert Hot Springs were discovered nearly a century ago by Cabot Yerxa, an early settler. But it took some time for tourism to take hold, and when it did, its heyday was brief - from the late 40's to the 60's. Back then, the town was a popular place for visitors, especially the elderly, to take the cure, which they did at a dozen or more little motels that sprang up inside the part of town that's above the hot water. But as Palm Springs' fortunes declined, the little motels, too, began to fade away, closing or hanging on by catering to a loyal but shrinking clientele.

When I first went to Desert Hot Springs last year, the scene reminded me of Miami Beach well before the infusion of money and chic that wrought South Beach. Driving around town, where many of the side streets simply dead-end in scrubby brush, you can find a nostalgia buff's trove of vintage Modernist hotels - some still with gorgeous big neon signs in the shape of trapezoids or parabolas. But many are closed, and others appear shabby and faded. A few, curiously, boast the little oval-with-flames icon used in South Korea to designate an onsen, or hot springs hotel. (A large part of Desert Hot Springs' tourism comes from the Korean community in Los Angeles.)

But two of the vintage hot springs motels, Miracle Manor and Hope Springs (originally the Cactus Springs), have been lovingly renovated by new, young owners and have begun, quietly and through word of mouth, to tap a different audience, namely the architecture and Modernist design lovers who are behind the revival and rediscovery of Palm Springs. And on this latest trip, I noticed several other motels being renovated, suggesting that the success of these two is inspiring others.

Each motel offers an unbeatable combination of hot water and cool style. And the price is a genuine bargain as United States spa vacations go. The midweek rate for a double- or single-occupancy room at either Hope Springs or Miracle Manor is $135 (it goes up on weekends, but down in summer), and each motel offers rooms with SPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAM for just a few more dollars. (The regular rooms have small refrigerators.) Access to the hot springs pools in either is free and unlimited, and Hope Springs also throws in a buffet Continental breakfast. Restaurants are reasonable and low key, too. A dinner at Palm Korea, one of the better choices in town, might cost around $25 a person, and a meal at Casa Blanca or South of the Border, two very good and authentic Mexican choices, is even less.

Those used to traditional spa hotels might be put off by the minimalist approach to service at Miracle Manor and Hope Springs (Miracle Manor has maid service on request, and neither hotel has room service). But for the independent soul whose idea of a good time is a quiet read, a soak in the pool and no unwanted conversations or interruptions, the absence of hotel trappings can be a relief.

Arriving at Miracle Manor one evening in October, I was met in the parking lot by the resident manager, Tommy Adams, the epitome of mellow. "You're in Room 5," said Tommy, who refers to himself as the on-site concierge. "Everything's ready. Just holler if there is anything you need." I didn't have to sign any registration form, and my key was waiting in the door. From then on, Tommy vanished into the woodwork, materializing magically when I needed help.

The simple white one-story motel dates from the 1940's and was renovated five years ago by Michael Rotondi, an architect, and his partner, April Greiman, a graphic designer. Its six rooms face a small bilevel courtyard that partly encloses a swimming pool divided into two sections, an enclosed 104-degree pool and a larger swimming area heated to around 90. Entering the area, you are lulled by the inviting sensuous gurgle of the hot spring water bubbling and recirculating through the pools.

My room was small but intelligently designed with big storage bins on casters under the high bed and a built-in desk-table running the length of one wall. Some of the light fixtures - the gooseneck lamps that snake over desk and bed - I recognized as Ikea, and the walls were painted an industrial but soothing shade of gray-green. I adjusted the shades and flipped through the little folder on the table that outlines the golden rules of Miracle Manor: "Quiet please!" "No cellphones outside the room or by the pool" and my favorite, "No thinking!" I applauded the absence of television, radio and telephone in the room, and enjoyed the touches of whimsy, like the plastic jade Chinatown trinkets that serve as window-shade pulls. And the duvets and heavy cotton sheets were the best I've ever slept on in any hotel.

The impulse, walking into this room, is to throw yourself onto the fluffy duvet and the high-end mattress for a snooze. But no hot-springs lover can resist the siren song of splish-splashing, and so I pulled on my swimsuit - nude bathing is not customary - and the bright orange robe provided, and headed for the hot end of the pool, about 10 steps from my room. Aaaaah. The contrast of cool desert night air and water that's toasty but not painfully hot is surely one of life's great treats. Even better is looking up to a sky filled with crystalline constellations as you float lazily with steam rising all around.

A half-hour later I tiptoed back to my Modernist nest and fell into the deepest sleep.

The following day involved more soaking, more sleeping, some reading and a session with Henry Zeringue, Miracle Manor's talented massage therapist. The morning after, although it was hard to pull myself away, I moved out of Miracle Manor to sample Hope Springs.

Unlike Miracle Manor, where radios and music are verboten, Hope Springs has a CD player-radio in every room. Arriving on a Sunday afternoon, I found the poolside area occupied by several couples, one playing music just loud enough that it was impossible to ignore.

Accustomed to the meditative silence of Miracle Manor, I found it annoying, and tried to squelch my irritation by noticing things that I liked. My room, for one, which was much larger than at Miracle Manor and had a huge, low Japanese-style platform king bed. There also was a separate shower-dressing area, and a small terrace with its own table and pair of reclining deck chairs. A clever landscaping of cactuses and desert flowers made the terrace semiprivate, great for reading or having breakfast outdoors. The pools - at Hope Springs there are three - also offered more variety. One, round and glass enclosed, was the hottest at 104 (the maximum allowed in Desert Hot Springs by law), but there was a second round open-air hot pool in addition to the 90-degree rectangular swimming pool.

The next morning, Monday, the music-loving guests left and my good cheer returned. I straggled from bed over to the motel's main building, a beautifully restored Modernist glass structure with a nonworking fireplace suspended over a mosaic pit, and helped myself to yogurt, coffee and fresh fruit laid out in the kitchen. I also helped myself to that morning's newspapers, which are put out every morning in the lobby (unlike Miracle Manor, which appears to observe a news embargo). On my little terrace, with breakfast, coffee and paper, I was happy again. It occurred to me that there are different modes of relaxation, and that each of these motels offered a different sort - one Zenlike and good-naturedly monastic, the other more conventional and easygoing. And that, depending on my mood and the circumstances, I could enjoy myself equally well in either. But with a companion, I think I'd choose Hope Springs for romance, and Miracle Manor for therapy.

Boredom - along with puckered skin - is probably the biggest hazard awaiting the hot springs vacationer. Although Desert Hot Springs itself is sleepy, really no more than a main drag with some restaurants and two supermarkets, there are diversions within a short car ride. On my first visit, I headed over the mountains to Joshua Tree National Park, 45 minutes away, where a scenic drive led through stark and spooky high desert filled with huge rocks and gnarly groves of Joshua trees that seemed to come alive, like dancing scarecrows in the fading light.

In October, following a recommendation from Tommy, I drove about 15 minutes to the wonderful Thousand Palms Oasis; a walk of a half-hour took me into two oases, thickets of hairy date palms that have sprung up alongside the streams that bubble up in this area right along the San Andreas Fault. On another afternoon, I visited the biggest artificial oasis in the area - the Desert Hills Premium Outlets shopping mall, about 20 minutes away. More than 100 discount designer shops, including Armani, Prada, Barneys and Saks, awaited. In two hours' time, I'd upgraded my wardrobe with items such as discounted Italian suede loafers from Tod's ($450, marked down to $100), a cream linen Max Mara dress ($400 list, purchased for $50) and a couple of cashmere sweaters ($49 each).

Therapy, in Desert Hot Springs, comes in many forms. I loaded the trunk of my car with my bargains and headed back to the motel for another soak.

Visitor Information

I spent $167.75 a day on food and lodging during my four-night stay in Desert Hot Springs. Car rental for four days was $144 more; a one-hour massage at Miracle Manor cost $90 extra.

I rented from Avis at Palm Springs Airport using www.hotwire.com. You don't know the name of the rental company until after you click "purchase," but on three occasions out of four the company has been Avis. Such reservations are nonrefundable.

Hotels

Miracle Manor Retreat, 12589 Reposa Way, Desert Hot Springs, (760) 329-6641, fax (760) 329-9962, www.miraclemanor.com, has six stylish rooms, each with a queen bed, separate bathroom with tub and shower, refrigerator and coffeemaker. Two of the rooms have separate SPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAM. My single room with a two-night spa package (not including the massage) cost $135 a night midweek, $148.50 with tax. The two larger rooms with the package are $155. Maid service is by request, but abundant clean towels are available. Massages and other treatments are offered in an annex building. Standard daily rates are $150 and $175 a night.

Hope Springs, 68075 Club Circle Drive, Desert Hot Springs, (760) 329-4003, fax (760) 329-4223, on the Web at www.hopesprings.com, has 10 rooms, more spacious than those at Miracle Manor, with king platform beds; four have SPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAM. My single cost $125 midweek (Monday to Thursday), $137.50 with tax. On weekends, it is $150. A room with a kitchen is $135 weekdays, $175 weekends. A Continental buffet breakfast (coffee, bagels and cheese, cereal, hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit) is included in the rate. Spa treatments are available.

The recently restored Lido Palms, 12801 Tamar Drive, Desert Hot Springs, (760) 329-6033, fax (760) 329-6467, www.lidopalms.com, isn't minimalist - the 11 large, cheerful rooms have patchwork quilts and full SPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAM - but it looked comfortable and clean, and the prices are very good at $70 to $80 ($10 more in high season, Nov. 21 to April 30). The owner, Jill Kroesen, is a recently transplanted New York artist.

Food

At Casa Blanca, 66370 Pierson Boulevard, Desert Hot Springs, (760) 329-5007, a casual, authentic Mexican restaurant, a satisfying meal of fish ceviche on a tostada plus shrimp with garlic costs about $15 with tax and tip. Wine and beer are served, but I didn't have either.

South of the Border, 11719 Palm Drive, Desert Hot Springs, (760) 251-4000, is a bit more formal. The Ecuadorean owner, a former bullfighter, is usually tending bar. Fajitas with an iced tea run about $15 a person.

Palm Korea, 13440 Palm Drive, (760) 329-2277, is a homey little restaurant where the grilled eel, one of the tastiest and most expensive entrees, costs $15. Wine and beer are served.

Desert Hot Springs' most upscale option is the Capri, 12260 Palm Drive, (760) 329-6833, an Italian steakhouse out of the 1950's. A friend and I shared an antipasto and a huge Porterhouse steak, which comes with salad and sides of pasta and vegetable. We had two excellent martinis apiece, and the bill with tip was $70.

Activities

Joshua Tree National Park, 74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms, Calif.; (760) 367-5500, www.nps.gov.jotr. Admission is $10 a car. The visitor center is open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Coachella Valley Preserve, Post Office Box 188, Thousand Palms, Calif., (760) 251-4800, contains the Thousand Palms Oasis. It is open daily until sundown. A $3 donation is requested.

Desert Hills Premium Outlets is in Cabazon, Calif., just off I-10; (909) 849-6641

HALBLEU
12-29-02, 12:18 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/28/books/28BOTT.html
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
December 28, 2002
A Travel Book Author With Doubts About Travel
By MEL GUSSOW


A reader of Alain de Botton's recent book, "The Art of Travel," might conclude that the author did not like to travel. In an interview he admitted that he was ambivalent about the subject. With his book, he said, he was "countering an image that undeniably travel is always fun." Sometimes "there is fear and confusion."

"With vacations," he continued, "there are two strands of desire. On the one hand, there is the desire for relaxation, which is almost a Zen type of emptying your mind, a freedom from anxiety and stress, etc. And then there's the idea of stimulation. Most of the time, people run those two things together, and they're completely incompatible." For him everything seems better in anticipation and in memory.

Though pocket-size and portable, "The Art of Travel" (published by Pantheon) is a kind of antiguide. It offers no travel tips, but like a chapbook, it is packed with literary quotations, as is Mr. de Botton (pronounced boh-TAHN) in conversation. In its wryly subversive way, the book explores the reasons that people go to different places and the disappointments that often have to be endured on a journey.

At one point, the author suggests that the hunger for travel might be better served by staying home and reading about foreign places or by looking at paintings or photographs. In passing, he says that he began to appreciate Provence only after he had studied paintings by van Gogh.

He contrasts Alexander von Humboldt, who took five years to journey around South America at the turn of the 19th century, with his contemporary Xavier de Maistre, who took a journey around his bedroom. Each trip led to a book, "Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent" and "Journey Around My Room." De Maistre, he said, suggested that before leaving for foreign places, people should "notice what we have already seen."

When Mr. de Botton travels, his anticipation is often whetted by movies that he has seen or books that he has read. Driving through the Southwest of the United States, he thought about "Paris, Texas," and "looked at the landscape through Wim Wenders's eyes." "Whenever I would go into an American diner," he said, "Raymond Carver is there telling me to look out for the hidden madness of the waitress." In other words, "your antennae are sensitized" by artistic influences.

Occasionally there are conflicting points of view: "When you go to London, is it the Bloomsbury group or is it Martin Amis's London" that one thinks about? And in New York, is it Edith Wharton or Woody Allen — or Martin Scorsese?

In an earlier book, "How Proust Can Change Your Life," Mr. de Botton wrote about the Monty Python All-England Summarize Proust Competition, in which contestants were asked to précis all of Proust in 15 seconds or less and to deliver the results "first in a swimsuit and then in evening dress." It seemed appropriate — well, a little pushy — to ask him to summarize "The Art of Travel" in 15 seconds (without changing his clothes).

Always game for a challenge, he hazarded an answer: "It's about the different kinds of beauty that are available in different places and why we search for them — and the obstacles that get in the way of that beauty. How am I doing?"

Although he has written three novels, Mr. de Botton seems most comfortable as an essayist, as someone who mixes literary scholarship with personal reflections. Through his best-selling books, Mr. de Botton, 33, has become a celebrity at home in England. His last two plotless books, "The Consolations of Philosophy" and even his "Proust," were filmed for television, with Ralph Fiennes playing Proust.

He explained how he had come to write his new book: "I had written a lot about the psychology of people. I wanted to write about what happens to us when we go to places. Travel seems to be the time when people go to change their mood because they change location." As a result, the book is about the psychology of travel rather than the geography.

In his own travels Mr. de Botton generally goes off the beaten path, or rather, he beats his own path, which may even lead him to find poetry in motels and service stations. He says that when he is feeling sad, he often goes to Heathrow Airport and draws "comfort from the sight of the ceaseless landings and takeoffs."

As he said: "With so many writers, their claim to be a travel writer is based on some extraordinary journey. They climb over the Himalayas, and they come back with these weird and wonderful stories. I wanted to anchor my thoughts to some very simple journeys."

Occasionally he takes a more extensive trip. This year he went to Morocco with a woman. "It struck me forcefully that two hours from London you were transported back to the Middle Ages," he said. "There were jets on the runway and donkeys pulling carts on the highways." Within the walls of the hotel was a swimming pool, while outside people were starving. After a few days the couple cut their stay short and drove out across the mountains. Along the way both had food poisoning, which, he said, was "a reminder that you travel with your whole body, not just your mind."

Should one revisit places? "It depends what happened there. There are ways in which it can damage your memory. I think it's fine to revisit as long as the experience is going to be better in some way. Let's say you traveled with a loved one to Venice and all was beautiful, and the next time it was with a group of business associates. That might spoil the memory. Then again it might provoke a kind of bittersweet memory, which might have its own pleasures."

Does time erase a bad memory?

"Virginia Woolf says that the memory of an illness isn't even a fraction of what an illness is actually like. It's difficult to summon up pain or even boredom. When you travel you get islands of memory. In `U and I,' Nicholson Baker has a lovely bit where he talks about how he completely forgot what happened in `Anna Karenina.' The only thing he remembered was a picnic basket. The whole novel has been reduced to one picnic basket."

He said that such forgetfulness had its parallel in travel: "You go to Russia and you see millions of things, and all you remember is one thing. You look at photographs you've taken and they seem like someone else took them. Often the things you remember are quite random."

Asked how he traveled, he answered, "It really depends on who's paying." He prefers train to plane but remembered flying first class to Australia as "one of the most amazing experiences of my life." The journey took 24 hours, with a stop in Thailand. As he said, "I felt I was living at that height and everyone was below me."

In "The Consolations of Philosophy," he has a list of dream acquisitions. Asked if he, as a successful author, had acquired anything on his list, he said: "The private jet? The villa? No, no. A fascinating theory of Epicurus goes to the heart of Western materialist society, the idea that you could have more, but what are the right things to have?" It could all add up to — or down to — "misery in paradise."

That evening Mr. de Botton was appearing at a Manhattan bookstore, and naturally he had a quotation for the occasion: "I think Julian Barnes once said, never read at a reading. They would rather hear what you had for breakfast."

So what did he have for breakfast?

An Englishman visiting New York, he had an English muffin.

HALBLEU
01-02-03, 07:49 PM
I always wanted to do the rock climbing challenge. It seems to be so fun. ... A global strategist should get away from the desktop and "get down & dirty" on ground zero every so often.
The Supreme Strategist General who does not see things from the ground level viewpoint, will never be able plan well for his or her troops.

My favorite place to get camping gear is Northface. They also have great climbing equipment. ... Read and enjoy!

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/03/travel/escapes/03JOSH.html?8hpib

January 3, 2003
Hanging On for Dear Life: Rock Climbing in Joshua Tree
By NEELA BANERJEE


IT'S a crisp fall morning in Joshua Tree National Park. We are driving through the Southern California desert, rushing past a parched, monochromatic world where everything huddles close to the ground. But then we turn a bend, and all of a sudden, over tumbleweeds and decades-old Joshua trees barely taller than a man, clusters of tawny granite boulders loom 300 feet in the air.

My friends and I are about to start our journey up a climbing route called Double Dip, an ascent of about 150 feet, when my attention is captured by the middle-aged man leading a climb ahead of us. As he reaches for a hold, he loses his footing. Suddenly, we hear the sounds of his desperate scrambling along the rock as he plunges about 15 feet to a narrow ledge, before a rope stops his fall.

Our group's host, Frith Maier, spots the look of panic on my face. "He's clearly a bad climber," she whispers to me conspiratorially, her tone intended to assure me that I have nothing to worry about.

It doesn't quite work. I'm not afraid of falling. I'm afraid of failing.

I had come to Joshua Tree, like many climbers before me, because the park has 5,000 to 6,000 climbs, the most routes of any climbing destination in the United States. And even in winter, when climbers migrate to this 1,250-square-mile park about 50 miles northeast of Palm Springs because of its temperate weather, its vastness ensures a solitude rare in the climbing world. Within 15 minutes of leaving the main parking lot, you hear only bird song and your own footsteps, a rare gift compared with conditions at other popular destinations, like the Yosemite Valley in California and the Shawangunks in New York, where lines can form at the base of climbs.

Most of Joshua Tree's routes run from the moderately difficult to the challenging. Under the American system for grading climbs that require rope and protective equipment, a 5.0 signifies the very easy, a 5.14 the elite. At Joshua Tree, most routes fall within the upper end of that scale, ranging from 5.7 to 5.10.

Mark Bowling, who runs the Joshua Tree Rock Climbing School with his wife, Michelle, said that despite the relatively high difficulty ratings, Joshua Tree is perfect for beginners like me. "Mainly 5.9 and 5.10 climbers go to places like Yosemite Valley," Mr. Bowling told me. Yosemite has towering rock faces, the most famous of which is the 3,000-foot El Capitan. Most climbers, who overnight in hammocks hung from the cliff, take days to ascend.

"Joshua Tree is less intimidating because the rocks around you aren't so huge," he said.

Hundreds of millions of years ago, the granite boulders of Joshua Tree formed miles underground, according to Dr. D. D. Trent, the co-author of "Joshua Tree National Park Geology," just published by the Joshua Tree National Park Association. Erosion brought the rock to the surface. But the boulders were never polished by glaciers, Dr. Trent said, so the quartz in the stone sticks out in minuscule knobs, giving the rubber soles of climbing shoes particularly good purchase.

The first climbers, like Todd Gordon, who has climbed for nearly 30 years and set many of the routes here, came to Joshua Tree in small numbers in the early 70's. They ascended the boulders and free-associated names for routes: 39 Steps. Bankrupt Wall. Campfire Girl. Double Dip was probably named for the large flake of stone that seems to pull away from the cliff and then curves like two scoops of ice cream.

But as the popularity of rock climbing grew over the last decade, the trickle of climbers to the desert became a steady flow, even in the scorching summertime.

At Joshua Tree, most of the climbing is done in high desert, at about 4,000 feet above sea level. Here, temperatures in late fall dip into the 30's at night and rise to the high 60's in the relentless sunshine. In the faint haze of sand and exhaust, you can still see for miles. The land is mostly flat, suddenly rising to a rocky hill before falling away again.

Plants mark the terrain like warnings, their leaves the shape of knives, scimitars, shark's teeth. Each bush is a puzzle of thorns. We stopped the car once for a tarantula, as big as a saucer, as it crossed the road. At the entrance to the park, you are told not to feed the coyotes, or they will wander the roads looking for handouts.

My friends and I came to Joshua Tree to celebrate Frith's 40th birthday. Our group of five adults and two toddlers, who learned quickly not to pet the fuzzy cactuses, stayed in a trailer and outbuildings just outside the park that belonged to a friend of Frith's. (Most visitors to the area camp in the park, stay in motels in the town of Joshua Tree or find more exclusive accommodations in Twentynine Palms.)

In addition to blazing the trails, Mr. Gordon also played host to many climbers at his sprawling house in the town of Joshua Tree. Often, they were hard-core climbing bums, men and a few women who follow warm weather just as surfers follow the big waves, working odd jobs to make money for equipment and travel expenses. Last year, Mr. Gordon said, perhaps 15 or 20 climbers were living in his house at any given time.

"There have been babies conceived in this house," he said. "Fistfights. People have gotten married who met here, though they may be divorced by now. Thousands of people stayed here. Lots of times, I would go to the bathroom and see someone I didn't know coming out."

After Mr. Gordon, a 47-year-old schoolteacher, wed recently, he and his wife ended the tradition, though people stop by occasionally and peer into their windows, hoping to be invited in.

Mr. Bowling, the climbing instructor, understands the motivation. "Climbing for many people becomes all-consuming, to the point of quitting their jobs," he explained. "It's because of that magical feeling of physical exertion, of beautiful surroundings, of doing something you couldn't do before. It is chaotic. It is controlling. It is addictive."

I was discovering what he meant. Over the first 50 feet of Double Dip, I forgot I was afraid. The wall tilted a bit forward, rather than rising vertically, which made climbing easier. There were a few holds that had not been visible from the ground.

But after I climbed onto a narrow ledge about 60 feet up, my luck ran out. Another 90 feet or so separated me from the top. I frantically searched the stone I was pressed against for a hold, any hold, and found none. My muscles quaked from exhaustion. My shirt was drenched in the cool morning air. I was deeply, maddeningly stuck.

My friend Susan was belaying me from the top of the route, gathering the slack of my rope. She was yelling something I couldn't make out, maybe because panic was whistling inside me like a storm.

Susan shouted again, more slowly: "Trust. Your. Feet." What she wanted me to do seemed pointless: put the ball of my foot against the stone, as if against a wall, and step up. Have faith.

I didn't want to be lowered down to the ground, in front of my friends, so I stepped up. My toes gripped the stone wall. I looked down at my left shoe, stunned. Then, with my right foot, I stepped onto nothing, and it held, too. I used my hands for balance, and when I found a hold as thick as a cigarette, it seemed a huge, wonderful surprise.

At 70 feet up, I leaned into the wall, supported only on my toes, and relaxed; I tilted my face toward the sun.

Susan said she loved climbing because it was like ballet: a delicate step on your toe here, a smooth, long stretch even higher with your other leg.

Nothing I did on Double Dip was at all pretty. At one point, near the top, I was spread-eagled on the wall, my fingers jammed onto a sliver of a shelf, remembering all those pull-ups I could never do in high school gym class. Yet there was no question about finishing. I scrambled higher and flopped onto my belly above the shelf, panting. Susan was in sight by then, sitting on the rock. Rather than going straight up, the boulder bent toward her, giving me a generous incline that I could almost run up.

The last step was mine. She didn't extend a hand. She didn't need to. I sat down next to her. The desert shone up at us like a mirror.

"I didn't think I could do it," I told her.

She glanced at me and said, "I did."

Visitor Information

The easiest way to get to Joshua Tree National Park is to fly into Palm Springs, Calif., which is about 50 miles away. You will need a rental car to get to the park and for traveling within the park itself.

Experienced rock climbers can find detailed handbooks to Joshua Tree's routes. There are Randy Vogel's comprehensive "Rock Climbing Joshua Tree," which has recently been reprinted by Globe Pequot/Falcon, and his shorter "Classic Rock No. 01, Joshua Tree National Park, California" (Globe Pequot/Falcon, 1999). From Alan Bartlett's series of guides, those with the best climbs are "Rock Climbs of Lost Horse Valley," "Rock Climbs of Hidden Valley" and "Rock Climbs of Central Joshua Tree," all published by Quail Springs.

Beginners and those experienced climbers who want to fit in lots of climbs over a short period can hire guides from the Joshua Tree Rock Climbing School (www.rockclimbingschool.com), Uprising Adventure Guides (www.uprising.com), Vertical Adventures (www.vertical-adventures.com) and the newly formed Rock Climbing Guides International (800-942-6542). All guides should be certified by the American Mountain Guides Association.

Climbing gear is sold locally at Nomad Ventures (760-266-4684) and Coyote Corner (760-366-9683). More information can be found at www.joshuatree.org.

Camping is arguably the most scenic way to enjoy Joshua Tree, and there are several campgrounds in the park. Indian Cove, which is near many climbing routes, requires reservations and an extra fee beyond the park admission pass (800-365-2267). Outside the park, there is the Joshua Tree Lake R.V. and Campground (760-366-1213).

Those seeking slightly more comfortable shelter can turn to the Joshua Tree Inn (760-366-1188), Spin and Margie's Desert Hide-a-Way (760-366-9124) and the Safari Motor Inn (760-366-9363), all in the town of Joshua Tree. The Joshua Tree Rock Climbing School rents two climbers' cabins that sleep at least four each. In the nearby town of Twentynine Palms are fancier accommodations, including the 29 Palms Inn (760-367-3505) and Roughly Manor (760-367-3258).

HALBLEU
01-14-03, 05:15 PM
Any one for a burger?

01/15/2003
The Burger Takes Center Stage By ED LEVINE

I HAVE eaten hamburgers every day for the last two months. I have traveled the five boroughs of New York City to do so. And in the city's lowliest corner diners and loftiest expense account restaurants, I have found satisfaction. New York, my research has documented again and again, is a hamburger heaven.

All are represented here: the bar burgers, diner burgers, white-tablecloth loaves and fast-food pucks, flame-broiled, pan-seared and roasted. All in some way are deserving of praise. For every New Yorker, my relentless eating suggested, there is a hamburger.

With the opening a few months ago of Blue 9 Burger in the East Village, this discovery reached a kind of apotheosis. Truly every burger style is now represented in New York, as Blue 9 serves what might be the city's first California-style hamburger. It is reminiscent of the ethereal hamburgers served by the West Coast's In-N-Out Burger chain: a thinnish patty of meat on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato and Thousand Island dressing.

The restaurant already faces competition, however. Tucked away in a corner of the Parker Meridien Hotel's grand lobby is the newly opened Burger Joint, which dispenses a thicker, though smaller in diameter, four-ounce burger on a paper plate.

Burgers go way back in New York. Introduced to the city by German immigrants as steak served in the Hamburg style, they were on the menu at Delmonico's as early as 1833. At 10 cents a plate, or a shade more than $2 in 2002 dollars, a burger was about the best deal in the restaurant.

This long history explains a bit of why many upscale restaurants still serve burgers, at least at lunch. A tremulous economy is part of it, too. Danny Meyer, an owner of the Union Square Cafe, said he currently serves more than 40 burgers a day.

"Especially in these uncertain times," Mr. Meyer said, "a juicy, two-fisted hamburger provides comfort and certainty."

The burger at Union Square Cafe costs $12.50 and comes with French fries; it isn't even close to the city's most expensive. For many years that title was held by the "21" Club, with its $26 burger made with houseground top round and sirloin, which Eric Blauberg, the chef, has recently rejiggered to include duck fat and fresh thyme and marjoram.

It's a flavorful burger. But really, what kind of a burger joint requires a gentleman to wear a jacket and suggests a tie?

Then Daniel Boulud stepped forward with a $29 hamburger at his DB Bistro Moderne on West 44th Street, although some burger purists insist that with its interior stuffing of black truffles, foie gras and braised short ribs it is a hamburger in name only.

"It's delicious,'` said Alan Richman, the food columnist of GQ, "but it certainly doesn't resemble any of the lousy burgers I grew up with in the Philadelphia suburbs."

That's not surprising. It is hard to imagine a burger in Mr. Richman's neighborhood served, as Mr. Boulud's is, on a housemade bun with toasted Parmigiano Reggiano, tomato confit, chicory and fresh horseradish and a side order of habit-forming fries.

More recognizable to Mr. Richman, perhaps, but even more expensive, is the new reigning champion of hamburger pricing: a $41 monster that has just appeared on the menu at the Old Homestead on Ninth Avenue, built of beer-fed Kobe beef, with lobster mushrooms and microgreens, on a Parmesan twist roll. It is genuinely lousy, a mushy, gray thing of loose consistency and little flavor.

The Old Homestead and DB burgers are just two of the extreme burger variations available in New York. Indeed, in New York, if you can grind it and cook it, someone will call it a hamburger.

La Sandwicherie, carved out of the back of the kitchen of the Moroccan restaurant Zitoune, on Gansevoort Street, serves Moroccan-inspired burgers, made with spicy lamb sausage and salmon. At Dim Sum Go Go in Chatham Square in Chinatown, Charn-Hing Man, the chef, makes a burger with a patty of dumpling filling served on a steamed bun. And at Marseille in Midtown, Alex Ureña makes a Provençal-inspired seafood burger with salmon, shrimp and scallops topped with a harissa mayonnaise and served on a brioche bun.

Mr. Ureña's fish burger is particularly fine. But more in tune with the common New York burger experience is the superlative beef patty available on East 51st Street, at Prime Burger, né Hamburg Heaven.

Founded in 1938, Hamburg Heaven gently played off its location across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral with a slogan printed on its menus and doors: "The Gates of Heaven — Never Closed." Rita Hayworth and Henry Fonda were regulars, fans of the restaurant's prime beef burgers, homemade pies and cakes and perhaps also of its one-person booths with swivel trays that looked like school desks.

Hamburg Heaven fell victim to overly ambitious expansion plans, but New Yorkers can still eat those same burgers and pies in those selfsame booths for one at Prime Burger, which took over the location in 1965. The single-occupancy booths are a particularly lovely anachronism: take your coat off before you sit down, as the space is so confining you'll find yourself twisting like a contortionist to do so after the fact.

Neighborhood taverns and bars have also long been havens for superlative New York hamburgers. The Old Town Bar on East 18th Street has served outstanding burgers since 1980 (the bar itself has been open since 1892). P. J. Clarke's saloon on Third Avenue is currently closed for renovation, but it served its signature small bacon cheeseburgers for 53 years before it was shuttered. Philip A. Scotti, the current owner, promises that the burgers will return. And Upper East Side residents have been eating the burgers at J. G. Melon's for 30 years.

Burgers can also be found at virtually every coffee shop and diner in the five boroughs. I have had dozens of cheeseburgers at the Cosmic Coffee Shop right off Columbus Circle, and though the Cosmic burger can hardly qualify as great, it is certainly satisfying and graciously served by the warmhearted people who work there. It is a perfectly good burger, and in New York that counts a lot.

The Burger Joint on Broadway and 77th Street serves a similar function (as well as a fine burger) for the Upper West Side, though service there can be a bit more harried. And Downtown artists and families get their good-enough burger fix at Joe Jr.'s on the Avenue of the Americas and 11th Street.

Just what goes into a great hamburger? Here are some ground rules. Burger greatness begins with fresh ground meat , preferably chuck from prime beef, which has more marbling and therefore more fat. The meat should not be too lean — that results in a mealy, overly dry burger.

THE newly opened Lunchbox Food Company in the West Village makes its excellent burger by grinding hanger steak. Bill Telepan, chef at the Judson Grill, grinds Niman Ranch chuck steak, which he said has a meat-to-fat ratio of 75 to 25. It provides a wonderfully smooth texture and taste to the interior of his hamburgers. And at Peter Luger in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the burgers (only at lunch) are made of fabulously beefy dry-aged prime beef.

Good meat is only the beginning of a great burger, however. How a burger is cooked also plays a role. Exemplary burgers can be cooked by charcoal, as at Judson Grill, on a griddle as at Blue 9, or in a salamander in the manner of Prime Burger and Peter Luger. The key element is that the cook makes sure there is enough heat to properly sear the ground meat into a tight patty.

And how much meat? As with bagels before them, many New York burgers have fallen prey to a sort of elephantiasis that has left many bagels, at least, looking like spare tires. This obsession with size can be traced to the opening of the first Jackson Hole restaurant in 1973, which served 10-ounce burgers then as now. But bigger is not necessarily better. Unless the ground beef used in the burger is of sufficiently high quality, a diner can end up eating a pile of mushy, tasteless meat. It is also worth noting that bigger burgers also invariably overwhelm their buns, resulting in a dripping mess. (Some burger lovers, particularly those who patronize Corner Bistro in the West Village, consider the mess a virtue.)

Smaller, thinner burgers are more likely to achieve the right ratios of bun to meat to condiment to toppings, which can result in the winsome confluence of flavors and texture that defines the perfect burger.

Still, half-pound burgers have become the norm in New York. For some, there is the impression that more meat represents better value, particularly for a burger in an upscale environment. Mr. Telepan, the chef at the Judson Grill, said he had tried to make his burger smaller to improve the meat-to-bun ratio and to make it easier to eat, but his customers rebelled.

"I started getting complaints that the burger was too small," he said. "So I caved. I myself like a smaller burger."

The half-pound burger has given way to what the owner of Burger Joint, Nick Imiriziades, has dubbed the sumo burger, which weighs in at more than a pound. The sumo has done well. Until recently, Mr. Imiriziades said, his hamburgers came in three sizes: the regular 5-ounce burger, an 8-ounce Big Nick and the sumo. "But no one orders regular anymore," Mr. Imiriziades said. The smallest burger has been relegated to the children's menu.

Then there's the matter of the bun. Purists want their buns lightly toasted or grilled. They are correct. A hamburger bun should be soft enough so that it can embrace the burger and the cheese that comes with it. Store-bought buns work very well, as do those made with brioche dough at fancy-pants burger places like Union Square Cafe and the Judson Grill. The newly opened Burger Joint in the Parker Meridien Hotel has an old-fashioned toaster where the buns revolve around the heating element. As each burger is ordered, one of the young women at the shop puts a bun in the toaster; it's ready the same time the burger is.

Toppings are a matter of personal taste, of course, but the classic New York burger is encased in American or cheddar cheese, with lettuce and tomato and a few slices of onion on the side (burgers that aspire to greatness, I say, should come with sautéed or grilled onions). Fries, of course, should be on the plate as well — fresh, not frozen, golden brown outside, soft inside, served with plenty of salt.

And to drink? Mr. Richman of GQ requires "bubbles — it could be beer or soda or even Champagne."

I like a shake, or even better, a chocolate malt. That way you get your beverage and your dessert simultaneously.


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/15/dining/15BURG.html?ex=1043595076&ei=1&en=f431220e9b6699d1

HALBLEU
01-17-03, 04:59 AM
An associate send me this note and I found it quite fascinating.
Laos looks like an interesting country that a Global Strategist should visit.

Hal
###

Pedal-powered e-mail in the jungle
2 Bay Area visionaries head to Laos with a tough little PC for villagers
Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, January 17, 2003

URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/01/17/MN86676.DTL


Early next month, a villager in the mountainous jungles of northern Laos will climb onto a stationary bicycle hooked to a handmade, wireless computer and pedal his people into the digital age.

It will be the first time a human-powered computer has ever linked a Third World village to the Internet by wireless remote. And the two Americans who will make this possible -- one a Navy veteran who became a leader in the Vietnam anti-war movement two generations ago, the other a founding pioneer of Silicon Valley -- plan to be at his side as he pedals.

Long ago, when their hair was jet-black and the '60s were hot, these two graying Boomers -- Lee Thorn of San Francisco and Lee Felsenstein of Palo Alto -- were in the forefront of the raucous Berkeley left. Today, they still want to change the world.

But this time, it will be in the middle of a jungle 7,500 miles from home in a tiny village called Phon Kham -- with a computer they specially created to help some of the neediest people on earth.

So why are they doing this?

"It will be like Alexander Graham Bell, in the jungle," Thorn said. "It's groundbreaking and new.

"Right now, the villagers have no way of telling what the market is like in the big towns they sell their stuff to, telling what the weather report is for their crops, things like that. This will absolutely change that. Plus, they will be able to talk to relatives in America some of them haven't seen in decades."


LOW-MAINTENANCE MACHINE
Technological projects have been slowly hooking remote villages in places such as India and Africa to the computer age for several years. But not in this way. They either involve cell phones, which need high-tech transmitter towers, or computers hooked into electricity and cable phone lines -- not foot pedals and wireless antennas nailed to trees.

This new computer also has another element not common to Third World tech projects: The input of villagers who wouldn't normally know a megabyte from a mosquito bite, but who are helping install it and who will be trained by Thorn's group. Word has already spread so far and wide that 40 countries, including South Africa and Peru, are interested in it.

"This will change everyone's lives in Phon Kham," Vorasone Denkayaphichitch,

who is coordinating the project in Laos and has relatives in the village area,

said from Vientiane, the capital of Laos. "The important thing is for them to have communication, because every day they sell their ducks, rice, weaving and chickens, and every day they have to sell for less money than they should because they can't know what the real price is down in the towns."


PRIMITIVE CONDITIONS
All 200 residents of Phon Kham live in bamboo houses with thatch roofs. There is no electricity. No telephone. If you want to go to the next tiny village a few miles away, you walk a dirt road that will probably wash out when the monsoons come.

It's about what you'd expect in the 10th-poorest nation on earth -- which during the Vietnam War had 2 million tons of bombs dropped on it by the United States, more than was dumped on Germany and Japan combined in World War II.

On its face, it could sound crazy to try to hook Laos up to a microchip world that its villagers would seem incapable of understanding, let alone using.

But nobody had counted on the 59-year-old Thorn.

During the Vietnam War, he was a Navy bomb loader on an aircraft carrier that was among those that launched devastating air strikes against Laos and Cambodia in the then-secret U.S. "shadow war." Decades later, racked with a need for penance, Thorn created the Jhai Foundation, a nonprofit that works to rebuild rural Laos -- and which will launch this new computer.

His partner in the computer venture has an equally dynamic background, albeit more pacific. Felsenstein, 57, invented the Osborne 1, the world's first portable computer, and in the 1970s he kick-started the home computer revolution with his fellow nerds in the Homebrew Computer Club, Apple creators Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.


PEDAL POWER
His latest invention, created specially for Thorn's group, is the bike- pedaled computer.

The two have assembled a team of a dozen wireless-technology and personal computer hotshots from the Bay Area and around the world, and they will tromp into the land mine-, snake-infested Laotian jungles over the next few weeks. There, with the help of the Phon Kham villagers, they will install the computer Felsenstein created out of off-the-shelf odds and bits -- and on Feb. 12, they intend to fire the machine up and hook into the Internet.


SOLUTION FOR VILLAGERS
They call the invention the Jhai Computer, Jhai meaning "hearts and minds working together" in Laotian. It was built because the villagers asked Thorn for a way, any way, they could better tap into their country's economy and have contact with the outside world.

The bike-pedaled generator will power a battery that in turn runs the computer, which sits in an 8-by-10-inch box and has the power of a pre-Pentium,

486-type computer. Felsenstein designed it to run on only 12 watts -- compared to a typical computer's 90 watts -- so the bike power would be up to the task.

"It has no moving parts, the lid seals up tight, and you can dunk it in water and it will still run," Felsenstein said. "The idea is to be rugged, last at least 10 years and run in both the monsoon season and the dry season."


ROOF-TO-TREE CONNECTIVITY
The computer will hook up with a wireless card -- an 802.11b, the current industry standard -- to an antenna bolted on the roof of a bamboo house, and the signal will be beamed from there to an antenna nailed to a tree on top of a mountain. There the signal will be bounced to Phon Hong, which sits 25 miles from Phon Kham and is the nearest big village with phone lines. The phone lines then hook to an Internet service provider.

Felsenstein crafted the Jhai to run on Linux software, a system which, unlike some other software, will not be obsolete in 18 months. Then he recruited a Laotian IBM engineer in New York to customize it to the Lao language. Mark Summer, a leader among San Francisco wireless aficionados, designed the connections and tested them last summer on the city's hills.

Through the Internet connection, the Jhai Computer will be able to not only do e-mail, but also run a two-way telephone system through Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP.

If the first Jhai Computer works as planned, Thorn's group will hook up four nearby villages and start an institute to train the residents. Eventually,

they may mass-produce it for other countries.

"I've never heard of anything exactly like this being done, in this way," said Dennis Allison, the noted Stanford University electrical engineering lecturer and co-founder of the groundbreaking People's Computer Co. in the 1970s. After seeing a recent presentation by Felsenstein on the invention, he concluded: "From a social impact point of view, it's a big deal. A very big deal."


HEALING MISSION
What impelled Thorn to recruit Felsenstein and the rest of his team is the same thing that motivated him to create the Jhai Foundation in 1998. He wants to repair the damage wreaked by a war nobody acknowledged at the time -- officially, the United States never laid a hand, let alone a bomb, on Laos -- and in doing so repair some of the pain he feels at having been part of that war.

"This is all about Jhai, the hearts and minds together, about doing what is right," Thorn said. "This is what the Phon Kham people asked for, and this is the most reasonable response to their request. It's simple."

It's the same straightforward style he used three decades ago when he co- founded the national Veterans for Peace at UC Berkeley. And five years ago as well, when he loaded up a backpack of surplus medical supplies and flew to Laos with the simple aim of doing some good, and wound up creating his foundation.

"I go back again and again out of gratitude," Thorn said. "The last five years I've been able to heal myself in ways I never thought would be possible, and that's because of the relationships I've built in Laos."

Operating on a shoestring budget of donations from contacts Thorn made as a peace activist, Jhai has built wells, installed computer learning labs for children, helped clear unexploded bombs and started importing coffee to America.

The most powerful factor on Thorn's side these days is the genius he knew from the old radical times and whom he recruited to get the computer project going -- Felsenstein.

For Felsenstein, the idea of making a computer "for the people" has driven him since the 1960s, when he wrote for the Berkeley Barb and was tech whiz for the Free Speech Movement. The zeal never faded as Felsenstein's career carried on through the years to his current job at a Mountain View medical instruments company.

"The human situation fit very well to what could be done with the technology we had available," he said in his characteristic dead-pan, engineer's earnestness. "What's incredible is that we couldn't just go to the store and buy this already, that it had to be invented."

Neither of the two Lees, both not as svelte as they used to be, is looking forward to schlepping the computer and its clunky antennas through the jungle. But neither is complaining.

People scoffed at Thorn years ago when he wanted to band veterans together to make a peace movement, and they scoffed at Felsenstein when he said he could make a portable computer. And today, they are just as determined to beat the odds.

Some whom they have consulted for advice on where to buy batteries and the like have, just at the mention of the project, laughed skeptically. That just makes the two Lees smile.

"When someone says to me, 'I don't understand what you're doing, you must be crazy,' I know I'm on the right track," Felsenstein said.

For information on donations to the Jhai Foundation's work in Laos, go to www.jhai.org/donations.htm. / E-mail Kevin Fagan at kfagan@sfchronicle.com.

HALBLEU
01-18-03, 03:58 PM
January 19, 2003
See Paris, if You Get Around to It
By DAISANN McLANE


SOMEHOW, in many years of traveling, I had managed to miss Paris. This was more a matter of circumstance than plan - when Europe has been on my agenda, I always gravitated to places such as Britain, Spain and Italy, where I had friends or business, knew the language or felt a strong personal connection.

When I started to travel professionally, my no-Paris status became something of a running joke among my friends, most of whom had been there several times. At some point, just to be ornery, I decided to see how long I could hold out and how many exotic destinations I could add to my list without setting foot there.

On one of these trips - was it in Buenos Aires, the "Paris of Latin America," or in Vientiane, Laos, the "Paris of Southeast Asia"? - the silliness of this began to sink in. I remember losing my way in a web of Laotian boulevards arranged like spokes in a wheel, undoubtedly by homesick French colonial civil engineers, and taking a photograph of yet another public monument meant to evoke the Arc de Triomphe, and thinking, "Isn't it about time you took a photo of the real deal?"

And so, last November, I finally ended my no-Paris streak. Before leaving on my six-night trip, I managed to work myself up into a unaccustomed frenzy of preparation. I didn't know anything about Paris and I didn't speak French, and as my departure approached I began to recognize that lurking behind my lifelong avoidance of Paris was a certain trepidation.

So I called everyone I knew and asked for help. Friends and colleagues rallied to the cause; Pavia downloaded her Palm Pilot files of favorite boutiques in St.-Germain-des-Prés, Wendy sent her list of favorite little hotels in the Marais by e-mail. By the time I boarded the taxi to Kennedy Airport, my notebook bulged with enough addresses and tips for three weeks of exploring. And just in case I might get lonely, the girlfriends had come up with telephone numbers of two Parisian men-about-town, one a concert promoter, the other a tango dancer.

Leaving for Paris with the number of a tango dancer does wonders for your confidence. And it increased exponentially after I landed at Charles de Gaulle and managed to negotiate the Métro all the way to my hotel, the Résidence Monge, in the Latin Quarter, without missing a beat - speaking very basic, atrociously pronounced French that nevertheless seemed to get me where I needed to go. (And won approving smiles from the Parisians I'd always supposed would laugh disdainfully at such incompetence. So much for that canard.)

The Résidence Monge, at $68 a night, hadn't been my first choice, but with two weeks' notice, every other hotel under $100 that had been recommended by guidebooks or friends was full, even in November.

Not expecting much, I was happy to find spotless premises, a smallish room with a real double bed (not twins pushed together), pretty Provençal print curtains and a bathroom with a shower stall and toilet. My room faced the street, but the double-glazed French windows kept the noise down, and I was comfortable. The low price at the Monge (in the Fifth Arrondissement) doesn't reflect a lack of creature comforts, but rather its location a Métro stop or two from the tourist haunts around St.-Germain and the Sorbonne.

I settled in. I called the tango dancer. Alas, he was out and always would be, but when I tried the number of the concert promoter, Enrique Nalda, I got a warm invitation to meet him in a few hours at Les Éditeurs, a cafe near the Odéon on the Carrefour de l'Odéon.

At Les Éditeurs, the banquettes and chairs were red velvet, and the tables modern, against a backdrop of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. "This is a real Parisian cafe," Enrique said, welcoming me to his corner table. "The Americans all go to the Deux Magots down the street, and you certainly should visit it, but I think that here is more local."

In the next few days, following his example, I made Les Éditeurs my office-cum-pit stop, staking out a banquette table and observing the bookish types who frequented the nearby tables (the cafe hands out its own literary awards each year). Soon I understood that it didn't matter if my hotel was outside the center of Paris action - better to save the money on lodging and spend it on more-important things like hanging out over espresso (about $3 at Les Éditeurs), restaurants, shopping and sightseeing.

Which wasn't so expensive, at least when I followed Enrique's advice on how to spend a perfect first day in Paris. His suggested itinerary, carried out on a brilliantly sunny Sunday - the only time I'd see blue skies for longer than 15 minutes during my trip - began with a stroll across the Pont Neuf, and then along the banks of the Seine to Notre-Dame. As I entered the cathedral at about 1 p.m., light flooded through the stained glass windows, flickering pink and purple on the Gothic stone walls.

Crossing the next bridge, over to the Île St.-Louis, I paused to listen to organ grinders, and then made my way to the Berthillon ice cream kiosk at the other end of the bridge, ordering Enrique's recommended choice: dark chocolate with bits of glaced mandarin orange.

Enrique's Paris, I decided, sucking the last chocolate and orange bits from the cone, was pretty perfect.

Still, I had other Parises in my bulging notebook waiting to be sampled. For Day 2, I followed the Palm Pilot instructions of my shopping maven friends, first to the boutiques in St.-Germain-des-Prés, too expensive for me, and then to the big department stores in the Ninth Arrondissement, Printemps and Galeries Lafayette.

I was thrilled to learn that these department stores, as friends had told me, indeed give a card good for a flat 10-percent discount to foreign shoppers who visit their welcome desks and show a passport. That discount, plus the 12 percent V.A.T. rebate for purchases over $175, means that it is possible to buy just about anything in the stores for nearly a quarter less than the marked price. Even better, I found that the department stores stocked the same designer items as the boutiques, but also in larger sizes (12's, 14's and even some 16's) in many cases.

I had lunch ($20) in a cafe under Printemps's gorgeous Art Nouveau stained-glass dome, and tea at the end of the day at nearby Fauchon, where the waitress brings a silver egg timer to let you know the precise moment to pour your tea.

Day 3 found me following yet another acquaintance's Parisian trail, one that led to the restaurant of Pierre Gagnaire, famous for breathtakingly complex and pricey cuisine. I'd wanted to experience haute cuisine in Paris, because it seemed to me an essential thing to do, like going to the theater in London. Thus I'd budgeted myself one fabulously expensive lunch, which came in around $150 (dinners are upward of $400) with two glasses of red wine, and was served with Japanese precision and grace.

Sitting at my corner table, attended by a team of waiters who silently and soundlessly removed and replaced round after round of dishes, glasses and silver, I felt as if I were a player in a Noh drama. Courses came and went, some astonishingly delicious (a Catalan seafood stew with baby squid stuffed with a spicy mixture of coriander and peanuts), and some rather scary (an amuse-bouche of a strange double-layered jiggling jelly, one made of squid ink, the other a clear cardamom infusion).

It was almost too much to take in, and I realized that for the rest of my time in the city, I needed to slow down and to find my own Paris, instead of trying to do a crash course in everyone else's.

And so, on the fourth day, I moved to an even more remote and "unfashionable" location, to the Hôtel La Manufacture, near the Place d'Italie in the 13th Arrondissement. I'd pulled La Manufacture at random from a list of discounted lodgings at www.hoteldiscounts.com; it was a three-star boutique hotel with a great price, $80. Once again, I was in for a nice surprise - if anything, my new room was prettier and more pleasant than the one at the Monge. I found high ceilings, a cheerful color scheme of muted yellows and a large French window with a faux balcony. The bathroom had both shower and tub and even a towel heater.

Although farther from the center, my new location had access to a wider selection of Métro lines and to a real Paris neighborhood virtually devoid of tourists. So devoid that on at least two occasions on my way to the Métro, I was asked for directions in French (which I attributed to the fact that my gloves and handbag - thank you, Printemps! - now matched perfectly).

From the Place d'Italie, I looked again for Paris, this time without lists or suggestions, on my own. And I found it, in a sweet little Vietnamese restaurant, Foyer du Vietnam, where the pho noodle soup had a depth and richness of flavor that I had never before tasted. It was part of a two-course dinner, with a carafe of house wine, that cost $8.50. Around the corner from the Musée d'Orsay, behind an undistinguished front with no window, I stumbled into a find for me, although a classic name in Paris: Androuet, affiliated with the small chain of fine cheese shops. There, for less than $40, I luxuriated in a lunch of beef stew with a wine and cheese sauce, then worked my way slowly through a plate of 12 cheeses chosen from a groaning cart of more than 30 varieties.

I found my own special places, too: the small room at the end of a long corridor in the modern art gallery of the Centre Pompidou hung with the classic black-and-white photographs of Paris of Brassaï, and the room, in the Picasso Museum in the Marais, hung with the masks from West Africa that belonged to the artist, and helped to inspire "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon." And my favorite, the main floor of the Musée Guimet near the Trocadéro, where many priceless works of art from Angkor Wat are displayed in a serene home.

Late one afternoon, on a day when the big museums had closed off entire floors or closed down altogether because of a labor strike, I cut my losses and dived into the Métro; the Louvre would still be in Paris when I came back. In my subway car, a crowd of men wearing identical bright red berets and holding tattered posters and furled banners, sang boisterous songs - marchers on their way home from demonstrations at the Bastille, I figured. The scene was like something out of a historical movie, and it felt stirring to be surrounded by Parisians on their turf, actually practicing liberté, égalité and fraternité.

I was still humming the song as I exited at the Champs-Élysées to take that picture of the Arc de Triomphe. The real deal, this time, and definitely worth waiting for.

Visitor Information

I spent $159 a day on food, lodging, local transportation and activities during six days and nights in Paris in November, with the dollar and the euro on par. My ticket from Kennedy to Paris, returning from Brussels, cost $491 on Delta, (800) 221-1212, www.delta.com.

Using www.parishotels.com, a free booking service, I reserved three nights at the two-star Hôtel Résidence Monge, 55, rue Monge, telephone (33-1) 43.26.87.90, fax (33-1) 43.54.47.25; www.hotelmonge.com. The smallish single room cost $68 a night with tax. The hotel is in the Fifth Arrondissement, near the Cardinal Lemoine Métro stop.

I used www.hoteldiscounts.com, a discount booking agency, to find the three-star Hôtel La Manufacture, 8, rue Philippe de Champagne, 13th Arrondissement, (33-1) 45.35.45.25, fax (33-1) 45.35.45.40, on the Web at www.hotel-la-manufacture.com. My single cost $86 with tax. Starting Wednesday, rates will be about $133 most nights through March 22.

Restaurants

Foyer du Vietnam , 80, rue Monge, Fifth Arrondissement, (33-1) 45.35.32.54, is a tiny informal place popular with students. Pho soup, chicken curry and a small carafe of house wine was $8.50.

Dinners at the haute cuisine mecca Pierre Gagnaire , 6, rue Balzac, Eighth Arrondissement, (33-1) 58.36.12.50, can run upward of $400 a person; I went at lunchtime and ordered judiciously (you can order either an appetizer or a main course and be well sated; each consists of a single dish with multiple side dishes, meant to be savored all at once). My meal - an appetizer, two glasses of red wine, mineral water, assorted sorbets and a parade of amuses-bouches - cost about $155.

At Androuet, 51, rue Verneuil, Seventh Arrondissement, (33-1) 45.48.51.98, part of a well-known small chain of Parisian cheese shops, my rich beef stew and selection of 12 cheeses came to $38, with two glasses of house red and a mineral water.

The boisterous, stylish 404, at 69, rue de Gravilliers, Third Arrondissement,(33-1) 42.74.57.81, a Moroccan restaurant, turns into a dance party after midnight. Two friends and I enjoyed appetizers, couscous and lamb and chicken tagines, a bottle of Moroccan red, mint tea and a plate of homemade sweets for $105.

Cafes

Les Éditeurs, 4, carrefour de l'Odéon, Sixth Arrondissement; (33-1) 43.26.67.76, An excellent full breakfast with eggs, juice, croissant and cappuccino costs $15. Open daily, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Fauchon, 26, place de la Madeleine, Eighth Arrondissement; (33-1) 47.42.90.10. A pot of tea and a plate of petits fourswas $15.

The Champagne bar at Galeries Lafayette, 40, boulevard Haussmann, Ninth Arrondissement, (33-1) 42.82.34.56, serves bubbly for around $9 a glass.

At the Café Flo at Printemps, 64, boulevard Haussmann, Ninth Arrondissement, (33-1) 42.82.50.00, a plate of cheese and glass of wine is about $20.

Museums

Musée Guimet, 6, place d'Iéna, 16th Arrondissement, (33-1) 56.52.53.00; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except Tuesday. Admission is $5.50.

Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges-Pompidou, off the Rue St.-Martin, Fourth Arrondissement, (33-1) 44.78.12.33; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., closed Tuesday; $5.50.

Musée Picasso, 5, rue de Thorigny, (33-1) 42.71.25.21, Fourth Arrondissement; 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. except Tuesday; $5.50.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/19/travel/19frug.html

HALBLEU
01-19-03, 08:35 AM
My friends who has been to Japan, thinks this is the place to visit esp f/ those who are interested in Japanese military history,
Check the pictures that comes w/ the actual article.

###
A Japanese Castle Bares Its Secrets
January 19, 2003
By HOWARD W. FRENCH

WITH its peaked gables and shimmering tiles, the castle
that gave the city of Matsumoto its name seems to hover
over the flat plains of the town in the dry, brilliant
weather that is common here like some fantastically
inspired wedding cake.

As a piece of timing, the 400-year-old building, which is
Japan's oldest surviving castle, was an abject failure. It
was conceived at the height of a period of intense warfare
between feuding samurai clans, but by the time the
extraordinary six-story defensive structure was completed,
in 1614, Japan had entered an era of unprecedented
stability. The peace under centralized rule would last two
and a half centuries.

The very plan of this old city -with its narrow, zigzagging
streets that seem to turn back upon themselves, leading to
nowhere and thus confusing attackers - was laid out with
war in mind. The battles never reached here, though, and
the effect that remains, happily, is one of overwhelming
tranquillity, particularly after the noise and bustle of
Tokyo.

Nagano, the capital of the mountainous prefecture of the
same name, and home to the majestic twin ranges of the
Japanese Alps, is by far the best known and most heavily
frequented city in this central region of Honshu, Japan's
largest island. The construction of a new shinkansen, or
bullet train, line for the Winter Olympics the city played
host to in 1998 assured that it would hold onto the
distinction. It is just three hours from Tokyo.

But for many Japanese, and for foreign visitors who prefer
being just slightly off the beaten path, Matsumoto is the
real jewel of the prefecture, a city treasured for its
unhurried sophistication and historic charms.

Easily manageable on foot or by bicycle, the city of just
over 200,000 is a convenient and comfortable jumping-off
point for skiers in the winter and hikers and climbers who,
in the warmer months, head for the mountains that loom in
the distance in virtually every direction.

Visitors from Tokyo love Matsumoto for, among other things,
its famous soba noodles, the buckwheat delicacy that this
Alpine region, where rice cultivation is difficult, has
long made its specialty. The Matsumoto area is also home to
countless onsen, or Japanese-style hot baths, built over
hot springs, where a series of steamy soakings during a
night or two spent in an austere tatami mat room and eating
traditional delicacies meal after meal can provide an
amazingly thorough unwinding.

Just as the city grew up around its superb fortifications,
any visit here logically begins at Matsumoto Castle. Unlike
European castles, which are usually made of stone,
Matsumoto's 98-foot structure, one of four Japanese castles
officially designated as National Treasures, is made almost
entirely of wood. The building can be seen from almost
anywhere in the central city, which makes finding it
simple. To get inside, the visitor must cross two
footbridges spanning moats filled with mottled golden carp,
ducks and geese.

English-language brochures are available at the entrance,
and volunteer guides who speak serviceable English are
often on hand to accompany foreign guests inside. Few will
regret taking them up on the offer, because it becomes
clear in just a few minutes that they really know their
stuff. As one does entering a Japanese home, you must take
off your shoes, the difference here being that you carry
them with you in a clear plastic bag.

Among the first facts learned about the castle is that it
was designed not with postcard prettiness but rather
serious violence in mind. The able guides, who are mostly
retirees and housewives, explain that the tiny windows at
the lower levels were used for dropping stones on any
attacking samurai who tried to scale the building. A little
higher up, other, slatlike windows were used for throwing
spears and lances, and shooting arrows and the guns that
were just making their way into use in Japan.

The inside of the castle reveals a world made of wood: huge
cedar beams cut and carved by hand, and floorboards that
are pleasantly cool to the foot, at least in the warm
months. No visitor will fail to notice the steepness of the
stairs, for one because the guides are always reminding you
to take your time and to be careful. Even here, one is
told, the design had defense in mind. The 50-plus-degree
incline and the long distance between rises was intended to
slow attackers down and put them off balance.

The surprise on the intermediate floors, between steep
climbs, is to find that the castle serves as a museum,
beginning with the country's largest collection of ancient
firearms dating back to the early 17th century. Displayed
in glass cases, the long Japanese guns, which sometimes
fired stones for shot, seem like distant kin to our muskets
and blunderbusses, from which they had been only recently
derived. For their makers, aesthetics seems to have counted
as much as function, and each of these strangely beautiful
creations reflects the same kind of individuality and soul
that Japanese craftsmen of the era so famously imparted to
their swords.

The castle also contains displays of the intricate body
armor without which no samurai would have dreamed of
jousting, including one pierced by a bullet. Countless
times one will have heard that the thick, colorfully
stitched padding inspired the costume of the Star Wars
villain, Darth Vader. But until one sees the real item at
close hand, as one does here, it is impossible to realize
just how pale a shadow Hollywood's minimalist creation is.

The fortress's ultimate subterfuge, after the surrounding
streets that seem to lead everywhere except for the moats,
and the stairs that leave visitors feeling winded and
dizzy, comes on a sixth, intermediate floor, where the
builders created a hidden half story, which was designed to
fool attackers who from outside would have only counted
five. Should any attacker have made it this far, a small
army of samurai would have been lying here in wait to
prevent them from reaching the abode of their daimyo, or
lord.

Nowadays the best rewards undoubtedly go to those who
persevere to the top, where the guide's expertise shifts
from architecture to geography. Under the blue skies that
seem to reign over these plains, Japan's northern Alps
range in the western distance, snowcapped from early
November until late spring. To the east runs another range,
including a series of nearby peaks known as
Utsukushigahara, or beautiful plateau, signifying the
grassy flatlands at an altitude of 6,500 feet, where cows
graze for half the year.

After a tour of the castle, a visit to one of Matsumoto's
50 or so soba shops is in order, and luckily some of the
most famous ones are immediately at hand. Near the
monument's entrance sits Soba Shou, a two-story soba shop
where diners remove their shoes, sit on tatami and enjoy
views of the castle. A matronly waitress who took a
foreigner's order asked if he wanted tempura, saying
"That's what all the foreigners eat."

I can attest to the quality of the tempura, but it would be
a shame for anyone who came from abroad to miss the local
specialties, which in addition to large servings of hot or
cold soba include sansai, or mountain vegetables
(delicious, wild, crunchy greens), and for those with the
stomach for it, chewy horsemeat.

Less appealingly, large parts of Matsumoto resemble almost
any other medium-sized Japanese city. This is particularly
true of the commercial district around the main train
station, which is as much the center of Japanese urban life
today as castles and forts once were.

A 15-minute walk from the station, and a fairly short
distance from virtually anywhere in this modest-sized city,
however, sits an older, sublimely elegant part of town that
alternates streets showcasing the cozy bourgeois affluence
of a Swiss canton with narrow, riverside alleyways that
still recall the feudal period.

Along the banks of the Metoba River, one finds shops dating
from the early Edo period, built in the kura style, with
decorative walls of white plaster and black beams. One of
the shops, the Yama-ya, has been selling candies since
1672. Here too is one of Japan's oldest coffee shops,
Marumo, a place with an Old World feeling, where classical
music from a huge collection is played at a whisperlike
volume on a stereo, waitresses murmur irrashaimase
(welcome) with every entrance and departure, and a mostly
prosperous, middle-aged clientele gathers to exchange
gossip.

The coffee shop's distinctive furniture, low-slung, dark
and beautifully lustrous cherry, reflects another local
specialty. The most famous producer of the style, known as
mingei kagu, or folk art furniture, has a shop nearby,
Matsumoto Mingei Kagu, but be prepared to hold your breath,
not just for the quality, which is high, but for the
prices, which are equally lofty. A table for six, for
example, can be had for around $4,000.

On the other side of the river sits the Yohashira Jinja, a
lovely Shinto shrine that one enters through large torii,
or beamlike gates. In addition to being a quiet place to
sit down and collect oneself while resting the feet, the
shrine provides an interesting window on a
little-understood side of Japanese life: a spirituality
that encompasses the simultaneous practice of several
faiths.

Young mothers come to the shrine's grounds to play outdoors
with their children. Lovers kiss surreptitiously in the
shade. And office workers come to steal a moment for a
smoke outdoors.

But on this day, with school exams approaching, several
teenagers, who will almost certainly marry in Christian
ceremonies and be buried in Buddhist ones - a pattern that
has prevailed in recent decades in a country where few
people are attached to a single religion, but rather pick
and choose ceremonies from the three faiths - come and stop
before the colorful altar to clap their hands twice in a
call to the gods. After a moment's meditation, and dropping
a few coins, they tie a prayer to a cord hung off to the
side, in a final appeal for success, and then they are
gone.

Visitor Information

Matsumoto Castle is open daily. English-language brochures
are available at the entrance, and volunteer guides who
speak serviceable English are often on hand to accompany
foreign guests inside free of charge. The fee is $4.35, $2
for children, at an exchange rate of 119 yen to the dollar.
The trip from Shinjuko Station in Tokyo to Matsumoto
Station takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes by JR Chuo
Honsen Limited Express.

Japan Folklore Museum, in front of the castle donjon, has
on display more than 91,000 artifacts concerning the
archaeology, history, folklore and nature of the area. Open
daily, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (must enter by 4:30). The
admission fee for the castle covers the museum.

Alps Park, 25 minutes by bus from Matsumoto Bus Terminal,
is 2,625 feet in altitude. The scenery of the Northern
Japan Alps, Azumino and Matsumoto can be enjoyed from here.


Former Kaichi Gakko (School) Building, a 10-minute walk
from the castle, was built in 1876 and is the oldest
Western-style school structure in Japan.

Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum, near Shimo-Kanai Bus Stop, 15
minutes by bus from Matsumoto Station, was built in 1962 by
Taro Maruyama, a noted folk artist of the city, and
displays 6,000 folk home utensils of wood, bamboo and
glass. The museum closed for renovation shortly after I
visited, and is scheduled to reopen in April.

Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, seven minutes by car from JR
Matsumoto Station or a 15-minute walk from Oniwa Station on
the Matsumoto Dentetsu Railway, houses some 100,000
woodblock prints. Closed Monday; admission $8.

Asama Spa, 20 minutes by bus from Matsumoto Station, is a
quiet hot spring resort. It serves as a base for excursions
to Utsukushigahara Plateau and Lake Misuzu. Bus fare $2.95.

HOWARD W. FRENCH is the chief of the Tokyo bureau of The
Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/19/travel/19matsu.html?ex=1043993494&ei=1&en=a1de7916e395d8db

HALBLEU
02-04-03, 11:07 AM
In Some Countries Dangerous Legal Pitfalls Await the Unwary Visitor
January 28, 2003 By DAVID KOEPPEL

An American telecommunications executive on business in Venezuela is involved in an automobile accident that
severely injures the other driver. Even though he is not at fault, he is arrested.

A businessman traveling in the Middle East is arrested at
the airport for possessing a pornographic magazine.

A Connecticut dealer in meteorites is jailed in Brazil,
accused of stealing a meteorite.

While the vast majority of business conducted by Americans
abroad is relatively problem-free, security specialists,
lawyers and diplomats all recommend taking great care in
countries where navigating an array of obscure and often
byzantine laws can be perilous. The State Department
estimates that about 3,000 Americans are arrested in
foreign countries every year, and most experts say the true
figure is probably higher. In many cases, guilt or
innocence is irrelevant.

"When you're traveling abroad for business or pleasure you
need to understand something about the country's legal and
cultural background," said Alexander Tabb, the associate
managing director of the Security Services Group of Kroll
Inc. "Just because you're an American doesn't make you
safe, and it doesn't mean some cop won't beat the living
daylights out of you."

Even innocent gestures like taking photographs can court
trouble. And reckless driving or possession of even a small
amount of drugs can land you in jail for years. Prison
conditions in most developing nations are at best squalid
and at worst extremely dangerous.

Ronald Farrell, 48, a buyer and seller of meteorites in
Bethany, Conn., discovered how dangerous. Mr. Farrell spent
75 days in a Brazilian federal prison in 1997 after he and
an associate were accused of stealing a meteorite from a
museum, a charge he said was baseless.

Mr. Farrell said he was locked in an 18-by-20-foot foot
cell with 16 other prisoners, including convicted
murderers, given inedible meals and threatened by guards
with beatings. In his second month of captivity, he said,
he managed to bribe officials into giving him better food
and letting him make cellphone calls to his wife back home.
After his lawyers bought his freedom for $25,000, he said,
he was forced to remain in Brazil for two months. He said
that throughout the ordeal the American consulate offered
little assistance.

"I still suffer from trauma when I travel," he said. "I can
wake up in a strange hotel and think I'm still back in that
Brazilian cell."

Kelly Shannon, a State Department spokeswoman, declined to
comment on Mr. Farrell's case, but said that the help that
consular officers could give to jailed Americans was
limited. The officers generally visit the prisoners and can
bring food, medication and reading material; make legal
recommendations; insist on proper treatment; notify the
prisoners' families; and file protests about prison
conditions. But, she said, they cannot demand a detainee's
release or provide a lawyer.

The State Department recommends that travelers check its
Web site (www.travel.state.gov) for specific warnings and
advisories.

While most business travelers are smart enough not to bring
illegal drugs or firearms into foreign countries, they can
be caught unaware by some local regulations. Many countries
prohibit taking photos of government buildings and
airports, for example; Ms. Shannon said a woman was
detained in Zimbabwe for photographing a government mansion
last year. And Japan bans such commonplace over-the-counter
medications as Tylenol Cold Medicine and Nyquil.

Bruce McIndoe, chief executive of iJet, a Maryland company
that provides legal, cultural and security information
about 182 countries to mostly corporate and government
clients, urges travelers to be alert to local mores, like
whether police will seek a bribe or bristle at one. In
Thailand, he said, it is not unheard-of for drugs to be
planted in a traveler's suitcase.

About the worst thing that can happen is to be arrested for
drug possession. Scores of Americans have been imprisoned
in Thailand on drug charges in recent years, for example,
most of them claiming they were coerced or duped.

In one highly publicized case, Stephen Roye, an American
journalist, was arrested in 1994 at the Bangkok airport and
charged with possessing about six pounds of heroin. Mr.
Roye, now 57, said he had been doing research for an
article on the drug trade and was forced into concealing
the contraband in his luggage by heroin smugglers who
threatened to kill his mother and son. He received a life
sentence that was later commuted to 40 years; last month,
he was allowed to return home and complete his sentence in
the United States.

Richard Atkins, the vice president of International
Recoveries, a Philadelphia organization that works with
Americans arrested abroad, says a more common risk is being
detained in car accidents, especially if there are serious
injuries. Drivers and passengers alike can "wind up in a
hellhole of a prison cell," Mr. Atkins said.

"Investigations can sometimes last several months," he
added.

He strongly recommends carrying a charged cellphone and
having adequate travel insurance that includes a 24-hour
legal-consultations service. He recalled a client who was
arrested several years ago in Venezuela after his car was
struck in the rear by another driver, who was seriously
injured. The client, an American telecommunications
executive, grabbed his cellphone and called his
travel-assistance company's hot line even as he was being
taken away by police, Mr. Atkins said. The company then
called International Recoveries with his insurance
information, the name of co-workers and Venezuelan
officials to contact immediately, he said. The client was
released from custody within several hours.

Other experts recommend finding a reliable and licensed car
service in unfamiliar countries. Gladson I. Nwanna, a
finance professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore
and author of "Americans Traveling Abroad: What you Should
Know Before You Go" (World Travel Institute, 1996), says
that in any third world country it is a good idea to check
in with the American consulate and with the country's
tourism ministry on potential pitfalls.

"Bribery is a common way of doing business in many parts of
the world," Dr. Nwanna said. "But if you give money to the
wrong person, it can get you into trouble."

Giving it to the right person does not have to be
expensive, though. John Briley, the senior managing editor
for Ijet and a freelance writer, said $5 freed him from a
speeding charge in Panama and $10 bought off a border guard
when he wandered into Costa Rica by mistake.

Mr. Tabb, the Kroll official, advises Americans who think
they are about to be arrested abroad to keep a cool head -
and a soft voice. "Let them know you're an American citizen
and ask to speak to the consulate," he said. "Don't be
demanding or arrogant. The squeaky wheel will not get the
grease."


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/28/business/
worldbusiness/28PITF.html?ex=
1044875873&ei=1&en=c1d48c729ce86502

HALBLEU
02-10-03, 11:18 AM
http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/040/travel/
A_low_tech_way_to_enhance_your_trip+.shtml

REAL DEALS
A low-tech way to enhance your trip

By Richard P. Carpenter, Globe Staff, 2/9/2003

In this age of the Internet, they've been jokingly called portable information terminals. They're compact and thus easy to take along on your travels, and they contain troves of information that could save you money or otherwise enhance your trip.

They're books.

Some, of course, are guidebooks, which tell you all about your destination. But there are others, designed for everything from helping you en route to picking the right cruise ship for your lifestyle. Among these publications, all of which are paperbacks:

''Rest Areas & Welcome Centers Along US Interstates'' by William C. Herow (Roundabout Publications, $9.95). You won't find exciting writing in this book. In fact, you'll find very little writing but lots of charts, guiding you to those places along the interstates that vacationers find vital: rest areas, welcome centers, roadside turnouts, scenic villas, discount stores such as Wal-Mart, and, in this latest edition, travel centers. If you can't find the book, it can be ordered with free shipping by calling 800-455-2207.

''Zagat Survey: 2003 London Nightlife,'' edited by Sara Norrman and Laura Mitchell (Zagat, $12.95). As Roger Miller sang long ago, London swings. The guide covers more than 825 clubs, bars, and lounges, directing you to the hot dance clubs, the romantic lounges, the gay and lesbian spots, and even the places with water views.

''The Dog Lover's Companion'' by various writers (Avalon Travel Publishing, $17.95-$21.95). This is a series of guides for people who travel with their pooches, giving the scoop on dog-friendly parks, restaurants, shops, and hotels. Volumes are available for Boston, the Bay Area of Northern California, California, Florida, New England, New York City, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

''Living, Studying, and Working in Italy: Everything You Need to Know to Live la Dolce Vita '' by Travis Neighbor Ward and Monica Larner (Owl Books, $17). Whether you plan to stay a few weeks or the rest of your life, the book's step-by-step guide to settling in may ease your transition.

''European Vacation Rentals'' by Steenie Harvey (Avalon Travel, $17.95). If you're looking for an alternative to a hotel, this book offers many, from log cabins in Norway to houseboats on Amsterdam's canals to apartments in Ireland. There is information on long- and short-term rentals for families, couples, and solo travelers.

''Africa: Top Wildlife Countries'' by Mark W. Nolting (Global Travel Publishers, $19.95). An African safari certainly falls into the ''trip of a lifetime'' category. This book compares wildlife reserves and other major attractions. There are maps, photos, charts, and information on accommodations, graded for quality. A companion volume from the same publisher is ''African Safari Journal'' ($16.95) with a wildlife/botany guide, language guide, trip organizer, safari directory, check list, and, of course, a journal.

''The Total Traveler Guide to Worldwide Cruising: The Encyclopedia of Vacations at Sea'' by Ethel Blum (Travel Publications, $29.95). This hefty journal contains over 400 reviews of ships, with information on vessels ranging from cruise ships to riverboats to freighters to barges. Opinions are given on which ships are best for romance, singles, seniors, families, disabled people, etc. There is information on deals, insider tips, shopping advice, and a lot more.

$649 - with air

Carnival Cruise Lines is offering Caribbean cruises, including round-trip air from Boston's Logan Airport, starting at $649 per person.

The air/sea packages are for selected February and March sailings from Miami. Prices begin at $649 for four-day western Caribbean cruises to Key West, Fla., and Cozumel, Mexico, aboard the 2,052-passenger Fascination; $699 for five-day cruises to Key West and Belize aboard the 2,052-passenger Imagination; and $849 seven-day eastern or western Caribbean cruises aboard the 2,758-passenger Carnival Triumph and Carnival Victory, and 2,052-passenger smoke-free Paradise.

(The fine print: Rates reflect interior cabins, are based on double occupancy, and are subject to change. The offer is capacity controlled; there are other restrictions as well.)

See a travel agent, call 800-CARNIVAL, or visit www.carnival.com.

Stylish tip


If you're visiting Hong Kong, Travel Holiday magazine suggests a stop at Bossini Clothes in Kowloon. The quality is high and the prices are low: Most pants, shirts, and skirts are less than $35 each.

Bossini is on Nathan Road, Victoria Heights; telephone 011-852-2377-4322.

$80 ski package


The Inn at Mountain View Farm in East Burke, Vt., has an $80-per-person weekday Alpine Ski Package, valid through March 30. Included are a night's lodging with a country breakfast; two adult passes to nearby Burke Mountain, with its 43 trails and 2,000-foot vertical drop; afternoon tea and sweets by the fire; and all taxes.

(The fine print: Packages are double occupancy; add $15 a person for weekend stays. The offer is not valid Feb. 14-16. Larger rooms and luxury suites cost more.)

Call 800-572-4509 or e-mail innmtnview@kingcon.com. Visit www.innmtnview.com for additional packages.

Cruise sale


People who use MasterCard to book a qualifying cruise on Travelocity by Feb. 28 for sailings departing between March 1 and Dec. 31 will get up to $250 back per stateroom on a MasterCard Gift Card.

(The fine print: The $250 is for a cruise of 10 days or more. Other possible savings are $50 for a three- to six-night sailing and $175 for seven to nine nights.

Visit www.travelocity.com and click on Cruises.

$15 lift tickets


Ski Butternut in Great Barrington is offering $15 lift tickets every Monday and Tuesday. The price is valid for a full-day all-mountain ticket. Regular price for a midweek lift ticket is $32 for ages 14-65 and $22 for ages 7-13 or 65 and older. Children 6 and younger are free midweek.

(The fine print: The $15 price doesn't apply on Presidents' Day.)

Visit www.skibutternut.com.

Clues and strategies


The Web site www.biddingfortravel.com is a message board of sorts in which contributors reveal their successful bids on priceline.com. The idea is to provide clues on how low you might go in offering an acceptable bid on a similar property in a given location.

Meanwhile, one traveler claims success in checking out a room rate offered on Hotwire, then bidding 15 percent lower on Priceline for the same type room in the same neighborhood. With either method, there is no guarantee of success, however.

Quotable


''Have you ever walked into a hotel room for which you paid, say $100, only to see a placard on the wall indicating that the top price for the room was $250? ... Do you think anyone actually ever paid that $250? Not likely. The sad fact is that all too many hotels - especially the higher-priced ones - adopt fictitious list prices (or `rack rates') that nobody ever pays. Then, they promote the real going price as a big `discount'''

- ED PERKINS, syndicated travel columnist.

Discount tickets


Broadwaybox.com lists promotion codes for buying discounted tickets, sometimes as much as half off, for Broadway shows. I tried it recently, and found three discount codes for ''Cabaret,'' two for ''Beauty and the Beast,'' and one for ''The Phantom of the Opera.'' Interestingly, the site lists expired codes, saying they are often extended beyond the original date. The site explains how to use the codes.


This story ran on page M10 of the Boston Globe on 2/9/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

Taylor
02-11-03, 05:39 AM
The best place to travel, would be to other planets outside the solar system.

Not because they are better than Terra, but because they would make humans appreciate how special our homeworld is. And make them more conscious of the decisions we make in Terras destruction.

HALBLEU
02-15-03, 07:31 PM
February 16, 2003
A Few Days of Plenty in Paris
By EDWARD SCHNEIDER

TIME is supposed to fly when you're having a good time. But like so much else your parents taught you, that is little more than a generalization, and it seems to apply not at all to short vacations.

Over the last few years, my wife, Jackie, and I have been taking long weekend breaks, leaving after work on Wednesday and returning on Sunday night. We've discovered that time slows up -three days can seem like a full week of cultural and gastronomic activities, and even relaxation.

The first thing that occurs to most people planning a long weekend is not to go too far afield: a few hours' drive at most. But we've taken another tack: Europe. This doesn't have to be expensive. For a weekend late last October, we bought round-trip tickets to Paris for a hair over $400 each, and hotel-air fare packages can also be good value: say, $500 a person for a bare-bones hotel and $600 for nicer accommodations.

We also have a few rules for a successful weekend break:

One: Travel lighter than usual. You want to manage with just hand luggage. No one will care that you are wearing the same jacket every day.

Two: Book the best hotel you can afford. This time, we were feeling flush and eased ourselves into the lap of luxe at the Meurice.

Three: Sleep late, eat late and go to bed late. I am convinced that this minimizes jet lag. Even if it doesn't, you still get to sleep late - a treat in itself.

Four: Do some planning. Many restaurants require reservations.

Five: Don't overplan, and don't feel guilty if you spend a couple of afternoon hours napping; you will still cover a lot of ground.

Six: Fly home in the late afternoon or the evening. This will add a solid half-day to your jaunt.

We left on a Wednesday night; Thursday morning, we were in a taxi 25 minutes after touchdown and at the hotel 40 minutes later.

And what a hotel. The Meurice was completely renovated a couple of years ago and is both splendid and welcoming. I cannot help mentioning the bathroom. Our digs were not among the hotel's grandest, but the bathroom alone was larger than most of the Paris hotel rooms we've stayed in, with an enormous claw-foot tub and Penhaligon's toiletries. The bedroom was blessedly quiet and beautifully decorated - the French are so good at upholstery, tassels and whatnot.

Lunch was at Market, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Paris outpost. The scene was diverse: women enjoying a long lunch, bankers, art dealers and a young couple with a baby in a stroller, who was served buttered noodles and was cooed over by the staff.

The outstanding food covers a lot of ground, too: in addition to more substantial choices, there's a raw bar and a short list of pizzas, including one of the best things I'd eaten in a while, a mini-pie topped with fontina cheese and black truffles. Great desserts, too. And Market is open on Sunday for brunch as well as dinner, a real plus on a three-day weekend.

The afternoon was spent on the best activity Paris has to offer apart from eating: strolling and getting reacquainted with the beauties of the city, which seem to be greater every time we visit. The latest initiative is a dog-mess campaign with explicit posters that seem to be startling the Parisians into picking up after their pets. In general, you can safely look up at the city now, rather than down at the sidewalk.

Dinner was at ever-crowded Astier, one of the best bargains we know: it offers a very good prix-fixe dinner for about $26.50. Appetizers include tiny cheese ravioli in a bright winter-squash sauce, various pâtés, herring with potato salad, and sautéed wild mushrooms with garlic. Main courses range from tender braised pork cheeks, to rabbit in mustard sauce, to fish in crisp brik pastry.

What sets Astier apart from other 25-buck restaurants, besides quality, is its cheese tray of about 20 choices, which is included in the price. Dessert will probably seem superfluous, but there's always room for the citrus terrine: grapefruit and orange segments bound with lightly jelled citrus juice.

We took the Métro halfway back from the Place de la République to Châtelet, walking the rest of the way in the wee-hours quiet, past the Louvre, where a banner caught our eye: the Museum of Decorative Arts was featuring Chinese posters from throughout the 20th century. We would return.

Friday morning, we were up and at 'em by 11 (see Rule 3), just in time to get in before the lunchtime rush at Ladurée's pastry palace on the Champs-Élysées. We sat in one of the lavishly decorated upstairs rooms (again, lots of tassels), but not before we'd ogled the vast marble counter and chosen our pastries: there's no getting away without eating at least two, plus perhaps a few of their famous macaroons.

After a stop at the Maille shop on the Place de la Madeleine for a jar of freshly made Dijon mustard, filled from a spigot, we made our way to the Marais. We spent two hours in the Museum of Jewish Art and History, a wide-ranging collection of objects dating as far back as the Middle Ages.

The museum is in a grand former residential building worth a visit in itself, the 17th-century Hôtel de St.-Aignan, built for a nobleman who conducted negotiations for Richelieu. The city bought it in 1962, and a series of renovations culminated in the opening of the museum in 1998.

We paused for tea at the nearby Mariage Frères, where we chose from a 500-entry tea menu - as long as many novellas and more entertaining than most.

The rest of Friday we spent wandering and window shopping. The Brittany tourist office on the Boulevard St.-Germain had a window display of canned sardines with gorgeous labels. We went in to look and found that they were for sale. They were all made by traditional methods, using local sardines and good olive oil, and they make fine, compact gifts.

Friday night was our big-deal dinner, at the three-Michelin-star Pierre Gagnaire. It was a provocative meal: each course is built around a theme and consists of several small dishes served in two or three stages. The flood of flavors (not all of them delicious) was confusing, and the very number of dishes tended to fill us up, at least psychically: after our multiplate first course, we were dreading the arrival of main dishes.

Still, there were some wonderful things, and the dessert soufflés were exquisite. Mr. Gagnaire is admirably willing to take risks, which is rare in three-star chefs.

Pondering that meal kept us awake; we got back to the hotel around 1:30 and didn't fall asleep for another hour. So on Saturday morning we had no problem following the sleep-late rule again.

We took our noontime breakfast at Pierre Hermé's sparely decorated new tearoom near St.-Germain-des-Prés. One of our favorites was the Ispahan, a rose-scented macaroon filled with rose-petal cream, raspberries and litchis.

A STROLL up the Champs-Élysées took us to the Grand Palais to see a big exhibition of Constable paintings. What made it particularly interesting, we thought, was that the contemporary British painter Lucien Freud had chosen the works. To us, this suggested that his insightful comments would appear on the paintings' labels. They didn't and therefore our enjoyment was diminished.

We did just a little more walking and shopping, including for excellent chocolates at Jean-Paul Hévin on the Rue St.-Honoré, which is also fine for hot chocolate and lunch, or a snack.

After a rest and a drink in our hotel bar, it was time to head out for dinner at the unreconstructed Bistrot Chez René, which has been in the same place and under the same family management for more than a half-century. It has a nonsmoking room, but our Paris-based friend Richard thinks it is more authentic to sit with the smokers.

He is right: We would not have witnessed the graduate-student seduction at the next table had we sat among the clean-living types in the next room. (All of our clothes, including socks, had to be sent to the cleaners to rid them of the fumes, though.)

First courses vary in quality; the charcuterie platter is reliable, as is the old-fashioned gratin of Swiss chard. Hearty main courses are uniformly excellent: boeuf bourguignon; kidneys; boiled beef; in late fall and winter, game stews (I had wild boar in a sauce nearly black with wine and blood).

As we hiked back to the hotel, along the busy Boulevards St.-Germain and St.-Michel, we were struck by how nonthreatening the crowds were. In London, say, the Saturday-midnight scene can be scary because of aggressive drunkards, but here high spirits were matched by good humor.

We were lucky that our Sunday evening flight was not until 6:55, leaving time for a museum and lunch, which rounded out the trip and also meant we could skip the inevitably dismal airplane food.

Once we'd packed and checked out, we visited that Chinese poster exhibition. We particularly liked a 1930's advertisement for Rat brand cigarettes.

Lunch in the ornate hotel restaurant, the Michelin-starred Meurice, proved an excellent option, both for logistical reasons and because the food was first rate. Most memorable was a perfectly roasted slab of turbot with a shellfish broth, accompanied by miniature parsley-filled ravioli. The service was professional and cordial.

Dessert segued into a taxi ride to the airport and an uneventful flight home.

Now, if that isn't a week's worth of vacation, even though it took only three and a half days, I don't know what is. You'll have to believe me when I say that the next morning, we woke up for work thoroughly refreshed and raring to go.

Visitor Information

Where to Stay

Hôtel Meurice, 228, rue de Rivoli, in the First Arrondissement; (33-1) 44.58.10.10, fax (33-1) 44.58.10.19, www.meuricehotel.com, has 160 rooms, with doubles from $765, at .95 euros to the dollar, and special rates from about $600 a night.

Hôtel Bel-Ami, 7-11, rue St.-Benoît, Sixth Arrondissement; (33-1) 42.61.53.53, fax (33-1) 49.27.09.33, www.hotel-bel-ami.com, has 115 small, stylish rooms amid a chic scene on the Left Bank. From about $225 a night.

Hôtel Bradford Best Western, 10, rue St.-Philippe-du-Roule, Eighth Arrondissement; (33-1) 45.63.20.20, fax (33-1) 45.63.20.07, is well located near the Rue du Faubourg-St.-Honoré. Weekend rates for the 50 rooms start about $260 double; specials from $180.

Where to Eat

Unless noted, prices are for dinner for two with a modest bottle of wine, and the restaurants are open for lunch and dinner.

Market, 15, avenue Matignon, Eighth Arrondissement; (33-1) 56.43.40.90, fax (33-1) 43.59.10.87. About $160 ($90 for a lighter lunch). Open daily.

Astier, 44, rue Jean-Pierre-Timbaud, 11th Arrondissement; (33-1) 43.57.16.35. About $75. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Pierre Gagnaire, 6, rue Balzac, Eighth Arrondissement; (33-1) 58.36.12.50, fax (33-1) 58.36.12.51. About $450. Closed Saturday and Sunday lunch.

Chez René, 14, boulevard St.-Germain, Fifth Arrondissement; (33-1) 43.54.30.23, fax (33-1) 43.26.43.92. About $110. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Le Meurice, in Hôtel Meurice, (33-1) 44.58.10.55, fax (33-1) 44.58.10.76. About $150. Closed at lunch Saturday.

Tea and Pastries

Ladurée has shops at 75, Champs-Élysées, (33-1) 40.75.08.75, and 16, rue Royale, (33-1) 42.60.21.79 (closed Sunday), both in the Eighth Arrondissement; and at 21 rue Bonaparte in the Sixth, (33-1) 44.07.64.87.

Pierre Hermé, 72, rue Bonaparte, Sixth Arrondissement, (33-1) 43.54.47.77.

Mariage Frères, 30 and 35, rue du Bourg-Tibourg, Fourth Arrondissement, (33-1) 42.72.28.11, two other locations..

Jean-Paul Hévin, 231, rue St.-Honoré, First Arrondissement, (33-1) 55.35.35.96, closed Sunday; two other locations..

What to See

Grand Palais, Champs-Élysées at Avenue du Général-Eisenhower, Eighth Arrondissement; (33-1) 44.13.17.17; www.rmn.fr/galeriesnationalesdugrandpalais. Closed Tuesday. Admission varies; for a Chagall exhibition starting March 14, $10 to $12.

Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 107, rue du Rivoli (in the Louvre); (33-1) 44.55.57.50; www.ucad.fr. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Admission varies.

Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme (Jewish Museum), 71, rue du Temple, Third Arrondissement; (33-1) 42.72.97.47, www.mahj.org. Closed Saturday. Admission, $6.50.

Edward Schneider writes about food and music.


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/16/travel/16paris.html

HALBLEU
02-25-03, 11:37 AM
Skipping a Night Out on the Town

February 25, 2003
By JANE L. LEVERE

Like many traveling executives, Peter Salmon, a senior
sales manager for Sharp Electronics in Los Angeles, has
taken to holing up in his hotel room at night.

If he's not entertaining clients at dinner, Mr. Salmon said
he would "have room service, sit there, open and answer the
day's e-mails and check our system for sales updates."

"I've been doing this more and more," said Mr. Salmon, who
favors Hilton hotels for their concierge floors, guest-room
desks and high-speed Internet access. "There are some
nights I spend three or four hours on a computer. I used to
go out to eat more, but now I don't have as much time."

Travel industry executives say Mr. Salmon is one of a
growing number of business travelers who are skipping a
night out on the town, once an inviolable perk, in favor of
spending their evenings alone in their hotel room to work
or relax. Many of them are also converting the room into an
office where they work during the day.

Although this trend began before the World Trade Center
attacks, they say, it has accelerated, spurred by the
declining economy, cutbacks in travel budgets, increased
pressure on time and productivity, and travelers' desire to
use what free time they have to unwind and stay in touch
with their families.

Of course, business travelers still head to night spots in
large numbers and meet clients and colleagues outside their
hotels, but enough of them are changing their habits to
catch the attention of a broad cross section of chains -
including Marriott International; Wyndham International;
Hilton Hotels; W, owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts
Worldwide; Ian Schrager Hotels; Four Seasons Hotels and
Resorts; and the Peninsula Group. These companies are
responding to the shift with new services that cater to it
and even encourage it.

Hotel companies like Hilton, Wyndham and Marriott have
upgraded their bedding and desk arrangements and installed
high-speed Internet access to accommodate the ever-rising
number of executives with laptops. According to Bjorn
Hanson, head of the hospitality practice at
PricewaterhouseCoopers, four-fifths of all business
travelers now carry laptops.

In recent months, Wyndham and W have also introduced
packages that bundle high-speed Internet access and local
and long-distance phone service, and Marriott is
experimenting with a comparable arrangement. The Four
Seasons Hotel Berlin has created a mobile computer station
that rents by the hour and contains a desktop computer,
scanner, printer, copier, fax and software in three
languages.

Such innovations have made life a lot easier for Chris
Paladino, an executive with the American Red Cross in
Montgomery County, Md.. "As the technology advances, I can
connect my laptop to high-speed Internet access in my
room," said Mr. Paladino, who is a member of Marriott's
loyalty program. "In the past, I'd have to go to Kinko's to
get high-speed Internet access and to another location for
other services. Now they're all brought together in my
room. I can get room service, copying, faxing, directions,
you name it." He even praises Marriott's new desks, which
he says are much easier to use than its old ones.

Difficulties with flying have also stimulated business
travelers' desire to retreat to their hotel rooms for a
little peace and quiet, Mr. Hanson said. "After spending an
extra hour at the airport, much of it waiting in lines, and
not getting in-flight meals, arriving at the hotel is now a
time to decompress," he said. "There's also the CNN effect;
with so much going on in Iraq, the Columbia space shuttle,
fluctuations in the stock market, people feel the need to
catch up on news. And there's a more somber national
attitude, a more conservative definition of having a good
time. People want to relax, read, be in contact with their
family."

Just ask Thomas Scott, a government-affairs consultant in
Folsom, Calif., and a frequent flier to Los Angeles and San
Diego, about these trends.

"By the time I finally get to my hotel, it's usually later
in the day," said Mr. Scott, a member of Hilton's loyalty
program. "I want to check my e-mail, return any calls
before 5 or 6. You're then looking at 6:30 or 7. If I've
got a 7:30 meeting the next morning, just relaxing is what
I prefer to do."

An increasing number of travelers are also using their
hotel rooms to conduct business meetings. Gwen Davis, a New
York novelist and playwright, has been ensconced in a room
at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles since January,
finishing a play and meeting with potential producers and
actors. "It's just so grisly out there right now, I
literally have to build a cocoon around myself, because
that's the only way I can really be inspired," Ms. Davis
said.

To accommodate such guests, Ian Schrager recently began
reconfiguring certain rooms and suites in his Manhattan and
Los Angeles hotels, curtaining off sleeping areas and
installing large, fully equipped desks and even computers.

Room service is another amenity that has flourished in the
aftermath of Sept. 11. "Fewer people are traveling
together, so there's less socializing and going out to
dinner," Mr. Hanson of PricewaterhouseCoopers said.
"Employers also are looking to reduce travel expenses, and
room service can sometimes be cheaper."

Hotel chains are expanding their services to meet the
increased demand. Marriott, for example, has introduced new
coffee pots and other gadgets to keep food warm; it also
serves Häagen-Dazs ice cream by the pint, protecting it
with a special thermal cover. Many Four Seasons hotels let
guests order a room service meal on the way from the
airport that is served once they check in.

In-room exercise classes, massages and spa treatments are
also gaining in popularity. Guests at the Regent Bangkok
can order in-room massages en route from the airport, while
One Aldwych in London opened two suites last fall with
their own private gyms.

One Aldwych has also seen an increase in requests for
in-room massages. "Business travelers are often tired after
a long flight," said Alasdair Lane, manager of the hotel's
health club. "They just call down to the health club from
their room and book a massage immediately. They don't need
to leave their room again, or worry about the right things
to wear."

Several New York hotels are broadening their in-room spa
and exercise programs. The Four Seasons offers guests
private yoga classes, for example, while, next month, the
Peninsula will introduce new in-room spa products and
treatments, as well as bath amenities like cranberry and
citrus sea salts.

Such creature comforts hold special appeal to Charles
Bachrach, an executive vice president of Rubin Postaer &
Associates, a Santa Monica ad agency, and a Four Seasons
fan. He loves nothing more than to tuck into a bowl of Four
Seasons' home-style chicken noodle soup, with a salad on
the side, he said, "then have a massage and go to bed."


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/25/business/25ROOM.html?ex=1047214388&ei=1&en=2825ad30b9d4262a

HALBLEU
02-28-03, 06:07 PM
36 Hours | Key West, Fla.
By GEORGE GENE GUSTINES

HOSPITALITY is the way of life in Key West. The generous reception of guests dates back to the 1820's when ship salvagers and Cuban cigarmakers settled on the island. In more recent times, Key West has been both a sanctuary for aging hippies in Margaritaville and a popular destination on the gay circuit. The island, which has a full-time population of 28,000, offers a combination of the highbrow (the Old Town historic district with its Victorian architecture) and the low (a lot of shops selling T-shirts with rude sayings). An artistic tradition reaching from Ernest Hemingway to Jimmy Buffett has been packaged for tourists. Yet somehow the mix works. Key West is fun, with activities, bars and inns that cater to nearly every taste and orientation. After all, everyone still travels here for the same things: to bask in the sun, feast on fresh fish and guzzle their cocktails of choice.



http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/28/travel/28HOUR.html

HALBLEU
03-01-03, 05:28 AM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
March 1, 2003
Online Library Wants It All, Every Book
By ROBERT F. WORTH


the legendary library of Alexandria boasted that it had a copy of virtually every known manuscript in the ancient world. This bibliophile's fantasy in Egypt's largest port city vanished, probably in a fire, more than a thousand years ago. But the dream of collecting every one of the world's books has been revived in a new arena: online.

The directors of the new Alexandria Library, which christened a steel and glass structure with 250,000 books in October, have joined forces with an American artist and software engineers in an ambitious effort to make virtually all of the world's books available at a mouse click. Much as the ancient library nurtured Archimedes and Euclid, the new Web venture also hopes to connect scholars and students around the world.

Of course, many libraries already provide access to hundreds or even thousands of electronic books. But the ambitions of the Alexandria Library appear to surpass those of its rivals. Its directors hope to link the world's other major digital archives and to make the books more accessible than ever with new software.

To its supporters, the project, called the Alexandria Library Scholars Collective, could ultimately revolutionize learning in the developing countries, where libraries are often nonexistent and access to materials is hard to come by. Cheick Diarra, a former NASA engineer and the director of the African Virtual University, said he plans to begin using the Alexandria software this year at the university's 34 campuses in 17 African countries.

Still, the idea faces staggering logistical, legal and technical obstacles: copyright infringement, high costs and language barriers, to name just a few. Its success will depend on its ability to raise money from foundations and to forge links with governments and major universities that can offer access to their own books and materials. At the moment, the project is paid for mainly by the library, which is supported by the Egyptian government and Unesco. Its American founder, Rhonda Roland Shearer, also raised seed money from several private philanthropists, including $800,000 from the philanthropist Paul Mellon, who died in 1999. Its annual operating budget of about $500,000 is more than enough to start the first phase of its online collection, said Ms. Shearer, the American artist who designed the software. She is seeking grants from foundations as well but has no commitments, she said.

An effort so ambitious, though, is likely to require considerable capital as it grows, said David Seaman, the director of the Digital Library Federation. David Wolff, a vice president of production at Fathom, an online learning company owned by Columbia University and other institutions, agrees. "To maintain and grow such an ambitious Web service for a worldwide audience is going to require major infusions of capital," Mr. Wolff said.

The project's creators hope its philanthropic ideals and access to the Islamic world will help raise money. "When people are concerned about violence and fundamentalism, the library is a historical symbol of ecumenism and tolerance and rationality," said Ismail Serageldin, director of the Alexandria Library.

But the Internet venture may also be shadowed by some of the controversies that have plagued the entire library undertaking since it was first conceived three decades ago. Critics have often questioned its cost and asked whether its Enlightenment ideals can survive in a country where censorship is common. And a contribution from Saddam Hussein before the Persian Gulf war hase also raised eyebrows.

Although the library's administrative independence was established by law last year, its paper collection is still small and full of cheap, cast-off paperbacks.

The creators of the new database hope to leave those problems behind by making digital books and scholarly materials more accessible. Users of the Alexandria software will visit the Web site and see a sumptuously illustrated library, with calling cards and stacks, that will link them to online texts much like a standard commercial browser. They will store their digital selections from the library's collection on shelves in an on-screen personal locker.

The software also includes colorful virtual auditoriums, classrooms and offices with lamps where scholars can exchange information, teach classes or hold office hours. The rooms and lecture halls can easily be customized for the universities that choose to use the library's software for remote learning, said Ms. Shearer, whose nonprofit group, the Art Science Research Lab, will run the collective with the library.

Few people have used the software. But Richard Foley, a dean at New York University, said it was more sophisticated and easier to use than Blackboard, a tool to post academic material. "The real trick is not just to post information but to make it usable and interactive," he said. "This is a much less passive approach to information storage, retrieval and transmission."

The library has scanned only about 100,000 pages of its own material, mostly medieval Arabic texts, Mr. Serageldin said. But it has embarked on a plan to digitize thousands of books over the next several years, most of them Arabic texts, with French and English translations, he said. Other works are scheduled to be scanned elsewhere in Africa, including a whole library of crumbling medieval manuscripts in a monastery in Timbuktu in Mali, Mr. Serageldin said.

The library will also have access to one million books that are now being scanned by Carnegie Mellon University, which is creating its own vast digital archive and is one of Alexandria's partners. And the library has a vast trove of Web material already donated by the Internet Archive, a California partner with similar universal ambitions. The collective then plans to begin bargaining for access to digital collections at other libraries and universities around the world, offering access to its own materials and its network of scholars in exchange.

Eventually, Ms. Shearer hopes that private companies wanting access to its material will join, helping build revenue for the nonprofit collective and the library.

Not everyone is thrilled by the thought of their works ricocheting around the world free. In the United States, publishers have begun to find ways to seal off access to their copyrighted works. But unlike some for-profit digital libraries that have sprung up in the last decade, the cooperative is interested mostly in books that are already out of copyright, at least at first, said Frederick Mostert, a London lawyer who advises the group on copyright issues. In the meantime, the cooperative plans to begin urging authors to donate their digital rights in the hopes that the courts will let them be used.

Another possible obstacle may arise from the sheer breadth of the project's goals: digital library, lecture hall, international scholars' hub, gateway for ordinary readers and new software package. "It's hard enough to make an offering in any one of those categories," said Mr. Wolff of Fathom. "To combine them all is challenging, particularly in light of the fact that the decision makers in those areas may be different at any given institution."

But Ms. Shearer says the library's large ambitions are also an advantage. The current welter of different approaches to electronic books and resources is a problem for scholars, who will make use of the Web only if it can be made easy. The software she developed, called CyberBook Plus, was designed to allow its use in different formats and languages, with a heavy emphasis on visuals rather than posted text.

And putting everything in one place is no longer as risky as it was in the predigital era, said Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive. "One lesson of the original Library of Alexandria," he said, "is don't just have one copy."


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/01/arts/01ALEX.html?pagewanted=print&position=top

HALBLEU
03-04-03, 09:51 AM
March 4, 2003
New Ways to Untether Travelers
By JOE SHARKEY

New technology seldom arrives on the counter wrapped in pretty foil and ready to go like a box of fancy chocolates. Technological advances more often arrive with a sputter and take a while to settle in fully.

Take the automobile. I recently asked my father, who first started driving when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, what he thought was the greatest automotive advance in his time. "Tires!" he replied. "It used to be you couldn't drive 100 miles without getting a flat, no matter what kind of car you drove. When's the last time you had a flat?"

Now in a different era, consider wireless telecommunications. It is only beginning to evolve from cellphones and small hand-held devices to a whole new market in which broadband wireless Internet and e-mail service is becoming available on airplanes, in pubic places and in hotel rooms.

I was in London two weeks ago, and joined a small group for a technology demonstration in a vacant room at the swanky One Aldwych Hotel in Covent Garden. David Taylor, the sales and marketing director for a British company called Strategic Networks Ltd., was presiding over a demonstration of his company's broadband wireless Internet service, Liberty-i, which the hotel is now testing before starting it up this spring.

The service is built around so-called Wi-Fi, a system that uses radio frequencies to build local zones where laptops or personal digital devices can have access to e-mail messages, the Internet and even internal corporate networks — all without wires.

Access to Wi-Fi zones is sometimes available free on college campuses, in city parks and airports, train stations and even coffee bars. But recently, airlines like British Airways and Lufthansa have begun testing Wi-Fi access inflight, at a price. And many high-end hotels have been rushing to install wireless services in their guest rooms, meeting halls and other public spaces.

"You're creating smart space for your guests," Mr. Taylor said as he fiddled with a laptop that had already been set up by the hotel.

Watching him, Kay McCarthy, the hotel's telecommunications manager, explained that the system, once it is fully operational, would allow guests to buy a "scratch card" with coding enabling them to log on for hourly increments. Wi-Fi zones are indiscriminate — anyone in the immediate vicinity of the hotel will be able to log onto the One Aldwych home screen and its promotional links. But only those who buy the access card will be able to continue onto the Internet itself.

"One American gentleman, a regular guest at One Aldwych traveling on business, wasn't aware of the hotel's wireless Internet and turned on his computer in his room," Ms. McCarthy said. "In seconds, up popped the Liberty-i page on his screen, announcing that the hotel had wireless service. He was completely surprised and called down for an access card and was online in no time."

In the demonstration, it took Mr. Taylor no time, in fact, to get online in the hotel room. In a while, he passed the laptop to me, and it took me seconds to get to my personal home page. E-mail also worked fast and seamlessly.

Mr. Taylor's associates and Ms. McCarthy all beamed. But then one of those on hand, Joe Brancatelli, the outspoken proprietor of Joesentme .com, the online business-travel site, smiled and asked if he could use his own laptop to test the system. Of course, he was told. One big virtue of the Liberty-i Wi-Fi system is that, assuming a laptop is enabled for Wi-Fi, existing computer settings don't have to be adjusted to get access.

Mr. Brancatelli's computer refused to cooperate. Faces fell as the technology people gathered around it, murmuring that most disconcerting epithet in the computer expert's vocabulary, "Hmmmm."

Faces turned red.

Later, Mr. Brancatelli found out that the problem was a routine dial-up setting on his computer that could have been changed in a few seconds. The point, he said, was not so much that the system did not catch his setting, but that the high initial expectations that everything will work perfectly right off the bat are often misplaced.

"When these things work at all, I think it's a miracle, and I'm not being facetious," he said. "The problem is that we've now come to rely" on things being much faster and more foolproof than the technology can sustain in its initial phases, he said, "and we get angry immediately when it doesn't work."

There's a constant learning curve for both supplier and consumer, he suggested. "Average business travelers now travel with much more complicated technology than they themselves can use," he said. One London luxury hotel, the Dorchester, even has on-staff technology butlers to assist guests with wireless high-speed Internet services.

All over, hotels are rushing — even as industry revenues dip — to meet the perceived demand for the most advanced services like Wi-Fi. "The Internet and e-mail have become so much a part of our daily lives that to be without them on the road is unsettling and isolating," said Anne Dimon, who writes a travel technology column for The Toronto Sun and frequently travels internationally with a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop. "The need to stay in touch is right up there with a safe flight, a good meal and a comfortable bed," she said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/04/business/04ROAD.html?pagewanted=print&position=top


Internet High-Wire Act With an 8-Pound Laptop
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/18/business/18ROAD.html

HALBLEU
03-06-03, 04:39 AM
Where Tigers Roam Free

March 2, 2003
By AMY WALDMAN


A BLUR of orange streaked across the road and into the
brush, bringing a small deer's life to a swift and grisly
end. Then, the kill dangling from its mouth, a formidably
large tiger sauntered across the road, crossing between a
line of Jeeps full of photo-snapping tourists to return to
its cubs.

No wonder people say that Ranthambhore National Park, in
the Indian state of Rajasthan, is one of the easiest places
in the world to spot a wild tiger. The tigers have no fear.


That is because they are no longer hunted here. India has
transformed, through decades of tenacious activism by
conservationists and government, forests that were, in
Ranthambhore's case, once the private hunting reserves of
the maharajahs of Jaipur into one of the subcontinent's
best-protected preserves.

If that works to a tiger's advantage, it also benefits
those wanting to see a tiger. It is, of course, possible to
come here and not see one, since there are fewer than 40 of
them within 116 square miles. We met one couple who had
struck out on four successive drives through the park,
while we got lucky on our first. Bill Clinton,
incidentally, was also one of the lucky ones; when he
visited Ranthambhore in 2000: he saw two.

But the chances here are better than almost anywhere else,
partly because, with fairly thin brush, the landscape is
conducive to seeing animals. Besides, as Valmik Thapar, one
of India's best-known naturalists, writes in "The Secret
Life of Tigers," "Ranthambhore is a tiger's kingdom," with
an appealingly diverse landscape of hills and valleys,
ravines and gorges and lakes.

The near extinction of the tiger, here and in many of its
other habitats across the globe, prompted India's effort to
save it. At the turn of the 20th century, there were as
many as 40,000 tigers in India. Today the most optimistic
estimates put the number at 2,000 to 3,000 out of 6,000 to
7,000 in the world.

Since 1973, Project Tiger has set aside forested areas
where human activity (other than tiger watching) is barred.
Over the years the number of such protected places has
expanded from 9, including Ranthambhore, to 27.

Five of us visited Ranthambhore for one night in November,
taking the train (about three hours, if it runs on time,
which ours didn't) from Jaipur - Rajasthan's "pink city" -
to the town of Sawai Madaipur. A Jeep from the camp we had
chosen to stay at, Sher Bagh, picked us up and drove us for
nearly half an hour over jolting dirt roads.

Sher Bagh, which means Tiger Garden, is a lovely, simple
place at the park's edge, with 12 tents for one or two
people arrayed in a semicircle around a grass lawn. Each
has a small front veranda for relaxing, and bright fabrics
on the beds. Each tent has its own bathroom, with sunken
stone hot-water showers and marble sinks. There are bamboo
blinds as doors and grass mats on the floor.

At the rear of the camp are hammocks and chairs on mud
decks looking over a field perfect for musing; at the front
is a vegetable garden. At night everyone gathers around a
bonfire with an informal bar. Meals - pasta salads at
lunch, full Indian meals at dinner - are served in a tent
on colorful Indian ceramics.

The only flaws were a staff that seemed dour and stiff in
funereal-looking uniforms, and the failure of the camp to
provide orientation about the park, the region or the
tiger. (Vanyavilas, the nearby luxury camp run by the
Oberoi chain, offers talks by Fateh Singh, the reserve's
former chief conservator.) Still, I would go back, often,
for Ranthambhore is an entirely peaceful place.

After lunch, all five of us were driven to a drop-off point
outside the park. We were first swarmed by souvenir-toting
touts, then loaded into an open-air minibus that seated 20.
Traffic into Ranthambhore is carefully limited, with only
around 14 four-wheel-drive Jeeps and eight open-air
minibuses permitted in the park at a time.

We had lost our Jeep bookings because we changed our
reservation date, and as the minibus lumbered into motion,
our hearts sank. It was loud; if I were a tiger and heard
it coming, I'd head for the woods.

On board was an equally loud family that had brought along
small, screeching children. We soon learned they had
brought bananas as well. As we entered the park, a monkey
bounded toward our vehicle. Then another. Then 12 more.
Soon they were clambering on top of the bus, and then
inside. The bananas disappeared with the monkeys, and we
carried on.

The hilly park is set around the Ranthambhore Fort, built
about 1,000 years ago atop a steep rock plateau at a height
of 705 feet. From different points in the reserve its
forbidding, and largely unconquerable, walls, loom
suddenly, providing a dramatic counterpoint to the leafy
landscape, where light filters softly through the trees.
There are other pieces of the past, from cupolas to
temples, strewn throughout the park as well.

Unfortunately, we saw only a small portion of the park.
Unlike many game parks, where you are free to roam,
Ranthambhore assigns Jeep drivers to routes they must stick
to (although given the convergence that occurred when there
was even a hint of a tiger about, they clearly deviate
occasionally).

But during a two-hour drive we saw dainty spotted deer, or
chitals, stoic gray sambars and antelopes moving
nonchalantly in a pretty, shady landscape of dry, deciduous
forest. There were plenty of monkeys, vividly plumaged
peacocks, and other dandified birds, like the tree pie,
with a yellow belly and a long black-and-white tail.

They were easy to spot and enjoyable to watch, but they are
not tigers. Such game-watching safaris have always reminded
me a little bit of hunting, with the determination to bag,
or in this case see, the big game. Yes, deer are nice, but
they're easy to spot. I could feel impatience coursing
through the vehicle.

We had a boy with a killer pair of eyes on board - he saw
everything well before we did - and I thought to myself
that he would bring good luck. I was right; we spotted a
cluster of vehicles, and there, in the brush, was a tiger
with two cubs.

I would be lying if I said what ensued was a remarkable
moment of communion with nature. The park, for most of our
ride, had been tranquil and quiet. But at the tiger
sighting, at least eight packed vehicles converged. Jeeps
trying to elbow in for a better view crashed through the
brush; a woman in our minibus squealed in excitement;
passengers in other cars shouted at her to be quiet.

Still, the sight was impressive, and the tiger couldn't
have been less bothered by the hullabaloo. It gracefully
plodded along, prowling for prey, confident in its
invulnerability.

The efforts to save the tiger, particularly in a new Indian
nation that was faced with so many other, and arguably more
pressing, needs is a fascinating and well-chronicled
history. As powerful as it is in its own habitat, as we saw
a few moments later when the tigress took off for her kill,
the tiger was powerless against the gun.

Its hunt was the favorite sport both of the British
colonial elite and Indian maharajahs, and shikar, or
sport-hunting, companies sprang up to capitalize on the
lust for tiger trophies. In the first half of the century,
Europeans used to take tiger heads and skins home as
souvenirs, while after independence, in 1947, the Indian
elite went on a tiger-shooting binge. In 1960, Queen
Elizabeth, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, went
tiger-hunting at Ranthambhore.

But as the tiger's extinction loomed, some of its most
aggressive hunters became its most dedicated protectors.
Tiger shooting was finally banned in 1970, and Project
Tiger started three years later.

The protection is admirable, but fragile. Just a decade
ago, poachers seized by the police confessed to having shot
15 tigers at Ranthambhore in the previous two years. Of the
two tigers that Bill Clinton spotted, one has been poached
and the other is now missing, according to Indian news
reports. Tigers are coveted for their skins and for their
bones, which are used in Chinese herbal remedies.

Perhaps more challenging is balancing the tiger's
preservation against the pressures put on it by human
needs, especially agriculture and population growth. Even
in Ranthambhore, drought this year prompted villagers to
bring their cattle in to graze, reducing the forage
available for the tigers' prey.

Most nearby villagers - some 90,000 in the immediate area -
have seen little benefit from the protection of the tiger
and the tourism it has attracted. At Sher Bagh, every tent
has running water, while at Vanyavilas the nearby luxury
camp, there is an artificial lake. But in the neighboring
village of Sherpur, women and young girls must go to the
village hand pump for water.

They come garbed in bright oranges and fuchsias and
chartreuses. Rajasthan is perhaps India's most colorful
state. Even camels and tractors are bedecked here. The
villages, full of waving children and brightly painted
houses, sometimes with traditional manadanas, or wall
paintings, are well worth visiting, for a glimpse of rural
India.

Ranthambhore Fort is worth visiting as well, offering an
unexpected meld of historic and modern India. We walked up
to the top and found a mosque and three temples within the
fort.

The most widely visited is the Ganesh temple, on the top of
the hill, an unexpectedly lively scene. Colorfully dressed
women stream toward it, food stands feed pilgrims, goats
and donkeys sunbathe, and the ubiquitous monkeys stomp on
the temple roof.

We walked down with the park spreading below us, deer
sunning at a lake in the distance, and somewhere, tigers
wandering unhindered.

Visitor Information

Ranthambhore National Park is closed in monsoon season,
from July through September. Each season during the rest of
the year brings different benefits: from March to June it
may be very hot but animal sightings tend to be common
because waterholes dry up. In October and November the
forest is green, although the tigers may be more scattered.
December through February is colder, with clear skies and
good tiger sightings.

Getting There

You can drive to Ranthambhore from Jaipur, which has an
airport; the distance is 112 miles. Trains go to Sawai
Madhopur from both Jaipur, in Rajasthan, and Delhi (the
Delhi-Bombay western railway route); check with Indian
Railways (dial 131 within the country, or consult
www.indianrail.gov.in) for schedules. A travel agent or
hotel concierge can also arrange tickets. Sher Bagh and
some other hotels will pick you up at the Sawai Madhopur
station; taxis are also available.

Where to Stay

Sher Bagh is open from October through mid-April. A double
tent, including all meals and afternoon tea, and transfer
to and from the railway station, is $180 a night; a single
tent is $160. No credit cards. You can reserve in advance
by paying 50 percent within 30 days, 100 percent within 15
days. Jeep drives are extra, at $55, as are drinks. The
camp has a small shop and an upstairs bar.

Reservations: Forest Friendly Camps, 58-59 Regal Building,
Connaught Place, New Delhi, (91-11) 2374-3195, (91-11)
374-3194 e-mail: sherbagh@vsnl.com; www.sherbagh.com; Sher
Bagh: Sherpur-Khiljipur, District Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan
322 001; (91-7462) 252043, (91-7462) 252120, fax, a short
distance away: (91-7462) 220811.

Vanyavilas, Ranthambhore Road, Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan
322001, (91-7462) 223999, fax (91-7462) 223988,
www.oberoihotels.com, reservations@vanyavilas.com,
describes itself as India's "first luxury jungle resort."
Each of its 25 air-conditioned tents has teak floors, a
private walled garden and television. There is a heated
pool, a spa, a fitness tent and a restaurant featuring
Asian and Continental cuisine. A tent for one or two people
is $450 a night plus 10 percent tax.

What to Read

"Tiger and Tigerwallahs" (Oxford University Press, 2002) is
a compilation of works by naturalists and conservationists.
"Wild Tigers of Ranthambhore" (Oxford University Press,
2000), by Fateh Singh Rathore, has great photographs of the
park's tigers and informative captions. "Tigers: The Secret
Life," by Valmik Thapar, a leading Indian naturalist
(Oxford University Press, 2001) chronicles the family life
of the Indian tiger and the efforts to save it.

AMY WALDMAN is chief of the New Delhi Bureau of The
Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/02/travel/02tigers.html?ex=1047708547&ei=1&en=27cca61b420f6a13

HALBLEU
03-07-03, 08:06 PM
Check the pic out. Beautiful place.

March 9, 2003
A Quiet Isle With Occasional Rumblings
By DAISANN McLANE


FRUGAL traveling doesn't get much better than this: a deserted Caribbean beach, and back roads that wind through forests where wild horses run free and egrets glide above the mangroves edging the water.

I thought of friends shivering in January weather in New York as I tooled lazily around a sunny island in a rented Jeep, dodging careless dogs and dawdling bulls, stopping for a great meal before returning to a breezy guest house with a view straight out to sea. I did more than think about my friends; I called several, begging them to join me in this paradise with a price tag of around $135 a day, including car, lodging and meals.

I'd planned to stay six nights; that stretched into 10. How did I manage to find such a sweet deal in the Caribbean in high season? The answer, or at least part of it, loomed on the distant horizon, a familiar silhouette of battleship gray: a Navy warship. This paradise, Vieques, Puerto Rico, is known more for the controversy surrounding it than for its beaches or restaurants.

Since 1947, the 21-by-4-mile island just off the east coast of Puerto Rico has been used by the United States Navy as a training site and bombing range, and Navy bases once took up about two-thirds of Vieques. But the protests against Navy bombing began to surge in 1999, after a local man was killed by a stray bomb, and the Navy has been phasing out its presence.

The base at the western end of the island (home to the wild horses and the deserted beach, called Green Beach) was returned to the Puerto Rican government in 2001; by May 1 of this year, the Navy has pledged to return Camp Garcia, the largest base, which covers about half of the island, to Puerto Rico. It will remain undeveloped, as a nature preserve.

I wasn't sure what I'd find in Vieques, but local online newsletters and community Web sites were encouraging - the island is one of the few places left in the Caribbean where you can find a guest house in high season for around $50 a night. I telephoned one, Posada Vistamar, and booked a room. I then called Maritza's Car Rental and reserved a Jeep, also for $50 a day. Finally, I called Vieques Air Link and booked a round-trip ticket from San Juan for around $110.

The trip was a gamble, but I hit the trifecta.

Posada Vistamar is in Esperanza, the island's second largest town, after Isabel Segunda. The guest house, a concrete, motel-like block of six rooms, faces a little yard with trees, tables and chairs. Pretty basic was my first thought, but clean and comfortable enough; it had a bathroom with shower, an air-conditioner and a ceiling fan. Settling in, I put away my stuff, then wandered out to see Esperanza.

A tiny settlement that fronts the ocean, it is centered on a commercial strip - mostly restaurants - that's about a 10-minute walk from end to end. Along part of the strip, there's a concrete promenade, the Malecón, for strolling. I ambled along, noticing that the other strollers seemed to be equally divided between local Puerto Ricans and sun-leathered gringos.

At sunset I stopped at Banana's, one of the strip's open-air bar-restaurants, for a rum punch. There I met snowbirds from Canada and New England who told me they've been coming to Vieques for years and years. I met a retired man from Connecticut who recently bought a house on the island, and who told me that there was a sizable community of younger retirees, lured by the reasonable real estate prices and laid-back, undeveloped atmosphere.

After a while, I strolled back to the Posada Vistamar for a delicious dinner that riffed elegantly on Latin Caribbean cuisine - tostones (fried green plantains) topped with cream and caviar, and a whole fish stewed in pepper sauce.

Everything was perfect, or nearly so, and when I crawled into bed I was looking forward to sleep followed by a lazy morning, perhaps coffee along the Malecón. But around midnight I was awakened by an irritable stinging sensation along the side of my neck. As I turned on the light, I could hear the buzz of diligent mosquitoes. Despite the ceiling fan, despite the chugging air-conditioner, despite the window screens, they had zeroed in on their target, and there was no escape for the rest of the night.

The next morning, realizing that the seaside lowlands of Esperanza might not be the best location for someone allergic to mosquito bites, I headed out to find another place to stay. Driving in the hills, I spotted a sign for La Finca Caribe, a guest house I'd noticed on a Web site, but had not phoned because the listed rates seemed too high. I took a chance and drove up the road leading to a huge, airy, two-story wooden house painted in tropical blues and greens. There was a woman who looked familiar - my waitress the night before.

Like many Americans transplanted to the island, Rebecca Wheaton, La Finca's co-manager, juggles several jobs (she's also a massage therapist, and her boyfriend, Seth, is La Finca's co-manager and the chef at Posada Vistamar). When I asked her about a room, she got enthusiastic - things have been slow at La Finca, and on Vieques in general. La Finca, in fact, was in the process of being sold. It was built as a women's retreat in the early 1990's, then was sold to some dot-commers from Seattle in 1997, who turned it into a commercial guest house and now want to sell.

By now I have a sixth sense for hotels, and La Finca was pushing all the right buttons, with its large, breezy wooden deck and lovely, rolling property studded with palm trees and hibiscus. A big communal kitchen dominated the ground floor, which was filled with funky old furniture and walls of heavily thumbed paperbacks. When Ms. Wheaton offered me a room for $50 a night, I said yes without hesitation. (Regular rates are $50 to $70.)

The bathroom was down the hall, and the shower was about 200 feet away, in separate stalls outside the building, which at first gave me pause. But I grew to love taking a shower in the neat, roofless wooden stall, under the sun and stars (and after a few days on the sandy beaches, I understood the logic of showering far from the bedrooms). Just outside my bedroom, which had a double bed with a mosquito net and a single loft bed, an upper wooden deck offered a view clear out to Esperanza, about two and a half miles away, and the ocean.

There was a hammock on that deck, and for the next several days I spent most of my time there, swaying in the sun and reading Gabriel Garcia Márquez's memoirs, "Vivir Para Contarla," which I'd bought at the San Juan airport. I read Spanish more slowly than English, but in Vieques I wound down to the point where half-speed seemed perfect.

And so it was especially alarming when early one morning I awakened to a series of loud explosions: "BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!" Running to the deck, I spotted a warship far out at sea, and noticed two fighter jets zooming through the sky in tight formation.

At a bodega in Esperanza later that morning, I picked up a copy of El Nuevo Día. The booms, based on what I read, were probably from Navy ships far out at sea. These were to be the last weeks of maneuvers. Because the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt was soon moving to the Middle East, the article speculated these maneuvers might be the last ones in Vieques before the planned Navy pullout May 1.

The explosions ended with as little warning as they had begun with. Exploring Vieques, from the small seaside town of Isabel Segunda, where the ferry from Fajardo on Puerto Rico pulls in, to the deserted Navy base on the west coast, where storage huts have been overrun by cattle and beautiful wild horses, it was easy to forget about the Navy, until one stopped to think about why such a beautiful, accessible Caribbean island still looked like a rural backwater.

Once I'd adjusted to the heat and the slow pace, I began leaving my aerie at La Finca more often, assigning myself the serious task of choosing my favorite among the island's many restaurants. The winners: La Sirena, a classic French bistro in Esperanza run by François Feynerol, who used to own Dix et Sept in Greenwich Village; Posada Vistamar, where you'd never know the Caribbean cuisine was being cooked by a Bostonian; and Taverna Española, a cheap and cheerful homestyle seafood place in Isabel Segunda.

One evening I signed up to paddle a kayak through Vieques's natural wonder, the Bioluminescent Bay. The narrow-necked bay is home to a concentrated population of a microorganism that glows in the dark when disturbed; every dip of the paddle, every startled stingray illuminates a neon trail. As I jumped into the warm water in the darkness, my body was surrounded by an eerie glow, my cupped hands filled with miniature sparkles.

Another day I went scuba diving. I didn't expect reefs so close to the populous mainland, and within shouting distance of a testing range, to be especially lush, and they weren't, but I did see barracudas, enormous lobsters, fan corals and thousands of tiny iridescent fish. I saw most of the same corals and fish simply snorkeling offshore at Green Beach, the string of sandy coves where I returned, day after day, to the same deserted crescent of sand (but only between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., while the sand flies took their break).

From my spot on Green Beach, at 10:30 every morning, I watched a gray warship slowly cross the horizon, heading toward Puerto Rico. The Navy has said that its exercises in early February would be the last regularly scheduled shellings of the island, so I may have been witnessing the end of an era in Vieques.

And I wondered if its future would look like the sight I passed daily on my way to Isabel Segunda, east of the entrance to Green Beach: a gated property of compact cottages spread along a seaside rise, like so many elsewhere in the Caribbean.

This 156-room resort, called Martineau Bay, had been under construction for several years, and on Feb. 24, it opened as part of the Wyndham chain. It is Vieques's first luxury resort, with room prices topping $300 a night.

Changes, certainly, were coming to Vieques.

Visitor Information

I spent $134 a day for 10 days on Vieques, covering food, hotel, Jeep rental and activities like diving and nature tours.

Transportation

My round-trip ticket from Kennedy to San Juan on American Airlines cost $338.49.

Vieques Air Link, (888) 901-9247, www.vieques-island.com/val, runs small single-prop planes from San Juan to Vieques. The trip, 30 minutes each way, costs $135 round trip.

A Jeep Wrangler from Maritza's Car Rental, (787) 741-0078, Web site www.islavieques.com/maritzas.html, cost $50 a day, with tax. Filling the tank several times cost $40 total.

Lodging

My basic but clean room at Posada Vistamar, a guest house one block from Esperanza's promenade, the Malecón, (787) 741-8716, had a private bath with shower. It cost $55 with tax. Next time I would take a mosquito net; after sunset, the bugs can be nasty in Esperanza.

La Finca Caribe, in the hilly center of the island about 2.5 miles from Esperanza, (787) 741-0495, online at www.lafinca.com, consists of a large two-story house with six guest rooms and two smaller cottages, one that sleeps up to five. It was built with large, friendly groups in mind - there's a well-equipped communal kitchen, a large wraparound deck and a pool. Showers are in a separate area down the hill, and two bathrooms - one upstairs and another downstairs - are shared by the six guest rooms. My room had a double and a single bed (the single was in a loft) with an electric fan that I never needed. The rate, with tax, was $55. The owners are talking with a few potential buyers.

Dining

La Sirena, facing the beach in Esperanza, (787) 741-4462, is a pretty, airy waterfront French-Caribbean restaurant. A typical dinner of avocado-yogurt cold soup, whole red snapper cooked in a sweet-sour sauce, and a perfect crème brûlée cost $33, including a glass of excellent Spanish red wine.

I also enjoyed my Latin Caribbean meals at Posada Vistamar, in the same complex as the guest house. The chef turns out elegant interpretations of Puerto Rican staples. A meal of sautéed octopus, followed by pan-fried steak with garlic, cost around $30, including two glasses of red wine and dessert.

In Isabel Segunda, about two miles from La Finca Caribe, I found two excellent restaurants. Café Media Luna, 351 A. G. Mellado, (787) 741-2594, in a pretty yellow two-story colonial house, is run by a former New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent and his Bombay-born wife, who has created the menu, a fusion of Latin and South Asian cuisines. A dinner of several courses (presented tapas style), plus two glasses of wine and coffee, came to around $50.

Also in Isabel Segunda, Taverna Española, an unpretentious place on Carlos Lebron one block from the town square, (787) 741-1175, serves dishes like shrimps in garlic and olive oil, and fried chorizo, with generous sides of rice and beans. Dinner was $14.50 with a glass of wine.

In Esperanza, a well-provisioned deli, Chef Michael's, 134 Calle Flamboyan, (787) 741-0490, sells freshly sliced Serrano ham and good cheeses for alfresco lunches.

Activities

Blue Caribe Dive Center, (787) 741-2522, a PADI-certified shop in Esperanza, is the only dive shop on the island. A two-tank dive plus equipment rental was $90; the company runs a nighttime kayak tour to the Bioluminescent Bay for $23.

Island Adventures, (787) 741-0720, runs nightly excursions to the bay from just west of Esperanza on a pontoon boat for $23.

I took a group yoga class with Jennifer Dehner, (787) 741-4453, at Hix Island House guest house in Pilón; she charges $15 for 1 hour 45 minutes.


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/09/travel/09frug.html

HALBLEU
03-19-03, 07:49 AM
Extra Steps Are Needed in Wartime

March 18, 2003
By JANE L. LEVERE


It has been a rough 18 months for American business
travelers abroad. It is likely to become rougher.

A war in Iraq would only increase the risks that have been
on almost every frequent flier's mind since the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks, travel industry professionals, security
specialists and government officials say. These experts
have long urged executives who venture overseas to take
precautions to protect their safety and reassure colleagues
and family left behind. With the apparent failure of
diplomacy to avert a conflict, they say, preventive action
is more important than ever.

Here is their advice, boiled down to the essentials.


Before You Go

Study up on political, economic, security and medical
conditions in the countries you are visiting. The State
Department's site, (www .travel.state.gov), contains travel
warnings, consular information and regional and worldwide
public announcements about conditions and dangers for
travelers. (The diplomatic wording might not always capture
the full extent of all dangers, though.)

Additional perspectives on geopolitical matters can be
obtained from Web sites run by foreign governments,
including those of Britain (www.fco.gov.uk), Canada (www
.voyage.gc.ca) and Australia (www .dfat.gov.au); however,
these sites do not address the heightened risks specific to
Americans.

Also recommended are www .ds-osac.org, the site of the
State Department's Overseas Security Advisory Council,
which has security-related information for American
businesses overseas; www.odci.gov/cia
/publications/factbook, a Central Intelligence Agency site
that discusses conditions in specific countries; and
www.cdc.gov, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
site, which has information on medical conditions in
specific countries.

IJET Travel Intelligence (www .ijet.com) sells reports on
destinations worldwide by a global network of intelligence
agents; these start at $14.95. International SOS (www
.sosinternational.com) and Medex Assistance
(www.medexassist.com) offer medical and political
evacuation services and other assistance. International
SOS's rates start at $55 a person for a 10-day trip, or
$1,000 a year for a corporation; Medex's rates start at $4
a day per person, or $5,000 a year per corporation. Medjet
Assistance (www.medjetassist.com) provides
medical-evacuation and related services; rates start at
$195 a year per person.

For travel-related and security information, try
www.tsatraveltips.us, which has updates and advice from the
Transportation Security Administration, and www.dhs.gov,
the Department of Homeland Security site.

Many experts recommend travel-management companies like
American Express, Navigant International or Rosenbluth
International to arrange travel. They offer sophisticated
information services, can track you down overseas and
provide 24-hour help with most problems. Though online
travel agencies like Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity can
contact you if your plans change suddenly and provide other
assistance, their services are far less inclusive.

Before you leave, create a highly detailed itinerary, with
your contact information abroad as well as contact
information for all people you will be meeting. Leave this
with your family and business colleagues; it could come in
handy should an emergency arise.

Bring at least one extra copy of your legal and travel
documents and credit cards and leave a copy at home in case
they are lost or stolen.

Take a wireless communications device, like a Blackberry,
or a cellphone. Thom Nulty, former president of Navigant
and now a consultant in Monarch Beach, Calif., suggests
contacting your hotel before your departure and asking the
concierge to rent a phone for you there; you can obtain the
phone's number in advance and leave it with colleagues and
relatives. He also recommends using an international
calling service, like AT&T Direct, to make
telecommunications overseas easier.

Also bring extra cash for emergencies; a shortwave radio to
monitor the news if you are stranded in a
non-English-speaking country; extra batteries; water and
nonperishable food; a small first-aid kit; extra
medication; and a copy of your medical prescriptions.

Jot down the address of the American embassy or consulate
in countries you will visit, to expedite registration upon
your arrival.

If you are an elite participant in the loyalty program of
an airline or hotel company, book its services, as you will
receive priority treatment if problems arise.

Book flights as early in the day as possible; they are less
likely to be canceled than later ones. Book the highest
class of service you can afford; you will probably get
better treatment than will holders of cheaper tickets if
problems arise. Even if it costs extra, get a paper ticket,
which is more easily exchanged or transferred than an
electronic one.

If you're traveling with an advance-purchase ticket, check
if your airline has liberalized its policy for changes.
Some major United States airlines and foreign carriers
recently announced plans to waive change fees for
international tickets bought this month; other carriers'
policies will become effective if war occurs or the
government issues a red alert.

Travel lightly.

Do not use a luggage tag that has company logos or other
identifying markings on it. Do not put your business card
in your luggage tag; just include your name and address on
it.

In Transit

Call ahead to the airport and your airline or check their
Web sites for the latest information on flight changes,
delays or other problems.

Make a mental checklist of what to do before you reach the
security checkpoint at the airport, notably putting all
metallic objects in your pockets or on your body, including
your watch, into your briefcase; removing your laptop from
its case, and being prepared to remove your shoes. If you
can avoid setting off the metal detector, you will spare
yourself major problems.

At Your Destination

Prearrange a car-service pick-up at your destination but
request that the person meeting you not hold a sign with
your name or your company's name on it. If you take a taxi,
do not get in one that is unmarked.

While in airports overseas, avoid Americans traveling in
large groups.

"We've got to be careful to soften our footprint," said
Kelly McCann, senior vice president of Kroll, the
risk-consulting company. "Get rid of American emblems and
logos on your clothing, moderate your voice and watch your
gestures."

Register at the American embassy upon arrival.

If you
change your travel plans, immediately notify your employer
and family.

Allow extra time for just about everything, like traveling
to an appointment or to the airport.

Avoid public events and places where Americans congregate.


Be aware of unattended bags; also do not accept any
packages delivered to your hotel that you are not
expecting.

Monitor the news so you are aware of what is happening
globally and can respond accordingly.

Finally, try to relax. Remember, Mr. Nulty said, that "the
odds of your being injured or killed are much greater on
your drive to the airport in the United States than while
you're on an international trip."


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/18/business/18TIPS.html?ex=1049054371&ei=1&en=8d204aa927868fed

HALBLEU
03-19-03, 07:51 AM
Good Morning, New York: Eggs Over Easy, Business on the Side

March 19, 2003
By FLORENCE FABRICANT






IT could have been lunch. Although nearly every table at
Michael's restaurant in Midtown was occupied, it was only
8:45 a.m. And in the private garden room, there was a party
of 30 corporate technical officers.

"I dropped in to meet someone for breakfast," said Sue
Huffman, a founder of the Television Food Network who was
eating at Michael's on a weekday morning last week. "They
asked if I had a reservation. For breakfast! I was stunned.
They managed to fit us in."

New York City's hotel restaurants have always served
breakfast - they have to. And many restaurants capitalize
on weekend brunches. But all over the city, in restaurants
that are better known for lunch or dinner, breakfast is
becoming increasingly important. Breakfast is now on the
menu at Balthazar, Otto, @SQC and the Brasserie, among
others. And chefs like David Page at Home, Geoffrey
Zakarian at Town and Terrance Brennan at Terrance Brennan's
Seafood and Chop House are lavishing the attention on
breakfast usually reserved for lunch or dinner.

The simplest explanation is economic. Restaurants can fill
tables that would otherwise be empty. "I'm paying rent
around the clock, so why not take advantage of it," Scott
Campbell, the chef and owner of @SQC on the Upper West
Side, said.

For the business customer, economics is a factor, too. A
meeting over breakfast costs the host about one-third the
price of a business lunch. Breakfasts in restaurants also
tend to be less expensive than at fancy hotels.

When Mr. Campbell opened @SQC last year, he served only
breakfast for the first 10 days. "It was the easiest way to
get the place going, to fine-tune it," he said. "Besides,
breakfast has changed, especially in this neighborhood.
People are no longer tied to offices, they're working - or
not working - at home, and this is a better option than
meeting someone at Starbucks."

Mr. Page, the chef and an owner of Home in Greenwich
Village, said the dozen or so breakfast customers he serves
every day are mainly people who work at home and are
meeting someone. "Serving breakfast pays my sous-chef's
salary for the day," Mr. Page said.

At Michael's it could pay for more than that. The
well-dressed crowd often includes executives from the
worlds of publishing, real estate and luxury establishments
with offices nearby like Cartier, Veuve Clicquot and Mont
Blanc.

"We had only two tables when we started seven years ago,"
Michael McCarty, the restaurant's owner, said. "It took a
few years to get it going but now it's packed, and the
demand keeps increasing. Regulars make reservations and
insist on certain tables, just like lunch." Only cheaper.
Breakfast is usually one course, not three, and it does not
generally include alcohol.

For Stanislas de Quercize, the president of Cartier, who is
a regular at Michael's, a breakfast meeting is more
personal than lunch or dinner. "It's an intimate moment at
the start of the day," he said. "Michael's is comfortable
for me, like a club."

Others are not so happy to be up early. Marc Hacker, an
architect in David Rockwell's office, said he found
breakfast meetings to be a necessary evil. "They do tend to
be more intimate and friendly than lunch or dinner," he
said. "Perhaps because you're more exposed at that hour."

Phil Lempert, the food trends editor for the "Today" show,
sees breakfast as a growing business not just in New York
but around the country. "And not just in hotels," he said.
"Restaurants have done an exceptional job of changing their
breakfast menus, offering more elaborate fare, for people
who don't want to be in and out in 15 minutes."

Robert Gregory, the publisher of Rolling Stone, has
business breakfasts at Michael's several times a week.
"When I walk into Michael's I feel like a mogul," he said.
"Maybe it helps that I'm a regular, but they seem to treat
everyone that way. It puts me in a great mood for the day
and it also makes my guests feel important." Mr. Gregory
sometimes returns to Michael's for lunch.

Indeed, restaurants that open for breakfast have a good
chance of seeing business spill over to other times. At Bin
36 in Chicago, Daniel Sachs, an owner, said that his
breakfast customers tended to be New Economy entrepreneurs,
"the same people who come for dinner."

Nick Valenti, the chairman of Restaurant Associates, which
owns the Brasserie, echoed Mr. Sachs. "Once a customer
comes in for breakfast, if they're happy it's likely
they'll be back for lunch or dinner," he said. Mr. Valenti
estimated that the Brasserie serves 150 breakfasts each
weekday.

At Balthazar, in SoHo, breakfast is low-key and relaxed,
and is considered by some to be New York's best-kept
secret. Patrick Martin, the director of the Slow Food
organization, a group that approves of a sit-down
breakfast, not something grabbed from a coffee cart, called
it "civilized." To Marion Nestle, the chairwoman of the
food studies department at New York University, breakfast
at Balthazar is "a great New York treat."

Though the restaurant always offered a continental
breakfast with items from its bakery, recently, Keith
McNally, the owner, expanded the breakfast menu to include
soft-boiled eggs, shirred eggs and omelets. True enough, it
has increased business, but Mr. McNally said another reason
for adding the eggs was personal. "I love those dishes," he
said. "I miss them, especially the soft-boiled eggs and the
oeufs en cocotte."

Appetites at breakfast often seek the familiar. The
anthropologist Margaret Visser wrote in "The Rituals of
Dinner" (Grove Weidenfeld, 1991): "We reject, for instance,
anything fancy for breakfast, feeling fragile and
unadventurous just after the little daily trauma of getting
out of bed."

Just as Mr. McNally has done, other chefs, including Kurt
Gutenbrunner at Cafe Sabarsky and Mario Batali at Otto, are
offering the breakfast foods they themselves prefer. Tom
Colicchio plans to open his new cafe, Wichcraft, for
breakfast, partly because he wants to be able to eat
breakfast there.

Breakfast came to Cafe Sabarsky, on the Upper East Side,
just last week. The menu is brief: orange juice,
soft-boiled eggs in a glass, coffee or tea, and bread,
pastries and croissants with Austrian jam. "I want it to be
just like in Vienna," Mr. Gutenbrunner said. "It's very
simple. Eggs any style is not what it's about."

At Otto, breakfast is just as limited. Blood-orange juice,
little Italian rolls stuffed with mortadella, ciabatta with
mascarpone and jam, biscotti, gelato and coffee, all served
at the bar. It's a menu that the owners say is "evolving."

"I live right across the street, so it's great for me, and
for my family," Mr. Batali, an owner, said. "We open at 9
so we can jump-start the service before people start
pounding on the door at 11:30."

On many mornings, John Leguizamo and his wife, Justine
Maurer, are at Otto with their two small children. There
are likely to be only a few other customers. "It's still a
secret," Mr. Leguizamo said.

But as much as they may love Italian food, how many New
Yorkers are willing to forgo a bagel with their latte for a
mortadella sandwich?

"Breakfast more than any other meal is structured by
expectations and governed by cultural conventions," said
John Finn, a professor of government at Wesleyan University
who is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and
who teaches a course called "Culture and Cuisine." "There
is now developing a code of behavior, rules for a business
breakfast. For example, what is appropriate to eat, and how
much should you eat when you're having a business meeting?
For some people, the nice thing is that you can actually
get away with eating just about nothing, which you cannot
do at lunch."

Does that mean that chefs like Mr. Zakarian, who has put
items like breakfast panini and house-smoked salmon on the
menu at Town, or Mr. Brennan, at Terrance Brennan's Seafood
and Chop House, who is scrambling eggs at tableside and
offering an array of condiments, including caviar, are
wasting their time?

"People are very particular about breakfast," Mr. Zakarian
said. "For a new place it takes a couple of years to catch
on. It's not like lunch or dinner. No one reviews
breakfast."

Mr. Page of Home said dishes like garlic potato cake with
roasted tomato sauce and poached eggs reflected the kind of
food he serves at other meals. "It's what we're known for
and our customers expect it."

Breakfast food also has a kind of popularity that overrides
the morning hour. Norma's opened in the Parker Meridien
hotel five years ago, offering a breakfast menu until 3
p.m.

"Breakfast is something we're obligated to provide because
we're a hotel," Deborah Carr, the manager, said. "But we
have travelers on different time zones, and in the past
people were disappointed when they came in at 10 a.m. and
we told them we had stopped serving. Breakfast food is easy
food to eat all day long. Now we're grossing $3 million a
year on bacon and eggs."

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/19/dining/19BREA.html?ex=1049054763&ei=1&en=69c5740387221579

HALBLEU
03-25-03, 12:00 PM
March 25, 2003
A Travel Expert Who Hates to Fly
By JOE SHARKEY

Oone thing you ought to know about Terry Trippler, the well-known expert on airline fares who is based at the Web site www.cheapseats.com, is that he really, really hates to fly. He practically has to be forced into the air on the two or three trips he typically takes a year, and then only if he can wrangle a first-class seat.

So it was interesting yesterday afternoon to touch base with Mr. Trippler by phone and find him in a cab bound for a TV appearance in Santa Monica, Calif., from Los Angeles, where he had just arrived on a flight from Minneapolis.

"We got to keep the economy going. We got to get on airplanes. We got to travel," he said. "I just flew out to L.A., and I wasn't afraid one bit. Nobody on the flight seemed nervous, either. Now, when I flew right after Sept. 11, people were nervous."

He flew to Los Angeles, he said, on "a low-fare carrier with a first-class section, which is what it takes to get me into an airplane."

Mr. Trippler, 56, who is also a familiar face as a consumer air-travel advocate on TV, clearly loves the airline business, even if he does not like boarding a plane. He works most days in an office converted from a two-bedroom apartment 20 floors below the family apartment in a downtown Minneapolis skyscraper, assisted by his wife, Lynn, his daughter, Kelly, and his son-in-law, Don.

A former airline ticket agent, tour director and travel agent, he developed an interest in the dark mysteries of airline fares just as they were becoming ever more complex in the early 1980's. Now, he commands a couple of computers in his office, with the goal of keeping track of the endless onslaught of fare and rules changes pumped out daily by major airlines to match the competition.

In an earlier interview, he suggested that he regarded his counterparts in the warrens of airline fare departments with a spy-versus-spy fascination.

"It would be interesting to know how many air fares are proactively put in and how many are just reactive," he said, clearly suggesting that the latter would be the case.

Three times a day, he said, the airlines are putting new fares into the system, which distributes them to the computerized booking systems used by travel agents. How many fares? "On average," he said, "there are about 200,000 changes a day."

The economic problems domestic airlines face — with $18 billion in losses the last two years and another $10 billion or more expected this year — are mostly attributable to high cost and low revenue.

But part of the lowering of revenue is a consequence of a wholesale shift in the buying behavior of business travelers. Three years ago, business travelers kept airlines prosperous by generally buying the top walk-up fares at rates five times, or more, higher than discount leisure fares. That gravy train slowed when the economy soured two years ago and almost screeched to a halt after the terrorist attacks.

And part of the reason for that shift in buying behavior was that Internet virtuosos like Mr. Trippler put out the word that a bit of shopping could yield huge discounts.

Still, he says, the basic marketing problem is that in their crazed rush to match one another's fares on competitive routes, while low-fare, low-cost competitors gobbled up customers, the airlines forgot that they were selling what should be a distinct product.

"We have six major airlines that have grown into this situation where they obviously have no faith in their product at all," Mr. Trippler said.

"They are so focused on the day-to-day revenue, micromanaging fares and matching each other's moves every minute that they can't look beyond that," he said. "They've got themselves in such a revenue bind now that they can't afford even a day or two days of being in what they consider a noncompetitive position." Nor, he said, are the major airlines willing even at this stage to consider abandoning their hopelessly complicated fare structures for a system — similar to that of the low-fare carriers — that would price business fares "rationally" once robust air travel resumes.

On a more practical level, since he is a consultant on cheap fares, he suggests that this is the time to book some. "Fares are lower now than in memory. It's a great time to be buying tickets," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Trippler will be back at his computer monitors tomorrow. "You keep at it, but they're fast, and they're good," he said of his nemeses in the airline fare rooms. "You realize that even after 35 years at it, you never really figure it out."


On the Road appears each Tuesday. E-mail: jsharkey@nytimes.com.


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/25/business/25ROAD.html

HALBLEU
04-01-03, 07:35 AM
April 1, 2003
A City With Clean Streets and a Low Crime Rate
By BERNARD SIMON


Toronto, Canada's largest city, is home to all five of the country's biggest banks and its main stock exchange. Helped by North American free trade, Toronto's economy has diversified in recent years, and the skyline is about to gain a 68-story Trump Tower. Nortel Networks, once the darling of Canadian investors but now flirting with penny-stock status, is based in a Toronto suburb. However, the North American technology slump has done relatively little damage to the city's economy.

Visitors from south of the border like the clean streets and low crime rate — and the slices of America, like the Blue Jays baseball team and Raptors basketball team. Hollywood has filmed numerous productions here, including "Chicago," star of this year's Oscars.

AIRPORT

Some exasperated Torontonians describe Lester B. Pearson International Airport as the world's biggest construction site with planes. Nineteen miles northwest of downtown, Pearson is in the midst of a $2.9 billion revamping, including a new terminal serving Air Canada and its Star Alliance partners that will have 258 check-in counters and 12,600 parking spaces when it opens in October. Most United States carriers will continue to operate from Terminal 3.

Turboprop flights to Ottawa and Montreal operate out of the City Center Airport on an island that is accessible from downtown by ferry only, though the city plans to build a bridge to replace the boat in 2004. The business community favors the project but waterfront residents worry about increased air traffic and noise.

HOTELS

The FAIRMONT ROYAL YORK (416-368-2511, $146 to $206) is one of a string of stately hotels built across Canada in the early 20th century for passengers on the Canadian Pacific railroad. Paul Summerville, head of Toronto-Dominion Securities' Asia-Pacific operations in Tokyo, says the concierge desk is always staffed with two or three people who know the ins and outs of Toronto. Another benefit, especially in winter, is the hotel's connection to the city's labyrinth of underground walkways and shopping malls.

The RENAISSANCE TORONTO HOTEL AT THE SKYDOME (416-341-7100, $133 and up), a short walk from the financial district, has rooms overlooking left field of the Blue Jays' ballpark.

Boutique hotels are few, but one favorite is the WINDSOR ARMS (416-971-9666, $190). It has 26 suites and 2 rooms, and is situated on the edge of the Yorkville shopping and entertainment district, a short cab or subway ride from downtown.

RESTAURANTS

The place for bankers and lawyers to be seen is CANOE (416-364-0054, $150 for dinner for two, including wine and tip), on the 54th floor of the Toronto-Dominion Center, overlooking Lake Ontario. Besides the view, Peter Glossop, a partner at Osler Hoskin & Harcourt, a law firm, said, "There's a nice buzz; everyone's scanning the room, wondering what's going on."

Ethnic restaurants abound. One popular Chinese choice downtown is KING'S GARDEN (416-585-2221, $97). Hershell Ezrin, chief executive of GPC International, a consulting firm, likes the chicken feet in black bean sauce, the baby bok choy with garlic, deep-fried eggplant with salt, and the "wonderful steamed dumplings."

Philip Asseff, president of MCAP Securities, a mortgage trader, sometimes takes clients to MILDRED PIERCE (416-588-5695, $93), a 15-minute drive west of downtown in a burgeoning movie-production and fashion district. He says male guests often remark that their wives would like the place. The desserts are a big hit.

ENTERTAINMENT

As many residents of Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit can attest, an inexpensive way to take in a Broadway play or musical is to head for Toronto. Among the most popular of the smaller theater companies are CAN STAGE (416-368-3110), TARRAGON THEATER (416-531-1827) and the FACTORY THEATER (416-504-9971).

For an evening of jazz within walking distance of many downtown hotels, try TOP O' THE SENATOR (416-364-7517) or the MONTREAL BISTRO (416-363-0179).

BUSINESS LORE

Why did the city treasurer take more than 60 calls at home from Dash Domi, including one at 1 a.m. that lasted an hour? Why did city officials accept a trip from Mr. Domi, a computer-services salesman, to a hockey game in Philadelphia? And what about the $480 cuff links that Mr. Domi gave the son of one of Toronto's most prominent movers and shakers?

Such are the questions raised by a judicial inquiry into a contract that the city council thought would cost $29 million but ended up at double that, including an $800,000 commission for Mr. Domi. Unaccustomed to scandal at City Hall, Torontonians are riveted.


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/01/business/01GROU.html

HALBLEU
04-07-03, 05:58 AM
April 6, 2003
A Serene Garden Sanctuary
By LINDA YANG

WITH my 95-year-old mother in tow, plus the guy she calls her "younger boyfriend" (he's 93), I wasn't sure we would all manage the seven-eighths-of-a-mile stroll through the Japanese garden at the Morikami Museum in Delray Beach, Fla. But knowing I can jog a 12-minute mile, I planted them on the dining terrace overlooking the lake, pointed them in the direction of an exquisitely pruned gumbo limbo tree, and said "I'll be back in under 15 minutes!"

Thus began my introduction to the first of two new Florida landscapes on my "must see" list: a tropical Japanese garden and an orchid garden.

The 200-acre property that is now Morikami Park was a remarkable gift to Palm Beach County from George Sukeji Morikami, who emigrated to the United States from Japan in 1906 and died a wealthy landowner. He was the last remaining and most successful member of the Yamato Colony, Japanese farmers who came to Florida for an agricultural venture that ultimately failed. Shortly before his death in 1976, he was quoted as saying he was giving his land because "America has been so good to me."

Fast-forward 27 years. The Morikami legacy has expanded from a small traditional pavilion that now houses exhibits chronicling the history of the colony to a spacious, elegant museum devoted to Japanese culture. And now there is a new garden, opened in January 2001, where I found black olive trees pruned as if they were Japanese maples (which don't grow in the tropics), heard a shishi odoshi ("deer chaser"), whose sound is made by a two-foot bamboo stalk falling on a flat rock, and discovered a Contemplation Pavilion, where a sign urges visitors to "listen with your eyes and see with your ears."

This 16-acre lakeside landscape is essentially a series of contrasting garden experiences inspired by various periods in Japanese garden history, loosely linked by a meandering path. I began by traversing two small islands somewhat typical of the Heian period (9th through 12th centuries) connected by a zigzag bridge, stopping at the first bench to contemplate clattering bamboo stems and rustling white pine needles.

This marriage of classic Japanese elements and tropical Florida plants is the work of Hoichi Kurisu, also a Japanese immigrant, and president of Kurisu International, a local landscape design firm. In partnership with Roy-Fisher Associates, Mr. Kurisu captured the essence of a Japanese garden - with its ever-changing reflections of water and sky, traditionally constructed bridges and gates, sound of water splashing on rocks - and tropical species that appear absolutely at home in a Japanese garden setting.

"A Japanese feeling is really achieved through the details," Mr. Kurisu explained. It comes from choosing appropriate species, pruning them artfully and developing "a harmonious relation between such elements as rocks and water."

And so the garden includes Florida favorites like slash pine, podocarpus and strawberry guava trees sculptured to reveal the magical shape of their trunks and limbs. There is also a wall of fig trees, to help maintain the mood by blocking neighboring eyesores of the newly built homes in this area just 15 minutes from Delray.

"Traditional Japanese gardens are mostly green," Mr. Kurisu said, but "to add some awakening color there might be a bright red cushion." Indeed, at surprise intervals, I was awakened by powder-puff shrubs, known for the shock value of their reddish blooms.

Rocks and moss, essentials in a traditional Japanese garden, posed a special challenge, Mr. Kurisu said. "I looked at rocks in the Carolinas and Oregon, but they were the wrong color - too gray for Florida." His solution was pink-hued granite carted in from Texas. "But moss, so easily grown in Japan, is hard to nurture in tropical heat and sun," he added. "So I was delighted to find a brave little patch developing in a damp corner."

When pressed, Larry Rosensweig, the museum's director and resident visionary since 1976, admitted that his favorite spot was on the far side of the lake. I knew I'd found his verdant retreat, with its orange jasmine and jacaranda, from his description of an "almost invisible long-legged kotoji lantern and a special U-shaped stone that looks as if it's been there 10,000 years."

I agreed when he added: "This is a remarkable refuge - a true oasis in the middle of crushing local development. The new Japanese gardens in particular - but really, the whole museum park - satisfies the soul in a most unique way."

Taking our leave of the Japanese gardens, my mother, the younger boyfriend and I found the sign that marks the road into the American Orchid Society's International Orchid Center, which I knew would be a very different experience.

A former goat farm, once also owned by Mr. Morikami, this neighboring five-acre tract was recently bought by the society for its new headquarters, the first in its 82-year history to be open to the general public. One of the largest organizations devoted to a single plant group, the American Orchid Society, which was founded in Boston, has often appeared too esoteric for ordinary mortals.

"But now," said Lee S. Cooke, the society's director of nearly two decades, "we finally have a place where we can warmly welcome everyone and introduce them to this fascinating hobby."

Leaving my companions in the gift shop in the new Mediterranean-style structure that also houses the society's offices, I headed out to the stone patio. Passing massed plantings of annuals and perennials in brilliant hues, I arrived at a large greenhouse.

Inside, I was stopped dead in my tracks by a 15-foot-high, multitiered waterfall draped in a floral fantasy of orchids in every shape, size and color, from staid cattleyas of corsage fame to delightful oncidiums aptly known as "dancing ladies."

"Wedding parties love it here; it's a true Kodak moment" - Mr. Cooke's words echoed in my ear, and I marveled at this wondrous if occasionally garish family of flowering species, the largest and most varied of any in the plant kingdom.

Returning outdoors past a formal garden, I ambled onto the undulating path that traverses the three-and-a-half-acre landscape. Plantings along the path are organized thematically by the various growing conditions that orchids enjoy: jungle, native and water gardens.

Although donations of plants continue to arrive from all over the world, some 3,000 orchids are already tucked among the trees, shrubs and perennials that share their preference for the varied sites.

"In most gardens the flowers are all in the ground," explained James B. Watson, the society's director of publications. "But many orchids are epiphytes, which means they perch on other plants." To replicate these growing conditions, the tree-perching orchids have been attached to their favorite species by various means, including wire and liquid nails.

Among the many dozens of shrubs and trees transplanted here to support the epiphytic orchids, I found a neem tree, southern magnolia and live oaks, sabal palms and screw pines. Along with their supporting role, these woody plants provide the garden with its strong structural outline. And, thanks to the attaching methods, the trees and shrubs are already festooned not only with clusters of blooming orchids but also with some of the other epiphytes they enjoy hanging out among. One staghorn fern had to be six feet across, and bromeliads flourished in countless shades of orange and red.

Since education is a prime focus of this botanical garden, most of the plants are labeled: blue for exotics, green for natives and frowny faces for endangered species. All around me, visitors were busily scribbling notes on various species.

I stopped for a drink at the water cooler in the chickee hut, a local Seminole thatched-roof structure at the edge of the Florida native garden, and realized my energy was starting to wane. Returning to the gift shop, I saw that my mother and her friend were also ready to leave. After all, an early-bird dinner beckoned.

Visitor Information

The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens and the International Orchid Center are neighbors in Delray Beach, Fla., an hour north of Miami, and half an hour south of Palm Beach. On I-95 from the north, take the exit at Linton Boulevard (No. 51); from the south, take the exit at Yamato Road (No. 48B). There is construction along I-95 in this area, so you may have to follow signs for detours. The gardens share a single entry street, on the west side of Jog Road between Linton and Clint Moore Road, which is easily missed if you're going too fast (though for reasons I can't fathom their addresses differ). Both are wheelchair accessible.

The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens (Morikami Park), owned and operated by the Palm Beach County Department of Parks and Recreation, is at 4000 Morikami Park Road; (561) 495-0233, www.morikami.org. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed holidays; $9; ages 6 to 18, $6; under 6, free. The Cornell Cafe serves pan-Asian fare 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.

The International Orchid Center, headquarters of the American Orchid Society, is at 16700 AOS Lane; (561) 404-2000, www.orchidweb.org. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission for the gardens: $7.

LINDA YANG is the author of four books on gardening, including "The City Gardener's Handbook" (Storey).


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/06/travel/06garden.html

HALBLEU
04-08-03, 06:43 AM
April 8, 2003
Sharing Advice, and Pills, for Woes of Jet Lag
By SUSAN STELLIN


For advice on the best remedy for minor ailments, people often turn to experts outside the medical establishment — to a bartender, say, for a hangover cure, or to a hypochondriac for the pros and cons of various cold or flu medications.

So it is not surprising that for tips on combatting two of the most maddening afflictions of business travel, insomnia and jet lag, business travelers turn to other business travelers.

Or that for treating those infirmities, they sometimes visit drugstores abroad to buy tonics that are cheaper, more exotic or just plain more available than they are back home.

Matt Brodlie, a senior vice president for acquisitions with Miramax Films in Los Angeles, relies on both the guidance of fellow fliers and the shelves of foreign pharmacies for stocking his medicine cabinet. To help him fall asleep on frequent flights to Europe and Asia, he takes a — well, an under-the-counter pill recommended by a colleague in Sydney. "It's this purple pill that I've only found in this one drugstore in the Sydney airport," Mr. Brodlie said. "You have to ask for it and they take it from under the counter."

Despite that somewhat illicit-sounding origin, it turns out the purple pill, marketed as Dozile in Australia, contains the antihistamine doxylamine succinate, the same active ingredient found in Unisom SleepTabs in the United States.

"Really?" Mr. Brodlie said by phone from South Africa, where he was on vacation. "Because I just found it here, too." Among the other concoctions he has collected on the road: a caffeine and vitamin C pill from South Africa "that gives a pick-up when you need it," a Chinese watermelon rind mist from Australia "for a sore throat" and antibiotics from China "where you don't need prescriptions for most drugs."

"I get bronchitis all the time," Mr. Brodlie said, "But if I'm in the middle of Sundance or Cannes, I don't really have time or know a doctor in the area, so it's great to have a course of antibiotics to take."

For a pilot for a commercial airline, who insisted on anonymity because the Federal Aviation Administration regulates what medications pilots take, it is not a matter of knowing the right doctors, it's a matter of avoiding them.

The pilot occasionally takes Ambien, a prescription sleeping pill, to adjust to a new time zone. Although the F.A.A. does not ban the use of Ambien by pilots, there are rules about how soon they can take it before flying, so rather than get a prescription from an F.A.A. doctor, he skirts the issue by buying it overseas.

"India is the only place I've been where I've seen it, and it's very common there," he said. "As far as I know, it's safe, and of course it's much cheaper" than it is in the United States. He said he did not fly to India much anymore, so he asks acquaintances who do travel there to buy Ambien for him.

Among those who fly overseas, he said, "There's always sort of a rumor mill about what works best; I'd say right now that Ambien is sort of the drug of choice."

It is certainly one of the most commonly used prescription sleeping pills, according to Dr. James Walsh, executive director and senior scientist at the Sleep Medicine and Research Center in St. Louis and president of the National Sleep Foundation. One reason, he says, is that it is shorter acting than most over-the-counter sleep aids.

Typically, he says, Ambien stays in the system for six to eight hours, depending on weight and the potency of the pill. (A newer medication, Sonata, moves out of the system even faster, in five hours or less, he says.)

In contrast, over-the-counter remedies like Tylenol PM, Sominex and Benadryl contain diphenhydramine hydrochloride, which is longer acting, according to Dr. Walsh, a psychologist who has done research on Ambien. "If you use a longer-acting drug, carry-over sedation is a problem," he said. In other words, you risk showing up bleary-eyed at that all-important meeting at 8 o'clock on your first morning in Paris.

That is why Jonathan King, a producer with Laurence Mark Productions in Los Angeles, says he generally avoids over-the-counter sleep aids when traveling. "They make you really dehydrated and groggy the next day," he said.

He has tried Ambien and a sleeping pill a friend brought back from France. He conceded he showed a certain insouciance about popping that one. "They're rectangles and you can break them into little squares," he said. "I don't know anything about what is actually in it."

More often, Mr. King tries a more natural method to fight jet lag when he flies from Los Angeles to New York or London: "A week in advance, I start going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. I start shifting my clock gradually. People think it's strange."

Not Diana Fairechild, a former flight attendant who now speaks and writes about air travel health and safety and is rather emphatic about her preference for natural methods of dealing with jet lag. "I find it's just best not to be medicated," Ms. Fairechild said, noting that when she tried melatonin, a hormone that plays a role in setting the body's sleep cycle, "it dropped my consciousness into a thickness like the air wasn't easy to move through or breathe." (Although melatonin has become a popular alternative to sleeping pills, it is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration; there is some debate about its effectiveness as a sleep aid.)

So what does she do on long flights? Her strategy may raise a few eyebrows, but these days it has the added benefit of helping ward off germs, suddenly a preoccupation of many long-distance air travelers. "One thing I've been recommending is that you wear a handkerchief over your nose and mouth on the plane," she said. "It creates humidity and it makes it so much easier to sleep on the plane." Ms. Fairechild said she also wore an eye mask, "And I put masking tape on it that says, `Do Not Disturb.' "

On the opposite end of the spectrum are people who have no problem with whatever medication they grab off a drugstore shelf. "I'm a very simple man; I always favor over-the-counter sleep aids," said Seth Matlins, who works in the marketing group at Creative Artists Agency in Beverly Hills. "Cold medicine, Tylenol PM — any of that is good with a nice glass of Scotch to wash it down," he said, though he did add, "You have to have enough time to get through it."

The wide range of remedies that travelers experiment with illustrates a point that Dr. Walsh likes to make: There is no one solution that works best for everybody. "One thing that people need to understand is that the strategy to deal with jet lag depends on a number of factors," he said, like how long the flight is, how many time zones are crossed, weight and how someone reacts to a particular medication.

In some cases, he said, "the most important thing to do is avoid sleep deprivation before you go." And, he advised, "It's best to take a sleeping pill in your home environment for the first time."

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/08/business/08PILL.html

Cardinal999
04-15-03, 01:27 PM
----------------------------------------------------------------------
The original article can be found on SFGate.com here:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2003/03/19/DD263727.DTL
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Wednesday, March 19, 2003 (SF Chronicle)
Asian Museum to find its heart in its visitors/Subtle lighting,
gorgeous hues enhance rooms overflowing with sculptures, paintings
Steven Winn, Chronicle Arts and Culture Critic


Still swaddled in its bright canvas wrapper, the new Asian Art
Museum opens Thursday in the recommissioned old Main Library at Civic Center. Scholars can finally pore over the collection's treasures at their leisure. Architecture hounds can sniff out the details of Gae Aulenti's transformations of the building. Foodies are now free to pounce on the Cafe Asia cuisine.

But it's the everyday public that will truly inhabit and define the
new Asian. In their comings and goings after the opening hoopla is past, their dreamy encounters with a 16th century Japanese screen and late cafe lunches with out-of-town friends, museum store splurges and solitary morning visits to voluptuous granite deities, the place will find its sustaining long life.

Every visitor will form a particular relationship to the museum.
Those links will grow and develop over time. Initial impressions are likely to center on the building itself -- the glass-peaked reach of the soaring twin piazzas, abundantly stocked galleries with their walnut parquet floors, the steel-and-glass elevator, slender new escalators and tawny stone vault of the restored central loggia.

Deeper connections to the art in its new context will emerge on subsequent visits. The subtly unfolding character of the place, as I experienced it on several pre-opening visits, emerges in the rhythmic interplay of space and light, objects and setting, the endurance of antiquity and bravado of
the new, focused intensity and expansive contemplation.

Sometimes those effects are dramatically deployed. After winding through the dark-walled statue galleries of India and South Asia, with brief side trips to the Sikh Kingdoms and Persian World, the visitor is suddenly splashed with natural light in Early Southeast Asia (Gallery 8).

There, an enormous bronze drum, thought to be Vietnamese c. 200-100 BCE, and two ceramic Philippine urns (600 CE) face a skylit glimpse of the building's interior piazza and shiny steel sky-bridge to the elevator. Ancient and modern are stirringly juxtaposed.

Something similar happens a floor below in the Japanese wing. There, instead of a single bracing encounter, light radiates the galleries in several places, by the porcelains and woodblock prints of Gallery 29 and then again at a Zen fountain and contemporary abstract painting (Gallery 31) near a pair of sky-bridges.

These larger openings lend a soft glow to the concluding stretch of Japanese galleries. The longest single display case in the museum, which holds a pair of 12-panel folding screens and a gorgeous koto (a harplike musical instrument), receives a faint touch of diffused natural light.

LATTICED LIGHT
In other places, latticed windows of English sycamore supply subtler flattering commentaries. Through one wall, midday light dapples a large and somewhat dauntingly populous hall of Chinese Buddhist Art (Gallery 16). In Gallery 3, tucked into one of the museum's many intimate corners, the generous belly of a sandstone deity Jambhala is softly glazed by nearby window light. How fitting to learn from the label that this god,
accompanied by a mongoose spewing jewels from its mouth, is closely associated with nature. He deserves a little sunlight.

Much of the museum, owing to the logistics of the old library space and light-sensitivity of many objects on display, has no natural light. The art and its arrangement must create its own drama. That's underscored by the modulating gallery wall colors -- soft blues and grays, taupe and dark putty brown, cinnabar red, celadon green; the variety of free-standing, inset and projecting wall display cases; even the height of certain objects on their pedestals.

Museum Director Emily Sano, who happened to be passing through Early Japan (Gallery 25) when I was, faced down a broad-hipped earthenware haniwa head-on. "I like to be eyeball-to-eyeball with this one," she said. "He's a warrior, not a god."

Some galleries are anchored by what staffers call "pilgrimage
pieces." A 3, 000-year-old Chinese bronze rhino, one of the collection's prizes, assumes an obliging horizontal stance in his case to greet museumgoers as they enter Gallery 14. The gleefully fierce Simhavaktra Dakini, a.k.a. "Skywalker," dances triumphantly on one flexed leg, hair flaming upward in the burnished red chamber of The Himalayas and the Tibetan Buddhist World (Gallery 12). A Korean celadon ewer, 900 years old and eternally modern in its marriage of organic and geometric forms, gets solo pride of place in Gallery 21.

Gallery designer George Sexton aimed for what he calls "a dialogue between the great objects and the good objects" in the collection. That may be a conversation more audible to connoisseurs than the average viewer.

Every piece, more importantly, is meant to speak clearly for itself.
The clean-line display cases, remarkably free of visible hardware, and unobtrusive (but succinctly enriching) labels and text panels help create a kind of overall transparency. Twelve discreet video panels with headsets flesh out the galleries with short narrative films about shrines, religious practices or other relevant matters.

Peter Coyote narrates several that I sampled. Bird sounds, rustling tree branches and breathy flutes harmonize soothingly with that emblematic San Francisco voice.

Anyone who used the old Main Library can't help getting a case of the Proustian shivers while moving through the space. It's there in the restored beamed ceilings over the third-floor galleries and the absent Piazzoni murals. Memory is both teased and gently displaced by a building that still summons the eye and book-seeking mind up that great central
staircase.

ELEGANT TRAFFIC FLOW
By placing the admission counter and a bank of anthuriums in front of the stairs, Aulenti's design leads museum traffic toward the escalator and glass elevator that rise from the south piazza. It's still an option to climb the old staircase, but probably more satisfying to use it at the end of a visit, in satisfied procession back down from Samsung Hall. That's the old card catalog room, made over as a multifunction space for artist
demonstrations, videos and other supporting programs.

The new Asian is laid out programmatically, as a single, two-story walk through countries, continents, centuries and thematic through-lines. Ganesh, the Hindu elephant-form god of new beginnings, greets viewers on a sunny landing at the top of the escalator. Then it's on through South Asia
and the regions of India, Southeast Asia, Chinese jades, Korea, Japan.

It's too much, and meant to be. By displaying some 2,500 objects at once, many hundreds of which will be rotated through the year, the museum is advertising its riches. Here's why we needed this triumphal space. One visit can't possibly be enough.

AVOIDING OVERLOAD
Museum fatigue is a major occupational hazard. Periodic breathers in the airy vaulted loggia are advised. By the time I rounded the bend on floor three and headed downstairs for the continuation of China (960-1911) in Gallery 17, an overstuffed case of cups, plates and snuff bottles almost sent me packing.

Then, right beside all that tableware, two Qing Dynasty paintings, at once mighty and modest, arrived like a great collective sigh. One depicts a trio of kindly old men, stooped and lined star gods beaming at a bevy of young children. The other is of Magu, a deity of immortality, bearing a basket of fragile chrysanthemums.

I lingered a few minutes, longer than I meant to. Another gallery down, renewed, I was ready to pull up a stool, lean over a desk-high display case and study the mountainous detail of a sprawling ink landscape.

E-mail Steven Winn at swinn@sfchronicle.com.

HALBLEU
04-18-03, 08:03 PM
Hotels Manage, Despite Slump

April 15, 2003
By DONNA ROSATO


The same forces that are mauling the airlines are taking a
heavy toll on the hotel business.

"We're seeing an unprecedented drop in demand," said Paul
Whetsell, chief executive of Interstate Hotels and Resorts,
the largest independent operator of hotels in the United
States and Canada "This is the worst I've seen in 30
years."

There is a big difference between the industries, though:
while the sour economy, the terrorist attacks, the war in
Iraq and now severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS,
have pushed some airlines to the brink of insolvency,
hotels are, comparatively, thriving.

"Despite the fact that the business has never been in worse
shape and the demand for hotels rooms has never been
weaker, the industry is surprisingly financially healthy,"
said Michael J. Rietbrock, head of lodging at Smith Barney.
PricewaterhouseCoopers projects the sector's earnings this
year at $15 billion, down from $16.1 billion in 2002 but
still a startling performance when measured against the
airlines' expected losses of $10 billion and the hotels'
own losses of $5.7 billion in 1991, in the aftermath of the
Persian Gulf war.

Business travelers do not have to look far to discover the
reasons for that success: an almost obsessive drive to
slash costs and an equally grim determination to stop
self-destructive price-cutting.

Consider Interstate Hotels and Resorts, which manages
nearly 400 hotels including Hiltons, Westins, Sheratons and
Hampton Inns. Mr. Whetsell says his hotels have experienced
a steady erosion in room rates over the last three years
and are often just two-thirds full.

In response, Mr. Whetsell says, the company has eliminated
15 percent of 38,500 jobs (many of them part time) and has
trained many of the remaining employees to handle multiple
tasks. For example, a front- desk person may also take
phone reservations and an administrative person in the back
office will help check people in during busy times. On a
recent Friday at the Hilton Embassy Row in Washington, no
one was working at the bar in the lobby, even though
several potential customers were sitting nearby.

Mr. Whetsell, who acquired Interstate Hotels last summer
and merged it with MeriStar Hotels and Resorts to add more
than 100 properties to its management roster, has also
reduced staff - and thus costs - by centralizing
reservations and purchasing for all hotels.

Such belt-tightening has been so effective that last year,
the industry's break-even occupancy rate dropped to 47
percent, down from 60 percent in the mid-1990's, a
PricewaterhouseCoopers study found.

But what is effective for the hotels can be annoying to
their guests. "I'm paying the same rates as last year, but
I'm getting much less service in restaurants and at the
front desk," said Roger Wright, an automobile insurance
executive who lives in Greensboro, N.C., and who travels on
business every week. "I'm a platinum member at Marriott and
a diamond member at Hilton. I don't like having to wait a
long time to check in."

Likewise, Edward Reagan, a consultant in suburban
Philadelphia who stays in hotels 150 to 170 nights a year,
has noticed fewer waiters in restaurants, fewer bellhops in
lobbies and even torn curtains in the rooms. Still, he is
generally pleased with the service he gets, and says
Marriott, where he is an elite member, has been responsive
to complaints. "They have to be," he said. "Customers vote
with their feet." A silver lining, he says, is that it is
easier than before to be upgraded to a suite.

Whatever the grumbling about service cutbacks, hotels have
little choice. They cannot raise rates. And the war was
almost the last straw in a tough year, forcing some hotel
companies to abandon their already modest earnings
forecasts for this year. Last month, Starwood Hotels and
Resorts withdrew its earnings forecast for the first
quarter and for 2003, and Hilton Hotels cut its estimated
earnings for the same periods. Both blamed the war.

Nobody foresees an early rebound. The number of business
trips this spring is expected to fall 2.5 percent from the
spring of 2002 and 13 percent from spring 2001, according
to the Travel Industry Association. Occupancies have fallen
to an average 60 percent from 63 percent last year, and the
average room rate to $83, from $84 in 2002, Smith Travel
Research says. And hotel loan delinquencies are at their
highest level since the early 1990's, according to PKF
Consulting.

In response, hotels are aiming at new markets. Interstate,
for example, is going after more group and government
business, like trade associations and the military, though
they typically pay lower rates. It is even offering local
residents discount cards at its restaurants.

More important, hotels are acting to stop the widespread
discounting of the last three years. "Hotels are realizing
that discounting doesn't stimulate demand," said Bjorn
Hanson, hotel analyst at PricewaterhouseCoopers. "It just
shifts market share around."

Hotels are also trying to rein in the sale of their rooms
at steep reductions on Web sites like Hotels .com and
Priceline.com. "We've seen a tremendous change in the
number of ways hotel rooms are sold, and with demand so
low, hotels have lost their pricing power," Mr. Whetsell
said. To fight back, some companies, including Hilton,
Mariott and Hyatt, , banded together to start
Travelweb.com, their own Web site aimed at pulling business
back from online rivals.

Cendant, the largest franchiser of hotels in the United
States with more than 6,000 economy and mid-level hotels,
including Days Inn, Ramada, Howard Johnson and Super 8,
will hold revenue management classes in 45 cities later
this month to teach its franchise hotel employees how to
better manage room rates. "We don't own or operate any
hotels, but we have a vested interest in franchisees doing
well," said Steve Rudintsky, Cendant's hotel group
president, noting that Cendant earns an average of 4
percent for every room rented.

Hotels are also cutting back on property improvement
projects to save money. Nationally, hotels will reduce
capital spending for renovations and upgrades this year to
about 2.9 percent of revenues, Mr. Hanson of
PricewaterhouseCoopers said, down from 3 percent to 3.75
percent before 2001.

Accor, which operates the Sofitel, Novotel, Motel 6 and Red
Roof Inn chains, says it has postponed the planned
construction of Sofitel hotels in San Francisco and Dallas.
Accor also says it has frozen hiring, reduced jobs by
attrition and plans to hire fewer summer employees.

Hotel companies say they are being careful not to cut too
drastically. "We are more focused on being in good shape
for when the market rebounds," said Georges LeMener, chief
executive of Accor North America. "We don't want to do
something extreme now that will hurt us when there is a
rebound."

Accor is keeping its marketing budget steady and is going
ahead with plans to build a $23 million headquarters and
training center in Dallas. And, last week, Cendant sent 100
of its corporate employees out in teams to conduct half-day
seminars on improving customer service at 5,000 of its
franchise hotels. "Good isn't really good enough anymore,"
Mr. Rudintsky said.

At Interstate, Mr. Whetsell says he is careful to walk a
fine line between cost-cutting and keeping customers happy.
He says Interstate's guest satisfaction scores, measured in
monthly surveys by the brands it operates hotels for, have
actually risen in the last six month despite the cutbacks.
"People will not tolerate bad service today," he said. "We
don't want our customers to walk away from us; there are so
few of them."

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/15/business/15HOTE.html?ex=1051591805&ei=1&en=39c51e1fbe8901a0

HALBLEU
04-18-03, 08:22 PM
April 18, 2003
A Vibrant San Juan Gets Its Groove Back
By LUISITA LOPEZ TORREGROSA


SAN JUAN, P.R. — THE night sky darkens slowly and the sea flattens, with only the gentlest waves breaking on the shore, the sea and the sky becoming one, the line between the two blurred, gone. The beach girls have retired to wash off the sand and put on the flimsiest skirts to show off newly bronzed legs. The jet skis that noisily crisscross the water all day are finally still, the beach chairs are folded and stacked away, the vendors are gone, and, from a rooftop nearby, the beach seems untouched, placid, silent.

But there is no quiet here at Wet, the rooftop bar in one of San Juan's splashiest hotels, the Water Club, a novelty among the scores of nightclubs, cocktail lounges, restaurants and discos that are making San Juan the new South Beach — a South Beach with five-century-old architecture and 21st-century resorts, Caribbean breezes and long stretches of powder-soft beaches shaded by native coconut palm trees.

Starting in Old San Juan — the 500-year-old Spanish colonial area that is the cultural capital of the Caribbean — a strand of hotels, high-rise condominiums, casinos and dance halls runs east toward El Condado, a residential and tourist haven, and Isla Verde, near the airport. In the last few years, this cordon of glitz has made San Juan the premier playground of the West Indies.

"It's the atmosphere, the history, the new restaurants," said Martyn Duff, 42, a British hair stylist who is the regional creative director for Vidal Sassoon in North America. "Those are the surprises that make me want to return. I go to Miami Beach all the time, but now I'm building Puerto Rico into my travel schedule."

Mr. Duff, who lives in New York, visited San Juan some six years ago and came away disappointed. "The first time," he said, "I didn't get the greatest feeling. It seemed too American, too many fast-food joints, but I was doing it on the cheap, staying far out, near the airport. This time, I stayed at a fabulous hotel and I spent more time with people who knew the city, who guided me better and took me to the best places, especially Old San Juan. It gave me a totally different feeling about the place."

But it's not just the energized social scene at the Caribe Hilton, where Mr. Duff stayed, or the dashing style of the Water Club, where Derek Jeter was spotted hanging out at the bar this past Thanksgiving weekend, that has savvy travelers looking at San Juan with new eyes. And it's not only the new resorts and the ever-grander casinos. What makes the difference is Old San Juan.

Every day, cruise ships and airlines bring thousands of travelers (at least four million annually), filling hotels in the metropolitan area and resorts throughout the island. This season, the most expensive hotels in San Juan — the Ritz Carlton, the Caribe Hilton, the Wyndham El San Juan — are racking up nearly full houses (85 percent to 90 percent occupancy) at rates that start at around $225 a night and go through the roof. The hotels have been busy throughout the winter, and the war seems to have made little difference.

"We've been lucky this season," said José Campo, the general manager of the Caribe Hilton. "When the war started, we had some cancellations the first week, but we went back to normal, and we will be fully booked for Easter and the rest of the month."

Over at the Water Club, Katie Sorota, a manager in the reservations and sales department, agreed. "We are continuing to sell out as we have been in the last months."

Right now, the Water Club, on a hard-to-find cul-de-sac along the beach in Isla Verde, has travel magazines and San Juan hoteliers gaping. No question, it is self-consciously up to the minute, ears and eyes cocked to the latest Miami and Los Angeles trends. Its two bars — Liquid and Wet — are the must-see-and-be-seen-at lounges. The thrill starts in darkened elevators (with built-in waterfalls) that whoosh guests up to the rooftop. On a late Friday evening, Wet seems shrouded in cigarette smoke as a swirl of couples — locals and foreigners — shove in and around the bar, sampling the sushi fare, drinking martinis and gin and tonics. The bar is not yet overflowing; people are not hanging off the terrace rails; more bodies could be piled up at the bar, but there is not a spare table, not much room left to spread out on the banquettes. The air moves slowly around all these buffed bodies swaying slyly to the rhythms of the lounge's house mix. The April issue of Travel & Leisure rates the people of San Juan among the most beautiful in the United States; the evidence to back that up is all around us.

Over there in one corner, on a ground-hugging, bedlike sofa, and over there, on the curvy, oval white molded-plastic chairs, 20-something couples slurp each other, and waitresses in skimpy, thigh-baring white cotton skirts, their pushed-up breasts bulging out of baby tank tops, set the sloshing drinks on knee-high cocktail tables, bending down, spilling out of their tops.

"That girl is wearing nothing underneath!" whispers an ogling, T-shirted bachelor, his eyes running over her body. Smoke spirals up to the canvas awning. The heavy pounding of staccato rhythms muffles the chatter, the giddy chirping, the romantic sweet-nothings. Trophy girls in flowery tops with big cleavage strike poses while sucking cigarettes beside their muscled boyfriends, the guys with big watches and fitted T-shirts. "Everyone wants to get into Wet," said Luz Bonet, 33, a sales clerk at the Cigar Shop at the Caribe Hilton. "You're not with it if you haven't been there."

No doubt, Wet can fill an hour or three on a weekend evening, a rubbing of elbows with the cool and hip. But Old San Juan fills three nights, or perhaps a lifetime.

Once, not so long ago, this square-mile promontory of 16th-century Spanish colonial homes and imposing buildings was a picturesque but nearly abandoned collection of decaying houses and boarded-up offices. Its narrow, dark streets and alleys were left mostly to prostitutes and hustlers. Over time, the buildings were rescued and restored. Now they are washed in brilliant colors, flowers spill down from balconies and ceiling fans churn in renovated shops and galleries. Restaurants, clubs and bars live side by side with expensively renovated private homes. On the cobalt-blue cobblestone streets (over 500 years old and made from the ballast of Spanish galleons), tourists and residents mix easily, day and night.

On nearly every weekend evening, the lines outside Dragonfly, on Calle Fortaleza, an Asian-Latino restaurant and bar, begin to form by 6 p.m. and remain for hours, patrons enviously peering through the glass-paned front door into the enamel red-and-black bar where the most chic San Juaneros, those with movie-star looks and the clothing to match (black, mainly), enjoy close encounters like a secret society. Dragonfly takes no reservations. Neither does Aguaviva next door, Old San Juan's newest seafood restaurant, where even dull halibut has somehow been made sexy and the bar can barely contain the crowd elbowing for the rare empty table. The room looks like an aquarium, a plunge under the sea, and the hum of imaginary waves is mesmerizing.

"Old San Juan is a village; it has the flavor of Latin America, and the girls and boys are better looking here." True. Guy Smith, a 32-year-old New York lighting designer who noticed the girls and boys and who has worked at Roseland and other clubs and has whiled away late nights in lounges in Miami, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, is falling in love with San Juan. We are walking up Calle Fortaleza and his eyes are turning here and there where club crawlers congregate under ancient street gaslights.

Around midnight, just at the time when other cities are rolling up the sidewalks, Old San Juan gets a second wave. On Calle Cruz, Enlaces, a hip-hop, post-rock gallery-lounge that is the newest haunt for San Juan's young hipsters, is gearing up for all-night action — maybe a D.J. contest, salsa, soul, reggae, bomba drums. Stage lights play prettily on a large indoor pool. The building is odd, gutted, hardly restored and has a spooky feel. Inflated inner tubes painted light pink, yellow and blue float on the pool. The evening is barely begun at Enlaces. There are adolescent girls with thick eyelashes and roving eyes, sizing up wiry boys in undershirts. The stage is quiet still, the bartender leisurely slides beer bottles down the counter. It's early, not quite midnight.

Down the hill, on Calle Recinto del Sur, the party is hitting the high notes at Oleo, an art gallery and lounge in an exquisitely restored house. Out front, lithe young women in slick black dresses usher selected guests upstairs to the club. In a long main room decorated with large paintings, partygoers squeeze around the polished bar, sprawl on cushioned wall benches, puckering their lips for bites of sushi. Coming into the bar alone or with boyfriends, or peeling away to private rooms furnished with elegant chairs and ottomans, girls in skinny black dresses and five-inch heels flow through the club. In the roped-off V.I.P. room, the select few can enjoy their own bar and elaborate daybeds. The designer clothes and latest haircuts suggest cosmopolitan San Juan, a sliver of haughty attitude without a trace of false sophistication.

Outside, the night is far from over. A drizzle has fallen and dried just as quickly, the streets and alleys are noisy with people coming in and out of clubs, drifting, moving in circles up and down the cobblestone streets. And now the question is, said Emily Rivera, a 26-year-old clubgoer sizing up San Juan's rocketing night life, do you go to Rumba or Candelas, do you want hip-hop freestyle or jukebox salsa? It's that simple.

The next day arrives brilliantly, with not a cloud, not a speck of imperfection. At the pool bar of the Caribe Hilton, the world seems to integrate — children and grandparents, cruise passengers, conventioneers, couples and singles, hunky guys with tousled Javier Bardem looks, athletic young women in chopped-up hair and ladies of the spa. The miniature yellow flowers turn the color of tangerines, the fronds of palm trees become translucent in the sunlight, and the bar tape deck is playing — what? — hip-swinging house pop. Disco at 10 a.m.

By evening you can barely get to Old San Juan even from the Hilton, which is ordinarily a 10-minute ride away. On Saturday night, on any weekend night, the traffic is bumper to bumper and parking is nearly impossible. But it's worth it, especially if you've wrangled a reservation at Barú.

In a town where "restaurants of the moment" come and go virtually overnight, some actually last beyond the expected expiration date — the Parrot Club, which gave San Juan a new level of fashionable dining and lounging; Dragonfly, a hot ticket any night of the week; Amadeus, one of the original creators of Nuevo Latino cuisine; and now, it's Barú. No wonder. You are swathed in attention, while the flowers of San Juan chic bloom right in front of you. Young women come in striped tuxedo pants à la Kidman, in plunging décolletage à la Hayek, in bare midriffs à la Aguilera. Men, always with less plumage, fade into the background. Tables are set close to each other the better to build a flirty party atmosphere. There is a hint of salsa-rock-pop in the air, enough to keep the blood pumping. A reed-thin waiter, a young actor of earthy Gypsy looks, swims around the tables, closing in on the women, whispering, "While you're here, you are the queen."

The seduction lasts all evening. Tapas-like dishes of Mediterranean-Caribbean origin come to the table with a flourish, with a twist of the wrist, with a sigh that says, this is absolutely divine. And, just when it's time to go, past midnight, the owner, Rodolfo Pérez, a flamboyant 40-year-old Colombian with Antonio Banderas looks, swoops in. His arms spread out, taking in the whole room, from the romantic back room of candles and high tables, to the open-to-the-sky garden, to the main room, center stage. He moves swiftly, unveiling this dish of escargot with shiitake mushrooms, uncorking that bottle of Ribera del Duero, ordering up little cups of the killer agua ardiente, embracing one client, kissing another. "This is your home," he says, "la casa del amor." In Old San Juan, at that very moment, you believe it.

Visitor Information

From palmy beaches to chi-chi clubs, from hip bars to gay discos, there is just too much to do in San Juan. And just about any season is a good season. Some seasons are wetter (hurricanes occasionally hit the island in late summer and early fall), some are a bit hotter and some are pricier (December to April), but on the whole, there's really no bad time to go.

Where to Stay

The Caribe Hilton (San Geronimo Grounds, Calle Los Rosales; 787-721-0303) a newly expanded resort near Old San Juan, with a splendid private beach and terraced pools, tennis courts, a spa and shops. Rooms start at $285 to $385, depending on the season.

The Water Club (2 Calle José Tartak, Isla Verde; 787-728-3666) a Miami-style boutique hotel with waterfalls in the elevators and a plunge pool on the rooftop deck. Ocean-front rooms start at $259.

El Convento (100 Calle Cristo, Old San Juan; 787-723-9020) an elegant restored convent with al fresco bars and patio restaurants. Rates from $275.

Night Life

Barú, (150 Calle San Sebastián, Old San Juan; 787-977-5442) is restaurant as theater and romance. Don't even think of getting a table after 9 p.m. on weekends; entrees from $16.

Aguaviva (364 Calle Fortaleza, Old San Juan, 787-722-0665) has Latino seafood cuisine that makes even humdrum fish seem lush. No reservations; entrees from $20.

Dragonfly (364 Calle Fortaleza, Old San Juan, 787-977-3886) hotbed of chic and Asian/Latino food. No reservations; count on a wait. Entrees start at $15.

For drinking, dancing and mating, among the best places to hang out are Oleo (305 Calle Recinto Sur, Old San Juan, 787-977-1083), with house music in an exquisitely appointed artsy space; Wet and Liquid, at the Water Club (787-728-3666), fashionable bars with attitude and weak drinks; Enlaces, (255 Calle Cruz, Old San Juan; 787-977-0754) a hip-hop lounge that's the rage with young hipsters; Rumba (152 Calle San Sebastián, Old San Juan; 787-725-4407), jukebox salsa and bomba madness; Kouros (1515 Avenida Ponce de León, 787-977-0771), high-glam disco for gay girls and boys, open Fridays and Saturdays.

Sun and Surf

The best beaches in metropolitan San Juan? The lively boy-meets-boy and girl-meets-boy sand-and-tan beach strip along El Condado; the private beach at the Caribe Hilton; and the quiet beaches in Ocean Park. If you want romantic seclusion, take a 30-minute flight to Culebra, the island where Flamenco Beach ranks among the prettiest in the Americas.



http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/18/travel/18JUAN.html

HALBLEU
04-22-03, 07:23 AM
Finding Opportunity in Baggage Woes
April 22, 2003
By JOE SHARKEY

The airline service cutbacks and the airport security
delays are bad enough. But what really maddens many
business travelers is the knowledge that security guards
are pawing through their checked bags, and airlines are
increasingly acting as if a checked bag is nothing more
than another brick on their load.

And therein lies a business opportunity that a handful of
companies are hoping to seize. Promoting themselves
essentially as long-haul bellhops - one, in fact, calls
itself Virtual Bellhop - they show up at your house or
office, take your bags and ship them to the hotel or
wherever else you will be staying, before you get there.
Then, at the end of your stay, they ship them back home.

The most pronounced impetus for having someone else handle
your bags, some leisure and business travelers say, came on
Jan. 1, when federal law required the inspection of all
checked bags, and inspectors began literally breaking into
bags that were locked. Most bags are inspected by machine,
but more than 10 percent of the billion-plus bags checked
on airlines annually in the United States are now being
inspected by hand, and complaints of theft or careless
handling are rising.

"A lot of hands are going through that luggage now," said
Eric Mautner, founder and president of Need It Now Courier
Service, a delivery and specialty freight company that has
a luggage shipping service called LuggageFree. "That has
created a significant marketplace for us."

Mr. Mautner's company created LuggageFree two years ago at
a time of chronic air traffic delays and mounting customer
dissatisfaction about airline service in general, including
baggage handling. Today, while both the delays and the
complaints have plunged along with airline traffic, the
tighter security has bolstered the incentive for some
travelers to have someone else take their bags.

A further indirect incentive has come from the sharply
increased use by airlines of smaller, cheaper-to-operate
regional jets, which have limited cargo space. According to
the Federal Aviation Administration, domestic airlines had
over 900 regional jets in service in 2002, compared with
496 in 2000. As fleets shrank and cost-cutting measures
tightened, airlines began imposing extra fees on overweight
bags.

The delivery services that have sprung up to siphon off the
bag-weary have been generally dependable, if occasionally
late on pickup or delivery, business travelers who have
used them say. In November, this reporter used Sports
Express - a Colorado company that expanded into personal
luggage delivery after establishing a market in shipping
sports equipment like golf clubs and skis - to send a
45-pound suitcase from a hotel in Salt Lake City to a
residence in New Jersey. The bag, shipped the morning of
departure, arrived as scheduled the morning after, at a
cost of $87.

"Shipping the family luggage was a lifesaver," said Alan
Gallanty, a Manhattan lawyer who used LuggageFree to send
four golf bags and two big suitcases both ways on a trip
with his wife and two young children to Florida during a
snowstorm this winter. "The airport was an absolute
madhouse, with people lined up out the doors and into the
slush" to check bags.

"We sailed right through," Mr. Gallanty said. "There was a
cost, of course, but it was worth it to feel human and not
to have to deal with all that stuff."

Mr. Gallanty said the service made sense for business trips
as well. "If you're able to travel without checked bags,
and you use e-ticket kiosks, you can cut out two hours at
some airports," he said. "That's a significant amount of
time for the business traveler."

For obvious reasons, airlines do not have any objections to
competition for handling luggage. As airlines remove big
planes on some routes and replace them with the smaller
jets, "any bag we don't have to carry is a plus," one
airline spokesman said.

Many airlines have begun charging extra fees of $25 to $80
for checking overweight bags, and Joe Brancatelli, the
publisher of the online business-travel site Joe
sentme.com, said the industry would probably like to extend
the practice one day to making a separate charge for all
bags, just as some already do for serving an onboard meal.
"I think the future of the airline business is totally à la
carte," Mr. Brancatelli said. "So there's obviously a niche
for companies that will pick up and deliver your bags."

Giant shipping companies like United Parcel Service and
FedEx have long picked up and delivered boxes containing
luggage, but the niche companies began carving out their
space within the last two years. None claim to be making
money at it so far, and none claim to be handling more than
400 deliveries a month. But all of them say business has
picked up sharply in the last six months as travelers tire
of all the commotion at airport baggage check-in counters.
Mr. Mautner said that LuggageFree accounted for a rapidly
growing, if tiny, portion of his company's $5 million in
annual revenue.

Having a bag shipped one way costs about $2 a pound, or $70
to $80 for a typical large suitcase. The luggage service
picks up the bag at a customer's home or hotel, and
delivery is usually made the next day, using a variety of
standard shipping services, including air freight.

For now, the high cost is limiting demand for the service
to affluent travelers or business travelers carrying
expensive gear that they do not want to entrust to airline
baggage handling, said Richard A. Altomare, the chief
executive of Universal Express.

Universal Express, whose main business is supplying
services to 8,000 private shipping companies in the United
States, provides personal-luggage shipping through its
subsidiary, Virtual Bellhop.

Because most travelers balk at the cost of shipping a bag,
Mr. Altomare said, the key to wider growth is developing
marketing partnerships with airlines, hotels, casinos,
cruise ship lines and travel package companies so that
door-to-door luggage shipping will eventually be routinely
offered as options for customers. Last year, Virtual
Bellhop announced several alliances, including one with
Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Fairmont said that under the
agreement, it would offer discounts for luggage delivery to
members of its customer loyalty program.

"I look at these partnerships as a marketing edge for
hotels, casinos and cruise lines to offer this as an add-on
service: `Come to our casino, we'll not only comp you,
we'll pick up your bags,' " Mr. Altomare said.

Universal Express is struggling. Its shares, trading all
this year at about a penny, were recently rated
"speculative" by an Investrend Research analyst, Jeff
Howlett. He said, nevertheless, that there was real
potential for a turnaround if the company succeeded in
recent product and marketing initiatives, developed a
domestic delivery system using interstate buses, and firmly
established brand recognition for its subsidiaries.

But for the luggage shipping division of the company to
prosper, Mr. Altomare said, monthly orders will have to
increase from a few hundred today to "thousands and
thousands." And for that, he said, reducing the price by
creating promotional partnerships with hotels, airlines and
others is crucial. "I can talk to people like my parents
and say, `You should use this luggage service,' " he said.
"But they say, `Well, we're not going to pay $70 for a
bag.' But $30 or $40? `Hey, now we're interested.' "


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/22/business/22BAGS.html?ex=1052035812&ei=1&en=fc3fde5b6df08a30

HALBLEU
04-29-03, 06:13 AM
I have used the Targus Defcon Authenticator. I can recommend that device to all interested parties.
=================================
April 29, 2003
Gadgets That Promise Security Sell Briskly
By DAVID JONES


Years before anyone heard of severe acute respiratory syndrome, Ronald D. Salk, a travel executive based in Long Beach, Calif., frequently caught a cold or suffered from congestion after returning home from long-distance flights.

"I just chalked it up to the interior air in the cabin," said Mr. Salk, who is president of a company called Salk International that publishes an annual airport transit guide.

About four years ago, Mr. Salk began using a device called the Air Supply Mini-Mate, made by Wein Products of Los Angeles. It is a battery-operated air purifier that looks like a tiny black padlock and hangs around a user's neck. Mr. Salk says that since he began wearing the device, which costs $145 and supposedly kills 95 percent of airborne toxins, the breathing difficulties have disappeared. Magellan's, a travel-supply retailer in Santa Barbara, Calif., says that its sales of the purifier have tripled since the SARS outbreak.

In fact, since the nation went on orange alert in February, indicating a high risk of terrorist attack, stores ranging from Magellan's to Safer America in New York have done a brisk business as travelers snap up devices for shielding them from airborne viruses and dangers like chemical attacks and civil unrest.

"At first it was very, very busy," said Frederic Samama, founder and chief executive at Safer America, though business slowed a bit when the Iraq war wound down and the alert was lowered back to yellow in mid-April. He sells what he calls the respirator of choice, the N'95 surgical mask made by 3M, in boxes of 10 through his Web site for $29.50.

The SARS outbreak is only the latest in a series of nerve-jangling episodes since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, including anthrax scares, shoes rigged to explode, anti-American protests and war. It is no wonder, then, that almost by the week, new high-technology contraptions and other contrivances aimed at allaying the fears of frequent fliers are making their way to market.

Mr. Samama said that in the weeks after the February orange alert and just before the SARS outbreak, customers were most concerned about chemical and dirty-bomb attacks. Among the hottest items coming off the shelves were potassium iodide tablets that reduce the risk of thyroid cancer after exposure to radiation; so-called NBC suits that protect against exposure to nuclear particles and biological and chemical contaminants; British-engineered solar-powered crank radios that can play for 35 minutes after the user turns a hand crank; and all-purpose survival kits.

A popular version of the latter is the Tote-and-Go 72-Hour Survival Kit made by the Nitro-Pak Preparedness Center in Heber City, Utah. It contains purified water pouches, food rations, a sanitation bag, a poncho, a flashlight, a blanket, a whistle, a radio, a hand warmer, a first-aid kit and other materials; it sells for $72. A slimmed-down version, called the Ark, includes a light stick, safety matches, food, water, hand warmer, candle and other items for $29.

Scott N. Pedersen, a partner at Emergency Essentials in Orem, Utah, used to sell its specialized gear mostly in Utah and other Western states, where many Mormon families teach basic survival skills to their children. By the late 1990's, orders poured in from the East Coast and elsewhere from people worried by doomsday talk about a turn-of-the-millennium computer meltdown. Though that never materialized, Mr. Pedersen still recommends that every family have a mobile survival kit and store enough food and supplies at home for an emergency.

Besides survival kits and chemical suits, travelers are stocking up on all kinds of exotic items, like the Evac-U8 smoke hood, which is made by Brookdale International Systems in Vancouver, British Columbia, and offers 15 minutes of protection against carbon monoxide inhalation, and the Evacuchute parachute for escaping skyscraper fires, made by Emergency Evacuation Systems in Malibu, Calif. For $99.95, the Sharper Image sells a battery-run survival lantern that contains a weather-band radio, thermometer, compass, spotlight, black-and-white television and sonic mosquito repellant.

Matthew Simon, a retired rabbi in Rockville, Md., who travels frequently to remote destinations in Asia and Latin America to hold services for poor congregations, always takes a shortwave radio along for news about world events.

Steve Milligan, a senior network designer in Washington for British Telecom, is not worried so much about physical threats as about getting lost. On his trips to Europe, Mr. Milligan, an American, frequently rents a car but is easily confused by the road signs. So he takes two global positioning system devices that plug into a hand-held computer and give him audible directions.

This came in handy one day in London last spring when a large demonstration tied up traffic in much of the city. Mr. Milligan became stuck on a highway while driving to Heathrow Airport; he used a G.P.S. device to find an alternate route through some side streets and got to his flight on time.

The obsession with gadgets has its drawbacks, some people believe. Linda Fish, area manager for the Rand McNally Map and Travel Store in Chicago, says the growing popularity of G.P.S. receivers and electronic compasses that she sells may make road travel more efficient, but might also rob it of some of the fun. "People are approaching travel with less of the joie de vivre, less of the `whatever happens let's go for it' mentality," she said.

Some customers with plans to travel overseas, she adds, are so fearful of being identified as Americans that they purchase passport covers and even coat lapels that imply Canadian nationality.

It is not just the post-Sept. 11 jitters and fears of exotic maladies that are driving the trend. Some newfangled gadgets are aimed at protecting travelers from old-fashioned risks like plain old thievery. Harmon M. Webb, a salesman for the Eastern Insurance Group in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., recently paid $59.95 for a TrackIT Sonic Laptop Alarm system made by the TrackIT Corporation in Buffalo Grove, Ill. The alarm, which is attached to a laptop computer, will emit an ear-splitting signal if it moves 40 feet away from a transmitter that is attached to his key chain.

Mr. Webb, who recently traveled to London, said he bought the device primarily to safeguard personal and financial information stored on his computer. "The only other option was to take a heavy-duty bicycle chain," he said.

If someone does steal your laptop, more sophisticated devices are available to protect your data. Targus in Anaheim, Calif., sells a set of security devices that use biometric identifiers and motion detectors to keep out prying eyes. The Targus Defcon Authenticator requires users to confirm their identities using a fingerprint sensor.

With identify theft on the rise, said Dafna Zilafro, marketing manager for Targus, "People are just more hypersensitive about the kind of information they put on their laptop."


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/29/business/29GADG.html

HALBLEU
05-08-03, 05:54 AM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

May 6, 2003
Virtual Travel Gives the Airlines Real Heartburn
By JANE L. LEVERE


here was no way the four architects at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates in New York were going to fly to Beijing last month in the midst of the SARS epidemic for a meeting with officials of the developer of an office tower there and two consultants who were supposed to be arriving from the Philippines.

Instead, said James R. Brogan, K.P.F.'s director of information technology, the various parties — all 40 of them — got the job done over the Web and by videoconferencing. "We used WebEx to share material, a PowerPoint presentation, CAD drawings and digital images," Mr. Brogan said. "We could also sketch and mark things up. It was completely interactive."

Mr. Brogan's delight at the outcome — not only did his firm accomplish what it set out to do, but it also saved a lot of time and money — is enough to make a grown airline chief executive cry. Battered by terrorist attacks, a wobbly world economy and the severe acute respiratory syndrome scare, the entire travel industry now has to cope with corporate America's growing love affair with teleconferencing.

Though teleconferencing has been around for years, new technology is making it easier and cheaper than ever, meaning that it will probably continue to eat into the revenues of airlines, hotels, car rental companies and other segments of the travel industry even if all the other ordeals the industry has gone through fade away.

"In the search for a credible explanation as to why business travel spending has fallen three times more in this downturn then in the past, bandwidth must certainly play a role," said Sam Buttrick, an airline analyst for UBS Warburg. "Over the past decade, and particularly in recent years, bandwidth has gotten faster and cheaper, neither of which could be said about business travel."

Elliot Gold, president of TeleSpan Publishing, an Altadena, Calif., market research company, said the use of all types of teleconferencing, including audioconferencing, videoconferencing and Web conferencing, jumped more than 35 percent after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Though it then tapered off, the trend is clear: More than 78 percent of corporate travel managers surveyed last spring by the Business Travel Coalition, a lobbying group, said they had increased their reliance on teleconferencing and 86 percent said they planned to do so in 2002. A similar poll last month indicated that the SARS epidemic was contributing to the shift to technology from air travel.

It helps that the number of products and services available is growing rapidly. Companies supplying them include Polycom and Tandberg, the two largest suppliers of videoconferencing equipment; AT&T and MCI, the telecommunications giants that do an estimated $500 million each in teleconferencing business annually; and a parade of smaller players like ACT Teleconferencing; Genesys Conferencing; Global Crossing; Intercall; Sprint; V-SPAN; Premiere Conferencing, a unit of Ptek Holdings; Wire One Technologies; TeleSuite; WebEx; and PlaceWare, now being acquired by Microsoft. And companies like Affinity, Proximity, HQ Global Workplaces and Kinko's rent out videoconference rooms.

All this competition is driving the cost of teleconferencing down. Andrew W. Davis, managing partner of Wainhouse Research, a Brookline, Mass., consulting company that specializes in the industry, says the price of installing a videoconferencing system in a corporate office has fallen to around $9,000 today from $27,000 in 1998. The cost of a videoconference call has dropped to just 80 cents a minute per site from $1.60 in 1998, he says, while that of an audioconference call has dropped to just 12 to 19 cents a minute per site, from 33 or 34 cents in 1998.

Some travel companies figure that if you can't beat them, join them. Marriott International will set up conference sessions at any location through its EventCom Technologies division. Even two large corporate-travel companies, Rosenbluth International and TQ3 Travel Solutions, offer teleconferencing services to clients as an alternative to business travel. Rosenbluth refers its clients to TeleSuite, while TQ3 works with V-SPAN; both receive commissions for referrals.

A few companies have embraced teleconferencing with the fervor of religious converts. One V-SPAN customer, Nick Walker, chief executive of Xpherix, a San Jose software company, says it has replaced all but one or two of the company's monthly sales meetings for an annual savings of $100,000. Not only that, a sales representative in Australia who used to skip the meetings for budgetary reasons can now take part, he says, and the time that employees save from travel frees them up "to spend the day with customers."

Another believer is Darlene MacKinnon, a Midland, Mich., public affairs official for Dow Chemical, who said she chopped her business travel expenditures by more than one-third in the first quarter.

"One year ago, I would have purchased a bunch of plane tickets and flown to Brazil, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Italy and Germany" to meet with her 25 staff members scattered around the world, she said. "Instead, because travel has been severely restricted, I held a videoconference."

It was not just a satisfactory substitute for hitting the road, she said, it was a significant improvement. "It was more than ideal," Ms. MacKinnon said. "All of us got to see each other for the first time. I'm a working mom, with a 7- and a 4-year-old. I could meet with 25 people from around the world, and then be home for dinner with my kids."

It would be easy to exaggerate the impact of teleconferencing on business travel. Even its most ardent fans acknowledge it can never replace human contact as a lubricant for deal making. Executives like to size up their partners, rivals and clients face to face — to read body language, probe for strengths and weaknesses, and establish rapport.

"It will not replace or reduce travel when things get better," said Pam Arway, American Express's executive vice president for corporate travel for North America. "At the end of the day, face-to-face meetings are always more effective and productive than long-distance calls or even videoconferences."

Mark Wasserman, a partner in Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, an Atlanta law firm, feels similarly. Although he is a frequent participant in both audioconferences and videoconferences, particularly for internal meetings, he says that neither forum allows the give-and-take required in negotiating sessions. "It's not a substitute for actually being there," Mr. Wasserman said. "You can't caucus, pull aside your client, talk with him about an issue raised by the other side and then come up with a response."

"To keep people on a phone or video call for eight full hours is extremely difficult," he added.

Even so, some people cannot get enough of it. Joseph Dilg, a managing partner of Vinson & Elkins, a Houston law firm, said that he took part in six conference calls while on a four-day skiing trip to Deer Valley, Utah, in February.


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/06/business/06VIDE.html

HALBLEU
05-12-03, 07:28 PM
I have always heard that Belize is an interesting place to hang out.

# # #
May 11, 2003
Little Island With Much R & R
By DAISANN McLANE


LL the way from New York to Cay Caulker, Belize, I worried.

On the connecting flight there from Dallas, filled with high school students on a class trip and 20-something spring breakers, I fretted that the little island I'd chosen for an early March getaway would be too noisy and crowded. On the sputtering six-seat, single-propeller plane out of Belize City, I looked out the window at the expanse of green-blue ocean, wondering if I'd picked a spot too remote, far from morning newspapers and fresh-brewed coffee.

Debarking at the tiny airstrip on Cay Caulker, I felt a tickle on my right ankle and remembered the guidebook warnings about sand flies, which can be fierce if the brisk trade winds die down. (Thankfully, while I was there, they never did.) But the tickle was only a loose thread dangling from my ankle-cropped trousers.

The spring-breakers had peeled off in Belize City, headed for the next island north, Ambergris Cay. The next morning, I'd discover excellent cappuccino in the tangled tropical garden of the Coco Plum, a quirky little cafe mere spitting distance from the airstrip. And as for newspapers, by the end of my too-short week on Caulker, I realized it was a relief to have had a break from them.

Cay Caulker, only five miles long and less than a half-mile wide in most spots, has been a staple of the budget backpacker's circuit for more than 20 years. Nonetheless, so far, it has managed to escape being further discovered and developed. The houses are made of wooden planks, not concrete, perched on stilts above the sand like children's treehouses.

Caulker, which sits about 10 miles from the coast of Belize, 22 miles northeast of Belize City and a mile west of the longest barrier reef in the Americas, doesn't have a terrific beach, either. There's plenty of sand (the whole island is one sandbar, with patches of mangrove), but the surrounding water is fairly shallow, and the bottom is overgrown with sea grass.

For good swimming, you have to walk out to the end of one of the numerous wooden piers and jump off. To get to good snorkeling you have to arrange a boat trip out to the reef with a guide.

Probably the main factor that has kept Caulker the way it is, though, is Ambergris Cay, Belize's premier beach destination, about 10 miles north, which has drawn the development, the discos and the crowds. Thus, Caulker remains a castaway island of little wooden guest houses, eccentric expats and backpackers passing through for a week of R & R between treks to the Maya ruins of the Yucatán and Guatemala.

How castaway does it get in Caulker? In dollar and cents, pretty far from what you'd expect elsewhere in the Caribbean in high season. While I was there, I met travelers who were paying as little as $20 a night for a shaky cabin on stilts without a bathroom or hot water.

Since I set the bar for creature comforts a bit higher, I checked out accommodations in the middle range, with bathrooms and hot water and facing the windward side of the island (more wind equals fewer pesky sand flies). On the Internet, I found a guest house that seemed to fit the bill.

Shirley Young, a retired Canadian who's lived on Caulker for 33 years, answered the phone when I called from New York and offered me a room with bath and hot water for $65 a night, including tax. ''Call me when you get to Belize City and I'll come pick you up at the Caulker airport," she offered.

And there she was, waving from her blue golf cart - there are almost no cars on Caulker - as I tramped with my backpack across the sandy runway. As it turned out, Shirley's Guest House was about 300 feet from the strip, and I could easily have hoofed it, but I was grateful for her kind welcome.

Shirley has three freshly painted white wooden cabins on her property; the third, mine, had two guest rooms, each with a refrigerator and its own bath. My room also had a double bed and an electric fan I never needed. A little porch, shared with my next-door neighbor, looked out to the sea.

Wooden steps led down to a raked sandy private yard with inviting deck chairs under a cluster of shady, feathery casuarinas. There was a private swimming dock, too.

After I'd walked around Caulker the next day, I realized how lucky I was to have landed at Shirley's, which offered space, privacy and solitude that were not only unmatched on the island but also at a lower price than the handful of top-end guest houses, which charged between $85 and $100.

Walking and exploring Caulker didn't take more than a few hours the next morning - the northern half of the island, sparsely populated, is cut off from the rest by a sea channel that swept through in a 1960's hurricane, so the main businesses are confined to the southern two-mile stretch. Although smallness can get claustrophobic, I never felt that way during my stay, largely because I spent almost every day on watery excursions.

Caulker is a convenient jumping-off point for exploring some of the most awesome underwater landscapes in the Americas. The island's main drag (there are no official names or street signs) is chockablock with small tour operators, dive shops and boatmen who arrange trips to the nearby reef and to somewhat more distant marine parks and island atolls.

Trips were easy to arrange, and not too expensive. My first afternoon, I set out with about eight other travelers on a small motorboat, captained by a local guide, Ramsay Martinez, for a snorkeling tour of Caulker's reef (for $17.50 a head, $20 if you rented equipment). In about five minutes, our captain, who kept up lively banter in both Spanish and English (most residents of multi-ethnic Belize, the former British outpost in Central America, are bilingual) ferried us to Shark Ray Alley.

Almost at once, seven or eight big fish with large dorsal fins approached the side of our little boat.

"Nurse sharks,'' Ramsay said. "Don't worry, they won't hurt you."

He then unhesitatingly jumped into the water.

A bit warily, most of the travelers joined him to swim with the graceful, formidable-looking fish that have been coming to this spot for many years, ever since local fisherman used to stop here to clean their day's catch before returning home. Once the sharks had figured out we weren't giving away any free tidbits, they swam off, to be replaced by a squadron of shadowy sting rays.

Ramsay reached into the water, picked one up by the flaps and began to play with it. "I know this guy," he said laughing.

Releasing the ray, he then plunged underwater and emerged holding a big pink conch shell. From inside poked the claws of a giant hermit crab.

I enjoyed this introduction to the wonders of underwater Belize, but it did feel a bit touristy, and I was eager to go deeper: Belize's reef and offshore atolls are considered among the best diving spots in the hemisphere. I arranged to join a group of about eight divers setting off early the next morning for Turneffe Atoll, about 20 miles from Caulker.

About 10 minutes into the trip, our little twin-engine boat started to cross over the reef, where the trade winds turned the sea into a watery roller coaster of four-foot waves that rose and crested and slapped us with salty spray at every turn. I watched as one diver, sitting in the front of the boat, turned green and ducked between her legs.

Turneffe Atoll, to my dismay, was more than an hour's ride away.

Still, thanks to Dramamine and pressure-point wristbands, I managed to get to the dive site in pretty good shape. And below the waves was enough wonder to make anyone forget the rough ride.

DROPPING down a wall of lush coral, we swam for a while, then went back up the wall over coral canyons filled with groves of bright yellow and neon-blue tube sponges. Schools of blue tang and yellow tang, their bright lemony tails glinting in the sunlight, swam in arcs at our side, like rainbows.

Hooked on the deep - but not on the long ride - I decided later on to skip Belize's most famous dive site, the Blue Hole, nearly a three-hour boat ride. Instead, I signed on, over the next few days, for dive trips to reefs closer to Cay Caulker, and was not disappointed.

In one thrilling highlight, in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, about a half-hour north of Caulker, my group was returning from exploring an undersea shipwreck when we spotted several fat, four-foot groupers swimming around a slithering electric-green eight-foot moray eel. Eels are usually found hiding in crevices, but this one was out and about, and close enough for us to watch it opening and closing its toothy jaws, as if it were auditioning for the next Spielberg blockbuster.

One morning, I woke up, tasted nothing but salt in my mouth, and decided to take a day off from diving, even though I feared I'd get bored. But just sitting on the porch of my cabin was a small adventure.

There I met a new guest, an avid birder from Massachusetts, and together we spent the morning and part of the afternoon excitedly identifying 11 or 12 varieties of the parade of tropical birds that passed by the water's margin - from a great blue heron to a white egret to an almost prehistoric looking male frigate bird, his red throat sparkling in the sun.

With so much wildlife to see, it hardly mattered that Caulker was tiny, and that its simple restaurants ranged from the palatable to the downright awful. Eventually, a couple of dive buddies and I discovered that the meals were much better at the informal outdoor picnic-style places, like Dave's BBQ, where local fishermen prepared simple meals of fresh seafood and meats on oil drum charcoal grills.

And we learned that every afternoon, fat slices of homemade banana cake would appear on the counter of Chan's Grocery, warm from the oven and wrapped in fat triangular slices - enough for a snack, or even a whole breakfast.

Early one morning, eating a slice of Chan's banana cake as I ambled down the main street, I ran into Angie, a woman from the Lower East Side whom I had met diving some days before. I was surprised to see her, because she'd told me she was traveling for a month, headed eventually to Costa Rica.

She had indeed gone to Ambergris Cay for a few days to meet up with a friend, she explained. The friend had never been to Caulker and wanted to check it out.

"At first I thought, 'Oh, I don't want to go back to a place where I've spent a week already,' " she said.

I understood. Retracing your steps is a backpacker no-no.

"But I thought about it for a minute,'' she said, "and well, this is such a special place."

Definitely worth an extra week. Or two. We drifted off down the sandy road together, joining the parade of Cay Caulker castaways in search of morning coffee.

Visitor Information

I spent $112 a day during my seven days on Cay Caulker in early March, for lodging, food and activities, including four days of scuba diving. The Belizian dollar is fixed at a rate of 2 to the U.S. dollar (which is widely accepted).

The Cay Caulker Branch of the Belize Tourism Industry Association has a very helpful Web site, www.gocayecaulker.com. The Belize Tourism Board is at (800) 624-0686, www.travelbelize.org.

Getting There

I flew round trip from La Guardia to Belize City on American Airlines, (800) 433-7300 and www.aa.com; the fare was $616 with taxes. Flights stop in Miami or Dallas.

Maya Island Air, (800) 225-6732 in the United States, or (501) 233-1794, www.mayaislandair.com, and Tropic Air, (501) 224-5671 and www.tropicair.com, fly frequently Belize City to Cay Caulker; Maya charges $93 round trip, Tropic $99.

Where to Stay

Shirley's Guest House, (501) 226-0145, fax (501) 226-0264, www.shirleysguesthouse.com, has five rooms near the airstrip by the uncrowded southern tip of the island. My ocean-facing room with double bed, private bath (shower, no tub), fan and refrigerator cost $65 a night, with tax; shared-bath rooms are $50. A cabin for two is $80.

In town, I discovered an excellent studio apartment rented above a gift shop rented by Annie Seashore right on the main street. The apartment, newly renovated with tile floors and wooden walls, has a queen bed, ocean-facing windows, a fridge and a modern bath for $60 a night. Information: (501) 226-0151, or by e-mail to chocolate@btl.net.

Less charming, but convenient to the ferry dock is Vega Inn and Gardens, (501) 226-0142, fax (501) 226-0269, www.vega.com.bz. A bright, breezy room with ceiling fan, private bath, and double and single beds is $65 for two, or $55 single.

Where to Eat

The best meals I had were at Dave's BBQ, on the street parallel to the main one. A dinner of grilled shrimp shish kebabs with rice and beans, a ceviche appetizer and a couple of beers is about $15.

Coco Plum Gardens, (501) 226-0226, www.cocoplumgardens.bz, a cafe near the airport, serves delicious healthful breakfasts (the mushroom omelet is great), and good cappuccino. They're also open for early dinner. Breakfast, which included fresh fruit and homemade whole wheat rolls, cost $6.50. Closed Friday and Saturday.

Habaneros, on the main street by the water taxi, (501) 226-0487, is an attempt to bring fine dining - with wine lists and required reservations - to the island. The meals I had were uneven; they cost about $30 for two courses and a glass of wine. Open for lunch and dinner except Monday and Tuesday

Things to Do

An afternoon snorkel excursion to Caulker's reef with Star Tours, (501) 226-0374, www.startours.bz, cost $20; with your own mask and fins, it's $17.50. Our guide, Ramsay Martinez, was knowledgeable.

I went diving with two different operations; the rental equipment at Frenchie's Diving, (501) 226-0234 and www.frenchiesdiving.com, seemed in better condition than at Belize Diving Services, (501) 226-0143 and www.belizedivingservices.com (while I was diving with Belize Services, another diver and I both suffered leaks in our regulators). Another plus for Frenchie's was the capable way our dive master handled a novice who panicked when we were 50 feet down.

Dive prices don't vary much by shop; a two-tank dive to the Hol Chan park runs about $70 to $75; two- or three-tank dives to the Turneffe North site (including lunch) $90 to $100; and a full day to the Blue Hole is $162, with breakfast and lunch.


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/11/travel/11frug.html?8hpib

HALBLEU
05-12-03, 07:32 PM
May 13, 2003
Smaller U.S. Airports Are Increasingly Popular
By MARK A. STEIN


here are many ways to size up the worst or at least the most irritating airports in the country. Some people count the number of delayed flights, others gauge the difficulties of getting in and out, and some critique the amenities. Doctors have even ranked the busiest airports based on the unhealthiness of the food served in them.

However the list is drawn up, some candidates always seem to make it. Hartsfield in Atlanta and O'Hare in Chicago; Logan in Boston; La Guardia and Kennedy in New York; LAX in Los Angeles; and the aptly coded MIA in Miami.

Now, a growing number of business travelers are doing more than making a mental tally of the most annoying airports. They are shunning them and flying out of regional airports instead, thereby not only sparing themselves a lot of aggravation but saving money to boot. Low-cost airlines like Southwest prefer these smaller fields precisely because they are less congested, and because they charge lower landing fees.

"It's a lot easier for me to fly out of White Plains than to fight getting out of La Guardia," said Jessica L. Henry, referring to the Westchester County Airport in the suburbs north of New York City. "It cuts two hours from the whole process." Ms. Henry is a college recruiter for News America Marketing Inc., an advertising company based in Manhattan, and said she spent a third of her time on the road.

Ross Leonard, the director of architecture and design marketing for C&A Floorcoverings, a carpet maker in Dalton, Ga., said that he preferred driving to Tennessee and flying out of the Chattanooga airport to battling his way through Atlanta's vast Hartsfield International. "The security lines at Hartsfield are just dispiriting," he said.

The shift of business travel to regional airports is illustrated by Federal Aviation Administration statistics. They show big gains in passenger traffic at airports just outside some major urban areas from 1996 to 2001 — the latest year for which statistics are available — while the traffic at primary airports grew little or actually shrank.

The gains at these suburban airports came even as the weak economy led many airlines to cut service to midsize and small cities. "In an effort to stem losses, airlines have reduced service in the smallest communities by 19 percent in the past five years," Kenneth M. Mead, the inspector general of the Department of Transportation, testified before a Senate subcommittee earlier this month.

While passenger volume at Logan International fell 4 percent in that period, to 11.7 million boardings in 2001, for example, traffic at Manchester Airport 50 miles northwest in New Hampshire more than tripled, to 1.6 million boardings, and the number of passengers using T. F. Green Airport about 40 miles southwest in Providence, R.I., more than doubled, to 2.7 million boardings. Boston officials contributed to the trend by encouraging travelers to use regional airports while a downtown highway reconstruction project hampered automobile access to Logan.

In southern Florida, traffic at Miami International fell 8.5 percent in those five years, to 14.9 million boardings, while the number of passengers at nearby Fort Lauderdale Airport jumped 45 percent, to 8 million boardings. In Southern California, traffic at Long Beach Airport increased by almost one-third, to 297,000 boardings, while Los Angeles International gained 2.5 percent, to 29.3 million.

At the other end of the state, traffic at San Jose International expanded 21 percent, to 5.9 million boardings; Oakland International added 17 percent more passengers, rising to 5.5 million; and San Francisco International dropped 11 percent, to 16.4 million boardings, largely as a result of the dot-com bust.

The San Francisco airport is also in the midst of a big construction project, but travelers who navigate it now have at least one reason to celebrate. Last year, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit group that promotes preventive medicine and good nutrition, rated the food in the airport's restaurants the healthiest in the nation. (The Detroit airport placed last.)

Some of the most striking growth at regional airports has been near New York City, which has three contenders on most lists of worst airports: La Guardia, Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International. While traffic at La Guardia rose 9 percent and Newark 7 percent between 1996 and 2001, passenger volume at Kennedy dropped almost 4 percent.

MacArthur Airport in Islip on Long Island, meanwhile, handled 85 percent more passengers in 2001 than it did in 1996, F.A.A. figures show. Bradley International Airport in Hartford, which is an alternative to Boston and New York, experienced a 27 percent jump in that period.

Not coincidentally, many of these airports started or added service by Southwest Airlines and other low-fare carriers. Southwest, for example, began flying into MacArthur early in 1999 and in Hartford later that year. JetBlue began flying into Long Beach in 2001. More than 60 percent of all flights to and from Oakland are operated by Southwest.

As suburban and regional airports grow, offering more frequent flights and more destinations, some consultants said they could begin to act as magnets for businesses seeking to expand or relocate outside of big cities.

"You might see a corporate move to some of these midlevel cities to save on air fare costs," said James Diffley, a managing director of Global Insight, a consulting firm in Lexington, Mass.

Stephen R. Elliott, president of SRE Associates, an architectural firm, said that cheap and convenient airline connections were one reason he relocated his business to Chattanooga from Cheyenne, Wyo.

The convenience of smaller airports is not without some cost. Flights are not as frequent, there is less nonstop service and the airports have fewer amenities, like lounges and business centers.

"I often take an early morning flight, and White Plains doesn't have a Starbucks like you have at La Guardia," Ms. Henry said. "It has a diner, but that's not the same."

But she and others say the benefits outweigh such inconveniences.

"You have a three-and-a-half or four-hour wait just to get into Hartsfield, what with traffic and parking and all the security," Mr. Elliott said. "You lose a whole day every time you fly out of there, no matter where you are going." Even with additional layovers sometimes required by flying out of a smaller airport, he said, "you come out ahead."

While some business travelers said fares at smaller airports were marginally higher than those at major cities, they generally said the differences were not enough to outweigh benefits like cheaper parking, shorter waits and quicker departures. Others said that the full-fare, last-minute tickets they tend to buy most often were just as expensive at major airports as at smaller ones.

Ms. Henry, who lives in Darien, Conn., said that when she went on recruiting trips around the country, she would continue to fly out of White Plains as often as possible. "It's worth it," she said, "as long as the difference is not astronomical."


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/13/business/13SMAL.html

HALBLEU
05-17-03, 04:45 AM
May 18, 2003
Their Pursuits Cover Lots of Ground
By BARRY ESTABROOK


I TRAVEL for travel's sake," Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, an assertion that still has its adherents. But then there are those for whom travel is the means to an end, who pack suitcases and strap on backpacks to pursue a particular passion with a single-minded intensity bordering on fanaticism, one that transcends geographic, political and linguistic barriers.

They go to Mongolia to witness a total solar eclipse. They shrug off having a bird-watching tour interrupted by gun-toting soldiers. They spend several weeks in the frigid air of the Himalayas to stand atop a summit that few outside the mountaineering community have ever heard about. And although many profess to enjoy foreign lands and people, it is the pursuit of a passion that prompts them to pick up and go.

Some make their journeys alone, reveling in the opportunity to indulge in a personal interest without the interruption of friends and family. Others travel in groups of fellow enthusiasts, to share the excitement. Whole industries are springing up to cater to the growing numbers of birders, astronomers, adventure travelers and others with well-defined special interests.

As these profiles show, the passions that people pursue to all corners of the world are limited only by human curiosity.

The Eclipse Chaser

Beverly Elliott-Ingram stood in the shadow of her first total solar eclipse early one morning in 1997 on the plains of Mongolia. The vast expanse around her was covered by snow and dotted by dome-shaped yurts and the camels and horses of herders. Suddenly, the horizon turned pink, and Ms. Elliott-Ingram gazed skyward to see the silhouette of the moon biting a small crescent out of the sun. She was speechless. Her body became covered with goose bumps. She still fumbles for words to describe the experience: "Awesome. Fantastic. Magical. Ethereal."

Back at her hotel in Ulan Bator, she got into an elevator with two veteran eclipse chasers, as devotees of these astronomical events are called. "Worst eclipse I've ever seen," muttered one.

It was at that moment that Ms. Elliott-Ingram, a 56-year-old schoolteacher from San Diego, herself joined the ranks of a group that thinks nothing of spending tens of thousands of dollars and weeks to travel to the most inaccessible corners of the world to bask for a few minutes in the moon's shadow. If they are lucky, that is. Should the weather be cloudy or rainy, the trip is for nothing. But as one eclipse chaser said, "It's still a lot more fun than Vegas because God, not some corporate casino, sets the odds."

Ms. Elliott-Ingram was willing to gamble. "I figured if what I had just witnessed was bad, then I had to see a second one with a clear sky," she said.

Since total solar eclipses occur infrequently and irregularly - maybe six times in a decade - Ms. Elliott-Ingram had to wait nearly two and a half years to test the veracity of her fellow chaser's blunt criticism of the Mongolian event.

For her next eclipse, she found herself out in the wheat fields of western Turkey. Luckily, the day was nearly cloudless, and for 2 minutes and 23 seconds, Ms. Elliott-Ingram gazed up through specially designed mylar solar viewing glasses at a sun that was obliterated by the moon.

She was hooked, and now attends every total solar eclipse her work schedule permits. Geography is no obstacle. She watched an eclipse in Zambia, and she's going to Antarctica this November on a tour organized by Travel Quest International, a Phoenix-based company that organizes trips around astronomic pursuits.

Ms. Elliott-Ingram's passion was kindled 10 years ago when she signed up for an astronomy course at San Diego Mesa College. A lecturer mentioned that he was putting together the trip that eventually took her to Mongolia. "I went, 'Whoa!' " she said. "I'd loved traveling all my life, and I particularly enjoyed visiting places that are unusual and not packed with tourists. This was the perfect excuse to visit a country where most people will never go and see an amazing astronomical event. How could I not?

"After Zambia, I noticed that I was meeting the same eclipse-lovers over again, and I started to stay in touch with them, and they in turn have helped me get more enjoyment out of watching an eclipse. There's a lot happening in a short space of time. You have to know what to look for."

Being an intrepid eclipse chaser means that your travel plans are set well into the future. Ms. Ingram is already excited about the next total eclipse after the one she is traveling to Antarctica to see this year. It will not come until 2006, across parts of West Africa and Asia.

In August 2017, there will be a total eclipse that won't require a major outlay of cash on her part. The moon will cast its shadow in a swath from Oregon to Georgia. Until then, Americans seeking the enchantment of witnessing a total solar eclipse will have to travel to places such as Indonesia, the South Pacific and southern China. Which is just fine with Ms. Elliott-Ingram.

The Birder

What activity could be more innocent and wholesome than getting outside on a fine morning for a few hours of bird-watching? But try explaining that to the leader of a squad of soldiers holding you at gunpoint on the shores of a lake just outside Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar.

Seeing John Gerhart and his companions, clad head to foot in khaki and carrying tripods, state-of-the-art binoculars and high-power spotting telescopes in 1974, the Malagasy soldier thought he had broken a ring of international spies. He promptly arrested Mr. Gerhart and his friends.

It wasn't until after a night in jail that matters were straightened out, leaving Mr. Gerhart free to go back to birding, a passion that has taken him to more than 30 countries in three decades. Sometimes he has joined groups organized by specialist companies such as Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, and sometimes he travels alone or with a few friends.

"In the mid-1970's I made a resolution to cut two or three weeks out of my work schedule every year to take a birding trip," said Mr. Gerhart, 59, who is president emeritus of the American University in Cairo and now lives in Manhattan. "To me it's a chance to get outdoors, but with a purpose. It gives an organizing principle to hiking, canoeing and climbing."

Mr. Gerhart spent most of his career working in Africa for the Ford Foundation. He traces his addiction to one morning in 1963 when he accompanied a friend on a walk beside a pond near Mwanza, Tanzania. A malachite kingfisher happened to be standing on a stick above the pond's waters. As Mr. Gerhart fumbled with the focus dial on a pair of borrowed binoculars, the sun struck the bird's plumage. "It knocked my socks off," Mr. Gerhart said. "The bird was so brilliantly blue and red and orange. Beautiful."

It wasn't long before Mr. Gerhart found himself ticking off names of bird species from a list in the back of his field guide. By doing so, he left the ranks of casual bird-watchers and became a die-hard birder. He has spotted 950 different birds in Kenya alone, putting him on the top 10 list of birders in that country. His life list now has 4,750 species from Africa, North America, Central and South America, Europe and Asia.

And it continues to grow. He has never visited Australia, which has about 600 resident bird species, many found nowhere else. He expects to see about 300 of those during a three-week trip later this year.

After that, Mr. Gerhart plans to travel to Cuba, expressly to spot a single bird not much bigger than his thumbnail: the extremely rare and aptly named bee hummingbird, the world's smallest bird. He has already seen the ostrich, the world's largest bird, in Kenya and the wandering albatross, the bird with the longest wingspan, off the coast of South Africa.

He once spent two days paddling on a tributary of the Urubamba River in Peru in a dugout canoe with a couple of native fishermen. The effort paid off when Mr. Gerhart became one of the first nonprofessional birders to catch sight of the selva cacique, a black and yellow-rumped relative of the oriole.

"I'm so glad I stumbled on birding," he said. "The same life would have been so much drabber without it." Mr. Gerhart will have plenty of opportunity to continue pursuing his passion as he travels the globe. There are approximately 10,000 known species of birds in the world. Which means that slightly more than half of them are still out there waiting for him.

The Primate Watcher

"I think of it as visiting the relatives," Connie Rogers said.

Very distant relatives. Four years ago, Ms. Rogers, a Brooklyn resident, gave up a three-decade career as a book editor to devote as much time as possible to traveling to remote and largely unspoiled parts of the world to observe primates, the closest living relatives to human beings. "Human, monkey, ape - we all started out with the same plan, and we have all turned out differently," she said. "I'm interested in what those differences are and how they came about."

Ms. Rogers's enthusiasm, which has taken her on a dozen trips to Africa, the Far East and South America, is tempered by the realization that several dozen of the world's 234 primate species face extinction, making her quest a race against time. "I'd like to see all the primate species," she said. "They're so different. I'm very eager to go and see the ones that are about to disappear. These creatures have a huge amount to tell us about ourselves and how we got to be the way we are."

In November 2001, Ms. Rogers made a trip to an island off the northern coast of Vietnam to observe what might be the world's rarest primate, the Cat Ba langur, which has been hunted to near extinction because its rarity means it is prized as an exotic culinary item. Getting out to Cat Ba Island involved an overnight boat trip. Camping on the island is unsafe because of the presence of armed poachers. Even then there was doubt that she would catch sight of any of the few dozen surviving Cat Ba langurs, which forage only in the early morning and evening.

In the twilight, Ms. Rogers saw four of them sitting on a rocky cliff peering at her as if they, too, were doing a little primate watching. "The fur on their head has a caplike form, so they looked just like Disney dwarves," she said. "But as they left, one of them appeared wounded. It was profoundly moving to know that I may be one of the last people to see them."

Ms. Rogers is particularly interested in seeing what she calls naïve primates, meaning those that show no fear of humans because they have never been hunted or, in some cases, even seen a person. And that means getting well off the beaten tourist path.

One such population of chimpanzees and lowland gorillas lives in Gabon, the country in western Africa that is about the size of Colorado, with a human population of 1.3 million. Earlier this year, Ms. Rogers became one of the first travelers to visit an area in Gabon just opened to tourists by the Wildlife Conservation Society in the Bronx to promote eco-tourism. "I like to get there before someone shapes and packages it," she said.

While walking alone along a dirt road in eastern Brazil in the evening during one of her first primate-spotting trips, Ms. Rogers said, she heard a rustling in the bushes and suddenly found herself eye to eye with a female muriqui monkey, the largest primate in South America and also one of the most threatened. From her research, Ms. Rogers knew that the muriqui was enduring one of the most difficult stages of her life: the period when young females - intensely social creatures - must leave their natal troops and travel through the rain forest alone until they gain acceptance in a new clan.

Coincidentally, Ms. Rogers, having just left the security of her full-time job, was in a similar period of uncertainty and transition. For several minutes, she and her wild "relative" stared at each other. "I made a strong, intuitive connection with her," Ms. Rogers said. "I felt that we had a lot in common."

The Civil War Buff

Like millions of other American kids during the Civil War centennial years of the early 1960's, Jeffrey Wieand was loaded into the back of the family station wagon and taken on an obligatory educational trip to Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. Other boys might have whined about being bored, but when the visit was over, he pleaded with his parents to go back. He became fascinated by all things related to the Civil War.

For a time, Mr. Wieand, who is 49 and lives in Concord, Mass., put aside his interest in Rebels and Yankees as kid's stuff, and ultimately built a career as a consultant for purchasers of corporate aircraft. "But about 20 years ago, I realized that my interest hadn't died, that I still wanted to go to these battle sites I had read about as a boy," he said. "I asked myself, 'Why shouldn't I?' "

Since then, for a week or so every summer, Mr. Wieand takes a daypack, some reference books and as many copies of old maps and battlefield diagrams as he can find and heads off alone to tramp in the footsteps of Union and Confederate soldiers. "When I'm on a battlefield, I'm doing something that makes me feel uniquely myself," he said. "In a way, I collect battle sites. Eventually I'll get to everyone you can go to - to every significant battle of the war."

In the last two decades he has trod more than 100 Civil War battle sites in 13 states. Most are preserved as national parks, state parks or national monuments. He has hiked up the steep slopes of Lookout Mountain in Tennessee, where Union soldiers fought Confederate troops who were dug into rifle pits that are still visible. He retraced the route of Grant's columns at Spotsylvania, Va., as they marched into one of the bloodiest encounters any American soldier has had to endure.

But not all his time is spent on high-profile battlefields. He has whiled away days as the only visitor at Pilot Knob, Mo., an all-but-forgotten place where a fierce battle in 1864 kept Missouri out of the Confederacy. Today, the site is so obscure that even locals living a few miles away were unable to provide directions. "One thing I like about this type of travel is that it takes me to places where I would never go," he said. "Sometimes there's just a little monument there. Sometimes there's nothing." This summer, Mr. Wieand plans to travel to a cluster of battle sites in northern Florida and southern Georgia, an area he has never visited.

"My favorite battlefield site is probably Fort Anderson, a beautiful place on a bluff overlooking the Cape Fear River in North Carolina with very well-preserved earthworks," he said. Also on the site are the ruins of the 18th-century town of Brunswick.

He says that to truly understand a battle, you have to travel to the site. "Of all the historical events I can think of, battles are uniquely tied to the landscape," he said. "They are a function of hills and streams and valleys and fields."

He compares the sensation he gets when standing on a site to the feeling he gets in a cemetery. "Yes, people were killed and injured horribly there," Mr. Wieand said. "There was a lot of blood and gore. You can't get away from that. But the places tend to be very pretty today. Very reflective. When you go you feel that you are paying tribute to the people who fought and died there by remembering them. It makes you understand how much courage it took to fight in that war."

The Mountain Climber

Stuart Smith plans to take two trips this year, one to a remote corner of Russia and another to Antarctica. If all goes well, by the end of the year, he will take his place as one of only 118 people to have reached the tops of the highest peaks in all seven continents - mountaineering's Seven Summits. Mount Elbrus in Russia and Georgia and the Vinson Massif in Antarctica are the two that Mr. Smith has yet to climb.

Not bad for a guy who spends most of his time on the flatlands of central Texas.

Mr. Smith, a 43-year-old trial lawyer who practices in Waco, became seriously interested in standing on top of the world's highest peaks while on a trek in Nepal with his wife in 1992. He hadn't gone to Nepal with the intention of climbing, but the mountains were all around him, presenting the ultimate test of his skills, stamina and training. Mr. Smith realized he wanted to climb at high altitudes.

Until then, his mountaineering experience had been limited to hikes and what he calls "some scrambling" in the Rockies as a boy and a single trek up Mount Kilimanjaro in 1987 when he and his wife, Elizabeth, were teaching in Africa. "I stood up there on Kilimanjaro and looked down at the dun-colored plains and was exhilarated thinking that I was standing at the highest point on the continent," he said.

Mr. Smith returned to the United States and methodically began to hone his skills, traveling several times to Mount Rainier in Washington and to peaks in Peru, Chile and Mexico. Although he had no intention of returning to the Himalayas or climbing the world's highest peaks, he wanted to condition himself and master techniques necessary to high-altitude survival, and perhaps try some of the high peaks in Mexico.

"People get killed on these mountains every year," Mr. Stuart said. "It's easy to get in over your head. But there is a natural progression. Mexico was a test to see if my body could handle high altitudes. Generally, I felt fine." So the next year he climbed Aconcagua in Argentina, at 22,835 feet, the highest mountain in South America. "Since then it's been pretty much a trip a year," he said.

Mr. Smith's pursuit of high peaks took him to Alaska, Australia, Tibet and Pakistan, where in 2001 he climbed Gasherbrum II, a 26,360-foot peak, without supplemental oxygen. "Having made it up Gasherbrum without oxygen, I figured that Everest was probably feasible using oxygen," he said. Mr. Smith joined a five-person expedition led by Eric Simonson of International Mountain Guides to Everest last March and successfully climbed the world's highest peak. "After you climb Everest, you can start thinking about the Seven Summits," he said.

To keep in shape, Mr. Stuart runs marathons - three in the months leading up to Everest. His work allows him to get away for the 3 to 10 weeks required for these demanding climbs, although he says he works Saturdays to make up for time he spends wearing crampons and wielding an ice axe.

It doesn't hurt that Mr. Smith is in a well-paid profession: the expedition to Everest cost him $35,000; Antarctica will cost $25,000. Even a trip as relatively modest as climbing Mount Elbrus in Russia costs $3,000, not including air fare.

So after you've climbed the highest peak on every continent, what's left? "There are a few 8,000-meter peaks I'd like to climb," he said. "But most of them are in Pakistan, and I don't think going to Pakistan is a good idea now. I also want to climb the highest peak in each of the 50 states. I've already climbed all of the Western ones."

And after that:

"I've given some thought to skiing to the North and South Poles."

The Circumnavigator

Asked if there's any continent she has yet to visit, Bernice Heller, who retired as a department store executive 18 years ago, paused for a moment and finally said, "No, but there are some places in Antarctica I haven't seen."

Ms. Heller, from Manhattan, is one of roughly 1,000 members of the Circumnavigators Club, a group whose members have circled the globe (twice in Ms. Heller's case). "I love learning about a country, the people there, and understanding what makes them tick," she said. "In general, I like everything I see. I'm probably traveling now more than I ever have."

That's saying something. Ms. Heller has visited 171 countries. She has been to Hong Kong 90 times, for business and pleasure. She was one of the first Americans in China after the travel ban was lifted in the 1970's, and has returned 25 times. She was among the last tourists to visit Uganda before Idi Amin took over in 1971. She's flown into a roadless region of Ethiopia and landed in a cow field, "just to see the area," and has dined at the royal palace with the wife of Brunei's sultan.

Ms. Heller joined the Circumnavigators Club seven years ago after meeting a member on a cruise. "I was interested in getting to know lovely people who share my interests," she said. The club's mission is to encourage global fellowship through travel, and compared with some members Ms. Heller is a stay-at-home: One, a 93-year-old businessman from Sydney, has circumnavigated the globe 59 times.

The Manhattan-based club regularly sponsors trips for members. The next is a river cruise this spring between St. Petersburg and Moscow, and Ms. Heller will be aboard. "I've been to both cities several times," she said. "But I've never been on a cruise between them."

She'll also get over to Blackpool, England, for an international ballroom-dancing competition she attends every year, and while there she plans to stop in London for lunch with her friend, the Earl of Inchcape, president of the Circumnavigators' United Kingdom chapter, who has obtained tickets to Wimbledon for her.

Even though Ms. Heller has been to Singapore 30 times, she's looking forward to this year's visit because she will be in the city on the day that the club's Singapore chapter gathers for its regular luncheon. And she's bound to encounter fellow club members again on the inaugural cruise of the Queen Mary 2 in early 2004.

On the road for about 4 of the next 12 months on travels through about a dozen countries, Ms. Heller has a busy year ahead. But there is always a new horizon, even for a consummate globe-trotter. In September, she will get a chance to set foot in a corner of the world she has never visited: Oregon.

BARRY ESTABROOK is a writer and editor who lives in Vermont.


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/18/travel/18nomads.html?8hpib

### ### ###
Tickets? Lifestyle Guru? All Set
By KAREN ROBINOVITZ


WHEN Denise Rich was planning a recent trip to Aspen, she meticulously packed her essentials — toiletries, ski gear, thermals, oh, and yoga instructor. That's right, yoga instructor. Ms. Rich, the songwriter and ex-wife of Marc Rich (the fugitive financier pardoned by Bill Clinton just before he left the presidency), takes her own personal guru when she hits the road.

It may seem like indulgence to the nth degree, but in some echelons of society, where a $1,000 handbag is considered a bargain and conversations about Iraq are conducted over dinner at Jean Georges, it is a necessity. In today's stressful times, there is a belief that a trusted expert, someone whose job is to keep you centered (or well fed or coifed or thin), offers solace and a sense of equanimity.

"Because the world is in such an upset and such turmoil, it's so important to come inside yourself with something like meditation, rather than focus on what is going on around you," Ms. Rich said just before the war in Iraq began. She said that she considered what she paid her guru, Jules Paxton, "a gift to myself." (She must make up for what the contact yogi/healer/body worker would normally pull in during his normal five-clients-a-day schedule, not to mention air fare, hotels and meals.)

"It's anxiety-provoking to watch the news or even read the paper," Ms. Rich said. "When I go to yoga and find a meditative state, I embrace calm and have more strength to deal with what's going on."

"It's not easy to find good teachers," she continued, "which is why I bring Jules with me when I go to Aspen, Los Angeles or another part of the country. My work with him is elevating, spiritually and physically. It improves my body, mind and song writing."

While she has always traveled with a staff of experts, she said, she has noticed that a growing number of people in her social circle are doing the same. "I think it's because people are more aware of the importance of taking care of themselves nowadays, especially with the world being in the state that it's in," Ms. Rich said.

So it's no surprise that Mr. Paxton is earning frequent-flier miles right and left, with trips abroad with Sting, time in London with Annie Lennox and plans with a handful of other clients around the world.

"It's difficult to stick to a healthy routine when you're traveling, so many of my clients bring me with them when they go out of town," he said. "It keeps them centered, which is a vital part of having a harmonious existence, especially when you have a busy lifestyle and you still have work to do, which may be hard to focus on when the world is at war and terrorist threats are high."

One hotel mogul said, "It's important to travel with someone you can depend on and trust, someone who helps better your life, now more than ever." He said he did not want to be identified because "even though taking a chef, trainer, Pilates and sometimes yoga instructor with me to St. Barts, the Hamptons and Europe is a way I nurture myself and take care of my health, it may sound frivolous to people who don't understand."

The price tag of such opulence can run up to $20,000 a week, according to Oz Garcia, a nutritionist who has been around the world with clients who take as many as 10 gurus or advisors along for the ride. "Typically, the client picks up all the bills: hotel, destination, food, service and the products we bring, which are top of the line," Mr. Garcia said. "It's worth it, though, because I embody a certain type of lifestyle. I help my clients to look good and stay fit."

Kenny Dichter, an owner of Marquis Jet Partners, a jet leasing company, said he recently began to travel with his trainer and massage therapist. "I have the tendency to get off my regular regimens when I am away," he said. "Before I started bringing people with me over the last year or so, I used to get lazy and not work out. Then, I'd come home from my trip not feeling very good about myself. The few thousand dollars is worth it because it keeps me healthy, hence, sane."

Think about it.

How many times have your diet and workout program gone to pot when you interrupted the daily ritual of going to the gym at a certain time and eating that special something from your local health food store? Travel is almost always taxing; even first-class seats on planes can lead to stiffness, tight muscles and other physical discomforts. You may be checking into the best hotel around, but there is no guarantee that you will find a great masseuse to revive your limbs just the way you like.

GARY MANSOUR, the owner of the Los Angeles-based Mansour Travel Company, which caters to celebrities, said that he had seen the trend grow exponentially, and not just among celebrities. "A 70-year-old couple, not in the film industry, always take their trainer on long cruises," he said. "Sometimes the gurus are in charge of all of the plans. They have say in the hotel rooms and make sure the gym facilities are equipped with the right things. They ask me more questions about amenities than my actual clients."

Todd Rome, the president of Bluestar Jets, a private jet company, said that he had seen this type of thing for ages, but he was seeing it now "on a whole new level."

"It's no longer just limited to nutritionists and trainers and such," he said. "People are flying with their hair and makeup artists and manicurists. We've had yoga teachers give people in-flight classes and we've had chefs traveling with our big honcho clients on our jets, feeding their employers Alaskan king crab and caviar."

Jennifer Hutt, a 33-year-old lawyer, said she had taken her nutritionist abroad with her because "it's hard to travel to another country and stick to an eating plan that works for you."

"So having someone with me takes the work out of thinking about my diet," she said. "If someone is around to say, `You need to have an apple, steamed chicken and broccoli,' you're going to have it. And if she says, `It's O.K. to have the rigatoni,' it makes you feel safe enough to have it."

Why are food choices so difficult?

"People go to great lengths to eat well and have certain kinds of foods prepared for them," said Anne O'Hare, a chef who used to take weekly trips to Sun Valley, Idaho, with her former boss, the magazine publisher Jann Wenner. "It's one less thing to worry about because, no matter how tough times are, globally, if you don't nurture yourself, who is going to? Since last summer, the demand for services such as mine has grown 10-fold."

The 40-something fashion consultant and stylist Lori Goldstein, who is best known for her work on Madonna's videos, has taken her anusara yoga teacher to Europe for fashion week. "I am over not taking care of myself and draining myself while traveling," she said, referring to the first time, right after 9/11, that she traveled with her yogi, Elena Brower, and realized what a difference it made.

"It changed everything about my trip to do yoga daily, even if it was just standing on my head for a few minutes and chanting mantras when I'd come back from the day," she said. "You know how people say that they bring their candles and pillows? I brought one of my favorite people in the world, who happens to be my yoga teacher."

According to Jesse Itzler, Mr. Dichter's partner at Marquis Jet, their clients, "Wall Street guys and ex-dot-commers who have time on their hands," bring the spa — and even a psychologist — with them when they get away. "They're getting rubbed down and stretched from the minute they take off," he said. "One of my clients actually told me that he brings his masseuse when he goes to the Ritz-Carlton in Montego Bay because he can't get a massage appointment there, the place is so booked."

If you can afford to go over the top, there is nothing like having someone who understands your body and mind at your beck and call. "It's easier when you have a rapport with someone, especially if you fly private and can bring extra people on the plane," said Christina Gersten, a Los Angeles socialite who recently took her hair stylist, Laurent D, when she flew to Cannes, France.

Julie Brown, a former MTV video jockey and one of the stars of ABC's recent reality series "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here," described traveling with a guru as "comfort." She said she went everywhere with Montgomery Frasier, whom she described as "a manager/personal assistant/stylist/confidant," and said that she liked to travel with him because "he lets you be you and he knows my true journey."

Mr. Frasier, who calls himself a lifestyle guru, said: "In the present climate of the world, my job is twice as important because travel is twice as stressful. No one is immune to security issues, and clients get upset when their bags, which may include medication, are searched. I'm there to ease tension." For this, Mr. Frasier charges up to $1,000 a day.

Mr. Frasier said he believed his clients, "C.E.O.'s, politicians and power people," like to pack him along with their toiletries because "I make people feel good about themselves; I am their security blanket."

"If you take your briefcase on vacation," he asked, "why not take your guru?"


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/16/travel/16GURU.html

HALBLEU
05-17-03, 04:47 AM
Single Occupancy Indeed
By KEITH BRADSHER


IT was 1:06 a.m. and the lights of Hong Kong still glimmered across the harbor: huge towers, some outlined in red, green or blue. I was in Room 938 at the InterContinental Hong Kong Hotel, a hotel that has the best of many magnificent views across the harbor from Kowloon peninsula. My goal was a simple one: to spend the night in one of the city's grand luxury hotels, to see what it was like after the World Health Organization's SARS advisory on April 2 recommending that people defer all but essential travel to Hong Kong.

I called room service. Would it be swift, or glacial because of cutbacks in service?

The answer arrived in five minutes, at 1:11 a.m., when a butler in white livery arrived at the door with a tall glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, as ordered. Five minutes to deliver a drink from the kitchen to the far end of the ninth floor of the hotel: not bad.

The ninth floors of hotels have an unlucky reputation here these days. On Feb. 21, a Chinese medical professor checked into a room on the ninth floor of the Metropole Hotel, a half-hour walk from the InterContinental in Kowloon. He was infected with SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, and by the time he left the next day his sneezes and coughs had infected guests and visitors on the same floor who would spread the disease to Singapore, Toronto, Hanoi and Hong Kong itself, turning an obscure outbreak of pneumonia in southeastern China into a global epidemic.

Few places have suffered as much from the disease as Hong Kong. By Monday, more than 1,600 fell ill and 218 died, according to the World Health Organization.

The W.H.O. travel advisory and sheer fear swiftly turned what had been one of the world's pre-eminent tourist destinations and convention sites into something like a ghost town, through which a few locals in face masks walked while many more cowered in their homes. Hotel occupancy shrank to less than 5 percent at many premium hotels and scarcely more at less expensive hotels catering to mainland Chinese visitors.

By early May, considerable progress had been made in fighting the disease. The daily tally of new cases dropped into single digits on May 4 for the first time since the government began reporting figures in mid-March.

But with the disease still spreading in mainland China and the W.H.O. advisory still in effect, the tourism industry remained paralyzed. Hotels, travel agencies and airlines were telling employees to take annual vacations immediately. Many were ordering workers to take unpaid leave, and some were actually laying off staff members.

To undertake my visit, since I live on Hong Kong island a third of the way up Victoria Peak from the central business district, I went down to the harbor in a taxi - the driver was wearing a surgical mask -and entered the Star Ferry terminal. Powerful fans and open windows kept the air moving, to reduce the likelihood that dangerous concentrations of viral particles might build up.

The windows on the upper deck of the ferry were all open for the same reason. Perhaps half the evening rush crowd was wearing face masks.

The promenade between the main Kowloon ferry terminal and the hotel has one of the world's most spectacular views, and a dozen photographers were on the promenade as usual, offering to take pictures for $2.50. This evening there were no customers.

When I arrived at about 6:30 p.m., I was struck by the fact that the InterContinental itself was not taking as many precautions against SARS as some hotels. Before I was allowed to check into the Marriott China Hotel four days earlier in Guangzhou, China, the guest services manager had taken my temperature with an automatic device.

At the Great Eagle Hotel a short walk away in Kowloon, the entire staff was wearing face masks and latex gloves, and every railing, table top, lobby telephone and other surface that a guest might touch was disinfected at least hourly. At many office buildings and apartment complexes, a sheet of thin plastic was taped over the elevator buttons and changed regularly.

The InterContinental had chosen a more relaxed approach. The entrance was utterly deserted except for three bellhops, who were not wearing masks. Inside, the waiters, waitresses and bartenders in the hotel lounge were wearing masks, but the two women at the reception desk were not. One of them filled in my registration card while the other swiped my credit card; they had nothing else to do.

There was no plastic film over the elevator buttons. Walking me to my room, one of the receptionists explained that the 23-year-old hotel, with 514 rooms and 92 suites, was mostly empty but had dispersed guests among the 17 floors instead of clustering them. My room had two free bottles of drinking water, which the receptionist assured me was standard practice even before SARS came to Hong Kong.

Before flushing the toilet, I followed the advice of the Hong Kong Department of Health and closed the lid. Ever since more than 300 people at an aging public-housing project were infected by what may have been backed-up sewage from the toilet of a single SARS-infected man, authorities here have warned residents to try to minimize the number of droplets that fly into the air when flushing the toilet. A premium hotel is unlikely to have a sewage problem, but since I live in a beautiful but old apartment building in Hong Kong, I had developed the new habit anyway.

Walking around after settling in, I saw that the spacious hotel gym was deserted except for three attendants; it stayed that way as I ran on the treadmill for the next half hour. Afterward, a spa attendant told me that a single guest was getting a manicure, while the pool attendant said he had seen two swimmers all day.

When I returned to my room to take a shower, the hot water was a little slow in coming. With few guests, the water sits in the pipes longer and cools quickly.

Dinner at Yu, one of five restaurants at the hotel, all of them still open, was superb. Only three other tables were occupied, the nearest by three Japanese businessmen. There was a waiter for each table, and the courses came beautifully timed, even though they were elaborately prepared and presented, like the large scallop in a small complicated edible basket.

There was only one slight blemish. When I ordered a glass of French white wine from the Languedoc, it proved dreadful. It was the last glass in the bottle, and the bottle had probably been opened long before, perhaps even before the SARS outbreak began. The waiter let me order a substitute glass, an Australian sauvignon blanc.

Returning to my room, I was about to go to sleep when I heard an odd rumble outside my window, the first noise of any sort to come into the room. Outside was an old Chinese junk, its diesel engine laboring. Just a few small lights illuminated the wood decks as it puttered along the harbor just 50 yards from the base of the hotel.

In the morning, there was almost nobody except waiters in the breakfast area by the harbor. Going for a short stroll after breakfast, I noticed a silver-haired man in a natty tweed jacket who was driving slowly away in the cream-colored Rolls-Royce that had been parked near the entrance a moment earlier. Although he was alone in the car, he was wearing a face mask, a practice that many in Hong Kong now follow even though it makes no sense unless other people have just been in the vehicle or are likely to climb in soon.

When I called the hotel's managing director, Jennifer Fox, the day after I checked out, I identified myself. Dismayed that I had chosen her hotel for an article that had anything to do with SARS, she declined to discuss the hotel's SARS precautions, citing a corporate policy.

However, one employee had told me that as few as 3 percent of the rooms were occupied some nights. Ms. Fox declined to discuss occupancy, except to say that May was usually a strong month for the hotel but not this year.

The hotel's rates before SARS were $450 to $530 a night plus tax, and up to more than $4,000 plus tax for a suite, Ms. Fox said. "We haven't adjusted our rates much" on the theory that fear, not price, is keeping guests away, she added.

But when I booked my room by telephone early on the day I arrived, the reservations agent offered a harborside room with a king bed for $250 a night plus tax, with free breakfast. I ended up getting an even better deal by using a discount available year round to any legal resident of Hong Kong.

Restaurant and room service prices were still steep. My meal cost $97 including service, without wine; I was charged only for the second, replacement glass. The orange juice delivered to my room was almost $10.

In this gloomy city of half-covered faces, I rather enjoyed my solitary hotel stay and the fine service and views that went along with it. But hypochondriacs may want to skip the whole experience and just wait for the W.H.O. to lift its travel advisory.

KEITH BRADSHER is chief of the Hong Kong bureau of The Times.


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/18/travel/18hkhotel.html

Cardinal999
05-19-03, 04:37 PM
Hal,

Now this's a nice plc to get away.

CARDINAL

Luxury at Whisper Level in the Maldives

May 18, 2003
By EMILY LAURENCE BAKER

SINCE moving to London, I have been listening to friends
rave about the Maldives.

Although this archipelago of islands off the southern tip
of India in the Indian Ocean is a popular getaway for
Europeans, Americans are still relatively infrequent
visitors. So for the 40th birthday of my husband, Shu-Ming,
last spring, we decided to treat ourselves to a week at
Soneva Fushi, a resort on the private island of Kunfunadhoo
in the Maldives.

After a 13-hour flight from London, we landed in Malé, the
republic's capital, then boarded a seaplane for the
25-minute flight to Fushi. As we approached the island, we
could see the vivid green water of the shallow lagoon
encircled by the dark outline of the coral reef that
surrounds Kunfunadhoo.

After landing at a floating pier, we transferred to
Kunfunadhoo in a dhoni, a traditional Maldivian fishing
boat refitted with a diesel engine. As we sipped cool fruit
juice from hollowed-out coconuts, an impeccably groomed
member of the resort staff handed each passenger a muslin
bag labeled, "No news, no shoes" and asked us to deposit
our footwear inside.

I wasn't sure what my very urban husband was thinking, but
his leather shoes were off and he was smiling, so I figured
we were off to a good start. Our shoes were delivered to
our room with our luggage but I never looked at them again.


We were welcomed on shore by Nasheed, who told us that he
was our personal butler for the week. He turned out to be a
welcome link to island life and later in the week, helped
me arrange a surprise birthday dinner for Shu-Ming on the
island's sandbar.

Nasheed accompanied us about a quarter-mile down the sandy
road to our villa, which was on the sunrise side of the
small island, along with the main restaurant and bar, a hut
where guest relations staff is always available and a small
gift shop. On the sunset side, is the Soleni Dive School,
the spa and the Me Dhuniye restaurant.

In building the resort, a minimum of plants were cleared,
leaving huge palms and colorful trees like frangipani and
Indian almonds everywhere. The white stone buildings with
thatch roofs are tucked away among the many banyan,
hibiscus and coral trees. Since the island is only about
4,500 feet long and 1,300 feet wide - about 135 acres, only
about 15 percent the size of Central Park - it's easy to go
from one side to the other, especially on the free bikes
issued to each guest.

At 2 o'clock on the afternoon we arrived, the main open-air
bar was nearly deserted. No loud music, no Prada swimsuit
parade, just total calm. A casually dressed couple were
playing backgammon, and a few tables away, a group of women
enjoyed a late lunch. They looked as relaxed as anyone
could. No one wore shoes.

At Soneva Fushi (generally called Fushi), rooms and villas
are grouped in five categories. We had chosen a Soneva
Fushi Villa, a midlevel accommodation, but by the luck of
the draw, we were assigned to the top room in this
category. Not only was it the end villa, with neighbors on
only one side, but it also seemed to be known for its
spectacular outdoor bathroom. Fushi prides itself on
simplicity, and we found the absence of marble and gold
leaf trimmings refreshing.

Our small villa, really a one-story wooden cabin with a
thatch roof, opened into a narrow dressing area with a
large wardrobe and dresser. Leading off the foyer were
three doors: one to the bedroom, one to the outdoor
bathroom and one to a tiny room with a toilet and small
sink. This last one was our only complaint about our
quarters: a tiny, stuffy room that didn't match the comfort
of the others.

The bedroom, the only room with air-conditioning, was
moderately sized and simply furnished with a wooden desk
and double bed with a large square frame curtained with
mosquito netting. (On our first night, we returned from
dinner to find our bed sprinkled with pink rose petals and
the netting draped elegantly across the mattress.) A large
window overlooked our private beach area.

But what we will remember forever is the outdoor bathroom.
On a large thatch-roofed wooden platform were back-to-back
sinks and a white bathtub encased in wood. A few feet away,
two adjacent shower heads snuggled into a curved stone
wall. Above the sinks were mirrors framed in tree limbs,
and towel racks hung from the roof by rope. The entire
platform was surrounded by sand and encircled by a tall,
wooden fence, as if the bathroom were its own little
island.

All the rooms have private outside sitting areas that lead
to the beach. Because we found the sun so hot, we spent
almost all our time camped on the double daybed on our
porch with the blades of the huge overhead fan whirring.
There, we had shade and complete privacy, yet were within
easy reach of the soft, white-sand beach.

Although the resort was about 70 percent full, we rarely
saw other guests unless we ventured out to the spa, diving
center or a restaurant. Even then, tranquillity prevailed.
The resort is definitely not for those who want a busy
night life and a social scene.

There were very few children; they would be happy here, but
the overall ambience was distinctly adult. Guests were
predominantly European and mostly over 40, probably due in
part to the roughly $250 to $1,500 nightly room rate and
perhaps because there is no formal children's program.

At Soneva Fushi's two restaurants, the emphasis is on
seafood and there is good mix of Western and Asian
preparation. The resort's main restaurant, on the sunrise
side of the island, serves breakfast - including an
impressive choice of mango, guava, melons and other fresh
fruits. The outdoor buffet at lunch offered a tempting
array of fresh seafood, including the freshest and largest
prawns I've ever eaten. Chicken and other meats were
grilled to order or stir-fried with noodles, rice and
curry.

On the sunset side of the island, Me Dhuniye, which means
"this world," is the restaurant that's given Fushi its
reputation for superb Asian food. On our first night, we
set off for it on our bikes. On the 10-minute ride through
the jungle that makes up the island's center, the only
sounds were the soft whirr of tires and the trilling of
unseen birds. How utterly glorious to bicycle to a
first-class meal in a black dress and bare feet!

When we emerged near the sunset beach at the open-air
restaurant, where sand edged right up to the floor tiles, I
was disappointed to see that all the outdoor tables were
taken. Even so, I asked the waiter if it would be possible
to sit outside.

"Of course," he replied. "Where would you like your table,
madam?"

I hadn't understood how literally he meant that until he
swooped up a table and began walking along the beach with
it tucked under his arm. "Here?" he said. "Or perhaps a bit
further this way?"

He set it down a few feet from the water's edge and another
waiter appeared with table settings and a lantern.

Along with other options, there were four set menus of
Indian, Thai, Maldivian and Sri Lankan cuisine. We chose
the Maldivian and Thai menus, composed of seven or eight
small bowls of delicious curries, noodles, rice and breads
for each of us, and Thai beer. We agreed that the food was
as good as the best fusion cuisine in London restaurants -
and unquestionably fresher.

As we slid our toes in and out of the sand under the table,
we drifted into conversation about Shu-Ming's work. It felt
wrong, the ubiquitous fly at the picnic. We decided that
from then on, when either of us mentioned anything even
slightly likely to raise blood pressure, the other must say
"Robinson Crusoe" - a signal to change the subject.

It worked. Each time we descended into brow-furrowing
topics, a whispered "Robinson" wafted a Maldivian calm over
us.

One day, we made an excursion to a remote island, about a
30-minute boat ride from the resort. In exchange for $300,
we sped across the smooth ocean in the resort's largest
speedboat, the 43-foot Ever Soneva So Much Faster, to a
small island where we were deposited on a sandy beach with
a small straw lean-to.

The friendly crew unloaded three enormous coolers with so
much food that we worried they might not come back. This
was followed by cushions for the wooden recliners and a
stack of fresh towels.

After leaving us with a two-way radio "just in case,"
Nasheed promised to be back for us at the end of the day.
We read, swam, waded a long way around the island and
picked our way through the enormous picnic lunch. Mostly,
we just sat and stared at the endless aqua water and
reveled in the absence of phones, clocks and other humans.

That night, guests were offered an outdoor barbecue on the
sunrise side of the island, where tables were set up
beneath a canopy of trees. For $55 each, we gorged on
unlimited amounts of lobster, fish and enormous prawns so
sweet that they seemed completely unrelated to those we'd
eaten anywhere else. There were also meats, salads and a
splendid, if somewhat incongruous array of Western cakes.

Unlike many visitors to the Maldives, Shu-Ming and I had no
interest in scuba diving, but we took advantage of the free
three-day use of snorkel, mask and flippers offered by the
Soleni Dive School.

There are several marked entrances to the reef around
Kunfunadhoo. We chose to swim just a few feet from the main
sunset pier. We floated above the reef and could clearly
see hundreds of brilliantly colored fish darting in and out
of nooks and crannies. You could leave Kunfunadhoo with
full international scuba certification, but we felt as if
we'd experienced a new universe just from our surface
adventure.

While I found spiritual rejuvenation swimming along the
shoreline each day, Shu-Ming sought his in the variety of
international massages available in the spa.

Although it is a small spa, relaxation emanates from every
detail. Guests enter on stone steps across water. Pathways
to treatment rooms wind through lush plants. Listening to
waves lapping the shore during a massage in the treatment
rooms beside the beach more than compensated for any lack
of elaborate equipment.

To label Soneva Fushi either a resort or a hotel is not
really accurate. It is a community. What might seem
inconsequential details - like going barefoot, riding bikes
everywhere and wearing only shorts and T-shirts - are
essential components of rejuvenation.

No cars, no rush, no news, no shoes.

Travel Information


Reservations for the Soneva Fushi Resort can be made
through Small Luxury Hotels of the World, (800) 525-4800,
as well as online at www.six-senses.com/soneva-fushi, or
directly with the resort at (960) 230-304, fax (960)
230-374.

Fushi has nine room categories. Rates range from $250 a
night to $1,250 in low season, to as much as $565 to $2,150
in the high season - Christmas into April. Numerous
packages are available. Flying from Malé to Soneva Fushi
costs $240 to $290 a person and $120 to $150 for children
under 12. This is arranged through the resort.

Rates include taxes, but a 10 percent service charge is
added to all prices, including for activities and food.

Activities

Tennis, biking, windsurfing and sailing are
among leisure activities included in the rates. A two-hour
snorkeling excursion costs $20 a person. A trip to a
neighboring island is $20 to 30 each. Evening fishing costs
$30 a person and fishing with breakfast is $95.

The Soleni Dive School caters to beginner and advanced
divers. There are 30 dive sites in the Fushi area. A single
dive costs $82 (including boat and equipment) and a six-day
package is $680. The PADI Open Water course of nine dives
and five theory classes costs $665.

Among the many excursion packages are an all-day picnic on
a deserted island for $100 (with full lunch and wine) or
$150 a person (lunch and champagne). An evening barbecue on
a sandbar costs $150 a person.

The spa offers manicures and pedicures ($30 to $35),
facials ($50 to $100) and a variety of massages, including
Swedish, aromatherapy, and Thai ($75 to $150). Body wraps
and scrubs are $65 to $95. In-villa treatments are $90 to
$220.

Dining

The main restaurant, sometimes called the Sunrise, serves
breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast costs $25 and
includes buffet and à la carte options. Weather permitting,
the luncheon buffet ($30) is served outside. The dinner
menu is Mediterranean cuisine, specializing in seafood but
also offering steak and pasta. There is daily special menu
for $55.

The main bar, near the restaurant, serves snacks, soups and
sandwiches ($12 to $16). Picnic lunches are $16 to $32 a
person.

On the sunset side of the island, Me Dhuniye serves lunch
and dinner every day but Tuesday. The specialty is Asian
fusion cuisine with set menus for $55, and a Thai set menu
for $85. À la carte is also available.

Soneva Fushi has an extensive wine cellar with some 400
labels from 16 countries. Bottles start at $25 and go to
$1,600.

EMILY LAURENCE BAKER, an American journalist, lives in
London.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/18/travel/18maldives.html?ex=1054366995&ei=1&en=2d5a08c8a5a93cb5

HALBLEU
05-20-03, 08:40 AM
Something for the "Traveling Strategist" to think about. ...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

May 20, 2003
In Brazil, All May Not Be as Relaxed as It Seems
By TONY SMITH


SÃO PAULO, Brazil — When Telefónica of Spain took over São Paulo's creaky, state-run telephone monopoly in 1998, it installed millions of phone lines in record time and for a fraction of the price customers once had to pay.

Yet instead of kudos, all the Spanish executives seemed to hear from their Brazilian clients were complaints that the company could not even spell its own logo properly. In Spanish, it might be Telefónica, the Brazilians said, but in Portuguese it should be Telefônica.

A mere question of style? To some, maybe. But popular disapproval of what the news media viewed as orthographic arrogance soon ran so high that Telefónica made a public mea culpa and had the logo reworked to change the accent mark.

"I don't think it was intentional, but it certainly wounded Brazilians' pride," said Newton Campos, a former marketing manager at Telefónica who now represents Instituto de Empresas, a Spanish business school. "There are still many, many people out there who believe we speak Spanish."

Although Brazil's 175 million people make up half South America's population and half the continent's economic output, foreign visitors frequently find — and show — they know precious little about the country beyond the stereotypes of sun, samba and soccer.

And as Telefónica's faux pas showed, perceived insensitivity can be costly.

Brazil's business culture is firmly anchored in the West. More than 400 of the Fortune 500 companies have operated here for years. São Paulo, the vibrant business capital, is just as much a melting pot as New York.

In addition, Brazilians, famed for their warmth and relaxed attitude, usually go out of their way to put outsiders at ease.

A visiting businessman, therefore, can easily be lulled into a false sense of security, believing that because everything seems to be just like it is at home, it is — or that, because Brazilians are Latins, doing business here must be just like doing business in Florida, Southern California or Mexico.

That is far from the truth, according to Richard Hayes, who has been an American banker and financial consultant in Brazil since 1964.

"It's not like doing business in the Far East or Saudi Arabia, but there are cultural differences," he said. "Spotting them depends largely on how sophisticated the visitor is."

As a rule, he said, Brazilians do not like to be lumped in one basket with the rest of Latin America; neither do they share many of their Latin cousins' anti-gringo sentiments.

"Because this is a big country, it doesn't have an inferiority complex like many smaller Latin American countries," Mr. Hayes said.

However, assuming a Brazilian will want to negotiate a deal in Spanish if his potential partner speaks no Portuguese is a no-no, as is the classic mistake of believing Buenos Aires is the country's capital.

While most gaffes are not deal killers, they can be more damaging than you think. Kirstin Myers, chief executive of Globond, a global business networking community, says it is perhaps easier for foreigners to stumble than it would be in more formal societies like China or Japan because the locals seem so laid back and unlikely to bear a grudge.

She recalls that, when working in Brazil for Internet Securities Inc., a business-information provider, she got the idea that punctuality did not matter. She found out that it did after turning up 10 minutes late for meetings with executives a few times and being kept waiting for 40 minutes or told she would have to reschedule.

"I soon learned I was being punished for not showing respect," she said. "A lot of this casualness and informality can be misleading."

Foreign executives are often bowled over by Brazilians' spontaneous friendliness and informality, only to be frustrated later by just how long it can take to close a deal, thanks to cumbersome bureaucracy or simple delaying tactics. Enrolar, literally meaning "to roll up," or entangle someone to win time, is a common tactic, but it will always be done with a smile.

"In the U.S., negotiations are done with a good deal of tension on both sides of the table," said Erwin Russel, director of Advent International, a private equity firm in São Paulo. "In Brazil, you need to invest more time and you need to be tough without losing a sense of elegance or even tenderness."

Some Americans and northern Europeans feel overwhelmed by what he called "this steamroller of human warmth" that rumbles through even the most preliminary meetings.

"Within five minutes, you find yourself talking about stuff that would be considered, if not exactly intimate, at least quite personal in the Northern Hemisphere," Mr. Russel said. "Setting the scene for a deal here is all about affinity."

Visitors should try not to recoil if they are suddenly embraced or feel an arm creeping around their shoulder, said Carlos Heckmann, head of Enterprise Florida Inc., Florida's trade office in Brazil.

"Brazilians are very physical," he said. "We love to hug. It's a gesture of sympathy, nothing more. In the states, you would only ever hug a really good friend."

A common mistake made by businessmen coming from more developed countries is to underestimate the sophistication of Brazil's business elite.

Peter Stern, a New York-born management consultant who has lived in Brazil since 1980, said foreigners often forgot that before Brazil adopted the inflation-slaying real in 1994, decades of erratic economic policies, a series of stabilization plans and a succession of new currencies had made Brazilian executives some of the world's most flexible in making profits in the most adverse circumstances.

"The rules of the game would change every 6 to 12 months," he said, "making this place the best possible training ground for executives."

Brazil's business elite are probably "the most flexible, the most versatile, the most imaginative and the most nonrigid in the world," Mr. Stern said.

The Brazilians themselves call this apparently innate flexibility jogo de cintura, which literally means "the waist game," but which perhaps would be best interpreted as the talent to keep the economic Hula-Hoop turning.

In the past, that would frequently include resorting to the jeitinho, or "little way of doing things," a synonym for anything ranging from using personal contacts to outright bribery to get things done.

With a gradual but constant fall in corruption levels over the past decade, the jeitinho today involves more personal charm, and even some outsiders are finding it has its benefits.

Brazil is the only country in the world, for example, where shoppers at Wal-Mart can buy large-ticket items with a series of post-dated checks, a habit dating from Brazil's inflationary years, when consumer credit was virtually nonexistent.

"It's all about not having to say `no,' " Mr. Russel said. "It's all about finding a solution that works."


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/20/business/20FAUX.html

HALBLEU
05-23-03, 07:15 AM
Their Pursuits Cover Lots of Ground

May 18, 2003
By BARRY ESTABROOK


I TRAVEL for travel's sake," Robert Louis Stevenson wrote,
an assertion that still has its adherents. But then there
are those for whom travel is the means to an end, who pack
suitcases and strap on backpacks to pursue a particular
passion with a single-minded intensity bordering on
fanaticism, one that transcends geographic, political and
linguistic barriers.

They go to Mongolia to witness a total solar eclipse. They
shrug off having a bird-watching tour interrupted by
gun-toting soldiers. They spend several weeks in the frigid
air of the Himalayas to stand atop a summit that few
outside the mountaineering community have ever heard about.
And although many profess to enjoy foreign lands and
people, it is the pursuit of a passion that prompts them to
pick up and go.

Some make their journeys alone, reveling in the opportunity
to indulge in a personal interest without the interruption
of friends and family. Others travel in groups of fellow
enthusiasts, to share the excitement. Whole industries are
springing up to cater to the growing numbers of birders,
astronomers, adventure travelers and others with
well-defined special interests.

As these profiles show, the passions that people pursue to
all corners of the world are limited only by human
curiosity.

The Eclipse Chaser

Beverly Elliott-Ingram stood in the shadow of her first
total solar eclipse early one morning in 1997 on the plains
of Mongolia. The vast expanse around her was covered by
snow and dotted by dome-shaped yurts and the camels and
horses of herders. Suddenly, the horizon turned pink, and
Ms. Elliott-Ingram gazed skyward to see the silhouette of
the moon biting a small crescent out of the sun. She was
speechless. Her body became covered with goose bumps. She
still fumbles for words to describe the experience:
"Awesome. Fantastic. Magical. Ethereal."

Back at her hotel in Ulan Bator, she got into an elevator
with two veteran eclipse chasers, as devotees of these
astronomical events are called. "Worst eclipse I've ever
seen," muttered one.

It was at that moment that Ms. Elliott-Ingram, a
56-year-old schoolteacher from San Diego, herself joined
the ranks of a group that thinks nothing of spending tens
of thousands of dollars and weeks to travel to the most
inaccessible corners of the world to bask for a few minutes
in the moon's shadow. If they are lucky, that is. Should
the weather be cloudy or rainy, the trip is for nothing.
But as one eclipse chaser said, "It's still a lot more fun
than Vegas because God, not some corporate casino, sets the
odds."

Ms. Elliott-Ingram was willing to gamble. "I figured if
what I had just witnessed was bad, then I had to see a
second one with a clear sky," she said.

Since total solar eclipses occur infrequently and
irregularly - maybe six times in a decade - Ms.
Elliott-Ingram had to wait nearly two and a half years to
test the veracity of her fellow chaser's blunt criticism of
the Mongolian event.

For her next eclipse, she found herself out in the wheat
fields of western Turkey. Luckily, the day was nearly
cloudless, and for 2 minutes and 23 seconds, Ms.
Elliott-Ingram gazed up through specially designed mylar
solar viewing glasses at a sun that was obliterated by the
moon.

She was hooked, and now attends every total solar eclipse
her work schedule permits. Geography is no obstacle. She
watched an eclipse in Zambia, and she's going to Antarctica
this November on a tour organized by Travel Quest
International, a Phoenix-based company that organizes trips
around astronomic pursuits.

Ms. Elliott-Ingram's passion was kindled 10 years ago when
she signed up for an astronomy course at San Diego Mesa
College. A lecturer mentioned that he was putting together
the trip that eventually took her to Mongolia. "I went,
'Whoa!' " she said. "I'd loved traveling all my life, and I
particularly enjoyed visiting places that are unusual and
not packed with tourists. This was the perfect excuse to
visit a country where most people will never go and see an
amazing astronomical event. How could I not?

"After Zambia, I noticed that I was meeting the same
eclipse-lovers over again, and I started to stay in touch
with them, and they in turn have helped me get more
enjoyment out of watching an eclipse. There's a lot
happening in a short space of time. You have to know what
to look for."

Being an intrepid eclipse chaser means that your travel
plans are set well into the future. Ms. Ingram is already
excited about the next total eclipse after the one she is
traveling to Antarctica to see this year. It will not come
until 2006, across parts of West Africa and Asia.

In August 2017, there will be a total eclipse that won't
require a major outlay of cash on her part. The moon will
cast its shadow in a swath from Oregon to Georgia. Until
then, Americans seeking the enchantment of witnessing a
total solar eclipse will have to travel to places such as
Indonesia, the South Pacific and southern China. Which is
just fine with Ms. Elliott-Ingram.

The Birder

What activity could be more innocent and wholesome than
getting outside on a fine morning for a few hours of
bird-watching? But try explaining that to the leader of a
squad of soldiers holding you at gunpoint on the shores of
a lake just outside Antananarivo, the capital of
Madagascar.

Seeing John Gerhart and his companions, clad head to foot
in khaki and carrying tripods, state-of-the-art binoculars
and high-power spotting telescopes in 1974, the Malagasy
soldier thought he had broken a ring of international
spies. He promptly arrested Mr. Gerhart and his friends.

It wasn't until after a night in jail that matters were
straightened out, leaving Mr. Gerhart free to go back to
birding, a passion that has taken him to more than 30
countries in three decades. Sometimes he has joined groups
organized by specialist companies such as Victor Emanuel
Nature Tours, and sometimes he travels alone or with a few
friends.

"In the mid-1970's I made a resolution to cut two or three
weeks out of my work schedule every year to take a birding
trip," said Mr. Gerhart, 59, who is president emeritus of
the American University in Cairo and now lives in
Manhattan. "To me it's a chance to get outdoors, but with a
purpose. It gives an organizing principle to hiking,
canoeing and climbing."

Mr. Gerhart spent most of his career working in Africa for
the Ford Foundation. He traces his addiction to one morning
in 1963 when he accompanied a friend on a walk beside a
pond near Mwanza, Tanzania. A malachite kingfisher happened
to be standing on a stick above the pond's waters. As Mr.
Gerhart fumbled with the focus dial on a pair of borrowed
binoculars, the sun struck the bird's plumage. "It knocked
my socks off," Mr. Gerhart said. "The bird was so
brilliantly blue and red and orange. Beautiful."

It wasn't long before Mr. Gerhart found himself ticking off
names of bird species from a list in the back of his field
guide. By doing so, he left the ranks of casual
bird-watchers and became a die-hard birder. He has spotted
950 different birds in Kenya alone, putting him on the top
10 list of birders in that country. His life list now has
4,750 species from Africa, North America, Central and South
America, Europe and Asia.

And it continues to grow. He has never visited Australia,
which has about 600 resident bird species, many found
nowhere else. He expects to see about 300 of those during a
three-week trip later this year.

After that, Mr. Gerhart plans to travel to Cuba, expressly
to spot a single bird not much bigger than his thumbnail:
the extremely rare and aptly named bee hummingbird, the
world's smallest bird. He has already seen the ostrich, the
world's largest bird, in Kenya and the wandering albatross,
the bird with the longest wingspan, off the coast of South
Africa.

He once spent two days paddling on a tributary of the
Urubamba River in Peru in a dugout canoe with a couple of
native fishermen. The effort paid off when Mr. Gerhart
became one of the first nonprofessional birders to catch
sight of the selva cacique, a black and yellow-rumped
relative of the oriole.

"I'm so glad I stumbled on birding," he said. "The same
life would have been so much drabber without it." Mr.
Gerhart will have plenty of opportunity to continue
pursuing his passion as he travels the globe. There are
approximately 10,000 known species of birds in the world.
Which means that slightly more than half of them are still
out there waiting for him.

The Primate Watcher

"I think of it as visiting the relatives," Connie Rogers
said.

Very distant relatives. Four years ago, Ms. Rogers, a
Brooklyn resident, gave up a three-decade career as a book
editor to devote as much time as possible to traveling to
remote and largely unspoiled parts of the world to observe
primates, the closest living relatives to human beings.
"Human, monkey, ape - we all started out with the same
plan, and we have all turned out differently," she said.
"I'm interested in what those differences are and how they
came about."

Ms. Rogers's enthusiasm, which has taken her on a dozen
trips to Africa, the Far East and South America, is
tempered by the realization that several dozen of the
world's 234 primate species face extinction, making her
quest a race against time. "I'd like to see all the primate
species," she said. "They're so different. I'm very eager
to go and see the ones that are about to disappear. These
creatures have a huge amount to tell us about ourselves and
how we got to be the way we are."

In November 2001, Ms. Rogers made a trip to an island off
the northern coast of Vietnam to observe what might be the
world's rarest primate, the Cat Ba langur, which has been
hunted to near extinction because its rarity means it is
prized as an exotic culinary item. Getting out to Cat Ba
Island involved an overnight boat trip. Camping on the
island is unsafe because of the presence of armed poachers.
Even then there was doubt that she would catch sight of any
of the few dozen surviving Cat Ba langurs, which forage
only in the early morning and evening.

In the twilight, Ms. Rogers saw four of them sitting on a
rocky cliff peering at her as if they, too, were doing a
little primate watching. "The fur on their head has a
caplike form, so they looked just like Disney dwarves," she
said. "But as they left, one of them appeared wounded. It
was profoundly moving to know that I may be one of the last
people to see them."

Ms. Rogers is particularly interested in seeing what she
calls naïve primates, meaning those that show no fear of
humans because they have never been hunted or, in some
cases, even seen a person. And that means getting well off
the beaten tourist path.

One such population of chimpanzees and lowland gorillas
lives in Gabon, the country in western Africa that is about
the size of Colorado, with a human population of 1.3
million. Earlier this year, Ms. Rogers became one of the
first travelers to visit an area in Gabon just opened to
tourists by the Wildlife Conservation Society in the Bronx
to promote eco-tourism. "I like to get there before someone
shapes and packages it," she said.

While walking alone along a dirt road in eastern Brazil in
the evening during one of her first primate-spotting trips,
Ms. Rogers said, she heard a rustling in the bushes and
suddenly found herself eye to eye with a female muriqui
monkey, the largest primate in South America and also one
of the most threatened. From her research, Ms. Rogers knew
that the muriqui was enduring one of the most difficult
stages of her life: the period when young females -
intensely social creatures - must leave their natal troops
and travel through the rain forest alone until they gain
acceptance in a new clan.

Coincidentally, Ms. Rogers, having just left the security
of her full-time job, was in a similar period of
uncertainty and transition. For several minutes, she and
her wild "relative" stared at each other. "I made a strong,
intuitive connection with her," Ms. Rogers said. "I felt
that we had a lot in common."

The Civil War Buff

Like millions of other American kids during the Civil War
centennial years of the early 1960's, Jeffrey Wieand was
loaded into the back of the family station wagon and taken
on an obligatory educational trip to Gettysburg National
Military Park in Pennsylvania. Other boys might have whined
about being bored, but when the visit was over, he pleaded
with his parents to go back. He became fascinated by all
things related to the Civil War.

For a time, Mr. Wieand, who is 49 and lives in Concord,
Mass., put aside his interest in Rebels and Yankees as
kid's stuff, and ultimately built a career as a consultant
for purchasers of corporate aircraft. "But about 20 years
ago, I realized that my interest hadn't died, that I still
wanted to go to these battle sites I had read about as a
boy," he said. "I asked myself, 'Why shouldn't I?' "

Since then, for a week or so every summer, Mr. Wieand takes
a daypack, some reference books and as many copies of old
maps and battlefield diagrams as he can find and heads off
alone to tramp in the footsteps of Union and Confederate
soldiers. "When I'm on a battlefield, I'm doing something
that makes me feel uniquely myself," he said. "In a way, I
collect battle sites. Eventually I'll get to everyone you
can go to - to every significant battle of the war."

In the last two decades he has trod more than 100 Civil War
battle sites in 13 states. Most are preserved as national
parks, state parks or national monuments. He has hiked up
the steep slopes of Lookout Mountain in Tennessee, where
Union soldiers fought Confederate troops who were dug into
rifle pits that are still visible. He retraced the route of
Grant's columns at Spotsylvania, Va., as they marched into
one of the bloodiest encounters any American soldier has
had to endure.

But not all his time is spent on high-profile battlefields.
He has whiled away days as the only visitor at Pilot Knob,
Mo., an all-but-forgotten place where a fierce battle in
1864 kept Missouri out of the Confederacy. Today, the site
is so obscure that even locals living a few miles away were
unable to provide directions. "One thing I like about this
type of travel is that it takes me to places where I would
never go," he said. "Sometimes there's just a little
monument there. Sometimes there's nothing." This summer,
Mr. Wieand plans to travel to a cluster of battle sites in
northern Florida and southern Georgia, an area he has never
visited.

"My favorite battlefield site is probably Fort Anderson, a
beautiful place on a bluff overlooking the Cape Fear River
in North Carolina with very well-preserved earthworks," he
said. Also on the site are the ruins of the 18th-century
town of Brunswick.

He says that to truly understand a battle, you have to
travel to the site. "Of all the historical events I can
think of, battles are uniquely tied to the landscape," he
said. "They are a function of hills and streams and valleys
and fields."

He compares the sensation he gets when standing on a site
to the feeling he gets in a cemetery. "Yes, people were
killed and injured horribly there," Mr. Wieand said. "There
was a lot of blood and gore. You can't get away from that.
But the places tend to be very pretty today. Very
reflective. When you go you feel that you are paying
tribute to the people who fought and died there by
remembering them. It makes you understand how much courage
it took to fight in that war."

The Mountain Climber

Stuart Smith plans to take two trips this year, one to a
remote corner of Russia and another to Antarctica. If all
goes well, by the end of the year, he will take his place
as one of only 118 people to have reached the tops of the
highest peaks in all seven continents - mountaineering's
Seven Summits. Mount Elbrus in Russia and Georgia and the
Vinson Massif in Antarctica are the two that Mr. Smith has
yet to climb.

Not bad for a guy who spends most of his time on the
flatlands of central Texas.

Mr. Smith, a 43-year-old trial lawyer who practices in
Waco, became seriously interested in standing on top of the
world's highest peaks while on a trek in Nepal with his
wife in 1992. He hadn't gone to Nepal with the intention of
climbing, but the mountains were all around him, presenting
the ultimate test of his skills, stamina and training. Mr.
Smith realized he wanted to climb at high altitudes.

Until then, his mountaineering experience had been limited
to hikes and what he calls "some scrambling" in the Rockies
as a boy and a single trek up Mount Kilimanjaro in 1987
when he and his wife, Elizabeth, were teaching in Africa.
"I stood up there on Kilimanjaro and looked down at the
dun-colored plains and was exhilarated thinking that I was
standing at the highest point on the continent," he said.

Mr. Smith returned to the United States and methodically
began to hone his skills, traveling several times to Mount
Rainier in Washington and to peaks in Peru, Chile and
Mexico. Although he had no intention of returning to the
Himalayas or climbing the world's highest peaks, he wanted
to condition himself and master techniques necessary to
high-altitude survival, and perhaps try some of the high
peaks in Mexico.

"People get killed on these mountains every year," Mr.
Stuart said. "It's easy to get in over your head. But there
is a natural progression. Mexico was a test to see if my
body could handle high altitudes. Generally, I felt fine."
So the next year he climbed Aconcagua in Argentina, at
22,835 feet, the highest mountain in South America. "Since
then it's been pretty much a trip a year," he said.

Mr. Smith's pursuit of high peaks took him to Alaska,
Australia, Tibet and Pakistan, where in 2001 he climbed
Gasherbrum II, a 26,360-foot peak, without supplemental
oxygen. "Having made it up Gasherbrum without oxygen, I
figured that Everest was probably feasible using oxygen,"
he said. Mr. Smith joined a five-person expedition led by
Eric Simonson of International Mountain Guides to Everest
last March and successfully climbed the world's highest
peak. "After you climb Everest, you can start thinking
about the Seven Summits," he said.

To keep in shape, Mr. Stuart runs marathons - three in the
months leading up to Everest. His work allows him to get
away for the 3 to 10 weeks required for these demanding
climbs, although he says he works Saturdays to make up for
time he spends wearing crampons and wielding an ice axe.

It doesn't hurt that Mr. Smith is in a well-paid
profession: the expedition to Everest cost him $35,000;
Antarctica will cost $25,000. Even a trip as relatively
modest as climbing Mount Elbrus in Russia costs $3,000, not
including air fare.

So after you've climbed the highest peak on every
continent, what's left? "There are a few 8,000-meter peaks
I'd like to climb," he said. "But most of them are in
Pakistan, and I don't think going to Pakistan is a good
idea now. I also want to climb the highest peak in each of
the 50 states. I've already climbed all of the Western
ones."

And after that:

"I've given some thought to skiing to the North and South
Poles."

The Circumnavigator

Asked if there's any continent she has yet to visit,
Bernice Heller, who retired as a department store executive
18 years ago, paused for a moment and finally said, "No,
but there are some places in Antarctica I haven't seen."

Ms. Heller, from Manhattan, is one of roughly 1,000 members
of the Circumnavigators Club, a group whose members have
circled the globe (twice in Ms. Heller's case). "I love
learning about a country, the people there, and
understanding what makes them tick," she said. "In general,
I like everything I see. I'm probably traveling now more
than I ever have."

That's saying something. Ms. Heller has visited 171
countries. She has been to Hong Kong 90 times, for business
and pleasure. She was one of the first Americans in China
after the travel ban was lifted in the 1970's, and has
returned 25 times. She was among the last tourists to visit
Uganda before Idi Amin took over in 1971. She's flown into
a roadless region of Ethiopia and landed in a cow field,
"just to see the area," and has dined at the royal palace
with the wife of Brunei's sultan.

Ms. Heller joined the Circumnavigators Club seven years ago
after meeting a member on a cruise. "I was interested in
getting to know lovely people who share my interests," she
said. The club's mission is to encourage global fellowship
through travel, and compared with some members Ms. Heller
is a stay-at-home: One, a 93-year-old businessman from
Sydney, has circumnavigated the globe 59 times.

The Manhattan-based club regularly sponsors trips for
members. The next is a river cruise this spring between St.
Petersburg and Moscow, and Ms. Heller will be aboard. "I've
been to both cities several times," she said. "But I've
never been on a cruise between them."

She'll also get over to Blackpool, England, for an
international ballroom-dancing competition she attends
every year, and while there she plans to stop in London for
lunch with her friend, the Earl of Inchcape, president of
the Circumnavigators' United Kingdom chapter, who has
obtained tickets to Wimbledon for her.

Even though Ms. Heller has been to Singapore 30 times,
she's looking forward to this year's visit because she will
be in the city on the day that the club's Singapore chapter
gathers for its regular luncheon. And she's bound to
encounter fellow club members again on the inaugural cruise
of the Queen Mary 2 in early 2004.

On the road for about 4 of the next 12 months on travels
through about a dozen countries, Ms. Heller has a busy year
ahead. But there is always a new horizon, even for a
consummate globe-trotter. In September, she will get a
chance to set foot in a corner of the world she has never
visited: Oregon.

BARRY ESTABROOK is a writer and editor who lives in
Vermont.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/18/travel/18nomads.html?ex=1054623929&ei=1&en=14955ef179b3de8e

HALBLEU
05-25-03, 03:35 PM
Airports Taxi Into Web Age

May 25, 2003
By SUSAN STELLIN


UNTIL recently, airport Web sites had something of a
Cinderella status online, overshadowed by other travel
sites with fancy features or more useful information. While
that is still the case for some, many airports have been
developing sites worthy of a browser bookmark, with
impressive flight-tracking options, real-time updates on
traffic and weather conditions, security alerts and perhaps
most helpful, information about ground transportation.

This revelation occurred to me last month as I searched the
Web site of O'Hare International Airport in Chicago
(www.ohare.com) to find out if the city's subway system
connected to the airport. (It does; you can travel to
either O'Hare or nearby Midway International for $1.50.)

I realized that was at least the fourth time in the last
year that I had looked up an airport's Web site to find
alternatives to an expensive cab ride between the airport
and the city. Since cab fares to and from airports on both
ends of a trip can add up to the price of a night in a good
hotel, this angle alone seemed worthy of further
investigation.

A more comprehensive survey of about two dozen domestic and
international airport Web sites revealed a handful of other
reasons to add this step to a preflight checklist: many
airports post driving directions, parking tips, terminal
maps, lists of airport hotels, cargo services and
concessions online (albeit with varying degrees of
thoroughness).

The quickest way to find an airport's Web site is to search
google.com for "airport" and the city you're visiting. I
found the site I was looking for in the first three results
for all domestic airports, though some of the international
airports were a little further down the list.

The Web sites for the major airports serving Paris,
Amsterdam, Milan, Rome and Tokyo all offer English
translations, so don't assume foreign languages will be a
barrier to at least basic information. And even the sites
of small airports are worth a try, though they generally do
not have the bells and whistles you'll find at more
trafficked ones.

Transportation Options

Information about getting to and from the airport is the
one thing you can reliably find at these sites. All the
sites I visited at least outlined what subways, buses,
trains, door-to-door vans, limousine services and such
served the airport, in some cases with schedules and
prices.

Finding out approximate cab fares from the airport to the
city was more of a mixed bag, but at least a third of the
sites I tried gave some estimates. Armed with this
information, you may be able to avoid an unscrupulous
cabdriver once you land - or at least avoid sticker shock
when you're quoted a fare.

Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta
(www.atlanta-airport.com) - for trivia buffs, the busiest
in the world last year, in terms of passenger traffic - has
a helpful chart on its site for those traveling to the
suburbs, listing which shuttle companies serve nearby
locales.

San Francisco International (www.flysfo.com) goes a digital
step further: visitors can click on an interactive map of
the Bay Area, to find out, say, which door-to-door van
services go to Berkeley. Similar interactive maps give
estimated taxi fares and public transit options.

For those traveling by car, Denver International
(www.flydenver.com) has some of the most helpful driving
directions. Rather than taking the lazy way out and simply
linking to an Internet map site, as many airports do,
Denver offers its own clear map, showing the airport and
various highways, as well as directions in plain English (a
rarity on the Web).

For parking information, points go to Dallas/Fort Worth
International Airport (www.dfwairport.com), which offers
easy-to-understand recommendations on parking options, a
way to sign up for parking discounts and even a link to a
site where scofflaws can pay parking tickets online.

Most sites offer at least basic information about various
parking lots and rates. Some, like the one for Logan
International Airport in Boston (www.massport.com), post
updates on which lots are open - though typically these
indicate when lots have been closed due to heightened
security, not because they are full.

Flight Status

Perhaps the biggest surprise about airport Web sites is
that some offer updates on flight arrivals and departures,
in a few cases outdoing the airlines at this. Among the
airport sites I saw that offer such a feature, those for
Dallas/Fort Worth, San Francisco, Hartsfield, Logan and
McCarran International in Las Vegas (www.mccarran.com) led
the pack in terms of function and design.

Typically, visitors can enter a flight number or city to
find out whether a particular flight is on time, on the
ground or delayed. For those awaiting passengers who may
have not have passed along a flight number, electronic
billboards - somewhat like the signs in airports - display
all the flights departing or arriving in a specific time
frame.

At some sites, a "flight tracking" option lets visitors
choose a flight, then open a small window on their desktop
that is updated in real time with arrival, departure and
gate information. Users can also elect to receive these
updates by e-mail or text message to a mobile device -
though this feature may need some refining. I signed up to
have information about a flight arriving at Dallas/Fort
Worth sent to my cellphone, but after receiving half a
dozen messages in quick succession as the flight posted
delay after delay, I ended up turning off my phone so it
would stop beeping.

A disappointment was how few airports list information
about where you can get on the Internet - something
travelers are probably more likely to look for on an
airport's Web site than the locations of various
restaurants and retail outlets, which the sites generally
show.

Los Angeles International (www.lawa.org) has a useful page
titled Business Services, that among other topics,
addresses Internet access options, but you have to hunt to
find it (start at Passenger Services and click on Business
Center). Airports offering wireless Internet access, like
San Francisco, Dallas/Fort Worth and Minneapolis-St. Paul
International (www.mspairport.com), tended to highlight
details about those services more prominently.

New Yorkers and visitors to the tristate region might be
disappointed to discover that the Web sites for John F.
Kennedy International, La Guardia and Newark Liberty
International - all accessible via the Port Authority of
New York and New Jersey's site
(www.panynj.gov/aviation.html) - are rather underwhelming.
Although you can find basic details about the airports,
including ground transportation options, parking and
terminal services, much of this information is buried, and
the sites do not offer interactive features like flight
updates.

Tony Ciavolella, a Port Authority spokesman, said that the
agency was reviewing proposals to revamp its online
presence and that it planned an overhaul by year's end,
with some changes phased in sooner.

SUSAN STELLIN contributes regularly to the Travel
section.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/25/travel/25prac.html?ex=1054903894&ei=1&en=9e34233cce1a4f4b

---------------------------------

HALBLEU
06-03-03, 07:57 AM
These Days, Business Risk Is Often the Journey

June 3, 2003
By FRANCINE PARNES


When Sally Blower experienced chest pains and shivers
before boarding her flight from London to Brazil in late
March, she did not even consider canceling her trip. As
production manager for a British auto-racing television
show, missing her assignment to cover the Brazilian Grand
Prix would have been "unthinkable," she later said.

But even more unthinkable at the time was what was about to
happen to her body. Ms. Blower, who dozed fitfully during
nearly 12 hours in flight, was hospitalized in Brazil with
a suspected case of severe acute respiratory syndrome. The
ordeal has impelled her to slow down, reassess her job and
even consider leaving her profession.

After entering a hospital in Saõ Paulo in a feverish
delirium, "the afternoon and night passed in a blur of
intravenous drips, needles, chest X-rays, blood tests,
throat swabs, constant blood pressure, oxygen-saturation
and temperature checks," said Ms. Blower, whose doctor
suspected SARS as soon as he found out she had recently
been in Singapore and Malaysia.

During her 10-day quarantine, even TV was terrifying.

"When I saw the CNN news ticker change to `Brazil reports
first suspected case of deadly virus,' I realized they were
talking about me," she said.

Hers may be an extreme case, but any medical emergency,
like a heart attacks or traffic accident injuries, can
derail a business trip, if not a career. Business travelers
today, facing deterrents like terror threats and a flimsy
economy, may not want to contemplate a brush with
life-threatening illness or injury on the road, but
frequent fliers would be well advised to do so, experts
say.

When the prospects include unfamiliar doctors and emergency
rooms far from home, travelers can take many precautions
before they board the plane, not only to protect against
the worst, but also to ensure that if the worst happens,
insurance will be there to cover their hospital care.

"Make sure your health policy covers you abroad," said
Bradley A. Connor, medical director of the New York Center
for Travel and Tropical Medicine, a clinic in Manhattan.
"And even for domestic travel, with business travelers
enrolled in H.M.O.'s and other managed care plans, make
sure your plan covers you at a different location from
where you live. Some policies are very restrictive if
you're in an area with no network physicians."

It is also helpful to have a travelers' protection plan
that flies you to a hospital closer to home in case of
medical emergency, said Roy Berger, president of Medjet
Assistance in Birmingham, Ala., a yearly membership program
that provides jets with medical equipment and professionals
to fly sick or injured travelers home.

For Andy Fliss, 38, marketing director for Micro Advantage,
a provider of audio-visual and computer accessories in
Manhattan, a Dallas business trip in March turned
nightmarish when he felt chest pains while walking alone to
his car.

"By the time I reached the car, the pain had grown and was
forcing small moans from my throat," Mr. Fliss said. "I
looked around and considered heading back, but couldn't
walk any further." With no one, not even a parking
attendant, in sight, he got in his car and drove to street
level. By then, he said, he was gripped with fear at the
realization he was having a heart attack.

Things became worse. The street looked nearly deserted, a
police officer disappeared from view before he could be
summoned and his cellphone cut off in midconversation, said
Mr. Fliss, who managed to drive the few blocks to his
hotel. "I called to the valet, `Call an ambulance! I'm
having a heart attack!' You should've seen their faces. One
guy stood over me praying."

Today, as Mr. Fliss recovers, he is making plans to use a
cellphone service that would enable a "911" operator to
find him if he called.

But finding solutions to the business consequences of his
heart attack has not been so easy. Mr. Fliss is one of
Micro Advantage's four founders, and his absence at a
crucial early stage of its development has dealt the
company a severe blow.

"Micro Advantage is a small company in our first year of
operation," he said. "We were picking up momentum with our
brand. People were beginning to recognize the name and
consider our products for major projects. When I was
knocked out of the picture, the name was allowed to fade
from the market. It will take a great deal to rebuild that
recognition."

One of the most common hazards for business travelers of
going on the road is the road itself. Mark Martincic found
that out in a recent motorcycle accident.

Mr. Martincic, a 54-year-old consultant to motorcycle
dealers in Birmingham, was riding his motorcycle to a
biking event in Daytona Beach, Fla., in early March, when
he was hit by a hit-and-run driver. His leg and ankle were
broken in several spots, and he spent a week in intensive
care.

When he was released from the hospital, his frantic
traveling schedule was over. In the past, he said, he
typically spent at least part of 40 to 45 weeks on the
road; last year alone, he traveled 150,000 miles by plane.
Today, by contrast, he mostly works from home in a
wheelchair, though he is starting to get out more.

"Now it's a real chore to get into a car, let alone fly
over the continent," Mr. Martincic said. "I have offices in
Birmingham; Portland, Ore.; and Miami, and for about four
weeks after the accident I could not even get to my office
in Birmingham where I live.`

With less mobility, he says, he is forced to find new ways
every day to do business. He has quickly mastered the
management maxim that you can achieve a lot if you delegate
more. Beyond that, he said, "I am surprised at how much
business you can accomplish with telephones and computers."
He added, "I have accomplished things that before the
accident I assumed had to be done in person."

Aside from healing their bodies and repairing the damage to
their careers, many travelers who have experienced medical
traumas on the road have had to cope with the emotional
aftermath. Ms. Blower's brush with probable SARS, for
example, left her deeply disappointed in some colleagues
who did not bother to contact her during her hospital stay.


"As a 41-year-old singleton, very committed to my job, I
realized that my entire emotional energy is devoted to the
people I work with," Ms. Blower said. "Yet when I needed my
colleagues to give me emotional support back, I didn't feel
that I got it - certainly not until after I'd yelled at
people - and this came as quite a shock."

There was more frustration to come. After returning to work
at her London office in late April, she had a disagreement
with her employer stemming from her illness. And she was so
upset at her television network for showing the outside of
her home on a news program that she is considering filing a
complaint against it for violating her privacy.

A result of her disillusionment has been a determination to
reassess her professional life.

`I think I expected too much from the wrong people," Ms.
Blower said. "I obviously need to change my focus, and I'm
struggling to work out how to achieve that. I don't know
how I feel about the work I'm doing anymore. Do I need to
do something with more emotional rewards?"


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/03/business/03ATTA.html?ex=1055657965&ei=1&en=6c9540d0d36eeb2f

HALBLEU
06-09-03, 04:53 AM
For Travel Bargain Hunters, Many Places to Go
June 8, 2003
By JANE L. LEVERE


THE travel industry estimates that Americans will take
roughly 275 million leisure trips this summer, about 2.5
percent more than last year. But many people are still not
sure where they will be going: a survey last month by the
Travel Industry Association of America found that only 20
percent of would-be travelers had completed plans or booked
vacations.

There is still plenty of time to find bargains for the
summer, or beyond, especially if you're thinking about
traveling overseas or are willing to be a bit adventurous.

Destinations that have been affected by medical, political
or economic problems, for example, may offer special deals.
Travel companies specializing in Hong Kong, which has
suffered a sharp drop in tourism because of SARS, are
selling deeply discounted tour packages. (On May 23, the
World Health Organization lifted its Hong Kong travel
advisory; the United States Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention removed its advisory last week.)

France, whose government has been at odds with the United
States over the war in Iraq, recently began a campaign to
lure disaffected Americans; other European countries are
also trying to attract American travelers put off by the
strength of the euro or by lingering fears about terrorism.


Another strategy is to find a destination, like Australia,
where the June-to-August period is the off season. And the
cruise industry, still hurt by overcapacity, continues to
offer many discounts.

Following is a sampling of summer vacation deals that were
available as of last week. Except where noted, all of the
package prices are per person, with accommodations based on
double occupancy.

ASIA AND AUSTRALIA

The Hong Kong Tourism Board lists packages from many tour
operators at www.discoverhongkong.com, its Web site. Asian
Adventure has a five-night package for $599 through Aug.
31; it must be bought by July 15 and includes round-trip
air fare on Cathay Pacific from Los Angeles, San Francisco
or New York and accommodations at the Ramada Hotel Kowloon.
Weekday travel is required.

Cathay Pacific has also cut the rate on its All Asia Pass -
which offers flights to Hong Kong and 17 other Asian cities
over a three-week period - to $699 from $1,199; the pass
must be bought by July 31 and travel must take place from
Sept. 1 to Nov. 30.

Orient Flexi-Pax Tours has a seven-night package to Bangkok
and Chiang Mai in Thailand, priced at $2,069. It offers
accommodations at some of Thailand's five-star hotels -
like the Oriental Bangkok and Regent Chiang Mai Resort -
plus international and domestic flights, massages and a
cooking class. The deal is available for weekday travel
from New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles through
August.

For Australia, ATS Tours has a $1,299 package including
round-trip air fare from Los Angeles, flights within
Australia, accommodations for up to 12 nights and car
rentals in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Purchase is
required by Aug. 31. Far and Wide Travel is offering an
Australia trip for $1,799 that includes round-trip air fare
from Los Angeles and accommodations for 13 nights in
Melbourne, Hamilton Island and Sydney; purchase is required
by Aug. 30.

EUROPE

Travel to the Continent will generally be more expensive
this year because of the dollar's weakness against the
euro. But plenty of discounts are still available.

The Web site of the French Government Tourist Office
(www.franceguide.com) lists several promotions, like deals
from Concorde Hotels in Paris offering two nights for the
price of one on weekends.

The Web site of the British Tourist Authority,
www.visitbritain.com, offers deals including a six-night
vacation package to Wales, including round-trip flights on
British Midland Airways between Chicago or Washington and
Manchester, England, accommodations in Wales and a week's
car rental. The cost is $1,499. The site also offers rooms
in London at Holiday Inn hotels, at $85 to $129 a night.

Elsewhere in Europe, Intrav is offering deeply discounted
riverboat cruises. One package, including a cruise through
Germany on the Switzerland II, departs from Frankfurt and
costs $1,695 for some departures in August and September.
This rate, $2,000 less than the brochure price, includes
three nights in a hotel in Munich and all meals on the
ship, but not air fare.

Far and Wide has a four-night trip to Venice for $899,
including air fare and accommodations; departures are from
Newark and Boston. And Celtic Tours is offering a six-night
Ireland package, departing from Boston, New York or
Baltimore, for $939 in July and August and $790 in
September. It includes accommodations, a rental car and air
fare.

E-vacations.com, an online tour operator, is offering two
free 15-day Eurailpasses, worth more than $1,800, to anyone
who buys a minimum of $2,495 in European travel by June 30.
Other rail deals are offered on the Eurostar, which
operates from London to Paris and Brussels, and the Thalys,
from Paris to Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne. Some fares
are being cut by as much as half.

NORTH AMERICA

For those who want to stay closer to home - and more
Americans do, according to the Travel Industry Association
- deals are available throughout the United States, Mexico
and Canada.

Quikbook, a hotel consolidator, has rooms at the Roger
Williams Hotel in Manhattan for $105 a night, at the
Sagamore in Miami Beach for $99 and at the Iberville Suites
in New Orleans for $91. Travelocity is offering rooms at
the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco for $99.95, while
Expedia has rooms at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for $89 and
at the Roosevelt in Manhattan for $109.

For those interested in vacation packages, NYC & Company
(nycvisit.com), the convention and visitors bureau, has a
wide selection available through Sept. 5. They include one-
to four-night stays and, depending on the price, at least
one dinner, admission to an attraction and a ticket to a
Broadway show. Prices range from $126 for a one-night stay
at the Gershwin Hotel (by June 30) to $1,169 for four
nights at the Ritz-Carlton on Central Park South (July 1 to
Sept. 5).

If Florida is your destination, there are some good deals
for two people traveling together. All include
accommodations and air fare. OneTravel.com has a four-night
package, priced at $745 for two, to the Wyndham Bonaventure
Resort in Fort Lauderdale, departing on Aug. 4 from Newark,
and a seven-night package, at $1,430 for two, to Disney's
All Star Music Resort in Orlando, departing on July 8 from
New York. The price for the Orlando trip also includes
admission to the Disney theme parks.

Hotwire has a five-night, $250 package from Indianapolis to
the Renaissance World Gate Hotel, also in Orlando,
departing on Aug. 18. If you are considering Hawaii,
Hotwire has a five-night package for $589 from San
Francisco to the Radisson Waikiki Prince Kuhio Hotel in
Honolulu, departing on July 9. All rates include air fare
and accommodations.

Deals to Canada include two packages from United Vacations:
$399 for three nights at the Holiday Inn Montreal-Midtown
and $629 for three nights at the Sandman Hotel-Downtown
Vancouver; both are available through Sept. 15 and include
midweek round-trip air fare from New York.

For Mexico, US Airways Vacations has a five-night trip to
the Imperial Las Perlas in Cancún that must be booked by
June 20 and taken by Nov. 12. Priced from $445 to $496,
depending on city of departure, it includes air fare,
accommodations and a three-piece set of Samsonite luggage
if other purchase requirements are met. Funjet Vacations is
selling a seven-night package to the Holiday Inn in Puerto
Vallarta, including air fare, accommodations and all meals,
for $569.99 from Chicago and $699.99 from St. Louis; travel
must begin by July 31.

CRUISES

Many discounted cruises are available at Icruise.com,
including a seven-night Bermuda itinerary from New York on
the Carnival Pride, departing on Aug. 27, and costing $712
for an inside cabin, including port charges and taxes.
There is also a seven-night cruise starting July 30 from
Vancouver, British Columbia, to Seward, Alaska, on the
Carnival Spirit at $594 for an inside cabin, including port
charges and taxes but not air fare.

Cruise411.com has a seven-night Alaska cruise from Seward
to Vancouver on July 6 on the Holland America Veendam at
$499 for an inside cabin. The price includes port charges
but not taxes or air fare.

Seabourn has reduced published prices on some seven-day
Mediterranean cruises in July and August by 58 percent.
They begin at $2,495 a person, not including air fare.

Virgin Vacations is offering a Queen Elizabeth 2 vacation
package at $1,799 or $1,899 a person for certain departures
from July 12 to Sept. 1. The package includes one-way air
fare from New York, three nights' accommodations in London;
transfer to Southampton; and a six-day trans-Atlantic
cruise on the QE2, which will end such sailings this
year.


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/08/business/yourmoney/08TRAV.html?ex=1056121664&ei=1&en=364c06fb2b4c91f7

HALBLEU
06-09-03, 04:58 AM
Adding Health Precautions to the Travel Checklist

June 8, 2003
By FRED BROCK

A RECENT cartoon in The New Yorker showed an older couple
sitting in their living room, the man engrossed in a
newspaper. The woman says to him, "Let's update our will
and go on vacation."

While that may be an overly pessimistic approach to
traveling in these times of terrorism and SARS, there are
precautions that older travelers should consider during the
vacation season - especially if they have health problems
and are headed to foreign destinations.

Dr. Maria Mileno, the director of the travel medicine
service at Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I., advises
older people to consult a travel medicine specialist a
month or so before they depart to discuss the risks that
certain destinations may pose to underlying medical
problems and needs - and to receive necessary vaccinations.
"Many times internists and family doctors don't have
information available," she said. "Or often they won't have
the specialized vaccinations a traveler going overseas may
need."

The Web site of the International Society of Travel
Medicine, www.istm.org, has a worldwide listing of travel
medicine clinics and specialists. Those in the United
States are listed by state. Dr. Mileno is active in the
organization; she is also a specialist in infectious
diseases and an associate professor of medicine at Brown
Medical School in Providence.

"The I.S.T.M. list of doctors and clinics can also help if
you get sick on the road," she said. "Certainly you can
start with them. They can advise on where to get treatment
if they themselves can't help."

Dr. Mileno strongly recommends travel insurance - including
provisions for emergency evacuation - for older travelers
or for anyone with a medical condition that could flare up
into a serious problem. She points out that Medicare will
not pay for treatment overseas or evacuation, and says
private insurance policies may or may not. Chartering an
air ambulance can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The
policies cost a few dollars a day over the course of a
typical two- or three-week trip.

"But in addition to an air ambulance, these policies mean
you have someone working for you," she said. "You have a
number to call for help. You're not just rummaging around
in the middle of a remote area trying to call various
numbers. My experience has been that people have been very
satisfied with the assistance they received in an emergency
from the insurance companies that issue these policies."

Companies that sell such policies include World Access of
Richmond, Va.; HTH Worldwide of Radnor, Pa.; the
International Medical Group and Specialty Risk
International, both of Indianapolis; Medex Insurance
Services of Towson, Md.; and International SOS of
Singapore, which has offices in Houston and Trevose, Pa. An
online broker, eHealthInsurance.com, also sells travel
insurance policies.

Dr. Mileno also offered the following recommendations for
older travelers:

• Keep a list of your medications and take along enough of
them, in their original containers, for the entire trip.
It's also a good idea to have a letter from your doctor
describing the medicines you are taking, especially
narcotics. Never carry unlabeled medications through
airport security checkpoints.

• If you have heart problems, carry a copy of your most
recent electrocardiogram. That provides a base line for
comparison to a doctor who has not treated you before.

• Take along a spare pair of eyeglasses.

• If you use a
wheelchair or other medical-assistance devices, take along
the owner's manual. Sometimes, security personnel at
airports remove parts to check for bombs and weapons.

• Don't overextend yourself on a trip. Strenuous or
prolonged activity and sudden changes in diet and climate
can cause serious problems for older travelers.

If you are traveling in an area where there have been cases
of SARS, Dr. Mileno recommends taking along surgical masks
and gloves as a precaution, as well as a dry hand purifier
you can use anywhere to "wash" your hands.

"In the case of SARS, most of it is in hospitals," she
said. "Because of this, the risk for a traveler is remote.
It's highly unlikely to get into a hotel. But we still
recommend taking along the masks and gloves just in case."

Dr. Mileno and her colleagues in travel medicine also
provide help and advice for high-risk travelers, like those
whose vision or hearing is impaired, are physically
disabled or require kidney dialysis. Some organizations and
companies can help arrange for dialysis treatment overseas.
One company, Dialysis at Sea Cruises in Largo, Fla., even
arranges ocean voyages on regular cruise ships for dialysis
patients (www.dialysisatsea
.com, 800-544-7604).

Does Dr. Mileno ever counsel people not to travel, either
because of their own health problems or problems at their
destination?

"I rarely advise people not to make a trip," she said. "I'm
in the business of facilitating travel."


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/08/business/yourmoney/08SENI.html?ex=1056121396&ei=1&en=ec29ccd1e502b04f


---------------------------------

HALBLEU
06-20-03, 06:10 PM
Beat Inspiration, Fishing and Hiking

June 15, 2003
By CHRISTOPHER SOLOMON

IN the summer of 1956, Jack Kerouac spent 63 days searching
for God and forest fires from a monkish lookout high above
Ross Lake in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. For
Kerouac, this solo sojourn proved a magnificent,
mind-bending experience that he distilled into some of the
choicest writing in "The Dharma Bums" and "Desolation
Angels."

A half-century later, latter-day beatniks still arrive in
the North Cascades to brush against Kerouac's ghost. Other
visitors come simply to play in his backyard, with its
cyclorama of saw blade peaks and "mad raging sunsets" that
remain as unsullied as in his day. Both groups are drawn by
the abiding solitude: a clutch of old, floating cabins
moored at one end of long Ross Lake remains the only
facilities. Thirty miles from the nearest cellphone
coverage or espresso stand, you can sit by the water's hem
and wrangle with the Big Ideas. Or you can fish, hike and
kayak in the heart of the "American Alps."

It's hard not to feel a prick of ambivalence when you first
see Ross Lake. It's a beautiful abomination - a roughly
23-mile-long battery, the largest and the uppermost
reservoir in a staircase of hydroelectric dams and pools
that together supply one-fourth of Seattle's power needs.
The Ross Dam, when finished in 1949, flooded a nearly
8,000-foot-deep valley to its kneecaps. Today Ross Lake
snakes north between big mountains, so large that one
country can't contain it: when it is fullest, the lake can
slop over the 49th parallel and into Canada.

Just 130 miles from Seattle, the lake is touched by only
one public road - a dirt one, at the Canadian end. To the
west and south lie the more than 300 glaciers of toothy
North Cascades National Park. To the east lynx and gray
wolf prowl the Pasayten Wilderness, nearly the size of
Rhode Island. Buffering the lake is its own national
recreation area, 117,000 acres large.

Most resort visitors who arrive laden with coolers, fly
rods and kayaks drive the North Cascades Highway to lower
Diablo Lake and catch a 20-minute Seattle City Light ferry
ride to the foot of Ross Dam. A flatbed truck trundles
visitors up and over the dam. Finally, a speedboat zips
them across the lake to their cabins. Those traveling light
can simply park along the highway and hike about two miles
to the cabins.

They arrive to a strange sight: a dozen cabins and three
low bunkhouses floating atop old-growth tree trunks. (The
natural pontoons let the cabins rise and fall as the
reservoir's height fluctuates with power needs.) Cables
tether the accommodations to the steep shore. Plank
walkways connect the flotilla.

The resort feels like a 1950's north woods fishing camp,
which it is. The fish-cleaning table is the locus of
conversation at day's end. In the office, Tom Barnett, the
co-owner and sole operator, sells little more than Eagle
Claw hooks, bright spinners and aspirin, but dispenses
plenty of free advice on where to troll for wild rainbow
trout using a Bingo Bug, a feathered lure specific to the
lake.

Trips to enjoy the fishing and scenery here are an annual
event for many people; in late September last year the only
cabin available to rent for a three-night stay was an
eight-bed bunkhouse. I had no trouble finding five friends
who volunteered to help me explore the area, and we piled
into a single large room that was walled with bunk beds.
Furniture was a long picnic table at the center and a
wood-burning stove for heat on the chilly nights. The
bunkhouse is a stretch version of the cedar-shingle cabins,
which have kitchenettes with linoleum counters, scratchy
towels and electricity but no phones or television. Don't
worry about dropping a room key into the waters underfoot;
the cabin doors have no locks.

The atmosphere resembles the wood planking: rough-sawed but
worn smooth. Anyway, no wallpaper could trump the doorway
views to a massif of stone and glacier dominated by
7,776-foot Colonial Peak. I'm not much for motorboats, but
to reconnoiter a lake this big you need a gas-powered
skiff. Our first day three of us rented one and motored
north. Two dozen campgrounds - some of them on islands, all
of them posted with warnings about marauding bears -
speckle the lakeshore, reachable only by foot, boat or
stock. Docks along the lake make it easy for boaters to
stop and hike along the shore or take longer treks into the
530,000-acre Pasayten Wilderness.

Along the shore, tree stumps marched into the clear, gelid
water, an underwater graveyard of an enormous forest that
had to be removed before the waters rose.

Later, we steered the boat to a dock where the Big Beaver
Valley meets the lake. The Big Beaver is the gateway to a
classic 26-mile Cascades backpacking loop that heads west
into the national park to glimpses of the remnants of the
Cordilleran Ice Sheet on Mount Challenger, before returning
to Ross Lake via the Little Beaver Valley. We hiked about
four miles into the forest. Sunlight surrendered to a
Middle Earthy gloaming. Soon a huge tree appeared, then
another. This is the mossy home of the largest stand of
old-growth Western red cedar in the United States. Some
trees are nearly a dozen feet across and 1,000 years old.
Still, no one else was around to elbow in on our view, and
no one ever was.

The next morning I sat outside with a mug of coffee and
watched the sun crawl over 9,066-foot Jack Mountain. The
air smelled like firewood and boat fuel and winter around
the edges. Boats nuzzled the dock. A pair of dogs wandered
from cabin to cabin, politely standing in the doorways and
awaiting handouts. I was tempted to park all day in one of
the resort's comfortable Adirondack chairs - made from the
trees that avalanches have knocked in the lake - and warm
in the sun like a gecko.

Instead, we filled up on lumberjack's breakfast of our own
making before four of us headed out to say hello to
Kerouac's spirit. The Beat poets Philip Whalen and Gary
Snyder also spent summers as fire lookouts on peaks above
Ross Lake, and it was at Snyder's encouragement that
Kerouac and his Army surplus sleeping bag arrived at fire
school in nearby Marblemount in 1956, then headed 19 miles
by barge to where 6,088-foot Desolation Peak dips its feet
into the lake.

We motored to the trailhead, tied a mooring rope to a hunk
of driftwood and started up - and up. The path to Kerouac's
perch tests pilgrims' devotion: a stitchwork of switchbacks
that zigzags 4,400 vertical feet in less than five miles.
Just as our legs began to lodge a formal protest, the
hemlock forest fell away and the welcome distractions
began. Far below, a lone boat dragged its chevron wake on
the lake. Around us was a choppy sea of peaks. Late-season
huckleberries lined the trail. When we passed a pair of
hikers and asked them about their day they answered with
smiles tattooed blue.

Eventually the lookout appeared, a little pagoda perched
atop the fire-denuded peak. Kerouac's spartan cabin was
already boarded up for the winter. We peeked inside at a
single room of windows built around the cross-haired
Osborne fire-finder that Kerouac used less to sight blazes
than to identify the blue mountains "grooking on all
horizons." Fittingly, we could see a late-summer fire
burning in the Pasayten. A map on my lap, I ticked off the
delicious names he loved: Mount Terror. Mount Fury. Jackass
Mountain. Cinnamon Creek. Crooked Thumb Peak. Three Fools
Peak. And to the north, unmistakable, stood 8,068-foot
Hozomeen Mountain, the twin-fanged peak that leans over
Kerouac's cabin with such menace that he mistook it on his
first night for a bear at the window.

Two months here amid the awful beauty and thunderstorms had
mixed effect on city-bred Kerouac. Distanced from his daily
bread of marijuana and conversation, rendered puny by so
much ice and rock and fir, he veered between deep peace and
despair. But "boring" perhaps best summarizes Kerouac's
days. He baked rye muffins, meditated among the marmots,
penned haikus and rolled uneven cigarettes with paper
reserved for documenting sightings of Russian bombers. By
August, he wrote, "I want to come down RIGHT AWAY because
the smell of onions on my hand as I bring blueberries to my
lips on the mountainside suddenly reminds me of the smell
of hamburgers and raw onions and coffee and dishwater in
lunchcarts of the World to which I want to return at once."
One year later, "On the Road"</object.title> appeared and
Kerouac was famous.

After even a short time on the peak we could relate to
Kerouac's thirst for the small pleasures of society. When
somebody mentioned the beer on ice back at the cabin, we
practically ran down the mountain to our awaiting boat.

That night as the alpenglow drained from Jack Mountain
across the lake we sat under the awakening constellations
and felt the world, in Kerouac's words, "rolling toward the
moon." Unfortunately, our nice evening ended with a hard
lesson in cheek-by-jowl cabin living, as the rowdy party
vacationing in the next bunkhouse kept us awake with its
screaming.

The last day, as most of our group headed back to Seattle,
my friend Michael and I rented a double kayak and paddled
up an inlet called Ruby Arm. A kayak or canoe may be the
best way of all to experience Ross Lake. Sit one foot
closer to the water and the mountains seem that much
taller. The waves take on personality. We paddled close
enough to soak in a waterfall's spray, then continued on to
where Ruby Creek splashes out of the wilderness. Threatened
Dolly Varden trout, two feet long, swam beneath our hull in
water so clear we could count their markings on their long
backs 10 feet below.

We drifted for a long time like that, staring into the
water, unwilling to turn our paddles toward home. Kerouac
may have felt torn about this place, but at that moment we
felt no conflict.

Travel Information

Getting There

Ross Lake Resort is 130 miles northeast of Seattle. The
closest major airport is Seattle-Tacoma International
Airport.

Some visitors reach the resort by parking at a designated
spot on the North Cascades Highway and hiking about three
miles across Ross Dam to the resort. Others take the ferry
across Diablo Lake (two sailings daily; $10 round trip),
which transports them to the foot of Ross Dam, and a short
truck ride to Ross Lake ($6 round trip). Finally, a
speedboat carries guests to their cabins ($2 round trip).
For more information, ferry schedule and reservations,
(206) 386-4437 or www.rosslakeresort.com.

Lodging

The resort, with its dozen cabins and three bunkhouses, is
the only lodging on Ross Lake. It is open from June (June
12 this year) until the end of October. Rates vary by cabin
type and number of guests in each cabin, with some
discounts available for early-season and late-season stays.


The Little Cabins, which sleep up to four, are $92 nightly
for two people and $6 for each additional guest.

The Modern Cabins, which accommodate five, are $112 nightly
for two people, and $10 nightly for each additional guest.

The two-story Peak Cabins, which sleep up to nine and have
a microwave and dishwasher, cost $197 nightly for up to
four people, and $15 for each additional person.

Three Bunkhouses can sleep 8 to 10 and cost $142 for up to
six people, and $8 for additional guests.

The resort has no restaurant and no commissary, so guests
must bring their own food and drink. Cabins are equipped
with small stoves and cooking utensils.

Activities

Fishing, hiking, backpacking are all available nearby,
though a boat is usually necessary. The resort rents kayaks
($31 a day single, $40 double), canoes ($24) and 14-foot
motorboats ($72, including gas). Some early- and late-
season discounts are available. Fishing tackle is also
available for rent ($8 to $10).

CHRISTOPHER SOLOMON is a writer in Seattle.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/15/travel/15frug.html?ex=1057012345&ei=1&en=e8dc9b8e1af808d8

Hazard
06-21-03, 06:21 AM
Damn! Do you guys really read ALL of these articles you post? I mean it seems like your always posting articles that take up so much room. I wish I had the patience to read them all.

HALBLEU
06-21-03, 08:03 AM
Originally posted by Hazard
Damn! Do you guys really read ALL of these articles you post? I mean it seems like your always posting articles that take up so much room. I wish I had the patience to read them all.

I read what I post. I thought this thread will help those who are aspiring to be a traveling strategist. ... To be a leader, you got to learn how to read with patience. ... I do not expect everyone to have patience. It does help to have it as you get older.

Maybe you should take some "speed-reading" course.

HALBLEU
06-30-03, 07:10 AM
In the Event of Emergency
June 29, 2003
By SUSAN STELLIN


BEFORE I went to Brazil in March, I called my health
insurance provider to find out about my coverage when
traveling abroad.

A representative told me I would be covered in case of an
emergency, but was quick to point out that if I was
planning a South American tummy tuck or any other
nonemergency procedure - apparently not an uncommon reason for a trip to a country known for its runway models - then
I was on my own.

I tried to reassure him that the only thing I suffered from
was superstition: the last time I was in Brazil, I got so
sick with a gastrointestinal ailment I was convinced I
wouldn't make it home.

Fortunately, my recent trip was medically uneventful. But
it turns out my caution wasn't entirely misplaced: many, if
not most, health insurance policies do not cover
policyholders once they leave the United States.

"As a general rule, health plans do not cover injuries or
illnesses in the course of traveling abroad, even for
emergency care," said Larry Akey, a spokesman for the
Health Insurance Association of America, an industry trade
group. "What we recommend is that before someone departs on an overseas trip they check their insurance policy, either
with their H.R. department or by calling the customer
service number that's on their insurance card."

You can also check the printed summary of benefits for your
plan, but one reason to pick up the phone is to get a
number to call in case you need approval for emergency care
abroad. My insurance card, from Oxford Health Plans, only
includes a toll-free phone number, so when I called to
inquire about international coverage, I asked for a number
that would work abroad. I was also informed I would need to
call within 48 hours of seeking emergency care in a foreign
country in order to qualify for reimbursement. Plans that
do cover policyholders abroad typically require patients to
pay out of pocket and submit receipts for reimbursement,
and some medical providers only accept cash from
foreigners.

Medicare

Among the health plans that do not cover individuals abroad
is Medicare. There are a few exceptions, such as when
someone in the United States has a medical emergency near
the border, and a Canadian or Mexican hospital is closer or
easier to get to than the nearest hospital in the United
States, or if an emergency arises while a traveler is
crossing through Canada between Alaska and the lower 48. In
general, anyone covered by Medicare is advised to buy a
Medicare supplement, also known as a Medigap policy, that
includes foreign travel emergency coverage. For questions
about Medicare coverage, call (800) 633-4227.

For those who are not covered by their own health
insurance, or who want more benefits than their policies
provide, buying travel insurance is an option. There are
several types of policies that include medical benefits:
package policies for a single trip that also cover things
like trip cancellation and lost baggage; medical-only
policies, which can be bought for a single trip or multiple
trips within a year; and medical transport policies for
emergency evacuation to a medical facility.

Prices vary depending on the type of insurance, the
traveler's age and the cost and length of the trip.
According to Jim Grace, president of InsureMyTrip.com, a
Web site that lets consumers compare and buy travel
insurance from multiple providers, prices for travel
medical policies can be less than $100 for minimal coverage
for a young traveler to more than $1,000 for an older
person wanting more compreshensive coverage.

For package travel insurance policies, which typically
include $10,000 to $50,000 of medical coverage, premiums
are 4 to 7 percent of the trip's cost. For instance, a
comprehensive policy for a 45-year-old taking a 10-day
$5,000 trip is $169 to $404, according to InsureMyTrip.com.
However, when buying insurance, it is important to find out
exactly what is, or is not, covered.

"Some of them will exclude skiing and things like that, so
you want to make sure if you're doing any sports that
you'll have coverage for that," Mr. Grace said. Other
variables include the policy's limit ($10,000 may not go
far in a serious medical situation), the deductible, how
narrowly a medical emergency is defined, whether dental
care is included, whether the policy covers evacuation and
repatriation (transporting you back to the United States)
and whether pre-existing conditions are excluded.

"It's really important to read the fine print, because even
with some of the excellent companies, people are
surprised," said Phyllis Kozarsky, medical director of the
TravelWell Clinic at Emory University and a professor of
medicine at Emory. "They will have assumed they purchased,
say, a repatriation policy, only to find out that yes, the
company will fly them out, but they will fly them somewhere
they deem the medical care to be equivalent to the United
States."

Pre-existing Conditions

Dr. Kozarsky said she recommends that patients at least
think about buying supplemental travel insurance,
especially those who have medical conditions or are going
into high-risk situations. But for those who do have
pre-existing conditions, she said, "it's really important
to look at the exclusionary categories." Some insurance
companies will waive exclusions on pre-existing conditions
if the policy is bought within 7 to 14 days of when a trip
is paid for, but the interpretation of such clauses can be
a gray area.

One reader, who asked that his name not be used because he
is still disputing the denial of his claim, canceled a
cruise that he and his wife planned to take last winter
after her doctor advised against the trip for health
reasons. Although the couple, who are 82 and 94, had bought
travel insurance, the insurance company denied the claim
after obtaining copies of the woman's medical records,
citing a clause that excludes pre-existing conditions.

Whatever the merits of that denial, it is a cautionary tale
for anyone considering travel insurance at an age when
pre-existing conditions are a fact of life. It's also why
some tour companies work out their own deals with insurance
providers.

"We'd rather be assured, especially if we have people in
remote areas, that they're all covered," said Jim Sano,
president of Geographic Expeditions, a tour operator that
includes the cost of insurance in the price of all its
trips.

Mr. Sano described the complications of arranging for a
private air ambulance to evacuate a client who had had a
stroke in Lhasa, Tibet. The plane took off from Singapore
but had to stop in Guangzhou, China, to pick up a military
liaison officer before flying into Tibet. After being
treated at a hospital in Singapore, the patient was flown
back to the West Coast on a stretcher that took up six
business-class seats.

"I think the total tab for that was a little over $85,000,"
Mr. Sano said. "These costs can add up really, really
quickly."

SUSAN STELLIN contributes regularly to the Travel
Section.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/29/travel/29prac.html?ex=1057855624&ei=1&en=46963e0fc0a86b7d

---------------------------------

HALBLEU
07-01-03, 04:44 AM
A Study of Federal Airport Security

July 1, 2003
By JOE SHARKEY


In the roughly 18 months since the federal Transportation
Security Administration took over passenger screening at
the nation's 429 commercial airports, many frequent fliers
have collected tales of silliness, rudeness and apparent
ineptness as they pass through security checkpoints.

But John Bace remembers how much worse security sometimes was before the agency arrived to replace privately
employed, poorly paid security screeners with 55,000
better-paid, better-trained federal employees.

The anecdote that he cites happened in the fall of 2001,
shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when National
Guard troops carrying rifles were stationed just inside
airport security zones.

"As I was waiting in line to go through the screening
myself, several Guardsmen were permitted to cut to the
front of the line as they were about to take their place on
the other side of the magnetometers," recalled Mr. Bace, a
research director at Gartner Inc. in Chicago.

What happened next astonished him. One by one, the men
placed their loaded M-16 rifles and their pistols on the
conveyer belt, sending them through the X-ray machine to be
scanned, and then meekly walked past the security guards to
retrieve the weapons. "I started to say, `But why?' " Mr.
Bace said. "But a sergeant just said, `Don't ask. They were
told everything had to be scanned.' The look on his face
said it all to me: `You just have to pass through here. I
stay here and work with these people.' "

Today, airport security continues to take heat from many
sides. Passengers gripe about shoe searches and pat-downs
of elderly women. Members of Congress and officials in the
aviation industry denounce the agency as a bureaucratic
money pit (it spent nearly $6 billion in the 2002 fiscal
year) that is largely unaccountable to legislative
oversight. Airport managers and outside security experts
say the public, which sees only the heavy uniformed
presence at passenger checkpoints, would be shocked at
gaping security holes in air cargo and baggage handling
areas, not to mention at sea ports and borders.

But a closer look puts the security agency in a better
light. One figure - zero - tells a big part of the story.
That is the number of people, out of the nearly one billion
passengers who have passed through the new security, who
have been injured or killed by terrorists at airports or on
airplanes since Sept. 11, 2001.

Safety aside, the security agency and its sympathizers say
that politeness and professionalism are now the routine in
the check-in experience, and many business travelers and
other frequent fliers agree. In recent weeks, though, a
growing number have been complaining about a perceived
deterioration in standards. As summer travelers hit the
airports and checkpoint lines grow, some worry about a
replay of the dreaded airport "security hassle factor,"
which airlines said last year was driving people away.

The latest furor centers on shoes, a source of concern
since an inept terrorist named Richard C. Reid tried
unsuccessfully in December 2001 to detonate explosive
material in his shoe on a flight. Savvy travelers had
figured out that one way to speed their way through
security points was wearing footwear without the metal
shanks that trigger the metal detectors. But when guards at
some checkpoints began making them take their shoes off
anyway, they flooded the agency with complaints.

The agency says the searches are justified. "When we ask
passengers to remove their shoes, many times it's so we can
run them through the X-ray machines to look for a range of
items, not necessarily all of which are metal," an agency
spokesman, Brian Turmail, said.

Not that the agency is taking a dismissive attitude toward
passengers, Mr. Turmail said; it understands that some of
them are upset at having to "walk around barefoot in a
public airport" and is exploring options for providing them
with paper foot slippers.

It is also moving to address concerns about the way checked
bags are processed through security. Since Jan. 1, all
checked bags have been subject to some kind of inspection,
mostly by machines that detect explosives and, for about 10
percent of randomly chosen bags, by hand. Locked bags are
forced opened, and many passengers worry about theft or
damage to their possessions either while the agency has
custody of the bag or afterward, when it is returned to the
airline baggage-handling system.

Now, Mr. Turmail said, "If we have to open your bag for
security reasons and have to reseal it, we'll place a blue
tamper-evidence seal, coded specifically to an airport, on
it" to alert a passenger that it has been opened and
examined.

More broadly defending his agency, Mr. Turmail said that
some complaints about it derive from its very success in
improving service. "In the early days, people were
surprised to find screeners saying hello and thank you," he
said. As a result, "there is a higher expectation going
through the checkpoint."

Customer service initiatives aside, many private security
experts have long questioned the central thrust of the new
security agency. That is, the agency's main efforts are
devoted to examining all passengers, more or less equally,
for contraband, and subjecting large numbers of passengers,
including children and old people in wheelchairs, to
humiliating pat-downs and body searches with electronic
wands.

Critics have derided these efforts as window dressing
intended to convince the public that security is intense,
when, they say, it is inadequate and focused on the wrong
things.

"Airport security may be a little better after the T.S.A.
took over, but not to the degree that it should be for what
taxpayers are spending for smoke and mirrors, which don't
fool the terrorists," said Douglas R. Laird, a former
Secret Service agent who is president of Laird and
Associates, an aviation security company in Reno, Nev.

Defenders of the security agency say it is doing a good
job, often shifting tactics in ways that may seem
capricious to passengers but that are aimed at throwing
potential terrorists off-guard.

"We don't have whims at the T.S.A.," said a screener in
Fort Lauderdale in an e-mail message, in which he requested
anonymity. "Rules and regulations do change constantly due
to the constant flow of intelligence - some good and some
not so good," said the screener, who described himself as a
former marine with a background in military security. "The
first rule of security is not to become routine. By
randomly changing up the approach, you keep the bad guys
guessing."

Joe Brancatelli, who publishes a World Wide Web newsletter
for business travelers called Joe Sent Me
(www.joesentme.com), said he agreed with the tactic of
random searching of people who do not fit terrorist
stereotypes.

Business travelers, focused on convenience, he said, are
more likely to complain about that than leisure travelers.

"I hear from frequent flyers all the time about how their
dear, sainted grandma was frisked," Mr. Brancatelli said.
"But I never hear from the grandmas complaining about the
frisking."

But security needs to pay attention to grandma, Mr.
Brancatelli said. "Does anyone think a bunch of
Arab-looking guys named Mohammad are going to try to hijack
a plane?" he asked. "If they try again, they will look like
Mrs. Doubtfire. These guys are a lot of things, but they
ain't stupid. The next time will be different. Who's to say
they won't be dressed like the executive vice president of
I.B.M., or that they won't plant the stuff in some
toddler's diaper?"

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/01/business/01SECU.html?ex=1058044108&ei=1&en=fa6aa5e068828f72

HALBLEU
07-10-03, 07:23 PM
The Pacific From Sea Level

July 6, 2003
By CHRISTOPHER SOLOMON

YOU may spend your summer vacations dodging marmots on a
mountain bike at Whistler and your winter holidays skiing
in the Purcells and Selkirks. You can't claim to know
British Columbia, however, until you've spent time
exploring its spectacularly splintered Pacific coast from
the rocking cockpit of a sea kayak.

There, on the windward side of Canada, earth meets ocean in
such an uneasy truce that seaweed tinsels the branches of
firs and bears swim fjords along with salmon. Paddling
these waters is a wet safari through some of the planet's
most diverse marine life.

On a coastline of superlatives, western Vancouver Island,
Canada's 280-mile breakwater, is a world-class destination
for sea kayakers. From June through September around the
town of Tofino, the sun emerges (usually). The sea calms
(mostly). And even novice kayakers can paddle comfortably
around the jigsaw of islands and reefs of Clayoquot Sound,
a United Nations World Biosphere Reserve.

The driest weather arrives in July, but so do the tourists,
so my friend Laurie and I, novice kayakers both, arrived in
early June to take a two-night guided trip. Tofino,
population 1,500, was still half awake after a winter's
slumber. A surfer walked across the street in evening's
slanted light, carrying his longboard, without worry of
traffic.

The next morning at the waterfront, we and three other
paddlers met Kim Crosby, owner of Wildheart Adventures, one
of countless kayaking outfits running trips around this
area. We stuffed our clothing in trash bags to keep them
dry, then wedged them into the holds of the slender,
two-person sea kayaks. Our lead guide, Jordan Musto, a
capable and affable 29-year-old, gave the group a
five-minute primer on how to paddle and what to do in an
emergency.

We donned life jackets and spray skirts that keep waves and
splashes of 50-degree water out of the cockpits, and shoved
off. Wetsuits, however, aren't necessary.

A confession: I'm no great fan of the ocean. Any water
without a lap lane unnerves me. But in my few outings in
sea kayaks I've learned to trust them. They are deceptively
stable, even in the hands of a beginner battling a
three-foot chop. We had superb weather and calm waters,
however, and there was too much to look at to sweat about
capsizing.

Clayoquot (pronounced CLACK-wit) Sound, covering 1,011
square miles, nearly the area of Rhode Island, is a sea
captain's nightmare but a kayaker's dream, with peekaboo
reefs to skirt, fog-shrouded islands, deceptively shallow
channels and humped headlands so heavily forested that
special trails had to be cut for use by shipwrecked
sailors. Then there's the sea life: Beneath the tides is a
queer bestiary of many of the coast's 325 species of marine
fish, 20 species of whales and more than 70 kinds of
starfish - quite possibly more than anywhere else in the
world.

Within an hour we had paddled across Templar Channel and
along the shore of Wickaninnish Island. "Beyond these
islands," said Kim, "the next ones are Japan and Hawaii."

We were suddenly on the Pacific. The ocean rolled more
noticeably beneath us. The effect was Lilliputian, as if we
had clambered atop a slumbering giant and were rising and
falling with its respirations. I breathed a little faster.
Clayoquot is an Anglicization for the native term for
"changing," and despite the still, cloudless day, the
monster felt as if it could awaken and shake us off at any
moment.

Twenty-thousand gray whales pass here each spring on their
way to summer feeding grounds in the Arctic, and Laurie
desperately wanted to see a whale. Jordan reached into the
water, cut free the hollow stipe of a bull kelp, and sliced
off half its bulbous head. "This is how we call the
whales," he said, joking, and blew the trumpet.

The grays didn't appear; their migration was finished.
Dolphins soon did, though, followed by a sea otter and then
two sea lions that followed us briefly, poking their slick
heads out of the water.

We crossed open water to Vargas Island, one of the sound's
larger islands and home to a provincial park, and pulled
our kayaks onto Medallion Beach. The uninhabited crescent
of bright sand and coral water seemed like something out of
a brochure for a cooler Antigua.

Jordan prepared lunch on a massive driftwood log. We
explored, walking on rocks so smothered with living things
- California mussels, acorn barnacles, limpets that every
footstep seemed cruel, almost illicit.

"Is it O.K. to walk on this stuff?" I said.

"Not if
you're a Buddhist," Kim replied, and crunched onward.

The wolves that live on the island were scarce, but I was
surprised to find scarlet paintbrush, wild strawberry and
yellow violet flowers I usually see in Northwest mountains.
We dozed on the sand after a big lunch, welcoming the
summer's first sunburn. A bald eagle dove for its own lunch
in the tide.

I was starting to understand why Kim, a colorful former
banker, bought a kayak after a 1986 trip to nearby Barkley
Sound and started his company four years later.

Some kayak trips along Vancouver Island's west coast are
self-sufficient expeditions in which kayakers sleep in
tents and cook on the beach. Those kayakers go even farther
up the coast and away from civilization, but are exposed if
heavy weather steamrolls in from the Gulf of Alaska. We
chose a lodge-based trip that kept us around Vargas, which
is about three miles northwest of Tofino but feels much
farther away. The island has only a few waterfront homes, a
tribal site for members of the Nuu-chah-nulth First
Nations, no real roads and the Vargas Island Inn.

The inn is a Tudorish manse operated for decades by Neil
and Marilyn Buckle, who built it with cedar and fir boards
cut from their property. It is "funky rustic," in the words
of a fellow kayaker. An old ship's hatch, complete with
porthole, is the front door.

Inside, it looks as if Granny decided to decorate a whaling
ship. Heavy beams and nautical charts mix with flowered
sofas, decorative plates and musty copies of National
Geographic. Seven, small cabinlike rooms with shared
toilets and tubs have mismatched sheets and 1950's
wallpaper. Retired buoys and glass Japanese fishing globes
dangled from beams and trees around the property. A dirty
dog named Florence Margaret wandered around with a dirtier
tennis ball. The only showers are 50 yards from the rooms,
on the beach.

The whole place has the peeling charm of a handed-down
beach house. It is not for the fussy guest, and if we'd had
to share the inn and its common kitchen with other groups,
as can happen during high season, mid-June to
mid-September, the place would've felt too much like a
hostel for my liking.

Paths radiating from the house led to other quirkiness. At
an honor-system store in the woods, campers and guests can
buy canned peaches or cold beverages. Down another path,
the inn's Man Friday, a carburetor-voiced old salt named
Larry, keeps his gallery of curios ("By App't Only," warns
the sign), like a wristwatch that says the time in a
Chinese accent. A mysterious woman wandered the grounds,
scarcely speaking.

The whole place exuded a "Midnight in the Garden of
Good and Evil" feel that made for good
conversation over a simple dinner of salad, bread and
Dungeness crabs that the Buckles had pulled from traps in
their cove that day and steamed for us. I ate them plain,
unwilling to disgrace such good meat with butter or, worse,
cocktail sauce.

Each day we paddled about six miles, usually along the
coast of Vargas Island. Our second morning, Jordan led us
on a paddle along the island's eastern shores. Seeing the
world from sea level, at the speed of a paddle stroke,
brings small things into focus, and reinjects wonder into a
harried life.

At Rassier Point, our kayaks drifted through forests of
bull kelp. Jordan told us this seaweed was one of the
fastest-growing things on earth, extending up to two feet a
day. We pinched leaves of eelgrass between our fingers in
shallow Maurus Channel to see the pinpoint-sized copepods
that live on the blades and that salmon love to eat. Trying
to count bald eagles as they flew across the 6,000-foot
peaks that are the backbone of Vancouver Island was futile.


We could also see that extensive logging had taken place.
The area's rainfall, eight feet a year, supports the
largest lowland temperate rain forest on earth, forest of
such hoary grandeur that in the summer of 1993, more than
12,000 people protested the provincial government's
decision to open up much of the sound to clear-cut logging
of the ancient hemlock, cedar and Sitka spruce. More than
800 people were arrested.

With changes in law, timber companies have greatly reduced
their cutting, with 34 percent of the area protected, the
government says. Logging continues, mostly of old-growth
forest, but regulated.

Each afternoon on returning to the inn we intended to walk
the two-mile path of crosswise logs, a former lifesaving
trail, to the reputedly grand Ahous Beach. Each afternoon
we instead climbed out of kayaks and right into deck chairs
and cold beers.

Our last night, with shoulders aching a bit from paddling,
we rallied enough to stoke the fire of the home-built cedar
sauna that the Buckles built on the water's edge. When the
sauna's heat felt like it might blister us, we dove into
the icy cove, hoping to stir up the bioluminescence that
often blooms on summer nights.

Our last morning, we pushed away from the island for a
final paddle back to Tofino. Bereft, Florence Margaret
paced the beach with a chunk of slobbery driftwood. Luckily
for her, high season was coming. She'd have to wait only a
few days for her next playmates to arrive.

Travel Information

Getting There

BC Ferries, (250)
386-3431 or www.bcferries.com, runs daily service to
Vancouver Island from city of Vancouver to Nanaimo or
Victoria, taking about two hours. From Nanaimo, the
155-mile drive to Tofino is about three hours; from
Victoria, it takes a couple of hours more.

One-way passage for an automobile in summer is about $25,
plus $7.40 a passenger, at the rate of $1.36 Canadian to
the U.S. dollar. A reservation, recommended on summer
weekends, costs an extra $11.

Tofino Air, (250) 725-4454 and www.tofinoair.ca, charters
floatplanes between Vancouver and Tofino for $740 for up to
three people, one way. North Vancouver Air, (800) 228-6608,
www.northvanair.com, and Canadian Western Airlines, (866)
835-9292 www.cwair.com, have daily service to Tofino from
Vancouver for about $100 one way.

To go to Victoria, Helijet, (800) 665-4354,
www.helijet.com, has daily helicopter service from
Vancouver, from $99 one way.

For information about the area, contact the Tofino-Long
Beach Chamber of Commerce, (250) 725-3414 or
www.tofinobc.org; or the Pacific Rim Tourism Association,
(866) 725-7529, www.pacificrimtourism.ca.

Kayaking

Our three-day trip with Wildheart Adventures, (877)
722-3683 and www.kayakbc.com, with kayak rental, two nights
at the Vargas Island Inn and all meals (not alcohol), cost
$465 with tax.

Similar trips are offered by Pacific Northwest Expeditions,
(866) 529-2522, www.seakayakbc.com; Rainforest Kayak
Adventures, (877) 422-9453, www.rainforestkayak.com; and
WeGo Kayaking, (800) 434-9346, www.wegokayaking.com.

Where to Stay

Experienced kayakers without guides can
stay at the Vargas Island Inn, (250) 725-3309, for $30 to
$35 a night.

In Tofino, the Whalers on the Point Guesthouse, 81 West
Street, (250) 725-3443, fax (250) 725-3463,
www.tofinohostel.com, has 65 beds, in both private and
shared rooms. Rates are $16 a person in a shared room, and
$48 for a double room.

Also in town, Penny's Place, 565 Campbell Street, (250)
725-3457, www.island.net/{tilde}pennyspl, is a
bed-and-breakfast on two acres with a pond. Two of the
three rooms share a bathroom. Doubles, $60 to $81.

On Cox Bay outside Tofino, the Long Beach Lodge Resort,
(877) 844-7873, fax (250) 725-2402,
www.longbeachlodgeresort.com, has a dramatic setting. The
41-room, cedar-shingled lodge has an open-kitchen
restaurant serving local seafood. Summer rates are $168 to
$330.

Down the road, the Wickaninnish Inn, (800) 333-4604, fax
(250) 725-3110, www.wickinn.com, a 76-room Relais &
Châteaux property, perches on a promontory surrounded by
old-growth forest. Its restaurant offers 240-degree views.
Summer rates are $250 to $735 a night.

Where to Eat

At the Vargas Island Inn, meals are prepared by the guides.


The Common Loaf Bake Shop, 180 First Street, Tofino, (250)
725-3915, can provide a quick coffee and bun. Breakfast for
two is $6 to $7.

Schooner Restaurant on Second, 331 Campbell Street, (250)
725-3444, serves oysters from nearby Barkley Sound and
entrees like a hot pot of local halibut, blue mussels,
prawns, scallops and Dungeness crab. Dinner for two, with
wine, about $90. Reservations recommended.

Christopher Solomon lives in Seattle.


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/06/travel/06kayak.html?ex=1058454046&ei=1&en=3a5c417f1ff8e655


---------------------------------

HALBLEU
07-24-03, 06:00 AM
"Notes for the Traveling Strategist"


Hotels' High-Speed Internet Often Has a Catch July 22, 2003
By SUSAN STELLIN

With so many hotels now promoting high-speed Internet access, you might think downloading e-mail messages in your
room would be as easy as ordering a cheeseburger from room service - and twice as quick.

But analysts and business travelers offer something of a reality check on the message of faster connectivity that is
being pushed by the hospitality industry, saying that although such service is becoming more common, it is not
something laptop-toting business travelers can count on when they check in.

"It's definitely not everywhere, and it definitely doesn't always work," said Rob Meinhardt, who recently started a
company, Kace Networks, in Mountain View, Calif., to help provide remote access to corporate networks.

Mr. Meinhardt estimates that a third of the hotels he has stayed at in the last year offered high-speed, or
broadband, Internet access, but says that he often has trouble getting it to work. "That has happened to me dozens
of times, where you're sitting there saying, `I'm not getting my e-mail, where is the problem?' " he said.

Among the issues he and other business travelers report are hotels that advertise broadband in most or all of their
rooms but only have enough capacity for a limited number of guests to log on simultaneously, cables that get unplugged,
routers that are down, and services that require special hardware or software that guests may not be traveling with
(or do not want to deal with after a long day or a late flight).

"I just shy away from that stuff," Mr. Meinhardt said, partly because of the difficulty but also because of a
reluctance to install software from a disk used by many other guests. After all, he asked, "How do I know the last
guy here didn't put some virus on that disk?"

That viewpoint is echoed by Stephen Plume, a technology consultant in Portola Valley, Calif. Mr. Plume said that
often when he tried to use high-speed Internet services in hotels, "I spend half an hour trying to make it work, and
it doesn't." He added: "And no one at the front desk ever knows what's wrong. They say, `Well, it works for everyone
else.' "

One place where he stayed this year, Mr. Plume said, got it just right: the Reneson Hotel Group's Best Western Novato
Oaks Inn in Novato, Calif., where all he had to do was plug a cable into his laptop to get quick Internet access by
digital subscriber line, or D.S.L., a telephone company service. And it was free.

"No hardware, no software, no nothing - it's the easiest setup I've ever seen," Mr. Plume said, adding that the
hotel's Internet service was the deciding factor in where he stayed on regular trips to Novato last winter.

"At the Best Western, it's easy and it's free; at the Courtyard by Marriott, they want to charge you 10 bucks a
night," he said. "Why wouldn't I just stay across the street? So I did."

The hotel chains are paying close attention to the demands of people like Mr. Plume. With industry profits off 12
percent last year, to $14.2 billion, they cannot afford to alienate their most lucrative customers. And whereas
business travelers once viewed high-speed Internet access as something of a luxury, they are now increasingly
demanding it as an entitlement.

"It's almost like your iron or ironing board or your coffee maker - things that people come to expect in the room,"
said Vijay Dandapani, chief operating officer of Apple Core Hotels, which recently installed complimentary high-speed
wireless Internet access at its five Midtown Manhattan hotels. Guests traveling with laptops equipped with a
wireless network card can log on anywhere in the hotel, Mr. Dandapani said, comparing it to the wireless service
offered by Starbucks. "The difference being they charge, we don't," he said.

For technology professionals in particular, reliable, fast Internet access is becoming a requirement in choosing where
to stay, prompting one technology company to create an internal list of Internet-friendly hotels, which is now
posted publicly on the Web, at www.geektools.com/ geektels.


"What we started to do was keep a list of hotels in different cities around the world where we came across
high-speed access in the room," said Rodney Joffe, founder of CenterGate Research Group, a technology company that
started the Geektels site about four years ago. From 5,000 to 10,000 visitors now use it daily to search for
high-technology hotels, Mr. Joffe said, though with broadband connections becoming more common, he suggested
the list might have outlived its original purpose.

"It's not as updated as it used to be, because these days, many hotels have high-speed connectivity," he said, adding
that he would not stay at those that did not.

According to Henry Harteveldt, an analyst who follows the hospitality industry for Forrester Research, that is
becoming a more common perspective among business travelers. "I don't know that it will be the primary reason
someone chooses to stay at a hotel," he said. "But this is a very nice, very relevant amenity that you need to have if
you're serious about attracting the business traveler - and a growing number of leisure travelers."

Although Forrester has not compiled statistics on how many hotels offer high-speed Web connection, Mr. Harteveldt
estimated at least half of hotels in the United States that catered to business travelers did so in some rooms, more
commonly through wired solutions like cable and D.S.L. than wireless broadband, since fewer people travel with laptops
equipped with the technology to access wireless networks.

Indeed, the fact that hotels are working with so many different providers to offer broadband access, meaning that
guests may have to wrangle with multiple systems, is one challenge the hotel industry must address in order to close
the gap between travelers who say they want high-speed service and those who actually use it.

Based on a survey Forrester conducted this year, 9 percent of all hotel guests used high-speed access at least once in
2002, while nearly 19 percent of business travelers tried such services last year. As for issues concerning reliability, Mr. Harteveldt said, the biggest bottleneck he hears about is the failure of hotels either to outfit enough rooms for the service or to install enough capacity to accommodate everybody who wants it at the same time.

Whether to charge for broadband service, and if so, how much, is another issue the industry has yet to resolve. Travelers report that $10 a day seems to be the average fee; although free high-speed access is available in some places, that continues to be the exception rather than the rule.

But that could change, and quickly. "I think that by the middle of next year, we'll start seeing high-speed Internet
access a free amenity," Mr. Harteveldt said. "If not for everybody, then something we'll see corporations negotiate
as part of their contract."

Not all travelers think broadband access is worth the price, or for that matter, the trouble. Lynn White, executive director of the National Child Care Association in Atlanta, says when she is on the road, she sticks with dial-up access, using a toll-free phone number to download her e-mail messages.

While hotels sometimes charge her a fee to make a toll-free call, she figures it is cheaper and simpler than trying out
the high-speed connections that she has seen offered. "I know that if I really wanted to get into it, I could get it
done," she said. "I would get it if I thought it was worthwhile."

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/22/business/22INTE.html?ex=1059892330&ei=1&en=fcd05ae5e97bc221

Cardinal999
07-28-03, 03:00 PM
----------------------------------------------------------------------
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2003/07/27/TR281669.DTL
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Sunday, July 27, 2003 (SF Chronicle)
Re-evaluating 'revenge'/Experts say common wisdom on traveler's trots is outdated, ineffective
Ulysses Torassa, Chronicle Health Writer


Whether you call it Montezuma's revenge, Delhi belly, the Tunisian two step or the pharoah's curse, traveler's diarrhea remains the No. 1 health problem faced by overseas travelers, ruining countless adventures, educational trips and exotic vacations.

Since doctors confirmed 50 years ago that the culprits were
infectious bugs mostly found in food and water, a simple mantra has been repeated millions of times to Americans headed to Third World countries: "Boil it, peel it, cook it -- or forget it."

But now, for the first time, some doctors are starting to voice
doubts in public about the effectiveness of that advice. And at least one leading travel medicine specialist says it's high time travelers were given a more realistic picture of their risks -- and better guidance on how to stay healthy.

"Despite 50 years of telling people to avoid unpeeled fruits, leafy vegetables, tap water and so forth, statistics (of diarrhea incidence) haven't come down," said Dr. David Shlim, who ran the primary clinic for trekkers and travelers in Nepal for more than 20 years. "I had so many people sitting in my office in Nepal, saying 'I was so careful.' And they still got sick."

Shlim went public with his challenge in May at the International Society of Travel Medicine conference, arguing that the standard dietary advice is woefully naive and inadequate.

"Are we doing our patients a disserve when we give them this advice, if it doesn't really work?" Shlim asked.

Meanwhile, the growing realization that avoiding diarrhea is often an impossible task has more doctors prescribing antibiotics to carry on the road. And, though it's highly controversial, some even advise certain travelers to take them before they even step off the plane. Better alternatives appear to be on the horizon (see accompanying story), but for now the options are limited.

Not all of Shlim's colleagues agree that the standard advice needs a major overhaul. Another prominent doctor in the field called Shlim's challenge to his colleagues nonsense and said the problem isn't the advice, it's getting people to follow it.

"I'm careful with what I eat, and I never get sick -- and I'm out of
the country all the time," said Dr. Herbert DuPont, an infectious disease specialist and medical director of travel medicine at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston. "My argument is: Don't give up on people. We just haven't found an effective way to tell people what to do."

Shlim isn't suggesting that tap water and raw food don't carry
disease- causing pathogens. But he says restaurant hygiene in the developing world is so poor that germs can easily spread to foods that might appear safe. And local cuisine is often such an important part of enjoying another culture that it's just too hard to resist.

"There are few people who would want to eat just freshly cooked oatmeal on a three-week trip to Thailand," Shlim said. "It's just not realistic."

Experts estimate that traveler's diarrhea strikes as many as one in three visitors to developing countries, a rate that's remained steady over several decades. At one time, people thought the ailment was brought on simply by being jolted out of a normal daily routine and feeling disoriented by a new culture.

But a landmark 1958 study found that travelers returning from Mexico had four times the rate of diarrhea than those coming back from Hawaii, indicating the problem was infectious. Still, it took years to isolate the toxigenic strains of the E. coli bacteria that cause most cases.

The "peel it, cook it, boil it -- or forget it" advice grew naturally from those discoveries, since scientists know that boiling water or heating food to at least 140 degrees Farenheit kills the harmful bugs that can live in meats and on the surfaces of raw produce.

The advice was further bolstered by a 1983 survey of returning
travelers that discovered the more they reported eating uncooked foods and drinking tap water, the more likely they were to have gotten sick.

But the study had its flaws, including a low return rate on the
surveys. Shlim has since looked at the larger body of medical literature and found several studies -- in respected journals such as the Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association -- finding little or no association between taking food and water precautions
and getting sick. In one study, diarrhea actually seemed to be more common among people who took the most care to try to avoid it.

In 1996, Shlim and a colleague conducted their own study, comparing the eating and drinking habits of patients in the Kathmandu clinic who complained of diarrhea to those who showed up with other illnesses or injuries. Both groups reported about the same rates of drinking untreated
water, using ice cubes and eating unpeeled or raw fruits.

But there were some differences. Eating at least one meal in a restaurant during the prior week, eating quiche or lasagna, and drinking a fruit/yogurt drink (known as a lassi) were all significantly associated with getting sick.

Shlim and DuPont agree that restaurants in the developing world are a problem. DuPont often brings his own thermometer to make sure the food is cooked to at least 140 degrees, and he advises his patients to do the same, or at least to make sure the dishes are piping hot before digging
in.

But many travel medicine doctors say it's just not realistic for
people to be as strict as DuPont.

"I just think it's unlikely for most of us to go to that kind of
extreme," said Dr. David Taylor, research professor in the department of international health at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Taylor, who is sympathetic to Shlim's point of view, said he thinks the bugs are too ubiquitous to avoid altogether.

Shlim's finding on eating dishes like lasagna and quiche suggests that foods that sit around after being thoroughly cooked can be a significant -- and unrecognized -- source of infection, Taylor said.

"People are very aware of things like the ice and the lettuce and the fruit, but they are not so cognizant of rewarmed foods," said Taylor, who runs a clinic on Antigua that conducts research on traveler's diarrhea. "As long as you're eating food from commercial establishments -- restaurants big or
small, hotels big or small -- you have a significant risk."

With that in mind, Taylor and Shlim say it makes sense to arm
travelers with antibiotics -- and the expectation that they'll get sick.

"When you have something that happens to 25 percent to 50 percent of the people, why should you make them feel bad that it happened to them?"

Taylor said. "You try to avoid it, but you don't say to yourself if you
get it, 'I'm an idiot.' You say, 'I need an antibiotic.' "

Which is why travel medicine specialists are increasingly willing to give out antibiotics ahead of time. Christine Smith, a nurse practitioner with the Travel Doctor in Oakland, said she still emphasizes avoiding problem foods and arms her patients with an over-the-counter remedy such as loperamide (brand name Imodium) to counteract symptoms. But she also
offers a prescription for small doses of Cipro in case those fail.
"It's a hard issue with traveler's diarrhea because they want
cut-and-dried answers -- 'What can I eat and what can't I?' " Smith said.

The hardest cases are young people going to language schools who plan to stay with a local family. "That kind of puts them in a bind, because they need to respect the culture and not offend their host," she said. "I just tell them to be discreet."

In some cases, doctors will even prescribe antibiotics to be taken ahead of time to prevent diarrhea in the first place.

That's highly controversial, especially in light of growing public
health concern about increasing rates of microbial resistance. Doctors who do it say the small amounts taken for a short time aren't likely to contribute to that problem. But should the practice become widespread, it certainly could be.

As for Shlim, he wants the profession to be more open about the limitations of dietary advice and to consider changing the standard message to more closely reflect the reality of what travelers face on the road. Ultimately, he said, the best way to combat the problem is to encourage other countries to adopt restaurant inspection and hygiene standards like those in the United States.

E-mail Ulysses Torassa at utorassa@sfchronicle.com. Rates of diarrhea among travelers to various destinations
Destination Rate of TD
Mexico 29-49%(x)
Egypt 10-90%(x)
Morocco 54%
Central America 33%
India 39-54%(x)
(x) Based on multiple studies
Source: Travelers' Diarrhea (BC Decker)
Magnitude of the problem
-- 20 million travelers from industrialized countries visit
developing countries each year
-- 40% will get TD
-- 22,000 cases per day
Source: Dr. David Shlim


----------------------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------------------
* * * eof

mingster
08-11-03, 08:15 PM
Just came back from a family vacation in Bali. Great beaches with soft sinking white sand, and had a nice time jet-skiing and building sand-castles with family. Also spend a lot of time visiting dormant and not-so-dormant volcanoes, visiting various towns, and talking to the locals about the current situation in Indonesia. Surprised to discover that most Balinese were Hindus, and not Muslims, which explains the tolerant, friendly and non-repressed culture on the island as compared to the rest of Indonesia. The Balinese laid-back mentality can be explained by their belief in "karma", where justice is dispensed by an impersonal supernatural force that ensures that good is rewarded with good and evil is paid back likewise. It is the Indian equivalent of divine retribution. This makes them somewhat less vindictive than other Indonesian tribes.

I also visited this ancient so-called "holy spring", where a temple was built. There were also numerous faith healers sitting around. There were a lot of Japanese, Koreans, Taiwanese and mainland Chinese collecting water in bottles to take home! I seriously doubt the spring is holy... the spring is situated beneath a volcano and has a high sulphur content which probably explains why it is good for the skin... some bloke must have noticed this fact and told his pals that the place was holy.

Also, I was surprised by the simultaneous fluency of some of the Balinese locals in standard Indonesian, English and rudimentary Chinese. Apparently, some of the older residents of the place know Sanskrit and Hindu. The Balinese are natural polyglots.

Lots of things to see: a queer culture and animistic religion, and a very friendly people. Shopping is also great, but you can bargain to get as high as 90% discounts in the street stalls!!

Cardinal999
08-17-03, 05:57 AM
One of my favorite food- [ "Pho" ]
/// * * *
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/13/dining/13HANO.html?ex=1061924023&ei=1&en=3e17f2af0bd44b5d

Looking Up an Old Love on the Streets of Vietnam
August 13, 2003
By R. W. APPLE Jr.

HANOI, Vietnam
SHE used to walk past my little villa in Saigon, not far
from the American embassy, her conical straw hat on the
back of her head, white pajamas flapping as she loped down
the street, soup makings dangling from the wooden yoke
across her frail shoulders. She came early every morning,
repeating the monosyllable with an inimitable inflection.

"Pho," she called, her voice gentle and plaintive. "Pho."

That was 35 years ago, and I took it for granted that the
delectable, aromatic noodle soup she sold, crowned with a
lush tangle of green herbs, had originated many generations
ago in the fertile Mekong Delta. Wrong on both counts, as I
discovered when I finally returned not long ago to this
ancient land that struggled so fiercely for freedom. Pho
was developed by cooks in Hanoi, not in the south, and not
until after the French arrived late in the 19th century,
importing their love of beef to a pork-eating culture.

The name might have given me a clue. "Pho" is pronounced
almost exactly like "feu," the French word for fire, as in
pot-au-feu. Did Vietnamese cooks learn its secrets while
toiling in the SPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAM of colonial masters? Some think so;
others think it evolved from Chinese models, like the
Vietnamese language and the people themselves.

Today it is a national passion, beloved across the country
in hamlets as in cities. It is almost as widely available
in the United States, where few big cities lack a pho shop,
and some, like Washington, have dozens.

In Hanoi, pho is a cult. It is served in alleyways and on
street corners all over town, usually on low plastic
tables, surrounded by even lower plastic stools, only about
12 inches high, that always make me feel like a circus
elephant trying to balance on a ball. These are set on the
sidewalk, in the gutter and even in the roadway; the
Vietnamese give special meaning to the phrase "street
food."

Here the soothing broth is paler than in the United States
or in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon's official name, HCMC for
short). The rice noodles are more delicately translucent,
and fewer embellishments are added than in the more
indulgent south. The result is light and thrillingly
restorative. On a good day, I think I could eat three bowls
and leave under my own power.

My wife, Betsey, and I stopped in at Mai Anh, one of a
string of open-air pho shops on Le Van Huu Street, which
runs along the southern edge of Hanoi's bustling French
Quarter. Stock made by simmering oxtails and marrow bones
for 24 hours, along with onions, star anise, ginger and
cinnamon bark, was bubbling away in a cauldron perched on a
charcoal stove. Bowls of various meats - cooked chicken,
giblets, paper-thin raw sirloin, pig hearts - awaited our
inspection. We chose beef.

If you choose chicken, you will be eating pho ga; if you
choose beef, you will be eating pho bo. I don't imagine for
a minute that you'll choose pig hearts.

The pho-meister dunks a sieve full of flat, precooked
noodles into a pot of boiling water (so they do not cool
the soup), drains them and slides them into a bowl. Thinly
sliced onions and chopped coriander leaves go in next,
along with shavings of ginger. Then the blood-red beef, and
last a few ladles of hot stock, which cooks the meat in a
few seconds while giving off a fragrant, enveloping cloud
of steam.

On the table are spring onions, red chili sauce and vinegar
with garlic slices to enrich your meal-in-a-bowl, plus
several lime wedges. A southerner would feel deprived
without some bean sprouts, and without a plate heaped high
with herbs - rau que, or Asian basil; earthy ngo gai, or
sawleaf herb; and once in a great while rau ram, or
Vietnamese coriander. But the northerners are ascetics
compared with their southern cousins. Still influenced by
the puritanical Confucianism of their Chinese neighbors,
they prefer their flavors pure, unadorned and
crystal-clear.

As you will find when you dig in - chopsticks in one hand,
plastic spoon in the other - no sacrifice of heartiness or
complexity is entailed. Mix and slurp, sniff and gulp to
your heart's content, for less than $1.

For some reason the snarl of the motorbikes as they stream
past, all but nipping at your ankles, is no distraction.
Maybe because it's so much fun to watch your fellow eaters,
especially if some are novices. We saw an eager if inept
German woman get through her soup by coiling her noodles
around her chopsticks with her free hand.

THE Vietnamese wax poetic about pho, assigning it a central
and unifying place in their culture. Duong Thu Huong, a
novelist, rhapsodized about walking the streets, inhaling
the soup's subtle perfume as it rises from the stockpots.
Huu Ngoc, a social historian, sees it as a symbol of the
national fight for self-determination: even in the darkest
times, when the wars against the French and Americans were
going badly, the Vietnamese were always free to express
themselves by making and eating pho, their own culinary
creation.

"It was complete, nutritious, infinitely delicious and yet
so easy to digest," he recalled a few years ago, "that we
could eat it morning and night, day after day." And so the
northerners do, looking down upon the southerners, who eat
their pho mainly at breakfast and occasionally at lunch.

For the Vietnamese, even those who left the country long
ago, pho tends to stir memories, the way a madeleine did
for Proust. I, too, was ambushed by the past. A bowl of bun
bo Hue, the imperial capital's spicier version of pho, made
with round noodles, beef, pork, lemon grass and whole
chilies, carried me back to the turbulent days of the
Buddhist uprising of 1966, when John D. Negroponte, now the
United States representative at the United Nations, was in
charge of the American consulate in Hue, on the very street
where I was eating.

Our friend Mai Pham, who was born in Saigon, runs a hugely
successful Vietnamese restaurant, Lemon Grass, in
Sacramento. She also writes cookbooks, most recently
"Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table" (HarperCollins, 2001),
and she has developed a refrigerated pho stock base,
marketed to restaurants and institutions by StockPot, a
subsidiary of the Campbell Soup Company.

Why, I asked her recently, does pho fascinate you so much?


"It's so beefy!" she exclaimed with a smile and without
hesitation. "For me, it's the ultimate comfort food. You
smell the soup's perfume, and it's so beefy!"

Her husband, Greg Drescher, director of education at the
Napa Valley campus of the Culinary Institute of America,
chimed in. Perhaps for the Vietnamese, for most of whom
beef remains a great luxury, he said, but not for
Americans, for whom it is one of life's commonplaces.

What attracts me is the hypnotic mixture of flavors in the
broth, especially those imparted by spices like star anise
and ginger. Preliminary charring of the onions and ginger
adds a smoky undertone. In the south, the mingling of
sweet, sour and salty tastes is further augmented by a few
dashes of nuoc mam, the fermented fish sauce that plays the
same role in Vietnam that soy plays in much of Asia. The
clearest and most pungent comes from Phu Quoc island, off
the south coast.

No one has ever accused me of being a minimalist; when I'm
lucky enough to land within range of an In-N-Out burger
joint, for example, I order my double double with the
works. So it's no surprise that I load up my pho with a
couple of squeezes of lime juice, a scattering of bean
sprouts (if they're sufficiently crunchy), a disk or two of
hot green chili and a variety of herb leaves, pulled
carefully from their stems.

That's the Saigon style: a bowl of soup and a salad, all in
one.

SAIGON, or HCMC, to be proper about it, has a range of soup
shops, from tiny ones in the Hanoi style to a few pho
factories like Pho 2000, near the Ben Thanh market, which
Bill Clinton put on the map by eating there. Occasionally,
a gifted, energetic cook will make pho at home - a major
task, given the time needed to make the broth - and one of
the best bowls we ate was served to us at home by Nguyen
Huu Hoang Trang, a veteran of restaurant SPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAM.

So fine was her touch that every one of the key
ingredients, from cinnamon to anise to ginger to onions,
was individually discernible in the perfumed steam that
rose from the soup, and in the flavor, too.

You could miss my favorite breakfast place in downtown
Saigon if you got there at the wrong time of day, which is
anytime after about 11 in the morning. There is no sign,
and most of the furnishings disappear after the close of
business.

Run by a tiny, wizened man whom people call Chu Sau, which
means Sixth Uncle, it consists of a few battered Formica
tables in a gloomy alley covered with a corrugated tin
roof, plus several of those diabolically low tables and
chairs, murder for my aging knees, on the sidewalk. The
address is 39 Mac Thi Buoi, two long blocks from the
Caravelle Hotel, toward the river.

Chu Sau's limpid pho comes with a bowl of notably crisp
mung bean sprouts, hoisin sauce (best avoided, I think,
because it muddies the soup's flavor) and an unusually
bright orange chili sauce, as well as Asian basil and
fuzzy-leafed mint. What set it apart, for me, was the
mellowness of the amber-hued broth, in which the taste of
cinnamon was pronounced. It glittered in the mouth, the way
homemade bouillon does and beef stock made from a cube
doesn't.

The noodles were perfectly al dente, if you will permit a
solecism, and I enjoyed them so much that I didn't even
give myself a demerit when I splashed chili sauce all over
my white polo shirt.

Pho Dau, located in a courtyard off Nam Ky Khoi Nghia
Boulevard, which leads to the airport, is an entirely
different kettle of soup. During the war, it was a hangout
for South Vietnamese generals; now it is a haunt of the
new, privileged capitalists, whose Mercedes S.U.V.'s and
$6,000 Honda motorbikes are parked out front. Bits of beef
cartilage and tendon enrich its broth, as do quantities of
coriander.

With our pho, we drank glasses of fabulously smooth ca phe
sua da, which is Vietnamese filter coffee, served iced with
condensed milk. As we watched the well-dressed customers
eating pho for breakfast, we talked about how odd soup
seems to us Americans as a daily curtain-raiser. But it
isn't that strange, really: the Japanese eat miso; the
Chinese eat congee, a soupy porridge; the French
(particularly Parisians) eat onion soup after a night on
the town; and the Hungarians eat sauerkraut-and-sausage
soup to ease a hangover.

Pho Hoa, an open-front restaurant on Pasteur Street, is
less grubby and more cosmopolitan than most noodle shops,
with comfortable tables and chairs. I learned some more
lessons there, even though it came late on our soup
schedule. Lesson 1: the richness that characterizes
well-made pho broth comes not from fat, which must be
skimmed from the broth, but from marrow. Lesson 2: you can
order not only rare beef (tai) in your pho, but also
well-done beef (chin) and fatty beef (gau).

My teachers were the affable gent at the next table,
Lam-Hoang Nguyen, a visiting Vietnamese restaurateur from
Thunder Bay, Ontario, on Lake Superior, and his wife,
Kim-Ha Lai.

"When we come back," he confided after a while, "we always
go right into the street. The street is where you find the
quality in Saigon - not in hotels."

THAT'S good advice, not only in HCMC, and not only when you
want a bowl of pho. Vietnam is full of quick, fresh,
readily available nibbles, and many people eat four or five
mini-meals every day.

In the main Saigon market, Ben Thanh, where you can buy a
suitcase, look live snakes in the eye, shop for spices and
snack the day away, we discovered bun thit nuong - an
irresistible combination of vermicelli threads tossed in
scallion oil, topped with lettuce, strips of barbecued
pork, cucumber and carrot slices and peanuts, and dressed
with nuoc cham, a luscious sauce made from nuoc mam diluted
with water, sugar, lime juice and chilies. Sweet and tart,
bland and spicy, soft and crunchy, ample but light, it made
a luscious hot-weather lunch early one afternoon.

No wonder Mr. Drescher always makes a point of heading for
the market to eat bun thit as soon as he steps off the
plane from California.

One evening at Anh Thi, one of several Saigon crepe shops
in narrow Dinh Cong Trang Street, we watched orange tongues
of flame dart from underneath charcoal braziers to lick at
the dusk. The crepes are called banh xeo, the word "xeo" an
onomatopoeic rendering of the sound of batter hitting the
pan.

The cooks sit on low benches in front of batteries of
braziers topped with 12-inch pans; they control the speed
of cooking by shifting pans from one fire to another. The
crepes are yet another example of the Vietnamese genius for
combining inexpensive ingredients to produce lively but
never overpowering tastes and intriguing textures. In this
case the secrets are a light, bright crepe batter made with
rice powder, coconut milk, local curry powder and turmeric;
a filling of shrimp, bean sprouts and unsmoked bacon; and,
as is so often the case here, a wrap and a dip.

You tear off a piece of crepe, wrap it in a mustard-green
leaf with an aroma so sharp that it made me sneeze, add a
chili and some mint, and dip the whole package in peppery,
faintly sweet, faintly fishy nuoc cham. The special crepe,
with an extra-large portion of shrimp, cost all of $1.35.

"Delicious, nutritious and cheap," Betsey said. "I think
that's a pretty tough combination to beat."

At Lac Thien in Hue, whose proprietors are deaf-mutes, we
sampled the local version of crepes, known as banh khoai,
or "happy pancakes," served at steel-topped tables. These
are smaller, about six inches in diameter, sweeter and
eggier. They are served not with mustard greens but with
coriander and mint, and not with nuoc cham but with a
fermented soybean sauce.

Cha Ca La Vong in Hanoi, owned by the same family for
generations, serves stunning freshwater fish, cubed and
braised with turmeric. Dill, spring onions, peanuts and
chilies are at hand to enliven flavor.

Splendid stuff. But except for pho, no street food we ate
could touch the phenomenal fare at Bun Cha Hang Manh in
Hanoi's Old Quarter, a four-story warren of tiny rooms and
cracked floors. Crouching women cook everything on tiny
propane stoves in the open-air entrance hall. "Everything"
consists of two items, both of which are the best of their
kind available, in Hanoi or anywhere else, for that matter.


One of them is bun cha, Vietnam's apotheosis of the pig. It
consists of charcoal-grilled strips of belly pork and pork
patties the size of a silver dollar. These arrive at a
table laden with a plate of rice noodles, a plate of red
and green lettuce and herbs of every description, a little
bowl of finely chopped young garlic and a bigger bowl of
nuoc cham, with slices of tenderizing papaya bobbing gaily
in it. For hotheads, there are incendiary bird chilies.

Hang Manh's second dish is spring rolls (nem ran in the
north and cha gio in the south) - great fat ones, as thick
as your thumb, packed with crab, ground pork, wood-ear
mushrooms, onions and bean threads. I noticed right away
that the frying oil was changed every few minutes, and of
course the rolls emerged from it crackling, light and
greaseless.

"These rolls make the rest of what we've had here taste
like so many Rice Krispies," Betsey announced.

We went twice, at 11:30 a.m. both times, to avoid the
throngs that pack this humble restaurant, while ignoring
others serving similar specialties. We ate until we could
eat no more. I wonder: can there be any better $3 lunch for
two, anywhere in the world?

* * * ///

Cardinal999
08-20-03, 08:25 AM
Hal,

Since you're a big fan of Hongcouver B.C. Chk out the below item.

999

/// ***
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/08/travel/escapes/08HOUR.html?ex=1061355123&ei=1&en=b36bb93f5e6921ec

Vancouver, British Columbia

August 8, 2003
By MARK BITTMAN


THE 2010 Winter Olympics, recently awarded to Vancouver,
British Columbia, promise to bring a new level of attention
to Canada's far-western gem. But this is a city at its best
in summer, when the weather is reliably decent and perfect
at times. Vancouver is surrounded by water and mountains
and is breathtakingly beautiful, especially when the sun
shines. And the city combines its frontier feel with a lack
of pretension and a modern aspect. It is by far Canada's
most important Pacific city, a global magnet that attracts
immigrating and visiting Asians. Physical and cultural
riches abound, and the Asian food scene is so good and so
vast as to have few rivals in North America.


Friday
7 p.m.
1) Go for the Curry

A fitting introduction to the
world of Vancouver food is Vij's (1480 West 11th Avenue,
604-736-6664), easily among the finest Indian restaurants
in the world. Vikram Vij, who works the front of the house
(his wife, Meeru, runs the kitchen), is a man of taste, and
it shows immediately in the furnishings (you can't miss the
museum-quality teak door), the place settings (all the
pottery is handmade in Vancouver) and the food. The menu
changes frequently, but it's hard to go wrong. If anything
is offered in fenugreek cream or sweet potato curry, grab
it. Try the duck breast and basmati rice pilaf in garlic
and fenugreek seed curry ($14.95) or the buffalo meat in
spicy raw sugar curry with cold pea and fennel salad ($17).
(All prices are approximations in American dollars.)

Saturday
8:30 a.m.
2) Porridge and a Chinese Cruller


The intrepid eater will head for the Congee Noodle House
(141 East Broadway, 604-879-8221), where the rice porridge
(congee, also known as jook) rivals Hong Kong's. It is
served with a nearly infinite variety of ingredients, from
sea bass and cilantro to pork and clam to barbecued duck
($3 to $4.60). Don't miss the Chinese crullers. (In fact,
even if you don't go for jook, try the crullers.)

9 a.m.
3) Water, Water Everywhere

Your first view of Stanley
Park - just a bit larger than Central Park - will probably
be breathtaking. Even if it's pouring rain - even if you
must drive through the park - it is an absolute must.
Situated on a hilly peninsula on Vancouver's north end, it
is nearly surrounded by water. Joggers and serious walkers
will circumnavigate the park's perimeter along the seawall,
which has about five miles of lovely views in every
direction except down. Roller-skaters and bikers will want
to include some of the park's interior roads, which wind
through nearly untamed northern rain forest. Hikers can
explore those forests, too, but those just out for a stroll
should stay at the neck of the park, the part closest to
downtown, where there are gardens and the country's largest
aquarium, Vancouver's most-visited site.

Noon
4) Noodle Twirling

Legendary Noodle (4191 Main Street,
604-879-8758) hand-pulls its own noodles, and customers are
welcome to watch. There are probably only a handful of
people in North America capable of performing this feat,
which involves manipulating dough at lightning speed. While
waiting for a batch to be made, and to encourage the
process, you can have a bowl of the amazing noodles in the
house-made broth ($4.25). Afterward, take a stroll on Main
Street, where antique shops highlight local items and are
inexpensive by most standards.

1 p.m.
5) Island Hop

Leave your car in Yaletown and hop one of the tiny ferries
for the five-minute ride to Granville Island, home of
artisans and art galleries. The Emily Carr Institute of Art
and Design (1399 Johnston Street, 604-844-3800) has the
Concourse Gallery with students' work, and the Charles H.
Scott Gallery features changing exhibitions. Here, too, is
the city's biggest food market, where you can buy snacks
for a light picnic later at Vanier Park. Back in Yaletown
(by way of the return ferry), the two streets of the area's
old factory and warehouse district - Mainland and Hamilton
- are lined with one-of-a-kind shops. Coastal Peoples art
gallery (1024 Mainland Street, 604-685-9298) sells
Northwest Coast Indian and Inuit art. Barbara-Jo's Books to
Cooks (1128 Mainland Street, 604-688-6755) features not
only North American publications but a great selection from
Europe as well. Lola Home & Apparel (1076 Hamilton Street,
604-633-5017) is a shop that is great for bath products,
dishes or clothing. If you're hungry, stop in at Rodney's
Oyster House (1228 Hamilton Street, 604-609-0080), known
for its northwest oysters ($14.25 for a dozen) and
Dungeness crab ($14.25 per pound).

4 p.m.
6) Smile at the Totem Poles

Head over to the west part of
town, starting with a visit to the Museum of Anthropology
(6393 Northwest Marine Drive, at the University of British
Columbia; 604-822-3825), which has an unequaled collection
of totem poles set up in the enormous Great Hall, and other
Northwest Coast artifacts throughout its splendid space. A
Haida Indian village, with two cedar houses, has been
recreated on the grounds of this world-class museum.
(Admission: $6.40; $5 those over 65; children under 6 are
free.)

6:30 p.m.
7) Hit the Beach

Back toward town, you might want to stop for a late
afternoon swim at Kitsilano Beach (or a snack at Chocolate
Arts, 2037 West Fourth Avenue in Kitsilano, 604-739-0475),
or just head for lovely Vanier Park, where you can relax or
stick around for a production by Bard on the Beach (tents
at the foot of Whyte Avenue in Vanier Park, 604-739-0559),
which runs through Sept. 21. This year's productions
include <object.title class="Movie" idsrc="nyt_ttl"
value="137656;147737;137697">"The Comedy of
Errors"</object.title> and <object.title class="Movie"
idsrc="nyt_ttl" value="146561">"The Merchant of
Venice,"</object.title> and, until the end of August,
"Pericles, Prince of Tyre." The shows start at 8 p.m. (4
p.m. matinees on Saturdays). Buy tickets ($13.50 to $19) in
advance if possible.

10 p.m.
8) French Flavor

For a serene end to the day, and to dispel the notion that
all of Vancouver's best restaurants are Asian, try the bar
of Lumière (2551 West Broadway, 604-739-8185), widely
considered the finest restaurant in town. This is chef
food, intensely personal cuisine that compares favorably to
the fare at Napa Valley's French Laundry or New York's Jean
Georges, but you don't have to spend hours here. Most of
the dishes can be ordered at the bar, and although two in
particular stand out - black cod marinated in maple syrup
and sake ($8.50), and ravioli with red-kurri squash ($8.50)
- it's hard to pick a loser.

Sunday
10 a.m.
9) With the Dim Sum Crowd

Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant
(3888 Main Street, 604-872 8822) serves dim sum that is as
good or better than that in the finest, most exclusive dim
sum parlors in Hong Kong, at about half the price($2 to
$4.25). But it's not exclusive: the place seats about 400,
and it's best to go with a crowd, if at all possible (if
not, make friends with your table-mates). The roast pork
buns are unforgettable, and the more unusual dim sum, which
may feature taro, duck tongue, baby octopus or snails, are
all delicious. For the adventurous eater, this is a real
treat. The Basics

Barring border delays, you can drive from Seattle to
Vancouver in less than four hours, but from every other
major city you will most likely fly. The airport is modern,
efficient, and an easy 20-minute drive from town. Vancouver
is a city you can drive in; the traffic, especially out of
downtown, is manageable, and the layout is easy to
understand. Cabs are plentiful and relatively cheap (as is
almost everything, thanks to the favorable exchange rate).

The Wedgewood Hotel is a simple but elegant and altogether
pleasant hotel in the middle of town (845 Hornby Street,
800-663-0666 or 604-689-7777). Rooms start at about $150
(all prices are in American dollars).

The Opus Hotel (322 Davie Street, 866-642-6787 or
604-642-6787) is one of the newest and hippest additions to
the Vancouver hotel scene. Rooms start at about $180.

The Four Seasons Hotel (791 West Georgia Street,
604-689-9333) is good looking, convenient and efficient.
Promotional rates begin at about $220.
---------------------------------

HALBLEU
08-22-03, 09:04 PM
This is a great town. My home turf. ...

-----------------------------------
In Seattle

August 22, 2003
By STUART EMMRICH


IT'S a brilliantly clear day and you are walking along the
waterfront, the faint scent of salt in the air. A string of
verdant islands is off in the distance. Sailboats and
pleasure craft glide by, sunlight bouncing off their hulls
as they make their way through the choppy waters. You turn
your face toward the summer sun, taking in its warmth, and
start looking for a place to grab a cold beer. Wait. Could
this be Seattle - the land of constant cloud cover, the
city where the weather is so wet and so chilly that it's a
shock the locals aren't permanently shrouded in anoraks?
But when the skies break - as they do more often than
legend would have it - Seattle reveals itself as one of the
most beautiful cities in the country. It's also a city of
serious foodies, passionate coffee drinkers, innovative
cultural institutions like the Seattle Opera (with its
widely praised new auditorium), as well as unexpected
delights, like the scene on a recent evening of a group of
couples dancing outside a Fifth Avenue restaurant as a
romantic ballad performed by the restaurant's singer
drifted out on to the sidewalk.

Friday
6 p.m.

1) Walk Along the Bay
The piers along Alaskan Way, with
their expansive views of Elliott Bay,espresso stands, as
well as the Seattle Aquarium, provide an For a pre-dinner
snack, head for one of the two dozen outdoor tables at
Steamer's Seafood Cafe (on Alaskan Way, between Seneca and
Unversity Streets, 206-623-2066), grab a small serving of
local steamed Manila clams ($4.99) and a Pike's Pale Ale
($4), and watch the ferries shuttle between Bainbridge
Island and downtown Seattle as the sun settles into the
horizon.

8 p.m.
2) Dinner in Belltown

The once-gritty neighborhood of Belltown, a few blocks
northwest of Pike Street, has been gentrified in recent
years and is now one of the best places in town to hang out
for an evening, with more than a dozen high-quality
restaurants within walking distance of each other on First
Avenue. Several good options for dinner include expertly
prepared Mexican at Tia Lou's (2218 First Avenue,
206-733-8226), where a large deck beckons during fine
weather; upscale classic fare (crab cakes and "free run"
chicken) at Queen City Grill (2201 First Avenue,
206-443-0975); or satisfying barbecue - and incendiary
chili - at the Frontier Room (2203 First Avenue,
206-956-7427). Or walk a couple of blocks over to Brasa
(2107 Third Avenue, 206-728-4220), where the chef, Tamara
Murphy, is winning accolades for her inventive,
Mediterranean-influenced cuisine, including a robust
suckling pig ($22).

10:30 p.m.
3) Sudsy Nightcap

Wind up the evening at the Virginia Inn (1937 First Avenue,
206-728-1937), a popular Belltown bar with a lively if
occasionally raucous crowd, a friendly staff and an
impressive selection of locally brewed micro beers,
including Manny's Pale Ale and Mac & Jack's African Amber,
both $4.25 a pint.

Saturday
10 a.m.
4) Rising From the Ashes

Much of old Seattle was
destroyed by the Great Fire of 1889. Today in Pioneer
Square you can see many of the striking Victorian
Romanesque buildings (most designed by the architect Elmer
Fisher) that rose from the ashes of that conflagration. At
night this is a rollicking bar scene with live jazz and
blues in several clubs along First Avenue. By day it
provides a glimpse into Seattle's past. Start your walking
tour in Occidental Park where you can find a locator map
highlighting milestones in Seattle's history, ranging from
the establishment of the city's first hospital (1863) to
the opening of its first gay disco (Shelly's Leg, in 1973).
For a coffee break, skip the ubiquitous Starbucks and
Tully's and stop in at Torrefazione Italia (320 Occidental
Avenue, 206-624-5847) for a caffè latte and freshly made
coffee cake. Then head over to Elliott Bay Book Company
(101 South Main Street, 206-624-6600), one of the country's
best bookstores, known for handwritten staff
recommendations that are as pithy ("Edith Templeton's
fictions/memoirs are as crisp, impeccable and as evil as a
well-made martini - Janet") as they are accurate. Finish up
your tour with a visit to the 35th-floor observation deck
of the Smith Tower (506 Second Avenue, 206-622-4004; 10
a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; $6 for adults, $4 for ages 6 to 12),
opened in 1914 and for years Seattle's tallest building.
Forget the Space Needle; this provides the best views of
the city's skyline.

Noon
5) Grazing at the Market

At some point every visitor to Seattle ends up at the Pike
Place Market (85 Pike Street), site of one of the city's
most unusual tourist attractions: the fishmonger's stand at
the main entrance. Standing before rows of gleaming
Dungeness crabs and glisteningly fresh Alaskan sockeye
salmon, are dozens of out-of-towners, snapping their
cameras as huge fish are tossed from one employee to
another, all to the plaintive background noise of the guy
behind the counter imploring, "Anyone here to buy some
fish? Anyone? Anyone?" After a few minutes, tear yourself
from this rather puzzling scene for a movable feast, taking
advantage of the huge number of foods available at the
various stands. At Crêpe de France, start out with a savory
crepe, like the one filled with spinach, ham and mozzarella
($6.50). Then head to the Market Grill for a grilled local
halibut sandwich, served on freshly baked bread with
homemade tartar sauce ($8.45). Finish off the meal with
some organic peach and orange juice ($4 a pint) at the
Jordan Village Farms stall. Then pick up a bag of
chocolate-covered cherries ($7.95) from the Chukar Cherries
stall for a snack later on.

3 p.m.
6) A Fat Tire, Please

The Capitol Hill area of Seattle is
one of the city's liveliest neighborhoods, particularly
along Broadway, a cafe-lined thoroughfare. Stop in at the
Alley (219 Broadway East), an urban mall complete with a
tattoo parlor and an aromatherapy shop, or head down to the
DeLuxe Bar and Grill (625 Broadway East, 206-324-9697) for
a game of pool and a pint of Fat Tire Amber Ale. Finish up
your visit by walking down to Summit Avenue East between
Mercer and Roy Streets to grab a bracing cup of espresso at
the popular Top Pot (609 Summit Avenue East, 206-323-7841).


6 p.m.
7) Wine Country

Washington's vineyards have become justifiably famous in
recent years. More than 40 locally produced (and often hard
to find) wines can be sampled at the Tasting Room (1924
Post Alley, 206-770-9463), a vest pocket bar/retail store
in an alley in the Pike Place Market.

8:30 p.m.
8) Dinner (and a Show)

There's no more theatrical dinner
experience than to sit at the satay bar at Wild Ginger
(1401 Third Avenue, 206-623-4450) and watch the chefs
prepare your meal. You can also sit at a table, of course,
which has gotten easier since the restaurant moved a few
years ago into a larger space. No matter where you sit,
don't pass up one of the restaurant's specialties: Wild
Ginger Fragrant Duck, with its crispy skin spiced with
cinnamon and star anise ($14.95).

Sunday

10:30 a.m.
9) On the Water

For a farewell glimpse of Seattle, return
to the waters of Elliott Bay, with its views of the
Cascades to the east and the Olympics to the west. Narrated
one-hour boat tours are available through Argosy Cruises
(Pier 55, Alaskan Way, 206-623-4252). Get there 20 minutes
before the 11 a.m. sailing. Adult fares are $16; ages 4 to
13, $7.

12:30 p.m.
10) The Brunch Crowd

The lines outside Etta's (2020 Western Avenue,
206-443-6000) are a reliable indicator of this restaurant's
appeal. This local favorite - a blurb posted in the window
cites Michael Kinsley, the former Slate editor, as calling
it "my favorite restaurant in the world" - offers
traditional Sunday brunch fare. But opt instead for
specialties like king salmon with cornbread pudding ($14)
or sauteed halibut with pine nuts and Walla Walla onion
rings ($14).

Visitor Information

Seattle is served by Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
(known locally as Sea-Tac), about 15 miles from downtown.
Cabs to the city cost about $30, without tip; a cheaper
alternative is the Airport Express bus ($8.50; you can pay
either at the airport ticket counter or on board), which
stops near all the major downtown hotels. Catch it at Door
24 (near United) or Door 8 (near international arrivals).

The stylish W Hotel (1112 Fourth Avenue, 206-264-6000; $205
to $294), has a 24-hour gym, a lively bar scene in the
evenings and high-speed Internet access in its rooms. Inn
at the Market (86 Pine Street, 206-443-3600; $195 to $500)
is a well-appointed boutique hotel and houses one of the
city's best restaurants, Campagne. More easily affordable
lodging can be had at the centrally located Renaissance
Seattle (515 Madison Street, 206-583-0300; $129 to $199),
with great views from the rooftop indoor pool.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/22/travel/escapes/22HOUR.html?ex=1062565344&ei=1&en=fbb9d7d54eb8ccd0
=================================================

Emma
08-23-03, 05:17 AM
We had a dept meeting last week and the purpose of the meeting was "how do we make working in our deptment more enjoyable"

Well, they showed us this tape called "FISH" it's about a fish market in Seattle where they throw fish around and holler and cut up with the customers and how it actually improved productivity and sales.

Well, me being me....I had to make the observation that those concepts were fine and dandy for those guys in Seattle....but seeing as how Barney the Betta fish had committed suicide by jumping out of his bowl onto my desktop the week before. We didn't have a prayer of making the "FISH" concept work for OUR dept.

You will be happy to know that Bill, Barneys's replacement, seems to be very happy on my desktop....although I did upgrade his living space to a larger fishbowl...in the hopes that he'd be more content to stay inside.

HALBLEU
09-03-03, 05:18 AM
Emma,

Is that tape on "Fish" that teaches "group" teamwork?
I think I seen it before.

HALBLEU
09-03-03, 05:21 AM
I remember some of my friends who were traveling sales men that travels many , many hours behind the wheel.

------------------------
Driving Overtime, and Pushing the Limits

August 26, 2003
By PERRY GARFINKEL



It took almost 36 hours, but his hectic driving schedule
finally got the better of Bruce R. DuPont, the Midwest
sales manager for ControlAir Inc., a maker of precision air
converters, based in Amherst, N.H.

On Monday, Aug. 4, after a fitful sleep at his home in
Rindge, N.H., Mr. DuPont got up at 4 a.m., drove to the
Manchester airport for the 7 a.m. flight to Indianapolis,
picked up his rental car, had two meetings with clients and
drove 150 miles to Bloomington, Ill., for another restless
night in an unfamiliar bed. Up at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, he
drove 40 miles to Peoria, Ill., for two morning meetings,
had lunch and hit the road again, this time for St. Louis,
150 miles away.

At 3:45 p.m., with 55 miles to go, "I'm starting to zone
out and I've got that head-bobbing thing going on," said
Mr. DuPont, 42. "I'd already pulled over once."

At that point, he did what many business travelers who
spend long hours behind the wheel fail to do: he checked
into a motel. Even then, he had qualms about surrendering
to his fatigue. "One of my first thoughts was, `If my boss
knew I was checking in at 3 in the afternoon, he might be
ticked off,' " he said.

His guilt aside, Mr. DuPont's prudence may have saved his
life. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
estimates that drowsiness is the primary cause of 100,000
police-reported crashes each year, resulting in at least
76,000 injuries and 1,500 deaths.

With exhaustion an ever-present danger, and with more
business travelers switching from air travel to driving
after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and subsequent cuts in
corporate travel budgets, the likelihood of becoming one of
those highway statistics has only increased.

Of the 569 respondents to an unscientific survey this month
on the Yahoo Autos Web site (www.autos.yahoo.com) who
reported that they had driven a car on a business trip of
at least 200 miles, 58 percent said that they had
experienced drowsiness. To fight it, 48 percent said they
listened to upbeat music, 45 percent rolled down the
windows or turned on the air-conditioning, 39 percent drank
caffeinated beverages, 10 percent talked on their
cellphones and 10 percent did nothing.

Only 19 percent pulled over and took a nap. (The numbers
add up to more than 100 percent because many drivers tried
two or more of the tactics.)

"The characteristics we found frequently associated with
sleep-related crashes are those most prevalent in business
travelers," said Jane C. Stutts, associate director for
social and behavioral research at the University of North
Carolina Highway Safety Research Center and lead author of
"Why Do People Have Drowsy-Driving Crashes," a 1999 study
for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Those traits,
she said, are driving alone, at night, on long trips and on
long stretches of monotonous roadway.

Add to that all the other afflictions common to business
travelers like jet lag, sleepless nights in motels, and the
stress of meetings on the run, and you have a deadly
formula for highway accidents.

"Corporate American business executives are hard wired to
be workaholics," said Dr. Ronald Krall, a senior vice
president for worldwide development at GlaxoSmithKline and
a past president of the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation
in Washington. "They boast about how little sleep they need
and how long they work. They yawn or fall asleep at
meetings. Yet they don't see that as a risk or a problem
when they get in a car."

John Kauffman of the Hartford Financial Services Group in
Hartford, Conn., said companies should insist that their
employees follow specified safety guidelines - and noted
that it is in the companies' financial interest to do so.
Otherwise, he said, "the insurance costs, the damage to the
vehicle, injuries to the parties involved, lawyers' fees,
keep mounting," as do indirect costs like loss of
productivity.

For drivers who simply will not take a nap, a variety of
devices are available to keep them awake at the wheel,
though Darrel Drobnich of the National Sleep Foundation
said most "aren't worth the money."

Among them are Doze Alert and the Nap Zapper, mechanisms
worn behind the ear that buzz loudly if your head falls
forward; the Driver-Drowsiness Alert System, which uses
vehicle-mounted sensors to monitor driver behavior and
deliver a warning (including light, sounds and seat
vibration); and the Steering Attention Monitor that sets
off an alarm when abnormal steering movement is detected.

That last one has led to at least one success story. Dick
Middlekauff, 43, who says he drives 75,000 miles a year for
Ebiz-Innovations, an Internet-based company he owns, bought
the Steering Attention Monitor after "pushing it so hard"
on several 400-mile trips between Jacksonville, Fla., and
Atlanta that he would find himself at exits and not
remember how he got there. The first time he used it, he
said, "it beeped so many times I thought it was
malfunctioning," but when he realized that was not the
case, he pulled into a rest stop and took a nap.

A more high-tech gadget that records the driver's eyelid
movement, yawning, head nodding and other indicators and
sounds an alarm if they indicate extreme weariness is being
developed at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy,
N.Y., with financing from the Honda Motor Company and the
Air Force Office of Scientific Research. But it is not
expected to reach the market for at least five years.

In the meantime, those who make their living on the move do
what they have to do. After a frightening episode on the
Pennsylvania Turnpike, Cary Wolinsky, 55, a photographer
for National Geographic based in Norwell, Mass., started
taking Provigil, a prescription drug for sleeping disorders
and a favorite of workers needing a pick-me-up.

"I was driving all night, shooting on location at dawn,
then driving again to the next shoot," Mr. Wolinsky
recalled. "One night I drifted off and woke up just in time
to see my car fishtailing, perpendicular to the highway,
heading straight for a guardrail."

Driving to exhaustion may become illegal throughout the
country if other states follow the lead of New Jersey. This
month it became the first state to make driving while
fatigued, defined as not having slept in 24 hours, a form
of recklessness under its vehicular-homicide statute.

But even State Senator Stephen Sweeney, the Democrat who
sponsored the bill, acknowledged that getting drivers to
pay heed to the new restriction could be difficult. "No one
wants to admit they are fatigued, even us legislators," he
said. "After our last 36-hour marathon budget session,
other legislators said to me, `Thank God your bill isn't
law yet, or they could lock us all up.' "

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/26/business/26DOZE.html?ex=1062922721&ei=1&en=cd07dbebc7113442

---------------------------------

Cardinal999
09-05-03, 07:43 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/27/dining/27VIET.html?ex=1062970948&ei=1&en=073484185b65869d

At Ease in Vietnam, Asia's New Culinary Star

August 27, 2003
By R. W. APPLE Jr.

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam
IT is enough to daunt all but the most gluttonous of gastronomes.

Right by the door stand piles of rice from several different provinces, some with large grains, some with small grains, some darker, some lighter, each with a wholly different aroma. Down the aisle are banks of vividly green herbs and vegetables, with their hyperintense Asian scents and tastes, stunningly fresh despite the lack of refrigeration because they arrive direct from their growers in the middle of the night.

Many of the vegetables are Asian natives - bumpy bitter
melons, lotus stems, long beans, banana flowers, luffa
squashes and pungent Chinese celery. But others are
European transplants - delicacies like baby cress,
escarole, miniature artichokes and exquisite asparagus
(which the Vietnamese called "French bamboo" when French
colonial officials first imported it).

Over there is a cauliflower the size of a basketball. Over
here are mounds of delectable, unfamiliar fruit - enormous
knobby durians, which smell like rotting cheese but taste
like rich custard, and spiny little soursops, which yield a
sweet-and-tart juice that makes an unforgettable sorbet,
and horrid lipstick-pink dragon fruit. Breadfruit.
Jackfruit. Custard apples. Tamarind pods.

On the other side of a partition are caged chickens and
other fowl, squawking noisily, and all kinds of sea
creatures - iced squid, crabs tied with red ropes, clams
the size of silver dollars with ridged shells, carp
swimming in basins and tiger prawns that look as ferocious
as their namesakes, all overseen by a raucous corps of
vendors in rubber boots.

This is the tumultuous Ben Thanh market, which faces Quach
Thi Trang Square in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City. A
shedlike building with four entrances, it attests to this
country's peacetime bounty. Visit it, look around, join the
chattering, jostling crowd, listen to the noodle vendor's
spiel, grab a snack. That will put you in the right frame
of mind for the splendid meals that await you in a galaxy
of attractively designed, mostly new restaurants near the
big hotels here.

Restaurant cooking of real excellence has evolved in the
last 10 years, and particularly in the last three, with
bright young chefs innovating and adapting like their
brethren in other major Asian capitals. French and Chinese
and Indian influences remain, of course, the legacy of a
long and clamorous history, but something new and
manifestly Vietnamese is emerging.

Spring rolls and salad rolls on white tablecloths, you ask?
Absolutely, and in Ho Chi Minh City's better places they
might be filled with squid or grilled fish or chicken
instead of crab or shrimp and pork. Chefs have no qualms
about serving the traditional alongside the inventive: a
plate of fat rosy shrimp with satisfyingly sour tamarind
pulp, for instance, together with a plate of tiny quail
glazed with star anise and grilled with garlic and paprika.


My wife, Betsey, and I ate those two dishes, among others,
at Nam Phan, a luxurious villa decorated with antique
ceramics and scrolls. On our table, a single orchid floated
in a silver and black lacquer box.

Nothing so deluxe could ever have been found in Ho Chi Minh
City's former incarnation, wartime Saigon, where I was
based for almost three years as a correspondent. It would
have been easier to unearth a truffle. The ingredients
weren't available (too many roadblocks), nor were the cooks
(in the army). So we hung out in a series of joints that
flourished in a world of low expectations and minimal
competition.

On my return this year, I couldn't find any of them. Every
one has been swallowed up by the 35 years that have passed
since I left, but I remember them - a street-corner Basque
place called Aterbea, with a jai alai mural, where I ate
boudin noir, sautéed apples and mashed potatoes for lunch,
because it was good and because the wizened waiters assured
me it was what the Foreign Legionnaires had ordered, and
Amiral, where the resourceful Morley Safer gave a jolly
dinner party the same night that Truman Capote gave his
storied Black and White Ball in New York.

Also Cheap Charlie's, where my colleague Charlie Mohr (no
relation) taught me to pick up peanuts with chopsticks in a
grueling session the night after I arrived; the Arc en Ciel
in Cholon, where the taxi-dancers were more interesting
than the food; Les Affreux, the Ghastly Ones, a kind of
bistro-in-a-bunker run by Corsicans displaced from Algeria;
and the Guillaume Tell, down by the river, whose proprietor
used to drill holes in the bottoms of fancy bottles of wine
and refill them with plonk.

BUT back to Nam Phan, which is the latest venture of Hoang
Khai, a young entrepreneur who has quickly assembled a
group of a dozen Khai Silk shops, as notable for their
décor (a goldfish pond, complete with humpbacked
footbridge, graces the interior of one of them) as for the
chic clothes they sell. His restaurant, like his silk
business, is aimed not only at well-off travelers and
expatriates but also at the growing coterie of high-living
Vietnamese. With dinner checks averaging $100 or so a
couple, without wine, it is the town's costliest place to
eat.

The villa housing Nam Phan stands at the center of a walled
garden on the busy corner of Le Thanh Ton and Hai Ba Trung,
two of the city's main streets. Inside, though, all is
quiet. The high-ceilinged rooms are painted in grays,
taupes and whites, and furnished with a spare, modern
refinement rare in Vietnam; no 1930's nostalgia, no
Indochine tristesse here. A series of glassed, backlighted
niches, each holding a vase with a single flower, dominates
one wall.

"Ravishing,"</object.title> said Betsey, who is not easily swept off her feet.

I would say the same about the food, especially the salads.
One was made from grilled dried beef and the tender leaves
and crunchy stems of water spinach, a relative of the
morning glory. It was light and refreshing, just the thing
on a warm day. Another, more elaborate and more assertive
but equally appealing, included lotus stems, bits of pork
and tiny shrimp, fried shallots, chilies, mint, rau ram or
Vietnamese coriander and fish sauce. Tangy, fishy, sweet
all at once, it had the layers of flavor the Vietnamese
love.

Chicken and seafood were ground together to make the
unusual, ethereal spring rolls, which were served,
sparkling on the plate, in bite-size pieces.

But nothing, for me, matched the shrimp with tamarind
sauce. The pulp inside the tamarind pods, which look like
giant brown beans, had been sweetened just enough to
balance its sourness, and gobs of black pepper added a
contrasting punch. The combination was fabulous. I thought
of semisweet chocolate, but Betsey put the matter much more
aptly. "Spice candy," she said.

The plates and cutlery were good-looking and the service
was charming. The only jarring note, at least to us, was
the flag that we could see out the window - a yellow star
on a red field. Just then, it was hard to believe we were
in a Communist nation.

TWO of the other choice spots in town, Mandarin and Hoi An,
are located around the corner from each other. Both are
owned by another Vietnamese businessman, Pham Quang Minh,
and ably managed by an Australian, Frank Jones, a former
actor.

Hoi An specializes in the cooking of the central coast town
of that name, a photogenic little port whose food and
architecture were influenced by the Chinese, Japanese,
Dutch and Portuguese merchants who settled there in the
16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The restaurant is a
facsimile of an old dining house, with ideograms on the
walls and carved shutters dividing the rooms. Bonsai trees
and shrubs decorate various corners. The chairs are
ironwood.

In a typical example of central Vietnamese delicacy, the
flavor palette in Hoi An's spring rolls is limited to
shrimp and pork paste, black sesame seeds and Chinese
coriander, and the paper in which they are wrapped, made
from rice and cassava flour, is more brittle than most. The
salad rolls, which are just as elegant, arrive with a
miniature pagoda carved from a carrot.

Shrimp grilled in a banana leaf, another specialty, emerge
rich and buttery. Dipped in a concoct-it-yourself sauce of
lime juice and salt, they spoil you forever for shrimp
cocktails. Sumptuous, chili-laced beef and onions, served
inside a coconut, is vaguely South Indian in style; could
that be the influence of the Portuguese?

Though the rice noodles are not authentic (only those made
with water from a particular Hoi An well get the nod from
the purists), the ca lau here is luscious all the same:
thin slices of baconlike pork, butterflied shrimp and
crushed bits of crunchy sesame cake are piled onto the
broad noodles, and a bowl of clear, fragrant marrow-bone
broth is served on the side. The dish reminded me again of
the Vietnamese genius for making a lot from a little.

We went to Mandarin at the suggestion of Loren Jenkins, a
colleague of many years standing who is now the foreign
editor for National Public Radio. "As good a Vietnamese
meal as I've ever had," he announced when we ran into him
in Hue, and he was not that far off.

Mandarin brims with class. A pianist, a cellist and a
violinist play downstairs in the four-story, skylighted
building; dinner is served on big, handsome blue-and-white
plates; and shellfish, the house specialty, are delivered
directly from Nha Trang on the South China Sea several
times a week. Premium ingredients like abalone and shark's
fin dot the menu, at a price.

Throwing self-control to the winds, and fortified by a
couple of bottles of well-chilled Alsatian riesling from
Gustav Lorentz, we managed to work our way through creamy,
juicy bay scallops grilled in their shells and dressed with
chopped scallions, peanuts and herbs; a tuna salad, served
in a green mango, to be spread on rice crackers with a
chili sauce - that familiar Vietnamese blend of spicy,
fishy, salty, sour and caramelized tastes again, with so
much ginger that it left a stinging sensation on the lips;
a few pickles and other tidbits; and then a pair of
gargantuan crabs steamed in beer.

The crabs left a lasting impression, to say the least. They
had thick shells and big claws, like stone crabs, and they
gave up firm, moist, glacier-white lumps of meat, as big as
cherries, as sweet as you could ask.

En garde, Baltimore!

I MUST admit I wondered what I was
getting us into when we walked into Blue Ginger, a place
with Italianate arches and a tile floor. A "traditional"
Vietnamese band was having a go at "My Bonnie Lies Over the
Ocean."

But the menu held out promise, and the kitchen made good on
it. Beef rolls flavored with turmeric and lemon grass,
among other spices, wrapped in peppery la lot leaves and
grilled over charcoal, got us off to a good start. Long,
thin purple eggplants, roasted to a smoky, melting
succulence, combined beautifully with crumbly, spicy pork.
Fried chicken - we called it Eastern fried chicken - was
suffused with the heady taste of lemon grass.

A tureen of sweet-and-sour soup was dazzling in its
complexity, a far cry from the derisory brew served under
that heading in tens of thousands of Chinese restaurants
around the world. Among its ingredients were fiery
bird's-eye chilies, coriander, Thai basil, lime juice, fish
sauce, tomatoes, onions, star fruit and tiny, tender clams
closely resembling Neapolitan vongole.

The stylish Temple Club, one of the older upscale
restaurants in town, is an immensely cheerful place, where
the merest acknowledgment of waiters and busboys produces
faces creased with smiles. The hallway is lined with
ceramic elephants, lighted by oil lamps, and more lanterns
burn inside, casting dancing, romantic shadows onto the
bare brick walls.

First things first: the martinis were world-class. We
hugely enjoyed the black-lipped clams, steamed with a
chili-laced broth in a clay pot; the maître d'hôtel said
they had come from Vungtau, at the mouth of the Saigon
River. Duck breast, flavored with ginger, grilled over
charcoal, was served rare; in southeastern France, it would
have been called magret, and it could have been no better.
All Vietnamese fowl are free-range birds, and they taste
it.

Camargue is another matter altogether, a thatched,
two-story open-air pavilion where the European accents are
in the foreground. Seated upstairs, we dined by candlelight
with palm fronds dangling near us, overhead circular fans
beavering away and billiard balls clicking downstairs.
Feeling as louche as Bogart, we started with foie gras
(cool, firm, brightened by a Sauternes jelly, and
altogether respectable, if not quite up to the standard of
Chez L'Ami Louis) and vitello tonnato, as good a dish as we
tasted in all of Vietnam during a 10-day stay.

Large prawns, listed on the menu as gambas, grilled and set
on edge around a heap of remarkable, tarragon-infused
ratatouille, not only tasted fresh from the sea; they had
the supple texture that disappears in a split-second when
our own gulf shrimp are flash-frozen. One flaw: A lemon
butter sauce, which might have been fine in Lyons, seemed
far too heavy in the tropics.

But other things were just as they should have been: quick,
competent service from nattily uniformed waiters, crusty
mini-baguettes and the best wine list in town, with plenty
of classified-growth clarets (a rarity in Vietnam) and a
crisp, racy Pouilly-Fumé from Henri Bourgeois, a top-flight
grower.

Betsey and I were constantly reminded of New Orleans as we
moved through the languid streets that for me will always
constitute Saigon. It was all there: the humidity lying
over the city like damp cotton, the slow-moving river lined
with decaying warehouses, the oleander blossoms, the scent
of jasmine in the air.

And like New Orleans, Ho Chi Minh City is blessed not only
with terrific big-time restaurants but also with worthwhile
smaller ones tucked into nooks and crannies.

Got a lunch date? On Nguyen Thiep, a narrow street a couple
of blocks from the Caravelle Hotel in the center of town,
you will find three worthy choices.

Lemon Grass, a long room with minimally adorned white
stucco walls, does a mean green mango salad, with slices of
the fruit mixed with chopped peanuts, shallots and fish
sauce, and herb-scented grilled chicken kebabs. (Green
mango is not unripe, by the way; it is a special variety,
bred to be green.) Whole crab in pepper sauce is terrific;
the leathery fish cakes are not.

Globo, a bohemian bar and restaurant done up in black and
white, with zebra-striped fans and Tunisian folk art, is a
hangout for expats from all over, and Augustin, a bistro
you might think had been transported intact from 1930's
Paris, with a clientele that might very well have made the
trip with it. You will recognize a lot of old friends on
the menu - salade niçoise, entrecôte bordelaise,
profiteroles - and they are all well executed.

Cup of coffee? Brodard, established in 1932, will serve you
a fine one, with a perfect head of crema, with a slice of
house-made chocolate cake if you want. Drink a Pernod if
you are in the mood, or a delicious citron pressé (freshly
made lemonade, best with soda water). Or order one of the
juiciest steak frites in the city.

The place to go for a Vietnamese iced coffee, made by the
drip-drip-drip of water through an individual aluminum
filter, flavored with condensed milk, is Givral,
cater-corner from the Caravelle. Now as always, it is a
headquarters for young, giggling schoolgirls, a few of
whom, thank goodness, still wear the long and graceful ao
dais.

If old-fashioned cafes turn you off, head for the I-Box,
not far away, a youthful spot with a wildly funky décor.

Ice cream? The best you will find is at Kem Bac Dang, which
has several locations around the city. Try the longan,
kiwi, coconut or coffee, or spoil yourself with a luscious
soursop milkshake.

They used to call Saigon the Paris of the Orient because of
its lovely, tree-lined boulevards. The way things are
going, with eating out here becoming the kind of
preoccupation it already is in Hong Kong, Bangkok and
Singapore, they may one day call Ho Chi Minh City the Paris
of the Orient because of the quality of its restaurants.

---------------------------------

HALBLEU
09-10-03, 06:22 AM
Snacker's Paradise: Devouring Singapore's Endless Supper

September 10, 2003
By R. W. APPLE Jr.

SINGAPORE
"FOOD is the purest democracy we have," K. F. Seetoh said
as we dug into breakfast bowls of bak kut teh, a peppery,
restorative Teochew soup of pork ribs, mushrooms and
kidneys. "Singaporeans recognize no difference between bone
china and melamine."

Slurp, slurp. Yum, yum. The clear, aromatic broth, full of
tender, close-grained pork, perked up by herbs and whole
garlic cloves, was cooked in a hole in the wall next to a
busy expressway and eaten at a sidewalk table. Cab drivers,
teachers and a few junior executives slurped around us. Bak
kut teh is the city's preferred hangover remedy, and Ng Ah
Sio makes the best, which is why Mr. Seetoh took me there.

This was the start of 16 hours of almost continuous
talking and eating, with the rollicking Mr. Seetoh - "K. F.
stands for King of Food," he joked - as my guide and
noshing companion. Racing around this island city-state in
his Mitsubishi van, with two brief pauses to shower and
change clothes (eating in Singapore can be messy), we would
make 18 stops before midnight.

"Don't eat, just taste," he kept saying. I tried, but I
failed. More gourmand than gourmet, I finished much of what
was put before me at a dizzying array of food stalls,
storefronts and hawker centers, which are so called because
they were built by the government of Prime Minister Lee
Kuan Yew to get open-air food-sellers, or hawkers, off the
sidewalks and indoors.

Fish balls followed chwee kueh, soto ayam followed roti
prata and rojak followed chicken rice, in a multicultural
parade of gastronomic hits that issued, in most cases, from
SPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAM no longer than walk-in closets. With so little
overhead to defray, gluttony was cheap: $2 a plate on
average.

Singapore is one of the most food-mad cities in an ever
more food-mad world, with more than 6,500 restaurants and
11,500 food stalls jammed into its 250 square miles. They
offer Cantonese, Teochew, Hokkien, Hakka and Hainanese
dishes - all with roots in China - plus curries from south
India, tikkas from north India, Malay and Indonesian and
Thai specialties, and adaptations and mixtures of all of
them.

It adds up to a feast fit for the gods, but for the
ordinary visitor, even one who has been here often, it can
seem more like culinary chaos. Which is where Mr. Seetoh,
40, steps into the picture. Once by his own description "a
useless street kid," he skipped university, learned
photography in the army.

But food was his passion, and in 1998, he and Lim Moh Cher,
an equally enthusiastic eater, started a guide to street
food.

They called it Makansutra, from the Malay word for eat and
the Sanskrit word for a set of rules or maxims. It has
grown into a small empire, including a Web site and
television programs as well as an amazingly comprehensive
guidebook, whose current, 456-page edition contains
detailed information about thousands of eating places.

Now Singapore's unchallenged makan guru, instantly
recognizable in his trademark sunglasses and his crumpled
cap, Mr. Seetoh is greeted by one and all as he chugs by on
the yellow Vespa or the Canondale mountain bike he uses -
when he isn't lugging an elderly visiting makan maven
around town.

I THINK the knock on Singapore is way overdone. Sure, it's
squeaky clean and modern, but come on: does anyone actually
prefer the beggars, rubbish and shantytowns that deface
many large Asian cities? Not the poor souls who live in
them. It's plenty tough on miscreants, but hardly deserving
of William Gibson's woundingly dismissive tag line,
"Disneyland With the Death Penalty."

Under Goh Chok Tong, Lee Kwan Yew's successor,
individualism has gained a little more breathing room. The
longstanding and much-ridiculed ban on chewing gum has just
been relaxed. Censorship guidelines are currently under
high-level review. Nightclubs, once invisible, now throb
into the wee hours. And the louchest of Maugham's or
Conrad's characters would feel right at home in the seedy
bars and brothels off Geylang Road, east of the city
center.

Having spent many years bulldozing old buildings, Singapore
is now busy saving others and putting them to new uses. One
of these, a grandiose neo-Palladian pile close to the
Padang, the city's central green, was once the General Post
Office; now it is the Fullerton, a luxury hotel with one of
the city's best upmarket dining rooms, Jade. Having spent
years in headlong pursuit of Mammon, Singapore is now busy
chasing culture, as exemplified by the new, $343-million
Esplanade arts center, known colloquially as the Durian
because its spiky profile resembles that of a local fruit.

"We are witnessing many changes," said Tommy Koh, the
country's dynamic former ambassador to the United States
and the United Nations, who helped to bring many of the new
developments about.

One thing that hasn't changed is the Botanic Gardens,
founded in 1859, which I would nominate as the island's top
tourist attraction. Its brilliant orchid collection is the
world's largest, with 700 species and 3,000 hybrids, many
named after leaders like Elizabeth II and Nelson Mandela.

My wife, Betsey, and I ate the best European meal of our
recent stay in Singapore at Au Jardin Les Amis, a
restaurant in the gardens created by one of the city's
superstar chefs, Justin Quek. Small portions of worldly
food with punchy flavors - truffled sandre (pike-perch)
with girolles, rabbit with mustard sauce - were enhanced by
artful presentation on glacier-white plates, fine French
and Australian wines, lush flowers and silky service.

There were few Asian grace notes that evening, but for
lunch in a private dining room at Jade a few days later,
Sam Leong, another local culinary wunderkind, pulled
together a stunning pan-Asian, European-influenced menu.

A classic Peking duck with skin as crisp as parchment was
accompanied, for example, by five-spice duck foie gras.
Crisp prawns were served with wasabi mayonnaise. Meltingly
soft tofu, better than any I had ever tasted before, was
house-made with puréed spinach, like tagliatelle verde. A
jellied dessert was flavored with lemon grass. It was
Singapore on a plate, or rather several plates, brought up
to date: traditions blended without strain.

BUT back to Mr. Seetoh and the magical makan tour. From Ng
Ah Sio we headed west to the Tiong Bahru Cooked Food
Center, a low, shedlike structure adjacent to an apartment
complex.

We picked up one dish from each of the stalls that he
considered first-rate and carried them to the roofless
central courtyard of the building, where several tables sat
around an angsana tree.

"Always try the soup first," my food philosopher advised.
If it really stinks, he added, "call the police."

It didn't, even though it was (gulp!) my second bowl of pig
soup that morning - a rich, porky brew, full of chunks of
chitterlings, liver and spleen, made by Koh Brothers (no
relation to Mr. Koh). Incredibly, given the ingredients,
there was no acrid taste or aroma. I was reminded of the
ways the French transform tripe.

Next, fish balls, made of flaked fish and flour and fried
on the spot. "Too springy," Mr. Seetoh said.
"Inconsequential taste," I told myself, "and unappealing
texture."

Then onward to the cake stalls.

I had no complaints about humdrum flavor when I bit into
Jian Bo's famous chwee kueh, which are steamed rice cakes
topped with fried preserved radishes, called chai poh, and
chili. The radishes taste slightly of bitter chocolate, and
the chili provides a welcome bit of bite. People drive from
all over town to taste this dish.

Chai tau kueh was another winner - omelettelike savory
fried rice cakes with shredded radishes and carrots, topped
with sweetened soy sauce that resembles the Indonesian
kecap manis.

If my soy-stained notes are right, this tidbit is Hokkien,
cooked by people who trace their origins to Fujian
province, between Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Before we left Tiong Bahru, whose stall holders are all
ethnic Chinese, we tasted further evidence of the Asian
genius for making a lot from a little, in the form of mee
chiang kueh, a thick pancake filled with coconut and
peanuts crushed before our eyes in an ancient heroically
clanking and banging contraption.

But my favorite Tiong Bahru specialty was suckling pig
spit-roasted in the Cantonese style, right there in a
6-by-8-foot kitchen.

Remember the crackling on your mom's roast pork? Here they
never got rid of it. Thin layers of fat tucked between
layers of lean melted in my greedy mouth.

"That's char siew, my friend," Mr. Seetoh said. "These
people have been making this for 30, 40 years. Cooking is
not about creating and evolving for them. It's all
tradition."

LUNCHTIME (I kid you not). We stopped at the hotel to pick
up Betsey, who had spent the morning on more pressing
business, then swung by Nasi Padang River Valley for some
beef. Our porkfest was over. Nasi padang, named for a city
on the Sumatran coast, is a dish of rice (nasi) surrounded
by a variety of spicy side dishes - proto-rijstafel. The
star of River Valley's spread, which is laid out on
utilitarian metal tables, is beef rendang, a grainy,
coconut-based curry, made not with the usual off-cuts but
with juicy rib eye. No doubt that's why Malaysia's Prime
Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, stops there often.

Mr. Seetoh traded jibes with Zulfa Hamid, the chef, and
told me, much more soberly, that nasi padang had begun as
"desperation food," developed by the poor to make cheap
meat and fish more palatable.

From Indonesia, we traveled to Malaysia, gastronomically
speaking - to Janatul Jalan Kayu, a roti prata stand
halfway across town, tucked beneath a modern low-rise
building. There Anwar the roti master, decked out in yellow
sneakers and a kangaroo T-shirt, pounded and stretched a
large pancake, flipped it into the air like a practiced
Neapolitan pizzaiolo, slapped it onto a hot grill greased
with ghee, trapping air inside, and folded it like a
napkin.

The result was crisp and fluffy, absolutely perfect for
dipping into a rich, thick curry sauce and stuffing into
waiting mouths.

Almost next door, at a little stand called Inspirasi, we
tucked into bowls of soto ayam, which was the first
Singapore street food I ever ate, back in the late 1960's.
A gloriously full-bodied Javanese chicken soup, flavored
with galangal and star anise, it is garnished with parsley,
fried shallots and bean sprouts. Every day, hungry
customers line up 40 minutes before noon, when Inspirasi's
doors open. That's how Singaporeans feel about food, and
that's the reputation of this place.

"Food writing is a godly calling," Mr. Seetoh said,
smacking his lips. "Chefs are the soldiers who defend
Singapore's culinary heritage. They are my heroes. Without
them, it would all disappear in a few years."

A brisk crosstown dash ensued, to visit Karu's, a new
Seetoh discovery near the Bukit Gombak military base. All
but hidden by hardware stores and hubcap dealers, it serves
a breathtaking fish-head curry, laced with tamarind and
turmeric - another example of desperation food, created by
Indian cooks here from fish heads their British colonial
masters threw away.

Served on a banana leaf with tomatoes, okra and a superb
pilau of long-grain rice, the curry is eaten with the right
hand. No cheating with the left, and no fork.

Fish heads contain some of the most succulent flesh on the
animal, of course; cod cheeks are a delicacy much
appreciated in Spain (and increasingly in New York). But if
the whole idea seems too anatomical, don't despair. Chicken
rice, Singapore's all-time favorite dish, is made just for
you.

Chicken rice originated among the descendants of immigrants
from Hainan Island, in the South China Sea. It consists of
a whole bird poached in stock and cut into easily managed,
skin-on pieces, with aromatic rice sautéed in chicken fat
or oil, then boiled in stock with garlic and ginger. It may
sound unexciting, banal, white-on-white. But if the rice is
right, the dish has the allure of a fine risotto.

Everyone who serves it offers sliced cucumbers on the side
and a special condiment to flavor the chicken. At the
chicken-rice shrine where we ate, a modest stall beneath
the corrugated roof at the Maxwell Road Food Center, the
dipping sauce (lime peel, chili and garlic) packed a punch.


THAT evening, we stopped at the grandly named but
mundane-looking Old Airport Road Emporium and Cooked Food
Center for a few light hors d'oeuvres.

Of course we didn't need them, but moderation in the
pursuit of flavor is no virtue. So we sampled rojak, a
remarkably complex salad freshly assembled by an elderly
couple from turnips, pineapple, green mango, dried tofu,
peanuts, shrimp paste, tamarind paste, charcoal-grilled
crullers and many, many other ingredients; fried Hokkien
mee, an utterly addictive dish of egg noodles cooked with
cuttlefish, shrimp and pieces of belly pork, enlivened with
squirts of juice from a fresh lime; and that old skewered
standby, satay, made of chicken.

More morsels awaited at the Zion Road Food Center, but time
was fast running out. So it will have to wait until next
time.

We ended our peregrinations, for that day at least, at a
rickety table on the sidewalk at Sin Huat, a garishly
lighted seafood joint in Geylang, the red-light district.
Dishes arrived and vanished, arrived and vanished, amid
excited chatter from Mr. Seetoh and our first wine of the
day, brought by one of his buddies: sweet little bay
scallops in their shells, with black bean sauce; baby bok
choy with oyster sauce, not quite raw, not quite cooked,
and delicious; prawns steamed, tossed in a wok and showered
with blanched garlic.

But what we had come for, what has made the name of Danny
Lee, the chef, and what has earned Makansutra's ultimate
accolade, "Die, die, must try," was the crab bee hoon.
After a considerable wait (everybody waits at Sin Huat,
even the makan guru) a platter of huge, bright orange-red
crustaceans appeared. They were piled atop a tangle of rice
vermicelli, in a sticky sauce made from spring onions,
ginger, red chili and Mr. Lee's "secret stock." The
sweetness of the crabs and the tang of the spices had been
fried right into the noodles.

"Do you smell it?" Mr. Seetoh exclaimed, fanning the aroma
toward us with his hand. "Mama! Mama!"

It was the best crab dish we tasted in a city famous for
crabs. (All the top chefs, intriguingly enough, use the
meat-packed jumbos from Sri Lanka.) It was better than the
excellent, magnificently messy chili crabs at Roland's,
whose owner's parents invented the dish, and better than
pepper crabs laden with pungent, lip-searing, freshly
ground black Tellicherry pepper.

But more work lay ahead. The next morning, Tommy Koh's son,
Aun, a photographer, and Aun's slim, glamorous wife, Tan
Su-Lyn, an editor, took me to a traditional kopi tiam, or
coffee shop, where we ate another of Singapore's national
dishes, char kwey teow - broad, stir-fried rice noodles
with sausage and cockles, dressed with soy sauce as thick
as molasses - and then to Ya Kun, a 50-year-old cafe now
installed in a rehabbed Chinatown building.

Ya Kun's specialty is kaya roti, a dish created by Nonyas,
the female descendants of intermarriage between Chinese and
Malays. It consists of thin brown bread grilled over
charcoal, rather like melba toast but less dry, spread with
a rich egg custard and coconut jam. Starbucks, please copy!


Realizing that he had not yet exposed us to laksa, Mr.
Seetoh asked us to join him for lunch that day at a
favorite spot, Marine Parade Laksa, which has such a
following that imitators surround it. Often it sells 600
bowls of noodles a day, drenched in coconut chili curry and
flavored with daun kesom, also known as Vietnamese
coriander.

Peranakan cooking, the cooking of the Nonyas and
(occasionally) their male counterparts, the Babas, is
unique to Singapore, Malacca and Penang - the old Straits
Settlements. We saved it for last, as a summing-up of the
city's food culture. Saucers of tiny, bright-flavored local
limes and fiery sambal waited on every table at the House
of Peranakan Cuisine, and the menu was dotted with unusual,
complicated and, as it turned out, captivating dishes.

Three of them shot our lights out: otah-otah, spicy sticks
of mackerel paste wrapped in fresh banana leaves and
grilled over a smoky fire; chap chye, a mixture of lily
flower buds, cabbage, bok nee tree fungus and bean curd,
cooked in a clay pot; and ayam buah keluak, chicken cooked
with the black, nutlike fruit of the kepayang tree,
sometimes called the Asian truffle.

It is exacting and exhausting food to prepare, Bob Seah,
the restaurant's owner, told us, but "full of rare flavors
worth preserving for posterity." Like so many flavors and
aromas here in Singapore.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/10/dining/10SING.html?ex=1064200712&ei=1&en=14a9de07cec1aff0


---------------------------------

HALBLEU
09-10-03, 06:40 AM
Trading Tips on Travel Sites

July 29, 2003
By JOE SHARKEY


THANKS to the proliferation of wired and wireless Internet
connections in hotels, airports and other public places,
business travelers are spending more time than ever online
while on the road. And more and more, they're trading tips
on useful - and mostly noncommercial - Web sites to make
traveling a bit easier.

Here are some of the ones that I bookmark. Please send
along your own favorites.

Atop my bookmarks are two travel sites run by Internet
travel-news entrepreneurs, both mentioned in this space
before. Joe Brancatelli's www.joesentme.com is full of
smart commentary and useful links. John DiScala's
www.johnnyjet.com has many terrific links - compelling
enough to forgive Mr. DiScala the personal snapshots he
posts showing him with friends and celebrities all over the
world.

What time is it, anywhere? Bookmark www.timeanddate.com,
which delivers the time and date for anywhere in the world,
including places that insist on setting local time in
increments a half-hour or 15 minutes different from
everyone else.

One of the site's features is a "meeting planner" for
scheduling international conference calls. Type in the time
you want to make the call from one city and the planner
gives you the concurrent time in up to three other cities.

Say, for example, you want to call from your hotel in
Dallas to talk to the boss, who's on a trek in Katmandu,
and you also need to conference in traveling colleagues in
Dar es Salaam and Brisbane. A few clicks on the planner
show that a call made from Dallas at 10 a.m. conveniently
catches the boss after dinner (8:45 p.m. in Katmandu).
That's a no-sweat 5 p.m. in Dar es Salaam, but (sorry,
somebody has to stay up late) it's 1 a.m. the next morning
in Brisbane.

The site - which is run as a sideline by Steffen Thorsen a
programmer in Norway - also has a stop-watch feature that
lets you create a running countdown from one date and time
to another.

An indispensable site for air travelers is
www.seatguru.com, which provides seat charts and other
cabin information for all of the aircraft flown by six
major domestic airlines: American, Continental, Delta,
Northwest, United and US Air.

The site gives detailed information about seat pitches and
such things as which seats have power outlets for laptops.
Move your keyboard mouse onto specific seats and you get a
paragraph of remarks, including comments on which ones
should be avoided.

Lots of business travelers now book flights directly
through individual airline Web sites. A comprehensive list
of Web sites (and toll-free numbers) for most of the
world's airlines is at www.geocities.com/Thavery2000/.

Several sites provide real-time information on the status
of a flight. Two of the most popular are www.flightview.com
and www.flightexplorer.com/fasttrack.asp.

Doing your expense account and stumped over what the
exchange rate was on any given day for those euros, pounds,
yen, zlotys, bahts, pesos or dinars you spent on the road?
Conversion calculators for 164 world currencies - with
rates back to 1990 - can be found at www.oanda.com.

How far is it? You can very quickly get the distance
between world cities in miles, kilometers and nautical
miles at www.indo.com/distance, a site run by an Internet
travel company based in Indonesia.

And if, like me, you're often baffled by those three-letter
airport codes (JFK and LAX are intuitive, but MSY for New
Orleans?), a database matching cities to more than 9,000
worldwide airport codes is available at
www.airportcitycodes.com. The site also lets you calculate
the distance and average flight time between any two
airport codes.

Headed for New York, Tokyo, Paris, London, Chicago, Los
Angeles (yes, L.A.), Hong Kong or any of the dozens of
other major cities with subways? System maps and detailed
information are available at www.subwaynavigator.com.

Looking for more detailed information about a country than
the stuff in guide books? Killing a few hours online at
your hotel or airline club? Check out www.nationmaster.com,
operated by Luke Metcalfe, a 26-year-old Web developer from
Sydney, Australia. It's an astounding and easy-to-use
collection of facts, statistics, charts, maps and trivia on
every country in the world. Mr. Metcalfe, who calls himself
a "stat freak," said the inspiration for the site came from
the highly regarded C.I.A. World Factbook.

Everybody complains about the weather, and with good
reason, since it's one of the most difficult elements of
basic news to find without plowing through a lot of
claptrap, even online. On the big commercial online news
and weather sites, the same hucksters who brought us
pseudoscientific silliness like the heat index and wind
chill factor are clearly in charge, and getting a simple
weather report is more complicated than it needs to be. For
domestic cities, at least, I prefer the no-nonsense
approach of the National Weather Service at
www.nws.noaa.gov. There's a map. You click on it.
Bata-bing: there's the weather report.

What kind of food will you get on a flight? Check
www.airlinemeals.net, a virtual cornucopia of airline menus
present and past, with photos.

And if you're wondering what's on your flight attendant's
mind as she or he hands you that bag of pretzels, browse
www.skychick.com. Started by female flight attendants, it
also has a "Skyguy" link for male flight attendants. But
the site is pretty much gender neutral, with lists of
things like rants against passengers and flight attendant
slang. There's also a list for the most experienced flight
attendants entitled, "You Know You're a `Skybag' If . . ."
No. 12 on the list is, "If you can match the entire
business class shot for shot." No. 16 is, "If you excitedly
announce that the inflight movie is a `talkie.' "


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/29/business/29ROAD.html?ex=1060580024&ei=1&en=c7108bf3d970cfe1


---------------------------------

HALBLEU
10-03-03, 04:36 AM
Gadgets to Go: A Little Something for the Road

September 30, 2003
By SUSAN STELLIN


The prevailing image of the business traveler is a
laptop-toter with a cellphone attached to one ear and some
kind of hand-held device stashed in a coat pocket.

But at a time when most executives consider business travel
as stressful as going to the dentist or doing their taxes,
according to a recent survey by Microsoft, dig a little
deeper into those carry-on bags and you'll find that some
of the gadgets they treasure the most have more to do with
making the trip bearable than with actually getting work
done. Audio players, digital cameras, DVD players and
noise-canceling headphones are just some of the toys they
say they rely on to drown out the drudgery of being away
from home.

Take Nicholas Menaker, vice president for operations of a
software company in Redwood City, Calif., whose carry-on
bag is something of an electronic survival kit for long
flights and lonely hotels. Among its contents are a digital
camera, a pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones, an iPod
(with music "all legally downloaded") and a handful of
DVD's to play on his laptop. He also says he has figured
out how to use his TiVo at home to transfer TV shows for
playing on his laptop.

Mr. Menaker is most attached to the headphones, Bose's
QuietComfort 2, which not only produce high-quality sound
but also actively block out the roar of aircraft engines,
chatty seatmates and unhappy infants - even when there's no
audio input.

"If I'm flying, those headphones are a lifesaver," he said.
"For somebody who travels a great deal, you don't realize
how much bombardment you get from the aircraft sound - it
wears you out."

Not that he is entirely oblivious to his fellow travelers.
Mr. Menaker said he got so many inquiries about what he was
listening to on his iPod digital music player that he
finally bought a y-splitter for the device so curious
seatmates could listen along. He also does not mind the
occasional voyeur who watches whatever movie is playing on
his computer - albeit, without sound.

"Nobody's ever said anything, but people certainly lean
over and watch," he said. "You can't watch anything too
racy, of course. I rented 'Y Tu Mamá También' the other
day, and I was like, I'm going to have to turn this one
off."

Although someone, somewhere must have conducted a survey
about what gadgets business travelers take on the road,
such data are hard to come by. Representatives of half a
dozen organizations that gather research about the travel
industry said that they had not heard of such statistics,
and even estimates about how many people travel with
laptops is sparse.

Part of the reason may be that the topic is a moving
target, as business travelers ditch their laptops to clear
airport security quicker, or take them on longer trips but
not short ones. As Brad Garner, a spokesman for Smith
Travel Research, pointed out, any survey would probably
result in "something arbitrary, like someone stood at the
security gate and just counted."

But a poll conducted about a year ago by American Express
International at least revealed business travelers'
preference for tuning in rather than booting up while
aloft. Among 1,400 business travelers asked which single
amenity they would keep in flight, 38 percent chose
on-board entertainment versus 31 percent who said a laptop.
(Respondents were from 14 countries, leaving open the
possibility that American frequent fliers are more likely
to hunker down with a spreadsheet.)

Other devices they bring along on their trips include
Global Positioning System trackers and radar trackers,
e-books and audio books, digital restaurant guides, game
joysticks and special reading lights.

Some gadget-toting business travelers are quick to point
out that their audio players and noise canceling headphones
do in fact make them more productive. For instance, Gary
Manton, director of sales and marketing for a technology
company - who is on the road from his home office in
Phoenix two weeks a month - said by keeping his Bose
noise-canceling headphones on even with no audio, he
arrives at his destination without feeling drained by the
flight.

"I did a trip to Chicago without them and was absolutely
miserable," he said, offering the eyebrow-raising
explanation that one of his dogs ate his headphones. "So I
came back and got new ones. The background noise on a plane
really has an impact on you, and you don't notice it until
you've worn noise cancellation headphones."

With a retail price of $299, the Bose QuietComfort 2
headphones are more expensive than products offered by
competitors, but the company says 80 percent of its
customers use them every time they travel. Explaining how
they work, Dan Gauger, a Bose engineer, said a microphone
listens to unwanted ambient noise, then a circuit board
calculates and produces its mirror image, which is fed to a
speaker that simultaneously emits "the sound to cancel
unwanted noise as well as whatever you do want to hear -
it's like having a volume control for the world."

Besides the headphones, Mr. Manton said he typically took
an MP3 player and was shopping for a portable DVD player
because his computer battery did not last long enough to
get through a film.

"The last time I tried to watch a movie on this laptop, I
missed the last 20 minutes," he said, explaining that he
preferred to bring his own movies rather than rely on
whatever the airline was showing. "Most of the airlines are
now going to the same movie for the entire month - I think
I saw 'Chicago' seven times."

Jonathan Slater, president of a boutique buyout firm in
Boston, has a different reason for buying a portable DVD
player: now that he has a BlackBerry, he rarely travels
with a laptop. "When you're traveling, space and lightness
is everything," he said. "I can't remember the last time I
took a computer."

Even so, for trips on the Acela train from Boston to New
York, he takes a pair of "very small Sony noise-canceling
headphones - these are the tiniest things in the world."

Catherine Pfeiffenberger, who works in business development
for a construction company in Manhattan, is even more
minimalist when she travels, taking just her BlackBerry and
a cellphone. So what does she do for entertainment? She
flies JetBlue to Los Angeles twice a month primarily
because of the satellite TV at every seat, she says, even
though she has elite frequent-flier status on American
Airlines. "Even though I'm American gold - so I get double
miles and I could probably upgrade and they serve food - I
still like to watch the television."

"For me, it's just a good distraction," she said. "The last
time I was coming back, A&E had the entire season rerun of
'MI-5' - I watched the whole thing. On the plane you can
turn into a couch potato."

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/30/business/30gadg.html?ex=1065900109&ei=1&en=6462c0d1dcfcf6b9

---------------------------------

HALBLEU
10-05-03, 05:31 PM
A Nomad Among Nomads in Mongolia

October 5, 2003
By MICHAEL BENANAV





MONGOLIA is a boundless wilderness of rugged mountains,
vast deserts and expansive steppes. Twelve times the size
of New York State, it is home to just 2.6 million - fewer
than reside in Brooklyn and Staten Island. With no
terrorist factions and a highway system made up mainly of
dirt tracks, it was a perfect place for me to travel in my
favorite manner - hiking through remote areas untouched by
tourism.

I was drawn to the Altai Nuruu, Mongolia's highest and
farthest-flung mountain range, which forms the western
border with China. A burly, snow-capped rampart topping
14,000 feet, it is laced with streams along which thousands
of nomads herd camels, yaks, goats, horses and cows in
summer. I planned, then pioneered, a 250-mile solo trek
through this region last summer.

Since little written information exists about the Altai, my
primary logistical resources were aeronautical charts - the
most detailed maps of Mongolia obtainable in the United
States. Seeking an old-school adventure, I shunned devices
like a satellite phone or G.P.S., relying instead on my
skills as a veteran wilderness guide. After completing my
three-week tramp, I spent another three weeks touring
Mongolia's more popular sites, sharing privately hired vans
with other travelers.

I arrived in Ulan Bator, Mongolia's capital, on an
overnight flight from Los Angeles via Seoul. I took a
battered cab to the U.B. Guesthouse, in the city's center,
which I had read about in a guidebook. It's the kind of
place where $4 (at 1,142 tugrik to the dollar) buys a bunk
in a clean dorm room with Continental breakfast and
reliably hot showers. The atmosphere is congenial, communal
and crowded, as an international blend of tourists,
early-20's to mid-60's, sit in the living room, swapping
stories and meeting temporary traveling companions. Kim
Chong Su, the guesthouse owner, showed me to a room where I
claimed one of four beds.

Soon after, I walked across the street to the Mongolian
Airlines office and bought a one-way ticket for $147 to
Khovd, a town some 850 miles west of Ulan Bator, on the
Altai Nuruu's eastern flank.

With a full day before my flight, I had time to buy maps
and visit the Buddhist monasteries where Ulan Bator's
spiritual heart beats, including the Gandan Khiid, where
people spin prayer wheels outside a temple that houses an
80-foot-tall statue of a golden bodhisattva, swathed in
silk. At the nearby sanctuary, Bakula Rinpoche,
distressed-looking locals consulted with red-robed lamas,
who recited prayers from strips of paper. The air resonated
with the rhythm of chants and drums and gongs.

Secular Ulan Bator was more mundane. Eroded apartment
complexes enclosed sad little squares with shabby jungle
gyms as centerpieces. Most locals wore knock-off Western
fashions, and many carried cellphones on their hips.

Ever budget-conscious, I usually ate in any of Ulan Bator's
nearly identical canteens, called guanz, stuffing myself on
buuz (mutton dumplings), khuushuur (deep-fried dough
stuffed with mutton) or mutton soup for under a dollar.
Though the city's water is rumored to be potable, I stuck
to bottled.

A three-and-a-half-hour flight on a creaky Russian A-24
propeller plane carried me to Khovd. Upon arrival, a
Mongolian passenger, whose bag reeked from a bottle of
vodka broken in transit, offered me a lift to the Hotel
Khovd. I took a cleanish two-room suite with a sink and
toilet for $4.50, showering for 50 cents at the nearby
public bathhouse. The hotel restaurant served the best
mutton in town for about a dollar.

The center of Khovd, whose uninspired architecture betrays
Mongolia's past as a Soviet satellite, was surrounded by a
pastoral paradise, revealing the country's deeper nomadic
roots. Hundreds of gers - the round, white felt-and-canvas
yurts in which many Mongolians dwell - stretched across a
flood plain ringed by rose-colored crags. Women scrubbed
laundry on the riverbanks. Children frolicked in the water.
Boys galloped bareback on colts. Eagles cruised overhead.

Shopping at the outdoor market, where packaged goods and a
slim variety of vegetables are sold from truck containers,
I bought $3 worth of noodles, rice, cheese, bread and
chocolate, which I hoped would last the five days I thought
it would take to reach the first of two mountain villages.

The next morning I embarked on my trek, carrying in my
50-pound backpack everything I needed to survive. The
initial leg of my route followed the Buyant Gol (gol means
river) upstream from Khovd some 60 miles, through a break
in the mountains to the interior of the Altai range. After
I had hiked for four strenuous days, fording the river
countless times, the canyon opened into a breathtaking
amphitheater of sweeping green slopes pierced by rusty
scarps, flecked by light and shadow. A thunderhead rumbled
across the far side of the basin, trailing rain like a
mourning veil between pillars of sunlight that punctured
the clouds. My blisters had conclusively not been in vain.

Over the next 14 days, I hiked another 190 miles, mostly
south through a network of valleys. I discovered in the
Altai a diverse amalgam of environments; I walked below
massive glaciers, through rolling, grassy highlands, and
between parched desert cliffs. The two hamlets in which I
restocked - Rashaant and Jargalant - had little more to
offer than noodles, rice and chocolate bars whose wrappers
bore pictures of Leonardo DiCaprio and the word
<object.title class="Movie" idsrc="nyt_ttl"
value="158894;174347;113936;158905;50122">"Titanic"</object.title> in
Cyrillic. Since no land in Mongolia is privately
owned, I pitched my tent wherever I pleased. Though I never
saw another foreigner, I often spent time with the Altai's
nomads, few of whom had ever met a Westerner and many of
whom belonged to Mongolia's ethnic minority of Kazakh
Muslims. I could not pass a ger without being invited in.

Without fail, bowls of salty, milky tea were poured even
before I sat down on the felt carpets laid over bare dirt.
Plates of food like goat cheese, dried sour curd, fried
dough and homemade butter were spread on low tables.
Multicolored tapestries hung on lattice walls. Dung-fired
wood stoves blazed. My hosts were always curious and
open-hearted. Photos from home, along with my phrase book,
helped bridge the language gap, as we chatted in tents
bigger than some Manhattan apartments.

I watched women spin raw wool into yarn, smudge-faced
children wrestle with one another and young men return from
a horseback hunt with their quarry - marmots. While all
nomads ride horses, some have adopted more modern, less
reliable mounts. Once, I "helped" herd yaks while riding on
the back of a Russian-made motorcycle, chasing the shaggy
beasts over rutted fields and shallow creeks to their
evening pasture.

My trek ended at the village of Bulgan Sum. From there, I
hired a jeep and driver for the 11-hour bounce ($40) back
to Khovd, then flew to Ulan Bator.

My next destination was the Gobi Desert, which engulfs the
southern third of Mongolia. I organized the trip the way
most budget travelers do - by hiring a driver and a Russian
four-wheel-drive van (called a furgon) through a guesthouse
for $35 a day and stocking up on food from Ulan Bator's
markets. I split the costs with five Israelis I met at the
U.B. Guesthouse who joined me. But our tour ended abruptly
on Day 1 after our driver sank our furgon into a bog, then
had a heart attack. He survived, and our money was refunded
back at the hotel.

One of the Israelis, Natan Melamed, and I then took public
furgons to the outpost of Bayangobi, 500 miles southwest of
Ulan Bator on the desert's edge; the estimated 16-hour trip
became a grueling 30 because of a cracked brake drum, a
broken accelerator and frequent overheating.

In Bayangovi, we haggled with a local driver for a vehicle
to take us southeast through the desert to Dalanzadgad for
$135 each, stopping at the major attractions along the way.
His furgon looked sickly, but we were glad to finally head
into the Gobi.

Our driver, a 22-year-old named Saikhan, masterly
maneuvered cratered roads as we crossed the arid expanse.
Bony pinnacles punctuated the infinite flats, looking like
islands rising from a mirage-created sea, as temperatures
surpassed 100 degrees, both outside and inside the van.

Our six-day tour included the little-visited oasis of
Burkhant, where coal-black hills speckled with green brush
meet peach-colored granite domes; and Bayanzag, a sandstone
bluff where where the Central Asiatic Expedition of 1922,
sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History, became
the first team to unearth dinosaur eggs; the cliffs
eventually yielded fossils of more than 100 prehistoric
species.

We moved on to Yolyn Am, a bird sanctuary in a rugged
canyon, and to Khongoryn Els, a 60-mile crescent of pale,
serpentine dunes, some of them 2,600 feet high. Natan and I
climbed a whale fin of sand, sat atop a wind-carved cornice
and watched the sunset drape the land in lavender.

Every night, we cooked simple dinners of noodles and rice,
then unrolled our sleeping bags under warm, clear skies. We
drew water from wells with buckets made from old tires,
while swarmed by thirsty Gobi grazing goats.

We arrived in Dalanzadgad dusty and weary but satisfied,
carrying something of the immense vistas away with us. With
no time to rest, we boarded a public furgon for a 16-hour
overnight ride to Ulan Bator.

Once back at the U.B. Guesthouse, which by now felt like
home, I was promptly invited to join two French business
students and three young Belgian doctors (four women and
one man) on a six-day furgon excursion to north-central
Mongolia, which cost $75 each, including food and a driver.


We drove north a day to the centuries-old Amarbayasgalant
Monastery, tucked in a lush mountain valley, where
prepubescent monks in saffron headdresses announced prayers
by blowing into conch shells. Then we turned west toward
Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur, a secluded finger-shaped lake that
fills an ancient crater approximately 10 miles long. We
rented horses ($4.50 each) for an afternoon from a nomadic
family camped along its shores, then rode alongside
crumpled lava fields eerily forested with skeletal fir
trees and raced one another over grassy slopes, whooping
with delight.

We shared chores, cooking and doing dishes in high spirits,
and conversed in a combination of English and French around
our campfire, retiring to our tents well after midnight.

Our collective bliss peaked at Tsenkheriin Hot Springs, a
day's drive south of the lake, where the soothing waters of
a rock-lined pool soaked away the dirt and aches of the
road. The following morning, we headed to the Orkhon
Waterfall for our final night together. Camped in a
sensuous cleft in the Khangai Mountains, beside a river
that plunged over a volcanic precipice, we toasted our
friendship with Genghis Khan vodka. After a few hours'
sleep it was back to Ulan Bator to catch a plane home.

For $20 a day over six weeks, I had one of the great
adventures of my life. The possibilities of traveling in
Mongolia, even on a budget, are as vast as the land itself.


Getting There and Around

I flew Korean Air from Los Angeles to Ulan Bator. A ticket
cost about $1,300; I used frequent-flier miles. I flew
within the country on Mongolian Airlines. My flights
between Ulan Bator and Khovd were about $150 each way. Most
of my travel within Mongolia was on shared jeeps or
minivans. It is a good idea to carry extra food and water
and to plan on extra time for such trips, as breakdowns and
long delays are common. Altogether, I spent an average of
$20 a day on food, lodging and transportation.

Preparation

No visas are required for American citizens
for stays of up to 90 days. Visitors planning to stay in
Mongolia for more than 30 days are required to register
with the Immigration, Naturalization and Foreign Citizens
Agency in Ulan Bator during their first week of arrival and
must sign out before leaving the country. No vaccinations
are required, but travel medicine specialists may recommend
some.

Many Mongolians speak Russian but very few speak English. A
Mongolian phrase book (Lonely Planet publishes one) is
useful.

Accommodation and Food

The cheapest places to stay in Ulan Bator are called
guesthouses, about $4 a night. Reservations at U.B.
Guesthouse, where I stayed in Ulan Bator, can be made by
e-mail: ubguest@hotmail.com. Outside Ulan Bator, hotels
generally cost $2.50 to $5 a night. Mutton and dough
products like noodles and dumplings are dining staples; you
can easily be filled for $1. Nomads never charge for their
hospitality.

Navigating and the Outdoors

When packing clothing, prepare for wide temperature
fluctuations; it may be 100 degrees in the Gobi and snowing
in the mountains. In the countryside, shorts are considered
inappropriate. For those who will be camping, U.B.
Guesthouse supplies tents, sleeping bags and stoves for
trips it organizes, but you have more freedom if you take
your own.

A wide variety of maps can be purchased at the State
Department Store or the Map Shop, both in Ulan Bator. Buy
one in Cyrillic, so Mongolians will be able to read it. The
International Travel Maps map of Mongolia, sold through
many sources on the Internet, can be confusing, since the
place names are outdated.

MICHAEL BENANAV is a freelance writer who lives in Dixon,
N.M.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/05/travel/05mongolia.html?ex=1066402468&ei=1&en=667edaab906830cf

---------------------------------

HALBLEU
10-14-03, 08:57 AM
You, Too, Could End Up in the Presidential Suite

October 14, 2003
By JANE L. LEVERE


In a recent commercial for Lexus car dealers, a desk clerk
tells a weary traveler his room is not available because
the hotel is overbooked, but he can have one on another
floor at the same rate. When the guest opens the door, he
finds himself in the presidential suite, complete with
floor-to-ceiling windows, a piano, ice sculpture and hors
d'oeuvres, the last two obsequiously delivered by the clerk
who checked him in.

Getting an upgrade to the presidential suite isn't so easy
these days. Hotel loyalty programs are less generous than
they were a few years ago, while hotels are more likely to
give special treatment to a small class of executives like
meeting planners, corporate travel managers and chief
executives as a way to woo or retain their business. Even
so, it can happen to you, if you play your cards right and
get lucky.

The first step, experts agree, is to become an elite
participant in a hotel company's loyalty program. Murray
Hambrick, a computer software consultant in Tampa who
travels 225 nights a year, is a case in point.

Mr. Hambrick, a platinum member of the loyalty program of
Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, has stayed at one of
its hotels, the Westin Embassy Row in Washington, a total
of three months this year and was upgraded to the
presidential suite for five days during one visit. It had
two bathrooms, two bedrooms and a living room "where we
could have played a football game," Mr. Hambrick said.

"This was probably the general manager's way of thanking me
for my business," he said. "And it must have been a slow
week."

Stephen Hartman, a Baltimore-based sales manager for a
radio company, got a similar reward in May. A diamond-level
participant in Hyatt's loyalty program, Mr. Hartman
unexpectedly received the presidential suite at the new
Hyatt Regency in Jersey City; the hotel's general manager,
who formerly had worked at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan,
knew Mr. Hartman from his previous stays there.

For $249, Mr. Hartman found "very modern, very comfortable
décor, a suite that was more than double the size of my
first apartment when I first started in the radio business
and almost floor-to-ceiling windows that gave the most
incredibly romantic view of Manhattan I've ever had."

Another way to get a presidential suite upgrade, said Bjorn
Hanson, who oversees the hospitality practice at
PricewaterhouseCoopers, is "to have something go wrong so
the hotel will try to make it up to you - you might get the
suite depending on the egregiousness of what was done or
not done."

Take Gerald Rothstein, a managing director in New York for
CIBC Capital Partners. Several years ago, Mr. Rothstein
stayed twice at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly
Hills, Calif. On his first visit, he had problems checking
in and described them on the guest-satisfaction form. On
his arrival the second time, he said, "The manager said,
'Let me take you to your room, I think you'll like it.' ''

Did he ever. Occupying half of the top floor of one of the
hotel's two buildings, it had a wrap-around terrace with
views of downtown Los Angeles, several bedrooms, a dining
table that seated at least a dozen people and a living room
that Mr. Rothstein said could accommodate a cocktail party
for 25 "without anyone being crowded."

"Like most of these stories, this one gets told over and
over again," he said. "In my opinion, that's great business
for them."

Hotel guests complain all the time, of course, but even the
most loyal rarely get such royal treatment. When Marc
Neikrug, the concert pianist, got such treatment at the
Château Laurier in Ottawa a few years ago, he figures, his
celebrity and perhaps the universal "you scratch my back
I'll scratch yours'' mentality played a role. Here's what
happened: Checking in at midnight, he discovered a dresser
full of dirty women's underwear in his room. The next day,
a colleague described the experience to the concierge on
the hotel's executive floor, who as it happened was a music
lover to whom Mr. Neikrug had previously given concert
tickets. "At lunchtime," he said, "I got a message, 'Could
they move me?' ''

They could, and did - to the presidential suite, with a
dining room, fully equipped kitchen, huge bedroom and
dressing room and equally huge bathroom. He stayed for four
nights, giving a dinner party on one of them. "It was like
being in a very wealthy person's home," he said.

For most business travelers, such an outcome might be a
long shot, but they should not be shy about trying for it,
experts say. "The front desk has the final say of who gets
what room," said Greg Leyser, a marketing executive with
Deloitte & Touche in Chicago. "If you're friendly and
courteous and if you ask nicely, it never hurts; the agent
might be more inclined to help you." Another tack that he
recommends is letting the hotel know in advance if it is
your birthday or anniversary.

Or your honeymoon. Dirk Johannwerner, an
information-technology-security consultant for
Stadtsparkasse Köln, a bank in Cologne, Germany, let the
Marriott World Trade Center in New York know in April 2000
that he would be arriving soon with his new bride and
wondered if they could provide a "nice room." The hint was
not subtle and neither was the room they got, with its
Steinway and spectacular views of the Hudson River and
Statue of Liberty.

Randy Petersen, publisher of Inside Flyer, a magazine that
covers travel-loyalty programs, suggests making a joke of
your request. "You can say, 'By any chance, is that big
presidential suite available? I just feel important
tonight,' '' he said. But, he added, "You shouldn't demand
it or tell them it's your entitlement."

The squeaky wheel really does get the oil, though. Della
Maricich, a trade-show-exhibit designer and producer from
Seattle and a diamond participant in Hilton's loyalty
program, says she often gets results from requesting
upgrades to "the best available suite" when she makes
online hotel bookings. Over the last few years, this has
landed her the presidential suite at the Noga Hilton in
Cannes, France, with amenities like a Jacuzzi and several
balconies, and the presidential suite at the Baltimore
Hilton and Towers, which occupied the entire 23rd floor and
had its own guest and staff elevators. In both cases, she
paid $150 a night, and in both, she gave cocktail parties.

Yet another way to increase your chances of snagging the
presidential suite is to check in very late when all the
other rooms might just be gone. It worked for Stephanie
Dickey, a sales executive in Houston, a few years ago when
she arrived at the Renaissance Waverly Hotel in Atlanta at
5 a.m. after extensive flight delays. It turned out to be a
less than pleasant experience, though, because the hotel
downgraded her to a lesser room for the second night. She
is still miffed about that.

And indeed, seemingly small matters can outweigh large acts
of generosity in the minds of many business travelers. For
all Mr. Hambrick's fond memories of the presidential suite
at the Westin in Washington, for example, they do little to
allay his annoyance over the chain's $2 charge for local
calls or its refusal to provide free breakfasts to
elite-level participants in its loyalty program. "I value
these more than the presidential suite," he said.

Readers are invited to send stories about business travel
experiences to businesstravel@nytimes.com.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/14/business/14pres.html?ex=1067159705&ei=
1&en=ed06b43e53d588c8

Cardinal999
11-03-03, 09:17 AM
Regardless of its political freaks and nuts, San Francisco is a great town to visit. (Better than your town of Seattle. Bleu!) [LOL! ]

/// ***
3 Cities, 3 Days, 3 Budgets | $500: San Francisco for Less Gold
November 2, 2003 By MEGAN HARLAN
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/02/travel/02sanfran.html?ex=1068721991&ei
=1&en=7444c82b6aa84cff

SAN FRANCISCO may have swooned, for a while, over the
$1,000 tasting menus and college-dropout millionaires of
the dot-com boom. But since the economic and tourism
slumps, the city not only offers deals to travelers, but
its arts scene - as if awakened from a nap - seems
refreshed and ready for work. Call it the creative upside
of the downturn.

My assignment - or challenge, as I thought of it - was to
spend an inexpensive cultural weekend in San Francisco. A
$500 budget was to cover a marathon run of the city's arts
scene for myself and my husband, Matthew, and food and a
hotel.

I wanted to see a play, hear live music, and view as much
art as I could process in a weekend. For events, I relied
on Citysearch.com and SFArts.org (the latter, sponsored by
San Francisco Arts Monthly, is a boon for budget travelers,
allowing searches for free events by date).

But we did much more: besides seeing a play, we logged five
music performances, a poetry festival, dance recital,
walking tour and dinner at a trendy new restaurant. I
visited more than a half-dozen museums and galleries. We
kept stumbling across artistic happenings; short of hiding
in a Gap dressing room, it seemed we couldn't avoid them.

None of this would have been feasible without an affordable
hotel - and as San Francisco residents, we knew the
challenge this could pose. So my very first task was to
scour listings on sites like Expedia and Orbitz, where I
found bargains in the $120 range. Still, I felt I needed to
go cheaper, and settled on the Andrews Hotel, two blocks
west of Union Square, with $99 rooms for the warm,
late-September weekend we checked in.

Built in 1905 as a Turkish bathhouse and now affiliated
with the stylish local hotel management company Joie de
Vivre, the 48-room Andrews doesn't scream hip. But the
reservation for our clean, cozy, queen-bed room decorated
in floral prints, with full bath, came directly through the
Andrews, so I avoided fees from discount travel Web sites.
Another plus was that the Andrews offers a disappearing
luxury at downtown San Francisco budget hotels: Continental
breakfast is included. This proved crucial to staying
within our means.

With tax, two nights came to $225.72. That left $274.28 to
eat, drink and make merry. Friday evening, we kicked things
off on a thrifty note with free glasses of wine - one per
guest per night from 5:30 to 7 p.m. - offered by the
Andrews at Fino, a restaurant off the lobby (tip: $2).

Just around the corner, we enjoyed a quick pretheater
dinner at Akiko Sushi Bar. The mint-green space is tiny,
the sushi fat and fresh. Two chef's specials, one with a
large beer, cost $25.16.

For theater choices, I'd considered "Les Liaisons
Dangereuses" by the wonderful American Conservatory Theater
at the Geary Theater, a block from the Andrews. That
afternoon, I visited the TIX Pavilion, Union Square's
discount ticket counter, which had $70 orchestra seats at
half price (still too much), with second-balcony seats
running $19. I chose instead $16 tickets for the West Coast
premiere of David Lindsay-Abaire's postmodern comedy,
"Wonder of the World," playing at the Eureka Theater, a
200-seat classic black space a 10-minute walk away. After
the funny, frisky production, we nibbled brie at the cast
party, and decided that this experience beat the worst
seats in a fancier house.

The balmy evening inspired us to continue. Back on Market,
we caught a refurbished vintage Chicago streetcar, the
Green Hornet (free, because of a broken meter), down to
Café du Nord, a crimson, candlelight music club and former
speakeasy. For a $10 cover, we heard a local psychedelic
pop band, Oranger - a fresh shade of the city's musical
past. Two drinks at the gleaming redwood bar were $10 with
tip. After a hook-filled set, a streetcar back down Market
was $1.25 each.

Day's total: $204.52.

Saturday, Matthew and I woke early to raid the Continental
breakfast - fresh pastries, fruit, juice and coffee,
handily laid out on each floor. Then we headed off to the
10 a.m. tour meeting outside SS. Peter and Paul Church in
North Beach.

I am not a tour person. But I'm glad I kept an open mind
for this eclectic - and free - walking tour of North Beach,
one of several dozen by San Francisco City Guides
(supported by the San Francisco Public Library). The
personable guide, Gail Todd, pointed out wild parrots in
Washington Square Park and the gentrification of Grant
Avenue, amid stops at former Beat haunts like the Coffee
Gallery (now the bar Lost and Found), where she confessed
to having seen Allen Ginsberg read poetry back in the day.
Tip: $5.

After two hours of passing the neighborhood's fragrant
Italian bakeries and restaurants, we were famished, and
stopped for lunch at a local landmark, the Molinari
Delicatessen. Two subs - huge, delicious and a steal at
$4.75 - eaten in the small sidewalk seating area, sustained
us until dinner. Total: $14.90.

We caught a bus ($2.50 total) to the wooden bayside
warehouses of Fort Mason Center, a vibrant association of
theaters, museums and galleries in the Marina District. The
Mexican Museum ($3 apiece) had only two rooms, but was
worth it just for Alfonso Soteno's marvelous, towering
ceramic "Tree of Life," lavishly petaled with flowers,
people, angels and animals.

Three warehouses down, the Museum of Craft and Folk Art ($4
for me, since my husband passed) displayed work by artists
using everyday materials. Exquisite metal suitcases by
Mariko Kusumoto, filled with little numbered doors opening,
like Advent calendars, onto such objects as Buddhas and
treasure chests struck me as metaphors for travel and
discovery.

And they set the mood for the Asian Art Museum ($10), in a
serene, Beaux-Arts building at the Civic Center (bus ride
free with transfer). Inside, we took in a mesmerizing
Indonesian dance recital in the Samsung Hall, host to
performances each afternoon. Then, after coffee and a piece
of candy ($3.91 total) in the cafe, we lost ourselves in
the tranquil galleries. I lingered in the jade room, with
its milky rainbow of vases, and before the Tibetan
thangkas, or sacred wall-hangings, with powdered pigments
symbolizing aspects of wisdom, and depicting the Buddha on
mountains threaded with rivers.

Feeling rather meditative, we strolled to the day's final
art stop, the unassuming office building at 49 Geary. On
the fourth floor, the renowned Fraenkel Gallery is
celebrating a quarter-century of showing photography with
"The Eye Club" through Nov. 29, featuring haunting
portraits by artists like Berenice Abbott and Paul Strand.
We wandered through the floor's several other galleries,
including Lizabeth Oliveria's, showing playful,
cartoon-style thangka paintings by the local artist Stella
Lai.

After a quick rest at the hotel, we took the train ($2.50
total) to the Mission District, where we had reservations
that turned out to be essential at the recently opened Last
Supper Club. The open-kitchen atmosphere attracts a young,
easygoing crowd. Homey cheese ravioli and a grilled
half-chicken (both $12), mashed potatoes ($4.25) and a beer
came to $43.35, with tip.

Walking four blocks, we arrived at Bruno's, a dark jazz
club, at 8:50 p.m. - thereby avoiding the $7 cover charged
after 9:30 p.m. Refurbished to its early-60's lounge
splendor, Bruno's boasts huge, semicircular white vinyl
booths. We nursed our $7 martini-glass cocktails ($17
total) until Dapp Theory came on. The five-man jazz-funk
ensemble unleashed dizzyingly layered rhythms, with the
John Coltrane of harmonica players and a spoken-word
vocalist. We said: Cool, daddy-o. And the thing is, it
really was.

Saturday's total, with $2.50 for a bus back to the hotel:
$234.52.

A COUPLE we had met at the club raved about the gospel
ensemble at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church. On
Sunday, we walked three blocks to the packed 9 a.m.
service, in which the charismatic Rev. Douglass Fitch
welcomed all faiths and quoted the Dalai Lama. But it was
the diverse, 140-strong choir that moved churchgoers to
tears belting out gorgeous powerhouse gospel. Donation: $5.


Ready for more inspiration, we proceeded to the soaring,
striped-granite turret of the Museum of Modern Art in SoMa
(South of Market). I'd bought two $15 tickets online, which
included a $5 charge for the Marc Chagall exhibition - five
rooms of his dreamily narrative visions of artists, lovers
and animals on view until Nov. 4. A starker humanism was
found at the exhibit from the museum's excellent
photography collection, "Picturing Modernity," with
unsentimental highlights like Robert Frank's "Iowa,"
capturing a dance hall.

We revived at the museum's light, bright Caffè Museo, with
lunch treats like smoked salmon salad ($10.30) and chicken
focaccia sandwich ($8.50) - worthy of a foodie town. Total
with latte: $20.70

Across the street glistened the waterfalls, esplanades,
gardens and galleries of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts -
a two-block contemporary-art complex in Yerba Buena
Gardens. And outside the center, we happened upon one of a
series of free events, showcasing Italian art, organized by
the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival. The classical guitarist
Peppino D'Agostino played supple flamenco, and San
Francisco Lyric Opera stars sung popular arias. We roused
ourselves from an excerpt from "La Bohème" to catch a bus
($2.50) to the International Poetry Festival.

We climbed Russian Hill to the graceful Italian-inspired
buildings of the San Francisco Art Institute. We were late,
so we missed all but the last, very moving reader, Peter
Streckfus, who won this year's Yale Series of Younger Poets
competition. The school's top terrace had views of the Bay,
and on our way out, we visited the Diego Rivera Gallery,
devoted to student art and Rivera's mural, "The Making of a
Fresco Showing the Building of a City," full of invention
and motion.

For a weekend exploring urban creativity, it provided a
fitting final image. And the gallery was free, bringing the
weekend's grand total to $497.24.

Visitor Information

Activities

Café du Nord, 2170 Market Street, (415)
861-5016; www.cafedunord.com, open 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Thursday to Saturday, 6 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday. Weekend
cover, $8 to $10.

Bruno's, 2389 Mission Street, (415) 648-7701,
www.brunoslive.com, open Tuesday to Sunday, 6 p.m. to 2
a.m. for food and music; music only on Monday. No cover
weekends before 9:30 p.m.; after that, $7.

Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, 330 Ellis Street,
(415) 674-6000, www.glide.org, has Sunday services from 9
to 10:15 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. The Rev. Cecil
Williams alternates Sundays with the Rev. Douglass Fitch.

The Mexican Museum, Fort Mason Center, Building D, (415)
202-9700 or see www.mexicanmuseum.org; Wednesday to
Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission, $3.

Museum of Craft and Folk Art, Fort Mason Center, Building
A, (415) 775-0991, www.mocfa.org, is open Tuesday to Friday
and on Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturday 10 a.m. to
5 p.m.; $4.

Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin Street, (415) 581-3500,
www.asianart.org, is open Tuesday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 5
p.m., and until 9 p.m. Thursday; $10.

Fraenkel Gallery, 49 Geary Street, Fourth Floor, (415)
981-2661, Web site www.fraenkelgallery.com, is open 10:30
a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday.

Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, 49 Geary Street, No. 411, (415)
229-1138, Web site www.lizabetholiveria.com; Tuesday to
Friday 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday to 5 p.m.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third Street, (415)
357-4000, www.sfmoma.org, is open Thursday to Tuesday, 10
a.m. to 5:45 p.m., and to 8:45 p.m. Thursday; $10.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission Street, (415)
978-2787, Web site www.yerbabuenaarts.org, and the Yerba
Buena Gardens Festival, (415) 543-1718, www.ybgf.org, which
organizes free arts events, are in Yerba Buena Gardens.

The Diego Rivera Gallery at the San Francisco Art
Institute, 800 Chestnut Street, (415) 771-7020,
www.sfai.edu, is open daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission
free.

The TIX Pavilion, (415) 433-7827,
www.theatrebayarea.org/tix/tix.shtml, the discount theater
ticket counter, is in Union Square. Hours for purchasing
half-price tickets (cash only): Tuesday to Thursday 11 a.m.
to 6 p.m., Friday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday 11
a.m. to 3 p.m.

Eureka Theater, 215 Jackson Street, (415) 788-7469,
www.eurekatheatre.org, stages innovative plays by local
repertory companies.

San Francisco City Guides, (415) 557-4266,
www.sfcityguides.org, offers 30 free walking tours.

Lodging and Restaurants

The Andrews Hotel, 624 Post
Street, (800) 926-3739, fax (415) 928-6919,
www.andrewshotel.com. Rates run from $89 to $155, with
Continental breakfast.

Akiko Sushi Bar, 542 Mason Street, (415) 989-8218, is open
Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Chef's specials
average $9.

Caffè Museo at MoMA, 151 Third Street, (415) 357-4500, is
open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily except Wednesday, until 9 p.m.
Thursday; soups, salads, sandwiches (averaging $9), drinks
and desserts.

The Last Supper Club, 1199 Valencia Street, (415) 695-1199,
is open daily for lunch and dinner. Pasta entrees, $8 to
$12; bottles of wine, $25.

Molinari Delicatessen, 373 Columbus Avenue, (415) 421-2337,
is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to
5:30 p.m. Saturday. Sandwiches average $5.

MEGAN HARLAN is a writer and poet who lives in San
Francisco.


---------------------------------

HALBLEU
11-04-03, 06:14 PM
Business Travel: Peak Performance and Heavy Traveling, It Seems, Don’t Mix

November 4, 2003
By THOM WEIDLICH


This summer, you might have noticed a business traveler at
airport security slipping a watch - or what appeared to be
a watch - off his or her wrist and placing it into the
plastic dish. If so, you might have noticed that it was not
a real timepiece but a gizmo of the sort Dick Tracy might
wear.

The traveler would have been wearing this unlikely fashion
accessory because he was participating in an unusual study
that sought to determine what caused business travelers to
tire, lowering their away-game performance.

In addition to donning the actigraph - a black watchlike
device that monitors the wearer's movements - the 25
volunteers kept logs of their daily activities and sleep
quality and tested their reaction times on a hand-held
computer. This may sound like "The Right Stuff" - and the
study was, in fact, run by a former NASA scientist - but it
was for a good cause: improving the productivity of
business travelers.

The results are in and some are a bit surprising.

The
study was led by Alertness Solutions, a consulting firm in
Cupertino, Calif., that advises companies on sleep issues,
and was sponsored by Hilton Hotels, Suites and Resorts,
which wants to use the results to figure out what new
services and goodies to offer guests to make them fresher
and more alert.

Mark R. Rosekind, president and chief scientist of
Alertness Solutions, says that unlike most similar studies,
which are aimed at making travel safer, this one looks at
how exhaustion affects people's performance on the road. He
says he became interested in analyzing slumber as a
Stanford undergraduate when he took the sleep and dreams
course taught for 33 years by the sleep expert William
Dement.

At first Dr. Rosekind did academic work, becoming director
of Stanford's Center for Human Sleep Research. Then he went
to NASA, where for seven years he ran the Fatigue
Countermeasures Program. After a while he realized his
findings could be applied to business, and he started
Alertness Solutions.

Some reasons for fatigue on business trips are obvious.
People tend to eat and drink more and exercise and sleep
less.

"You get back to that hotel room and it's so easy to sit
there and order room service and watch TV," said Mark
McCleary, a senior consultant with the software company
CorVu in Minneapolis, who volunteered for the test. "And
room service is fatty appetizers and fatty entrees. You
can't order chicken breast with steamed vegetables
anywhere. At home, I might be mowing the lawn or taking a
walk."

Mr. McCleary figured that he was an ideal candidate to be
scrutinized. He is on the road two to three weeks a month
and often feels drained.

"I've probably had near misses in car accidents,'' he said.
"I can't remember how many times I've gone back to the
hotel and can't remember my room number. I'm probably not
as productive for clients and I'm billing by the hour.
Productivity is important to me and to my clients."

The experiment sought out travelers going across at least
two time zones for a business trip two to four days in
duration. "Two time zones gives you some kind of body-clock
disruption and being on two to four days is long enough for
it to have some disruption to affect you," Dr. Rosekind
said.

The actigraph has an electric sensor that acts like a
mercury switch, recording a movement every time the wearer
shifts position; it also measures sleep quantity and
quality. "At NASA, I'd use electrodes," Dr. Rosekind said.
"What's neat about this is you can wear it on your wrist
and it gives us objective measures of the 24-hour pattern
of when you're asleep and awake."

The three-times-a-day reaction-time test - or rather, the
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research Psychomotor
Vigilance Test - required users to press a button on a
personal digital assistant whenever the image of a
bull's-eye appears on the screen; response speed is
measured in milliseconds, providing a measure of alertness.


One volunteer, Jennifer Sipala, a consultant for the Army
at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, said she was
surprised at how much lower her average score on the
bull's-eye test was on her travel days compared with the
two (presumably more relaxed) days before the trip.

This New York-based reporter, having worn the actigraph and
taken the test on a trip to Los Angeles, can confirm that
the more tired you are, the slower you push that little
button - no matter how much your inner coach is goading you
to move faster.

In addition to wearing the actigraph and doing the tests,
the volunteers kept logs of their activities. At night,
they jotted down information about their day, like when and
what they had eaten, how much or how little they had
exercised, whether they had taken a nap, how much alcohol
or caffeine they had imbibed, how stressed they had felt
and how alert and productive they had been.

In the morning they described their sleep patterns - how
long it had taken to nod off, how well and how long they
had slept, how often they had woken up and how they had
felt on getting up.

So what did the study find?

First, business travelers think they perform better and
sleep more than they actually do. While the volunteers
ranked themselves as highly or extremely productive, their
performance dropped by almost 20 percent while traveling.
They also reported getting an hour more sleep than they
actually did.

Surprisingly it was the night before the trip that they got
the least sleep - five hours on average. What that means,
Dr. Rosekind said, is that they started the trip
practically primed to be unproductive. "They were miserable
from sleep loss even before they left," he said. To
compensate, Dr. Rosekind says, even a 10-minute snooze at
the hotel before a dinner meeting will help. And because
caffeine takes a while to kick in, the two can be combined
by drinking coffee or tea before the nap. To keep alert at
business discussions, he recommends letting as much light
into the meeting room as possible, talking a lot and
keeping active, if only by taking notes.

The study found that exercise was the most effective means
of increasing performance, with those who exercised
performing 61 percent better than the nonexercisers on
reaction and alertness tests. It also found that travelers
performed best in the afternoon, not in the morning, as
many might suppose.

Dr. Rosekind suggests that if you are going on a two- or
three-day trip from one coast to the other, you should plan
meetings according to your home time because you will not
be there long enough for your internal clock to adjust.

Robert E. Dirks, senior vice president for brand management
and marketing at Hilton Hotels, said the company would use
the findings to develop new products and services that
would be announced in January. He declined to give
specifics except to say that they would be designed "to
reduce stress and anxiety and make road warriors more
productive.''

Dr. Rosekind says the study will also help his work. He
already has a handful of other projects focusing on
productivity rather than safety. "I'm really hoping other
folks wake up," he said, "and see the safety side is an
issue but there is also a performance issue."

Readers are invited to send stories about business travel
experiences to businesstravel@nytimes.com.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/04/business/04actigraph.html?ex=1068970235&ei=1&en=a49b7f65dff5755f

---------------------------------

HALBLEU
11-15-03, 06:06 AM
36 Hours: In Charlotte, N.C.

November 14, 2003
By LOUIS JACOBSON


OVER the last 20 years, Charlotte, North Carolina's biggest
city, has remade itself from a textiles town into an
investment and banking center, the nation's second-largest
financial-services hub after New York City (and about to
become bigger if the proposed merger of Bank of America and
Fleet goes through). The moderate Carolina weather makes
the city a pleasant place to stroll in winter, while
museums and hip shops are also a draw. And though the city
has a thriving historic-preservation movement, you get the
unmistakable feeling that Charlotte sees itself as a city
of the future - and it has the new skyscrapers to prove it.


Friday
7:30 p.m.
1) Beyond Gritty, and Grits

When the Pewter Rose Bistro (1820 South Boulevard;
704-332-8149) moved to the South End section of Charlotte
15 years ago, the neighborhood was scruffy and all but
abandoned at night. But its building, a onetime industrial
site, had 30-foot ceilings, great light and enough room for
a big kitchen. Now the South End is gentrified, and Pewter
Rose remains one of the city's most eclectic restaurants.
The executive chef, Blake Dewey, prepares appetizers like
fried chevre and chipotle and tiny tacos filled with tuna
sushi smothered in a creamy sauce ($8.95 to $10.95), and
entrees like salt-fried duck for wrapping in lettuce leaves
and Indonesian chicken and shrimp ($15.95 to $16.95).

9 p.m.
2) Vodka Nocturne

Luckily, you don't have to
waddle far from a table at Pewter Rose to the comfortable
couches of Tutto Mondo (704-332-5142), the nightclub that
shares owners - and the second floor of the former
industrial building - with Pewter Rose. The club says it
caters to 30-something professionals, and it starts most
weekend nights with mellow jazz by local musicians and
becomes more lively as the night goes on. Behind the bar
are almost 50 vodkas, from Karl Marx to ruby-red grapefruit
Charbay, so make your choice and settle in with a cocktail.


Saturday
8:30 a.m.
3) Soaring Heights

Downtown Charlotte - actually called Uptown - is eminently
walkable, with sidewalk benches and marble plazas scattered
among the cluster of postmodern skyscrapers. At 60 stories,
the Bank of America Corporate Center (100 North Tryon
Street), designed by Cesar Pelli, towers over Independence
Square - the crossroads that gave birth to Charlotte - with
its crown of icicle-sharp points. One block north is the
new 47-story Hearst Tower; finished in 2002, it bows
outward as it rises, ending in an angular neo-Deco cap
reminiscent of the

Chrysler Building in Manhattan. The retro lobby includes
the Bank of America Gallery (214 North Tryon Street;
704-388-3104), which holds exhibitions from the bank's
collection. The current show is "The Photo League:
Photographs of Urban Life in American From the 1930's and
1940's."

9:15 a.m.
4) A Grocery Stop

Recharge yourself at Reid's Fine Foods (Seventh Street
between College and Brevard Streets; 704-377-1312), an
upscale grocery store that has been in business since 1928.
On Saturday mornings, the store's bakery turns out
croissants filled with cream cheese or jam ($1.29), apple
and cherry strudel ($1.29) and almost a dozen kinds of
muffins ($1.59). From the coffee bar you can get espressos,
lattes or cappuccinos. For a real taste of the Carolinas,
pick up a fiery Blenheim Ginger Ale (99 cents), which has
achieved cult status. Carry your haul a few blocks away, to
the Fourth Ward Park, a patch of greenery just beyond the
skyscrapers. Then wander the narrow streets of the Fourth
Ward, a leafy neighborhood of quiet fountains, aromatic
wildflowers and charmingly restored Victorian homes.

10 a.m.
5) A Quilt of Garbage

Backtrack a few blocks and
visit the Mint Museum of Craft and Design (220 North Tryon
Street; 704-337-2000), occupying a renovated department
store among the Uptown towers. Don't expect to find only
folksy, backwoods creations: the museum's vibe is
avant-garde, stylish and contemporary. You'll find fanciful
animals made from beer cans by an anonymous South African
artist; a quilt made from garbage discarded along a trail
in New Mexico; and a pair of bracelets that turn tiny glass
beads into Warhol-style portraits of the Dalai Lama and the
Mulder and Scully characters from the "X-Files." Save your
ticket stub ($6 adults); it allows admission to the Mint
Museum of Art (2730 Randolph Road; 704-337-2000), the craft
museum's older sibling.

11:15 a.m.
6) Meet the New South

Just a few blocks from the craft
museum, the Levine Museum of the New South, (200 East
Seventh Street; 704-333-1887) offers a hard-hitting social
history of Charlotte and the South, beginning just after
the Civil War. The exhibition includes a reproduction of a
tenant farmer's house and "white" and "colored"
water-fountain signs from Charlotte City Hall. The story
concludes with discussions of suburban sprawl, economic
growth, ethnic diversity - and Nascar. Visitors are
encouraged to express themselves by posting notes, which
recently ranged from "this kind of stuff is so cool!" to "I
think is boring." Admission is $6.

12:30 p.m.
7) Chicken Run

Return to the South End and get in line at
Price's Chicken Coop (1614 Camden Road; 704-333-9866), the
home of perhaps the best fried chicken in Charlotte, and
beyond, since 1962. Orders are for take-out only, and
everything is packed in a box for easy mobility: fried
chicken, tater-rounds, hush puppies, cole-slaw, a roll and
sweet tea, all for less than $6. A pleasant spot for a
picnic is Latta Park a few blocks away.

1:45 p.m.
8) Time to Shop

If you're at Latta Park, you'll find
youself in the heart of the pleasant Dilworth neighborhood,
an early Charlotte suburb with a lot of porches and
handsome wood-frame houses circa 1910. Get a feel for the
area while making the short drive to Paper Skyscraper (330
East Boulevard; 704-333-7130), which is filled with chic
paper goods, stationery and cutting-edge housewares, and a
selection of art, architecture and design books that beats
that at the Mint Museum.

8 p.m.
9) Le Cuisine Charlotte

It's located in a shopping center in the middle of
suburbia, but Patou (2400 Park Road; 704-376-2233) offers
first-rate French cuisine. Start with a hot crab cake set
on a cool layer of minced tomatoes, avocado and capers
($9.95). Move on to the bourride de poisson ($17.95), the
steamed mussels ($7.95) or the steak frites ($19.95). For
dessert: the mousse au chocolat ($6.95).

Sunday
Noon
10) Birds of Prey

Thirteen miles northwest of Uptown, in
Huntersville, is the Carolina Raptor Center (5225 Sample
Road; 704-875-2312), one of the nation's largest refuges
for injured owls, hawks, eagles, condors and other birds of
prey. It takes in about 700 birds a year, almost half hurt
by automobiles. The animals that can be reconditioned (they
learn to fly again in large cages and get remedial training
in mouse hunting) are returned to the wild. Others are used
in the center's educational programs.

2 p.m.
11) Hot Food, Cool Mascot

For a bird of a different
feather, head to the Penguin Drive-In (1921 Commonwealth
Avenue; 704-375-6959), a 1950's drive-in that was given a
face-lift a few years ago. It's popular with the
trucker-cap crowd, and the beer includes labels like
Schlitz and Pabst. The food runs to hot dogs ($1.95) and
fried pickles ($2.95), along with a barbecue plate ($6.95)
and Brunswick stew ($3.95). If you're not in the mood for
beer, try Cheerwine, a regional cherry-flavored soda.

Visitor Information

Charlotte/Douglas International
Airport is served by most major airlines and car-rental
companies.

When the Dunhill Hotel (237 North Tryon Street;
704-332-4141 or 800-354-4141) opened in 1929, it was the
tallest building in town - at 10 stories. It is now on the
National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of historic
American hotels. It has 60 rooms and looks out on the
Uptown neighborhood. The weekend bed-and-breakfast rate
starts at $139 a night.

On a smaller scale, the Homeplace (5901 Sardis Road;
704-365-1936), in South Charlotte, has just three rooms. It
is in a Victorian-style house on two and a half acres in a
residential neighborhood. Rooms are $115 to $125 a night,
breakfast included.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/14/travel/escapes/14HOUR.html?ex=1069870989&ei=1&en=46524481a50c572e

---------------------------------

HALBLEU
11-16-03, 04:25 AM
Rules of Business

If you're a business traveler in China, you probably still feel like a pioneer, even though it has been almost 20 years since Deng Xiaoping launched the "open door" policy and started inviting foreign investment into the previously isolated country. "We are learning how to compete in the market economy, and we need foreign expertise," a Chinese official or enterprise manager might tell you. But don't be misled into believing that you can come in with a plan this week and sign a contract next week, or that Western-style efficiency will be welcome in a joint venture with a Chinese company.

The Art of War

The Chinese, as every foreign business traveler quickly learns, have an elaborate, unwritten code of rules that apply to every aspect of business, from negotiating the contract to selling the product. A good way to prepare yourself is to read Sun Tze's The Art of War. The true author of this Chinese classic is unknown, but the best guess is that it was written by a brilliant military strategist who lived sometime around the 4th century BC.

Sun Tze's basic principle held that moral strength and intellectual faculty were the decisive factors in battle, and today, these are the guiding factors in negotiating business deals. Not that you're dealing with adversaries - not exactly. But from the days when the first foreign firms began to eye China's vast potential market of 1.2 billion consumers, the Chinese quickly realized that they had something the world wanted, so why not assure themselves a share in the capital that foreign ventures were sure to generate?

In recent years, a number of major Western companies have played hardball with Chinese officials and held their own. Take the time the city government of Beijingtried to evict McDonald's. One of Hong Kong's wealthiest businessmen, Li Kai Shing, who was born in a Chinese village and knew how Sun Tze's war strategies could help him achieve the impossible, spent years donating money to various projects in China, mostly schools. Li was collecting bargaining chips, and in 1994 he was ready to cash in. He wanted to build an office tower that would face Beijing's version of the Champs-Élysées, the area of Chang An Avenue and Wangfujing, including the most valuable tract, which was the corner across from the Beijing Hotel that was occupied by McDonald's. He allegedly told the Beijing Municipal Government that if he couldn't have the corner he wouldn't invest in China at all.

Li had cast a brick to attract a jade; i.e., used a bait to catch something big. However, McDonald's, too, knew it had something the Chinese people really wanted. Know the terrain, Sun Tze wrote. And keep the opponent under strain to wear him down. McDonald's employed the latter maneuver by resisting the order to move for two years, until the Beijing government finally agreed to compensation in the form of the right to open at least two more outlets along an adjacent street.

The Disney Company was pressured in quite a different way. In 1996, Disney was in discussions with the central government about distributing movies, selling merchandise, and building theme parks in China when Liu Jianzhong, director of the Film Bureau in the Ministry of Radio, Film and Television, warned that there might be no final approval for these projects if a Disney subsidiary went ahead with production of a film about the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who is considered an enemy by the Chinese government. Disney refused to stop the film from being made and was blacklisted all over China. By 1999, Shanghai was in deep competition against Hong Kong wooingDisney to set up a Disneyland.

According to The Art of War, you sometimes have to yield a city or give up ground in order to gain a more valuable objective. Although it might seem a good idea in the short run to bow to ideological pressure from China, it is probably best for a company's long-term goals and international image to hold out. Sun Tze also said, "Loot a burning house. Capitalize on an opportunity at the expense of your adversary's chaotic situation." There is dissension today within the ranks of China's government, and attempts to appease the authorities who make demands today may backfire if these people fall out of favor domestically, or if America's political relations with China deteriorate.

Furthermore, though the Chinese authorities may insist that their politics are none of our business, the lack of a clear rule of law in China can work against conducting business here. On a number of occasions business people have found themselves arrested and detained on trumped-up or nonexistent charges following a disagreement with a local partner or government authority over terms. Often the disagreement has to do with a city or provincial ministry's wanting an unreasonable share in the company. It is to the advantage of all foreigners living or spending time in China to push for political reforms that would incorporate due process of law.

Pioneer Spirit

This is all part of pioneering. If you think of how the settlers who crossed America's wild west in 1850 changed the face of the country, you'll have a fair analogy, except that modern technology is bringing a faster rate of change in China. In a country that had almost no modern roads 20 years ago, there are now huge swathes of concrete everywhere - and vehicles to run on them. According to World Bank figures, China's economy, before theAsian contagion, was the third fastest-growing in the world, with an annual average rate of 9.2% between 1978 and 1996. (Only Thailand and South Korea are ahead.) From being a country with virtually no capital, it has moved to among the top six nations in the world in terms of foreign exchange reserves. The people in the cities wear designer fashions, and construction cranes loom above almost every city or village street.

Some observers think that as the market economy grows, a measure of democratic reform will come. The Chinese people themselves are likely to demand a freer flow of information, if only to help them make financial decisions. In early 1997, there was talk in China of a desperate need for the domestic news media to report responsibly and independently on the wild gyrations of the Shenzhen and Shanghai stock markets, so that the 21 million Chinese who own corporate equities can monitor their investments. Thomas Friedman, writing in The New York Times, suggested that the U.S. send a delegation led by the head of the Securities Exchange Commission and some major business editors to talk to Chinese officials about how to answer internal pressures for a freer press. Pointing out that the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl helped hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union partly because "without a responsible free press, rumors ran wild and devastated what little confidence was left in the regime," Friedman wrote, adding, "I hope it won't take a meltdown of the Shanghai stock market to spur a free press in China."

Of course, if you are trying to sell your product to the consumer market or set up a production facility utilizing China's abundant labor pool, you aren't going in to change the country single-handedly, although you may be part of a cumulative effect. Most likely, you will have to go in and do business the way the Chinese do. In spiteof the economic reforms, this is still a centrally planned system called "socialism with Chinese characteristics." It is still a society with a thousand years of practice at handling foreign traders. Below are a few more fundamentals you should know before doing business in China:

Your Team

If you're new to the place, retain the services of a China consultant who knows the language and has a strong track record. The nonprofit U.S. China Business Council (1818 N St. NW, Suite 200, Washington, D.C. 20036, tel. 202/429-0340, fax 202/775-2476, with additional offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai) is a good source for consulting services, referrals, and other information. If you don't speak Mandarin fluently you will also need to have a translator accompanying you on the trip. Choose your own translator who will be looking out for your interests.

Know who you'll be meeting with in China, and send people with corresponding titles. The Chinese are very hierarchical and will be offended if you send a low-level manager to meet a minister. All of this ties into the all-important and intricate concept of "face," which can best be explained as the need to preserve dignity and standing.

Don't bring your spouse on the trip, unless he or she is involved in the business. Otherwise the Chinese will think your trip is really a vacation.

The Chinese will take a woman seriously if she has an elevated title and acts serious. Women will find themselves under less pressure than men to hang out at the karaoke until the wee hours. This is partly because the party list might include prostitutes. A business woman will also avoid the trap that Chinese local partners sometimes lay to get rid of an out-of-favor foreign manager. They'll have a prostitute pick him up, then get the police to catch him so that he canbe banished from the country for a sexual offense.

Meetings and Greetings

Bring more than you ever thought you'd need. Consult a translator before you go and have cards made with your name and the name of your company in Chinese characters on the reverse side.

When you are introduced to someone in China, immediately bow your head slightly and offer your business card, with two hands. In the same ceremonious fashion accept your colleague's business card, which will likely be turned up to show an Anglicized name.

Be there on time. The Chinese are very punctual. When you are hosting a banquet, arrive at the restaurant at least 30 minutes before your guests.

Don't make plans for the rest of the day, or evening, or tomorrow or the next day. And don't be in a rush to get home. Meetings can go on for days, weeks, whatever it takes to win concessions. Meetings will continue over a lavish lunch, a lavish dinner that includes many toasts with mao tai, and a long night at a karaoke, consuming XO cognac from a showy bottle. To keep in shape for the lengthy meetings, learn the art of throwing a shot of mao tai onto the floor behind you instead of drinking it down when your host says "ganbei." (Chances are he is not really drinking either.)

Gifts and Bribes

Yes, a local official might ask you to get his child into a foreign university or buy your venture partner a fleet of BMWs. A few years ago a survey by the Independent Commission Against Corruption in Hong Kong found that corrupt business practices may represent 3%-5% of the cost of doing business in China, a factor that respondents (Hong Kong firms) claimed was bearable and not a disincentive. However, the Chinese government has been campaigning against corruption and business fraud. American companieshave the added constraint of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits offering or making payments to officials of foreign countries. The law can be a good excuse for not paying bribes. However, you may find yourself faced with a great many arbitrary fees to be paid to the city and county for everything from your business license to garbage collection. It is hard to avoid paying these.

The U.S. has capitulated somewhat to so-called tied aid, in which matching sums of aid are given to an emerging country when it grants a major capital project contract to a U.S. firm. The Europeans and Japanese have been offering tied aid for years, and the U.S. saw this as unfair competition. Though the U.S. Export-Import Bank officially opposes tied aid and does not initiate the offers, it now has some funds available to help U.S. companies compete for large infrastructure projects.

To win friends in a small but legal way, you should hand out small gifts to the people you meet. Bring a shipment of such items as pens, paperweights, and T-shirts emblazoned with your company logo. And, before you leave town, host a banquet for all of the people who have entertained you. The banquet is not merely a way to reciprocate hospitality; as the host, you can use the occasion to make your demands for the business venture heard. The best time to have your banquet is when the parties concerned are almost ready to sign the contract.

Communication

Gestures that seem insignificant on the surface will help make or break your efforts to gain entry into China. Escort a departing visitor to the elevator as a way of giving him face, for example. To make a visitor feel particularly esteemed, walk him all the way to the front door of the building. And don't "have other plans" when your Chinese associates invite you out. As in many Asiancountries, personal relationships are more important than the contract. The people you are dealing with may not tell you what they really want from a partnership with you until you're out eating and drinking.

There are many ways of saying "no," and some may sound like "yes" to foreigners. If you hear that your proposal "is under study" or has arrived at "an inconvenient time," start preparing a new one.

A manager of a local factory in search of a foreign venture partner might tell you that the deal can be done, but that doesn't mean it will be. Make sure you meet with the officials in charge of your sector in the city, those who have the authority to approve the deal. If someone says he has to get the boss's approval, you should have a hearing with the boss - even if it means getting your boss there on the next flight to meet with his counterpart.

Early on, you may be asked to sign a "letter of intent." This document is not legally binding; it serves more as an expression of seriousness. But the principles in the letter, which look like ritual statements to the Westerner because they lack specific detail, may be invoked later if your Chinese partner has a grudge against you. He'll say you have not lived up to the spirit of mutual cooperation and benefit initially agreed upon.

How to Get Your Way

You will have to give your Chinese partner something he wants. He might, for instance, want your capital to go into lines of business other than what you had in mind. You might have to agree to this if establishing a presence in China is important to your business. Take the example of John C. Portman III, vice chairman of the Atlanta-based architecture firm John Portman & Associates. Portman spent the early 1980s courting the Shanghai government. Besides volunteering suggestions for redeveloping thecity, he set up a trading company that brought an exhibition of goods from Shanghai to Atlanta. Not his usual line of business, but in the end the friendships he'd cultivated netted his company the coveted contract to design and develop the $200-million Shanghai Centre, which houses the Portman Ritz-Carlton Hotel, and China now accounts for about half of the company's total business.

Know when to be flexible, but for important details such as who actually has control of the venture and its operations, hold out, even if it takes a year or more. There are ways to make sure of who is really in charge of a joint venture, even though for matters of face and power the Chinese partner will probably want to provide the person with the loftiest title. You will also want to own the controlling share, because it means quality control, profitability, and decision-making power over matters for which your company is legally liable. Often an inside deal is worked out, whereby the foreign party provides the general manager, who actually is in charge of day-to-day operations, while the Chinese partner brings in the chairman, who works with a board of directors and has authority only over broad policy issues.

Don't go to China and tell your prospective partner you want to start production by a certain date. Expect your Chinese associates to drive their hardest bargain just when you thought it was safe to go home. They know that once rumors of a concluded negotiation become public, you will not be able to back down from the deal without having to make difficult explanations to your investors and headquarters.

Demand that your contract include an arbitration clause, which stipulates that if a dispute arises the matter will be tried by an arbitrator, preferably either in the U.S. or in a third country. However, even in China, there are arbitration centers thatcomply with international standards and are well ahead of the court system.

Being There

Saddled with 50 employees from the state-owned enterprise and you don't even have a customer in China? That's the way things have been done. You will have to make changes slowly and be prepared to train people for new skills. Profits may be equally slow to roll in, but remember the corporate axiom that has become the main China strategy circa 1990s: We're in it for the long haul.

If you're trying to break into the China market with a product or service, learn more about the consumers you're targeting through a focus study. These have become popular among prospective consumers, who have proved willing to sit through sessions lasting as long as three hours. (Focus panels generally last only 40 minutes in the United States.) You might find you have to change your advertising message drastically. Coffee manufacturers, for example, don't win Chinese customers with a "wake up" message because coffee is considered an after-dinner beverage. Test the name in different cities, because meaning can vary according to the local language. As the Economist Intelligence Unit reported recently, one company had a name for a butter product that meant "yellow oil" in one city, "engine oil" in another, and "cow fat" in a third.

Since the trade bans of the early 1950s during the Korean War, Hong Kong has been the gateway to China. Many companies set up in Hong Kong, particularly if their partners or factories are in southern China, and use Hong Kong Cantonese, who speak the same language as their Mainland counterparts.

The Law in China

Laws in China are passed by the National People's Congress and implemented. Quickly. Hong Kong's legal structure is based on common law (the same as Britain'sand the United States'), which develops through judicial decisions (case law). The heart of Hong Kong's existence, "One Country, Two Systems," is that both judicial systems exist side by side. But sometimes they clash in China, particularly when it comes to business. In late 1999, 29 Hong Kong businessmen were being detained in China. About half languished under house arrest in hotels or actually behind bars because a business deal had gone sour. Many actually are citizens of other countries. The aggrieved party, which sometimes turns out to be officialdom, just grabs the person as a hostage until the money, which they see as theirs, is handed over. In at least two cases, the hostages were not released even after court rulings in China so ordered. In one case, a businessman was kidnapped from his hotel in Macau and smuggled across the border into captivity. In late 1999 at least three non-Hong Kong businessmen - that is, foreign nationals - were also under some form of detention due to a commercial disagreement.

Will Feng Shui Help Your Prospects?

The 7,000-year-old art of placing objects in harmony with the environment and the elements is virtually mandatory in Hong Kong and Taiwan - it always had a stronger influence in southern China. On mainland China it's officially considered feudalist superstitious nonsense, but of course, if it facilitates business… If there's any doubt in your mind, by all means call a geomancer.

While China speeds along toward overtaking the United States as the world's largest economy - the World Bank forecasts that will happen in the year 2020 - any number of factors may make or break your efforts to reap some of the benefits of this dizzying growth. Barring serious political upheaval, you'll probably want to stay here and make constant - i.e., day-to-day - adaptations to the changingdemands of the market. Like armies, companies in China have to figure out when to advance their presence, when to scale back, when to retreat to another location. And with each new strategy, be prepared to negotiate, feast, and sing karaoke songs.

By Jan Alexander

Updated by Saul Lockhart


http://www.nytimes.com/fodors/fdrs_feat_24_3.html

Cardinal999
11-18-03, 10:02 AM
Good post.

Originally posted by HALBLEU
Rules of Business

The Art of War

The Chinese, as every foreign business traveler quickly learns, have an elaborate, unwritten code of rules that apply to every aspect of business, from negotiating the contract to selling the product. A good way to prepare yourself is to read Sun Tze's The Art of War. The true author of this Chinese classic is unknown, but the best guess is that it was written by a brilliant military strategist who lived sometime around the 4th century BC.

Sun Tze's basic principle held that moral strength and intellectual faculty were the decisive factors in battle, and today, these are the guiding factors in negotiating business deals. Not that you're dealing with adversaries - not exactly. But from the days when the first foreign firms began to eye China's vast potential market of 1.2 billion consumers, the Chinese quickly realized that they had something the world wanted, so why not assure themselves a share in the capital that foreign ventures were sure to generate?

In recent years, a number of major Western companies have played hardball with Chinese officials and held their own. Take the time the city government of Beijingtried to evict McDonald's. One of Hong Kong's wealthiest businessmen, Li Kai Shing, who was born in a Chinese village and knew how Sun Tze's war strategies could help him achieve the impossible, spent years donating money to various projects in China, mostly schools. Li was collecting bargaining chips, and in 1994 he was ready to cash in. He wanted to build an office tower that would face Beijing's version of the Champs-Élysées, the area of Chang An Avenue and Wangfujing, including the most valuable tract, which was the corner across from the Beijing Hotel that was occupied by McDonald's. He allegedly told the Beijing Municipal Government that if he couldn't have the corner he wouldn't invest in China at all.

Li had cast a brick to attract a jade; i.e., used a bait to catch something big. However, McDonald's, too, knew it had something the Chinese people really wanted. Know the terrain, Sun Tze wrote. And keep the opponent under strain to wear him down. McDonald's employed the latter maneuver by resisting the order to move for two years, until the Beijing government finally agreed to compensation in the form of the right to open at least two more outlets along an adjacent street.

The Disney Company was pressured in quite a different way. In 1996, Disney was in discussions with the central government about distributing movies, selling merchandise, and building theme parks in China when Liu Jianzhong, director of the Film Bureau in the Ministry of Radio, Film and Television, warned that there might be no final approval for these projects if a Disney subsidiary went ahead with production of a film about the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who is considered an enemy by the Chinese government. Disney refused to stop the film from being made and was blacklisted all over China. By 1999, Shanghai was in deep competition against Hong Kong wooingDisney to set up a Disneyland.

According to The Art of War, you sometimes have to yield a city or give up ground in order to gain a more valuable objective. Although it might seem a good idea in the short run to bow to ideological pressure from China, it is probably best for a company's long-term goals and international image to hold out. Sun Tze also said, "Loot a burning house. Capitalize on an opportunity at the expense of your adversary's chaotic situation." There is dissension today within the ranks of China's government, and attempts to appease the authorities who make demands today may backfire if these people fall out of favor domestically, or if America's political relations with China deteriorate.

Furthermore, though the Chinese authorities may insist that their politics are none of our business, the lack of a clear rule of law in China can work against conducting business here. On a number of occasions business people have found themselves arrested and detained on trumped-up or nonexistent charges following a disagreement with a local partner or government authority over terms. Often the disagreement has to do with a city or provincial ministry's wanting an unreasonable share in the company. It is to the advantage of all foreigners living or spending time in China to push for political reforms that would incorporate due process of law.

It's always interesting to see how amateurs confuses the writings of Sunzi w. the details of 36 Strategems.

Like most capitalists, much of the Asian businessmen that this Cardinal has met are {scenario-driven}. Very rare are most capitalists are detailed driven (with a few S/Z sayings as their fundamental base).

It humors this Cardinal when he sees people walking around w. copies of Sunzi out in the public.

Pioneer Spirit

This is all part of pioneering. If you think of how the settlers who crossed America's wild west in 1850 changed the face of the country, you'll have a fair analogy, except that modern technology is bringing a faster rate of change in China. In a country that had almost no modern roads 20 years ago, there are now huge swathes of concrete everywhere - and vehicles to run on them. According to World Bank figures, China's economy, before theAsian contagion, was the third fastest-growing in the world, with an annual average rate of 9.2% between 1978 and 1996. (Only Thailand and South Korea are ahead.) From being a country with virtually no capital, it has moved to among the top six nations in the world in terms of foreign exchange reserves. The people in the cities wear designer fashions, and construction cranes loom above almost every city or village street.

Some observers think that as the market economy grows, a measure of democratic reform will come. The Chinese people themselves are likely to demand a freer flow of information, if only to help them make financial decisions. In early 1997, there was talk in China of a desperate need for the domestic news media to report responsibly and independently on the wild gyrations of the Shenzhen and Shanghai stock markets, so that the 21 million Chinese who own corporate equities can monitor their investments. Thomas Friedman, writing in The New York Times, suggested that the U.S. send a delegation led by the head of the Securities Exchange Commission and some major business editors to talk to Chinese officials about how to answer internal pressures for a freer press. Pointing out that the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl helped hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union partly because "without a responsible free press, rumors ran wild and devastated what little confidence was left in the regime," Friedman wrote, adding, "I hope it won't take a meltdown of the Shanghai stock market to spur a free press in China."

Of course, if you are trying to sell your product to the consumer market or set up a production facility utilizing China's abundant labor pool, you aren't going in to change the country single-handedly, although you may be part of a cumulative effect. Most likely, you will have to go in and do business the way the Chinese do. In spiteof the economic reforms, this is still a centrally planned system called "socialism with Chinese characteristics." It is still a society with a thousand years of practice at handling foreign traders. Below are a few more fundamentals you should know before doing business in China:

Your Team

If you're new to the place, retain the services of a China consultant who knows the language and has a strong track record. The nonprofit U.S. China Business Council (1818 N St. NW, Suite 200, Washington, D.C. 20036, tel. 202/429-0340, fax 202/775-2476, with additional offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai) is a good source for consulting services, referrals, and other information. If you don't speak Mandarin fluently you will also need to have a translator accompanying you on the trip. Choose your own translator who will be looking out for your interests.

Know who you'll be meeting with in China, and send people with corresponding titles. The Chinese are very hierarchical and will be offended if you send a low-level manager to meet a minister. All of this ties into the all-important and intricate concept of "face," which can best be explained as the need to preserve dignity and standing.

Don't bring your spouse on the trip, unless he or she is involved in the business. Otherwise the Chinese will think your trip is really a vacation.

The Chinese will take a woman seriously if she has an elevated title and acts serious. Women will find themselves under less pressure than men to hang out at the karaoke until the wee hours. This is partly because the party list might include prostitutes. A business woman will also avoid the trap that Chinese local partners sometimes lay to get rid of an out-of-favor foreign manager. They'll have a prostitute pick him up, then get the police to catch him so that he canbe banished from the country for a sexual offense.

Meetings and Greetings

Bring more than you ever thought you'd need. Consult a translator before you go and have cards made with your name and the name of your company in Chinese characters on the reverse side.

When you are introduced to someone in China, immediately bow your head slightly and offer your business card, with two hands. In the same ceremonious fashion accept your colleague's business card, which will likely be turned up to show an Anglicized name.

Be there on time. The Chinese are very punctual. When you are hosting a banquet, arrive at the restaurant at least 30 minutes before your guests.

The writer never been to a Chinese wedding where guests (familiy relatives) are 30 -to- 60 min. late.

Don't make plans for the rest of the day, or evening, or tomorrow or the next day. And don't be in a rush to get home. Meetings can go on for days, weeks, whatever it takes to win concessions. Meetings will continue over a lavish lunch, a lavish dinner that includes many toasts with mao tai, and a long night at a karaoke, consuming XO cognac from a showy bottle. To keep in shape for the lengthy meetings, learn the art of throwing a shot of mao tai onto the floor behind you instead of drinking it down when your host says "ganbei." (Chances are he is not really drinking either.)

Gifts and Bribes

Yes, a local official might ask you to get his child into a foreign university or buy your venture partner a fleet of BMWs. A few years ago a survey by the Independent Commission Against Corruption in Hong Kong found that corrupt business practices may represent 3%-5% of the cost of doing business in China, a factor that respondents (Hong Kong firms) claimed was bearable and not a disincentive. However, the Chinese government has been campaigning against corruption and business fraud. American companieshave the added constraint of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits offering or making payments to officials of foreign countries. The law can be a good excuse for not paying bribes. However, you may find yourself faced with a great many arbitrary fees to be paid to the city and county for everything from your business license to garbage collection. It is hard to avoid paying these.

The U.S. has capitulated somewhat to so-called tied aid, in which matching sums of aid are given to an emerging country when it grants a major capital project contract to a U.S. firm. The Europeans and Japanese have been offering tied aid for years, and the U.S. saw this as unfair competition. Though the U.S. Export-Import Bank officially opposes tied aid and does not initiate the offers, it now has some funds available to help U.S. companies compete for large infrastructure projects.

To win friends in a small but legal way, you should hand out small gifts to the people you meet. Bring a shipment of such items as pens, paperweights, and T-shirts emblazoned with your company logo. And, before you leave town, host a banquet for all of the people who have entertained you. The banquet is not merely a way to reciprocate hospitality; as the host, you can use the occasion to make your demands for the business venture heard. The best time to have your banquet is when the parties concerned are almost ready to sign the contract.

Communication

Gestures that seem insignificant on the surface will help make or break your efforts to gain entry into China. Escort a departing visitor to the elevator as a way of giving him face, for example. To make a visitor feel particularly esteemed, walk him all the way to the front door of the building. And don't "have other plans" when your Chinese associates invite you out. As in many Asiancountries, personal relationships are more important than the contract. The people you are dealing with may not tell you what they really want from a partnership with you until you're out eating and drinking.

There are many ways of saying "no," and some may sound like "yes" to foreigners. If you hear that your proposal "is under study" or has arrived at "an inconvenient time," start preparing a new one.

A manager of a local factory in search of a foreign venture partner might tell you that the deal can be done, but that doesn't mean it will be. Make sure you meet with the officials in charge of your sector in the city, those who have the authority to approve the deal. If someone says he has to get the boss's approval, you should have a hearing with the boss - even if it means getting your boss there on the next flight to meet with his counterpart.

Early on, you may be asked to sign a "letter of intent." This document is not legally binding; it serves more as an expression of seriousness. But the principles in the letter, which look like ritual statements to the Westerner because they lack specific detail, may be invoked later if your Chinese partner has a grudge against you. He'll say you have not lived up to the spirit of mutual cooperation and benefit initially agreed upon.

How to Get Your Way

You will have to give your Chinese partner something he wants. He might, for instance, want your capital to go into lines of business other than what you had in mind. You might have to agree to this if establishing a presence in China is important to your business. Take the example of John C. Portman III, vice chairman of the Atlanta-based architecture firm John Portman & Associates. Portman spent the early 1980s courting the Shanghai government. Besides volunteering suggestions for redeveloping thecity, he set up a trading company that brought an exhibition of goods from Shanghai to Atlanta. Not his usual line of business, but in the end the friendships he'd cultivated netted his company the coveted contract to design and develop the $200-million Shanghai Centre, which houses the Portman Ritz-Carlton Hotel, and China now accounts for about half of the company's total business.

Know when to be flexible, but for important details such as who actually has control of the venture and its operations, hold out, even if it takes a year or more. There are ways to make sure of who is really in charge of a joint venture, even though for matters of face and power the Chinese partner will probably want to provide the person with the loftiest title. You will also want to own the controlling share, because it means quality control, profitability, and decision-making power over matters for which your company is legally liable. Often an inside deal is worked out, whereby the foreign party provides the general manager, who actually is in charge of day-to-day operations, while the Chinese partner brings in the chairman, who works with a board of directors and has authority only over broad policy issues.

Don't go to China and tell your prospective partner you want to start production by a certain date. Expect your Chinese associates to drive their hardest bargain just when you thought it was safe to go home. They know that once rumors of a concluded negotiation become public, you will not be able to back down from the deal without having to make difficult explanations to your investors and headquarters.

Demand that your contract include an arbitration clause, which stipulates that if a dispute arises the matter will be tried by an arbitrator, preferably either in the U.S. or in a third country. However, even in China, there are arbitration centers thatcomply with international standards and are well ahead of the court system.

Being There

Saddled with 50 employees from the state-owned enterprise and you don't even have a customer in China? That's the way things have been done. You will have to make changes slowly and be prepared to train people for new skills. Profits may be equally slow to roll in, but remember the corporate axiom that has become the main China strategy circa 1990s: We're in it for the long haul.

If you're trying to break into the China market with a product or service, learn more about the consumers you're targeting through a focus study. These have become popular among prospective consumers, who have proved willing to sit through sessions lasting as long as three hours. (Focus panels generally last only 40 minutes in the United States.) You might find you have to change your advertising message drastically. Coffee manufacturers, for example, don't win Chinese customers with a "wake up" message because coffee is considered an after-dinner beverage. Test the name in different cities, because meaning can vary according to the local language. As the Economist Intelligence Unit reported recently, one company had a name for a butter product that meant "yellow oil" in one city, "engine oil" in another, and "cow fat" in a third.

Since the trade bans of the early 1950s during the Korean War, Hong Kong has been the gateway to China. Many companies set up in Hong Kong, particularly if their partners or factories are in southern China, and use Hong Kong Cantonese, who speak the same language as their Mainland counterparts. ---

Will Feng Shui Help Your Prospects?

The 7,000-year-old art of placing objects in harmony with the environment and the elements is virtually mandatory in Hong Kong and Taiwan - it always had a stronger influence in southern China. On mainland China it's officially considered feudalist superstitious nonsense, but of course, if it facilitates business… If there's any doubt in your mind, by all means call a geomancer.
Only amateurs believes in Fengshui.



While China speeds along toward overtaking the United States as the world's largest economy - the World Bank forecasts that will happen in the year 2020 - any number of factors may make or break your efforts to reap some of the benefits of this dizzying growth. Barring serious political upheaval, you'll probably want to stay here and make constant - i.e., day-to-day - adaptations to the changingdemands of the market. Like armies, companies in China have to figure out when to advance their presence, when to scale back, when to retreat to another location. And with each new strategy, be prepared to negotiate, feast, and sing karaoke songs.

By Jan Alexander
Updated by Saul Lockhart

http://www.nytimes.com/fodors/fdrs_feat_24_3.html

Much of what the writer said is true. There's more to dealing w. the Chinese (the Russians, the East Indians, etc) then what is said in this article.

Q: Is China the world class [global marketplace] player that most people think they are? Only time can tell.

HALBLEU
11-27-03, 06:12 PM
I found a good safety note for the female readers of this topic.


Business Travel: Women Help Hotels Adjust Their Security

November 25, 2003
By PATRICIA R. OLSEN


In a 2002 survey by John Portman & Associates, a
hotel-architecture firm in Atlanta, only one of five female
executives described security as their most important
consideration in choosing a hotel. Yet 75 percent wanted
screens in their rooms showing who was outside the door and
84 percent said they would like to have panic buttons on
the wall to alert the front desk.

In that seeming contradiction lies an enduring reality: no
matter how sophisticated women traveling on business might
have become about looking after themselves on the road,
they can never shake their trepidation about being alone in
an unfamiliar locale. And with women representing more than
half of all business travelers, the hotel industry is
redoubling its efforts to reassure them.

Late last year, for example, the Hamilton Crowne Plaza in
Washington began offering a women-only floor, a feature
popular in hotels in Asia. The Women on Their Way program
of Wyndham Hotels, which has been catering to female
business travelers since 1995, polls women business
travelers each year. The latest findings indicate that they
want to know other women's opinions on the safest hotels,
said Cary Broussard, a spokeswoman for the program.

And well they might. Every year, hundreds of thousands of
newly minted female executives take to the road and are apt
to make the same mistakes as their predecessors did. But
even veterans are vulnerable in hotels that fail to follow
basic security procedures, as incidents described in recent
court cases show.

A 30-year-old sales representative named Laura was sexually
assaulted in February 2001 in her room at the Los Gatos
Motor Inn in Los Gatos, Calif., where she had gone for a
training conference for her videoconferencing company.
Shortly after midnight, awakened by a knock on the door,
she opened it, assuming one of her colleagues who had gone
out for the evening had returned. Her attacker, who held a
knife to her throat, was never found.

"If you didn't know me before, it's difficult to explain
what the attack meant," said Laura, who insisted that her
last name not be used. "I'm a seasoned business traveler. I
had traveled on business for five years before that trip. I
always thought of myself as not afraid of anything.'' She
still travels on business, now for an
advertising-technology sales company, but she is
"incredibly aware of her surroundings at all times," she
said.

The motor inn settled out of court in September for a sum
that Laura's lawyer, Charles Kelly of the San Francisco
firm Hersh & Hersh, declined to disclose. Besides the lack
of basic security devices, he said, the motel, in an
upscale suburb of San Jose, had no security staff after
hours. He said it installed peepholes and door latches
after the attack.

Michael Masuda of the law firm of Nolan, Hamerly, Etienne
Hoss in Salinas, Calif., who represented the Los Gatos
Motor Inn, said, "No motel, hotel, inn or B&B can
absolutely and unconditionally protect guests against
random and unprecedented criminal acts."

Part of the problem, says Tia Gordon, a spokeswoman for the
American Hotel and Lodging Association, is that aside from
fire codes, no national standards and few state ones exist
covering safety at the country's 47,000 hotels and their
4.4 million rooms.

One couple is leading a fight to change that. Sol and Linda
Toder of Mount Lebanon, Pa., parents of a 33-year-old woman
who was murdered by a hotel handyman in 1996 while
traveling on business, are working to gain nationwide
support for Nan's Law, which would require at least an
employee background check of hotel workers with access to
keys. So far, Mr. Toder said, legislation has been
introduced into the Pennsylvania and Ohio Legislatures and
has received an endorsement from AAA and the Parents of
Murdered Children.

Cathy Enz, a professor at the Cornell University School of
Hospital Administration, says that most chain hotels have a
set of standards that include safety measures, and failure
to adhere to them can be grounds for losing the franchise.

In a 2002 study of hotel safety by the Cornell University
Center for Hospitality Research, the level of crime in an
area was found to be directly proportional to the level of
safety a hotel provides.

Airport hotels, which are often in high-crime areas, have
extremely strict security, she said, and even older luxury
hotels are normally quite safe. In another study, the
center found that chain hotels had stronger security than
smaller, independent hotels.

But in March 2001, one chain hotel missed the mark for a
23-year-old flight attendant named Jennifer, according to
her lawyer, Geraldine Weiss, at the Michael J. Piuze firm
in Los Angeles. Jennifer, who insisted that her last name
not be used, had been working for the airline for only a
month and had just finished her first long flight when she
checked into the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles. She
greeted another flight attendant on the same floor, who
said Jennifer disappeared around a corner. Next she saw a
man chase after her and then heard a scream and a thud. The
man had grabbed Jennifer from behind and pushed her into
her room.

The first flight attendant raced to call the hotel
operator, and according to Jennifer's lawyer, screamed for
security. Fearing that the man had a gun, she was afraid to
step in herself. A while later, when no one came, Ms. Weiss
said that the flight attendant called again and that still
no one responded. The case went to trial in 2002, and early
this year, a jury awarded the flight attendant $2.8
million.

Jennifer declined to be interviewed, and like Laura, was
still in counseling. "The hotel, which is in a downtown
area that has a transient problem, had three floors set
aside for flight attendants," Ms. Weiss said. "You'd think
they would have provided extra security for those floors."
Calls to the Westin Bonaventure were not returned.

Industry experts offer pretty much the same safety tips
they always have, with Rule No. 1 not to become
overconfident just because you have a lot of traveling
experience. "I've known executive women who forget to pack
their 'travel smarts,' " said Marybeth Bond, the author of
"Gutsy Women: More Travel Wisdom for the Road" (Travelers'
Tales Inc., 2001). Rather than hail a taxi themselves as
they are no doubt accustomed to doing, she said, they ought
to delegate that task to the hotel concierge or the
headwaiter at the restaurant.

SafePlace, a Wilmington, Del., company that offers
accreditation to hotels and other facilities that qualify,
said they should provide common-area lighting, electronic
room locks and perimeter-security measures; run background
checks on job applicants; hold security courses for
employees; and put emergency procedures in writing.

Travel is apparently getting safer. Thomas G. Davis,
president of Hospitality Risk Controls in Dublin, Ohio, a
security consultant who testifies in hotel-security civil
cases, said he had not received a call about a lodging rape
or murder case in the last six months. In the mid-1990's,
he said, he averaged a call a month. Whether a peephole in
the door is necessary "depends on the environment, such as
whether the window provides a full enough view of a person
at the door," he said.

Mr. Kelly argues that such features should be provided as a
matter of course. "The cost to install peepholes and safety
latches is about $16 a room," he said.

Readers are invited to send stories about business travel
experiences to businesstravel@nytimes.com

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/25/business/25women.html?ex=1070982382&ei=1&en=d2a453285d49d11c
---------------------------------

HALBLEU
12-18-03, 05:46 AM
For Some, It’s a Very Moo Shu Christmas

December 17, 2003
By ALEX WITCHEL





SOMEWHERE, Christmas will look like this: cheerful children
opening presents that don't break by noon; a glazed ham
taking pride of place on the heirloom cherrywood sideboard
as the heady aroma of gingerbread wafts through the house,
which is itself set upon snow-covered hills where the leafy
pine boughs are filigreed in ice.

On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Christmas will look
like this: long lines of people scanning the sold-out signs
at the Lincoln Square and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, each
person dressed in boots, vest, scarf, hat, earmuffs and
overcoat, all of which they will pile on their laps, once
seated. There they will stay, buried beneath their
haberdashery, for one movie, maybe two, before heading
straight for 43 West 65th Street, where they will devour
barbecue spare ribs, Peking duck, lobster with black bean
sauce, and espresso and tiramisù for dessert (yep, that's
right) - if they don't just order it in.

At Shun Lee West, and the adjoining Shun Lee Cafe,
Christmas is the busiest day of the year, Michael Tong, its
owner, said. From noon until 11 p.m., Mr. Tong and the
restaurant's general manager, Henry Nuesch, will greet 900
diners (based on the last two Christmases) and they will
make 800 deliveries, up from the usual 500. While Shun Lee
Palace at 155 East 55th Street will also be open, Mr. Tong
expects that it will serve only 300 diners. "It's not
really in a residential area," he said.

Welcome to the conundrum that is Christmas New York style:
while most restaurants close for the holiday, or in a few
cases, stay open and serve a prix fixe meal laden with
froufrou, thousands of diners, most of them Jewish, are
faced with a dilemma. There's nothing to celebrate at home
and no place to eat out, at least if they want a regular
dinner. That leaves Chinese restaurants, but especially on
a holiday, what's more depressing than eating at the corner
egg roll mill?

The Shun Lee experience is something else again. For those
who don't live on the Upper West or East Sides of
Manhattan, it may be hard to comprehend how both Shun Lees
have managed to transcend themselves as mere Chinese
restaurants to become part of their neighborhood cultures.
Shun Lee Palace and Shun Lee West, which Mr. Tong opened in
1971 and 1981, respectively, serve essentially the same
menus, while Shun Lee Cafe serves dim sum only. These
high-end restaurants cook sophisticated cuisines from four
regions of China while making crucial concessions to the
New York deli mentality of "I want it my way right now"
that has its customers hooked. If Grandma was an elegant
Chinese gourmand who removed all the bones and all the
shells and harbored a weakness for brandy and cheesecake,
her meals would be like Shun Lee's.

I discovered how ingrained Shun Lee was in the lives of
certain New Yorkers years ago when my younger stepson was
13 and he had a friend coming to dinner. Work ran long and
I got home too late to cook. Armed with a Shun Lee takeout
menu, I stood at the bedroom door, trumpeting my special
occasion plan to order in a Chinese feast, instead. The
friend never even moved his eyes from the television
screen. "I'll have the Grand Marnier prawns," he said.

More recently, my husband and I were invited by friends to
celebrate the Chinese New Year at their home with Shun Lee
takeout for eight. When the main courses were finished, I
took a pile of dirty dishes into the kitchen, where I found
the host, a man old enough to be my father, pawing through
the delivery bags in search of the candied walnuts wrapped
in wax paper that accompany takeout orders. "That's the
best part," he groused, as I left him there in search of
his stash. When he finally returned to the dining room he
seemed quite content, and no walnuts ever turned up with
dessert.

It's fair to say that Mr. Tong, 58, whose first job in New
York was at the original Shun Lee Dynasty in 1966, is at
the top of his game. He estimates that his clientele is
about 70 percent Jewish, so giving them a home away from
home on Christmas Day (the ones who have not gone to
Florida or the Caribbean, he notes) makes perfect sense.

"Through the 40's, 50's and 60's, Jews would eat Chinese
food every Sunday night," he said. "They still love Chinese
food." Indeed, Sunday remains the busiest night of the week
at Shun Lee, and Mr. Tong changes the menu every 6 to 8
months so customers won't get bored. While he never messes
with a popular classic like Peking duck, he takes shrewd
measure of what is happening in all kinds of restaurants
all around the city. Then his SPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAM cook the food New
Yorkers like in an authentic Chinese preparation,
representing the Sichuan, Beijing, Shanghai and Canton
regions.

Some recent additions to the menu include buffalo fillet
Sichuan style, Hunan ostrich steak, sweetbreads with black
mushrooms, and braised short ribs, Hang Chow style.

"Just because it hasn't been on a Chinese menu in the last
20 years doesn't mean it shouldn't be," said Mr. Nuesch
(pronounced NOOSH). "As long as it is cooked in the proper
fashion of the specific cuisine, why not?"

Mr. Tong also tries to accommodate requests from kosher
customers, both in the restaurants and out. Shun Lee Palace
recently catered a kosher dinner for 25 at the home of
Howard J. Rubenstein, the public relations executive, and
Mr. Tong said his staff will prepare a kosher meal at
either restaurant for 10 or more people, but the customer
must buy a new wok in addition to the food. "This does not
apply to Orthodox Jews," he cautioned. "I can only do
kosher to a certain extent."

He is much more at ease with the second menu, which he
offers for banquets, that would please any hard-core
aficionado of authentic Chinese ingredients. It includes
jellyfish, turtle, pig's stomach and abalone, at $150 a
piece. These meals are most often made for corporate
affairs; the cost and the time it takes to serve 10 courses
are a turnoff to the family crowd. "They don't lend
themselves to bringing Grandma and an 8-year-old," Mr.
Nuesch said.

It is the desserts at Shun Lee that are unabashedly
inauthentic and with good reason. Years ago, Mr. Tong
noticed that when all he offered was the standard
kumquat/pineapple/ice cream repertory, his customers asked
for the check and went elsewhere for "a real dessert." With
Mr. Nuesch's help, he has kept them in their seats.

"Just because you've had Chinese food for dinner doesn't
mean you can't enjoy espresso afterward," Mr. Nuesch said.
"We've taken the tiramisù off the dining room menu just for
a change, though people ask for it all the time. It's still
on the takeout menu because it travels well." The current
dessert menu offers black and white chocolate mousse,
blueberry cheesecake and fresh apple crunch served warm
with vanilla ice cream.

"We never defend ourselves about this," Mr. Tong said
firmly. "What we're doing is saying, `Hey, we have
everything. We want to make you happy.' And when people
bring their kids, they want dessert."

While Mr. Tong has bent almost in half in his quest to make
the customer happy, certain things do seem to tear at his
heart. When he hears the words "duck sauce" you can see a
tiny part of his soul die. And when he recounts the sight
of people pouring soy sauce on their rice before tasting
their food, his sadness is epic. His new bête noire, he
said, is the increase in requests for steamed food. "Some
of my customers are very health conscious," he said. "I
ask, `Without the chef's sauce, how will it taste good?'
And they say, `It's more important to keep my weight.' " He
sighed. "That is sometimes a little hurting."

Similarly, Mr. Nuesch - who is Swiss, and whose first job
in New York was at the Pavilion and Fondue Pot restaurants
at the Swiss Center - upgraded and expanded both the wine
list and the bar when he came to Shun Lee in 1986, and he
looks the other way when customers don't want his advice.
"There are so many beautiful wines to choose from for this
kind of food," he said. "Zinfandels, rieslings, syrahs.
Certain standards like white Burgundies disappear with this
food but people still order them."

That's New York for you. "I've been working here since
1966, and I've learned one thing," Mr. Tong said. "Pleasing
the customer is the best policy."

His customers try to please him, too. "I've probably been
to more than 500 bar mitzvahs in my career," he said,
smiling. "They say my nickname is Michael Schwarz."

Did he ever cater any of them? He seemed shocked by the
question. "No," he said. "You can't have Chinese food at a
bar mitzvah unless you're really Reform."

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/17/dining/17HENR.html?ex=1072769487&ei=1&en=5a6cd4bcfa16a90b

---------------------------------

HALBLEU
12-18-03, 05:48 AM
What's Doing: In Washington

December 14, 2003
By JENNIFER 8. LEE



Even though the Capitol Hill population flees Washington
during December, holiday visitors will find a vibrant city
that appeals to both singles and families. Washington's
attractions have grown well beyond the white stone
monuments and museums along the Mall over the last few
years, buoyed by a demographic surge of young people
seeking an urban lifestyle.

Downtown neighborhoods are being revitalized as boutique
hotels and stylish, moderately priced restaurants are
dressing up once-dowdy streets. In addition to the familiar
and classy Georgetown and Dupont Circle areas, more
recently gentrified neighborhoods include Adams Morgan, U
Street and the so-called Penn Quarter.

For younger visitors, complementing the holiday music
performances at the Kennedy Center and other sites is a
varied underground music scene that features bluegrass,
go-go music and hard rock. And families will welcome the
special rates being offered at more than 50 hotels through
Feb. 29, with savings of up to 50 percent off published
rates, and weekend rates from $65 a night. Information:
www.dcinspires.com.

Events

December brings a full calendar of holiday performances,
both classic and contemporary, to the Kennedy Center, 2700
F Street NW. The National Symphony Orchestra performs
Handel's "Messiah" next Thursday to Sunday; $20 to $75.
Fabian Barnes Dance Institute of Washington and Washington
Reflections Dance Company will perform dance, poetry and
song in the "Spirit of Kwanzaa" celebration on Dec. 28 at 3
and 8 p.m.; $10 to $15; (800) 444-1324 or
www.kennedycenter.org. And beginning in the New Year, a
Festival of France at the Kennedy Center includes
performances of Opéra Comique, the Lyon Opera Ballet and
Renée Fleming and Friends.

"Nutcracker" fans will find various interpretations. The
Washington Ballet presents its storybook version through
Dec. 28 at the Warner Theater, 13th between E and F, NW,
www.warnertheatre.com; tickets are $24 to $59. Call (800)
551-7328. The Kirov Ballet will perform Mihail Chemiakin's
somewhat darker interpretation at the Kennedy Center Opera
House, which reopened this month after a $20 million
renovation, from Dec. 23 to 28. Tickets are $45 to $110;
(202) 467-4600.

Ford's Theater, 511 10th Street NW, www.fordstheatre.org,
offers David H. Bell's two-hour adaptation of "A Christmas
Carol" through December; Tuesday to Sunday at 7:30 p.m.;
matinees on Wednesday and Thursday at 1 p.m. and Saturday
and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. (matinees Dec. 23, 24 and 31 at
2:30 p.m.). Tickets are $29 to $45; (800) 955-5566.

Starting tomorrow, aviation buffs can make the 28-mile trek
out to Chantilly, Va., to the Smithsonian National Air and
Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, with a
294,000-square-foot hangar housing some historic airplanes,
including the first Air France Concorde and the Enola Gay.
A 40-minute shuttle ($7) departs from the Air and Space
Museum on the Mall every hour on the hour. Those who prefer
mammals over machinery should head over to the
Smithsonian's newly renovated Hall of Mammals in the
National Museum of Natural History at 10th Street and
Constitution Avenue NW, with interactive, hands-on displays
that span the climates around the world. Both museums are
open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and are free; (202) 357-2700.

In an encore to a popular summer event, the city's top
restaurants will offer three-course prix fixe lunches at
$20.04 and dinners at $30.04 from Jan. 12 to 18 as part of
DC Restaurant Week. The lunches are a wonderful way to
sample classic Washington restaurants, but diners should
make reservations early. Participants will be listed next
week at www.washington.org/restaurantwk.

Sightseeing

The National Christmas Tree display has grown from a single
tree to 57 - a central one flanked by a parade of 56
smaller trees representing each state, territory and the
District of Columbia. The brightly lighted trees extend
down the Pathway of Peace on the Ellipse. Until Dec. 26,
performers from around the country will entertain crowds
from 6 to 8 p.m. (no performances Dec. 24 and 25).

Ice skaters can glide by contemporary sculptures at the
National Gallery of Art's elegant outdoor skating rink at
700 Constitution Avenue, (202) 289-3360. The less adept can
watch with a cup of coffee, hot chocolate or wine. Open
Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to
9 p.m. General admission for a two-hour session, beginning
on the hour, is $6; skate rental is $2.50.

Since opening in the summer of 2000, the International Spy
Museum at 800 F Street NW, (202) 393-7798,
www.spymuseum.org, has educated and entertained children
and adults alike. Among the engaging multimedia exhibits on
the culture of espionage is one where kids can crawl
through metal ducts and pretend to listen in on Fidel
Castro's conversations. General admission, $13. Open daily
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The old Carnegie Library, once the city's central public
library, has been revitalized to provide an intimate look
at Washington's two-century history. It now contains the
City Museum of Washington D.C., in Mount Vernon Square at
801 K Street NW, (202) 383-1800, Web site
www.citymuseumdc.org, with a family-friendly calendar of
changing exhibits featuring different neighborhoods and
walking tours. The museum is across from the new convention
center. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
admission $7; $5 children; includes exhibits and a
multimedia show.

Where to Stay

In the restored 1839 Tariff Building, the boutique Hotel
Monaco at 700 F Street NW, (800) 649-1202, fax (202)
628-7277, www.monaco-dc.com, serves as a chic anchor to the
emerging Penn Quarter district. The 180 colorful, brightly
patterned rooms feature leopard-pattern robes and a bust of
Thomas Jefferson atop the armoire. The hotel, which holds a
wine hour at 5:30, also offers goldfish to keep guests
company during their stay. Rates: $129 to $249.

The slightly more price conscious should look across the
river at Arlington, Va., where a number of hotels cost less
than their counterparts in the District, yet are a few
minutes' walk from a Metro stop. With 580 rooms, the Key
Bridge Marriott on 1401 Lee Highway, (800) 228-9290, fax
(703) 524-8964, www.marriott.com, has some of the most
impressive panoramic views of Washington. Weekend rates in
December can be booked online for as low as $109 to $169;
weekdays $200 and up.

Budget: Five minutes from the White House, the Hilton
Garden Inn at 815 14th Street NW, (800) 445-8667, fax (202)
783-7801, www.hiltongardeninn.com, is a reliable choice.
The 300 rooms are clean, though modest in size, and each
has a refrigerator and microwave. Rates list for above
$150, but can go as low as $69 depending on availability
and day of the week.

Though set in a more spartan neighborhood, the
Morrison-Clark Inn at 1015 L Street (11th and
Massachusetts) NW, (202) 898-1200, fax (202) 414-0513,
www.morrisonclark.com, features Southern charm for a
reasonable price. Weekend specials at the restored mansion,
listed in the National Register of Historic Places, start
as low as $99 a night. The 54 rooms, all with private
baths, are decorated in Victorian and country styles with
old-fashioned wood and wicker furniture. Every afternoon,
board games and refreshments are set out around the
fireplace in the drawing room. The inn's restaurant offers
Southern regional cuisine for dinner Tuesday to Saturday
(entrees $16 and $24), brunch Sunday.

Luxury: Across the street from the White House, the lavish
Hay-Adams Hotel, 1 Lafayette Square, (202) 638-6600, fax
(202) 638-2716, www.hayadams.com, is offering holiday
packages, including one for children (it comes with a
children's book and a stuffed animal) and a romance package
(Champagne, flowers and bath salts). The 145 rooms,
including 24 suites, have a classic European flair with
ornate molded ceilings and Frette linens. Official rates
start at $495. The hotel offers daily passes at a nearby
sports club for $15.

From Dec. 19 to 30, the 300-room Ritz-Carlton Washington
D.C., 1150 22nd Street NW, (800) 241-3333, fax (202)
835-1588, www.ritzcarlton.com, has a holiday package for
guests visiting family. Rates for the
cream-and-rose-decorated rooms start at $229 and include a
bottle of wine to bring to relatives. For $10 a day, guests
can use the 100,000-square-foot sports club. From $199 on
weekends, $329 weekdays.

Where to Eat

Having ridden the District's historic ups and downs, Ben's
Chili Bowl, 1213 U Street NW, (202) 667-0909, has lasted
nearly 50 years to become a Washington classic, and a
required stop for campaigning politicians. The menu of the
bustling fluorescent-lit establishment is cheap and
unpretentious: chili burgers, chili dogs, and even chili
subs are $2.80 and $5.50. Ben's also offers veggie burgers
and vegetarian chili. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and
dinner; until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday; until 8 p.m.
Sunday.

Nora, one of the country's first certified organic
restaurants, is at 2132 Florida Avenue NW, off Dupont
Circle; (202) 462-5143. The exposed brick walls and wooden
rafters offer a homey setting for a menu designed around
seasonal local farm ingredients, such as roasted Amish
chicken with celeriac purée and wild mushroom sauce. Even
the shirts worn by the staff members are made with organic
cotton or hemp. Dinner for two with wine runs around $130.
Open Monday to Saturday, dinner only.

Ethiopian food has become one of the most popular ethnic
cuisines within Washington proper, as the surrounding area
has one of the largest populations of Ethiopians outside
Addis Abba. A concentration of Ethiopian restaurants lines
18th Street in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood, including
Meskerem, 2434 18th Street NW; (202) 462-4100. It offers a
vegetarian and nonvegetarian collection of curries and
stews called messobs, which diners can clean up with
injera, a spongy pancake bread. Dinner for two with sweet
honey wine is $40 to $50. Open daily, lunch and dinner.

From its gyrating belly dancers to its seven-course
Moroccan meals, Marrakesh, 617 New York Ave NW, (202)
393-9393, exudes atmosphere. The dining areas, with couches
covered in colorful pillows and exotic tapestries, are good
for groups of six or eight. The fixed vegetarian and
nonvegetarian menus featuring such dishes as tajine of lamb
with almonds and honey are $26 a person, without wine. Cash
or check only. Open daily, dinner only.

Establishing themselves as trendy tea shops that ooze a
soothing zenlike quality, the Teaism restaurants have
become a notable Washington chain. The Asian-influenced
selection of teas and beverages ranges from jasmine brews
to Taiwanese bubble milk tea. As for the food, portions are
modest in size but distinctive; a scrambled tofu breakfast
is $5; a smoked turkey sandwich with radish sprouts,
cucumber, nori seaweed and wasabi mayo, $6.50. The three
are at 800 Connecticut Avenue NW, near the White House,
(202) 835-2233; 2009 R Street NW, near Dupont Circle, (202)
667-3827; and 400 Eighth Street NW, in Penn Quarter, (202)
638-6010.

Night Life

The U Street Corridor, historically the spine of
African-American culture in Washington, has been
revitalized as a center of the city's hipster sensibility.
U Street has a number of intimate music clubs featuring
local bands including Velvet Lounge at 915 U Street NW,
(202) 462-3213, www.velvetloungedc.com, which typically
charges a $7 cover for an eclectic range: punk rock to alt
country to classical; open daily.

JENNIFER 8. LEE is a reporter in the Washington bureau of
The New York Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/14/travel/14wdwash.html?ex=1072624356&ei=1&en=55ce66890b80a757

---------------------------------

HALBLEU
12-27-03, 03:48 PM
In Vegas, Scouting the Choicest Cuts

December 28, 2003
By R. W. APPLE Jr.


STEAK - it's what's for dinner in Las Vegas these days.

The eat-yourself-silly buffet survives in down-market
hotels, and hot-shot chefs from around the country,
recently including Michael Kornick from Chicago and Bradley
Ogden from San Francisco, continue to set up shop on the
Strip. But beef is omnipresent, from the $7.95 T-bone
special advertised by the San Remo to the $98 Kobe rib-eye
(appetizers, vegetables and dessert extra, to say nothing
of drinks) that tops the card at Craftsteak. Of the 331
restaurants in the city that the 2004 Zagat survey deems
worthy of mention, 53 are steakhouses.

Why? Gambling is mainly a guy thing, sure, and steak is
prototypical guy food. But that is too simple. Las Vegas
caters to more than high-rolling Texans and Asians these
days, more than little old ladies addicted to slot
machines. It caters to families, too, so there must be
other reasons for what Max Jacobson, a top local restaurant
critic, calls "the steak glut."

Discussing the trend with a friend the other day, Wolfgang
Puck, the Los Angeles restaurateur who owns a fistful of
restaurants in Vegas, none of them steakhouses, offered a
theory. "You don't really need a chef," he said - meaning
that you can get by with a run-of-the-mill,
one-size-fits-all line cook who can slap a hunk of meat on
a grill, instead of a highly trained, probably highly
ambitious chef longing to quit and open his own place. For
a midlevel steakhouse without ambition, what's more, you
need only a limited number of ingredients - a real godsend
in "a place that's surrounded by desert, where nothing
grows," as Mr. Jacobson observed, "so everything has to be
trucked or flown in."

Not that every steak joint in Las Vegas cuts corners. In a
concentrated burst of carnivorous consumption there
recently, I ate great as well as not-so-great beef. The
best, and what came with it, especially at Craftsteak and
Prime, was the equal of the best restaurants Las Vegas has
to offer, like Mr. Ogden's place (which bears his name),
Julian Serrano's Picasso, Alessandro Stratta's Renoir and
Commander's Palace, a flourishing transplant from New
Orleans.

Many of the steakhouse wine lists, some the length of minor
novels, rival the finest in the country.

Almost every chain operator in the business is represented
in the Las Vegas sweep-steaks: Smith & Wollensky, the Palm
and Gallagher's from New York; Morton's from Chicago;
Ruth's Chris from New Orleans; Del Frisco's from Dallas.
Some establishments seem to exist not for tourists but for
local folk. Others, like The Steakhouse at Circus Circus,
attract tourists with Wal-Mart pocketbooks. But prime beef,
aged for up to 28 days, costs big money, and you find it
only on big-ticket menus.

You find it at Craftsteak and Prime - the first owned by
Tom Colicchio, of Craft and Gramercy Tavern, the second by
Jean-Georges Vongerichten, of Jean-Georges and JoJo, two
New Yorkers not previously known as steak mavens. You find
it as well at Charlie Palmer, a serious contender owned by
the chef of Aureole in Manhattan.

Like most of the star chefs, they spend the bulk of their
time at home rather than in Nevada. Mr. Colicchio heads
west once every two or three weeks, his associates said;
Mr. Vongerichten makes the trip four or five times a year.
Several of the other big-name owners do not bother to visit
at all.

The lieutenants that the chef-proprietors leave in charge
come and go. Kerry Simon opened Prime for Mr. Vongerichten,
for example, but he has long since departed to tackle
projects of his own in Nevada and New York.

With one thing and another - staff changes, supply
problems, customers who are often easily distracted and
overlubricated - inconsistency is as inevitable at the
dining table as at the poker table.

Low-key in look and mood, with placemats instead of cloths
on handsome, modern tables, yet as finely tuned as a
Lamborghini, Craftsteak displays the hallmarks of Danny
Meyer, one of the country's most accomplished
restaurateurs. The chef is Christopher Albrecht, who cooked
at Gramercy Tavern, where Mr. Meyer and Mr. Colicchio are
partners; the general manager is Michael Seznec, once
general manager at the Union Square Cafe, Mr. Meyer's
flagship.

Craftsteak's menu is laconic and unostentatious, but much
longer than those at most steakhouses. It lists roasted
meats (porterhouse steak, filet mignon, lamb loin, pork
loin, chicken), grilled meats (including grass-fed rib-eye
and grilled Kobe steaks of several varieties), braised
meats, roasted fish, braised fish. The choice of first
courses and sides is the most imaginative and maybe the
largest in town.

Unbriefed on what to order, I hit pay dirt, though at a
punishing price ($206.21 for one, including wine, a tip and
a drink). I decided on a half-dozen Hog Island oysters,
from Tomales Bay north of San Francisco, skipping over
grilled quail and foie gras. They arrived on a bed of
crushed ice in a copper gratin pan, skillfully opened,
juices cupped in the shells, smelling splendidly of the
sea. Three sauces (all superfluous with oysters of such
high quality) were there for those who like them, and
plenty of lemon.

The same care was evident in the hanger steak, fibrous but
not tough, moistened by pan juices, with exceptional depth
of flavor. Texas sweet onions, roasted with rosemary and
thyme, and fries so crisp and golden that I suspected
(incorrectly) that they might have been cooked in lard,
both made ideal accompaniments. So did the 2001 Ridge Paso
Robles Zinfandel ($69). The 500-item wine list offered
plenty of scope for rollers considerably higher than I,
including Grange 1997 from Australia at $450, but also lots
of good drinking for around $50.

Mr. Albrecht, 31, who grew up in New Jersey, goes to
considerable lengths to find meat of the quality he wants.
Rather than buying from a wholesaler, he buys pork from
purebred, free-range American Berkshire hogs, raised at
Snake River Farms in Idaho, and Hereford beef from
Ridgefield Farms near Yakima, Wash., which he prefers to
the more typical beef from Angus steers. "People ask me,
'What do you do to make it taste that way?' " he said. "I
tell them that we buy the best we can find and add salt and
pepper."

Neither at Craftsteak, in the MGM Grand, nor at Prime, in
the Bellagio, need you run the gantlet of chiming slots to
get to dinner. Bravo! And Charlie Palmer is in the tranquil
Four Seasons, which has no slots.

Craftsteak produced my best meal of this visit, but Prime
finished a close second, every bit as good this time as it
was when I ate there several years ago, with Mr. Simon at
the range. It is pure Las Vegas razzle-dazzle, all brass
and velvet and mirrors, with Steve Wynn's famous fountains
dancing at eye level just outside the huge windows and
vases of fat pink roses on the tables.

In addition to the usual fare, Prime offers a
six-peppercorn steak and a veal porterhouse, as well as
distinctive starters like crab with a papaya mustard sauce,
roasted beets and goat cheese, and a napoleon of raw tuna
and chopped avocado. The menu lists five mustards, five
sauces and a dozen kinds of potatoes. I wanted to order all
12, but in the end I ordered none.

Nor did I order steak, as I should have, given my marching
orders. Mr. Vongerichten is an Alsatian, and I couldn't
resist the spätzle - herby and typically German or Alsatian
little dumplings - that came with the boned, soy-glazed
short ribs. They weren't steak, I rationalized, but they
were beef; they were also utterly delectable, meltingly
tender but richly textured. A green apple pavlova took the
edge off the meal's richness.

As gifted as the chef, Jonathan Snyder, obviously is,
Prime's sommelier, John Burke, who came west from
Schenectady, N.Y., 11 years ago, is his peer. He travels
the world, stalking interesting bottles. Since I was dining
alone, he won my attention by telling me he would open
anything on the list - "well, anything up to $1,000" - and
sell it by the glass. I had a glass of fragrant Albarino
from Galicia with my tuna, and a couple of glasses of
punchy Nine Popes, an Australian Rhône-style blend, with my
short ribs. That held the dinner price down a bit - to a
mere $153.86.

My evening at Charlie Palmer ($215.13) was less successful.
On the plus side, the house-made cornbread was so
addictively delicious that I had to shove the basket to the
other side of the table. The 18-ounce bone-in shell steak,
at $32, was cooked as ordered, rare, with a fine,
well-marbled, ruby-red interior, and appealing if not
exactly memorable flavor. The cheesy potato gratin,
gorgeously gooey, was unforgettable.

Service, attentive but poorly informed, fell well short of
the level demanded by the quietly elegant Spanish colonial
surroundings. I had to ask twice for several things,
including béarnaise sauce. When it finally arrived, the
sauce, which should be fresh, bright, buttery and yellow,
was instead tired, pasty and ivory-colored. Made long in
advance, I would speculate.

Wines are something of a Palmer specialty, and the list at
his steak emporium is a splendid sight, many hundreds of
entries long, with noteworthy ranges of Rhônes,
super-Tuscans and Oregon pinot noirs. Steep prices are a
major drawback, with most of the best over $100, although I
thought that $85 for the well-rounded Flowers pinot noir
that I ordered was fair enough.

It is not easy to find a good steakhouse open for lunch,
but the Palm, in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, stays
open all day to cater to footsore shoppers. Sitting on the
little terrace at the front of the restaurant, with statues
of ancients looking down, you can almost imagine yourself
in a Roman plaza, except that where the fountain ought to
be you see a ring of slots surmounted by a Mercedes on a
revolving platform.

The Palm's walls are covered with caricatures, in the
manner of the New York original, and the giant lobsters,
the free pickles and the Italian-American starters like
fried calamari are all there, in addition to steaks (the
kitchen had forgotten to salt my rib-eye surprisingly
enough). I missed the sumptuous crabmeat served at the
Washington branch, and I found the bread second-rate. But
the hash browns were brilliant, and the service, by white
aproned waiters, was fast, funny and competent.

At Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico Steakhouse, by contrast, a
tiresomely thick-witted waiter - or "server," as he said -
insisted on telling me not only his name but those of two
colleagues. In an off-puttingly severe series of arched
rooms at the Venetian, Delmonico serves 500 or more diners
on a good night. Put it down to the power of television,
although the food, with a few genuine New Orleans accents
like gumbo and barbecued shrimp in a spicy, roux-based
sauce, and the vast collection of wines both merit
attention in their own right.

Restaurant Information

All restaurants are open daily and have smoking sections.
Prices are for main courses only; none come with side
dishes.

Charlie Palmer Steak, Four Seasons Hotel, 3960 Las Vegas
Boulevard South, (702) 632-5120, fax (702) 632-5459;
www.charliepalmersteaklv.com; dinner only. Kansas City
rib-eye, $38.

Craftsteak, MGM Grand Hotel, 3799 Las Vegas Boulevard
South, (702) 891-1111; www.mgmmirage.com; dinner only. New
York strip steak, $39.

Delmonico Steakhouse, Venetian Resort Hotel, 3355 Las Vegas
Boulevard South, (702) 414-3737, fax (702) 414 3838; lunch
and dinner. Bone-in New York strip, $34.

Palm Restaurant, Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, 3500 Las
Vegas Boulevard South, (702) 732-7256; lunch and dinner.
New York strip, $36.50.

Prime Steakhouse, Bellagio Hotel, 3600 Las Vegas Boulevard
South, (702) 693-7223; www.bellagiolasvegas.com; dinner
only. Six-peppercorn steak, $40.

R. W. APPLE Jr. is associate editor of The New York Times.


http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/28/travel/28steak.html?ex=1073582681&ei=1&en=42407b52549aaf49
---------------------------------

Sonshi,

Las Vegas would be a swell, swell place for a Sonshi Officers convention party. ... What do you think about it ?

We can have a great, great party at one of those Steakhouse mentioned above.

Cardinal999
12-29-03, 01:50 PM
Originally posted by HALBLEU
In Vegas, Scouting the Choicest Cuts

December 28, 2003
By R. W. APPLE Jr.


STEAK - it's what's for dinner in Las Vegas these days.


Sonshi,

Las Vegas would be a swell, swell place for a Sonshi Officers convention party. ... What do you think about it ?

We can have a great, great party at one of those Steakhouse mentioned above.

This Cardinal's Hungry

Is [ "Steaks & Strategies'' ] the theme of the party? ;)

sonshi
12-29-03, 03:09 PM
I'm more of a seafood type of person, but "Steaks & Strategies" sounds good as well. :)

Tri-ring
12-29-03, 08:31 PM
To Sonshi,

How about some fugu, they're in season ! !
A dip in the hot spa and some sake as starter and fill yourself up with fugu sashimi and nabe.
Heaven ! !
Hot spa and Japanese cuisine (http://www.babypearl.co.jp/hamayu/dinner.html)

Just be careful, if you find a tingly sensation on your tongue YOU'RE in trouble.

sonshi
12-29-03, 11:14 PM
Sounds wonderful. I hope you didn't mean "heaven" loosely. Tetrodotoxin is a not-so-subtle message from the Tao telling me to avoid the path of eating fugu. :) What did Sonshi have for dinner last night? Cod. My favorite is salmon, because I was raised in the Pacific Northwest where salmon is plentiful. (Roe is usually exported to Japan.) Visit the Pike Place Market in Seattle and watch them throw fish around; sounds mundane -- who doesn’t throw raw fish across the room at 60 miles per hour -- but you have to be there to experience it.

Tri-ring
12-30-03, 12:40 AM
Well your on the wrong path if you ask me, the Japanese have been eating fugu since the stone age. In fact we found fossilized bone of fugu in our graves before Christ from 3000BC.( I hope it wasn't the cause,,man!! What we would do to get a kick!!)
Anyways we know where the toxin are located so you are more than safe, unless you dare prepare it youself.
As for Pike Place market, well small world isn't it, I was brought up in Seattle when I was a kid in the 70's.
No Nitendo, Microsoft and/or Starbucks then but I loved the seafood, especially the crabs!!
I still cook the deep fried salmon in breadcrumbs with creamed corn sauce, MY favorite.

SONOFHIROSHIMA
01-01-04, 08:18 AM
I have read many of the posts in this thread and am totally mystified by what seems lack of independent adventurism.

In the United States if you stay in franchised establishments and eat in trendy restaurants and only frequent tourist oriented venues your chance of meeting Real Americans in their native habitat is between 0% and nil. I am not suggesting you hitchhike with a knapsack and clean up in public fountains, but an old hint might give some inspiration. If a man is proud enough to put his name on the sign of his café or Hotel it is probably more entertaining than Mc Donald’s or the Holiday Inn. Geez, even the flagship private hotel in Hong Kong, the Peninsula, is a now chain, very nice but in Minneapolis?

The same holds true in other countries. The Internet is a huge resource for information, for instance there is even a Crown Plaza Hotel in Katmandu, Nepal, very handy for Buddhist Monk Conventions. Use your mouse and your imagination and not some ditzy blonde at Carlson Wagon-Lit Travel(Radisson).

I have lived in 26 countries and visited 25 more and I can assure you that there is a whole world out there not over run by tourists, more fun, safer and cheaper, with better service to boot. Do your homework and see the real world, otherwise go to Disney World and get in line with the other sheep. Good Luck,

HALBLEU
01-01-04, 10:35 PM
Originally posted by SONOFHIROSHIMA
I have read many of the posts in this thread and am totally mystified by what seems lack of independent adventurism.

In the United States if you stay in franchised establishments and eat in trendy restaurants and only frequent tourist oriented venues your chance of meeting Real Americans in their native habitat is between 0% and nil. I am not suggesting you hitchhike with a knapsack and clean up in public fountains, but an old hint might give some inspiration. If a man is proud enough to put his name on the sign of his café or Hotel it is probably more entertaining than Mc Donald’s or the Holiday Inn. Geez, even the flagship private hotel in Hong Kong, the Peninsula, is a now chain, very nice but in Minneapolis?

The same holds true in other countries. The Internet is a huge resource for information, for instance there is even a Crown Plaza Hotel in Katmandu, Nepal, very handy for Buddhist Monk Conventions. Use your mouse and your imagination and not some ditzy blonde at Carlson Wagon-Lit Travel(Radisson).

I have lived in 26 countries and visited 25 more and I can assure you that there is a whole world out there not over run by tourists, more fun, safer and cheaper, with better service to boot. Do your homework and see the real world, otherwise go to Disney World and get in line with the other sheep. Good Luck,

I say, "Different Strokes for Different Folks. ... "

Tri-ring
01-02-04, 02:08 PM
Originally posted by HALBLEU
I say, "Different Strokes for Different Folks. ... "

Confusius also says You can't gain a tiger's cub if you don't walk into the tiger's den

I say do what the romans do, don't worry be happpy!!

HALBLEU
01-03-04, 06:30 PM
Practical Traveler: Online Auctions: Reducing Risks

January 4, 2004
By BOB TEDESCHI


LAST year when Paige Pierson lost her job in the San
Francisco Bay Area's dot-com contraction, she resolved not
to abandon her travel passions.

The auctions on eBay had been a constant source of
entertainment and the occasional bargain in recent years,
and being a dot-commer, Ms. Pierson knew of other Web sites
that sold travel through auctions. So in February, while
musing about how to introduce her newborn son, Logan, to
her extended family in Munich, she ventured online, looking
to match the click of her mouse with the clack of a virtual
auctioneer's gavel.

Her first move was not to eBay, but to SkyAuction.com, a
New York-based auction site for airline tickets, vacation
packages, cruises and accommodations. There, she found
one-way vouchers for flights on Lufthansa, up for bidding
at $1, with no reserve. Ms. Pierson entered the bidding,
and shortly thereafter walked away with the equivalent of a
round-trip flight from San Francisco to Munich for about
$300.

As one of a small but ardent group of online travel-auction
fans, Ms. Pierson found that the well-publicized risk of
online auctions can, with some care and flexibility, be far
outweighed by the rewards. "It was pretty sweet,
considering I was unemployed," said Ms. Pierson, who now
works for Williams-Sonoma.

Flexibility is a watchword for travel auction fans. Most
services up for bid may be used only during specific times,
typically off-season dates that travel suppliers have had
difficulty selling through traditional means. And because
fraudulent travel auctions marred the early years of the
Internet, individuals cannot sell airline tickets on most
auction sites - a generally positive development, but one
that has also led to somewhat limited inventory at times.

For people who have no particular destination or date in
mind, and for those who want to try to get lucky with cheap
accommodations for a planned trip, auction sites are a
logical detour in the usual click path.

According to Michael N. Hering, SkyAuction's chief
executive, the company operates like many other discount
travel sites online, in that it obtains travel inventory
from a range of suppliers. The only twist is that
SkyAuction offers each item starting at a bid of $1, with
no reserve. If the winning bid is $2, the site must accept
that, and eat its loss.

In fact, Mr. Hering says the company, which is privately
held, loses money on 15 percent of the roughly 1,200
auctions it conducts each week. "But that's O.K.," he said,
speaking by phone from the Trump Sonesta in Sunny Isles
Beach, Fla., where he was negotiating for rooms for his
site. "They'll come back because they know we're real, and
they'll tell their friends about it."

Evolving Mix

SkyAuction's offerings have evolved over the past five
years, from a heavy emphasis on airline deals to an evenly
balanced mix of air, hotel, cruises and packages.

While SkyAuction offers no guarantee, it has a Better
Business Bureau track record of resolving a majority of
customer complaints to the customer's satisfaction. (Fewer
than 90 complaints have been registered with the bureau in
the past three years.) And since it is a growing business
with much of that growth staked on its reputation, chances
are good that consumers will find SkyAuction a reputable
place.

Indeed, one reason Ms. Pierson strayed from eBay for her
travel auctions was her fear that she might be cheated. But
eBay has gone to great lengths to reduce travel auction
fraud in the past two years.

Responding to customer concerns about travel fraud, eBay
last year introduced a rule requiring all sellers of air,
lodging, cruises and vacation packages to register with
SquareTrade, a seller-verification and dispute-resolution
company, which is privately owned. Before being permitted
to list travel items, sellers must verify their company's
name, contact information and location with SquareTrade (on
the Web at www.squaretrade.com).

Proof Required

Furthermore, if the sellers are listing airline tickets,
they must submit proof to SquareTrade that they are members
of the Airlines Reporting Corporation, an industry trade
group, or a similar travel association. Individuals are not
qualified for A.R.C. membership; only airlines, corporate
travel departments, industry suppliers and travel agents.
And if sellers are listing lodging, they must prove they
own the property or have a time-share membership.

Meena Ravella, senior manager for eBay's travel category,
said that the site's travel sales have increased steadily
since the SquareTrade relationship was formed. Roughly
5,000 travel offerings are on the site on a given day.

That said, even the SquareTrade seal does not completely
eliminate risk. Last summer, for instance, an eBay seller
who displayed the SquareTrade logo bilked thousands of
computer buyers before he was caught by Salt Lake City
police. And SquareTrade's chief executive, Steve Abernethy,
admits that the screening process is not perfect. "We've
created as many barriers as we could," he said. "On eBay,
you've got to use a combination of common sense and new
tools to avoid things."

Sarah Mastrianni, a Cordova, Tenn., ticket agent for
Northwest Airlines, has been both a buyer and seller of
travel on eBay - as well as a near-victim of fraud. Last
year, she ventured into eBay's travel listings while
planning a trip to New York with her daughter. After weeks
of casual searching, she found a potentially great deal on
vouchers for a hotel suite at the Excelsior, on West 81st
Street. She bought five vouchers at $99 a night, including
tax, but not before contacting the seller, she said, "to
establish a little trust."

Not long after Ms. Mastrianni returned home, she began
looking into tickets for Walt Disney World on eBay, and bid
on some. Her bids failed, and shortly thereafter she
received several e-mail messages from people offering to
sell Disney tickets for half the regular price. (The user
names of eBay bidders are displayed on the Web site; eBay
members can send e-mail messages to each other directly
from the site.)

To complicate matters, the sellers had forged or
misappropriated the user name of a seller with an excellent
reputation. "The e-mails were from people from out of the
country, which didn't fit with the user feedback," Ms.
Mastrianni said. "I e-mailed a few of them looking for more
information, and they never responded."

For those who have absolutely no stomach for even the
diminished risk of eBay auctions, and who want an
alternative to SkyAuction.com, LuxuryLink.com is a good
choice.

The site, which sells high-end cruises, packages, hotels
and first- and business-class airline tickets, lists about
500 auctions weekly. Unlike SkyAuction, LuxuryLink sets a
minimum bid, still low enough to save customers about 40
percent over retail rates, said Diane McDavitt,
LuxuryLink's president.

Among recent listings was a "spa week" for two at an
ocean-front room in St. Lucia, with all meals, alcohol and
activities for $2,725. The retail price was $5,000.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/04/travel/04prac.html?ex=1074191751&ei=1&en=421338dce158a677

---------------------------------

Cardinal999
01-15-04, 08:26 AM
When traveling to other countries, one way to understand their culture is through the food, the arts, the music and the literature. From those attributes, one also learn the history of that country.

This Cardinal's favorite is food. Going to a Pho restaurant is a great way to meet people from Vietnam.

----------------------------------------------------------------------
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/01/14/FDGSV467631.DTL
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Wednesday, January 14, 2004 (SF Chronicle)
One bowl of pho can lead to another/Vietnamese soup remains a favorite

Marlena Spieler

My husband is addicted to pho. It started innocently enough, when we met for lunch in San Francisco with cousin Burt who took us to Irving Street, near 19th.

"I love pho," said Cousin Burt. We ordered our bowl, with
everything, following Burt's lead and sat there waiting for what we thought would be just a bowl of soup. It was, in fact, a life-changing event.

Our bowls arrived, steamy and fragrant with the heady scent of beef, star anise, roasted garlic and ginger. The bottom of the bowl was filled with rice noodles, tender chunks of boiled beef, a few morsels of tendon and tripe; the broth was clear and richly flavored, virtually fat-free in its clarity. Floating on the surface were a few shavings of onion and rosy slices of beef.

The waitress brought out a bowl of crisp raw bean sprouts, sprigs of fresh mint, Thai basil, cilantro, wedges of lime, slices of chile. On the table were a cruet of fish sauce, soy sauce, a jar of hoisin, sirarcha chile sauce and a bowl of hot chile paste. We inhaled the aromatic steam that came up from the bowl, and began tearing this herb and that, releasing its fragrance then throwing it into the bowl, adding a handful of bean sprouts, squirting a bit of lime, dabbing in the hot chile.

One, two, three ... Dip!

I plopped a bit of hoisin and some pickled chiles into a dipping saucer and every so often would dip in with my chopsticks a slice of rare beef, a pile of rice noodles. Then we took a breath to relax and sip tea. Then we began to add more herbs and more bean sprouts, so that no one bite was the same as the next.

It was like a happy frolic through the flavors of Vietnam and by the end of the bowl we felt invigorated though the bowl was so huge we barely got to the bottom -- and we had ordered the smallest bowls. Afterward, we felt light, despite the amount of soup we had eaten. And by the next day we wanted to repeat the experience.

We woke up and after a bone-rattling cup of coffee, thought about eating our usual toast, and then Alan and I looked at each other. We didn't even need to say it: pho. We both felt the first stirrings of addiction. Vietnam in a bowl

Pho is sometimes described as Vietnam in a bowl. All of the flavors and textures are there, from the north to the south: the rich, the hot, the pungent, the sour, the crisp, the fragrant, the tender, the soft. It is a layering that trails the history of the land, from the Chinese-influenced beef- noodle soup that originated in Hanoi, through the spices of neighbor and conquering countries, ending with the freshness of toppings that is said to have been introduced by the French.

No other country serves such an invigorating herb and salad plate, especially with a bowl of soup. When you eat pho, the noodles slap around your lips, scattering droplets of broth over your face. And, if you eat like me, you may splash some on
your dining companion's face too. Eating pho together is a bonding experience.

Back in London we found two phos; one was close by on Wardour street so I met up with fellow food writers John Whiting and Josephine Bacon, then ordered up the big, big bowl. We were served a tidy small bowl. There was such a small amount of hot broth that my glasses did not steam up, not even once. Oh, it was delicious soup with a crunchy little salad of herbs, but we felt no frisson of pho-nirvana. Shortly afterward in Paris, we interspersed our traditional French meals of salads, meats, buttery creamy indulgence with bowls of pho. It seemed quite a good dietary move, healthwise, too. Eating our merry way through the phos of Paris brought us from arrondisement to arrondisement, from dainty little Frenchified phos, with their subtle flavors and ingredients that had been put together in the kitchen, to the multiethnic Belleville, where we sat down to a big splashy bowl of strong and satisfying pho.

Our passion -- some might call it obsession -- with pho is leading me to one conclusion. Next stop: Vietnam.

PHO
When I want a bowl of pho at home, but don't have hours to spend in the kitchen, I make the following quick version by simmering canned beef broth with the requisite spices and aromatics, ladle it over rice noodles and serve with its classic fresh salady, herby and spicy condiments. While you won't get the long-simmered fragrant soup pho houses offer, this has the distinctive flavor of pho and the convenience of being very quick.

As a variation, chicken soup can be made pho-style, by using chicken broth instead of beef and substituting shreds of cooked chicken for the raw beef garnish; similarly I sometimes use vegetable broth with diced tofu in place of the beef.
INGREDIENTS:
Spiced Beef Broth:
1 (2-inch) piece of ginger, unpeeled
1 or 2 shallots, unpeeled and cut into halves
1/2 carrot, thinly sliced
Pinch of sugar
4 cups low-sodium beef broth
2 cups water or chicken broth
2 or 3 star anise
3 whole cloves
1 cardamom pod
1 cinnamon stick, about 2 inches long
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fish sauce to taste
To Assemble
12 ounces rice stick noodles
1/3 pound beef sirloin, slightly frozen (for easier slicing)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 yellow onion, sliced paper thin, and/or 2 green onions, cut into thin rings

Herbs & Sprouts
2 cups fresh bean sprouts, washed and drained
10 to 15 big sprigs of Asian basil
Handful of fresh mint sprigs
12 saw-leaf Vietnamese herbs (optional)
6 Thai chiles or 1 serrano chile, cut into thin rings
1 to 2 limes, cut into wedges
Freshly ground black pepper
Condiments
Sriracha hot sauce
Asian fish sauce and/or soy sauce
Hot chile paste
Hoisin sauce
INSTRUCTIONS: Finely grate about 1 teaspoon of the ginger (don't worry about peeling); set aside.
Place the remaining whole piece of ginger along with the shallots and carrot in an ungreased nonstick pan and char lightly and evenly over high heat.

Transfer to a large saucepan and add a pinch of sugar, along with the beef broth and water.

Dry-toast the star anise, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon stick in a small ungreased skillet over high heat for a few moments. Add to the broth and vegetables.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Season with salt, pepper and fish sauce; remove the spices and vegetables using a slotted spoon. Keep the broth at a low simmer.

Cook the noodles by boiling according to the package instructions; drain and set aside.
Slice the partially frozen beef thinly against the grain.
To serve: Into each serving bowl place a large portion of noodles (these may be cool and they may stick together -- not to worry, they'll unstick in the hot broth).

Top each bowl of noodles with a dab of the reserved grated ginger, a sprinkling of cilantro, a few onion rings and 4 to 6 thin slices of beef.

Ladle the hot broth into the bowls and serve accompanied by the plate of herbs and condiments.

Serves 4
PER SERVING: 420 calories, 16 g protein, 79 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat (1 g saturated), 17 mg cholesterol, 250 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.

Marlena Spieler's latest book is "Classic Home Cooking." She divides her time between the Bay Area and London, and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio and Television. E-mail her at food@sfchronicle.com, or visit her Web site at marlenaspieler.com.
----------------------------------------------------------------------

HALBLEU
01-20-04, 05:06 AM
Sand and Sea to Spare in Costa Rica

January 18, 2004
By TED ROSE



THE Nicoya Peninsula juts off Costa Rica into the Pacific
Ocean like a misshapen ear. It is rugged terrain, formed by
the string of volcanoes inland. Other than a few large
beach resorts in the far north, Nicoya's coastline has
missed much of the development that has spread across the
country.

In a search for an affordable, relaxed beach vacation, I
first visited Nicoya in January 2002, traveling to
Montezuma, a small town on the bottom tip of the peninsula,
and returned last year. Once an active fishing village,
Montezuma has developed a reputation as a backpacker haven,
a beachside Katmandu.

One can fly from the capital, San José, to several spots on
the Nicoya Peninsula, but on my first visit my three
friends and I chose a combination of buses and a ferry
ride. With the closest landing strip about 18 miles away,
everyone completes the trip to Montezuma by road.

The town is at the base of a steep line of cliffs, a few
dozen buildings cozied up against the Pacific Ocean. A
string of long beaches stretches to the south; a
picturesque lava-rock coast backed up against thick jungle
lies to the north.

Montezuma itself is a cosmopolitan oasis, dominated by
young visitors from Europe and South America. Its two main
streets form an L and serve as an intimate town center. I
counted one late-night bar, one mini-supermarket and one
town drunk.

We settled into two simple rooms at Cabinas Mar y Cielo, a
six-room operation behind one of the main gift shops. I
soon discovered more elegant, affordable accommodations
north of town, but I stayed faithful to Mar y Cielo. It was
centrally situated, yet generally quiet. I could open my
door and see the ocean a few hundred feet away.

Soon enough, I settled into a pleasing schedule,
alternating the natural and the urbane. After a morning dip
in the surf, I might head to town for a mango and papaya
smoothie. I'd take a hike to the waterfall. Then I'd return
to town to check my e-mail. By sunset, my friends and I
might meet on the beach and go to La Playa de los Artistas,
the best among Montezuma's handful of good restaurants.

We had intended to move around Nicoya, but Montezuma got
the best of us. We stayed there for 10 days and vowed to
return.

On my next visit in January 2003, I found myself less
enamored of Montezuma. The town had grown slightly,
sprouting a new supermarket and a couple new lodgings, but
I suspect my tolerance for Montezuma's culture had simply
diminished. I found the active night life unappetizing and
during the day I found myself longing for a beach with
fewer young backpackers.

I proposed that my friends and I travel to Nosara, a small
town about halfway up the Nicoya Peninsula.

Most of the roads in Nicoya are slow, winding and poor. All
of them are set in the region's vertiginous landscape.
Rather than endure a dusty five-hour car ride we decided to
charter a boat for the two-hour trip up the coast.

The ocean was choppy, but from the water we had arresting
views of the untouched coastline. We negotiated for some
fishing time, which meant our 18-year-old captain idled the
boat while we ineffectually cast lures for about 45
minutes.

Because of the currents, our boat landed about 10 miles
south of Nosara in Sámara, an upscale beach town popular
with well-heeled Costa Ricans. As we approached Sámara's
wide cove, our young captain recommended we stay in Sámara
rather than arrange for a car to drive to Nosara. "Nosara
is very quiet," he said, scrunching his face. "Sámara is
more fun."

I wanted to leave for Nosara as soon as possible.

Less
than a town, Nosara is more like a sprawling settlement.
There are no paved roads, and handmade signs for tourist
chalets dot the roads. We followed the signs to Lagarta
Lodge.

If not for its location, Lagarta Lodge would be a
forgettable place: a collection of seven simple rooms, a
modest pool and an open-air patio. But the patio happens to
be situated several hundred feet above a private nature
reserve that stretches north for miles and is bordered to
the west by the Pacific. It is a stunningly vast view.

Lagarta is run by a friendly couple: Myriam, a native of
Colombia, offers a generous dose of Latin hospitality,
while Marcel, a Swiss national, keeps order in the house.

I worried about losing the culinary quality of Montezuma,
but Marcel and Myriam eased my fears the first night with
their weekly buffet ($12), which attracts people from
around Nosara and features a generous barbecue of meats and
12 homemade salads. Their simple breakfasts of fresh fruit
and homemade cereal ($6) were equally satisfying.

And really, I hadn't come to Nosara for the food but for
the outdoors. I soon learned I had my pick of the beaches.
Playa Guiones, a long, white stretch of sand, lies to the
south. To the north, visible from Lagarta, is Playa Nosara,
which has the best surf. Beyond that was Playa Ostional,
which is home to popular nesting grounds for thousands of
olive ridley sea turtles. I stuck to the one within short
walking distance, Playa Pelada, an intimate crescent lined
with palm trees.

I loved the 15-minute stroll down to Playa Pelada. It began
on an invariably empty dirt road and led to a monkey path
through the jungle that ended up at an invariably empty
beach. There my friends and I commandeered a makeshift
bench under a lonely tree in the sand. We called it our
recording studio and brought down a guitar to play during
the hottest hours of the day.

Early one morning, I spent some time exploring the Reserva
Biológica Nosara, the 125-acre protected area below Lagarta
Lodge. The air soon became muggy and filled with the sounds
of howler monkeys. I explored the handful of trails through
the valley of mangrove trees and tangled vines.

Another day, Myriam arranged for a friend and me to go
horseback riding through the reserve and around Nosara. We
found the small area where the surfers hang out as well as
a few other isolated tourist spots like our lodge, and a
good number of "For Sale" signs, but otherwise Nosara was
pretty much empty. We headed to the ocean for a gallop on
the beach.

Visitor Information

Among the airlines that fly from the United States to San
José are American, Continental and Northwest. To get to the
Nicoya Peninsula from there, you can rent a car, take a bus
(it is about a five-hour trip by road and ferry to
Montezuma) or fly. Sansa, www.flysansa.com, and NatureAir,
www.travelair-costarica.com, fly to landing strips at
Tambor, Sámara and Nosara ($58 to $80 one way). The major
airport in Liberia is near the northern part of the
peninsula. The international dialing code is 506.

In Montezuma, it's hard to find a place that isn't near the
ocean. I stayed at Cabinas Mar y Cielo, (506) 642-0261,
which offers double rooms with bath for $25 to $40.

The attractive Hotel Los Mangos, (506) 642-0076, fax (506)
642-0259, Web site www.hotellosmangos.com, features a pool
with an incredible view and individual bungalows ($81);
book well in advance.

Hotel Amor de Mar, telephone and fax (506) 642-0262,
www.amordemar.com, has a wonderful lawn and tide pools and
comfortable, simple rooms for $35 to $87, double.

Among Montezuma's restaurants, La Playa de los Artistas
serves the best dinner in town (entrees about $10) and
Pension Lucy's has a simple lunch with great ceviche for
about $3. El Sano Banano has good fruit smoothies ($2).

In Nosara, the seven rooms in the Lagarta Lodge, (506)
682-0035, fax (506) 682-0135, www.lagarta.com, are $70 to
$80 a night. A popular dining choice is Olga's on Playa
Pelada.

TED ROSE is a writer in residence at Shambhala Mountain
Center in Colorado.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/18/travel/18montezuma.html?ex=1075533797&ei=1&en=c88cb6a4ae292dd6

---------------------------------



I think this is a great place to retire to