Month: August 2017

norfolk-island

Travel Back In Time to Australia’s Norfolk Island

Marie Bailey never met the grandmother who finally made it ashore on Norfolk Island in 1856 after a gruelling month at sea.

By the time Marie was born on 28 November 1926, by now a second generation Norfolk Islander, her gran had been dead four years.

Yet it’s her grandmother’s impressive migration story – and the story of 193 people who travelled with her from Pitcairn Island to Norfolk – that Marie, now retired, spent a lifetime retelling as one of Norfolk’s earliest tour operators.

Not only is it a family story dear to her heart, says Marie, during my three-day hosted tour of Norfolk, it’s also a story that gives outsiders a window into the latest chapter of Norfolk Island’s rich social history.

The Amazing Transformation Of New York’s Finger Lakes

“This is why we are here”, says Susan Higgins, standing amid yellow wildflowers and pinot noir vines on a ridge overlooking Cayuga Lake. In the shade of a maple tree, she’s showing me the hunks of limestone she and her husband, Tom, pulled from the ground. A huge vein of the stuff, deposited here roughly 400 million years ago, balances the pH of the soil—and makes it possible to coax quality fruit from their three-and-a-half acres despite Upstate New York’s reputation for brutal winters and a short growing season. The Higginses, whose Heart & Hands Wine Company released its first vintage in 2006 and who are now some of the region’s most lauded winemakers, were onto something.

New York City

New York City

There’s a special alchemy to this place, where rolling hills frame glacial lakes, clear streams carve deep gorges through the shale, and plucky, self-reliant entrepreneurs are turning what was a Rust Belt backwater into one of the country’s most appealing summertime destinations. At a time when everyone seems to have their own short list of restaurants in Mexico City and their favorite hotel in Tokyo, the hidden-in-plain-sight Finger Lakes remain largely undiscovered, a 14-county sweep of forests and farmland, four to five hours northwest of New York City by car.

The 11 long, skinny lakes, formed by advancing glaciers 2 million years ago, don’t just inspire the name but dictate the slow, rural pace of life. There are no bridges or ferries crossing the lakes, so you always seem to be driving the long way around. Not that you’ll mind: When I first started coming here, as a college student, my buddies and I would set out from Rochester with a cooler of cheese and charcuterie, and buy a few bottles of wine at whatever vineyard had a picnic table set out. Back in those pre-Sideways, pre-social-media days, tasting rooms were little more than a corner of a bam where someone had slapped a piece of lumber over two old barriques, and you could get a flight of pours for a dollar or two, or maybe for nothing at all if you promised to tell your friends to visit.

Keuka Lake

Keuka Lake

In the 15 or so years since, the fresh-from-the-farm vibe has remained largely the same, but the wine has vastly improved. “The region is more exciting than it’s ever been,” says Thomas Pastuszak, the wine director at the No Mad Hotel in New York City, who started making his own label, Empire Estate, in the region in 2014, collaborating with Kelby Russell, a winemaker at Red Newt Cellars. “There’s a push in quality that the region’s never really seen before,” Pastuszak adds. You find it at Bloomer Creek Vineyard, where husband-and-wife team Kim Engle and Debra Bermingham pour electric single-vineyard whites and Bordeaux-inspired reds in a tiny tasting room you’d drive right past if you didn’t know to look for it. At Boundary Breaks, a small-batch producer run by Bruce Murray, who used to host tastings in his own kitchen, they’ve just built a new space overlooking Seneca Lake, where you can geek out on clone-specific rieslings. And at Shaw Vineyard, where the wood-beamed tasting room is still as lo-fi as they come, owner Steve Shaw is making outre orange wines and seriously good cabernet sauvignon.

Yet as far as the wines have come, the true appeal of the Finger Lakes is that its small towns retain their white-picket-fence “Norman Rockwell-painting” feel, as bartender and manager Matt Stevenson puts it over lunch at Fargo Bar & Grill, the wood-paneled pub not far from Heart & Hands in the tiny town of Aurora, on Cayuga Lake. The ethos of the village owes largely to Pleasant Rowland, who graduated from Wells College, the 6oo-student school here, and went on to sell her American Girl empire to Mattel for a reported $700 million. She’s since spent a healthy chunk of that to convert several historic buildings into the Inns of Aurora, a network of guesthouses.

Dinner at Le Café Cent-Dix in Ithaca

Dinner at Le Café Cent-Dix in Ithaca

(My favorite is Rowland House, which feels more like the lakeside retreat of a lovable eccentric great-aunt than a stilted B&B.) Skaneateles, a tidy lakeside village with a gazebo bandstand at waterfront Clift Park is another holdover from the LeaveItto Beaver era: Pontoon boats and Chris-Craft bowriders tie up at the municipal dock the soft-serve machines at Doug’s Fish Fry whir afternoon; and local institutions like Sherwood Inn serve (thankfully) updated versions of country-club cuisine—shrimp cocktail, Yankee pot roast, big Bloody Marys—to locals dressed head to toe in Syracuse University gear. It’s the sort of place where you’ll find a dinghy regatta underway, though most people won’t care much who wins, as long as the race is over in time for Gibsons at The Krebs, an ambitiously formal restaurant that’s been here, in one location or another, since 1899.

For all the nostalgia, though, the Finger Lakes are today at an inflection point that felt almost unimaginable back when my friends and I were in college, renting ramshackle share cottages on the waterfront. We’d spend the mornings hiking through the region’s state parks, like Watkins Glen (with its 19 waterfalls) or Taughannock Falls (with its impressive Gorge Trail), before an afternoon of swigging riesling and fishing, at dusk, from a beat-up aluminum Jon boat. “It’s always been a good place for outdoor activities, for camping, for summering,” says Pastuszak, “but it was less accessible before-people didn’t know what to look for. Social media has helped a lot.” That’s enabled not just winemakers but chefs, distillers, innkeepers, craftspeople, and designers to connect with bigger markets—and lure more tourists than ever to places like Geneva, a small town at the north end of Seneca Lake, where, Pastuszak says, “Linden Street has blown up and become this little restaurant alley.” It’s now getting a national profile thanks in large part to FLX Table, an innovative, almost-experimental restaurant that opened in 2016.

One warm summer evening last September, Christopher Bates was there in his open kitchen, wearing his chef’s whites and a topknot, prepping a one-night-only tasting menu of dishes like an “uber-BLT” (a deconstructed version made with local tomatoes, corn, and lamb bacon) and “lots of duck,” which is exactly what it sounds like. His wife, Isabel Bogadtke, in a gingham floral-print shirt, was handling the wines, which are drawn from a wildly deep cellar and served by the ounce with a Coravin that makes possible pairings like one I had, a 1981 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses with a course of potato raclette. But as good as the food is, the most remarkable thing about FLX Table is its vibe: on trend without being trendy, interesting without being overdone, ambitious without being pretentious.

Waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park

Waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park

There are just 12 seats, all of them around a farmhouse table, so I ended up sharing the meal with a group of staffers gearing up for the school year at Geneva’s Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and a couple from nearby Hornell, New York, out on what, thanks to the seating arrangements, must’ve started as one of their more peculiar dates. But when the first pours of riesling arrived, and the crudites—a riot of local peppers, squash, beans, and berries—hit the table, we all fell into easy conversation. It’s supposed to feel like a dinner party, Bogadtke says. “That’s why we have these mismatched chairs. When you go to someone’s place, they’ve always got an odd chair.” It was the sort of night you could only have here, where nothing much changes and yet things are getting better all the time.

Malibu Beach Inn: Wild Waves & Stellar Amenities

Kauai’s Chelsea Yamase travels the world as a professional athlete and writer. When she was invited to spend a weekend at Malibu Beach Inn, California’s iconic boutique beach resort and a 2017 Hot List winner, she soaked up the chic design and breathtaking surroundings. ‘Traveling has taught me so many things. There’s always something to explore,’ says adventurer Chelsea Yamase. When she arrived at Malibu Beach Inn, she felt invigorated by the coastally inspired yet distinctly modern aesthetic.

Each of the 47 rooms features a private balcony above Carbon Beach, tile showers, and luxury details. Guests are also a mere five-minute walk to the Malibu Pier and hiking trails. Chelsea reveled in the idea she would be waking up to the waves and ending each day with sunset yoga. ‘l grew up on an island so being surrounded by water is important to me,’ she says.

Malibu-Beach-Inn-Room

When Chelsea wasn’t exploring the beaches and mountains, she indulged in the Mediterranean-inspired fare at the hotel’s Carbon Beach Club. ‘Malibu has a food culture that feels very health conscious,’ she says. ‘It has a wellness aspect that I wasn’t expecting.’ Chelsea also made a point to explore Malibu’s boutiques, as well as the shops of Santa Monica. ‘Besides the view and location, I think my favorite part of staying at the Malibu Beach Inn has been the way that it makes me feel.’ Chelsea says. ‘It’s so peaceful’.

viking-river-cruise

Bordeaux River Cruise Offers You Beautiful French Experiences

Bordeaux — a name synonymous with fine wines — is a port city on the Garonne River in southwest France. Vineyards first planted here by Romans more than 2000 years ago “seeded” and shaped the city’s economic and cultural identity over centuries. Bordeaux’s location near the Gironde estuary (the largest estuary in Europe) proved ideal for the growth of the wine trade, offering easy access to the Atlantic Ocean.

vineyard-of-bordeaux

Vineyard of Bordeaux in Autumn

Due to its unique mix of history, geography and terroir, the surrounding region (also named Bordeaux) now houses more than 8,000 wine-producing chateaux that export some of the best French wines enjoyed throughout the world. These include Sauternes, title of “European Best Destination 2015” in a competition among 20 major cities. In 2017, Bordeaux placed first on Lonely Planet’s list of top cities to visit.

The rundown waterfront area was redeveloped to make it more appealing and pedestrian friendly. Facades of weathered limestone buildings that had blackened with age were cleaned to restore the original patina of their stone. New hotels and restaurants began opening. The now-lively city boasts more than 350 listed buildings of historical significance, ranking second to Paris. A high-speed TGV train service links Bordeaux to Paris.

When we chose our Bordeaux river cruise itinerary, we of course looked forward to being able to tour the city and taste the famous wines of the region in their own terroir. As expected, the wines were poured generously at both lunch and dinner on the ship. They were also featured at various port stops where we heard lectures, attended tastings, and spoke to vintners and wine merchants about the wines of Bordeaux.

However, three extraordinary optional shore excursions not only introduced us to the wines of Bordeaux but also allowed us to “branch out” and explore other epicurean foods and spirits identified with the region, notably Perigord truffles, oysters and cognac.

saint-emilion-la-cave-du-marche

One of the many wine shops in Saint-Emilion

baja's-valle-de-guadalupe

Tasting Traditional Wines of The Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe

Looking at the trailblazing winery that Alonso Granados runs in Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe, it’s hard to believe that a decade ago he didn’t even know wine was made from grapes.

The then student lawyer had returned home for a family dinner when a winemaker his father had hired brought out some wine he had produced off the family property. His father had bought the land with the intention of re-selling it, but Alonso soon had other ideas.

“I was in my last year of law school and I came back with a very strange feeling that I wanted to leave my career and start winemaking. I Googled schools to study at. 1 finished my degree and booked my ticket and left for Spain to study winemaking. It was the best thing I ever did.”

In August 2015, Alonso opened Decantos Vinicola, an imposing winery and tasting room that rises out of the parched landscape like a mirage on the horizon. In the Old World, it is often said that the more vines struggle the better the wine, and when you see how vines grow on some of the rocky slopes in Spain, you understand the truth in that.

It also seems to ring true in the dry and barren Valle de Guadalupe region, north of the city of Ensenada in Baja California, the long peninsula extending down from San Diego.

A 90-minute drive from the U.S. border, this is Mexico’s most up and coming wine region, a place where sophistication and innovation sit side by side with rustic authenticity.

Many of the roads are still rutted and unpaved but they lead visitors to impressive cellar doors, elegant and comfortable accommodations, and world-class restaurants and bars. Some have likened it to the Napa Valley of 30 years ago but that would be doing both the Napa Valley and Valle de Guadalupe a disservice.

It has a character and a charm all its own, a low-key feel that is assuredly Mexican but outward-looking enough to take the best winemaking and other traditions from abroad and develop them into its own.

Much of this story is told in the Museo de la Vid y el Vino (Museum of Vines and Wines), a great introduction to the region and worth seeing for its artefacts, artworks and splendid view, although unfortunately little of the signage is in English, so you might need a guide.

Here you’ll learn how wine was introduced by missionaries in the 1700s, how Russian

immigrants planted vines in the early 1900s, and how the last few decades have seen a boom in the development of Valle de Guadalupe as a wine region, credited to three winemakers in particular: Santo Tomas, Cetto and Domecq.

Two decades ago, you could count Baja’s wineries on both hands. Today, the Ruta del Vino (Wine Route) boasts more than 120 wineries, along with restaurants, art galleries, boutique hotels, ranches and resorts. The Mediterranean-like weather, coupled with unforgettable landscapes – especially around the coastline and mountain ranges – add to its appeal.

remote-base-camp-greenland

Adventures Among Icebergs at Arctic’s Remote Base Camp Greenland

With a loud crack and a rumble, the iceberg offshore splits in half, the sound exploding through the Arctic summer night. In the otherwise perfect silence, it reminds us how isolated we are at Natural Habitat Adventure’s remote Base Camp Greenland, a few miles south of the Arctic Circle.Three times the size of Texas, Greenland is enormous, divided in half by the two-mile thick, 2.5 million-year-old Greenland Ice Cap, which covers 80 percent of the island.

The capital, Nuuk, and most of the population are located on the western side. We are based on the eastern side, virtually uninhabited except for a handful of small, subsistence-based Inuit communities, cut off from the rest of the world for eight months a year. The only way to reach this remote, isolated wilderness in the summer is by boat or helicopter.

The Journey

blue-iceberg

Blue Icebergs can be seen in Greenland

The journey is arduous. Our 75-minute flight from Reykjavik, Iceland lands on a gravel runway at Kulusuk in Eastern Greenland. From here, a 10-minute helicopter ride over jagged peaks and vast fjords filled with icebergs takes us to Ammassalik Island and the picturesque town of  Tasiilaq, with its brightly painted wooden houses hugging King Oscar’s Fjord.

Base Camp is on the northern side of Ammassalik Island, reachable only by a small red and white wooden boat, wending its way through fjords filled with ice beneath soaring 5,000-foot unnamed peaks.

After a journey of about four hours, we reach a sheltered bay off Sermilik Fjord near the Inuit hamlet of Tinit (short for Tiniteqilaaq). Few places in the world are as remote and pristine as this.

As our boat rounds a point, Eric, one of our two guides for  this expedition, calls us to the side. “If you look just beyond that blue iceberg over there, you can see Base Camp.”

He is pointing to a rocky glacial valley surrounded on either side by mountains, still pockmarked with snow, even though it’s August. It’s several minutes before we’re able to pick out the tent cabins (affectionately known as “tabins”) that will be our home for the next several days.

Sports in Tokyo

Martial Arts in Tokyo

Martial arts are practiced in many places throughout Tokyo, but different establishments vary in their openness to non-Japanese as observers and participants. Contact Tokyo TIC for a list of dojo (practice halls) that allow spectators. To find out about participating in martial arts training, contact one of the national regulatory bodies.

Baseball and Soccer in Tokyo

baseball-japan

Baseball’s place as Japan’s second national sport appears to be suffering in the face of soccer’s rising popularity. Some young players are choosing to go abroad to escape samurai-like regimes of training but the game continues to stir fervor.

There are two professional baseball leagues in Japan: Central League and Pacific League. The winners face off at the end of the season for the final of the Japan Series, The Central League’s Yomiuri Giants remain Japan’s most popular pro ­baseball team. Their games in the Tokyo Dome are always sold out; book through an agent well in advance. The best place to enjoy a game in the capital is in the beautiful Jingu Stadium, home of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows (also Central League). Tickets are often available at Ticket PIA.

The J-League, Japan’s professional soccer league, started in 1993.The World Cup, staged in Japan and Korea in 2002, sent interest soaring, and this further increased when Japan reached the second round of the World Cup in 2010. But it was the women’s team, Nadeshiko Japan, that really electrified the nation when they won the Women’s World Cup in 2011.

Ajinomoto Stadium - Tokyo

Ajinomoto Stadium – Tokyo

Ajinomoto Stadium with a capacity of 50,000, is home to two J-League teams – FC Tokyo and Tokyo Verdy. Tourist information centers have details of games, and tickets are available at Ticket PIA or from the stadium on the day of the match. Gangster-linked ticket touts are much in evidence in Tokyo so always use caution.

Other Sports

For details on other sports check the Sports column in Metropolis magazine. Entries are mostly concerned with gathering together like-minded people wanting to play, but those people will also know where to watch their favorite sports, from tennis and rugby to basketball, cycling, and cricket.

sumo-in-tokyo

Sumo in Tokyo

Sumo tournaments, each lasting 15 days, are held in Tokyo in January, May (when the emperor himself attends), and September, all at the Impressive 10,000-seat Ryogoku Sumo Hall in Ryogoku.

Tournaments begin on a Sunday, with each fighter wrestling once a day. Bouts start each day at around 2:30pm with the lowest-ranking wrestlers and continue in ascending order, with the top ranks wrestling from 5-6pm, ending with a bout Involving the highest-ranked wrestler, usually a yokozuna (grand champion).The stadium tends to fill up with spectators as the day goes on.

The best views are on the north side of the stadium. It is advisable to book tickets in advance from Playguide, Ticket PIA at the Ginza 5 Building, or any Lawson’s convenience store. Easiest to get are midweek tickets in the first week of a tournament. If you cannot buy tickets via an agency, try asking your hotel to check for returns, or lining up at the stadium Itself at about 8am on the day.

sumo-tokyo

Inside the Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Wrestling Arena in Tokyo

If you are not in Tokyo during a tournament, you may be able to watch the daily practice at a sumo stable, or beya.

Most are open to anyone who wants to watch, with a few basic rules: don’t eat or use a camera flash, and be quiet. The closer a tournament is, the more likely you are to be politely turned away. The best time to view practice is 6-10am. Most of the beya are situated near Ryogoku station. Try Kasugano Beya, a tall building with a green copper gable over the entrance, Izutsu Beya, or Dewanoumi Beya. Traditional sumo has been much enlivened by an influx of foreign wrestlers from Hawaii, Mongolia, and Europe, many of whom have become very successful.

Some stables with an unusually open attitude have also made special trips abroad in order to raise aware­ness of sumo internationally: some of their stars even appear in television and other advertise­ments. While eyebrows may have been raised among purists, they cannot deny that such activities have been very good for business.

nightclubs-in-tokyo

Nightclubs in Tokyo

Tokyo’s clubs are many and varied, and the club scene is very fluid. There are several centers for nightclubs; Roppongi, the city’s upscale playground, is one of the most lively. The Roi Building across the road from Don Quijote is full of clubs and bars. The Ni-chome area of Shinjuku is home to some 250 gay clubs, as well as numerous pubs and bars. Many famous DJs operate at AgeHa, Tokyo’s largest nightclub, in Shin-kiba. Atom, in Shibuya, attracts a mainly young clientele and has two dance floors as well as a floor just for relaxation.

ageha

AgeHa Club – Shin-kiba, Tokyo

Other clubs currently drawing crowds for every type of dance music from salsa to techno and house disco are Womb, Ele Tokyo, and Club Asia.

Clubs with a show tend to get going early in the evening, around 7-8pm; the last show ends in time to catch the last trams out to the suburbs, about 11-11:30pm. Smaller clubs start and end later, while dance clubs won’t warm up until around 11 pm and often keep going all night. Expect a cover charge at most clubs of¥2,000-4,000, usually including one drink.

pachinko

Gambling in Tokyo

Pachinko is a form of disguised gambling; it was devised in Nagoya just after World War II and is based on the American pinball machine. A good place to go if you want to experience pachinko firsthand is Maruhan Pachinko Tower in Shibuya. Here, each floor has a different theme, and there are special seats for couples.

Winnings from pachinko are generally exchanged for goods – brand-name goods in upscale areas – or for money, but the money exchange has to be done outside the premises to remain within the law, through a hole in the wall. This is because gambling for money is illegal in Japan, except for certain approved (and unsurprisingly highly popular) activities such as horse-racing, powerboat racing, bicycle racing, and major lotteries.

playing-mahjong-in-tokyo

Playing Mahjong in Tokyo

More often than not, how­ever, a blind eye is turned by the Japanese authorities to the ways in which people choose to indulge in gambling. Mahjong is played in private clubs and homes, for example. Some hostess clubs offer gambling in addition to their other services, as long as it is not for money.