Extra Mile Awards 2005
Anyone paying attention to the news might get the impression that travel is in an unpleasant downward spiral. Bankruptcy! Amenity cutbacks! Security hassles! Privacy violations! Lost in all the hubbub are the companies throughout the industry that are making sincere efforts to improve travel.
Our philosophy is that if you don't give a little positive reinforcement, these companies don't have much incentive to keep up the good work. And so, we're thrilled to announce our first-ever Extra Mile Awards. We looked back at a 12-month period--August 1, 2004, to July 31, 2005--and argued endlessly over which companies deserved a pat on the back. We tried not to overlook minor improvements: The first time a housekeeper placed a mint on a hotel-room pillow, it probably didn't seem like something that could significantly brighten your night.
The prize? Good press, first and foremost--these days, it can be hard to come by. Second, an invitation to our fancy-pants awards dinner at New York City hotspot The Modern. Finally, winners receive an Extra Mile Award snow globe: After all, there's no better way to commemorate the folks who are really shaking things up. --The Editors
Why Haven't You Heard Of...Sanary, France?
On the Cote d'Azur, visitors lingering over a glass of rosé generally gasp for two reasons: They've just spotted P. Diddy, or they've just been handed the check. Neither makes for real relaxation. But 50 miles southwest of St.-Tropez, and about an hour from Marseille by train, the tiny fishing village of Sanary-sur-Mer has all the beauty of the Mediterranean coast--steep cliffs, sapphire sea--with less pretension and sticker shock. Sanary is the kind of French Riviera destination that the French choose to vacation at. As in St.-Tropez, Sanary's port is the hub of all the action--yet in place of sparkling white yachts, there are red, blue, and green fishing boats gathered at the wharf. A handful of patisseries selling napoleons and opera cakes line the cobblestoned streets. Outside, older men engage in rousing games of pétanque. Throughout, it seems the only rush is that of people trying to get home while their recently baked baguette is still warm. Sanary truly comes alive at dusk. Young couples park their scooters and settle in over aperitifs at the portside cafés--Coquillages Philippe, a shellfish bar with terrific oysters, mussels, and sea urchins, or L'En K Fé, a restaurant known for its Moroccan tagine of chicken and dates. Whatever the food, it pairs beautifully with rosés from nearby Bandol. Arguably the most famous wine region of southern France, Bandol is a 10-minute bus ride away. Most of the vineyards are about three miles from the town center, up the surrounding hills. Rent a scooter in town, or stay put and taste at Maison des Vins du Bandol, which has bottles from 29 of the region's producers. Wednesday mornings, Sanary shakes off its sleepiness with a grand market. More than 300 stands overflow with foie gras, baby artichokes, and strawberries. Fishermen empty their nets of loup de mer, sea bass, and blowfish--so fresh they still flop around. The market also draws purveyors of the South of France's famed products: scented soaps, sachets of herbes de Provence, olive oil, and of course, string bikinis. Not that you'll want to spend too much time on the beach. True to Mediterranean form, the beaches are rocky, and they don't cover them with sand like the ones in Cannes. It's better to take in the view from the Hotel de la Tour, run by the Mercier family. Many of the large, simple 24 rooms have windows onto the harbor. After a lazy dinner, you'll realize that sometimes, spending a day watching the light shift on the water can be as subtly thrilling as a celebrity sighting. Transportation Littoral bus company 011-33/4-94-74-01-35 Bandol Scooter 141 avenue Onze Novembre, Bandol, 011-33/4-94-25-06-57, scooter rental $42 a day Lodging Hotel de la Tour 24 quai Général de Gaulle, 011-33/4-94-74-10-10, sanary-hoteldelatour.com, from $86, with breakfast Food Coquillages Philippe 8 place de la Tour, 011-33/6-23-95-77-56, six oysters and glass of rosé $10 L'En K Fé 13 rue Louis Blanc, 011-33/4-94-74-66-57, chicken tagine $16 Attractions Maison des Vins du Bandol 22 allées Vivien, 011-33/4-94-29-45-03, maisondesvins.free.fr
A Night Out in Buenos Aires
10 p.m. to midnight Most restaurants don't fully get swinging until at least 10 p.m. The classic place to go is a parrilla, a barbecue restaurant where tender cuts of beef are seared over wooden coals by a parrillero in a bloodstained apron. Bife de chorizo (sirloin), morcilla (blood sausage), and chinchulines (tripe) are all liberally slathered with either chimichurri (sauce of parsley, garlic, olive oil, lemon, and other assorted herbs) or salsa criolla (finely chopped tomatoes and onions). The casual Desnivel, in the historic San Telmo district, is always packed with locals. With a cheap glass of wine, the bill usually comes to about $7 a person. An imposing man named Carlitos serves whatever he feels you should eat at Don Carlos, a parrilla in the shadow of La Bombonera soccer stadium in the Boca neighborhood. He'll begin by putting down plates of croquettes, marinated peppers, or pizzas. Then he'll ask how hungry you are. To Carlitos, "a little hungry" means very hungry, and anything else means you're a Texas rib-eating champion. Either way, it's wise to have skipped lunch. Carlitos keeps an eye on the sizzling bife de lomo (filet mignon) and juicy sweetbreads while watching the televised horse races. He'll focus on making sure you're finished before placing down desserts--tiramisu, bread pudding, and the Argentine version of flan: crème caramel garnished with whipped cream and dulce de leche (a spread of caramelized condensed milk). Finally, he'll scribble the price he feels is right on the tablecloth. For people he doesn't know, it's usually around $15; friends pay about $5 less. The buzzy neighborhood of Palermo has more chic places to eat and drink than you can keep track of. Bar El Diamante, a tapas restaurant in a converted house, is more cozy than aggressively hip. On warm nights, the rooftop makes an ideal setting for enjoying small plates of delicious grilled meats, fish, and pastas (a four-course meal with wine is $18). Nearby, at Thymus, the chef is trained in the classical French tradition. He turns out artful dishes such as wild mushroom salad, grilled loin of venison, and chocolate soufflé. A three-course tasting menu starts at $13. For a little more of a splurge, Oviedo, in the posh Recoleta neighborhood, serves Spanish-style seafood in a room with warm bistro lighting. A three-course prix fixe is $20 to $25, depending on the wine. Midnight to 3 a.m. The next few hours are best suited to laying low over drinks. At the old-timey locals' bar Lo de Roberto, dusty bottles, faded photos, and worn lyric sheets line the walls. Order a bottle of Vasco Viejo wine ($4), some seltzer ($1), and a bucket of ice-and mix it all up. Guitarists and tango singers wander in after midnight, and the owner Roberto will sternly shush anyone who dares to talk while they play. For better quality wines, Gran Bar Danzon is a downtown lounge favored by sommeliers. Danzon sells dozens of Argentine wines by the glass, most of which are hearty cabernets and malbecs from top labels such as Catena and Weinert. Each glass comes with a ticket, in Spanish, explaining the flavors and properties of the wine. The Faena Hotel + Universe is a year-old boutique hotel in Puerto Madero, the docklands district. Rooms start at $300, but the scene's what you come for anyway, and you can get enough of a taste at the patio pool bar, open in summer. The drink list leans heavily toward champagne, and white-cushioned banquettes provide a comfortable place to sit back and scope out all the beautiful people. From 3 a.m. on In a Palermo warehouse, a dance club called Niceto has a Thursday night international hip hop/electronic-music party called Club 69, where a campy mix of breakdancers and transvestites find common ground ($7 cover for women, $9 men). Club information is always changing, but the free monthly Spanish-language magazine Wipe, found at most Palermo stores and restaurants, has up-to-date bar and party listings. With all the overproduced tango shows advertised around town, it might seem like tango is a tourist trap. Do as locals do; avoid Vegas-style productions for a traditional, under-the-radar milonga (dance hall). Different milongas take over clubs on various nights. One lively weekend spot is La Viruta Tango, in a Palermo community-hall basement ($2 cover). To the tune of squeezeboxes and violins, you might find yourself pressed up against locals, sweeping around the dance floor, as the light of morning erases the darkness. Food Desnivel Defensa 855, 011-54/11-4300-9081 Don Carlos Brandsen 699, 011-54/11-4362-2433 Bar El Diamante Malabia 1688, 011-54/11-4831-5735 Thymus Lerma 525, 011-54/11-4772-1936, thymusrestaurant.com.ar Oviedo Beruti 2602, 011-54/11-4822-5415, oviedoresto.com Nightlife Lo de Roberto Bulnes 331, Plaza Almagro, no phone Gran Bar Danzon Libertad 1161, 011-54/11-4811-1108, granbardanzon.com.ar Faena Hotel + Universe Martha Salotti 445, 011-54/11- 4010-9000, faenahotelanduniverse.com Niceto Niceto Vega 5510, 011-54/11-4779-9396, nicetoclub.com La Viruta Tango Centro Cultural Armenio, Armenia 1366, 011-54/11-4774-6357, lavirutatango.com Bo-Bo Hotel, Buenos Aires Last year, Mariano and Pablo Gimenez opened the Bo-Bo Hotel in a 1920 mansion in the Palermo district. Six of the seven rooms--all of which have free Wi-Fi--are themed to modern art movements. The Minimalist Room has ecru walls and white bedspreads; the Pop Room references the 1960s with a plastic orange chair and a photo of a Ford Falcon. For the seventh room--on the top floor, with a terrace and a skylit Jacuzzi--the brothers abandoned the art theme and named it the Argentina Room (left, $120). Each morning, a free breakfast of croissants, yogurt, and café con leche is served in the restaurant. Guatemala 4882, 011-54/11-4774-0505, bobohotel.com, from $80. --Celeste Moure
Six years ago, Kristi March and Dave Barnes ran into each other at a bar in San Francisco. Dave was sure they'd never met, until Kristi convinced him that they went to school together in Huntington Beach--from fourth grade through high school, actually. "A nice friendship developed," according to Dave, but after the dot-com bust, he moved back to Southern California. Then, two years ago, Kristi finished her degree as a pharmacist and took a job in L.A. They started dating, and just before Christmas, Dave proposed under the stars at Santa Monica beach. The wedding is on for September. Originally Kristi and Dave thought of Paris and a countryside wine tour for their honeymoon, but France didn't seem adventurous enough for a duo who had gone caving in Belize and on safari in South Africa. They were turned on by the ruins, scenery, and culture in Turkey. "It seems like one of those unspoiled places on the Mediterranean--an ideal place for a romantic honeymoon," Kristi wrote to us. "We have the most fun when learning about new cultures. We considered Italy, Croatia, and Greece, but they didn't inspire us the same way that Turkey did." Miles on United Airlines will get them as far as Paris, so the honeymooners decided to spend the first three days in the City of Light. The remainder of their two-week trip will be in Turkey, and they asked us to help plan an itinerary focused on natural wonders rather than museums, with a few big-name attractions as well. We recommended a couple of days in Istanbul, followed by a flight to Denizli's Cardak Airport, near the Aegean coast. They'll rent a car there and drive along the stunning shoreline before flying from Kayseri to Paris (via Istanbul). With Turkish Airlines handling all the flights, the airfare is $629 per person. Going by train or bus costs less, but that would eat up precious days--and be a lot less pleasant. They hope to cover several of 2,500-year-old Istanbul's major sights in two days, so it'll be a busy 48 hours. We agreed that they'd probably kick themselves if they never saw the famous Hagia Sophia basilica, or the Topkapi Palace, seat of the Ottoman Empire for almost 500 years. Other musts are the Blue Mosque, open sunrise to sunset with free admission, and the Grand Bazaar, where more than 4,000 shops sell ornate jewelry, dyed carpets, elfin slippers, and knockoff designer clothing. The newlyweds will stay near the enormous market at the Hotel Nena, with a buffet breakfast at its rooftop restaurant. For a break from sightseeing, the city has hundreds of cafés where the couple can sip tea and people-watch. They want the Turkish bath experience, so we steered them to Çemberlitas Hamam to be scrubbed, massaged, and steamed on marble slabs. Kristi and Dave were set on checking out the thermal springs of Pamukkale and Hierapolis, where bathers bob amid ancient columns. But instead of boarding a 15-hour train from Istanbul to Pamukkale, they'll fly in and pick up a rental car. From Pamukkale, it's a four-hour drive to the pine-clad mountains and turquoise bays of Fethiye. "We absolutely love balconies," Kristi told us, so they should enjoy the Ece Saray Marina and Resort. All its rooms come with French doors that lead to a private balcony with a bay view. Using Ece Saray as a base, they can hit the beach (a quick cab ride away), visit Butterfly Valley (a lush gorge accessible via an informal water taxi from Belcekiz Beach, opposite the famous Blue Lagoon, for about $12), or drive 20 minutes to the deserted Greek town of Kayaköy to watch the sky turn pink at sunset. At Cin Bal, a butcher-shop-turned-restaurant in town, guests sit shoeless and grill their own kebabs while sheep graze in a nearby meadow. Meat is charged by weight and side dishes cost about $4 each. Next it's on to a series of switchback roads with constant views of the sea. We pointed them to the village of Kalkan and the Patara Prince Hotel and Resort, where 60 rooms are arranged along white stone cliffs. Steep steps lead to sunbathing terraces, pools, and a private sandy cove. Canyoning, diving, paragliding, and other adventures are within an hour's drive. (A day of kayaking seemed perfect for them; see "Surprise!") The newlyweds should also head 20 minutes into the mountains, to the trout farm of Mahmut'un Yeri. On a rooftop terrace that's surrounded by fragrant bougainvillea, patrons order trout, a salad, and a yogurt drink, all for $7 per person. East of Kalkan is the ancient port city of Olympos, where legend has it the fire-breathing Chimera was slain. After a 20-minute hike up a rocky trail, visitors can see the "monster": methane gases seep out and combust from cracks in shale-like stone. The flames are more impressive after dark, so we suggested they head up around dusk with a flashlight for the descent. Before hunkering down for the six-hour drive into Cappadocia, Kristi and Dave will check out another ancient city, Phaselis, which has been preserved in a national park. In the center is a street lined with crumbling marble colonnades; the park is bordered by three harbors that are great for swimming. Exploring Cappadocia's eroded landscapes, hand-chiseled subterranean cities, early Christian chapels, and trademark rock formations (phallic "chimneys" hollowed out and big enough to hold hotels and cafés) is an ideal finale. "We're always looking for the 'hidden treasure'--type places to see," said Kristi. They're going to love the honeymoon suite at Gamirasu Cave Hotel. Except for the door and a tiny window, the room is entirely carved out of the volcanic hillside. The hotel sits in the little-known village of Ayvali, where Kristi and Dave will be treated to views of the eerily pockmarked valley below. If they're lucky, there'll be an evening of folk songs in the village's main cave. Before flying home, Kristi and Dave will get one more only-in-Turkey experience: catching the whirling dervishes perform in the town of Avanos. After their whirlwind tour, Dave and Kristi are sure to know how the dervishes feel. Operators Bougainville Travel 011-90/242-836-3737, bougainville-turkey.com Argeus Tourism and Travel 011-90/384-341-4688, argeus.com.tr, car rental from $53 per day Transportation Turkish Airlines 800/874-8875, thy.com Lodging Hotel Nena Binbirdirek Mah. Klodfarer Cad. 8/10, Istanbul, 011-90/212-516-5264, istanbulhotelnena.com, double with breakfast $97 Pamuksu Boutique Hotel Pamukkale, 011-90/258-272-2818, pamuksuhotel.com, double with breakfast from $60 Ece Saray Fethiye, 011-90/252-612-5005, ecesaray.net, double with breakfast $191 Patara Prince Hotel and Resort Kalkan, 011-90/242-844-3920, pataraprince.com, double with breakfast $54 Olympos Lodge Çirali, 011-90/242-825-7171, olymposlodge.com.tr, double with breakfast $213 Gamirasu Cave Hotel Ayvali, 011-90/384-341-5825, gamirasu.com, honeymoon suite $180 Food Cin Bal Kayaköy, 011-90/252-618-0066 Mahmut'un Yeri near Islamar, 011-90/242-838-6344 Attractions Hagia Sophia Istanbul, 011-90/212-522-1750, $11 Topkapi Palace Istanbul, 011-90/212-512-0480, $9 Çemberlitas Hamam Vezirhan Cad. 8, Istanbul, 011-90/212-522-7974, scrub and rub $20 Pamukkale Antique Pool 011-90/258-272-2024, $13 Chimera Çirali, 20 minutes off Antalya-Kas¸ road, free Phaselis Antique City southeast of Antalya, $7 Whirling dervishes Avanos, 011-90/384-511-3795, sarihan1249.com, $30 Surprise! Thanks to Bougainville Travel in Kas (near Kalkan), Dave and Kristi will enjoy a free day of sea kayaking around Kekova, a partially submerged ancient city with crowned tombs sticking out of the water and 2,000-year-old buildings a few feet below the surface. Swimming and diving aren't allowed in the area, so kayak is the best way to go. How Was Your Trip? René Reed, here with husband Andy and daughter Jenna in front of Schloss Neuschwanstein, told us her family had a "fabulous time" touring Germany by car (Trip Coach, June). "In Beilstein all the tourists left just before dinner and we had the whole town to ourselves."
After too many 80-hour weeks at a San Francisco technology firm, Meredith Tanzer was ready for a change. On regular skiing trips to Lake Tahoe, she'd started exploring the surrounding area, including the city of Reno, Nev., 40 miles away. Reno was just what she'd been looking for: It was smaller than San Francisco, but with some of the same appealing vibe. When she came upon the annual Great Reno Balloon Race, when hundreds of hot-air pilots play bizarre racing games in the sky, she knew she'd found her new home. In 2003, Tanzer and her partner, Dawn Lewis, opened La Bussola, a boutique selling craftsy objets and shabby chic furniture. "My family and friends practically disowned me," she recalls. "They said, 'You're moving where?!' " It's hard to blame them: Reno had always been known as The Biggest Little City in the World, a place where divorcées bided their time waiting for the papers to clear. And the home of the National Bowling Stadium, of course. But while Vegas was being reinvented every year, an explosion at a time, Reno stayed off most people's radar--and like an archaeological cache, it benefited by being ignored. Many of the city's great thrift stores, dive bars, and casinos remain intact. In one of the cocktail lounges at the Peppermill, a casino awash in blue neon, young couples on dates congregate around a bubbling firepit-- a fountain with flames shooting out of it. At Mr. O's, a quintessential dive bar that's open 24 hours, the jukebox is heavy on Rat Pack favorites. The Liberty Belle Saloon, which fights for the title of Reno's oldest restaurant, serves mean prime rib platters. Even better, it's an informal--and free--gallery of vintage slot machines: Owner Marshall Fey, whose grandfather invented the classic three-reel slot machine, has a collection of slots upstairs, including one that pays out in packs of gum. Reno's population--now 200,000--has swelled by 30 percent in the past decade; according to census data, 10,220 residents moved to the area in 2003 alone. Whether folks are coming for affordable living or the fantastic old-time kitsch, they're coming--and bringing businesses with them. Tanzer used to get the cold shoulder when she'd put out calls to artists, trying to stock up her store. "They figured their stuff would be sold in a barn or from the back of a truck," she remembers. Now, she says, she's more likely to hear, "Oh my god, I love Reno!" Around the same time that Tanzer opened La Bussola, Tara Fisher, another San Francisco transplant, opened a boutique called The Attic, where she sells designer denim, handmade jewelry, and clutches. And there's a thriving art scene--one that the city is eager to encourage. In 2003, an arts commission dedicated $20,000 to install Kinetic Banners--60 steel pinwheels that spin around streetlamps downtown. This month marks the 10th anniversary of Artown, an annual festival held each July. When the first one was planned, organizers never would have dreamed of getting Mikhail Baryshnikov and Branford Marsalis, who've both recently been on the bill. Before Tim Healion opened the town's first coffeehouse, Deux Gros Nez, in 1985, the restaurants tended to be all-you-can-eat buffets. "Dining wasn't an experience," he says. "You went in, got your food, and left." That's just fine at a hangover clinic like Peg's Glorified Ham & Eggs, known for its massive skillet breakfasts. But the new arrivals wanted the gourmet foodstuffs they had grown accustomed to, and now they can find crème fraîche and mâche on supermarket shelves. Naturally, wine culture has made inroads. The third Saturday of every month, the Wine Walk leads people along a footpath on the Truckee River; participants stop at more than 20 boutiques, cafés, and galleries to refill their glasses. There's no organized Beer Walk, but there should be, given the recent crop of hip bars. Two years ago, Jessica Kleiderman and Noel Judal were drawn to town from California--anyone sense a trend?-- for the nearby snowboarding. Bummed by the lack of chic nightlife, the two friends created a retro lounge, Satellite, for emerging indie bands. "There was nothing like it," says Kleiderman. "Now it's not so unique." The Green Room is a bar with a 1950s-style rec room in front and a performance space in back. On Tuesdays, arthouse movies are screened for free, and on other nights, jazz combos perform. They're getting more competition all the time: The Chocolate Bar, a modern cocktail and dessert lounge, opened in April. Embedded in the bar are sleek LCD screens showing Charlie Chaplin films and Betty Boop cartoons-- a witty, contemporary-yet-retro nod to a more familiar Reno staple: video poker screens. Lodging Peppermill Hotel Casino 2707 S. Virginia St., 866/821-9996, from $80 Food The Liberty Belle Saloon 4250 S. Virginia St., 775/825-1776, prime rib special $12 Deux Gros Nez 249 California Ave., 775/786-9400 Peg's Glorified Ham & Eggs 420 S. Sierra St., 775/329-2600, bacon and eggs $7 Nightlife Mr. O's 1495 S. Virginia St., 775/323-4244 Satellite 188 California Ave., 775/786-3536 The Green Room 144 West St., 775/324-1224 Chocolate Bar 475 S. Arlington Ave., 775/337-1122 Attractions Great Reno Balloon Race 775/826-1181, renoballoon.com Truckee River Wine Walk 775/348-8858, renoriver.org, $10, includes map and glass Artown 775/322-1538 renoisartown.com, most events free Shopping La Bussola 211 W. 1st St., 775/348-8858 The Attic 542 Plumas St., 775/337-8999