London: A behind the seams guide to Fashion Week
Late February in London means Fashion Week—and from cafés to cool bars the city over, Londoners are chatting couture over coffees and cocktails.
Topic of the moment is the sudden and sad death of Britain's favorite designer, local East End boy Alexander McQueen. There are fond memories of how McQueen helped to make Fashion Week seriously cool in the 1990s, with his hipster pants and angular cuts. And while his suicide has cast a shadow over the celebrations, the show goes on…as do a series of tempting fairs and sales.
It's the tenth year of the Vintage Fashion fair this Sunday, Feb. 21, where over 100 vintage dealers proffer their retro-fashion at retro prices. Be at the exhibition space Hammersmith Town Hall, (King St W6) at 8 a.m. for the best deals.
The fair's upstart rival, the Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion fair begins later—at 11 a.m., presenting the chance to get a makeover from professional pamperers the Powderpuff Girls. There are a spate of sales too: 60 percent off Britt Letner sharp women's suits, 80 percent off Love from Australia sheepskin boots and some 70 percent off designer items at the show itself, London Fashion Weekend (tickets $25).
See London's Punk History: A Web Audio Tour [The Guardian]
London: In search of Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes aficionados in London are up in arms about Hollywood's fresh take on their detective hero. Robert Downey's lusty new Sherlock, they say, is nothing like the invention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In fact, when I dropped by the Sherlock Holmes Museum last week, I went looking for promotional movie tie-ins—and received short shrift. "There are none at all," said a man in a tweed suit, purporting to be Sherlock Holmes himself. "Any connections with that film and the real Holmes are purely coincidental." The museum itself is a delight for all Holmes fogeys—with descriptive details from the myriad short stories and novels lovingly reproduced on all four stories of the Baker Street town house, at the exact fictional residence for the detective and Doctor Watson as mentioned in the book. The downstairs shop sells all manner of things related to the detective, such as deerstalker hats. Whether it will stock the new movie when it comes out on DVD remains to be seen.
D.C.: Top 3 free things to do in the capital
It's a penny-pincher's nirvana: The Cheap Bastard's Guide to Washington, D.C., which lists about 1,000 freebies. Here's a sampling of some favorite (but lesser known) finds that visitors and locals can enjoy any time of the year, courtesy of the book's author, Rob Grader. Catch a free performance Most evenings (often around 6:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage. Daily performances run the gamut from classical music, jazz, and popular music to theater, dance, and circus performances, each lasting between half-an-hour and an hour. Take a free tour of the capital city DC by Foot Free Monuments Walking Tours offer 90 minute free tours of the national mall that will fill you in on all of the history, symbolism and architectural details of the monuments around the mall. Guides set out most weekdays at 6 p.m. and most weekends at 2 p.m. No reservations are required. dcbyfoot.com Wholeness for Humanity leads eco-tours around D.C. to highlight the greening of the city. The tours can lead you to many surprising destinations, including the Nationals' ballpark, the roof of the Department of Transportation, the National Geographic Building, and a stroll along the Anacostia River. Tours run a few times a month and reservations are required. wholenessforhumanity.com Attend a blues Jam Every Saturday at 2:30 in honor of the musician Archie Edwards. The jam brings together musicians of all levels to revel in the Piedmont Blues that Mr. Edwards championed for more than 50 years at his D.C. barber shop. acousticblues.com BONUS TIP Enjoy a day on the farm. A drive of a few miles outside of D.C. in Oxon Hill, Md., visitors can get their hands dirty milking cows and working with the chickens or just have a good time petting the farm animals, overlooking the Beltway. nps.gov/archive/nace/oxhi
San Francisco: 5 favorite stairway walks
One of the best ways to explore San Francisco's killer hills is by venturing through the many, often hidden, stairways in the city. Most are lined with picturesque gardens, many offer benches along the way (phew!), and all offer stunning views of the city or the Bay. The better-known steps are adjacent to the winding Lombard Street, but some secret stairways traverse parks and wind through residential areas, affording you a glimpse that only locals usually get. Here are our five favorites. Telegraph Hill: The popular Filbert and Greenwich Street staircases leading up to Coit Tower. Highlights: Gardens of roses and irises, a picnic table overlooking the Bay, and trees filled with the famous wild parrots. Start at Telegraph Hill Blvd and either Filbert or Greenwich streets. Inner Sunset: The 16th Avenue steps, covered in mosaic tiles, were a neighborhood project inspired by the Santa Teresa Steps in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After you've done the 16th avenue steps, continue down 15th Avenue to the Aerial stairway (one of the longest in the city) or head up the hill to the Grand View Park staircase, whose benches are one of the best spots to watch a San Francisco sunset. Highlights: Native plants like Bush lupine and the endangered yellow Franciscan wallflowers, as well as views of various angles of the Golden Gate bridge and the ocean. Start at 16th Avenue and Moraga Avenue. Presidio: The Lyon Street steps lead from Pacific Heights through the Presidio park down to the Palace of Fine Arts (where you can check out the Exploratorium science museum) and the Marina neighborhood. Highlights: Tiered gardens and breathtaking views of the ocean. This is a favorite running spot for hard-core athletes. Start at Lyon and Broadway. Upper Market: The Saturn and Vulcan stairways lead through the residential neighborhood above the Castro district. Highlights: Lush gardens of rhododendrons, hydrangeas, azaleas, and fuchsias; quirky cottages whose residents have only stairway, not road, access; and views of the city streets below. Start at Levant Street near Lower Terrace. Pacific Heights: The Baker Street and Fillmore Street stairways pass through the Queen Ann Victorian houses and decadent Italian Renaissance mansions, near the Alta Plaza Park. Highlights: Some of the city's most breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and Palace of Fine arts. Start at Broadway and Baker. For more information, check out Adah Bakalinsky's guidebook, Stairway Walks in San Francisco.
Photos: Mardi Gras floats on
New Orleans is on a roll! Fresh off the Saints' first-time win at the Super Bowl—which got its own raucous parade last week—came Mardi Gras, still America's craziest street party. We sent photographer Michael Mohr out to capture the wild costumes, impromptu parades, and energetic, bead-hungry crowds. See the results in our slide show, and look out for photo #9 of couples in clothes and hats made with iconic plastic beads and doubloons. Michael grew up in New Orleans, and one of his fondest memories, as a boy at Mardi Gras, was getting a prized Zulu coconut. His family and friends lined up along parade routes each year as early as 4 a.m. to claim their territory. They came prepared with tons of food: red beans and rice, Zapps potato chips, jambalaya, beer, and two boxes of Popeye's fried chicken and biscuits. "There is an energy about Mardi Gras that is beyond explanation," Michael wrote me. "You have to be there to feel it and understand it." True, but his photos get you close!