NYC: Classical music for less
Perhaps feeling the recessionary pull, the New Yorker's music critic writes this week about the affordable art of concertgoing. For many of the options that Alex Ross attended, it's all in the timing. You can hear the New York Philharmonic for just $16 if you're willing to attend one of their open rehearsals—held in the morning. And Juilliard students have a running gig for Tuesdays around lunchtime at 180 Maiden Lane, an office tower near South Street Seaport.
Other times it's a tradeoff in location that gives you the edge. As Alex points out, the "cheapest seats at the Metropolitan Opera are fifteen dollars, slightly more than the bleachers at Yankee Stadium." They also happen to be so nosebleedy that you can't see the stage. But if the music's the thing for you, these "family circle" seats may actually work to your advantage: up there, Ross says, "the sound has excellent balance and presence: the voices float straight up, bounce off the ceiling, and mingle cleanly with the orchestra." (Another Met Opera option are the $25 tickets set aside each week. Given out by lottery, these special deals are all for primo orchestra or grand tier seats. And if you're more interested in smaller, independent opera companies, New York has a rundown.)
If you're headed to New York soon and want to catch a classical-music concert, where can you easily find out what's on? The New Yorker, New York magazine, and Time Out all have good listings, but the most thorough I've seen is the concert board kept up by the classical music station WQXR.
Boston: Street art is no oxymoron
Global guerilla-artist icon Shepard Fairey—the man behind Obey Giant and the beloved Obama poster—has his first museum survey at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston February 6–August 16. The ICA exhibition Shepard Fairey: Supply and Demand, displays about 200 works made by Fairey over the course of 20 years—starting with his now infamous Obey Giant stencils and stickers, and culminating in a new ICA-commissioned mural. True to form, Fairey’s work won't be confined within walls: The artist is creating public art at different sites around Boston throughout the spring and summer. (Move fast to secure your spot at an ICA-organized artist talk, seminar about design as social change, or one of two Sunday afternoon curator-led bike tours of Fairey's work in Boston and Cambridge.) icaboston.org, from $12. EARLIER FROM BUDGET TRAVEL In 2007, we included the ICA on our Cool List. We wrote: The most popular spot has quickly become the Mediatheque, where 18 computers display digital media related to the artists and exhibitions. It's not the computers that are drawing crowds, however; it's the fact that the media center points down at a 24-degree angle from the underside of the cantilever. At the end of the room, there's a 21-foot-wide picture window framing a mesmerizing view of the water's surface. (No surrounding land or sky is visible.) "We describe the experience as vertiginous," says Jesse Saylor, a member of the architects' design team. "When you enter the room, you all of a sudden realize you're floating above the water."
Sunday in Paris: Where do I eat?
Paris buzzes with activity six days a week, but it's shuttered on the seventh. Turn up on a Sunday and you're likely to see tumbleweeds blowing through the streets. Hungry, desperate visitors can be spotted frowning into their buckets at the city's fast-food restaurants. But don't worry—not all stoves are silent on Sunday. Eating well on the off-day isn't impossible: It just requires a little planning. Here are some strategies, along with a handful of favored addresses, to help you dine à dimanche. Go to the Market There are more than 100 marchés alimentaires in Paris, and these outdoor markets are at their bustling best on Sunday. There's plenty to buy and eat even if you don't have access to a kitchen. The makings of a great picnic are close at hand: cheese, charcuterie, bread, and fruit—and most markets have a vendor selling sinfully delicious street food. I'm particularly fond of the churros at Bastille, the accras de morue (spicy West Indian fish balls) at Place des Fêtes, and the freshly grilled homemade sausages at Jaurès. A full list of outdoor markets organized by arrondissement can be found at paris.fr; note that most are packing up by 1pm. Go Ethnic Immigrants tend to be less concerned about the day of rest than the old-time traditionalist French. The city's Chinatown, down in the southeast corner, is positively humming on Sundays. A favorite stop among local foodies is the Thai/Vietnamese hybrid Lao Lane Xang 2. Their lacquered duck breast in a chilli-nuoc cham sauce is a killer (102 Avenue d'Ivry, 13th arrondissement, 011-33/1-58-89-00-00). Less trendy, less expensive, and equally delicious is Pho Banh Cuon 14, a Vietnamese dive that has crowds queuing up on the sidewalk for soup (129 avenue de Choisy, 13th arrondissement, 011-33/1-45-83-61-15). Outside of Chinatown, the restaurant Liza has garnered high praise for its Lebanese dishes (14 rue Banque, 2nd arrondissement, 011-33/1-55-35-00-66), and Chez Omar is a classic for North African couscous (47 rue Bretagne, 3rd arrondissement, 011-33/1- 42-72-36-26). Naniwa-Ya is my new favorite in the Japanese quarter just behind the Palais Royal (11 rue Sainte-Anne, 1st arrondissement, 011-33/1-40-20-43-10). Both shops and restaurants in the Jewish quarter, which goes silent for the sabbath on Friday night, are wide open for business on Sunday. Finally, after five years in Paris I still can't get enough of the sandwiches, served with plenty of hot sauce, at L'As du Falafel (34, rue des Rosiers, 4th arrondissement, 011-33/1-48-87-63-60). Go to a Brasserie An authentic Parisian brasserie can take your breath away. Historic, romantic, and always open, they're a great way to cap off any visit to the city. The best ones are filled with brass, stained glass, and art nouveau details. The fare ranges from choucroute (a fragrant pile of sauerkraut laden with sausage, knuckles, and pork belly) to more elegant (and pricey) seafood platters. The debate is always raging, but in my opinion Julien is the most beautiful (16 rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 10th arrondissement, 011-33/1-47-70-12-06), and le Gallopin has the best food (40 rue Notre Dame des Victoires, 2nd arrondissement, 011-33/01-42-36-45-38). Go Gastro (but make reservations) For the most serious food-lovers, here's a handful of stars for Sunday dinner. These are well-loved French establishments, favored by locals and visitors alike, and so booking ahead is essential. Price estimates below do not include wine. Under €20 ($27) • Breizh Café, 109 rue Vieille du Temple, 3rd arrondissement, 011-33/1-42-72-13-77 • Le Verre Volé, 67 rue de Lancry, 10th arrondissement, 011-33/1-48-03-17-34 €20-40 (under $55) • Le Petit Marché, 9 rue Béarn, 3rd arrondissement, 011-33/1-42-72-06-67 • Au Fil des Saisons, 6 rue des Fontaines du Temple, 3rd arrondissement, 011-33/1-42-74-16-60 • Mon Vieil Ami, 69 rue St-Louis-en-l'Ile, 4th arrondissement, 011-33/1-40-46-01-35 • Christophe, 8 rue Descartes, 5th arrondissement, 011-33/1-45-26-72-49 • Astier, 44 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 11th arrondissement, 011-33/1-43-57-16-35 • Cave de L'Os à Moelle, 181 rue de Lourmel, 15th arrondissement, 011-33/1-45-57-28-28 Over €40 (over $55) • Drouant, 16–18 place Gaillon, 2nd arrondissement, 011-33/1-42-65-15-16 • Le Comptoir du Relais, 9 carrefour de l'Odéon, 6th arrondissement, 011-33/1-44-27-07-97 • L'Atelier du Joël Robuchon, 5 rue de Montalembert, 7th arrondissement, 011-33/1-42-22-56-56 • Pierre Gagnaire, 6 rue Balzac, 8th arrondissement, 011-33/1-58-36-12-50
Short-term vacation rentals made easier
I've long assumed that renting a vacation home meant rounding up eight people for a week-long getaway. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it’s common to book a rental for merely a long weekend. A case-in-point: The average booking for a home, cabin, or condo is just four nights on Zonder.com, a site that lists private, professionally managed rentals in the U.S., Caribbean, and Central America. The average group size is only four to five people, which is also smaller than I expected. Bob Barnes, the CEO of the rental site Zonder, recently chatted with me about how to find the best deals. Here’s a key part of the interview. Q: How is the economic downturn changing the way vacation rentals are being handled? A: Because of the recession, many management companies are loosening their booking restrictions, and we are taking advantage of that. Negotiate by asking these questions. • Is there any flexibility with the minimum stay? Though one-night stays aren’t common, sometimes you can get a three-day rental for a long weekend. • A Saturday-to Saturday stay is especially popular in ski destinations. See if that requirement can be waived. • Can the lead time be shortened? Some management companies require you to book at least seven days in advance but that causes them to miss last-minute reservations. Q: Other than thinking you need to rent for a week, what are other common misconceptions that people have about vacation rentals? A: Don’t assume popular destinations have limited inventory. Just outside of Orlando, for example, you could recently book a five-bedroom home with a pool for less than $200 per night, versus a 12-by-12-square-foot hotel room for the same price. Even in Hawaii, we have condos for under $200 per night, such as this recent deal. Q: Any other tips? A: Go in off-season. Stay away from bank and school holidays, like spring break. Even going one week before or after the peak season can save you money. Consider visiting mountain destinations in the summer. For example, a two-bedroom Park City townhouse recently went for $479 per night during peak season. An off-peak rental would cost just $234 per night, or about 50 percent less. If you aren't finding what you need online, call 866/613-3166. Our booking agents are available 24/7 and are good at finding properties. MORE RENTAL WEBSITES Budget Travel's Vacation Rental Handbook
This weekend: Celebrating National Pie Day in Maine
Did you know that Jan. 23 is National Pie Day? We didn't either, but thank goodness the Historic Inns of Rockland, Maine, are on top of these things. To celebrate, four coastal inns are hosting Pies on Parade this Sunday. Each inn will be receiving ticketed guests between 1 and 4 p.m., with tours of common areas and some guests rooms. Taste various pies, from traditionals like cherry and apple to more modern variations like Key Limerock Pie, Seafood with Lobster Pie, Kiwi Berry Tart, and a Goat Cheese Breakfast Pie. Then take home a recipe collection so you can bake your own. The four inns (the Berry Manor Inn, the Lindsey House Inn, the LimeRock Inn, and the Old Granite Inn) are within walking distance of each other. But a trolley will make the rounds. Some of Rockland's local businesses are also offering samples, including a Chocolate Decadence Pie at the Pastry Garden and Lemon Curd Pie with Ginger Crust at Lily Bistro. (Cue the drooling). All proceeds go to the local Area Interfaith Outreach Food Pantry. And you can rest assured that the decadence won't hurt the environment: All of the pie will be served with biodegradable, "compostable" plates and silverware-made of sugar cane. There are still some accommodations left at the inns, if you want to make a weekend of it; packages start at $160. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children 10 and under, and can be purchased by calling 877/762-4667. Rockland is about 90 minutes north of Portland, Maine.