Scouting Report 2007
PUERTO ÁNGEL, MEXICO
Claus Sendlinger: President and CEO of Berlin-based Design Hotels, a collective of 154 hotels worldwide (designhotels.com)
As president and CEO of Design Hotels, Claus Sendlinger travels about every other week--in other words, half the year. When asked the last four places he had been, he had to take a minute to try and remember (he recalled, in no particular order, St. Petersburg, Budapest, Vienna, and Rome). One place that Sendlinger won't soon forget was on the Pacific Coast of the Mexican state of Oaxaca.
"For Christmas, my wife and I went to Mexico for three weeks--the longest vacation I've taken since I left school!" says Sendlinger. After exploring the inland part of Oaxaca, they headed to the beach. "We did an area that's east of Puerto Escondido and west of Huatulco," he says. "It's right in between, where the mountains come down and reach the ocean. There are four little beaches, some with little hippie villages named after them: Mazunte, Zipolite, San Agustinillo, and La Boquilla." They stayed at Hotel Bahía de la Luna, just outside the town of Puerto Ángel. It has 11 bungalows right on the white-sand beach of La Boquilla.
His friends Carlos Couturier Gaya and Moisés Micha, who own the Habita and Condesa DF hotels in Mexico City and the Básico in Playa del Carmen, had tipped him off about Bahía de la Luna. "They know Mexico so well, so I explained what I was looking for and they told us to rent a car in Puerto Escondido and drive."
Sendlinger found it to be an incredibly relaxed (and relaxing) place--not just the hotel, but the entire coastal region--and he spent most of his time reading on the beach. "Early in the trip," he says, "I accidentally left my flip-flops at a bar, and I never even bothered to replace them."
How to get there: Hotel Bahía de la Luna, 011-52/958-589-5020, bahiadelaluna.com, from $60.
Scouting Report 2007
WROCLAW, POLANDWalter Lowry: Founder of and buyer for TableArt, an L.A. store specializing in imported tabletop products (tartontheweb.com) Walter Lowry always loved window-shopping while on vacation, so about five years ago he gave up his legal career and cofounded TableArt, a Los Angeles store selling imported cutlery, linens, and objets d'art. Now Lowry hops around Asia and Europe for up to 10 weeks a year as its buyer. "I visit craftsmen in their studios to order goods from them directly," he says. "And I get to see neighborhoods that aren't in guidebooks." In February, Lowry visited southwestern Poland to meet with porcelain producers, and he became wild about the city of Wroclaw (pronounced vrot-swav), five hours by car from Warsaw. "It has the prettiest plaza in Poland and perhaps in all of central Europe," Lowry says. But the city's real draws--at least to Lowry--are the linens, clothing, and jewelry sold in the markets around Rynek Square and at nearby factory stores. "I saw jackets, with tailoring and styling that were comparable to those sold in the U.S. at Bergdorf or Barneys, going for only $100," says Lowry. And because tourism isn't a major industry in Wroclaw, "you get a sense of how Poland's creative types actually go about living their lives." How to get there: Sofitel Wroclaw, 67 Ul.sw.Mikolaja, 011-48/71-358-8300, sofitel-wroclaw.com, from $92; car rentals from $40 a day, autoeurope.com.
Scouting Report 2007
YIRGALEM, ETHIOPIAGeoff Watts: Co-owner of and coffee buyer for Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, a Chicago coffee-roasting company (intelligentsiacoffee.com) Geoff Watts was fresh out of college when he began working as a barista for Intelligentsia in 1995, the same year the socially conscious coffee-roasting company launched in Chicago. In his current role as green-coffee buyer, Watts spends up to nine months a year sourcing coffee beans in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. "We want to change the culture from being a farmer to being an artisan," he says. Of the 18 countries where Watts works, Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, intrigues him most. "That's the same area where the human race originated. I guess it's a natural pairing," he quips. Small coffee farms and towns like Yirgacheffe, which lends its name to the coffee varietal grown in the region, dot a river valley about a six-hour drive south of Addis Ababa. "It's just beautifully wet, and the soil's really rich," says Watts. "You can tell the coffee enjoys being there." It's also ideal for hiking, horseback riding, cycling, and taking a dip in the hot and cold springs. Watts recommends Yirgalem as a regional base; travelers can stay at the Aregash Lodge, where the 10 round, thatched-roof tukuls (bungalows) are decorated with woven baskets and handcrafts typical of the local Sidama people. They have a strong tradition of consuming coffee and perform elaborate ceremonies when preparing and drinking it, especially in the presence of visitors. "The culture is fascinating, and the people are so friendly and gentle," says Watts. How to get there: Aregash Lodge, 011-251/46-225-1136, aregashlodge.com, from $34; car with driver from $130 a day, tourismethiopia.org.
Scouting Report 2007
ESTACADA, UNITED STATESPancho Doll: Author of four Day Trips with a Splash guidebooks. His fifth, on the Northwest U.S., will come out this spring (swimholes.com) Pancho Doll is a swimming-hole explorer, averaging 24,000 miles every 12 months, all while living in his '95 Toyota Tacoma and chatting up locals to get the scoop. His favorite recent discovery is Estacada, Ore., an old logging town about an hour's drive southeast of Portland on State Route 224. "I was there looking for swimming holes along the Clackamas River and its tributaries," says Doll. "Great results, too. There are no fewer than six spots to jump into clear, cool Cascade runoff, plus a hot spring." The town itself has two main relics from its boom days: a larger-than-life logger carved from a tree trunk and Hong's Chinese Restaurant & Lounge. Previously known as the Safari Club, the place is a roadhouse with taxidermy all over--tigers in the front window, a family of jaguars in a corner--but from what Doll gathered, the wildlife really comes out on weekends. The lounge's sign is supposed to read BAND EVERY WEEK, but the N fell off and the owners never replaced it. Doll also recalls a coffeehouse, The Grind, that had free Wi-Fi--no small thing when you spend half the year in your pickup truck. How to get there: Hong's, 116 SE Fourth Ave., 503/630-3208; The Grind, 105 SW Hwy. 224, 503/630-7700.
Scouting Report 2007
BARANJA REGION, CROATIAAnne Wood: Program director for Mountain Travel Sobek, a small-group adventure-travel company founded in 1969 (mtsobek.com) Anne Wood spends about a third of the year in Europe and the Pacific for Mountain Travel Sobek. During a recent visit to Croatia, she became fascinated by the remote northeastern region of Slavonia. Osijek, a town about a three-hour drive from Zagreb and the scene of much violence between the Croats and the Serbs in the early 1990s, has, Wood says, "a beautiful old square, with 18th-century Austrian-influenced architecture in pastel blues and yellows." Less than an hour's drive north of Osijek is the Baranja wine region. "Flat fields of wheat turn into rolling vineyards dotted with tiny A-frame cottages," says Wood. "These are actually centuries-old, family-run wineries." Behind each house, a big wooden door opens into a wine cellar where 200-year-old barrels store traminac, pinot blanc, merlot, and other varieties. "Usually somebody brings fresh-baked bread from the kitchen, and then we sample wines and enjoy the scenery," says Wood. She recommends the cellars in Zmajevac and Suza, and Baranjska Kuca, a restaurant in Karanac. There, musicians play traditional songs while venison, sausages, and fish stew are prepared in an outdoor oven and served family-style. Though locals are friendly, "it's not easy to find your way around," says Wood. "People don't speak much English, if any." How to get there: Wine Cellar Josíc, 194 Planina, Zmajevac, 011-385/98-252-657, josic.hr; Wine Cellar Mihalj Gerstmajer, 31 Petöfi Sandora, Zmajevac 011-385/91-351-5586; Baranjska Kuca, 99 Kolodvorska, Karanac, 011-385/31-720-180, baranjskakuca.cjb.net.