Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Outdoor Art at the Met: Watch and Climb the New Big Bambú Installation

You might not know Doug and Mike Starn, but you’ve seen their artwork if you’ve visited the South Ferry subway station in downtown Manhattan. Their award-winning “See it Split, See it Change” installation was unveiled in 2009 and features silhouettes of trees and a marble mosaic. The Starns have been working on a new creation in their enormous studio in Beacon, NY over the past two years. Taking on a life of its own, Big Bambú has had forward momentum, according to the Starns, almost like a "slinky" progressing from one end of their 300-foot studio to the other.

Recently unveiled at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the rooftop-sited Big Bambú is the most ambitious outdoor exhibition the museum has ever installed. Named after an album by Cheech and Chong—the twins’ nicknames in high school— Big Bambú is an organic structure consisting of 5,000 fresh-cut bamboo poles and 50 miles of nylon rope. They chose bamboo since it is weatherproof and sturdy, yet lightweight.

Big Bambú is constantly growing and changing and will eventually be in the shape of a cresting wave as the Starns and their crew of rock climbers evolve the sculpture each day until the exhibition closes. Mike Starn notes, "It will be slice of a seascape. A seascape has always been emblematic to us of something that is always the same but always different. It is always active." His brother Doug echoes these sentiments, “This piece is organic. It’s about all the things in your life, including those that aren’t planned. This artwork represents what it means to be alive: you are a complete person but that doesn't mean you are finished. You are the same person you were as a little kid, but you are also someone completely different." Wow.

Big Bambú, which opened on April 27, is the first exhibit at the Met to allow the public’s participation. Watch the exhibit transform right from the roof garden, or venture into the depths of Big Bambú and its towers by purchasing a timed ticket, which gives you the chance to take a guided climb through the upper regions of the structure. You’ll need to wear rubber-soled shoes and no photography is allowed. Visit http://www.metmuseum.org/ for more details about this phenomenal exhibit, which closes on October 31.

Friday, June 25, 2010

TBEX Descends on New York City: Get Ready for Lots of Blogs and Tweets about New York City

TBEX '10, the 2nd annual Travel Blog Exchange conference, begins tonight in Manhattan. Looking forward to meeting the 300+ bloggers, journalists, PR folks, and other travel industry professionals who will be sharing knowledge, teaching, and enjoying New York City together.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Last-Minute Travel Deal: 18-day Trip to Turkey with Air for a Little More Than $150 a Day

Footage courtesy of Unravel Travel TV

If you book by June 30, you'll get this amazing trip to Turkey for only $2999 per person for some time between October 2009 and March 2011. The 'Asia Minor of Turkey' tour from FLO USA includes transfers as well as air and meanders through Turkey starting in Istanbul. You'll also enjoy:
  • Breathtaking panoramic views of Istanbul from Camlica Hill
  • A boat trip along the Bosphorus strait to view Istanbul from a new angle
  • A scenic drive from Homer’s Troy to the ancient city of Pergamon
  • A tour of Ephesus, the beach city that is home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world
  • A visit to a theater at Aspendos in Antalya, to explore the city’s Roman and Greek roots
  • A stroll through the Kaymakli Underground City, an important hiding place in Turkish history
  • A journey through Ankara, ruled by both the Hittites and the Romans before assuming its place as the capital of Turkey
  • Shopping in Bursa at the colorful bazaar, where Turksih towels and silks are the gifts of choice

Package Details: The package includes all accommodations, most meals (16 buffet breakfasts and 12 dinners), entrance fees to sites included on the itinerary, land transportation by air-conditioned mini-bus, services of a licensed and experienced tour guide, and the FLO USA Travel Protection Plan (over $200 value). Participants also receive the FLO USA Travel documents kit including luggage tags, travel bag, neck-rest pillow, maps and tour information. Gratuities are additional. A single supplement of $899 is also available. Call 888-435-6872 by June 30.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Shanghai: Blend of Old Culture and New Traditions

Travel and Food Notes welcomes guest blogger Virginia Dixon.

As an emerging world -class city, Shanghai is certainly doing everything it can to make its mark. It’s a city that is evolving by the second, embracing all the cultural clashes of East and West. With a two-week summer vacation and an adventurous spirit, this is a destination to consider for a great trip. The reason being that from May 1 - October 31, the 2010 World Expo is opening up the city to the international community.

This means that it will be crowded and full of foreigners, but that is Shanghai’s delight. Unlike Beijing, which prides itself on its display of Chinese heritage and traditions, its southern sister is much more modern and sleek. There’s no doubt Shanghai is China’s most diverse city, with Australians and Brits making up the majority of expats. More than a few times I found myself at a cafe meeting some businesspeople from Sydney, at an English-language movie-theater talking to some tourists from Germany or at an American restaurant getting to know the friendly locals. Hot spots like Xintiandi and Tai Kan Lu exemplify this culture, bringing together Shanghainese and expats alike, and the old and the new. They’re full of boutique shops and specialty restaurants (with Simply Thai being Xintiandi’s hidden gem).

Do steer clear of tourist traps like the Yuyuan Gardens, an overstated, crowded place plagued with one too many Starbucks and some very eager street vendors. Instead, opt for the tree-lined streets of the French Concession and Jing An District where the real heart of Shanghai is.

Shanghai can also be a fashionista’s playground. For commercial shopping, there is Huaihai Road where stores like H&M and Sephora can be found. Upscale stores like Gucci and Marc Jacobs are located on Nanjing West Road. The real fun, however, is at the South Bund Fabric Market where good bargaining skills can land shoppers some of the best custom-made items. For a winter coat, storeowners will ask for $120 but don’t pay more than $60; for a summer dress, $70 will be asked but only offer $30. Don’t be afraid to walk away if need be, as a lower price will surely be given.

For dinner and nightlife, expats and chic locals like to congregate at Sasha’s in the French Concession. It has a full menu of drinks and western-style food, including a delicious Ravioli Foie Gras. The outdoor lounge is beautiful on a summer night, and the connected bar/club called Zapata’s provides easy access to drinks and dancing.

On top of all this is the Expo, with more than 190 countries being represented. Highlighted pavilions include the UK’s Seed Cathedral, which cost about £25 million, Saudi Arabia’s pavilion, complete with an imported mosque, and China’s own pavilion which is the largest among them.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Quiet Spaces in New York City

Summer in New York City is an exercise in extremes: tourists flock to Times Square and Carnegie Hill turns into a virtual ghost town. Sometimes you need a place in-between to help restore a sense of balance, somewhere you can immerse yourself in art, spirituality or nature, or simply enjoy a latte in peace.

Here are some favorites:

Arthur Ross Pinetum in Central Park Surround yourself in nature at the Arthur Ross Pinetum in Central Park. Located between 84th and 86th streets in the middle of the park., this area of Central Park has 400 pine trees of 15 various species worldwide. Clear your mind at the Contemplation Circle and do some bird watching while gazing at the beautiful leaves. Long-eared and northern saw-whet owls are known to sleep in the surrounding pines during the day, making the Pinetum a prime location for bird watchers. (212) 310-6600, centralparknyc.org

Jacques-Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art Hop on the Staten Island Ferry for free and get a breath of fresh air as you sail away to the serenity of the Jacques-Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. Admire the largest collection of Tibetan art in the West, located inside the only Himalayan-temple-style building in the United States. Afterwards, take some time to wander around the beautiful meditation gardens outside. If you fall in love with the Tibetan culture by the end of your visit, note on your calendar the museum's annual Tibetan festival in October. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear the monks ring the bells to break your silent reverie. The museum is open every Thursday through Sunday from 1pm-5pm. Admission: Adults- $5; Seniors/Students- $3. 338 Lighthouse Ave., Staten Island, (718) 987-3500, http://www.tibetanmuseum.org/index.htm

Brooklyn Public Library The saying “the best things in life are free” certainly holds true at the Brooklyn Public Library. Pack some snacks and attend a free film screening at one of the various library branches held once a month on Fridays at 2-pm. After the move, peruse the Brooklyn Collection, which includes exhibitions and newspaper clippings that reveal Brooklyn’s dynamic cultural history. (718) 230-2100, brooklynpubliclibrary.org

YeloSpa For the ultimate power rest, visit YeloSpa in Manhattan and try out a YeloCab. After a nap in one of these cocoon-like cabins, you'll feel rejuvenated and ready to go back to work. Choose from a traditional massage while napping or a reclining YeloChair to sleep in for a weightless feeling. Customize the lighting and music in the YeloCab to your linking, and fill the cabin with yoru favorite aromatherapy scent. nuggle up with a soft cashmere blanket and sleep that stress away. 315 West 57th St., http://www.yelonyc.com/spa/

Zen Buddhist Temple Awaken your heart and mind with a public meditation service at the Zen Buddhist Temple in Chelsea. Learn new techniques to help you rid yourself of NYC stress. These public meditation services are great to prepare for the work week ahead, as they're held on Sundays at 10am and 4pm. They last an hour and a half and are donation-based with a suggested contribution of $10 per visit. 360 W. 28th St. http://zenbuddhisttemple.org/

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Free Tickets to "Hair" on Broadway: Friday, June 11

Tomorrow night marks the 500th performance of Hair on Broadway. In the true spirit of the Public Theater, the producers of Hair will be giving away 500 free tickets to the first 500 in line at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre (302 W. 45, NYC) starting 10am Friday. Now's the time to grab those few last rays of "Sunshine" as the show closes June 27 to give the cast time to rest before kicking off their national tour in October. Thank you for an amazing run.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lunch at Momofuku Ko: It Takes a Computer Whiz to Score the Most Amazing Meal in Manhattan

I didn’t think it could be any better than their dinner, but Momofuku Ko’s 16-course Asian-accented modern American fusion lunch topped it. Because it was lunchtime, I can’t vouch for the range of the wine pairings offered (I tend not to overindulge midday), although I really enjoyed the middle-range choice with the 11-course dinner. But I will say that the sake that was chosen for us nicely complemented the diversity of dishes from pork belly to duck to lamb. If you can get the Web-only reservations system to work in your favor, this is the meal you want to splurge on if you’re visiting New York City. No course is omitted from soup to cheese, but everything is done in inventive David Chang fashion. I didn't eat for nearly 24 hours after! Take a look at my complete review of dinner at the ultra-selective, 12-seat Momofuku Ko on Gayot.com.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Some of Broadway's Tony Nominees You Should Care About

These two colorful theatergoers joined me tonight as tourists and locals alike scrambled to see the "best of Broadway" before the Tony awards next weekend. Those "in the know" understand the importance of seeing the shows now before tickets become scarce or, worse, before shows close (if they don't win). In case you were wondering I saw "Red" with Alfred Molina; they saw "A Behanding in Spokane" with Christopher Walken. Hmmmmm.

Here's a partial list of the categories to pay attention to on June 13:


American Idiot



Million Dollar Quartet


In the Next Room, or the vibrator play

Next Fall


Time Stands Still


Finian's Rainbow

La Cage aux Folles

A Little Night Music




Lend Me a Tenor

The Royal Family

A View From the Bridge


Everyday Rapture, Dick Scanlan and Sherie Rene Scott

Fela!, Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones

Memphis, Joe DiPietro

Million Dollar Quartet, Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux


The Addams Family, Music and Lyrics: Andrew Lippa

Enron, Music: Adam Cork, Lyrics: Lucy Prebble

Fences, Music: Branford Marsalis

Memphis, Music: David Bryan, Lyrics: Joe DiPietro and David Bryan


Jude Law, Hamlet

Alfred Molina, Red

Liev Schreiber, A View From the Bridge

Christopher Walken, A Behanding in Spokane

Denzel Washington, Fences


Viola Davis, Fences

Valerie Harper, Looped

Linda Lavin, Collected Stories

Laura Linney, Time Stands Still

Jan Maxwell, The Royal Family


Kelsey Grammer, La Cage aux Folles

Sean Hayes, Promises, Promises

Douglas Hodge, La Cage aux Folles

Chad Kimball, Memphis

Sahr Ngaujah, Fela!


Kate Baldwin, Finian's Rainbow

Sherie Rene Scott, Everyday Rapture

Montego Glover, Memphis

Christiane Noll, Ragtime

Catherine Zeta-Jones, A Little Night Music


David Alan Grier, Race

Stephen McKinley Henderson, Fences

Jon Michael Hill, Superior Donuts

Stephen Kunken, Enron

Eddie Redmayne, Red


Maria Dizzia, In the Next Room, or the vibrator play

Rosemary Harris, The Royal Family

Jessica Hecht, A View From the Bridge

Scarlett Johansson, A View From the Bridge

Jan Maxwell, Lend Me a Tenor


Kevin Chamberlin, The Addams Family

Robin De Jesus, La Cage aux Folles

Christopher Fitzgerald, Finian's Rainbow

Levi Kreis, Million Dollar Quartet

Bobby Steggert, Ragtime


Barbara Cook, Sondheim on Sondheim

Katie Finneran, Promises, Promises

Angela Lansbury, A Little Night Music

Karine Plantadit, Come Fly Away

Lilias White, Fela!


Michael Grandage, Red

Sheryl Kaller, Next Fall

Kenny Leon, Fences

Gregory Mosher, A View From the Bridge


Christopher Ashley, Memphis

Marcia Milgrom Dodge, Ragtime

Terry Johnson, La Cage aux Folles

Bill T. Jones, Fela!


Rob Ashford, Promises, Promises

Bill T. Jones, Fela!

Lynne Page, La Cage aux Folles

Twyla Tharp, Come Fly Away

June is a "Twice as Nice" Mother’s and Father’s Day Month at Mohonk Mountain House with Special Prices for Both

Moms should be treated like queens on Mother's Day and dads like kings on Father's Day, so why not take both of them to a beautiful Victorian castle to celebrate? Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY, a National Historic Landmark resort and Historic Hotel of America, has extended its “mothers stay free in May” offer to include dad. As long as there is one paying guest, moms and dads are invited to stay free midweek throughout the month of June.

The resort is only 90 miles north of New York City and makes a great escape for the whole family with three meals a day included, the resort’s noted afternoon tea and cookies, and a variety of activities to appeal to all ages. Try my favorite Mohonk hike (above), “the Lemon Squeeze,” an on-property challenge of bouldering and scrambling, unwinding on the porch after in the rocking chairs overlooking Mohonk Lake.

Moms and dads also receive a 15% discount coupon for a purchase at the gift shop, 15% off a spa treatment at the resort’s huge new spa, (a lot different from what was depicted in the 1994 movie "The Road to Wellville"), 15% off a carriage ride or a session of mountain biking, caving, or horseback riding. If that’s not enough, wonderful Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets is nearby and you’ll get a VIP coupon for shopping there, too.

In case the kids have forgotten to buy gifts, moms and dads receive a cushy Mohonk Mountain House robe and a picture frame to help remember this charming getaway into the 19th century. The paying adult is charged a single occupancy rate starting at $410 per night. Click here for more information and reservations or call 866-666-3146. Subject to availability.