Thursday, August 30, 2012

New York City's Pod Hotel

The name Pod Hotel says it all. Or does it? My expectation when checking into the brand new Pod 39 Hotel in the upmarket Murray Hill neighborhood in Manhattan is that my night would be similar to falling asleep -- or nervously trying to -- while having a CAT scan.  Instead I found a minimalist room with brightly hued accents that, though wee, was sun filled. thanks to three windows, including one in the bathroom with its translucent walls and rain shower. (The amenities are the organic Red Flower line which come in colorful cardboard containers.)

The flat screen TV, complementary WiFi as well as wireless media center and iPod docking station all assure that you're connected and distracted from the small room dimensions. (My suggestion is to book a queen room on a high floor.)

The only oddity of the room. which comes with plenty of fluffy towels, is the lack of cups. (You have to call the front desk for those.)

On the ground floor, guests lounge in sleek chairs. Others check one of several iPads that are mounted on the wall and call up Google maps or search for restaurant reviews on Yelp. The concierge desk is piled with the latest issue of Time Out New York to assure that you'll have access to the latest information on pop-up shops, gallery openings, literary readings and street fairs.

The hotel is still a work in progress: a restaurant is set to open as well as a spacious lounge that'll be equipped with a ping pong and pool table.

But the highlight of this property,which is a landmarked building, is the original Neoclassical rooftop that's been repurposed into a scenic terrace with archways, antique-tiled tables, a copper-topped terra cotta-faced bar as well as tall terra cotta columns and benches. From this airy perch, you can sit and take in the panoramic views of the city, including the Empire State Building, while sipping one of their many exotic and well-crafted cocktails. (The bar is open to the public and, since my stay here a few weeks ago, I've stopped by for drinks several times.) Even the virgin drinks were memorable: I lingered over a refreshing cocktail concocted of watermelon juice, ginger syrup and citrus.

For such a spare room, however, the price isn't cheap. My room went for $155. But, how much time do you spend in the room anyway? And, considering hotels in New York City can run in the hundreds, especially given this prime locale, the Pod 39 is worth it. You'll be in a quiet, tony  East Side neighborhood that accessible to the Lexington line subway. You'll feel like you're in the land of hipness. And, then, there's always that rooftop retreat to look forward to at the end of the day.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Radio Show: Why I Love Sardinia + More

When I travel slowly, whether its peddling on old farm roads in northern Spain or walking on cliff top paths mostly used by fishermen in Portugal's Alentejo region, I have the time to sense minute changes in the landscape.  The different species of wildflowers or nesting birds. The changes in geologic formations. The shifting sands along the dunes where the sands mingle with wild roses or lavender. I truly believe that this mode of travel is the way to connect with the land and its people.

I bring this up because Anthony Capozzoli recently interviewed me for his show: How To Tour Italy.  We discussed how I chose to bicycle the entire West Coast of Sardinia, an more unexpected way to traverse this country where many vacations seek the overdeveloped East Coast.

Listen to the spot and you'll also find out:

1. how I went from scientist to travel writer
2. my favorite dish in Sardinia
3. how I manage to never check luggage
4. my top security tip when staying at a hotel
5. how to find hidden treasures in your own backyard

Listen to internet radio with How to Tour Italy on Blog Talk Radio
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Super Smart Cruise To The Baltics

I'm very much about what I call the "Who Knew" factor. Whether I'm strolling the streets in my hometown of New York City or bicycling in Denmark, I'm always on the lookout for surprises so that I might exclaim, "Who knew?" And this sensibility carries through to cruise trips as well, where I want to land in smaller ports, engage with a staff that provides a lot of interesting and, hopefully, surprising historical context, and have the opportunity to participate in three of my favorite activities: walking through parks and gardens, as well as hiking and bicycling. Zegrahm Expeditions is an adventure travel company with cruises that fit the bill for me. They are very much all about the "Who Knew" factor.

Check out my article that appears in the Huffington Post about my cruise through the Baltics with Zegrahm. I traveled with such a smart staff that I'm sure my IQ got a boost.
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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dominica, Where Sea Turtles Nest

Stay at the Rosalie Bay Resort in Dominica and, depending on the season, you might come away with photos that are beyond the usual postcard-perfect pics that we all take when we vacation at a Caribbean locale. This eco resort is at the center stage of the life cycle of several species of endangered sea turtles. Green, hawksbill and leatherback turtles each creep across the black sands to dig a wide pit and then a deep chamber to deposit dozens of eggs. Visitors can request a wake-up call -- no matter the hour of the night -- to experience this memorable event.

I recently wrote about my leatherback nesting experience for National Geographic Traveler - Intelligent Travel. It probably was the only time I was delighted to receive a phone call in the middle of the night.

All three photos below are by

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