Winter Travel: The Caribbean

Mustique Island By NIcole Cusick Mustique Island is a private island of the archipelago that makes up St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It is approximately two and half square miles, covering 1,400 acres. At its highest elevation the island has a view point of 500 feet giving way to a series of small valleys leading to pristine palm fringed beaches. The coconut tree plantations, added more than 50 years ago, give the island its thick and luscious vegetation. A once hidden gem, Mustique is a growing tropical destination. Where to Stay: The Villa Collection Mustique has a collection of over a hundred unique and individual houses. Many of the villas are available to rent. House sizes range from the intimate two bedroom cottages, suitable for honeymooners and couples, to the 8-10 bedroom private estates. The Cotton House Hotel The Cotton House Hotel, formerly the old cotton warehouse is the oldest building on the island. Converted by architect Oliver Messel, who designed many structures on the island, the Cotton House has 17 rooms, ranging from a presidential two-bedroomed suite with private pool and drawing rooms to single rooms. Both locations offer a full hospitality staff to help provide a relaxing experience. The team includes a cleaning staff, a kitchen staff to stock up on all of your favorite foods upon arrival, child care and spa professionals trained in various spa treatments. Where to Eat: The Firefly The Firefly’s cocktail bar is famous for its legendary sunset views over Britannia Bay. Home to the Mustique Champagne and Martini Clubs, favorites amongst the island’s regulars, the restaurant serves a range of dishes using fresh, local ingredients with a Caribbean flair. They also serve pizzas, which can be delivered to you on the beach. Basil’s Beach Bar & Restaurant In the heart of Britannia Bay, Basil’s Bar extends over the water and has been hosting an international crowd for over 25 years. In season, Wednesday night features a barbeque buffet dinner with live music. Sunday night features sunset jazz, followed by á la carte dining. Basil’s is home to the legendary Mustique Blues Festival in late January and early February, where A-list musicians come to play, offering guests the opportunity to enjoy world class music. What to do in Mystique: Taking advantage of the beach is a must, but there are many other things to do in Mustique. For the adventurous, several water sports, nature and fitness trails, bird watching and horseback riding are all available. The island also supplies entertainment through an open air movie theater, local museum and island library. Explore what else this hidden treasure has to offer and more at mustique-island.com. Caribbean Tourism By Terry Robe One of the most popular destinations for winter travel, the Caribbean is a region of surprising diversity. While the 30 members of the Caribbean Tourism Organization – from Anguilla to Venezuela – share a sea, theircitizens may speak English, Spanish, French or Dutch. To gain insight into Caribbean travel trends, The Georgetowner recently spoke with Sylma Brown Bramble, director of CTO-USA, Inc., the New York-based subsidiary of the Caribbean Tourism Organization. The Georgetowner: How important is the North American market to the region’s tourism? SBB: North America has delivered the most visitors to the Caribbean over the past several decades. In 2012, the region welcomed over 21 million long-stay visitors (not including cruise visitors) to its shores, 60 % of whom came from North America. As product offerings such as sports, faith-based, adventure, cuisine and multigenerational vacations continue to gain popularity, we expect to see an increase in the numbers. The Georgetowner: Many people think of cruise ships and all-inclusive resorts when they think of the Caribbean, but is this an outdated picture? SBB: Absolutely. There is a wide variety of hotel choices in the Caribbean, from guesthouses to tony boutique properties to villas to time-shares to elegant luxury resorts. The Georgetowner: Is the Caribbean also a cultural heritage destination? SBB: Yes, our cultural heritage is intimately relevant to the development of tourism. Its authenticity and diversity can be found in no other destination. There are music and cultural festivals, such as the Music Festival in St. Kitts, the Reggae festivals in Jamaica and the Creole Festival in Dominica. Trinidad and Tobago is well known for Carnival, but in the Bahamas it is Junkanoo and in Barbados it is Crop Over. Our cuisine is another area that reflects our cultural heritage and in which there is much variety. In the French and French-influenced territories of Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Martin, there is an unmistakable creole flair to the dishes. But in all local fare in the Caribbean there is a delicious infusion of locally grown ingredients with the influences of European or African ancestry. The Georgetowner: What is meant by Leading Sustainable Tourism, CTO’s stated purpose? SBB: Because the Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world, we have an immense challenge and opportunity: to maintain tourist flows necessary to guarantee economic stability; to ensure the proper use of our resources for the benefit of visitors and locals and to see that the resources that currently attract visitors are protected and preserved for future generations. The Caribbean Tourism Organization, as the region’s tourism development agency, is the leading advocate for development issues, hence the purpose. CTO holds an annual Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development to share best practices and keep our stakeholders updated. So we live our purpose both in words and in deed. Islands at a glance: Aruba Language: Dutch The 320-room Ritz-Carlton, Aruba, opened in November. The first international flights for Southwest Airlines, announced this week, include flights from BWI to Aruba (and also to the Bahamas and Jamaica), beginning July 1. Barbados Language: English The SoCo (for South Coast) Hotel, allinclusive but intimate with only 24 rooms, opened in 2013. One of the newest and best-rated restaurants – in one of the Caribbean’s top dining destinations – is Chez Max. Grenada Language: English Grenada’s carnival, SpiceMas, will begin in May instead of June in 2014 as part of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the country’s independence. Spice Island Beach Resort is on Island Magazine’s new list of 15 of the World’s Greatest Escapes. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Language: English Two islands in the Grenadines – Bequia and Canouan – made a recent Huffington Post list of Caribbean Islands You’ve Never Heard Of But Should Visit. Saint Vincent’s new Argyle International Airport, designed to accommodate large jets, is scheduled for completion late in 2014. Trinidad and Tobago Language: English “Voluntourism” opportunities are available between March and September, when up to 12,000 nesting leatherback turtles come to the beaches of Trinidad. Tobago recently launched a tablet and smart-phone app. [gallery ids="101617,146745,146749" nav="thumbs"]

With Warhol & Carnegie

Paul Warhola, Andy Warhol’s older brother, died last month at age 91. On Pennsylvania Avenue in Pittsburgh, painted on the side of a garage-like building of buff-colored brick, are the words: "PAUL WARHOLA - WE BUY SCRAP METAL." That a hometown junk dealer and a world-famous artist were brothers says a lot about the city of their birth, which a recent book calls “the Paris of Appalachia.” Soaking up immigrant labor and smoking up a picturesque landscape of rivers and hills, Pittsburgh’s industries made fortunes for Carnegie, Mellon, Frick, Phipps and Heinz, who became the city’s cultural benefactors. Carnegie – Pittsburgh’s other Andy – launched an international art exhibition in 1896 (see article on page 28) and founded the Carnegie Technical Schools a few years later. The schools evolved into the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now part of Carnegie Mellon University), where a coal miner’s son, Andy Warhol, studied commercial art. In 1949, this shy, church-going gay man with prematurely white hair moved to Manhattan. (His widowed mother joined him and stayed for two eye-opening decades.) Shoe ads and record album covers somehow led to paintings of Campbell’s soup cans, vivid silkscreened portraits of Marilyn and Jackie and an approach to art far ahead of its time. The Warhol Museum – seven floors of paintings, ephemera, movies and taxidermy, entered through a hallway of cowhead wallpaper – opened 20 years ago on the north side of the Allegheny River. The largest single-artist museum in the country, it symbolizes the city’s pride in its contemporary art scene. "Over the past 20 years, Pittsburgh has purposefully replaced its industrial smog with creativity in the form of world-class museums and festivals, coupled with neighborhoods infused with the arts,” explains Mitch Swain, CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. The downtown cultural district’s 14 square blocks are home to seven theaters, including the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Heinz Hall, and a dozen galleries, notably Wood Street Galleries and SPACE. The Agnes R. Katz Plaza, located at 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, is nicknamed “Eyeball Park” for the three pairs of eye-shaped granite benches by sculptor Louise Bourgeois, who also designed a mini-mountain of a fountain. In a once abandoned Sterns & Foster warehouse on the city’s Northside (not far from the Warhol Museum and the National Aviary) is the Mattress Factory, dedicated to installation art. Three light installations by James Turrell, who has been carving out an Arizona crater for more than 30 years, are encountered in disorientingly dark galleries. On another floor of the main building are two pop-inspired walk-ins by Yayoi Kusama, titled, “Infinity Dots Mirrored Room” and “Repetitive Vision.” Across town at the Frick Art & Historical Center is “An American Odyssey: The Warner Collection of American Painting,” with works by Gilbert Stuart, Mary Cassatt, Childe Hassam and others. It's on view from March 1 through May 25. Two hotels provide glimpses into Pittsburgh’s Gilded Age: The Inn on the Mexican War Streets, built in 1888 for department store baron Russell H. Boggs; and the Mansions on Fifth, built in 1906 for Frick’s lawyer, Willis McCook. The Mansions on Fifth is a Historic Hotel of America, as is the landmark Omni William Penn downtown, built in 1916. Near the Warhol Museum is the Priory Hotel, originally a Benedictine monastery. The city’s newest luxury hotel is the Fairmont Pittsburgh, which opened in 2010 in the Three PNC Plaza office building. Several resorts and inns are located near Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, the two former residences designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the Laurel Highlands, about 90 minutes southeast of Pittsburgh. Fallingwater is open for tours on March 1 to 2 and March 8 to 9, then daily, except Wednesdays starting March 15. [gallery ids="101631,146093" nav="thumbs"]

In Brazil for the World Cup

We arrived in Sao Paulo at 8 a.m. to start our World Cup celebration. It’s the Brazilian winter and it was only 59 degrees. We watched a couple of games with friends from Brazil, Chile and Boston, then left that night for our rumble in the jungle. Our flight to Manaus arrived at 11:30 p.m. We went immediately to our boat, taking us to our floating hotel in the Amazon. On a jungle hike the next morning, we saw enormous spiders, monkeys, gargantuan poison ants and all sorts of other nature. We left the floating hotel to transfer into town that afternoon to be closer to the stadium. The Portuguese team was staying at our new hotel. Their star player is Ronaldo, considered by some to be the best player in the world right now, and totally hot. Security and paparazzi at our hotel could have been for the president. Our taxi was able to follow their motorcade all the way to the stadium. The blocked-off streets were lined with photo takers. I felt like the Queen of England. The stadium was brand new and beautiful. There were tons of U.S. fans. Our seats were front row, center. My Queen of England feeling continued. The U.S. had a fantastic game until Portugal’s goal in the final seconds of extra time deflated our spirits. But a tie was still better than expected for our team. After the game, literally thousands of people from all over the world were dancing in the streets. The locals from Manaus loved Americans. We had a lot of pictures taken and our dance card was full. The next day, we went out on the Amazon River to where two rivers – Rio Solimoes (from Peru) and Rio Negro – merge and run next to each other for four miles without mixing. The colors and temperatures of the water are completely different. Pretty wild to see. We spent the evening at the FIFA Fan Fest, where you can watch the matches if you aren’t able to be in the stadium. We and about 30,000 Brazilians watched their team beat Cameroon. That night we had a 2 a.m. flight to Rio. We stayed on the beach at Copacabana, which was like a no-holds-barred South Beach, if you can imagine. After two days, we had to move on to Recife for the next U.S. game, which we hoped would not be the last. We played the Germans in a torrential downpour. Being the fair-weather fan that I am, this was not what I signed up for. It was sort of the opposite of my Queen of England feeling. The roads were like rivers, our very high-end hotel room was leaking, cabs were sparse and I didn’t think to pack a raincoat. We found an intrepid driver to take us to the express bus station. We could hear water lapping at the bottom of the cab. I thought we would float away. The stadium is about an hour outside the city, so we had to join thousands of other wet fans trying to cram onto buses. It somehow all worked out and we made it the stadium in time to get a beer and find our seats before kickoff. Unfortunately, we had excellent seats again, so no overhang. It was a soggy day. And even though the Germans won, the U.S. advanced to the next round, so the celebration was on. More dancing in the streets. And then a nice hot shower. Of course, the next day the weather was spectacular. We hung out in the sun but didn’t swim in the ocean. Recife is known for its shark attacks (Yikes!). That afternoon, we headed back to Sao Paolo to prepare for Brazil’s first game in the knockout round. I haven’t been to Carnival, but I cannot imagine it is any more festive then what we experienced. Whole areas of the city were cordoned off and mobbed with fans. The Brazilians won in the final seconds and the dancing in the streets continued. But by then we had to fly back to D.C. and catch the games on T.V.

Manhattan Magic at the Rainbow Room and the Algonquin

The Rainbow Room: the Ultimate Room with a View The dance floor rotates at a snail’s pace. A ringside crowd, dressed to the nines, longs for the Count Basie Orchestra to begin. The anticipation is palpable. Under a chandeliered 23-foot dome, vintage wine and Champagne flow as if it is New Year’s Eve, not an ordinary weekday night. We are seated in the Rainbow Room, 65 floors above Rockefeller Center, surrounded by one of the few vistas in the world with the power to intoxicate: the magical Manhattan skyline. The only embellishments to an uninterrupted 30-mile view are “curtains” of glittering crystals in prism shapes, suspended like icicles above each floor-to-ceiling window. The streets of Gotham below us may have potholes, trashcans and petty crime, but up here, close to the clouds, it’s heavenly. Pinch me. I must be dreaming. When this high-altitude hot spot closed its doors several years ago, I mourned the loss as if an old friend had passed. In this hallowed space, I sipped my first glass of Dom Perignon and celebrated many a birthday. When news of its reopening – and major facelift – promised an update to its original 1930s-era style, revisiting soared to the top of my bucket list. One push of the lone elevator button and we feel like astronauts rocketing into space. After ascending, nonstop, to the “Top of the Rock,” we begin with martinis at Sixty Five, the snazzy new cocktail lounge with unobstructed views. Eye candy is everywhere. Massive displays of orchids accent walls of Italian silver travertine. Textured bronze mosaic tiles shimmer. A marble-topped rosewood bar, smoky gray mirrors, leather chairs and mother-of-pearl tables scattered under a faceted metallic-leaf ceiling make it hard to focus on ordering a drink. Even the nibbles that accompany cocktails push the envelope. Warmed olives marinated in olive oil are infused with an exotic blend of harissa (North African chili paste), fresh thyme, lemon zest, toasted cumin and caraway and coriander seeds. I could devour the entire bowlful, but I fear spoiling my dinner. Led by executive chef Jonathan Wright, formerly of the two Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxford and The Setai in South Beach, the culinary team has created a prix fixe menu featuring American and international fare ($175 per person plus tax and tip, alcohol not included). Judging from the selection and creativity, he is also inspired by the views. In between exquisite courses – beet salad with goat cheese and crumbled hazelnuts, wild black bass with calamari and chorizo and decadent molten chocolate cake for dessert – we head to the dance floor, centered on the original, meticulously restored “Compass Rose.” I think about the boldface guests who’ve waltzed through this very room: Barbra Streisand, Al Pacino, Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson for starters. Happily, the crowd isn’t limited to older folks seeking to recreate the past. Young couples who weren’t even born during the Rainbow Room’s heyday seem equally excited to be here. Some things are exactly how you remember them. Others, like the Rainbow Room, are better. But attempting to describe this surreal experience is a futile task. Just go. The sky’s the limit. The Algonquin Hotel: Oh, if these walls could talk… One step inside the Algonquin’s lobby and I swear I can feel the vibes of those who have come before me. Nearly 100 years ago, Dorothy Parker and a group of 20-something writers for Vanity Fair, Vogue and The New Yorker gathered here for lunch at the famous Round Table. The daily exchange of ideas and wit set the standard for literary style. In fact, the ritual became so famous that people dropped by just to watch the members of the Round Table eat. The New Yorker magazine was essentially created here. Fittingly, all guests receive a complimentary copy. Perhaps trying to channel the same spirit I’m picking up, an artsy crowd mingles in the lobby. The high ceiling and dark-paneled walls create the ambiance of a private club rather than of a big city hotel. Off in one corner, a young Dorothy Parker-ish woman in a fitted red suit and vintage cloche holds the attention of her entourage. Two men in black turtlenecks huddle together on a red leather sofa, manuscript in hand. Velvet chairs and leather sofas grouped around an eclectic mix of tables encourage conversation. So does the hotel’s policy of round-the-clock complimentary coffee and tea. Peering into the dining room, I see that the hallowed Round Table is empty, perhaps awaiting a new set of aspiring writers. We check out the Blue Bar off the lobby, so named because years ago John Barrymore convinced the owner that actors look best in blue light. Though the Blue Bar has moved within the hotel, and been refurbished many times, blue lighting still permeates the space. One step inside and I expect someone to yell: “Lights, camera, action!” While the Algonquin may be the oldest operating hotel in New York City, rooms and suites have every 21st-century amenity, thanks to a top-to-bottom renovation in 2012 when it became part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. Bright contemporary furnishings, plush terry robes, thick duvets and fancy 350-count sheets are de rigueur. The perk I like best? Complimentary WiFi. (I hate to get nickel-and-dimed for that, don’t you?) Friendliness and pride prevails. Bellmen and waiters are walking history books and love sharing an abundant collection of hotel trivia. We learn that Orson Welles honeymooned here, Lerner and Loewe wrote “My Fair Lady” in a suite, Sinclair Lewis and William Faulkner were regulars and iconic female stars such as Angela Lansbury made the Algonquin their New York home – it was the first hotel to accommodate women traveling solo. The place has plenty of performing arts history, too. Harry Connick, Jr., Diana Krall and Michael Feinstein were discovered here. In an era when hotels are homogenized, for the most part, thank heavens the Algonquin has maintained its unique personality. The morning we depart, we take note of a few hotel room doors. Each one has framed words of wisdom written by a Round Table member. The Dorothy Parker quote on our door sums up our stay perfectly: “I suppose that is the thing about New York. It is always a little more than you had hoped for.” AlgonquinHotel.com [gallery ids="101951,135854" nav="thumbs"]

Back to the Latin Playground?

Born March 2, 1917, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III became the symbol of America’s love affair with Cuba, the country from which his wealthy and prominent family fled in 1934. Ironically, the original TV run of “I Love Lucy,” in which Desi Arnaz played bandleader Ricky Ricardo, nearly coincided with the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, who led the revolt that sent Arnaz’s family – and many others – into exile in Miami. During the Desilu decade of the 1950s, Cuba was the “Holiday Isle of the Tropics,” 90 miles from Key West. Havana was the Latin Las Vegas. An earlier wave of Cuba tourism lasted from the 1920s through the early 1930s, the Prohibition years, when famous and infamous Americans went to Cuba to drink, gamble, golf, fish and perhaps sin. After a few visits, Ernest Hemingway bought his winter retreat, Finca Vigía, in 1940. It is now a museum, a mandatory stop along with his favorite Havana bars, La Floridita (for daiquiris) and La Bodeguita del Medio (for mojitos). But since the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro – now aged 88 and ailing, having stepped down from Communist Party leadership in 2011 – Cuba became known as a police state rather than a vacation paradise. Along with others, the politically powerful Cuban exile community in the United States made sure that economic sanctions, including a travel embargo, remained in effect. Then, on Dec. 17, President Obama announced a move to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba, following negotiations (with the assistance of Pope Francis) that led to the release of American Alan Gross, imprisoned since Dec. 2009, in exchange for three Cuban agents. Unimpeded travel to Cuba from the U. S. will require Congressional approval. However, several regulatory changes will make things easier. For instance, U.S.-based credit and debit cards will now be accepted in Cuba, and U.S. travelers will be able to bring home up to $400 worth of Cuban goods. The U.S. government will also issue what are called general licenses, for citizens who wish to travel for humanitarian reasons, to perform or compete and for other specific purposes. Currently, only special licenses, requiring an arduous application process, are available. Americans who travel to Cuba without a license or through a travel provider that is not licensed by the Department of the Treasury are breaking the law and risk substantial fines. The regulatory amendments putting these changes into effect are supposed to be issued “in the coming weeks.” More information may be found online at treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/pages/cuba.aspx, where there is a link to sign up for Cuba Sanctions email updates. In the meantime, the easiest, if expensive, legal option to visit Cuba is through a “people-to-people” group tour organized by an authorized travel provider, either open to the public or under the auspices of a university, a museum or another nonprofit. The Cuban government has been investing in tourism since the 1990s, restoring sections of Old Havana and building resort hotels with foreign, but not American, partners. Capacity is limited, and most facilities have not been modernized. By far the largest source of international visitors to Cuba – nearly a million per year – is Canada, whose citizens tend to go to Varadero, about 14 miles east of Havana, for inexpensive beach and nature vacations. While around 650,000 U.S. citizens visit annually, the vast majority are Cuban Americans with visas to visit family members. Over the next few years, there will be a strong curiosity factor. Americans will seek to feel the aura of Capone, Hemingway and Sinatra, gawk at the vintage cars, visit unfamiliar beaches and see for themselves what the country and the people are like. After a few years of opening to America, and, presumably, a surge when the ban is finally lifted, the place that Cuba will come to occupy in the panoply of Caribbean destinations is unknown. But wouldn’t it be nice to toast Desi’s 100th birthday with rum and cigars in Santiago de Cuba, where both his father and grandfather were mayor?

A Sunny Christmas in the Turks and Caicos Islands

Famous for its salt production in the 1600s, now it’s the potcake-puppy culture, pirate shipwrecks, pink flamingos and Keith Richards that all thrive on the powdery white sands that make up the Turks and Caicos Island chain in the British West Indies. The popular but uncrowded beach town of Providenciales, TCI’s largest city, where I stayed in December at the Ocean Club Resort, seemed to have the perfect ratio of condos, resorts, restaurants, and shopping venues, with just the right amount of nothing thrown in. Nobody tried to sell me anything on the beach once. The original Turks and Caicos Islanders lived in peace for 700 years until the European arrival in the early 16th century eradicated the population through the introduction of disease and slave recruitment. After a vacant period of 150 years, the salt industry, and later cotton, demanded the use of slaves who, after being emancipated in 1834, really formed the basis of the population there today. Americans form the majority of tourism now, and many snowbirds from Canada and the East Coast spend substantial parts of the year or retire here. Tourism, offshore banking and fishing account for most of this British Overseas Territory’s industry. Thanks largely to an extremely comprehensive talk and music demonstration at Ocean Club West by Turks and Caicos Islands Culture Director David Bowen, I felt like I understood for the first time some of the challenges associated with historically interrupted areas like TCI, when it comes to recognizing, defining and promoting its own culture. Bowen demonstrated “Ripsaw” music, indigenous to TCI, which is made from scraping a bent saw with a knife or screwdriver. He has personally collected poetry and stories from the Islands’ elders and can recite them at will, which was mesmerizing. I valued this immensely and believe it is this type of undertaking by native locals that will distinguish and elevate the travel experience in a part of the world that seems in danger of becoming too homogenized. The night of my arrival I had an almond-crusted fried grouper with coconut sauce right on the beach at the resort that was phenomenal. A dinner at the resort’s signature restaurant Opus was also a culinary bull’s eye, where I gleefully inhaled the crudo fish tasting and coconut curried conch. Since Ocean Club has two locations a mile apart on Grace Bay, both of whose amenities were available to guests, I had an extremely pleasant dinner at the Seaside Café West location as well. The resort was three for three in the kitchen department. The two-location set-up works well. The east spot was nice and quiet, while the west one was closer to downtown shops and good for my ADHD loud fixes. Off-campus dining favorites included Da Conch Shack, an open-air compound devoted to showcasing the conch from the water to the table in every way possible, and the weekly Wednesday night Island fish fry. With at least 20 restaurants there hawking their chewables, I spent a small fortune wolfing down grilled spiny lobster, varieties of jerked chicken and pork, enough plantains to fill a Fiat, and some little red pepper things that were great. If you suddenly find yourself needing a hand-painted tin gecko of any size or a chiseled coconut face, this is the venue where your tchotchke thirst can be quenched. A TCI-style Junkanoo featuring “The Conch Man” was fun, while attempts at an open-mike type format served as a reminder why you went on vacation in the first place. The three dentists I golfed with swore that Coco Bistro was a landmark eating establishment not to be missed, but I did. The Provo Golf club was an expensively watered oasis on the limestone island, and I ended up playing two rounds of golf here during my short stay. A first for me was a golf course that had pink flamingos on it that were there by choice. Conversations with club pro Dave Douglas were representative of the interactions I had with almost all activities management in Providenciales: friendly and story-abound, affirming of the small island’s obvious network of friendships. While it may be the only game in town, it was clear from talking to other golfers that it was a focal point activity for many of the repeat travelers and condo owners on the Island. A second first was the introduction of Moringa to me by Douglas. Moringa is the newest protein leaf on the rise that he swears will soon be in every North American supermarket. He and his sons have planted them on the course. I can’t tell if my glass of Moringa Tea helped me hit the ball any farther than usual, but it tasted good. Jumping at the chance to go saltwater fly-fishing with the resort’s game-fishing partner Silver Deep, I was channeling Hemingway, while whipping line back and forth from the skiff’s bow, but the elusive bonefish remained elusive and I had to settle for a small barracuda in its place. Shark sightings in crystal clear water and the countless bird species abound were amazing. An afternoon sailboat excursion was beautiful and the snorkeling colorful. I spent a relaxing evening touring the mangrove flats with a knowledgeable tour guide who showed me how to pick up jellyfish at rest and told good glow worm stories. I had a locally hand-rolled cigar each evening on the porch, while I listened to the warm winds blow through the palm trees. I had a really good time. More information about this resort can be found at www.oceanclubresorts.com. Maps and facts about the Turks and Caicos Islands can be found at www.gov.tc. [gallery ids="101968,135684,135682,135685" nav="thumbs"]

Take a Trip to the Washington D.C. Travel & Adventure Show

The 11th Annual Washington D.C. Travel & Adventure Show, a perfect event for travel lovers to get inspiration, information and interaction with other travelers, comes to town this weekend. The show is part of the largest series of consumer travel shows in the U.S. and takes place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on March 7 from 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. The event is also open from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 8. At the Washington D.C. Travel & Adventure Show, you’ll discover thousands of authentic travel experiences and speak directly to the travel experts who can get you there, give you the inside scoop, and save you money on exclusive travel deals. The show will feature speeches from some of biggest names in the industry, including Rick Steves, Pauline Frommer and Travel Channel personality Samantha Brown, will be featured speakers at Back by popular demand, the Destination Theater will feature location-specific seminars where travelers can draw inspiration and get information about the world’s most sought-after travel destinations like New Zealand and Alaska. Attending Washington D.C. Travel & Adventure Show is like walking through a living guide book with thousands of world experts to talk to. You can spend countless days and hours searching the internet or thumbing through a book for this information or just make a trip to the Washington, D.C. Travel & Adventure Show/ For full event information about speakers, stage and seminar schedules, exhbitions, prizes, giveaways and more, visit travelshows.com/washingtondc. Bon Voyage!

Spring Shows in Philadelphia

It happened in Philadelphia: 56 men in breeches created a nation. Then, 51 years later, it happened again. This time, it was 53 men in trousers. And what they created was … a flower show. Actually, what they created in 1827 was the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. The first public show, featuring the poinsettia’s American debut, came two years later. (In 1835, the society admitted women as voting members — long before the nation did.) The descendent of that historic event, the Philadelphia Flower Show, the largest and longest-running indoor show in the world, now attracts more than 200,000 visitors over nine days. The 2016 show, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, ends this Sunday. A Garden of Eden for plant-lovers — with award-winning specimens, lectures and vendors from around the world — the show is also a floral theme park that seems to grow Disney-er every year. Since this year’s theme is “Explore America: 100 Years of the National Park Service,” expect recreations of Yosemite, simulated Old Faithful eruptions and a Denali sled dog team. You can even “create your own Mount Rushmore floral headpiece.” For details, and to reserve a garden tea or an early-morning private tour (weekdays only), visit theflowershow.com. Families with children should note that on closing day, Sunday, March 13, there will be a Flower Show Jamboree and a Teddy Bear Tea. Prior to launching their kisses-and-hugs “With Love, Philadelphia” campaign, Visit Philadelphia’s slogan was “Philly’s More Fun When You Sleep Over.” With the Flower Show meriting a full day and three new museum exhibitions, it makes sense to get a room. After a controversial legal and financial intervention, the Barnes Foundation galleries relocated from the suburban residence of Albert C. Barnes (1872–1951) to a new museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 2012. The move’s approval hinged in part on the exact reproduction of the unchanging salon-style display found in leafy Merion by the relatively few visitors who made it out there. Architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien created a large and spacious modern building for the Barnes in which the tiny recreated rooms are encased. In accordance with Barnes’s eccentric theories of art appreciation, African, Native American, Pennsylvania German and other sculpture and artifacts, including miscellaneous wrought-iron objects, share the walls with frame-to-frame masterpieces by Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse and Modigliani (to name a few of Dr. Barnes’s favorites). It is one of the most astounding museums in the world, now with the additional reason to visit of special exhibitions. Through May 9, the Barnes (which has 22 paintings by Pablo Picasso in its permanent collection) is hosting “Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change.” The show’s focus is the period surrounding and including World War I, during which Picasso — the “High Priest of Cubism” in the words of curator Simonetta Fraquelli — abruptly returned to a naturalistic style, continuing to alternate between Cubism and Neoclassicism. A video illustrates how during the war Cubism was portrayed as anti-French (though the style’s co-creator, Georges Braque, was as French as could be and served at the front) and associated with the despised Germans. Several blocks up the parkway from the Barnes, “International Pop” is on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through May 15. All the American stars are represented, of course: Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Tom Wesselman, Ed Ruscha. But what makes the show an eye-opener are the works by what the text calls the “British forbears of Pop,” notably Edinburgh-born Eduardo Paolozzi and London-born Richard Hamilton, whose collages date to the 1950s (earlier, in Paolozzi’s case), and by artists from throughout Europe and from Argentina, Brazil and Japan. Finally, across the Schuylkill River, the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is the exclusive U.S. venue for “The Golden Age of King Midas,” on view through Nov. 27. Of the 100-plus objects on loan from Turkish museums, many were excavated by Penn archaeologists from an eighth-century B.C. royal tomb, believed to be the resting place of Midas’s father Gordios. Whether you hear the clatter of gold or of your muffler when you think of Midas, this exhibition is another example of the remarkable things to be seen this spring in the City of Brotherly Love. [gallery ids="102266,128511,128523,128515" nav="thumbs"]

Still Life in Philly

Portraitist of Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton and other figures of the American Revolution, Charles Willson Peale raised a family of painters in Philadelphia, naming his sons Rembrandt, Raphaelle, Titian and Rubens and his daughters Angelica and Sophonisba (not a complete list). One of the major works in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s new exhibition, “Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life” (on view through Jan. 10) is Peale’s group portrait of his family: nine peaches-and-cream-faced Peales, including himself; the children’s nanny; and his dog Argus. On the green tablecloth is a still life — a tray of fruit next to a paring knife and a curled apple peel (pun no doubt intended). On each side of this canvas, nearly seven and a half feet wide, are two small still-life paintings by Peale family members; nearby are classic still lifes by Raphaelle, one of the first American artists to specialize in the genre. His father, like many artists before and since, considered flowers, fruit, cheese, cutlery, serving ware, wine bottles, dead fish and the like more a subject for artistic training than for finished works, despite the still-life obsessions of Dutch Golden Age painters (excluding Rembrandt and Hals). Grouping outstanding examples, many unfamiliar, in roughly chronological order under the thematic headings of Describing, Indulging, Discerning and Animating, the exhibition — the first of its kind in three decades — aims to make the case that, in the words of curator Mark D. Mitchell, “the story of American still life is the story of American life.” At several points, context is provided in inventive ways. Plate 26 from John James Audubon’s “Birds of America,” depicting now-extinct Carolina parakeets, is accompanied not only by several of the huge folio volumes but by four specimens collected in 1843 and owned by Audubon, their colors — orange, yellow and turquoise — still bright. In the Indulging section, visitors can explore the language of flowers at “You In Flowers” interactive stations, which generate personalized (sort of) on-screen bouquets from self-submitted adjectives. Velvet curtains evoke the Gilded Age setting of William Harnett’s largest trompe-l’oeil (trick the eye) painting, “After the Hunt” of 1885, painted for the Paris Salon but purchased for Theodore Stewart’s extravagant New York saloon. Trained in Munich, Harnett was a genius at depicting feathers (dead game birds), fur (a dead rabbit), metal (two firearms and a hunting horn) and the life-size green door — with rusty ornamental hinges, a keyhole escutcheon and a dangling key — on which these and other precisely rendered objects appear to hang. The superb selection of trompe-l’oeil works in the Discerning section includes “Reminiscences of 1865,” the movingly subliminal tribute to Lincoln painted in 1904 by Harnett’s contemporary John Frederick Peto, which shows a black-and-white portrait of the president and various forgotten scraps of paper tacked to a wooden panel in which ABE and his birth and death dates are carved. The later works under the theme of Indulging (which overlaps with Discerning) show the influence of Japanese art, both directly — as in Robert Blum’s virtuosic “Flower Market, Tokyo,” of 1891–92 — and indirectly, by way of the French Impressionists. Finally, the galleries featuring 20th-century art give example after example of modernism’s embrace of the genre. By including works by modern masters with distinctive personal styles — Charles Sheeler, Georgia O’Keefe, Stuart Davis, Paul Cadmus, Andrew Wyeth, Jasper Johns — the curatorial team compels us to ask “How does this work fit into the American still-life tradition and what does it add to it?” Several of these works are sculptures, such as Andy Warhol’s seemingly trompe-l’oeil “Brillo Boxes” of 1964. Screen-printed on three wooden cubes, the piece actually proclaims its artifice through the imperfections of its handmade process. One of the most beautiful works in the show is by an artist, like Peale, with Philadelphia connections: Alexander Calder. “The Water Lily,” c. 1945, constructed from sheet metal and wire, is black with a gray base, as far as could be from the colorful flower canvases in the preceding galleries. The flat piece of metal representing the lily’s seed pod, punched with holes, would never trick the eye, yet it is instantly recognizable, a triumph of observation to rival Audubon’s. [gallery ids="102346,125538,125533" nav="thumbs"]

Winter Travel: 6 Continents, 6 Destinations

Winter travel has its advantages. Aside from the peak holiday-travel dates, airfares are low. You can trade cold and snow for warmth and sun. And even if you choose a place as frosty as where you came from, you’re likely to find yourself in the midst of winter festivities. For this article, The Georgetowner decided to limit the number of destinations covered to six: one for each continent (not counting Antarctica). As different as they are, the vacation spots we came up with — Alaska, Machu Picchu, Istanbul, Cape Town, Hong Kong and New Zealand — share the qualities that make travel worth the time, expense and occasional inconvenience, even in the troubled times in which we live: natural and cultural riches, unforgettable settings and that “je ne sais quai” that makes you feel more intensely alive. North America: Alaska The Northern Lights in Alaska are something you never forget witnessing. What starts out possibly being a car-dealership spotlight across town turns into a writhing kaleidoscope of color, leaving those looking upon its beauty speechless. Cruising up the Inside Passage through magnificent glaciers and Gold Rush towns is fascinating; everything is gigantic in a way that makes humans feel downright small. Shoving off from the Homer Spit in a fishing charter isn’t particularly grand, but returning from sea with a cargo hold of halibut — while watching pods of whales, puffins and otters play beneath the snowcapped peaks and glaciers — is absolute magic. And meeting Alaskans is a bonus; the folks who have chosen to make Alaska their home are hearty folk, and they know how to tell stories. You’ll return from this trip with plenty of photos, footage and tall tales to share. South America: Machu Picchu Nestled high above the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the small settlement of Machu Picchu (in what is now Peru) served as the estate for Inca emperors for roughly a century. Despite its location near Cusco, the Spanish never found it. Reports of a fabulous ruined city in the Andes cloud forest began trickling out as early as the 1870s. But it wasn’t until 1911, when Yale historian Hiram Bingham (possibly the inspiration for Indiana Jones) was led there by a local guide, that the world found out about the so-called Lost City of the Incas. A trip there, even today, is not as much a vacation as it is an endurance test. The gateway to Machu Picchu, Cusco sits at an elevation of 11,152 feet above sea level, so you should plan on spending two days acclimatizing. The actual hike, which takes 4 days, is easier. While the hike offers stunning views, nothing compares to looking down from Machu Picchu on virgin forest vistas. Note: Peruvian authorities continue to place restrictions on visits to Machu Picchu, so plan your trip sooner rather than later. Europe: Istanbul On the eastern edge of Europe — Asia is just across the magnificent Bosphorus Strait — the city formerly known as Constantinople is the largest in Turkey. Its incredible history under three empires, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman, is displayed on a grand level. Meanwhile, the city’s modern lifestyle expresses a passion for food, shopping, entertainment and, of course, raki, Turkey’s sambuca-like national drink. First stop, Sultanahmet Square, where a number of obelisks reach for the sky to mark Constantinople’s Hippodrome. A few blocks away are the stunning Blue Mosque, named for the 20,000 Iznik-style tiles that line its interior, and the incomparable Hagia Sophia. Originally built as a Christian basilica, Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) became a mosque when the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople in 1453. Other landmarks include the Topkapi Palace, the primary residence for the sultans, and the Basilica Cistern, a location in “From Russian with Love” and the Dan Brown novel “Inferno.” Oceania: New Zealand Do you consider yourself an adventure traveler? Then New Zealand’s South Island should be on your bucket list. Queenstown is the island’s main adventure hub, situated on the crystal-clear blue Lake Wakatipu. The town, reminiscent of a skiing village in the United States, has a number of outfits offering skydiving, bungee jumping and other high-adrenalin activities. Scenery bombards the senses on the trip to the island’s west coast, where you can take a cruise around the Milford Sound, ride a helicopter ride to the top of the Franz Josef Glacier or explore breathtaking coastal inlets and otherworldly rock formations in Punakaiki. Farther north, enjoy pristine beaches in Nelson, or hop over to Christchurch, which has come back strongly from a 6.3-magnitude earthquake in February 2011, or Dunedin, which offers not only Victorian and Edwardian architecture but colonies of albatrosses, seals and penguins. Asia: Hong Kong One of the most densely populated cities on earth, a human ant farm of more than seven million residents, Hong Kong — officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China — is an ethnic kaleidoscope of hustle and bustle. The tantalizing beat of this urban financial center, the gateway to China, will draw you in and make you a part of it no matter how brief the visit. A trip across the harbor in the Star Ferry, dinner at the Peninsula watching the laser show, having a suit made for you, people-watching in the nightlife district of Lan Kwai Fong — these are just a few of the reasons to jump ship here. Watching the massive octopus-like cranes load and unload the cargo destined for and coming from places around the globe is a mesmerizing reminder of the magnitude of Hong Kong’s port, busiest in the world from 1999 to 2004 (when it was overtaken by Shanghai). Africa: Cape Town Cape Town is at southern tip of the African continent, cradled by one of the most unique and spectacular mountain vistas in the world, Table Mountain. Visitors can take a gondola up to the flat surface of the mountaintop for an unforgettable view of the entire city and the sea beyond. A short boat ride from the harbor is Robben Island, the now-defunct prison where Nelson Mandela spent nearly thirty years of his life. Back at the harbor, the best of current-day South Africa is on display, with delicious waterfront cafes and open-air boutique markets. A daytrip out to the quaint Cape Dutch village of Stellenbosch, the center of South Africa’s breathtakingly beautiful and highly underrated wine region, will run down your camera batteries with its views and windswept architecture. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is nestled at the eastern foot of Table Mountain, preserving the country's unique flora and cultivating indigenous plants. Its Boomslang is a footbridge walkway into the tree canopy. South Africa still suffers from a great deal of poverty, so any conscientious traveler would do well to take a guided tour of Khayelitsha, a township that houses nearly 400,000 of the country's displaced and underemployed citizens. The experience, while sobering, is also inspirational. [gallery ids="102385,123328,123321" nav="thumbs"]