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The Swedes go a touch mad in summer. You really can’t blame them since their season flies by in six weeks, and that’s if nature is smiling. Yet this fleeting interlude can be intoxicating, with amber sunlight illuminating the emerald hills nearly 22 hours a day and the scent of wildflowers and herbs in the air. That’s why Stockholmers bent on soaking up every moment often flee to country houses in the Stockholm Archipelago, 25,000 islands splaying out into the Baltic Sea at their doorstep.
You know that splendid sensation on awakening from a solid eight-hour sleep: Brain firing on all pistons, body and spirit ready for action? I think I’ve experienced it approximately twice, since like most of us in this 24-hour work world, with deadlines to meet, time zones to cross, and electronics bleating for attention, I’ve always regarded sleeping eight hours a night an endeavor best pursued in retirement, like reading Proust. Then scientists started poking around the somewhat neglected field of ‘sleep science’ and turned up some disquieting data.
Whether it finally comes to be called the New Hamptons for its swank second homes, or the Anti-Hamptons for its Brooklyn boho vibe, few of us who recall the Catskills’ Dirty Dancing era would think of it as a place where style trends are born. In those years, when the resort area two hours drive north of Manhattan was known as the Borscht Belt, a time when gribenes --- fried chicken skin --- was deemed a culinary delicacy, and comics dropped their pants in one of entertainment’s less evolved punch lines, this province seemed more like The Land Taste Forgot. I come by these rather ignominious insider details firsthand, as I spent early childhood summers at my grandparents’ Catskills hotel, Forman’s Manor, a playground for the wave of early 1900s Jewish immigrants who had finally secured a toehold in America’s middle class.
The Globe and Mail "Oh, men and their spas" LOWELL THOMAS SILVER MEDAL
'The metrosexual is dead," declares Bill Chrismer, owner of Gentleman's Quarters, a new breed of all-male spa once synonymous with that term. "Men hated it," he states from his clubby Denver emporium, where real guys can indulge in body scrubs, seaweed wraps and brow waxes in the company of their peers. With today's more nuanced view of masculinity, men are more comfortable indulging in pedicures, manicures and facials, Chrismer notes, as long as they're called "foot repair," "hand details" and "skin fitness treatments."
While men's spas may not have arrived at a mall near you, an appreciation for good grooming is reaching beyond the opera-going, latte-sipping, big-city set.
Visiting distant relations often has its share of surprises. And while my husband, Tom Houghton, and I were somewhat stunned by the arrow-straight, kilometre-long driveway and the vast banquet hall lined with 4,000 panes of Flemish glass we found at his family seat, we certainly didn't expect apparitions. Yet Hoghton Tower, the manor my spouse's forebears left more than 350 years ago, is ranked the "Third Most Haunted Building in Britain."
With its buzzing street stalls and lively shops, Shanghai still feels like the financial muscle car of Asia. The Shanghai Park Hyatt occupies the top of the 101-storey Shanghai World Financial Center in Pudong, a sprawling district of sinewy new skyscrapers.
With its pulsing streets and wild, cloud-splitting skyline, Shanghai has a reputation as the metropolis on the edge. And walking into the new Park Hyatt hotel here feels like time travel. Through the door at the Shanghai World Financial Center - a 101-storey skyscraper with 20,000 inhabitants - is a nearly empty vestibule: A sole concierge awaits you before a massive abstract mural. From there, it's an ear-popping elevator ride 87 floors up.
The absence of chaos at Wattay Airport is my first clue that Vientiane has changed in the past two years. Outside, the streets are just as dusty, and the sound of the tuk tuks, local three-wheeled taxis, still rattles my bones. But I'm startled to see the Morning Market - where Hmong traders and silk weavers hawk their wares - rouged up with escalators and renamed the Talatsao Shopping Mall. And there is now a bona fide boutique hotel at the quiet end of town.
Three dramatic revelations emerged from the weekend my brother's family and I spent with Sweden's indigenous Sami: 1. Reindeer pelts are designed like electric blankets, with hollow hairs to trap the heat; 2. Rich Sami coffee brewed over an open fire beats Starbucks; 3. A 13-year-old boy can be detached from his iPod without resorting to surgery.
When indie designers were priced out of the hip Daikanyama district in the late 1980s, they fled to storefronts along the river in nearby Nakameguro, a sleepy corner of southwest Tokyo showered with cherry blossoms in spring. Today, "Nakame," as it's called by cognoscenti, has found its voice - it's a place where stylists shun international luxury brands to found labels of their own, or launch eccentric concept shops such as a café for dogs.
There's a golden moment in gentrifying city districts - the period just before the local bohemian communities, with their eccentric shops and cheap coffee, are pushed out by their fellow travellers, real-estate developers. Such is certainly the case now in the Copenhagen neighbourhoods of Vesterbro, once a mustering point for prostitutes, and Norrebro, formerly the destination of choice for protest-hungry students.
In open-minded Amsterdam, where stolid burghers welcomed the Sixties and ladies of the evening ply their trade alongside tulips and the Night Watch, commerce has long cohabited easily with the avant-garde. Over the past few years, the Dutch blend of enterprise and innovation has galvanized two unlikely neighbourhoods. The Eastern Docklands near Central Station, once a 19th-century cargo port, is becoming a laboratory for contemporary architecture and city living, and De Pijp, an immigrant quarter just south of the central city, is drawing young professionals and the boutiques that love them.
If Chiang Khan's courtly teak dwellings, huddled along a quiet bend of the Mekong River, seem to call up a reverent "Once upon a time in Southeast Asia," the newest wave of young visitors may add an "Awesome, dude."
But trend watchers looking for the next hot Thai tour destination will have to wait a few years. This northern town is too far from the nearest large airport - five hours over narrow roads from Udon Thani - to be tomorrow's Phuket. It's also still too set in its rural ways to become a boho magnet like Pai, the town 350 kilometres north along the Laos border that started drawing backpackers in the mid-1990s when it was linked to Chiang Mai by road.
In Chile, sip-and-swirl wine travel is becoming passé. Wineries in Chile's Central Valley a few hours from Santiago, between the snowy Andes and the rugged Coastal Range, are stepping beyond tastings and pairing dinners with family-friendly pursuits. The change may spring from the character of Chile's wine region: a genteel, "Europe between the World Wars" place where workers travel on horseback, polo is a hotly contested sport and many wineries are owned and run by founding families eager to share their personal pleasures such as horsemanship, astronomy, indigenous culture and local wildlife.
Boutique hotels are still a rare breed in Santiago, where The Aubrey opened last March at the foot of Cerro San Cristóbal mountain. Decades ago, this 1920s estate was a centre of Chile's artistic and political zeitgeist: Statesman-poet Pablo Neruda was a frequent house guest and the dining room, now the hip Pasta E Vino restaurant, was home for 30 years to legendary weekly lunches, known as "Almuezo de el Jueves", thrown by owner Domingo Durán Morales for the country's political elite . The surrounding Barrio Bellavista, once Santiago's bohemian quarter, is now a mix of student bars, upmarket restaurants and fashionable shops. Still, the atmosphere that drew Neruda and his arty intellectual crowd endures on narrow streets winding into the hills behind the hotel, where "La Chascona," the house Neruda built for his lover, later his third wife, is now a museum that recalls those tumultuous years.
Motorsports are madly popular in the UAE where locals are swarming to the new Grand Prix circuit on Yas Island, a recreation destination rising 15 minutes from Abu Dhabi Airport and less than an hour from Dubai. Straddling both the racetrack and the neighbouring marina is the Yas Hotel: two futuristic towers veiled in LED lights that opened last November for the island's maiden event, the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Perhaps it was the day the first cupcake bakery opened, or the moment vintage couture boutiques outnumbered pawn shops that Echo Park landed on the Los Angeles indie radar.
Over the last two years, this quarter - east of the more gentrified hipster hangouts Silver Lake and Los Feliz - has been transformed as espresso bars replaced dive bars, and modest rents drew artisans, clothing designers and inventive young chefs.
This is a gritty district where the lifeblood is the music. Manchester's underground scene has spawned groups such as the Hollies in the sixties, the Smiths in the eighties and Oasis in the early nineties. When punk and new wave bands were looking for a place to crash in the late eighties, they landed in the Northern Quarter, where cotton mills that powered the 19th-century Industrial Revolution were dying and rambling factory spaces were selling for a song. Painters, designers and the odd poet followed and soon the area was buzzing with late-night music clubs, vintage clothing shops and art-splashed cafés.
If the workboats, tugs and pleasure craft chugging down Lower Manhattan's East River recall New York's Gilded Age, the mood half a block up Wall Street at the just-opened Andaz hotel is decidedly 21st-century. In this new lodging concept, Hyatt places high-end accommodations in a casual package. Without white-glove hovering or boutique posturing, Andaz, the Hindi word for "personal style," offers a picnic basket of services that lets each guest choose what he or she needs.
Le Perche, Normandy 2018
Premier Traveler "Boeing Trailblazers"
HipSilver "Beyond the Bucket List: Sacred Valley, Peru"