Blog Posts by Drew Limsky

  • Tipping tips for travelers: when and how much depends on where you are

    American-style is spreading to Europe, but on a smaller scale. (Photo: Gutzemberg / Thinkstock)

    Tipping has become so ubiquitous (some would say excessive) in the U.S. that it’s not uncommon to see a tip jar next to the register at the corner deli. (Call it the Starbucks effect, but since Starbucks is considered a luxury product, the coin cup seems more apt there.) All that tipping, and its representations in exported American movies and TV shows, has impacted countries around the world. Here’s some guidance on tipping while traveling.

    Europe

    Americans are beloved in Europe because we tip. We seem almost constitutionally incapable of not tipping. I’d like to agree with most commentators and say that it is not expected, but American habits have changed that calculus. So go ahead and leave a euro at the restaurant or hand a euro to the bellman. For pricier dinner venues, check the menu—it’s supposed to note if the gratuity is included. If you’re unsure, be bold and simply ask. Or just round up on the bill by leaving, say, 20 euros on an 18-euro tab.

    Big parties

    You might have to think more about tipping when dining with a big group this year. (Photo: Erik Snyder / Thinkstock)Adding gratuities

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  • Hotel rooms with the best private pool views

    (Photo courtesy of Fairmont Mayakoba)

    We’ve done hotels with stellar infinity pools. Resorts with iconic views, check. But sometimes, as Garbo might say, you just want to be alone in your stunning pool, enjoying your view in privacy. And you don’t want to rent a whole house for the privilege. So check out these 10 resorts where the view from your own pool allows you to be truly and blissfully antisocial for your entire stay.

    Fairmont Mayakoba, Mexico

    The gang of luxury resorts that constitute the Mayakoba development lie between the highway and the Yucatan’s white sands. A network of winding, picturesque canals make conveyance by private water taxi more fun than driving, and once you land at the Fairmont, you’ll find that your private pools can face either the emerald sea (the Casita Suites)—or the location’s bird-sanctuary waterways (the Coral Suites). Meanwhile, the main pool is set right on the beach.

    (Photo courtesy of Ladera)Ladera, St. Lucia

    Even with handcrafted furniture and enviable square footage, an open-air suite that’s missing its

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  • These hotels used to be prisons

    (Photo: courtesy of Liberty Hotel)

    These days, it’s just not enough to build a shiny new luxury hotel with all the technological bells and whistles. People want stories; they want authenticity—tree houses and cave houses and 15th-century frescoes. I’ve stayed at hotels that used to be ruins and monasteries. One, outside Florence, had a façade by Michelangelo. The Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans was once a landmark department store, and the one in DC was formerly an incinerator.

    But prison hotels? Now, that’s memorable. They do exist, as this list shows, from New England to Down Under. To varying degrees, they preserve their jailhouse origins. Some go ultra-luxurious; others opt for the bare-bones backpacker route. All capture the imagination. Alcatraz, are you next?

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  • Hotels with the world’s best views

    (Photo: courtesy St. Regis Bora Bora)

    Author E.M. Forster knew the value of a room with a view; he used the phrase to name one of his most beloved novels. Here are some hotels with views so special that you’ll have a hard time dragging yourself out the door.

    St. Regis Bora Bora

    People tend to use the shorthand “Tahiti” when referring to French Polynesia, a vast scattering of islands that covers a nearly a million square miles of the South Pacific. Some of French Polynesia’s island chains barely break the surface of the water, but the Society Islands are mountainous, with stunning Bora Bora containing the famed double peaks of Mt. Otemanu and Mt. Pahia. Mainland Bora Bora is ringed with islands, called motu, and one of the most luxurious motu resorts—positioned for maximum vistas of the lagoon and the pair of mountains—is the St. Regis Bora Bora. Overwater villas, some with their own (decadently redundant) overwater pools, boast enchanting Otemanu views.


    (Photo: courtesy Shangri-La Paris)

    Shangri-La, Paris

    My best Eiffel Tower-from-the-room experience occurred

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  • Travel advice you’re better off avoiding

    Buy your train ticket early and you may be stuck waiting in the Milan train station. (Photo: Chris Goldberg / Flickr)

    In at least one way, travel advice is like marital advice: everyone’s an expert. Here are some purportedly helpful tips worthy of a dubious, raised eyebrow.

    “Buy your train tickets before you leave home.”

    You have to remember that traveling an hour or two between cities is as commonplace for commuters in other countries as it is for those of us who ride NJ Transit. It isn’t necessary to book early, and doing so can even become a detriment. Yes, you should be familiar with the train schedule, but wait until you’re in the country to purchase tickets. Otherwise, if you miss your train, you’ll lose the value of the fare, or find that your “wisely” pre-purchased ticket for a train departing three hours from now requires a change fee that costs as much as a brand-new ticket. (Thanks, Dad: those idle hours in the Milan train station were awesome.)

    “If you loved the hotel, make sure you book for next season.”

    Hotels bank on the fact that the high of a great experience will prompt guests to open up

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  • The place to be: Art Basel Miami Beach

    (Photo: Ines Hegedus-Garcia / Flickr)(Photo: Ines Hegedus-Garcia / Flickr)

    I’m always struck by the ways in which destinations justifiably and mainly renowned for a single attribute want to be known for something else. (Yes, but it’s really about the history! It’s really about the cuisine! And no one knows that we have more animal species than any other place on earth!) Well, Miami Beach—known, for well, the beach, one of the best and longest stretches of sand and turquoise water on the planet—has done something remarkable with Art Basel.

    Started in 2002, the event has become one of the largest and most influential arts gatherings on the planet. In a way, the success of Art Basel Miami Beach (and Miami’s emergence as an epicenter of modern design) makes sense, given that the pulchritudinous locale boasts one of the highest concentrations of art deco and mid-century architecture anywhere.

    The excitement officially runs from December 5-8 and coincides with Design Miami/—a celebration of collectible design, decor and architecture that takes place December 4-8. But

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  • Exploring these canal cities is best done by boat

    (Photo: Drew Limsky)

    The way you maneuver around a city can be just as memorable as the sights you’re trying to get to. Streets are so done. Leave your car behind and explore these destinations where waterways are an essential part of the scenery.

    Venice, Italy

    Any criticisms of Serenissima—the sinking, the smell, the crowds, the fact that any little storm puts Piazza San Marcos under water and people have to walk on raised platforms to get around—are worth a yawn. Venice remains one of the world’s most enchanting destinations, a pedestrian-only city where getting lost in the maze of islands (118 of them), alleys and bridges is pretty much the point. A gondola or water taxi ride will cost a small fortune; better to take the vaporetto (waterbus) and the traghetto (a tiny ferry that crosses the Grand Canal).

    Where to stay: The Gritti Palace, a Starwood Luxury Collection property on the Grand Canal, reopened this year with stunning new interiors and modern bathrooms after a two-year renovation.


    (Photo: St._Michael / Flickr)(Photo: St._Michael / Flickr)

    Bruges, Belgium

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  • Inaugural Made in the South festival coming to Charleston

    (Photo: Courtesy of Garden & Gun)

    It’s going to be a celebration of all things Southern as Garden & Gun magazine holds the first Jubilee: Made in the South Weekend festival on the grounds of Charles Towne Landing in Charleston, S.C., on Dec. 6-8. One- to three-day passes are available, which provide access to a range of culinary and arts events, as well as shopping and sportsman attractions.

    Look for a sporting life section where hunting and fishing experts will be on hand to lend advice, a Southern Pantry stocked with hard-to-find small-batch items, and a huge antiques tent filled with curated items from world-renowned collector Mark Sage. Drop by the cocktail tent overseen by leading mixologist Brooks Reitz, who will offer demos with craft beers at the ready.

    The Jubilee will also feature such curiosities as knife makers, a corral filled with Boykin Spaniel puppies (a preferred sporting breed) for sale, and latest garden curios from acclaimed landscape designer Jon Carloftis. Bands flown in from Austin will provide the

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  • It’s easy to get away at these accessible natural wonders

    (Photo: sweet marjoram / Flickr)(Photo: sweet marjoram / Flickr)

    There is no shortage of breathtaking natural places in the world. The key is finding ones that you can get to reasonably easily and that aren’t so vast that you feel as if you’re missing most of them.

    Red Rocks, Sedona, Ariz.

    The red rock country of Sedona lives up to all its hype. The spires and plateaus and rock formations named Bell, Snoopy and Cathedral are especially enchanting because you can drive right up to them (rent a convertible) and see a slew of them close-up in under an hour. Add to your itinerary the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a marvel that emerges right out of the red rocks. One of my favorite things to do is pull into Slide Rock State Park (above), where you can sunbathe, slide and swim in water that looks turquoise against the rust-colored landscape.

    (Photo: Courtney Nash / Flickr)(Photo: Courtney Nash / Flickr)

    Red Sand Beach, Hana, Hawaii

    The length of the Hana Highway journey is typically overstated. I’d heard about the twists and turns and traffic. Well, the tropically lush route is twisty, but I’ve never encountered too many

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  • The place to be: Loi Krathong in Bangkok

    (Photo: Takeaway@Wikimedia.org / Flickr)

    November in Bangkok heralds the Loi Krathong (floating decoration) festival, which coincides with ancillary events. The city, never exactly a sleepy town, becomes awash in color and light, as the Chao Phraya River plays host to rafts large and small and fireworks burst overhead. In an act of letting go of negative emotions, locals launch krathong from rivers and lakes large and small: the krathong itself is a small offering fashioned from banana leaves folded to look like lotuses, incense and candles.

    Much larger craft can be seen at the opulent Royal Barge Procession, a 500-year-old tradition that begins at Rama VII Bridge before ending at Wat Arun, with uniformed oarsman guiding the ornate barges down the Chao Phraya.

    Meanwhile, the Temple Fair at Golden Mount invites both locals and tourists to a traditional fair held at Wat Saket, which is situated on a hill (actually manmade). Take in the local food and great views.

    Of course, it’s all but essential to visit one of the city’s night

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