Road Tripping to Two US Fashion Meccas
Contrary to what some Europeans might say, the US’s fashion capitals can take on the best of the Continental fashion capitals. New York City is our leading light when it comes to high-fashion production, and Rodeo Drive, in Beverly Hills, is without a doubt the country’s most cachet-rich boutique strip. These are must-visit meccas for the fashionista Road Warrior.
The Fashion Capital of the World
New York City is the fashion capital of the US and of the world. Many top-tier designers live and work in the city—such as Marc Jacobs and Yeohlee Teng—because, as they say, if you can make it in New York, you can make in anywhere.
Manhattan, NYC’s star borough, presents the fashionista with an abundance of things to do. I recommend starting off with the Fashion Walk of Fame, a series of sidewalk plaques honoring great fashion designers. Unlike the Hollywood Walk of Fame, upon which it was based, each of the Fashion Walk’s twenty-six plaques includes a brief bio and description of the honoree’s style. The Fashion Walk stretches between 35th St. and 41st St. on 7th Ave. (a.k.a. Fashion Ave.) in the neighborhood known as the Fashion District.
From the Walk of Fame, it’s just a quick ride downtown on the D train to Prada’s legendary flagship store, which was designed by Rem Koolhaas. Just as Prada attempts to make clothes and accessories that are radically different from anyone else’s, they attempt to create a shopping experience in this space different than you can have anywhere else. The wooden wave, made of exotic zebrawood, which serves as both portal to the store’s basement and performance stage, forms the theme of the store—fluidity and experimentation. This store is all about sensory experience, and it is an experience well worth having—even if you don’t plan on buying anything.
The ideal time for the fashion fan to visit NYC is during Fashion Week, a preview of next year’s looks, which takes place this year from September 13-16. New York’s Fashion Week is the first of a number of Fashion Weeks that take place around the world.
Stars and High Fashion on Rodeo Drive
Beverly Hill’s Rodeo Drive has a well-deserved reputation as a window-shopper’s paradise. The best time for window-shopping on Rodeo is at Christmastime, when the weather is beautiful and the window arrangements are festively classy. But the weather is beautiful anytime of the year. We’re talking about LA here.
Don’t be concerned about looking out of place in this haute-couture destination if your clothes aren’t tailored. There will be more tourists window-shopping on Rodeo than there will be millionaires walking off with Tiffany and Armani bags. But exclusive shopping most certainly does take place here. Some boutiques, like Bijan, the world’s most expensive haberdashery, are appointment-only.
You may even spot some stars. Leonardo DiCaprio and others, like Paris Hilton and Nicki Minaj, have recently been spotted shopping on Rodeo. The actual shopping strip is only three blocks long, so don’t plan on spending the whole day exploring it. But making a stop at Rodeo Drive is a good way to make a morning or afternoon fashionable and memorable.
After living the fast-lane life of high fashion all day, you’ll likely want to relax in a hotel with all the things you miss about home when you’re on the road—like a kitchen, a laundry room and free in-room Wi-Fi.
Hot Deals and Cool Trips—Summer in the City
Because many urbanites flee big cities and head to the seaside in the summertime, it becomes eminently possible for the visitor to eat at exclusive restaurants—often at a discounted rate. Additionally, cities offer much free entertainment in the summertime in order to entice you to choose them over their competition. When city dwellers cram into little beach towns, making them just as cramped as the metropolises they have fled, why not take advantage of the many opportunities to experience the good life that this most un-claustrophobic of seasons offers?
Chow and Cinema in Boston
Boston is a world-class restaurant city. It is known world-wide for its wonderful chowder (known affectionately in Boston as “chowda”) and seafood, but it has much, much more to offer in the way of culinary satisfaction. The ideal time to sample all that Boston has going for it restaurant-wise is during Restaurant Week, which takes place between August 19-24 and 26-31. During Restaurant Week, Boston’s cream-of-the-crop eateries offer very reasonably-priced prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus. You can get a two-course lunch for only $15.12 and a three-course dinner for only $33.12. With prices like that, you’ll have money left over to go see a game at Fenway with baseball’s most dedicated fans.
Dinner and a movie is a classic combination, and Boston has a very summertime way of doing it. The city’s Movies by Moonlight Series shows movies outdoors at Rowes Wharf Sea Grill, which started on June 15 with The Way We Were and ends on August 31 with Roxanne. You can order dinner from Rowes while watching the film if you’d like, but you don’t have to. Feel free to come just for the film and the wonderful summer night air.
Legendary New Orleans Fare at a Fair Price
New Orleans gets very hot and very humid in the summer. It’s a veritable sauna. If that’s not your cup of tea, then New Orleans isn’t your bag. Some people do like it hot, though. If that’s you, then head on down to “N’awlins” for some summer steals.
August is the best time to get the best restaurant food New Orleans has to offer at the best prices. Because of a late-season slump that the restaurants always slip into, they create special menus for this time of year and offer special prices. Their misfortune is your fortune. You’ll have no problem landing a table at legendary French Quarter bistros like Broussard’s, K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen and Antoine’s.
Recently, restaurants’ practice of coming up with special, low-priced menus has been named and marketed. The city is calling the event the Coolinary. During the month of August, many Coolinary-participating restaurants are offering three-course dinners for $30-35. Andrea’s even throws in a free bottle of wine with their $30 three-course meal. Now that’s both hot and cool!
Cooling Down after a Hot Day
After a fun day of hectic activity in the hot city, you will probably want to chill out with your family at a relaxed, homey hotel. Extended Stay Hotels have the best of home and of vacation. You get all the amenities of home, like a fully-equipped kitchen and free in-room Wi-Fi. You’ve got it made in the shade here—even in the middle of the summer.
New York and Miami: Two Architectural Heavyweights
The US has some of the world’s most architecturally significant buildings. We have been a leader in worldwide architectural trends since the 19th century. The East Coast alone has more buildings of historical and aesthetic interest than one could hope to visit on a single trip. Two cities that very much helped to define the American character (both at work and at play) in the 20th century, and continue to do so in the 21st century, are New York City and Miami. Their buildings reflect their significant cultural standings. For the architecture-aficionado Road Warrior, these cities are must-sees.
If you go on the Miami Design Preservation League’s 90-minute Art-Deco walking tour, you will comb through the three stylistic strata of 20th-century Miami Beach architecture: Mediterranean Revival, which dates from the 20s and 30s, Streamline Moderne, which overtook Mediterranean Revival during the Great Depression, and Miami Modern (MiMo), the indulgent icing on Miami’s architectural cake, which arrived in the 50s.
As Miami was associated in the popular imagination in the 1920s and 30s with legendarily idyllic Mediterranean locales like Rome and Seville, Mediterranean-Revival buildings were erected in this period referencing these cities’ architectural styles. An excellent example of these Spanish and Italian-Renaissance-based, but still very American, buildings is Miami-Dade College’s Freedom Tower. Built in 1925, it is based on Seville’s Giralda Tower.
During the Depression, the architecture of Miami, the lower 48’s southernmost major city, came into its own, throwing off nostalgia and Europhilia and helping to found the forward-looking, vehicle-inspired Streamline Moderne School of architecture. Many of these buildings look like ships, automobiles and airplanes; they barely look planted in the ground. An exemplary Miami-Beach Streamline-Moderne building is Jerry’s Famous Deli.
In the post-WWII period, the country’s fascination with the future influenced Miami’s architecture. MiMo architecture was an attempt to erect buildings with the look and feel of tomorrow today. We now recognize the buildings in this style (a great example of which is 1963’s Bacardi Building) to be based on a collective fantasy (like The Jetsons was). Artists are not so adept at predicting the future. Just look at the “futuristic” computers in the film Alien. (They look conspicuously like 80s laptops.) At the time, there was the feeling that a life of futuristic, utopian ease was just around the next corner, and these buildings reflect that feeling.
New York City
Manhattan is a melting pot in many ways. Its architecture is as mixed-bag as its inhabitants are. Modern condos stand cheek by jowl with buildings from the city’s beginnings. Since the city is so vast and dense, covering all of its notable architecture is an overly-ambitious project. An excellent way to make touring the borough’s architecture manageable is to survey it from the water that surrounds it (the East, Hudson and Harlem Rivers), which you can do on Classic Harbor Line’s Architecture Tour.
You’ll feel like Gatsby as a passenger on Classic Harbor Line’s 1920s-style pleasure boat, the Manhattan. You will see Wall Street’s Trinity Church, which was the tallest building in the city when it was built in 1846 but now stands rather diminutively at the end of a canyon of enormous financial buildings. The Woolworth Building, Manhattan’s premier neo-Gothic skyscraper, which was the tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1910, will be explained to you by the cruise’s very-able tour guides, who belong to the American Institute of Architects. Since the tour takes place on the water, the city’s bridges—just as important for the city’s commercial and civic life as its buildings—will be explored and explained as well.
After a day checking out exotic architecture, you’ll probably want to head back to a homey, comfy hotel—one with a kitchen for making a home-style meal. You need look no further than an Extended Stay Hotel for this.
The Microsoft Surface: Should We Believe the Hype?
From GPS to iPhones and other technological conveniences, Road Warriors everywhere benefit from these nifty gadgets. The latest shot fired in the tablet-computer wars is the Microsoft Surface—Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s iPad.
The questions beg to be asked: Can the surface make more than a surface wound in the massive iPad market share? Will history repeat itself? Will Microsoft again dominate Apple (and the world) with a system based on one that Apple developed? I am, of course, referring to the Windows PCs’ (which used a graphical user interface, very-much based on Apple’s Macintosh and Lisa operating systems) domination of Apple computers in the 90s.
Hewlett-Packard, one of the super-powerful makers of PCs that dominated Apple in the 90s, and Research in Motion, maker of the popular Blackberry smartphone, have both tried to take on the iPad juggernaut, and both have failed to make more than a dent in its market share. So will Microsoft fare any better?
Microsoft has a mixed record when it comes to introducing its own hardware. The Xbox was a smash hit and is now the world’s best-selling personal-gaming console—by no means, an easy accomplishment. When Microsoft released the Xbox in 2001 (which was its first foray into the personal-gaming-system market), it was entering a market with already entrenched, dominant players—Nintendo, Sega and Sony. So Microsoft has experience gaining dominance in a market already solidly dominated by other firms.
However, its attempt, in 2006, to launch a pocket-size mp3 player to compete with the iPod, the Zune, was a smash flop. So Microsoft also has experience (very recent experience) being dominated by an established firm—and that firm just happens to be Apple.
International Data Corporation has forecast that the iPad will account for 62.5% of the tablet-computer sales this year, which is up four percentage points from last year. What does the Surface have in its arsenal to slow down the Apple steamroller, which is just gaining more and more momentum? Well, unfortunately, we really don’t know what kind of heat the Surface is packing. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer tried to replicate the excitement of an Apple product release at Milk Studios in Los Angeles on June 8th.
While an Apple product release tends to pull back the curtain and let us collectively drool over the product’s creative capabilities, the release of the Surface was all surface. Many of the substantial details about the product were left out.
First, we don’t known when we’ll be able to lay our hands on a Surface. Ballmer did not give all the loyal PC-users a release date to circle on their Windows calendars. We have been told that the cheaper, more portable, but less powerful model, the Windows RT Surface, is going to be released three months before the more powerful Windows 8 Pro Surface. But when will that be? Maybe by the back-to-school season? Maybe by the Christmas season? No one knows for sure.
Second, we do not know the technical specs of the Surface. While we were told that the consumer-model Surface will have an ARM processor at its core, and the more professional model will be powered by a 3rd generation Intel processor, we do not know which ARP processor and which Intel processor Microsoft is talking about.
Pizza Partying in Road Warrior Style
Pizza may have Italian origins (Neapolitan origins, to be specific), but it was perfected in the good old USA. Since we Americans are less formal than Italians, we have thoroughly embraced the pizza-eating lifestyle. Italians are very picky about when and how they eat their pizza. For them, it is strictly supper fare, and it is strictly eaten with silverware. We, of course, being the make-our-own-rules upstarts that we are, eat pizza whenever and however we please—cold in the morning, scorching hot after a night at the bar, etc. And we almost always eat it with our hands. Pizza is American food—as much as some Italians would want to dispute that. It has been so radically modified in America as to be at most a third cousin to Neapolitan pizza. The following are some primo pizza places in America, which I highly advise any Road Warrior to visit at least once.
This is ground zero for Chicago-style pizza. Opened in 1955 by the same folks who started Pizzeria Uno, which in the 1980s went national with a vengeance, Pizzeria Due serves the best example of Chicago-style pizza you will find anywhere, bar none. (For those of you who don’t know—and if you don’t, I suggest you remedy that soon— Chicago-style pizza is like a greasier, tastier version of what is on the East Coast called Sicilian pizza.)
For carnivores, I recommend Pizzeria Due’s sausage pizza. The sausage is baked on the pizza for the its whole forty-five-minute cooking time, letting free all of its fennel-infused juices. For vegetarians, I recommend the spinach pizza. This little piece of heaven is topped with three cheeses, the flavors of which blend perfectly with the spinach. Rather than overpowering its flavor, they bring out colors in the spinach you never knew it had.
Brooklyn, New York’s, Lucali
Lucali is not nearly as old as Pizzeria Due—though it tries to look like it is. Not to worry, though—the pizza tastes like it comes from a recipe that has been perfected by many generations of pizza-stone toilers. Lucali gets the highest of pizza praise: Their cheese pie—just sauce and cheese, no toppings—is really all you need. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, because of the freshness of the ingredients and the perfection of their proportions, the cheese pie is Lucali’s best pizza. It is a revelation—a revelation of how mouth-wateringly tasty simplicity can be when it is done right.
Delfina takes what is good about genuine Neapolitan pizza, combines it with what is great about East Coast American pizza, and produces great offspring. It you’re a crust-lover, then this is your place. I’ve never seen any other pizza chefs work as hard on crust as the chefs do at Delfina. They purposefully squeeze every air bubble into the dough—creating just the right proportion of smooth crust to bubbled crust. And here’s the real kicker: Delfina’s artisanal pizza is remarkably affordable. You can get a plain personal pie for just $10.75. Count me in!
After noshing on America’s best pizza, you’re surely going to want to head to America’s best hotel—Extended Stay Hotels—for a casual night in. Once you check in, you don’t need to leave for anything. All the rooms have their own kitchens and free Wi-Fi.
A Great Road Trip for the Guitar Geek
If you are a serious rock fan, your interest in the music likely goes deeper than the musicians who play it. (Fan is short for fanatic, remember.) You’re likely a fan of the instruments, too. There are a number of shrines where you can worship legendary rock musicians—the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the EMP Museum in Seattle spring immediately to mind. While these museums have displayed the instruments of famous musicians, like Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, the guitars took a back seat to their players’ personalities. Guitar-playing songwriters, of course, deserve a lot of attention. Without them, there would be no classic albums and no generational anthems.
However, as every great player knows, a well-crafted instrument—one that’s comfortable to play and has a great tone—makes writing that classic song much more doable. Classic songs tend to be played on classic guitars—that’s just the way it works. The following are places for the die-hard rock fan to visit, places where the instruments, not the players, take center stage.
Even the casual rock fan knows that Fender is the Cadillac of axes. Virtually all of the great players have used Fender electric guitars: Clapton, Hendrix, Townsend, Harrison and the list goes on and on. Through the Visitor Center’s very compelling interactive exhibits, you get the whole story—from Fender’s early days, when the company was Leo Fender’s baby, through the sixties and seventies, when the brand became the king of electric guitars, up to Fender’s status as a classic today.
Famous Fender models are on display paired with photos of iconic players who used them on famous records. A Bruce-Springsteen clear-finish Telecaster is paired with a giant reproduction of the Born in the USA album. It is a great feeling knowing that in addition to the Boss being a Fender devotee, Fender is a Bruce Springsteen devotee.
If you’ve ever wanted to be a guitar craftsperson, the Fender Visitor Center gives you the opportunity to realize your dream. You get to mix and match Fender bodies and necks in their “Wood Vault,” putting together your dream axe. The pros at the Fender factory will do the final assembly for you; then, your very own guitar design will be shipped to your home.
After learning about Fender’s storied history at the Visitor Center, you will get a guided tour of the factory. You’ll get to see every stage of the meticulous and magical process that gives the world Fender guitars. Rock on!
If Fender is the undisputed king of rock guitars, Gibson is the crown prince. Many legendary guitarists, like Jimmy Page, Marc Bolan and Keith Richards, have produced some sublime, dirty tones with their Gibsons (oftentimes running into Marshall amps turned up to eleven—Spinal Tap-style). How awesome is it that Gibson’s factory tour, the Gibson Beale Street Showcase, is located in Memphis—the city that gave us Elvis, Ike Turner and B.B. King? While you’re in Memphis, why not stop by Graceland (the King of Rock and Roll’s mansion) and Sun Records (the studio where the King recorded his first records)?
On Gibson’s forty-five minute tour, you’ll get to see every step in the creation of Gibson’s electric and acoustic guitars. And, if you’re an aspiring guitar craftsperson, you might even be able to chat up some of the guitar makers (who are called luthiers) and get some tips.
After rocking hard in Memphis and California, you’re going to need some home-style R&R (which is rest and relaxation, not rock and roll). Why not check into an Extended Stay Hotel, the best place for the comforts of home away from home?