Every day, millions of cat lovers click on cat videos and cat memes. But 2014 is the year to get offline and on the road to check out some of these kitty-centric locations.
Cat Cafes, Japan
Japan is known for many things, but lots of living space isn’t one of them. Cramped quarters haven’t stopped the Japanese from craving cat company, but short of collecting Hello Kitty figurines, what can a feline freak do? Enter the cat cafes, which are exactly as the name suggests. For a cover charge, patrons get a caffeine-n-cat fix, snuggling, romping, or just ogling as many as two dozen fluffballs for anywhere up to six hours on end. Though the concept originated in Taiwan, cat cafes are whoppingly popular in Japan, with 150 of them nationwide.
’Tis the season to visit our nation’s capital. But rather than braving the masses at the traditional tourist sights, check out these lesser known, but equally spectacular, spots.
There are few cities as beautiful as Washington, D.C. during the holidays, especially when it snows. However, D.C. can also be overrun with tourists, particularly as most of its well-known attractions are clustered in a small area.
Union Market is up and running and is already a pretty busy lunch spot. Here is a plate of fresh shucked oyster's at the Rappahannock Oyster Bar. The building is located at 1309 5th St. NE, in Washington, D.C. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
While those attractions are worth the visit (especially the monuments at night), there are dozens of other local spots that are just as enjoyable and give visitors a glimpse into how our capital’s denizens pass the time.
Note for D.C. residents: Your city has countless amazing experiences to be had. We’ve chosen just a small sampling for the holidays, so relax.
Food writer Liz Crain and four-time James Beard nominee John Gorham, owner of the Portland restaurant Toro Bravo, on their favorite cookbooks. Their very own, ‘Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull’ is out now.
One of my favorite things to do on a lazy weekend morning is to wake up, make a press of coffee, grab a bunch of cookbooks from the kitchen and get back in bed with both. John likes to go through a stack of cookbooks as much as I do although he probably has three times as many as I do. I’m not a strict recipe follower—John obviously isn’t either—and flipping through the books is more a way to prime the pump and generate ideas. We both particularly love cookbooks filled with personal narrative in addition to the recipes—tales of discovery, adventure, debauchery.
I never give myself a hard time about buying cookbooks because unlike other books I revisit most of them over and over again. They’re my favorite type of reference book and the only genre of book that I write in. I don’t write a lot in them but I do make my own indexes of recipes I’ve tried with notes about them—usually on the back endpaper. I think you might want to try that. You’re welcome.
Here are some cookbooks that John and I won’t lend you. We love them too much. Get your own damn copies.
The Wanderlust Projects duo are building bars in water towers and romantic getaways in abandoned resorts. They’re shaking up the underground scene…and they want to teach you how, too.
On a rainy Saturday night in October, a group of 100 strangers have converged on the Waldorf Astoria hotel for an unsanctioned scavenger hunt. Dressed in formal business attire with official-looking name tags, the 19 small teams attempt to blend in with the well-heeled clientele as they race around the hotel for three hours, checking absurd tasks off their lists. Take a picture hugging a guest while wearing his or her bathrobe? Check. Gather the “company” into a maid’s closet? Check. One participant strips down to take a bubble bath in a momentarily empty room. Others deliver room service.
When security catches on (“There’s one group booked here and this isn’t them,” a guard is overheard telling his colleague.) and begins cutting off elevator access to certain floors, attendees slip into back stairwells and, later, freight elevators.
Some planned pop-up activities, like ballroom dancing lessons, have to be scrapped. But the finale to the illicit event goes on as planned: the 80 people who stick it out make their way onto the roof of the hotel for a secret show replete with a burlesque-dancing opera singer, an accordionist, and an upright bassist. Below, midtown New York City literally sparkles.
Myric Lehner, a regular on Wanderlust’s crew, in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria. (Nicole Rosenthal)
The Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan has played grand host to the likes of Churchill, Mitterrand and Agatha Christie—but in the wake of Egypt’s revolution, it’s facing a slow death on the Nile.
Khaled Ali Abdullah says he has the keys to the most beautiful room in all of Egypt.
The 40-year-old flows through the meticulously majestic halls of the Old Cataract Hotel with a self-possessed brand of pride and swagger that’s hard to come by in a country drooping with expired dreams.
Bertrand Rieger/Hemis via Corbis
“This is my hotel, my Egypt,” he beams in his perfectly tailored gray suit as he walks into the “Winston Churchill” suite, named after the statesman who used to stay there. The room goes for several thousand dollars a night.
Turkey's conservative government is stepping up its calls to turn the Hagia Sophia into a functioning mosque—but Christians worry the conversion will obsure the famous landmark's Byzantine history.
ISTANBUL—Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, one of the most famous landmarks in the world and a powerful religious symbol for both Christians and Muslims, will be turned into a mosque if Turkey’s Islamic-conservative government has its way.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc recently threw his weight behind calls to convert the building from its present status as a museum into a mosque, and a right-wing opposition party in Ankara has tabled a bill in parliament calling for the conversion.
Built in the 6th century, the Hagia Sophia was the most important church of the Byzantine Empire for almost a millennium before the Muslim Ottomans turned it into a mosque after their 1453 conquest of Constantinople, as Istanbul was then called.
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the founder of modern Turkey’s secular republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, declared the Hagia Sophia a museum open to visitors of all faiths in 1935. A UNESCO world heritage site since 1985, the majestic building draws close to than 3.3 million visitors annually and is one of Istanbul’s main tourist attractions.
One of the world’s best beautiful and charming cities is also the new home of novelist Taiye Selasi. She talks to Henry C. Krempels about her favourite haunts, why the city insipires her, and new writers not to be missed.
One hundred pages into her career as a novelist, Taiye Sleasi had signed a two-book contract and could count Nobel winner Toni Morrison as a fan. Perhaps it’s understandable then, that the next hundred or so pages that completed her debut took much longer to write, with an agonizing six-month block and two different emigrations in between. Now living in Rome (via Paris) the part Ghanaian, part Nigerian, British-born, American-educated author of the widely admired Ghana Must Go, is writing the second book set in the city she now lives.
Here the 33-year-old speaks about how she ended up in Rome, the significance of beauty in her work, and why, in a place which displays such rich cultural history on almost every corner, she spends a lot of time on her own in an empty bar.
Could you describe the area of the Rome you live in?
I live in Trastevere, which is just opposite the centro storico and is one of the most atmospheric and quintessentially Roman parts of the city. It’s incredible. It sort of like, I don’t know how to describe it, I remember once talking about it and saying it was like the Brooklyn of Rome but that’s not quite right. It really has its own particular charm.
Exhausted from all that shopping and site-seeing during the holidays? Nothing a little tea and dessert can’t fix. Here are some of the best spots—and best pairings—to keep you going.
With a Starbucks on every block (sometimes two!), New York is a convenient city for coffee addicts. However, an undeniable truth brews beneath the surface of this concrete jungle: tea is beloved here, too. Weary souls in search of a serene spot to relax and enjoy a comforting cup of tea and a little something sweet will surely find many options to satisfy their cravings. But the most fun is finding spots with more unconventional—and unforgettable—tea/dessert pairings.
Whether you’re a seasoned New Yorker or just in town for the holiday season, these options invite you to sip, nibble and think, “coffee who?” Unlike more traditional British afternoon tea locales in the city, none of these establishments require visitors to make reservations or adhere to prix fixe afternoon tea menus—which grants you the freedom to drop in whenever you want a quick tea-and-dessert fix. Remember that these are just suggestions—we encourage you to experiment with combinations of your own.
1. Pumpkin Scone + Christmas Tea from Alice’s Tea Cup
Who can resist the holiday season in New York? Certainly not us (nor millions of tourists). We’ve rounded up the places you should visit after seeing the places you came to visit.
Let’s face it—if you’re in New York during the holidays, you’re going to find yourself doing one of the things every tourist does. You (or someone in your crew) will want to try out the ice-skating rink at Rockefeller Center. You’ll go to The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. You won’t be able to resist the sparkling Christmas tree in Washington Square Park.
Nor should you. After all, Christmastime in New York is all about these beloved traditions, for tourists and, yes, us locals as well. But we wanted to give you some new traditions you’ll love as much as the old ones. And so we opened our little black books to share the restaurants, bars, best-kept secrets, and moments we know you’ll adore, whether it’s the oysters-and-stout happy hour at the John Dory Oyster Bar (one of the city’s best deals, and just steps from Macy’s gloriously vibrant windows) or the perfect, cozy place to rest your feet (with a martini, of course) after an always-awe-inspiring (and always-exhausting) day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. All you need is a good pair of shoes, a good deal of stamina…and this guide. Who knows? You may even see one of us right there with you.
Ice Skating in Central Park
…and while you’re there
At which point it hurts to breathe.
This should stop your complaining about the current snowy forecast. Scientists announced on Monday findings from NASA satellite data that showed East Antarctica set the record for coldest temperature ever measured in August 2010. The frigid tundra reached 135.8 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, and this past July almost hit that low again, reaching -135.3 degrees. At that temperature, scientists say, it's painful to breathe.
Some of the Dutch Golden Era’s best works, including ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring,’ are making the final stop in their American tour at The Frick Collection. See them while you can.
The Yayoi Kusama exhibit isn’t the only show in New York that people are willing to wait in long, cold lines to experience. At the Frick Collection on the Upper East Side, droves of visitors are turning out daily to see, Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting From the Mauritshuis.
Mauritshuis Exibition October 22, 2013 to January 19, 2014 At The Frick Collection (Michael Bodycomb/The Frick Collection)
The collection, normally based at the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague, has been on a world tour while the prominent Dutch museum it calls home undergoes renovations. The Frick Collection is the final American stop for the exhibit, which includes fifteen works from the Dutch Golden Age, some of which have not travelled in decades.
Roughly occurring in the 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age saw a rapid expansion in the Netherland’s wealth and power, both domestically after the Thirty Year’s War and internationally with the growth of the Dutch East India Company. Much of the increased wealth was spent cultivating one of the most significant levels of art production in history. Despite the plethora of Dutch works from this period that fill museums worldwide, some experts believe that only one to ten percent of the total art produced during this time survives.
Gianfranco Soldera makes one of the world’s most coveted Italian wines—and was the target of a break-in that sent $25 million in vino down the drain. Why does he have so many enemies?
It’s just past the one-year anniversary when Gianfranco Soldera, a complex 76-year-old man who makes some of the most coveted Brunello di Montalcino in the world, slumbered in his Tuscan home, unaware of the carnage about to take place. It was a few weeks before Christmas but not all creatures were snug in bed. A few yards away, under protective darkness, a vandal shattered the bulletproof window of Soldera’s Case Basse winery and opened the spigots on ten botti—huge oak casks used for aging the precious liquid. In a matter of minutes, 61,000 liters of wine spanning five vintages and worth upwards of $25 million went down the winery floors’ drains. As the world woke up on December 3, 2012, so did the rumors and speculation: Mafia attack. Retribution. Disgruntled employee.
Gianfranco Soldera in his wine cellar in Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy. (Manfred Klimek/ASAblanca via Getty)
Any number of people could have committed the painful crime. “Let’s face it,” wrote Jeremy Parzen on his Italian-wine—centric blog, dobianchi.com, when the news broke, “many observers of the Italian wine world (myself included) couldn’t help but think, to borrow a phrase from Lennon, instant karma’s gonna get you.” He concisely summed up what is often unsaid about the man some have described as Montalcino’s most iconic and difficult producer.
For all of his bravado, Soldera’s home at Case Basse is no palazzo, but a humble, sweet stone house at the end of a long cypress-spiked and vine-bordered road. The gentleman himself walks briskly, with a slight stoop. He had a pleasantly jowly face, punctuated by a brushy mustache under his fleshy nose, his pants always fastened to suspenders. When I paid him a visit recently, it was clear that he’d rather be having a root canal than answering questions.
From a submerged Bar Refaeli to a Mediterranean idyll, a voyeur’s look at the stars’ sun-soaked scenes.
The State Department paid out $4 billion to rebuild Afghanistan. $2.5 billion of that—69%—went to a single firm with a bad, bad past.
The bouillabaisse is just as tasty, but Europe’s 2013 Capital of Culture now has a lot more to offer. Anna Watson Carl reports.
More than a natural wonder, Cappadocia's formations have been a safe haven to many. Nina Strochlic reports.
Tony Wheeler, co-founder of Lonely Planet Publications, remembers the fun early days of travel guide writing, but says they're not over yet.
Miley Cyrus’ fav new haunt is Beacher’s Madhouse, the craziest club in Los Angeles.
Take the vacation of a lifetime—in beautiful North Korea? That’s Uri Tours’ pitch. Lloyd Grove reports.
In ‘Mapping Manhattan,’ explore the city via 75 New Yorkers’ personal geographies. By Allison McNearney.