In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
‘Mad Men’ sites in New York City evoke retro vibe
The return of the AMC show March 25 after a hiatus of a year and a half is cause for celebration, and there’s no better place to raise your glass than in Manhattan at one of Don Draper’s favorite haunts.
While many of the places name-dropped in Mad Men no longer exist – Lutece, the Stork Club, Toots Shor’s – there are plenty that do, among them P.J. Clarke’s, the Roosevelt Hotel and Sardi’s. Some Manhattan bars, clubs and hotels are even offering packages, drinks or viewing parties to mark the show’s return.
Of course, the series is filmed in California, so what you see on TV are well-researched sets, not real Manhattan bars. But Mad Men fans will not be disappointed by reality: Many of the establishments that turn up on the show retain a classy, retro vibe in real life, and can offer a fun, sophisticated setting for drinks or a meal.
Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin, authors of The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, provide “A Handy List of Mad Men Haunts” in their book along with recipes from them.
“Some of these places just never go out of style, like the Grand Central Oyster Bar,” said Zheutlin. “It’s such a classic and bustling place.”
Mad Men aficionados know the Oyster Bar at the landmark train terminal was not mentioned by name on the show, but it’s believed to be the place where Don takesRoger Sterling for a martini-and-oyster lunch.
P.J. Clarke’s, at Third Avenue and 55th Street, manages to appeal to a trendy 21st century sensibility while channeling the classic cool that got the crowd from Mad Men ad agency Sterling Cooper drinking and doing the twist. P. J. Clarke’s “was the site of manyMad Men parties,” Gelman said. “I think there might be more scenes set there” than any other bar or restaurant.
According to its real-life bartender, Doug Quinn, P.J. Clarke’s “was a joint often frequented by Madison Avenue advertising executives during the 1960s. Our bar and restaurant continues to be a destination for this crowd.”
Quinn says he’d recommend a sidecar cocktail to any Mad Men fans dropping by – “one part sweet, one part sour and one part strong.” For food, try a medium-rare bacon cheeseburger, once named “the Cadillac of burgers” by singer Nat King Cole. “It continues to be one of our most ordered menu items,” Quinn said.
The Roosevelt Hotel, 45 E. 45th St. at Madison Avenue, where Don stayed after his wife Betty threw him out, is offering a “Mad Men in the City” package, starting at $425 a night through June 30, so guests can “experience New York City as Don Draper would,” according to Kevin Croke, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.
Its grim past left far behind, Hiroshima a welcoming tourism oasis
When an event of the magnitude of August 6, 1945, happens, it’s hard for a place to ever shake off the association. But a visit to modern-day Hiroshima shows that even if the name evokes images of nuclear annihilation, it’s possible to not only survive catastrophe, but thrive into the future. The city, located at the western end of Honshu, Japan’s biggest island, is today as healthy and happy as any in the country, famous for its food, scenery and love of sports. In truth, unless they wanted you to, you’d never know that the world’s first nuclear bomb was dropped here. And for many people in today’s Japan, the city’s ability to rise again gives hope to the rest of the country after the great earthquake last year.
A comfortable bed
As you’d expect of a city of 1.2 million people, Hiroshima isn’t short of accommodation options. Few are better positioned than the Rihga Royal (www.rihga.com; 00 81 82 502 1121), right in the city centre, a few minutes’ walk away from the Memorial Peace Park, and right above some of the best shopping malls in town (double rooms start from ¥16,000 per night). Most of the big hotels are represented in Hiroshima, the pick of which is the Sheraton (www.starwoodhotels.com; 00 81 82 262 7111); double rooms from ¥16,000 per night. The hotel is a short walk from the train station.
Find your feet
The Hiroden tram network is a quick and clean way to get around town, with stops near most of the city’s tourist attractions, including Chuo Park, home to Hiroshima Castle. Like most castles around Japan, it is a reconstruction, but an honest one nonetheless, which looks spectacular in spring when the cherry blossom ignites in the park’s 350 trees. Meanwhile, in the north-east of the city, also on the tram line, there’s Shukkeien, a picturesque garden, adjacent to the equally beautiful Prefectural Art Museum.
The extreme end of the line will bring you to a port, where you can hop on the JR ferry (www.jr-miyajimaferry.co.jp) to make the 10-minute journey to Miyajima. One of the three official “most scenic views in Japan”, it’s the site of a Shinto shrine, a gigantic red torii gate that dips its toes into Japan’s inland sea.
Discovering northern Europe – the US view
While the countries of southern Europe struggle with financial instability, those living in northern Europe are in stronger shape thanks to their ability to produce more while consuming less. It remains to be seen to what degree they will continue to bail out their less fiscally responsible neighbours. But one thing’s certain: Travellers to Germany, Switzerland and Scandinavia will encounter their share of renovations, red tape and reinvigorated neighbourhoods and sights this year.
Berlin remains one of Europe’s most exciting and affordable capitals. The city has been busy updating and expanding several Communist sights, including the Berlin Wall Memorial, the DDR Museum, with a quirky collection of communist-era artifacts, and the new but underwhelming Stasi Museum, featuring exhibits on East Germany’s state security service.
Unfortunately, visitors to the Reichstag — Germany’s inspirational parliament building — must now make a reservation in advance online to tour its impressive glass dome (bundestag.de). If it’s not too crowded, you may be able to get in without a reservation, though it’s unlikely.
In Munich, the Lenbachhaus, featuring early Modernist art, and the Halls of the Nibelungen at the Residenz remain closed for renovation and are projected to reopen in 2013. In Wurzburg, the opulent chapel at the Residenz is undergoing restoration and should open to visitors in mid-2012 while St. Kilian’s Cathedral will be closed for renovation until the end of the year. The classy horse races near Baden-Baden have resumed, with three sessions happening in May, August and October.
Several new walking tour offerings can help spice up your German adventure. In Rothenburg, the country’s best-preserved medieval walled town, you can now do a walking-tour double feature. Start by strolling the town on the Executioner’s Tour, a macabre hour with Georg Lehle costumed as a 14th-century executioner, then follow it up with the long-recommended Night Watchman’s Tour, accompanied by gritty tales of old-time Rothenburg.
If you’re saddled with a long wait at Frankfurt’s airport, the Frankfurt Layover Tour offers a unique way to kill time. Offered by Frankfurt on Foot, the tour lasts at least three hours but can be tailored to your interests and time, and includes pick-up and drop-off at the airport.
Changes are also afoot in Switzerland, Germany’s neighbour to the south. In the Swiss capital of Bern, the bears are back. Two years ago, Finn (a male from Finland) and Bjork (a female from Denmark) moved into Bern’s terraced Bear Park and got busy; soon after they welcomed female cubs Ursina and Berna.
In Lausanne, the Olympic Museum will be closed for renovation until late 2013. During this time, you can still enjoy the park and see the Olympic flame. A temporary floating exhibit, moored just across the street from the park, will feature a taste of the museum’s collection.
Considering how hot the Mediterranean region is in the summer, vacationing in Nordic Europe has become a hit in July and August. As usual, the biggest changes are taking place in the capital cities.
Japanese city of Oga looks to hire trio of ‘ogres’ to boost tourism
A small Japanese city is looking to hire a trio of “ogres” – but only if they have a driver’s licence and basic computer skills – to boost its profile as part of a post-disaster tourism push.
Oga city, 450km north of Tokyo, said it will pay about $2500 a month to people willing to travel around the city dressed as devilish gods known in local folklore as Namahage.
Traditionally, local men volunteered to wear ghoulish costumes as they visited homes on a usually frostbitten new year’s eve, wielding butcher knives and roaring: “Are there naughty kids? Are there lazy fellows?”
The gods are said to guard against misfortune while bringing bumper crops and bountiful fish catches, but the practice has faded over the years.
Now, with a national tourism push after last year’s quake-tsunami disaster, Oga city is looking to the tradition as a selling point.
Tourism officials and their friends have occasionally been donning horned masks and straw coats for special events. However, it has not been deemed enough especially since the full-time job requires that ghouls produce post-event reports.
Authorities now want to appoint three people to full-time positions.