Sunday, December 27, 2015

Home, Stimulating Home - Reversible Destiny Lofts

Home is a place where you should be able to relax and feel comfortable. Unless you live in one of the Reversible Destiny Lofts in Mitaka, Japan, where the architecture is designed to constantly challenge your brain and keep you on your toes. The concrete floors feature random bumps. Random ladders, poles and balconies are situated everywhere. Nothing is shaped as it should be, including the rooms themselves. 

The goal of the architects was to design a living space that will keep its inhabitants’ bodies and minds stimulated so that they can live longer. Sort of like an architectural version of Sudoku. I get what the designers were going for, I really do … but I dunno. I think I’d rather be able to shuffle to the bathroom in the middle of the night without tripping over an artfully placed mogul. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Tight Landings - Maho Beach

If plane spotting is your thing, then you'll want to book a trip to St. Maarten in the Caribbean, where planes get so close to Maho Beach while landing that beachgoers can practically touch them. As it is, the force from the plane is so strong that sand often goes flying, and sometimes people are actually blown off their feet!

Why people would be trying to feel the underside of a descending jet instead of running screaming from it is beyond me ... oh, who am I kidding? If I were there, I'd be trying to cop a feel, too.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Treetop Dining - Soneva Kiri Resort

Never dined in a treepod before? Well, then you’ve never lived, my friend. At the Soneva Kiri Resort in Koh Kood, Thailand, visitors can opt to take their meal in a wooden pod that’s hoisted into a leafy rainforest canopy and served by a waiter via zipline. Even glasses of wine can be delivered to you by this wonderful, flying man.  

I am currently saving every penny to be able to blow it all on this experience. After all, it’s not every day that you get to eat like a very rich monkey!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Wheeee! - Ten-Story Slide at City Museum

What's the best part of the playground - the swings? Nah. The monkey bars? Boring. The see-saw? That's just an accident waiting to happen. Here's the correct answer: the slide! And here's where you can find the most awesome slide in the whole world: City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri, which features a 10-story slide that deposits you in a room called "the Fungeon."

Actually, all of City Museum is pretty cool, created by an artist who wanted to build a museum-playground that would appeal to kids and adults alike. Among other attractions, there's a giant indoor tree house and a human-size hamster wheel, as well as a display of the world's largest pair of underwear. And everything's made from reclaimed materials. But seriously? They had me at "giant slide."

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Need to Disappear? - Mirrorcube

Tree hotels, while cool, are totally passé. Been there, done that, amirite? Well, the Swedes have stepped up their tree hotel game with Mirrorcube, the world's first invisible room. Nestled in the trees of the town of Harads in northern Sweden, the cube-shaped room is made of mirrored walls so that it blends in with the environment and virtually disappears. Even the birds didn't know it was there and kept crashing into it, so the designers had to add on an infrared film that only they could see.

My only question: When is Ikea gonna start selling these invisible cube rooms? I need one for my backyard. Although, thinking about it, the self-assembly could get a little tricky.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Atlantis is in China - Shicheng Underwater City

I bring news. Atlantis is real, my friends! And it's located in a lake in China. Also, it's not actually Atlantis, but an ancient Chinese city called Shicheng that was purposely flooded with water in the late 1950s to make way for a dam.

The water-preserved city was largely forgotten about until 2001, which was when the Chinese government decided to dive down and explore this historical and architectural goldmine. What they found were beautiful stone buildings, forgotten city streets, an imposing wall that encircled the city, and Chinese mermaids. Well, just kidding on that last one. But wouldn't that be the coolest?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Catching a Bite to Eat - Lambert's Café

If you find yourself in Missouri with a hankering for carbs, the place to go is Lambert's Café, where they apparently sell the biggest, most buttery rolls on this side of the Ozarks. The only catch? You'll need to know how to catch -- the only way to get your hands on the dinner rolls is to field one from the waiters, who chuck them at you from across the room.

Visitors come from afar just to catch the rolls at Lambert's, at the risk of getting bonked in the head by a stray piece of bread. But hey, I could think of worse, less delicious things to be hit in the head with.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Now You See It, Now You Don't - See-Through Church

Here's a church that won't stay put - not exactly a spiritually comforting notion, but definitely an awesome one architecturally. The See-Through Church of Limbourg, Belgium, is an art installation that was designed to look completely solid from certain angles and like it's dissolving into thin air from other angles. The piece is called "Reading Between the Lines."

So what were the artists trying to say? That art is impermanent? That churches are impermanent? That life is impermanent? Oh, that's deep.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Crimson is the New Green - Hitachi Seaside Park

Who says that botanical gardens need to be green? At Hitachi Seaside Park, in the Ibaraki prefecture of Japan, the dominant colors of the flowers and shrubs might be yellow, purple, blue, pink or crimson, depending on the season. The explosive colors are almost otherworldly, making ordinary old green gardens look passé.

I am, of course, jumping on the next available plane to Japan to see this natural wonder for myself and to frolic in all the color. Because I'm sure the urge to frolic (and to cavort and to gambol) will be very strong here.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

It's Obviously Black Magic - Crooked Forest

For this Halloween edition of Trippy Places, I present ... the crooked forest of Gryfino, Poland. What the heck is going on with this forest of about 400 trees? Why were they growing at a 90-degree angle? Did someone do this to them or is it a natural phenomenon? The world may never know. [Cue eerie wailing noises.]

Actually, the world has a few guesses. Some think that farmers purposely shaped the trees as saplings so that they could create interesting pieces of wood for furniture building. Others think a severe snowstorm may have kept the saplings in a bent position until the snow and ice melted. Still others (as in I) think that it was obviously black magic. But no one knows for sure, because just after the time the trees started growing this way, all the surrounding Polish towns were devastated by World War II, so no witnesses or records were left. Which might be an even eerier story, actually. [Cue more wailing noises.]

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Gently Down the Street - Giethoorn

Streets are overrated, amirite? All that walking around is so tedious and unromantic. Well, in the Dutch neighborhood of Giethoorn, there's an alternative: canals instead of sidewalks. No running across the street to the neighbor's for a cup of sugar - you must row instead!

Dubbed "the Venice of the North," Giethoorn is home to about 2,600 residents, all of whom must feel like they're living in a storybook. I'd move in myself, but don't want to pay what must be a premium for flood insurance.

Monday, October 12, 2015

How High Can a Hut Go? - Solvay Hut

Well, here's another place I'm never going to get to. Mostly because I can't stand being cold, and I can barely climb a ladder. But if I were an adventurous mountaineer, I would definitely put the Solvay Hut at the top of my list of places to visit.

Located on a ridge of the Matterhorn in Switzerland, the hut was built more than a hundred years ago as an emergency shelter for mountain climbers. It earns the distinction of being the highest and, no doubt, most precariously located hut of the Matterhorn. Looks like a fantastic place to hang out, check your carabiners and snack on your gorp.  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

No PhotoShop Necessary - Watkins Glen State Park

Sometimes a trippy place is right in my own backyard. Such was the case with Watkins Glen State Park in New York, which features a gorge trail that looks like a computer screensaver. Everywhere you turn you're hit with another unreal view.

Cliff faces carved from thousands of years of stream erosion? Sure, they're here. Waterfalls? There's 19 of them. Beautifully carved stone bridges? Got 'em, and I'll raise you 800 spellbinding stone steps. A place like this is so lush and stunning, you'll feel like a miniature person in a carefully kept terrarium. And who hasn't fantasized about being one of those?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Oh, Deer - Nara Park

Credit: Amusing Planet

Think deer are skittish animals that run at the first sight of humans? Think again. At Nara Park in Japan, the deer do run -- but it's right toward you. Especially if you're holding one of the deer cookies that are sold around the park. Because it turns out that cookies are more delicious than grass.

There are about 1,200 free-roaming deer in the park, and they're believed by the Shinto to be messengers of the gods. Messengers or not, these deer want their snacks. Deer eating cookies -- doesn't get more adorable than that.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Feeling Frustrated? - Rage Room

You're having one of those days. Your boss yells at you. Your ice cream falls out of the cone mid-lick. Your nemesis, the roadrunner, speeds away again while you're squashed by an anvil. You feel angry. But you're an adult and you're supposed to just keep calm and do whatever the latest slogan says to do. Well, guess what? You don't have to stay so calm. You can grab a bat and start smashing things instead.

But to avoid ending up in a lot of trouble, first you should travel to Toronto, Canada, where you can book some time at Rage Room, a facility that offers angry people the opportunity to bash things with a bat. Twenty bucks will buy you a set of plates, a bat rental, some protective gear and 30 minutes in a room by yourself. Add on some wineglasses to hurl at the wall, or a mirror to pulverize. Feeling really upset? Go ahead. Buy yourself a chair ... then go at it! They say money can't buy you happiness, but what it can buy is an outlet for your frustrations. I'll take it.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

What's Better Than an In-Ground Pool? - Embassy Gardens Sky Pool

I've always dreamed of having a pool in my backyard, but with the newly built "sky pool" at Embassy Gardens apartment complex in London, I'm beginning to realize that my dreams are pretty pedestrian. Because why have an in-ground pool when you can have one that stretches between the tops of two luxury buildings instead? Assuming you're a gazillionaire, of course.

Actually, maybe you don't have to be a gazillionaire. Note to self: Discuss with neighbor the idea of putting in a sky pool between our two houses next summer. It won't be 10 stories high ... and I'm actually not quite sure what the point of it would be exactly. All I know is that I want one.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Cutest Church Ever - St. Andrew's


I used to think that when it comes to churches, bigger equals better. After all, the most beautiful churches in the world are all vast and awe-inspiring. As it turns out, however, even small churches can be impressive. For example, St. Andrew's in Leningrad Oblast, Russia, sits on an island less than a hundred square meters in size, surrounded by gorgeous landscape, and is basically the most adorable house of worship I've ever seen.

To visit St. Andrew's, you must get the permission of the abbot and then take a small boat across the Vuoksa river. Even God must be thinking, "How cute is that?"

Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Side of the Mountain - Skylodge

Peru is well known for its crazy elevations and gorgeous views. But did you know that you can experience these two things from a transparent capsule dangling off the side of a cliff? Well, of course you can.

Nature Viva's Skylodge is a group of three pods suspended 1,200 feet up on a cliff face in Peru's Sacred Valley. You can choose one of three fun ways to access your room: by climbing an insanely tall ladder, embarking on a treacherous hike, or flying across a series of ziplines. The hotel's website mentions that "safety is ensured by having the exit portal located in the upper part of the craft." So there you have it - should the cables holding up your capsule snap, an escape hatch will somehow prevent you from dying a distinctly terrifying death. Or, you could just stay at the Days Inn in town.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Land Before Time - Dinosaur Place

You never know where you might come across a dinosaur. For example, you probably didn't think they'd pop up in southeastern Connecticut, and yet that's exactly where you'll find a whole bunch of them, in all their life-size glory.

The Dinosaur Place in Montville features 40 realistic-looking dinosaurs along a shady trail that runs through a park. All of the dinosaurs stand still in their designated places, except for one, the animatronic Dilophosaurus that's tucked away in a cave. There's a sign outside the cave that warns visitors that this attraction may be frightening for small children, and after going in to view it myself, my conclusion is that they need to make that sign larger! My blood ran cold at the sound of its screeching, and when it spat "venom" at me, I almost fell over in terror. The thing is positively evil. So maybe stay away from the Dilophosaurus if you've got a heart condition.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Hiking to Hell - Erta Ale Volcano

Credit: Indrik Myneur

So you say you hiked a volcano on your vacation to Hawaii? Big deal. In the Afar region of Ethiopia there's a continuously spewing volcano called Erta Ale that's got lava lakes. Yes, we're talking LAKES filled with LAVA. And there are two of them. Mother Nature doesn't get more cray-cray than that.

At one time the volcano was only visible via helicopter, but after growing demand from those with a death wish (aka adventure tourists) for a closer look, it is now possible to hike Erta Ale and get within 4 miles of the lava lakes. Just don't expect an ice cream stand near this attraction.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall - Wat Lan Kuad

Credit: Mark Fischer / Flickr

Just when you think you're doing good with your neatly labeled recycling bins, along comes some Buddhist monks to blow you out of the water. More than 30 years ago, the monks of Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew, in the Khun Han district of Thailand, decided to turn all of the discarded beer bottles that were littering the outside of their complex into a gorgeous temple now known as Wat Lan Kuad, or Temple of a Million Bottles. It actually took more than a million bottles to complete, and some walls feature intricate mosaics made from the bottle caps.

Then, drunk on the sight of their amazing feat (if not the beer fumes), the monks took it to the next level and started constructing more buildings in the complex out of bottles, including the bathrooms and crematorium. I know. I can't think of a better way to leave this world either. So let this be a lesson to you: Never compete with a monk, even when it comes to alcohol.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

So Bad It's ... Good? - The Museum of Bad Art

Credit: IronHide

Art can be very subjective, but at the Museum of Bad Art (MoBA) in Boston, the curators believe they've discovered pieces that can universally be labeled as "bad." Exhibit A: "Sunday on the Pot with George," Artist Unknown, a pointillist painting that depicts a middle-aged man sitting regally on a toilet in his tighty whities.

But even mediocre masterpieces can be judged using rigorous standards, and nine out of 10 submitted pieces are rejected for displaying too much artistic competence. What the museum is looking for are works that feature "wonky perspective, confusing symbolism and lurid color combinations." In other words, that painting you did while sloshed during Paint Nite last week.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Gnome Man's Land - Gnomesville

Love gnomes? What am I saying – who doesn’t? As far as creepy-yet-cute lawn ornaments go, gnomes definitely take the prize. They’re even cuter and creepier when they congregate in their own little village, the way they do in Gnomesville, Wellington Mill, Australia. Here you can view more than 3,000 gnomes that have been dropped off in the bush by visitors from around the world. Just don’t take a gnome with you – it’ll bring you bad luck until it’s returned to its home. Plus, kidnapping gnomes is kind of a jerk thing to do.
No one knows exactly how Gnomesville started, although there plenty are legends and folklore surrounding its origins (as there should be). Some say that the first gnome was placed there to protest a road that was being built in the area, while others think that it magically appeared all by itself. My money’s on the latter explanation. Considering the subject matter, it just makes more sense.  

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Seeing Red - Red Seabeach

Beaches are meant to be tranquil, but the Red Beach of Panjin City, China, just makes me feel, I dunno ... angry. It's gotta be because this place isn't a beach at all - it's actually a marshland filled with seaweed. That's false advertising! Still, there's a certain beauty to this place that I can't deny. It may not be the most soothing landscape in the world, but it's definitely one of the most mesmerizing.

Take note, though: Go in the fall if you want to witness this colorful phenomenon; the seaweed only turns this vibrant red hue in the autumn months of September through November. The rest of the year, it's a boring old seaweed green. And if you spend a lot of money making your way to Panjin during the wrong season, you'll really have something to be mad about.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Who's Up for Some Food? - Dinner in the Sky

There's always room to push yourself, even when it comes to fine dining. For example, you COULD eat at your regular Saturday-night bistro, with your feet planted on solid ground. But why not challenge yourself and have your moules frites 180 feet in the air instead?

Dinner in the Sky was originally a Belgium concept, but it's now taken the world by storm. Diners allow themselves to be harnessed to their seats and hoisted into the air, suspended for the duration of the meal along with the table and wait staff. Some Dinner in the Sky restaurants even dangle musicians in the air next to you for some classical accompaniment. Just take care not to drop your fork, and choose your immediate seatmates wisely - table-hopping is definitely frowned upon here.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

People Who Live in Glass Houses - House NA

Photo Credit: Iwan Bean

Most people love sun-drenched houses, but I kinda, sorta feel that Sou Fujimoto Architects, who built this house in Tokyo, Japan, went a little too far. Named House NA, the three-storied home features staggered levels, a white steel-frame structure and hardly any walls. The ones that do exist are made of glass.

Don’t get me wrong – I like the idea of natural light as much as the next person, but c’mon. There are just too many drawbacks to a glass house. What if you want to scratch your butt? Or take a nap in the middle of the afternoon without people on the street below judging you? Or organize a stone-throwing contest among your friends? These are all things I’d never do, by the way. But if I wanted to do them, I think I’d like a little privacy.    

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Fort Worth Holding Down - Chittorgarh


During my travels I’ve been to many a fort, and have found most of them to be stark, formidable and dusty. Chittorgarh Fort in India, however, is changing my whole outlook on these typically austere structures. As forts go, this one is pretty classy and even features a stunning moat. Sign me up for a fortnight! (Snicker.)

There’s some pretty impressive history here as well. Built by Maurya rulers in the 600s AD, the fort spans 700 acres and was the site of three major battles. It was occupied by the Rajputs, who protected Chittorgarh fiercely and never surrendered it to enemy invaders. I don’t blame them. If I were living in such a beautiful place, I’d fight to the death before giving it up, too. Or so I’d like to think. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Room With a View - Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

Credit: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

Everyone's got the Northern Lights on their bucket list. But while I'd love to catch a glimpse of Aurora borealis, I'd hate to catch a cold while waiting for the light show. I know. I'm a wimp. But hey, who doesn't like being warm and toasty?

The good folks at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Lapland, Finland, totally get that. They've built an entire village of "glass igloos," or small, private hotel rooms with a glass ceiling so that you can gaze up at the icy skies while tucked into your bed, chugging hot cocoa. For you masochists, there are also some traditional igloos at the resort that are made of real ice. But book those at your own discomfort.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Going Ape - Gorilla Trekking

Credit: JJ King2

If you find yourself in Rwanda with nothing to do and $750 to spare, maybe you should go on a gorilla trekking safari. You'll spend a few hours with a group of other primate enthusiasts, hiking through the rainforest and looking out for silverback gorillas in the wild.

Sounds right up your alley? Stalker. But I can't say I blame you - I'd go on a gorilla trek in a heartbeat. The only problem might be that gorilla troops tend to move around, and it may take your group several hours to find one. The trek may also involve hiking up steep slopes. So do your push-ups before you go. And maybe leave the bananas at home.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Beach in a Hole - Playa del Amor


Beaches are meant for relaxing, but if you've ever fought the early-morning lounge chair-claiming wars at a resort, you know that sometimes they're anything but. That's why for your next vacation you need to set up your umbrella at a secret beach, like the Playa del Amor at the Marieta Islands in Mexico.

Playa del Amor is a beach with clear, blue waters and pristine sand that just happens to be located in a huge hole in the ground. According to locals, the gaping hole is the result of government bombing tests from the early 1900s, and nature has since taken over and turned it into a tropical paradise, accessible only by a water tunnel. So there you have it - a beach that only you and I know about. Just don't go opening your big mouth and we'll keep it that way.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Buggy Nights - Waitomo Glow Worm Cave


I don't know about you, but I prefer my bugs cute and glow-in-the-dark. Not a fan of earthworms, for example, but glow worms I love. Which is why I'm remortgaging my house to pay for coach tickets on a 24-hour flight for the whole family to Waikato, New Zealand, where thousands of an indigenous species of glow worm hang out on the ceiling of Waitomo cave, doing their glowing thing.

Full disclosure, though: Glow worms aren't really worms at all, but a type of fly larvae. And it turns out that the luminescence comes from their excretory organs. You can see why the New Zealand tourism board went with "glow worms" instead. Still, the revolting truth won't be deterring me from viewing this natural wonder, and if you consider yourself an animal lover, you'd be wise to do the same.

Monday, May 25, 2015

You Should Be in Pictures - Trickeye Museum

If you've ever viewed the works of art at a museum and thought to yourself, "They're nice and all, but these paintings would be better if I were in them," then (a) you're crazy narcissistic, and (b) I know exactly where you need to go. The Trickeye Museum in Seoul, Korea, is full of trompe l'oeil artwork that you can insert yourself into. Clean up Van Gogh's "Bedroom." Pull down the pants on the guy in Munch's "The Scream." Give the Mona Lisa a sip of water through those pursed lips.

It's ridiculous, cheesy fun, and it might even inspire you to view artwork differently. Okay, it won't, but you'll at least get a laugh out of this place, and a few good selfies. I know. I'm signing up for an annual membership, too.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Chinese Food Just Got Cuter - Hello Kitty Chinese Cuisine

Credit: Hello Kitty Chinese Cuisine / Facebook

If you've ever wondered what Hello Kitty tastes like, you can find out at the world's first Hello Kitty dim sum restaurant in Hong Kong. The undoubtedly adorable eatery offers almost 40 dishes based on the famous cat, including shrimp buns that resemble her face and noodles fashioned into the shape of her bow. If that's not fine dining, I don't know what is.

I love how Hello Kitty is slowly but surely taking over the world. First it was just clothes and dolls, then it graduated to appliances and housewares, and now it's restaurants and even hotels. I predict that she'll be the first cat president by 2024. You heard it here first.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Need for Speed? - Formula Rossa Roller Coaster

Credit: Jazon88

Roller coasters are meant to be fast, but the Formula Rossa roller coaster in Abu Dhabi has the distinction of being the fastest in the world. Inspired by the Formula One experience, it reaches 150 mph in less than five seconds and requires its riders to wear safety goggles. I know. SAFETY GOGGLES. Because not even thrill-seekers want to lose an eyeball to extreme velocity. (Wusses.)

I don't know about you, but I'm packing my flame-retardant track suit and booking a trip to Abu Dhabi right now. Seeing as how NASCAR has recently rejected my application for the fourth time, this will have to do.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

When One Waterfall Isn't Enough - Plitvice Lakes


The last time I saw a waterfall in person, I thought to myself, "This is beautiful. But why is there only one of them? I need to see more waterfalls. Preferably clustered close together." Okay, I didn't really think that, but now that I've seen images of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, that's what I'll be thinking. Because what's more beautiful than one waterfall? Well, how about A DOZEN WATERFALLS.

The waterfalls flow into 16 gorgeous lakes found in Plitvice Lakes National Park. And if the sheer quantity of waterfalls isn't enough, get this: The water is known for changing colors, from azure to green to grey, depending on the organisms in the water and the angle of the sunlight. This place has totally ruined the way I look at things. Now instead of enjoying and being satisfied with watching the sunrise, I think, "Wouldn't it be better to watch A DOZEN suns rising?" 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

One Man's Trash is Another Man's Beach - Glass Beach


So you know how when you see broken glass at the beach your first instinct is to jump back 10 feet and rant about what the world is coming to? Well, a different set of rules applies at Glass Beach in MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg, California, where the "sand" is largely comprised of broken glass. Visitors come by the droves every year to stroll on the shiny and colorful beach, the broken shards now harmless, polished sea glass.

Once known as "The Dumps," the area was a dumping ground for household garbage in the early 1900s. Eventually the location was closed and efforts were made to clean up the mess. The ocean did its part as well, pounding waves on top of the garbage and refining the shards of broken glass into small, smooth pieces that now cover the entire beach. Collecting the pieces of glass are prohibited, but visitors do it anyway and quantities are diminishing. In fact, there's now a movement to dump new piles of broken glass onto the beach. I'm not sure environmentalists would approve, but it does look awful pretty.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hello Kitties! - Aoshima Cat Island

Credit: NBC News

If you're a cat lover looking for a quiet island getaway for your next vacation, have I got the place for you. Aoshima, an island located in Japan's Ehime prefecture, is home to more than 120 feral cats that outnumber the fishing village residents six to one. A few cats were originally introduced decades ago to keep down the mouse population on the fishing boats, and things have since gotten adorably out of control.

Outsiders are allowed to visit, but the island isn't really geared for tourism. There are no restaurants, hotels, Uber cars or much of anything really, besides the undoubtedly rueful residents and the cats who run the place. On the plus side, there are definitely no mice here. Or cheezburgers, for that matter.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Riding on Stars - Van Gogh-Roosegaarde Bike Path

Credit: ABC News

If you've ever been to the Netherlands, you know that biking is the preferred mode of transportation there. Look the wrong way while crossing the street, and you'll get mowed down by not one bike, but an entire fleet of bikes. I know because it almost happened to me. I also tried renting a bike while I was there, which proved to be an equally humiliating experience, as the Dutch are certified giants while I'm the size of a prepubescent girl. I was finally assigned a children's bike that was still too large, because it seems that even Dutch children of bike-riding age are taller than me.

Given all this grief, the Dutch would have to come up with a pretty awesome attraction to lure me back to their country. Which they now have, dammit. The world's first glow-in-the-dark bike path can be found in Eindhoven, and it features polished, solar-charged stones arranged in the same pattern as the stars in Van Gogh's "Starry Night." Artist Daan Roosegaarde designed the path as a tribute to Eindhoven's most famed resident, and you literally get to ride across a glowing, twinkling work of art. So, yeah. I'm going back to the Netherlands. But this time I'm bringing some platform shoes with me.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Roll With It - Zorbing


Maybe you like the idea of rolling down a hill in a carefree manner, but you're fussy about grass stains. Or you've always wondered what it's like to be a hamster. Or you're just plain crazy. Whatever the reason, there exists an activity in Rotorua, New Zealand, called Zorbing, in which people pay good money to roll down a grassy hill in a giant plastic ball.

Of course you can customize your hill-rolling adventure. Do you want to be strapped in or bouncing free? Would you like some water added into your ball so that you get splashed in the face while you're rolling? Perhaps you would like to tack on the adventure package, in which your ball switchbacks down the hill and does a vertical drop off the edge in the end. Whatever the case, remember to wear clothing that won't come loose and accidentally reveal anything. Because you'll want to be able to crawl out of your giant plastic ball with your dignity intact.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

What's the Password? - Safe House Restaurant


So you probably don't expect to find any spies or undercover activity going on in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and you probably wouldn't), but what you can find there is a restaurant devoted to espionage called Safe House. And I mean that you literally have to find it. The entrance is hidden somewhere in an alley way, and even after you figure out which door it is, you need to offer up a worthy password to get in.

Once you're inside, the spy theme continues. I'd tell you more about it, but then I'd have to kill you. Just kidding! Covert activities include finding the secret phone booths and accepting missions that take you on a tour of the restaurant, which is filled with spy memorabilia. The menu features items such as the "squeak-easy" (batter-dipped Wisconsin cheese curds topped with a secret sauce, natch), and the drink of the house is, of course, the martini. Mmm ... cheese curds and martinis. Offer me that combo and I'll tell you anything you want to know. Guess M16 won't be hiring me anytime soon.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Do It for the Killer Views - Huashan Trail


Hiking can be fun, but it's not always very exciting. In fact, sometimes when I'm hiking it hits me that I'm actually just ... walking. On a dirt path. Whee!

If you're also experiencing hiking ennui, perhaps we should take a trip together to Huashan, one of the five sacred mountains of China, near the city of Huayin in Shaanxi province, where the hiking is decidedly more exhilarating. Steep ladders and narrow, rickety pathways lead up the mountain, and hikers must walk single file on parts of the path, sometimes without the aid of any sort of railing. (There's a rusty chain that you can grab onto in a pinch though!) And sometimes the trail disappears altogether and all you're left with are footholds that have been carved into the mountain face. Have there been fatalities? You betcha. But where else can you catch such, um, killer views, more than 7,000 feet above solid ground?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Holy Tigers, Batman! - Tiger Temple

Zoos are neat and everything, but the animals are always so annoyingly out of reach. Tigers, for example, are always behind two sets of bars, a low wall, and a moat. What's the worst that might happen if we were allowed to pet the tigers a little? Besides an imminent and gruesome death, I mean.

Well, it turns out that maybe death is not imminent after all. At Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, visitors are allowed to hang out with free-roaming tigers that were brought to the sanctuary to be raised by Buddhist monks. Are these tigers drugged? Beaten? Cat-shamed? Nope, none of the above - in fact, a recent raid by the concerned Thai government revealed that the tigers are actually perfectly content. They don't attack their visitors simply because they're well-fed and well-adjusted. Of course, my house cat is also well-fed and well-adjusted, and he's attacking my ankles for seemingly no reason as I type this, so visit at your own risk.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

No Fork? No Problem - Carpe Diem Finger Foods Restaurant

Credit: Carpe Diem Finger Foods

Utensils are overrated. Sure, they keep your fingers clean and lend you the overall appearance of a civilized human being while you're eating, but they also take out all the fun. There's nothing like manhandling your food and giving your fingers a satisfying lick after it's all over, I say. In a completely unrelated topic, did you know that I was raised by gorillas?

The Michelin-starred Carpe Diem Finest Fingerfoods in Salzburg, Austria, understands this atavistic need and has built a fine dining experience around finger foods. Most of its menu items are made for being picked up by hand, and even the gloppy substances that refuse to go quietly into your mouth are presented in edible cones for your convenience. There are also some fork-friendly dishes, in case your dining companion is not as cool with finger foods as you are. Which begs the question: Why are you eating with this elitist pig, anyway?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

An Aboveground Pool You'll Want to Be Seen In - Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Credit: Chia Ming Chien

Life's too short to spend at the community pool. It's time to put down that membership card, pick up your passport, and fly to Singapore, where the world's highest and largest infinity pool exists at the top of the posh Marina Bay Sands hotel. Get some laps done while taking in a view of the city, 57 stories off the ground.

Make sure you check into the hotel first, though (it's only about $500 a night), as the SkyPark pool is open solely to guests. No one wants to see you getting carted off by the Singaporean police. If you think their punishment of people who chew gum is a tad severe, you don't want to know what they do to those they find splashing around illegally in luxury hotel pools.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Coolest City in the World - Harbin Ice Festival

Credit: Lzy881114/Wikipedia

I hate ice. All it's ever done is make me look like a fool, as a pedestrian and as a skier. I won't even put it into my drinks. This has made for some pretty nasty strawberry daiquiris, but I'm nothing if not principled. That's why I won't be visiting the Harbin Ice Festival in China any time soon, even though it looks CRAZY AWESOME.

Every winter the town of Harbin (also home to a restaurant run by robots) builds an entire city out of ice, using blocks from the nearby Songhua River. Architects from all over the world come to design the various buildings, monuments and sculptures. At night, the ice buildings are lit up in bright, glowing colors. As the event has grown over the years, other attractions for the public have been added, including rides like giant ice slides. Okay, as I type this, my hate for ice is starting to melt a little. I mean, it's one thing to give up ice in my drinks, another thing entirely to ignore the calling of a GIANT ICE SLIDE. ... Don't judge me.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Get a Real Sense of Terroir - Hotel de Vrouwe van Stavoren

Wine snobs: You may have tasted all of the Bordeaux first-growths, visited every last winery in Napa Valley, and paired your last meal with a triple-digit-priced Cab ... but have you ever slept in a wine barrel? No? And you call yourself a connoisseur. Pfft.

Now you can get a REAL sense of terroir - by checking into giant wooden wine barrels that have been converted into hotel rooms. At the Hotel de Vrouwe Van Stavoren in the Netherlands, guests can sleep in one of four 15,000-liter capacity wine casks. The interiors have sadly been emptied of wine many vintages ago and now contain standard hotel-room furniture, but guests do receive a bottle of red upon check in. So if you consider yourself a true wine lover, you'll set down that glass of Château Frou-Frou and book a room tout de suite. Or you might as well admit that you're actually better suited for beer.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bath Time - Pamukkale Hot Springs

I love hot tubs. Show me a steaming pool of over-chlorinated water and I will happily dive in, then proceed to recklessly ignore the warnings about not soaking for too long. If I am ever rich, my fantasy is to build a house with interconnecting hot tubs flowing from room to room. (Note to self: Patent the idea of interconnecting hot tubs in my latest effort to get rich.)

Or maybe I'll just take multiple trips to what may be the coolest hot tubs in the world, the Pamukkale hot springs of Turkey. Part naturally occurring phenomenon, part Candy Land fantasy, these pools of geothermally heated water sit on terraces made of white travertine and resemble cotton bowls filled with water (pamukkale means "cotton castle" in Turkish). I didn't even know landscape like this existed on Earth - it almost looks like a scene out of Star Wars. I know. I'm picturing Ewoks splashing in the pools, too.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Dark Magic - Bioluminescent Bay

When you're a kid, just about everything can be attributed to magic: Santa Claus, lightning, toilets. But by the time you become an adult, there's not a lot of magic left in the world. Well, that time I found a parking meter with 56 minutes left on it was pretty magical, but that's about the only example I can think of. See, it's a sad state of affairs. Which is why the bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico, is such a treat. It is a truly magical experience, no matter how old you are. You WILL squeal once you kayak through the bay in the dark, or jump into the waters for a swim. The water lights up in a mystical blue-green color every time you touch it. And if you scoop it up for a closer look, you'll see tiny silver sparkles twinkling like fairy dust in your hands.

So what exactly is happening here? I told you, it's MAGIC! Well, magic plus the fact that the biobay is home to tiny, single-celled organisms that light up when agitated. I know. How cute is that? They're glowing because they're mad! And because there are 720,000 of these organisms PER GALLON of water in the Vieques biobay, a bluish glow emerges from the combined bursts of light. But sometimes science can be such a buzz-kill. I say just go. Maybe keep your mouth closed when you jump into the water, though.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Think You're So Smart? - Escape the Room

Credit: Escape the Room NYC

It's Saturday night in New York City. Do you (a) take in the latest Broadway show; (b) go out to dinner at a shi shi restaurant; or (c) let yourself be locked in a room where you must decipher a series of clues found around the room in order to get out?

If you feel that C sounds way too similar to the premise of Saw (and you wouldn't be wrong), read no further. But if it sounds like your idea of fun, then dust off your trusty magnifying glass and sign up for Escape the Room. Choose from several scenarios (Victorian-themed home? Office space? Creepy old theater?), round up a group of your smartest friends, and see if you can work together to find the key that'll let you out of the room. It's loads of fun and will get your mental juices flowing. What's the significance of the chess game in progress? What's this message typed out on the old-timey typewriter? Are the eyes on that portrait following you?! Just kidding on that last one. But be warned: Only 20 percent of participants manage to get out of the room before the hour is up, so you'd better be as smart as you think you are, lest your fragile ego be crushed to smithereens. Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Free Refills! - Waterfall Restaurant


At the Villa Escudero resort in San Pablo City, Philippines, vacationers can dine at a restaurant where delicious Filipino cuisine is served with a side of waterfall. Yes, as in that wet, cascading, impressive-looking thingy. Not only that, but the bamboo picnic tables are set up at the base of the waterfall, literally in its stream, so while you're eating, spring water is running over your feet. Floating pieces of dropped chicken adobo notwithstanding, it's a pretty neat idea, no?

I'm packing my fanciest poncho with one hand while I type this, and if you have any sense at all, you would, too. After all, you know what they say: You should always whet your appetite while you wet your feet. ... What? No one says that? Well, clever me. Just remember that you heard it here first.

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