Monday, October 31, 2011

Whitepod, Valais, Switzerland

Another 80 degree weekend in Los Angeles has left me even more hungry for cool weather.  I cleaned out my closet and realized that the only things I own that don't have holes are the sweaters that haven't been worn in 8 months.  And to top it off, all this news of early snow on the east coast has got me dreaming of a white winter. 

Check out these impressive winter pods, otherwise known as Whitepod, in Switzerland.  The video at that link is also pretty sweet (and weirdly haunting).  The resort is made up of 15 geodesic-dome pods, an authentic mountain lodge with a traditional Swiss restaurant, and a wooden chalet/base-camp with a fancy new restaurant.  Whitepod opens for the season on December 20th.
Thanks again to Welcome Beyond for bringing this resort to my attention.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Adrere Amellal, Siwa Oasis, Egypt

This may have just turned into Egypt week here at Let's Stay Here.  All this talk of Nile cruising and tourism in Egypt has left me dying to talk about my very favorite Egyptian destination, Siwa Oasis.  One of Egypt's most isolated towns lies deep in the western desert, about 30 miles east of the Libyan border (I'm curious if tiny little Siwa is now housing Libyan refugees?  Anyone?).

I've been to Siwa twice from Cairo and the journey is epic.  A train ride to Alexandria to spend the night, hours in a shared taxi west to Marsa Matrouh, and then an 8-hour bus ride due south, deep into Egypt's most remote desert.  But when you arrive you are given exactly what you've been promised, an oasis.

Siwa has generally avoided the touristic hustling that is born from centuries of European travel to Pharaonic sites, and maintained a traditional way of life built around harvesting date palms and crafting baskets and other goods.  A few days there feel like a few relaxing days on the moon.

When I visited Siwa the only tourists were backpackers and we stayed in a hostel with cots and squat toilets.  Since then, Siwa has gotten hip to its appeal and a number of higher end resorts have been built.  The most impressive of the bunch is Adrere Amellal (lovely website with lots of photos).  Lit at night only with lanterns, the lodge provides 3 gourmet meals a day with food grown primarily on the premises.  It's certainly not the budget way to experience Siwa but it does seem quite appealing.

Photos: i-escape

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nour El Nil, Nile Cruise, Egypt

It seems odd to me that after months of gushing about hotels around the world, this will be my first Egypt post.  Egypt has played a very important role in my life.  Between the ages of 19 and 25, I lived in Cairo for over 3 years and have traveled back many times since.  It is a place that not only shaped me intellectually - I learned Arabic there and acquired a particular worldview - but I often feel it is where I grew up.  Needless to say, it's a place that is hard for me to discuss in touristic terms.

That said, the touristic options in Egypt are impressive and the hotel choices have dramatically improved over the past 10 years. I took an incredibly kitschy (but fun) Nile Cruise nearly 10 years ago and would have so preferred to float up the Nile in this stylish boat.  The folks at Nour El Nil have reintroduced the usages of traditional dahabiyas (sails, no motors) for cruising from Aswan to Luxor and as far as I'm concerned, they have completely changed the game.          

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Camp Wandawega, Elkhorn, Wisconsin

The end of summer has arrived.  As an Angeleno, I know this primarily because they are now serving pumpkin lattes at Starbucks.  In other parts of the country, I hear, the end of summer is very real and very tragic, and every last moment of it must be savored and celebrated. 

I believe this to be especially true in the winter-is-no-joke Midwest.  My mom grew up in Illinois and every summer she would take an overnight train to Wisconsin for two months of summer camp.  As a child I found the stories about this trip unbelievably romantic.  An overnight train filled with kids off to summer camp?!  Even now it seems like something out of Harry Potter.  When I saw the photos of Camp Wandawega (adorable website!), the summer camp turned hotel in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, I felt like every fantasy I have had about my mom's 1950's childhood were realized. 

This lodge-themed hotel is only open from May to October and it seems like the ideal destination for lessening the pain of letting summer go and welcoming all that autumn has to offer. 

I stole these photos from Time Out Chicago. You'll also find a good article about the place at that link.