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Travelers in Eastern Europe have trodden the same paths through Prague, Krakow, and Budapest for years. But further east lies the majestic city of Bucharest, home to almost 2 million people, and the capital of dark, moody Romania. Recently, the country has begun capitalizing on its natural appeal to vampire fans. (Bram Stoker famously captured the rugged Transylvanian countryside in his 1942 classic, Dracula).
For those seeking something beyond blood-sucker folklore and empty castles, Romania is a super-cheap way to enjoy a slice of the Balkan cultural pie. And right in the heart of the country, its quintessentially European capital blends eclectic architecture; narrow, pub-lined alleys; and easy access to scenic rural destinations like Sibiu and Brasov.
1. Music-lovers will find plenty to do: frequent recitals are held at the Romanian Aethenaeum (pictured above), an awe-inspiring neoclassical concert hall that dates back to 1888. It functions as one of the main venues during the month-long George Enescu Classical Music Festival, held in September (the neighboring Royal Palace Concert Hall also hosts performances), drawing musicians and composers from all over Europe. Ticket prices range from $12 to $25 – a bargain, when you consider there will be performances by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, and, of course, the home team – the Romanian National Radio Orchestra. Read more
Planning a block party can be a lot of work. You’ve got to secure permits, book entertainment, and prepare enough food to stave off a riot. It’s never easy to be the party planner, but being the guest at a well-orchestrated bash is a blast. Don’t fret, enthusiastic-but -unorganized partiers: the Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival in Miami Gardens promises patrons all the fun of a rocking block party, with none of the work.
A number of notable musicians will be taking their talents to South Beach for the Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival in March. The festival, in its eighth year, has drawn several high profile acts from the pop, R&B, and, of course, jazz worlds. The bill will feature Earth, Wind, and Fire, Monica, Fantasia, Ne-Yo, and Najee. The festivities will run March 16 and 17 and be held at Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins. Also returning is host Michael Baisden, a nationally-syndicated radio personality who played emcee at the 2011 event.
Airplanes can be noisy places thanks to the engines, several hundred people sitting around you, and those pesky crying babies. There are plenty of noise-cancelling headphones out there but they have two major drawbacks: price and size. Noise-cancelling headphones typically cost more than $200 and tend to be bulky, over-the-ear models that take up space in your luggage. That’s why I prefer in-ear headphones with in-line volume controls and microphone that I can use at home, on my commute, and when I travel.
The biggest problem with inexpensive headphones is that they have a short lifespan. I’ve gone through dozens of sub-$100 headphones that died within six months. If you have to keep buying new pairs, you’re not saving money. Even when they were covered by a warranty and replaced for free, I was left without headphones for weeks.
Luckily, you don’t have to break the bank to find a pair that will drown out the noise on the plane. After plenty of trial and (way too much) error, I can confidently recommend these headphones for both day-to-day and travel use.
In case you missed it, Austin just wrapped up the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) music, film, and interactive festival. Hundreds of thousands of industry insiders and fans descended upon the city of about 800,000 residents for five nights and four days packed full of music showcases, parties, film screenings, panels, food, and fun. But Austin is more than just this festival. There are always going to be new places to discover great music, food, and enjoyment in this southern city.
Let’s start with the music: Austin became known as the “Live Music Capital of the World” because it has so many musicians and live music venues in the area. Throughout the year, musicians are hustling to get all their gear downtown to play to the thousands of listeners on street corners and in bars. Check out the Parish for up-and-coming bands, or head to Stubb’s for barbeque, beer, and music ranging from Yonder Mountain String Band to Evanescence. During SXSW, Mohawk played host to DJ acts like Skrillex, drawing a massive and young crowd, but during the rest of the year, this open-air venue hosts DJ acts as well as indie bands like The Hold Steady and Real Estate.
Southwest Airlines has launched a new program called InAirtainment to kick off the new Wi-Fi offered on some of its flights (to be featured fleet-wide by the end of 2012). InAirtainment is essentially free access to iTunes in the sky, featuring the same top songs, music videos, games, television shows, and movies available while on land.
InAirtainment allows flyers to download and listen to their favorite music and watch popular entertainment shows without paying the standard in-flight Wi-Fi fee, which right now is a flat rate of $5. Songs on iTunes cost $0.99 to$1.29, most television shows are $1.99, and films typically range from $9.99 to $14.99, while rental films are as little as $0.99. Through the end of March, a play list of 20 songs by new and upcoming artists “about to fly,” such as Chris Bathgate and Laura Jansen, will be offered for free. Read more
Given this year’s sky-high airfares to Europe and that unpronounceable Icelandic volcano’s erratically pesky eruptions, French-speaking Montreal just north of the U.S. border is worth a serious look for a romantic rendezvous. Not only is the city known for its charming hotels and fabulous food scene but June to August is the city’s primetime when its boulevards and rues come to life with an engaging succession of festivals. Here’s the scoop:
JUNE Music will fill the streets of Old Montreal June 24-28 during the Montreal Baroque Music Festival, featuring free and ticketed classical performances ranging from Scottish violins to Renaissance flutes. Overlapping, the world-famous Montreal International Jazz Festival runs from June 25–July 6 in the city center and features a jam-packed roster of music legends including Boz Scaggs, Dave Sanborn, Lionel Ritchie, George Benson, Smokey Robinson and more. Concurrent to both and continuing each Saturday night through mid-August, the International Fireworks Festival explodes overhead with pyrotechnic displays designed by a half dozen countries. Read more
With its ritzy shops and well-heeled crowd, Bal Harbour (on the outskirts of Miami) isn’t a place that usually evokes value in people’s minds. Yet lately the community has been rolling out all kinds of amenities that I think will leave any traveler–whether she’s staying at the super-swanky ONE Bal Harbour Resort & Spa or the more modest but still charming Sea View Hotel–feeling like she’s gotten a great deal. Read more
Quaint Chestnut Hill feels like a little town that wandered into a big city and never left, all friendly faces and cobblestone streets. In fact, it’s one of Philadelphia’s oldest neighborhoods: Some of its row houses date from the 18th century. Nothing changes too quickly here—many of the shops have been around for decades and there is hardly a chain store in sight.
Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop This nearly 45-year-old shop stocks scores of imported and domestic cheeses, from French Etorki to rich, nutty Swiss Hoch Ybrig, and the blithe employees are generous with the samples. The shop also sells assorted gourmet food items including hot sauces and delectable Belgian chocolate chips by the pound. 8509 Germantown Ave.; 215/242-2211, chcheeseshop.com
Hideaway Music Brian Reisman’s independent music store is small but offers a rich collection of new and used CDs, rare vinyl, and vintage concert posters from the likes of Santana and Pink Floyd. Unlike at some stores of its ilk, Hideway’s staff answers questions minus any attitude. 8612 Germantown Ave.; 215/248-4434
January 18th is a day of infamy. Although not a national holiday (yet) it is, for many, a day of observance. For it marks the birth of a king. The King of Rock ‘N Roll.
While Elvis’ birthday may have already come and gone, Music City is ready to keep the party going in honor of the King turning 75. And the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, where Elvis recorded some of his greatest hits, is planning the party. The Nashville hotel is going all out with a specially-themed package sure to delight the die-hardest Elvin fan. The package includes luxury accommodations fit for a King, a private recording session at Studio B of one of Elvis’ top hits, and an iPod pre-loaded with the top 50 Elvis hits.
Not enough Elvis? There’s more!
We just caught wind of an exclusive party package offered at the W Times Square that will get you into one of the year’s hottest parties. Hosted by Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, The Fray, Gavin DeGraw, Chris Webber, and more, with a special performance by OneRepublic, Esquire Magazine’s Seventh Annual Space Cocktail Party in support of VH1’s Save The Music Foundation will take place in a 9,200-square-foot SoHo penthouse next Thursday, November 5. Tickets are hard to come by but the W Times Square is rolling out the red carpet for 14 lucky guests (there are only 14 event tickets available) if you book their special Rock Star package. The package includes two tickets to Esquire Magazine’s Seventh Annual “Signature Space” Cocktail Party, two cocktails in The Living Room bar to kick off the party, and a tricked-out suite. The going price is $799 (10 percent of the proceeds will benefit VH1’s Save The Music Foundation). What would you pay to party with the music industry’s elite? For more information or to book, call Maya Stanic at 917-543-5902.
Each winter, reggae fans flock to the Bob Marley Birthday Bash in Jamaica – held in memory of the musical icon, this summer they’ve got yet another reason to celebrate July marks the one-year anniversary of the grand opening of the Marley Resort and Spa, located not in Jamaica – but in Nassau, Bahamas. This luxury boutique resort and spa was once the private vacation home of the Marley family and is still owned and directed by Bob’s daughter, Stephanie.
The 30th annual Montréal Jazz Festival will feature more than 650 performances by the world’s top jazz, blues, and world music artists from June 30 through July 12. Known as one of the world’s largest jazz festivals, the event will stage headline concerts by musicians like Stevie Wonder, John Pizzarelli, and other legendary performers and has drawn more than two million visitors in past years. For an affordable Montreal stay during the popular festival, consider a stay at the Sofitel Montréal, located within easy walking distance to the festival’s main venues. Jazz aficionados should consider booking the hotel’s low-priced Jazz Survival package which includes a 2-night stay in a deluxe guestroom, daily breakfast, one picnic basket lunch for two, plus two passes to the Montréal Fine Arts Museum. The package is available for the duration of the festival and is priced at $480.
Be the first to sail in the waters of the Mediterranean this spring on a spanking new ship – at rates up to 74% off! The Costa Pacifica will be taking its 8-night maiden voyage on June 6, and surprisingly, prices start from as little as $799. That’s a rare find on any voyage in this region at this time of year – let alone an inaugural sailing.
The new Pacifica has a heavy musical influence, with each area of the ship characterized by a different style. Other highlights of the ship include a Grand Prix simulator, Samsara Spa, outdoor jogging track, shopping center, and casino.
The ship embarks from Savona, Italy and will make its first stop in Marseille, France the following day. After that, it will call on Barcelona, where passengers can visit numerous museums, theaters, and art galleries. Next is Palma de Mallorca, an ideal place to pick up embroidery, jewelry, pottery, glasswork, and other handmade creations before sailing on to Tunis, Tunisia. After seeing the ancient ruins in Tunis, cruisers will visit Valletta, on the island of Malta which is famous for medieval castles, palaces, minarets, and grand churches. From there, the ship calls on Sicily before reaching the final destination of Rome.
Try a Musical Transatlantic Crossing
The Luxury The 10-night Atlantic crossing from Miami to Lisbon this May from Crystal Cruises is music to our ears. The renowned Glenn Miller Orchestra will headline this big band–themed cruise, which will feature daily performances, swing dance lessons, and music lectures. Passengers can enjoy Crystal’s spacious rooms and exquisite dining venues, unwind in the only ocean-going feng shui–inspired spa, and stretch their sea legs in Bermuda and the Azores along the way before arriving in Portugal’s capital. There open-air plazas, cobbled streets, and painted-tile houses await.
The Value Now offered as part of the line’s 2009 Value Collection, berths start at just $3,165/person—almost 45 percent off the original price of $7,080.
The Catch Act fast. The ship sets sail on May 23.
The Details For more information, call 888/799-2437 or visit crystalcruises.com.
From the April/May 2009 issue of Sherman’s Travel magazine.
Instead of hosting another backyard-bbq staycation this Memorial Day weekend, head to Aruba for their 9th annual Soul Beach Music Festival. From May 20-25, the island becomes a tropical Woodstock with five days of concerts and parties held at the Aruba Entertainment Center and popular clubs. The all-star lineup features serenades by crooner Robin Thicke, hip-shaking grooves by Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx and Kanye West’s pal, Estelle, plus an appearance by comic Wayne Brady who’ll show off his little-known Grammy-nominated pipes. Special promo: Buy a three-night concert ticket plus express party pass earning you fast-lane access to five after parties for $243 (original price $280) at www.soulbeach.net. Need a room to crash in after the fun? See special packages from three of the island’s best hotels after the jump. Read more
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