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Mar
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3.14.13 … just doubled, no tripled, my bucket list …

bucket list, world’s best-kept secrets, travel, MIND | TIME.com: 

Tassia

KENYA

If you associate African safari holidays with being bussed around on bone-jarring game drives to look at identikit herds of antelope, then Tassia will restore your faith. Antonia Hall and Martin Wheeler, a young Kenyan duo, provide an all-natural wilderness experience within a 24,300-hectare playground for no more than 12 guests. Tassia perches on a bluff above the Laikipia plateau. Kenya, in its fabled vastness, stretches beneath. As the sun rises, you’ll find yourself tracking a leopard on foot with a Masai guide, or learning the medicinal value of plants. Clamber around caves and trace the ancient etchings of the Mokogodo tribe. Take up archery in the dry riverbed, swim by the waterfall during rains, or even game-drive—but on horseback, camel or oxcart. You will rarely get in a car. Sit, drink in hand, on the flat rocks as the sun sinks and the moon rises and watch Wheeler teach his injured birds of prey the art of hunting. Eat alone under the stars, or with your hosts around an old wooden table that is waxy and worn by candlelit dinners (there’s no electric light). Then sleep to the call of lions in an open room where one wall is nothing but the night sky. More at tassiasafaris.com.

—Jessica Hatcher

Westfjords

ICELAND

Iceland’s austere essence can be found in the Westfjords, a claw-shaped peninsula facing Greenland. First visit the Vatnasafn/Library of Water, a striking Modernist building where artist Roni Horn has installed columns of melted ice from 24 Icelandic glaciers, each a different color based on its geological history. Then take the ferry across and stay at Hotel Latrabjarg, in Patreksfjordur, an appropriately homey ex-schoolhouse. At Breidavik, where the guesthouse is a notorious former boys’ home, we were told the saga of two farmhouses in nearby Sjounda: in 1802 an adulterous couple murdered their respective spouses, as recounted in Gunnar Gunnarsson’s novel The Black Cliffs. High up on the windy cliffs of Latrabjarg, the westernmost tip of Europe, we communed with black-and-white puffins in the midnight sun. Memory is long here, and the landscape has a palpable supernatural spirit. Visit westfjords.is for more.

—Cathryn Drake

Garden of Dreams

NEPAL

If you find yourself in the frenetic Themel tourist district of Kathmandu and overcome with a need for tranquility, leave the Nepalese capital’s snarling traffic and persistent hawkers behind you and make for this lush greensward across the street from the former Royal Palace. Designed in the 1920s as a private garden, its wide lawns, surrounded by bamboo, fountains and exotic trees, are the perfect place to revive after a grueling climbing (or shopping) adventure. Start on the breezy terrace of the Kaiser Café, eating your fill from the Mediterranean-influenced menu (think seafood cappuccino and chicken Florentine), then go for a postprandial stroll. Unlike most parks in Nepal and neighboring India, the garden is walled, keeping out stray dogs—and the city’s ubiquitous beggars. Walk its immaculately kept perimeter paths before finding a spot to lie on the grass and read a book, the sounds of the city drifting overhead. Details at gardenofdreams.org.np.

—Karen Leigh

El Otro Lado

PANAMA

You have to head to pirate country to reach El Otro Lado—a 110-hectare hideaway on Panama’s Caribbean coast. Barely 90 minutes’ drive from Panama City, this is the place where British and Spanish pirates battled for bounty centuries ago. Today, though, travelers go for the treasure of solace.

Originally built as a private residence, El Otro Lado is a group of four villas shrouded in rain forest, reached only by boat from historic Portobelo town. Although each villa is individually designed, they all share a visual DNA—whitewashed interiors enlivened by contemporary furniture, stark black-and-white photography and Latin-Caribbean painting. Relax on a palm-fringed beach lying a short boat hop away or by the resort’s infinity-edge swimming pool. Then dine on ultra-fresh ceviches washed down with potent mojitos. Back in the pirate days, both Christopher Columbus and Sir Francis Drake fought for control of the Portobelo region. A few nights at El Otro Lado and it’s easy to understand why. Visit http://www.elotrolado.com.pa.

—David Kaufman

Le Chapeau Melon

FRANCE

ask french food writers where you should eat in Paris, and they’ll provide a litany of enticing, fashionable addresses. But ask where they eat, and they might well say Le Chapeau Melon, tel: (33-1) 4202 6860—the cave à manger opened by Olivier Camus in 2002.

These days there are many caves à manger—wine shops that moonlight as informal restaurants, where self-taught sommelier-cooks let their imaginations run free. But Camus was at it before all of them. By day, Le Chapeau Melon is a specialty shop for natural wines. By night Camus becomes your bon viveur uncle who opens his atelier to a small group of friends for wine, conversation and delicious fare (everything from sardine tart with tomato confit and dill to slow-roasted Pyrenees lamb with Paimpol coco beans). Expect cult wines at bargain prices. And the four-course no-choice tasting menu, at around $45, is easily among the best deals in Paris.

—Jeffrey T. Iverson

Grimanesa’s Anticucho Stall

PERU

for nearly 40 years, the legendary Doña Grimanesa Vargas has cooked her anticuchos—the Peruvian take on kebabs—to perfection. Most of that time was spent on the same street corner in Lima’s Miraflores district, but as her fame grew, so did the queues. Eventually the crowds around her grill-on-wheels became so large that she was forced to move into her own brick-and-mortar restaurant at the end of 2011. At her smoky, cramped establishment, there’s just one long table and one thing on the menu. Chunks of beef heart are marinated in vinegar and spices, then skewered and grilled over charcoal. The skewers are served with potatoes and you can add a side order of choclo (giant Peruvian corn). The meat is tender, the marinade is delicious and it’s well worth the wait for a seat. See grimanesavargasanticuchos.com.

—Sarah Gilbert

Abu Shukri

ISRAEL

East Jerusalem eating doesn’t get more authentic than Abu Shukri, tel: (972-2) 627 1538, 63 Al Wad Road. One of the Old City’s longtime top spots for traditional Palestinian cuisine, it’s located deep in the Muslim section, just beyond the Fifth Station of the Cross. Within its spare and fuss-free confines, it trades in superb Levantine staples such as falafel, tahini, foul and chopped salads, prepared fresh each morning and served family style until the day’s portions run out.

The restaurant’s main draw has to be its hummus: warm, dense platefuls swimming in earthy olive oil are sprinkled with spicy green za’atar and then paired with leaves of pillow-soft pita bread. It’s all overseen by Fadi Taha, Abu Shukri’s third-generation owner, who tests and tastes every batch of the chickpea concoction. Even heartier than the food is the interfaith, polyglot clientele. Abu Shukri is a rare bastion of coexistence in one of the world’s most conflict-ridden locations.

—David Kaufman

Merchant’s House Museum

U.S.

manhattan’s once infamous “Skid Row” is now a chic hipster enclave that was until fairly recently a squalid quarter of disrepute and soup kitchens. Precious little evidence remains of the Bowery’s heyday as a genteel residential neighborhood full of gardens in the 19th century, when the eponymous street was New York City’s main thoroughfare. But a stately federal brownstone on East Fourth Street provides a wormhole into the New York of yore: the Merchant’s House Museum, home to the family of wealthy merchant Seabury Tredwell.

Its last inhabitant, Gertrude Tredwell, born in the house in 1840 and never married, died there in 1933. By the onset of the Civil War, the Bowery was host to lowbrow theaters, brothels, beer gardens and flophouses, while the four maiden Tredwell sisters remained in the rambling house, barely changing it save for amenities like electricity and plumbing. Nearly all the furniture is original, and the privileged family owned pieces made by the best cabinet makers of the day. Rescued from the hands of developers after an appeal by architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable in 1970, the house has been restored just enough so that it feels like the family has momentarily stepped out. See merchantshouse.org for more.

—Cathryn Drake

(PHOTOS: The Cambodian Diaspora)

Blue Monk

MEXICO

if you still associate Mexico’s capital more with mariachis than jazz, prepare for a surprise. Mexico City hosts an international jazz festival, and the number of venues devoted to jazz has increased considerably in recent years. While the capital has sleeker, snazzier jazz clubs, like Zinco (in a former bank vault in the Centro Historico), it’s hard to beat Blue Monk Jazz Bistro when it comes to conviviality.

Run by a Japanese-Mexican father-daughter pair, Blue Monk opened in 2003 under a different name (Papa Beto) and has been a stronghold of jazz in Mexico City ever since. It has hosted luminaries like trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and pianist Danilo Perez, but it has also fostered a generation of Mexican jazz artists. Almost as lively as the music is the menu of Mediterranean and Asian-influenced cuisine. For information and schedules, visit http://www.bluemonkmexico.com.

—Julie Schwietert

Cookbooks

U.S.

You could walk past this New York City bookstore 100 times before noticing the small sign reading, simply, COOKBOOKS. A lucky few will spot it, push the heavy, worn wooden door and walk straight into the 19th century home and shop of Joanne Hendricks. She has been selling cookbooks here for almost two decades. Most are first editions or have other historical or cultural value. Visitors get the sense that Hendricks doesn’t really care if she sells any books; she just likes to be surrounded by them and enjoy the conversations they inspire with the customers who wander through her door. Find it at 488 Greenwich Street.

—Julie Schwietert

via A Little Place I Know: 24 of the World’s Best-Kept Secrets | MIND | TIME.com.


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