New Website Maps The DC Area Homes Of Stars And Politicos

What do Bill Clinton, Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock have in common? In fact, all three have lived in the Washington, DC, area, according to Bigwig Digs, a new website that maps the former homes of celebrities.

OK, so the term “celebrity” is used loosely here. While Hollywood stars like Bullock, Stallone, Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn have called Washington and its suburbs home, most of the stars on Bigwig Digs’ maps are government-related, from former presidents to political strategists and insiders such as Karl Rove, Rahm Emanuel and J. Edgar Hoover. But there are also musicians (Duke Ellington, Dave Grohl), journalists (Bob Woodward, David Brinkley), sports stars (Mike Tyson, Alex Ovechkin), and more.Bigwig Digs, founded by real estate news website UrbanTurf, launched on October 1 with about 80 bigwig listings, a number that they hope to grow with help from the public.

As a 20-year resident of DC, I’ll add a couple homes to the list right now: during the early Clinton years, then White House Communications Director George Stephanopoulos lived in a flat above Kramerbooks and Afterwords. Also, during the George W. Bush years, Donald Rumsfeld’s house across from the French Ambassador’s residence was a point of interest during walking tours of the Kalorama neighborhood, mostly because of the 24/7 (not so) secret security detail outside.

In addition to adding more celebrity addresses, Bigwig Digs could enhance its user interface by adding a full metropolitan DC map and neighborhood maps so users can see celebrity homes in context. But all in all, it’s a fun site to browse.

Three Ways To Stay In Cappadocia, Turkey

In central Anatolia, about three hours south of the capital of Ankara, is Cappadocia, one of the most popular areas to visit in Turkey. Renowned for its “fairy chimneys” – wind-swept rock formations that sprout from the landscape looking like stone mushrooms, Flintstone dwellings and phalluses – and vast network of caves, many of which served as places of worship for early Christians, Cappadocia has an unforgettable mix of the natural, mystical and historical. It is for these reasons that Cappadocia was one of the first sites in Turkey to be named to UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

While the technical boundaries of Cappadocia’s UNESCO site lie within the town of Göreme, the Cappadocia region is vast, covering about 100 square miles. Within this area are dozens of towns, many of which are equipped with cave hotel accommodations, the region’s most sought-after lodging. But with so many cave hotels to choose from – and so many new caves being dug out to handle the influx of tourists seeking that “authentic” Cappadocia experience, how do you know where to stay? I’ve stayed in Cappadocia on numerous occasions and can recommend the following towns for a vacation.

Most visitors to Cappadocia choose to stay in the town of Göreme, which is the site of the Göreme Open-Air Museum. The walkable and well-tended outdoor museum has the most extensive collection of medieval, fresco-adorned rock churches, and forms the basis of Cappadocia’s UNESCO status. Because Göreme is the hub of tourist activity for the region, it has the most facilities, from luxury caves to affordable backpacker accommodations. The town, which is about 1.5 miles from the open-air museum, has restaurants, shops, transportation options, and a tourist information center where you can book an English-speaking guide.

In Göreme, I stayed at the Kelebek Hotel, an inn with 36 cave lodging options. The Kelebek sits on a ridge and has some views over the town.

Thinking they’ll escape the more touristy trappings of Göreme, some travelers opt to stay in Ürgüp, a town about 15 miles south of the open-air museum. Ürgüp’s downtown is quieter and feels more elegant than the well-trodden sidewalks of Göreme. And where Göreme’s accommodations bunch up around a convenient downtown, Ürgüp’s lodging choices are spread out like a blanket, making it a better choice for travelers who have their own car. Whether Ürgüp is more touristy than Göreme is hard to say. Ironically, its reputation as the alternative to Göreme has led to its popularity with group tours. Nevertheless, Ürgüp seemed, to me, to have more breathing room.

The Esbelli Evi, a collection of old Turkish homes and cave dwellings brought together by the friendly, modern and bohemian stylings of Suha Ersoz, is my favorite place to stay in Ürgüp.

Of all the towns to stay in the Cappadocia region, Mustafapaşa is the village I find most appealing. One arrives in Mustafapaşa by taking the road to Ürgüp then turning south to drive deeper into the valley. Mustafapaşa, also known by its old Greek name Sinasos, has echoes of the same Cappadocian Greek Orthodox heritage found in the frescoes in the Göreme UNESCO site. A portion of Mustafapaşa’s center has some distinctly Greek structures and it is also home to the Old Greek House that serves as both an inn (upstairs) and family-style restaurant (downstairs).

As for cave accommodations in Mustafapaşa, my family and I felt very comfortable at the Ukabeyn Cappadocia Lodge, a quiet hotel equipped with a pool.

[Photos: Top two photos are copyright Melanie Renzulli; bottom photo of Mustafapaşa structure copyright Flickr user turcolive]

The Best Lobster Roll In Maine

“Saturday Traffic Alert,” read the subject line of an email from our vacation property manager.

We were packing up after a blissful week in midcoast Maine, where my family and I had spent the days either on a boat; on the shore, finding leftover shells in the mudflats; or driving the rural roads of the St. George peninsula. In the evenings, we returned to the house where we cooked our own meals and usually collapsed into bed before 10. Seven days and six nights of pure idyll justified Maine’s self-proclaimed title as “Vacationland.”

But then reality struck: a traffic alert. The property manager explained:

“It happens every year from about the 3rd Saturday in July – through the 3rd Saturday in August – it’s become a regular Maine tradition. The ‘great Wiscasset bottleneck.’ The small village of Wiscasset has a well known food wagon called “Red’s Eats” right in the center of the village the [sic] develops long lines early in the day. As a result, traffic slows to figure out why people wait for hours to get a lobster roll (that we think is no different than lobster rolls elsewhere) and all those ‘rubberneckers’ build up the traffic lines quickly.”

We hadn’t heard a traffic report in over a week, and now, if we didn’t leave town early enough, we would have to endure a traffic jam – for a lobster roll.
I came to know of Red’s earlier in the week soon after a friend caught wind that I was in Maine: “Seriously, you must go to Red’s! Best lobster roll on the planet. DO NOT MISS THIS. MUST GET THERE NO LATER THAN 11:45. Crazy lines.”

Unswayed by caps lock and frankly too far from Wiscasset, I had my first-ever lobster roll in the state of Maine from Miller’s Lobster Company, a Spruce Head shack with its own fans. Located on Wheeler Bay, with invigorating views of placid water and blue spruces, Miller’s had no lines but there was a wait of about 30 tummy-grumbling minutes for our chosen crustaceans to go from tank to pot to bun. Served on a split-top potato roll – kind of a like a hot dog bun moonlighting as a slice of white bread – and with a plastic ramekin of melted butter and bag of Lay’s potato chips, Miller’s lobster roll seemed like the perfect lunch. As I bit into the fresh chunks of bun-swaddled lobster meat, I thought, “How can any seafood place anywhere improve upon this?”

While I was confident in my endorsement of Miller’s, I was even more impressed with the trap-to-table ethos of seafood dining in Maine. The lobster capital of the United States – if not the world – Maine harvested more than 100 million pounds of lobster in 2011 and is on track to shatter that record this year. Lobster isn’t just rich man’s food in Maine, it is everywhere, a fact that doesn’t compute until you’re driving on coastal Route 1, passing signs claiming “the best lobster roll in Maine” about every 3.7 seconds. I saw lobster rolls advertised for $9.99 at roadside stands to $18 at The Pearl, the kitchen of “Food Network Star” contestant Michele Ragussis. Most places charged about $14 for their rolls, to me a princely sum considering the lobster content of a roll added up to about two claws’ worth of meat dressed with a bit of mayonnaise and/or butter. Besides, lobsters were selling for about $6.50 per pound at the dock.

Convinced that the lobster roll price fluctuation was based solely on the labor costs of extracting the meat from the shell rather than some magic mayonnaise recipe, my husband and I visited Owls Head’s Ship to Shore lobster pound on our second night and purchased two medium-sized lobsters for our meal. As they sat in a paper bag on my lap on the drive home, then as they quietly chirped in the fridge while we brought a large pot of water to a boil, I realized the market price of a lobster roll was a tariff on convenience. Once cooked, these lobsters that had been skittering only hours earlier on the rocky bottom of the Atlantic Ocean (the very waters from which all the area’s seafood dinners had originated), produced the sweetest, most luscious meat I had ever tasted. That we had cooked the lobsters ourselves, creating a 20-napkin mess as we cracked the claws, split open the tails and gingerly removed the flesh with lobster picks, was more satisfying than waiting while someone else made dinner. Renting a house, rather than staying in a resort or bed and breakfast, afforded us the chance to live as Mainers, to cook in our own kitchen. We bought and cooked our own lobsters four out of seven nights.

Early morning on the sixth day, as we were mentally preparing to leave the midcoast, I checked my email and found the traffic alert from the landlord. We hadn’t made it to Red’s Eats or to the dozens of other diners, restaurants and shacks beckoning with “best lobster roll” signs. But I was relieved to read the statement that Red’s rolls were no different than lobster rolls elsewhere.

Why would vacationers line up for hours for a lobster roll when they have likely spent the last week or two gorging on the same fare without having had to take a number and wait? While I bet Red’s rolls were delicious – I’ve never had a lobster roll that wasn’t – I have a hunch that Red’s reels in the tourists who just can’t say goodbye to that midcoast Maine state of mind.

Alighiero Boetti At NYC’s MoMA: Art Inspired By Travel And Geography

Have a look at the map above. In this globalized world, where countries are essentially brands, this map, which uses each country’s respective flag design to delineate its borders, probably doesn’t seem so unusual, save for that large red swath in Asia marked with a hammer and sickle. Created between 1971 and 1972, this “Mappa” is one of the signature works of art created by Alighiero Boetti, the Italian artist whose paintings, kilims, sculptures and mixed media pieces form an exciting exhibition at New York City‘s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan,” which runs at the MoMA through October 1, 2012, is the first major exhibition in the United States of the works of Turin-born Boetti, who made art from the early 1960s until his death in 1994. Associated with the Arte Povera (Poor Art) movement in Italy, Boetti found a lot of his inspiration by exploring travel, maps, geography, stamps and postcards.


[Photo above courtesy MoMA]In the 1970s, Boetti traveled extensively, particularly to Afghanistan, where he collaborated with local craftswomen to create embroidered tapestries such as the “Mappa,” above. Without a doubt, Boetti’s Mappa series is his most famous, and these iconic, large-scale kilims are displayed in MoMA’s expansive, second floor space along with other tapestries that play with time, numbers, patterns and colors. Another innovative work on display here is “Tapestry of the Thousand Longest Rivers of the World,” which lists the world’s 1,000 longest rivers from largest to smallest. There is poetry in seeing the names of these rivers side-by-side and in a medium beyond the computer screen.

Boetti’s abstract look at geography inspired other works on display on MoMA’s sixth floor, which is where the majority of “Game Plan” is located. One outstanding series is “Territori Occupati (Occupied Territories),” works from the late 1960s in which Boetti collaborates with his wife Annemarie Sauzeau to create outlines of conflict zones and occupied lands ripped from newspaper headlines. Boetti and Sauzeau outlined conflict maps from daily editions of La Stampa newspaper. Then, they embroidered the zones’ shapes along with the newspaper dates, on cloth, creating “stateless” representations of conflict areas, such as the Basque region of Spain, Northern Ireland, and the West Bank, Gaza, and Sinai.

Perhaps the most whimsical of Boetti’s experiments with travel- and geography-related themes is his “Viaggi Postale,” a project that had the artist send 25 friends and colleagues in the art world on personalized travel itineraries through the mail. According to MoMA:

Because the addressee did not live at the destination or because, in some cases, the address was fabricated, most of the envelopes were returned to Boetti on each leg of their journeys. He photocopied the front and back of the returned envelopes as a record, then put each one inside a larger envelope and sent it off to the next destination; once more, many were returned, to be photocopied and sent out again until the itineraries were complete.

Imaginary journeys, maps and approximately 100 other works constituting “Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan” will be on display at MoMA through October 1. Admission is $25 but Fridays from 4-8 p.m. are free.

Cheat On Your Cellphone Service With Tep Wireless

If you are a smartphone user and love to travel, this has probably happened to you: you return from a trip abroad to find your cellphone service provider has piled on hundreds of dollars for roaming charges and data usage. No matter that you purchased an international plan or topped up with extra data before you left. You’re now faced with a huge bill and a growing ulcer from the stress of it all.

Some elect for a workaround, getting an unlocked phone and performing the old SIM-card switcheroo when traveling overseas – but that’s not especially convenient. What is convenient is a Tep pocket Wi-Fi, a personal hotspot that lets you cheat on your cellphone service with pay-by-the-day Wi-Fi.

Here’s how it works:First, you book your service with Tep, providing information on where you are traveling, dates of travel and a delivery address. Tep will deliver your device to either your home address or to your hotel.

Second, your device arrives, complete with charging equipment, a small tag indicating the name of the Wi-Fi network and its password, and a postage-paid return pouch. Just locate the network on your phone or laptop – the hotspot signal is strong enough for use with about five devices – enter the password, and you’re ready to go.

Finally, when your trip is done, simply pack up the Tep equipment in the mailing pouch and pop it in the mail.

During a recent test drive of Tep’s Wi-Fi hotspot, the thing I found most difficult was printing out a return label and sending it back. Tep pays postage on the pouch but emails the return label, leaving it to customers to remember to print out return labels before embarking on trips. That’s not so convenient.

On the bright side, I got excellent connectivity on three devices simultaneously, including an older model iPhone that is Wi-Fi only.

If you are heading to the London Olympics or to any of 38 European countries this summer, Tep is offering rates starting at $5 per day for a 30-day plan (3G data) to $9.99 per day for a five-day plan (500 MB data). Customers can pay an additional $6.95 per day for unlimited data.

This plan will allow you to fly, drive or take the train across the continent without losing connectivity. If you’re traveling to London, Tep has partnered with Heathrow Airport and Paddington Station to enable pick-up of its devices at designated terminals.

While Tep is designed for travelers visiting Europe or the United Kingdom, it also works in the United States, which means that you could ostensibly use it as an option when traveling domestically.

I’m heading to Maine soon and I wish I would have known about Tep before I shelled out the extra fees for a cabin equipped with Wi-Fi. Ideally, I’d unplug all together. But let’s save that discussion for another article.