Abercrombie & Kent creates iPad app

One of our favorite parts about the “internetization” of travel (yes, we made that word up) is the feeling that you can travel the world without ever leaving your desktop. We reported earlier this year on flash sale darling Jetsetter’s iPad app. Now luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent has joined the fray with a free application for iPad that allows users to plan exotic adventures, family travel, cultural explorations and nature/wildlife trips. With each tap of an image, users can explore a particular experience in depth.

One of our favorite parts of the app? “Virtual Visits,” 60 to 90-second videos with a day-in-the-life approach that capture the sights and sounds of a destination. Visits range from views of Cappadocia via hot air balloon, Pushkar Fair, a camel and cattle sale in a holy city and natural ice sculptures off the coast of Antarctica.

Users can also create a personalized travel map of countries they’ve visited and wish to visit. These destinations can be exported to Google Earth, which provides a satellite tour of each destination. There’s also easy integration with Twitter, Facebook and Abercrombie & Kent destination specialists.

Melville – where to have fun in Johannesburg

On my recent trip to South Africa, I spent a day exploring various neighborhoods and finding out where to have fun in Johannesburg. There was so much I didn’t know I didn’t know about Johannesburg, like the fact that gold was mined there for 90 years, evidenced by the enormous mountains of unearthed yellow sand, most of which to this day are still waiting to be removed. Or, that the Dutch East Indies Company scooped up land there to plant lemon trees and other fruits and vegetables so their ships could stop there and pick up supplies to thwart scurvy. The biggest meteorite ever recorded landed just 60 miles south of Johannesburg, and last but not least, there’s this neighborhood called Melville where all the cool people hang out.

Johannesburg is home to a vast array of wealth and poverty “developing apart” to this day (“apartheid” means “developing apart”). For example, there is posh Sandton, where the wealthiest residents work and reside in gated mansions, and destitute Soweto, where the residents who don’t live in cobbled-together shacks squat in old factory worker dormitories called The Hostels and get in trouble regularly for stealing electricity from the streetlights. Like Los Angeles, the city is spread out and feels like a collection of independent communities — and you can’t really get from one to another without a car, as the buses never seem to come and even the taxi system is considered extremely sketchy. There is a train called the Gau which goes to the airport, but its stops are very limited at this point. I stayed in Sandton at The Saxon Hotel, a former residence-turned-hotel where Nelson Mandela famously wrote Long Walk to Freedom, but shopping at Gucci isn’t really my speed, so I asked around and then told my Abercrombie & Kent guide I’d like to spend some time in Melville, Johannesburg (among other places, but Melville was my favorite).

%Gallery-107956%If Johannesburg is LA, Melville is Silver Lake. Melville immediately struck me as artsy and cool, and I felt instantly at home in the comfortable, stylish restaurants and cafes with indie-rock vibes and friendly people of all colors. One of the first shops I spotted was a vintage clothing store — a good sign, as that’s an amenity which, in my book, is a cornerstone of any fabulous neighborhood — then a bookstore, a sushi place, and then Love Revolution, a cozy coffee shop with an educated hipster appeal. While Melville has some great bars, there’s no loud, scenester-y dance clubs which would attract the kind of crowd that might disturb the laid-back peace. As I wandered, I encountered a few locals selling souvenirs on the street, and while no one gave me the New York hassle, there were definitely a few vocal shoutouts offered free of charge. In other words, this neighborhood isn’t just cute restaurants and shopping for yuppies, it has a certain gritty, bohemian character.

If you find yourself in Johannesburg, I would highly recommend spending a Saturday or at least a meal in Melville, where you can get a proper (and nifty!) taste of life between the superlative worlds of Sandton and Soweto. Check out the gallery for a peek inside some of the most charming establishments; a mini tour of Melville, Johannesburg.

[Photos by Annie Scott.]

My trip to South Africa was sponsored by Abercrombie & Kent, but the ideas and opinions expressed in this article are 100 percent my own.

Daily Pampering: Rent a villa during the euro’s four-year low

While there are a number of ways to take advantage of the fact that the euro is at the lowest exchange rate with the dollar that it’s had in four years ($1.22), what could be more lovely than renting a villa in the French Riviera?

In the prime location of Mandelieu in the Cote d’Azur, Villa Kieta, above, boasts all the luxury it had when the exchange rate was much, much less favorable. The four-bedroom villa is situated on 12 acres of private grounds and sleeps up to eight adults and two children. The master bedroom has a jacuzzi bath and private terrace and each additional bedroom has en-suite facilities, as well as wifi, air conditioning, and elegant modern furnishings.

The villa is a supreme place for romance or relaxation, with a sauna, pool, TV room, home cinema, elaborate kitchen and a number of private terraces overlooking the Bay of Cannes and the Lérins islands.

Best of all, you can rent this luxury villa for more than 13 percent less than what it would have cost you just earlier this year. Villa Kieta is now $267 per person (in fully occupied villa) per night in high season. That’s the kind of bargain even the most discerning travelers can appreciate. Visit AKvillas.com for more info, to look at more villas where you can take advantage of the price drop or to book.

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.