Daily Pampering: ‘Out of Africa’ experience in Kenya

Luxury is alive in the African bush. The famous Finch Hattons located in Tsavo, West National Park, Kenya, is home to some of the best animal watching under the stars. You could call it a ‘rustic-chic’ getaway, or you could just call it a simply amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience. However you choose to label this hideaway, it’s a trip you’ll never forget.

The long flight to Africa will allow you plenty of time to read Karen Blixen’s “Out of Africa” and re-familiarize yourself with the magic of Kenya. Here at the Hattons, all tents are built on elevated platforms and offer spectacular views of the surrounding forest. Located on a flight from Nairobi, guests are welcomed to the animal kingdom with flowers, a swimming pool and your own personal outdoor tent. This is the real thing -there are no fences, so spotting a lion, elephant or zebra right outside your tent is not only possible, it’s quite likely. The monkeys are mischievous, so zip your tent when you leave and don’t forget to pick up around your area or you’ll come back to animals feasting on your crumbs.

Before you book your personal Out of Africa experience, keep in mind the weather changes. It typically rains more between April to June and October to December, but there are fewer crowds during this season so rates are generally cheaper. July and August are the coldest months – opposite of the North American climate.

Rates start at $540/night for the high season (February – April; July – December) and dip to $380/night for the low season.

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Seven ways to explore the world without leaving home

Travel can be an escape – a chance to get away from the stress of our daily lives – but it can also be much more. Travel is about exploring a destination (new or familiar), understanding and connecting with the local culture, and seeing how people in a different place live.

Even more than the physical act of moving to a new place, traveling is about discovery, and just because you can’t get away from home at a particular time doesn’t mean you can’t still embrace that philosophy of adventure. Here are seven ways to “travel” without leaving your hometown.
Movies can take us to other worlds – real or imagined, of this Earth or not. Next time you are suffering from serious wanderlust, pick up a movie set in a foreign land. Explore the sweeping grasslands of Kenya with Out of Africa, ride the back roads of South America with Che in The Motorcycle Diaries, wander the chaotic streets of Tokyo through Lost in Translation, or explore India by train on The Darjeeling Limited.
Public transportation roulette
Travel is all about exploring a foreign place. For most of us, that doesn’t mean we need to venture far to discover a place that is new to us. I’ve lived in Chicago for three years, but there are still pockets of the city I’ve yet to step foot on. It’s easy to fall into a routine and only visit the same reliable places in your hometown, but this can lead to a feeling of boredom. Spice up your daily life by seeking out new places in your own city.

If you live somewhere with a good train or bus system, pick a weekend to play what I like to call “public transportation roulette.” In Chicago, I hop on one of the El lines and get off at a stop I’ve never visited before. Then I spend the afternoon checking out the area’s restaurants and shops. If your city has an ethnic enclave, like a Chinatown or Greektown, spending an evening wandering the streets there can also feel like a mini cultural journey.

Just like movies, books can take us places (see, that poster in the Library didn’t lie!). Whether you prefer to read creative nonfiction set in a specific place or places – explore the idiosyncrasies of the Chinese with J. Maarten Troust in Lost on Planet China, ride the rails through Asia with Paul Theroux in The Great Railway Bazaar, or return to the Paris of the 1920’s in Earnest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast – or to read more about the idea of wandering (try The Little Price by Antoine de Saint Exupery), books can help keep us in a traveling state of mind.

For a whirlwind tour of the world, try an anthology like the Best American Travel Writing series. Or for a mini shot of travel inspiration, I keep a copy of Make the Most of Your Time on Earth: A Rough Guide to the World on my coffee table and flip through it often.

When I start to get itchy feet but know that I don’t have a trip scheduled for a few weeks, I start renting all my favorite travel shows. I explore the world through food with Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations, or laugh along with Ian Wright and the Globe Trekker crew as I learn about destinations I plan on visiting in the future.

Food and drink
Traveling through my taste buds is one of my favorite ways to “virtually” experience a destination. In most countries I visit, I try to schedule a cooking class to learn to make at least one local dish. When I get home, I can then make that meal any time I am feeling nostalgic for the country. I can’t make fresh pasta without being transported to my honeymoon in Tuscany. Empanadas and some Malbec wine take me back to Buenos Aires, and fresh paella recalls my days in Barcelona.

Even if you didn’t learn to make a special dish while you were in a country, you can try to recreate memorable meals at home, or just pick a local specialty from a country you’d like to visit, and make it with the help of a recipe found online. If you can’t cook more than a piece of toast, no worries – just head to your local ethnic restaurant. You might not be fooled into thinking you are really in Ethiopia as you spoon up stewed meats with spongy injera bread, but a little taste of a foreign country might satiate you until your next trip.

Theme nights
Remember that episode of the Gilmore Girls when, after Rory’s big trip to Asia was cancelled, Lorelei turned the living room into a tour of the continent with food and decorations from various Asian countries? Just like that, you can host a theme night to celebrate a destination you’ve been to or are planning a trip to. Heading to Japan? Host a Japanese night, complete with sake, anime movies, sushi and geisha costumes. If you have friends of various ethnicities, take turns hosting and ask each person to tell a story about their culture’s traditions.

Cultural centers and events
A large part of traveling is learning about another culture, and while nothing can really substitute for the experience of being there, a trip to a local cultural center can help you explore the history and traditions of a culture in your local area. Fore example, in Chicago, the Irish American Heritage Center hosts traditional Irish music at the onsite pub. When I sit there and drink a Guinness, I know I’m still in the US, but if I close my eyes and listen to the the proliferation of Irish accents around me, I almost feel like I’m back in Dublin.

Cultural festivals, which often feature food, music, and art from the home country, are another festive way to immerse yourself in a foreign culture.

Ode to Sidney Pollack: Travel where his movies were made

Sidney Pollack died of cancer yesterday. When I heard the news, along with feeling sad about his death, I flashed to a certain restaurant in Hurley, New York that’s one of my favorite “when I go back home for a visit ” eateries,although it’s changed hands since Pollack used it as one of the settings for Tootsie.

The Hurley Mountain Inn where Dustin Hoffman bellied up to the bar with Charles Durning has been serving up family fare for years. My mom always headed here with friends for the spaghetti and meatballs. The last time I was there, my son was happy playing video games without the money to actually have them do anything.

Hurley is near Kingston in the Hudson Valley and the restaurant is worth the drive. Nothing fancy, but you’ll feel like you’re in a place that means something to the people who eat there. Along with Hurley, if you do a Sidney Pollack film tour of the world, you’ll see a lot. Consider these alone and you’ll be busy:

  1. Sketches of Frank Gehry–Pollack followed Frank Gehry around with a camera and captured the architectural genius found in the Vitra Museum in Germany, Maggie’s Centre, the Guggenheim in Bilbao, and the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
  2. Out of Africa–The Africa scenes were filmed in the Ngong Hills in Kenya. The Denmark scenes were in Surrey, England.
  3. The Electric Horseman–For the gorgeous scenery seen in the film, head to Zion National Park and other places in Utah. For the rest, head to Las Vegas.
  4. The Way We Were–Bask in a bit of opulence at Ballston Spa, New York and in front of The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.