In Uruguay, a Beach to Brag About

Sunday, October 8, 2006

WORTH A TRIP: " 'Punta' is the only place in the world worth spending the week between Christmas and New Year's Day." Bold words from the fall issue of Town & Country Travel . What is "Punta," anyway? Its full name is Punta del Este, Uruguay, and it's "the preferred summer vacation spot for the Latin American elite." Expensive by South American standards, it nonetheless represents a bargain for those used to European exchange rates. St. Tropez at Ocean City prices, if you will.

Beaches there are brava (rough and dramatic) on the ocean side and mansa (calm-watered) on the river side. The celebrity action (Leonardo DiCaprio has been spotted) is a short drive up the coast in La Barra and Jose Ignacio. But the best views are from Casapueblo, the museum, atelier and Dr. Seuss-ish "habitable sculpture" of artist Carlos Páez Vilaró on the Rio de la Plata. As for daily routine, it's "beach, eat, drink, sleep." Repeat as necessary.

WORTH A FLIP: Department of Irony, South Asian Division: Bangalore, India, worries about the number of local jobs going to foreigners. "Are we being Bangalored in Bangalore?" asked a recent headline. October's Conde Nast Traveler shows there's more to Bangalore than Westernized work. At nearby eco-resorts, wild peacocks preen and tigers lurk. For a fee, you can bathe an elephant. . . . Outside talks about Arizona's "other" canyon, using architectural terms: "If the Grand Canyon is the brutishly macho Empire State Building, [Canyon] de Chelly is the Chrysler . . . finer, more intricate, more sinuously feminine." Navajo guide Adam Teller escorts author Hampton Sides through de Chelly's rock formations and petroglyphs, and shares the tales of Massacre Cave, Canyon del Muerto and the Spider Woman (who eats disobedient children). . . .

Canoe & Kayak has an episode of Girls Gone Wild-erness: Lauren M. Whaley leads five recent high school grads on a 43-day canoe trip through Arctic Canada. Losing all their pots and pans on Day 6, they subsist on raw fish thereafter (and what's so bad about sushi?), until local Inuits give them some caribou meat. "Determination and focus keep our legs going and our hearts light." . . . "Men belong on horseback," says author Peter Heller in Men's Journal. "There is something deep inside that sings as soon as you are in the saddle." (Uh-huh. In our case it's singing "Rescue Me.") He goes "horsepacking" (their term) through Chilean Patagonia, sleeping under strange, Southern Hemisphere constellations, catching a trout in the Rio Torrentoso, clubbing it to death and eating it for breakfast. If there were any more testosterone in this magazine, it would have to shave.

WORTH A CLIP: National Geographic Traveler misnames its 50 "Tours of a Lifetime": Most of them would fit more properly under the title "Destinations Not to Tell Your Parents About Until After You Return." There's a lot of adventure to be had in the world: trekking in the Indian Himalayas; seeking mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda; sightseeing in Afghanistan. Or you could go to the North Pole via helicopter and skis. (Tell Mom you're going to the library.) . . . Here's one to put on the refrigerator: "A Dozen Ways to Die," from Backpacker . No. 1 is not "snakebite" (that takes a lame 11th place) -- it's simply "falling." There's a reason those guardrails are there. Drowning, heart attack (particularly among baby boomer men trying to prove something), hypothermia and heat stress round out the top five. . . . To make the cut, Travel + Leisure Family's "50 Best Family Resorts" in the United States and Canada must have "standout parents' activities" in addition to excellent children's programs. Many are upscale: One Ritz-Carlton has a "ski nanny"; one Four Seasons has a "ski butler."

WORTH A NOSH: "The Cultural Revolution broke the chain of inheritance from master to apprentice," a Taiwanese chef says of mainland cooking. So, per Gourmet , if you don't like the Chinese food in China, try Taipei. . . . And in a section of northern Italy where they speak German, it's perhaps inevitable that a local menu might include a dish with the name "Kartoffelteigtaschen mit Pfifferlingen" (potato ravioli with chanterelles). Saveur tries it, and a good deal more, in George Semler's account of his return to the Sudtirol of his ancestors.

-- Jerry V. Haines

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