Thursday’s Travel News: New Hotels; Whiskey Tours in Colorado

Our weekday morning digest that includes consumer news, deals, tips and anything else that travelers may want to know.


1 Hotel Central Park, a 229-room eco-friendly property in Manhattan, is scheduled to open in early August, but before then, locals and tourists are invited to pick herbs from its street-level gardens. The varieties include purple basil, lemon verbena, lemongrass and rosemary, and decals alongside the plants have recipes and tips on how guests can use them at home. The general manager, Hans Schaepman, said that the gesture is meant to generate excitement about the hotel. “We couldn’t have thought of a better way to get ready for opening than by honoring nature with the community,” he said.


Australian black truffles are in season from June through early September during the country’s winter, and two different experiences — one in the United States and the other in Australia — offer ways to enjoy them.

Scarpetta, the Italian restaurant at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel, has a five-course menu available through mid-September featuring a shaving of the truffles in every dish. The choices include steak tartare with preserved truffle and pecorino, polenta with truffled mushrooms and halibut with morels, fava beans and tarragon oil; $195 a person.

In Australia, the tour operator MP Experiences sells a two-hour truffle hunt on the weekends through August at a 70-acre farm near Melbourne. Called the Truffle Melbourne Red Hill Tour, the excursion is led by the property’s owner Jenny McAuley — along with her dog Thomas — and ends with a three-course truffle lunch. The price is 116 Australian dollars, or about $88, a person.

Hotel Review: Les Sources de Caudalie in Bordeaux


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From 280 euros, $300 at $1.07 to the euro.

For the last 25 years, Les Sources de Caudalie, a five-star family-owned Bordeaux wine country inn with 61 rooms and suites, three notable restaurants and a spa, has offered a discreet paean to the Gallic good life. Since last summer, a 12-suite outbuilding, an airy fitness center with pool, and Rouge, a casual tapas bar with high-end grocery, have added village-like approachability to this bucolic haven of French art de vivre.

A 20-minute drive south from Bordeaux, the hotel’s rough-hewed exterior builds on its rural setting, where wine has been made since the 14th century.
The Room

Each room is different. My basic room, Vintage, evoked the romance of Victorian-era travel. Gleaming wooden floors, an antique Chinese cabinet, sepia-toned prints of clipper ships on the walls and the balcony terrace had a calming effect. The bed, covered with a snowy quilted throw, and a “chair-and-a-half” sofa, in plum-toned linen, both invited napping.

The Bathroom

The spacious, marble-lined bathroom had a deep tub, two pedestal sinks, monogrammed white towels on a warmer and a selection of Caudalie-brand products, including a fragrant candle burning when I arrived. But the walk-in shower faced the toilet and, without a curtain, water sprayed onto the floor despite the rain shower head.

If a glass of wine overlooking vineyards or a wildflower-fringed pond doesn’t calm you, there’s the original Caudalie Vinothérapie spa, with 15 treatment rooms and a host of wine-based options like the Cabernet Crush exfoliation (88 euros). I chose a dip in the outdoor “wine barrel” hot tub before heading to the winery, where hotel guests can reserve a free visit and tasting. My guide, Lise, gave one of the best-run tours I’ve had in a decade of touring such properties. Other activities include cooking and wine-tasting classes (105 euros, with lunch), and there are an indoor and outdoor pool, a tennis court, a three-hole golf course, a fitness trail and bicycles; all free to guests.
Room Service

My continental breakfast (26 euros) arrived in 13 minutes, on a wooden tray. It included artfully mismatched china and weighty silver cutlery on Basque linen, fresh-squeezed orange juice, a pot of hot coffee, croissants with toasted country bread (still warm) in a basket accompanied by Bordier butter and Alain Milliat jam plus a jar of fruit yogurt from Normandy.

The opening of Rouge in June 2014 — a casual bar and upscale grocery with dozens of picnic-ready items (like jars of duck foie gras terrine, 16 euros) and an excellent selection of over 70 bottles of regional wines for sale — has complemented the Michelin-starred La Grand’Vigne and La Table du Lavoir, a farm-to-table country bistro (all overseen by the chef Nicolas Masse). At Rouge, each bite of the tapas-style “bar food” was sublime, from the half-puck of creamy goat milk cheese with cherry jam (5 euros) to a slice of artisanal Bordeaux “gratton” pâté spiked with fresh chile peppers (7 euros). Add a glass of wine and you may find that you’re hard pressed to leave the low rattan chairs on the bar’s parasol-shaded stone front porch.
Bottom Line

Before I departed, a porter pressed a bottle of water “for the road” into my hand, one of many thoughtful staff gestures I experienced there. This bling-free country retreat is in the vanguard of a more approachable style taking hold in the Bordeaux region.

In Oklahoma, Efforts to Save House of Last Comanche Chief

A torrential storm lashed tiny Cache, Okla. (population 2,906), in late May, flooding homes and forcing residents onto their roofs to await rescue. But the most devastating damage may have been to a house that has stood empty for nearly 60 years.

Star House, built on Fort Sill around 1890 by Quanah Parker, the renowned last chief of the Comanche Nation, already felt like the loneliest tourist attraction in America. Open only briefly each day, the crumbling house sits on the back lot of a long-shuttered amusement park. It has been deteriorating for years, especially because large sections of the roof are missing, allowing the elements to damage the upper floors.

The owner and tour guide Wayne Gipson, 53, is deeply attached to Star House, and protective of it, yet acknowledges that he lacks the time and money to properly maintain or market it.

Despite numerous offers, he has also refused to rent or sell the home, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, to anyone, including the Comanche Nation.

But tribal leaders and Parker’s descendants now see that spring deluge, which damaged or ruined original rugs, wallpaper and furniture, as the potential wellspring of the house’s salvation.

“I think the best thing that could have happened is the flood,” said Chenoa Barhydt, director of marketing and economic development for the Comanche Nation, which again hopes to persuade Mr. Gipson to relinquish control. “This will start a conversation about saving it.”

“There’s an open door now,” said Ardith Parker Leming, great-granddaughter of Quanah Parker.

S. C. Gwynne’s best-selling 2010 book, “Empire of the Summer Moon,” brought Parker and the Comanche history to a popular audience, and although he is less known by most Americans than Sitting Bull, Geronimo and Crazy Horse, he is a significant presence in Native American history. The son of a Comanche chief, Peta Nocona, and a captured white woman, Cynthia Ann Parker, he was a feared warrior during the Comanches’ final years on the Southwest plains. Parker then adapted his experience and leadership skills on the reservation, earning wealth and success for himself and his people.

Parker’s two-story, eight-bedroom home features large stars on the roof to remind visitors that he was equal in stature and power to American generals. He hosted military officers and politicians, as well as Geronimo and the Kiowa chief Lone Wolf.

“He made the transition from the tepees to live in a very modern house because he knew it had to happen not just for him but for the rest of the tribal members as well,” said Wallace Coffey, who is in his sixth term as the Comanche Nation tribal chairman.

Mr. Gipson’s uncle Herbert Woesner bought Star House and moved it to his 250-acre property; he added other historic buildings — including the home of the outlaw Frank James — and, in 1960, opened Eagle Park, an amusement park, there. Soaring insurance costs closed Eagle Park in 1985, Mr. Gipson said, yet Mr. Woesner regaled tourists with Parker’s story until he died in 2008. He left the property to Mr. Gipson and Mr. Gipson’s sister, Ginger. But maintaining old wooden buildings is costly, and the house has been on Oklahoma’s list of Most Endangered Historic Places since 2007.

Mr. Gipson is willing to give tours only if visitors show up around 2 p.m. and wait for him to close up his roadside diner, gas station and trading post. It would be easy to drive past the rusted trading post and Eagle Park signs thinking this is an abandoned site. The trading post was closed when I first arrived because Mr. Gipson was next door, toiling in the diner’s kitchen as he has since his mother died a few years ago.

After I bought a few postcards (I was his only customer of the day) and waited and waited, we finally drove past the ruins of Eagle Park to reach the Star House, and Mr. Gipson, who had been taciturn, became a genial and chatty guide.

Before the flooding, the major concern was the roof, or what was left of it. In the spring the Comanche Nation brought in a contractor to evaluate the cost of repairs, which the tribe would have paid for, according to Will Owens, tribal administrator. “We just really want to preserve it,” he said.

Meanwhile, a frustrated Mr. Coffey was contemplating building a replica Star House on Comanche property nearby to serve as a bed-and-breakfast and to educate people about Parker. “That was the only alternative I had,” he said, adding that he has always consulted with Parker’s descendants about each potential decision.

Mr. Gipson sees his heritage as caretaker of Star House — his family has owned it nearly as long as the Parkers did — and it pains him to know he can’t do right by it. He asked that I not take close-up photos of the house because dressers, rugs and mattresses were dragged onto the porch to dry or be disposed of.

Monday’s Travel News: American Merges Systems; Fare Deals to Europe.


Over the weekend, merger partners American Airlines and US Airways began to integrate their reservations systems, a technology move considered the most delicate phase of the carriers’ two-year-old marriage. The 90-day process is scheduled to conclude Oct. 17 when all US Airways flights will be converted to American flights. A similar merger by United and Continental in 2012 resulted in service delays and check-in glitches. US Airways went through its own messy experience while merging America West’s reservation systems in 2007, an overnight move that current management has acknowledged influenced the slower switchover with American.

impressive steps to have it more or less be that way,” said Seth Kaplan, managing partner at Airline Weekly.


For lovers of the great outdoors — and spontaneity — two outfitters are offering deals on late summer trips. The rafting specialist Row Adventuresis selling its six-day trips on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, departing Aug. 31 and Sept. 9, at $1,765 per adult, a $200 discount. The company said the popular trip tends to be fully booked a year out and that it rarely has availability in season.

Its sibling company, Row Sea Kayak Adventures, has put two itineraries on sale. The four-day Orca Basecamp Kayak Tour, which includes four days of paddling and three nights of camping in British Columbia’s Johnstone Strait, is discounted $100 per person for Aug. 30 and Sept. 9 departures at $1,120 per adult. Operating in the same area, the Aug. 24 six-day Blackfish Waters Orca Kayak Tour has been reduced by $200 to $1,345.


For those considering a trip to Europe, several European carriers are offering incentives to book now with short-lived fall sales. Air France and its sibling KLM Royal Dutch Airlines both have begun fare sales from United States destinations to Europe through July 23 for fall and winter travel. Air France’s “Oh La La” sale offers fares from $850 from Kennedy International Airport in New York, $950 from Boston and $1,150 from Atlanta or Los Angeles between Aug. 23 and Oct. 24 to destinations including Amsterdam, London, Nice, Paris, Rome and others. From Oct. 25 through Dec. 10, those fares drop $25 from New York and Boston, $75 from Los Angeles and $100 from Atlanta. KLM’s “YouGO!” promotion offers virtually the same deal from the same United States hubs to nine European cities and the same fare drops for winter travel by Oct. 25. A seven-day stay is required by both airlines.

Travel to Cuba: The Latest on Flights, Hotels and Credit Cards

As the United States reopens its Embassy in Havana, here’s what you need to know about traveling to Cuba. Much has changed already since the publication of new regulations for travel to Cuba on Jan. 16, which losened some restrictions on travel for Americans, though some travelers still cannot just hop on a plane and go.

Q. Can any American citizen visit Cuba now?

A. Yes, and no. Any American wishing to visit Cuba for one of 12 purposes may now do so without having to apply for a license on a case-by-case basis. Tourism is still banned by the embargo, so beach holidays are off the cards. The 12 categories of legal travel to Cuba include visits to close relatives, academic programs for which students receive credits, professional research, journalistic or religious activities, and participation in public performances or sports competitions.

What are people-to-people trips?

People-to-people trips are educational programs that fall into one of the 12 categories of general-license travel. They’re one of the most popular ways to go to Cuba because anybody can join a trip and your itinerary is worked out for you. Because they are organized trips with full schedules of meetings, lectures and visits to artists’ studios or small businesses or community projects, they are not cheap – about $2,500 to $4,000 per week including accommodation and flights.

How do I buy a ticket?

Flights to Cuba are generally run by licensed charter operations and fly out of Miami. Since the new rules were announced earlier this year, JetBlue announced they would add more flights to Cuba from New York and Tampa. Passengers still need to make arrangements with the company ABC Charters, with which JetBlue has a partnership. The major carriers, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, all said they might add more flights as well. Regular passengers flights might take time however. Airlines have said that it could take a year or more to negotiate air service agreements between the countries’ aviation authorities. Of course, non-American commercial airlines fly to Cuba from many destinations. Americans who meet Treasury requirements can fly through a third country, such as Mexico, Panama, Grand Cayman or Canada — an option that may even work out to be less expensive than taking charter flights.

Can I use credit cards?


Under the new regulations, American travelers to Cuba will be able to pay for expenses with an American credit card. It is not clear how long it will take for banks to begin offering the service, however. In addition, there are few ATMs in Cuba, and many establishments do not have the means to process credit card payments, so cash will be king for some time to come. It may be a good idea to take pounds and euros, which get a better exchange rate in Cuba than the United States dollar.

What can American citizens bring back?

Americans can now bring back up to $400 worth of souvenirs, including $100 worth of cigars. If you have ever bought good Cuban cigars, though, you’ll know that $100 will not fill your humidor.

Kazakhstan Expands Visa-Free Travel Program

MOSCOW — Kazakhstan said on Wednesday that it would expand a visa-free travel program to 19 countries and principalities for visitors staying up to 15 days, after the success of a pilot project.

The former Soviet republic in Central Asia, bordered by Russia and China, among others, said the new rules would eliminate visa requirements for travelers from Australia, Belgium, Britain, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

The new policy will remain in effect until at least the end of 2017.

Kazakhstan’s economy has struggled in recent months, hampered by a recession in Russia, which has been grappling with lower oil prices and international economic sanctions related to President Vladimir V. Putin’s policies in Ukraine.
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a Shimmering Skyline on the SteppeAUG. 21, 2014

“As a rapidly growing economy and a place of great atural beauty,” Kazakhstan’s minister of internal affairs, Kalmukhanbet Kassymov, said in a statement, “Kazakhstan has a lot to offer to both tourists and business travelers, and we are delighted to welcome them.”

In Santa Fe, City, Sky and History

Adobe architecture dominates downtown Santa Fe and its environs. CreditJack Parsons

At roughly 7,000 feet above sea level,Santa Fe, N.M., offers visitors a culturally diverse experience, steeped in the history of the American West. The relatively dry climate (with cool mornings and nights) and above-average air quality attract many outdoor enthusiasts to the area, which has nearly 1.5 million acres of national forest. With a compact downtown dominated by pueblo-style architecture and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background, Santa Fe has preserved its inviting, small-town feel.

Don Pedro de Peralta, a Spanish conquistador who later became governor-general of New Mexico, established the present-day location of the city from 1609 to 1610. As a result, Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the United States, despite New Mexico’s relatively young statehood. (The state was admitted to the Union in 1912, ahead of only Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii.)

In order to further understand the city’s place in American history, thePalace of the Governors, located in the Santa Fe Historic District, should top any travel list. The long adobe building, constructed in 1610, is the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States. It is open daily from May through October; a single museum admission costs $9 for nonresidents. (Admission is free from 5 to 8 p.m. on Fridays from May through October.)

The Santa Fe Railyard, a bustling downtown shopping and dining district, occupies about 50 acres, including stores ranging from Molecule, which specializes in contemporary design, to REI, the outdoor recreation and sporting goods company. The venue also has live music and movie screenings, among other events, throughout the year.

For a solid dining option in the city, Ms. Santos recommends the Coyote Cafe and Rooftop Cantina, also located downtown near Santa Fe Plaza. The menu includes Hawaiian tuna sashimi with vegetable ribbon salad and Asian sweet soy sauce ($22) and mesquite grilled Maine lobster tails with organic spring onions and spicy creamy chile sauce ($42).

Ms. Santos said the restaurant has “an inventive and upscale dining experience that’s still true to Southwestern cuisine,” but offered a tip regarding the menu.

“The portions are huge,” she advised.