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IT—Inside Traveler
By Jessie Johnston and Emily King

November 2, 2006:

IT's Music Review

IT was feeling rather energetic today until we started listening to "Delta Sleep" from Kelly Howell's new Relieve Jet Lag CD. Its soothing music layered with "precision-engineered sound waves" put us to sleep at our desks, which we suppose was the point. The two-CD set includes three pieces of music: "Delta Sleep" (60 minutes of Delta waves), "Theta Relaxation" (30 minutes of Theta and Alpha waves), and "Beta Refresher" (30 minutes of High-Beta and Gamma waves). The first two songs are meant to put you to sleep, and they do. The third—to be played prior to landing—is supposed to wake (annoy?) you. According to the back cover, the two-hour program "restores the brain's sodium and potassium levels, thus reducing mental fatigue and brain fog." In other words, you ought to "arrive at your destination feeling refreshed, alert and ready to do business, or to enjoy your vacation." (Fair enough. When we finished listening, we were definitely ready for a vacation). The brain wave therapy is also supposed to diminish painful ear-popping. Unfortunately, we couldn't simulate drops in air pressure during our office test-drive.

The two-CD set is available for $16.95. For those without a Discman, you can download the music as an mp3 file at a two-dollar discount. No portable CD player or iPod? We suggest the tried and true jet-lag antidote known as Xanax.

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IT's Reader Roundup: The Last Supper

We all know Traveler readers love to eat. With this final installment of our Amsterdam trilogy, they share their favorite places to do just that.

Kimberly Ray, of Portland, Oregon, visited Amsterdam on a European vacation a few years back: "I allowed myself to wander the streets with complete abandon. One day I happened upon a chocolate store with an unusual name: Unlimited Delicious. I had stumbled upon what is by far the best chocolate store I've ever visited. Their bonbon flavors were so unique (caramel cayenne amarins, tomato balsamic pimento, and cardamom), I had to bring some home to the States. I hauled those boxes across four more countries, and it was worth it."

Mia MacDonald, of Brooklyn, New York, has some dining recommendations for the vegetarians among us: "A great place to grab a tasty bite is Maoz. The menu is simple and vegetarian: falafel, fries, and soft drinks. The falafel is excellent, as is the salad bar with pickled eggplant, olive paste, hot peppers, tabouleh, and other garnishes you can top it off with. For more elegant vegetarian fare, try de Waaghals ("Daredevil"). The menu changes biweekly and features world cuisine. I enjoyed the Japanese-inspired entrée—lots of root vegetables and shiitake mushrooms—and an eggplant curry that combined just the right smokiness and spice. Also good is Green Planet, where most of the ingredients are organic and the atmosphere is crunchy-chic. The vegan crostini—grilled bread with olive oil, humus and roasted vegetables antipasti—was hearty but not heavy. Main courses, like teriyaki wok stir-fry, are reimagined with paprika peppers, lots of fresh vegetables, and cashews. If you're in the mood for desert, the tofu lemon 'cheesecake,' served with a fruit sauce, is light and sweet with just the right amount of sour. Finally, don't miss out on De Bolhoed ("Bowler Hat"), one of Amsterdam's oldest vegetarian restaurants and a great place for a long, languid lunch or dinner. Bolhoed's orange and green dining room resembles an eclectic living room, with mock Tiffany lamps, a large, friendly cat, big windows looking onto the cobbled street and canal, and a statue of Buddha. The Bolhoed salad is a vast mix of greens, sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, avocado, nuts, and pumpkin seeds. Mediterranean paté is chunky, multicolored, and served with crusty fresh bread. The quiche is popular, as are Bolhoed's filling croissants, made from unusual and delicious combinations like leek, seaweed, and tofu."

Doug Kimball, of Everett, Washington, recommends La Romanca Mea, a Romanian deli: "I had several samples of wonderful Romanian cuisine (homemade sausage and superb salads), but the most fabulous item in this place is a small cookie that looks exactly like a walnut. They are baked in halves and stuffed with chocolate walnut paste—not overly sweet, but with a taste that stays in your mouth well over a minute after the last swallow."

Mike Flatch, of Royal Oak, Michigan, told us about two favorite haunts: "Café Gollem is a tiny gem of a bar on a pedestrian street. It's small on space (total occupancy is a couple dozen people) but big on beer, carrying over 200 beers from breweries in the Netherlands, Belgium, and other European countries. The atmosphere will remind you of your favorite dive back home. At the Koffiehuis de Hoek I had one of the best cups of coffee ever, matched with a delicious and very large pancake topped with cheese. The two-person staff was very friendly."

To conclude our roundup, former Amsterdam resident Margie Uttormark sent us an eclectic roundup of her own: "At de Bijenkorf, the giant department store on Dam Square, there is a restaurant, La Ruche, with views of the square. They serve amazing dessert waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Try their koffie verkeerd. Restaurant De Belhamel is a beautiful canal-side restaurant in the Jordaan—a very romantic place for a special date. The Odeon is a fun place for drinks and dancing right on the Singel Canal. Akbar Indian Restaurant serves great Indian food right off Leidseplein." She also offers up nonedible suggestions: "Take a day trip to Haarlem and visit the Corrie ten Boom Museum and the Frans Hals Museum. Go to the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, where you can see Vermeer's 'Girl With a Pearl Earring.'"

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From October 31, 2006:

IT's Halloween!

In celebration of pumpkins, witches, and bags full of candy, IT searched the country for Halloween festivities suited for those of us too old (tear!) for trick-or-treating. Below we've listed three events worth your travels:

Tampa, Florida: Help the mythical Mama Guava "take the bore out of Ybor" with her annual Guavaween in Ybor City, Tampa's historic Latin district. The Halloween happening brings in about 80,000 guests during its nighttime celebrations; festivities include the Mama Guava Stumble Parade, cooking and costume contests, and various big-name bands/artists (Slick Rick, LeToya, and Seether) performing on four different stages. Entry: $15

New York, New York: This year New York's Village Halloween Parade has chosen an Ancient Celtic communal fire theme. To clarify, "the procession will be led by a retinue of dancing Jack-O-Lantern and Squash Blossom Giant Puppets bearing the communal fire and its guardian spirit within a great pumpkin lantern," writes Jeanne Fleming, the artistic and producing director. Anyone can march in the parade, so long as you line up on 6th Avenue (south of Spring Street and north of Canal) between 6:30 and 8:30 pm. With more than two million people in attendance, the event is the nation's largest public Halloween celebration. Entry: Free

Lahaina, Maui: Join more than 20,000 ghouls and goblins crammed into a span of three blocks for Lahaina's 17th annual Halloween celebration. Beginning at 4:30 p.m. with a costume parade for the wee ones, the night moves on with live Afro-Latino and reggae performances, a variety of costume contests (like the Ghoulish Gala Karaoke Costume Contest), and general (well, raucous) celebrations. Entry: free. However, if you're not already on the island and/or you don't have reservations to stay in town, you're too late. Many hotels book up a year in advance, so book today for next year's trip to Maui.

Prefer another destination? Madison, Wisconsin; Anoka, Minnesota; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Salem, Massachusets all have celebrations worthy of your Tweety Bird costume too.

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Cravable Croatia

It seems National Geographic Traveler staffers can't get enough of Eastern Europe. Fresh from a weeklong trip to Croatia, chief researcher Marilyn Terrell dishes on her day in Zadar:

"The hot sun gleaming on the blue Adriatic was too hard to resist. 'Order me calamari and a salad,' I called to my lunch companions
as I headed for the ladies' room with my bathing suit. I ran across the street onto the stony beach, where older couples were toasting themselves on this quiet Monday afternoon on Croatia's Dalmatian Coast. I plunged right in, the warm, clear, salty water just what I needed after five hours in a van on switchback mountain roads curving down to the sea. The long, bulky island of Ugljan dominated the horizon, and straight ahead lay the beckoning pile of Zadar—a former Roman colony then a wealthy Venetian port in medieval and Renaissance times—with a cluster of red roofs and a limestone campanile pointing to heaven.

"I reluctantly eased myself out so as not to hold up the tour, dried off in the sun and the breeze, and returned to the terrace at Restaurant Niko just as my calamari arrived, perfectly grilled, with a taste that was sweeter, I think, after my invigorating dip.

"Exploring Zadar on my own that evening, I asked some friendly high school kids
how to get to the old town. They spoke perfectly inflected American English, thanks to a steady diet of undubbed American TV. I asked why they were getting out of school so late, and they explained that there aren't enough classrooms and teachers in Croatia, so the school kids attend in two shifts: 'One week we go from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the next week we go from 1 to 6 p.m.' I asked if they liked that arrangement? 'We LOVE it! We can sleep late this week.' I admitted that my chronically sleep-deprived kids would love that schedule too.

"I followed their directions through the park near their school, which was painted all over the front with graffiti as high as a teenager could reach. It helped to cover up the shrapnel holes in the façade from the war with Serbia that ended in 1995. Then I passed through the imposing Land Gate, a grand entryway to the city built by the Venetians, with their telltale winged lion symbol of St. Mark, on top.

"In town I wandered a labyrinth of narrow stone streets shining in the lamplight, packed with fashionable shops, restaurants, people, and thankfully no cars. The streets opened up suddenly to a large square, the remains of the ancient Roman forum, where kids were jumping their skateboards over the antiquities in front of the round, ninth-century church of St. Donat.

"What I loved about Zadar is that there weren't gobs of tourists (October is off-season), but rather lots of people enjoying life in their own beautiful city. Although it's got three millennia of history, the city feels like a place where people know how to live, not like a museum. Perhaps having survived a devastating war ten years ago has given them a keener appreciation of ordinary pleasures.

"Further along toward the port, I discovered the Franciscan monastery, built in 1283, the oldest Gothic building in Dalmatia. It seemed closed, but I heard some singing from the cloister. I ducked in a side entrance to the chapel just as Mass by candlelight was ending, and the people in the pews sang a celestial a cappella hymn that filled the small stone space as such music has for centuries. I thanked St. Francis for the unexpected gift, and moved on.

"Along the seaside promenade, just past the ferry dock, I came upon more haunting music. This time it sounded like whale songs. In 2005, the Croatian architect Nikola Bašić built a series of stone steps that go down to the Adriatic, and placed 35 organ pipes underneath. The wind and waves push air against the pipes and make these mysterious chords, which come out through holes under the stairs. When the wind and waves are strong, the music is louder, and when there isn't much wind, the Sea Organ (which won the 2006 European Prize for Urban Public Spaces) doesn't make much sound. I sat on the steps listening to the magical sea music, watching the sun set and the stars come out over the mainland."

Stay ITuned. Next week we'll bring you Marilyn's beyond-Zadar recommendations.


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Emily King, Traveler's assistant to the editor, claims Midnight Milky Ways are her favorite Halloween treat. Researcher Jessie Johnston prefers miniature Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  


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