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We've been following Matt Gross on his Grand Tour across Europe this summer, barely keeping our jealousy contained as he partied in Rome and volunteered at an organic farm in southern France.
But we were eager to ask him if travel through the unaffordable continent is really that great. And how the hell was he getting by on just 100 ($155) a day?
To find out, we called him up on Skype and recorded our video chat. Check it after the jump.
The Frugal Traveling Matt Gross is five weeks into his 12-week Grand Tour, and so far he's hit a number of classic vacation spots in Western Europe. But as he moves east, he's wondering what there might be worth doing near Lithuania.
So, since it's 2008, he's asking for The Internet's help in planning his Week 10. It sounds pretty gonzo:
I'm letting you, the readers, pick where I'll go in Week 10 of my 12-week Grand Tour. A Baltic beach town in Poland? A vineyard in Slovenia? Anything is possible. Well, almost.
It's not just the destination you'll pick--I want you to map out my entire week: How will I get there? What will I do? Where will I sleep? Where will I eat?
You can give Matt your picks over at his Grand Tour blog.
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention our own "Tell a guy where to go" crowdsourcing. The latest Jaunted Contest is underway, and your good ideas for airport layovers could net you a three-day Caribbean vacation. You can enter our contest here.
Airplanes without jet engines aren't for everyone, but great service is--and that's apparently what Porter Airlines is all about. We've shed light onto their unique business model before, and now the New York Post has done the same.
Best part of all is that the Porter "experience" is far better than anything currently available on this route [Toronto City Centre to Newark]. Come to think of it, I don't know of any commuter service (Porter uses sleek, but still turbo-prop, Bombardier Q400's) that has a sense of style and offers free sandwiches, free quality booze (Niagara wine! Belgian beer!) and its own-brand bottled water from some no-doubt-verdant valley in Quebec.
The real joy, though, is arriving in and departing from Toronto, where they've kitted out their very own terminal. The departures lounge is just like a business class lounge anywhere else--espresso machine, free internet, snacks, a help-yourself cooler of soft drinks.
Frugal Traveler Matt Gross also enjoyed his recent trip with Porter.
Here's hoping they stick around. But if not, we pray that someone else buys the swanky lounge so we can still get buzzed on triple lattes and use the free WiFi.
Our favorite frugal traveler Matt Gross seems to like our style because we mentioned the beauty of Kyoto last week. In this weekend's New York Times, Matt gave us some insights into a few more enticing parts of this stunning Japanese city, and we've got to admit, it still sounds good.
For example, at the Nanzenji Temple Matt found swarms of tourists at the front--but kept walking to find one of those quiet, soul-searching shrines that give you a sense of the real Japan. He also recommended the Nijo Castle and Arashiyama as good sightseeing destinations, overpopulation with tourists notwithstanding.
The best part was that Matt managed his weekend in Kyoto frugally--because like much of Japan, it ain't cheap. Big tip: Hit the bottom floor of department stores where food halls offer heaps of free samples, saving you the cost of a meal.
Uruguay Field Trip / Uruguay Travel / Uruguay-Travel-Map / Jaunted Field Trips / Restaurants / Beaches / Coffee Shops / Coffee / Matt Gross / → All Tags
Most of our tour through Uruguay was poorly timed: Montevideo was vacant for Holy Week, we missed the full moon party in Punta del Diablo and we were late for the season in Punta del Este.
By the time we showed up, just about everything was shut down. But rather than whine about our bad luck to our stone-faced hotel receptionist, we dug up an old review of what's worth checking out year-round in South America's South Beach.
The illustrious Matt Gross swung through Punta more than a year ago, but we figured the town's "most popular bakery," Medialunas Calentitas, would still be around. His description made it all the more enticing:
I ordered a quartet of their famous sticky-sweet croissants and a cortado (espresso with a little milk) for 95 pesos, and as I munched them outside at the surfer-chic picnic tables, latecomers cautiously approached the bakery, only to be turned away. For a moment, I felt like an insider.
New York Times travel columnist Matt Gross is living the dream. He works for a publication that can afford to send him all over the world. While he feigns "roughing it" as The Frugal Traveler title implies, he has $100 a day to work with, which would be plenty to keep us comfortable.
Seven weeks ago, he departed for a road trip across the United States. Apparently, he's working hard for the $100 a day. Matt's unearthed some virtually unknown cultural landmarks in unassuming Middle America.
Highlights of his trip include Bardstown, Kentucky or the "the ancient heart of bourbon country;" architecture finds in Columbus, Indiana, a counter-culture community in southwest Wisconsin, and Viatnamese dining in Oklahoma City. Between stops, driving the long, slow hills and flat stretches of land between destinations consumes the rest of his writing.
We wrote similar diary entries driving to visit our grandparents in Boca as kids, but those didn't ever make the Times' travel section.
Yesterday morning, NY Times writer Matt Gross, a.k.a. The Frugal Traveler, took off for his three-month road trip across the Continental U.S. He packed up the 1986 Volvo station wagon he bought on CraigsList. Or is it a 1989 model? The article cites it as both. Can someone ask the Times if he bought two cars?
He plans to drive from New York City to Seattle. The trip starts with the cops taking Matt's footage from the Varrazano-Narrows Bridge. The camera strapped to the roof of his car tipped them off. Apparently, it's illegal to tape NYC's bridges and tunnels. Who knew?
Readers can give Matt advice on where to stop along the way, follow interactive maps, and view video of his travels.
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The sun was setting, and I was just heading home when Nacho called. A friend of a friend, he'd heard I was in town and wanted to know if I was up for a night out...I can't say I remember very well what followed, but we bounced around, never spending more than $2 for a beer.
Now, that's our kind of town. Matt spent plenty of time grubbing too, with stops at a street-side stand for an empenada and a diner for a ham-and-cheese breakfast sandwich. Though he skipped Tantra--maybe the only restaurant in town with tandoori mofongo--he did finally end up at the Nuyorican Cafe after a long night and a plate of hot wings. The verdict? Sounds like they were amazing.
This week's New York Times travel section steamed into port with a bounty of cruise reports. (We read them so you don't have to.) But it's not all shuffleboard and overpriced trinkets. Things get spicy with a story from Frugal Matt about his latest adventure: a ride on easyCruiseOne.
True, we remember reading this article last year. But we admit that easyCruiseOne has all the ingredients needed to remain the most talked about ship in the Caribbean. Gorgeous French women? Check. Stories of a strip club named Seaman's? Check. Two for one happy hours? Two checks for the price of one.
The ship also sets itself apart with its a la carte business model. Food, drinks and maid service are all optional. The easyCruise focus is on partying in the hot tub, but Matt enjoyed two of the three--also optional--shore excursions he took. So would he do it all again?
as I walked down the gangway, I realized I was, if not a cruise person, then at least an easyCruise person
Hey, we'll drink to that.
We can't imagine a travel article starting with a better line than this:
Perched on a bar stool and sipping a $7 Negroni, I surveyed the casino of the Conrad Hotel in Punta del Este with keen but detached interest.Frugal Traveler Matt Gross goes on to tell us, in yesterday's Times piece, all about cavorting for a weekend in "the Hamptons of South America" for less than $300. After sipping his cocktail, he hooked up with a currency-trading local--always a great idea, btw--and hit some dance clubs, which didn't get going until 3 a.m.
Frugal Matt spent the next day recovering and eating "sticky-sweet croissants"and four-cheese pizza. (Uruguay has a sizeable Italian and "my family is from Italy" population.) Aside from kicking it at the beach, our hero didn't get up to much else, but from the sounds of it that's the point in Punta del Este.
Oh, one last thing: Matt stayed at La Posta del Cangrejo just outside of town. Sure, it's a little bit out of the way, but it was good enough for Bush-41 when he was in town. Old white guys? Hey, it really is like the Hamptons!
Yesterday's Times turned on the bore with its shocking exposes of wine tours, walking tours, and--gasp!--archictecture. Matt Gross, the "Frugal Traveler," a.k.a. that guy you're still jealous of, provided some respite from the yawn-fest, however, with his Barcelona report.
Gross stayed at Hostal Gat Raval, a surprisingly hip hostel in Barcelona's "equivalent of Manhattan's East Village." At 42 a night, he got shared showers, a "functional and clean" room with a mini-balcony, and choice people watching outside the joint. He escaped the crowds, at Irati, a tapas bar, and by checking out La Boqueria in the wee hours of the morning before regular market swarms arrive. He also describes a sublime experience at Inopia, a restaurant run by Albert Adrià, brother of El Bulli superchef Ferran.
The total for his weekend in the city? 341.10, including lodging, transportation, food, and shopping. Not bad, and it actually sounds like a trip we might want to repeat ourselves.
· Footloose in Spain's Capital of Style, Barcelona [NYT]
· Hostal Gat Raval Reviews [TripAdvisor]
World Hum had an excellent interview yesterday with NYT Frugal Traveler Matt Gross. You may remember him as the guy you were jealous of as he traveled around the world on the New York Times' dime. Well, he's back, he's getting married, and he didn't like Croatia.
According to Matt, it just wasn't impressive as, you know, Bishkek or Tirana:
I just wasn't all that excited about anything that I saw or did there. I had a fairly good time and I'm curious to maybe go back three or four years from now to see how it's developed, but that's more an intellectual curiosity rather than from-the-heart desire to return. Everywhere else I felt like I left with so much more that I wanted to do, people I wanted to spend more time with, food that I didn't get a chance to try. Everywhere else seemed so limitless, yet Croatia's ... Croatia. Every town on the coast has it's beautiful little old town with a hill and a church and white marble and terra cotta roofs. I spent two weeks there--and then I was ready to leave.Ouch! Dubrovnik may be Paris on the Adriatic, but it's in no danger of replacing Tbilisi on Matt's list anytime soon. Hope they don't take it too hard over there.
[Image via Meitta/Flickr]