2012年12月31日 星期一

But when I finally arrived, my first impression was simple: wow.

Destination: Wellness

Jim Wilson/The New York Times; Sam Hodgson for The New York Times
Clockwise from top left: Pacific views at the Esalen Institute, reflexology path at La Costa Resort and Spa, yoga and pool at Rancho La Puerta. More Photos »

SO I’m sitting in a hotel in upstate New York with my feet in a bucket of warm water charged with electricity when it suddenly hits me that maybe “getting well” wasn’t going to be as much fun as I thought it was going to be.

The procedure I was receiving was an “ionic detox foot bath,” one of dozens of allegedly medicinal services offered during a Health and Wellness Weekend held in November at the Edge Hotel, a woodsy establishment in Lyons Falls, N.Y. In this case, the bath involved placing my feet in a small bucket of salt water charged with a small current for half an hour — a process that was meant to draw out the “yucky stuff” in my body by osmosis according to its practitioner, a frizzy-haired former chain smoker named Brenda, who assured me the bath was perfectly safe. 

“But,” she added with a laugh, “I don’t know anything about ampage.” 

Oh boy. At first glance, this mission had seemed like a breeze: a search for “wellness” — that seemingly unimpeachable state that has become as common a come-on in travel circles as “eco-friendly.” There are wellness retreats, wellness diets, wellness beauty treatments, wellness classes, wellness resorts, wellness hotels, wellness weekends and, of course, wellness experts. 

“Wellness is this feeling of confidence, this feeling of vitality, this feeling of “You got this,’ ” said Dr. Jim Nicolai, the medical director of the Andrew Weil integrative wellness program at Miraval Resort and Spa, in Tucson, Ariz. “Wellness is a verb just as much as an adjective.”
And, often, a very lucrative verb, dressing up everything from alternative medicines to anti-aging products. A week at Miraval, for example, can set you back $475 a night. And it’s not just for scenic spots either: the MGM Grand in Las Vegas has added special wellness rooms and suites; Canyon Ranch’s SpaClub in Vegas also employs “wellness professionals.” In October, the InterContinental Hotels Group, which owns Holiday Inn, announced plans for its Even Hotels — with an “intrinsic focus on wellness in terms of food, work, exercise and rest” — at dozens of locations across the country. So-called wellness tourism is estimated to be a $106 billion chunk of the trillion-dollar worldwide “wellness cluster,” a market that includes travel as well as things like medical tourism, nutrition and fitness, according to a 2010 study prepared for the Global Spa and Wellness Summit by SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research firm. 

But what exactly is wellness? I thought I’d find out. And so, saddled with a sore Achilles’ tendon, an ever-present threat of heartburn and all manner of life stressors, I embarked on a cross-country search. I was left, on various occasions, body-weary, sleep-deprived and incredibly waterlogged. Along the way I meditated and hyperventilated, and was plyometric-ed, watsu-ed and ceremonially “crowned.” I hiked and ran, floated and swam. I had my chakras read — my aura looks like a giant pistachio — and ate more quinoa than I can remember. And at the Esalen Institute, perched on the California coast and seemingly on the edge of the world, I got naked with a bunch of strangers and watched the sunset. 

ACCORDING to SRI, the wellness movement is “a proactive and holistic approach” meant to address “the root causes of our personal and societal ills.” The term wellness, though, has old roots and myriad modern meanings. Dr. Halbert Dunn, author of the 1961 book “High-Level Wellness,” described it as something that included self-knowledge, creative expression and good health. Since then, that definition has evolved to the broader one we have today, which includes sleek, strictly regimented operations like the Ranch at Live Oak, a $5,600-a-week “endurance, wellness and nutrition program” in Malibu, Calif. 

But there are still places where you can go to experience something more along the lines of what Dr. Dunn was talking about. Though Esalen does not drape itself in wellness terminology, the 50-year-old institute is still advertising its goal of “pioneering deep change in self and society,” and thus seemed like a pretty good place to explore the roots of what wellness might be. For me, Esalen long had a reputation as a mystical hideaway on the California coast, but unexpected guests have not traditionally simply dropped in. Most are there to attend one of the institute’s hundreds of workshops, which can range from tantric sex to Gestalt theory. (Not at the same time, of course.) 

Over the years, Esalen started allowing for so-called “personal retreats,” which you can book after donating at least $50 to the Institute. I did exactly that, and booked a $650-a-night “point house” in mid-November. 

Mind you, just getting to Esalen had involved flying across the country and then driving three hours south from San Francisco, a long day that had left me with an empty belly and soft brain. 

But when I finally arrived, my first impression was simple: wow. 

Situated on a nugget of land thrust into the Pacific, Esalen has commanding views of the California coastline, with its cliffs tapering into the ocean, and a campus that is both rustic and seemingly in harmony with Mother Nature. Vines creep along cobwebbed and rust-flecked fences that line the edge of a central glade where groups do HoopYogini, which combines yoga with a hula hoop. Monarch butterflies and green hummingbirds flit about the institute’s central garden — organic, naturally — while a stream burbles down a canyon to the surf below. At one point I looked down during a walk and saw the words “Thank you” and “Love” in small stone and twigs arranged on the ground. 

Well, I thought, that was easy. I feel better already. 

But as Esalen’s acolytes might say, the road to inner peace doesn’t take place in one night, which was all I had. Nor is it always luxurious. While the point house was a treat, with a small cliffside deck, complete with an old bathtub, much of the lodging here is more rudimentary, with a variety of shared rooms for visiting seminar attendees and so-called “work-scholars,” an often scruffy and idealistic crew who help staff the institute’s kitchens and other parts of the institute between their studies. Meals are buffet-style in a communal dining room hung with guitars (and, surprisingly, often populated by quite a few people surfing the Web). There were healthy-looking people of all ages everywhere having animated conversations, playing chess and even sharing a smoke outside, something that seemed both charmingly and shockingly old-school. 

That said, there are only a few enlightenment options for those who aren’t attending a workshop. I went to a relaxing early-morning guided meditation but avoided the Open Seat session, an Esalen tradition where a facilitator listens to whatever issues you want to discuss. The night I was there, attendees included two anxious-looking women and a patient-looking man. But I was not that man.
Speaking of manhood, though, I was a touch nervous about the details of the next Esalen tradition: the bath.
While the baths are not formally nude-only, I saw not a stitch of clothing on my dozen or so fellow bathers. Not that I was looking. Instead, I was enjoying other vistas; the baths, which are fed by sulfur-scented hot springs, sit just 100 feet or so above the Pacific, with an uninterrupted view beyond. And with massage tables both inside and out, you can get your back rubbed and taste the surf at the same time.
With the sun sliding beneath the horizon, questions of modesty or embarrassment quickly vanished. A couple of guys in the bath next to me chatted about sports, but most of my fellow bathers were just quiet. As was, surprisingly, my mind. I could hang out here — and let it all hang out here — for a while.
IT was with just such a sense of serenity that I next traveled to La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., a sprawling hub for the well-to-do spiritual seeker. Touting itself as the No. 1 wellness spa in the nation, it boasts more than 600 rooms, 17 tennis courts, 6 swimming pools (including a booze-friendly one just for adults) and 2 golf courses.
It’s also, notably, home to the Chopra Center, a polished, commercial outlet that sells everything from mala beads (starting at $5.50) to weeklong teacher training courses that can run more than $12,000. The event and product catalog is more than 70 pages, and includes a range of products specifically geared for your “dosha,” which it defines as your “mind-body type.” (There is a quiz, no kidding, to help you figure it out and shop accordingly.)
The center is also where Deepak Chopra — a well-regarded mind-body expert and author — has recently initiated his concept for “workplace well-being,” a group wellness program aimed at corporate customers that purports to decrease absenteeism, increase productivity and promote greater vitality and mental health. Prices start at $3,995 for a 90-minute lecture by one of the center’s speakers — but not Mr. Chopra — for up to 40 people. A full-day session for such a group starts at $20,000 for stress management tips and group meditation (including ayurvedic lunch).
“The path to wellness begins here,” the center’s press material says.
For its part, La Costa — which recently underwent a $50 million renovation — calls itself “California’s original destination for mind, body and sport,” a definition that can result in some odd juxtapositions. The night I arrived, there was a yoga teacher training class going on at the same time as a poolside party for the Del Mar Cigar Club.
Outside, in a Mediterranean-style courtyard, a Ferrari was parked with a small sign on the windshield: “This vehicle is for sale.”
La Costa is handsome, dotted with exotic flowers, fountains and a spacious spa offering all manner of treatments and other indulgences. But trying to be all things to all people comes with a certain risk, namely the impression that certain “wellness”-related flourishes are little more than window-dressing. For dinner, for example, at the resort’s Blue Fire Grill I chose something called From the Fields, which was described as an “ayurvedic inspired vegan dish of the best local produce and grains.” What it turned out to be, however, was an over-roasted acorn squash, stuffed with a bland fist of quinoa and carrots. It made me long for the simple grub at Esalen.
The squash was still weighing me down the next morning when I decided to try a plyometric power class. Fitness is a big deal for many at La Costa — you can’t toss a mala bead without hitting a jogger — and when I arrived at the fully stocked gym, 10 minutes late, the three other older men in the class were already sweating. One guy dropped out after 20 minutes, and I was soon huffing so badly that I was unable to finish a section of bear crawls. The sequence involving sprints, squats and thrusts, meanwhile, made me consider calling 911. I do seem to remember music — Billy Idol, maybe, though I also vividly recall Cher — and finally, thankfully, some stretching. On the floor. The sweet, kind floor.
When I stumbled out, I still didn’t exactly know why they called that plyometrics. But let’s be clear: I did not feel well.
MY final stop was Rancho La Puerta, a venerable wellness resort just south of the border, in Tecate, Mexico. Founded in the 1940s by Edmond Szekely, a Romanian philosopher who ardently believed in the power of fitness and who, according to reports at the time, apparently chose the area because it was on the same latitude as Galilee. (“Romanian Professor Founds Cult,” read a headline in a 1949 edition of The San Diego Union.)
Nowadays, guests are still strongly encouraged to take morning hikes — often leaving before dawn. There is also a hefty roster of bodywork options for your tired calves and backs, one of which was something called watsu, which is basically aquatic shiatsu, a process that its practitioners say replicates the feeling we all have in womb.
“For most people, we came into the world perfect, loved, no disease, no pain,” said Dave Towe, my watsu instructor, a former executive with a physique like a giant G.I. Joe doll. “And, at the end of a watsu treatment, clients immediately will say, “Oh my god, I haven’t felt that way in years.’ ”
Considering that I could barely walk after my run-in with plyometrics, I was willing to try anything. Still, as I gently eased my way into the pool — heated to a skin-friendly 96 degrees — I felt just a touch silly at the prospect of being swooshed around by a man who looked as if he could bench-press a house. And yet that quickly dissipated as Mr. Towe massaged my muscles in what approximates a weightless environment. Despite what Mr. Towe said, I felt more like a fish than an embryo, something that felt weirder when I later ate unadorned tuna for lunch. (The food here was relentlessly healthy, though alcohol is available only on special nights.)
Most visitors to the Rancho come for a week to take in an array of almost nonstop classes and activities, as well as its lovely small cottages, landscaped gardens and ample statuary of the female form. I, again, had only about 24 hours to peruse the offerings, and was almost instantly — perversely — stressed out: Would I go to a life coaching class, a “ranch Spanish” course or something called sound healing, which involves lying on the ground and listening to the ghostly echoes caused by rubbing crystal bowls?
Still moving slowly, though, I managed to miss them all the afternoon I arrived. I was wandering toward the Rancho’s labyrinth — an inlaid stone maze under a bower of trees — when I was approached by Briggitte McReynolds, who asked me — unprovoked — whether I wanted to “get crowned.”
Was it a euphemism for a mind-altering substance? No. Instead, Ms. McReynolds had been running a workshop, for three days, on making ceremonial crowns out of paper decorated with all manner of feathers, baubles, fake flowers and butterflies. Would I, she asked, “energize” one of the crowns in a ceremony?
Well, sure. Soon enough I was standing in a circle, holding a crown and surrounded by other members of a workshop I had not attended. They were an eclectic bunch that included a stressed-out mother of a Cornell student; a grandmother from Houston who had made crowns for all her grandchildren; and a gay male couple from San Diego.
Ms. McReynolds, holding a bunch of sage and a rattle, explained the process: each person would talk about why they made the crown, walk the labyrinth, and then place it on their heads, to “put the batteries in,” and take their place as a “leader in their life, not a lingerer,” with a connection to the “divine male, and divine female.”
I rolled my eyes. But then, Ms. McReynolds — sporting red henna hair and purple toenails — said something that knocked me off my high horse.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “We’re just making this up.”
And then, when people began to talk about why they made their crowns and what they symbolized — finding their voice, finding wisdom, for their grandchildren — it was hard not to be touched. And after I walked the labyrinth (O.K., limped the labyrinth) and was crowned, I walked back to my room feeling surprisingly good.
Maybe that was it. Maybe wellness — like a crowning ceremony — was just what you made it: a catchall of anything and everything aimed at making you happy, or healthy, watsu-ed or whatever. And just like walking a labyrinth with a paper crown, it might not lead anywhere in the end. But it feels good while you’re doing it.

JESSE McKINLEY is a features reporter at The New York Times.

Strays Amid Rome Ruins Set Off a Culture Clash



Paolo Marchetti for the International Herald Tribune

羅馬——從古時起,貓就在羅馬的大街小巷穿行。近來,它們更是得到了一個志願者機構的庇護。該機構多年來,在古代遺址的廢墟間悉心看護着成千上萬隻流浪貓。據說公元前44年正是在這裡,布魯圖(Brutus)刺殺了尤利烏斯·凱撒(Julius Caesar)。
退休歌劇演員、銀塔貓咪收留所(Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary)創始人之一西爾維婭·維維亞尼(Silvia Viviani)警告說,“如果他們想要開戰,我們就和他們開戰。這些貓需要我們。”
夾在中間的,是這些羅馬的貓。民主黨的當地議員莫妮卡·奇林納(Monica Cirinnà)指出,這些羅馬城的古老居民,已正式被認定為“城市生態文化遺產的一部分”。中右翼執政羅馬期間,奇林納成立了一個政府機構,倡導動物權利。
也有一些更有組織的志願者機構,照料數量較大的流浪貓群,其中有些貓群分佈在一些古建築遺址,包括一個在公元前1世紀建成的塞斯提伍斯金字塔 (Pyramid of Cestius)的貓群,以及一個在圖拉真市場(Trajan’s Market)的貓群。圖拉真市場在古迹區為貓夫人們開闢了一間房間。不過他們有政府許可。
這座地下貓舍每次可收留150到180隻貓,靠近銀塔廣場的祭祀區。這座位於羅馬市中心的建築遺址包括四座羅馬共和國時期的神殿。貓舍所在的狹小空 間還是墨索里尼時代留下的,當時人們在神殿的遺址上建了一條路。貓舍正好位於凝灰石基座遺址的上方,這個基座上面的建築,被考古學家認定為神殿D,建於公 元前二世紀。
文化部負責該地區的考古專家費多拉·菲利皮(Fedora Filippi)說,“貓夫人們佔領了銀塔廣場最重要的遺址之一,這不符合保護歷史遺迹的原則。”
上周,將競選連任的羅馬市市長詹尼·阿萊曼諾(Gianni Alemanno)在Twitter上加入了這場討論,說他和他的貓切爾托斯諾(Certosino)“站在羅馬貓的一邊。誰要動這些貓,誰就會有麻煩。”

Strays Amid Rome Ruins Set Off a Culture Clash

ROME — Cats have prowled the streets of Rome since ancient times, more recently finding refuge with an association of volunteers who have lovingly tended to thousands of strays over the years amid the ruins of a site where Brutus is thought to have stabbed Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.

The shelter, in an underground space abutting a cherished archaeological site, consists of several bright, cage-lined rooms that hold dozens of strays at a time and has gained fame — and donations — as a popular tourist draw.
But after a couple of decades of tolerated, if not quite authorized, occupancy, Italy’s state archaeologists have told the association that it has to go, saying the illegal occupation risks damaging a fragile ancient monument. The cat lovers issued a ready reply: They have no intention of leaving.

“If they want war, we’ll give them war,” warned Silvia Viviani, a retired opera singer and one of the founders of the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary association. “The cats need us.”
What has ensued is a fight that has drawn in a host of city officials, elicited a flood of e-mail from upset cat lovers and revealed a deeper clash between tradition and legality that has tested Rome’s notions of its cultural heritage.

The battle has pitted preservation officials who struggle mightily to get Italians to obey laws protecting their historic birthright against an especially feisty Roman breed of cat caretakers — the so-called gattare.
In the middle are the cats themselves, ancient inhabitants of Rome who have been officially declared “part of the city’s bio-cultural patrimony,” noted Monica Cirinnà, a local lawmaker with the Democratic Party who created an animal rights advocacy department when the center-left governed the capital.
Rome has countless cat colonies, usually cared for by neighborhood gattare who leave plastic plates of cat nibbles in communal courtyards or on sidewalks.
Then there are more organized volunteer associations for larger colonies of feral cats, some in archaeological sites, including one at the Pyramid of Cestius, from the first century B.C., and another at Trajan’s Market, where gattare have been given a room within the ancient area. But they have official authorization.

The cat shelter does not, say the state archaeology officials, who are trying to close it two years after it made the apparently fatal mistake of applying for a permit to install a toilet. That put the shelter on the officials’ radar, and they now insist it has to go even though — with just basic equipment like cages, medical cabinets, ramshackle furniture and garbage bins — it is far better organized than the others.

The underground shelter, which cares for 150 to 180 cats at a time, is near the Area Sacra of Largo Argentina, a downtown archaeological site consisting of four Republican-era temples. Situated in a squat space created during the time of Mussolini, when a street was built over the site, the shelter sits directly above the remains of the travertine podium of what archaeologists identify as Temple D, a structure from the second century B.C.
“The cat ladies are occupying one of the most important sites in Largo Argentina, and that is incompatible with the preservation of the monument,” said Fedora Filippi, the Culture Ministry archaeologist responsible for the area.
The shelter has invited corollary problems, she noted, such as the tourists’ throwing food to the cats that wander from the shelter into the adjacent archaeological area, “which makes the situation worse.” After an inspection, health officials decreed the shelter an inappropriate environment for volunteers and visiting tourists, let alone for the cats, she said.
“This isn’t about the cats,” Ms. Filippi said, adding wearily that her computer had been inundated with angry e-mails from cat lovers. “I wouldn’t touch a cat. I live with one so I am not against cats.” But, she said, “it’s our responsibility to protect Italy’s archaeological patrimony and to apply the law.”
Discussions have been under way for two years to find another solution for the cat shelter, she said. So far they have been fruitless, and unless an alternative is found soon, the cat association will be forcibly evicted.
The cat lovers — all volunteers — bristle that they are not bothering anyone. The shelter, they say, occupies a former storage space. More important, they claim to have neutered and spayed close to 29,000 cats over the past 20 years, all paid for by an estimated 10,000 benefactors.
Moving the colony to a less-frequented area is not an option, the volunteers say. The association needs to be in a visible place for tourists, who come from around the world to visit and give donations. It also needs a physical space to house cages for sick cats, and to store food and other supplies.
Last week, Rome’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno, who is up for re-election next year, weighed in on Twitter that he and his cat, Certosino, “are on the side of the cats of Rome. Anyone who touches them will be in trouble.”

The Future of the Sony Tower

Sony Building (New York) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Sony Tower, formerly the AT&T Building, is a 647 feet (197 m) tall, 37-story ... It was designed by architect Philip Johnson and partner John Burgee, and was ...


大廈的前途很能說明一座城市和一個街區的價值, Calvin Klein、阿瑪尼(Armani)、愛馬仕(Hermès)、迪奧(Dior)和古馳(Gucci)都在這裡開有零售店,其支付的租金在世界上首屈一 指。而在57街上,兩個工程的開發商正在爭着建造北美最高、最奢華的公寓樓,樓里的公寓要賣給王子和億萬富翁,每套的價格以千萬美元計。
“這棟大廈高度和位置都十分合適,肯定會賣得很好,”紐約大學的城市規劃師米切爾·莫斯(Mitchell Moss)說。“唯一的問題是,大樓作什麼用?這個街區的固有吸引力太大了,用來充當公司總部未免太貴。”
潛在買家及房地產高管稱,參與了第一輪競標的開發商包括沃那多房產公司(Vornado Realty Trust)、波士頓地產(Boston Properties)、三菱信託(Mitsubishi Trust)、三井不動產(Mitsui Fudosan)以及RXR房地產公司(RXR Realty)。 他們表示,其他競標者是史蒂文·C·韋德考夫(Steven C. Witkoff)、哈里·麥克洛(Harry B. Macklowe)和愛德華·明斯科夫(Edward J. Minskoff)。
今年,另外兩處大型商業地產的所有者也沒能達到預期目的,因為買家的出價遠遠低於他們各自開出的15億美元價格。其中一處是第八大道上47層的環球廣場(Worldwide Plaza),另一處是30層的麥迪遜大道11號(11 Madison Avenue)。
但是,索尼大廈的賣價可能會接近其預期。“全球投資領域對這類資產的需求達到了我所見過的最高水平,” 諮詢公司真實資金分析(Real Capital Analytics)的丹·法蘇洛(Dan Fasulo)說。“一旦它被包裝一新,達到了2013年的標準,它就有實力競爭曼哈頓最高的租賃價格。”
索尼的房地產經紀人、Eastdil Secured公司的道格拉斯·哈蒙(Douglas Harmon)為潛在買家提供了一本216頁的機密投標參考,名為“麥迪遜大街550號地標”(The Icon at 550 Madison Avenue)。在搬入新的辦公地點之前,索尼計劃在這棟建築里繼續運營3年。
2011年,時代華納公司(Time Warner)的首席執行官傑弗里·L·比克斯(Jeffrey L. Bewkes)把他的公司位於時代華納中心的奢華總部稱之為“鋪張”。他拿出了一些計劃,旨在節約經費,並在多些效率、少些奢華的地方整合公司的運營。

Future of Corporate Tower May Hinge on a New Use

The Sony Building, a lavish $200 million headquarters with a seven-story arch at 550 Madison Avenue, was a symbol of a resurgent New York when it opened in 1983 as the AT&T Building after a decade of municipal woes and corporate flight.
Now the 37-story rose-granite tower is on the auction block for as much as $1 billion. About 20 prospective buyers submitted bids last week, hoping to turn the building into condominiums, a luxury hotel, a chic retail arcade or maybe even office space for small, high-end firms. But not a corporate headquarters.
The potential evolution says a lot about a city and a neighborhood where Calvin Klein, Armani, Hermès, Dior and Gucci are paying some of the world’s highest retail rents. On 57th Street, developers of two projects are vying to build North America’s tallest, most gilded residential tower, with condos selling to princes and billionaires for tens of millions of dollars each.
The Sony Building between 55th and 56th Streets, with its wood-paneled board rooms and sweeping white marble staircase, may be more suited today for tenants like hedge funds, which do not flinch at rents above $120 a square foot.
“This building has the right height and the right location to be a success,” said Mitchell Moss, an urban planner at New York University. “The only question is, what goes inside the building? The underlying appeal of that neighborhood has gotten so strong that it’s too expensive for a corporate headquarters.”
Developers turning in their first-round bids included Vornado Realty Trust, Boston Properties, Mitsubishi Trust, Mitsui Fudosan and RXR Realty, according to prospective buyers and to real estate executives. Others bidding were Steven C. Witkoff, Harry B. Macklowe and Edward J. Minskoff, they said.
Nearly all of them have partners — including Canadian pension firms, sovereign funds and foreign investors — who view Manhattan as one of the safest markets in the world.
But there is no guarantee that Sony will get the price it wants. More than half the prospective buyers fell short of Sony’s billion-dollar expectation, executives said. A select group of bidders will be invited to submit second bids next month.
Prospective sales this year by two other owners of large commercial properties — the 47-story Worldwide Plaza on Eighth Avenue and the 30-story tower at 11 Madison Avenue — fell flat when offers came in far below the $1.5 billion each had sought.
But the Sony Building may come close. “The demand from the global investment community for assets like this is at the highest level I’ve ever seen,” said Dan Fasulo of Real Capital Analytics, a research firm. “Once it’s shined up and brought up to 2013 standards, it’ll compete for some of the highest rents in Manhattan.”
A Sony representative did not respond to requests for comment on the sale.
When the building was under construction in 1981, New York City was struggling to stave off an economic malaise, the loss of industrial jobs, and long-term decay. AT&T’s headquarters, like the IBM Building under construction a block away and Trump Tower around the corner on Fifth Avenue, offered signs of a renaissance.
But AT&T, which was in the midst of divesting itself of all the regional telephone operating companies, soon leased nearly half of the tower to Sony. The Japanese company eventually bought the building in 2002 for $236 million.
Sony is not the dominant force in consumer electronics that it once was. Last April, the company said it would cut 10,000 jobs. Soon, it put the tower up for sale.
Sony’s real estate broker, Douglas Harmon of Eastdil Secured, gave prospective buyers a 216-page confidential offering memorandum, “The Icon at 550 Madison Avenue.” Sony plans to remain in the building for three years, before moving to a new location.
“The future vacancy provides a blank canvas to maximize the property’s wide spectrum of use and pursue a myriad of office, retail, hospitality, and residential options,” the offering book said.
Still, with Wall Street’s emphasis on quarterly results, many big companies are no longer looking for expensive homes, so the building probably will not attract a major corporate buyer.
In 2011, Jeffrey L. Bewkes, chief executive of Time Warner, described his company’s plush headquarters at the Time Warner Center as “indulgent.” He laid out plans to save money and consolidate company operations in more efficient, less luxurious space.
Many buyers said the Sony Building, now 30, will have to be gutted, which would cost tens of millions of dollars. They are considering a mix of uses, including hotels and high-end shops.
Mr. Witkoff confirmed that he had submitted a bid, with plans to convert the top of the tower to condominiums. “There’s no way that you can make sense out of this deal if it’s office space,” he said. “In my opinion, the only way it works is if the top goes residential. You’ll get the highest numbers from condominiums.”
Several other bidders envision a similar mix of retail and residential. Executives said another bidder, Mr. Macklowe, favored a luxury retail arcade at the base of the building, with luxury office space for smaller firms. Mr. Macklowe built a similar building at 510 Madison but lost it to his lenders during the recent recession.

2012年12月29日 星期六

綿綿鄉情--老台灣的市井人間 (埔里 梁坤明)



  小時候,阿公養了一頭很會生小豬的豬母,每次請人牽豬哥來「打種」,我們兄弟就開始等吃「甘薯圓仔」。其實這等吃「甘薯圓仔」的事,總是一覺睡 過就全忘了,直到看見豬椆裡多了許多小豬,都還不見得會再記起,因為小豬的可愛,怎麼也不會和「甘薯圓仔」聯在一起想。直到阿媽搓「甘薯圓仔」的時候,才 叫起來:「阿公要閹豬仔子啊」。別人家閹小豬,當天有沒有搓圓仔,我不曉得,我們阿公家是一定會有。問過阿公為什麼?他總是說「才會生難鳥仔。」




Sichuan’s Tibetan Corner, Outside of Time

Sichuan’s Tibetan Corner, Outside of Time

Jeffrey Lau for The New York Times
A monk prepares a simple meal after worship.

HIGH on the Tibetan plateau, a few dozen red-robed monks of the Lhagang Monastery sat facing one another, rocking back and forth as they chanted with faces turned upward, to the heavens.

Jeffrey Lau for The New York Times
Novice monks at the Lhagang Monastery playing a version of basketball between classes.
Jeffrey Lau for The New York Times
Dhondoup, one of the young monks at the monastery.
Jeffrey Lau for The New York Times
A common sight on Tagong streets.
In the flickering candlelight of the monastery’s dim main chamber, they then built small pyramids of incense to place throughout the building, adorned with golden Buddhas, and at the center of Tagong.
Outside, under the harsh noon sun, the monks mingled with the mainly Buddhist and ethnically Tibetan residents of the frontierlike town, population 8,000, which despite its makeup is in Sichuan Province, China.
“We are all Tibetan,” said Ba Ding, a local shopkeeper. “We do get a few Han Chinese tourists passing through, and we are friendly enough with them,” he added unconvincingly.
I had been in Tagong just an hour, after arriving in a small, dusty van that had bounced along rutted roads for the three-hour journey from the nearby city of Kangding, its engine whining as we ascended and descended steep mountain passes.
After checking into one of the colorful guesthouses across the central square from the monastery, I had simply followed the brightly dressed monks into the main hall to witness one of their several daily worship sessions.
Tagong, whose altitude of about 12,000 feet makes it one of the highest towns in the world, offers an unfettered window onto the Tibetan people and culture. The region was part of Tibet until 1955, and its remoteness — to get there, you must take a single winding road several hours from the bustling provincial capital, Chengdu — has insulated it against significant change. The place has a closed-off feel, with a slow-placed existence that revolves around the major Tibetan monastery and its 60 or so resident monks. And it was easier than traveling to the Tibet Autonomous Region, which in addition to the visa and passport required to visit China, also requires a special entry permit that doesn’t promise unrestricted travel.
That sort of unfettered access was my reason for going, and two hours into my stay it was clear that Tibetan culture and Buddhism remain at the heart of life in Tagong, albeit with slight tweaks to accommodate the few thousand foreign visitors who make the journey each year: a few guesthouses, yak-cheese pizza and arranged horse-trekking trips into the plains outside of town.
Tagong itself is just a blip on the map: a stretch of ornate buildings leading to the gates of the monastery, all surrounded by endless peaks and plains. A few minivans leave or arrive throughout the day, offering seats to destinations as far away as Chengdu for about 120 renminbi ($19.50 at 6 renminbi to the dollar), but the rest of the time a horse being ridden up the main street is as likely a sight as a passing car.
Once in the recesses of Lhagang Monastery you can see monks devoting themselves to their faith with a calm assurance; across a wide river that runs alongside the town young apprentice monks study Buddhism at a monastic school; and up on a nearby hill, a handful of hermit monks live in silent worship.
“We have over a hundred young novices studying Buddhism who will eventually join us in becoming monks,” Dhondoup, a fresh-faced 25-year-old monk said to me in English as we stood on a shaded platform overlooking the courtyard of the monastery after the noon service.
In front of us, part of the monastery was undergoing construction to house these new recruits; a new two-story dormitory was being added. Bags of cement lay within the grounds, and amid the debris were dented 10-foot-high prayer wheels, their Tibetan text covered in dust.
There has been a monastery in Tagong since A.D. 652, when the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo built the last of a series of 108 monasteries he had ordered constructed across his kingdom. (It is said to be where his Chinese bride had stopped on her way to their wedding in 640.) Over the next millennium and a half the monastery rose and fell in importance, changing allegiance several times to different Buddhist sects before its destruction during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). In the 1980s work began on rebuilding the monastery, and today’s temple is slowly returning to some of its former glory and size.
As I wandered the halls and chambers, staring up at the many gold Buddha statues surrounding the wall, the newness of the physical structure seemed immaterial. This visit was more about the monks than the monastery.
Though all Tibetan Buddhists, they were a varied group. In one of the side reliquaries off the main hall, an aged monk smiled as I entered, and led me around the small, candlelit room where he has lived for the last three years, sleeping on a small cot. Stopping at one point, he showed me a picture of himself next to the Dalai Lama. “We are all Buddhist and he is our leader,” he said to me in Chinese.
 Later in the afternoon I spotted a group of young monks playing basketball using a hoopless telephone pylon as a net on a grassy field across the town’s river, their robes billowing around them. There was no bridge in sight, but I removed my shoes to cross the ice-cold, knee-deep water. On the other bank I was quickly invited to join the game.
“We try to play basketball every day before our 6 p.m. studies,” said Laozang Tsere, a gregarious 18-year-old novice born in a nearby village.
A few minutes after I joined the game, a bell sounded. The novices quickly checked that their robes were on straight before heading back to their studies.
Class was in session for an even younger group of devotees in the main hall of the Sakya Monastic School, a smaller version of the main monastery, where boys sat crossed-legged on long rows of dark-red cushions, each facing another student. They debated Buddhist texts, gesturing to make their points. Dhondoup had explained to me that the novices study the finer points of Buddhist logic, philosophy and discourse in the hillside school for seven years before being allowed to join their brethren in Lhagang.
 Sometime during the debates, I sneaked out of a side door and headed up a small path through a forest of multicolored prayer flags to the simple hillside homes of several hermit monks. From their dwellings the town below appeared even smaller, dwarfed by vast snowy peaks in the distance. In the foreground there was little but wide expanses of pastureland and other small hills adorned with colorful Buddhist prayer flags, placed there over the years by the monks and townspeople.
As I arrived outside of one door, a hermit beckoned me in, and, without uttering a word showed me around his small home, filled with Buddhas. Most of the room was taken up by the statues and Tibetan texts, with a small curtained-off area for him to sleep in. Back in town, the streets were emptying as the evening drew near; soon the monks — who must rise for 6 a.m. prayers — and locals had gone home. Viewed from this town perched on the roof of the world, with little in the way of light pollution save from a few guesthouse windows, the stars that glittered above the monastery were nothing short of majestic.
That evening I dwelled on the seemingly simple lives of the monks: their faith, their warmth and their absence of 21st-century distractions. It may be facile to assume that they had found fulfillment, but it was hard to shake the impression that I’d met a group of people who, having long ago discovered a few of the secrets to a content life, existed outside of time.
The following morning, as I rode in a different but equally dusty van out of town, the driver stopped at the highest pass, removed a stack of papers from his glove compartment and threw them into the air, letting them flutter away as he muttered a Buddhist prayer. Some drifted back down the mountain toward Tagong. And with that we drove on.

2012年12月27日 星期四


Tourists at the Whampoa Military Academy, on Changzhou Island in Guangzhou.
Shiho Fukada for The New York Times
Guangzhou Journal
China Embraces Its Pre-Communist Past
The Whampoa Military Academy in Guangzhou represents an era when the Kuomintang and Communists cooperated for a greater good, one which recent exhibitions have sought to highlight.

A Chocolate Tour of the Caribbean


Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

一天早晨在聖盧西亞(St. Lucia),我從幸福的美夢中醒來。我發現自己變成了一隻成熟豐美的可可豆莢。
或者,這只是我幻想出來的,我借用了卡夫卡《變形記》(Metamorphosis)開篇的那個場景。連續三天,我都在大肆享用塞有巧克力的鵝肝餡 餅、裹着巧克力的石首魚,早餐吃的是加了可可和腰果的燕麥卷,晚餐喝的是加有可可的貝利尼雞尾酒。我享受了可可精油按摩,在可可林中漫步,還親手製作了我 自己的巧克力棒。每天早晨,我都能嗅到可可樹濃郁的香氣,因為我下榻的酒店設在茂盛的可可莊園之中——況且我還睡在一隻可可豆莢里。
嗯,至少在某種程度上如此:位於聖盧西亞的巧克力酒店(Hotel Chocolat)是一家精品酒店,他們的客房號稱“豪華豆莢”。即使是極簡風格的豪華裝修(昂貴的桃花心木地板,裝有開放式淋浴的象牙色浴室),都能讓人想到巧克力的芬芳。
從多巴哥(Tobago)到多米尼加(Dominica),從格林納達(Grenada)到聖文森特(St. Vincent),加勒比海地區發軔於殖民時代的可可產業正在復興。從經濟上來講,這是一件好事:當自由貿易毀滅了加勒比群島香蕉業和製糖業的時候,以公 平貿易原則發展農業的做法自然受到了當地人的歡迎。
而且這不是一件無足輕重的小事;從2004年到2008年,全球範圍內的可可價格幾乎翻了一番。而加勒比海地區特有的可可豆品種,價格的漲幅還要更 高一些。這個地區的可可豆味道醇美,產量只佔據了全球市場的5%。這種可可豆品種優異,相當於可可豆中的香檳。它甚至擁有自己的推廣團隊:創建於兩年前的 加勒比優質可可論壇(Caribbean Fine Cocoa Forum)是一個歐盟資助的傳播機構,致力於推動加勒比地區九個國家可可產品的生產和出口。
然後就是可可產業與旅遊業的結合。喜歡美酒的人大批湧入納帕谷(Napa)或盧瓦爾河谷(Loire Valley)品嘗葡萄酒;那麼,為什麼不會有人來到風景絕美的加勒比海島享受陽光、沙灘、海洋和巧克力呢?
畢竟,銀海游輪公司(Silversea Cruises)已經在運營巧克力主題的加勒比度假旅行項目。伯利茲(Belize)每年都舉辦托萊多可可節(Toledo Cacao Festival),來讚美托萊多地區瑪雅人、加里富納人(Garifuna,非洲黑人和加勒比土著的混血後代——譯註)、東印度人和克里奧人(Creole,歐洲白人與加勒比土著的混血後代——譯註)的可可文化。在多米尼加,遊客可以下榻精品酒店可可木屋(Cocoa Cottage);在巴巴多斯(Barbados),遊客可以參觀阿加配巧克力工廠(Agapey Chocolate Factory)。這種旅行風潮由格林納達巧克力公司(Grenada Chocolate Company)在1999年發起,那時他們推出的旅行線路包括參觀自家工廠、可可林和位於海島雨林中的夾心巧克力商店(Bon Bon Shop)。
今年早些時候,我走了一條跨越四個海島和三種語言的可可之路。這趟旅行不僅讓我永遠放棄了自己對好時(Hershey’s)巧克力的興趣,還以或淳 樸或宏大的不同場景開闊了我的眼界。它將我從支滿陽傘的海灘帶到遙遠的農田和古樸的海島,並感受了當地非常值得親眼目睹的文化遺產。
我的足跡從特立尼達(Trinidad)開始。可可產業是特立尼達的經濟支柱,西印度群島大學(University of the West Indies)甚至有個專門的可可研究中心(Cocoa Research Center)。 旅行的起點是一個非常不生態的地方:西班牙港(Port of Spain)華麗的凱悅酒店(Hyatt Regency)。西班牙港是個繁忙的港市,擁有加勒比地區最有活力的夜生活。我入住酒店,隔着無邊際泳池欣賞夕陽西下,在摩登的大堂餐吧品嘗鮮美的壽 司,然後在形如洞穴的禪宗俱樂部(Club Zen)聆聽了幾小時的索卡音樂。
第二天早上,我到達了一個截然不同的世界。“歡迎來到格蘭庫瓦(Gran Couva)——美味可可的故鄉。”這個謙卑的標語出現在世界上最受推崇的可可田之一,特立尼達島中部蒙特塞拉山(Montserrat Hills)區域的格蘭庫瓦。從西班牙港駕車15分鐘以後,視野里全是無邊無際的綠色——起伏的群山,離奇有趣的植物商店,還有馬路上匆匆跑過的美洲大蜥 蜴。
我將汽車泊在停車場,走過一道綠色大門,迎接我的是一群蝴蝶、鳥籠中金剛鸚鵡尖利的鳴叫和一片寬闊的土地。土地的主人是萊斯利-安·胡拉萬 (Lesley-Ann Jurawan),位於格蘭庫瓦的維奧萊塔精品巧克力(Violetta Fine Chocolates)和代夫特可可度假村(Delft Cocoa Estate)都是她的產業。穿着印有“蒙特塞拉可可農場主合作社”字樣的T恤衫,她對我解釋說,代夫特是這家合作社的成員,合作社負責將她生產的部分可 可豆出口並賣給法國的法芙娜公司(Valrhona)。法芙娜旗下有一款巧克力以“格蘭庫瓦”命名,以向其可可產區致敬。大部分以加勒比海的可可豆為原料 的巧克力(除了“格林納達巧克力公司”生產的巧克力,以及我在此行中品嘗到的手工製作的小批量巧克力)都是在歐洲城市製造的,因為那裡的氣候更適合製造巧 克力。
“我們的歷史非常悠久,這是我們的依靠。”胡拉萬女士說。1830年代,白人殖民者、東印度群島土著、移居加勒比海的法國僑民和為逃避國內戰爭而到 此地做苦力的委內瑞拉人都在格蘭庫瓦和特立尼達島北部定居下來,以種植可可樹為生。他們培育出了此地特有的特立尼達可可豆,這種雜交品種後來成為世界三大可可樹品種之一。
“看!”胡拉萬女士一邊說,一邊將一隻閃亮的紅色特立尼達可可豆莢遞給我。特立尼達可可豆融合了克里奧羅(criollo)和佛拉斯特羅 (forastero)兩個可可豆品種的特徵。克里奧羅是可可豆中的珍品,它口感豐富,具有水果清香。佛拉斯特羅可可豆質地偏硬,產量很大,目前我們食用 的巧克力產品70%都出自這個品種,而絕大多數佛拉斯特羅咖啡豆都產自西非。
可可種植者朱迪·李·山姆(Jude Lee Sam)剖開可可豆莢,並將其中一半遞給我。果肉有一種輕微的香味,酸中帶甜。然後我們穿過發酵可可果肉的大桶,來到裝有開合屋頂的金屬烘乾室。烘乾室的 一頭,潮濕的可可豆聞起來簡直就像,嗯,腋窩的氣味。但另一頭乾燥的可可豆散發出我此行追尋的甜美芳香。
當胡拉萬女士拿出一隻自家生產的巧克力棒時,我這趟旅行算是圓滿了。“來,用五種感官一起品嘗。”她說。按照她的指示,我先聞了聞巧克力棒,接着欣 賞了它的外形設計:巧克力上印着可可豆莢的圖案。然後感受了一下它清涼的手感。我將它掰成兩半——“斷面應該乾淨,斷裂時有一種清脆的響聲。”胡拉萬女士 說。
我回到車裡,繼續向南駕駛。穿過特立尼達東印度社區的中心區域,路過裝飾着印度教彩旗的民居和恍如巨型生日蛋糕的寺廟。途中,我在一個路邊攤前停下 來購買薩西納(sahina)。薩西納是一種油炸餡餅,餡料由菠菜和麵包屑做成。最後我終於到達了這個國家產油帶的中心。高大的油井架突兀地聳立在綠色的 原野上,四周是成群的白鷺,看起來頗有些離奇。奎瑪多農場莊園(Rancho Quemado Estate)既是個可可種植園,也是個農業生態旅遊園。我沿着曲折的小路,走過一個羅非魚魚塘、一個養蜂場,以及一個養着黃頭鸚鵡、巨型蟒蛇和烏龜的小 型動物園。小路兩側種着柑橘樹和可可樹;在加勒比海地區的微雨中,漫步在這條小路上,真是無比愜意。
第二天一早我就向北進發,直奔另一個大受好評的可可產區。蓋爾獨家旅行社(Gail’s Exclusive Tour Services)開車載着我遊覽雨林茂盛的北部山脈地區(Northern Range Mountains)。我們繞着青山盤旋而上,四周竹林濃密,花香襲人,景象誇張,如夢如幻。紅色的天堂鳥展開華麗的尾翼,顏色橙紅彷彿蝦尾。西班牙港的 位置再次讓我驚嘆:那麼近,又那麼遠。視野中沒有一座房屋,也沒有一個人影,除了偶爾出現的當地農人,手拿砍刀,費力地向山上走着。
“體驗生命之谷”,布拉索塞科(Brasso Seco)村遊客信息中心旁的牌子上寫着這樣的標語。在這裡,我喝到了有生以來最美妙的熱可可。嚮導弗蘭西斯·弗朗索瓦(Francis François)是個非洲和特立尼達混血兒,飽經滄桑的臉龐常帶微笑。他領着我,徒步走過好幾英畝的克里奧羅可可林。可可樹碩果累累,掛滿了紅色和黃色 的可可豆莢。為了增加收入,這個地方還出售咖啡、可可粉、芒果醬(一種香味濃郁的調味料)和特立尼達地區特有的辣椒醬。
回到西班牙港以後,我在精髓藝術館(Medulla Art Gallery)遇到了三位巧克力製造商。那時藝術館正為慶祝特立尼達獨立50周年而舉辦一個特別展覽。吉娜·索尼婭·哈迪(Gina Sonia Hardy)是新加坡人,她說自己開始製作巧克力的原因是特立尼達婆婆當年對她的一次激將法。品嘗她的松露巧克力(65%的黑巧克力加朗姆酒、杏仁和椰 子)時,我搭配了一小杯“加勒比異國風情山區榮耀”(Exotic Caribbean Mountain Pride)公司生產的黑巧克力利口酒,酒中帶有肉豆蔻、丁香、月桂葉和橘皮的芳香。當我告訴該公司的創始人達利爾·奧斯特里達·桑德斯(Darill Astrida Saunders)她這種靈丹妙藥能讓百利(Bailey’s)甜酒黯然失色時,她說這種搭配是自家的祖傳秘方。
同時,可可貝爾巧克力(Cocobel Chocolate)也讓伊莎貝爾·布拉什(Isabel Brash)某種程度上成為特立尼達的威利·旺卡(Willy Wonka,小說和電影《查理和巧克力工廠》里巧克力工廠的主人——譯註)。她在藝術館的後部製作了可可花朵徽標、美味甜點等物件,原料全部是她家經營的 奎瑪多農場的可可豆。面對她的作品,我不知道是該照相呢還是直接吃掉:朗姆酒加葡萄乾、芒果椒、意式濃咖啡……全部散發著濃郁的香氣。
旅行的下一站是多巴哥島。它是特立尼達的姐妹島,幾乎完全為度假村而生。所以我直接變身慵懶遊客,在它精彩絕倫的海灘酒吧里盡情享受加勒比啤酒、咖 喱蟹和各種帶餡兒的面點。但我的目標是調查多巴哥可可莊園(Tobago Cocoa Estate)。這家莊園兩年前剛剛成立,卻已於2011和2012連續兩年摘取超級美味大獎(Great Taste Awards)的金星。莊園每天都對遊客開放。
莊園位於“主嶺森林保護區”(Main Ridge Forest Reserve) 的邊緣,從多巴哥島首府斯卡布羅(Scarborough)驅車向北,一個小時即可到達。我將汽車泊在一塊空地上,一名手持砍刀的婦女接待了我。南 (Nan)是這座莊園的看護人,她告訴我“這個地方以前全是灌木——我們用了五年多時間才把它清理乾淨”。現在這裡是一座佔地43英畝、伊甸園一般的莊 園,裡面種了大約22000棵可可樹,以及給可可樹帶來蔭涼的其他農作物,比如姜、櫻桃、青檸、番石榴、芒果和鱷梨。莊園距離阿蓋爾瀑布(Argyle Waterfall)也不遠,在竹林里輕鬆地走上一小段路,就能到達清涼山泉形成的瀑布水潭。
我穿過農場,到達山頂上的觀景台。在那裡,嚮導哈里(Harry)剖開一隻可可豆莢給我看。接下來我去了禮物商店。我購買了大量可可脂含量70%的 單一莊園平板巧克力(“單一莊園”[single estate]和“單一產地”[single domain]指的是可可豆的產地,帶有這兩種標誌的產品都是巧克力中的上品)。它濃香撲鼻、果味充沛,不是很甜,但是非常美味。
幾天以後,我到達了聖盧西亞(St. Lucia)拉波特莊園(Rabot Estate)里的巧克力酒店(Hotel Chocolat)。這家去年開業的酒店不只是家優異的精品酒店,也不只是個名牌企業。拉波特莊園的產業非常多元,除了這家酒店外,還包括一個銷往全球的 巧克力品牌(拉波特莊園牌巧克力)、一個連鎖餐廳品牌(目前聖盧西亞的布坎[Boucan]有一家餐廳,紐約和倫敦的分店很快開張)、倫敦和斯德哥爾摩都有分店的巧克力咖啡館品牌,以及新開業的商店“燒烤和海螺殼”(Roast & Conch),這家店將一小批巧克力製作放在了倫敦進行。
這家酒店的所有者出生在英國。幾年前他們進軍可可產業時,並不是獨一無二的。始於18世紀的甜香檳莊園(Fond Doux Estate)在十多年前,就推出了可可旅行並為遊客提供克里奧羅午餐。但拉波特莊園將加勒比可可提升到一個新的高度,而且,從很多層面看,這還只是個開 始。他們計劃開設一家對遊客開放的巧克力工廠,裡面有巧克力研究中心、咖啡館和零售店,從可可樹到商店整個產業鏈全部覆蓋。他們會從其他島嶼進口巧克力 豆,並為數百名當地人提供工作崗位。
享受莊園提供的所有服務,我用了整整一天。沿着一條徒步路線可以走到莊園地勢的最高點。那裡360度的無敵風景讓我驚嘆不已:加勒比海遼闊壯美,聖 盧西亞的地標皮坦山(Piton Mountains)則讓這幅美景愈加迷人。在“從可可豆到巧克力棒”(Bean to Bar)課程上,我先是用研臼搗杵磨碎可可豆;然後玩了一把烹飪電視節目常用的小把戲(到該將巧克力倒入模具的時候,有人送來一碗已經做好的液體巧克 力);最後是聽羅恩·拉菲利(Ron Lafeuille)講授可可的歷史。拉菲利是位廚師,他隨口就能說出可可豆傳奇故事裡每個人物的名字,從那些殖民者,一直到吉百利。在“從可可樹到可可 豆”的遊覽中,我發現可可樹的嫁接遠比切枝、包紮和削割要複雜得多,我幾乎沒有耐心學完。
“承諾道德旅行社”(Engaged Ethics Tour)的一個活動讓我這一天達到了完美。這家旅行社介紹我與幾名將土地賣給拉波特莊園的農民聊天。其中一個叫阿方索·斯塔尼斯拉斯(Alphonso Stanislas)的農民告訴我,在種了四十年可可樹之後,他現在終於獲得了一份像樣的收入。正如我在可可之旅中遇到的其他農民一樣,他說自己現在種植 的可可樹比以前數量要高。“我一直覺得,我們應該把可可樹種植變成一件賺錢的事,”他說,“有兩種東西美洲人和歐洲人都很珍視:可可和巧克力。”
我在聖盧西亞的鄉間又待了四天,流連於此地的黑色沙灘、瀑布和礦泉浴場。想念都市生活的時候,我就去蘇弗雷(Soufrière)的“低語” (Whispers)酒吧聽幾首雷鬼舞曲,以及兼具鄉村風格和西部風格的歌曲。蘇弗雷是個似乎被時間遺忘了的古雅(或略顯破敗)的小鎮。矗立在這個地區的 皮坦山將此地變成兩種截然不同的電影外景地:白天歡騰而熱鬧,到了晚上就變得像星光下的鬼影般陰森恐怖。
所有的美食探險都應該用配有朗姆酒和巧克力的早餐畫上完美的句號。從聖盧西亞去相鄰的馬提尼克(Martinique)的當日短途旅行中,我享受了 這頓早餐。20分鐘的飛行連接了兩個大相徑庭的世界。從馬提尼克時髦的歐式機場走出來,沿着摩登的高速公路開往貌似巴黎才有的時尚店鋪時,我忽然有種不現 實的感覺。如果商店主人可以自由選擇的話,這樣的店鋪應該開在巴黎和迪拜。而馬提尼克本地巧克力品牌“勞齊亞兄弟”(Frères Lauzea)的創始人蒂埃里·勞齊亞(Thierry Lauzea)也正好打算在這兩個城市開設分店。
“我們並不打算變成歐洲品牌——我們是加勒比巧克力,”勞齊亞先生說,大手在店裡豪邁地揮動。店鋪里裝飾着漂亮的圖畫,畫上是動物、植物、沙灘和海 洋。玻璃盒裡的松露巧克力有35種不同的風味,從香蕉、咖喱羅勒、番石榴到咖啡,應有盡有,每隻巧克力上都點綴着色澤各異的小裝飾。
兩個身着黑色西裝的人送來一瓶六年的馬提尼克陳釀朗姆酒和凝固的巧克力醬。勞齊亞先生向我傳授了品嘗技巧:先啜飲并吞咽一小口朗姆酒,咬一口巧克 力;再喝一些朗姆酒,然後將兩者一起咽下去。“喝朗姆酒的時候,你能體會到它的個性,”他解釋道,“巧克力,另一種個性。兩者混合,又一種。真是太美妙 了!”
品嘗結束之後,在新開的“你我之間”(Entre Nous)飯店吃了一頓有芝麻海螺和劍魚的午餐之前,我驅車去了馬提尼克的鄉間造訪伊麗莎白·皮埃爾·路易斯(Elizabeth Pierre Louis)在聖約瑟夫(St.-Joseph)的農場,這裡是勞齊亞先生的採購地之一。伊麗莎白帶着我,一邊散步一邊向我展示農場風光。這裡有綿羊、公 雞、椰子樹和各種果樹。但有一種東西讓她格外興奮。
“就是它!”她歡呼道,“克里奧羅。我剛開始種植這種可可。看,那種寶貝,就在那裡。”忽然間我有一種置身特立尼達的感覺,或者是聖盧西亞,或者其 他加勒比島嶼。這些地方都對這種獨特的農作物投注了極大的希望,這種農作物的歷史讓本來互不相關的幾塊土地建立了聯繫。而且我知道,這種聯繫真的很甜、很 甜。
特立尼達凱悅酒店(Hyatt Regency Trinidad; 1 Wrightson Road, Port of Spain; 868-623-2222; trinidad.hyatt.com)有個可俯視帕里亞灣(Gulf of Paria)的無邊際泳池,還有包括各種當地美味的自助早餐。每晚209美元起。
多巴哥島最近開張的馬格達萊納海灘度假村(Magdalena Grand Beach Resort; Tobago Plantations Estate, Lowlands; 868-660-8800; magdalenagrand.com)擁有高爾夫球場、泳池、沙灘和豐富的早餐。每晚270美元起。
巧克力酒店(Hotel Chocolat; Soufrière, St. Lucia; 800-757-7132; thehotelchocolat.com)是可可樹的天堂,有漂亮的生態木屋;內設的飯店Boucon Restaurant供應的美食,幾乎都是採用當地的食材。還能看到皮坦山風景。起價350美元。
蓋爾獨家旅行服務有限公司(Gail’s Exclusive Tour Service Limited, 868-638-5085; exclusivetourstnt.com)運營特立尼達島內各種旅行服務,包括探訪布拉索塞科村的線路。
代夫特可可種植園和維奧萊塔精品巧克力(Delft Cocoa Plantations and Violetta Fine Chocolates)運營特立尼達島蒙特塞拉山可可種植區的旅行團(每人50美元,含午餐;violetta.vpweb.com)。
奎瑪多農場農業生態旅遊園(Rancho Quemado Agro-Eco Tourism Park)一部分是動物園,一部分是自然保護區,還有一部分是可可農場(1 ¾ Rancho Quemado Road, Trinidad; 868-389-8385)。
多巴哥可可莊園(Tobago Cocoa Estate; Roxborough, Tobago; 868-390-2021; tobagococoa.com) 經營不用預約的參團游(每人10美元)。發團時間是周一至周五每天上午的9點和11點。勞齊亞兄弟巧克力公司(Frères Lauzea Chocolatiers)在馬提尼克有兩家商店,其中一個提供營朗姆酒和巧克力的品嘗(每人24美元,四種口味搭配;Quartier Mangot Vulcin 97232, Le Lamentin; 596-56-98-83; frereslauzea.com),需要預約。
“你我之間”飯店(Entre Nous; Bois Neuf Gondeau, 97212, St.-Joseph; 596-69-62-25144; restaurant-entrenous.fr)盡情享用馬提尼克美食。飯店設在一戶漂亮的克里奧人家的門廊處。
本文作者Baz Dreisinger是記者,也是約翰傑伊刑事司法學院(John Jay College of Criminal Justice)負責教授英語的副教授。他經常撰寫加勒比海文化方面的文章。

ONE morning on St. Lucia, as I was waking from beatific dreams, I discovered that I had turned into a luscious, ripe cocoa pod.
Or so I imagined, borrowing freely from Kafka’s opening line in “Metamorphosis.” For three decadent days, I had been eating chocolate-stuffed liver pâté, cocoa-encrusted kingfish and, for breakfast, cocoa-and-cashew granola. At night I drank cocoa Bellinis. I indulged in a cocoa oil massage, hiked through cocoa fields and created my own chocolate bar. Dawn consistently carried the pungent aroma of cocoa trees, because I was staying on a verdant cocoa estate — and sleeping in a cocoa pod.
Well, sort of: Hotel Chocolat, a boutique property in St. Lucia, features not rooms but “luxe pods,” where even the magnificently minimalist décor (rich mahogany floors, ivory-colored bathroom with open-air shower) evokes the essence of chocolate.
Hotel Chocolat’s union of tourism and agricultural development, specifically its devotion to all things cocoa, is part of a budding movement across the Caribbean. You might call it choco-tourism.
From Tobago to Dominica, Grenada to St. Vincent, the Caribbean cocoa industry, which has roots in colonial times, is being revitalized. This is excellent news economically: With free trade having all but destroyed the islands’ banana and sugar industries, fair-trade farming initiatives are a welcome boon.
And it’s hardly small-change news; the world price of cocoa nearly doubled from 2004 to 2008, with an even greater increase for the rare genre of bean the Caribbean is feted for: fine-flavored cocoa, which makes up just 5 percent of the global market. What grows in the Caribbean is the Champagne of cocoa. It even has its own promotional team: the two-year-old Caribbean Fine Cocoa Forum, a European Union-financed networking vehicle working to bolster production and exports in nine countries.
And then there is the tourism connection. Aficionados flock to Napa or the Loire Valley for wine tasting; why not go to stunning island locales to indulge in sun, sand, sea — and chocolate?
There is already, after all, a chocolate-themed Caribbean holiday offered by Silversea Cruises. In Belize, the annual Toledo Cacao Festival celebrates the cocoa-driven culture of the Mayan, Garifuna, East Indian and Creole people from the Toledo district. In Dominica, visitors can stay in the boutique Cocoa Cottage hotel; they can tour the Agapey Chocolate Factory in Barbados. The Grenada Chocolate Company pioneered the trend in 1999, offering tours of its factory, farm and Bon Bon Shop in the island’s rain forest.
Earlier this year I followed the cocoa trail across four islands and three languages. Not only did it forever spoil Hershey’s for me, my tour also proved to be an eye-opening journey through settings both rustic and grand. It carried me beyond umbrella-studded beaches to far-flung fields, untouched island landscapes and a local culture with a legacy well worth witnessing.
I began in Trinidad, where the cocoa industry is such a mainstay that the University of the West Indies there has a Cocoa Research Center. The journey began in a very un-eco setting: the glinting Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain, a bustling Caribbean capital with some of the region’s liveliest night life. I checked in, watched the sun set over the infinity pool, ate delectably fresh sushi at the sleek lobby bar and took in a few hours of soca at cavernous Club Zen.
The next morning I landed in another world. “Welcome to Gran Couva — Home of Fine Flavor Cocoa,” read the humble sign for one of the world’s most feted cocoa fields, in the Montserrat Hills region of central Trinidad. I had driven 15 minutes from the sprawl of Port of Spain before green erupted everywhere: rolling hills, quaint plant shops, iguanas scurrying across the road.
Pulling into a driveway, past a green gate, I was greeted by a host of butterflies, thundering squawks from a caged macaw and the outstretched hand of Lesley-Ann Jurawan, owner of Violetta Fine Chocolates and Delft Cocoa Estate in Gran Couva. She wore a shirt marked “Montserrat Cocoa Farmers Co-op” and explained that the co-op, to which Delft belongs, exports some of its beans to the Valrhona company in France, whose Gran Couva bar pays homage to the region. Most Caribbean-sourced chocolate (with the exception of the Grenada Chocolate Company and most of the artisanal small-batch chocolates I tasted during my tour) is produced in European cities, where the climate is more amenable to chocolate making.
“We have a long history, and we piggyback on it,” Ms. Jurawan said. That history goes back to the 1830s. White colonials, East Indians, French Caribbean émigrés and Venezuelan peons fleeing federalist wars all settled in Gran Couva and the north of the island to cultivate cocoa. They bred their own bean, the trinitario: a hybrid that has become one of three main kinds of cocoa trees grown worldwide.
“Voilà,” Ms. Jurawan said, handing me a shiny, scarlet trinitario pod. It fuses the prized complex and fruit-flavored criollo bean with the hardy forastero, the bulk bean, mostly sourced from West Africa, that accounts for some 70 percent of the chocolate we eat.
Jude Lee Sam, a cocoa farmer, sliced the pod and handed me half. The pulp had a mild flavor, acidic yet sweet. Then we made our way past vats of fermenting cocoa pulp and metal drying sheds with retractable roofs. On one side of the shed the wet beans smelled like, well, armpits. The aroma of the dry beans on the other side evoked, at last, the sweetness I’d come for.
THE ultimate reward came when Ms. Jurawan presented me with one of her own bars. “You’ll do a five-senses tasting,” she instructed. Obliging, I smelled the bar. I admired its style: a cocoa pod was imprinted on the chocolate. I felt its cool temperature. I broke it in half — “it should break cleanly, with a proper sound,” Ms Jurawan said.
Finally, I tasted; the fruity, spicy sensation made me momentarily understand why the Mayans, considered inventors of chocolate, were said to sacrifice humans in exchange for a good cocoa crop. This was to-die-for chocolate.
I got back into the car and ventured south, through the heart of Trinidad’s East Indian community, past homes decked out in Hindu prayer flags and temples resembling giant birthday cakes. I stopped at a roadside stand for sahina, a fried spinach-and-breadcrumbs patty. Eventually, I landed in the heart of the country’s oil belt, where flocks of white egrets encircled immense derricks, surreally protruding from the jade landscape. At the Rancho Quemado Estate, a cocoa cultivator and Agro-Eco Tourism Park, I meandered through a tilapia farm, an apiary and a mini-zoo featuring yellow-head parrots, boa constrictors and tortoises. The trails, lined by citrus and cocoa trees, proved the perfect place to linger in the light Caribbean rain.
Early next morning I ventured north, to another feted cocoa source. Gail’s Exclusive Tour Services whisked me away on a drive through the rain-forested Northern Range Mountains. We snaked up green hills, thick with bamboo and accented with flowers so dramatic they seemed artificial: red birds of paradise, dazzling orange shrimp’s tails. Again I was struck by how close yet how far Port of Spain was; there was barely a home or soul in sight, save the occasional local farmer, trekking up the mountain, machete in hand.
“Experience the Valley of Life,” read the sign beside the visitors center in the village of Brasso Seco, where I was handed a cup of the best hot cocoa of my life. My guide, Francis François, an Afro-Trinidadian with a weathered smile, took me on a hike through acres of criollo trees, laden with red and yellow pods. For additional revenue, the community sells coffee, cocoa powder, mango kuchela (a scrumptiously spicy condiment) and pepper sauce, the peerless Trinidadian staple.
Back in Port of Spain, at the Medulla Art Gallery — where a funky exhibition commemorating Trinidad’s 50th anniversary of independence was on display — I met three chocolatiers. Gina Sonia Hardy, a Singaporean, said she began making chocolate on a dare from her Trini mother-in-law. I accompanied her truffles (65 percent dark chocolate with rum, almonds and coconut) with a shot of Exotic Caribbean Mountain Pride dark chocolate liqueur, infused with nutmeg, clove, bay leaf and orange peel. When I told the company’s founder, Darill Astrida Saunders, that her elixir could put Bailey’s to shame, she said that it’s an old family recipe.
Cocobel Chocolate, meanwhile, makes Isabel Brash something of a Trini Willy Wonka; in the back of the gallery she creates everything from cocoa flower logos to delectable edibles, made from cocoa from Rancho Quemado, which her family owns. I didn’t know whether to photograph or eat her work: rum and raisin, mango pepper, espresso, all erupting with exuberant flavor.
Interestingly, most locals seem to prefer Hershey’s and Cadbury to these homegrown, primarily dark-chocolate creations. But all three women said they were slowly finding success in their home market, peddling their brands, which range from $20 to $35 for a box, in specialty shops and supermarkets across the island.
Next stop on the trail: Trinidad’s resort-driven sister island, Tobago, where I put my lazy tourist hat on at nonpareil beach bars serving Carib beer and curried crab and dumplings. But my goal was to investigate Tobago Cocoa Estate. Founded two years ago, the winner of gold stars from the Great Taste Awards in 2011 and 2012, it offers daily tours to tourists.
It was an hourlong drive north from Tobago’s capital, Scarborough, to the estate, on the fringes of the Main Ridge Forest Reserve. I pulled into a clearing where a woman with a machete greeted me. Nan, an estate caretaker, let me know that “this place was all bush — took over five years to clear.” Now it’s an edenic 43-acre estate, home to some 22,000 cocoa trees and the crops that shade them: ginger, cherry, lime, guava, mango, avocado. It’s also beside the Argyle Waterfall, where a short hike through bamboo forests leads to cascading pools of chilly mountain water.
I hiked through the estate to a hilltop gazebo, where my guide, Harry, cracked open a pod for me to sample. Making my way to the gift shop, I stocked up on the 70 percent single-estate slice (“single estate” and “single domain” are the crème de la crème of chocolates, both referring to the bean origin), a tangy, fruity and stunningly unsweet treat.
SOME days later, I arrived at the Hotel Chocolat on the Rabot Estate in St. Lucia. Opened last year, Hotel Chocolat is more than a superior boutique hotel, and bigger than a brand — which it certainly is; the Rabot Estate marquee includes the hotel, an internationally available chocolate label (Rabot Estate), a restaurant chain (Boucan, in St. Lucia, soon to be introduced to New York City and London), chocolate cafes in London and Stockholm and the new Roast & Conch shop, which brings small-batch chocolate making to London.
When the hotel’s British-born owners embarked on their cocoa mission several years ago, they weren’t alone; up the road, the 18th-century Fond Doux Estate has been operating cocoa tours and serving Creole lunches for over a decade. But Rabot Estate has carried Caribbean cocoa to new heights, and in many respects, has only just begun. Plans are under way for a tour-friendly chocolate factory, complete with research center, cafe and retail space: a complete tree-to-shop experience that will import beans from other islands and employ several hundred locals.
I devoted a full day to indulging in all the estate has to offer. There was a hike to its highest point, where I marveled at a 360-degree view of the Caribbean crowned by St. Lucia’s magnificent landmark, the Piton Mountains. The Bean to Bar class involved mortar-and-pestle grinding, some cooking-show-style cheating (when it was time to pipe my chocolate into its mold, a ready-made bowl of liquid chocolate appeared) and a history lesson by Ron Lafeuille, a chef who seemed to drop every name in the storied history of the fruit, from colonizers to Cadbury. On the Tree to Bean tour, I discovered that grafting a pod involves far more slicing, taping and carving than I have patience for.
I rounded out the day with the Engaged Ethics Tour, which introduced me to some farmers who sell to the Rabot Estate. One of them, Alphonso Stanislas, told me that after growing cocoa for four decades, he could finally make a fair wage; like every other farmer I met on the cocoa trail, he told me that he’s now planting more cocoa trees than ever before. “It’s something I always felt we should capitalize on,” he said. “Two things Americans and Europeans cherish: cocoa and chocolate.”
I remained in this rural part of St. Lucia, with its black-sand beaches, waterfalls and mineral baths, for four days. When I craved urban action, I took in some reggae and country-and-western tunes at Whispers, a bar in Soufrière, a quaint (if somewhat run-down) town that time seems to have forgot. Towering over the region, the Pitons create the effect of two wildly different movie sets: By day they are jaunty and playful; by night, they’re ominous shadows, shrouded in stars.
All epicurean adventures should end with rum and chocolate for breakfast. I had mine during a day trip from St. Lucia to neighboring Martinique. The 20-minute flight links radically different worlds; it felt mildly surreal to suddenly be making my way through Martinique’s sleek European airport, cruising down a modern highway to a modish shop that could well be in Paris. If the proprietor has his way, it will be in Paris, and Dubai, the two places Thierry Lauzea, founder of locally made Frères Lauzea chocolate, has set his sights on for future stores.
“We are not trying to be European — we are Caribbean chocolate,” Mr. Lauzea said, waving his hand about the shop, which was adorned in dazzling images of flora and fauna, sand and sea. Glass cases contain 35 flavors of truffles, from banana and curry basil to guava and coffee, each piece embellished with multihued trimmings.
Two men in black suits ushered in six-year-old Martiniquan rhum vieux and chocolate ganache. Mr. Lauzea coached me in tasting techniques: sip and swallow the rum; bite the chocolate; sip more rum; swallow together. “When you have rum, it’s one personality,” he explained. “Chocolate, another. Blend them, another. It’s amazing!”
Reader, it was. The pairings were perfect: single-malt-finish rum and pungent orange chocolate. Litchi truffle with ultra smooth, sweet rum. “C’est parfum!” Thierry exclaimed. “How do you say? It’s a real orgasmic.”
After our tasting — and before a lunch of sesame conch and dorado at the newly opened Entre Nous — I drove into rural Martinique, to Elizabeth Pierre Louis’s farm in St.-Joseph, one source of Mr. Lauzea’s chocolate. As we trekked about, Elizabeth showed off the scene: sheep, roosters, coconuts, all manner of fruit tree. But one thing excited her above all.
“There it is!” she exclaimed. “The criollo. I only started planting them. That’s it — the treasure, right there.” Suddenly I was struck by the fact that I could be in Trinidad, or St. Lucia, or many other Caribbean islands — all of them pinning hopes on this singular crop whose history weaves a storied connection between disparate lands. And this I now know: it’s a sweet, sweet connection, indeed.
Chocolate Tourism, Beans to Bar
The Hyatt Regency Trinidad (1 Wrightson Road, Port of Spain; 868-623-2222; trinidad.hyatt.com) has an infinity pool with views of the Gulf of Paria, and a breakfast buffet of local favorites. From $209.
The new Magdalena Grand Beach Resort in Tobago (Tobago Plantations Estate, Lowlands; 868-660-8800; magdalenagrand.com) has a golf course, pool, beach area and breakfast spread. From $270.
The Hotel Chocolat (Soufrière, St. Lucia; 800-757-7132; thehotelchocolat.com) is cacao heaven, with eco-chic cottages; the Boucon Restaurant, where nearly everything on your plate is locally sourced; and views of the Pitons. From $350.
Gail’s Exclusive Tour Service Limited (868-638-5085; exclusivetourstnt.com) offers a range of Trinidad tours, including Brasso Seco visits.
Delft Cocoa Plantations and Violetta Fine Chocolates runs tours of the Montserrat Hills cocoa region in Trinidad ($50, includes lunch; violetta.vpweb.com).
Rancho Quemado Agro-Eco Tourism Park is part zoo, part nature retreat, part cacao farm (1 ¾ Rancho Quemado Road, Trinidad; 868-389-8385).
At the Tobago Cocoa Estate (Roxborough, Tobago; 868-390-2021; tobagococoa.com), drop-in tours ($10) are conducted Monday to Friday at 9 and 11 a.m. There are two Frères Lauzea Chocolatiers shops in Martinique; one offers rum-and-chocolate tastings with advance reservation. ($24 for four pairings; Quartier Mangot Vulcin 97232, Le Lamentin; 596-56-98-83; frereslauzea.com).
Feast on Martinique cuisine at Entre Nous (Bois Neuf Gondeau, 97212, St.-Joseph; 596-69-62-25144; restaurant-entrenous.fr), on the porch of a charming Creole home.
BAZ DREISINGER is a journalist and associate professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who writes about Caribbean culture.