Ask an Expert: Peter J. Frank, Director of Editorial Product Development
Q: How can I use social media to help plan my next trip? — Katie Ragan, Chicago, Ill.
A: Asking your friends and followers for advice is a no-brainer, but a few new websites do the legwork for you. Trippy and Gogobot both pose your travel-related questions to your Facebook and Twitter contacts best suited to answer them. More simply, you can filter your Facebook friends by city to see if you know any natives who can suggest must-sees. On Twitter, use the List feature to group all the travel-related accounts you follow—airlines, hotels, and notable tastemakers—into one easy-to-manage time line. Once you’re on the ground, Foursquare’s map feature can help find deals and trending spots, including happy hours and locals-only brunch favorites.
Q: What new restaurants should we try in San Francisco? — M.C. Powell, via e-mail
A: The city’s Asian food scene continues to flourish. Chef Keiko Takahashi, of the recently closed Michelin-starred restaurant El Paseo, just opened Keiko à Nob Hill(415/829-7141; seven-course dinner $77 per person), with a Japanese and French menu (try the Shigoku oyster soup). Wo Hing General Store(415/552-2510; dinner for two $30), the latest venture from star chef Charles Phan, is beloved for its authentic Chinese street food—Shanghai dumplings in black vinegar; fried squid with lemon. Finally, don’t miss the pop-up restaurant Rice Paper Scissors(no phone; dinner for two $34), run by two hip Vietnamese women and known for worth-the-wait scallion pancakes and pork-belly banh mi.
Q: Can you recommend a guided tour of Burma? — Wolfgang Linz, via e-mail
A: “Thanks to the November 2010 elections and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent trip, the country’s government is starting to open its doors,” says Scott Wiseman, president of Abercrombie & Kent(888/611-4711; 16 days from $6,295 per person). Guests of A&K watch as rural villagers weave silk by hand, row Inle Lake with Burmese fishermen, and spend two days cruising the temple-lined Irrawaddy River. On an 11-day trip with Cox & Kings(from $7,665 per person), you’ll take a hot-air balloon ride at sunrise over the 11th-century ruins of Pagan and see local boys ordained at a lakeside Buddhist monastery.
Q: I’m looking to stay in a Rome hotel with an interesting history. Any ideas? — Ariana Breed, Baltimore, Md.
A: Owned by third-generation counts, the 17th-century Palazzo Manfredi(doubles from $620) was built over the ruins of Ludus Magnus, training grounds of the gladiators (ask for a room with a view of the Colosseum). Hotel de Russie(doubles from $970), named for the Russian politicos who stayed there in the 1800’s, maintains a secret garden that extends as far as the Villa Borghese; the Hotel Hassler Roma(doubles from $835) was American command headquarters during World War II. A 17th-century former convent in the Trastevere neighborhood, Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel(39-06/588-861; doubles from $267) now features velvet-wrapped headboards, marble soaking tubs, and a rooftop terrace overlooking the city.