cheeky labels

arrogant frogOld world wine with a new world attitude, Arrogant Frog has to be the cheekiest label around. Grown in the gravely, clay limestone hills of the Herault Valley in Languedoc, these eminently drinkable wines have a personality that tastes of their distinctive terroir. Good marketing only goes so far towards establishing a brand, but these are good value everyday wines that will have you coming back to the barrel in spite of the clever labeling.

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stand your ground

building collapse floridaYet another large sinkhole swallowed up a healthy chunk of The Sunshine State on Monday. Measuring approximately 100 feet across, it opened up yesterday at the Summer Bay Resort close to Disney World, Florida, nearly taking one of the luxury vacation buildings with it while partially crumbling two others. (Fortunately, the 40 guests inside were able to get out in time and there were no injuries, although many – wisely – rushed out leaving everything behind.) Geologists are calling it a classic sinkhole, common in the Florida area due to the lands’ predominant geologic rock formations of limestone, which are water-soluble and susceptible to what’s known as raveling, a vertical and/or lateral migration of sediments to deeper voids or cavities within the limestone. This shifting of that sediment causes the collapse, which creates a sinkhole – and should remind travelers that “stand your ground” has a double-barreled meaning down in God’s Waiting Room.

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how do you like my island, mr. bond?

speedboat express

Hidden away in my treehouse above the sea, I’ve seen very little of the island of Phuket aside from a brief trip to the market. That changed today in a fit of inspired whimsy: I chartered a speedboat off the eastern side of the island and spent the day freewheeling the Andaman Sea. After dropping anchor for a quick picnic and swim on a stretch of beach at Ko Thanan, we headed north towards Phang-Nga Bay, past dozens of islands created by mainland fault movements. Each island is, in fact, a single, massive limestone monolith, upended vertically and pocked round the base with caves which only reveal themselves during the low tide. (Limestone being soluble, the caves are the result of thousands of years of tidal erosion.) You can take a sea kayak and paddle inside the caves if the tide is right, but my timing was off, so I settled for a pee break masquerading as a swim stop beneath the dramatic cliffs before continuing northwards – in a sudden lashing rain – to Ko Phing Kan, or James Bond Island. Used as the setting for the secret lair of Christopher Lee in The Man With the Golden Gun, JBI has become the most famous part of the newly established Ao Phang Nga Marine National Park. In point of fact it’s two islands: the towering Khao Phing Kan, literally “hills leaning against each other,” and Ko Tapu, or “spike island,” where Scaramanga hid the solex laser. If I had to be a super-villain I couldn’t think of a better place to hideaway and plot world domination.

beach at ko thanan

limestone eroding

phang nga bay panorama

james bond island

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