Sherman's Travel

I love travel magazines--especially when they take you to places you'd never go. A 5-star hotel in Malaysia? Pass. A 14-day survivalist trek through the Brazilian rain forest subsisting on rose petals and tree bark? Next. Like many travelers with intelligence and curiosity, I want to discover new things--from the comfort of my Barcalounger. Who wouldn't want to know the best beaches in Maui--even if you never enjoy them? The bottom line is, we want options. And, whenever possible, a bargain couldn't hurt.

Now, I'm not talking about that "charming" Left Bank hostel with a fireplace but no heat that you stayed at in college. Yes, we've all done Garrets R Us. And when you're 21, your first thought of the French isn't World War II and collaboration. It's the Euro stunner who is sitting across from you, while you pretend to a) know what a brioche is and b) try not to choke on your Gauloise.

Those days, happily, are gone, replaced by the desire to put comfort where it belongs: front and center. And if you're looking to travel on the luxury-value liner, you've come to the right place.

Sherman's Travel, a new quarterly, is a spin-off of, which offers a built-in base for potential readers. The site, geared to deals and destinations, ups the ante with the pub, which finds bargains for upscale travelers, defined as "people who want luxury, without luxury prices." In short, it supplies deals in the 4- and 5-star category. Sherman's Travel--cut line Smart Luxury Values--assumes you have money; it just wants to show you how to spend it wisely.

According to CEO Jim Sherman, each issue will carry signature pieces, like Sweet Spot, Price Points, Perfect Trip, Making It Happen and Luxe List. Apparently, he didn't count the premiere issue, which only includes three of the five stalwarts. It's a bit like a flashy date that promises the sun, the moon and the stars--until you find out his gold card has expired.

But, hey, every magazine needs time to get the formula right--and happily, Sherman's Travel is on its way. It employs a user-friendly voice, the list concept and informative feature pieces, always with a luxury-value edge (tips and prices), to produce an interesting, genuinely helpful read. Best of all: it's sans the affectations of its rivals. Here, it's all about finding the joy and hidden treasures of a destination--be it New England's fall drives, complete with rainy-day diversions, like the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, or the rebirth of Bucharest, Romania, in the post-Ceausescu era.

Today in Bucharest, you can return to a world where "the cafes are buzzing ... and you'll even spot some recognizable shops: Hugo Boss, Escada and Estee Lauder." I'm all for free trade, but why is the opening of overpriced boutiques the defining symbol of success? How about a proliferation of bookstores or comedy clubs or a free press?

What you don't get with Sherman's Travel is a roundup of the hottest places, an adjective that should be banned from the language, or places to see Paris Hilton strip, which, apparently, is anywhere camcorders are sold. It was fun when Scott and Zelda danced half-naked in fountains. It was the Jazz Age; such excess can be blamed on Prohibition gin. But seeing Hollywood's B list or over-rewarded hedge fund managers romp drunkenly along the Costa Brava is more than most of us can bear. I'd rather watch "March of the Penguins" again. At least their journey served a purpose.

That's why Sherman's Travel has a chance. It serves a real market. I especially enjoyed the front-of-book section, which includes lively global dispatches of new hotels, art exhibits and a summary of the top 10 emerging wine regions--Israel to Virginia. Suddenly, "Sideways" makes sense.

The traditional shopping page, "Bring Back," sports an eclectic, fun array of products you could buy on exotic trips, or, just travel the Internet on a laptop. I was struck by an exquisite cezve, a Turkish coffee pot. The holidays are coming, and it's a click away: I'll act surprised. Promise.

As a first effort, Sherman's Travel has acquitted itself nicely. Yes, it has some kinks to work out, but they are photographic, such as running too many small photos in the story on Buenos Aires, along with several blurry ones. One sexy tango picture, one perfect piece of architecture says it all. Similarly, the Maui story, which seems to have been shot on an overcast day, shows a Hawaiian sounding a conch as big as his head. Here, size matters. Shrink the image to keep the design in proportion, and the reader from developing an unnatural fear of shells.

Finally, why is it that magazines insist on a plus-sign on every cover? ST is no exception; it employs the red variety. The only time I want to see a red cross is on the Red Cross. And I wish the art director would explain why his cover girl, who we assume is in beautiful Maui, doesn't look happy. If part of the sell is fantasy, does she know something we don't?

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