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ผู้เขียน หัวข้อ: 7 Beautiful Places in the World That You Need to See in Real Life  (อ่าน 2712 ครั้ง)


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7 Beautiful Places in the World That You Need to See in Real Life
« เมื่อ: กันยายน 19, 2019, 12:50:59 AM »
7 Beautiful Places in the World That You Need to See in Real Life
How many places have you been to outside your home country? One? None? You have probably seen pictures of places all over the world, and the internet makes it easy to look them up and explore virtually. That’s nothing to the experience you would have if you actually traveled to them for real. Check out these seven beautiful places in the world that you need to see in real life. Don’t just read about them: seriously consider visiting them. Your place of residence is beautiful, but there’s so much more out there you might not even know about.

1. The Arctic Circle

Perhaps you are searching for a few glimpses of wildlife, in the actual wild and not in a zoo, at some point on your journey around the world. Maybe you are looking for someplace colorful, or whose climate makes you feel like you’re not even on the planet anymore. If any of these things are on your list, there’s an ideal place to mark on your travel map. A mere 1,650 miles from the North Pole, the Arctic Circle is a place you can access from many different locations in the world, but still unlike anything you have ever seen before or will ever see again. You can take a tour, or a cruise; you can see whales and polar bears. You can just stand and admire the natural beauty (snap a few photos while you’re there, too). Learn more about everything the Arctic Circle has to offer its visitors.

2. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

If you have never traveled to any part of South America, Brazil is a great place to start. If you’re heading down that way, you might as well begin your journey at Rio de Janeiro, which is full of a wide variety of sites and attractions and local culture to satisfy your senses and curiosity. In Rio de Janeiro, you’ll have so much fun you might not want to leave (but there’s always a next time, right?). You can take the more cultural route and visit a plethora of museums and architectural wonders, or you can relax on the beach, check out the many vendors or enjoy some great food … or all of the above, and then some.

3. Palawan Island

Have you ever run away to an island, or thought about it, just to take in the beautiful scenery around you? If you travel to Palawan Island, which includes many different islands open to exploration, you can do just that, and so much more. Located in the Philippines, Palawan Island offers boat tours to view its underground river, beautiful beaches and even the chance to view the area’s breathtaking marine life while scuba diving or snorkeling. You can even go on one of almost a dozen sightseeing tours so an expert can help point out  everything you don’t want to miss.

4. Okavango Delta

What do you picture when you hear the word “safari”? If you have never considered embarking on a real life safari, you might want to change your mind. A real African safari will completely alter the way you see the world, and because it is affordable and completely accessible, you really have no excuse not to go. If you are itching for a true exotic adventure, head to Botswana and explore the Okavango Delta, where you will find a literal oasis deep within an African desert. The wildlife is just one of many reasons why visiting this remote location is a necessity at least once, if not multiple times throughout your life.

5. Cappadocia, Turkey

One good reason to take temporary leave from your normal life to visit someplace new is the opportunities it allows for a whole lot of walking. Think about it: how much walking do you really do in a day? Unfortunately, you probably spend most of your work day hunched over your desk, and when you do get a good walk in, the scenery is nothing compared to what you might find elsewhere. Cappadocia, Turkey is a place built for walking, and the sights and attractions along the way are worth every step. If you add this trip to your bucket list and someday make the arrangements, you will have the chance to explore underground cities and churches and even castles. Learn more about all the things you will be able to see once you arrive.

6. Brecon Beacons National Park

If you are hoping to head somewhere you have zero chance of getting bored visiting, consider a trip to Wales, Brecon Beacons National Park specifically. When you visit Brecon Beacons National Park, you won’t run out of things to do. In fact, there’s so much to see and do while you’re there that you might not even get the chance to see it all. It’s a dream come true. Whether you’re looking for excellent food at drink at one of the park’s many festivals, a little bit of culture or history or just a beautiful place to take a very long walk, you will find it here. Visit a castle, or a lake, or a valley. Look onto a waterfall or a canal. It’s all there, just waiting for you to find it.

7. Venice, Italy

As with all the other locations described here, Venice is not anything like what you have seen in pictures or on T.V.: it is a thousand times better. City life in Venice probably isn’t anything like what you’re used to at home, either, which can be a good thing. Don’t just go on a vacation for the sake of getting away: go for the sake of discovering something completely new. You can stand in wonder at Venice’s many canals, wander through the streets or stop at one of many coffee shops. Visit a museum or two and marvel at the art you can only dream of creating yourself. Venture into the area’s churches and cathedrals. It is a location so beautiful you will never forget it. Start with this guide if you are thinking about planning a trip here someday. Travel to these seven beautiful places around the world at least once in your lifetime. Expand your cultural horizons and dare to gaze upon landmarks and wonders you just can’t appreciate the same way in pictures as you can in real life.

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« แก้ไขครั้งสุดท้าย: กันยายน 27, 2020, 12:27:23 PM โดย anyaha »


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« ตอบกลับ #1 เมื่อ: กันยายน 19, 2019, 12:51:13 AM »
5 best North American skiing: From major resorts to quirky diversions
1. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia

Though it’s enormous and known by skiers the world over, Whistler Blackcomb somehow still feels “intensely spiritual,” said Susan Reifer in Ski magazine. The resort’s two main mountains are surrounded by glaciers and “alpine lakes so vivid they look like something from a dream.” By many measures, Whistler is North America’s largest mountain resort, sprawling over 8,171 snow-covered acres. Whistler Village meets the demands of its diverse visitors with spas, restaurants, and hotels that appeal to “yogic meditators and hedonists alike.” Of course, the slopes are the main draw here, and some of the best snow is found away from the most wellcarved runs. Somehow, developing a familiarity with the terrain here “transforms a person—even one who is not naturally gifted—into the most capable of skiers.”

2. Banff National Park, Alberta
A trio of resorts in Alberta offers a pleasingly laid-back take on Canadian skiing, said Christopher Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times. Unlike the far livelier scene 10 hours west at Whistler, the resorts Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, and Norquay offer stellar slope experiences without the bustle. Stunning peaks line the horizon in Banff National Park, where the three resorts feature a combined 8,000 skiable acres. About 4,200 of these are at  Lake Louise Ski Resort. While making your way up the Glacier Express chairlift to one of the more than 145 runs there, you can take in a view of the valley and spot skaters on Lake Louise, a partially frozen lake sitting under a glacier. An apr?s-ski scene in the town of Banff provides a chance to warm up, as do nearby hot springs.

3. Silverton Mountain, Colorado
The old-school, roughing-it conditions at Silverton keep “the soul of skiing” alive, said Christopher Steiner in Forbes.com. At 13,487 feet, Silverton Mountain is North America’s tallest ski peak and has no cut trails. A retired school bus pushed up against the snowpack serves as the mountain’s rental shop, and the base lodge consists of little more than a large pole tent with a wood-burning stove. Yet a range of skiers from “ski bum bros” to hedge fund managers takes advantage of the 1,819 acres of skiable terrain accessible by a single chairlift. Skiers also use the resort’s helicopter access to 22,000 more acres of raw slopes. The base lodge offers beer on tap, but more drinking options—as well as modern dining and lodging—are available only six miles away in the historic mining town of Silverton.

4. Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Jackson Hole is a resort that attracts hardcore skiers who want to “challenge and scare themselves,” said Dina Mishev in The Washington Post. It continues to offer some of the stiffest tests a skier can find in America, but the resort is also evolving to expand its appeal. New lifts added over the years have made some intermediate terrain more accessible, while existing trails have been improved and widened. Visitors may bump into celebrities in Teton Village, but the real thrills are on the 116 named ski trails and “a 3,000-acre experts-only playground of unpatrolled, ungroomed, uncontrolled terrain.” For advanced skiers, nothing matches the bowls, glades, and chutes of Rendezvous Mountain. On Rendezvous’s steep side-country couloirs, “falling is not an option.”

5. Marquette, Michigan

Many winter enthusiasts in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula enjoy snow without skis, thanks to “fat bikes,” said Melanie D.G. Kaplan in The Washington Post. “A cousin of the mountain bike,” a fat bike has tires about twice as wide as its relative, and with about one-third the air pressure. “The ride is steady and slow,” but the special gear allows for better control on snow. “Beginners and experts alike can’t help but wear a grin” when fat biking, and the fad has spread from its birthplace in Alaska all across the country. Marquette recently expanded its Noquemanon Trail Network, a hot spot for cross-country skiing, to include a 15-mile snow-bike trail that’s considered one of the best in the country. Not that you don’t have other options: “If you’re headed somewhere snowy this winter, chances are you’ll find fat-bike rentals.”

Berlin, 25 years after the Wall
A quarter century of freedom has done a number on the Berlin I once knew, said Zofia Smardz in The Washington Post. Back in the 1980s, West Berlin was “an island of freedom in a communist sea” and East Berlin “a forbidding fortress of a place, gray and lifeless.” But then the Wall that seemed as if it would last forever came tumbling down, the Cold War standoff between the Soviet Union and the West ended, and the “chic and fashionable” Berlin I loved busted loose. With the 25th anniversary of the Wall’s fall approaching, I decided to go back, landing in a Berlin that’s vigorously erasing its old dividing lines. Today, “it’s all one big, sprawling city—open and free and exhilarating.”

Of course, remnants of the Wall remain. What I find at Checkpoint Charlie shocks me: Near a replica of the guard booth where American MPs once checked the papers of people hoping to pass between West and East, tourists flood souvenir shops while actors in military garb pose for photos at $3 a shot. Boisterous street signs advertise curry sausage shops, while a couple of tiny, neon-painted cars drive by, honking. An “air of revelry” enlivens this display of “capitalism with a capital C”—and “I love it.” A Wall memorial on Bernauer Strasse offers a more sobering experience, though I spot some girls doing cartwheels nearby as I walk along a row of metal rods indicating the Wall’s route.

The spirit of giddy renewal feels especially strong in the Mitte district, “the formerly forlorn heart of Berlin.” Deluxe hotels and other towers are rising, and a “glitzy” restaurant now sits on the roof of the Reichstag, the 19th-century parliamentary building that sat largely abandoned throughout the Cold War. After dinner there, my husband and I stroll the spiraling walkway inside the building’s large glass dome and admire the Brandenburg Gate below. Berliners can now casually wander through the gate, but I’m sure the young international crowd I see rarely ponders how amazing that is. “That whole East-West thing? So 25 years ago.”

Wandering storybook Dubrovnik
The Croatian city of Dubrovnik “excels at playing versions of itself,” said Davin O’Dwyer in The Washington Post. Located on a “spectacular” stretch of the Dalmatian coast, the so-called Pearl of the Adriatic has been so fastidiously repaired since the bombardment it suffered during the 1990s’ Croatian War of Independence that you’d need a guide to spot the damage. Recently, Dubrovnik’s walled Old City has gained millions of new admirers by filling a featured role in the hit HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones. “A perfect real-world substitute” for the capital of Westeros, the latemedieval city core is “a town-size living museum”—and a true architectural marvel.

The Old City’s main thoroughfare, the Stradun, struck me as “one of the most perfectly proportioned streets I’ve ever walked along.” The wall’s main gates lie at either end, and the gates’ adjoining bell towers “act as visual exclamation points book-ending the gleaming stone pavement and the cream-colored buildings in between.” Narrow lanes branch off that central spine, leading up or down flights of stairs that “keep framing the city in stunning vertical shafts”—creating postcard views of a cathedral’s dome, say, or of stacked terra-cotta rooftops. Even so, the Old City’s “most breathtaking attraction” has to be the mile-and-a-quarter-long walkway atop the wall that rings it. “The finest view of all” came where the wall meets the Minceta tower and “the collage” of bell towers and red rooftops was set against the sea beyond.

The revival of the Old City and its global embrace have pushed out many longtime residents, and that thought was playing on my mind when I returned to the Stradun on my last day. At Orlando’s Column, a monument to a Norman knight, a large group of men dressed like medieval guards surrounded a chained prisoner who seemed to have been badly beaten. But then a director yelled, “Cut!” and I was struck by the notion that Dubrovnik is particularly good at offering the illusion that past and present, reality and fiction, can coexist in one place. “It’s an illusion, in truth, that I didn’t want to end.”

A Cuban town barely touched by the 20th century
Trinidad, Cuba, is a place that time has “blessedly” passed by, said Linda Mack in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. A frequent stop on guided tours of the island nation, this town of 60,000 was built on sugar money and slave labor, but more than 1,000 of its colonial-era buildings remain intact, and its historic center feels “far from fossilized.” Walking its ankletwisting cobblestone streets recently, I was surrounded by one-story 18th- and 19th-century houses occupied by multigenerational families and spilling with life. “Doorways opened to restaurants and bars and the music that is everywhere in Cuba.” Loosened restrictions on U.S. travel to communist Cuba have slightly increased the presence of American tourists in Trinidad, but it remains a world apart. On its narrow streets, automobiles are outnumbered by horse-drawn carts.

Our group arrived shortly before sunset one day, after a long bus ride through mostly unpopulated countryside. Trinidad is set back from the sea against the Escambray Mountains, and we enjoyed mojitos on the terrace of our state-run resort before descending the dark cobblestone street into town. At Casa de la M?sica, one of three venues that offer music nightly, we joined locals spread among open-air bistro tables to listen to salsa and watch a fire-eater. Some of the town’s old villas, we later discovered house the private restaurants called paladares, which have become Cuba’s hottest attraction. A highlight of our stay was a dinner at Sol Ananda Paladar, a restored 1750s villa where chandeliers of varying styles hang from wood beams and a bongo-playing female singer and her three-guitar band played a great set while we ate.

Fourteen thousand slaves once worked in the region outside town known as the Valley of the Sugar Mills, but their owners lived luxuriously in town. Many of their villas are now museums, including one focused on archaeology and another on the decorative arts. The Municipal History Museum is “even more sumptuous.” Its many rooms enclose a large courtyard, and a three-story tower offers panoramic views across the city’s roofs toward the distant ocean and the nearby mountains.

Kerala, India—‘God’s Own Country’
In most any other corner of the world, local inhabitants couldn’t invoke a slogan like the one above without sounding “unbearably self-satisfied,” said Davin O’Dwyer in The Washington Post. But Kerala, the state that hugs the southwest coast of the Indian peninsula, is beautiful enough to wear the label comfortably, especially given the variety of religious communities that share and embrace the land. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and even some Jains peacefully coexist here, as is apparent in “the busy juxtaposition of towers, minarets, and spires that sit cheek by jowl in every city, town, and village.” Though each vista offers a new variation on lush green, the landscape of Kerala is otherwise “as diverse as its people”—encompassing stunning beaches, a lacework of backwater canals, and the “glorious” hillside tea plantations of the Western Ghats.

After a short stay in Fort Kochi, a quaint heritage city, my girlfriend and I journeyed to Eravikulam National Park to soak in an unrivaled view of the state’s rolling western countryside. Anaimudi mountain, a forbidding peak whose name means “Elephant Head,” loomed to one side as we looked out on the tea plantations arrayed below us. Near the hill-station town of Munnar, the tea bushes “cling to the hills like a soft emerald carpet,” while paths created for the pickers cut patterned grooves—“as if some god-like cartographer had inked contour lines on the mountain slopes.”

We took an overnight cruise along the Malabar Coast before enjoying “one of the quintessential Kerala experiences”—a slow voyage in a kettuvallam, or thatched houseboat, through the canals and rivers that crosshatch a vast expanse of emerald-green rice paddies. Pretty cottages and churches often lined the way, and children at play stopped their games to wave to us. Once, when we paused for lunch, we watched a duck herder in a canoe using a long stick to expertly chaperone hundreds of waterfowl toward the riverbank. The entire excursion was so serene that it wove “a kind of meditative spell, like a deep-tissue massage for the soul.”

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« แก้ไขครั้งสุดท้าย: กันยายน 27, 2020, 12:32:51 PM โดย anyaha »


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« ตอบกลับ #2 เมื่อ: กันยายน 19, 2019, 12:51:46 AM »
Hawaii’s own undeveloped island
Across most of Lanai, Hawaii, “there is barely a swaying palm tree, beach umbrella, sparkling pool, or splash of tropical color” to be seen, said Adam Nagourney in The New York Times. Though the island is being made over by its new billionaire owner, Larry Ellison, it now offers mostly a raw, arid beauty, plus evidence of its long history as a pineapple plantation. Ellison dreams of transforming the island into “a laboratory of sustainability,” with its own multicrop farms, desalination plants, and even a university. Two Four Seasons resorts already offer the chance to experience a luxury Lanai. But you can also rent a Jeep or four-wheeler and head off on the “bone-jarring” dirt roads to find your beaches and bluffs. Some of Lanai’s best snorkeling can be found near the ruins of a temple in the waters below an 80-foot cliff known as Kahekili’s Leap. Off Shipwreck Beach, the waves still beat up against the “rusted hulk of a Navy destroyer.”

Iowa’s ‘Little Denmark’
If only Christian Jensen could see what he started, said Andrea Sachs in The Washington Post. In 1868, the Danish immigrant and his family became the first settlers of Elk Horn, Iowa, a village that’s now the largest rural Danish settlement in the United States. A good half of Elk Horn’s 650 residents claim Danish descent, and they show their pride by flying Danish flags on Main Street and maintaining two heritage museums. One is housed in a 60-foot-tall windmill built in Denmark in 1848 and rescued by town residents in the 1970s. Nearby Kimballton is the other half of “Lille Denmark,” and is home to a sculpture garden featuring characters from Hans Christian Andersen’s stories. For a taste of Scandinavia, stop into Elk Horn’s Danish Inn, where many of the specialties are “brown, meaty, and unpronounceable.” For many Danish tourists, it’s just like home—except that the nearest ocean is half a continent away.

Cycling the Natchez Trace
The Natchez Trace is a much more pleasant corridor to travel than it was 200 years ago, said Melanie Radzicki McManus in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Back when the old Indian trail served as a major trade route for our fledgling nation, heat, swarming insects, and packs of bandits made traveling the Trace so perilous that it was known as the “Devil’s Backbone.” But all 444 miles from Natchez, Miss., to Nashville are now a National Scenic Byway, and my husband and I have only fond memories after pedaling the entire length last fall. Our first day took us past a 35-foot Indian mound and the Trace’s only remaining 18th-century inn, and the next few days rolled by “in a kaleidoscope of vivid colors, sounds, and smells.” Gorgeous as the landscape was, what delighted us most were various “quirky and unexpected” happenings—like being passed by a pack of gleaming Corvettes driven by smiling senior citizens.

A World’s Fair at 50
If you go looking for remnants of the 1964 World’s Fair, bring your imagination, said Beth J. Harpaz in the Associated Press. Intriguing relics of the event still grace Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, N.Y., but visiting the area today is “as much about 21st-century Queens as it is a walk down memory lane.” A half-hour ride from midtown Manhattan on the 7 train brings into view a few World’s Fair icons: a “stupendous” 12-story steel globe, the flying-saucer towers of the long-shuttered New York Pavilion, and two NASA rocket ships that stand in front of the New York Hall of Science. An October reopening is scheduled for that museum’s “otherworldly” Great Hall. Until then, nostalgia seekers might be best advised to enjoy today’s park amenities and let the Fair relics—like the carousel outside the Queens Zoo and the scale model of New York City housed at the Queens Museum—pop up where they may.

Road tripping through Vermont
“Few road trips warm me like a drive through Vermont,” said Joe Crea in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Leaf peepers sing the praises of the state’s autumn foliage, when hillsides turn “calico in Technicolor splendor.” But any season is “a glorious time to visit,” as I was reminded this summer when my wife and I made a freespirited loop through the state’s western half. After wandering around Bennington, a picturesque college town, we drove narrow roads past hypnotizing streams and through lush, green forests as we headed north. “Postcard-perfect, steeple-spiked villages” inspired regular stops, and we dawdled, too, in “more luxe than ever” Stowe and in Montpelier, the “rough-hewn” capital. On our leisurely drive south from Burlington, the well-stocked Vermont Country Store in Weston provided another light diversion. “Every one of us has his or her Vermont. Go there. It’s a beautiful place.”

A shrine to swimming in South Florida
Fort Lauderdale’s International Swimming Hall of Fame offers plenty to dive into, said Robin Soslow in The Washington Post. Entering the wave-shaped building a block from the beach, I expected to see plenty of photos and medals. But for the next couple of hours, “it’s the surprises that anchor me.” Who knew the two-piece bathing suit was invented by a woman who used it while crossing the English Channel in 1926 or that Benjamin Franklin was such an athlete? Screen idols like Johnny Weissmuller enjoy tributes, and there’s even a short film breaking down how Rodney Dangerfield executed a “Triple Lindy” dive in the 1986 comedy Back to School. “Somber subjects get equal time,” though, and the history lessons stretch back centuries. Later, I spot a plaque outside that honors protesters whose 1961 “wade-ins” desegregated Fort Lauderdale’s beaches. The marker “adds to this swimming pantheon’s depths.”

Zip-lining through wine country
“Small town” hardly begins to describe Santa Margarita, Calif., said Jackie Burrell in the Contra Costa Times. But “there’s always been something special” about this sleepy burg, starting with the way wine grapes have flourished here since Spanish missionaries planted the first cuttings in 1787. Perched atop the Cuesta Grade near San Luis Obispo, the town has only one bar and one restaurant open past dark, but the first is an 1858 saloon where Willie Nelson has performed, and the second is an “unbelievably” good steakhouse. Still, “the vines are the thing,” and there are multiple ways to enjoy them. On a vineyard tour, we learned that the bears that roam the area never touch 15 of the 16 varieties grown there. “Bears are wine snobs,” said our guide. “They only eat pinot.” We hit some tasting rooms, too. But that was my reward for surviving the day’s big thrill: soaring over those famous vineyards on an 1,800-foot-long zip line.

An Oregon town’s boozy renaissance
Bend, Ore., has made a remarkable comeback, largely on the back of beer, said Diane Bair and Pamela Wright in The Boston Globe. This city of 80,000, located on the eastern edge of the Cascades, offers gorgeous scenery and abundant outdoor recreation, yet it fell on hard times when the local timber industry shut down. We began a recent visit where the renaissance started: Deschutes Brewery, which since its 1988 founding has spawned 10 other local craft breweries and become a national powerhouse. But “Beer Town USA” isn’t a one-industry locale, having recently been named by Entrepreneur magazine as the most entrepreneurial city in the country. Boutiques and trendy restaurants line downtown streets located just steps from a protected river and 20 minutes from the bike trails and ski slopes of Mount Bachelor. A can-do attitude permeates Bend—“one of the coolest and most eclectic mountain towns in the country.”

Daytona Beach’s easygoing neighbor
About half an hour south of party-friendly Daytona Beach lies “an unspoiled gem as quiet as the morning sunrise over the Atlantic,” said Jim Abbott in the Orlando Sentinel. In Florida’s New Smyrna Beach, the scene is decidedly laid-back. West of the Intracoastal Waterway lies the mainland Canal Street Historic District, an area rich in such nonbeach attractions as galleries, antique shops, and a history museum. Near the beach, on pedestrian-friendly Flagler Avenue, “the diversions range from touristy souvenir shops to homegrown businesses that cater to the whimsical and the practical.” Pick up a rental surfboard before strolling toward the sound of the ocean and the 13 miles of white-sand beach that remain the town’s main draw. To the south, the pristine Canaveral National Seashore is shared by 310 bird species; to the north, a pet-friendly 2-mile boardwalk offers water views in both directions. Best of all, there’s much beach in between.

Thoreau’s storied hometown
Concord, Mass., is rich in history, but it rewards those who approach it the way I imagine Henry David Thoreau did, said Nancy Shohet West in The Boston Globe. Thoreau wrote Walden while living in Concord, of course, and you can swim in Walden Pond or stroll the path around it and visit a replica of his cabin. Which suits me: “When it comes to sightseeing, I am at heart an 8-year-old” who would rather ride my bike, wander the woods,” or eat ice cream on Main Street than seek out exhibits about the Transcendentalists or the first battle of the Revolutionary War. That works here. Tour guides lead bike tours to the historic sites, and you can reach them by river after renting kayaks on Main Street. And even I’m not above being delighted by a chance encounter with a historical artifact—like wandering into the Concord Free Public Library and discovering manuscript pages from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

The Alamo, still larger than life
Yes, the Alamo is “worth remembering—and maybe some rethinking, too,” said Christopher Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times. The mission house turned garrison in San Antonio might be Texas’s most famous building, a fact that made me think it would be larger. It was in this small compound, now dwarfed by surrounding buildings, that a band of about 200 American rebels died in 1836 battling for Texas sovereignty against a Mexican army numbering from 1,800 to 6,000. Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie were among the rebels, and their valor made them national icons—while the Alamo itself became “a symbol of doomed bravery.” Guests now wander through the building, admiring Crockett’s vest or Jim Bowie’s knife or reflecting in the “welltended” garden outside. As I stood inside the shrine’s frail walls, imagining the carnage and heroism that once occurred there, the Alamo “didn’t look so small after all.”

Harvard’s reimagined museums
After six long years, Boston’s overhauled Harvard Art Museums have finally opened, said Holland Cotter in The New York Times. A recent renovation has combined “three very different museums”—the Fogg, the Busch-Reisinger, and the Arthur M. Sackler. Now bunched together at the site of the old Fogg, the museums maintain the old building’s fa?ade and courtyard, but “nearly everything else is new.” Celebrated architect Renzo Piano expanded the space and capped the addition off with a “clunky” pyramid roof. His interiors work better: Though the Asian galleries feel cramped and the Early Italian Renaissance gallery is too open, the enlarged facility “feels like a new space rather than just a tinkered-with old space,” and it retains various classical touches. Naturally, the art is the real draw, including works by van Gogh and Picasso, as well as a stunning 8th-century Buddha chiseled from the sandstone wall of a Chinese cave.

The ‘best town’ in America
A love of nature and an entrepreneurial spirit helped Duluth, Minn., earn Outside magazine’s “best town ever” honors this year, said Stephanie Pearson in Outside. Located on the western edge of Lake Superior, the city offers 6,834 acres of park space, 178 miles of hiking trails, 16 trout streams, and skiing on nearby Spirit Mountain. The city isn’t stopping there. Once Duluth Traverse reaches its 100-mile completion target, the in-progress project will be “one of the largest urban mountain-bike trail systems in the world.” Duluth even hired an “outdoor czar” to further boost activities. This love of the land carries over into businesses like spirit manufacturer Vikre Distillery and beermaker Bent Paddle Brewing Co., both of which use water from Lake Superior in their products. But it’s the passion of the citizens that really makes the city stand out. As Mayor Don Ness recently said, “In Duluth, you know you’re alive.”

California’s overlooked volcano park
Lassen Volcanic National Park is simply “unmatched in the park system,” said Rosemary McClure in the Los Angeles Times. The landscape features “clear alpine lakes and quiet meadows full of wildflowers, and ground that bubbles, hisses, and smokes from volcanic activity.” Indeed, this park located about three hours north of Sacramento lays claim to fumaroles, lava beds, steaming water—all thanks to magma flowing beneath the surface. There’s even an active, 10,500-foot volcano, Lassen Peak. Though I enjoyed these intense sights during a recent visit, I also found calmer pleasures. I took a sunset walk around Manzanita Lake, saw stunning views of the Cascade Range, and walked through a meadow “as a parade of ducklings marched by.” Curiously, Lassen is expected to attract only 400,000 tourists this summer, compared with the nearly 4 million Yosemite will draw. But that’s just another of Lassen’s many upsides: no crowds.

Dolphin-watching in Florida
Few places offer better dolphin-spotting than Florida’s Marco Island, said Marjie Lambert in The Miami Herald. Many visitors come for the “sweet crescent of sand” on the island’s gulf-side coast, which is lined with hotels and condos. Others come for the canoeing or kayaking, or to scour the sandbars for seashells. The shops of Naples are just 15 minutes north, and Marco Island offers a more relaxed atmosphere for a waterfront dinner when the shopping’s done. I, for one, most enjoy taking a boat tour from the island aboard the Dolphin Explorer, a 30-foot catamaran whose team of biologists can identify 200 local dolphins by the notches in their dorsal fins. The last time I joined the three-hour excursion, we spotted a bald eagle chasing an osprey and a great white egret snatching fish from the waves before we encountered the ultimate dolphin-watching experience: Seeing a mother teach her newborn how to swim.

California’s redwood giants
Standing beneath a redwood, you “feel belittled in the best possible way,” said Christopher Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times. I recently made a pilgrimage to see the tallest trees in the world, driving north from Leggett, Calif., and plunging into the forest at multiple stops. Leggett’s famous Drive-Thru Tree, a 315-foot redwood, provided a gateway to the string of national and state parks ahead. Wherever you wander amid old growth, you “consider the centuries towering above you.” But my favorite moment came at Founders Grove, where I hiked half a mile to see the Dyerville Giant, a 360-foot redwood that was 2,000 years old when it fell in 1991. A “graveyard hush” surrounded the prone behemoth as I walked its length from tip to roots. From its lower trunk, though, was growing a new redwood already 10 feet tall. “Who knows? With 2,000 years and a little luck, the new giant might surpass the old.”


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« ตอบกลับ #3 เมื่อ: กันยายน 19, 2019, 12:52:15 AM »
A Nobel laureate’s ‘fictional’ city
For a long time, I believed that the city of Momp?s was only a myth, said Nicholas Gill in The New York Times. “Momp?s doesn’t exist,” Gabriel Garc?a M?rquez wrote in his 1989 novel The General in His Labyrinth. “We sometimes dream about her, but she doesn’t exist.” I trusted the truth of those lines until 2008, when an acquaintance opened a boutique hotel in Garc?a M?rquez’s fictional Colombian city. Momp?s, or Santa Cruz de Mompox, as the municipality is officially known, is home to 30,000 people. Set in a river valley that’s rich in history and “ripe with romanticism,” it’s also a “perfectly preserved” colonial city.

Getting to Momp?s isn’t easy. In Cartagena, I had to catch a 4:30 a.m. seat on a Toto Express pickup truck that plowed inland for seven hours before we reached a ferry on the Magdalena River. The Magdalena explains both Momp?s’s rise and its decline: It once facilitated a booming trade in tobacco, slaves, and precious metals, but it silted up in the early 19th century, and currents shifted. Property prices are rising on hopes that Momp?s is about to be rediscovered, but mule carts still outnumber cars, and visitors frequently number in the single digits. During the day, intense heat sets a “drowsy rhythm.”

Just past dawn, I watched students walking to school and men in straw hats unloading pineapples from dugout canoes. But the city goes quiet until dark, when locals head to caf?s and booths in central plazas and bats swoop down into the streets. I hired a boat on my last day in Momp?s to explore its surroundings. “We cut through streams and wetlands, where herons flew over fields of yucca and howler monkeys slept in the trees.” The boatman pointed to high-water marks set by a 2010 flood that lasted seven months before locals brought in the Cristo Negro, a black Christ figure from a Bogot? church, and the floodwaters receded. The story sounded like a tale out of a Garc?a M?rquez novel, but in a town as “preposterously fantastic” as Momp?s, the miracle “just might not be fiction.”

The snowiest ski resort in the world
Niseko, Japan, “has quietly become the stuff of legend among the skiing cognoscenti,” said Eric Hansen in Outside. Located a 90-minute flight from Tokyo, the town on the nation’s northernmost island gets more snow each January than any other ski area in the world, and that snow is generally as dry as the finest powder found anywhere in North America. Australian skiers discovered Niseko after 9/11, when getting to Whistler in British Columbia suddenly became a challenge. Their support has kept the area in business while nearby Japanese slopes were failing, but Niseko still combines “movie-quality powder” with the laid-back vibe of a locals’ hill. Of the 48 feet of snow that fall on the town in an average year, 15 feet arrive in January. “Finding fresh powder is almost never a problem.”

My guide tells me I’m lucky when my first day of backcountry skiing is greeted by a bright sun and bluebird sky. I am, but I’m happier still when Niseko is once again “thoroughly snow-fogged,” as it can be day after day for weeks at a time. I spend most of my off-slope time touring Niseko Village, one of four base areas, then ski powder at night under the “impressive constellation of lights” of neighboring Hirafu. Natural hot springs called onsen bubble up everywhere, and I make a point of soaking my weary body at Goshiki, a “legendary” onsen—half indoor and half out—that sits at the end of one backcountry run.

Feathery snow is falling heavily as I part ways with the members of a snowboarding club I’ve enjoyed most of another day with. They were curious to hear about what it’s like to ski Whistler, but took for granted the blizzard then enveloping smaller Niseko. For a while longer, I ski alone, “poofing through fluff and leaping off pillow drops” while the flakes keep coming. “‘Aoooooooo!’ I howl, bringing my skis to a hissing stop after another half-dozen untracked runs.” I’m completely alone, and I’m beginning to believe that Niseko might just be the best ski resort in the world.

Driving North America’s most isolated road
The Trans-Labrador Highway might be “the loneliest road in the world,” said Josh Eells in Men’s Journal. A half-paved, 706-mile road that cuts across Labrador in northeast Canada, it passes through a vast wilderness so sparsely populated that a road tripper will often see no one else during a full day of driving. Built in the early 1980s to spark a commercial boom that never arrived, the two-way highway today remains “one of the last places in North America where it’s possible to be truly alone.” What’s more, the land itself is often dazzling. “In just a few days of driving, you can go from ancient woodlands to permafrost taiga to icy Atlantic fjords.”

A three-plus-hour flight from Montreal deposited me in tiny Labrador City, and soon my rental car and I were off. The land just to the east was “like an alpine valley, with shag-carpet grasslands, thickets of evergreens, and lakes the color of Darjeeling tea.” The packed-gravel road challenged my small SUV, but I made it to Churchill Falls in time to settle in for the night. By the third day, I so craved social interaction that I vowed to stop and talk to every person I passed. I talked to a Subaru driver at 9 a.m. and never saw anyone again. At one point, I stopped in front of a fox that stood in the middle of the road. He stared at me, disappeared, then popped up to my left. “He was playing with me,” so I got out until he got bored and trotted away.

Labrador’s Atlantic coastline is composed of some of the oldest known rock in the world, carved by a glacier 800 million years ago. My last day was spent pressing southward along the windswept shoreline, and it struck me that I could stop almost anywhere and walk to a patch of land no other human had ever touched. At the end of the road, the “mist-shrouded” town of Blanc-Sablon, I feasted on fresh cod and crab and considered the news that paving of the Trans-Labrador has begun again. If you hope to follow my tracks, “now may be your last best chance.”

Soaking up San Juan’s hipster phase
San Juan is beginning to percolate, said David Amsden in Cond? Nast Traveler. Not long ago, Puerto Rico’s capital was the kind of vacation destination where “you put up with mediocre food and ignore the local culture in exchange for a lounge chair facing the ocean.” But in part because steep tax breaks for investment income are bringing in wealthy young Americans from the mainland, neighborhoods that once were best avoided now welcome after-dark exploration. In short, the city might well remind you of Brooklyn circa 1999—“scrappy but sophisticated,” briefly occupying “that sweet transitional spot” where it is “still possible to feel part of a secret, part of something new and indisputably thrilling.”

I had only been in San Juan a few hours recently when I happened upon my first happy surprise. Jose Enrique is one of the city’s most celebrated young chefs, but the easiest way to find his eponymous restaurant on a mostly deserted street in the Santurce district is simply to look for the attractive young people gathered outside, waiting for tables with cocktails in hand. The group I dined with on stools at the bar “soon felt like old friends.” Not far away, on Calle Lo?za, I passed a “whiskey pizzeria” and a small-plates restaurant operating out of a bright-yellow shipping container, and every venue was “teeming with people.” One formerly vacant lot was hosting outdoor film screenings.

Neighborhood after neighborhood seemed to be undergoing a similar transition. Puerta de Tierra, once a high-crime area, has emerged as the city’s first art and design district. The old auto-repair zone, Tras Talleres, now feels like “the street-art capital of the Caribbean, with intricate graffiti covering every other building.” One sunny day after a particularly long night of hot-spot-hopping, a friend took me to an old-school restaurant for a lunch of fried steak and plantains. Once again, “I could have been in Brooklyn, with one notable exception: Less than a mile away I was able to find a nearly empty stretch of beach, where, in the shade of a palm tree, I happily passed out.”

Exploring a German town built by violins
It was in the pretty village of Mittenwald, Germany, that I learned that my oldest companion was a fraud, said Emma John in Afar. The Alpine town of 7,000 “couldn’t have been more inviting” or its residents more knowledgeable about the subject that had brought me there: the provenance of the ancient violin I had been playing since I was 12. Mittenwald is a very musical place: “Violins were everywhere” as I made my first stroll through town. They adorned shop signs, menus, even bottles at the liquor store. But when a master luthier peered inside my violin, he was unimpressed that the label inside said “1732” and bore the name “Mathias Klotz”—the craftsman whose handiwork had turned Mittenwald into a capital of violin-making. “This is not a Mathias Klotz,” he said. And I was crushed.

Mittenwald’s varied charms helped soothe my disappointment. The town’s main  thoroughfare, the Obermarkt, is a pedestrian avenue lined with 17th- and 18th-century houses and decorated with murals depicting Bible scenes and the renowned medieval market once based there. The pinktowered town church is lavishly decorated with trompe l’oeil paintings, and though I never adapted to the almost vegetable-free local diet, I “invested a lot of time in the town’s secondary industry: bakeries.” I even found a banjo player and a violinist to play with in the evenings, and on their recommendation, I hiked one day to the Lautersee, a mountain lake where tiny flowers stud the banks with subtle color.

Eventually, I felt I had no choice but to visit the town’s violin-making museum, which held a Mathias Klotz violin that looked so unlike my own instrument that viewing it was “like staring into a stranger’s face.” But the museum’s curator had asked me to bring in my impostor, and when an expert she called in told me that my violin had indeed been made in the 18th century, “a rush of relief flooded me.” The expert wasn’t done, either. The label, he said, was authentic—produced by Klotz and granted to a contemporary luthier who was imitating him. My violin’s label turned out to be the true marvel—one of only seven in the world.


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« ตอบกลับ #4 เมื่อ: กันยายน 19, 2019, 12:52:45 AM »
An island halfway to nowhere
Tristan da Cunha might be “the most far-flung inhabited island on Earth,” said Andy Isaacson in National Geographic Traveler. Located in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, about halfway between South Africa and South America, this British outpost is home to only 262 residents, and only nine times a year can any of them secure routine passage out— generally on a polar research ship making a seven-day crossing to Cape Town. “Why travel to Tristan? Simple: to escape to a place that has eluded even like-minded scapists.” When the SA Agulhas II dropped me off, I knew I wouldn’t be leaving until the ship picked me up four weeks later on its return journey.

Tristan is little more than a 6,760-foot volcanic cone, and from the water, it looks “solitary and lost, like an iceberg adrift.” But we eventually caught glimpse of a cluster of low buildings with red and blue tin roofs, and in one waited a cheerful tourism coordinator. She told me she could arrange excursions for fishing or bird watching, or guides to help me attempt a six-hour climb to the volcano’s peak. I started by walking the island’s only road, past Hottentot Gulch—named for the African soldiers who camped here in 1816 when the British briefly maintained a garrison—and on to a scattering of cabins where the locals spend Christmas. As I walked, “the pastoral tableau of mountain and ocean before me evoked a blend of Scotland and Big Sur.”

The first settlers were a family and two stonemasons who stayed behind when the British military left in 1817, but my host was the grandson of one of the Italian shipwreck survivors who washed ashore 75 years later. We ate a lot of lobster—Tristan’s main export—plus potatoes that had been boiled, baked, mashed, or roasted. I never did climb Queen Mary’s Peak, or see any of the cruise ships that have been making stops at Tristan. But I attended two baptisms, a wedding reception, two birthday potlucks, and a lamb marking, and I spent some happy evenings at the town pub. There wasn’t a palm tree in sight, but it felt like four weeks in “a vanishing kind of paradise.”

Embedding with an ancient tribe
The moment the boat pulled away, I experienced “a completely different kind of alone,” said Carl Hoffman in National Geographic Traveler. I have been to New Guinea before, and even visited the same isolated tribal village at the edge of the New Guinea jungle. But this time I have asked to be left for a month, and I am instantly encircled by a greeting party of 50 strangers with bones piercing their septa and white feathers in their headbands. Did I mention that their recent ancestors were cannibals? “In a lifetime of travel,” this is surely “the most intense thing I’ve done.”

An elder tribesman named Kokai is serving as my host. Kokai remembered me when I ran across him in the small coastal town of Agats, and he agreed to let me stay with him in his hut if I paid for his boat ride home. Upon our arrival, we smoke tobacco in a circle with other Asmat men who talk quickly in Indonesian while I try to keep up. When a bowl of noodles and rice is offered, I don’t know if it will sicken me. But “there is nothing I can do but eat, so I do.” I’m here to understand Asmat culture by completely immersing myself, and I must “leave behind everything I know.” Soon, I’m drinking rainwater “wiggling with mosquito larvae” and eating sago worms.

I never do get used to the smell of human excrement in Kokai’s village, since every toilet is just a hole cut in a floor. But I enjoy learning hunting stories told in pantomime and “lose myself in tribal reverie” as drummers and dancers celebrate the completion of a 100-foot-long men’s house for the village’s Jisar clan. Times moves so differently in this place that I think for a while that the month will never end. But eventually each day becomes “a blur of heat and rain and smoke and drumming and sitting in stillness,” and the month ends suddenly. Just before I board the boat that will take me back to Agats, Kokai takes my hand and rubs it on his cheek. “Adik,” he says—the Indonesian word for “little brother.”

The luxury side of the Maldives
Two very different worlds coexist in the Maldives, said Alan Feuer in The New York Times. This string of 1,000 coral islands off the southern tip of India remains, on one hand, a “hedonistic and decidedly high-end” vacation destination: Every year, a few new resorts are added to the 100 or so scattered across the archipelago. But Maldivians mostly live in a different reality—an Islamic nation whose government is becoming more extremist every year. When my girlfriend and I spent a week in the islands recently, we enjoyed every moment. But occasional reminders alerted us that outside our “pampered bubble,” shariah law now abides.

At first sighting, the nation’s capital, Mal?, struck us as a city “with the raffish charms of the Caribbean”: Men on motor scooters were zipping down a seaside boulevard past brightly painted buildings. But when we awoke after a postflight nap, we were surprised to hear the keening chant of a muezzin at a nearby mosque calling the faithful to evening prayer. The more typical tourist experience began for us the next day, when we climbed into a speedboat sent by our resort and were spirited away to fantasyland. At Huvafen Fushi, or “Dream Island,” we were handed coconut water by the Per Aquum resort’s smiling staff members, who threw rose petals beneath our feet as they ushered us into a golf cart for a tour of the property. We were similarly cosseted at the two other resorts where we stayed. In a country that elsewhere prohibits alcohol and skirts, we drank fine wines and walked empty beaches in American swimwear.

On one of our last days, we attempted to glimpse the world beyond such resorts. By boat, we traveled to Guraidhoo, a tiny island of unpaved streets where three mosques serve the population of 2,000. “We are Muslim here, but not 100 percent,” our guide told us, and Guraidhoo indeed seemed a middle ground. After strolling past dozens of souvenir shops, we stopped at a small restaurant where the bar subtly displayed bottled beer amid its sodas and cold teas. This time, when the keening call of a muezzin suddenly filled the air, I wasn’t surprised.

China’s chill-out zone
Hangzhou brings to mind words that are not typically associated with modern China, said Stephen Drucker in Travel + Leisure. Several times a day, my tour guide called this metropolis of 7 million “the most relaxing city in China,” even though such salesmanship was unnecessary. Anchored by a famously serene lake, Hangzhou lies only 45 minutes from frenetic Shanghai by high-speed train yet feels a world away. “You can still feel the heartbeat of old China here—in the mists and reflections on the water, in the old teahouses and exclusive new clubs keeping alive the spirit of the literati who gathered during Hangzhou’s golden moment, a thousand years ago, as capital of the Southern Song dynasty.”

Under the spell of West Lake, “even the most driven person learns to be a little aimless.” I first got out on the water in a hired boat, taking the chance to admire historic homes along the shores. Walking the mile-long causeway that crosses the lake provided a better introduction to the city’s people, though. Families shared the causeway with fashion-conscious young women in five-inch platforms, as well as an army unit that jogged back and forth in the hot sun. At night, the lake “goes Vegas,” with a light-and-music show created by the director of the Beijing Olympics’ opening ceremonies. A platform just below the water’s surface served as a stage, and “the sight of 50 people walking across West Lake carrying huge red-paper lanterns did unimaginable things” for my dream life.

China’s new rich frequently visit Hangzhou to soak up the finer points of their national culture, and I followed parts of the same curriculum. At a traditional teahouse, I marveled at the way a tea master guided the conversation while he worked, drawing every guest into “the cloistered world” of his table. At the extravagant Amanfayun resort, I ate a meal of 10 very small courses prepared by monks and intended to make you mindful of every bite. Finally, I arranged to meet with a distinguished Buddhist monk at Yongfu Temple. “If you want to be happy,” he told me, “you have to know what is enough.” What else could I do? I flew home the next day.

The Emerald City of the Maya
One of the great capitals of ancient Mayan civilization is finally ready for visitors, said Maya Kroth in The Washington Post. Until now, the ruins at Palenque, Mexico, “always seemed painfully out of reach, hours by bus from the nearest town.” But a new airport has made this “extraordinary” site near the Guatemala border accessible to travelers beyond the most dedicated history buffs and archaeologists. Roads are being repaved and new hotels are opening, creating “a palpable sense of momentum.” Palenque is often described as the greatest archaeological find ever made in the Americas, and one day it may provide the key to unlocking the mysteries of the Maya.

For my stay, I chose El Panch?n, a funky compound near the ruins that’s beloved by dreadlocked backpackers. My room cost under $20 a night, and came with a nightly symphony of unseen insects, howler monkeys, and “strange birds whose song sounds like a cross between a malfunctioning fan belt and an alien transmission.” Awaking the next morning, I rode a tour bus to the ruin zone, then paid for a tour guide who proved to be a font of information as we set off on the park’s jungle footpaths. Palenque was occupied from roughly 100 B.C. to A.D. 900, peaking under the 7th-century rule of Pakal the Great. It was his tomb that an archaeologist stumbled across in the 1950s when he discovered a hidden staircase in a towering step pyramid at the ancient city’s center. The remains of five sacrificial victims guarded the tomb entrance.

Most of Palenque’s 1,500 structures have yet to be excavated, but several imposing temples and a massive palace complex occupy the site’s central clearing. At Pakal’s enormous, well-preserved palace, tourists line up to take photos at the granite throne in the bathroom complex, which once discreetly drained to a septic field far from the city. Bas-relief carvings are everywhere, “chronicling a detailed history of Palenque’s golden age—though precious little about its fall.” Drought, deforestation, overpopulation, and power struggles all seem to have contributed to the city’s rapid decline. More than 900 years later, it appears poised for a comeback.


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« ตอบกลับ #5 เมื่อ: กันยายน 19, 2019, 12:53:08 AM »
An unspoiled Belizean paradise revisited
“Words can be powerful—even stupid words in a travel magazine,” said David Ewing Duncan in Outside. That’s what I told my teenage son, and it’s what worried me as we flew toward Belize several months ago. Twenty-six years earlier, I had written a piece in Cond? Nast Traveler that spilled the secret about Ambergris Caye, a Belizean island that at the time was a sparsely populated Shangri-la where a fly fisherman could haul out a tarpon on the first cast and scuba divers could spend time alone with one of the finest coral reefs in the world. Other writers followed my lead, and before long, hotels popped up on Ambergris Caye, flights to Belize multiplied, and cruise ships began dropping passengers at the reefs. I needed to get back to witness what I’d done.

From the air, most of the small coastal islands looked unchanged—a splattering of dark-green blobs against “a blue so intense it looked radioactive.” Ambergris Caye’s main town had grown significantly, though, and on the beach stood “a nearly unbroken progression of white bungalows and hotels.” One of them was Ramon’s Village Resort, the upgraded version of the place I had stayed at years before. The property’s thatched huts had been replaced by air-conditioned bungalows and a pool shaped like a stream. But when a beauty pageant filled the grounds with local families that night, “I didn’t have to ask if they preferred this life to the ‘paradise’ of palm trees and huts” I’d once written about. Clearly, their new day-to-day greatly pleased them.

The reef’s colors were dazzling when we dove the next day, but tourists had virtually stripped it of conch shells, and the fish population had declined too. Still, we saw a range of species, and Alex caught his first triggerfish the next day on a fly rod. By then, I was beginning to realize that blaming myself for any changes in Belize was as ridiculous as thinking I could capture life as it exists there after just a short visit. “My quick impression was that the wonder remained,” though. “New roads, bars, and hotels hadn’t ruined the  place, even if the conchs were gone.”

India’s tranquil south
Several hundred miles south of Mumbai lies “a totally unexpected India,” said Maria Shollenbarger in Cond? Nast Traveler. I discovered it on my first visit to the country, following the advice of a friend whose mother hails from the bustling capital. She recommended a road trip from Coorg to Kasaragod, two appealing districts in South India that turned out to be connected by a threeplus-hour drive through “monumentally beautiful” territory. The two ends of the journey differ greatly in topography and climate, but both “exemplify everything that is wonderful about traveling the rural byways of the subcontinent.”

Coorg is known as the Scotland of India. A swath of rain forest sitting atop a mountain range known as the Western Ghats, the district “has recently emerged as a high-altitude redoubt for India’s new elite, who come from the searing urban ovens of Bangalore and Chennai to hike, mountain bike, and inhale the oxygen-rich air.” It can be a pleasant shock to finish the challenging six-hour drive from Bangalore by stepping into the Vivanta resort in Taj Madikeri and looking across the open-air lobby and an infinity pool to the “astonishing” vista—“mountain after lushly forested mountain as far as the eye can see.”

A half-day’s drive on a “dizzyingly spectacular” road brought me down from the mountains a few days later. Passing waterfalls and painted temples, I rolled across the fertile plain that runs to the Arabian Sea. After a night at a beachfront boutique hotel, I took a room aboard the Lotus, a converted rice barge that ever so slowly plies an “eminently photogenic” backwater a half-mile inland. We stopped the first evening at a village where locals were preparing for a ritual worship known as the Theyyam festival. Smoke rose from braziers, “whirling up past the pale-pink buildings of the temple complex and into the faded sky,” while coals were lit for a worshipper to walk across. Before I fell asleep, I sat on the roof of the Lotus, listening to prayer calls while the village’s electricity occasionally flickered off and revealed “a sky extravagantly painted with stars.” In India, of all places, I’d found “a perfect distillation of solitude.”

Embracing the passions of Seville
Twenty years after I first passed through Seville, I have finally returned—“lured by a few mental postcards,” said Andrew McCarthy in Travel + Leisure. In just one night, the 2,200-year-old capital of southern Spain’s Andalusia region had imprinted on my memory a handful of images: a young woman in a bar who spontaneously danced the flamenco; a jasmine-scented piazza; a photograph of a statue of the Virgin Mary with crystal tears on her cheeks. “Like all places of real interest, Seville thrives on contradictions.” It’s a Catholic city defined by its 15th-century Moorish architecture. It’s home to 700,000 but “can seem like a small town.” I get to know the soul of the place not by chasing my old memories but by letting its rhythms guide me.

Despite its “jumble of ancient, narrow lanes,” Seville is “an easy city to settle to.” Sitting in the oldest tavern in town one night, I savor paper-thin slices of cured ham cut in front of me by my waiter but enjoy even more how he scribbled my tab right on the wooden bar where I sat. Behind the bar hangs a photo of that crying Mary, an image as prevalent in the city’s bars as flamenco. People sometimes deride flamenco as merely a tourist enticement. But in Triana, a working-class neighborhood on the west bank of the Guadalquivir River, midnight brings out the local dancers in bar after bar. At 3 a.m., “a lone guitarist strums a ferocious beat” while the crowd claps along and couples execute an erotic version known as sevillana.

Bullfighting is still big here, too. Some 14,000 passionate people pack the main arena the night I attend, and the drama that unfolds makes the ancient spectacle feel “deeply personal and alive.” But it’s a quest for marmalade that ends up completing my journey. Walking away from the convent that sells it, I follow my feet until I find myself inside the Bas?lica de la Macarena. A priest is presiding over a wedding at the altar, and as I turn to leave, I spot her hovering above the young couple: Without even looking, I have come face to face with St. Mary of the crystal tears.

Biarritz—France’s hip surf spot
Biarritz isn’t Cannes or St.-Tropez, said Luke Barr in Travel + Leisure. A century after its initial heyday, this resort town on southwestern France’s Atlantic coast is “a less polished place” than those C?te d’Azur enclaves—both “a little wild” and “a little young.” One grand beachside hotel remains from Biarritz’s pre–World War II golden era, but there are “no mega-yachts floating in the harbor here,” no private beach clubs or “Lamborghinis stuck in traffic.” The new Biarritz is a surfer’s town, trading again on its stunning landscape and churning, powerful waves. More than a decade into its rebirth, it has become a bohemian hot spot, but is in no danger of smothering the laid-back charm that brought it back from the dead.

I visited with my wife and children recently, and every day we hit a different beach. Some, like the Grande Plage, were “mad carnivals of blazing heat and people and sand.” Others, like Plage Marbella, were “quiet narrow strips backed by cliffs.” But all had sections for surfers, and the waves we watched them ride were aweinspiring. “Like any self-respecting French town, Biarritz is full of excellent bakeries, confiseries, butchers, ?piceries, food shops of all kinds,” and we walked the streets in the late afternoons, settling in for out outdoor meals built around fresh seafood and accented by such Basque Country touches as stuffed hot peppers and marinated anchovies. We regularly wandered just down the coast to Gu?thary, a small village that sits on a bluff. There we had the small beaches practically to ourselves, and hung out at Providence, an “art gallery/surf shop/boutique/caf?” run by a bearded video and music producer.

One afternoon, we meandered past Providence and settled at Heteroclito, “a bright colorful place with a hippiejunk-shop aesthetic.” Surfer Patrick Espagnet opened the bar 22 years ago, and he assured us as we sat on the terrace that the area’s resurgence hadn’t changed its essential spirit. He was right. “The sun was setting, the light was softer, and we could see a few surfers out on the water, catching the last waves of the day.”

Sochi—Russia’s oddly inappropriate Olympic city
The Black Sea port that will host the Winter Olympics next month has been effectively made over “from head to toe to soul,” said Andrea Sachs in The Washington Post. Long the “Summer Capital of Russia,” Sochi never before bothered to cut ski slopes into the surrounding Greater Caucasus Mountains, perhaps because the city’s movers and shakers were too busy enjoying the warm breezes and sunshine that sustain the area’s palm trees and tropical fruit trees. But Russian President Vladimir Putin had a dream of using the Olympics to transform Sochi into a year-round international resort, and neither the climate nor the threat of terrorism could turn back his bulldozers and cranes. Even a month before a pair of December terrorist bombings killed 32 people in Volgograd, military vessels were patrolling the waters off Sochi’s fabled coast.

I arrived during “anti-terrorism week”—a stretch of November when bombings were still a hypothetical and Sochi’s seaside promenade supported a genial outdoorcaf? scene that felt “more South of France than southwest of Siberia.” But the city was changing before our eyes: Buildings seemed to vanish overnight, replaced by new streets, new bus stops. Within weeks, the Olympic Village and skating events will take over a section of the waterfront, while new trains will transport skiers, bobsledders, and their fans from a new train station through a new tunnel to a new alpine resort about 40 miles away. When I visited, the bases of the slopes were still “loud, messy, and muddy.” But a pristine tram lifted me high above the construction mayhem all the way to the Gornaya Karusel resort’s spectacular 7,283-foot peak.

I eventually spent a full day alone in Sochi without Russian interpreters and guides. I’d already visited a local tea plantation, and found myself on one of those trains, enjoying its cleanliness and quiet. Everything around me was new, except the one feature outside my window that grabbed and held my attention—“the Black Sea, which has soothed Russians’ souls during good periods and bad, from time immemorial.”


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Guatemala’s Mayan trail
The Mayan civilisation of South America was in deep decline long before the Spanish arrived, says Sarah Gilbert in Wanderlust magazine. In Guatemala, many of its “jungle-clad cities” had been abandoned by the ninth century and its population greatly reduced. So it’s a mystery how this culture and its traditions have survived beyond the Spanish conquest of the 16th century and, more recently, a “brutal” civil war. Today, 40% of Guatemala’s population is indigenous, largely descended from the Maya. A three-night glamping trek “up, down and along ancient Mayan trails”, from Antigua to Lake Atitl?n, takes you to the heart of “a civilisation that seems far from gone”.

The “challenging” trek covers up to nine miles a day, climbing to 2,745 metres. Beyond the city, a broad trail leads to a cloud forest, shrouded by an “impenetrable mist”. The higher it goes, the more “otherworldly” the landscape becomes, sprinkled with bromeliads, old man’s beard and abundant ferns. Crossing valleys, slopes, rivers and deep gorges,  you’ll follow the trail along spectacular landscapes, passing small family farms and rural communities. At night, camps offer “spacious safari-style tents”, double mattresses, “marshmallow-soft pillows” and dinner under the stars – while far in the distance, Mount Fuego performs its nightly volcanic “display of lava pyrotechnics”.

One camp hosts an evening cookery lesson; in another village you can see women weaving on traditional looms. For a more spiritual insight, head to San Andr?s Itzapa’s Temple of San Sim?n, where “believers wait patiently in line” before the effigy of Maxim?n, as San Sim?n is known locally, to leave offerings of alcohol, tobacco and food. To some, this “harddrinking, heavy-smoking” Mayan deity is a saint; to others he is the devil, who has survived the arrival of Catholicism. Either way, he remains a “potent force” in this ancient culture that is “still very much alive”.

Norway’s midnight sun
In far-north Norway, 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t set for the whole of June and July. Of course, there’s “nothing supernatural” about this, yet knowing it and experiencing it are “two different things”, says Paul Bloomfield in The Times. Being in 24-hour daylight alters your “psyche in unexpectedly uplifting ways”. The island of Sommar?y (“Summer Isle”) made headlines recently with a campaign to become the world’s first time-free zone. On this “gorgeous speck 35 miles west of Troms?”, residents want to be free to “paint their house” at 2am if they please. With a “solarcharged spring in my step”, I set out to hike Sommar?y and neighbouring Senja.

With glittering fjords and “winsome fishing villages”, the region has all the appeal of Norway’s more southerly Lofoten Islands, but without the Instagrammers and cruise ships. This is “terra incognita”; I barely see another soul. A rocky scramble gets me to the summit of Hilles?ya, a 300ft-high headland, where “gleaming” beaches are “fringed by the clearest of jade-green waters”. I can see why this is known as the “Arctic Caribbean”, although dipping a toe in the water reminds me how far north I am. Later, I climb ?rnfl?ya, a “mini-mountain” from which I can see colourful clapboard houses clinging to the coves of nearby isles, and all is “silent save for the swoosh of waves below”. I’m entirely alone. With a “wistful sigh” I wish this day will “never end”. And it doesn’t.

A short ferry ride will take me to Senja, where “the roads are quieter, the paths wilder”. The island’s “most photographed landmark (which isn’t saying much)” is Segla, a “dramatic” monolith of a mountain. On my final evening – “at least, so my watch told me” – I sat on my veranda in Senja, “gazing west at the honeyed sun hanging low” above a nearby archipelago. Inntravel.co.uk provides walking holidays to northern Norway. Early booking for next summer is recommended.

Sensory overload in dazzling Singapore
“You have to expect the unexpected in Singapore,” said Doug Hansen in The San Diego Union-Tribune. A face-toface encounter with a toothy, 30-footlong, red-and-yellow cloth dragon taught me that on the day my wife and I decided to explore the city’s famed Orchard Road, a leafy boulevard lined with upscale shops and hotels. The dragon and the drum-driven parade it was leading turned out to be only one of countless pleasant surprises that greeted us during our five days in the vibrant island city-state. Of the six weeks we spent touring Southeast Asia, those days proved the highlight. “In fact, Singapore has become my favorite major, modern city in the world.”

I should mention two drawbacks. First, Singapore is a hot, humid, equatorial city: The average daytime high temperature hovers near 88 degrees. Second, it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world. But its wealth has created something special.

Visiting the National Museum, we were impressed by Singapore’s rapid rise in the first several decades after it was founded in 1819 as a trading post for the British East India Company. A global, multicultural powerhouse by the end of that century, the city—comparable in size to New York City’s five boroughs—is today a leader in education, finance, technology, and entertainment, as well as one of the world’s safest, cleanest, and healthiest countries. And English is the official language.

We changed hotels twice to explore different areas of the city, anchoring ourselves at one point within short walks of several major museums, the famed Raffles Hotel, and a spectacular bayside park. Both the 203-acre Singapore Botanic Gardens and the Gardens by the Bay are must-sees, the latter being the home of the world’s tallest enclosed waterfall. But as beautiful and green as our surroundings were by day, “after nightfall the city transformed itself into a nocturnal kaleidoscope of color, especially down by the bay.” At the Supertree Grove, in the Gardens by the Bay, a light and sound show bathes a stand of 100-foot-tall, man-made trees with music and changing colors.

Exploring untamed France in a classic Citro?n
The C?vennes captured my imagination before I’d ever set foot in that corner of France’s south-central highlands, said David McAninch in The New York Times. “One of the wildest and most sparsely populated parts of the country,” the ancient mountain range with its 5,000-foot peaks and deep river gorges seemed like the perfect place to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine: making a road trip through rural France in a vintage Citro?n 2CV. My wife, fortunately, was willing, and when I discovered Drivy.com, a site that’s like Airbnb for cars, I quickly located an owner in Lyon willing to rent us his 1976 2CV for $70 a day.

The first day didn’t go well. It “rained ropes,” as the French say, and our mintgreen Deux Chevaux lacked a defogger or any wiper speed beyond medium-slow. But when we woke to clear skies the next morning near the village of Anduze, the surrounding landscape was “every bit as beautiful as I’d imagined: terraced foothills backed by craggy, sun-dappled mountains, with pockets of mist nestling in between.” We started to enjoy coaxing our underpowered mule through the mountains and up their “preposterously steep switchbacks.” The idiosyncratic machine coughed and wheezed but mostly carried on. And when we passed a matching mint-green Citro?n, its passengers smiled and waved wildly, just as we did.

On the morning of our final day on the road, the car simply wouldn’t start. Because it was Sunday, and we had a flight to catch, we quickly exhausted all other options and had to leave the car outside our hotel. We made it to Paris in time for dinner and wine at a bistro in the 10th Arrondissement, and the car’s owner was not upset. The repair turned out to be routine, and we had parted ways with the car in a beautiful spot, a riverside village called Sainte Enimie. It sits at the end of a cave-pocked river canyon favored by motorcyclists, and just past the “beautifully bleak” uplands of the Causse M?jean. On Drivy.com, owners offer cars for rent starting at $30 a day.

Exploring Morocco through its music
Though there are countless ways to explore Morocco, “I went in search of the heartbeat,” said Mickey Rapkin in National Geographic Traveler. The music of Morocco is “as varied as its landscapes, from the Atlas Mountains to the red walls of Marrakech to the expansive deserts,” and today, a new generation is integrating traditional sounds with electronic dance music. Live music festivals have multiplied, and when I attended one just outside Marrakech, I felt as if I were witnessing a revolution. And I say that even though the headliners, the Master Musicians of Joujouka—a group of traditional Sufi trance artists that Beat writer William S. Burroughs once described as “a 4,000-year-old rock band”—fit right in.

From the moment I enter Marrakech, music is everywhere—starting with the five daily Islamic calls to prayer and the horn melodies of the snake charmers in the ancient marketplace. Down a narrow alleyway, my guide and I sit for tea with Mohammed Sudani, a master of Gnawa music, which combines hypnotic rhythms with Islamic poetry and is said to have healing powers. “The music is a doctor,” Sudani explains as he strums a guembri, then sings in Tamazight, the ancient language of the Berbers. Later in Anraz, a remote village high in the Atlas Mountains, I listen as eight men and women perform ritual music that “rings out in a gleeful call-andresponse.” Suddenly, the men pull me into the circle, dress me in a flowing jellaba, and hand me a drum. “While the rhythm eludes me, the joy does not.”

During my week of chasing such moments, the single best show I see transpires at a Marrakech caf? where four women perform traditional music at a deafening volume “while young people dance like nobody is watching.” But nothing tops the Marrakech festival for bringing together the new and the old. A Gnawa legend first shares the stage with celebrated British DJ James Holden, and once the 13 Masters take the stage—some pushing 90—they play nonstop for two hours. “The music is visceral—the high-pitch whir of the lira flutes like a snake worming its way through my earholes and taking hold of my brain stem. It is that loud from the first drumbeat.”


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Nicaragua’s fantasy island
I’ve found an island in Nicaragua “where extreme rustic adventure meets extreme tropical relaxation” in an ideal balance, said Josh Noel in the Chicago Tribune. Ometepe “couldn’t be designed more perfectly.” Rising from the serene waters of Lake Nicaragua, the 107-square-mile island is shaped like a figure eight, with a volcanic peak on either half and the land between adorned by a river as well as just enough beachfront restaurants. Even with 40,000 residents, a new airport, and a couple of museums, Ometepe “remains wonderfully slow and unspoiled.” Cows meander down the main road, and there are “few, if any, stoplights—or buildings taller than a palm tree.”

Hiking a volcano is “a quintessential island experience,” so I couldn’t pass up the chance. As  my guide and I set off for the Maderas crater (elevation 4,570 feet), howler monkeys called from trees and the path wound through wet jungle to “a misty cloud forest.” I lost count of how many times I stumbled on the muddy incline, but after more than five hours of climbing, we were looking down into the crater—“360 degrees of thick, green growth in what once spewed smoke and lava.” The next day was a day of rest, highlighted by an  afternoon lounge in a hammock with a rum in hand. When I tired of that, I strolled to the beach and waded in the “wonderfully warm” lake as children fished for sardines. Volcan Concepcion, Maderas’s still-active, 5,280-foot sibling, loomed in the distance.

On my last day, I discovered “what might be Ometepe’s greatest joy.” Ojo de Agua is a large natural spring with stone walls and a rock and silt floor, and its “wonderfully bright and clear” water felt “just cool enough to be refreshing.” At the pool’s edge, a vendor was selling coconuts filled with rum, and I learned that the mineralrich waters ostensibly had healing powers. In any case, this “serene little oasis” was worth a day unto itself,” and it made me wish my trip were longer. “Who knows? Had I stayed, I might have attempted that other volcano.”

Turkey’s ancient gem
“It sounds like a clich?, but Mardin really is a magical place,” said Bernd Brunner in TheSmartSet.com. An ancient city in eastern Turkey built on a mountain ridge, Mardin has little in common with bustling Istanbul, which lies 700 miles away. Mardin exists within its own time and place as one of upper Mesopotamia’s oldest and most unchanged settlements. From its well-preserved historic district more than 3,000 feet above sea level, one can spot the Tigris and Euphrates in the distance—the cradle of civilization. Somehow, Mardin’s charming, historic old town has “withstood the pressure to become a kind of open air museum” honoring a culture that goes back 7,000 years. Instead, it remains as vital as newer neighborhoods.

During a recent stay, I visited Mardin’s main street every day, reveling in its architecture, winding streets, and friendly (but not pushy) shopkeepers. The Muslim businesses sold aromatic soap and handmade jewelry, and I also passed a few Christian shops offering good Turkish red wine. One side trip off Main Street brought me to the centuries-old Emir hamam, or bathhouse, with a “fascinating interior” topped off with a colorful dome. Another day, I journeyed just outside the city to the “lovingly restored” Deyrulzafaran Monastery, a Christian site built in the 5th century. At the monastery’s chapel, Muslim visitors joined me in admiring its “beautifully colored images painted on cloth.” This was typical of Mardin: The city celebrates holidays from all religions and is justly proud of its multicultural heritage. Recently, Mardin even elected a 25-year-old Christian woman to be comayor with a 71-year-old Kurdish man.

Any visitor will be amazed that Mardin’s Old World magnificence does not draw more tourists. The city recently withdrew its bid to be recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site because of modern structures that obscure views of the historic district. As a fix, hundreds of newer, concrete buildings will be demolished. While the surrounding region modernizes, Mardin is becoming easier to reach—and word is getting out. “It’s becoming clear that Mardin will soon awake from its slumber—with or without UNESCO’s blessing.”

Getting to know Sydney’s ‘wildly cosmopolitan’ side
When I tell American acquaintances where I’m from, the first thing that pops into their minds is a soaring opera house, said Tony Perrottet in The New York Times. But it’s a soaring opera house that’s surely just a silent hulk in their minds, because they know Australians only as a horde of “beer-swilling, happy-go-lucky folk” who spend all their waking hours barbecuing steak on the beach. Look—I’ll admit that Sydney can distract first-time visitors with its “Rio-like natural beauty.” But on my last trip home, I was determined to reengage with the city I’ve always known to be “wildly cosmopolitan”—its museums packed, its creative class fecund, and its calendar bursting with arts festivals.

I focused on reconnecting with Sydney’s so-called inner city—a string of bohemian neighborhoods that surround the central business district. The area’s Victorian-era working-class housing has been prized for years, and yet it was “a mild shock” to see that Chippendale, the area I lived in as a student, was now a nonprofit arts district and a haven of quiet, leafy streets. I used a gallery map to explore, then hit a few higher-end galleries in Paddington and Woollahra. At the former Surry Hills studio of painter Brett Whiteley (1939–92), Whiteley’s Sydney Harbor paintings so dazzled me that they “sent me racing down to the very tourist zone I’d planned to avoid.” From the rooftop caf? at the harborside Museum of Contemporary Art, I enjoyed a glass of sparkling wine and “ravishing views” of the Opera House.

Australians are said to read more books per capita than the citizens of any other English-speaking country, and the Sydney Writers’ Festival celebrates that passion with around 300 events every May. Trying to explain Sydney’s special energy, the poetnovelist Luke Davies once told me that it’s a perfect place to do creative work because its natural beauty induces a trance-like state. Actually, he told me this during my recent trip while we both bobbed in the waves off Bondi Beach. As per a daily ritual of his, we had just walked to Bondi, past some Aboriginal carvings, and “plunged from a ledge straight into the churning ocean.”

Exploring mystical Wales
No offense to remote Ireland or Scotland, but northern Wales might just be the United Kingdom’s most magical locale, said Jim Farber in the New York Daily News. “It’s a wonder of a place,” an exotic land where psychedelic- colored sheep graze on velvet-green meadows and ancient castles dot the hilltops. The sheep can be explained: Their wool is dyed to indicate who owns them. But much harder to decipher is the strange language that often fills the air. “Here, people really do speak Welsh—with special aggression if they spy an English person.” I was glad to have a guide familiar with the language, and even gladder that he knew the back roads and the region’s small, hidden treasures. “Not that these remote parts of Wales only offer a sense of the surreal, or the past.”

During a recent six-day stay, I managed to ride a zip line in the town of Bethesda that was “infinitely scarier” than any I’d ridden before. (“Think of a gun shot with you as the bullet.”) I also partook of a “singularly horrifying” local pastime called coasteering, which entails donning a wetsuit, leaping repeatedly into 37-degree ocean water, and scrambling back to safety across razor-sharp rocks. “To be fair, some swear by this sport.” But I far preferred Wales’s more tranquil attractions.

There are many. Llangollen is a town of black-and-white Tudor houses and a canal ride that uses a single horse for power. Ruthin is a town of “adorable” stores, fine pubs, and a castle once owned by Henry VIII. Conwy has a castle of its own, plus a 6- by 10-foot dwelling advertised as “The Smallest House in Britain.” I had “the most regal afternoon tea of my life” at Chateau Rhianfa, a “storybook” hotel on the Isle of Anglesey just across a bridge from the mainland. Though I didn’t attempt to climb Mount Snowdon, the highest peak in the vast Snowdonia National Park, I did enjoy the next best thing: a ride in a 1903 trolley up a nearby peak and a descent into Llandudno, a seaside town with “a romantic sweep of beach” and a collection of pastel Victorian buildings that “look like they’re swirled with cream.”

Day-tripping through Italy’s Piedmont region
The owner of our hotel said that his city of 25,000 should be better known, and he was right, said David Stewart White in The Washington Post. Fossano, Italy, is “the perfect hub for a visit to Piedmont,” the region in northwestern Italy famous for stellar wines and marvelous food. A short drive east puts you in “wine heaven,” among the vineyards that produce Barolo, Barbera, and Barbaresco. A quick jaunt north puts you in Bra, the home of the slow-food movement. Whichever direction you choose to go, “a nearly 360-degree view of the Alps is always lurking,” and the day’s end returns you to an “ancient and atmospheric” town that tourists have yet to overrun. Our hotel? A converted 16th-century monastery that also houses Fossano’s best restaurant.

Our first day trip took us southeast to Valcasotto, a picturesque mountain hamlet now owned by one of Europe’s premier cheese-makers, Beppino Occelli. Samples of the local specialty came “with sides of  history and cheese-making science,” and we devoured every scrap. The next day, we eagerly made wine our prey, venturing into the Langhe region for a guided wine tour that turned out to be “a sublimely relaxed experience.” Roaming oenophiles occasionally overrun some of Piedmont’s hill towns, but most of the vineyards we visited booked tours by appointment only, allowing us to converse casually with the winemakers while we savored each selection they chose to share.

Each day brought a new adventure. Fossano itself offered a maze of medieval streets lined with shops selling Milanquality designer goods. Nearby Saluzzo held its annual music festival on the summer solstice, and we took the occasion to visit Castello della Manta, a castle that houses a “breathtaking” series of 15thcentury frescoes. Everywhere we went, even the most modest bar served wonderful food, yet one place in the village of Serralunga d’Alba will go down as the most memorable. We ate a simple meal, accompanied by a bottle of the local dolcetto d’Alba. But we were sitting on a windswept terrace, relaxed as could be, and gazing out on “a 50-mile view of rolling vineyards and red-brick-fortified hill towns.”


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Oman has to be the Middle East’s most laid-back nation, said Vivian Nereim in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The peaceful sultanate, which occupies the eastern corner of the Saudi Peninsula and sits just a boat ride from Iran, has an “easygoing energy” that could calm even the most antsy visitor. “Most Omanis are warm, soft-spoken, and, above all, relaxed.” The followers of three sects of Islam coexist peacefully in this Arab nation, alongside large populations of Hindu, Christian, and Jewish expatriates. In Muscat, the capital, children often play unsupervised in the streets and women in long black robes walk alone at night without fear. I moved to the city last year, and its spirit has “bewitched me—altered me even.” Oman frequently attracts tourists with its spectacular scenery, but it’s the population’s patient, tolerant attitude “that makes the country so special.”

The nation’s natural wonders shouldn’t be ignored. At Oman’s easternmost tip, guides help tourists spot sea turtles laying eggs on a white-sand beach, and I’ve ridden a boat off the Musandam Peninsula to watch dolphins at play. At Wadi Shab, an inland canyon adorned by turquoise pools of water, hikers can enter a sun-dappled cave and swim in the pool below a cascading waterfall. “Few places in the world inspire as much awe.” Closer to Muscat, a waterfall near the mountainside village of Al Hoqain acts as a popular weekend gathering spot for Omani and Indian families, who swim together in the cool water and barbecue on the shores.

If you come to Oman, “take at least one day” just to wander the streets of Muscat. The Mutrah Souk “retains the atmosphere of old Arabia,” its warren of shops peddling frankincense, clothing, and colorful handicrafts. In the quiet Al Hail neighborhood, “you may stumble across a tiny tea shop, a pickup soccer game, or a band of goats.” But “when I think about Oman,” I think about evenings on Muscat’s beaches, when the heat of the day fades and picnicking families, young soccer players, and women in their long robes all are drawn to the glistening water. There, “in the soft darkness and the sound of distant laughter, I find peace.”

A Tijuana you might not want to leave
Believe it or not, there’s “never been a better time” to visit Tijuana, Mexico, said Patrick Symmes in Sunset. The famous border town suffered a wave of violence last decade when it was plunged into the nation’s drug cartel wars, “but the misery years had a surprising effect”: When the tourists fled, local artists and entrepreneurs moved in. I took a walk into Mexico recently to assess the changes (avoiding the hassle of getting a car back through the border crossing). Even on the city’s main tourist drag, I didn’t see the old regulars like U.S. Navy officers on furlough or gaggles of Southern California bachelorettes. What I saw was a new Tijuana emerging.

The scene hadn’t completely changed. Mariachi musicians thronged at one corner looking to be hired, and the strip’s pharmacies “hocked Viagra, Cialis, and dental surgery on demand.” But a reformed police force has taken back control of the streets, the red-light venues were mostly shuttered, and I walked four blocks before I encountered a crowd of revelers—“Mexicans, young and old, dancing salsa in the courtyard of a pizzeria.” Over the next two days and nights, I discovered that hip cocktail lounges and top-notch restaurants were springing up all over the downtown neighborhoods. At the bar La Mezcalera, I sipped top-shelf mescal amid a crowd of young Mexican creative types. At Misi?n 19, the city’s restaurant of the moment, chef Miguel ?ngel Guerrero told me how a young city like Tijuana—which was essentially built on Americans’ Prohibition-era thirst for booze—offered greater freedom for culinary experimentation.

By day, the city shows its confidence in new buildings like the “swooping” $9 million Tijuana Cultural Center and the glassand-steel skyscraper where Misi?n 19 is housed. Two blocks away, I happened upon a sight one day that gave me even more hope. It was a procession of six men on horses, followed by 21 nuns, followed by thousands of people— children, grandmothers, choirs, bands—all of them marching joyfully and carrying banners calling for peace. “They were taking Tijuana back.”

Living a nomad’s life in Kyrgyzstan
I was in Kyrgyzstan for only a day before I found myself “in the dream world of Central Asian clich?,” said Henry Wismayer in The New York Times. I was sitting crosslegged in a family yurt awaiting a lunch of boiled dumplings while just outside lay a high alpine lake surrounded by prairies and opalescent mountains. “The land felt protean, inviolate, and the hospitality sincere,” yet I had merely followed routine to enjoy such luck. Since 2003, this Nebraska-size former Soviet republic has encouraged backpack tourism by establishing humble community-based tourism, or C.B.T., offices in more than a dozen locations. Everything I needed for my three-day stay here had been arranged in minutes. For $12 a night, “I was enjoying a glimpse of a nomadic culture hewed over centuries on the old Silk Road.”

“For three days, I threw myself into the old rhythms” of life on the jailoo, or high prairie. “On walks around the lakeshore, I met toddlers on horseback and drank bowls of koumiss, a mildly alcoholic drink of fermented mare’s milk.” I helped children milk goats and corral turkeys, and awoke in the mornings to see the mountains dusted with fresh snow. When I left, riding a minibus east to Karakol, I had to get used to a different rhythm: the occasional bleak, Soviet-style settlement appearing between long stretches of majestic landscape and charmed rural life. Karakol, a former military outpost near the Chinese border, offers flavors of both Kyrgyzstans. Now a hub of adventure tourism, the small city acts as the gateway to “the icebound scarps” of the Tian Shan, also known as the Celestial Mountains.

Ten hours south of Bishkek, the nation’s capital, I found a region barely touched by Soviet shadows. Osh, an erstwhile Silk Road trading post and Kyrgyzstan’s secondlargest city, felt more alive than Bishkek, and made a pleasant pit stop before my final adventure. Four years ago, violence that toppled the president flared up in this region, resulting in more than 400 deaths. But in the peaceful village of Arslanbob, where I stayed three days, “such turmoil seemed remote.” Besides, my mind was focusing again on the surrounding wilderness, “where rumors of waterfalls and holy lakes promised more high adventure.”

Discovering Shangri-La
I’m still not convinced that the original Shangri-La is a place that only exists in fiction, said Scott Wallace in National Geographic Traveler. The 1933 James Hilton novel Lost Horizon described it as a valley in southwest China where enlightenment and longevity reign. But just two years before, my own grandfather had written to The New York Times claiming to have discovered in the same region a “lost tribe” whose members lived in harmony and drank from a fountain of youth. My grandfather disappeared not long after filing that report, so when I decided recently to visit the area that so enthralled him, I figured I had only one chance of finding him still alive: by locating his Shangri-La.

My itinerary took me “into one of China’s wildest landscapes”—a national park where the Salween, Mekong, and Yangtze rivers “thunder off the Tibetan Plateau” and “cut through mountains as they funnel into gorges twice the depth of the Grand Canyon.” A company named Songtsam has dotted the area with five lodges and provides guides for traveling between them. At the first, “I felt I’d stepped into Hilton’s novel the moment I entered” because the scent of incense filled the air as I was handed a cup of ginger tea. Isolated ancient cultures endured in these mountains well into the 1930s, but time hasn’t since stood still. On the road the next day, we passed old women “stooped under loads of hay,” but many nearby fields were studded with boxy new homes.

If Shangri-La really did exist, the Meili Mountains would be a picture-perfect place to hide it. Waking one morning in the lodge nearby, we looked out on five colossal snow-covered peaks, including Kawagebo, a towering, almost-perfect cone that Tibetan Buddhists consider sacred. The rest of my journey would take me south toward larger towns, so this was my last chance to imagine that the utopia my forebear claimed to have found might lie just a valley away. The road out took us past 13 ceremonial towers, or stupas, and we stopped at one to placate Kawagebo with offerings. As I slid my pine boughs into a ceremonial oven, I said a prayer for my grandfather, hoping he’d found the inner peace he was looking for all those years ago.

St. John, an unspoiled Caribbean gem
One of the world’s great, unspoiled tropical-island escapes lies closer than you think, said Stephanie Pearson in Outside. St. John can be reached only by sea, but the ferry from St. Thomas requires just 20 minutes, and flights from Miami to St. Thomas take less than three hours. After just half a day of travel, I recently found myself unwinding at an oceanfront eco resort amid 7,000 acres of white-sand beaches and pure wilderness. Other Caribbean islands can have their golf courses and megahotels. Two-thirds of St. John is preserved as U.S. national parkland—most of it donated in the 1950s by Laurance Rockefeller. Offshore, coral reefs spread across another 12,700 acres of federally protected underwater land. Together, they add up to a getaway that’s “almost too perfect for snorkelers, divers, kayakers, and beach loungers.”

Looking out from my luxury tent at Concordia Eco-Resort, “the view is seemingly endless ocean.” Here on the island’s scarcely populated southern tip, cactus grows on the cliffs, and trails lead to various park highlights. A two-mile hike takes me to Cabrite Horn Point, a great place to spot humpback whales. On a four-mile trek the next day, I pass the ruins of sugar plantations on my way to Salt Pond Bay and its crescent of white sand, where about half a dozen people are sunbathing. Soon, I shed my shoes and snorkel among sea turtles and manta rays.

Some 4,100 people live on St. John, mostly in the town of Cruz Bay, though there’s “a surprisingly lively food scene” in smaller Coral Bay. At some point while paddleboarding with a guide on the island’s northern coast or snorkeling in the “vibrantly turquoise” water of Hurricane Hole, it dawns on me that almost everyone I’m meeting along the way is an expat who caught “St. John fever” and has stuck around for decades. My favorite bartender at the Tourist Trap in Coral Bay is from New Hampshire; my paddleboard guides are from Tennessee. When we end our three-plus-hour adventure at an open-air restaurant in Cruz Bay, I almost envy the “sunburned, windblown” customers around me. “Some of them might just end up sticking around.”


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« ตอบกลับ #9 เมื่อ: กันยายน 19, 2019, 12:54:41 AM »
Sailing and diving in timeless Indonesia
Raja Ampat is “one of the most physically ravishing places I’ve ever encountered,” said Maria Shollenbarger in Cond? Nast Traveler. A chain of 600 islands “strung like rough-cut emeralds” across the tropical waters of eastern Indonesia, the archipelago that once was the sole home of the bird of paradise still teems with life and remains largely untouched by human habitation. Once battled over by the Dutch and English when the two maritime powers sought to dominate the 18th-century spice trade, Raja Ampat has, in more recent times, “become a destination for divers, nature enthusiasts, and escapees from modern life.” If Raja Ampat “sometimes feels like the setting for Jurassic Park, below it’s pure Finding Nemo.” Sperm whales, giant turtles, and “every colorful, delightful, and freakish coral-dwelling fish you can imagine” share the same subsurface neighborhood.

One of the few ways to enjoy this Eden is by booking a cabin on a chartered luxury craft, as I have. Aboard the gorgeous Alila Purnama, a traditional phinisi wooden sailing boat, my six fellow travelers and I quickly become friends as we share daily adventures and meals on deck. Being outnumbered by an attentive crew, “we want for little”: “Glasses are never allowed to empty, wet towels disappear, and warm dry ones are quietly draped over shoulders.”

The moment we start thinking about what the chef might be making for dinner, appetizers reliably arrive. One morning, we awake near a reef where massive manta rays swoop by the dozen beneath us before we put aside our diving masks and slip away to a “tiny, castaway-perfect island.” Sometime during our lunch, the crew sets up a line of daybeds under umbrellas, and we watch the sunset from that beach before moving on.

For our last dinner, the crew surprises us by pulling at twilight into a hushed cove where a table set with linen and silver awaits amid dozens of lanterns. Filet mignon, Balinese stuffed duck, and skewers of fish are prepared nearby in a makeshift barbecue pit. “We eat and drink barefoot in the sand to a gentle soundtrack of waves lapping the beach a few feet away.”

A reawakening Cape Town
South Africa’s so-called Mother City “bursts at the seams with excitement for its future,” said Stephanie Allmon in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Twenty years after the end of apartheid, this beautiful port is the 2014 World Design Capital, and that’s giving it a chance to show off its new energy and affirm its standing as a leading global city. The New York Times recently named it the world’s No. 1 place to visit this year, and I can’t disagree. Plan a culinary tour of Cape Town and the nearby wine region, and you will collect memories to last a lifetime.

The sun woke me early on my first morning in the city, rising high enough by 5 a.m. to “peel back the curtain of night and reveal the majesty of Table Mountain.” The flat-topped mountain looms over the city; when Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on nearby Robben Island, he looked back upon it imagining it a beacon of hope. I set out that first day to the Old Biscuit Mill, a village-like collection of caf?s, shops, and restaurants in Woodstock, a neighborhood that’s undergoing a renaissance. By 11, I’d sampled buffalo mozzarella, a pastry called the Flying Dutchman, and a tuna jerky, but we pushed on for more noshing in the Bo-Kaap, or Cape Malay Quarter. Brightly colored homes and cobblestone streets make this district a popular choice for photo shoots, while the food—like sumptuous lamb curry and samosas—reflects the district’s Muslim heritage.

“Entire vacations can be spent in wine country,” stringing together stays in boutique hotels in the region’s charming small towns. The Cape Winelands are so beautiful that even  teetotalers should see them. But my luxurious hotel, the One&Only, kept calling me back to Cape Town, and on my last night, I indulged in the child-like fun of riding the Ferris wheel on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. From the ride’s highest point, I looked back at Table Mountain as clouds hovering above it began spilling down its sides, creating an effect locals call a “white tablecloth.” The sight “made my last sunset in this exotic and storied city as memorable as the first sunrise.”

Exploring remote Haiti’s natural wonders
If only visitors to Haiti could get to the waterfalls at Cascade Pichon, said Dean Nelson in The New York Times. Dubbed one of the country’s greatest tourist attractions by former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the stunning falls are fed by an underground lake and burst from a verdant mountain face “like so many faucets stuck in the open position.” But Duvalier probably reached the site by helicopter, because even four decades later, the land journey from Port-au-Prince remains a “tire-shredding, neck-snapping” seven-hour drive across gravel, flood plain, and dry riverbed. That said, you won’t regret the detour if you take it.

I discovered the falls while reporting on community rebuilding projects in Haiti. Four years after a devastating earthquake, the nation is still recovering from the devastation and subsequent cholera outbreak. But you can see why some officials want to start positioning the country as an eco-tourism destination. Two hours from Cascade Pichon, which is tucked into the southeast corner of the island nation, the small coastal city of Belle Anse makes a promising jumping-off point. The town of 51,000 is full of young, educated, and energetic people, and yet it “embodies the contradictions you find in Haiti. The natural beauty of the beaches stops you dead in your tracks. So does the poverty.”

The final climb to Cascade Pichon looked impassable for our SUV, but we “fishtailed and swerved and hopped our way to the top,” blasting past a soccer field and a small church on the way. The falls and the lake below were so spectacular that I didn’t need much from the only lodging nearby—the one-story Hotel Deruisseau, located on a mesa across from the cascading water. Meals were served about 50 feet from the building in a community gathering area under a metal roof. The hotel had no hot water or private showers, and offered no electricity after 10 p.m. But none of that mattered. “As I lay in bed, all I could hear was the falls—the greatest white noise ever.”

One night inside a mammoth Vietnam cave
Under the mountains of central Vietnam lies a vast hidden world, said David W. Lloyd in The New York Times. A series of “mind-blowing” caves—some used as shelter from U.S. airstrikes during the Vietnam War—dots Quang Binh province. But the largest have been so recently explored that you can still meet their discoverers. When I traveled to the village of Phong Nha recently, I stayed at a guesthouse owned by a local hero who, in 1990, stumbled upon arguably the world’s largest cave. I was planning to instead visit Hang En—a cave whose main cavern is big enough to house a 747—when I had dinner with the English scientist whose team first explored it. Visiting Hang En, he told me, is “one of the best, most amazing things it’s possible to do in Vietnam.”

He wasn’t kidding. Our group was dripping with sweat the next morning by the time we reached the valley floor in the nearby national park. But the rest was bliss. As we followed the Rao Thuong River, “swarms of butterflies wove a dance in front of us,” and “magnificent” lime-green hills rose on either side. The shallow river flowed right into the cave, and we waded in darkness through the cool water before encountering a wall of boulders. At the wall’s summit, “we were stopped dead in our tracks by the view before us”—a cavern 300 feet high, with a natural turquoise pool far below us and beams of sunlight pouring in from above. It was here we’d camp for the night, in tents pitched on the pool’s sandy beach. After a refreshing swim, we drank rice wine and enjoyed dinner cooked by our porters over an open fire.

By the next evening, we were back in Phong Nha, chatting over dinner at a roadside joint with a sign that read, “The Best BBQ Pork Shop in the World…Probably.” We all knew that Son Doong, the region’s largest cave, is visited by a small number of tourists each year. But everyone agreed that Hang En was everything he or she had hoped it would be, and that the pork we were eating was only the world’s second best: It couldn’t top the dinner we had had the night before.

The Mediterranean’s best-kept secret
Chances are, you’ve never heard of Cavallo, said Peter Hughes in the Sunday Telegraph (U.K.). That’s because the tiny Mediterranean island, which is tucked between Corsica and Sardinia, has long been a closely guarded secret, its quiet charms shared by only an upper echelon of the international elite. “From a distance, it doesn’t look like much”—just “a low green mound” one and a half miles across. But in the 1970s, it became a private playground for celebrities like Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni, and it’s recently served similar duty for Beyonc? and possibly Alicia Keys. The island belongs to a syndicate of private owners who are mostly Italian and, though it’s technically part of France, feels Italian in its culture, too. It was long easier to reach from Rome than Paris.

Approaching by ferry, you see the granite outcroppings that put Cavallo on the map. The island “is a glory of stone”—a collection of elephantine gray and tan boulders left behind by the Romans who harvested the island’s granite for their statuary. The surrounding sea is “lens-clear, great for snorkeling,” though such sports are pursued discreetly. Cavallo’s 10 sand beaches are mostly wild, and it’s the kind of place “where luxury is defined as having not much to do, but costing a lot to do it.” Because you’re not allowed to have a car, “you bump around in electric golf carts.” The island has only one store, plus a caf?, a yacht marina, and—in July and August —a hilltop pizzeria that becomes the local hot spot.

Cavallo has one hotel plus some private residences for rent, but I can’t imagine it becoming a major tourist destination anytime soon. In 1990, Corsican nationalists who feared its despoilment firebombed some new villas, and last year, all new construction was banned. Additional laws have been put in place to protect island wildlife, including a rare orchid, and “it’s not just the orchids that are being preserved, but a patch of the Mediterranean as it was a generation ago.”


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« ตอบกลับ #10 เมื่อ: กันยายน 19, 2019, 12:55:08 AM »
Swimming with sharks in Australia
As I climb into the steel cage, “my breath quickens,” said Carrie Miller in National Geographic Traveler. I am out on the ocean off South Australia, and a 17-foot-long great white shark is circling. I want to get in the water with her, of course; doing so was the whole purpose of my booking a four-day excursion with Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions. But while I’ve seen sharks in my dreams since childhood, I’ve never done anything like this. I’m not even a diver; I’m simply a fan of these “dragons” of the deep: “To me, sharks are everything that is wild, untamed, and unpredictable about the world.” I yearn to see one eye to eye.

Moments later, I am 7 feet underwater, and the shark is nowhere in sight. I hear only my own breathing as I draw air from a regulator attached to the Princess II. “Then the back of my neck begins to prickle,” and “I slowly turn.” Six inches from my stomach looms the nose of a 1.5-ton great white. I shoot backward to the other side of the cage as she drops a fin and banks away. I’m on my knees trembling by the time she circles back. This time, “our eyes meet, and I feel a thrill of awe and terror.” Her eye “is not the dead matte black from the movies but brown, with a lively blue ring around the outside.”

Should tourists be experiencing such thrills? The practices of research boats like Rodney Fox’s are “a particularly touchy subject” in Port Lincoln, the excursion’s departure point and a city greatly enriched by the lucrative bluefin tuna industry. Many locals know at least one person killed by a shark. They worry that research boats that use ground-up fish as bait get sharks accustomed to approaching boats, increasing hazards for both species. But the research helps scientists fend off threats to the sharks and to the critical role they play as the ocean’s alpha predators. “Life would be pale indeed without our dragons.”

A brief sabbatical in Oxford, England
Oxford, England, has inspired countless novels and films, and “it’s easy to see why,” said Jennifer Moses in The New York Times. The home of the University of Oxford is a “ridiculously pretty” town, a “many-layered confection of history, aspiration, ambition, class, elegance, yearning, wealth, trade, and all things poetic.” While my husband spent a sabbatical there last fall, I took the opportunity to explore—renting a sturdy three-speed bicycle to get around and learning not to be slowed by a little rain. “A note for those inclined to fashionable footwear: Don’t even think about it.” Oxford is for Wellies and lots of walking—“through the winding streets, over cobblestones, up battlements, and along all kinds of footpaths.”

“Perhaps the best way to get a handle on the whole megillah is atop the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin right smack in the middle of the action, at Radcliffe Square.” From the 14th-century spire, “you can take it all in: the town’s location in the Thames Valley, the silky river itself, the gardens and meadows, the canals,” and, “of course,” the 38 colleges that compose the university. Founded around 900, Oxford was a trading hub in medieval times, a crossroads in central-south England located about 60 miles northwest of London. To try to imagine what Oxford looked like then, I pedaled to the district known as Iffley Village, where a 12th-century church proved to be “the kind of place that stuns you into reverent silence,” and the “typically English mix of thatched-roof and halftimbered houses” shares space with fields, geese, and centuries-old stone walls.

I liked Cowley for its ethnic restaurants and Osney for its pretty Victorian-era workers’ cottages. Still, nothing beat “the glories of Oxford central.” From the wide-ranging collection at the Ashmolean Museum to the intoxicating Botanic Garden, this city barely left me any time for its pubs. But I did find time on my last day to romp around Christ Church Meadow. Cows grazed to my right while bicyclists passed on my left, “and on the tantalizing far side of the walls, the college, with its spires, towers, gates, and cathedral, glowed in the pale afternoon light.”

Dominica’s wild allure
At least one island in the Caribbean has so far escaped large-scale development, said Eric Vohr in The Dallas Morning News. “Still savagely wild and naturally beautiful,” Dominica might owe its luck to a relative shortage of white sand beaches, but the tiny island nation’s raging rivers, volcanic fissures, lush rain forest, and steep mountains make it “an eco-tourism paradise.” It’s no wonder why Dominica (pronounced dahm-uh-NEE-ka) is known as the Nature Island. There are “almost too many natural wonders” on this island to list them all.

A day’s hike through Morne Trois Pitons National Park rates as a must. Our party chose aptly named Boiling Lake as our destination, and the three-hour trek across numerous steep ridges and deep valleys took us into a landscape where the ground itself felt young. In the Valley of Desolation, “superheated steam hisses and sputters through multicolored pools of oxidized sulfur, iron, copper, lead, calcium, and carbon.” In truth, “nowhere else have I been so close to the earth’s fiery fury. There are no fences, barriers, or park rangers here, just raw nature.” Boiling Lake, a 200-foot-wide flooded fumarole, proved to be as impressive as we’d hoped, its waters violently rolling and bubbling at temperatures, we were told, that reach 300 degrees. More temperate waters soothed our tired muscles on the return hike when we stopped to swim in a warm pool of one of Dominica’s many hot-spring-fed rivers.

The beaches we did find on Dominica offered more than we could have asked for. Portsmouth Bay is the largest, and just north of it lies Toucari Bay, “a pristine and secluded picture-postcard cove that will make you pinch yourself.” The coral reef offshore is so impressive that it’s due to become a protected marine park. In the waters off rocky Champagne Beach, underwater fumaroles produce towers of rising bubbles that sparkle in the sunlight like Dom P?rignon fizz in a crystal flute. If that’s not enough to get you to Dominica, know that a pi?a colada is never far out of reach. Trust me, though: “They taste better here.”

Roughing it in Chilean Patagonia
You can never predict what the rewards will be when you set off on a long mountain trek, said Erin Williams in The Washington Post. The peaks of South America had been calling to my husband and me long before we reached them. “Wild areas are our escape,” and when we’re not dreaming of our next distant adventure, we’re using our weekends to train for them. For our trip to Patagonia, we had our imaginations trained on the Torres del Paine, three towering mountain peaks in southern Chile that are “arguably Patagonia’s most iconic sight.” On a clear day, they “scrape the sky hundreds of feet above a snowfield and a meltwater lake.”

The bus ride to the trailhead offered instant rewards. Throughout our two-hour drive through national parkland, I pressed my face against the bus window, “mesmerized by the sprawling landscape and the surprising abundance of wildlife: guanacos that resembled petite llamas,  massive Andean condors, incongruous flamingos, and ostrich-like rheas.” A catamaran transported us across Lake Peho? to a lodge that would be our base. We chose to sleep in our own tent like many other hikers but enjoyed the lodge’s showers and warming up with cups of tea. We had a five-day hike ahead of us.

The beginning of the trail wandered alongside a windblown lake that was “bedazzled with blue icebergs broken off a glacier.” Between nights curled tightly in our sleeping bags, “we dawdled along the trail, admiring aquamarine lakes, forests, and wildflowers.” We also drank from meltwater streams and ate lunch beneath Cerro Paine Grande, the park’s highest peak. On the day we hoped to reach the Torres, “sheeting precipitation and relentless wind slowed our pace,” unfortunately, and it was a challenge to push through forest and across a glacial moraine field. Snow lashed our faces as we huddled under a boulder, waiting in vain for the dense fog to lift. “Are you disappointed?” my husband asked, taking my hand. “No,” I said, as we sat shivering together. “Let’s stay for a while.”

Finding serenity in Kyoto, Japan
For a city of 1.5 million, Kyoto can be surprisingly calming, said Robin Pogrebin in The New York Times. Known as the City of Ten Thousand Shrines, Japan’s wellpreserved former imperial capital was the destination my husband and I chose for a family trip “that would catapult us all out of our comfort zones.” It did, but mostly to lure us into the contemplative mind-set encouraged by its Zen Buddhist temples and sacred gardens. Our teenagers surprised me: Not only did they adjust quickly to the 14-hour time difference, but they also proved “curious and open to exploring a new part of the world.”

With so much to see, we set out early the first day for Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, a reconstructed 14th-century temple whose upper floors “shimmer in gold leaf.” At the site’s Sekka-tei Tea House, Ethan and Maya gamely knelt and sampled “silty” green tea as a guide led us through the rituals of a tea ceremony. Later, we strolled through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, “an otherworldly forest of tall green stalks and winding paths,” before grabbing lunch at Wakadori, a restaurant known for its Japanese fried chicken, or karaage. At Ryoan-ji, home to one of Japan’s finest rock gardens, we happily sat while studying 15 stones arranged in a sea of raked white gravel. “It is a memory that calms me even now.”

A walk through the Nishiki Market—a “must-see half-mile assault on the senses”—snapped us out of our reverie. As I snacked on kiritanpo (toasted rice on a stick), I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the “teeming” stalls of pickles, sugared fruit, grilled squid, and folding paper fans. It was the day before the new year, so we splurged that night on an osechi-ryori dinner at Kinmata. I passed on the elaborate menu’s candied sardines and marinated herring roe, but Ethan and Maya proved more daring. Near midnight, a light rain began to fall, and as we approached Kennin-ji, the oldest temple in Kyoto, we were greeted by the sounds of monks chanting and bells tolling.


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« ตอบกลับ #11 เมื่อ: กันยายน 19, 2019, 12:55:30 AM »
The other side of the Loire
The fantasy version of the French countryside can actually be found if you know where to look, said Alexandra Marshall in Travel + Leisure. In Sancerre and its surroundings, “there are winding roads with storybook views,” green fields dotted with well-fed livestock, plus scattered cheesemakers and winemakers who exude cheerfulness and calm. Many travelers who visit the Loire Valley and its wineries turn west at Orl?ans toward the wealthier towns crowned by historic ch?teaus. They should head east: Reuilly, Quincy, Menetou-Salon, and other hamlets within a stone’s throw of Sancerre are better known for their wine than their guesthouses and scenery, but “I found this hard to believe once I saw the place for myself.”

I had come to the region to sample the wine, but my interests quickly expanded. On a two-lane road lined with plane trees, I couldn’t resist stopping to sample Sancerre’s other specialty, the goat cheese  Crottin de Chavignol. “When I pulled into Ch?vrerie des Gallands, a fifth-generation goat-milk cheese-maker, I was greeted by a couple of chatty goats as if I were an old  friend finally coming home.” In the town of Sancerre, I enjoyed a hearty meal prepared by the Paris-trained chef at “country-chic” Restaurant La Tour, which showcases local produce and river fish. After lunch, “a jog to the top of the 14th-century Fief Tower is well advised”—both to burn some calories and because it’s “a great place to marvel at the view of the countryside.”

A local winemaker, S?bastien Riffault, had invited me to join in a vendange entre amis—a traditional gathering in which friends harvest a small plot of grapes before sharing wine and a meal. We started the day touring the vineyard in a horsedrawn carriage, the gently hilly land “alive with butterflies and bees.” The sauvignon blanc grapes we gathered were delivered to a massive shed, where we watched a press extract a gray-greenish juice that Riffault would use for a dessert wine. By nightfall, we were drinking table wine at a picnic table strewn with flowers and heaps of sausage. “There were seconds and thirds to be had before we all went our separate ways.”

Exploring ancient Malta
“A trip to Malta is a thorough immersion into the distant past,” said Alice Levitt in The Boston Globe. The small archipelago south of Sicily is home to elaborate ruins that are 1,700 years older than Stonehenge, and traces of an incredibly rich, layered history are scattered about the tiny nation’s four inhabited isles. From the main island, visits to “tiny, beachy” Comino or hilly, historic Gozo require only a short ferry ride, and the capital city of Valletta makes a good home base for exploring the entire 122-square-mile country.

Just south of Valletta, in Marsaxlokk, the shore is often lined with fishing boats still painted with “the Technicolor red, blue, and yellow stripes—and watchful eyes—that decorated them during Phoenician times.” But echoes of 1,000 B.C. are just the start: Following a seafood lunch, visitors can step back 500,000 years by making a short walk to Ghar Dalam, a cave whose adjoining museum displays fossils of ancient hippos and dwarf elephants alongside evidence of humans who took refuge in the cave roughly 7,500 years ago, during the last Ice Age. In nearby Paola, you can catch a first glimpse of the mysterious temple-building culture that flourished on Malta about 2,000 years later. Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, the town’s underground necropolis, “has no parallel.” Carved out of the rock with sharpened bones, the necropolis is “no casual assemblage of graves” but a subterranean re-creation of the prehistoric temples that stood above it.

Anyone intrigued by the culture that built the hypogeum will want to visit Gozo and the twin temples known as Ggantija. Roughly 5,600 years old, Ggantija is the planet’s oldest, freestanding man-made structure, constructed with 20-foot stone slabs that inspired speculation that it was built by giants. A “sparkling” new museum opened nearby last year, making many of the treasures found there more accessible. In one display, a skull found near Ggantija has been used to create a glimpse of what a Gozo woman of 5,600 years ago probably looked like. The result is just a computer reconstruction, but her “swarthy beauty” might remind you of her 2014 neighbors.

Encountering a remote human past
It’s not easy to explain why I recently found myself in a tour group visiting Ethiopia’s remote Omo River Valley, said Guy Trebay in Travel + Leisure. Other Westerners venture into rural Africa to see giraffes and zebras; “we were here with the shared and uneasy goal of visiting a human zoo.” Guided by a tour provider, we were scheduled to stop in over the next 10 days on various tribes that the modern world had barely touched: the Kara, the Nyangatom, the Suri. “That we were willing to travel so far—by jet and bush plane and jeep and boat—to see certifiable ‘others’ suggested a growing cultural malady.” But there we were. After waking in my tent in predawn darkness, I joined the others on a boat bound for a Kara village.

A ceremony was underway. Shortly after our arrival, “a conga line of women appeared, stomping in the dust and chanting.” Men with rifles began firing ear-piercing blanks. By rare invitation, we were witnessing an orwak ceremony, which meant that after the gruesome sacrifice of a ram, several elders read the future in its entrails. Perhaps they could see how new oil wells, roads, dams, and cellphone towers were encroaching on their corner of the world. For now, they carried on, and we learned we could photograph these proud people, if we paid each subject the customary price of five birr, or about 25 cents.

A 10-seat plane later took us to a Suri village of domed huts. The Suri are known for many things, including their beauty and their fierceness in battle. But to me, with my boyhood memories of reading photo magazines, they were “the lip-plate people.” Each Suri girl, in preparation for marriage, has her bottom teeth removed and lip pierced to hold a clay plate, which is replaced by larger plates as the lip stretches. The elegant bearing of one such young woman startled me. “She was all the strangeness of the world a traveler sets out in search of, the personification of the exotic ‘other’ who in the end, in almost every case, is pretty much the same as you and me.”

Finding the ‘real’ Georgia
Svaneti is a place much talked about but rarely visited, said Tara Isabella Burton in National Geographic Traveler. Located a 12-hour drive from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, the remote mountain province in the Caucasus “holds a mythical place in the national imagination as the real Georgia.” The poets and balladeers generally don’t mention the bandit gangs that made the journey to Svaneti a fool’s mission until the late 1990s. But then, Svaneti wouldn’t have the same mystique if not for the centuries-old stone defensive towers that abut many Svan homes, testifying to a long history of bloody clan rivalries. The real Georgia? After three years in crowded, thrilling, change-happy Tbilisi, I jumped at the chance when a Svan friend offered to take me there.

My friend, Giorgi, is from Mestia, Svaneti’s cultural hub. Fortunately, that wasn’t our final destination, because the historic hamlet has been transformed by recent investment. With its new ski resort, chalet-style hotel, and small airport, Mestia anchors a government-backed effort to transform Svaneti into “the Georgian Switzerland,” and it currently projects “the uncanny aura of a Hollywood back lot.” Giorgi hated the changes, even though he was now a ponytailed Tbilisi hipster rather than a staunch defender of tradition. Halfway to Mestia, we had stopped at a 12th-century monastery, where he surprised me by dropping to his knees to kiss an icon of the Virgin Mary. “My country,” he explained. During Georgia’s golden age, the Gelati Monastery was home to the country’s greatest philosophers, poets, and painters.

The next day, we push farther into the Caucasus to reach Ushguli, known as Europe’s highest permanently inhabited village. We ride horses through its streets, with pigs and dogs at our feet, before heading out of town into a valley of wildflowers. Giorgi says he wants to build a house one day in rural Svaneti, but I wonder if the dream can come true. That evening, at our guesthouse, he’s scolded by our hosts when he’s asked to give a traditional toast and botches it. As a stewed, pickled pig’s head watches from the table, we raise our glasses anyway. “We are toasting Georgia: eternal and unchanged.”

The surreal beauty of Mexico’s Costa Alegre
I can easily understand why French poet Andr? Breton once called Mexico “the most surrealist country in the world,” said Julia Chaplin in Travel + Leisure. On the Costa Alegre, a “blissfully underdeveloped” stretch of Pacific coastline, every day seems to freely blend decadence, whimsy, and bold, dreamy visuals of a kind you’d expect in a Frida Kahlo painting. For decades now, the area from Puerto Vallarta south to Manzanillo has been a magnet for artists, naturalists, surfers, and various other dreamers who’ve been easily folded into the tolerant local culture. Among their rewards: “night air that feels like silk” and “a climate so perfect that many houses are built without walls.”

My first destination was a luxury ecoresort so off the beaten path that I had cactus scratches on my rental car by the time I found it. Cold-eyed armed guards met me at the gate, but the vibe inside the Hotelito Desconocido property was more “Fellini meets Robinson Crusoe,” with thatched-roof guest huts perched on stilts at the shoreline and staffers bustling about the psychedelic surrounding gardens. At sunset, I panicked when I realized that the huts don’t have electricity, but hundreds of torches and candles soon cast the entire resort in an exotic glow.

My fellow guests mostly avoided Puerto Vallarta, but I had to see it. Avoiding the trinket shops and crowded bars, I instead explored the newly rediscovered old quarter, where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton once owned homes. In a hilly section behind the city, narrow cobblestone streets cut between dilapidated mansions built by 18th-century ship captains. We headed north for dinner, first stopping in the high-end suburb of Punta de Mita to gawk at Imanta, an over-the-top beach resort where guests stay in Mayan-style stone houses. In nearby Sayulita, a surf town filled with smoothie stands, taquerias, and “lots of young, tanned hippies,” I chose a restaurant where diners sit on swings attached to a tree. It wasn’t easy eating seafood linguine on a moving seat, but I had to admire the owners’ interest in subverting convention. “I’m sure Andr? Breton would have approved, too.”


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« ตอบกลับ #12 เมื่อ: พฤศจิกายน 03, 2019, 12:52:47 AM »
Snake Tales
As 6-month-old baby Nini slept quietly in the same hut as her older sister and brother, she was unaware that she would become an only child that night. By the time her father, Teteng, entered the hut around sunset, one of the children was wrapped in the coils of a giant python and was being swallowed headfirst. Teteng slashed and killed the snake with his hunting bolo knife, but it was too late. Nini’s siblings were dead. Only baby Nini survived.

It is the stuff of nightmares and horror movies, but for the Agta tribal people on the Philippine island of Luzon, python attacks are harsh realities. Anthropologist Tom Headland of the Summer Institute of Linguistics International in Dallas, Texas, documented the story of Nini and other chilling snake tales while collecting ethnographic and census data on the Agta in the 1970s. But it wasn’t until snake expert Harry Greene of Cornell University got wind of Headland’s Agta snake stories that their full historical and evolutionary implications were realized.

Although constrictors are known to prey on a variety of primate species, whether or not such snakes would have posed a significant threat to early humans has been a hotly contested issue, says Rick Shine, a snake expert at the University of Sydney in Australia. “It is one of these classic examples of a topic that people are interested in, and they speculate about and have quite diverged opinions on, but nobody had the information,” Shine says. Headland’s data revealed that pythons regularly attacked Agta males as they hunted and foraged in the jungle, suggesting our forbearers likely faced the same risk. To have such insight into prehistoric predation is quite possibly unique, says Shine. Because of widespread deforestation and modernizing of tribes, he says, “it is probably too late in most of the world to get such information. . . .I was surprised that the data existed.”

Greene was pretty surprised, too. In 2000, he was shown a photo, taken by Headland in 1970, of two Agta men holding a slain python measuring nearly 23 feet in length. “My jaw just fell open,” he says. Greene wanted the photo for a natural history book he was writing and managed to track down Headland. “I wrote to him and said, ‘Can I please use your picture in a book I’m writing?’” says Greene, “He said, ‘Oh yeah, great, and by the way, do you think you would be interested in these data I’ve got from back in the ’70s on the incidence of python predation and attempted predation on the Agta?’” “Once again my jaw just dropped,” says Greene. “Actually having data on wild animal predation of humans, let alone humans living a relatively primitive lifestyle, is just amazing.” Greene promptly flew down to Dallas and spent a full day poring over Headland’s old notes, which had been carefully filed away for 30 years.

Headland and his wife, Janet, had conducted a census of the Agta living in the Casiguran region on the east-central side of Luzon. Among the questions they asked each tribe member was whether their parents were still alive and if not, how they had died. One day, they received a startling answer. “Somebody said, ‘He was killed by a python,’” recalls Headland. The pair confirmed that a total of six Agta tribespeople had been killed by pythons between 1934 and 1973. However, a far greater number—15 of 58 Agta men questioned (26 percent)—had survived attacks. “At the time I thought, ‘Well, that is really, really interesting,’” says Headland, “but I buried it away in my files and never did anything with it.”

But Greene realized the significance of the data. “When you consider that [Tom] had asked each of these [Agta] men, ‘How did you escape being predated?’ and they always said, ‘I killed the python with my knife or my shotgun,’ that has to mean that before the availability of metal weaponry, their likelihood of getting killed was higher,” says Greene. “Imagine what a profound thing pythons would be in your life if you lived in that forest and had to go out every day foraging.” Headland’s Agta data contravened a long-held notion that large snakes only eat humans under exceptional circumstances, says Greene. To put it in perspective, he adds, “What if one in four of us had suffered a shark attack?” Thanks to their weapons, the Agta more often kill pythons than are killed by them. “Occasionally when we ate with them, [python] would be the main dish,” Headland recalls. For our early hominid ancestors, however, the outcomes of python encounters might have been less favorable. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence that our extant primate cousins are often python prey.

Besides being predator and prey of giant snakes, hominids would have also competed with snakes for food, say Headland and Greene in their recent article presenting the Agta data. The Agta mainly hunt deer and wild pigs, occasionally monkeys, and all of these are common prey for pythons. Given that a large python can eat a deer, says Greene, an adult Agta male—small by Western standards—would be a good meal, but certainly not enormous. “In fact, I think that python in [the photo] could have eaten both those guys if she had gotten the drop on them,” he says. “Just look at the size of her head and the size of their heads. She wouldn’t have had any trouble at all swallowing them.”


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« ตอบกลับ #13 เมื่อ: พฤศจิกายน 03, 2019, 12:53:07 AM »
Over to you, Vlad
The fate of Syria is now in Russia’s hands

In the past four years American troops have helped crush Islamic State in Syria. But President Donald Trump has had enough and he is bringing them home. All 2,000 are expected to be out in the next few months. The abrupt withdrawal has startled America’s allies in the region, notably Syria’s Kurds, and risks allowing the jihadists to regroup. It also cedes the eastern part of Syria, rich in oil, gas and arable land, to the government and its Iranian and Russian allies.

As America pulls back from Syria, Russia grows more entrenched. It intervened decisively in 2015, saving Bashar al-Assad. With its help, the heinous dictator has won Syria’s civil war after nearly eight blood-soaked years. The authoritarian rulers of the Gulf, who loathe Mr Assad, are conceding his victory by restoring diplomatic ties.

Having proved that it will stick with even its most monstrous allies, Russia is now seen by many as the region’s indispensable power. It alone is still talking to all of those with a stake in Syria, including Iran, Israel and Turkey. But if Russia wants to consolidate its success, and even supplant America, it must show that it can win a lasting peace after the terriblewar.

So far, it is failing that responsibility. Rather than stitching Syria back together, Russia has let Mr Assad continue to tear it apart. It has helped him bomb his opponents into submission and given cover for his use of poison gas. Syria’s ruler has long seemed intentonaltering the country’s sectarian mixby striking Sunni towns, where the rebellion against him once gathered strength, while encouraging Shias, Christians and Alawites (his own sect) to take over property abandoned by those who fled the onslaught. Now he is making it hard for the 6m Syrians who escaped abroad to come home. Hundreds if not thousands of Syrians returning from Lebanon, mostly Sunnis, have been blocked.

Russia saysMrAssad’s heavy hand is needed to keep Syria stable. That is mistaken. Although savagery helped Mr Assad survive, it prevents Syria’s revival. It has pushed bitter Sunnis into the arms of extremists. Inequality, corruption and divisive rule originally fuelled the rebellion and nurtured the jihadist insurgency. For as long as they remain government policy, Syria will never be properly secure.

For this to change Syria must begin to rebuild its institutions and infrastructure. What reconstruction has taken place has mostly benefited Mr Assad’s cronies. Power and wealth must be shared more broadly. Decentralisation and federalism would help persuade Sunnis(whoformthe country’s majority)andother groups that they have a voice. Mr Assad shows no sign of adopting such notions; he feels vindicated, andwants to continue the war until he recovers all his territories. Russia can and should twist his arm; after all, his survival depends on Russian air power.

Russia should also do more to ensure that new conflicts do not erupt in Syria. In the north the Kurds, abandoned by America, have turned to Mr Assad for protection from Turkey, which calls them terrorists. Turkish troops already control aswathe of northern Syria.Russia might act as a buffer between the parties, especially in the combustible city ofManbij. It could also domorein the south to restrain Iran, which is trying to deepen its footprint in Syria—and risking anewwar, with Israel.Russiaknowswell that several big powers fighting so close to each other carries risks for all parties. Last September aRussian spy planewas shotdownby Syrian air-defence batteries. Their intended targetwas Israeli bombers.

President Vladimir Putin, who casts himself as the master of Syria’s fate, will struggle to sort out its future so long as he allows MrAssad to rule wildly. Peace talks have flopped, in large part because of Mr Assad’s intransigence. Russia cannot simply walk away without losing its newly won regional clout. Sometimes it has seemed as if Mr Putin avoided a costly quagmire in Syria. In fact, the danger still looms.



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« ตอบกลับ #14 เมื่อ: พฤศจิกายน 03, 2019, 12:53:30 AM »
Mattis’ departure leaves a hollowed-out Cabinet

President Trump headed into the New Year with a makeshift Cabinet featuring six acting department heads, after Chief of Staff John Kelly was ousted from the White House and Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned. Mattis announced his departure a day after Trump ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, a decision opposed by the Pentagon chief. The outgoing defense secretary forcefully rebuked Trump’s foreign policy in his resignation letter, arguing the importance of supporting U.S. allies and of being “unambiguous” in dealing with authoritarian rivals such as Russia and China. “You have the right,” Mattis wrote Trump, “to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects.” Patrick Shanahan, Mattis’ deputy and a former Boeing executive, is now acting defense secretary.

Mattis and Kelly were viewed by many congressional Republicans and Democrats as the last “adults in the room,” experienced public servants and generals who would check Trump’s impulses. In an exit interview with the Los Angeles Times, Kelly said he’d done his best to keep Trump informed and that his tenure as chief of staff should be judged by what Trump did not do. Sources said Kelly persuaded Trump not to withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea and Afghanistan, and not to pull the U.S. from NATO. Trump has temporarily replaced Kelly with budget director Mick Mulvaney. The posts of attorney general, EPA administrator, interior secretary, and ambassador to the U.N. are also held by acting heads.

“Cabinet officers come and go,” said The Wall Street Journal, but Mattis’ departure could reverberate in 2020. Trump didn’t just overrule the secretary in ordering a Syrian withdrawal. He told America’s military “that he will act on uninformed impulse,” after a phone conversation with a Turkish dictator who’s eager to attack our Syrian Kurdish allies. Many of Trump’s “deplorables” are in uniform or are veterans. “He has stuck a finger in their eye.”

Mattis worked ably “to prevent or blunt” dangerous presidential decisions, said The New York Times. Now that he’s left, Congress must assert its national security responsibilities. It should pass legislation requiring that the secretaries of state and defense—not just the president—“have a say in the use of nuclear weapons,” and also requiring congressional approval to leave NATO and other treaties.

America “should be deeply troubled” by Mattis’ letter, said David French in NationalReview.com. In that missive, “America’s most respected warrior” told the nation he doesn’t believe the president sees our enemies clearly or understand “the necessity of American leadership.” Trump has lost not only a defense secretary, said Erin Dunne in WashingtonExaminer.com, but also national security credibility among key Senate Republicans. Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, and Mitch McConnell all voiced distress over Mattis’ departure. Trump will need their help to rally GOP support in the Senate if he’s impeached by the Democrat-controlled House. This resignation “could well prove fatal to the administration.”

There’s a common refrain you hear from Cabinet members who “leap—or are pushed—from the foundering USS Trump,” said Dana Milbank in The Washington Post: “Don’t blame me.” In his Los Angeles Times interview, Kelly absolved himself of guilt for the migrant family separation policy and the travel ban. Mattis did the same in his farewell letter, saying he always opposed Trump’s attacks on NATO and his sucking up to Russia. It’s not enough: “Those who disagreed with the madness had an obligation to resign, or at least to speak out—not to wash their hands of responsibility after the fact.”

Trump will soon have “a cabinet full of yes men,” said Aaron Blake, also in the Post. Look at his replacements for other ousted officials. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo parrots “Trump’s talking points.” The nominee for attorney general, William Barr, attacked special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe in a memo to the Justice Department. National security adviser John Bolton tossed his anti-Russia views to win favor with his boss. Mattis’ replacement will be cut from the same cloth, because Trump simply won’t be told no.









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