guide books lonely planet

Warring guidebooks and whom to believe.

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Reluctant Baccante

Mona and bacchus

“A few days sipping wine in he California sunshine—how bad could it be?” my husband coaxed. “The kids are in camp.  It’s our chance to get away!”  I let myself be persuaded. For years we’d heard glowing reports from friends who’d been enticed by Napa’s siren song. But I am here to report that not everyone is vulnerable to ...

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Travel Wars

john-naked and-yoko

To most, the sixties “generation gap” was a vague, pop-culture generality. To us—my parents on one side, my husband Michael and I on the other—it was my family’s defining motif. We were deeply, truly, madly split on every subject. Police brutality. Dean Martin. Grey Poupon versus French’s. It was all equally significant. Where you stood on thank-you-notes said as much ...

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Small World

Small worlds Jacob's' rose

By the time I was a mid-life wife and mother, I knew the Age of Exploration had long since long gone, and yet I still craved a sense of discovery—and of self-discovery—when I traveled. The word “trip” continued to have a ‘60’s ring. Over the years I’d come to realize that what I sought, now harder and harder to attain ...

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A Matter of Time

The  Great Flood by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel ceiling, 1508-1512

Fascination with apocalypse is at least as old as the story of Noah and still exerting its pull. The Mayan prediction of the end of all time, one year from now, the subject of the film 2012 and some 600 websites, is the latest to excite a frisson of fright. And yet, the planet’s looming problems—nuclear proliferation, the end ...

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Bellicose Bambini

cain and able mosaic

The history of Italy is a gory tale of non-stop internecine fighting. If Disney had animated it, the tongue would be trying to devour the toe, the grommet to strangle the lace. To walk the otherwise charming old streets is to tread on centuries of dried blood, fratricidal blood. Other travelers may focus on Italy’s artistic glories, its religious traditions, ...

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The Bugs and Us


My parents, like the Monarch butterflies, wintered in Central Mexico. Fleeing icy Manhattan to join their friends in Palm Beach or Palm Springs would have been too easy. Instead, after my father retired from dentistry at 80, they set up house in Ajijic, a small lake-side village outside Guadalajara with a big ex-pat community and cheap golf. For my mother, ...

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Edna's List


After my mother’s death at 83, I was surprised to find among her personal papers a frayed and folded magazine clipping entitled Wonders of the world. It consisted of two lists: one proclaiming the world’s ten greatest sights and the other hedging with another 25 runner-ups. The clipping was tucked into her pocket date book, a tool as important to ...

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Brain Packing

High Noon

Preparing for a trip always reminds me a little of studying for finals. As the departure date nears, I feel an undergraduate’s anxious urgency. From our very first trip, even before we were married, my husband and I have routinely packed our brains as compulsively as other people pack their bags. Months of reading for a two-week trip is ...

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Dark Chocolate

Diego Rivera rape

  Some restaurants are as much national metaphors as places to eat. One such is the Café Tacuba, a 99-year-old restaurant in downtown Mexico City, our first stop whenever my family visits the city. The restaurant is a veritable shrine to mestizaje, the fusion of Indian and Iberian that produced the Mexican culture. As food writer Raymond Sokolov has pointed ...

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