Travel + Leisure

It's getting dark too early, and the long, cold New York winter is looming. 'Tis the season when exotic beaches, palm trees and women lingering in hammocks adorn the cover of travel magazines.

The December Travel + Leisure cover features Island Escapes, which include The Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii, and the "Affordable Caribbean." In her editor's note, Nancy Novograd, the editor is chief, says, "We continue to document simplicity-at-a-price in this magazine."

As far as travel trends go, this uber-lux simplicity is the market leader, and Novograd, who edits with a down- to-earth glamour, does a great job showing what that simplicity feels like. To create a good travel magazine, the three most essential aspects are photographs that make you feel like you're there, personal stories in order to get a strong point of view on the place, and easy-to-digest information, so that the experience becomes a phone call or Web click away. Travel + Leisure hits the mark on all of these elements.

I breezed through the front of the book in this issue because I was so excited to get to the feature well, but I did learn that Valencia is the new Barcelona, Matt and Ted Lee discovered dim sum heaven in L.A.'s Chinatown, and hot zone journalist Wolf Blitzer always hits the spa after hard-core assignments. "I try to get facials on a regular basis. I'm also a deep-tissue massage kind of guy."

The feature well has a wonderful story by journalist Melanie Thernstrom about tourism in Rwanda. It's hard to imagine that in a country where ten years ago, "more than 800,000 people [were] hacked to death in 100 days," that now "the old Belgian system of ethnic identity paper has been abolished, and many Tutsi employers hire Hutus. Swords have been turned into plowshares and machetes are once again used as farming tools." Susan Morgan explores six colonial cities in Mexico, and another feature explore Wilson Island, a private island on The Great Barrier Reef that the writer says is "the most natural, unvarnished, unreconstructed experience in the region," for $600 a night. The writers and editors did their job. I feel like I just got back from vacation.

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