I'm a believer in real-time travel advisers. This confidence is no doubt rooted in my first trip across the Atlantic, when I was a teenager, for a home stay with a French family in Aix-en-Provence. Like the Grand Tour I took a couple of years later with my college roommate, Ann Marie, and Margot, a friend from home, it was arranged by a worldly American woman named Jane Leitzer. She could mark the spots where Cézanne stood for his views of Mont St.-Victoire; the best pastry shop—it became my haunt—off the Cours Mirabeau; a room to let just outside Copenhagen; and the colorful pensione in Madrid where a bullfighter's cast-off girlfriend burst into our room in tears. A few years later, with expert guidance from another source, my husband and I wound up at a fabled resort on a pine tree–laden point in Majorca. So what if we were the youngest guests by a generation and escaped each night over a precipitous mountain road for dinner in Pollença. I remember it as my Last Year at Marienbad moment, and an introduction to the grandeur of Europe.
This month in Travel + Leisure, we present our annual A-List, a compendium of 125 handpicked travel super-agents and their dream itineraries. You will also find a road map to the best travel resources and booking options available on the Web, in our User's Guide to travel online. We point the way to a variety of destinations this season: villages set among the mountains and gorges of the Aveyron region in southern France, with Marcelle Clements ("Introducing Aveyron"); New England, New York, and eastern Canada, with their blaze of color ("The Ultimate Fall Travel Guide"); and Virginia horse country, where the leaves turn similar shades of orange ("Virginia Unbridled," by Matt Lee and Ted Lee). Horses also figure in our highly selective roundup of ranches ("The Best of South America's Haciendas"). And Melik Kaylan finds a former Soviet state—Georgia—taking steps toward becoming an international destination ("Georgia in the Time of Misha").
As the traveler's world expands in all directions, including cyberspace, the Mrs. Leitzers of this world become ever more welcome and important. As for the woman herself, she is gone (peacefully, in Portland, Maine, in 2005)—but not forgotten.