For better or worse, little ever stays the same when it comes to travel, or, for that matter, pretty much everything in life. The Paris hotel from which I write this letter, where my husband and I spent a few days many years before, has been completely re-imagined by a contemporary French designer. Ditto for the property in L.A. where we stayed with our children while visiting family over a holiday weekend, which is just off a head-to-toe renovation by a well-known U.S.-based designer. Despite the lingering woes of the global economy, it is a moment when many classic hotels are undergoing significant changes, partly in response to the evolving tastes and needs of today’s traveler, partly because of technological advances, and most basically because decades of use have taken their toll—and once you are opening the walls, nothing short of a total overhaul will do.
In this issue, Thomas Beller’s moving account, “Cambodia’s New Look,” reveals the painful ways the past can linger. Despite the signposts of progress, from opportunities in education and jobs to the profusion of offerings for affluent, culturally motivated travelers, Beller finds the country where he lived and worked nearly two decades ago still haunted by the events of the Pol Pot era. In Aimee Lee Ball’s “Coziest Inns of the Northeast,” the past plays a far different role, contributing a distinctively American element to these nostalgic vacation retreats. In Milan, the serious-minded northern Italian city where tradition reigns supreme, writer Guy Trebay takes in the splendor of a restored 16th-century fresco cycle hidden for decades as well as shops, hotels, and restaurants that would delight even the most sybaritic-minded modern travelers (“Hidden Treasures in Milan”). Then there is the the array of options to consider in South America’s latest hot spot and our “Romantic Winter Getaways,” from Paris to Fez and from Positano to Antarctica. Speaking of change, there are few more undeniable signs of it than this antipodean continent, which now has a luxury camp fit for lovers.
As for that French expression, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” (the more that changes, the more it’s the same thing), I, most decidedly, do not believe this is so. The world moves forward, and places and people come along.
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