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The Moment: Rathausplatz, Vienna

Edwins

9:19 p.m.: I remember a cauldron filled with molten beeswax, and my mother handing me a piece of string. I was seven or eight. It was Christmas, at a holiday market in Zurich. I dipped the string into the wax and pulled it out a few dozen times, and there was something amazing, even magical, about how the string turned into a candle, and about the smell of the wax, and the wintry crowds and the lights and the sounds. Today, 30-odd years later, the Mitteleuropa-style Christmas market is thriving, in Zurich, Prague, and Munich, in Frankfurt and Vienna—celebrations of the season and places where families can still make memories of their own.

Luke Barr is the former features director of Travel + Leisure.

Photo by Monika Hoefler


Also on Travel + Leisure:
Meet Our Local Experts
World's Greatest Dream Trips
America's Best Christmas Markets

The Peninsula Paris Makes a Grand Debut

Peninsula Paris

At the newly opened Peninsula Paris, there are two entrances. The first is on Avenue Kléber, where steps lead up to a large terrace café and then into the lobby restaurant. The stairs are flanked by two imposing Chinese lion statues in white marble, among the few overt signs of the hotel group’s venerable Hong Kong heritage. The 19th-century limestone building and slate-tiled mansard roof are otherwise classically Parisian, overlooking the wide, tree-lined avenue. Indeed, the hotel is an emblem of Haussmann’s Paris—stately and confident, a block away from the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées, in the 16th Arrondissement. The stonework façade is intricately detailed and like the entire building has been carefully restored; a glass-and-steel canopy extends origami-like over the entrance. This is the public face of the hotel, promising glamour and the cosmopolitan rush of the city, a place of coming and going, a place to see and be seen.

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Classic Biarritz Beach Vacation

Biarritz Beach Vacation

Biarritz is the classic European beach vacation, newly reinvented as a laid-back, surfer-bohemian hot spot.

I met a lot of people from Paris in Biarritz, and they all said the same thing. They were refugees. They were here because life in Paris was relentless, all business, too fast. But here was the ocean, and surfing, a resort town, a community. And yes, that could be said of many places but this one was different. This was not the Côte d’Azur. There were no mega-yachts floating in the harbor here, and there were no private beach clubs or trendy nightclubs or Lamborghinis stuck in traffic like you see in Cannes and St.-Tropez. This stretch of the Atlantic coast in the southwest of France—La Côte Basque—was a less polished place, a little wild, a little young. The landscape was stunning and the ocean was vast and powerful (hence all the surfers) and the general attitude was low-key bohemian.

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Editor Obsession: Nikon FE

Nikon FE

I bought my Nikon FE in 1983, after months of careful shopping and comparing and saving of money. I was 14. I had never owned an object I loved as much as this one: it was all black, a beautifully utilitarian piece of machine-tooled aluminum and glass. That summer, my family went on vacation to the Loire Valley, and I took many hundreds of photographs of castles, and a few of my parents and brother, too. The strange thing is not that I still love this camera, though of course I do, but that I still use it. Today it’s technically an antique, but the FE is notoriously rugged, hailed by professionals back in the day for its ability to operate in extreme conditions. Needless to say, the photographs, too, seem more rugged than any JPEG. I pile them in a shoebox—tangible, permanent records, far from the iCloud ether.

Photo by Sam Kaplan

An Expert's Favorite Wine Spots

wine expert recommendation: Berry Bros. & Rudd

Marco Pasanella is an architect turned New York wine-store owner, a story he retells in Uncorked: My Journey Through the Crazy World of Wine (Clarkson Potter; $24), out this month. Below, he reveals his top spots to browse for bottles when he travels.

Berry Bros. & Rudd, London
“Founded in 1698, this is the city’s oldest and most venerable wine and spirits purveyor. It has a two-and-a-half-million-bottle inventory, including some of the world’s rarest vintages.” 3 St. James’s St.; 44-800/280-2440.

Enoteca Vanni, Lucca, Italy
“Beneath the unassuming storefront are block-long subterranean caves filled with unexpected finds, such as 1970’s California Cabernets. The vaults are as enchanting for a child as for a wine lover.” 7 Piazza del Salvatore; 39-0583/491-902.

Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, Calif.
“The slightly disheveled shop was one of the first to bring small European producers to the U.S. Lynch has continued to unearth interesting labels—and now even has his own winery. Many a shopkeeper, such as myself, dreams of having a place just like Kermit’s.” 1605 San Pablo Ave.; 510/524-1524.

Photo courtesy of Berry Bros & Rudd

Mt. Everest the Next Gay Marriage Hot Spot?

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Could Mount Everest be the next gay marriage hot spot? According to an intriguing report by Aaron Hicklin in the new issue of Out Traveler, Nepalese member of parliament Sunil Pant is commited to making gay travelers—and wedding parties—feel welcome in his country, telling Hicklin:

“If you want to do it in the Buddhist tradition, we can supply a lama to bless you, or there are shamans who can bless you in a very tantric way. Or you have a Hindu priest or even a Christian padre." He pauses. "Or you can do it in a conservation park with an elephant safari."

Luke Barr is the news director at Travel + Leisure.

Photo by iStock

Obsession: Tokyo Shopping

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I love to shop in Tokyo. Especially for everyday things: housewares, stationary supplies, useful stuff. I always visit Loft (loft.co.jp), for example, in Shibuya, even if I don’t need anything, just to wander the seven floors of art supplies and hobby and craft materials and the vast—vast—selection of pens and notebooks.

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