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A Whale of a Time in the Canadian Subarctic

Paddling out into the river, it was hard to grasp just quite how far north I was. But sitting in a little yellow kayak, mere yards behind me swirled the Hudson Bay. And each stroke of an oar pushed me farther through subarctic waters toward the afternoon’s highlight: Beluga whales.

Churchill, Manitoba is known as the "polar bear capital" in October and November during bear season, but the tourism anarchist in me couldn't resist going in August. And while I desperately did want to see wild polar bears too, an off-peak visit in summertime also meant kayaking with whales on the Churchill River.

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Honeymoon Dispatch: Bodrum, Turkey

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I just returned home from my 12-day honeymoon in Turkey and had to share a gorgeous vacation spot. Bodrum, on the western coast, is a lovely enclave of beach resorts and whitewashed cliff-side architecture.

After six days in Istanbul and two nights in Kusadasi (a similar resort town near the historic ruins of Ephesus – our reason for the sidetrip), we decided to rest for three days at Casa dell’Arte, a T+L It List Hotel of 2008 located in Torba (a hamlet of Bodrum) known for its vast private art collection and breathtaking Aegean views.

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Editor Dispatch: Live From The Gulf Coast

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June 15, 2010: Just back from a family trip to Seaside, Florida, where I was expecting to see beaches marred by the oil spill. On the contrary, the Gulf Coast beaches that I saw (Fort Walton, Santa Rosa, Miramar), were as gorgeous as ever—fine white sand, blue-green water. Let's hope they stay that way.

Whitney Lawson is the photo editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo by Whitney Lawson

Mexico: To Visit or Not to Visit?

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On Wednesday, April 14, the same day that First Lady Michelle Obama arrived for a two-day visit to Mexico City, drug violence erupted in Acapulco, one of Mexico’s most famous resort cities, 190 miles southwest of the Mexican capital on the Pacific coast.  The shootings and murders (six people were killed; five wounded) were startling because they occurred during the day, on the main boulevard of the tourist zone, and three bystanders were victims. However, no tourists were among the casualties and the violence seems to have resulted from a power struggle within a drug cartel operating in Guerrero, the state in which Acapulco is located.

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Bangkok Protests: Notes from the Ground

200904-a-songkranjpgTuesday was the start of Songkran, the Thai new year, usually an occasion for mass water fights throughout Bangkok. This year's celebrations, of course, have been subdued, after violence last weekend left 23 people dead and more than 800 injured. Still, in the Bangkok neighborhood where I live, a handful of children and teens armed with water guns, hoses, and buckets have gathered every day since Tuesday, merrily drenching passers-by and each other. Some Bangkokians, it seems, are trying to find their way back to normalcy.

How long the calm will last, I'm not sure. As an American who's called Bangkok home for nearly eight years, I found the violence shocking but not unexpected. Thailand is stuck in an incredibly complex conflict that resists easy explanation, and there is little political will—or bravery—to find a way out of it peacefully. Thailand has witnessed similar eruptions in the past, during the 1970's and in 1992,when the military killed dozens of pro-democracy protesters. Yes, Thais are generally peaceful, but there are few release valves for settling differences. When conflicts arise, they can escalate quickly. (For an insightful take on the current crisis, read this Wall Street Journal op-ed.) 

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Dispatch: Kismet in Berlin

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I'm in Berlin for the annual ITB travel fair, and last night had one of those magical moments that sometime happen when we travel, a foruitous experience that can't be planned, only enjoyed. Kismet.

We were a small group of magazine people dining at Grill Royal, one of Berlin's restaurants of the moment, overlooking the Spree River from a quay just below fashionable Friedrichstrasse. The massive restaurant is renowned for its beef— entrecôte from Nebraska, Wagyu from Australia, specialty cuts from Argentina—a decidedly gourmet approach to steak. But the menu is varied, with choucroute (dressed sauerkraut), oysters from the island of Sylt, bouillabaisse, and other regional delicacies.

The restaurant decor is minimalist, with spotlighted artwork on the walls, massive columns, dark-wood banquettes. The real decoration comes from the diners themselves—chic, attractive, some young, others young-ish, all wearing fashions you'd find in the cutting-edge boutiques off Unter den Linden a few blocks away.

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From Santiago: One Week After the Earth Moved

Read correspondent Connie McCabe's first Chile dispatch here, and her second dispatch here.

Just over one week ago the earthquake—and we all know what earthquake I'm talking about—woke me up in the middle of the night. As reported, everything rattled, but nothing broke. A few picture frames toppled over and all seven perfume bottles fell, but they landed not on the marble floor but atop cushy piles of socks and stacks of t-shirts in the bureau drawers that were opening and closing with the lurching of the house. Some of us are lucky. Ridiculously lucky.

Five days later, on Thursday, it was my alarm clock chiming me awake at 3:30. Not because I had to get to work, but because my husband and stepson were setting off for Lebu, a small coastal town that straddles the Lebu River in the region of Bio Bio, about 90 miles south of Concepcion. Here, the earth jerked and cracked at its most violent 8.8, and most houses, made of wood panels and corrugated tin roofs, writhed and creaked along with it.

Twenty minutes later, the Pacific, which had been displaced 30 miles below its surface, rose, filled the bay and overpowered the river, forcing it—for the first time in history—to flow in reverse. Bunches of fishing boats that had been tied together on either side of the mouth of the river were dislodged, and more than half of them propelled upriver. Inexplicably they ended up beyond the bridge that most of the 20-meter long painted wood vessels are too big to clear. In the darkness, the Pacific retreated with a vengeance, sucking the river and one elder fisherman and his wife into the sea. The river had been reduced to a fraction of its original size. Now it was a creek, and stuck in its muddy remains, some 50 traumatized fishing boats, scattered and skewed helter-skelter.

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Santiago Sidelines: 80-hours Post-Quake

Read correspondent Connie McCabe's first Chile dispatch here.

Monster earthquake notwithstanding, this is a big year for Chile, nothing less than her 200th birthday. But no one is talking much about that anymore.

Michele Bachelet’s Bicentennial Advisory Committee had been mapping out a host of celebrations, initiatives and projects to benchmark the big year. New cultural centers were rising up. A satellite was to be ejected into space. Plazas were to be renovated; parks improved; poetry contests held.

Yesterday, thanks to catastrophe-hungry media, the only things the world saw being held were rifles and iron bars as angry Chileans cleaned out a mini-market just outside Santiago. And the world saw this again and again. That and images of tanks rumbling through debris-strewn streets of Concepcion and smoke billowing ominously out of supermarkets. There’s also the scene of the weary fishermen and their families—what is left of them—combing through the shattered remains of what was, just days before, a coastline of idyllic beach destinations. And people fighting tear gas and each other for a few canisters of powdered milk and scooping up water from blown-up baby swimming pools.

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DISPATCH: T+L Correspondent Shares First-Hand Account of Chile's Earthquake

Three minutes. Such a short time in the big scheme of things, but such a long time when the ground is shifting under one’s feet. Everything changed in Chile in those three minutes. Even for those of with mere superficial damages. Like me.

I live in Santiago, and I don’t remember if I was sleeping or not when it started. I just remember hearing a low rumble, almost like thunder. I knew what it was; as the whole world knows, Chile gets more than its fair share of earthquakes. I thought I would just wait it out. But then the rumble got louder, the headboard started slamming against wall; the windows rattling, and the closet doors inching open and thumping closed. Not so gracefully, I nudged my husband. He had been sleeping, but before I could ask what he thought we should do, he was sprinting down the hall.

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David Copperfield’s Penthouse of Wonders

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There are countless things I never thought I’d do: solve a thorny calculus equation; pacify an enraged mama polar bear with my calming gaze; stroll the 57th-floor roof deck of David Copperfield’s penthouse with a blood-orange harvest moon rising behind me, a jazz-swing cover of “Black Hole Sun” sounding around me, and the flat immensity of Manhattan unfolding before me.

And yet, thanks to Travel + Leisure, one breezy evening last September I found myself doing just that. Not the math and bear part, of course—but attending a party chez Copperfield. To publicize his private-island resort on Musha Cay in the Bahamas (more on the news there in a minute), the magician gave us a sneak peek of his New York City home.

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