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Just Back: The New and the Old of Newport, Rhode Island

201108-b-newport-black-pearl-smalljpgOkay okay, I ate at the Black Pearl Restaurant...again.  You can stamp “tourist” onto my forehead, but their New England clam chowder is too amazing to pass up.  I stumbled out satisfied and wandered into the colorful gallery/art studio, Art on the Wharf. Perhaps it was this tourist-guilt that compelled me to ask artist-owner, Tony Gill (pictured below), for some locals’ suggestions, but it was well worth the inquiry.  He had heard the question before and quickly handed me a sheet of paper titled “Tony’s Best Bets.”  I now had my work cut out for me.

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Just Back: Summer Action in Minneapolis

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Am I really the last person to "discover" Minneapolis? Until recently, I probably knew more about the religious capital of Kandy, in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, than I knew about Minneapolis. Turns out that this bike-friendly metropolis has a lot to offer visitors beyond Grain Belt Beer, long winters, and Mary Tyler Moore reruns. Here are just a few of the activities I tried during my recent visit.

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Just Back: Tacos in Tamarindo

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If you follow the dusty, pebble-scattered dirt road to Playa Langosta from Tamarindo on Costa Ricas dense Pacific coast, youll observe a small stop sign jutting from tropical foliage, demanding you to halt—for tacos. The sign serves equal parts recommendation and warning, as its the last place to catch a bite before Tamarindos ubiquitous eateries give way to Langostas private beach estates.

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The Best Brunch in Philadelphia?

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I recently returned from a low-key weekend excursion to nearby Philadelphia—a city near and dear to me, as the site of my first on-my-own apartment—to visit friends. Since I somehow managed to let nearly a year lapse between visits, I had the urge to wander around my first morning. My friend/host Rob and I (with his short-haired lhasa apso, Rufus, in tow), strayed from his Rittenhouse Square abode east into Center City, where we stumbled upon Garces Trading Company.

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Viva Cartagena! Openings Bring New Life to the Old City

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Tough times for tourism? Not in Cartagena de Indias. I recently returned from a long weekend in Colombia (currently a "recession-proof country," according to several economic analysts), and while global markets may be floundering and travel numbers down, this sultry Caribbean city is booming with a wave of new boutique hotels, innovative eateries, and ample old-school watering holes. Here's the scoop:

At least a half a dozen gorgeous properties have recently opened downtown (plug: don’t miss T+L’s It List of Best New Hotels in June!). I settled into the 24-suite Anandá Hotel Boutique (pictured below), a quiet retreat in a restored Spanish-colonial building with carved-wood balconies and three breezy roof terraces. The cool, Zen-like calm is a world apart from the bustling street scene just outside its massive wooden doors.

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Going Home to Breckenridge, CO

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The last time I saw Breckenridge, Colorado, was about 16 years ago through the rear window of my family’s oversized dirt-spattered truck. I didn’t know then how much time would pass before I returned, and for years I treasured my cache of childhood memories: leaping off our porch into a mammoth pile of soft snow; fishing in the stream that ran through our backyard; hiking wildflower-strewn trails that led to abandoned—and in my young mind, mysterious—19th-century cabins. My family moved around a bit afterwards, but for years, Breckenridge set the bar and no place could compete.

Sure, we settled by the ocean, but with a child’s obstinance, I deemed myself a "mountain person." Even later, as I explored new and exciting foreign cities, there remained something untouchable about the small mining town. Of course, as I grew older, I came to understand that a pair of rose-colored glasses had settled firmly on my nose, a realization reinforced by the way Breckenridge was discussed by others in conversation: as a ski resort, and little more. I wanted to explain how beautiful and pure it was there, but held my tongue, thinking that I sounded a bit silly.

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