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City Tour: Running the Streets of Paris

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As both an active runner and someone who enjoys travel, I speak from experience when I say: it can be really hard to stay true to my routine when I'm away from home. (To date, I have only successfully maintained a semi-normal running schedule once while traveling. Don't judge me.) Between late nights, full days, and the desire to take in as much as possible in a short period of time, sometimes it's just not possible. (And fine, I admit: sometime I'd just rather sleep a little later than get up for a run. There, I said it.)

That being said, I was intrigued when a colleague passed along information about a different type of tour now being offered in the great City of Light: a running tour.

That's right. A running tour. This is some serious travel time management, and I love it. (Not to mention, anyone who knows me knows that when I travel, I'm very much a "do as the locals do" type. So what better way to tour a city than as a resident jogger would?)

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Back to the Land: Farm Stays (in Luxury Tents)

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As a young child, I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. Rereading them as a parent, I’m charmed anew (but kind of stunned by what a single-minded nut job Pa seems to be).  However homespun my reading material, though, I’m closer in temperament to Woody Allen than to Ma Ingalls.  My family’s method of getting down to earth will have to come with an escape hatch. Like a farm vacation.

Feather Down Farms, a farm stay company from Europe that has set up housekeeping on three American farms in the past two years, offers curious city-dwellers a chance to experience a rarified and charming rural experience without any of the hardships that plagued pioneer families like the Ingalls and the Wilders (No locusts! No prairie fires! No wolves!), or even those that faced by modern small farmers today.

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Virginia is for (Flower) Lovers

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As a Maine girl through and through, I’ve been a bit confounded lately by my new blossoming obsession with the South—plotting long weekends in Charleston, pouring over my new subscription to Garden & Gun magazine (for the record, it’s more lifestyle than weed-whacking and ammo), and daydreaming about the rolling green hills, gracious historic pockets of Virginia—and the serious bloomage happening there right now. But, I'm rolling with it.

While the Northeast (and probably other parts of the country) has just a few new-season daffodils, cherry blossoms, and electric-yellow forsythia bushes right now, the Commonwealth is ablaze with heart-stopping flora—everything from Osage orange trees and wisteria-laden trellises to rare rose breeds and Elizabethan herb gardens. And this coming week marks its apex: Virginia’s Historic Garden Week (Apr. 17-25), now in its 77th year.

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Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah: 3 New Ziplines Offer Extreme Thrills

Remember that time I said I would never go bungee jumping or even entertain the notion of ever going on any of these extreme rides? But then I went ahead and threw a curve ball by saying I wouldn't even hesitate to swim at the edge of Victoria Falls? Well, here's another one of those kinda sorta crazy things I'd love to try: Ziplining.

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Ultimate Challenge: Paddleboarding

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I gave up all hope of being a decent surfer long ago, but think I might regain some “Endless Summer”-cred on the paddleboard: apparently, if you can stand up, you can do it (even three-year-olds give it a go). But for professionals Jenny Kalmbach and Morgan Hoesterey, it’s not just fun and games—it's a mission.

Starting this month, Kalmbach and Hoesterey are boarding-their-way across Hawaii’s nine legendary open-ocean channels (some 250 miles) to raise funds for the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, a Long Beach–based nonprofit. They’ll be trailed by two boats as a safety measure, but the journey won’t be easy: Kalmbach and Hoesterey will pass through the Alalakeiki Channel (a.k.a. the “Screaming Child”) and even end their trip with a moonlit crossing of the 85-mile-wide Kaieiewaho Channel (a leg that could take up to 20 grueling hours to finish).

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First Luxury Hotel Opens in Peru's Sacred Valley

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Tambo del Inka
, the first luxury hotel to break ground in Peru’s Sacred Valley of the Incas (and Luxury Collection's second property in Peru), opened its doors today. Its location, smack in between the historic ruins of Machu Picchu and the modern city of Cusco, seems to be echoed in the hotel’s ethos—its 128 floor-to-ceiling-windowed rooms are decorated in keeping with ancient Peruvian tradition, while its bright, contemporary architecture (from Miami-based firm Arquitectonica) leaves no modern luxury to be desired.

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Go West…for Ski Deals

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Winter’s back may be broken, but that doesn’t mean ski season’s over. In fact, this may be the perfect time to hit the slopes, while the snow’s still good and the deals are enticing. The keys to spring skiing: book quickly—and don’t forget your sunscreen. 

Park City, Utah
Over a dozen Park City properties are offering Ski Free and Stay Free packages that offer travelers a free night of lodging and a lift ticket at one of the area’s three resorts (the Canyons, Park City Mountain, and Deer Valley) when you book a four-night package. Valid for reservations between March 28 and April 11, 2010; see parkcityinfo.com for more.

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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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National Parks Waive Park Fees Next Month

Washington Post |  The National Park Service will waive visitor fees next month during National Park Week, officials said Tuesday.

Parks will be open to the public free of charge from April 17 to 25, to coincide with National Park Week. The special fee program also coincides with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and the 75th anniversary of the nation’s most visited national park, the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 392 national parks will also offer special pricing deals on tours, lodging and souvenirs, the Park Service said.

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Waiting for the Wave in Hanalei

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When the tsunami alert was announced for Hawaii on the morning of February 27, keening sirens echoed through the seaside north-Kauai town of Hanalei. Within the hour, everyone in the low-lying community—including me—had evacuated for the higher ground of other neighborhoods.

That’s what I thought, anyway. But once I’d settled myself on a lofty nearby hotel veranda—from which I could safely survey the still-tranquil sweep of Hanalei Bay—I realized some Hanaleians had stayed behind. I could see them, bobbing on the bright slashes of their boards just a few hundred yards from shore: surfers. Scared of the impending tsunami? Hell, no. They were hoping to ride it.

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After the week I’d spent in Hanalei, this made sense. Though the town’s just a speck on the map—and unsung compared to famed Hawaiian surfing meccas like Oahu’s Sunset Beach—it takes its waves very, very seriously. Existence in Hanalei revolves around the area’s handful of shore and reef breaks; every car in town has at least one board strapped to the roof. World-class pros—Laird Hamilton, and Bruce and Andy Irons—are seen frequently; landlubbers and beach bunnies, not so much.

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