Ask T+L: Panama Hotels, Jet-lag Remedies, Rail Journeys
We are planning a trip to Panama in December. What hotels or resorts would you suggest?
—H.S., NEW YORK, N.Y.
Each of the 14 air-conditioned cabanas at Hacienda del Mar (San José Island, Pearl Islands; 866/433-5627; www.haciendadelmar.net ; doubles from $330 ), a new private-island resort in the Gulf of Panama, has a balcony with views of the Pacific. Guests can snorkel or kayak from any of the island's 57 beaches, or just relax in the infinity pool. Rooms at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort at the Panama Canal (Gamboa; 877/800-1690; www.gamboaresort.com ; doubles from $195 ) overlook a botanical garden, the Chagres River, and the Soberania National Park. The resort's spa uses indigenous herbs and beauty secrets in its deep-cleansing facials and aromatherapy massages. Los Quetzales Lodge & Spa (Guadalupe, Cerro Punta; 011-507/771-2291; www.losquetzales.com ; doubles from $50 ), bridging two rain forests near the Costa Rican border, is a more rustic option: none of the four two-story chalets have electricity (kerosene lanterns are provided), but each has its own fireplace, kitchen, and balcony. The staff will deliver full-course meals, or guests can pay a small fee to hire a private cook.
Can you offer any tips on how to overcome jet lag?
—T.S., ROELAND PARK, KANS.
Although there's no cure for jet lag, you can lessen its effects by adapting to the new time zone as rapidly as possible. On the plane, set your watch to the local time of your destination. A recent study published in the journal Science shows that eating meals on your destination's schedule will help you acclimate more quickly. Sleep on the plane, if you need to be awake when you arrive. Melatonin, a supplement that regulates your circadian rhythm, may help you nod off—but it doesn't work for everyone. Dr. Bradley Connor, president of the International Society of Travel Medicine, suggests taking a short-action sleeping pill like Ambien or Sonata. (Tylenol PM will also do the trick.) "If you take one right after you board the flight, you can get a good four to five hours of sleep," says Connor. You should also avoid caffeine and alcohol on the day you fly—both could alter fragile sleep-wake cycles, even on the ground. Upon arrival, exposure to sunlight at any time of day will inhibit your natural production of melatonin, making you feel more alert.
I would like to take a train trip in North America this fall. Can you recommend some scenic routes?
—K.T., LEXINGTON, VA.
The best way to see the spectacular foliage of New England and Canada is from a vintage Pullman car on the eight-day "Autumn in New England and Quebec" tour with American Orient Express (800/320-4206; www.americanorientexpress.com ; from $2,890 per person ). Passengers spend the first night of their journey at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal; en route to Lake Placid and the Berkshires, they sleep in their own private berths. Farther west, Royal Canadian Pacific 's six-day "Golden-Crowsnest Excursion" (877/665-3044; www.cprtours.com ; from $5,100 per person ) cuts through the Canadian Rockies, stopping in Calgary, Lake Louise, and Banff. The 1920's carriages include a newly refurbished dining car, where dishes such as bacon-wrapped Alberta tenderloin and white-chocolate crème brûlée are the norm. Amtrak (www.amtrak.com ) covers equally scenic terrain at a more reasonable cost. Our favorite itineraries are the Cascades route, from Eugene, Oregon, to Vancouver, B.C. (from $94 per person round-trip), with meals cooked by acclaimed Washington State chef Kathy Casey, and the Adirondack line, which hugs Lake Champlain and the Hudson River (from $110 per person round-trip, from New York City to Montreal).
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