© Paul Whiddett Duck breast in a pomegranate-cherry gastrique
| Credit: Duck breast in a pomegranate-cherry gastrique


My wife and I want to stay at a ryokan during our upcoming trip to Kyoto. Can you suggest any that offer an authentic experience?—Patrick Meyer, Sausalito, Calif.


Among Kyoto’s most illustrious ryokan is Hiiragiya (Nakahakusancho, Fuyacho Anekoji-agaru, Nakagyo-ku; 81-75/221-1136;; doubles from $989, including meals), whose 33 rooms— featuring lacquered bathrooms with wooden tubs—have hosted the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Charlie Chaplin. At the more intimate Kinmata Ryokan (407 Gokomachi, Nakagyo-ku; 81-75/221-1039;; doubles from $750, including meals), near the Nishiki food market, you can dine on owner Haruji Ukai’s seafood kaiseki meals. And in Gion, the geisha quarter, the 17-room Yoshi-ima Ryokan (Shinmon-zen; 81-75/561-2620;; doubles from $355, including meals) holds candlelit evening tea ceremonies.

How can I see the by-appointment-only Vatican Gardens? —Linda Simoneschi, Metuchen, N.J.

Pope Innocent VIII began construction of the first modern garden at the Vatican in the 15th century. Two-hour tours are available on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 11 a.m. Make reservations at least one month in advance by sending a fax or e-mail to the Vatican’s Guided Tours Office (39-06/6988-4676; fax 39-06/6988-4019;; $27 per person). Include the names of those in your party, preferred dates of your visit, and a fax number or e-mail address to receive confirmation.

There always seem to be new photo-sharing Web sites to choose from. Which are the best ones? —Larry Jennings, Columbia, Mo.

Popular with professionals, ad-free (from $39.95 for a yearly subscription) offers creative tagging, unlimited storage, and a 24-7 support team. Meanwhile,, which also functions as a social- networking site, has developed a tight security system to protect privacy. And with Google’s user-friendly Picasa Web Albums (, family and friends can view albums on TiVo.

I’m visiting Philadelphia this month. Where should I eat?—Monica Kumar, San Antonio, Tex.

Over the past few years, Philadelphia’s food scene has undergone a dramatic transformation. Opened last fall, Cochon (801 E. Passyunk Ave.; 215/923-7675; dinner for two $76) communicates comfort through traditional French-country dishes. James Beard Award–winning Marc Vetri established himself with his namesake restaurant, Vetri (dinner for two $150), which serves contemporary Italian food. At Osteria (dinner for two $100), his newest spot, expect hearty meals—homemade pastas and braised rabbit with pancetta—served on rustic wooden tables in a converted factory space. And watch for this year’s big opening: Zahav (237 St. James Place; 215/625-8800; dinner from $70), a modern Middle Eastern restaurant from rising star Michael Solomonov, slated to open this May.