Credit: Richard Phibbs

Putting your best foot forward—something our mothers told us to do—is most certainly an effective strategy when it comes to travel. Making a good first impression and maintaining a smile, even when delivering a complaint, will go far, per Alexandra Wolfe in “Travel Tips: How to Get Great Service.” From the annals of my own personal travel history, I will confess to a lapse in judgment here and there. For instance, it would have been wise to skip the unfortunately named “hot pants” I wore around Athens one summer during my college years, and to have equipped myself with a few words of Spanish, French scholar that I was, so I could have effectively asked for a glass of water at the crumbling pensione I stayed at in Madrid.

The world we now live in is at once a more casual and, well, more worldly place. Witness the latest entry into Paris’s roster of five-star hotels, Philippe Starck’s playful but grown-up reinvention of the Royal Monceau, now under Singapore-based Raffles Hotels & Resorts. As a longtime chronicler of Starck, writer Charles Gandee notes that the designer has lost none of his ability to surprise and enchant—a case in point: the felt-tipped scribbles highlighting his favorite local places, from the taxidermist Deyrolle to the luxury leather-goods purveyor Hermès, on the illustrated plans de Paris that top the en suite desks. A cluster of crystal chandeliers rescued from the hotel’s earlier incarnation shimmer above the lounge-like lobby, a reminder that despite the contemporary edge, the property’s roots are decorously French. Even in Jerusalem, that most ancient of cities, high-rise luxury apartment buildings and a profusion of coffee bars herald a new kind of internationalism, as Daphne Merkin points out in “Rediscovering Secular Jerusalm.” The “fantastical blondes in Diesel jeans and Louboutin heels” that T+L contributing editor Anya von Bremzen finds in São Paulo would be at home in any global style capital; nonetheless, in this mecca for the food-obsessed, the ingredients and flavors remain distinctly Brazilian. And writer and actor Andrew McCarthy finds that “nature is still calling the shots” in Kauai, where time-honored values and a sense of community still matter.

Finally, there’s this month’s cover story, in which we announce the winners of our annual America’s Favorite Cities online poll. Talk about putting your best foot forward! Whether for Theater, Neighborhood Joints and Cafés, B&B’s and Inns, Cocktail Hour, Intelligent People, Home Décor and Design Stores, Safety, or Barbecue, here are some places where making a positive impression really paid off.

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Twitter: @nnovogro