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Maison Ladurée, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, September 07 11:47 AM

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When recounting the great New York City cupcake wars of the early 21st century, sugar-charged historians will note August 30, 2011, as the day everything changed, when chocolate and vanilla, red velvet and peanut butter all banded together against a new common enemy: the macaron at Maison Ladurée's new Upper East Side shop.

The first stateside outpost of the venerable Parisian patisserie presents a pastel crayon box of a Belle Époque teahouse. Chocolates, fruit jellies, and miniature pastries vie for attention, but Ladurée's signature sweet is the double-decker macaron--two feather-light crispy shells sandwiching a soft, chewy center--a delicacy the company lays claim to inventing in 1930. There's classic caramel with salted butter, black-currant violet, rose, and pistachio, as well as seasonal flavors like almond Morello cherry and strawberry-mint. Sound the death knell to Upper East Side diets.

Photo: Courtesy of abbietabbie, Flickr, Getty Images

Holographic Gate Agents, Orly Airport, Paris

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, September 01 07:00 AM

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Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger had Total Recall and Princess Leia begged for Obi-Wan Kenobi, we've been waiting for our hologram fantasy to become a reality. Now, at Paris's Orly Airport, we're one step closer: holographic gate agents.

An image of an airport employee beamed onto an acrylic silhouette greets passengers and displays gate information. Orly's virtual assistants can be found in Hall 40 of Terminal Ouest, the airport's testing ground for emerging technologies. These agents always smile, never take a bathroom break, and don't go on strike (yet). It's a strange new world, indeed.

Photo: Courtesy Aéroports de Paris / Jean-Pierre Gaborit

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Washington, D.C.

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, August 31 07:00 AM

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With all the partisan bickering and national debt doomsaying, it's hard to find a ray of hope in Washington, D.C., these days. Perhaps we can all draw inspiration from this quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope." It was the impetus behind a new national memorial to the civil rights leader, which was to have been dedicated last Sunday, on the 48th anniversary of King's "I Have a Dream" speech. (The ceremony was delayed by Hurricane Irene, and a new dedication date will be announced here.) The first National Mall memorial to an African-American, the 30-foot granite statue depicts a resolute King staring toward the horizon encircled by walls inscribed with excerpts of his speeches. Let's hope some congressional leaders take a page from his book. We can dream, can't we?

And while you're in town...

Eat here:
Rogue 24
The new Rogue 24 restaurant has an open kitchen and serves up 24-course tasting menus that push the culinary envelope. That might mean a sliver of shrimp sausage atop a sphere of grits filled with corn milk or a lavender meringue with shaved foie gras smeared in berry jelly. Rogue indeed.

Stay here:
The Liaison Capitol Hill
A Pop art portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr., watches over the lobby of this Capitol Hill hotel; King is just one of the world leaders that the Liaison brings together both on and within its walls. The 343 rooms were made for comfort, with velvet and leather headboards and toffee-and-cream color schemes punctuated by turquoise throws and crimson pillows. Leaders from across the aisles come together at the rooftop bar and locavore restaurant Art and Soul. This is a D.C. liaison that won't land you in the tabloids.

Photo: Courtesy of Jason Rosenberg

Roadtrips Monaco Grand Prix Packages

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, August 26 07:00 AM

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Helicopter flights. Ferraris. Yacht charters. If you're going to do the Monaco Grand Prix, you should do it in style. Well, that's what the insiders at luxury outfitter Roadtrips believe. They're putting travelers on the fast track to Formula 1 glamour with their new Monaco Grand Prix packages (from $5,950 per person for five days).

A helicopter transfers you from Nice Airport to your hotel in Monte Carlo. You meet and greet drivers, patrons, and celebs; roll out in a sick Ferrari F430; and choose between diversions like a day in St. Tropez or a Cannes screening. At night, it might be a fashion show, a tasting dinner at Joël Robuchon, or a VIP after-party. Consider our engines revved.

Photo: Courtesy of Roadtrips

stillspotting: nyc, To a Great City, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, August 22 11:35 AM

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Quiet. Respite. Solitude. Not words usually associated with New York City. But from September 15-18 and 22-25, stillspotting: nyc, To a Great City, a conceptual art collaboration between the Guggenheim Museum, Estonia-born composer Arvo Pärt, and Snøhetta (the architecture firm behind New York City's National September 11 Memorial and Museum) will redefine your aural perceptions of the city.

A walking tour takes you to five "galleries" around lower Manhattan--including a green labyrinth in the Battery, an underground chamber at Governors Island, and off-limits rooms in landmark skyscrapers--where the interactive installation marries architecture with Pärt's signature minimalist compositions. Buy a ticket, get your map, and follow the three-hour route, or choose your own adventure throughout the day. Loop back. Meditate. Make it your own. In the city, finding peace and quiet is indeed an art.

Route starts at Castle Clinton National Monument in Battery Park, 11 am to 7 pm (ticket sales close at 4 pm), $10. Advance reservations suggested.

Photo: Courtesy of Snøhetta 2011

Happy Magic Watercube Waterpark, Beijing

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, August 17 07:00 AM

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Ever since Michael Phelps left the building, the National Acquatics Center in Beijing seemed a bit like a fish out of water. But now, the Happy Magic Watercube Waterpark has opened in the translucent bubble-covered building to put the sparkle back in its splash.

Ribbons of color sail wavelike through schools of pink and blue jellyfish suspended from the ceiling, and a rainbow of slides twist their thrill-ride tentacles down into splash pools. Swimmers can seek out swells in a wave pool, float around a lazy river, or brave a near-vertical speed slide. Seems Mr. Phelps isn't the only one who knows how to live life in the fast lane.

Photo: Courtesy of Happy Magic Watercube Waterpark

Dekalb Market, Brooklyn, New York

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, August 15 10:20 AM

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The new Dekalb Market has made everything shipshape in downtown Brooklyn. Twenty-two salvaged shipping containers chopped, welded, and painted in rainbow hues now house boutiques selling everything from vintage rompers and 1970s eyewear to Holstee recycled wallets and Alder printed silk scarves by local Pratt Institute design students.

Work up an appetite grooving to tracks spun by the hip-hop heads behind Bbeats, the market's record shop, and then sample everything from veggie muffulettas to mod Filipino fare in the mini restaurants. An urban farm and a beer garden are also on site. Fertile ground for a weekend outing? We think so.

Photo: Courtesy of Dekalb Market

Harpa, Reykjavík, Iceland

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, August 11 07:00 AM

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Would you expect that--from a country that produced Bjork, still believes in elves, and noshes on putrefied shark--the newest cultural endeavor would be a restrained affair? Iceland's World Architecture Community Award-winning Harpa concert hall in Reykjavik has a shimmering glass facade by Olafur Eliasson that refracts and reflects ever-changing light and weather conditions. Inside, the main hall is a 1,800-seat womb of rich scarlet and finely tuned acoustics.

At night, LEDs embedded in the building's crystalline skin give off a multicolored glow. A structural riff on the northern lights, it's an atonal visual symphony of form and function.

Photo: Courtesy of Bára Kristinsdóttir

They Draw & Travel

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, August 08 11:07 AM

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A journal, a sketch, scribbles on a napkin. HDSLR gizmos are great and all, but sometimes it takes putting pen to paper to truly capture the essence of a destination. And for that, brother-and-sister duo Nate Padavick and Salli Swindell launched They Draw & Travel, an online gallery of illustrated maps.

Artists submit maps of locations they have a personal connection to, adding local color, literally, via vibrant free-form cityscapes and sketches. For example, a quirky Antarctica map includes a clothesline of frozen laundry and a snorkeling seal, while a Kyoto map displays a huge bowl of noodles with a smiling face, indicating a tasty ramen stop-off. The site features more than 300 maps and is searchable by destination, style, and interest. Starting next month, you'll be able to order high-quality prints of the artwork (photographic prints from $63, canvas panels from $109; sizes range from 36 x 13 inches to 90 x 33 inches). Consider us drawn in.

Photo: Charleston map by Jessica Pollak, Williamsburg map by James Gulliver Hancock; courtesy of They Draw & Travel

Holey Books at The Hole, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, August 03 07:00 AM

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If your bookcase is begging to be adorned with a confetti-filled egg or a plastic breast--or you just want to do some arty gawking--get thee to the Hole, a spunky gallery and purveyor of oddball objets d'art that just soft-launched on the Bowery in NYC.

Founded by refugees from the former Pop art/fashion/party powerhouse Deitch Projects, the Holey Books store is like a museum shop stripped of pretense and injected with DIY downtown grit. The evolving collection of items currently includes rare zines and comics, art books, limited-edition hoodies by Dearraindrop, tees from Terence Koh, and a selection of Native Shoes (a fashionable Franken-sneaker that's part Top-Sider, part Croc).

Works by up-and-coming artists on display in the gallery don't come cheap, but all you need to bring home one of the 200 custom-commissioned posters from the likes of Harmony Korine and Assume Vivid Astro Focus is $75 burning a hole in your pocket.

Photo: Courtesy of The Hole

Block Island, Rhode Island

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, August 02 07:00 AM

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Block Island celebrates its semiseptcentennial (that's a 350th anniversary) this year, which means the old gal is livelier than ever. A season-long party is in full swing, including vintage ship displays, concerts, and festivals, such as the Taste of Block Island weekend (September 23-25). And you're invited.

Stay here:
The Atlantic Inn
Built in 1879 on a hilltop just outside the main town of New Shoreham--the smallest U.S. state's smallest town--the Atlantic Inn is a gracious place to enjoy life's little pleasures. Antiques and a ban on TVs and radios lend the 21 individually styled guest rooms a Victorian sensibility. You'll wake each morning to warm pastries and house-made granola served on a wraparound veranda. Children play tetherball in the backyard; a sunny garden provides a relaxation spot for parents. Among all this yesteryear charm, it's easy to unplug and soak up the island's timeless natural beauty.

Eat here:
Three Sisters
Three Sisters, a one-room wooden cottage on Old Town Road, is the sandwich shop of choice for beach picnic-bound islanders with coolers to fill. Favorites such as the Hippie Sister (a roasted vegetable and hummus wrap) and the Twisted Sister (turkey, bacon, Cheddar, avocado, and romaine) are scrawled on a chalkboard. Too lazy to head to the beach? You can chill at the picnic tables outside--or in a hammock--while the kids play with gratis hula hoops and spoil their dinner with gooey chocolate-chip cookies.

Drink here:
The Porch at the National Hotel
Most of Block Island ends up at the National Hotel's scenic wraparound porch at one point or another. Mostly for the postcard-perfect view of sailboats in Block Island Sound silhouetted against sunset-pink skies. But also to throw back a few ice-cold lagers and catch up on the local gossip.

Photo: Courtesy of Block Island Tourism Council

Cité de l'Océan et du Surf, Biarritz, France

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, July 06 10:56 AM

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Something swell just hit the beach in Biarritz, France. The new Cité de l'Océan et du Surf is a museum dedicated to all things oceanic, including exhibitions on tides and currents and an outdoor kiosk catering to local surfers.

Architect and surfer Steven Holl collaborated with Brazilian artist Solange Fabião to create the building's arc, which seems to crest out of the landscape. The cobblestone exterior mimics the texture of the surrounding white-sand beaches, while the overall structure looks like a skateboard half-pipe. Land sharks won't be able to skate its curves, but they can show off their kickflips at the on-site skate pool. So whether you prefer to board by land or by sea, you'll never be bored.

Photo: Courtesy of Steven Holl

Cox & Kings' Wonders of Georgia

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, June 28 07:00 AM

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You've done Paris, Rome, and London, but where next on your grand tour? We suggest it's time to venture off the beaten track to the crossroads of Europe and Asia. The folks at travel company Cox & Kings have launched a tour of Georgia as part of a new package of undiscovered destinations across the pond.

The eight-day trip goes from a fourth-century fortress in Tbilisi to the birthplace of Stalin to the underground monasteries of Davit Gareja and the famed vineyards of Kakheti, the oldest wine-producing region in the world. Medieval churches, Soviet-era history, and ancient booze? That's enough to get Georgia on anyone's mind.

Cox & Kings' Wonders of Georgia tour, from $1,735. 2011 departures: July 17, September 4, October 2.

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Runkel / Robert Harding World Imagery / Getty Images

Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, June 21 07:00 AM

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Planes, trains, and automobiles have practically become our religion--and now intrepid travelers have a cathedral to call home. Opening today, the Riverside Museum in Glasgow is a sweeping temple to transport that's ripe for a summer pilgrimage.

Designed by Zaha Hadid to mimic the undulation of the surrounding harbor, the Iraqi/British starchitect's first U.K. construction is a squiggly warehouse of zinc-paneled peaks and glassy prisms holding over 3,000 objects and 150 interactive displays. Our faves include a Wall of Cars stacked to the ceiling with classics like the Hillman Imp, and the three re-created streets circa 1895-1980, chockablock with vintage trolleys and trams. In a nod to the rich maritime era that put Glasgow on the map, the tall ship Glenlee is moored right out front.

Our only question: Just how do you want to travel there...

Photo: Courtesy of Riverside Museum

Shanghai Museum of Glass

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, June 08 11:31 AM

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China isn't exactly known for transparency, but the country is making one thing clear with the opening of a new museum dedicated entirely to glass.

Housed in a former factory in Shanghai's Baoshan industrial district, the 53,000-square-foot institution explores the production, history, and applications of glass in the worlds of science, art, architecture, and astronomy. The collection and visiting exhibits include Han dynasty earrings made of glass and contemporary art by international and Chinese glass sculptors, all reflected in the striking black crystal interior. There's a space for glass-blowing demonstrations, too.

But you could just focus on the building itself, a sparkling example of glass craftsmanship in all its carved, faceted, stained, and lacquered glory. It's clearly worth the trip.

Photo: Courtesy of Shanghai Museum of Glass

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Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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