Getting the flavor of...
Anchorage is a sprawling city of strip malls, “but you do not come all this way for architecture tours,” said Christopher Solomon in The New York Times. “You come to Anchorage for Alaska,” and the setting, between saltwater and snowy mountains, is “hard to improve upon.” Hikers have many options, from breezy Flattop Mountain to “steep and gorgeous” Bird Ridge. The best quick escape is to bike the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, following the waters of the Cook Inlet through birch forests. The Alaska Scenic Byway offers a drive that “deserves a spot as one of the most spectacular in the United States,” and it leads to a sanctuary where you can see bears and lynx. When dusk arrives, don’t be shocked that the area’s finest seafood restaurant, the Kincaid Grill, sits in another strip mall. Anchorage earns its foodie cred honestly every day, starting at the Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop, home to a James Beard Award finalist.
Relaxing like a monk
At a time when hotels are striving to offer guests meaningful experiences, monasteries and abbeys “deliver the real deal,” said Kate Silver in The Washington Post. Scores of spiritual institutions welcome guests for overnight or weeklong stays, and if you arrive seeking a restful retreat, you’re likely to find it. I recently spent a night outside Madison, Wis., at the Holy Wisdom Monastery, and for $85 had a cabin, with a wooded lake and trails outside the door, and I shared communal meals with the abbey’s Benedictine nuns. The guidebook Sanctuaries, by Jack and Marcia Kelly, describes more than 125 abbeys, monasteries, and retreat centers where the authors have stayed, showing the wide range of such places. Why not try a Franciscan monastery in Washington, D.C.? Or a Trappist abbey in Oregon wine country, or a Zen center in Sonoma County, Calif.? After my brief retreat, “I felt relaxed and refreshed,” and better yet, “cared for.” ■