Death Valley in the spring
“Hottest, lowest, driest,” said Janet Fullwood in The Sacramento Bee. That’s the quickest way to describe Death Valley, though it’s a bit like “describing chocolate as brown.” In this legendary slice of California near the Nevada border, just west of Las Vegas, the sun “creeps in like a paintbrush” every morning, illuminating the landscape. Some people are frightened by the dead silence. But visitors can see things that exist nowhere else on the planet—volcanic craters, marble canyons, “dirt tracks leading to ruined mines,” and barren layers of rock 200 feet below sea level, walled in by 11,000-foot-high mountains. Early spring is a good time to visit, when the nights are cool and the days “tolerably warm.” The Furnace Creek Visitor Center is the best place to join an interpretative tour given by a park ranger, and the four-star Furnace Creek Inn is open until mid-May. Cell phones don’t work here, and Internet access is spotty. That leaves you time to think, “and there’s lots to contemplate in Death Valley.

Miami Beach on a budget
Thanks to, said Matt Gross in The New York Times, my wife and I were able to weekend in Miami Beach for a mere $500. After settling in at a rented condominium, we headed for Ocean Drive. Our limited funds prevented us from joining the gaudily dressed revelers in the outdoor bars. But we did splurge on drinks at André Balazs’ Raleigh Hotel, at which a “downright friendly” waiter let us sit poolside. The next morning we “began to understand the city’s appeal.” The Tides, the Avalon, and other legendary hotels have all been “meticulously restored to their 1930s glory.” The gorgeous people—both the muscular and the curvaceous—were as enjoyable to look at as the golden sand. “There were sights to make a plastic surgeon swoon.” After touring the arts district of Wynwood and checking out Gianni Versace’s old mansion, we settled into the News Cafe for a light supper and watched “the rich glide by—on foot and in Ferraris.”