Arrival/Check-In: I arrived in Los Angeles early afternoon, grateful for the warm weather after a long flight from snowy Connecticut. The Beverly Hilton, legendary for its star-studded events and Old Hollywood glamour, knows how to roll out the red carpet. A cheerful doorman greeted me at my taxi and directed me to the front desk. The lobby shimmered with Christmas lights which, along with the sunshine, put me in a festive mood. My room was ready, and in a few minutes the friendly attendant checked me in. As I left the desk, the doorman appeared with complimentary bottles of water and wished me a happy holiday.
The city took its name from Athena, goddess of wisdom, strategy and war, and protector of the city. The financial, political and administrative center of the country and an all-powerful city-state in antiquity, Athens is a major center of culture. A visit to the first-ever museum dedicated to Byzantium, a stroll around the National Garden and a trip to the Olympeion archaeological site will take you back through time.
EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN. The idiom rings especially true in Warsaw, where 80–90 percent of the city was destroyed by the time Nazi soldiers fled. Only a smattering of buildings in the Praga neighborhood remained, one location where Władysław Szpilman, whose story was popularized by The Pianist, lived in hiding. The façades of weathered, block-shaped apartment buildings still display bullet holes, and rusted metal doors guard the entryways. The neighborhood appears locked in that horrific decade save a few gentrifying restaurants and bars like Zakład Mięsny, a relatively recent rehab project serving up Polish craft beers.