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The Temple Made of Memories

Most works of art convey a specific message from the artist. But at David Best’s new temple in Sonoma County, visitors help build the piece out of their own memories of love and loss.

What do we have, in the end, when a love has gone? When a person has left for good? All that was everything between two people—a romance, a friendship, or simply day-to-day life—disappears. Only our memories never leave. But what if we want them to?

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Debra A. Klein

These are the thoughts that might flood visitors to David Best’s Temple of Remembrance in a meadow on the grounds of Paradise Ridge Winery. Like a vaguely Asian-themed birdcage, the deceptively ingenious rusted lattice memorial to love and loss is part shrine, part interactive do-it-yourself art project, as light visually as it is heavy emotionally.

It’s a place to remember the people you’re carrying in your mind or your heart. You can scrawl something on a flat pebble and bury it in a bird-bath bowl, or send a message to them on a piece of cloth set aflutter in the wine country wind. And, in doing so, you release your own feelings, too.

Are you looking in all the right places for a relationship that lasts? In honor of Valentine’s Day, The Daily Beast crunches the numbers to find where your odds are best.

Without a Valentine, again? If you’re looking for love and coming up short, it might be time to expand the search.

To help in your quest, The Daily Beast set out once again to discover which places provide the best backdrop for a love story. As in years past, we looked at cities where singles swarm and social life pops. But this time, we were looking for more than just a couple of great dates or a fling. We wanted to discover where you’re most likely to find the real thing—lasting love.

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Visions of America

Bar Romance

The World's Most Romantic Bars

There’s no better place to rendezvous with your amour, or strike up a romance with someone new, than tucked into the corner of a chic bar. Here are some of our favorites.

There’s no place quite as intimate as the bar of a grand hotel. No matter where they are—New York, Paris, or Tokyo—they all seem to share a similar timelessness and an air of discretion, not to mention a handsome collection of barware. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite rendezvous spots around the world. And since they’re in the finest hotels in the most romantic cities, why not make a weekend of it?

New York

Bemelmans Bar

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts

What a World

Welcome to North Carolina's Oz

Who says the good old days are gone? The Land of Oz shuttered over two decades ago, but for two days every year, the old crew comes back to spread some 'Wizard of Oz' magic.

Somewhere over the rainbow—specifically atop Beech Mountain in western North Carolina—a yellow brick road leads straight to Oz. For more than three decades, the Land of Oz has been abandoned, languishing amid the trees since the once-popular amusement park closed in 1980.

Opened to a flood of visitors in 1970, the Land of Oz operated for a single decade before economic problems led the owners to shutter it. But in 1990, a development project on the mountain drew fresh attention to the failed park. Since then, visitors, including the park’s former employees, have returned every year for a two-day “Autumn at Oz” festival (the party pledges to go on even in the event of a twister). “Guest [sic] will take a tour of Auntie Em’s and Uncle Henry’s farm and meet Dorothy and friends along the Yellow Brick Road,” the website describes. “It’s a wonderful chance to meet other Ozzies and relive our childhood.” Costumes are encouraged, and the park’s remaining original cast even performs.

“I would disappear in a puff of smoke and then reappear,” a former Dorothy recalled during her return to the Land of Oz. “I worked here for about four years. It was really fun. It spoiled me for any other work.”

The theme park was the creation of two men, property developer Grover Robbins—who wanted to build an attraction to make Beech Mountain, already a popular ski resort, a year-round destination—and Jack Pentes, a designer, who visited the site for inspiration and was intrigued by the mountain’s trees. “They seemed to have faces. Their limbs seemed to be reaching out for me,” he told a local newspaper one year after the opening. Then, he said, he realized: “This is the Land of Oz!”

Art & Food

Mexico City's Magic

One of the great capitals—a city where the ancient lives alongside the cutting-edge, a place with a formidable art scene and an extraordinary food culture—is finally having its day.

by Amy Wilentz

One late summer afternoon in Mexico City's Condesa neighborhood, with the sunlight falling through the leafy streets, I sat at a sidewalk café and watched the scene around me: A couple of young businessmen climbed into a waiting car and took off into the rush-hour traffic. The tamale man was pedaling by, his tricycle cart loaded with a shining aluminum vat, offering up his wares to the neighborhood with a nasal, high-pitched chant that's a virtual national anthem: "Tamales oaxaqueños," he sang out over and over, "tamales ricos." A housekeeper came out to buy some, wiping her hands on her apron. Down the street, two long-haired dachshunds on a leather leash sniffed and tussled, while their owner typed out texts on her phone. A burly man in a business guayabera was quarreling on his phone in Starbucks, while his attendant, all but ignored, watched his car, bought him a pack of cigarettes, gave him a lighter, brought him a newspaper. On Michoacán, people were gathering in bars and cafés. Next door, in a bright-white shop, two little blond girls were buying homemade ice cream. The shoe shine man had two clients waiting. Evening was on the way.

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Francisco Diez Photography/Getty

Filled with the bustle of commerce on every conceivable level, Mexico City is overcrowded, dirty, and raucous, but also lush, extravagant, exotic, and seductive. It's also one of the calmer enclaves in the country...if, that is, you can call what is by many counts the third-largest urban agglomeration in the world and by all serious estimates among the world's ten largest metropolitan areas an enclave. Still, calm it is: The drug traffickers who have been so violent and public in other parts of the country are rarely visible here. The reason for this, according to Carlos Puig, a commentator for Milenio, a Mexico City newspaper and television network, is that it is in the people's interest to keep the capital safe. "Everyone wants to be able to come here," Puig said. "This includes the drug traffickers. Some live here, some have family here, some have businesses here, and they all want to be able to visit in peace."

Hidden Secrets

Saddam’s Jewish Treasures

These priceless Hebrew artifacts were rescued from Hussein’s notorious intelligence service. And now, they’re about to go back to Iraq—just as the country is once again imploding.

In 2003, not long after the smoke cleared from allied bombs, U.S. soldiers were combing through the flooded detritus of Saddam’s notorious intelligence ministry in search of weapons of mass destruction. No WMDs were found, of course. But among reams of waterlogged documents, troops wading in water four feet deep spotted Hebrew lettering among the Arabic.

They were the stolen treasures of Iraq’s Jews—including a 16th century Bible, torah scroll fragments, Hebrew school books and handwritten sermons. They were some of the last heirlooms of an ancient community on the cusp of extinction.

More than a decade later, still another chapter is being written. The relics are safely housed in the U.S., but are triggering an international controversy involving such disparate characters as Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter, and Dr. Ruth, the octogenarian sex therapist. That is because by June, the archive must be returned to Iraq, where their protection cannot be guaranteed and where all of five Jews remain.

“We’ve worked on many different interesting projects, but this one is very special,” said Doris A. Hamburg, the director of preservation programs at the National Archives. She supervised the restoration of the possessions, which include more than 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents in Hebrew, Arabic and Judeo-Arabic.

Hideout

Where the Nazis Hid Their Art

Built by a mad king and copied by Disney, Neuschwanstein Castle held Hitler’s stash of priceless artworks—until the true-life Monuments Men liberated the stolen collection.

High in the Bavarian Alps, a white castle with soaring turrets overlays a scene of rolling green meadows and snow-capped mountains straight out of a storybook watercolor. The setting is so idyllic it served as Walt Disney’s inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

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De Agostini/Getty

But the world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle, nearly straddling the German-Austrian border, once played host to something more sinister than the fairytale setting it inspired. During World War II, the Nazis, aiming to amass a world-class art collection for Hitler’s dream of a “Führermuseum,” stashed thousands of paintings inside the castle. When the war ended, it also closed a 12-year period now recognized as history’s largest art heist—raking in priceless masterpieces from the likes of Michelangelo, da Vinci and Vermeer—and the recovery efforts were tasked to an allied unit known as the Monuments Men.

What began as a brain trust of the art world’s finest during the war became a group of 345 men and women from 13 countries that comprised the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section unit. They spent 1945 seeking out more than 1,000 troves containing an estimated 5 million pieces of artwork and cultural items stolen from wealthy Jews, museums, universities, and religious institutions. And for six years after the surrender, a smaller group of about 60 Monuments Men continued scouring Europe as art detectives. Now, on Friday, and more than 70 years after the recovery began, a George Clooney-directed movie documenting their cultural reconnaissance opened in theaters with an all-star cast.

Stifling

Cairo’s Revolutionary Lit Scene

With Cairo still in turmoil and bombs exploding, writer Ahdaf Souief shares her worries over the stifling of cultural life, her love for Naguib Mahfouz, and the power of the Nile.

Ahdaf Soueif is a pillar of Cairo. Coming from a family of activists (she has a nephew in jail for allegedly encouraging a demonstration, a sister whom, after her son was faced with a court marshal, went on hunger strike, and a niece in full-time human rights activism) she is held in high regard in the city in which she was born. Soueif pens a weekly column for a national paper, has written two novels and three story collections, and then, during the Egyptian revolution, produced Cairo, an often very personal account of the inception of the Arab Spring.

When we spoke, it was the eve of the third anniversary of the uprising, and four bombs had detonated in the city through the course of the day. She talked about the relevance of literature in a war zone, sitting in the middle of the revolution to write a book, and the place where, in amongst all the chaos, she can find some solace.

Before anything, I just heard about the bombs. I hope you’re ok? How you’re able to deal with that kind of thing on a day-to-day basis is something I can’t fathom.

You know, it’s very close. Part of your mind is thinking, Ok, what can one do? When will one start writing? Should one phone somebody? People come on the phone and we’re exchanging thoughts about what to do, and you’re also trying to carry on with your work, and you’re also trying to keep up with what’s happening. It’s constant, it’s ongoing, it’s in everything - in every thought you have, but you learn to just take it as part of the texture.

Star-Studded

The 100 Coolest Americans

Since the jazz era, Americans have deemed the hippest among us as “cool.” A new exhibit looks back at the stars who have shaped and embodied the concept that is our ultimate tribute.

Parisians have chic, Italians have la dolce vita, Brits have Evelyn Waugh—and Americans will always have cool.

Defining “cool” is a bit like that famous Potter Stewart quote about hardcore pornography—“I know it when I see it.” Who you think is cool, and what you think makes them so, is incredibly personal and subjective.

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National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bob Willoughby © Bob Willoughby

Fashion designers, models, and bloggers are flocking to New York to check out the Fall/Winter 2014 runways. See their favorite Manhattan hangouts after a day running from show to show.

Na Zdorovie!

Watch the Olympics Like a Russian

The Olympics are almost here! While we can’t all travel to Sochi to watch the games, we can at least travel to our nearest Russia-inspired bar to celebrate with a shot (or 10) of vodka.

Whether it’s because of a lack of athletic prowess, security fears, homosexuality, or just a dislike of the cold weather, especially this time of year in Russia, it’s safe to say that many of us will not be tracking to Sochi this February for the Winter Olympics.

For those who want to get their, um, Russian on, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best spots in major cities across the U.S. to throw back vodka like you’re a resident Russian who guzzles four gallons of pure alcohol a year.

Washington, D.C.

Talk about getting into the spirit! Mari Vanna, the Russian eatery popular with star Russian hockey player Alexander Ovechkin, is putting three dishes from the Sochi region on its menu in honor of the games. Make sure to stop by during the opening ceremony on Friday, as the restaurant will be giving out a complimentary vodka-infused shot to each patron.

come on in

Amsterdam Opens Red Light Museum

Amsterdam Opens Red Light Museum Koen van Weel/AFP/Getty

In a former brothel.

Sorry, every other museum in Europe—this one wins. On Thursday, Amsterdam's infamous Red Light District opened the "Red Light Secrets" museum in a former brothel to educate visitors on how the industry works and its history, focusing on prostitution since it became legal in 2000. At the end of the tour, visitors are faced with a wall of quotes from prostitutes and a fake confessional inviting them to write down sexual secrets of their own.

Read it at The Associated Press

What a World

The Parisian Time Capsule

When a 91-year-old woman died in 2010, her family discovered she owned an apartment in Paris that she had abandoned in perfectly preserved—and decorated—condition over 70 years ago.

It's a straight-out-of-Hollywood plot line: someone—perhaps Indiana Jones—accidentally stumbles into a time capsule untouched by modernity and filled with treasures left by its past owners. It's too good to be true, right? But not too long ago, this fantasy played out in the storybook setting of twisting alleys and stately buildings in the enigmatic City of Light.

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In 2010, a 91-year-old woman died in the south of France, leaving behind an apartment in Paris. Her family tasked auctioneer Olivier Choppin-Janvry and his team with visiting the flat in the city's 9th arrondissement, near the Pigalle red-light district and the Opera Garnier, and inventorying its contents. When the unsuspecting experts unlocked the front door, they found it virtually untouched since before World War II. “There was a smell of old dust," recalled Choppin-Janvry.

This deceased owner, known in the press only as Madame de Florian, had fled the vulnerable city at the outbreak of World War II as the German offensive neared. It was 1942 and she was just 23 years old when she locked up the apartment she had inherited from her grandmother and left town. For the following 70 years, de Florian paid the rent and upkeep on the home without ever returning.

FOOD FIGHTER

Chopped? She Hopes Not!

Best-known as a judge on Chopped, chef Amanda Freitag opens her first restaurant—a recast New York icon. She tells Tim Teeman about celebrity, fighting sexism, and where she goes for a greasy burger.

There are great, only-in-New-York stories of the old Empire Diner in West Chelsea: the debauchery that would ensue when the nearby leather bars emptied out in the early hours, the limousines that deposited fancy, sozzled punters outside for some late-night chow, the piano playing, the celebrities, crush, and craziness. It was one of those places you might have to wait 45 minutes for a table at 3 a.m., and where businessmen coming in for a morning coffee might be seated inside the distinctive railroad-style spot next to club-kids ending their evening revelry.

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Andy Jacobsohn/The Daily Beast

Before bidding it farewell in 2010, its former owners said they served “Chelsea residents, actors, police commissioners, athletes, gangsters, such luminaries as Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, and anyone carrying a New York City Guide Book.”

But after 30 years, the lease was passed to someone else, whose venture failed (The Highliner), and now a celebrity chef has moved in: Amanda Freitag, the very stern-seeming judge of Food Network’s Chopped, which pits chefs against each other in cook-offs featuring odd, juxtaposed ingredients. Freitag and her two business partners are determined to turn the 75-seat Empire into “the modern version of a diner.”

Getaway

Your Guide to Clooney's Lake Como

Your Guide to Clooney's Lake Como Liliana Rota/Getty

Spoiler: luxury, romance, and gelato abound.

Of course George Clooney's second home is located in Italy's most romantic region, the northern town of Laglio on the shore of Lake Como. If you want a love-filled getaway, luxurious accommodations like the five-star Grand Hotel Tremezzo, gelato and pastry shops galore, epic views from lakeside restaurants, and outdoor offerings, the area is the perfect destination...and a slice of Italian decadence. As an added bonus, you might even bump into Mr. Clooney himself, riding his motorcycle around town and playing basketball with the local kids.

Read it at Dujour

Soak It Up

Last Gasp of Summer

Instagram’s Coolest Pools

Instagram’s Coolest Pools

From a submerged Bar Refaeli to a Mediterranean idyll, a voyeur’s look at the stars’ sun-soaked scenes.

Zambian Safari

Wildlife, Storytelling, & Dung, Oh My!

Portrait of a Roman Crackdown

Portrait of a Roman Crackdown

A shocking picture from police-protestor clashes.

LOW BALLIN’

Krugman Is a Steal at $225K

2016

The Book Tour Hillary Should Fear

Russian Spy Planes in U.S. Skies

ON THE DEFENSE

Stop Stockpiling Web Glitches

Globetrotters

Dispatches from Around the World

Marseille’s Comeback Tour

Marseille’s Comeback Tour

The bouillabaisse is just as tasty, but Europe’s 2013 Capital of Culture now has a lot more to offer. Anna Watson Carl reports.

Serengeti

Walking With Wildebeests

Global Marvels

What a World!

The Secret Life of Cappadocia

The Secret Life of Cappadocia

More than a natural wonder, Cappadocia's formations have been a safe haven to many. Nina Strochlic reports.

What a World

The Craziest House Ever Built

What a World

Turkmenistan’s Door to Hell

conde-nast-traveler

End of an Era?

Covering Burma in the 1980s

The Good Old Travel Guide Days

The Good Old Travel Guide Days

Tony Wheeler, co-founder of Lonely Planet Publications, remembers the fun early days of travel guide writing, but says they're not over yet.

Beacher's Madhouse

L.A.'s Craziest Nightclub

It's A Madhouse!

It's A Madhouse!

Miley Cyrus’ fav new haunt is Beacher’s Madhouse, the craziest club in Los Angeles.

Just Like Rodman

Most Structured Trip Ever

Visit North Korea!

Visit North Korea!

Take the vacation of a lifetime—in beautiful North Korea? That’s Uri Tours’ pitch. Lloyd Grove reports.

Directions

A Love Letter to New York

Maps of the Heart of Manhattan

Maps of the Heart of Manhattan

In ‘Mapping Manhattan,’ explore the city via 75 New Yorkers’ personal geographies. By Allison McNearney.

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