There is a compulsion among seasoned travelers to expect the worst. Grisly experience has taught that however assiduously the outside cabin is booked--or the room with the cinematic view, or the table at the restaurant of the moment--the more assuredly the liner will leak, the hotel room will face the fire escape and dinner will suck.
But the seasoned traveler also knows well those moments when the planets align, when wherever it is you've gone and whatever it is you're doing are suddenly infused with grace and good, great humor. In a word, perfection.
Rock star and raconteur-in-training David Lee Roth once remarked that, while money couldn't buy him happiness, he could still pull alongside it in a really nice yacht. So it is with the elusive perfect getaway. You can hope serendipity will strike, or you can make your own luck: By stalking a perfect 24 hours in Paris, for example, or finding autumn paradise under the cobalt Arizona skies around Sedona, above. Or discovering romantic bliss in the rain forest of Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Or exploring the cool side of SoHo that only New Yorkers know, and meeting and greeting the ineffably genial Kiwis on a good-humored ramble through New Zealand. As Henry James notes in the excerpt from his luminous essay on 19th-Century Italy: "I had never known Florence more herself than I found her for a week in that brilliant October."