Deserts don’t seem particularly hospitable these days. Gov. Brown has declared our region a “tinderbox,” Barbara’s Lake in Laguna has been reduced to a broad expanse of cracked earth, and we’ll be lucky if a single acre of South Coast desert chaparral survives the summer. Just last month another “xeric shrubland”—in Iran, different hemisphere but the same latitude as Orange County—endured a 115-degree day with a dew point of 90 degrees, amounting to an apocalyptic heat index of 163 degrees. We know we should be recommending a final summer fling on a tropical beach, but we can’t bear the thought of more hot sand. So here’s to cool, damp air, dappled sun on calm waters, and the first flickers of fall.
This is Europe, but not blockbuster Europe: There is nothing like the Coliseum in Leiden, nor is there a Versailles. But really, who cares? You’ll be sitting in a serene biergarten alongside one of the meandering, tree-lined canals, Vermeer’s pale, watery sunlight filtering through the branches. The birthplace of Rembrandt remains a pleasantly human-scale, almost sleepy, genteel university town with few tourists (they prefer to remain in Amsterdam). The Huys van Leyden, a 400-year-old building converted into a five-room boutique hotel, distills Leiden’s charms—and Dutch aesthetics—perfectly with white-washed walls, sumptuous bedding, and light-filled rooms. Worth noting: Because the Huys Van Leyden is a protected monument, there is no elevator. Rates begin at $117; visit for more information.