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T+L Reports: Australia's Last Resort

AUSTRALIA COUTURE
Everything about the new Palazzo Versace on Australia's glitzy Gold Coast reflects the Italian fashion empire's trademark opulence: handcrafted marble floors, mosaic walls, Medusa logos everywhere. Donatella Versace and her brother Santo have overseen every detail, even flying in their personal florist to design the seasonal arrangements. In Il Barocco restaurant, waterfalls serve as a backdrop for tables set with Versace china; the 205 rooms are decked out with the fashion house's lavish bed linens and $415 bathrobes. Rock royalty (Elton John) and just plain royalty (Prince Albert of Monaco) are on the guest list for this month's opening gala. PALAZZO VERSACE, Sea World Dr., Main Beach, Queensland; 61-7/5509-8000, fax 61-7/5509-8888; doubles from $345. —Luba Vangelova

INTOXICATING NEW YORK
Can New York regional wines give California a run for the money?Let your palate be the judge at Vintage New York, a sleek SoHo wineshop devoted exclusively to wines produced in the Empire State. In the spacious oak-floored store, owners Susan Wine (no kidding!) and Robert Ransom offer tastings of 150 selections from Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and the Finger Lakes. And because Vintage is licensed by Rivendell Winery (which the couple also owns), it can legally sell wine on Sunday — unlike any other liquor store in the state. VINTAGE NEW YORK, 482 Broome St.; 212/226-9463. —Kathryn Matthews

VIENNA'S NEW MAESTRO
Centuries after Mozart, Vienna finally has a full-scale music museum. Although it's housed in a Baroque palace, the House of Music is decidedly high-tech. Visitors can take to the podium and virtually "conduct" the Vienna Philharmonic, or join in a futuristic Brain Opera, conceived by an MIT music professor, in which melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic "hyperinstruments" translate body movements into sounds. HOUSE OF MUSIC, 30 Seilerstätte; 43-1/516-4840. —Marcy Mason

BUDAPEST WAKES UP
The Centrál, a long dormant literary coffeehouse in Budapest, has once again become a poets' haven. Under Communism the 1887 café declined into an ill-kept music club; in the early 1990's, some Westernizing-crazed entrepreneurs turned it into a bagel shop. Current management has brought back the Belle Époque décor and Magyar menu. But ordering just an espresso is also encouraged, as is lingering for hours while polishing prose. To accommodate modern-day scribblers, electrical outlets for laptops are installed beneath each table. CENTRÁL, 9 Károlyi Mihály St.; 36-1/266-2110. —Eve Kahn

NEED FOR SPEED
Would-be Top Gunners, prepare to test your limits. In a new twist on adventure tourism, hunting outfitters Holland & Holland have teamed with Cape Town's Thunder City, owners of the world's largest private collection of supersonic jets, to take travelers on a wild ride. A flight on board the English Electric Lightning takes you to 50,000 feet at a heart-pounding 1,000 miles per hour. (More functional than stylish, a G suit prevents blood from draining to your feet.) Your mission: To enjoy the loops, rolls, inverted flight, and weightless falls. HOLLAND & HOLLAND, 50 E. 57th St.; 212/752-7755; individual flights start at $2,000; hotel packages also available. —Gillian Cullinan

BELTWAY TREATS
Three just-opened restaurants in Washington, D.C., have what it takes to bring both parties to the table. The Caucus Room (401 Ninth St. NW; 202/393-1300; dinner for two $125) is an upscale surf-and-turf joint from the unlikely duo of Republican Haley Barbour and Democrat Tommy Boggs. At the Pan-Asian Ten Penh (1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202/393-4500; $75), drinks come with little plastic elephants and donkeys. And West 24 (1250 24th St. NW; 202/331-1100; $62) is backed by James Carville and Mary Matalin, those poster children for bipartisan unions. —Elizabeth Garnsey

COTTAGE INDUSTRY
East of Inverness in northern Scotland, the Cawdor Estate encompasses forests, rivers, moors, a 600-year-old castle associated with Shakespeare's Macbeth, and a chic new inn. Lady Cawdor — former British Vogue fashion editor Isabella Stanhope — has recently redone four cottages with designer fabrics, found furniture, and flawless taste. The properties range from a cozy stone gamekeeper's lodge that sleeps two to a 16th-century farmhouse. Guests have the run of the estate to pursue hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and hunting. CAWDOR COTTAGES, Cawdor, Nairn; 44-1667/404-666; doubles from $330 (three-night minimum). —Richard Alleman

SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING SPA
Once a playground for 16th-century European aristocracy, Como's Villa d'Este has long been known for its period interiors and Italian gardens. Today the classic hotel is winning back a stylish following — luring them with a new, thoroughly modern spa. In tune with the lakeside setting, this restorative haven makes ample use of water for both decoration and treatment. A 10-foot-high cascading wall adorns the reception area, while guests soak in hydro-pressure baths of mineral salts. VILLA D'ESTE, 22012 Cernobbio, Como; 39/031-3481. —Kristine Ziwica

PUMP IT UP
The newest fitness secret is only at Vert, a health club in Santa Monica that has replaced traditional workouts with computerized "high velocity resistance training." Translation: You'll work just as hard to pull the bar back down as you did to lift it — that's twice the workout. Shaquille O'Neal claims Vert increased his vertical leap by five inches in only six weeks. VERT, 2300 Santa Monica Blvd.; 888/837-8039 or 310/264-8385; $50 for two hours with a trainer. —Steven Kotler

LOOKING GOOD TO GO
Feel like slipping into something more comfortable?Wolford, the Austrian hosiery company behind some of the sexiest legs to walk the runway, has applied its soft, body-conscious design philosophy to a new line of clothing. There are dozens of interchangeable, wrinkle-free separates to choose from (like this merino turtleneck and shawl). Even if you pack just a few, you'll never be caught in the same look twice. WOLFORD; 800/965-3673. —Hillary Geronemus

DRESSED UP IN SANTA BARBARA
Though the racy ads for California's newly launched Bacara may suggest a clothing-optional resort, you're more likely to find pool girls in baby T's and white capris, and parking valets decked out in navy blue DKNY outfits. Guests of the 360-room seaside resort, a graceful village in Spanish colonial style spread over 78 acres just north of Santa Barbara, can indeed doff their duds in the 42,000-square-foot spa. But most dress up to feast on organic food and wine in the Spa Café, or gourmet French-Cal cuisine in MirÛ, the fine dining room. BACARA RESORT & SPA, 8301 Hollister Ave.; 805/968-0100; doubles from $395. —Chris Rubin

HOUSEWARES WAREHOUSE
Move over, Restoration Hardware. Resonances, a huge housewares emporium that champions tradition and simplicity, is helping the French rediscover the joys of old-fashioned domesticity. Blasted out of four 1877 wine storehouses in the remote Bercy section of eastern Paris, the boutique stocks a whopping 2,500 items; 300 of them are exclusive, and one-third change with the seasons, so there's always something new to seduce the house-proud. Homebodies with one foot in the past and one in the future go mad for the Moroccan-style teapots reinterpreted in handblown glass. RESONANCES, Bercy Village, 9 Cours St.-Émilion; 33-1/44-73-82-82. —Christopher Petkanas

SANTA FE SUPPER
Substance often takes a back seat to style on the Santa Fe food scene. Not so at Tulips, a delightfully down-to-earth new restaurant (the lights always dim when the dishwasher starts up) in an early 1900's adobe cottage. Husband-and-wife team Kirstin and Steven Jarrett (formerly of Geronimo and the tony Vista Clara Spa) have created a menu that takes the Southwest to new levels: lobster spring rolls with ginger-peach sauce; saffron cannelloni stuffed with organic chicken. TULIPS, 222 N. Guadalupe; 505/989-7340; dinner for two $100. —Michelle Pentz

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