london lights up
Ian Schrager has taken his cutting-edge brand of hotel across the pond to London, transforming a once-somber 1960's office building into St Martins Lane, a spectacle of color and light. A yellow "carpet" is projected onto the floor just beyond the 16-foot-high front doors; the restaurant, Asia de Cuba, is lit by exposed bulbs. Full-spectrum dials in the 204 rooms allow you to bathe the white furnishings in whatever hue suits your mood. Elsewhere in the Covent Garden hotel are the whimsies characteristic of designer Philippe Starck: oversize flowerpots, elevator video installations, and a bar with high stainless-steel tables. A modern take on the traditional pub?"I like to think of this hotel as quintessentially British," says Schrager. "Eccentric and irreverent, with a sense of humor." St Martins Lane, 45 St. Martins Lane; 44-171/300-5500, fax 44-171/300-5565; doubles from $257.
Dining in style . . . Tours . . . Trains . . . Inns . . . Lounges . . .
turning up the heat in chicago
When a rising chef joins forces with a nightclub maestro, the results run haute (and cool) at Chicago's recently opened Fahrenheit. The America-meets-the-world menu was designed by Patrick Concannon, a Charlie Trotter veteran, and the dining room and bar were styled by Dion Antic, of swinging spots Liquid Kitty and Iggy's. The icy blue décor calls to mind a Caribbean seascape — or a wintry Chicago day. Fahrenheit, 695 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 312/733-7400; dinner for two $80.
A bastion of bohemia, New York's Hotel Chelsea has played host to William S. Burroughs and Sid Vicious. The new Serena lounge is its latest resident to cause a stir. Stella McCartney threw a party in the funky North African-style bar the second week out. Serena, 222 W. 23rd St.; 212/255-4646.
a friend in italy
In Italy you are who you know, but now you can buy connections. Three new tour companies will have you navigating a racetrack in a Lamborghini, touring private gardens, or fly-fishing with an Italian trout expert. One Step Closer (39-055/233-5283) specializes in Florence and Tuscany, while Combinazione Venezia (39-041/241-0301) and the Venice Experience (phone and fax 39-041/713-874) are your amici in Venice.
—Dara Y. Herman
where to spend arabian nights
Beirut's old Achrafieh quarter has been resurrected as the capital's hippest district. The latest addition is the 33-suite Hotel Albergo, in a 1940's villa with Oriental chandeliers, gilded sculptures, and four-poster beds. At night, the street outside is thronged with limos depositing sheikhs and Lebanon's chicest at the in-house restaurant, Al Dente. Hotel Albergo, 137 Rue Abdel Wahab El Inglizi; 961-1/339-797, fax 961-1/339-999; suites from $215.
Remember the song "Shave and a Haircut (All 'board)"?Bill and Debbie Hatrick have brought it to life with the Overland Trail, an L.A.-to-San Diego excursion on a 1949 Pullman club car. The train buffs faithfully reconstructed the 39-seater to factory specs and added the continent's only barbershop on rails (five bucks for a trim). Once a month, they turn up the swing music and connect the car to an Amtrak train. 800/539-7245; from $80 a person round-trip.
Yoga . . . Business hotels . . . Gear . . . Food innovations . . .
get in the stretch
Two just-launched yoga studios are drawing L.A.'s young and flexible. Body & Soul Workout (8599 Santa Monica Blvd.; 310/659-2211), designed by Dodd Mitchell, is more fitness sanctuary than gym. Sign up for a nighttime class lit by votive candles. At the loftlike Golden Bridge Yoga (5901 W. Third St.; 323/936-4172), teacher-to-the-stars Gurmukh leads kundalini classes. Sunday evening's session is followed by a communal dinner at her house.
Now when Canadian customs agents ask, "Business or pleasure?" the answer is both. The stylish Hôtel Le Germain in downtown Montreal is light-years away from the city's typical spartan lodging frequented by on-the-road execs. Canadian designer Viateur Michaud added masculine touches to each of the 99 rooms, such as mahogany blinds that shade the bathroom window, Mission-style headboards, sensuous natural-fiber sheets, and stainless-steel cups and saucers to hold that morning coffee. Hôtel Le Germain, 2050 Mansfield St.; 877/333-2050 or 514/849-2050, fax 514/849-1437; doubles from $210.
—H. Scott Jolley
on the road with swiss army
Swiss Army Brand's first luggage line is the James Bond of travel gear, equipped with hidden compartments and forward-thinking innovations, such as puncture-proof casing. Our favorite piece, the Lausanne backpack ($139) comes with an interior Discman pocket, a detachable cell phone holder, and a leather sheath for your Swiss Army knife. We can't wait for January, which will bring laptop cases that can be worn as backpacks. 888/698-0717 to order.
sweden's fresh flavor
You might say Malker Andersson's new Restaurangen in Stockholm is the chef's archetypal dining experience. Known as a daring matchmaker of international ingredients (tacos with foie gras and caviar) at his Fredsgatan 12 across town, here Andersson reinvents the menu altogether. Dishes are listed by spice or flavor — not by the meat, fish, or dessert they enhance. Lemon, for example, includes asparagus and potato; under coriander is a shellfish ceviche. It's a boon to the indecisive, since you can choose several "tastes," each paired with a wine selection. Restaurangen, 14 Oxtorgsgatan; 46-8/220-952; dinner for two $60.
Museums . . . Shoes . . . Urban retreats . . . Shops . . . Restaurants. . .
get off of my cloud
Virginia's latest museum is a real trip, with displays of confiscated bongs, pills, bags of marijuana, and a pair of snakeskin platform boots worn by a narc trying to infiltrate Detroit's nightclub scene. The Drug Enforcement Agency established the museum to chronicle 150 years of substance abuse, but lest you consider dipping in, check out the photos of gunned-down dealers. DEA Museum, 700 Army Navy Dr., Arlington; 703/307-3463; reservations required.
With their soccer-cleat influence and retro bowling flair, Camper Pelotas are the height of European shoe chic, thanks to appearances on the feet of British rock group the Charlatans. Camper, the family-owned business whose shoes are made for walking, maintains that any foray into fashion is purely accidental: the leather sneakers were designed for navigating Mallorca's cobblestoned streets. 800/748-6139; from $130.
the talk of beacon hill
At Boston's 61-room XV Beacon hotel, peppermint foot cream in the mini-bar (next to the Château Lafite Rothschild) and heated towels would make any out-of-towner feel at home. Take the original cage elevator down to the Federalist restaurant, where Robert Fathman's lobster bisque is all the rage, as is the vaulted wine cellar's gem of a bar. XV Beacon, 15 Beacon Hill; 877/982-3226 or 617/670-1500; doubles from $395.
Eurochow, the most recent venture in Los Angeles from restaurateur Michael Chow (a.k.a. Mr. Chow), has a split kitchen — half-Chinese, half-Italian — that does wonders with both glazed prawns and spaghetti with lobster. But the best feature is part Warhol, part Hollywood: a ceiling camera pans the room, broadcasting images on a TV near the bar. Eurochow, 1099 Westwood Blvd.; 310/209-0066; dinner for two $60.
australia in fashion
Three new Sydney boutiques are essential sources for delicious can't-get-anywhere-else clothes. Fashion legend Belinda Seper carries Down Under designers Marilyn Sainty, Vixen, and Eastan Pearson at her shop, Belinda (39 William St.; 61-2/9380-8728). Sonya Hopkins (6 Glenmore Rd.; 61-2/9380-8030) does knit tops and cardigans in irresistible candy colors. Sure, you can buy some of Collette Dinnigan's lace creations in the States, but you'll find the full range at her bijou of a place with French chandeliers and a sweet garden (33 William St.; 61-2/9360-6691).