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T&L Reports: Rain Forest Romp, Root Beer Bay

A Virgin Safari
What does a billionaire do after going on a fabulous South African safari?Buy his own safari lodge, naturally. Virgin Atlantic Airways' Richard Branson is now the proud owner of Ulusaba Private Game Reserve, which encompasses two newly refurbished camps -- Rock Lodge and Safari Lodge -- within Sabi Sand Game Reserve, west of Kruger National Park. As at Branson's Necker Island resort, up to 22 guests can commandeer the Rock Lodge, with a staff of 30 on hand. (Individual guests can book one of the quarterly Celebration weeks, when the lodge operates as a hotel.) The 10 rooms at the clifftop lodge pay tribute to African arts and nature. In the Ndebele room, for instance, bedposts are wrapped in trading beads; outdoor showers afford views of the game wandering 350 feet below. In contrast, all 10 suites at the thatched tree-house-style Safari Lodge (a hotel year-round) are decorated in shades of brown and cream, with hand-carved leadwood beds, teak floors, and Victorian ball-and-claw tubs. At both lodges, guests are made to feel at home, whether behind the bar, in the kitchen, at the spa, or on the (well-fenced) tennis court. Ulusaba Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa; 800/557-4255 or 27-11/465-4240; Rock Lodge $9,000‚$12,500 a day, depending on number of guests; Safari Lodge doubles from $325, including all meals.
--Gillian Cullinan

Adventure Travel, Galleries, Apartment Rentals

High on Costa Rica
Ecotourism reaches new heights at Costa Rica's Rain Maker Nature Refuge, where six suspension bridges, one nearly as tall as the Golden Gate Bridge, lure high walkers to treetop strolls. Aluminum cables -- the longest stretches 300 feet -- are strung between ancient hardwood trees for a toucan's-eye view of blue Morpho butterflies and hummingbirds. Step onto the wood-planked span, as narrow as a person; rope netting protects you from a 22-story plunge. A $65 fee covers the canopy walk, transport from the Manuel Antonio park region, and a guided nature walk of the 1,350-acre reserve; 011-506/777-0850.
—Rich Rubin

At Home in Paris
The most stylish and best-located short-term apartment rentals in Paris are offered by California-based Chez Vous. The company's 15 high-end properties were recently redesigned by Myra Hoefer, an American decorator known for her ebullient touch and love of French antiques. Typical of the fashionable listings is La Gitane (pictured below), a 900-square-foot apartment that sleeps six and has two bedrooms, a salon, dining room, generous bathroom, and full kitchen. Set in a hushed 18th-century town house between Boulevard St.-Germain and the Seine, La Gitane rents for $3,100 per week, plus $25 per person for linens. One-bedroom apartments sleeping four start at $1,200. Chez Vous, 1001 Bridgeway, Suite 245, Sausalito, Calif.; 415/331-2535, fax 415/331-5296.
--Christopher Petkanas

Rome Creates
Call it industrial archaeology: Rome is pre- serving its more recent past with unlikely new art venues. Contemporary paintings hang on the walls of a former brewery, now the Galleria Comunale d'Arte Moderna (24 Via Francesco Crispi; 39-06/474-2843). Architect Gae Aulenti, who transformed a Paris train station into the Musée d'Orsay, has created Le Scuderie Papali al Quirinale (Piazza della Quirinale; 39-06/8313-8313), in the 18th-century papal stables. And the city's first turbine power station, Centrale Montemartini (106 Via Ostiense, 39-06/574-8038), now houses a striking mix of Greek sculptures and boiler room artifacts.
—Paul French

Shops, Trends, Nightlife, Watches

Getting to the Root
Root beer is going gourmet in San Francisco. Local microbrewers such as ThirstyBear Brewing Co. and Berkeley's Pyramid Brewery & Alehouse are making the specialty soda on tap and in bottles, while trendy neighborhood bars (like Kilowatt) and upscale restaurants (Lulu, Farallon, Aqua) list root beers on their menus. Baby-boomer nostalgia or newfound sobriety?Whatever the case, favorite brands are IBC, Pearson Bros., Thomas Kemper, and Stewart's. Sorry, no A&W.
—Sharon Wick

Me & Ro Take Manhattan
The organic, handcrafted jewelry line Me & Ro is worn by Julia, Gwyneth, Cameron, and Leo. Robin Renzi and her partner, Michele Quan, have surpassed all expectations with their first store, in New York City's NoLita neighborhood. Shop, the architects responsible for the Costume National store in SoHo, created a retail space full of sleek cases and wood accents, set off by a wall of shimmering red Venetian plaster. Art and found objects are displayed in niches; Me & Ro's coveted trinkets hang above a flower-filled cement water basin in the window. The one thing you won't find?Attitude. Me & Ro, 239 Elizabeth St.; 917/237-9215.
—Lauren David Peden

Irish Nights
The pubs are still grand, but nightclubs are the toast of Dublin these days. In a former movie theater, the Sugar Club (8 Lower Leeson St.; 353-1/678-7188) has swing and salsa bands. Lobo (Ormond Quay; 353-1/878-2999) is the place for late-night sushi and celebrity-watching. Young locals head to Lillie's Bordello (Adam Court, Grafton St.; 353-1/679-9204). Anything goes at the POD (35 Harcourt St.; 353-1/478-0225), a massive dance hall. For a slightly older -- but no less uninhibited -- crowd, there's Renards (33‚35 S. Fredrick St.; 353-1/677-5876), with a speakeasy ambience. Go early; all the clubs get packed once the pubs close at 11.
—Lance Contrusi

Time It
Seiko's new collection of Spoon watches is just the thing for global nomads. The S.A.M., or Secret Agent Man ($215), stores e-mail addresses and phone numbers, and lets you enter personal messages. It also displays a different proverb, such as clothes make the man, every 10 minutes. The Blow ($135, pictured) is water-resistant to 330 feet, while the mod Michi Tabi ($145) wins our vote. It tells the time and dialing code for 38 of the world's major cities. To order, www.virtualspoon.com or 877/276-8442.
—Nana Asfour

Antiques, Cruises, Products

Shanghai Shopping Surprise
While tourists bargain for antiques (some freshly made) at Shanghai's weekend markets near the Yu Yuan Garden, knowledgeable Shanghainese head way out west to a batch of warehouses at 1430‚ 1438 Hongqiao Road. The setting may be unglamorous -- concrete walls with corrugated fiberglass roofs, beside a busy highway -- but this new furniture district carries the real goods, such as authentic Ming dynasty cabinets and 18th-century Shaanxi Province drawing tables. Among the best shops are Mountain Valley Antique Furniture, Shanghai Hongmei Antiquated Furniture Bazaar, Shanghai Sugu Furniture Shop, and Shanghai Wan Bo Arts & Crafts. Even farther from the city center -- with even better prices -- is Nineteen Town (19 Jin Xin Rd.) in the suburb of Jiu Ting. Just be sure to bring your own translator.
—Andrew Bender

Cyber Seas
Move over, Captain Stubing, Bill Gates is coming aboard, and he's not alone. Thanks to Geek Cruises, computer techies are invading the high seas. Each of the cruises offered by this new tour operator delves into such scintillating topics as Java, Perl, and XML. Since conference attendees make up only half of the ship's capacity, standard activities -- casinos, discos, shuffleboard -- are also available. The first cybervoyage, Perl Whirl 2000, departs Memorial Day on Holland America's Volendam and heads for Alaska's Inside Passage. Future cruises: November's Java Jam in the West Caribbean and XML Excursion 2001: A Caribbean Caper. Call 818/597-2940.
—Hillary Geronemus

Calling All Dogs
Frette, the benchmark producer of luxury linens, has come up with a way to make an airplane flight -- or a morning march from bed to shower -- a little more comfortable. Available in deep shades of burgundy, chocolate, anthracite gray, and taupe, its new slippers (800/353-7388; $190) are crafted from the softest suede. To pack, tuck them into the stylish matching drawstring bag. Then step on it.
—Kristine Ziwica

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