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Rent a Convertible

Convertibles make you feel famous. I didn't tell anyone it was a rental. I drove it several times, alone, to look at the ocean. One afternoon, a middle-aged couple pulled up beside me in the parking lot at the beach. The driver rolled down his window. "What a car!" he said. I thanked him. His lady companion said, "You look great." I did look great. I have been hooked on renting convertibles ever since. Give me a choice between a little black dress and a little red ragtop, and I'll take the latter.

But because I live in a Northeastern American city and park on the street, I do not own a convertible. Instead I have a dented and rusted 11-year-old station wagon. I look for my automotive glamour elsewhere. It doesn't even have to be particularly swish: a Le Baron's as good as a Jaguar, as long as the top goes down.

Frankly, driving in a convertible anything is as close to nature as I get. Despite the ugly rumors my friends like to spread, I don't hate nature. I understand that it figures heavily in the production of oxygen. Much of it, when prepared correctly, is delicious. Much of it is pretty. Beautiful, even. And never more beautiful than when seen from a convertible.

Going topless

Want a great set of wheels? Budget Rent-a-Car Beverly Hills (800/227-7117 or 310/274-9173; www.budgetbeverlyhills.com) rents stylish cars like the 2003 Mercedes SL500, the Mini-Cooper, and the Maserati Spyder. All the latest models are available at Avis Prestige in London (800/331-1084 or 44-207/591-0444; www.avisprestige.com), including the Porsche Boxster Tiptronic and the Jaguar XK8 Cabriolet. If you've always wanted to zip around Cannes in a Bentley Azure, head to Excellence Luxury Car Rental (888/526-0055; www.excellenceluxury.com), which has offices throughout Europe and in Miami. Driven Image (877/646-2433; www.drivenimage.com) has Porsches, Alfa Romeos, and BMW's in more than 40 cities from Bangkok to Brisbane. —hannah wallace

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