THE COMEBACK CLIFT
They may not readily admit it, but San Franciscans are at once radically progressive and deeply traditional. You can see it in designer Philippe Starck's renovation of the venerable 376-room Clift hotel, now owned by Ian Schrager. Starck chose the theme of a luxury hotel seen "through the looking glass," outfitting the Wonderland-like lobby with a giant armchair and an 18-foot-high bronze fireplace. For the luxury part, he dressed the 376 guest rooms with silk organza curtains and sleigh beds. Much to the relief of local preservationists, the beloved Art Deco Redwood Room remains intact—though the termite-damaged bar has been replaced with a modern glass version. Clift, 495 Geary St.; 800/652-5438 or 415/775-4700, fax 415/931-7417; doubles from $325.
MI CASA MEXICANA
Casa Arabia, a recently opened villa hotel, brings Alhambra-style opulence to Mexico's resort town of Manzanillo: courtyards offer bay views; a 20-foot waterfall cascades into an orchard-bordered pond. Hollywood jet-setters like Julia Roberts know that whether you book one suite or all four, you get the secluded cliffside estate—and its terra-cotta arches, sculpted columns, and Sultan's Couch (a domed relaxation area with red silk seating)—to yourself. Casa Arabia, La Punta, Manzanillo; phone and fax 503/460-2643; doubles from $350; five-night minimum.
NEW YORK'S BRIGHT LIGHT
Lost in New York amid a sea of black?Head to Nolita's Hadu for a quick color fix that will surely make you stand out in a crowd. Along with leather halters and eighties-inspired dresses in eye-popping shades, the new boutique stocks colorful Cosa Bella lingerie, so you can be just as vibrant underneath as you are on the outside. Hadu, 239 Mulberry St.; 212/ 966-4072.
WHAT'S YOUR MANTRA?
That's what everyone in Boston is asking, now that chef Thomas John's Indian-inspired French restaurant has opened in the freshly coined Ladder District (seen from above, the neighborhood's grid resembles a ladder), near Boston Common. Housed in a turn-of-the-century bank that's had a $2.5 million face-lift, Mantra's 40-foot polished marble tellers' counter serves as the bar. Mantra, 52 Temple Place; 617/ 542-6740; dinner for two $130.
LONDON FLEX TIME
Blame it on Madonna's move. Or Ginger Spice's exercise addiction. Either way, yoga has hit London, and one of the most stylish places to stretch is Triyoga, in posh Primrose Hill. Local resident and fashion designer Matthew Williamson styled the space. "I like the culture and the colors of Asia," says Williamson, whose festive clothes are worn by Jade Jagger and Kate Moss, "and I wanted to bring that here." Which he did, with brightly colored silk wall hangings, stained-glass windows, and floor cushions around the juice bar. Triyoga, 6 Erskine Rd.; 44-207/341-4204.
Style-loving gourmands moan that great food and fashionable décor rarely go together in Milan, but two new restaurants are changing all that. At Chandelier (17 Via Broggi; 39-02/2024-0458; dinner for two $100), regulars like Giorgio Armani and Roberto Cavalli sample Mediterranean dishes in a setting that resembles an eccentric country villa. Everything—antique chandeliers, patchwork-covered baroque chairs, Moroccan mosaic vases—is for sale. At Cracco-Peck (4 Via Victor Hugo; 39-02/876-774; dinner for two $200), slatted cherrywood walls, lacquer chairs, and scads of marble create a refined background for such contemporary dishes as pork muzzle with scampi and green tomatoes. The restaurant is run by acclaimed young chef Carlo Cracco along with Peck, Milan's top delicatessen.
Thanks to France's new personalized stamps—featuring a scanned photo of Yours Truly—travelers can send a mug shot home. Now postcard collectors of the future will have one more clue to the secret lives of their authors. Postal Museum, 34 Blvd. de Vaugirard; 33-1/42-79-24-24; $8.50 for a sheet of 10 stamps.
IN THE TRENCHES
This fall, trench coats are coming out of the closet—and going into the suitcase. It's Malo to go, in cashmere-lined, wrinkle-free deerskin (far right, $2,800) or double-faced red and black leather ($3,360). Burberry's jacquard coat (near right, $695) folds into a neat package and looks as smart after an overnight flight to Paris as it does back home.
In Melbourne, Australia's undisputed nightlife capital, it takes a lot to turn heads. Witness Honkytonks, the city's most singular new watering hole, where the standard-issue velvet rope has been replaced by a white picket fence. Step behind it, and you'll find a swirling, smoke-filled glass cavity (that's the bar), a white grand piano (that's the DJ's booth), and so much retro action (wall paneling, chandeliers, and module leather seats) that you'll need a Pear Shaped—a drink made with Finlandia vodka, Cuarenta y Tres vanilla liqueur, and fresh pear juice—to steady yourself. Honkytonks, Duckboard Place; 61-3/ 9662-4555.
DREAM OF AFRICA
With Zimbabwe in turmoil, the unspoiled wilderness of neighboring Zambia has stolen the African limelight. Latest attraction: a Sun International complex made up of two hotels in Mosi-oa-Tunya (Smoke That Thunders) National Park, a mere 160 feet from Victoria Falls. Inspired by Zambia's colonial estates, the 173-room Royal Livingstone (Mosi-oa-Tunya Rd., Livingstone; 800/990-8299 or 260-3/32-1122; doubles from $401) has verandas furnished with deep planter's chairs, and a wide lawn that rolls to the water's edge. Its restaurant caters to tastes from Cairo to Cape Town—with carpaccio of Nile perch and marinated warthog cutlets. The 212-room Zambezi Sun (doubles from $266), poised at the edge of the eastern cataract of the falls, is modeled on a North African walled village, its adobe-style architecture decorated with mosaics.
DOUBLE BAG IT!
Get more bang out of your bag with detachables. Filofax, having already organized your agenda, can do the same for your trip with the microfiber Weekender ($425; 877/234-2426; above, in black). Care to downsize?Two leather pods snap off and convert into handbags. Sigerson Morrison has released its own supersized corduroy version, with a removable sunglass case ($535; 212/219-3893; above, in cream).
Tokyo is abuzz over Mina, a dress and housewares shop that just opened in the happening Shiroganedai district. Designer Akira Minagawa takes Camelot-era Jackie Kennedy dress lines and marries them to his own Scandinavian-influenced textiles. The result is pure whimsy. Mina, 5-18-17 Shiroganedai, Minato-ku; 81-3/5793-1474.
Coming from the kitchen of Italy’s first restaurant to win three Michelin stars, chef Carlo Cracco teamed with gourmet food seller Peck to launch a new restaurant two blocks from the duomo that serves innovated Milanese dishes like egg yolk spaghetti, risotto with black sesame and apple, and ink squid soup. The interior design is far simpler, with small round tables, and white table cloths arranged along the bare slatted cherrywood walls. Named the 22nd best in the world by Restaurant magazine in 2009, Cracco-Peck ironically remains more popular with foreign visitors than natives.