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T+L Reports: South Africa Gem, Thai Style, Sydney Climb

Big Style, Big Easy
If New Orleans is the best place in the country to party, then International House is the best place to sleep it off. A pale taupe color scheme, fresh Louisiana wildflowers, and Aveda-stocked bathrooms assist in a reveler's recovery. As the name indicates, the new 119-room International House calls upon the cadre of cultures that have shaped New Orleans: French Colonial cuisine at the hotel's Lemongrass restaurant; voodoo roots at the candlelit bar. The lobby acknowledges local tradition when, like a jazz diva between sets, it changes costume to mark the transition between winter and summer: sofas are swathed in white slipcovers; rugs are replaced by sisal mats. Even the staff follows suit, shucking off wool for seersucker. INTERNATIONAL HOUSE, 221 Camp St.; 800/633-5770 or 504/553-9550; doubles from $119.

Inns . . . Tours . . . Books . . . Exhibitions . . .

South Africa's New Gem
September through November, guests at the sybaritic Marine Hermanus hotel, overlooking South Africa's Walker Bay, indulge in one of the world's most spectacular breakfasts in bed. They summon room service, throw open the curtains, and watch southern right whales breaching outside. Built in 1902, the 47-room Marine has been revamped by Liz McGrath, owner of nearby Cape Town's magnificent Cellars-Hohenort. Stroll the cliff path or dip in the tidal pool before a dinner of butterfly prawns and kingklip carpaccio. MARINE HERMANUS, 27-283/701-000, fax 27-283/700-160; doubles from $160.

Calling All Shoppers
Anna Nicholas's new "bespoke" company guarantees serious consumers a red-carpet tour of London's top stores (often with discounts). Anyone can roam the aisles at Asprey & Garrard; those who sign up with ANA by Appointment are ushered by Edward Asprey himself into his private dining room for a glass of champagne before being set loose among the merchandise. Best: You can stash your haul in the silver Mercedes that chauffeurs you around town. Custom-designed half-day tours $285 ­ $815; 44-171/629-8118.

On the Edge
Every guidebook has a voice. The new Edge Guides have attitude. These sassy handbooks to New South cities such as Austin, Atlanta, and Miami (Longstreet; $14 each) give street-smart advice (alternative radio stations, skinny-dipping beaches, loser nightclubs), along with tips on the hippest hotels, restaurants, and shops.

S.O.S. Antarctica
An exhibition opening this month at the American Museum of Natural History documents one of the most sensational journeys ever: Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914 attempt to sail from Europe to the Antarctic, which was cut short when his ship, the Endurance, was trapped in ice and crushed. In "The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition" (April 10-October 11), photos, diaries, and interactive displays give you a feel for what it must have been like to endure five months as a castaway in the Antarctic.

Shops . . . Adventures . . . Trends . . . Hotels . . .

Thai Style
Hidden away in one of Bangkok's last few leafy districts, Naga House redefines home shopping. The wood house, built in the 1920's by the commander of King Rama VI's royal guard, is now a trove of Tibetan chests, Vietnamese lacquerware, and 19th-century Chinese puppets. You'll feel more like a guest than a shopper as you take tea on the veranda, eat curry puffs by the lotus pond, and wander the tropical garden. NAGA HOUSE, 28 Samsen Rd.; 66-2/669-3416.

Australia's Highest Climb
Clambering over the Sydney Harbour Bridge has always been a favorite illegal pastime of the city's youth. With the new BridgeClimb, anyone can scale it lawfully. Guides outfit you in a gray bodysuit and harness and lead you on catwalks along the famous steel arch. The three-hour adventure is billed as "the climb of your life." BRIDGECLIMB, 61-(0) 2/8274-7777; $65 per person.

The Buzz U.S.A
Watch it: Classic films and foreign flicks screened in the courtyard of San Francisco's new French bistro, Foreign Cinema. Diners listen on personal speakers at each table.
Tote it: A colorful Le Tosh laptop. Our favorite model: the brown-and-orange Working Snob (order your own from http://www.letosh.com).
Shake it: At one of the world's largest hula festivals, this month in Hilo, Hawaii.
Wear it: Burt's Bees' new all-natural Wings of Love lipstick. Keeps you aglow on the road.
Tour it: The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by architect Will Bruder, with installations by Alexander Calder and performances by the Art Guys.
Relax it: At Chicago's new Kiva spa, next to the Ritz-Carlton.
Ride it: Amtrak's first high-speed trains, running between Seattle and Eugene, Oregon. Tilt technology provides comfort; seven-foot-tall fins give it a look like no other American train.

About Time
When a 27-year-old Wharton grad joins forces with interior designer Adam Tihany, what do you get?New York's Time hotel, opening this month in Times Square. A study in primary colors, with a Richard Serra­inspired sculpture in the lobby, the sleek, 192-room hotel is worlds away from Tihany's quirky overhauls of classic spaces like Le Cirque restaurant. TIME, 224 W. 49th St.; 877/846-3692 or 212/246-5252; doubles from $245.

Resorts . . . Products . . . Stores . . .

Bag It All
What do you do after working at Travel & Leisure?Maybe design a travel cosmetics bag. After a stint in our very own art department, Dina White dreamed up the Girlie Bag, which New York's Bliss spa immediately began stocking. While it's intended as an ultrafeminine Dopp kit (mirror inside, sly slot for items men don't need to see), the bag can also be used as a purse. Available in pink, baby blue, pearl, and silver; $58. Call 212/219-8970 or go to http://www.girlshop.com to order.

Spanish Dream
Son Net: it's not a poem, but rather a 17th-century manor house converted into one of the loveliest hotels in the Balearic Islands. Mallorca's new 23-room Gran Hotel Son Net is cradled by the Tramuntana mountains. Almost as captivating as the pool (surrounded by centuries-old stone walls) is the restaurant, in an olive mill. GRAN HOTEL SON NET, Puigpunyent; 34-971/147-000; doubles from $220.

Expert Advice
We asked design guru Murray Moss, owner of Moss in New York's SoHo, for his favorite stores around the world.
COLOGNE: Pesch Architektur (27 Franz-Seiwert Strasse; 49-221/484-4162). "A landmark design shop."
LONDON: Liberty of London (214 Regent St.; 44-171/734-1234). "I know it's out of fashion, but the top floor has great vintage Arts and Crafts ceramics."
MILAN: Lorenzo Banfi Shop (10 Via Monte Napoleone; 39-02/7601-3710). "My favorite shop anywhere. It sells extraordinary scissors, razors, and kitchen equipment."
PARIS: Marie Mercie (23 Rue St.-Sulpice; 33-1/43-26-45-83). "Fantastic hats for men and women."
SIENA: The tourist shops along Banchi di Sopra. "They sell the terra-cotta plates I use in my kitchen."

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