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T+L Reports: Taj Mahal, Tuscan Villas

TAJ MAHAL'S NEW NEIGHBOR
Usually, travelers to the Taj Mahal buzz in for a day and get out fast. After all, why mar a visit to one of the great wonders of the world by overnighting at a mediocre hotel in the polluted, overcrowded city of Agra?Finally, the new Amarvilas gives you a reason to linger. Using the Oberoi equation for extreme luxury, the hotel has classic Moghul gardens, marble inlaid with semiprecious stones, and—get a load of this—views of the Taj Mahal from each of the 112 rooms. But the most over-the-top design feature has to be the corner suites' glass-walled showers, which look out on the gleaming white monument. Amarvilas, Taj East Gate Rd.; 800/562-3764 or 91-11/389-0505, fax 91-11/389-0582; doubles from $300.

VILLA VANGUARD
Two new Tuscan properties are the destinations of choice for Italy's style set. On a 1,700-acre estate, the Ferragamo family's latest, Il Borro (1/A Località Borro, San Giustino Valdarno; 39-055/977-053; from $1,000 per week), has 17 apartments and three farmhouses for rent. Nine-room Villa Fontelunga (5 Via Cunicchio, Foiano della Chiana; 39-0575/660-410; doubles from $132) blends antique Italian furniture with Philippe Starck creations.

DUTCH FEAT
Earlier this year, chef Michel Lambermon awoke at 3 a.m. with an idea that sent him racing to the kitchen. Three months later he had opened his first restaurant, in the city of Haarlem, near Amsterdam. There's no set menu: Lambermon prepares 10 courses a night—one dish every half-hour. The tapas-style entrées, such as whitefish marinated in beer, are based on whatever's fresh at the market. Lambermon's innovative cuisine has caused a stir in the Netherlands; reservations at the bite-sized restaurant are hard to snag. Lambermon's, 96 Spaarne; 31-23/542-7804; dinner for two $85.

WHAT NEXT?
Once the province of the blue-haired set, bingo has gone groovy. At New York's Tortilla Flats (767 Washington St.; 212/243-1053), the Monday "Survivor" version fills the Tex-Mex restaurant to capacity. In La-La Land, bingo night's on Monday at Fuel (1645 Wilcox Ave.; 323/962-7712); on Thursday at Du-Par's (8571 Santa Monica Blvd.; 310/659-7009), where celebs call the numbers.

BUGGING OUT
Designed for Alain Mikli by Issey Miyake's artistic director, Naoki Takizawa, the Dragonfly sunglasses look like insects: the legs double as earpieces; the eyes are the lenses. The folding frames—in six styles—come cocooned in a podlike case. 33-1/45-49-40-00; from $480.

MOONSTRUCK IN MUNICH
At her recently opened spa Just Pure, German health guru Gaby Just creates therapies based on ancient methods that correspond to lunar phases. The waning and new moons are for detoxifying and purifying treatments, while a waxing or full moon calls for restorative measures. Meanwhile, rejuvenating "bio-body packs" of honey and aloe vera are good enough to eat. Just Pure Day Spa, 13 Siegesstrasse; 49-89/3835-6999.

GETTING IT WRIGHT
Now you can sleep in a wigwam without straying too far from modern life. A 1924 plan by Frank Lloyd Wright has been built as the Nakoma Resort in California's High Sierra. The design pays tribute to Native Americans, with an open central fireplace and a tepee-like roof. Nakoma Resort & Spa, Clio, Calif.; 877/416-0880 or 530/832-6304; doubles from $350.

HANDYMAN SPECIAL
Paris's latest café, Bricolo (slang for "Handyman") is decorated like an old French workshop, with tools and gadgets hanging on the walls. In the basement of the BHV department store, it has become popular with singles looking for another kind of home improvement. Bricolo Café, 52—62 Rue de Rivoli; 33-1/42-74-90-00; lunch for two $13.

HOLLYWOOD HEELS
Your feet will be ready for a close-up at H., a new L.A. shoe boutique. After you slip on a pair from Bruno Frisoni or Angelo Figus, two of the store's many lines, ankle-level cameras broadcast your image onto the wall—call it a screen test. H., 8622 Sunset Blvd.; 310/659-5785.

COASTAL CRUISER
Want to play Pilgrim?The newly refurbished 160-foot, 22-stateroom Arabella dips into the waters around Martha's Vineyard, Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Plymouth. Learn the ABC's of navigation, or watch from the on-deck hot tub as the mates do the work. (In winter, Arabella sails the Caribbean.) 800/395-1343; from $749 per person, double, for a four-night cruise.

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