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T+L Reports: The Toast of Paris, Belgian Art

THE TOAST OF PARIS Long before the Costes and the Montalembert, there was L'Hôtel, located in the beating heart of St.-Germain-des-Prés. Now the mother of all Paris boutique hotels — originally opened more than a century ago — is grabbing headlines again, following a top-to-bottom makeover by Jacques Garcia (the design whiz behind the Costes). Thanks to Garcia's stylish and historically correct intervention, L'Hôtel is poised to become the ultimate address for a new generation of discreet, intimacy-seeking travelers. The most desirable and personality-charged of the 20 guest rooms are those closely identified with old and celebrated L'Hôtel regulars. Oscar Wilde always requested No. 16 for its reassuring Anglo aesthetic. Novelist Pierre Loti was forever seduced by the exotic Orientalist atmosphere of No. 40. And the much-loved singer Mistinguett could never get enough of the Art Deco flourishes in No. 36. L'Hôtel, 13 Rue des Beaux-Arts; 33-1/44-41-99-00, fax 33-1/43-25-64-81; doubles from $287.
—Christopher Petkanas

THE PRIDE OF SCOTLAND On the rooftop of the baronial sandstone entrance to Edinburgh's Museum of Scotland, James Thomson has created a restaurant that is a destination in itself. Here, the best of Scotland is celebrated: voluptuous tweed banquettes, Loch Fyne oysters, Speyside whiskies, and a nouvelle-infused cooking style that gives a nod to the country's Auld Alliance with France. One treat not listed on the menu — an incomparable view panning from Edinburgh Castle to St. Giles Cathedral. Tower Restaurant, Chambers St.; 44-131/225-3003; dinner for two $74.
—Susan Morgan

NO SWEAT A dab behind your ears, on your wrists, and . . . under your arms?Deodorants are the latest crop of designer scents to make their way into the cosmetics kits of the logo-obsessed. Ingredients run the gamut from grassroots (balsamic bay leaf in Origins' aptly named No Offense) to decadent (Moroccan jasmine in Donna Karan's Cashmere Mist). All provide unbeatable dryness and new levels of odor protection — perfect for your next jungle vacation. 212 Men by Carolina Herrera, $17; Darphin Deodorant Essentiel, $40; Eternity by Calvin Klein, $12.50; Must de Cartier Pour Homme, $20; No Offense by Origins, $11; Decleor Deodorant Stick, $17.
—Selene Milano

MANDELA SLEPT HERE At a time when over-the-top has been the aesthetic for many sub-Saharan hotels, Johannesburg's 26-suite Saxon hotel is, quite simply, the top. Designer Stephen Falke has blended African art and artifacts with a light, clean, Eastern sensibility. The fortress-like exterior is surrounded by six secluded acres of gardens and woods. It was just this setting that enticed Nelson Mandela to take a six-month retreat here in the 1990's, when the Saxon was a private residence. Saxon, 36 Saxon Rd., Sandhurst, Johannesburg; 27-112/926-000, fax 27-112/926-001; doubles from $430.
—David Herndon

CASTLE ROCKS For years, style hounds have beat a path to Belgian art-and-antiques dealer Axel Vervoordt's shop outside Antwerp, the turreted 15th-century Gravenwezel Castle (64 St. Jobsteenweg, Gravenwezel; 32-3/658-1470). The influential tastemaker's latest project is Axel Vervoordt Kanaal (19 Stokerijstraat, Wijnegem; 32-3/355-3300), a circa-1860 former granary and brewery that sells the castle's over- flow — Italian Renaissance bronzes, 18th-century English furniture, modern paintings — and doubles as a performance space for artists and musicians.
—C.P.

COMPUTER CUISINE Despite the demise of several high-profile dot-coms, two Internet-inspired restaurants have opened in San Francisco. A virtual hostess greets diners at Dot (1611 Post St.; 415/922-7788; dinner for two $70), a whimsical spot opened by Joe Boxer's Nicholas Graham. LED horoscopes and e-mail messages run along Dot's bar. The Pan-Asian menu at Venture Frogs (1000 Van Ness Ave.; 415/409-2550; dinner for two $30) lists items like Priceline Pot-Stickers.
—Lauren David Peden

PHILLY'S NEW GEM Cartier. Tiffany. Scriven?The work of Keith Midgette Scriven, the 33-year-old African-American designer behind Philadelphia's newest jewelry boutique, is fast becoming a status symbol with the Hollywood, music, and sports set: Angela Bassett owns his $12,000 necklace with diamonds, emeralds, blue topaz, peridot, and aquamarine. Scriven creates each dazzling piece by hand, building the links he hopes will make him a legend. Scriven, 1602 Spruce St.; 215/545-8820.
—Kathleen Beckett

URBAN HEALING Follow the lead of Manhattan workaholics who are soothing their carpal tunnels and ridding their pores of smog at two new midtown oases. Greenhouse Spa (127 E. 57th St.; 212/644-4449) offers Chantecaille facials using rose petals to remove impurities. Qiora Store & Spa (535 Madison Ave.; 212/527-9933) helps mind and body achieve harmony in Saarinenesque treatment "pods." If only spa services were covered by workers' comp.
—Heidi Sherman

IT'S A GUY THING Despite the traditional striped pole out front, Gregory's Barbershop specializes in more than your basic trim. At this fresh addition to Boston's Back Bay, owner Gregory Zorian has created a masculine answer to the day spa, blending the classic European barber experience (hot-lather shaves, shoe shines) with stress-relieving treatments (steam facials, pedicures). Sick of nicks?Go to "shaving school." For $60, you'll receive tips, product recommendations for your skin and beard type, and a shave with rejuvenating essential oils. Gregory's Barbershop, 745 Boylston St.; 617/236-4885; haircuts from $48.
—Jill Harrington

A CAPITAL GARDEN Devotees of the finer things will be making pilgrimages once again to Hillwood Museum & Gardens. The former Washington, D.C., estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post recently reopened after a three-year overhaul. Twelve acres of gardens, including an elegant French parterre with a small reflecting pool, come alive in spring, when thousands of azaleas bloom. Inside the 1926 building, the scene is just as spectacular, thanks to the heiress's renowned collection of Russian imperial art. Hillwood Museum & Gardens, 4155 Linnean Ave. NW; 877/445-5966 or 202/686-8500.
—Janis Holler

OREGON'S FINEST HOUR A dark-gray converted warehouse in Portland's Pearl District is gaining a reputation for its avant-garde occupants: Wieden + Kennedy (Nike's hip advertising firm), the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, and now Bluehour. The new Mediterranean restaurant is named for l'heure bleu, the twilight time when French lovers rendezvous. Industrial chic meets modern's soft side in this soaring space. Bluehour,250 N.W. 13th Ave.; 503/226-3394; dinner for two $75.
—Katherine Cole

LET IT SNOW Retro transport — think Vespas and scooters — has a winter season, too: in 1999, more than 4 million people bypassed the slopes to strap on snowshoes. And we're not talking about those clunky wooden things mounted above the fireplace. Today's equipment is far more maneuverable. Atlas Snow-Shoe's latest, the 1025 (above), fits the widest range of people yet (up to 210 pounds). But if tramping through backwoods terrain makes you want to rent a St. Bernard, don't fret. Atlas assures us that if you can walk, you can snowshoe. Atlas Snow-Shoe Co., 800/482-8527; from $239.
—Hillary Geronemus

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