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Just Back From Namibia

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Just back from the African country’s dramatic sand dunes and wildlife-filled reserves, T+L deputy editor Laura Begley Bloom shares a few of her favorite finds.

Most Memorable Sundowner: Here I am, having an end-of-day drink while at Okahirongo Elephant Lodge ($$$$), in the Kaokoveld—known for its rare desert elephants and black rhinos.

The Sands of Sossusvlei: Full disclosure: I didn’t quite make it to the top of Dune 45. We stayed nearby at Little Kulala ($$$$$), where I coveted the ostrich eggshell chandeliers, below, and bought this recycled glass necklace.

Local Souvenir: Wood-and-seed earrings from Okahirongo, where I also got the best wakeup call on the trip: an elephant purring just outside my window.

Top View: Watching animals gather around the watering hole at Onguma The Fort ($$$), a hotel near Etosha National Park.

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New and Improved Manhattan Hotels

Manhattan Hotels: Roger New York

With a record 50.5 million visitors to New York last year, it’s no surprise that the hotel scene is heating up.

A flurry of Manhattan hotels new and old are trying to one-up each other—at a pace even a local like myself finds dizzying. In midtown, the stodgy Roger Williams is now the Roger New York ($$). Expect tufted blue-velvet sofas and—that signifier of hip hotels everywhere—a consulting mixologist.

• A $65 million update has converted the stalwart Helmsley into the Westin New York Grand Central ($$). Look for a restaurant and bar by buzz-maker Rande Gerber.

• France-based boutique hotelier Grace Leo is the driving force behind the renovation of the Millennium UN Plaza Hotel, now One UN New York ($$).

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Mediterranean's Best New Design Hotels

Design Hotels: La Plage Casadelmar

T+L surveys new design-statement properties from Marseille to Majorca.

Wherever Aman goes, the style tribe slavishly follows. And just when you thought there were no more variations on the word aman, the trailblazing hotel company has opened Amanzoe ($$$$), in a remote area of Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula. With reflecting pools, soaring marble walls, and panoramic views, architect Ed Tuttle’s pared-down sanctuary strikes a balance between serenity and drama.

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Lamu, Kenya: New Hot Spots

Lamu, Kenya

This far-flung archipelago has become the location of choice for the style set. T+L drops in to check out the latest openings.

The Glamorous Retreat: Originally a private residence for a wealthy Italian family, the Majlis (Manda Island; 254/204-441-164; doubles from $841, including meals) has been converted into a 24-room resort with soaring beamed ceilings, two sexy pools, and lanterns everywhere.

The Authentic Find: Red Pepper House (Coconut Beach; 254/727-606-691; doubles from $1,450, including meals) celebrates Swahili design: its thatched-roof bungalows are modeled after native houses. The resort also helps fund a hospital and an orphanage nearby.

The Afforable Hideaway: At the Moon Houses (254/722-209-490; doubles from $290), a series of chic villas scattered around the islands, you’ll have plenty of privacy—plus, a personal chef to cook fish caught that very morning.

The Must-Visit Shop: African fashion designer Anna Trzebinski (Sea Suq, Shela; 254/720-292-024) chose Lamu for her first freestanding shop. The waterfront space is stocked with her trademark beaded sandals, embellished caftans, and feather-trimmed pashminas.

Photo by Jonathan Bloom

Start Your Engines: Monaco and Argentina Celebrate the F1 Grand Prix

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What exactly do Monaco and Argentina have in common? I discovered the answer at an event last week at New York's Classic Car Club, an airy space on the fringe of SoHo: The two countries are teaming up to bring attention to the F1 Grand Prix (taking place in Monaco May 26-29, 2011) and to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of El Maestro. The legendary Argentine car racer Juan Manuel Fangio (a.k.a. "El Maestro") took Monaco by storm back in the 1950's, winning five of the coveted Grand Prix.

As tango dancers sashayed around a green Tesla Roadster, an original Mini Cooper, and a 1960's Porsche, the night felt like something out of another era. El Maestro would have been proud.

Laura Begley is the deputy editor at Travel + Leisure.

All Aglow: The New W Ft. Lauderdale

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“I've got travel rage,” the hotel-and-spa designer Clodagh (right) told me recently when I visited her studio in New York's Soho for a virtual tour of the just-opened W Ft. Lauderdale.

I've met Clodagh (just one name—like Madonna) a couple of times before and always walked away feeling totally relaxed. She has that kind of an effect on people, so I was a little surprised that this calm Irish woman could have anything verging on rage. But apparently, it informs many of her designs. Her number-one complaint: bad lighting.

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JUST BACK: The Hamptons

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Just back from a perfectly beachy Hamptons weekend, and you sure wouldn't know there was an economic crisis looming in the real world.

In East Hampton, everyone's buzzing about the imminent reopening of the Blue Parrot, a beloved Mexican joint that closed a couple years back. Rumor has it that a star-studded lineup of investors--Ronald Perelman, Larry Gagosian, Renée Zellweger, and Jon Bon Jovi, no less--are backing the restaurant. Meanwhile, just down Main Street, a number of pop-up shops have sprung up for the season, including Hermès (No. 63) and Michael Kors (No. 48).

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