Edited by Laura Begley
News on where to stay . . . what to see . . . what to buy . . .
London: stepping lively
For decades, London shoe fetishists have worshiped at the Chelsea shrine of Manolo Blahnik. Now the corner of Ledbury Road and Westbourne Grove - ground zero for the Notting Hill explosion - has emerged as a new point of pilgrimage. First came Scorah Pattullo (193 Westbourne Grove; 44-207/792-0100), which stocks the wild looks of Jimmy Choo, Patrick Cox, and Marc Jacobs. Then New York-based Sigerson Morrison (184 Westbourne Grove; 44-207/229-8465) made its U.K. debut in a space designed by Sophie Hicks, architect of Paul Smith's nearby town-house store. The latest arrival, Emma Hope (207 Westbourne Grove; 44-207/243-6233), has brought flirty designs - lime-green raffia slingbacks, strawberry suede beaded mules - to Westbourne Village, as locals call the buzzing shopping area. "After Paul Smith opened, other designer-level stores started to follow, but the area definitely lacked shoes," says Frances Scorah. "Not anymore."
Nightclubs . . . Hotels . . . Restaurants . . . Trends . . .
Used to be that you couldn't hit Boston's club-clogged Lansdowne Street without a stop at Mama Kin, a dark and grimy rock club owned by Aerosmith. But Mama Kin has been reincarnated as a lounge — the aptly named Modern — and the strip hasn't looked the same since. Designed by Carlos Zapata and Ben Wood, the architects of South Beach's Albion Hotel, Modern features chain-metal curtains and backlighted glass walls. Instead of swilling cheap brews, you can order a cocktail from the martini menu, sample sushi and oysters from the raw bar, and indulge your sweet tooth with the pastries of the day. Modern, 36 Lansdowne St.; 617/351-2581.
Calling all architecture buffs
When it opened in 1895, the Reliance Building epitomized the Chicago school of architecture. Now the Kimpton Group has converted the slender downtown Chicago office tower into the 122-room Hotel Burnham. The building is alive with history, whether you're walking through your room's original mahogany door, or skipping the elevator to climb the ornamental cast-iron stairway. Hotel Burnham, 1 W. Washington St.; 877/294-9712 or 312/782-1111; doubles from $155 (accredited architects get a reduced rate).
Take a seat
You've always wanted a whole row to yourself, and now you can have it: Lufthansa is selling its old airplane seats. Buyers can choose from sections of two to four across; for an additional charge, the airline will arrange delivery. Coach class is, sadly, the only option, and flight attendants are not included. From $172 a seat on Lufthansa's Web site (www.lufthansa.com).
You say tomato, I say . . .
. . . Hot Tomato's, the top table in New Haven, Connecticut. It's the original dining room of the 1912 Taft Hotel - where Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the title song to Oklahoma! - and de facto cafeteria for the Shubert Theatre. The two-story space lay fallow for years, until new owners exorcised the unfortunate seventies décor and installed oversize paintings of antique tomato-can labels. The restaurant serves tomatoes, natch, but chef Bill Carbone also produces the unexpected, such as "salmon osso buco": salmon steak wrapped around a sea scallop "marrow bone." Hot Tomato's, 261 College St.; 203/624-6331; dinner for two $60.
Bars . . . Amenities . . . Inns . . .
The cyclo parked outside the entrance to Bangkok's Q Bar evokes the famous and now-defunct Q Bar Saigon, visited by such celebs as JFK Jr. and Kate Moss. With the latest incarnation - a stark, postmodern amalgam of steel, concrete, and padded vinyl - co-owner David Jacobson raises the standards of Bangkok's largely unsophisticated nightlife scene. Behind the concrete-topped downstairs bar, a freezer containing the city's largest vodka selection emits pale aquamarine light. Upstairs, the rare-whiskey cabinet glows crimson. Best of all, Q Bar is the only spot in Bangkok where music doesn't mean techno and where the volume doesn't drown out conversations. Q Bar Bangkok, 34 Sukhumvit, Soi 11; 66-2/252-3274.
A beauty high
Anya Hindmarch, the U.K.'s most sought-after handbag designer, has reinvented the amenities kit for British Airways' first class. Passengers receive a smart zip-up nylon case that holds treats for takeoff (Philosophy moisturizers, lip balm), cruising (vitamins, Aroma Therapeutics orange-blossom water), and landing (a comb, Dr. Harris mouthwash). The bag and its contents will change every six months so, as Hindmarch puts it, "we can have fun with the latest products." Those not willing to shell out the big bucks for a first-class ticket can buy a leather version of the bag (sans goodies) at Hindmarch's shops in New York, London, and Hong Kong ($225; 212/750-3974 to order).
Outside Prague's Old City, accommodations are notoriously scarce, save for a few gray, water-stained remnants of the 15th century. At last, you can luxuriate in Bohemian grandeur at a recently renovated Baroque castle 14 miles southeast of Prague. With its Venetian ocher exterior, English gardens (1,000 rhododendrons - count 'em), and vaulted restaurant serving regional specialties (opt for venison if pigs' knuckles don't appeal), the 40-room Hotel Castle Stirin is a refreshing find. And its chapel, where violinist Joseph Suk often bows, has been doing service for weddings of the Czech rich and famous, such as hockey player and heartthrob Jan Bednár. Hotel Castle Stirin, 711 Kaminice St., Stirin; 42-0204/611-111, fax 42-0204/673-017; doubles from $196.
Trip Planners . . . Spas . . . Cooking . . .
Half the fun of traveling in Italy is eating. At Seattle's latest Italian trattoria, Baccano, half the fun of eating is travel planning. Coniglio alla cacciatora and fettuccine al limoncello are served with a side of advice from Claudio Mazzola, a travel consultant whom the restaurant hires on weekends from 7 to 10 p.m. The Milan native custom-designs culinary and architectural excursions in Italy. "We'll show you the art hidden in small churches, not just the Baptistery in Florence," says Mazzola, whose expertise is available on other nights by appointment. Baccano Ristorante & Vinoteca, 2218 Western Ave.; 206/770-9000; dinner for two $60; Italy trips start at about $1,200 per person.
—Heidi A. Schuessler
After the Strip, check out Aquae Sulis, the sprawling new spa at the 540-room Regent Las Vegas, a desert sanctuary near Red Rock Canyon. Regent called in a feng shui master, who ordained the use of elaborate waterworks to soften the dry Nevada landscape. The cascading streams, a dozen man-made pools, hot and cold plunges, bath treatments, and steam and waterfall showers all drive home the liquid theme. Try reflexology in the open-air massage cabana, or stick to the water and bob blissfully as a therapist cradles you during an aquatic shiatsu session. Aquae Sulis, Regent Las Vegas, 221 N. Rampart Blvd.; 877/869-8777 or 702/869-7777; treatments start at $100 for a massage.
A chef's education
The secrets of star chefs have always been as elusive as a reservation at a top restaurant. L'École des Chefs is breaking down the barriers with six-day cooking courses in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. (610/469-2500; from $2,450 a person, including meals). Following the company's huge success in France, L'École has established a stateside school, sending students into the kitchens of such notables as Jean-Georges Vongerichten, François Payard, Eric Ripert, and Georges Perrier. You'll learn how the masters slice and dice their way to a perfect meal.
Shops . . . Stadium Food . . . Trends . . . Products . . .
Women have long received all the fashion attention in L.A., but men are finally getting their share at these cutting-edge shops. "Post-gender" is how Andrew Dibben (1618 Silver Lake Blvd.; 323/662-9189) describes his unisex clothing, which hangs on a half-dozen racks. Owned by a performance artist, Kbond (7257 Beverly Blvd.; 323/939-8866) has art installations, dressing rooms with CD players, and camouflage-print ponchos. Ready to rock?Roll into the store named for Henry Duarte (8747 Sunset Blvd.; 310/652-5830), who has created tour outfits for Lenny Kravitz and Jimmy Page.
Pauric Sweeney, an up-and-coming Irish jewelry designer, takes much of his inspiration from his carefree travels. But they're not too carefree - the graphics on his Perspex-and-Velcro cuff bracelets are copied from vintage airline-safety manuals. They're $60 each at New York's Breukelen (369 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn; 718/246-0024). Or if you want to prove that you're worthy of the look, hop on a plane and find them at Sweeney's London shop, Root (7 Dray Walk, 91 Brick Lane; 44-207/377-0419).
Want to know the style secrets of budget-conscious Europeans? The Gap's overseas counterparts serve up cosmopolitan looks for a steal. below, T+L picks the best of the Continent's emerging "chain gang."
If the words stadium food make you think of hot dogs and nachos, think again. Scampi stir-fry and steak tartare are the menu staples at Vakzuid, just opened in Amsterdam's 1928 Olympic Stadium. The concrete-floored, angular-ceilinged restaurant shares the renovated stadium with architecture firms, ad agencies, and the occasional soccer match. Thanks to house DJ's and dramatic views (outside, track and field; inside, the young and beautiful), hanging out under the bleachers has never been better. Vakzuid, 35 Olympisch Stadion; 31-20/570-8400; dinner for two $53.