News on where to stay—what to see—what to buy…
English Country Modern
Babington House — an 18th-century estate 12 miles south of Bath — turns traditional country-house décor on its ear. Brushed-steel staircases and suede pillows have replaced chintz curtains and Staffordshire figurines. The restaurant has a wood-burning pizza oven; the 22 guest rooms come with goose-down comforters and organic bath potions; a private cinema screens art-house flicks. Take an Indian head massage or a Rich Cow facial (they claim it will "nourish your hide") at the health center, in a stone barn. Not all things Anglo have been banished: there's still croquet on the lawn, a flock of nannies to watch the wee ones, and gardeners puttering about. Babington House, Near Frome, Somerset; 44-1373/812-266, fax 44-1373/812-112; doubles from $260.
Flea Markets—Travel Products—Sunglasses—Hotels—
Olwen Forest's stand at the Clignancourt flea market in Paris has become a powerful magnet for the style-obsessed. His specialty: Jewelry worn on-screen by the likes of Greta Garbo, Vivien Leigh, and Marilyn Monroe. Olwen also stocks famously surreal pieces by Elsa Schiaparelli, Salvador Dalí, and Jean Cocteau. Open Monday, Saturday, and Sunday. Olwen Forest, Aisle 3, Stands 5 and 7, Marché Serpette, 110 Rue des Rosiers, St.-Ouen; 33-1/40-11-96-38.
Go Jet Set
Inspired by the high-style airline travel of the fifties — think the lounge on the Pan Am Clipper, the first passenger jet — two men's-wear designers have opened Flight 001 in New York's West Village. The shop stocks all sorts of travel gear (pilot's bags, incense in metal canisters, vacuum-packed body wash) in a space that looks like the world's coolest airport. Flight 001, 96 Greenwich Ave.; 212/691-1001.
She's been around since 1959, but Barbie's legs have never looked better. Fantabulous frame-maker Alain Mikli is using the anatomically impossible one's gams on a new line of sunglasses for grown-ups. In honor of the doll's 40th anniversary, Mattel teamed up with Mikli to create 18 styles. They're $165 at Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue. Better yet, get them at the new Philippe Starck-designed Alain Mikli boutique in Paris (74 Rue des Saints-Pères).
A Palace in Venice
The Venetian palazzo that housed the French embassy in the 1700's has been transformed into the Grand Hotel dei Dogi. On the edge of the lagoon in Venice's secluded Cannaregio quarter, the 70-room hotel is an exercise in chandeliered, 18th-century opulence. The Grand's mahogany launch transports guests to the Rialto, but with the nearby Ghetto, Moorish palaces, and Madonna dell'Orto (a Gothic church full of Tintorettos), you may just want to stay in the neighborhood. Grand Hotel dei Dogi, Fondamenta Madonna dell'Orto; 39-041/220-8111, fax 39-041/722-278; doubles from $225.
Ralph Lauren is now a member of the food world, having launched his first restaurant, RL, in Chicago. There are steaks from Lauren's own Telluride ranch, but pasta is the focus, inspired by Ralph's favorite New York trattoria, Vico (whose owners are partners in RL). Adjacent to the Polo Ralph Lauren shop, RL has been serving Chicago's most glamorous crowd, including Oprah — a fan of the sautéed scallop-and-artichoke appetizer. RL, 115 E. Chicago Ave.; 312/475-1100.
When the style set hits the road this summer, America: Parks and Recreation is sure to be in the Range Rover glove compartment. So toss those fusty national-parks guides: Graphic Image's slim leather-bound volume, filled with maps and essential details, is all you'll need. $48; 800/232-5550.
London's Danish Invasion
Now that Ann Wiberg has outfitted every mod maiden in Denmark, it's only natural that the 27-year-old designer should move beyond Copenhagen. Where more fitting than turn-of-the-millennium fashion capital London?The Brits have been hitting Wiberg hard, coming away with reasonably priced separates — all the height of chic and comfort. Ann Wiberg, 63A Ledbury Rd.; 44-171/229-8160.
—Heather Smith MacIsaac
Van Gogh Revived
At last, the sunflowers and wheat fields are back home — and what a home it is. After closing for nearly a year, Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum reopened last month with a dramatic new wing by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. Clad in gray stone and titanium steel, Kurokawa's curving light-filled space is set off by an elliptical sunken reflecting pool. Van Gogh Museum, 7 Paulus Potterstraat; 31-20/570-5200.