48 Retail Therapy
Lately, entering a designer store is like wandering into a cultural oasis: beautiful clothes hang in serene settings by architecture's masters, while around every corner lie impressive works of art and design, not to mention feats of modern technology. Architect Rem Koolhaas has created the state-of-the-art New York Prada flagship (575 Broadway), where shoppers can browse "hanging cities" of merchandise and linger in ultra-private fitting rooms with "magic mirrors" and high-tech doors that go from translucent to opaque. The invitation-only Armani Teatro, in Milan (59 Via Bergognone), designed by Tadao Ando, features art exhibitions and intimate runway shows. Meanwhile, the U.S. Yves Saint Laurent stores (855 Madison Ave., New York; 170 Maiden Lane, San Francisco), redesigned by Tom Ford and architect William Sofield, have formal salons filled with cushioned settees. Now that shoppers care less about tempting their inner trendster than about experiencing the good things in life, such retail retreats are proving welcome havens. Two days before the opening of Renzo Piano's Hermès mecca in Tokyo (5-4-1 Ginza, Chuo-ko)—a 14-story, all-glass extravaganza including a terrace and museum—lines of devoted shoppers extended around the block, and they actually bought tickets to visit the leather goods floor.

49 Mega Music
The Hollywood branch of Amoeba Music may have the feel of an underground record store, where collectors swap vinyls of Tom Waits and John Coltrane, but it's filled with miles of music, literally: 43,000 square feet of CD's, LP's, 78's, 45's, eight-tracks, laser discs, and DVD's—new and used, red-hot and rare, to buy or to trade. 6400 Sunset Blvd. (next door to the soon-to-reopen Cinerama Dome); 323/245-6400.

50 Life's Little Luxuries
London's Willma is an accessories shop buzzing with warm salespeople and cool merchandise: Me & Ro jewelry, Eugenia Kim hats, Hide totes, and Rohan Clarke shoes. Exotic extras include b.a.g's exquisite antique-kimono purses. 339 Portobello Rd.; 44-208/960-7296.

51-53 A Trio of Chic Boutiques

54 The Street of San Francisco
On San Francisco's Polk Street, Francophiles flock to Nest for 1850's wrought-iron garden furniture from Arras, Astier de Villatte ceramics, and one-of-a-kind tables from the south of France (2340 Polk St.; 415/292-6198). A stylist and her antiques-dealer husband have filled La Place du Soleil with 18th- and 19th-century French and English decorative objects, including Provençal quilts and French upholstered beds (2356 Polk St.; 415/771-4252). Best bites: Try the pastries, open-faced tartines, and bowl-sized café au laits at La Boulange (2310 Polk St.; 415/345-1107). The cosmopolitan crowd at La Folie favors dishes like foie gras—stuffed quail and spiced, butter-poached lobster served in a baby pumpkin (2316 Polk St.; 415/776-5577). Le Petit Robert, a new country-style bistro, serves such house specialties as steak frites with red-wine sauce, and veal sweetbreads with macerated grapes and verjus (2300 Polk St.; 415/922-8100).

55 Fast Fiction
Nowadays, vending machines aren't just dispensing Gummi Bears. W. H. Smith's version of literary Twix: books by the likes of Amy Tan and John Grisham that can be had with the push of a button at airports and hotels across America.

56 Toronto's Top Shops
Three reasons to make the trip: 1. Corbo covers every base: the best names in fashion—Ann Demeulemeester, Veronique Branquinho, Miu Miu—plus the city's hottest stock of shoes, from Jimmy Choo to Michel Perry (131 Bloor St. W.; 416/928-0954). 2. As bold and alluring as red lipstick, Rubies Beauty Bar offers insider labels like Demeter fragrances, Bloom makeup, and Weleda skin care (715 Queen St. W.; 416/601-6789). 3. Check out Studio Brillantine's cutting-edge design books and housewares: Droog egg vases, a Marc Newson flashlight, and tumblers etched with pithy phrases by artist Jenny Holzer (1082 1/2 Queen St. W.; 416/536-6521).

57 Cocooning Couture
When it comes to accessories, sheets are the new shoes: luxe linens have become the feel-good purchase of the moment. Paris's largest Frette outpost carries duvet covers of embroidered Acanto shantung silk, mink pillows and throws, silk pajamas, and (available this spring) a complete line of baby linens. 49 Rue du Faubourg-St.-Honoré; 33-1/42-66-47-70.

58 Armchair Travel
BLANKET STATEMENT Armand Diradourian's travel set (includes a cashmere-silk blanket, eye mask, and carrying pouch) offers instant comfort no matter where you are. $400; to order, go to