December 1997

Australia for two . . . Handmade in Italy . . . San Francisco restaurants . . . Sailing Venezuela

q. My wife and I will be traveling to Perth to visit relatives. Where should we go to enjoy a few nights on our own?
-- S.W., Ann Arbor, Mich.

a. Get away to Pemberton, a town in Big Tree Country, at Australia's southwestern tip. It's deep in the karri forests, 200 miles from Perth. At the Karri Valley Resort (61-97/762-020, fax 61-97/762-012; doubles from $120), you'll find plenty to do: fishing and canoeing (the resort is set around its own lake), tennis, horseback riding, bush walking. Pemberton has plenty of crafts shops, as well as a few wineries. If you want to be alone, have the hotel arrange a picnic. If you really want to be alone, climb the ladder on the Gloucester Tree, the world's tallest fire-lookout tree. It's 153 rungs to the top; if you make it, you'll see the countryside from 200 feet up.

q. Where in Rome can I have leather shoes custom-made?
-- D.H., Toluca Lake, Calif.

a. Women should head to Dal Co. (65 Via Vittoria; 39-6/6994-0682), a boutique whose handmade shoes have been added to the costume collection at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The trademark design is a satin-and-seed-pearl evening slipper. Heel heights, straps, and other ornaments can all be customized. Prices start at about $320. Men will want to try Laodadeo (58 Via Capo Le Case; 39-6/679-0583), where a pair of calfskin loafers runs about $870. For once, it seems, women get the better deal.

q. I'm taking my young daughters to San Francisco, and I'd like to find kid-friendly restaurants with good food.
-- J.K., Hastings, Nebr.

a. First, a bit of general advice: Go on the early side and let the restaurant know in advance that you're bringing children. They can then seat you appropriately, and you'll have the opportunity to request something special. Rose Pistola (532 Columbus Ave.; 415/399-0499; dinner for two $80) is one of the city's most talked-about restaurants; the fact that it's hopping means your kids won't stand out. The pizzas and pastas should go over well, and there's a Ben & Jerry's across the street. For some thing more adventurous, head to Betelnut (2030 Union St.; 415/929-8855; dinner for two $40), which serves pan-Asian food and has sidewalk tables. The lively Fog City Diner (1300 Battery St.; 415/982-2000; dinner for two $60) has burgers for the kids and roast quail with corn-bread stuffing for you.

q. Our family always unwinds someplace warm between Christmas and New Year's. We're intrigued by Venezuela, but not by lying on beaches all day.
-- T.V., Mercer Island, Wash.

a. Have you considered sailing around Margarita and La Tortuga, islands off the coast?Hinkley Crewed Charters can set you up with a boat that sleeps six and is equipped with a captain and a cook (207/244-0122; from about $6,000 for a week). When chartering a yacht, you need to give as much notice as possible if you hope to avoid a "delivery charge" (for getting the boat to your desired departure point). No sea legs?View the Caribbean from the Margarita Hilton on Moreno Beach (Calle Los Uveros, Porlamar; 800/445-8667 or 58-95/624-111, fax 58-95/620-810; doubles $145-$175).