February 1997

China cruise . . . New York by night . . . Roman gardens . . . Sun Valley

Q. We've traveled a lot over the years, but for our 50th anniversary my wife and I would like something special. (We're both in good health-- last year we climbed Machu Picchu.)

A. Celebrate on a cruise of China's Yangtze River. East of Szechwan, the river squeezes through limestone ravines known as the Three Gorges, with astonishing scenery and ancient temples. Regal China Cruises offers excellent four- to six-day passages, upstream or down, between Chongqing and Wuhan (800/808-3388; $830- $2,130); Abercrombie & Kent has a three-day cruise that's part of an 18-day tour of China 800/323-7308; $5,570- $6,195). You'll be among the last people to see the area before it is changed forever: by the time the Three Gorges Dam is completed, around 2008, countless villages and historic sites will have been submerged.

Q. Can you recommend a Manhattan restaurant for dining and dancing?

A. Unfortunately, New York isn't the supper-club town it used to be. Thank heaven for the Rainbow Room, with its rotating dance floor and legendary views (30 Rockefeller Plaza, 65th floor; 212/632-5000). Though it always feels as if nothing has changed, the restaurant in fact has a hot new chef, Waldy Malouf, formerly of the Hudson River Club. It does cost a pretty penny: your bill will probably run $200 or more. Or rumba downtown to S.O.B.'s, short for Sounds of Brazil (204 Varick St.; 212/243-4940; dinner for two about $60, plus a $15 to $20 music cover per person). You'll find Brazilian food, world music, and, on Mondays, a Latin party called La Tropica,which is preceded by an hour-long dance class.

Q. A friend and I are spending a few days in Rome this spring, and we've heard that the region has some outstanding gardens. Can we visit them without renting a car?

A. You can reach several via a quick bus or train ride; ask your hotel's concierge to arrange the trip. The 180-acre Villa Adriana, in Tivoli, about 20 miles east of Rome, has baths, temple ruins, and olive groves scattered among beautiful valleys. The villa was built in the second century by the emperor Hadrian. Parco dei Mostri (Park of the Monsters), about 50 miles from Rome in Bomarzo, is a surrealistic 16th-century garden containing a series of bizarre carved-rock grotesques. Don't miss the Mouth of Hell, an ogre's gaping face big enough to walk through.

Q. Where should I stay in Sun Valley, Idaho?I think I read something about a new lodge.

A. That would be the 30,000-square-foot River Run Day Lodge, a rough-hewn log retreat with massive stone fireplaces and gorgeous views. It just opened last season and has a restaurant, a ski school, and a snowboard/ski shop- everything except a place for you to sleep. For actual lodging, your choices run either large (the 148-room Sun Valley Lodge; 800/786-8259; $135- $324) or small (the 24-room Knob Hill Inn, in nearby Ketchum; 208/726-8010; $175-$350). The former is an old-time favorite a mile and a half from the mountain; the latter pampers guests with a Jacuzzi and sauna, marble baths, private balconies, and, in some rooms, wood-burning fireplaces.