September 1999

q. Where can I stay in London for no more than $150 a night?--G.W.C., Hopkinsville, Ky.
a. London is expensive, but there are deals to be found, even near Buckingham Palace. Just steps from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden's best bargain is the recently refurbished 24-room Fielding Hotel (4 Broad Court; 44-171/836-8305; doubles from $150). The tasteful, albeit small, rooms are quiet and always booked by media types, so reserve well in advance. The family-run Vicarage Private Hotel in Kensington is a lesson in civility: an elegant Victorian entryway, 18 cheerful bedrooms, a full breakfast, and an easy-to-swallow bill -- doubles are $105 (10 Vicarage Gate; 44-171/ 229-4030; no credit cards). Prices at the child-friendly Windermere Hotel (142-144 Warwick Way; 44-171/834-5163), near Victoria Station, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey, are great: neat and bright rooms for two can be had for as little as $116 a night.

q. I'm planning a pilgrimage to what I consider the most extraordinary house in the world -- Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, in Mill Run, Pennsylvania. Are there any good places to stay nearby?--C.K., Pittsford, N.Y.
About two hours southeast of Pittsburgh, Fallingwater is in the densely wooded Laurel Highlands area, just off Route 381. You should stay at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa, 10 miles away in Farmington (1001 LaFayette Dr.; 800/422-2736 or 724/329-8555; doubles from $235). Their newly renovated $6.5 million spa, designed by Clodagh, offers state-of-the-art therapeutic thermal mineral baths as well as traditional German herbal treatments. Catering primarily to business conferences, the 290-room resort has everything: golf, tennis, horseback riding, croquet, swimming, and skiing and snowboarding. Accommodations range from European-style suites in the Chateau LaFayette to less-formal rooms in the Lodge and one- or two-bedroom town houses with kitchens. If you prefer B&B's, try the 11-room Inn at Georgian Place in Somerset (800 Georgian Place Dr.; 814/443-1043; doubles from $95). A scenic 40-minute drive from Fallingwater, this 1915 brick mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places and has nicely turned-out period rooms; ask for one with a view of Lake Somerset and the Laurel Ridge. Keep in mind that you'll need a reservation to guarantee admission to Fallingwater, so call ahead (724/329-8501).

q. Where in the world do you find the best diamond buys, in terms of quality and value?I'm willing to travel. --H.B., San Antonio, Tex.
Antwerp, Belgium, is ground zero for selling the glittering stones: more than 40 percent of all diamonds sold worldwide are traded here. Home to four of the 20 leading diamond bourses, the city is a huge center for gem processing and the site of the annual World Diamond Congress. The nondescript shops on the streets around Centraal Station sell unset stones at prices that can be as much as 40 percent lower than in the United States -- shopping around can also reap big discounts. The Diamond High Council regulates Belgium's billion-dollar industry, so be sure to look for its seal at any store you visit, and always get a receipt detailing carat, quality grade, color, and price for insurance and customs. The Provincial Diamond Museum (31-33 Lange Herentalsestraat; 32-3/202-4890) offers guided tours of the jewelry district, with stops to watch gem cutters at work; the museum's treasure room is worth a visit, too.

E-mail your questions to, fax them to 800/926-1748, or mail them to: Ask T&L, 1120 Avenue of the Americas, 10th floor, New York, NY 10036. We regret that questions can be answered only in the column.