News on where to stay . . . what to see . . . what to buy . . .

south african seascape
Famous among the surfing set, the waves off South Africa's Long Beach, a half-hour drive from Cape Town, can reach 35 feet. It was while watching her surfer son ride them that Gerda Botha fell in love with the area. She built her dream house there, and then decided to turn it into an inn. Days at the newly opened Sunset Beach Guest House are spent horseback riding, hiking, and whale-watching. In the evenings, local wines accompany changing menus (barbecued crayfish, grilled lobster) prepared by manager and Cordon Bleu-trained chef Jenny Jarvis. Each of the five suites has views of the sea and mountains. All blue and white, with layers of cotton and lace, limewashed beams, and cool terra-cotta tiles, the marine-inspired interior encourages guests to kick off their shoes and follow the sandy path over the dunes to the beach below. Sunset Beach Guest House, 73 Wireless Rd., Kommetjie; 27-21/783-4283, fax 27-21/783-4286; doubles from $120. — Gillian Cullinan

saintly pleasures
In largely Catholic New Orleans, it's no surprise to find a bar called St. Joe's — named for St. Joseph, patron saint of success in battle. Shaggy hipsters compete at the pool table while buttoned-down yuppies pray for the perfect martini beneath a ceiling draped with gold crosses. The bar in the courtyard, lit by bulbous red Chinese lanterns, resembles a church altar. But get there before midnight or you'll have to fight for your right to party at this packed Uptown dive — the city's hottest new hangout. St. Joe's Bar, 5533 Magazine St.; 504/899-3744.— Malia Boyd

take a stroll . . .
. . . through Parc de Bercy, new in Paris's 12th Arrondissement. A wine warehouse was demolished to make room for this park, overflowing with an orangery, a belvedere, a rose garden, and a potager planted by neighborhood schoolchildren. A change from France's strict keep-off-the-grass policies, park signs depict a mouse under a shoe — meaning it's okay to tread here.

fit for a queen
After 1,000 years of wear and a 20-year renovation, the reopened Fawsley Hall Hotel in Northamptonshire is like a time warp to aristocratic old England (Queen Elizabeth I once rested her regal head here). But the mansion, gardens, lakes, and pastures are not strictly for royals: anyone can indulge in the storybook grandeur, which unfolds 86 miles northwest of London near Diana's Althorp House. Fawsley Hall Hotel, 44-1327/892-000, fax 44-1327/892-001; doubles from $295.— Erika Lenkert

hot vintage shops: L.A.
Celebrate southern California lounging at its most louche. Kathy Guild and Andy Hackman, owners of West Hollywood's Outside (422 N. La Brea Ave.; 323/934-1254), scour garage sales, hotels, and their neighbors' back yards for patio furniture that defines modern living. Another peek at the past: Old Focals (40 W. Green St.; 626/793-7073), in Pasadena's Old Town. Russell Campbell focuses on 1950's and 60's eyeglass frames in his collection of more than 50,000. A sometime stylist, Campbell provided Kevin Costner's glasses for JFK and Sally Fields's Forrest Gump spectacles.— Chris Rubin

better than television
Catch the Discovery Channel segment on Amazon wildlife?Extraordinary viewing, but now the channel is bringing its audience even closer to nature. On adventure trips offered in conjunction with Mountain Travel-Sobek, you can trek the Himalayas with Everest climber Jamling Tenzing Norgay or roam the Galápagos with filmmaker Nigel Marven. Rates start at $2,970 a person, including hotels and meals; 888/831-7526.— Caren Osten Gerszberg

dear diary
Always in search of the ultimate travel journal, we were delighted by two sweet finds. Kate Spade's colorful canvas notebooks slip into matching covers ($70 a set). Louis Vuitton has created a Carnet de Voyage series (previously, there was only Paris). Watercolor-embellished each).— L.B.

what's new
Dr. Kenneth Cooper — who coined the term aerobics — has softened his hard-core attitude and opened a day spa at his Cooper Aerobics Center in North Dallas. The renowned fitness and research facility, on 30 manicured acres, hitherto focused on such health concerns as body-fat assessments, stress tests, and habit-kicking consultations. At the new spa, day-trippers and long-term guests can enhance self-improvement with a self-indulgent lavender-rose body polish, remineralizing facial, or rain forest body wash. Packages start at $155; 800/444-5764 or 972/239-7223.— Sophia Dembling

let's make up
New York is on a beauty bender, with the opening of such cosmetics emporiums as Sephora, 5S, and Fresh. But Linda Mason's Art of Beauty (26 Grand St.; 212/625-0490) in SoHo is the most charming. Resembling an art studio, it sells customized makeup palettes packaged in CD jewel boxes or silver cigarette cases — ideal for travel. There are also astrological Sun Signs kits and the Daisy M. line for girls, created with Mason's 12-year-old daughter.— Christine Muhlke

new hotel
Dublin has a new haunt, courtesy of design wizard Sir Terence Conran. Strong and smart — but not stark — the 130-room Fitzwilliam Hotel is softened by rich materials (walnut, Barcelona limestone). A large tapestry hangs at reception; guest rooms have country-house touches such as upholstered window seats. Conran defines the style as "Baronial Modern," hinting at the marriage of old and new. We just call it fabulous. Fitzwilliam Hotel, St. Stephen's Green; 800/457-4000 or 353-1/478-7000; doubles from $259.— Philip Watson

let's get cooking
"A kitchen temple" is how Rolf Jehring describes Cucinaria, his airy Hamburg store in a renovated warehouse. Italian opera wafts through endless aisles of espresso machines, Tuscan olives, and everything related to cookery: sushi knives, gleaming pots and pans, tasteful trash cans, even designer kitchen sinks. An adjacent café opened in October, and Jehring reveals that a gourmet grocery (À la Dean & DeLuca) is simmering on the back burner. Cucinaria, 12 Ludwigstrasse; 49-40/4329-0707. — Michelle Pentz

paris is peeling
Cancel that last-minute manicure before your next trip to Paris and pick up a bottle of Vernis Zapping when you get there. A coat of Lancôme's new one-day nail polish, in colors ranging from regular red to blazing yellow, can be peeled off at the end of the day. Au revoir to the liquid mess of removers. Bring home an extra bottle of base coat — a layer of it underneath lets you peel off standard polish, too. Available only in France; $13.50 a bottle. — Elizabeth Garnsey

global grooves
World music ain't what it used to be. Check out these fierce, ruling divas in your record store's international section: Indonesia Anggun — like Annie Lennox, only more exotic and ethereal. New album: Snow on the Sahara. Africa Angelique Kidjo — lives up to her reputation as the Madonna of West Africa. New album: Oremi. Korea Co Co — sexy and sassy Spice Girls-ish pop. New album: Di Da Di. New Zealand Bic Runga — the Kiwi version of Jewel, with an edge. New album: Drive. Greece Anna Vissi — a Celine Dion-style belter who produced Greece's first rock opera. New album: Trauma.— James Herman