RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
If you venture down Avenue Atlantica, past the packed beaches of Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana and the trendy shores of Ipanema, the road turns into Avenue Niemeyer and curves around the base of Vidigal Mountain. Here, away from the noisy crowds, sits the Sheraton Rio Hotel and Towers. Rio's only beachfront hotel has 559 ocean-view rooms and suites (starting at around $270) and presides majestically over Vidigal, a quiet small cove beach.
Take the elevator to the terrace floor, and walk out onto the spacious patio that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. There are three restaurants (including Casarao, a barbecue steakhouse), three pools, three tennis courts, and plenty of scantily clad people in lounge chairs. Lush foliage gives the terrace a tropical, garden atmosphere. A sense of tranquility envelops you. The sunshine warms your soul.
Start your day with a buffet breakfast at the Mirador Cafe, then find a poolside chair and relax. Attentive waiters will bring you ice-cold glasses of thirst-quenching Guarana (a local carbonated drink). After a day relaxing on the terrace and a couple of sets of tennis, the health club and its spa beckon. A one-hour massage costs just 70 reals (Brazilian dollars) or about $35. At that price, you can end or begin each day with a relaxing rubdown and never feel guilty.
Restaurants: Satyricon (192 gua Barao da Torre, tel.: 521-0627) for gourmet fish and pasta dishes and try the light, sweet, tasty Cerpa beer.
Nightlife: Pao de Acuar Vai Dar Samba, a festive samba show, occurs at 8:30 p.m. on weekends on Urca Hill, a peak adjacent to world-famous Sugarloaf Mountain.
Shopping: The shopping mall Rio Sul (leather goods, clothes) or H. Stern (for dazzling Brazilian gold and gemstones).
Sightseeing: World-famous Corcovado Mountain with its Christ the Redeemer statue. The teeny-bikini-clad beachgoers at Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.
Getting There: Varig Airlines (800-468-2744) flies to Rio. To book a vacation in Brazil, call the Brazil Reservation System (800-544-5503). Entry requires a valid passport and a tourist visa (valid for five years).
Sheraton Rio Hotel and Towers
121 Avenue Niemeyer Rio del Janeiro, 22450-220 Brazil
Tel.: 55-21-274-1122 or 800-325-3535
For 35 years, world-famous musicians and their admirers have flocked to the annual Montreux Jazz Festival. The picturesque city of Montreux, on the banks of powder-blue Lake Geneva at the base of the snow-capped Swiss Alps, is the festival host.
George Duke, as both a musician and guest producer, is a Montreux festival veteran. His hotel of choice is the swank Le Montreux Palace. This Belle Epoque-style hotel, with its cream-white walls and yellow awnings, dates back to 1906. Chic and trendy travelers frequent its four restaurants, three bars, tearoom and Internet cafe. Across the street, guests enjoy the Palace's tennis court and pool, which overlook the lake. Duke follows in the footsteps of Miles Davis, B.B. King, opera diva Barbara Hendricks, and other international musical luminaries who were drawn to this exclusive hotel.
The Palace's gorgeous lake view is stunning. The quaint streets that surround it are a joy to walk. Drive up the adjacent Alps and be exhilarated. And after tasting the sumptuous cuisine at the Palace's La Veranda restaurant, it's a short stroll to the Congress Center, the site of Montreux's jazz concerts. Main acts are featured in the 3,000-seat Stravinski Auditorium; downstairs, in the dimly lit Miles Davis Hall, 2,000 fans gather at the festival's second venue. Stars perform until the wee hours, when Palace guests head back to the hotel's Harry's New York Bar for a nightcap to top off a wonderful day of jazzy, melodious vacation.
Restaurants: Chef Phillip Rochat offers the finest French cuisine at his namesake restaurant, Rochat, in the nearby town of Crissier.
Get Jazzed: The 2001 Montreux Jazz Festival (www.montreuxjazz.com) runs July 6-July 21. Call Ciao! Travel (800-942-2426); e-mail; (jazz@ciaotrav el.com) for information on travel packages.
Shopping: Swiss Army knives by Victorinox make great souvenirs and are sold at many shops on the Grand Rue. Try Roman-Mayer for exclusive jewelry and coveted Blanc Pain watches.
Sightseeing: Visit the 12th-century medieval Castle Chillon. Take a steamboat ride across Lake Geneva or ride a train through the Alps to the trendy ski resort of Gstaad (the Rado Swiss Tennis Open in Gstaad runs concurrently with the festival).
Getting There: Swissair (800-221-4750) flies directly to Geneva, Montreux's closest airport (six miles from the city).
Tourist Information: Call Switzerland Tourism at 877-794-8037, or go to www.myswitzerland.com.
Le Montreux Palace
100 Grand Rue 1820 Montreux, Switzerland
Vacationing in romantic Venice, Italy, during the summer months takes careful planning. You might be tempted to stay in the famous, busy Piazza San Marco section, the heart of the city, but if you do you'll see more tourists--throngs of them--than Italians. If you want a quiet beach, some golf, and maybe a swank casino included in your trip to Venice, try the Westin Excelsior, Venice Lido. This Regal Beach Resort Hotel on the nearby island of Lido makes a smart, luxurious alternative to hectic San Marco.
The serene island of Lido is the place where Venetians traditionally take their R&R. Every summer, the locals rent cabanas--the first beach huts date back to 1888--to soak up the sun on the Golden Island's famed shores. Stay at the Excelsior and, when you wake up in one of its 216 lushly appointed rooms or suites (starting at around $300), you'll get gorgeous views of the beach of Venice. During the day lounge by the raised pool, stroll on the seashore or people-watch. Lunch at the hotel's seaview restaurant, Taverna, or dine at Terrazza Restaurant for regional specialties and enjoy its live music. For more active types, there are six red-day tennis courts, water sports, horseback riding, and 18 holes of golf at Golf Club Venezia.
The Excelsior provides free boat service to busy Piazza San Marco, where you can visit St. Mark's Basilica (the mausoleum of St. Mark), the Doge's Palace, and the Clocktower (gaze up and you'll see statues of Moors adorning the clock). You can take a ride with a singing gondolier (it starts at $70) or mingle with the multitude of frenzied tourists who may well covet your stay at the opulent and calm Excelsior.
Restaurants: Villa Mabapa, a restaurant in Lido, serves exquisite seafood and offers a wonderful view of Venice from its terrace.
Screenings: The Venice Film Festival, the world's oldest, convenes the first week of September. For more information, visit the official Website (www.labi ennale.org) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shopping: Armani, Versace, and most of the top Italian designers have shops in Venice. For Venetian glass, try stores on the island of Murano.
Sightseeing: Lido's classy, famous Casino; the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice.
Getting There: Alitalia (800-223-5730) flies to Venice.
Tourist Information: Call the Italian Government Tourist Board at 212-245-5618, or try the Website www.venetia.it.
The Westin Excelsior
Venice Lido Lungomare Marconi 41 Lido di Venezia, Italy 30126
Westin Reservations: 888-625-5144
The seaside resort town of Acapulco has attracted the rich and famous, from Harry Belafonte to Elizabeth Taylor, since the '50s. In those days, the sand and sea, towering Sierra Madre del Sur, cliff diving, nightclubs, and grand hotels along Avenue Costera M. Aleman were the main attractions. But these days, a new breed has come to town for different reasons--and they stay off the beaten path.
Eight miles from the heart of the downtown tourist section is the cloistered, 157-room (starting at around $250) Camino Real Acapulco Diamante hotel. It is set down a steep winding cobblestone road in a neighborhood of private villas and condos. Since 1997, every June during the Acapulco Black Film Festival, actors such as Nia Long, Robert Townsend, Mekhi Phifer, and Regina King, industry executives, and festival goers come to the Camino.
By day guests sun and swim or play water volleyball. (By the way, King, who plays water volleyball, has a great slam-spike.) Or some, like actor Hill Harper, prefer to jet ski in picturesque Puerto Margeus Bay.
For lunch, guests dine on delectable garlic shrimp or red snapper a la Taila at the seaside restaurant La Vela. A massage at the spa is relaxing. A long, self-indulgent bath in a marble tub soothes, or mellow out just sitting on the Mediterranean-style rooms' large, bay-view terraces reading a book. After guests are relaxed and rejuvenated, they head out to festival screenings or star-studded parties where they groove into the night.
Restaurants: El Olvido Bar & Restaurant (Plaza Marbella Ave. Costera Miguel Aleman). Try the red snapper filet with a citrus sauce or the lamb chops with cascabel chile.
Screenings: The 2001 Acapulco Black Film Festival, June 4-June 9. For more information, visit the Website (www.abff.com) or e-mail (email@example.com).
Shopping: El Recuerdode del Olvido, a boutique in the lobby of the El Olvido restaurant, has a great selection of Mexican jewelry and pottery.
Sightseeing; The daring cliff divers at La Quebrada; the Zocalo, a public plaza with gardens; Cathedral on the Plaza, a Spanish and Moorish-style church; the out-of-the way beach Barra Vieja.
Getting There: American (800-433-7300) and Continental (800-231-0856) airlines fly to Acapulco.
Tourist Information: Call 800-44-MEXICO, or try the Website www.visitmexico.com.
Camino Real Acapulco Diamante
Baja Catita N/S Carretera Escenica KM 14 Acapulco Guerro 39867 Mexico
Camino Hotels Reservations: 800-722-6466
ST. JOHN, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
While docking at Cancel Bay's pier on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, you can barely make out its brown stone cottages (rooms start at $275) set amid the rolling lawns of this sprawling, 170-acre resort: accommodations are shielded by 2,000 species of trees and plants. Where the property of this classy, 40-year-old resort ends, the surrounding 5,000-acre, dry-forest ecosystem known as the Virgin Islands National Park begins.
At Cancel, guests, who have included Halle Berry, Whitney Houston, Julius Erving, and David Justice, find serenity and refuge. Whether they stay in a dockside honeymoon suite, or in an oceanfront room on Scott's Beach (the best of the resort's seven pristine beaches) or in the five-room, centerpiece mansion simply known as Cottage 7, they leave their cares behind. The large, simple, and charming rooms have no phones and no TVs. A walk on any of the nearby, 22 self-guided hiking trails clears the mind. Snorkeling, scuba diving, or fishing in the azure Caribbean waters rinses stress away, as does a stimulating tennis lesson on one of the 11 Peter Burwash-managed courts.
A jacket is required at Caneel's Turtle Bay Restaurant, but shrimp served on a bed of mango and papaya relish, or perfectly grilled filet mignon, and orange-cardamom creme brulee deserve your best attire. And, after days of fine dining, invigorating hikes, and soothing body rubs, Caneel offers the Self-Center, run by Jan Kinder, a registered nurse and educator for Dr. Deepak Chopra. Just to make sure you re-enter the rat race with a different attitude, Kinder teaches guests to quiet their minds, relax deeply, and relieve stress.
Guests get to disconnect at this low-key, luxury haven.
Restaurants: Fried filet of flying fish appetizer at Morgan's Mango; macadamia-and-tamarind-encrusted pork tenderloin at the Stone Terrace Restaurant; and frozen key lime pie at the Lime Inn (all in downtown Cruz Bay).
Nightlife: Fred's for live music Wednesday and Friday nights. Enjoy the bar scene at Duffy's Love Shack and Woodys, or walk the store-lined streets of downtown Cruz Bay and window-shop.
Shopping: Mongoose Junction Shipping Center for souvenirs (T-shirts, sandals); boat over to St. Thomas for the Rolex, Cartier, Diamonds International (largest diamond selection), or Colombian Emeralds (for emeralds).
Sightseeing: Hawksnest, Trunk Bay, and Maho Bay beaches; Elaine Ione Sprauve Library and Museum.
Getting There: American, Continental, and Delta Air Lines fly to St. Thomas; Caneel Bay transfers guests on private boats.
Tourist Information: Call 800-372-USVI.
P.O. Box 720 St. John, USVI 00831-0720
Luxury hotels and resorts offer the perfect, self-indulgent vacation. And price is not the common denominator of a great trip. It's location, location, location.
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|Date:||May 1, 2001|
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