This Just In!
Anish Kapoor's latest sculpture, Sky Mirror, will be on exhibit at Rockefeller Center in New York City from September 19 to October 27. The three-story-high concave mirror will reflect the top of 30 Rock on one side and Fifth Avenue on the other.
On select weekend days, L.A.'s Walt Disney Concert Hall offers 45-minute tours of its community garden (musiccenter.org, $15).
An Atlanta CityPass goes on sale this month. It includes admission to the CNN studios, the World of Coca-Cola, and the Georgia Aquarium (citypass.com, $59).
Miami Restaurant Month runs until September 30. Midweek, three-course lunches cost $20.06; dinners are $30.06 (miamirestaurantmonth.com).
Tickets for next year's Carnaval Parade in Rio (February 17-20) are on sale now through travel agents. Find one at rcvb.com.br.
A new Paris footbridge connecting the National Library and the Parc de Bercy was inaugurated on July 13. Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir, the city's 37th bridge, is the first to be named after a woman.
Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport is scheduled to open later this month. Thailand hopes the international airport, with the capacity for 76 flights an hour and 45 million passengers a year, will be a hub for visitors to southeast Asia.
Colonial Williamsburg has launched an interactive program called "Revolutionary City." Actors portray townspeople struggling with the pivotal events that led to America's independence. Outdoor performances take place daily throughout the fall (colonialwilliamsburg.com, $34).
The once-supersecret government nuclear-fallout shelter under The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., is open for tours again after two years of renovations (greenbrier.com, $30).
Skype, the Internet calling service, is dropping its usual fees and allowing customers to make free calls to traditional landlines and cell phones through the end of the year.
Low-cost airline Ryanair announced it will soon be flying to Morocco, with as many as 20 routes from Europe.
The new Clipper Swiss Army Knife comes with a real, full-size nail clipper and a file, so there's no need to pack a separate set or make do with those miniscissors (wengerna.com, $33).
Following Hilton's lead, Marriott is installing kiosks that allow guests to check in for flights and print boarding passes at more than 100 of its hotels.
Passengers flying American Airlines can pay $10-$20 to drop off bags and check in for flights up to 24 hours in advance aboard Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity cruise ships, as well as at certain U.S. hotels and convention centers.
Spafinder.com has launched sister websites with databases for finding spas in Europe and Japan.
A new guidebook, There Is Room at the Inn, lists 117 wheelchair-accessible B&Bs and inns throughout the U.S. (emerginghorizons.com, $22).
Avis is giving out a Family Safety Travel Guide and a $10 coupon for a child's bicycle helmet at major U.S. airport locations through the end of September.
Travel-insurance company Access America began selling a special $19 add-on to policies; with it, you'll be covered if your job requires you to cancel or interrupt a vacation.
The Sweet Little Guesthouses of Vieques
For all its gorgeous white-sand beaches, the Puerto Rican island of Vieques hasn't caught up to its Caribbean neighbors when it comes to lodging. Next year, Starwood will open a W Hotel there, and that's sure to jump-start the competition. All the more reason to visit these stylish, unpretentious guesthouses right now. La Finca Caribe It makes sense that J. Crew chose La Finca as the location for a 1999 catalog shoot. Flowing linen fabrics and natural-looking models fit right in on the hippieish yet manicured property. Hammocks hang from rubber trees, there's a communal hibachi, and banana, star fruit, and mango trees frame the small pool. Three rustic houses are spread across two hilly acres. Most of the staff are the temporarily relocated, full-time-barefoot friends of owners Anne Isaak, a restaurant owner in New York, and Corky Merwin, a creative director who lives in Seattle. Hospitality is warm, but laid-back; don't expect matching towels. Visitors pass their days swimming, playing Scrabble, grilling fish, even showering side by side in the outdoor stalls. La Finca is an especially good value for groups. For $525 to $700 a week (depending on the season), two or three people can share the casita; for $700 to $1,000, a family can hole up in the cabana, which sleeps up to four (both have private kitchens, bathrooms, and decks); and groups of up to 20 can rent the entire six-room main house for $2,600 to $3,500. 787/741-0495, lafinca.com, from $60. Casa La Lanchita This three-story guesthouse is just north of the island's main town, Isabelle Segunda. Its location, on a cliff overlooking a coral reef, gives its eight air-conditioned suites panoramic views of the Atlantic. Each has a living room/kitchen--which, for even the most reluctant chef, is a draw. Food is still Vieques's low point: The nicest restaurants serve mediocre $30 entrees. Casa La Lanchita's kitchens are fully equipped, and the closest market is easy to reach on foot. The guesthouse is also within walking distance of shops, bars, and an Internet café--a relief in a place where almost everything requires a drive. Marikay and Doug McHoul, who live in an attached apartment, have owned the place for 20 years, and are famous for going above and beyond the call of duty. Doug tends to be generous with the late-night beers, and has been known to lend a hand with flat tires. 800/774-4717, viequeslalanchita.com, from $90. Hacienda Tamarindo After too many Vermont winters, Burr Vail and his wife, Linda, moved to Vieques in 1995 and converted a former restaurant and dance hall into Hacienda Tamarindo. It's named for the 250-year-old tree that the lobby's atrium was built around. Linda, a former interior designer, is responsible for the antique wooden signs and vintage movie posters. Burr knows the island inside and out. His hour-long morning lectures are essential for intelligent vacationing. Among his pearls of wisdom: Green Beach has too many sand flies in the afternoons; Secret Beach is marked by a spray-painted metal trash can. Along with the resident talking parrot, Shaboo, and Barkley the sheepdog, Burr usually joins guests at the big breakfast: eggs, bacon, hash browns, fruit, toast, juice, and coffee. Housekeeper Rosa packs beach-bound guests a lunch, more than making up for the lack of kitchenettes. 787/741-0420, haciendatamarindo.com, from $135. Hector's by the Sea A private dirt road, often blocked by a wandering horse, leads to the cliff-side property. The three guesthouses are a hot commodity among travelers seeking extreme privacy, good advice, and a low-key vibe (there's no daily maid service, TV, or phone). Hector Matos has a Brando-esque demeanor that can be intimidating at first. But it's just an act. He and his wife, Mary, treat visitors like family, suggesting where to eat, swim, and shop; making any necessary arrangements; and listening to recaps over evening cocktails (try the Hector-ini). The rooms are understated but tasteful, and the small kitchenettes have folk art tables and pretty plates. When they bought the place 10 years ago, it was little more than a grazing ground for local cattle. By 2000 they'd built their own home, as well as the first of the casitas; two years later three rustic cottages dotted the property. Each casita--as well as the pool and Jacuzzi--looks out over the Caribbean. 787/741-1178, hectorsbythesea.com, from $100.
"After the Storms" Commemorates Katrina
As the hurricane's one-year anniversary looms, a new exhibition of stark photographs depicting the ravaged Lower 9th Ward and Lakeview opens tomorrow at the Louisiana State Museum. The images were taken by award-winning photojournalist David Burnett, whose nearly 40-year career has taken him to more than 70 countries, and by New Orleans high school students participating in National Geographic's Photo Camp. The 15 students captured their local communities in the storm's wake and took self-portraits. A piano from the home of Fats Domino is also on view; the rock n' roll icon was missing for days after he fled the rising floodwaters. The show runs Aug. 11-Dec. 31, Tues.-Sun., 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. Admission is $6; $5 for seniors, students, and active military; and free for children under 12. 504/568-6968, lsm.crt.state.la.us. Related links: New Orleans Right Now Where to Eat, Stay, and Help in New Orleans Free and Discounted Stays for Volunteers Real Deals: Airfare and four nights from $345
The faded Mallory Hotel near the Pearl District in Portland, Ore., has become the Hotel deLuxe. Open since May, it takes its inspiration from the golden age of Hollywood. Movie stills line the halls, and floors are organized by themed groups of filmmakers, including the Rebels (Welles, Kazan) and the Masters (Capra, Wilder). The second floor is an homage to the work of Alfred Hitchcock--everything except Psycho, of course. Rooms are large (250 to 450 square feet) and have art deco--style crystal lamps, velvet slipper chairs, and leather headboards. High-tech touches include flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi, and iPod docking stations. Guests can borrow iPods loaded with songs from old movie soundtracks. The Mallory's old cocktail lounge, the Driftwood Room, kept its name, but is now a sexy martini bar. Classics like Breakfast at Tiffany's are shown in the hotel's screening room, as are works by emerging filmmakers. 729 SW 15th Ave., 866/895-2094, hoteldeluxeportland.com, from $129.
Watertown, Mass. Back in 2000, restaurant vet Don Levy was planning to open a gourmet hot dog stand in an old gas station when he heard about a 1947 diner near his home in the Boston suburbs. He sweet-talked the owners into selling, then spent two months refurbishing the 86-seat Deluxe Town Diner. "We wanted to bring the building back to its roots, to the '40s, which was a plain period of time," Levy says, "and not the '50s with its kitschy elements." Wood paneling was stripped from the teal-tiled walls, the fuchsia booths were painted black, a curved aluminum ceiling was installed, and the original marble countertop was brought up from the basement. Meat loaf ($7) and mac and cheese ($6) share space on the menu with cod cake Florentine ($9), tofu stir-fry with quinoa ($9), and a Kobe beef burger ($11). But Levy's most successful venture is the weekend brunch, an all-day affair that has folks lining up, rain or shine, for 30 minutes. The flapjacks, which come in eight varieties and are eight inches wide, have even been featured on the Food Network. 627 Mt. Auburn St., 617/926-8400, deluxetowndiner.com. --Kristine Brabson Minneapolis, Minn. The more than 1,000 bulbs on the Town Talk Diner marquee are once again lighting a stretch of the Longfellow neighborhood. The 15-seat counter is as busy as it was back in the '40s, when it was shoulder-to-shoulder with factory workers. But Town Talk has expanded, adding 80 seats, and now hipsters and old-school patrons snack on cheese curds fried in a caper-scallion batter ($6) or "frickles"--tempura pickle rounds with a mustard-dill dipping sauce ($5). A trio of owners is responsible for this latest incarnation: chef David Vlach, who trained at Napa Valley's French Laundry, and managing partners Tim Niver (formerly of Minneapolis's Aquavit) and Aaron Johnson (of Le Méridien hotel downtown). Little restoration was done--the tin ceilings, steel walls, and swivel stools were too classic to remove. "It's a diner, tweaked up," says Niver. "At one table, someone might order the halibut, another a hot dog. And hey, we'll still serve you from our left hand and clear with our right." 2707 1/2 E. Lake St., 612/722-1312, towntalkdiner.com. --Megan Kaplan Brooklyn, N. Y. Don't be fooled by the chic waitstaff and the gleaming cappuccino machine at Relish--this stainless-steel dining car was built in 1952 in New Jersey. The diner was spotted in 1995 by writer and designer Sandy Stillman. He spent three years convincing the owners to sell and then two more turning it into a retro restaurant that looks so good it's often used for TV and film shoots. Sleek vinyl booths, a white Formica bar, and blinds that filter the sunlight make Relish an unconventionally romantic spot. The menu, created by former Union Square Café chef Lou Silver, is ambitious, with entrées like asparagus-speared grilled shrimp ($10) and pan-roasted blue snapper ($21). In summer, tables are set up in the sprawling garden. It may lack that diner aesthetic, but it's the perfect place to sip a Metropolitan martini. 225 Wythe Ave., 718/963-4546, relish.com. --Shana Liebman Philadelphia, Pa. Stephen Starr was promoting concerts, opening nightclubs, and hosting a local radio talk show when, in 1995, he began making late-night drives past a sleepy diner on a street corner in Philadelphia's Old City. Starr bought the place and renovated the interior, retrofitting it with vinyl-padded walls, booths as deep as the bench seat of an El Dorado, and lights that resemble giant, skewered olives. When the Continental Restaurant and Martini Bar opened in 1995, it was an instant A-list hangout. Ten years later, it still attracts the random Sixer, Phillie, or celeb in town for a film shoot. Shoestring fries drizzled with Chinese mustard ($6) and a cheesesteak egg roll ($12.75) are just two of the almost 40 global tapas on the menu. The Continental transformed the neighborhood--it now anchors a buzzing nightlife district--and Starr's career. He has since opened a succession of high-concept restaurants, including Buddakan, Morimoto, and the Continental Midtown. 138 Market St., 215/923-6069, continentalmartinibar.com. --Caroline Tiger Dining cars aren't the only American classics getting a makeover. Spend the night in a refurbished Airstream trailer at one of these hotels. Lazy Meadow Mt. Tremper, N.Y., lazymeadow.com, from $150 The Shady Dell Bisbee, Ariz., theshadydell.com, from $70 Starlux Hotel Wildwood, N.J., thestarlux.com, from $74 Ten Thousand Waves (pictured) Santa Fe, N.M., tenthousandwaves.com, from $99