Conde Nast Traveler

Travels in TV Land, Part 1: Seattle, Las Vegas, and Miami

Not exactly the best advertising
for Miami

Photo: Showtime

by Beata Loyfman

These days we all need a little escape from the doom-and-gloom. But as we watch our savings disappear, shelling out for a trip to a deserted island is just not feasible.

So why not do the next best thing and escape to the land of make believe? No, not Disneyland--TV land! Some of our favorite shows are set in US cities well worth exploring, and you won't have to sell vital organs to afford the travel. Here's a rundown of the best options right now:

Seattle, Washington - The residents of Grey's Anatomy's Seattle Grace Hospital may spend more time sewing their wild oats in the broom closet than stitching in surgery, but there's plenty for you to do in their hometown. In November's issue of Condé Nast Traveler we featured a great, affordable loophole in the hotel market: Urban B&Bs. Seattle has two, the Shafer Baillie Mansion and Pensione Nichols. Both of these cozy spots will set you back just under $150, so you'll have enough left over for a romantic dinner with your own McDreamy.

Las Vegas, Nevada - The original CSI exposed the dirty underbelly of Sin City, but you don't have to work a crime scene to experience the best of Vegas. We've done the hard work for you. Check out September's special 22-page rundown of the strip, conveniently organized into the Seven Deadly Sins. Yours truly spent 5 days trolling the hottest spas, hotels, and nightclubs for the Sloth and Lust categories--it's a sacrifice I was willing to make.

Miami, Florida - Showtime's Dexter manages to make a serial killer sympathetic. But it's the show's setting that brings the heat. And for good reason. As we've reported in the past, Miami is the watering hole for celebs and non-famous hip, young things. But you don't have to make $100K per episode to afford this balmy retreat. The Penguin Hotel is right smack on South Beach and rates in December start at $89 per night (compare that to The Tides' $340 starting price).    

Check out next week's Boldface for Part 2 of Travels in TV Land.


Adrien Brody's Home Is His Castle

Brody's a travelin' man in the 2007 film The Darjeeling Limited.
Video: YouTube

by Beata Loyfman

Adrien Brody has a lot to brag about: He won an Oscar for The Pianist. His girlfriend is the lovely Spanish actress Elsa Pataky (you might remember her memorable turn in Snakes on a Plane). And he recently purchased an actual castle in Cleveland, New York. Oh, and Giorgio Armani renovated it. Not bad for a kid from Queens.

Here at the DT, we're not fans of snakes and shiny statues, but upstate real estate certainly gets us excited. And we're not alone. When an Oscar winner buys a castle in a tiny town, wanders around the shops (he's been spotted at Wal-Mart), and attends the local theater, Cleveland's 758 residents get understandably excited.

If 50 acres of land and a drafty castle aren't on your wish list, but you'd still like to experience small-town life, check out this Quick Trip to Beacon, New York. Here, cute B&Bs, avant-garde shops, and art galleries might provide a better cover for any celebs wishing to go incognito.

Further reading:
* Adrien Brody wins an Oscar--and steals a kiss from Halle Berry. (Check out Bono's shades in the crowd.)
* Boldface: Celebrity travels


Bono to Become New York Times Staffer

Bono has a vision for the world.
AP Photos

by Beata Loyfman

Now that Bono's plans for a 36-story Norman Foster-designed tower on Dublin's River Liffey have been shelved, the U2 front man has plenty of time for his other hobby: saving the world.

And it looks like he's wasted no time in finding his next outlet. Bono will pen as many as 10 opinion pieces for the New York Times throughout 2009. Topics will range from poverty to Frank Sinatra to Bono's cause célèbre, the plight of Africa. (We're hoping there's an ode to wraparound sunglasses, too.) NY Times accountants are thrilled with this news; the cost of Bono's efforts comes to exactly $0. 

Meanwhile, Bono fans can check in at The Clarence, the U2-owned hotel in Dublin that has also been in the news lately. Bono and the lads have just won a battle with the Irish government to allow for a $235 million renovation to turn The Clarence into a futuristic landmark. Luckily, there's still a chance to stay at the original, and for a steal: The Dublin Winter Retreat package includes accommodations, a full Irish breakfast, and a welcome cocktail all for $270 per night. 

Further reading:
* Celebrity Charities: Fact or fiction?
* Madonna's Malawi Efforts Are in Vogue
* Boldface: Celebrity travels


Celebrity Designers Get the Travel Jones

Gwen Stefani on her kind of runway.
AP Photo

by Beata Loyfman

Have you noticed that more and more designers are getting into the travel game? A few examples: The Vera Wang Suite at the Halekulani in Waikiki; Diane Von Furstenberg's luggage; Kathy Griffin's D-List suite at the Hotel Triton; Gwen Stefani's uniforms for W hotels; and Francis Ford Coppola's Blancaneaux Lodge in Belize. Everyone wants a piece of the pie.

The latest travel accessory comes courtesy of Alexander McQueen's Boarding Bag for Samsonite. I've been allowed to look at one here at the office (but no touching), and let me tell you, it's the coolest thing your lap top will ever travel in. It's gorgeous, roomy, lined with a zebra pattern, and so unique that you won't have to worry about anyone accidentally walking away with your carry-on again.

Celebs who walked the red carpet of our Readers' Choice Awards gala went home with one of these bags filled to the brim with awesome airplane-sized goodies: mini Burt's Bees products, Oakley's sunglasses, black chocolate, Kinerase cream, Bee MD throat drops, and many others. Lucky ducks. But if you can't swing McQueen's $615 price tag (and who can these days?), Samsonite has plenty of wallet-friendly options. Any of them will make your carry-on the envy of the cockpit.

Further reading:
* Condé Nast Traveler's 2008 Readers' Choice Awards
* Boldface


Matt Damon and Wyclef Jean Unite to Fight Poverty

Evil veggies
Matt Damon with members of
The African Children's Choir.

Jeff Chiu/AP Photo 

by Dorinda Elliott

Talk about the power of travel and celebrity. At the third fund-raiser for OneXOne, in San Francisco last night, actor Matt Damon, hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean, rock star Carlos Santana, singer Josh Groban, director David Arquette, and the African Children's Choir came together to raise money to fight poverty and improve the lives of children in the U.S. and around the world. The key beneficiaries: Damon's H2O Africa, which funds water projects in Africa; Water Partners, with water projects around the world; Yele Haiti, which supports development in Haiti; and Feeding America, which runs food programs across the U.S.

What's the travel connection? Damon's interest in water issues stems from a trip he took two years ago to southern Africa, where he saw the opportunities that water wells can offer people. He has also become involved in fighting poverty in Haiti. Damon traveled there with Wyclef Jean after Hurricane Ike hit, and helped distribute food. What Damon saw in Haiti--the city of Gonaive submerged in water, people desperate for food, "the smell of death"--was "something I have never, ever seen before," Damon said. "Clef looked at said, 'This is not human. No one should have to live like this.'"

Continue reading "Matt Damon and Wyclef Jean Unite to Fight Poverty" »


Sail With Celebrities Aboard Celebrity

WHeather Headley
Come sail away with Heather Headley.
Photo: Tina Fineberg/AP

by Beata Loyfman

Does the current market insanity have you singing the blues? Well, you're in luck. Now you can channel those blues and have a fabulous vacation at the same time. 

How? Here's the gist: After quitting the corporate music grind, former RCA Records CEO Bob Jamieson decided to combine his love of smooth sounds and his industry pull to organize a unique annual event: the Smooth Music Cruise.  From January 31 to February 5 guests aboard the luxe Celebrity Century will get to hang with their favorite musicians, attend panels and jam sessions, and meet other jazz enthusiasts all while sailing the Caribbean. The ship departs from Miami, stopping off at Key West, Nassau, and the private Bahamian island of Coco Cay.

What would you pay to hang with the likes of Heather Headley, Boney James, and Norman Brown? Put away that mortgage calculator. Spots aboard the Smooth Music Cruise begin at $1,399, including meals, a private beach party, and artist encounters.

Call it the recession special.


Readers' Choice Awards: Celebrity Guests

Host Jane Krakowski, Andrew McCarthy,
and his girlfriend, Dolores Rice.

Photo: Billy Farrell for Patrick McMullan

by Beata Loyfman

Every year the stars come out en fuego to celebrate the Readers' Choice Awards. And this year was no exception. After dolling up in full "party" mode, I parked myself (and my high heels) in front of the red carpet to await the arrivals.

I didn't have to wait long. The lovely Jane Krakowski of the hit 30 Rock was first to stop by and chat. Fresh after playing hostess for the award ceremony, Jane was excited to tell us about her favorite travel moments. She loved her trip to Vienna (where she ate the perfect pretzels), Venice (where she ate the best fish), and St. Petersburg (where she drank a few too many "shodka vots").

Former Brat Packer Andrew McCarthy stopped by next. When on break from playing a difficult billionaire on NBC's Lipstick Jungle, Andrew travels as much as possible, especially to Ireland, one of his favorite places. Check out his piece on Dublin in National Geographic Traveler and his tales of Hollywood ups and downs in Slate.

Mario Cantone of Sex and the City stopped by next to give us an update on his travels. As we learned from previous red carpet interviews, Mario is a rabid traveler, rattling off hotels with the ease and frequency of a pro. But because the dollar hasn't been very kind to European travelers lately, Mario has been checking into American lodgings much more. His recent favorite is the Castle Hill Inn & Resort in Newport, Rhode Island. Turns out the celebs are just as funds-conscious as the rest of us.

Mario then had some choice words for the Vice Presidential nominee from Alaska. But we'll save those for another time.

Further reading:
* Our award winners' dream trips
* The complete list of this year's winners
* Boldface


Nicole Kidman's Baby Magic

Kidman Baby Bump
This could happen to you!
AP Photo

by Beata Loyfman

Be careful of swimming in Kununurra's waterfalls--you might accidentally find yourself with child! Well, at least that was Nicole Kidman's happy predicament while filming Baz Luhrmann's newest flick in Australia last year. Check out the awesome trailer here.

Kidman is convinced that it was the Kimberley waterfalls in northwestern Australian that made her and six other women working on the film pregnant. Is it an accident that Kununurra means "Big Water" in the Aboriginal language? No reports of male pregnancies have surfaced, so fellas, it's safe to swim.

Beyond the magical fertility waters of Kununurra, the Kimberley region also has one of Australia's 17 World Heritage Sites: Purnululu National Park, otherwise known as the Bungle Bungle Range, for its famous red sandstone domes. Their fertility powers have not yet been confirmed.

Check out the rest of the continent's wonders in our Amazing Australia special section

Further reading:
* Helen Mirren doesn't look too shabby in her swimsuit, either
* Take a peek at Kidman's best pre-baby fashion hits
* Boldface


The Art and Soul of Capitol Hill

Art Smith
After 10 years as Oprah's personal
chef, Art Smith has moved on to his
own ventures.

AP Photo

by Beata Loyfman

Capitol Hill is brimming with activity these days. Between political battles, economic crises, and the egos amidst it all, you can safely say that it's one of the most tension-filled spots in the country. And what's the best thing for relieving tension? Food and wine, of course!

That's why we're very excited about the opening of Art and Soul, the new DC restaurant at the Liaison hotel. What's more, Oprah's favorite chef, Art Smith, is at the helm, so you know it'll be hearty eating. Dishes like country pork chop with red eye gravy, and horseradish- and beet-cured salmon hoecake (sort of like a cornmeal pizza--hey, I didn't make it up) will really hit the spot.

And the wine? Glad you asked. Art and Soul just got the first ever Chianti Classico from Italian wine producer Santa Margherita. I've already taken the liberty of sampling this new bottling, and let me tell you, it's rich, flavorful, and you won't need an oenology degree to enjoy it. If this sumptuous Sangiovese doesn't loosen up the tension on Capitol Hill, nothing will.

While at dinner, don't be surprised to find yourself dining next to one of the presidential candidates. Senators Obama and McCain could probably use a breather from all the dry economic discussions. Just don't make any sudden moves; those secret service agents are trained to react first and think second.


Roman Holiday for Justin & Jessica

by Beata Loyfman

In the words of Eddie Albert in the classic Roman Holiday: "Joe, we can't go running around town with a hot princess!"

Well, not unless you're Justin Timberlake, in which case you can PDA around Rome with anyone you please. And this week JT has been soaking up the sites with his main squeeze, the lovely (if slightly bland) Jessica Biel. (She's got him "Love Stoned.") Visitors to Rome's Colosseum and Villa Borghese have had to deal with paparazzi who have been (unsurprisingly) stalking the couple.

But it's not all fun and games for JT. November's Golf Digest cover boy has been using his skills on the green and his status as a media magnet to raise funds for Shriners Hospitals for Children. This network of 22 facilities provides specialized care to children around the world. It's an amazing program, and we applaud JT for taking time out of his fabulous celebrity life to help others.

Of course, this has been quite the trend lately: With Matt Damon, Ashley Judd, Madonna, and Queen Rania tackling the problems in Africa, Wyclef Jean helping in Haiti, and plenty of other celebs lending their sparkle for various causes. Check out Look to the Stars for an update on the who's who of celeb causes.


Pig Meets Lipstick: Elizabeth Hurley's Farm-Fresh Goods

Liz Hurley, a.k.a. Miss Piggy.
AP Photo

by Beata Loyfman

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to grow your own pigs, fatten them up, send them to slaughter, then enjoy the fruits of your labor with a side of scrambled eggs? No? Well, Elizabeth Hurley has. And now, thanks to all those farm animals she received as wedding presents last year, she's making this dream a reality.

Best known for her role as Hugh Grant's arm candy in the 1990s and Mike Myers' love interest in the first Austin Powers movie, Hurley has set up a pig farm on her 100-acre Cotswolds estate. According to ThePigSite, Hurley's meat is Britain's finest. Her breed, Hurley Old Spot, makes for tasty Sunday roast joints and prime sausages.

The pork is sold to local butchers and hotels, so if you're staying at the Lower Slaughter Manor (no, folks, I'm not making this up) or the Cotswold House, you'll likely find yourself eating some Hurley Old Spot. Our compliments to the chef.   


Madonna, South of the Border

Hard Candy Tour
Madge is ridin' south.
AP Photo

by Beata Loyfman

If you didn't rally a group of coworkers to simultaneously dial Ticketmaster at 9:59:59 the day tickets for Madonna's Sticky & Sweet Tour went on sale, you may have found yourself locked out of the chance to see Madge strut her 50-year-old stuff in the U.S. Not that this is what I did or anything...

If you're stuck paying four figures for the nosebleed section on eBay, don't despair. Madonna's just released her South American tour dates, which means three things:

1. You can still see her live.
2. You can do so without experiencing massive jet lag.
3. You won't have to eat Rice-a-Roni for a month after shelling out $350 for a seat at the Madison Square Garden show. (Not that this is what I did or anything...). Tickets for the December 10-11 shows in Santiago, Chile are under $200, leaving you enough dough for a decent post-concert steak.

Coincidentally, getting to South America has just gotten easier (and more fun) with LAN Airlines' souped-up planes. Each economy seat now comes with a high-res-screened TV that has 55 channels of programming. So there's no risk of boredom. Nonstop tickets start at $1,000 from Miami and at $1,300 from NYC, even in December high season--not bad for a leisurely 13-hour flight.

Flying high--entertained: You won't be banging your head against this wall.
Photo: LAN Airlines


Las Vegas' New Headliner, You Bette-cha

The one, the only, the Divine.
Photo: AP Photo

by Beata Loyfman

What's hotter than the desert in the summer? Las Vegas, of course! That's why we've trolled the strip to select the best of the best for September's "Seven Deadly Sins." With one for every day of the week, you'll never be at a loss for sinful pleasures. Wrath Wednesdays, anyone?

Although Vegas had enough T&A on display to last me a lifetime, my most memorable experience in Sin City was an interview with the newest Queen of Vegas, the Divine Bette Midler. Currently rocking Caesars Palace with her extravaganza "The Showgirl Must Go On," Miss M took the time out of her insane schedule to tell us her formula for staying fabulously fit and gorgeous:

CNT: How has Vegas been treating you?
Bette Midler: My husband and I are crazy about it. We're real foodies. So we go out to many restaurants on the Strip but also to the Chinatown Plaza, which is one of the biggest I've ever seen. I love to lunch there.

CNT: Your show is so high-intensity. How do you do it every night?
Bette Midler: Well, it's very interesting. Now that I've started, I'm in much better shape than when I was just rehearsing, because when I was rehearsing I was doing all of it: a little directing, a little writing, a little arranging, helping with the clothes. I put my imprint on every single aspect of the show. So I didn't have the time to do the workouts and the real hard dancing. And now that I'm doing that, the weight is just falling off. I have a routine that I do every night, almost like a ritual, as many entertainers do to keep themselves healthy and strong. In addition, I have to run around for an hour and a half on a 120-foot stage every night. It's a little bit extreme, I have to admit. But I'm okay. As long as you don't drink too much and you build up your strength and your stamina, you'll be fine.

CNT: How do you unwind after the show?
Bette Midler: I've taken to going to the spa Qua here at Caesars. They offer a huge array of services, like fantastic mineral water pools in three temperatures, which are extraordinary. There are also non-mineral water pools on the property, which I kind of avoid because the chlorine takes all the color out of my hair. They have a fabulous steam room and a frigidarium, which is modeled on the Roman bath. The services are excellent. The beauty shop is fantastic. I've been there for mani/pedis many times. And the massages are really good too. As you can see, I have a weakness for spa life.

CNT: What do you do on your days off?
Bette Midler: Days off? Are you kidding? I'm sleeping. Or in the spa. I'm usually wiped out. The problem with days off is that when you let everything go it's so hard to get back into harness again.

"The Showgirl Must Go On" is at Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S. For tickets, call 877-732-8836.

Further reading:
* Las Vegas and the Seven Deadly Sins
* Video: Dining in Las Vegas


Package Deals for Daniel Radcliffe's Nude NYC Tour

Daniel Radcliffe
Harry's baring it all.
AP Photo

by Beata Loyfman

Nothing short of a miracle could slow down the juggernaut that is Harry Potter...until now. The sixth installment of the $4.5 billion movie franchise has been stalled by none other than its 17-year-old star Daniel Radcliffe, who has signed on to act in Broadway's Equus. For those of you unfamiliar with the play, it involves a psychotic teenager who stabs several ponies in the eyes with a metal spike. There's also some full frontal male nudity. Fun for the whole family!

Lured by the promise of Harry Potter's full monty, fans on both sides of the pond have been snapping up tickets (from $61 to $251) faster than you can say Hermione. Not surprisingly, seats in the on-stage section (where you'd have a rear view) are especially tough to come by. But can you really put a price on face time with Harry's backside?

Luckily, HP Fan Trips understands. They're offering a two-day package deal for Potterites, which includes tickets to the play, a workshop with an unspecified cast member, accommodations, meals, and a "Wizarding Game" (whatever that is). The cost starts at $650 per person, a steal if you consider NYC's sky-high hotel prices.

If you're just looking for a way to snag discounted Equus tickets, check out the TKTS Booths in Times Square and South Street Seaport, where you can buy get same-day tickets for a steal.

Meanwhile, here's a preview of the goods, courtesy of Vogue.


Celeb Travel Show Roundup

    Luda's rollin' with his
    eco-conscious homies.

    AP Photo

by Beata Loyfman

From sneakers to designer water, celebs will hawk just about anything, for a price (Travolta, paging John Travolta). But can they influence your travel plans as well? TV producers are betting on it. That's why you'll soon see several travel shows starring famous faces.

Here's a rundown of the hits and misses:

When you hear the words "Spanish food," naturally the first thing that comes to mind is...Gwyneth Paltrow. Well, no, she doesn't really eat. But you know who does? Portly über-chef Mario Batali. Together, this odd couple shot a documentary series called "Spain...On the Road Again" in which they travel the country tasting its food, meeting the locals, and generally pretending to be normal folks like us. The series will air on PBS in September, but you can get a sneak preview here.

In another obvious collaboration, rapper/actor Ludacris and Pamela Anderson baby-daddy Tommy Lee have teamed up for a ten-episode series called Battleground Earth currently airing on TLC. The challenge: Who can be the most "green" on his cross-country tour? Naturally, shenanigans ensue. Celebrity friends P. Diddy and Meatloaf drop by. But the spotlight is on recycling, building solar panels, and reducing the carbon footprint of those giant tour buses. Hats off, boys.

Continue reading "Celeb Travel Show Roundup" »


An American in Paris (and St. Petersburg)

Dennis Hopper
Dennis Hopper, left, with Julian

Photo: AP/Jennifer Graylock

by Beata Loyfman

Pop quiz, Hot Shot: Which American actor famous for his easy ways has made a splash in the European art world? That's right, film buffs, it's Dennis Hopper. A collection of his paintings, sculptures, and photographs was exhibited last August at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Turns out that Hopper was the first living American to achieve this honor. Dude, I bet Keanu's jealous.

And now, the rest of Europe is taking notice as well. On October 15th, La Cinematheque Francaise in Paris will unveil an exhibit dedicated to Hopper and his works. It will also feature psychedelic videos from the 1960s (acid not included) and a selection of Warhols, Schnabels, and other art world heavies from his private collection.

Trés magnifique!


Matt Damon: Good Work Hunting

Matt Damon with orphaned children at the Chongwe Center outside Lusaka, Zambia.
Photo: J. Tayloe Emery

by Beata Loyfman

We usually don't spill the beans about upcoming covers of Condé Nast Traveler. But there's nothing "usual" about the man gracing September's Power of Travel issue. Matt "Jason Bourne" Damon's work with charities such as OneXOne and DATA (Debt AIDS Trade Africa) has established him as a serious activist--and one of our favorite celebrities.

In his recent interview with Deputy Editor Dorinda Elliott, Damon discussed his 2006 trip to Zambia, where he witnessed the dire need of clean water in communities near the Sahara. This trip led to his H2O Africa Foundation. In addition, Damon and some of his Ocean's Eleven buddies co-founded Not On Our Watch, which works to eradicate mass atrocities in Darfur and all over the world.

As you can see, Damon has his hands full. But even though he and his A-list friends rule the Hollywood roost, Damon maintains a down-to-earth humility that's pretty much unheard of among his peers. Now you understand why we're so fond of Matt? 

September's Power of Travel issue will be available on August 18. Meanwhile, check out this video about the making of our cover photo shoot in Morocco, and read the full Damon interview here. 


Paris Hearts Conde Nast Traveler

by Beata Loyfman

Paris Hilton: Animal lover, goodwill ambassador, fashion connoisseur, professional celebrity. And now, political analyst.

Is there anything she can't do?

But more important, Ms. Hilton gets her travel advice from Condé Nast Traveler. Now that's HOT! 


Celebrity Charities: Fact or Fiction?

Damon and Kids
Damon with the African 
Children's Choir, who will
perform at the OneXOne gala.

AP Photo

by Beata Loyfman

What have you done so far this summer? I learned how to crash the servers of Vanity Fair and the consequences of an unfortunate green hat. Important stuff. But it turns out that besides mugging for the cameras, some celebs are actually doing good... for other people!

While Angelina Jolie is on a baby-adopting hiatus, the top spot among celebrity do-gooders has been filled by Matt Damon. This summer, while losing the 30 pounds of the chunk he gained for Steven Soderbergh's The Informant, Damon has also become the ambassador of OneXOne, a charity committed to preserving and supporting children's lives around the world. The September 8 gala fundraiser in Toronto will include performances by Wyclef Jean, another celeb using his cred for a good cause--he's launched a food relief program for his native Haiti.   

R&B crooner Usher took a break from his busy pants-dropping schedule to establish Camp New Look, a two-week program that includes workshops on business and entertainment for teenagers from the country's toughest neighborhoods. 

When not staring longingly at Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia!, Pierce Brosnan has been busy contributing $1 million of his considerable James Bond fortune to environmental causes.

At the other end of the spectrum, there's Harrison Ford, who has his chest waxed in this PSA about the dangers of deforestation. Our planet losing its oxygen supply versus the removal of his boob follicles. Yeah, Harrison, it's the same thing.

Check out an interview with Jason Bourne, er, Matt Damon in the September issue of Condé Nast Traveler.


Sail the Seas in Style

Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren rules in red.
Photo: TeamSugar

by Beata Loyfman

Summer in Hollywood means just one thing (well, two if you count the terrible sequels), and that's skin. Anyone who's anyone (from A- to Z-listers) is busy showing off his trainer's mettle. There's George Clooney in all his Lake Como fabulousness, there are Eva Longoria and Tony Parker celebrating their anniversary in Italy, and there's 74-year-old Giorgio Armani donning his best Speedo in Sardinia. (Thanks for the close-ups Socialite Life.)

So what do these celebs have in common, besides really good dermatologists? They're all jetting on the Mediterranean aboard schwanky boats. And just because you don't graze the cover of People's Sexiest Man Alive issue or earn seven figures for tossing a ball into a hoop doesn't mean you can't sail in style.

And luckily, you have a secret weapon of the seas: For the August issue of Condé Nast Traveler the assiduous Wendy Perrin has picked the top sailing specialists in the country, and the best cruises for every type of personality, from nature lover to party animal.

And if the winds happen to bring you toward the tip of Italy's heel, look out for Dame Helen Mirren (that's Her Majesty to us mortals) in her red bikini. Crusades have been mounted for less.


No Shirt, No Shoes...Problem? Sunbathing in the Middle East

Not coming to a Dubai boardwalk anytime soon.
AP Photo

by Beata Loyfman

A few weeks ago, we did round-ups of our picks for clothing-optional hotel zones in the U.S. Check them out here and here. This week we delve into the Middle East, where wandering around in a bikini (let alone in the buff) might incur a penalty far worse than unsightly tan lines, as these 79 people can attest.

But since more and more travelers are heading to the Middle East--the region welcomed a record 46 million international visitors in 2007, according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer--it would help to know where it's safe to disrobe and enjoy that burning sun without worrying about going to prison.

The trick is to show skin only at Western-friendly resorts:

The name of Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa in Oman doesn't lie. The three-hotel resort on Al Jissah Bay is truly heavenly. Private beaches and a sprawling infinity pool shelter guests from the eyes of the law (and propriety), so you can wear your skimpiest without being arrested. In addition, the Chi spa has single-sex rhassuls and hammams for optimal (i.e. naked) pore expansion.

Similarly, Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai, that mecca of self-aggrandizing opulence, has several hotels and even a faux Arabian souk in one monster resort. A private beach connects it to the neighboring Burj Al Arab (the one that looks like a sail). Because of their popularity among bling-enamored Russian millionaires, Dubai's resorts are desensitized to displays of skin (unless you strip completely, which is not advised). By the way, if you see a pasty middle-aged British couple, it's probably Mr. and Mrs. Adams, David Beckham's in-laws, who now reside in his Dubai mansion.

Perhaps the most clothing-relaxed place in the Middle East is Israel, where it's not necessary to confine your semi-nakedness to a private beach. Here, you have the option of strutting your stuff on two seas, Red and Dead. Just watch that you don't have any cuts--that sea salt burns!


Celebrity Restaurants: Can They Stand the Heat?

Danny DeVito has high hopes for his Miami restaurant. 

by Beata Loyfman

Even though celebrity-owned restaurants have the success rate of mating pandas, that doesn't stop egotistic VIPs from trying. Case in point: Britney's Nyla barely lasted through one of her marriages, DeNiro's Ago is still reeling from that horrid New York Times review, and now Madre's, Jennifer Lopez's spot in Pasadena, has shut its doors (thanks for the breaking news, TMZ).

This begs the question, are there any celebrity-owned restaurants that survive beyond the paparazzi photo ops? For the answer, we sought the wisdom of Conde Nast Traveler's food tzarina, Mollie Chen. To say that Mollie is food obsessed is like calling Pamela Anderson a bit racy.

Here are a few celeb eateries where the food doesn't play second fiddle:

Justin Timberlake's Southern Hospitality: Judging by the nightly rush of spry young things trying to flirt their way past the doorman, Justin has hit the right note with this comfort food spot in New York City. Order the spare ribs, and be careful you don't smear the barbecue sauce on those white D&G jeans.

Paul Newman's Dressing Room: Sustainable food and a cozy country atmosphere are the focus of this Westport, Connecticut, restaurant. But locally grown, organic, and environmentally friendly food ain't cheap. So enjoy every bite of that $25 wood-fired burger.

Michael Jordan's The Steakhouse: Quality steaks and an old-school boy's club vibe overlooking New York's bustling Grand Central Terminal. Nothin' but net.

Danny DeVito's DeVito South Beach: With superplush decor, hearty homemade Italian fare, and a high-wattage clientele, the diminutive actor can't go wrong . . . or can he? The place just opened in 2007, so we'll get back to you in a few years.

Ashton Kutcher's Ketchup: Say you're tall, handsome, successful, and married to über-cougar Demi Moore. Your recent foray into the restaurant scene was a hit and the Dolce Group wants a sequel. Where's the logical place for the next Ketchup? Why, Huntsville, Alabama, of course! Don't ask us why, but it works. The Huntsvillians are lining up for the Kobe beef hot dogs and truffle mac 'n' cheese.

Approve/disapprove of our picks? Let us know in Comments.


Ellen's Palm Springs Wedding

Ellen and Portia
The happy couple
AP Photo

by Beata Loyfman

As soon as the ink dried on California Supreme Court's ruling against the gay marriage ban, Hollywood began celebrating. And before you could say "George Takei," comedienne Ellen DeGeneres announced her fall 2008 nuptials to Aussie girlfriend Portia Di Rossi. Now, thanks to Starpulse and HotelChatter we have some details of the event.

Not surprisingly, the couple has chosen one of the most gay-friendly (not to mention nudity-friendly) locales in the country: Palm Springs, California. The ceremony and reception will take place at the Riviera Resort & Spa, which is at the tail-end of a $70 million renovation. Word is they're gutting the entire thing, building a new spa, and increasing the size of the rooms.

Even if you're not part of the wedding party, you can still book your stay at the Riviera as of October 1. And if your visit coincides with Ellen's big day, we're dying to know if John McCain will show up to walk her down the aisle! Check out the semi-uncomfortable clip here.


No Shirt, No Problem: Adults-Only Hotels, Part 2

Island a la nude.

by Beata Loyfman

Last week, we brought you our picks for top adults-only hotel zones. Today we crank it up a notch to satisfy your (secret?) naturist jones with three destinations dedicated to the clothing-optional lifestyle. I know what you're thinking: Unshaven, hemp-loving hippies munching on tofu burgers, realigning their chakras, and sleeping in hammocks on the beach (Woody Harrelson, I'm talking to you).

Well, not so fast. At these swank, adults-only spots, the only realignment you'll feel is when the masseur fixes that nagging kink in your lumbar spine:

Southern California's Sea Mountain Resort is a posh retreat for couples and single females (sorry guys) where the main attraction is bathing in the mineral waters of the local hot springs. Yes, naked bathing. There's also naked suntanning, naked massage, naked get the idea.

Nearby in Desert Hot Springs, the Living Waters Spa focuses on the rejuvenating benefits of the (naked) spa experience: Massages, wraps, mineral baths, and complete (naked) tranquility (sorry, can't stop). This means no swingers or sex parties allowed. For that sort of thing, try one of the Hedonism resorts.

A bit further east, 7,400 miles to be exact, Boayan is a private island in the South China Sea where you can fulfill your Robinson Crusoe fantasy, loincloth and all. A stay here includes a villa, a staff of 5, all meals, and a traditional Philippine boat with captain. Perhaps Woody should rethink his  40-day fast and bring his nudity-loving ways to the far east.


No Shirt, No Problem: Adults-Only Hotel Zones

The Bare Pool at Mirage.

by Beata Loyfman

Do you ever want to get naked? Just strip to the buff, but without the judicial stares of everyone around you? Well, good news: Many hotels now have dedicated adults-only areas.

Here are a few clothing-optional playgrounds:

Occidental Grand Fuerteventura in Spain's Canary Islands has a private naturalist area with a pool, steam rooms, and lounge where you can watch the sunset over Playa de Butihondo. Just keep your eyes on the ball.

Closer to home, Bare at the Mirage in Las Vegas is a posh, rooftop pool lounge where 21-and-over guests can bask in the sun European-style, while sipping cocktails and listening to the DJ mix. You may even run into the newly demure Britney Spears (thanks for the tip TMZ). Reserve day beds and boat beds in advance.

Nearby, the Sapphire Pool at Rio does away with any pretense to classiness with a similar adults-only pool lounge. But this one is courtesy of Sapphire Gentlemen's Club. Ahem. As you'd suspect, Brazilian beauties frolic in the waterfalls, and VIP cabanas are available for privacy-seeking guests. You know the motto: What happens in Vegas...

Check out HotelChatter's list of top 10 reasons to vacation at a clothing-optional resort. They make some excellent arguments.

Have you been to these or any other adults-only hotel zones? Post a comment and tell us all about it. 

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The editors at Conde Nast Traveler answer questions and share travel secrets, tips, and dispatches

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