Wild About Anguilla

Sunday, September 4, 2005

WORTH A TRIP: "One century's hellhole is another's paradise," Susan Hack says in the September Conde Nast Traveler. Millions of years ago, the island of Anguilla was "covered in tropical forest and inhabited by giant rats," then turned so dry and harsh that British colonists abandoned it. But now, with 33 wild beaches and a ban on "big cruise ships, high-rise hotels, casinos, and topless bathing," it's one of the most enticing spots in the Caribbean. Visit soon, though, before controversial development plans compromise the "matter-of-fact, barefoot charm" that's the island's appeal.

WORTH A FLIP: Serious survival skills are also required when stuck in "layover purgatory." So Outside creates the ultimate fantasy airport, cherry-picking from around the world: the perfect martini from LAX, a citrus-scented oxygen treatment from Vancouver International, a few laps in the pool between Munich Terminals 1 and 2, and a nice, relaxing rocker from the waiting area at Charlotte (N.C.) Douglas . . . "We belong outdoors. It is our first home. Not having the skill -- and attitude -- to survive there is like not having a key to your own front door," Backpacker claims. A Colorado adventure guide school teaches "urbanized gorp-munchers" the lost frontier arts, but also provokes questions about how we relate to the wilderness -- questions our ancestors never pondered . . . Boutique hotels are ubiquitous; now, all aboard boutique boats. Caribbean Travel & Life sets sail on small luxury liners with amenities that include marble baths, fireplaces, deck beds, mountain bikes, cuisine created by Charlie Palmer and 30,000 square feet of hand-set sails . . . Sit in the ancient Roman amphitheater of Nimes as a bull "comes tearing in" to face a matador and you could be transported back millenniums by the ritualized fight, "caught up in the beauty and suspense of the dance . . . the shifting sunlight and charged atmosphere." But this being France, Saveur also gives us a taste of bull meat braised in red wine, served up at communal trestle tables . . . A gay beach, a pride festival and a "queer community" that's "surprisingly visible." Who would have guessed Out Traveler is talking about Salt Lake City? Even "the volunteer missionaries at Temple Square are not as pushy as they used to be, so visitors need not worry about being inadvertently converted" . . .

The real Matterhorn isn't an amusement park ride. Every year, some 10 climbers meet their death on the Swiss mountain, German Life says. At nearby Zermatt, the cemetery "has become a sort of morbid tourist attraction" due to climbers' graves. But in this car-free city of 250-year-old houses, there's much more to see, as mountain trains and ski lifts "shuttle the less energetic to spots of spectacular vistas" . . . Cigarette-puffing companions and all the booze you can drink may not be your idea of the typical spa. But SpaFinder claims all-inclusive BodyHoliday in St. Lucia is a deal at $340 per day. Plus the caffeinated coffee and full English breakfast could give you extra energy for your free fencing class . . .

In Britain's West Country, village names "sound like a sorcerer's spell: Piddletrenthide, Melbury Bubb, Toller Porcorum, Rhyme Intrinseca," Town & Country Travel tells us. It's the land with "the greatest concentration of prehistoric sites in Europe," including the stone circle of Avebury and the Cerne Giant, cut into a chalk hillside. King Arthur reputedly lies buried here, and a herd of snuffling pigs not long ago revealed the remains of a Roman villa . . . In Budget Travel , a herd of snuffling foodies reveals their favorite joints to grab a bite, from authentic Cuban in Milwaukee to the best pastry in Antibes. The scoop comes from luminaries like J.W. Apple, Alice Waters and Mario Battaglia.

WORTH A CLICK: Travel+Leisure recommends the Deluxe Modem and Adaptor Kit at , which packs "every modem and electrical adaptor you'll need" into a "pair of two-by-two inch adapters."

WORTH A GAWK: Incarceration vacation? Some swank hotel chains, including Four Seasons and Kempinski, are inviting you to spend a night in the slammer. According to The Sunday Times Travel , converted prisons now serve as lodging in Istanbul (the infamous "Midnight Express" jail), London (Oscar Wilde was among previous "guests"), Prague (be prepared to sleep on the original iron bunk beds), Cape Town (punishment devices still intact) and Stockholm (clocks in reception note the time at Alcatraz, Sing Sing, Robben Island and Port Arthur). Perfect for a nice little "getaway."

-- Gayle Keck

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