Travel: South For the Harvest
In recent years, Argentina and Chile have garnered bunches of praise for their signature grapes, Malbec and Carmenère respectively. Now that it's summer in the Southern Hemisphere, it's the perfect time for food and wine lovers to come celebrate South America's grape harvest. The inaugural Masters of Food and Wine South America kicks off the harvest season, bringing together some of the world's top chefs and vintners in the picturesque vineyards of Mendoza, Argentina. Chefs Todd English of Olives, Kenichiro Ooe of the Park Hyatt Tokyo and others will cook for the gourmet gathering, which also features wine classes, concerts and a gala dinner (Feb. 15-18; mfandw.com.ar ).
Two weeks later, Mendoza celebrates the Vendimia Nacional (National Wine Harvest), a mix of high-society pomp and provincial traditions, where jet-setters and locals mingle. A downtown parade features horse-riding gauchos and grape-throwing beauty queens. The colorful closing pageant, held in an aging amphitheater, is a song-and-dance spectacle that would make the Greeks proud (March 2-4; turismo.mendoza.gov.ar ).
Across the rugged Andes mountains, Chile's most pres-tigious wine festival takes place in Valle de Colchagua. To reach the Fiesta de la Vendimia, take the Chile Wine Train from Santiago south 150 kilometers to the fertile valley ( trendelvinochile.cl ). The festival in Colchagua attracts more than 60,000 visitors each year for eating, drinking and the swings and swirls of Chile's national dance, the cueca (March 9-11; colchaguavalley.cl ). And the train can carry revelers safely home.
4 HOURS IN THE HAGUE
The seat of Dutch government--and host of the International War Crimes Tribunal--has a reputation for seriousness, but it's also a trove of sophisticated culture.
GAZE at Vermeer's " Girl With a Pearl Earring ," on permanent display at the Mauritshuis, along with other paintings from the Dutch Golden Age including Rembrandt's self-portrait (mauritshuis.nl).
STROLL through the elegant Binnenhof , the square dating from the 13th century, where Parliament still meets today. Brave gourmands should not miss the van just outside which sells the local street delicacy haring, or raw herring with onion.
VISIT the unique Panorama Mesdag , the oldest surviving 360-degree painting in its original location, and lose yourself in the peaceful beach scene from 1881.
EAT like Dutch royalty at the Michelin-starred Hotel Van Savelberg , which Queen Beatrix has been known to frequent (restauranthotel savelberg.nl).
-- Esther Bintliff
STYLE: Seeing Clearly
Need a clear plastic bag to get through airport security? Forget the Hefty. From Prada to Pucci, transparent totes are all the rage. Chanel's Naked bag--easily see-through with a silver strap--is "much more chic than a plastic Baggie," says Neiman Marcus's fashion director Ken Downing ($895; chanel.com ). Oscar de la Renta boasts a variety of styles, from patent-leather-trimmed to a mini makeup case ($350-$895; oscardelarenta.com ). Fendi offers the stylishly mysterious B. Mix Hologram bag, which, with intricate hologram plastic, makes peeking hard ($1,580; fendi.com ). Prada's Plexi-Tote, with vibrant reds and yellows, makes a perfect beach bag ($1,250; prada.com ). Just make sure you've got nothing to hide.
-- Jessica Bennett
TECHNOLOGY: Pets Without Chores
For pet lovers who are tired of walking the dog or picking cat hair off the couch, there's another option: pet robots. The new models come with voice-recognition technology, touch and balance sensors, and light and motion detectors, which not only make them great company but also help them avoid pitfalls like table edges and corners that confounded their predecessors. Pleo, a baby-dinosaur robot, will stretch in the morning before it greets you, act startled or angry if you tickle it and purr happily when content ($250 to $300; ugobe.com ). Paro, a handmade baby harp seal, is winning acclaim in Japan, where it is used as "animal" therapy for patients with cognitive disorders. Paro reacts to and remembers voices and movement, and actually repeats behaviors that elicit a positive response ($3,500; paro.jp/english/index.html ). The state-of-the-art Chimpanzee Bust is programmed with audio and tactile sensors and infrared vision so it can track objects and respond to humans with facial expressions that swing from curiosity to fear. All without eating a single banana ($149; wowwee.com ).
-- Kenzie Burchell
DREAM HOME: CASTELLO SCOTTI
This ancient 10-bedroom walled castle in Emilia-Romagna has been almost completely restored under the guidance of Italy's Ministry of Cultural Assets. Highlights include cobblestone streets, frescoes, a theater, swimming pool, sundial and gardens (€10 million; casait.it).
HOT SPOT: PRIVACY AT SANCTUARY BAY KERALA
There's no place more stylish to cleanse yourself than this peaceful backwater retreat in India's sublime southern state, home to the country's ancient ayurvedic therapy.
Rooms: Accommodations consist of two fully staffed bungalow suites on the shores of Lake Vembanad. The less expensive heritage bungalow is the more beautiful, incorporating traditional wood craftsmanship. The waterfront bungalow has better views, air conditioning and an expansive veranda, where you can watch the fishermen haul in their nets.
Dining: Wash down the deliciously spicy fish curries with crisp Kingfisher beer. The lunchtime thali platter served on a banana leaf offers an assortment of vegetarian morsels, which take you on a gastronomic journey from salty to sweet.
Amenities: Privacy is the perfect launch pad for journeys into Kerala's tranquil backwaters. The hotel has its own comfortable houseboat with a panoramic roof terrace, but traditionalists will prefer the thatched rice barges, which the staff can also arrange. An inviting swimming pool lies between ponds of lotus flowers and palm trees in the lush garden.
Spa: Take a rickshaw to the local village, where ayurvedic masseurs pummel your body and rub herbal oils into your skin.
Clientele: Well-heeled adventurers (doubles from $142 with breakfast; malabarescapes.com).