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Hotel Birthday Is Time to Sample Madeira Life

May 26, 1991|KIM UPTON

The famous Reid's Hotel of Madeira, an oasis of old-fashioned luxury for the world's elite, celebrates its 100th birthday this year.

In an age of string bikinis and spandex dresses, guests at Reid's still wear tuxedos and evening gowns to dinner. The hotel's marble pillars and chandeliers would do justice to any mansion, and a sumptuous afternoon tea on the veranda is a daily ritual.

Perched on a rocky cliff overhanging the sea, the hotel on a lush, volcanic island off the coast of Morocco has been a favorite of royalty and aristocracy since the turn of the century.

Empress Elizabeth of Austria stayed at Reid's, as did royalty from Romania, Britain, Denmark, Egypt and Italy. Former Cuban President Fulgencio Batista occupied a whole floor for months in 1959 after fleeing the revolution.

Other illustrious guests have included American writer John Dos Passos and Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, who learned to dance at the hotel when he was 71. A suite is named after Winston Churchill, who visited in the 1950s.

This quality service marks 100 years in November, and Reid's is planning a series of gala dinners and balls by the terrace overlooking Funchal harbor and the exotic gardens.

Quick Fact: Cost to take a family of four on vacation in the United States this summer (not including transportation): $180 per day. Cost in 1950: $26. (Source: American Automobile Assn.)

Best-Looking: Colorado's Million Dollar Highway and Montana's Going to the Sun Road top the list of scenic routes picked by map maker Rand McNally.

The Skokie, Ill.-based map maker has issued a list of the top eight scenic drives. The list also includes Oregon's Columbia Gorge Highway, Maine's Coastal Highway U.S. 1, Arkansas' Highway 7, the Oak Creek Canyon Drive in Arizona, most of California's famed Pacific Coast Highway (excluding the highway in many cities) and the Skyline Drive/Blue Ridge Parkway of Virginia.

The revised collection of scenic routes was put together with the help of travel writers nationwide. Some scenic routes delineated on past Rand McNally maps have been deleted from this year's list due to such factors as overdevelopment or, as was the case with Washington state's Route 7, because of forest clear-cutting. The good news is that no routes have been deleted from California.

Cancun-Bound: Fewer Americans may be traveling to Europe this summer, but Europeans seem to be heading west in increasing numbers. And Mexico appears to be one popular destination. Starting in June, Aeromexico will offer nonstop service to Cancun from Paris and Madrid. The 9-hour, 40-minute flights are being initiated in response to increasing demand for service between Europe and Cancun.

Comparatively Speaking: Total number of hijacking attempts on U.S. airlines in 1967: 9. In 1969: 40. In 1970: 25. In 1975: 6. In 1989: 2. (Source: Federal Aviation Administration.)

Blame it on Rio: The lack of security in crime-plagued Rio de Janeiro was ranked by tourists as the city's No. 1 turnoff, followed by filth and the homeless problem, according to a poll sponsored by the Brazilian Hotel Industry Assn. The poll confirmed what government and industry officials had already suspected as the main reasons for the continuing decline of tourism.

Tourism in Rio has dropped from about 1.5 million per year five years ago to about 850,000 last year, and in the first months of 1991--normally the busiest season--it dropped 20% over the same period last year.

The poll asked 1,000 people in 30 hotels between February and April what they most liked and most disliked about Rio de Janeiro. Sixty-six percent of the tourists were foreigners.

The industry association said the problems ranked by Brazilian tourists were almost identical to those ranked by foreigners.

Rio's crime problem has escalated in recent years, partly as a result of increasing poverty in Brazil and the influx of poor residents to the streets of tourists areas such as Copacabana and Ipanema, where prostitution and theft are prevalent.

Among the things they liked best about Rio, the tourists chose the natural beauty of the city (24.8%), the friendliness of residents (21.5%), the beaches (15.4%) and the tourist attractions (12.5%).

Fair Warning: Clean, pine-tree-scented air, fresh lilacs and a Saturday night dance in an outdoor pavilion under the stars are reasons enough to drive up to the 10th annual Lilac Festival at Pine Mountain Club, next Saturday and Sunday. But in honor of a decade of festivals, on Saturday there also will be World War II-vintage plane flybys, sky divers and a Marine color guard in the parade. As if that weren't enough, there will be barbecue, Thai food and hot dogs for sale in this village in the middle of Los Padres National forest.

For camping information (all campgrounds are first-come, first-served), call the U.S. Forest Service at (805) 245-3731. Pine Mountain is about 1 1/2 hours north of Los Angeles, near Frazier Park. It is surrounded by Los Padres National Forest.

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