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February 23, 1992|JERRY HULSE

The Philip Irwins of San Marino ask for the name of an inn in Nassau (the Bahamas) "with a first-rate restaurant." If price isn't a concern, try Graycliff, a 250-year-old mansion formerly owned by a British earl. Overlooks the port (only a short walk from famed Bay Street). Expensive but loads of atmosphere. Fourteen guest rooms plus a poolside cottage.

Graycliff is one of those snug spots that the well-heeled romantic seeks out. Drinks served in a comfortable lounge with a scattering of sofas. Soothing background music. Five small dining rooms with hurricane lamps flickering at each table. The wine cellar contains more than 175,000 bottles. Hidden in all that darkness is a Chateau Lafite Rothschild (1865) with a $16,000 price tag. Recently, two couples split a magnum of Napoleon cognac (circa 1811). The bill came to a whopping $27,000--and dinner was extra. "They left a bit tipsy," recalls the amiable proprietor, Enrico Garzaroli, who hails from Italy.

Garzaroli has entertained dozens of celebrities at Graycliff, including King Constantine of Greece, Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia, Paul Newman, Magic Johnson, the Beatles, Kenny Rogers, ad infinitum. While the Union Jack still fluttered over the Bahamas, regulars included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Winston Churchill dropped in on occasion. A rare and relaxing hideaway with lush gardens, lots of privacy.

Graycliff, West Hill Street, Nassau, Bahamas, (809) 322-2796. Rates: $165/$365. Dinner: about $90 per person, including wine.

For a list of reasonably priced accommodations, write to the Bahamas Tourist Office, 3450 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 208, Los Angeles 90010, (213) 385-0033. In California, Nevada, Arizona, call (800) 457-8205. On the bargain side, Casaurinas is a snug little resort on Cable Beach that continues to get good reports. Rates from $85 plus tax. Casaurinas, P.O. Box N4016, Nassau, Bahamas, (800) 327-0787. Not fancy. Just friendly, comfortable.

Giveaway: Members of the European Travel Commission have updated their 52-page Trip Planner. Details on rail passes, discount cards, travel packages, visas, weather, packing, youth/senior travel, shopping, VAT refunds, U.S. Customs, motoring, food/drink. The magazine-size publication also tells where to obtain other free literature. Separate sections on Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey. The Trip Planner contains items on the Summer Olympics in Spain, Sweden's open-air museum in Stockholm, Rovaniemi (Finland's gateway to Lapland), Lisbon's Gulbenkian Museum, the Rijksmuseum/Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Dozens of attractions in London, Paris, Rome, Athens, plus information on Ludwig's castles in Germany, resort villages in Switzerland. Excellent maps/photos.

For a free copy, write to European Planner, P.O. Box 9012, East Setauket, N.Y. 11733.

Home Swaps: New listings have been added to the directory produced by Teacher Swap, the organization that arranges home exchanges for the teaching profession. Teacher Swap is operated by teachers exclusively for teachers. Listings in the directory cost $34. After this, exchanges are made between teachers. Choices in the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain. Limited selections in other European countries. Here is what Janet Schultze, a teacher from Malvern, Pa., had to say about her experience: "My initial contact in Paris was a very kind teacher who introduced me to friends who invited me to stay in their homes in Rennes, Anger and Bordeaux. Spent seven weeks touring and being entertained royally in France for a very small amount of money--a train ticket and a few meals. The trip of a lifetime."

Free registration information from Teacher Swap, Box 4130 (Department PR), Rocky Point, N.Y. 11778, (516) 744-6403.

Rental Catalogue: British Travel Associates has updated its cottage rental catalogue and it's a beauty. Pages of properties, contains descriptions of individual rentals (vacationers must contact the people at BTA for prices/bookings after making their selection). In most cases, rates range from $550-$850 per week. At East Allington in South Devon, one group of cottages features microwaves, dishwashers, freezers. Along the North Cornwall Coast (near beaches), other cottages have been converted from stone barns. Two to six guests per unit. This is near Crackington Haven. The 410-page catalogue contains descriptions of hundreds of other properties in East Anglia, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon, Cornwall, the Cotswolds, the Chilterns, Yorkshire, the Vale of York, Cumbria, the Lake District. Copies of the catalogue are available for $4 (checks or stamps). The money is refunded for persons who make a booking. Details from British Travel Associates, P.O. Box 299, Elkton, Va. 22827, (800) 327-6097.

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