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March 04, 2007|Jane Engle; Rosemary McClure; Mary E. Forgione

A pioneer of punk fashion

Designer Vivienne Westwood, whose zips, rips and whips had a revolutionary influence on high fashion, if we may be so understated, takes center stage in a San Francisco show, its only U.S. stop after three years touring foreign capitals. The British designer, whose fashions include torn T-shirts as well as elegant dresses, was a pioneer of punk who clad the Sex Pistols band in sadomasochistic splendor in the 1970s. Recent decades have found her turning to tweeds, tartans and Britain's past for inspiration. Among more than 150 items on display is a pair of 10-inch-tall, mock-croc platform shoes, above, that tripped up supermodel Naomi Campbell on a Paris catwalk in 1993. Through June 10 at the De Young Museum. (415) 863-3330,

-- Jane Engle

Havana hopes

It's too early to think about catching the show at the Tropicana, but several new congressional bills would make it easier for U.S. residents to visit Cuba. Some travel agents are lobbying their individual legislators to cosponsor one bill, and dozens of representatives have done so. That piece of legislation, submitted in January by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) would stop President Bush from regulating or prohibiting travel to Cuba. The Bush administration has taken a tough stance toward Cuban tourism, and few Americans now visit. Any legislation that relaxed travel or trade regulations would face determined opposition and a possible presidential veto.

-- Rosemary McClure

Oregon, my sweet

If pairing a chocolate Buddha with a microbrew sounds fun, head up to Portland, Ore., where a mini-boom in artisan chocolates is leading to some weird creations. Year-old Alma Chocolate molds the sweet stuff into religious icons, right, and covers them with 23-karat edible gold leaf. Pix Patisserie plops its homemade chocolate ice cream into Oregon's Rogue Chocolate Stout for a "beer float." Sahagun Chocolate Shop swirls in local favorites such as Stumptown coffee and marionberries. And Cacao, which opened last fall, sells a bar from New Hampshire embedded with real flowers. Contacts:;;;

-- J.E.

Traveling pants

No packing, no luggage, no hassle. That's the thought behind a service called FlyLite. Here's how it works: You dispatch a set of clothes in a suitcase. The company catalogs your items and keeps them in a climate-controlled storage facility. When you're ready to go, enter your virtual closet online and click on the items you want to pack. At the same time, you schedule an arrival date and destination (U.S. cities only) and voila, the bags appear at your hotel. When you leave, notify the company; it picks up and cleans everything -- washing, dry cleaning, pressing and shining -- and puts it back in your "closet" until next time. Costs: $100 to $200 per trip, depending on the destination; $500 initial registration and setup fee. (888) 435-9548,

-- Mary E. Forgione

Universal pictures

Break the ice -- and the language barrier -- in any country with the Kwikpoint International Translator. The pocket-sized guide lets you say it in pictures with a visual vocabulary of more than 600 pictures and symbols. Point to what you want -- train tickets, an ice cream cone, heat in your hotel room -- and you'll communicate quickly. The fold-out, laminated translator is organized by uses: work, play, travel, etc. Available for $9.85 from Magellan's Travel Supplies, (800) 962-4943,; or from Kwikpoint, (888) 594-5764 or see

-- R.M.

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