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South America's celeb hideout

September 02, 2007|Susan Spano; Vani Rangachar; Christopher Reynolds; Hugo Martin

It's the dead of winter in South America, but it's not too soon to start thinking about summer -- beginning in December -- at Casa Suaya near José Ignacio, a hush-hush hot spot on the Atlantic Coast of Uruguay. Some say José Ignacio, favored by such celebs as novelist Martin Amis and supermodel Naomi Campbell, looks like the Hamptons of 20 years ago. Adolfo Suaya, the Brazilian-born restaurant whiz who gave L.A. such A-list eateries as the Lodge in Beverly Hills and Geisha House in Hollywood, built an estancia on four acres of Uruguayan pampas, where horse pastures and pine trees yield to the sea, then added two swimming pools and six guest suites, with 12 more to come (priced at $600 a night, including breakfast). The décor is a modern-antique mix, and each villa has a kitchen, fireplace and ocean view. Suaya plans to add a dining room with a palapa roof, but meanwhile guests can sup and -- very discreetly -- watch for stars at restaurants, including Marismo and La Huella. The drill in José Ignacio is to sleep late, have a seemingly endless lunch, nap and then at 7 p.m. hit the beach, where, Suaya says, you will see some of the world's most beautiful people. Info and reservations: www.casasuaya.com.

-- Susan Spano

Picture this

If you have about $40,000 lying around and no place to spend it, the Mandarin Oriental in London has a singular package for only 10 guests: a private photo shoot with Mary McCartney, fashion and portrait photographer and daughter of Paul and Linda McCartney. The package includes a two-night stay in a suite (with butler), dinner for two at the hotel's Foliage, spa treatments before the photo session and a Mercedes with a chauffeur for six hours. The price, which is for two, does not include value-added tax and a 5% service charge. Info: 011-44-20-7235-2000, www.mandarinoriental.com.

-- Vani Rangachar

Deeply weird

For just four of the first pages in "Ocean Wilderness" (Firefly, 622 color images on 338 pages, $59.95), Australian author and photographer Roger Steene's camera roams above the water line. Then Steene and his camera go below, around the world. With a handful of exceptions, they stay down there, collecting images of all manner of sea creatures, cloaked in enough colors and patterns to challenge human imagination. (A few images from other photographers augment Steene's.) Just about all of these images will appeal to hard-core divers and marine fiends: Twelve kinds of damselfish, cataloged in two very blue pages! Sixteen cowries, wearing enough psychedelia to annoy the National Guard. This is scuba porn, really, unburdened by an index or even chapter headings. But there's also plenty to intrigue non-divers who just like the idea of nature imitating a disaster in a neon factory: the red-blue-green legs of the temperate sea spider on Page 149, for instance; and the up-close sea-slugs, coral, sponge and sea cucumbers of Pages 132 and 133. And on Page 223, what is this many-colored thing called a nudibranch?

-- Christopher Reynolds

High fidelity

A sound system for your mountain bike? It sounds nuts, but that's what you get with H2O Audio's new outdoor sport integration system. The waterproof case protects your iPod from mud, dirt and moisture while the bike mount fastens the device to your handlebars. Now you can rock while you roll. $29.95 at www.h2oaudio.com.

-- Hugo Martín

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