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November 30, 2008|Catharine Hamm, Hugo Martin, Jane Engle and Mary Forgione

Andaz's wrap artist

The much-anticipated Andaz West Hollywood hotel, once known as the Riot Hyatt for the bad-boy pranks of its rock-star guests, was expected to have hung a 190-by-86-foot piece of art over the facade of the 14-story, 257-room hotel (see photo) by late last week. The vinyl wrap by Brian Cairns asks the question, "What is your Andaz?" (The quick answer: a new hotel flavor from Hyatt.) The WeHo Andaz, expected to open just after the first of the year, will be the first one in the U.S. Two more are expected in New York and one in Austin, Texas. They will join London's Andaz Liverpool. Rates will average $425 but will range from $295 to $695. The fate of the art when the hotel's transformation is complete is not yet known. Info:

-- Catharine Hamm

Peak to peak

Powder hounds, rejoice! Whistler Mountain and neighboring Blackcomb Mountain, the Canadian ski venue for the 2010 Winter Olympics that was set to open last week, will unveil a new feature Dec. 12: a peak-to-peak gondola that will carry skiers and snowboarders across a 2.7-mile span from one summit to the other. The resort, about two hours north of Vancouver, is offering a "Peak2Peak" package through Dec. 19 that includes lift tickets (with access to the gondola) for two days and accommodations for two nights for about $91 per night (at current exchange rates). The resort has a combined 8,171 acres of skiable terrain, with 16 alpine bowls and 200 trails. Information: (888) 403-4727,

-- Hugo Martin

Real Australia

The real star of Baz Luhrmann's new World War II-era epic "Australia," featuring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, is the country's ravishing, rugged East Kimberley region.

* The real places: "Australia" was shot last year mainly on Sydney soundstages and in a suburb; the Queensland town of Bowen; Darwin in the Northern Territory; and the remote East Kimberley region of Western Australia, 20th Century Fox publicists say.

The real tours: Kimberley's sweeping landscape of jagged peaks, plunging canyons, vast scrubland and fiery red soil steals the show. Among trips that take you there are iExplore's Kimberley Air Safari ( and the Gibb River Road & Bungles self-drive package from Discover West Holidays ( For other "Australia" tours and itineraries, check out Tourism Australia (, Tourism Western Australia ( and

-- Jane Engle

Inaugural ride

The best advice for getting around Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20 for President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration: Take the Metro -- and buy your ticket beforehand. Metro trains, which run from Maryland and Virginia as well as within D.C., will be on rush-hour service from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. and stay open until 2 a.m. Jan. 21. Officials recommend buying tickets in advance to avoid lines. At the online Metrorail site, you can buy a one-day pass for $7.80, a seven-day Short Trip Pass for $26.40 and a seven-day Fast Pass for $39. (They are mailed to you after purchase.) Souvenir tickets are also coming out: The Commemorative SmarTrip Card will sell for $10 in early January and the Commemorative Farecard will debut in D.C.-area vending machines in late December. Info:

-- Mary Forgione


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