A sure sign that Ulster County is serious about becoming the next Hampton is the recent opening of the elegant Emerson Inn and Spa near Woodstock. Emboldened, perhaps, by recent Catskill arrivals like Uma 'n' Ethan, Kirsty Hume, Marc Anthony, and (rumor has it) Brad Pitt, the new luxury inn is luring customers with a 4,000-bottle wine room, an après-dinner cigar lounge with floor-to-ceiling humidor, and amenities like Frette linens, Limoges china, and Hermès toiletries. The restaurant is run by chef Gilbert Steiner, formerly of Paris's Tour d'Argent, and the Orient-inspired spa offers more than 40 services, from holistic massages to oxygen facials. This ain't your grandma's Catskills, so don't expect Shecky Greene to be headlining anytime soon (914-688-7900; doubles start at $320).
Dollars and Seine
Franco-American exchange rates are so favorable right now, publishers should stamp nationwide sale on this year's Paris guidebooks. In the past year alone, prices have dropped nearly 20 percent for Americans spending dollars -- largely a result of the tumbling euro. A carré scarf from Hermès now costs $199 (compared with $236 last year); a night at the Ritz, $477 ($560 last year and $614 two years ago); and dinner for two at Arpège, around $210 ($253 last year). Even better, not everyone's caught on. There has not yet been a dramatic increase in the number of Americans traveling to France. "It takes a while for word to spread," explains Marion Fourestier of the French Tourist Office. "Plus, air fares have been a bit high." That's about to change, though: Off-season fares kick in later this month.
Olympic Hopefuls '02
The starting gun hasn't been fired at the Sydney Olympics yet, but it's not too early to think about booking a room for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Tickets go on sale next month (they can be purchased online, starting October 10, at www.saltlakecity2002.com), and with 60 percent of the area's accommodations already reserved for athletes, officials, and the media, the time to act is now. Coldwell Banker (800-606-0453) is already offering single rooms in owner-occupied homes (from $125 per night) or entire owner-vacated houses (up to $5,000 per night); Salt Lake's Visitor Information Services (801-521-2822) will refer you to hotels with vacancies; and starting next month, Jet Set Sports is selling complete packages (877-222-2802; www.jetsetsports.com).
Place-lift: This month, Paris's Plaza Athénée hotel unveils a three-year, $30 million makeover, including an Alain Ducasse restaurant. If the euro keeps dropping, it might be cheaper to fly there for dinner than to dine with him here (33-1-53-67-66-67; doubles start at $508). . . . High Concept: Forget bad in-flight movies: Rent a DVD and portable Panasonic player for $10 before boarding, then drop them off when you land. InMotion Pictures is already at airports in seven cities; service comes to La Guardia this fall (877-DVD-TO-GO). . . . Resort Redux: Anguilla's Cap Juluca hotel -- a favorite retreat for Hollywood couples -- reopens October 28 after post-hurricane renovations. To celebrate, management is offering summer rates through December 17 (888-858-5822; doubles start at $310).