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*Hot Spots Sydney*

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CHECKING IN The big hotels are fine, especially the Park Hyatt (7 Hickson Road, The Rocks; 61-2-9241-1234; fax 61-2-9256-1555), but boutique is the new way to go. Try the Rockfort (61 Lower Fort Street, The Rocks; 61-2-9251-9475; fax 61-2-9251-9552), the Regents Court Hotel (18 Springfield Avenue, Kings Cross; 61-2-9358-1533; fax 61-2-9358-1833), or the funky new Medusa Hotel (267 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst; 61-2-9331-1000; fax 61-2-9380-6901). . . .

ON THE BEACH The promenade on Bondi Beach is pumping with tanned funksters in Mambo "boardies," sarongs, suede slides, and Diesel bikinis. Do the cliff walk to Bronte Beach, sip caffè lattes at Skinny Dip (Hall Street and Glenayr Avenue; 61-2-9130-4602), or dine at Hugo's Bondi Cafe (70 Campbell Parade; 61-2-9300-0900). . . .

POST SURF Chic Sydneysiders go for Bombay Sapphire martinis at the International (227 Victoria Street, fourteenth floor, Kings Cross; 61-2-9360-2488) or an Oz designer beer at the more casual Grand Pacific Blue Room (Oxford and South Dowling Streets, Paddington; 61-2-9331-7108). The suave city set chooses Winebanc (53 Martin Place, City; 61-2-9233-5399). . . .

SYDNEY EATS For definitive Sydney fusion, it's Rockpool (107 George Street, The Rocks; 61-2-9252-1888), and for ultimate views and Franco-Oz heaven, try Quay (Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks; 61-2-9251-5600). Hottest new restaurant: MG Garage (490 Crown St., Surry Hills; 61-2-9383-9383). And don't miss snapper pie at The Boathouse (End of Ferry Road, Blackwattle; 61-2-9518-9011). But the six-week wait for ocean-trout confit at Tetsuya's (729 Darling Street, Rozelle; 61-2-9555-1017) says it all. . . .

RETAIL THERAPY Grand and glamorous are David Jones (Market Street, City) and The Strand Arcade (Pitt Street Mall, City). Stroll Queen Street for fashion by new cult designer Akira Isogawa (12a Queen Street) and Simon Johnson's gorgeous food emporium (55 Queen Street, Woollahra). Must do -- Mambo's ecstatic surfwear (17 Oxford Street). . . .

DON'T MISS Starting January 2, the Sydney Opera House hosts the annual monthlong Sydney Festival (61-2-8248-6500): 800 artists in 247 performances, including salsa queen Celia Cruz, and pianist Philippe Cassard doing all of Debussy in a single day. And be sure to stay for gay and lesbian Mardi Gras on February 27.


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