His transformation of a muddy swamp into the elaborate gardens surrounding King Louis XIV's Palace of Versailles made André Le Nôtre (1613-1700) the favored landscape designer of 17th century European nobility. The French master gardener used the laws of perspective and optics to create the geometric flower beds, terraces, sweeping avenues of trees and carefully placed statues and fountains that have become synonymous with the French style of formal garden. To mark the 300th anniversary of his death, Chantilly Castle, located 40 km north of Paris, is staging an exhibition featuring Le Nôtre's drawings, plans and engravings for his favorite park, designed for Louis II of Bourbon as a rival to Versailles. Through Oct. 1.
It may be 14 years since its release, but the hit film Top Gun is still inspiring American civilians to adopt nicknames like Maverick and the Iceman and take the stick of a military trainer aircraft to wage simulated dogfights against their friends or colleagues. Air Combat USA, based in Fullerton, Ca., offers a range of one-day courses (priced from $795 to $1,495, in locations across the country) which include on-the-ground training in tactical fighter maneuvers and a "mission tailored to your level of aggressiveness." Accompanied by military-trained pilots, participants take the controls for a series of dogfights, complete with sound effects, smoke trails, and cockpit cameras "capturing the sights and sounds of every kill." For course details see www.aircombat.com.
Robert Rauschenberg takes his love of collaboration to new lengths in "Synapsis Shuffle." Comprising 52 3-m-high panels filled with digitally transferred, paint-overlaid photographs taken by the renowned American artist during his global travels, the work is intended to be "shuffled" into a new composition each time it is installed in a different location. For the inaugural showing, at the Whitney Museum of Modern Art, Rauschenberg's collaborators include celebrity homemaker Martha Stewart, Hollywood agent Mike Ovitz and rock singer David Byrne. Through Oct. 8.
Senior travelers who want to step out of air-conditioned buses and take to the trail in offbeat destinations like Borneo, Belize and Nepal can choose from 45 trips designed for the over-50s by Toronto-based tour company Eldertreks. Participants, who should be capable of walking for several hours under tropical conditions, can include, at no extra cost, more physically demanding "adventure options" such as sleeping on the floor of a tribal headman's hut in Irian Jaya or traveling by elephant to visit remote hill tribes in Thailand. Tours take between a week and 27 days and the cost includes ground transportation, guesthouse accommodation, meals, English-speaking local guides, and entrance fees. See www.eldertreks.com.