The Blue Mountains' crisp air and spectacular vistas have made the World Heritage area, 120 km west of Sydney, a popular vacation spot for generations of urban dwellers. Now visitors who want to get back to nature in the mountains without sacrificing comfort can rent a fully serviced cave. Accessed via a 300-m-long private path through the bush near the village of Bell, the 25-m-high, 20-m-deep cave has been fitted with solar-powered lights, a gas cooker, a kitchen sink, an in-ground cool box, tables and chairs and a nearby compost toilet. It costs $300 a weekend for two. See .
Star chefs and fashionable ingredients defined gastronomy in the 1980s and '90s. But the new millennium has brought a backlash against food snobbery from "chowhounds," who don't care who cooked a dish or what it contains so long as it's delicious. Launched by New York restaurant critic Jeff Leff, www.chowhound.com hosts message boards covering the U.S., Canada and "International," where 'hounds debate the merits of specific eateries and share tips on topics like, Where's the best place to get weekend breakfast in L.A.? and, Is there a good chip shop open late in London's Soho? To keep the site honest, Leff, whose plans include buttons reading, "No, I would not like some freshly ground pepper," bans advertising and warns that people posting phony testimonials will be "publicly embarrassed."
For some vacationers, discomfort is what separates an authentic travel experience from mere tourism. And what could be less comfortable than living as a vagrant on the streets of a big city? For $430, Dutch travel company Kamstra will fly you from Amsterdam to London, Brussels, Paris or Prague, give you a sleeping bag and the choice of a musical instrument or sketch pad and pencil with which to earn some money, and leave you to fend for yourself for four days. Not surprisingly, the idea of "rough sleeper holidays" doesn't impress charities that help the homeless-or London police, who warn that vacationing street dwellers could face arrest under the Vagrancy Act.
In the French capital, it's long been taboo to walk, sit or picnic on most public lawns. But after a two- month trial, Mayor Bertrand DelanoŰ has announced that ne pas marcher sur la pelouse signs will be removed from parks including the chic 8th-arrondissement Parc Monceau, the 14th arrondissement's Parc Montsouris and the Parc Floral in Vincennes. In the great state-run gardens like the Tuileries, the Luxembourg and the Palais-Royal, however, the lawns remain strictly for looking at.