The Good Life: A Taste of Lima

During my years of traipsing around Latin America, I have always regarded Lima as one of the underrated gastronomic capitals of the hemisphere. There's nothing like unwinding at a seaside eatery in one of the Peruvian capital's outlying suburbs with a frothy pisco sour cocktail and a plate of seviche marinated in lime juice and ají peppers.

Thanks to the efforts of a couple of enterprising Peruvian businesswomen, visitors can now sample the city's diverse fare. Culinary Tour Peru offers a one-day crash course in local cuisine. The brainchild of longtime travel-industry entrepreneur Patricia La Rosa, the six-hour "golden" tour includes a buffet lunch and visits to a typical sevichería and a 19th-century Lima tavern, where tourists learn how to prepare the tangy seafood appetizer and test their bartending skills with the pisco grape liquor ($55 to $90 per person, minimum two clients;

For serious foodies, Wendy Alperstein launched her Taste of Peru tours four years ago to promote the indigenous, Spanish and Asian culinary influences. An eight-day, seven-night package features multi-course fusion dinners at the top-drawer Lima restaurants Astrid y Gastón and Malabar, and a class led by chefs who demonstrate pachamanca, a native cooking technique that uses a pit covered with hot stones and firewood to bake meats wrapped in banana leaves. The itinerary includes an excursion to an open-air food market and side trips to Machu Picchu and Cuzco, where guests are treated to coca-leaf tea and a dinner of indigenous dishes like capchi de setas, a casserole made with oyster mushrooms and sieva beans (about $2,700 per person; "There is so much to taste, and we want you to taste it all," says Alperstein. Your palate will never be the same.

Hot Spot: Malmaison Oxford, England
Time was when no one stayed at the Malmaison for pleasure—and unlucky guests might count their stays in decades, not days. For more than 140 years the imposing block served as the city's jail. That was before the makeover that saw the prison refurbished as a boutique hotel with 94 bedrooms.

Ambience: The keynote is understated luxury. Where possible, the layout of the interior has been left largely unchanged, but bold colors and designer furniture help to dispel the gloom. For the curious, one original cell with three beds survives in the basement. Steady your nerves beforehand in the bar down the hallway, and when you need an escape, the city center is in easy strolling distance of the prison gates.

Rooms: Most rooms were created from three former cells knocked together, grouped around a central atrium. Exposed brickwork and metal stairways testify to a grimmer past, but latter-day residents can expect the standard amenities—including flat-screen TVs. Prices begin at £140 a night.

Dining: This jailhouse aims to rock. The brasserie prides itself on modern British cooking with a little extra flair, like duck breast and choucroute. Homemade fries may have figured on the prison menu, but never with a Bloody Mary sauce.

Four Hours In Ottawa
The Canadian capital may feel like a small town, but it has the cultural attractions and striking architecture of a much bigger city.

VISIT the myriad exhibits of the Museum of Civilization. The Canada Hall documents 1,000 years of history from coast to coast (

SHOP the historic streets of the ByWard Market, where an array of farmers markets, cafés, boutiques and restaurants sit within four compact blocks (

EAT a beaver tail at one of the many stalls dotted around the center of town. Thankfully not the real thing, this local classic is warm, doughy pastry dusted with sugar and cinnamon. Delicious.

WANDER the paths along the Rideau Canal, which snakes through the city and freezes over in winter to become the world's largest outdoor skating rink (

Bookish Mood
No online book-seller can compete with these classic independent bookshops for ambience: London's famed Daunt Books specializes in travel guides and world classics, nestled on oak shelves ( Paris's Librairie Galignani offers political and fine-arts tomes in a mezzanine under vast skylights (224, rue de Rivoli). San Francisco's City Lights hosts poetry readings and lectures (citylights .com). And in China, the Beijing Bookworm's book and wine clubs attract young urbanites and foreign expats ( Happy browsing.

The Writing On the Wall
Wallpaper that actually goes on walls is beginning to resemble the computer-screen variety. Some of the latest trends include magnetic wallpaper for those who need constant change ( and large-scale stickers with cutout imagery, like the iPod ads of colorful cutout figures dancing ( Timorous Beasties uses traditional silk-screening techniques with a modern edge ( Its best-known design, Glasgow Toile ($195 a roll), depicts "the underbelly of urban chaos," says founder Paul Simmons. Selina Rose is literally on the cutting edge, with intricate shapes like butterflies and roses that can be folded to create custom 3-D wall art ( Maxalot Gallery hires leading-edge graphic artists like Build and Joshua Davis to custom-design wall coverings for its clients ( Like background screens, walls will never be the same.

The Maximalist
With 804 diamonds and a choice of rubies, sapphires or emeralds, the Limited Edition Mystery Masterpiece, a joint venture of Montblanc and Van Cleef & Arpels, is like a piece of crown jewelry that also happens to write. Only nine instruments will be crafted, and each will take more than a year and a half to complete. Not coincidentally, Montblanc is also launching a much more affordable diamond jewelry line. $730,000.

The Good Life: A Taste of Lima | U.S.