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The Grenade Hall Forest & Signal Station is a communication post datingback to 1819. Originally a lookout point, today itremains a perfect vantage pointto spy across the island fromon high. Later, wander thepaths through a forest famedfor its healing plants, and thenhead to the nearby BarbadosWildlife Reserve to mingle with monkeys, birds and reptiles.St Nicholas Abbey is set in a Jacobean mansion - one of only three remaining in the eastern hemisphere. Surrounded by park-like gardens and cane fields, you can tour the great house that was built in the mid 17th century, wander through Cherry Tree Hill - a stunning avenue lined withMahogany trees and tropical flora - and relax in flower and herb gardens brimming with orchids, roses and avocado, mango and breadfruit trees. The entire west coast is a feast of fun for divers. The southern area has some particularly great shipwrecks to explore, including Ce-Trek, Eillon andBerwind, and winding among them you'll discover tropical fish, eels and seahorses. For snorkelling,try Carlisle Bay Marine Park. Little Bay is a natural havenwhere the passage of timeand the force of the waves have carved a swimming poolamong the rocks. Bathe to a background chorus of blowholes spouting sea waterhigh into the air. Nearby, CoveBay is a scenic spot where you can picnic on the beachbeneath coconut palms, listening to waves crashingagainst the lofty cliffs. Crane Beach is consideredto be one of the best in the world with pale pinksand, rolling dunes and waves changing from turquoise to lapis to azure blue. Makedinner reservations at theacclaimed and stylish Thai and Japanese influenced Zen Restaurant at The CraneResort overlooking the beach.In the southern parish of ChristChurch, the Barbados GolfClub has a PGA-approved 18-hole links course that hasbeen beautifully landscaped to provide a truly challengingand scenic round across rollinghills, open fairways, lakes and coral-waste bunkers.Barbados has been perfectingthe art of rum-making formore than 350 years. Head toMount Gay for atour and tasting,and then to the nearby MalibuBeach Club and Visitor Centre for a distillery tour followed by a relaxing lunch at the beachsidebar and restaurant. Fitts Village, originally a fishinghamlet, is a great spot forsnorkelling. Read a book under thepalms on the beach, picnic under the Casuarina trees, and later wander into the village for a Caribbean dinner.One of the island's finest restaurants is The Cliff inSt James, where candlelight, art and fine cuisinecombine. You can dine to a chorus of crashing wavesand wonderful views of the Caribbean Sea. Also in St James is The Tides - a rustic restaurant on thewater's edge with a tropical garden and an art gallery.Nature-lovers and hikers alike love Welchman Hall Gully, where tropicalplants and trees flourish in their natural environment as they have forhundreds of years. Spot green monkeys as you wander along shaded woodland trails lined with coconut, clove, nutmeg, bamboo and cacao trees.Nearby Harrison's Cave is one of the Caribbean's most famous natural historysites. The vast cave features stunning rock formations and shimmering poolsand streams. A tram escorts you amid stalagmites and stalactites to loftycathedral-like spaces beneath the island. islandlifeBridgetownAUTUMN 2011I sea&iI47ATLANTIC OCEANNSt LawrenceSouth PointRagged PointMt HillabySt PatricksSpeightstownNorth PointBelairCARIBBEAN SEA

The seafront home of stately mansions, car-chase crazy hillsand eclectic arts and culture, San Francisco is one of the US's most appealing West Coast citiesByKate Rigbyhe vertiginous appeal of San Francisco has soaredever higher since the days of the Gold Rush.Despite its fortunes having risen andplummeted as dramatically as its trademarkhills, it remains one of North America's bestloved cities. Variously home to the Beat Generation, the 'summer of love'hippies and dot-com entrepreneurs, this West Coast gemreflects an appealing mix of nationalities, cultures and qualitiesas a consequence of its rich history. This is a city that in 1906was decimated by an earthquake. It later survived the GreatDepression with a flourish, as it was during this time that thelegendary Golden Gate Bridge, still one of the world's mostfamous and best-loved bridges, was opened in 1937 amid aweek of celebrations. Today, San Francisco honours its vibrant heritage and blendscosmopolitan and artistic culture with a charismatic, modernvibe. Its waterfront setting, in particular, highlights its laidbackappeal, and the entire city is small enough to explore during along weekend. Tour the museums, wander around Nob Hill withits rococo palaces recalling yesteryear's railroad and silverkings, dig into clam chowder, tune into the San FranciscoSymphony, and toss a Frisbee in Dolores Park. Among the big players here, the likes of theRitz Carlton, Four Seasons, Fairmontand Mandarin Oriental, isthe St Regisin theSOMA district, featuring a historic building and a new 40-storeytower offering incredible city views. Its choice location offerspleasing distractions, from the acclaimed San Francisco Museumof Modern Art alongside to the Yerba Buena Gardens opposite. The Clift, home of serious style, is worth a visit. It has an old-world elegance thrown together with a Philippe Starck designedinterior starring an eclectic collection of furniture and dŽcor. It islocated just by Union Square and Nob Hill, so rest assured you'llbe among good company. At the base of the Golden Gate Bridge is Cavallo Point, whichoffers a pleasing mix of historic lodgings and contemporary hotelrooms. For historical appeal, stay in the former officers' residencesof Fort Baker (once a US Army post) where family suites areluxuriously appointed yet homely. Alternatively, more modernrooms and suites can be found on the hillside above theFort where they afford incredible views of the GoldenGate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. The Huntington Hotelon Nob Hillhas crowned one of the city'shighest perches since1924 and 48Isea&iIAUTUMN 2011san francisco