The pursuit of haute cuisine takes on epic proportions on French St. Barts, where chefs all seem to hail from the kitchens of Paris and Provence.

The pages of the island's weekly Journal de Saint-Barth are awash in restaurant ads, many of which carry glowing testimonials from American newspapers and food magazines.

So how does a visitor decide where to dine from among the 60-plus gourmet choices on an island eight square miles in area?

Although Insider does appreciate a decent magret de canard (breast of duck) and chilled bottle of Pouligny Montrachet, she also gets off on less fancy fare.

Down-home cooking can be found even on an island as gastro nomically intensive as French St. Barts. So it was no surprise that one ad fairly jumped off the Journal page at her, even though it was jammed between ads awash in award logos and star ratings.

It helped that the ad was in English, but it was the description of the Hideaway Restaurant's cuisine that really warmed Insider's heart: corked wine, warm beer, lousy food.

Wow. Just like at home.

P.S. She did not dine there, but there's always the next visit.

Really rough

Guidebooks pour into Travel Weekly's offices as regularly as our issues pour into yours.

Usually the books are accompanied by a note from the publisher or a brief summary of the book's contents.

So, it was quite a surprise when something other than a review copy dropped out of a manila envelope from Rough Guides recently.

These destination guides are published in England, distributed in the U.S. by Penguin Books and have been described by reviewers as "authoritative, informative books, written with candid enthusiasm."

What fell out of the envelope appeared at first glance to be a large matchbook, with the Rough Guide silhouette logo in the center depicting a stick figure running from left to right, from rain to sunshine.

The words "Rough Guide" ran across the top and "smooth shag" across the bottom, near the Web address.

On the back was the same logo, with the words, "For travel, music & the Internet, we're the only name worth remembering in the morning."

The spine of the matchbook or whatever carried the trademark slogan, "Unmatched Protection."

Insider lifted the flap. This was no matchbook and these were definitely not matches.

Inside was a pink latex condom with directions and illustrations for its use.

If Rough Guides meant to get our attention, it scored a success with this mailing.

We placed the item on an empty desk. It was gone the next morning.

Orlando ExSPANsion

A long overdue elevated pedestrian walkway will span Orlando's International Drive when phase one of the expansion of the present 891-room Peabody Orlando is completed in fall 2003.

The 42-story, 1,000-room addition will be the tallest building in Central Florida.

By 2007, phase two will add another 700 rooms.

An Insider correspondent familiar with the never-ending vehicular and pedestrian traffic along International Drive and some intersecting roadways, believes that a dozen more pedestrian bridges are needed. We kid you not.

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