- Can't afford a second home? Sample the good life with a rental
- For a taste of the Hawaii that Oprah enjoys, head to Upcountry Maui
- A Brangelina-style château might be out of reach, but perhaps an Aix-en-Provence pied-à-terre?
Do you find yourself enviously clicking through pictures of celebrity homes on your lunch hour? Instead of turning green over the multibillion-dollar estates of George Clooney or Brad and Angelina, why not follow their lead? Plan your own getaway in a place where the stars have found solace, far from the fray.
To make yourself at home (at least temporarily) in your own private villa, contact local rental agencies or do your own research on sites such as HomeAway.com. Or choose a lower priced hotel option and simply savor the same scenery that the stars enjoy. Once you arrive, feel free to pretend paparazzi are hiding around every corner in hope of snatching a candid of you, in all your celeb-y glamour.
Lake Como, Italy
Though George Clooney may not have invited you to his private villa, you can still have a grand time in the Italian Alps. The panoramic views from Hotel La Perla are just part of the reason visitors rave about the place. They also appreciate the large rooms with high ceilings, the serenity and the friendly, knowledgeable staff.
A Como must-see is the marble and gold-inlay interior and high octagonal dome of the Cattedrale di Como. Under construction from the 14th century to the 18th, the cathedral displays traces of Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles, and is among the most important churches in Northern Italy.
And don't miss the spectacular views from the Funicular Railway, which makes the steep climb to the town of Brunate. Then savor the vista over wine and a fine meal at Ristorante Bellavista.
For a taste of the Hawaii that Oprah enjoys, head to Upcountry Maui, with its fertile, rolling ranches and sweeping views. Vacation rental sites offer affordable Upcountry options, but you can also avoid beachfront crowds with a stay at the Banyan Tree House. After a simple breakfast, stretch out in a hammock, surrounded by flowers and shaded by giant banyan, monkeypod and jacaranda trees, or take a dip in the pool.
Take an afternoon stroll to Makawao, a quiet cowboy town that's now a center for artists. Explore the galleries and a glassblower's shop, then stop by the Makawao Garden Café for lunch in a little courtyard, under the shade of a tropical tree. Diners call the restaurant "a little Eden" that's kind of like being "in your own little rainforest." Save room for dessert at T. Komoda Store & Bakery, which locals laud for their sticky treats like cinnamon snails and small donuts -- some glazed and some filled with guava jam -- sold five on a wooden stick.
Visit Ulupalakua, Maui's second largest cattle ranch, on the slopes of Mount Haleakala, where, in the mid-1800s, ranchers cultivated sweet potatoes, taro and sugarcane in the rich, volcanic soil. Other must-sees include the view from Haleakala Crater, the highest point on Maui, and Wailua Falls, the 200-foot, rainbow-making cascade dropping into a tropical rainforest pool that was featured in the opening scene of "Fantasy Island."
If a Brangelina-style extended stay at a mammoth South of France château isn't exactly in your mere-mortal budget, why not create a little adventure of your own with a rental in the heart of Aix-en-Provence? Check out Aix en Appartements for listings ranging from garden studios to modern lofts to a terrace apartment overlooking the clocktower.
Aix offers endless opportunities to explore thousands of years of history. Visit the Eglise Saint Jean de Malte, a fortified, 13th-century Gothic church. Stop in next door at Palais de Malte, built in 1676, which is now the Granet Museum, featuring archaeology exhibits and collections of 16th to 20th-century paintings, including some by Cézanne. Then stroll the pedestrian streets full of shops in the old Roman town, where you can still see remains of the Medieval ramparts and the market motifs on buildings that played an important role in the region's agricultural commerce.
When hunger strikes, don't miss L'Epicurien, a small bistro located just beside the Museum of Natural History, featuring creative cuisine with dishes that highlight seasonal produce. Diners rave about the squash soup with foie gras, the oyster ravioli and the raw, marinated cod.
Taos, New Mexico
Julia Roberts is said to love Taos for the escape it offers from big-city life. Surely you will, too. For a no-hassle getaway stay at the American Artists Gallery Bed & Breakfast, which offers in-room fireplaces, oversized Jacuzzi tubs and heated tile floors, as well as stunning views of the Taos Mountains. With house specialties including stuffed French toast, Navajo cornbake casserole and cheese biscuits, plan to swoon over the gourmet breakfast.
You'll appreciate that hearty meal while you're at Rio Grande Gorge, where hiking, biking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting and hot air ballooning are all ways to enjoy the spectacular 800-foot canyon.
If, by dinnertime, you're not too worn out for walking, stroll from the inn to Lambert's of Taos for their signature dish: pepper crusted loin of lamb with a red wine demi-glace, sautéed vegetables and garlic linguine.
Then, on day two, head for the foothills of the largest peaks in New Mexico to visit Taos Pueblo, a complex of multiple-storied adobe buildings that have been continuously inhabited by Native Americans for more than 1,000 years. Tour the grounds and support the local artisans by buying mica-flecked pottery and silver jewelry at curio shops within the pueblo.
When Nicole Kidman set up house outside of Nashville with country music megastar Keith Urban, the farm's distance from Los Angeles and New York was a big part of the draw. Nashville's warm, casual, down-home feel is easy to love.
Even if you're not a country music fan, visit the Country Music Hall of Fame for the rich Americana and the impressive curation. In addition to the diverse collection of costumes, memorabilia, instruments and photographs, the museum cleverly "displays" the music itself using snail-shell spiral pods that allow you to sample recordings spanning decades in the genre's evolution.
Once you're ready for a little irreverence about country music, catch a Doyle and Debbie Show, a parody act "simultaneously lampooning and idolizing" the iconic duo tradition, which the Nashville Scene called a "hilarious piece of low-brow inspiration turned into high entertainment."