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Write for travel guide to the Cayman Islands

ALL YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE CAYMAN ISLANDS. The "1998 Rates & Facts Guide to the Cayman Islands" is a comprehensive listing of everything you need to know to plan a vacation there. To request a free copy, call 1-800-346-3313. The brochure, published by the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, lists summer and winter rates at hotels, condominiums and villas on Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Information about diving, snorkeling, sailing, parasailing, windsurfing, submarine rides and fishing is also included. The Cayman Islands are a 11/2-hour flight from Miami.

- "RENT," the award-winning musical inspired by Puccini's "La Boheme," opened at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles last week. The production is not without some raunchiness. It won a Tony award and best musical awards from the New York Drama Critics Circle, the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle. For tickets, call 1-213-628-2772.

- THE GETTY CENTER WILL OPEN DEC. 16. The new, six-building center combines the J. Paul Getty Trust's museums, institutes and grant program. The new J. Paul Getty Museum showcases the permanent collection of paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, photographs, sculpture and French decorative arts. Another interesting place on the campus is the Research Institute's exhibition gallery, resource collection and reading area within a 750,000-volume library. Garden lovers will appreciate the formal and informal gardens set amid 600 acres of land that's been kept in its natural state. Admission to the Getty Center is free. Parking is $5. Advance parking reservations are required. To make reservations, call 1-310-440-7300. The new center is at 1200 Getty Center Dr. To get there, take the 405 north from Los Angeles; get off at the Moraga exit; turn left onto Sepulvida Blvd., and drive until you reach drive to Getty Center Drive, where you turn left.

- WHICH TOWN IS THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL? Winners in the "Prettiest Painted Places in America" competition sponsored by the Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute and Better Homes and Gardens and Architecture magazines are:

- Cape May, N.J., and Wyoming, Ohio. Cape May has lavish Victorian homes painted in historically accurate colors. Wyoming, near Cincinnati, has an eclectic mix of neatly painted homes in tasteful, understated color schemes.

- Seaside and the Art Deco Historic District of Miami Beach are winners in the Southeast region. Seaside is a Gulf Coast village where homes are painted in a palette that mimics the sea and local sunsets. Miami Beach, on the Atlantic coast, has buildings painted with pastels - blue, cream, pink and yellow.

- Winners in the North-Central Region are Deadwood, S.D., and La Crosse, Wis. Restored gambling halls, store fronts and Victorian houses of Deadwood are painted according to guidelines set by a historic preservation committee. La Crosse has prairie-style homes alongside Victorian and Italianate structures.

- Winners in the South-Central region are the East End Historical District of Galveston, Tex., and Lafayette Square in St. Louis, Mo. The Galveston historic district is a mix of pretty cottages and elegant homes. Lafayette Square is surrounded by attractively painted brick and sandstone townhouse mansions.

- In the Northwest region, winners are Ferndale, Calif., and Toppenish, Wash. Ferndale has splendidly ornate Victorian homes and commercial buildings painted with beautiful and historically accurate color schemes. Toppenish is like an outdoor art gallery with nearly 50 professionally painted historical murals depicting the local area's heritage.

- In the Southwest region, Tubac, Ariz., and Hanford, Calif., are the winners. Tubac has authentic Arizona territorial buildings made of brick, adobe and stucco painted in earthtones or bright white, punctuated with bright splashes of turquoise blue and emerald green. Hanford has an eclectic mix of Mediterranean, Mission and California Craftsman homes as well as carefully restored public buildings and commercial structures.

Seven other places were cited as having exceptional aesthetic merit:

Columbus, Ga.; Leadville, Colo.; Marietta, Pa.; Nevada City, Calif.; New Orleans, La.; Oak Park, Ill.; and College Hill in Providence, R.I.

Photos of the winning communities and other outstanding painted places are posted on the Paint Quality Institute Web site at (

- A MUSEUM IMELDA MARCOS WOULD LOVE. A collection of giant shoes, large enough for most people to fill with both feet, is on display at a new museum at Pike Place Market near the Seattle waterfront.