For true operatic pilgrims, summer in Europe remains a must, with no lovelier setting than at the renowned Glyndebourne Festival amid the green hills of the Sussex Downs. The cream of British society has been flocking here since its 1934 opening, to a grand country estate whose small but charming old opera house was recently replaced by a much larger, modern theater with excellent acoustics. It opened in 1994 to everyone’s delight (even skeptical old-timers love the new building), and tickets are somewhat less difficult to | come by. Serious opera aficionados know : they’ll find high standards in the festival’s I innovative repertoire that offers a little of i everything for everyone, performed by international lyrical artists both established and emerging. For others it is the social season’s highlight: there is the ritual evening picnic enjoyed on the garden-framed lawn that stretches before the graceful neo-Elizabethan country manor, private home of the festival founder’s son. Sheep and cows graze within sight while musicians can be heard tuning up. To get there, hop on the train from London for the one-hour trip to Lewes. Or live the Sussex dream and book at the 400-year-old creeper-covered Gravetye Manor, Sussex’s most baronial estate and one of Britain’s first. Filled with comfortable furniture, surrounded by famously gorgeous gardens, offering one of the area’s best chefs (who packs a mean gourmet picnic hamper for the opera), and a wine list rivaled by few in the nation, Gravetye is the perfect luxurious match for Glyndebourne.