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Close Your Eyes and Think of England: Royal-Themed B&B in London

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A nice lady in the northwest London suburb of Wembley has created a guestroom for a very particular traveler: one who cannot get enough of the royal family, even in this Windsor-giddy period between Kate and Will's wedding and the Queen's Jubilee.

The Sandringham Suite, a visual explosion of Union Jacks and Diana portraits, is available to rent for rates from $121 per night from rental site Wimdu.com. If sleeping amidst more than 10,000 artifacts is not enough, you can supplement the experience by renting a corgi for the day.

Via the Daily Mail.

Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.

Image courtesy of Wimdu.

 

Does Don Draper Really Need a Break?

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Taken by surprise, but pleased with its crisp orange-and-blue star turn on Sunday’s episode of Mad Men, Howard Johnson is looking to extend its moment in the spotlight. Several properties in the hotel chain are offering a free night this summer to anyone legally named Don Draper. (For those of us named Roger, Sally, and anything else, the hotel will lop 20% off stays of three nights or more.) For more information on participating hotels or to book, please visit Wyndham Worldwide.

(The Mad Men episode was filmed at a former Howard Johnson near L.A., which through the digital magic of television, was revived to its snappy signature colors and placed amidst upstate NY late spring greenery instead of palm trees.)

Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo: Michael Yarish/AMC


Choose Your Seatmate Via Facebook and LinkedIn

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Dutch airline KLM has recently launched Meet & Seat, a program that ensures that you’ll probably LIKE your seatmate, even before takeoff.

Meet & Seat allows passengers with reservations to view the social media profiles of other passengers who’ve already selected their seats and who have opted to share their Facebook or LinkedIn info. The service is not yet available on every KLM flight.

I can think of few instances in which I would employ Meet & Seat: Say, if Viggo Mortensen were flying coach and decided to identify himself via Facebook. Not likely, right? I guess I will continue to use airplane time to read novels and trashy magazines and not chat with my seatmate until the landing gear has been engaged.

Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.

Image courtesy of KLM.

See the Sea: Ocean Currents As Art

The Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center has released a mesmerizing animation, Perpetual Ocean, in which 2½ years' worth of data recording the oceans' surface currents was fed into a modelling program. The result—extravagant and whimsical and truly beautiful—merits a couple of minutes viewing. 

(Do yourself a favor and watch it full-screen.)

Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.

Art Hits the Streets of Sao Paolo's <em>Favelas</em>

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In January, Boa Mistura, a hyperactive cooperative of Spanish artists that call themselves “graffiti rockers,” completed an eye-popping public art project in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Working with residents of Vila Brasilândia, one of the city's favelas, the artists transformed the walls, stairs, and pathways of the slum’s meandering alleys with vivid paint and positive words that appear to float, suspended above the ground like massive, pleasant thought-bubbles.

Slideshow: Best Cities for Street Art

Read More

Avatars, Napoleon, and Angry Birds: Theme Park News

What’s happening in the world of amusement parks? Phone apps, world domination, and futuristic technology are inspiring some interesting theme park ideas.

An augmented-reality, Kinect-powered theme park, Live Park, opened last December outside Seoul. The immersive experience includes 50 attractions within a 10,000-square-meter space through which the visitors—and the avatars they create—move and interact with 3D video projections, screens, touchable art installations, and live performers. The Live Park videos make the experience look simultaneously thrilling and overwhelming, sort of like the concept of an audience-participation Cirque du Soleil.

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Charles Dickens on Travel

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As you’ve no doubt heard, today marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth. Besides being a great writer, Dickens was a believer in travel. He did not always put a happy spin on his voyages (On crossing the English Channel: “I am bumped rolled gurgled washed and pitched into Calais Harbour..” or on the world’s great capitals: “Naples is hot and dirty, New York feverish, Washington bilious, Genoa exciting, Paris rainy…”), but he is just as eloquent about the joy of experiencing the world around you:

He went to the church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and for, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed of any walk, that anything, could give him so much happiness.

And the enduring benefits of travel:

The more man knows of man, the better for the common brotherhood among us all.

Happy Dickens Day!

Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo of Dickens World, a theme park in Kent, England, by Robert Bird/Alamy.

Take a Smithsonian Scavenger Hunt

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Over the cold MLK weekend, my kids and I headed south to meet some cousins in Washington, D.C. and had the chance to test-drive a Smithsonian Art Adventure mobile-phone-based scavenger hunt from Stray Boots.

On Sunday morning, bundled up and armed with instructions for the hunt (the company’s website calls them “interactive walking tours” and “urban games”), we headed to the designated starting point, the Smithsonian Castle, punched our confirmation code into the phone, and the questions started coming.

Players participate via text message or, by using a smartphone, type answers into a web interface.  Points are awarded for correct answers and hints are available for incorrect ones, and additional interesting trivia is served up with each answer.  The cost to play is about the same as joining a human-hosted walking tour, but the phone-delivered narrative allows for more pausing, food breaks, and general messing-around, which suited our group better.

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Victor Enrich's City Portraits: Move Over, Koolhaas?

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Like the products of an architect’s fever-dreams, the buildings in Victor Enrich’s city portraits morph and strain and sprout new wings that defy logic and gravity. His 3-D illustrations transform cityscapes from familiar boxiness into something distorted and slightly giddy. Yet when one considers some of the outlandish real-world structures that have sprung from the imaginations of big-name designers like Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, and Santiago Calatrava, perhaps former architecture student Enrich (with a well-connected and -caffeinated publicist and a budget, of course) could be the next urban design visionary?

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Third Night Free at Top NYC Hotels

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Mayor Mike Bloomberg recently announced that New York City played host to a record 50 million visitors this past year. Seems like we can expect a few more in 2012: NYC & Company, the official tourism board for our fair Gotham, has rallied some extraordinary big-name luxury hotels to participate in their wintertime Third Night Promotion, where you get one free night for every three-night stay.

The list of  ‘signature collection’ properties hosting this winter sale includes both elegant, storied hotels and see-and-be-seen hip newcomers. Choosing just one may be the biggest challenge of your stay:

The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel
The Chatwal New York
Hôtel Plaza Athénée New York
Jumeirah Essex House
Loews Regency Hotel
The London NYC
Mandarin Oriental, New York
The New York Palace
The Peninsula New York
The Pierre
The Plaza Hotel
The Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park
The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park
The St. Regis New York
The Setai Fifth Avenue
The Sherry-Netherland
The Surrey
Trump International Hotel & Tower
Trump SoHo New York
The Waldorf Towers

As one who regularly watches these hotels for affordable offers, I can tell you that an opportunity to save 33% doesn’t come along very often. I can also guarantee that a visit to NYC this winter will be a memorable one. Whether you take the budget route of window-shopping, people-watching, and street food, or use those savings to indulge in some of the thrilling culture, cuisine, and commerce of the city—either way, you’ll leave already planning your next visit.

Ritz-Carlton Central Park

Top photo courtesy of Trump Soho; bottom photo of the Ritz-Carlton, Central Park © Kelly Kollar.

Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.

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