Sandwiched between Piccadilly and The Mall in London’s West End, St. James’s may be the most-traveled-through but least-known neighborhood in London. At least, that’s my take-away after spending a recent Tuesday morning walking through its historic streets, courtyards, and mews in the company of Frank Laino, executive concierge of the Stafford London in the heart of St. James’s. After 16 years of catering to the wishes of clients at the discreet, upscale Stafford hotel, Laino knows St. James’s like few others, and recently began squiring hotel guests on foot tours. Here are some of the most intriguing stops on his itinerary.
If time, money, and insider access were yours for the asking, how would you spend your next visit to London? Let me make it easy for you with a menu of choices: Being served afternoon tea at the Lord's Cricket Ground by Mr. Carson, the butler from Downton Abbey. Joining the cast of a West End smash show, onstage, as an extra. Blasting a shot from the big guns of the HMS Belfast, a warship that fired one of the first salvoes on D-Day. Raising the roadbed of Tower Bridge to accommodate a passing ship on the mighty Thames. Prowling the hidden corners and most regal of public spaces in the Houses of Parliament, accompanied by no less than the Speaker of the House of Commons. Or how about all these things, and many more iconic London experiences, during a two-week luxury stay in the English capital? Would you like that? Neither would I. No, wait, just kidding! Yes, I would. I want to do them all, and maybe I will--unless you beat me to it.
That travel can be a life-changing experience is no revelation, but as Bruce Northam eloquently proves in his newly released "The Directions To Happiness--A 135-Country Quest for Life Lessons," sometimes travel epiphanies can sneak up and bite you in the ass. And the closer you are to the people of your destination, the more likely are those discoveries to land in your lap. "As opposed to traveling as a tourist, I propose traveling as a poorest," he writes at one point. And it is indeed that low-impact style that leads the author to so many simple-but-true learnings.
Today Marriott Hotels launches a brand-new, knock-your-socks-off travel experience that allows you to immerse yourself in a virtual-reality version of London and Hawaii, complete with motion, sounds, and even sprays of water for a “4-D” experience that makes typical virtual reality pale in comparison. The Teleporter, as the experience has been tagged, is being rolled out to the public starting today and over the next eight weeks at select Marriotts nationwide (see the full schedule here). Why should you care? Read on...
Maybe you heard the story today from the AP. Male air passenger places a Knee Defender device on the seat back in front of him, preventing that seat from reclining. Female passenger in that seat objects. Flight attendant tells man to remove device, man refuses, woman complainant drenches the man with water. (Why oh why couldn’t it have been red wine?! Much better story that way.) Pilot diverts the Newark-Denver flight to Chicago, where the two offending parties are removed, but not arrested. We all know who is right and who is wrong in this tale. Right?
Actor George Takei, best known for his role as Lt. Hikaru Sulu on the Star Trek TV series and films, is the focus of a new documentary, To Be Takei, which opens in selected theaters on August 22. The affable Takei, who, as Mr. Sulu, boldly navigated the Starship Enterprise where no one had gone before, is quite a terrestrial traveler, as well. In fact, he is currently on board the Cunard Queen Mary 2 as a guest lecturer. We caught up with him at a pre-sailing press conference on the ship followed by a one-on-one travelandleisure.com interview to ask him about traveling, Howard Stern, his long-running feud with Star Trek co-star William Shatner, and why he agreed to play a talking head, literally, on the animated series Futurama.
I got your number, you lusty traveler, you. The No. 1 place where you’d like to have sex on holiday is on a boat, according to match.com. And you know why? Because travel is the liquor of love, that’s why. At least, so says Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and consultant for match.com.
That’s just one of the prurient results from the dating site’s fourth annual “Singles in America” study. The bottom line seems to be this: Travel makes humans crave sex. I’m sorry, I can’t sugar-coat this. It is what it is. And yes, yes, we’ll provide you with details in a second, Mr. Casanova and Ms. Jezebel. But first, let’s set the mood, lower the lights, and hear a bit more from Doc Fisher.
Ryan Blaney is one of the up-and-coming drivers on the NASCAR circuit, now in his third year with Team Penske. And if you were going to take driving advice from anyone, wouldn’t it be a 20-year-old kid who wears fireproof underwear and tends to drive aggressively at 200 mph? So would we!
Blaney is making the media rounds on behalf of Hertz and its new 35-point Certified Clean & Safe inspection program. Not that we wanted to talk about that. We wanted some driving tips!
Q: Is it difficult to make the mental shift from NASCAR to highway driving? A: It’s hard to switch off going from driving a racecar to driving your personal vehicle on the highway. It’s very difficult for me, like after a race at Daytona or Talladega Superspeedway.
A Finnish start-up has created a powdered beverage, Ambronite, that they call “the world’s first organic drinkable super meal that fulfills daily nutrition recommendations.” Its P.R. firm recently sent me an email calling Ambronite “the world’s first ‘real food’ super travel meal.” Hey, I like Finns, I like travel, and I like meals. This thing had my name written all over it! Ambronite—vegan and gluten-free—won’t be in full production until later this year, but I managed to snag three 500-calorie packets and decided to live on the stuff for one full day, three meals, and eat nothing else. Here’s how it went.
The first time I visited Acapulco, like any tourist I wanted to see the famous cliff-divers leap from the craggy heights of La Quebrada 135 feet into the foaming Pacific below. I learned a life lesson that day: Never be stupid enough to jump off a cliff like that. You’ll break your neck! Not everyone has learned that lesson, though—in particular, the newest breed of cliff divers now fighting it out in the 2014 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. Next stop on the series tour: Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas, 80 miles west of Fort Worth, on June 6-7.