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Ireland's Ballyfin: A World-Class Country-House Hotel Opens Its Doors

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If Ballyfin in County Laois, Ireland, intends to become one of the great country-house hotels of Europe—and the ambition of its owners surely runs in that direction—then it certainly has all the qualifying hallmarks. It is, in a word, amazing.

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The Airplane of the Future Will Melt Your Mind

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I have seen the future of air travel, and it will be (to use scientific jargon) freakin' awesome. Aircraft manufacturer Airbus today released its report on what air travel may be like in 2050. And all I can say is hold on to your hat, Cap'n Sully, because it is going to be one way cool ride.

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If Travel Searches Are Any Indication, You're Probably Going to Vegas This Summer

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Anyone still wondering where to go on vacation in the next few months might get some ideas from the 20 top hotel destinations searched for this coming summer on Kayak.com, the price-comparison travel site. Most popular: Las Vegas, where the average hotel rate from June through August is $130, down slightly from summer 2010. Most expensive: New York, where rooms averaged $218, up nearly 15 percent from a year ago. Biggest increase: Bangkok, whose average room rate was up a whopping 40 percent from last year. (On the other hand, the summer average for a hotel in Bangkok is just $117, so stop complaining.) Cheapest: San Jose, Costa Rica, with an average rate of $94.

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Effective Today, American Airlines Requires Large Strollers to Be Checked As Baggage

If you're ever among the last to board a flight, as I often am, you're familiar with the sight of baby strollers, sometimes a dozen or more, parked in the jetway near the aircraft door. Long a tradition with family travelers, "gate-checking" strollers is commonplace on most airlines. Passengers often prefer to keep infants in their strollers until they enter the plane, leave the carriers with a crew member to be stored just before departure, and then brought back out onto the next jetway after arrival. But don't count on doing that with many types of strollers anymore if you're flying on American Airlines. Starting today, a new AA rule stipulates that "all strollers that are large, non-collapsible or over 20 lbs." must be checked at the ticket counter.

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John Turturro's New Film Is A Love Song to Naples

It's not often a film evokes the spirit of a city the way John Turturro's Passione captures the musical exuberance that pulses through Naples, Italy. We're not talking opera, but a blend of genres that reflects the cultures of the city's invaders as well as its more recent immigrants. Greeks and Spaniards, Arabs and Americans, Turks and French—their songs and melodies have thrived, mixed, and married in a cultural petri dish warmed by the southern Italian sun. And that, in a nutshell, is the whole point of the movie.

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Cinco de Mayo Savings at One&Only Palmilla

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It's Cinco de Mayo today and you know what that means. Yes, that's right, 2-for-1 margaritas at Benny's Downtown Tap Room. No! Think bigger. It's the anniversary of the 1862 Battle of Puebla, when a ragtag Mexican army unexpectedly whipped the better-trained French, guaranteeing the country's independence. Strange to say, the anniversary is more popular in the United States than in Mexico (and not at all popular in France). So for anyone looking for a reason to celebrate, check this deal out.

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Travel Editor Gets A Refund—And A Comeuppance

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Sometimes an airline does things right. Not often, true, but every once in a great while. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I rarely have anything good to say about the airline industry. New regulations announced this month by the Department of Transportation are just the latest evidence that the airlines aren't able to offer good customer service on their own, and have to rely on the government to step in and force them to be good corporate citizens. But here's a quick little story that shows maybe, just maybe, things are improving and that at least one airline is doing things better.

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DOT Enacts Sweeping New Air-Passenger Protections

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It has been 12 years since the air-passenger rights movement first got off the ground, but now it's positively soaring, thanks to a new set of consumer protections announced today by the Department of Transportation. Among other things, provisions in the new rule would close a loophole that exempted international flights from the tarmac delay limits enacted last year; require airlines to prominently list all fees a passenger might face on a flight; increase maximum compensation paid to involuntarily bumped passengers from a range of $400-$800 to $650-$1,300; allow passengers to cancel or change a reservation within 24 hours with no penalty (if the reservation is made at least a week before departure); and force airlines to refund baggage fees when they lose a customer's luggage. Most of the provisions will go into effect 120 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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Two for the Road To Celebrate Bike Month

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This is me with my first bike. Just kidding. It's my second bike. But my favorite bike of all was a lime-green metal-flake Schwinn Stingray with gooseneck handlebars, a white banana seat, sissy bar with red reflector, and a treadless rear tire that let you lay a brodie 10 feet long. Unfortunately, it belonged to my sister. That's the memory that stirs in me as we approach all the events set for Bike Month in May.

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Reinventing the Taj Brand

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Raymond Bickson, chief executive and managing director of the luxury chain Taj Hotels, Resorts, and Palaces, gave a master class in hotel branding to a select group of CEOs yesterday. It's a story that few have heard: how that company regrouped, rebounded, and reinvented itself in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack that killed scores of people and nearly destroyed the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (above).

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