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The London Underground Gets Real

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A few years back, when I called South Kensington home, I distinctly recall trundling through London's Underground knowing, even with map in hand, that I had been misled. Eyeballing the official Tube map insinuated that Heathrow was the same distance west of South Ken as Tower Hill was to the east. So you can imagine my surprise when we rolled past Monument station towards Tower Hill 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

True—one should never assume subway diagrams bear any resemblance to street level. But admit it: we all do. An NYU study in 2011 found that passengers put their faith in transit maps far more than they do in their own travel experience. But shouldn’t we? Shouldn’t our maps clearly illustrate that the amount of time it takes to walk from Queensway to Bayswater beats switching lines by almost six minutes?

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Digital Travel News: Resources for the Road

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1. Innovative book publisher Taschen is going digital with a new series of iPad apps. Among the first up: Yes Is More ($9.99), a comic book-cum-architectural manifesto from the Danish design group BIG.

2. Concerned about health on the road? The iMedjet app (free; iPhone/iPad; Android) stores health records, key contacts, and instructions on what to do in case of different medical emergencies.

3. For an insider’s experience of London, book a room with onefinestay.com (picture, above). The villa-rental agency specializes in posh pads (fancy an ambassador’s residence in Mayfair?) that come with concierge service.

4. Finally, a digital photo frame with a sense of style: the sleek, Android-based DIA Parrot by Nodesign ($500; parrot.com), which uses LCD panels to illuminate and enhance your pictures.

For more of our travel tech picks, see Best Travel Gadgets 2011.

Photo courtesy of onefinestay.com

Beach Tomato's Top 5 City Beaches

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Expert advice from our friends at Beach Tomato: The perfect beach isn't always about undiscovered sands in far-away places. Sometimes, tucked in the most frenetic of cityscapes there's that paradisiacal pocket of bliss. The urban buzz makes the sands come alive—for after-work sundowners, to do your morning workout, or to meet friends as the weekend arrives. As coastal capitals the world-over show us, beach-life and city-life can go hand in hand. Here are our favorite city beaches right now:

1. Hat Jomtien near Bangkok, Thailand
A 90-minute taxi ride from downtown Bangkok drops you in the upbeat beach town of Hat Jomtien. Just a few km south of its big brassy sister Pattaya, Jomtien feels a world away. The vibe is calmer and the waters clearer, attracting a host of water-sporties and in particular windsurfers who ride on the light coastal breezes. A long, straight stretch of sand with plenty of shade it has all essential elements of a typical Thai beach town. Without the go-go bars.

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Highest and Lowest Tourist Tax Burdened Cities in US

eTurbo News |  A list of the top five 2011 U.S. cities with the lowest and highest tourism taxes is out, showing cost differences in as much as 56% on average, according to an annual study by the Global Business Travel Association Foundation.

Listed as the five lowest tax burdened cities out of 50 destinations, three Florida cities topped the list with Fort Lauderdale in first, Fort Myers in second, and West Palm Beach in third.

All are in both general sales tax and travel-related services such as car rental, hotel and meals.
Following in fourth was Detroit, and Portland, Oregon, in fifth.

The five highest-tax imposing cities on travelers….

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Sneak Peek: JFK's New Terminal 4, Coming in 2013

 

If you've ever had to leave from or change planes at New York's JFK International Airport, you know that it is a mishmash of terminals always in some state of repair (or disrepair). But coming in 2013, Delta Airline's $1.2 billion renovated and expanded Terminal 4 will introduce an airy, modern, state-of-the-art space that may even bring back some of the long-lost glamour that once accompanied air travel. Check out the airline's recently posted video that gives a peek into JFK's future T4.

Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter.

Editor Find: Illustrated Maps

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For those looking for engaging travel maps that provide valuable service info, but with more artistic flair, They Draw & Travel could be the treasure trove you've been looking for. The site is an eye-catching collection of illustrated maps filled with unexpected tips, discoveries, and off-the-radar spots currently covering over 110 cities from about 30 different countries. Instead of getting a guide to the typical tourist traps, you'll be treated to an insider's itinerary to, say, the best parks for an afternoon picnic, a tour through the town's annual festivals, and which neighborhood markets are worth exploring—each map style completely different from the next.

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TODAY Show: Travel with your pooch!

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Want to take your four-legged best friend on your next vacation? T+L Digital Projects Editor Sarah Spagnolo presents six hotels that welcome your pet. PLUS Don't miss the segment's two cutest stars: Ollie and Lola.

DOT Will Delay Some New Passenger Rights Rules

The Department of Transportation announced yesterday that it will delay several new air passenger rights until January 24. The rules were approved in April and were to go into effect beginning August 23. The announcement came after criticism from numerous airline organizations who said their members would need more time to implement the changes. Several airlines complained specifically about a new "full-fare advertising" rule that would require airfares to include all mandatory taxes and fees. That particular rule would have gone into effect in October.

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Guess Where? Coastal Town

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As a heat wave is melting New York, I'm day-dreaming of this gorgeous coastal town where the average summer high hovers just below 70. Can you guess where this is?

Log in and leave your guesses below and check back on Monday for the answer.

UPDATE 7/25/11: We stumped you this time! Some people guessed Monterey on our Facebook page. They were close, but not quite right. This is Carmel Bay in California. If you look closely, you can see the golf course at Pebble Beach in the upper left corner.

Lyndsey Matthews is an online editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure.

Photo by Lyndsey Matthews

TODAY Show: Staying Overnight for Less

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

T+L Features Director Nilou Motamed shares great resources for saving money on accommdations. Plus, family-friendly summer deals!

We Want Your Job Kerry Clasby, Professional Forager

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Do you suffer from office ennui? Is walking around the block your idea of getting “fresh air”? Green a color you only see on weekends? If yes, then we invite you to kick back in your cubicle for a taste of a different kind of job: meet Kerry Clasby, professional forager.

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Hotel Snore Controls Aim To Banish Sleepless Nights

Reuters Life! |  Guests at an international hotel chain may sleep more soundly after the introduction of "snore patrols" and "snore absorption rooms" at a number of sites worldwide.

Crowne Plaza is trialing the first "snore absorption" rooms at 10 hotels in Europe and the Middle East, whilst six branches in Britain have implemented "snore patrols" this month in a bid to combat noisy sleepers.

"Snore monitors" patrol corridors in the designated quiet zones of Crowne Plaza hotels in the cities of London, Leeds and Manchester. Their job is to listen out for offensive noises and knock on the door of guests who snore too loudly.

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Vacationist Hotel Deals: Spotlight on Florida

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Summer may be off-season in Florida, but that means that airfare from major cities is discounted (we just spotted Newark to Miami International for $188), free outdoor activities abound—including movie screenings at Miami’s Frank Gehry-designed New World Center—and hotel pool scenes are buzzing. Looking to join in on the fun? This week, Vacationist is featuring deals on two Florida hotspots, both for up to 30 percent off. First up, Grove Isle Hotel & Spa, a 50-room property on a 20-acre island in Biscayne Bay that boasts a popular bay-front pool, or head an hour north to Delray Beach, where the Seagate Hotel in Palm Beach County will shuttle you from its pool scene to the private beach club in no time. Just grab the sunscreen and go.

Not a member? Click here to join.

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Heat Wave Fosters Toxic Algae in Touristy Lakes

Associated Press |  A prolonged heat wave in the central U.S. has fostered the growth of a dangerous form of algae in lakes and ponds, threatening swimmers and livestock and scaring away tourists during the busy summer season.

Blue-green algae are actually bacteria that produce toxins harmful to humans and livestock. It flourishes in warm, stagnant, sunlit water, and this year's heat wave combined with Oklahoma's worst drought since the Dust Bowl have created what one water official called a "perfect storm" for its growth.

Officials have issued a series of warnings, telling boaters and swimmers at lakes in northeast Oklahoma, southern Kansas and Nebraska to avoid contact with the toxic gunk. The issue attracted national attention earlier this month when Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe blamed a respiratory illness on a swim in Grand Lake in Ketchum Hollow.

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Trend Alert: Hotels for Star-Gazers

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Here, three hotels that are reaching for the sky with new ways to stargaze.

Check in to Scottsdale, Arizona’s Boulders Resort (doubles from $119) for a five-course locavore tasting menu in the 5,600-square-foot garden while a resident astrologer decodes the constellations. On evening tours at Cape Cod’s Wequassett Resort & Golf Club (doubles from $580), guests receive iPads with a Star Walk app to help track more than 9,000 stars. Camping goes ultra-luxe in New York City. The AKA Central Park hotel (doubles from $305, one-week minimum) has two penthouse terraces that can be equipped with telescopes and queen-size beds. Bonus: s’mores are included.

Illustration by Ryan Heshka

New Ways to Cruise in Asia

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Life Resorts has launched a 22-junk fleet in Halong Bay in Vietnam—a welcome addition given the somewhat dodgy operators around the area. The boats can accommodate up to four guests and have all the modern conveniences, sunbeds on the deck, and kayaks and snorkeling gear. They’re doing day trips at the moment, but longer journeys will soon be introduced.

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Wake Up (and Tune In) to Wild Africa

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It's one thing to watch a herd of wildebeest thundering across an obscenely large, 3D flat screen dangling precariously from your living room wall. It is quite another to witness the Great Migrations in the flesh, accompanied by the sweet smell of your morning coffee swirling with the kicked-up dust from the Serengeti plains as the high-pitched trumpets of young elephant calves (or grunts from those numberless gnu) waft into your bedroom.

Toss away that remote. Two new properties, new to Tanzania and Kenya, obliterate the "Channel" and key in on the "Discovery" of the African wild.

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Test Drive: Orbitz's New iPad App

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I'm sure we've all had the same experience at one time or the other: a spur-of-the-moment road trip cooked up with the intention of letting loose and seeing a bit of the gorgeous country we call home, the thrill of it largely contained in the fact that none of it was planned. And then the inevitable happens. Your eyes start to droop, signs start to blur in and out of focus, and your car starts weaving in its lane slightly. You need to find a place to stay for the night. Problem is, you don't know of any around.

Well, now there's an app for that.

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24 Small Towns May Lose Air Service

New York Times |  Rural America, already struggling to recover from the recession and the flight of its young people, is about to take another blow: the loss of its airline service.

That was underscored last week when Delta Air Lines announced that it “can no longer afford” to continue service at 24 small airports. The carrier says it is losing a total of $14 million a year on flights from places like Thief River Falls, a city of 8,600 in northwest Minnesota that fills only 12 percent of the seats, or Pierre, the capital of South Dakota, where Delta’s two daily flights are on average less than half full.

Nationally, all major airlines have been reducing and sometimes eliminating flights altogether in small cities, as the industry concentrates much of its service in 29 major hubs, which now account for 70 percent of all passenger traffic, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

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Chef Marcus Samuelsson Brings Back a Harlem Tradition (for a Night)

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This evening Swedish chef Marcus Samuelsson will pay homage to Red Rooster’s namesake, a speakeasy jazz legend Nat King Cole and author/civil rights activist James Baldwin used to tip back at, with an event during dinner service at his American joint dubbed “Chicken & Champagne.” Gourmands in the NYC area with a hankering for comfort food and bubbly should locate themselves to Harlem from 6 to 10:30 p.m. for chicken and waffle bites, deviled eggs, and curried chitlins ($4). Paul Goerg Champagne will be on pour ($10), along with a variety of champagne libations ($12). Tonight's tribute honors Chitlins' & Champagne Tuesdays, a weekly tradition held at the Great-Depression-era watering hole (210 Lennox Ave; 212-792-9001). We're not sure why Samuelsson planned a Monday event for a Tuesday tradition, but frankly we don't care—we'll take his cooking any day of the week.

Nate Storey is a Research Assistant at Travel + Leisure.

Photos courtesy of Beth Garrabrant, Photo Assistant to Special Projects at T&L

Hong Kong Debuts Sightseeing Smartcard

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Anyone who visits the world's great cities as a tourist knows it gets expensive making the rounds to all the must-hit sights and spots. Hong Kong is no exception, which is why we were happy to hear that its first smart sightseeing card launches there this month—also the first in China.

Created by iVenture, the company behind similar cards in Australia and Singapore, the "See Hong Kong Pass" ranges from $59-$115, and offers deep discounts at 15 top sights, hop-on hop-off bus access, and even dim sum lunches and a side trip to Maccau.

Snorkel Surprise on Alaska Cruise

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The giant purple starfish had me trying to say “wow” in my snorkel mask. The big, spiky red sea urchin looked like dinner. The long, wavy sea kelp reminded me of TV “housewives” with flowing blonde hair extensions.

The colorful undersea delights might have seemed less surprising in a warm weather climate, say the Caribbean. But this was in Alaska.

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Guess Where? Stone Building

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While this rustic building looks like it's located deep in the countryside, it's actually within a short train ride of one of the biggest city in the world. Can you guess where this is?

Log in and leave your guesses below and check back on Monday for the answer.

UPDATE 7/19/11: All three of the guesses were right, but CasseseNY got it first. Congrats! This is Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills just north of New York City.

Lyndsey Matthews is an online editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Adrien Glover

The Futurist: China Leads High-Speed Rail Plans

BBC Travel - Passport Blog |  With the 30 June opening of the high-speed rail between Beijing and Shanghai, China became a leader in new rail developments.

Despite lagging for years behind Japan’s new maglev trains and the continuously expanding TGV in France (the just-announced Paris to Bordeaux link will cut travel time from three hours to two), China’s newly opened route is the first in a network expected to grow to 10,000 miles of track by 2020. China already built around 6,000 miles of track since deciding in 2006 to pursue high-speed rail over maglev and other technologies.

The country’s expertise in the required technologies has made them a major player among the consortia that bid for high-speed rail contracts. In March, a group of Hong Kong and Shanghai-based businesses put in a tender for the long-awaited San Francisco to San Diego line, and Russian Railways announced that it is very likely China would win the public bidding for the high-speed rail network Russia plans to have in place for the 2018 FIFA World Cup....

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Carmageddon Brings Hotel Discounts

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Because so many big media outlets are based in New York and Los Angeles, the rest of the world gets to hear the minutiae of our local news (Blackouts! Blizzards! Brushfires!) as though it’s their own.  Thus, this weekend’s closing of the 405 freeway in Los Angeles—dubbed Carmageddon—is internationally known, if only locally dreaded.

A few Southern California hotels have offers for those Angelenos hoping to bypass the panic of Carmageddon with a weekend escape.

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Special Sweepstakes for T+L Facebook Fans!

201107-b-globalbazaarjpgAt T+L, we’re pretty excited about our upcoming—and first ever—Travel + Leisure Global Bazaar, taking place in New York City from September 16-18. In celebration of this revolutionary travel event that will bring together authentic sights, tastes, sounds, and products from around the world—from capoeira performances to simulated safaris to craft beers from Belgium, T+L is also announcing a Global Bazaar Sweepstakes.

The winner will receive round-trip airfare for two to NYC from within the contiguous U.S.; three nights at the Renaissance Hotel’s New York Times Square Hotel, two tickets to the first annual Travel + Leisure Global Bazaar; two tickets to the Travel + Leisure epic 40th anniversary party; and a VIP event gift package.

Entering is easy! Returning fans to the Travel + Leisure Facebook page can visit the Global Bazaar sweepstakes tab on the main page www.facebook.com/travelandleisure.com.  First-time visitors can also visit the main Travel + Leisure Page and “like” it to access the sweepstakes entry form. Fans can enter the sweepstakes up to once a day until the sweepstakes ends on August 1.  One winner will be randomly selected for a VIP weekend at the Global Bazaar.

Good luck, and see you in September!

Southern Road Trip Recipe: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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15,000 miles, 70 classic Southern restaurants, and one 1959 Cadillac. Sounds like the perfect summer road trip to me. Last summer, Lt. Commander Morgan Murphy, a former Southern Living travel editor, was lucky enough to do just that, visiting his favorite restaurants and uncovering 150 recipes from their menus. The result, Southern Living Off the Eaten Path, is one part travel guide and one part cookbook, perfect for planning your next Southern road trip or for when you can’t travel farther than your kitchen. After scouring the recipes, I recently baked the Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie recipe from the Ham Shoppe in Valle Crucis, NC. It is the perfect combination of sweet and tart and would make an awesome picnic dessert. For the recipe, click through!

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Vacationist Hotel Deals: World’s Best Winners

201107-b-notosjpgTomorrow we'll toast the World’s Best Awards 2011 winners at a jazzy event in Beverly Hills at Mr. C Hotel. To celebrate the awards, Vacationist is opening up it's black book of deals, offering up to 60 percent off at two hotels in Santorini, the World’s Best Island Overall as voted by T+L readers in the annual readers’ poll. Looking to stay at one of the best hotels in the world? We can deliver that, too. Try a few blissful nights at St. Lucia’s Jade Mountain (No. 11 in the Caribbean), which has been on the list three times since it opened in 2006.

Still not a member? Click here to book.

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New Report: World's Most Expensive Cities

CNNMoney |  If you think New York is expensive, try Luanda, Angola where you'd pay $28 for a CD and about $20 for a club sandwich and a soda, according to an annual survey on the cost of living around the globe by consulting firm Mercer.

Costs are so high in Luanda for Americans that Mercer deemed it the most expensive city in the world for the second year in a row.

The biggest trend to emerge in this year's survey—which compares the cost of housing, coffee, food, clothing and transportation for expatriates in 214 cities across five continents—was that American and European cities slipped in the rankings, while African and Asian cities climbed.

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“STUCK”: Everything You Wish You Could Do in an Airport

STUCK from Joe Ayala on Vimeo.

Well, that’s one way to cure boredom! Stuck, the viral short film sensation created by Joe Ayala and Larry Chen, depicts the twosome’s epic adventures during an overnight layover in the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, including but not limited to wheelchair races, sneaking in a beer at a deserted bar, and a wet paper towel fight in the bathroom. Chen and Ayala, who are professional automotive photographers, released the video last month, prompting questions about the apparent lack of security in the terminal.

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