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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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National Park Service Announces 6 New Natural Landmarks

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Looking for some inspiration for your next summer road trip? Take advantage of the warm weather and head out west to check out the six new national natural landmarks!

Named on June 15 by the National Park Service, the newly dubbed landmarks are part of Obama’s "America’s Great Outdoors" initiative, which aims to conserve the natural beauty of some of the most beautiful areas of the country for future generations. Highlights of the newest batch of national treasures include Golden Fossil Areas, which are internationally-renowned for having unique fossil footprints, and Hanging Lake, a stunningly gorgeous lake that plays home to both a rare wetland ecosystem and hanging gardens. (Both are in Colorado.) However, if these don’t trip your trigger, there are over 500 other national natural landmarks to choose from.

For a complete listing of the new national landmarks, check out the National Park Service’s website.

Kirsten Stamn is an ASME intern at Travel + Leisure.

NPS photo courtesy of J.B. Bell

Nice Rice! Valencia's Best Paella Spots

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In Valencia, the city that gave paella to the world, greedy forks scrape the bottom of the pan for the best bites of crunchy rice, or socarrat. No surprise when the Formula 1 European Grand Prix roared into Valencia last month, the city’s restaurants were buzzing with racing fanatics—all of whom took a break from their fast-paced itineraries for a leisurely lunch of paella at one of these top spots:

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Coastlines + Beach Photo Contest Voting Open!

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T+L Editors have picked the Top 10 semi-finalists for the Coastlines and Beaches photo contest, and now it's up to you to vote for the winner! Will it be this lovely shot of Santa Monica's boardwalk at twilight? Or one of the other semi-finalists? Click here to vote for the one you think deserves to win.

You have until July 31, 2011 to make your opinion count, so vote now and vote often! The winner will receive Elgato: EyeTV HD and publication in Travel + Leisure.

We also just launched a new round of photo contest categories, so if you missed this round you can still submit your photos here to win such prizes as a Zumi Triple Plus Camera (courtesy of Photojojo), an ONA Camera Bag, or even the Grand Prize trip to South Africa, courtesy of South African Airways and partners.


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

This Summer's Must-Have Sunblock Items

Supergoop Sunscreen Swipes

Roll It: On your face, lips, or body, that is. Using natural antioxidants and a clear form of zinc oxide, the Own Active Block ball ($15; ownproducts.com) gives you all-around SPF 30 coverage without any surfer streaks. Plus, it’s fun to toss—and easy to find—in your beach bag.

Sweep It: A translucent mineral powder that flows through a portable, refillable brush, Chantecaille Protection Naturelle SPF 46 ($65; chantecaille.com) prevents both shining and burning, and gives you a healthy glow to boot.

Swipe It: Combining water-resistant UV protection with soothing green tea and vitamin E, these fragrance-free, SPF 30 Supergoop Sunscreen Swipes ($34 per box of 21; nordstrom.com) are great for sensitive skin. Individually wrapped, they’re also perfect for travel.

Wear It: The cotton-poplin Mott 50 tunic ($119; mott50.com) proves that sun-protective clothing can also be stylish. The brand’s easy, UPF 50 dresses and tops get the Skin Cancer Foundation’s stamp of approval—and T+L’s, too.

Photo by Lars Klove

Top Apps for Your Summer Travels

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Summer is now at full force, which means vacations galore for seemingly countless numbers of people across the country. Even I’m readying myself to briefly part from the T+L offices for a much-needed beachside retreat in Maine. (More to come on that on another day.) With all this travel going on, I wanted to take some time to share a few of my favorite iOS apps that make travel a whole lot easier (and a lot more fun).

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On Our Radar: Paris Shopping

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Where do chic Parisians shop these days? Travel + Leisure's Paris correspondent Tina Isaac shares her insider tips here:

For jewelry go to . . .

White Bird
Around the corner from the glittering heavy artillery in the Place Vendôme, Stéphanie Roger’s newly opened WhiteBird jewelry gallery specializes in stylishly singular - and comparatively affordable- niche brands from around the world, almost all of them designed by women (Jean Grisoni is the lone exception). (34 rue du Mont Thabor, 1st.)

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UNESCO Names 25 New World Heritage Sites

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Is your Bucket List in need of a little inspiration?

UNESCO to the rescue! Last week, its World Heritage Committee officially inscribed 25 new World Heritage Sites, bringing the swelling number to a whopping 936 worldwide.

Joining the ranks of recognized world wonders like Stonehenge, the Statue of Liberty, and Ayers Rock are the Longobards in Italy (above), seven buildings built by the Scandi-Germanic Lombard tribe who, during their powerful 6th- to 8th-century reign, established a distinct culture and architectural style that began Europe’s evolution from Antiquity to the Middle Ages.

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Guess Where? National Park

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It's summer and many of our readers are going on road trips to visit America's beautiful national parks, as seen in this recent slideshow. Can you guess which national park this photo was shot in?

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

UPDATE 7/11/11: Both moretrends and MyFareFoodie guessed right. This photo is of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park.

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

Photo courtesy of Travel + Leisure's Photo Contest

Interview: Man v. Food's Adam Richman

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For anyone that knows who Adam Richman—of Travel Channel’s Man v. Food and Man v. Food Nation fame—is, his name likely conjures up images of the insanely over-the-top extreme food challenges that always top off his show. As a big fan of the show, I’ve watched him sweat his way through the spiciest of hot wings; dive into a 7 lb. breakfast burrito; and even worse, have at a 12 lb. hamburger. Each time, my mouth watered while simultaneously my stomach (and heart) hurt at even just the mere thought of taking on any of these challenges.

Being such a fan of the show, when I had the opportunity to speak with Adam about his new partnership with a social travel-sharing endeavor called Memory Mapper, I jumped at the opportunity to be able to pick his brain, even if just briefly. Memory Mapper is a Facebook app that easily let’s you take your travel photos and videos to create a slideshow of sorts; but the cool part about it is that it connects with Google Earth so people watching also feel like they’re being taken there with you.

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Editor's Pick: Santa Fe's Global Folk Art Festival

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There are many reasons to visit Santa Fe in the summer—the museums and art galleries, the chamber music festival, the Santa Fe Opera—not to mention, the city’s restaurants or its glorious high desert setting, but the best reason for this weekend (July 8-10) is the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.

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TODAY Show: T+L 2011 World's Best Winners!

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

What are the best hotels in the world? Travel + Leisure's features director, Nilou Motamed, shares the winners of this year's annual World's Best survey. Plus, our readers also weigh in on the best cities, cruises, famiy travel, and more. Find a complete list of award-winners here, and start planning your next vacation today!

Istanbul's Jazz Festival Brings in Top Talent

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When one thinks of Istanbul, what comes to mind? Perhaps some beautiful mosques silhouetted against the sky, exotic bazaars filled with spices and silks, maybe even the strains of the adhan (or the Islamic call to prayer). But what about jazz?

The Turks are crazy about it. One of the biggest cultural events of the year, the 18th annual Jazz Festival is taking over the city this month (until July 19), featuring acts like Herbie Hancock (who’s leading a quintet in tribute of jazz diety Miles Davis), Paul Simon, Joss Stone, and more. Not to be missed is Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves, and Lizz Wright’s collaboration called “Sing the Truth,” which will incorporate songs from legendary female jazz, folk, and R&B singers like Aretha Franklin, Odetta, and Lauryn Hill.

Click here for the complete lineup.

Kirsten Stamn is an ASME intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of the Istanbul Jazz Festival

Hotelier Vikram Chatwal Has (Another) Otherworldly 'Dream'

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The newest addition to Vikram Chatwal's Dream hotel line may be his trippiest yet. The aquatic Dream Downtown opens this week on the brim of NYC's Meatpacking District to much chatter. A converted structure that once housed the city’s homeless is now home to the notably hyped Romera New York, where the pre-fixe will set guests back a cool $245.

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Qantas, JAL to Launch Low-Cost Domestic Carrier in Japan

eTurbo News |  The Qantas Group and Japan Airlines are believed to be in advanced talks about starting a low-cost domestic carrier in Japan.

A decision is expected this year, although both sides say the proposal has yet to be finalised. JAL says its investigations have been wider than a tie-up with Qantas subsidiary Jetstar.

The talks were put under the spotlight yesterday after the Japanese business paper Nikkei said the venture would be capitalised at between Y=10 billion ($116 million) and Y=20bn and would start next year.

JAL and Jetstar would each hold a 30 per cent stake.

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Hampton Court Palace Flower Show Opens

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The summer season of events in London is in full swing, with Pippa Middleton starring as the new endlessly chronicled darling of the British press.

The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, the largest of its kind in the world, runs through July 10, and is known to attract London’s social stars along with thousands of gardening aficionados.

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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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All-Female Tourist Police to Protect Visitors in Acapulco

eTurbo News |  A help-wanted ad in the Mexican Pacific state of Guerrero is drawing rebuke from some women's rights groups.

In effect, the ad says: Wanted: Women ages 18-26, who are at least 5-foot-5 and whose weight is proportional to that height. Must have good physical and mental health. Knowledge of English is a plus.

The job? A new, all-female tourist police force proposed for Guerrero's most popular visitor destinations, including Acapulco.

"The idea is to have a police force comprised of only women, preferably beautiful ones," said Ramon Almonte Borja, head of the state's public security secretariat.

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Virgin America Passengers To Test Google Chromebooks In-Flight

TechCrunch |  Google just announced that it is teaming up with Virgin America to allow passengers to “test-fly” the search giant’s new Chromebook computers for free. Virgin passengers will be able to use the computers onboard their flight and at select airport gates from July 1 through September 30, 2011.

As an incentive, flyers who check out a Chromebook will receive a free WiFi session onboard Virgin America.

Virgin says that at airport gates in San Francisco, Chicago O’Hare, Boston and in Dallas-Fort Worth will include Google “Chrome Zone” lounges starting this week, where passengers can learn more about the Chromebook and check one out for their flight. Google is also partnering with the Ace Hotel in New York to offer Chromebooks in hotel guests’ rooms.

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New TV Show Helps Travelers Pass as Locals

Some say the mark of a true traveler is being able to pass for a local. But what does it take to become a global chameleon, truly? "Local Currency," a new series on the Plum TV hosted by Mark Ellwood (also a Travel + Leisure contributor) asks that very question—and takes viewers on a hilarious romp around Europe in search of the answer. Mark meets all kinds of opinionated natives, from rock stars to fashion designers, who riotously coach him on how to blend in. First stop: Antwerp, where we learn, among other things, that French fries go best with tartar sauce. Douse them in ketchup, and bingo—you’re branded a foreigner. For more local tips, tricks, and zany encounters, be sure to tune in to Plum this summer.

New Exhibit Features Pics of a 1968 Jackie-O in Capri

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Diego Della Valle’s enamorment with all things JFK (he famously purchased the late president’s cruiser, Marlin, at auction at Christie’s in 2005) extends well beyond the White House. From July 2 to August 20, the Tod’s chief is sponsoring a new exhibition of iconic images taken by Italian paparazzi photographer Settimio Garritano of Jackie-O on holiday in Capri from 1968 to 1972.

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