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

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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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Guess Where? Wheels

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Last year on a road trip through the South I spotted this peacock colored beauty in a museum. Can you guess where this is? Bonus points if you can guess who this gold-rimmed Cadillac belonged to!

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

UPDATE 7/05/11: Nobody guessed on the blog, but some people who put their answers on our Facebook page got the city right, at least. This car belonged to musician Isaac Hayes and can be found at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis.

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

Photo courtesy of Lyndsey Matthews

New York City's Biking Boom

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The Big Apple just got a lot more user-friendly for those who like to throw their leg over a two-wheeler, hit the bike paths, and take in the sights. The NYC Parks Department and Bike and Roll—a bicycle rental group that started seven years ago and now operates in five U.S. cities—cut the ribbon last week on their new Hop On/Hop Off program, which allows renters to pick up a bike at one of the easily recognizable 11 mobile Bike and Roll centers in Manhattan and drop it off at a totally different location, eliminating the need for a round-trip and encouraging exploration. Rates range from $12-20 per hour to $39-69 per day; child seats and tagalong attachments for kids are also available.

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Vacationist Hotel Deal: Virginia's Homestead Resort, By The Numbers

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To celebrate the upcoming July 4th holiday weekend, Vacationist is spotlighting one of America’s oldest resorts, The Homestead, a Virginia grande dame that’s welcomed almost two dozen U.S. Presidents.

Here, a by the numbers review:

STATISTICS

3,000 – Acres of land at the property, set within Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains
75 - Miles from Virginia's Roanoke Regional Airport
22 – Number of U.S. Presidents who have visited the resort (including Thomas Jefferson and James Madison)
22 - Number of Corinthian columns in the hotel's Great Hall
195 – Average square feet of the Classic guestroom
630 – Square feet of the Landmark Suite (complete with two bedrooms and a porch with mountain views)
50 – Years the Maître d' Woody Pettus has welcomed visitors to the Homestead’s dining room

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Can't Make This Up: Turtles on Runway Cause Delay at JFK

View more videos at: http://nbcnewyork.com.

NBC New York |  Travelers were delayed at John F. Kennedy Airport Wednesday morning after about 150 turtles ambled onto a runway and blocked air traffic from moving.

JetBlue first tweeted news of the slowdown, with the hashtag #cantmakethisup.

The Port Authority later confirmed that workers had to clear the notoriously slow reptiles out of the area. The migration is a familiar occurrence at the airport, which is located near Jamaica Bay. The turtles typically head out of the bay to nest on the beach each summer.

The turtles were mostly gathered on runway 4L, plus nearby taxiways, starting at about 6:45 a.m., the Port Authority said.

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Digital Resources for the Road

Casio Tryx camera

Save time getting photos online with PhotoRocket (free; Windows; Mac; iPhone), a service that uploads pictures to your social sites simultaneously.

The super-lightweight, stylish Zoom Q3HD ($300) captures audio and video in high-def. Plus, with built-in editing software that loads onto your computer via USB, sharing your footage is easy.

The Powermat Power Dual 1850 Rechargeable Backup Battery ($50) features a micro-USB and Apple connector to recharge your devices on the go—no outlet necessary.

It might be compact, but don’t underestimate the Casio Tryx ($250), with features like continuous shooting and Slide Panorama, which allows you to capture a 360-degree scene flawlessly.

Photo courtesy of Casio

Mandarin Oriental Paris Opens Today

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Today, the Mandarin Oriental's hotly anticipated new Paris location opens its doors, complete with 138 rooms, a prime location, and (of course) a killer spa. Located at 251 rue Saint-Honoré in the city's First Arrondissement, the art deco-meets-contemporary property is literally steps away from a number of favorite Parisian sights, like the Louvre, the Tuileries Gardens, and the Garnier Opera.

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Global Picks From a Pedicure Specialist

Bastien Gonzalez

Globe-trotting podiatrist and pedicure specialist Bastien Gonzalez puts the “b” in barefoot luxury.

“At the Hôtel Costes, in Paris, I once worked on nine supermodels in one day,” says Bastien Gonzalez, the man who has elevated the pedicure to both a medical procedure (he’s a certified podiatrist in his native France) and an art form. “The manager told me: ‘You can retire now.’” An hour and a half in Gonzalez’s hands involves no water, no polish, and no pain. Instead, your nails will be smoothed with a tiny diamond drill and buffed with chamois leather until they are as glossy as a seashell. His signature treatment ends with reflexology to increase circulation, which is, according to Gonzalez, “the best cure for weary travelers.” And he would know. “I am on the move almost every four days,” says Gonzalez, who has a base at the Cadogan Hotel, in London. “Paris, New York, Dubai, the Maldives—I basically live in hotels!”

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NYC Businesses Celebrate Gay Marriage With Fab Deals

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The effects from the recent legalizing of gay marriage in New York are already starting to take shape. In peparation for the day legal ceremonies will finally be able to be performed—July 24—Mayor Bloomberg is preparing to launch a new campaign called "NYC I Do," which will seek to bring in gay tourists looking to get hitched. What does that mean for the city? About $400 million in estimated revenue over the next three years, just from gay marriage–related spending!

To boot, many of the NYC’s businesses have quickly shown their support for the historic decision, and are celebrating by offering special discounts for the many couples that have been patiently waiting for their time to come. Here are just a few I was able to find. (Without a doubt, more will surface as July 24 nears.) Happy Pride!

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New Book: American Fashion Travel, Designers on the Go

American Fashion Travel: Designers on the Go

Norma Kamali traveled to Iran during the reign of the Shah. Seattle-born designer Chris Benz’s favorite souvenir is a friendship bracelet. You’ll learn this and much more in American Fashion Travel: Designers on the Go (Assouline; $45)—a scrapbook-style compilation of Q&A’s with handwritten responses and personal snapshots from a range of stateside talent, plus a foreword written by intrepid traveler and New York style icon Diane von Furstenberg. The result is a colorful glimpse into the globe-trotting lives of fashion’s who’s who.

Photo by Lars Klove

Strange Hotels More Popular Than Ever

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Savvy travelers are turning to websites like iStopover.com and Airbnb.com to find affordable alternatives to staying in expensive chain hotels. What you may not realize is that some of these accommodations have way more character than your average roadside motel. Here we've gathered up a few of the bizarre and unique options found on iStopover.com. Ever wanted to live in a shoe? Now’s your chance . . .

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TSA Changes Pat-Down Procedures for Kids

Associated Press |  The government has made a change in its policy for patting down young children at airport checkpoints, and more are promised.

Airport security workers will now be told to make repeated attempts to screen young children without resorting to invasive pat-downs, the head of the Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday. The agency is working to put that change in place around the country, and it should reduce, but not eliminate, pat-downs for children, an agency spokesman said.

There was public outrage in April over a video of a 6-year-old girl getting a pat-down in the New Orleans airport. She was patted down, John Pistole said, because she moved during the electronic screening, causing a blurry image.

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Guess Where? Beach

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Don't you wish you were here right now? But before you start booking your trips, you have to guess where it is. Do you know which U.S. National Park this gorgeous beach is in?

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

UPDATE 6/27/11: This beautiful sunset can be found on the shores of Rialto Beach in Washington's Olympic National Park.

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

Photo courtesy of T+L's Photo Contest

Pride Month 2011: One Last Weekend to Celebrate!

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Take a break from all the politics (I’m looking at you, New York) and celebrate diversity during the last weekend of Pride Month! While events in Philadelphia, Portland, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. have come and gone, there’s still time to join in on the party, with four of the best events still to come.

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Top Discount Food Apps

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Five-course dinners at top restaurants around the country no longer have to be such a costly part of your trip, thanks to an influx of restaurant deals found both online and via mobile apps. The BlackboardEats site offers discounts—such as 30 percent off dinner at Los Angeles’s Mo-Chica or New York’s Matsuri—to anyone who signs up. All you have to do is present the discount code at the restaurant at any time. Every venue is handpicked by a staff of professional restaurant reviewers (many from the now-defunct print version of Gourmet). Sometimes the deals involve mystery dishes that are only available to members, making it more of a food enthusiasts’ club than a coupon service.

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New Dutch Coins Include Digital Codes

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The Dutch government yesterday began circulating a commemorative coin that features a scannable QR code on one side and a 3D portrait of Queen Beatrix on the other.  Scanning the QR code, one of those black-and-white squares that resemble Space Invaders, brings you to the website of the Royal Dutch Mint for a helter-skelter video tour of the building.  The coins, available in silver-tone €5 and gold-tone €10 denominations, were minted in a limited run to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Mint building.

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Sing Your Way to a Free Hotel Upgrade

Remember that scene in Heartbreakers, when Sigourney Weaver’s con artist character staged a dramatic fall for Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character in the marble-decked lobby of an über fancy hotel, all for the sake of getting a sweet suite at the hotel, free of charge? Funny as that was, there are other—and much more legal—ways to get a free upgrade at a hotel. There are hotel reward programs. Or, for those who like to have a little fun, just sing a song!

Seriously.

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Vacationist Hotel Deals: T+L 500 Hotels for Less!

201106-b-esperanzajpgThere’s nothing better than a guaranteed stellar hotel stay, which is why, every year, we spotlight the top 500 hotels as voted by our savvy readers—so that you can rest assured that your next trip will be top-notch. And this week, you can stay at three of these winning hotels for less, thanks to deals on Vacationist.

In search of a mountain retreat in Vail? Try Sonnenalp Resort, a Bavarian style lodge with a unique sensibility. Looking for a sexy beach getaway? There’s Esperanza, an Auberge Resort, in Los Cabos, with views that overlook a private cove. Or toast your deal-finding luck in Dublin, where you’ll stay at the historic Shelbourne for 30 percent less.

Still not a member? Click here to join.

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Boston Residents vs. Tourists On Segways

BOSTON (CBS) |  There’s a battle rolling onto Boston’s sidewalks pitting pedestrians against tourists on futuristic wheels.

Residents in the North End have been complaining about an onslaught of Segway riders invading their neighborhood.

“They’re a pain in the butt, especially on like Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays,” said John Gargano. “It creates a nuisance. It creates a hazard.” That’s why the Boston City Council members voted unanimously to ban Segways from city sidewalks.

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Jonathan Adler's Travel-Inspired Pillows

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Cute alert: I usually pass interior designer Jonathan Adler's West Village [NYC] boutique on my way home from work, and recently noticed a window display spotlighting the interior designer's a-d-o-r-a-b-l-e new line of travel-inspired needlepoint throw pillows ($98). What can I say, they just make me happy. And apparently Adler, too: "Travel inspires me. These pillows are homages to my favorite Jet-Set locales. Looking at them is like a mini-vacation!" See for yourself:


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What’s Your Travel Score?

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Ladies and gentleman, pack your suitcases. Travel is now officially competitive—and that’s a good thing. This week marks the launch of Traxo Travel Score, a new feature from mileage and travel points tracker (and all-around travel organizer) Traxo.com that uses a specialized algorithm to calculate all of your trip information and generate a unique number to crow about.

What does this mean, really? Well, for one, the scene in Up in the Air where George Clooney and Vera Farmiga’s characters one-up each other with who has the most air miles, best hotel benefits, and fattest wallet stuffed with upgrade cards would have been a lot shorter. With TTS, a single number says it all.

But here’s where TTS gets interesting: depending on your score, top travel companies will offer you special perks. The higher your score, the more upgrades, freebies, and extras you’ll rack up from companies like Avis, Briggs & Riley, Virgin America, and South African Airways. Hello, two roundtrip tickets to Cape Town?!

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