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At Qingdao's Drunken House, Enjoy a Hangover-Free Stumble

Qingdao Drunken House

In my 32 years on earth, I’ve been tipsy on beer more times than I can, or can’t, remember. I’ve chugged Busch via beer bong and glugged Germany’s Franziskaner Hefe Weiss by the glass boot. I’ve done keg stands of Keystone Light and slowly sipped Goose Island’s complex, barrel-aged Bourbon County Stout. Despite their flavorful differences, these boozy paths all lead me to the same terminus: a bleary-eyed a.m., grasping for aspirin and cursing the bright, relentless sun. Paying the Piper is never a pleasure.

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Forget that Big Tree; How about a Lifesize Gingerbread House?

Ritz-Carlton Charlotte Gingerbread House

While the tree at New York City’s Rockefeller Center typically gets top billing when it comes to conspicuous displays of holiday cheer, the lobby at the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte, North Carolina has something else entirely: a 1500-pound, 140 square-foot gingerbread house, complete with flickering lights (and real moss!). Baked in-house by executive chef Jon Farace and the staff at the BLT Steak restaurant, the 100% organic display hopes to bring some warmth and attention to this LEED-certified luxury hotel—the first of the Ritz-Carlton brand.

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E-reader Showdown: Kindle vs. Nook vs. iPad

e-readers

Smart travel is all about consolidation. One of the best ways book-lugging adventurers can streamline is to invest in an e-reader that can store thousands of books—and other reading material—in a single lightweight device. But with so many e-readers on the market, choosing the right one can be maddening. Here's your rope out of the consumer quicksand.

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'Stomach-Churning' Sanitary Conditions at Top Australian Hotels

A secret forensic survey revealed some five-star hotels in Melbourne, Australia have a serious hygiene problem.

Armed with swab tests and a black light, former police forensic investigator Peter Guerin scrutinized seven of Melbourne's top hotels. What he found was nauseating: mold in bathrooms, urine stained toilets, human body matter in beds, and even strains of dangerous bacteria such as E coli.

None of the hotels passed inspection. In every hotel tested, Guerin found an "unacceptable level" of potentially health-threatening microbes.

READ MORE (AND WATCH THE VIDEO)...

Cruise Line Defends Captain's Actions in Mediterranean Incident

Royal Caribbean International made a smart move yesterday by posting a Youtube video from Captain William S. Wright, the cruise line's senior vice president of marine operations. The post follows the "serious incident" on Sunday involving the line's Brilliance of the Seas, which was rocked by 70-knot winds and "very, very large" waves in the Mediterranean en route to Alexandria, Egypt. Some 60 passengers were hurt; injuries were mostly minor, according to Wright.

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Bergdorf’s Christmas Windows Go Postmodern (and a Little Steampunk)

Bergdorf Goodman 2010 Window

Forget Santa and his workshop, for the holidays Bergdorf Goodman’s windows will take you on a fantastical journey. To where I don’t exactly know, but it is sometime in the past before body scanners and weighing your carry-on became mandatory.

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Experience an Old-Time NYC Commute on a Vintage Subway Train

vintage-trainjpg

There's nothing I love more than authentic experiences, whether I’m on the road or just exploring my own backyard. So naturally I was excited to learn that, once a year, NYC celebrates the holidays by celebrating its history. The MTA pulls still-working, retired subway trains out of hibernation and puts them back into service.

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Have You Seen T+L's Best Travel Gifts for 2010?

Still not sure what to buy for those travelers on your gift list? Whether they’re nature-lovers, new parents, or nose-in-the-air fashionistas, the Travel + Leisure “Best Travel Gifts” for 2010 is here to help. Find the complete list here. Or, enjoy this a sneak peek—which just happens to feature my recommendations.

Keep Calm and Travel On

“Keep Calm and Travel On”
Inspired by the WW2-era posters that urged Brits to "keep calm and carry on," this modern update couldn't come at a better time. Worried about a TSA patdown? Keep calm, friend. And, yes, travel on. Available in several colors. Unframed: $15.95; buy 3, get 1 free; etsy.com.

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The Buff: Serving Boulder's Best Breakfast

The Buff Boulder Two-Step Breakfast

On a recent trip to Boulder, a local friend asked that all-important brunch question: Was I was looking for local, light dishes—or a more traditional hearty breakfast? I chose the latter and ended up having a delicious (if indulgent) meal.

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Cardboard Czech Cops Cause Crashes

201012-b-czechmapjpg

Those nutty Czechs are at it again. First it was the Velvet Revolution in the 80s. Then it was Prague as hipster-expat HQ in the 90s. And now it's cardboard cops in miniskirts.

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Look, Up in the Sky! It's a Bird... It's a Plane... Yes, It's a Plane...

My editor calls it "plane porn"; the GE Show calls it "Paths of Flight." I just call it beautiful.

In support of GE Aviation's efforts to help develop the next generation of U.S. airspace in association with the FAA, a video production team filmed 24 hours' worth of footage showing planes landing and taking off. The resulting one-minute 49-second video, which uses multiple images of individual planes to present a new perspective on flight paths, is nothing short of amazing. Astonishingly, there's no CG animation.

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CNN Asks, to Recline or not Recline?

Between actor Josh Duhamel's inappropriate Blackberry usage and director Kevin Smith's ongoing problems with various airlines, air rage is back in the news. CNN considers one common rage-maker: seat reclining.

The passenger in seat 9C was ready for a nap after takeoff, so he pushed the button on his armrest and reclined -- straight into the path of someone who apparently wouldn't have it.

Tensions grew quickly on the American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Denver on November 22, court papers show.

The incident adds fuel to a debate that seems to divide air travelers into two camps: those who say that reclining their seat on a plane is a right that comes when they buy a ticket and those who believe it's a privilege that shouldn't be abused.

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City of Brotherly Suds: A Weekend Tour of Philadelphia's Best Beer

The Yards Philadelphia

I’m convinced that there's a force field surrounding New York, preventing me from breaking free of the five boroughs. How else to explain the months that pass before I leave the city limits?

If one thing will make me leave my Brooklyn apartment, it’s beer. I’m cuckoo for bitter IPAs, chocolaty stouts, sour ales, and other carbonated pleasures of the craft-beer constellation. I’ve traveled from Portland to Portland (Maine and Oregon, I mean) to explore the brewing scenes.

But—Philadelphia? Sadly, I’ve neglected the City of Brotherly Suds, despite its groundswell of excellent breweries, bars, and eateries.

"Let’s go this weekend," my girlfriend, Jenene, suggested. "It's only two and a half hours away by train." Sold.

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Vacationist: Northern California for the family, plus Athens, and sexy Cabo San Lucas

Carmel Valley Ranch

This holiday season, 42 million people are expected to hit the road—probably on their way to a dinner table that won't fit the whole crew. T+L asks: Why not convince everyone to head to Carmel Valley Ranch, on 450 acres in Northern California? There’s a rope swing for the kids, a rustic-chic spa for the adults, and a restaurant overseen by chef Tim Wood. No one need slave away in the kitchen. With this week’s Vacationist sale, you can stay for less than $210 a night—even on Christmas Eve.

If you’d rather escape the States altogether, try The Margi, in Athens, for $125 a night, or the Haciendas Beach Club and Residences in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for 20% off. The deals are live now at Vacationist.com.

Still not a Vacationist member? Click here to join.

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Rogue Wave: 1; Cruise Ship: 0

Some environmentalists say we shouldn't allow too many tourists to visit Antarctica, for fear of disrupting the ecosystem. Seems that God may agree: He sent a 30-foot wave to punish passengers on a small luxury cruise ship returning to Argentina. AOL Travel has the full story (and video):

A massive wave in the Antarctic hit a small luxury cruise ship with 160 passengers and crew onboard so badly the vessel lost one of its engines.

The all-suite Clelia II was in the Drake Passage, heading back to Argentina, when the 30-foot wave washed over the deck.

The wave wiped out the expedition ship's power and communication system and shattered windows, according to various press reports. The ship declared an emergency.

The Clelia II is being operated by Oregon-based Polar Cruises, and all the passengers onboard are American. No injuries were reported.

Another ship, the National Geographic Explorer, operated by Lindblad Expeditions, happened to be nearby and was able to offer aid, including rigging a satellite phone to the distressed ship.

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Duracell Power Rovers Return to Times Square

star-jones-duracell-roverjpg

They’re back! Duracell has returned with their Power Rovers (which I wrote about last year) to help light the iconic numerals that adorn Times Square for New Year's Eve—as seen by millions (some in person, many others on television).

As in previous years, the rovers will be open for the public to hop aboard and pedal. The energy created will be transferred to Duracell Battery Centers, where it will remain until the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve.

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Are Red Sea Shark Attacks on the Rise?

Mentioning Jaws is de rigueur whenever a shark attack draws headlines. For this weekend's fatal incident in Egypt, however, the reference actually makes sense. Having already caught two sharks in the area of earlier (non-fatal) attacks, authorities assumed the coast was clear. Now they're worried that more attacks are in their future. AOL Travel explains:

Authorities in Egypt gave the all clear, thinking they had caught the killer shark that had severely injured four tourists in a Red Sea resort area. They were wrong. And now an elderly German woman is dead from a shark attack.
The most recent attack occurred just a day after beaches were reopened in Sharm el-Sheikh, a resort town on the Sinai Peninsula, popular with divers and snorkelers.
The incident is drawing comparison to the storyline of the movie "Jaws," in which the mayor makes the wrong decision in the wake of a shark attack.
The woman was swimming off Sharm el-Sheikh when the shark tore off her arm, according to Egyptian officials. Witnesses reported hearing the victim screaming. She was killed almost immediately.
"It was definitely a shark attack," says Hesham Gabar, the head of Egypt's Chamber of Diving and Water Sports.
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Vote Now! T+L's World's Best Awards 2011 Survey

Oberoi Vanyavilas

It's that time of year again—T+L's World's Best Awards 2011 Survey is now live!

Go to TLWorldsBest.com and rate the hotels, resorts, spas, cruise lines, airlines, travel companies, and destinations you love most. This year, the No. 1 hotel overall is the Oberoi Vanyavilas, a luxe jungle lodge in Ranthambore, India (shown above).

Which property do you love the most? Tell us and vote now! You’ll be entered for a chance to win a $10,000 dream trip. Other prizes include a $5,000 trip, two $2,500 trips, and two winners will receive American Express gift cards worth $1,000.

Click here for more information.

Photo courtesy of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. The World’s Best Awards Sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia age 18 or older. To enter and view complete Official Rules, which govern this Sweepstakes, visit www.TLWorldsBest.com. Sweepstakes begins at 12:01 AM Eastern Time (ET) on 12/1/10 and ends at 11:59 PM (ET) on 3/31/11. Sponsor: American Express Publishing Corporation.

Weekend Getaway: North Carolina Culinary Escape

Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Looking for a high-cal way to usher in the eating season? Look no further than the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. The triangle offers a fantastic mix of affordable southern comfort food as well as outstanding forward-thinking fare. Here, my personal favorites for an early winter pre-hibernation feast.

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Vacationist: Morocco, Hungary, and Italy

Pavillion du Golf

Here's a secret: Last month, a handful of travel experts converged in Marrakech. So take it from us, we're betting Morocco will be on the horizon for plenty of culture-loving globetrotters in 2011. How can you stay there for less? Vacationist delivers once again, this time with great deals at Le Pavillon du Golf, a secluded resort 15 minutes from the bustling bazaars of Marrakech. Or, if you prefer to trade flower gardens for Florence, try Hotel Posta, right in the city center, for less than $150 a night. These sales and more are at your fingertips now.

Still not a Vacationist member? Click here to join.

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Distill Your Own Single Malt in Scotland

Glenrothes Select Reserve

Choosing to ignore the negative images of hillbilly moonshiners, small-batch liquor distilleries have been cropping up faster than ticks on a coonhound. The locavore movement has clearly hit the bottle.

Want to run a still without rigging one in the woods behind your house? Take the high road to Scotland and learn from master whisky makers at Glenrothes.

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A Whale of a Time in the Canadian Subarctic

Paddling out into the river, it was hard to grasp just quite how far north I was. But sitting in a little yellow kayak, mere yards behind me swirled the Hudson Bay. And each stroke of an oar pushed me farther through subarctic waters toward the afternoon’s highlight: Beluga whales.

Churchill, Manitoba is known as the "polar bear capital" in October and November during bear season, but the tourism anarchist in me couldn't resist going in August. And while I desperately did want to see wild polar bears too, an off-peak visit in summertime also meant kayaking with whales on the Churchill River.

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Amtrak says, Guns Allowed on Board

Thanks to efforts by gun advocacy organizations, Amtrak passengers will now be allowed to bring their firearms on board. There are some restrictions. AOL Travel explains:

Congress ordered the reversal of a gun ban that had been in place on the government-owned railroad for nearly a decade, reports the Sacramento Bee. The policy change takes effect Dec. 15.

The new rail policy is in line with air travel rules that allow unloaded guns to be stored in locked baggage holds.

Gun owners will need to let Amtrak know 24 hours in advance of their intention to bring firearms onboard and the unloaded guns will need to be packed in hard-sided containers. These will be placed in special storage lockers - guns will not be allowed on trains that don't have checked baggage service.

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An Ode to John Galliano, Claridge's, and, of course, Christmas

John Galliano at Claridge's

A CHRISTMAS CORAL
John Galliano makes a splash
with his "Under the Sea" Xmas tree.
Sea horses, pink coral,
starfish, anemone.
Silver leaves and lavish jellyfish,
swim in Claridge's lobby.
It's my dearest winter wish
for a holiday suite at a
London hotel ever fab,
never snobby.

Shane Mitchell is a special correspondent for Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Maybourne Group.

The Hottest New Travel Technology

We head out to the PhoCusWright conference each year to find out what’s new in the world of Internet travel. This year’s was held last week at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, AZ—and while we didn’t get a chance to play the property’s gorgeous golf course (which is so steeped in Scottish tradition you can rent a kilt to play in!), we did get a chance to meet with some cutting-edge creators of travel technology. Some highlights:

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First Taste: Jose Garces's Newest Philadelphia Restaurant

jg-domestic-front-roomjpg

As you may remember, I stumbled upon the relatively new Garces Trading Co. on a recent visit to Philadelphia. Well, chef Jose Garces opened yet another restaurant in the city: JG Domestic. This is his seventh in Philadelphia; his eighth including Mercat a la Planxa in Chicago. I was invited to celebrate the opening by enjoying a dinner at the new space, conveniently located directly behind the 30th Street train station.

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Vacationist: California, London, Florence, and New York

Parker Palm Springs

Vacationist has upped the ante this week, perhaps to spur you, happy Thanksgiving revelers, into shopping for travel this holiday season. Because if you’re planning to look for deals in the next few weeks, we’re delivering stellar hotel stays for up to 60% off, right to your inbox.

Here’s a taste of what’s in store: a desert oasis in California, New York’s SoHo for a song, plus, coming up, a 2009 World’s Best Business hotel in London, a 2010 It List recipient in Florence—even a coveted room in a midtown Manhattan skyscraper, for easy access to the tree lighting come November 30th. A bonus? You never have to fight the Christmas crowds at Vacationist.com.

Still not a Vacationist member? Click here to join.

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Contest Watch: Italy for Two, Tory Burch Shopping Spree, and More

Italy for Two, DK Books

This month's contest watch is all about indulging. Whether it's a culinary trip through Italy, a $1,500 shopping spree, or sports fanaticism, leave the moderation at home.

Trip for Two to Italy, DK Books
Enter now through February 28

To celebrate DK’s inspirational new book, Where to Go When: Italy ($40, Oct ’10), DK Eyewitness Travel is giving foodies the chance to win a trip to Italy valued at $4770. The lucky winner and a friend will choose from more than 40 Epiculinary tours. To enter to win, simply sign up to receive the traveldk.com e-newsletter or visit their website.

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Travelocity's Thanksgiving Task Force Keeps Flyers Up-to-Date with Twitter

201011-b-travelocity-twitterjpg

Today and tomorrow are among the busiest travel days for the entire year, as folks make their ways to visit loved ones for Thanksgiving. If you’re one of the many who will brave the crowded airports (something I have done once, and will never do again), you may not be able to avoid delays, but you can at least get a heads-up.

For the tenth year, Travelocity has set up its Thanksgiving Task Force, which places spotters in 12 airports across the country to monitor and post updates on security wait times, delays and cancellations, and crowd conditions.

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New York City's Insieme Restaurant Welcomes Chef Andres Grundy

insieme-dessertjpg

I recently had the opportunity to sample some of the new items on the menu of Theater District restaurant Insieme (Italian for “together”), compliments of new executive chef, Andres Julian Grundy. As a New York City resident, I’m required to feel compelled to avoid Times Square and the immediate vicinity whenever possible. But this restaurant is making me second-guess that compulsion.

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