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Orient-Express Claims a New Name in Luxury: Belmond Hotels

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To me, the phrase “Orient-Express” is synonymous with luxury travel: train rides through the Veneto, 16th-century retreats in Cusco, exotic cruises along Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River. That's why I was so surprised to see that the company of the same name, which counts 45 alluring hotels, rail lines, and river cruises in its collection, is changing its moniker to Belmond starting March 10. According to the group, the decision was made in order to “strengthen our brand architecture” and “increase consumer recognition in the marketplace.” The ultimate reason? They never actually owned the name. The trademark had been licensed through SNCF, France’s national railway company, and the group felt that having a name they could call their own might lure more property owners to invest in the brand. Following the change, only the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train will keep its title.

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JetBlue's GoPacks Offer Major Deals for Group Travelers

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JetBlue makes headlines again with the announcement of their new GoPacks; bundles of 6 or 10 one-way tickets to some of the nation’s most frequented destinations. 

If you’re getting ready to book your family summer vacation, or coral a group of friends for spring break, grab a pack to take advantage of the unmatched rates.

GoPack trips can be booked from March 31 through June 17 travel, and are eligible for True Blue miles. 

While flights from New York to Orlando, and JetBlue’s Intra-California package between Long Beach and the Bay Area scream easy getaways, the $939 stack of tickets for travel between Boston and Washington, D.C. or the GoPack of northbound flights from JFK may be the perfect option for large business trips.

Melanie Lieberman is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure. 

Photo Courtesy of JetBlue Airways

Carnival Celebrations Around the Globe

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Carnival—the final soiree before Lent when people fast, avoid indulgences, and refrain from partying—culminates over the next week with vibrant costumes, wild dancing, and self-expression, found worldwide this year until March 4th. For many, Carnival is a fun way to let go, whether you're family road-tripping to Louisiana or a couple jet-setting to Italy. In case you don't have a chance to join in the revelry, here are a few colorful Carnival-inspired experience that caught our eye:

Venice

Just steps from St. Mark’s Square, the historic Luna Hotel Baglioni (above and below) will be prepping its guests for festive balls with private costume fittings—including embellished masks and cloaks—by Atelier Flavia. Traditional gowns will grace the ballroom floor during the hotel’s Grand Baglioni Party this Friday, February 28, and the Gran Carnivale Party on Saturday, March 1, where guests can sit back and enjoy the “Dance & Opera Show,” or join in on the display themselves. Housed in a Venetian palace, the hotel's stately ties to the past reach from its proximity to Piazza San Marco—where celebrations first began during the Middle Ages in 1162—to inside the Marco Polo Ballroom, where original fresco paintings of the XVIII Century of the School of Tiepolo adorn the walls.

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Find Local Events Wherever You Travel With Eventseeker App

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If you’re searching for an activity more interesting than the average tourist attraction while traveling, skip the guidebook and log onto eventseeker. The event recommendation engine—available to all Android users as of last week—uses your social profile and music applications to create a hyper-local, personalized list of suggested activities. It even shows you which friends may be attending. 

Since it launched last year, eventseeker has been steadily expanding its global reach. Aside from its ubiquity across all smartphone platforms and social networks, the app now has a presence in more than 2,000 cities worldwide. Partnerships with 150 ticketing agencies have provided access to an unprecedented database of events, ranging from nearby festivals to rock concerts or educational programs.

The next time you're touring a new town, or simply looking to expand your neighborhood knowledge of affairs, let eventseeker do the searching for you. 

Melanie Lieberman is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo Courtesy of Eventseeker 

Travel Companies Urge Arizona Governor to Veto Religious Freedom Act

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A growing chorus of prominent travel companies, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest, and Marriott International, are pressing Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto Senate Bill 1062, the recently passed legislation that would allow businesses to deny service for religious reasons. The bill is meant to protect religious freedom, but would effectively legalize discrimination of religious minorities and LGBT individuals.

Both American Airlines and Marriott International—joined by the Arizona and Greater Phoenix Chambers of Commerce—have written letters (see here and here) to Governor Brewer outlining their concerns over the bill. Delta issued a statement yesterday, available here.

Marriott's regional Vice President Steve Hart and Director of Government Affairs Thomas Maloney believe that if enacted, SB 1062 would “undermine—or worse, counteract” the brand's efforts to boost revenue, particularly from business travelers.

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Green Hotel Trend: Wooden Key Cards

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Hotel chains have been going green for years, but the latest eco-friendly initiative to catch our eye are wooden key cards by Sweden-based Sustainable Cards.

According to head of sales Johan Kaijser, 30 billion plastic cards are produced every year—that’s 150,000 tons of plastic. Using cards made from wood can reduce the carbon footprint by 50%. So far, hotel brands such as Radisson Blu, Westin, Four Seasons, Accor, and Kempinski—plus retailers like Starbucks and Whole Foods (which use them as gift cards)—have signed on. The European hotel company Scandic was an early supporter, while Mövenpick is the first to adopt them across the brand.

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Kimpton Shows How to Make Your Bed Like a Hotel Pro

If you’ve ever wondered how Kimpton hotels gets their beds to look so darn inviting, the staff at the Hotel Monaco Chicago is here to show you how. While we've already showed you our step-by-step approach, we have to admit this video turns the often-loathed chore into an exciting dance-fest. Time to grab five of your fellow hotel geek friends and start corner folding!

Maria PedoneMaria Pedone is a Digital Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @mariapedestrian.

Cuba Will No Longer Process U.S. Travel Visas

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Until a few weeks ago, travel restrictions to Cuba were looser than they’ve ever been, thanks to President Obama’s 2011 policy allowing tour companies to apply for travel licenses for “people-to-people” educational and cultural trips. But that’s all come to a halt now that the one bank responsible for processing these visas—M&T Bank in Buffalo, New York—has decided to stop offering its services to diplomatic missions. As of yet, no replacement bank has been found, despite efforts from both sides.

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Avenue Restaurant Brings American Flare to London Food Scene

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With Christie's auction house right around the corner and the Queen’s palace not too far away, Avenue restaurant on the posh St. James Street in the heart of Mayfair, has re-launched, bringing a distinctive Manhattan power-dining scene to London. Everything from the Prohibition era cocktails to the wine list to the menu to the portion sizes to the friendly service is done with a nod to England’s former colony across the pond. This trend toward all things American is not new in London. Every other opening recently has been some variety of burger shack, hot dog stand, or BBQ joint, but Avenue offers a more upscale take on Americana. You get two cornmeal crusted soft shell crabs for a starter and they’re crispy and lovely with the spicy mayo sauce that accompanies them. Meanwhile, the very large lobster macaroni and cheese is positively packed full of lobster meat and the aromas wafting from the “pig” loaf at the next table made me swoon. With reasonable prices and many more items on the list I’d like to try, Avenue made this American girl feel very much at home. 

Sally Hurst is a chef and food writer based in London. You can follow her on Twitter at @chefsallyjane

Photo Courtesy of D&D London

From Thrillist: Secrets of the World's Elite Pickpockets

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For as long as there have been pants stitched with pockets, there have been people trying to pick 'em. They scheme in every city—skills sharp, techniques tested, methods honed to a science—for ways to separate unsuspecting tourists from their cash. And the only way to keep them from ruining your big trip is to beat them at their own game; here's your guide to their secrets.

READ MORE AT THRILLIST.COM

Movies + Travel Twitter Chat on Tuesday, February 25

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A great film can transport the viewer to a different time and place. When it comes to travel, we all have that one movie scene that will forever invoke the desire to visit or revisit a destination (Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, anyone?). To get ready for the 86th Academy Awards, we'll be discussing how movies can inspire travel with experts this Tuesday, February 25th from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST. Join along in the chat!

The Hosts:

Sarah Spagnolo, T+L Special Correspondent & New Media Editor, @SarahSpagnolo

Marguerite Suozzi, Associate Research Editor, @maggiesuozzi

Lindsey Olander, Editorial Assistant, @lindseytravels

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T+L's Most Popular Photos on Social Media this Week, Feb. 24

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We know you're busy, so in case you missed any of T+L's Twitter and Instagram this past week, here's a roundup of the top content. As always, images ruled.

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Skype's Travel Challenge Could Send You Around the World

To what limits would you want to be challenged? If you’re like travel videographer and member of Skype’s Moment Makers program, Mike Corey, the answer is: Bring it.

Corey took part in Rerouted: a Skype travel challenge, which dropped him off in Europe without an itinerary. A Skype-selected local met Corey in each country he visited to give him a clue as to where he was going and what he was doing next—from bungee-jumping in Italy to battling an oil-wrestling champion in Turkey.

Now, Windows 8.1 and Skype are giving travel enthusiasts the chance to have their own journey. The winner will receive a two-week trip through Europe for themselves plus a guest, along with travel equipment to document the time abroad. Enter here for your chance to win the ultimate European vacation.

Gabrielle Blitz is Associate Social Media Editor at Travel + Leisure.

Q&A With Ritesh Batra: Director of the Film “The Lunchbox”

Director Ritesh Batra’s debut feature film, The Lunchbox, a charming epistolary romance set in Mumbai, is steeped in nostalgia. As it traces an unlikely relationship between a curmudgeonly widower, Saajan (Irrfan Khan) and a neglected housewife, Ila (Nimrat Kaur)—all triggered by a delivery mistake, courtesy of the city’s supposedly foolproof lunch couriers, or dabbawallahs—the film also showcases the many faces of Mumbai: a frenetic, resilient, and monsoon-pelted metropolis.

While The Lunchbox has already captured hearts outside its native India, thanks to a splashy international premiere at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival (it also screened at the Sundance Film Festival last month), it hits select theaters in New York and Los Angeles tomorrow (February 28th).

T+L caught up with Batra, who regularly shuttles between Mumbai and New York, to discuss his adventures in filmmaking.

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Experience a Food-Lover’s Provence with T+L and Cox & Kings

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In this special installment of T+L's promotional partnership with luxury adventure operator Cox & Kings, readers can join Luke Barr, Travel + Leisure Features Director and author of PROVENCE, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste, for a once-in-a-lifetime epicurean journey to Provence, France.

In his new book, Barr—the grand-nephew of legendary food writer M.F.K. Fisher—tells the behind-the-scenes story of a seminal moment in the history of American gastronomy.

The Highlights:

• A tour of the farmer's markets, bakeries, and charcuteries described in the book, including those where Julia Child once shopped; a visit to the Fragonard perfume workshop; and a historical tour of Nice

• A visit to La Roquette village, lunch in Moulin de Mougins garden, admission to the Picasso Museum, and a cooking class with a Michelin-starred chef in Nice

• A visit to Saint Paul de Vence, the Matisse Museum, and a 14th-century wine cellar in Vence; a Provençal cooking class at La Pitchoune, on Simone Beck's former estate, in Nice

• Tastings at two vineyards, including Domaine Tempier, followed by a sommelier-led wine dinner in Aix-en-Provence

• Olive oil and wine tastings, a tour of Roman sites and the Les Halles market, and dinner at the iconic Hiely Lucullus, in Arles

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Four Seasons Resort Lanai Introduces an Airport Lounge in Honolulu

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We’ve told you about new developments in airline and airport lounges (most recently here and here)—but now the Four Seasons Resort Lanai has debuted its very own version at Honolulu International Airport. Located in the commuter terminal, the 1,000-square-foot lounge means that guests start their hotel experience even before setting foot on the island—and the hotel. Visitors awaiting their 25-minute flights to Lanai will have all the free perks: food, beverages, iPads, Wi-Fi access, charging stations, luggage holding areas, TVs. Plus, a Four Seasons concierge is on hand to assist with check-in and reservations at the restaurant or spa.

Brooke Porter
Brooke Porter Katz is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1

Photo Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Inside Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson's Latest Film

Director Wes Anderson takes T+L on an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of Grand Budapest Hotel, his latest film opening Mar. 7. 

For his new release—which stars Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, and Ralph Fiennes as a debonair hotel concierge—Wes Anderson traveled though Eastern Europe on a hunt for set locations and characters. “I like working abroad because the whole process is an adventure, and it’s the most fun way to learn about a place,” he said. One takeaway: “Prague has been all cleaned up, but Budapest still has a little bit of a time-warp feeling.” Known for creating meticulously crafted sets and fictional worlds, the filmmaker borrowed references from Ernst Lubitsch musicals, Jugendstil architecture, and Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain for his own version of a grand hotel in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka. Here, a view from the director’s chair.

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Travel Warning Issued to Airlines for Possible Shoe Bomb Threats

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According to an NBC News report, the Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning to airlines about a possible new threat of shoe bombs—specifically on U.S.-bound overseas flights. The warning mentioned nonstop flights from Johannesburg, Paris, London, and Cairo. Though it did not come with any directives to the airlines, passengers should expect heightened security, including additional pat-downs and full-body screenings.

Homeland Security released the following statement—the same one they used after the temporary ban earlier this month on carry-on gels, liquids, powders, and aerosols on flights from the U.S. to Russia.

 “Out of an abundance of caution, DHS regularly shares relevant information with domestic and international partners about relevant threat information as we work to meet our mission of keeping the traveling public safe. These types of regular communications are part of that important priority. Our security apparatus includes a number of measures, both seen and unseen, informed by the latest intelligence and as always DHS continue to adjust security measures to fit an ever evolving threat environment.”

Brooke Porter
Brooke Porter Katz is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1

Photo credit: Juice Images/ Alamy

Guess Where? Bridge in Winter

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It's not one of the scariest bridges or the most dangerous either, thankfully. Can you guess what bridge this is? Leave your guesses on our Facebook page. Check back on Monday for the answer.

Lyndsey Matthews is an assistant digital editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter @matthewslyndsey

Photo Courtesy of T+L Photo Contest

Ice Caves Form at Lake Superior Thanks to Polar Vortex

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For the folks of northern Wisconsin, the frigid temperatures have, for the first time in five years, caused Lake Superior to freeze over, granting the tough-skinned tourist access to the string of ice caves spanning the shoreline. 

Nearly 40,000 people have already made the mile-long trek across Superior’s frozen surface to see the intricate webs of hoar frost and the dramatic ice formations emerging from the caves’ glittering mouths.  

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State Department Issues Travel Alert Updates for Thailand and Ukraine

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The State Department has updated its travel alerts for Thailand and Ukraine, responding to an uptick in politically-charged violence affecting both countries.

In Ukraine, demonstrations have flared up after the government opted for closer economic ties with Russia rather than with the EU. Since Thursday, over 100 individuals have died in the Kiev street riots. And anti-government rallies in Bangkok claimed their twelfth casulty—a police officer—on the February 18th.

We've been monitoring the Thai situation for months, and the new travel alert sends the same message: US citizens should avoid protest sites and any large gatherings.

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International Texting Free for All

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Great news for travelers: international texting is soon to be a bygone worry. Yesterday, Facebook has announced a $19 billion purchase of free text service What’s App, not long after Viber, its main competitor, was bought out by Japan’s Amazon-esque Rakuten. Why do we care? The proliferation of free global texting apps is making huge waves—as evidenced by What’s App’s soaring price tag—and phone carriers are responding. First out of the gate was T-Mobile, with their free global data plan. Now AT&T and Verizon are stepping up to the plate: the former announced price cuts to its wireless plans earlier this month, while Verizon just launched their More Everything plans late last week, with unlimited messaging to any mobile number in the world.

Also in the world of global communications news? A promising announcement coming out of the EU, where roaming charges will be made illegal come July. For those heading across the pond, it’s a pretty exciting change—all you’ll need is one SIM card for continent-wide service. Here’s to telecom companies finally getting things right.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo credit: Folio Images / Alamy

Earn Free Stays Through Peer-to-Peer Rental Site Cosmopolit Home

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The latest player in the peer-to-peer vacation rental game? The France-based Cosmopolit Home, which is trying to revolutionize a concept they call “nightswapping.” The idea is the brainchild of Serge Duriavig, who, after experiencing some downfalls of home swapping—agreeing on dates, finding accommodations up to his standards—created a new avenue to book free overnight stays.

Here’s how it works

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Stand Above the Grand Canyon with #AerialAmerica

What’s it like to stand above Mount Rushmore or fly through some of the biggest cities in the world? Aerial America is returning to the Smithsonian Channel with breathtaking views of the nation’s most diverse landmarks. 

New York City’s Times Square is being transformed today until 5 p.m., and tomorrow from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., thanks to Aerial America. Fans will have a chance to experience what it’s like to stand above the Grand Canyon with 3D pavement artist, Kurt Wenner. If you’re enjoying the sun on the West Coast, head to The Grove in Los Angeles on February 22 & 23 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. for the same experience.

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Mexico Travel Tips From Our Twitter Chat

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Whether you're looking for the best beaches, cultural experiences, or must-eat foods in Mexico, insiders always know best. We asked panelists from a recent Twitter chat to share their expert advice.

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Five Ways to Get a Better Hotel Room Rate

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Looking to score a deal on a great hotel? These digital tips and tricks from T+L will ensure you get the best price in the house.

Know the Market

Timing is key. The Web-based price predictor feature on TheSuitest forecasts how room prices are expected to fluctuate for the next month—use it to find the right time to buy in any market. Then cross-check with DealAngel and Bing's Hotel Rate Indicator—both compare quoted rates with a hotel’s average cost, telling you which deals are really worthwhile.

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Packing Tips: Lightweight Rain Gear

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Q: We are hotel-hopping through europe and we want to be prepared for mixed weather. any suggestions for lightweight outerwear? —Julia Stuopelis, via e-mail

A: Your best option for a fickle forecast: gear that packs into a pocket or pouch (see video below). Here, easy-to-stash coats and boots that offer protection from the elements or can be tossed into a tote or backpack during bouts of sunshine. Clockwise from left:

Men’s reversible nylon jacket with stowing pocket, Victorinox.
Men’s nylon windbreaker with stowing pocket by Swims.
Men’s coated-cotton jacket with packable pocket, K-Way by Marc Jacobs.
Women’s reversible nylon parka and matching bag, Louis Vuitton.
Rollable rubber-and-canvas wellies, Hunter.
Women’s compressible down jacket and pouch, Moncler.

Video: Stylish Raingear

Related Links:
How to Pack a Suitcase
How to Pack a Suit
How to Weather-Proof Your Vacation

Mimi LombardoMimi Lombardo is the fashion director at Travel + Leisure. Have a packing dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to tripdoctor@timeinc.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

Photo by Levi Brown

Why Do European Hotels Require Passports at Check-in?

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There’s a long tradition throughout Europe of statutes requiring hotels to collect information on guests—including name, nationality, and ID number—enabling law enforcement to cross-check for wanted individuals, criminals, or missing persons. The European Union has since made such data collection a requirement for hotels in member states. Most of this information is simply stored to be made available to authorities upon request, though in certain areas (notably Italy), it is regularly collected. In the past, some hotels would hold guests’ passports for hours or even overnight to manually complete the registration process. Today, you usually just have to show it at check-in.

Related Links:
How to Quickly Renew a Passport
Travel Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts
Hotel Travel Tips

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@timeinc.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


Photo by Chris Rout / Alamy

New Museum Restaurants

Museum Restaurants: The Magazine at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery

Elevating food and design to a work of art, these new museum restaurants are destinations in their own right.

London: With its undulating fabric roof, the Magazine (pictured) at Serpentine Sackler Gallery is unmistakably Zaha Hadid. German chef Oliver Lange shows off his Japanese training with a menu that includes both sushi and côte de boeuf. $$$$

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Stephanie March's Must-Pack Products

Stephanie March's Must-Pack Products

How does the star of Law & Order: SVU, travel blogger for fathomaway.com, and co-owner of modern makeup salon Rouge New York make multitasking look so gorgeous? Here, her must-pack products.

Stainless-Steel Sharpie Pen ($7): “If you address a postcard with a ballpoint, it can look like you’re writing from an asylum.”

Almond & Coconut Kind Bar ($2): “It won’t melt, no matter where you are in the world.”

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