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Q&A: Most Romantic Experiences in Africa?

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Last year I had the pleasure of meeting the mother-daughter team behind Extraordinary Journeys. As their name implies, Marcia and Elizabeth Gordon (below) custom craft some pretty swoon-worthy adventures—to Africa, a place they know top to bottom (and all the secret spots in between) and that easily inspires dreamy visions of exotic animals, ancient baobab trees, and untamed landscapes where it’s impossible not to get away from it all.

201102-b-africa-1jpgSince my husband and I have a new baby and no real plans on deck for celebrating Valentine's Day this year, I thought I’d call on Elizabeth to share her expert tips—and provide me/Carry On with a vicarious dose of travel-inspired romance. Clip and save, dear readers. Sleeping under the stars on the Savannah beats a box of chocolates any day.

Question: In your opinion, what are some of the most romantic and memorable experiences in Africa?

Answers:

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V-Day Hotel Getaways From Maine to Marrakesh

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Hotels realize that there is no single recipe for romance (though you might conclude that if there were one, chocolate-dipped strawberries and Champagne would be at the top of the ingredient list).   While some guests may swoon at the sight of a petal-strewn bed, others may dismiss it as hackneyed. 

Here’s a selection of ten Valentine’s Day packages that may strike your fancy: from no-holds-barred extravaganzas to simpler intimate breaks.   Find the recipe that works for you.

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For Smart Travelers, New Year's Weekend Deals Await

New Year's Eve

No one wants to travel during the holidays. Even outside of Europe, getting from point A to B can quickly turn nightmarish. How about this: Stay home until the Christmas surge has safely passed, then head against the traffic for a New Year's weekend. While your patdown- and scanner-weary pals are coming home, you'll enjoy shorter lines getting out of town.

To help your wintery scheme come to fruition, several hotels, resorts, and even entire islands have put together New Year's Eve packages. Below, a small sampling.

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Family Detour in Baltimore

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Taking that long drive down I-95 over the holidays?  If you have kids in the car and you’re passing Baltimore, consider a detour to the Walters Art Museum to see the Walter Wick: Games, Gizmos and Toys in the Attic show before it closes January 2.

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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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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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Duracell Power Rovers Return to Times Square

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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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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.

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

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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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