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New High-Speed Train to Challenge Eurostar from London to the Continent

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A bullet train capable of traveling 200 mph arrived from Germany today in London's St. Pancras Station, heralding a broad expansion of high-speed Continental rail service from the British capital. It also marks the first challenge to Eurostar's virtual monopoly on passenger service through the Channel Tunnel. If all goes according to plan, starting in 2013 passengers will be able to travel by rail from London to Frankfurt, without changing trains, in only five hours.

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New Study Lets Airlines off the Hook for Serving Bland Food

Airline Food

Despite the best efforts of Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and other celebrity chefs enlisted by airlines to jazz up their menus, a new study suggests that in-flight meals will forever be bland. It's not the preparation, it's our perception. As reported by the BBC, a study in the journal Food Quality and Preference shows that background noise can adversely affect both the flavor and texture of food.

Before you accuse the Food Quality and Preference editors of publishing frivolous, sensationalistic research, consider their other reports: "Consistent flavor naming predicts recognition memory in children and young adults"; "Impact of proprioception and tactile sensations in the mouth on the perceived thickness of semi-solid foods"; "Conditioning unfamiliar and familiar flavours to specific positive emotions."

These people are serious about flavor.

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NYC Hikes Public Transportation Fares...Again

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If New Yorkers seem a little grumpier—particularly during the weekday rush hour—there’s a good reason. Yet again, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is putting the financial burden of their poor business decisions on the common folk: by upping subway and bus fares yet again. (Rates were also hiked in March 2008 and June 2009.)

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Redrawing the Caribbean: Goodbye Dutch Antilles, Hello New Curaçao

Kura Hulanda Lodge Curacao

In two days, cartographers will need to update their maps of the Caribbean. On Sunday, October 10 (that is, 10/10/10), the Netherlands Antilles will be dissolved. Curaçao and St. Maarten will become autonomous countries (still under the Dutch crown), while Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire will be rezoned as Dutch principalities. It’s an exciting time to visit Curaçao, a tiny island that—though popular with well-behaved travelers from Europe and South America—is under the radar of most Americans.

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News Roundup: Airport Shooting Range, Grape Thieves & More

Denver International Airport

— More questionable planning decisions out at the Denver International Airport (above).  At least they promise "No armor-piercing ammunition." Proposed shooting range near DIA raises concerns, DenverPost.com

— Simon Cowell’s bio tops the list of ten books most often left behind in this U.K. chain’s hotel rooms.  Which titles would you expect on Top 10 list of books most-often left behind in hotels, USAToday.com

— Amtrak unveils proposal for high-speed rail solutions along its Northeast corridor, cutting time between Boston and New York to just 84 minutes. Amtrak's $117 Billion Plan For High Speed Travel, FastCompany.com

— Thieves hit two vineyards, one in northern Germany and one in southern France, and absconded with the grapes—souring this year’s harvest. French wine thieves in grape harvest heist, AFP; Rare grape harvest cancelled in Hamburg after thieves strip vines, The Local

Ann Shields in an online senior editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Blaine Harrington III/Alamy.

Anti-Austerity Protests Sure to Disrupt European Travel this Week

EU

Travelers heading to, from or across Europe would be wise to take note of the protests and strikes planned for this week in more than one dozen countries. CNN explains:

London, England -- Simmering anger over government budget cuts will spill into the streets of 14 European countries Wednesday as tens of thousands workers fight state efforts to slash public debt.

More than 100,000 people are expected to chant "No to Austerity" in the streets of Brussels, with smaller protests planned across Europe by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), which represents 50 unions in 30 countries.

The protests coincide with a general strike in Spain, but a poll published in Spanish daily Publico on Friday indicates that turnout could be low. The survey suggested that many people thought the government would push through spending cuts whether they protested or not.

Strikes have proliferated in Europe over the past few months as unions resist austerity budgets that governments say are necessary to restore the faith of financial markets in European sovereign debt. So how did it come to this?

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Photo courtesy of iStock.

The Southwest-AirTran Merger: What It Means to You (Maybe, Sorta, Not Really)

Southwest Air

Everyone's all worked up – one way or the other – about the news that low-fare Southwest Airlines is buying AirTran for $1.4 billion. Just in case you're not sure if this is good or bad news for travelers, I decided to round up some of the headlines and "expert" quotes that followed the announcement.

Yes, I was just as confused as you'll be.

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More (Delicious) Neapolitan Pizza Comes to NYC

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Last Thursday evening I was fortunate enough to attend a preview of Donatella Arpaia's latest restaurant venture. Donatella, an Italian restaurant with a big focus on authentic Neapolitan-style pizza, opens Friday, September 24, in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC. It's her first venture here below 50th Street; she also owns Mia Dona, a rustic Puglian trattoria; Anthos, high-end Greek; Kefi, a Greek taverna; and in Miami's Viceroy Hotel, Eos, for modern Greek cuisine.

Arpaia hosted the event and, beyond being super friendly, you could easily see the enthusiasm and dedication she has for this new spot. Her ingredients are beyond fresh; the techniques authentic; and chefs total experts. All of her pizzaioli—as well as Arpaia—were trained in Italy with pie whiz Enzo Coccia, who then came here to continue to oversee the project during its early stages.

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Bon Vivanta: Taj Hotels Launches a New Brand

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Five-star hospitality doesn't have to equal four-poster beds or stuffy white tablecloths set with five different forks and a "Jackets Required" policy.

In fact, hyper upscale Indian hotelier, Taj--of famed properties like Mumbai's Taj Mahal and Udaipur's Lake Palace--just unveiled their newest "upper upscale" brand. It's dubbed "Vivanta" to signify a kind of cultural sophistication and also a vivacious approach to experience and travel.

Though, in the last 18 months, three initial hotels in Bangalore, The Maldives and Goa already existed under the umbrella, 13 other properties have now come in from the rain and apparently six more are already in development.

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Boeing: Space Tourism Flights Possible by 2015

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USA Today | Boeing says it's ready to jump into the space-tourism market, announcing on Wednesday that will enter into a partnership to sell seats on rocket trips to the International Space Station.

"Now Boeing just has to build a spaceship," The Associated Press writes.

Boeing's just-announced partnership is with the space-tourism company Space Adventures. The Washington Post explains, saying the agreement is for the companies "to establish a space taxi system that will launch its passengers into low Earth orbit. Boeing has been developing a capsule and has years of experience building rockets, while Space Adventures has organized seven trips to the space station aboard the Russian spacecraft Soyuz. The obstacles remain high, but the two companies say they think they can begin their service by the end of 2015." Photo Credit: iStock

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