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La Dolce Vita: Gelato Tours in Rome

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Come June, author, blogger, and all-around sweet tooth David Lebovitz is heading to Rome to hunt down the best gelato in town—if not the world. For anyone interested in joining him, the author of the ice cream bible The Perfect Scoop will lead an Out of Context three-hour guided tour to the eternal city’s best gelato and granita ($86/person).

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Is the Best Restaurant in the World Closing?

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Yes, it’s true. For those of you who haven’t heard, El Bulli—chef and molecular gastronomist Ferran Adria’s inimitable restaurant on Spain’s Costa Brava, considered by many to be the finest in the world—is closing. This summer season, which begins on June 15th, will be its second-to-last.

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As a restaurante, that is. Despite rumors that the place was gone for good, a press release has confirmed that El Bulli will indeed close in 2012—but reopen in 2014 as a culinary foundation. The not-for-profit institute will serve as a “think tank for creativity in gastronomy,” offering 20 to 25 yearlong fellowships for chefs to experiment in Adria’s famous taller, and compiling an exhaustive encyclopedia on contemporary cooking.

Adria, meanwhile, will try out his talents on a different dining public: the students Harvard University. He has signed on to teach a fall 2010 undergraduate course in culinary physics.

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Amtrak Redefines the Cattle Car

okdot.jpgOn its daily four-hour trip across a swath of southwest oil country Tuesday, Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer was blazing a new trail of sorts: one fueled by biodiesel.  The run marks the Earth Week inauguration of a 12-month test of alternative fuels along the 206-mile route.  

The fuel, a blend of 80% diesel and 20% beef by–product (if the train industry is shunning Texas oilmen, at least they’re tossing a shank bone to region’s cattle industry), performed well in lab test.  Carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions were reduced by 10%, particulates by 15%, and sulfates by 20%, so hopes are high for the track test. 

And, no, the fuel does not smell like burgers.

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Argentina's "Abuelas" Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

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Argentina’s Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo, the civil rights group that fights to track down and identify children who were “disappeared” during the country’s military dictatorships, have been nominated for a 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Abuelas (Grandmothers) originally formed as an offshoot of the Madres de La Plaza de Mayo—mothers who, dressed in matching white kerchiefs and toting posters of missing people, staged sobering daily protest marches in Buenos Aires’ main square for over three decades. But whereas the latter group seeks justice for the sons and daughters kidnapped during the military dictatorships, the Abuelas focus on what happened to the offspring—born and unborn—of those desaparecidos. From the mid-1970s and through the early ‘80s, approximately 500 Argentine children were abducted (along with their parents) and raised by military families or by other government sympathizers. In their 30-year history, the Abuelas have managed to recover 47 of these niños robados.

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Europe Flights Take Off, But What About the Backlog?

The first flights to take off in a week may have left London's Heathrow Airport yesterday and many of Europe's airports may once again be open, but there are still thousands of people stranded around the world, unable to fly due to ash from Iceland's recent volcanic explosion.

If you're not one of the lucky fliers who happened to be flying Emirates Air (the airline went above and beyond and is paying for hotel stays and three meals a day for some 6,000 passengers stuck in Dubai!), chances are you're ready for this ordeal to be O-V-E-R. Now, the question us who gets dibs on some of the first flights out?  For details on who goes to the front of the check-in line, check out CNN's excellent Q&A today:


How are airlines prioritizing ticket allocation?
Other than a few special cases, most airlines are prioritizing those with pre-existing tickets for scheduled flights. In some cases, empty seats on these are being filled by customers with urgent travel needs. Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific says it is giving priority to unaccompanied minors and students heading back to the UK to sit exams. Singapore Airlines is fast tracking those with "special needs," the elderly and those with infants or young children. Rochelle Turner, head of vacation research for consumer watchdog Which?, says any prioritizing is at the discretion of individual flight operators. "The elderly, the sick, frequent flyers—it's entirely up to the airline who goes first."

Do I need to do anything if I have a ticket on a scheduled flight?
All airlines are advising customers to double check whether flights are going ahead before heading to airports. British Airways is even urging customers with tickets on scheduled departures to consider delaying their travel plans to free up space on planes to allow delayed passengers to travel. In most cases, passengers who hold tickets for a flight due to take off as scheduled should be fine. Says Turner, it is still advisable to call the airline to confirm or check-in online.

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Adrien Glover is the online deputy editor at Travel + Leisure.

New Disney Ship’s (Michelin) Star Power

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Disney and Michelin-starred French restaurants may seem like an odd pairing, but when the new cruise ship Disney Dream debuts early next year, one onboard restaurant will have an impressive French accent. So much so that Disney Cruise Line decided to announce the restaurant, Remy, in New York, at a press dinner at Michelin three-star Le Bernardin.

The restaurant’s name is of course a nod to the diminutive star of Disney Pixar’s animated film Rataouille. But kids are not the focus here. Rather, Remy is adults-only with a cover charge (likely to top $75 per person).

Based on a sample menu served to journalists at Le Bernardin, it will be well worth the price—impressive dishes liked smoked bison with fennel salad and Honeywell oranges and market fresh asparagus with black truffles and vin jaune. Remy may just become the ship’s must-do attraction (well, along with the 4,000-passenger Dream’s AquaDuck, the first water coaster at sea).

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Clear Skies Over Europe? Not Yet

It’s no secret ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano (say that 10 times fast) has choked the skies over Europe since erputing on Apr. 14, grounding hundreds of thousands of flights; stranding passengers on both sides of the Atlantic; ruining (and extending) vacations; and serving as a healthy reminder of the indomitable power of Mother Nature. Here’s where things stand today:

- Iceland’s volcano spewed more ash into the sky Tuesday, continuing restrictions over UK air space and concerns that the cloud could choke jet engines.

- There is still no confirmed safe limit of ash through which an airplane can fly.

- Flights are restricted to those flying above 20,000 feet—above the ash belt.

- Half of the scheduled air traffic in Europe, or 14,000 flights, are said to be operational today.

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Hollywood Sign to Become Hotel?

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Tinseltown rumor has it that the Hollywood sign, that iconic beacon of glamour, could be cast in a new leading role: that of a luxury hotel. 

The fate of the sign, first erected in 1923, has recently been in question as real estate investors who own the adjacent land indicated that they were willing to sell it to developers for building luxury homes. In February, the Trust for Public Land and the Hollywood Sign Trust began an emergency fund-raising campaign to buy the 138 acres and save the sign. 

The Los Angeles Daily News recently reported that a Danish architect, Christian Bay-Jorgensen, met with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to propose that a luxury hotel, incorporating the 9-letter sign, be built on the site.  His plan calls for each letter to be rebuilt 90 feet tall (twice their current height) and enclose lavish guest rooms with enviable views of the city.  The rest of the hotel would be built behind the letters and would, in Bay-Jorgensen’s plan, include public spaces that could serve as locations for awards ceremonies.

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In-Flight Food Tries to Be Tasty

201004-b-bostonmarket2jpgNew York Times |  Those bland sandwiches sold by airlines to economy-class passengers? They’re on the way out.

Even as the last major airline—Continental Airlines—is ending free economy-class meals on domestic flights this fall, carriers are changing their whole approach to food.

Air Canada
has introduced healthy food options, like vegetarian sandwiches and yogurt parfaits, and Alaska Airlines has a new healthy snack pack. American Airlines is working with Boston Market. JetBlue is about to start selling food on select long-haul flights. Some carriers are expected to offer combination meals and other promotions similar to those available at fast-food restaurants.

And United Airlines is testing the sale of some food items sold on domestic flights, and a variety of sandwiches, in its Red Carpet lounges at Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. It will also let passengers preorder in-flight food by the end of the year.  Photo Courtesy of American Airlines.

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Mexico: To Visit or Not to Visit?

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On Wednesday, April 14, the same day that First Lady Michelle Obama arrived for a two-day visit to Mexico City, drug violence erupted in Acapulco, one of Mexico’s most famous resort cities, 190 miles southwest of the Mexican capital on the Pacific coast.  The shootings and murders (six people were killed; five wounded) were startling because they occurred during the day, on the main boulevard of the tourist zone, and three bystanders were victims. However, no tourists were among the casualties and the violence seems to have resulted from a power struggle within a drug cartel operating in Guerrero, the state in which Acapulco is located.

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