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Railroad Revival Tour 2012

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The Railroad Revival tour is being resurrected for 2012, and this year Willie Nelson and Band of Horses are boarding the train. For the unfamiliar, the tour started last year when folk-rock Brits Mumford & Sons, along with L.A.’s Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and New York’s Old Crow Medicine, remembered that tour buses and private jets aren’t the only way to embark on a musical journey.

The three bands harnessed the magic of the U.S. rail system for an eight-day, 2,400-mile concert tour by train—from California to Louisiana. The tour was heralded The Railroad Revival, because it was intent on celebrating the—albeit seldom used—U.S. railway, and urging others to hop on board for their own travels. At each stop, the bands set up a stage, summoned fans to come watch, and delivered an all-out performance in the train station.

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Last Dash to London! Essential Booking Tips for the Olympic-Bound

201205-b-london-cityscape95605583jpgLast Saturday, the Olympic Torch relay set off in Great Britain and began a 70-day journey through the United Kingdom that will end on July 27 at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games. The countdown has begun.

Set on making it across the pond this summer? It’s not too late—but you must act now! To inspire you procrastinators to begin booking, we present our last-minute get-to-London guide.

The good news: flights to the city’s hub airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, London City) are still available. Right now, a search of round-trip fares from major U.S. cities range from $1,100 to $1,500. Departing from Chicago, you’ll fork over about $1,200 for a round-trip economy ticket on Virgin Atlantic Airways (a seat in the carrier’s newly revamped Upper Class cabin will cost you $2,800).

These fares are steep—and getting steeper—but they aren’t higher than this time last year. “I don’t think airlines are price gauging,” says George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchdog.com, a site that monitors ticket prices. “It’s still the summer season and we’re seeing reasonable fares for this time of year.”

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Italy's New High-Speed Train

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It may not be faster than a speeding bullet, but Italy’s new Italo—which connects Turin and Salerno, as well as Rome and Venice—sure looks like one. The sleek design is no surprise: Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo and Tod’s owner Diego Della Valle are behind the project. Prices mimic the tiered structure of airlines—but perks such as free Wi-Fi for all and a cinema car are better than what you get in the sky.

Brooke Porter is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo Courtesy of NTV

The London Underground Gets Real

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A few years back, when I called South Kensington home, I distinctly recall trundling through London's Underground knowing, even with map in hand, that I had been misled. Eyeballing the official Tube map insinuated that Heathrow was the same distance west of South Ken as Tower Hill was to the east. So you can imagine my surprise when we rolled past Monument station towards Tower Hill 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

True—one should never assume subway diagrams bear any resemblance to street level. But admit it: we all do. An NYU study in 2011 found that passengers put their faith in transit maps far more than they do in their own travel experience. But shouldn’t we? Shouldn’t our maps clearly illustrate that the amount of time it takes to walk from Queensway to Bayswater beats switching lines by almost six minutes?

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The Futurist: China Leads High-Speed Rail Plans

BBC Travel - Passport Blog |  With the 30 June opening of the high-speed rail between Beijing and Shanghai, China became a leader in new rail developments.

Despite lagging for years behind Japan’s new maglev trains and the continuously expanding TGV in France (the just-announced Paris to Bordeaux link will cut travel time from three hours to two), China’s newly opened route is the first in a network expected to grow to 10,000 miles of track by 2020. China already built around 6,000 miles of track since deciding in 2006 to pursue high-speed rail over maglev and other technologies.

The country’s expertise in the required technologies has made them a major player among the consortia that bid for high-speed rail contracts. In March, a group of Hong Kong and Shanghai-based businesses put in a tender for the long-awaited San Francisco to San Diego line, and Russian Railways announced that it is very likely China would win the public bidding for the high-speed rail network Russia plans to have in place for the 2018 FIFA World Cup....

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The Train in Spain: Brand New Service Zips from Madrid to Valencia in Just 95 Minutes

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In a city like Madrid, where the passion for food and drink is met by a vast number of bars and restaurants that serve any regional specialty you care to sink your teeth into, it may seem slightly odd to say that the best place to go for a truly genuine paella Valenciana could be...the train station?

And yet, the brand new high-speed train link between Madrid and Valencia might just make this statement true. Inaugurated on December 18, it's the latest addition to the AVE network, which radiates from the capital to key destinations on the peninsula such as Barcelona (3 hours) and Seville (2.5 hours). Now, with 16 daily departures travelling at speeds in excess of 200mph, this smooth ride can get you to the Mediterranean coast in little more than one and a half hours.

That's probably less time than you will spend at the table. And since Valencia—already known for excellent produce, fresh fish and world-famous rice—just chalked up its thirteenth Michelin-starred restaurant, the table is without a doubt a good place to be.

Tomas Martin is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure.

Photo by Renfe-Operadora.

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

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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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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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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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Contest Watch: National Train Week, Carbon-Neutral Nuptials, More

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Saturday is National Train Day and what better way to celebrate than to win some free train travel? Not in the mood to get on board—then jet away with your betrothed for a eco-friendly destination wedding in the Cook Islands. And, if you’ve already done the love and marriage thing, the least you can do is get some peace and quiet by sending your teen off to Oxford for the summer. There’s something for everyone in this edition of ContestWatch.

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