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London calling: DUKES LONDON concierge offers top 10 tips for visiting London

dukes londonSo, you weren't invited to the Royal Wedding. While you won't get to sit next to the Beckhams or drink tea with the Windsors for the big event, you can still experience the best of London (without worrying about your face appearing in Page Six's 'what were they thinking?' layout of wedding fashion gone wrong).

Ian Steiger, Head Concierge of the historic DUKES LONDON in St. James's and the Concierge of the Year 2010, is offering tips for London travelers who want to see the best of the city, without all the chaos but with a little royal flair. Here's what he suggests:

1. Buckingham Palace isn't the only Royal residence in town. Visit Clarence House, the official residence of Princes Charles, William and Harry, which offers public and private tours from August 6th through September 4th.

2. The best place to catch a glimpse of William departing Clarence House for the Royal Wedding will be the steps of the Duke of York "Son of George III" statue on Carlton House Terrace. Show up early, says Steiger: "Royal watchers will begin queuing two or three days ahead."

3. While St. James's Palace isn't open to the public, it's a great spot to see the comings and goings of Royal Family members. The palace was the Royals' official residence from 1699 until 1837.

Luxury hotel offers rooms to victims of Japan disaster

Japan hotelAs the world watches in disbelief while Japan is continuously rocked by earthquakes and aftershocks, business and organizations have popped up everywhere hosting benefits, donation opportunities and volunteer services to help the victims of the Japan disaster. In Tokyo, one luxury hotel is offering relief for displaced Japan residents.

The Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka was scheduled to close its doors to new business this March, but the luxury hotel is staying open for a good cause. The hotel, which once housed heads of state and celebrities from around the world, will turn into a shelter for victims of the Japan earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear disasters that have left many homeless.

According to Economic Times, the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka, which at one point charged guests an average of $1,750 a night, will offer free rooms for up to 360 guests. In addition, guests can purchase three meals a day for less than $10 a day.

While the chance to sleep on a futon at a five-star hotel might be short-lived for these guests (the hotel is scheduled for demolition in July), it's at least a few nights of peace and comfort for those who don't have a next step.

"I'm feeling anxious as I don't know what'll happen in the future but I feel grateful that I can sleep on a futon," evacuee Shoichi Ono from one Fukushima plant told the Economic Times.

While the number of victims from the Japan disasters continues to climb, more companies are reaching out with ways to support and help the tens of thousands of Japanese citizens who need shelter and relief. Cell phone companies are allowing free calls to Japan, and we found this list of non-profit companies where you can make donations or volunteer time.

SATW blogs live from Fiji

fijiThe Society of American Travel Writers Freelance Council is heading to the other side of the world for their annual conference. The group of self-employed writers, photographers, videographers, broadcasters, and other travel journalists will be reporting life from Fiji this week, in an effort to bring readers an inside look at the island down under.

Outside of the professional development sessions taking place, SATW members will blog live about their experiences in Fiji, including what to do, where to eat, what to see, and photos that will make you want to hop the flight to Fiji.

The council has already starting blogging live, and readers can follow along on SATW's Tumblr page or follow their adventures via the SATW Fiji Twitter hashtag #satwfiji.

Proposed China hotel shaped like ping pong paddle

China hotelFile this under: Weird ideas that surprisingly make sense.

Only in China would a hotel designed in the shape of a ping pong paddle be been proposed as part of a sports complex. The new China hotel, located in the eastern city of Huainan, would cost approximately $46 million, the China Daily reports.

Located in $276 million sports complex, the hotel will feature three main sections:

The "handle" will be an observation deck and viewing platform. The "paddle" will include the guestrooms The "base" will include conference facilities.

The main sports complex will also include other sports-shaped buildings. An open-air stadium will be in the form of a football (no team affiliation denoted) and three other facilities inside the complex will represent soccer, basketball and volleyball. The newspaper says the timeline for completion of the sports complex is still five years away.

No word on whether or not restaurants and bars will be included in the hotel design, but we predict a great game of beer pong when the doors open.

The Candy Man arrives at Ritz-Carlton Chicago, A Four Seasons Hotel

chicago hotelOne child's dream is another parent's nightmare.

The Candy Man has officially arrived at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago, A Four Seasons Hotel, and is bringing sweet treats to kids of all ages staying at the hotel.

Associated with Chicago local store, Candyality, the Candy Man arrives at guestrooms (on reservation only) to deliver $5 half-pound bags of all things sugary to hotel guests.

Children wanting to indulge (and adults who need a sugar fix, or a bribe for the kids) can mix and match from the Candy Man's cart of gummy, chocolate, sour, crunchy and sweet candies. To keep things interesting, The Candy Man will reveal your personality traits based on what candy you choose (we suggest you mix it up and try to stump him).
Your comprehensive personality profile will determine whether you're competitive (sugary), good listener (fluffy), negotiator (crunchy), creative (colorful), and more.

Opening in December of 2007, Candyality opened in hopes of being more than just a typical sweet shop. The store, located atThe Shops at North Bridge on the Magnificent Mile, is as much a destination as a candy store, thanks to employees who read tea leaves, tarot cards or zodiac charts. Of course, there's no scientific research in the reading of sugary personalities, but what do you care? You're walking out of there with a bag of candy sure to keep you on a sugar high for the rest of the day.

Rescuers work to save "sacred" Vietnamese turtle

vietnamese turtleHow do you save a sacred Vietnamese turtle? Very, very carefully, according to dozens of veterinarian workers in Hanoi who are trying to capture a rare giant turtle in desperate need of medical attention from Vietnam's Hoan Kiem Lake.

Workers waded through the lake to try to save the giant freshwater turtle so it could be pulled to land and treated. The animal - one of only four Rafeteus swinhoei believed to be alive today - is one of the world's most endangered turtles with roots back hundreds of years. In fact, some even believe the sacred turtle is the same mythical creature said to have helped a Vietnamese king fend off the Chinese nearly six centuries ago.

Marriott plans Autograph Collection openings in Europe

marriott autograph collectionMarriott's newest hotel brand, the Autograph Collection, will make its debut in Europe with the opening of four hotels in Spain. The hotel company said it plans to have the Europe Autograph Collection open by May 2011.

The concept of Marriott's Autograph Collection has been a great success in the U.S. since it launched year. Independent boutique hotels, with a historical and elegant touch, join the collection to add rooms to Marriott portfolio and offer guests Marriott benefits. The U.S. hotels include the newly open Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, the Algonquin Hotel in New York and the Kessler Collection hotels in Orlando, Florida and Savannah, Georgia. As for Spain, travelers can look forward to the following:
  • AC Santo Mauro, Madrid, Spain: The first of two Madrid hotels will offer 50 rooms in an elegant late nineteenth-century building, which was once the residence of the Duke de Santo Mauro.
  • AC Palacio del Retiro, Madrid, Spain: The second Madrid hotel, also a 50-guestroom property - takes over a Spanish residence, complete with original mouldings, woodwork and stained-glass windows.
  • AC Palacio de Santa Paula, Granada, Spain: The 75-room AC Palacio de Santa Paula is located in the historic center of Granada and in what used to be the Santa Paula Convent, and within walking distance of La Alhambra.
  • AC Baqueira Hotel & Spa, Baqueira, Spain: For the more off-the-beaten-path traveler, 102-room AC Baqueira Hotel & Spa will be the first ski resort in Marriott International's portfolio in Europe, located in Baqueira-Beret ski station near the Pyrenees.

Virgin Galactic signs deal with scientists for space travel

virgin galacticWhile NASA's Discovery made its final frontier into space on Friday, Virgin Galactic was inking its own space deal, this time substituting space tourists for scientists.

Southwest Research Institute, a nonprofit research organization, signed a deal with Virgin Galactic to conduct experiments in suborbital space. Two $200,000 tickets aboard the six-passenger SpaceShipTwo will be handed to Southwest scientists, who will conduct various scientific experiments during the flight.

In a statement obtained by Space.com:

"This agreement signals the enormous scientific potential of the Virgin spaceflight system," Virgin Galactic president and CEO George Whitesides said in a statement. "Science flights will be an important growth area for the company in the years to come, building on the strong commercial success already demonstrated by deposits received from over 400 individuals for Virgin's space experience."

Luxury travel: Three days of sun and ski in Lake Tahoe

luxury travel lake tahoe

There's a multiple personality syndrome happening in Lake Tahoe. In the winter, the region is packed with snowboarders, skiiers and skaters ready to take on the chill and hit the slopes. In the summer, Lake Tahoe turns laidback with endless nights on the lake and festivals in the streets. The area is frequented by skiers, sun-worshipers, families, singles and solo-travelers. You can spend the night roasting marshmallows by an open fire or enjoying sushi at the local Japanese restaurant. Whether you come here to ski or sit in the sun, luxury travel in Lake Tahoe can be a traveler's paradise.

Where to stay:

The Northstar -at-Tahoe Resort is one of Lake Tahoe's newest "villages" and features everything from an ice skating rink to hot dog stands to sushi bars. The village at Northstar offers different accommodations, but to make the most of your stay choose a condo at Northstar and take advantage of the full kitchen, washer-dryer in unit and electric fireplace. The condos have balconies that overlook the village and because of its location on the mountain, you can walk from your condo to the gondola in less than 3 minutes, hitting up Starbucks along the way.

For the ultimate in luxury travel in Tahoe, head to the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe - an oasis in the mountain. The resort is accessible via a private gondola from Northstar to the Ritz-Carlton, so you can easily shuttle between the village and the hotel, if you choose to do so. Or, you can hit the slopes straight from the Ritz. After a day of skiing or boarding, let the massage therapists at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe spa ease away your muscle aches. My suggestion: Opt for one of the spa packages that includes a bath soak. The copper tubs in the spa are meant to release stress on your muscles. After a day of snowshoeing at Tahoe, I can say with certainty this spa service saved me from the pain I was bound to wake up with the next morning.

  • Luxury travel: Lake Tahoe
  • Luxury travel: Lake Tahoe
  • Luxury travel: Lake Tahoe
  • Luxury travel: Lake Tahoe
  • Luxury travel: Lake Tahoe
  • Luxury travel: Lake Tahoe

Marriott joins Riddell, Sports Authority as sponsor of USA Football

marriott footballMarriott International is picking up the pigskin and getting into the game. The hotel company just signed a deal with USA Football as the official hotel for the national organization overseeing football in the United States and its U.S. National Team program.

USA Football, headquartered in Indianapolis, is an independent non-profit organization leading the development of youth, high school, and international amateur football. The organization was founded and endowed by the NFL and NFL Players Association in 2002. Its board of directors includes everyone from Ray Anderson of the National Football League to Desmond Howard, Hesiman Trophy winner and ESPN commentator and Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL.

As part of the Marriott deal, USA Football members will receive special offers and rates when they stay at various Marriott hotels, including JW Marriott, Marriott Hotels and Resorts, Renaissance Hotels, Courtyard, Fairfield Inns and Suites, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites and TownePlace Suites.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but this deal makes Marriott the third national partner (joining Riddell and Sports Authority) for USA Football.

[via Indianapolis Business Journal]

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