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Andaz Wall Street wants to help you with your taxes

Get help with your taxes from the Andaz Wall Street Someone on Wall Street wants to help you. No, really. The Andaz Wall Street has announced that it wants to help its guests with their taxes - free of charge.

From April 8 through the 15, Andaz guests, many of whom are time-pressed business travelers, will be able to take advantage of the services of Mr. Marc Albaum, who will live at the New York City hotel as its Accountant in Residence. The certified public accountant with more than 20 years of experience will set up shop for one week in the Buttonwood Suite, the Andaz Wall Street's premier guest room, which features separate areas for working and living quarters, two 42" LCD televisions and nine-foot windows with views of the East River. Andaz Wall Street guests can reserve a free, one-hour consultation with Albaum by sending an email to at least 72 hours prior to the desired appointment time.

While Albaum can't prepare guests' tax forms in full - appointments are only an hour, after all - his goal is "to ensure that his clients do not overlook credits and deductions, and receive the maximum refund they are entitled to." Ideally, Andaz guests who meet with Albaum will aspire to book the Buttonwood Suite on future visits to Wall Street hotel. Let's hope their refunds are equal to or greater than $3,045, the average current rate for a stay in the Buttonwood Suite.

Photo Flickr/Dave Dugdale

Travel Smarter 2012: Tips for improving your train travel

The railroad is the oldest, commercial mass transport of the modern age, predating the car and the airplane by at least 100 years. So how can train travel be smarter in 2012?

For starters, "the train takes less time total than all the preliminaries of air travel," says Margaret King, who regularly opts to take the train to New York City, DC, and Boston from her home in Philadelphia. "I can take plenty of luggage, with no extra fees; I can easily work aboard the train; [and there are] no security hassles."

From smartphone apps to help you plan and book your travel to a new crop of high-speed trains, train services across the globe have upgraded to appeal to frustrated air travelers and entice would-be drivers from their cars. Let's take a look at all the ways traveling by train is smarter in 2012.

Smartphone Apps
Name any national railway and there's likely an app that helps you find train schedules, get arrival and departure updates, and book seats. If you're traveling to Europe, you can download apps for the particularly country you may be visiting or get the free Rail Europe app. Though far from perfect (e.g., tickets purchased through the app are sent via email as an e-ticket or, given enough lead time, mailed, rather than existing digitally within the app itself), the Rail Europe app gives you information on timetables, stations, and more for 35 European countries. Amtrak has a similar app (also free) that includes a panel for Guest Rewards, a loyalty program that lets regular rail travelers earn points towards free trips. Round-the-world trekkers, particularly those that intend to city-hop, would do well to download AllSubway HD ($0.99), a database of more than 130 city subway maps.

Now open: Francis Ford Coppola's new hotel in Italy

Francis Ford Coppola's new hotel in Italy

Francis Ford Coppola has been a hotelier for almost 20 years with properties in Belize, Guatemala and New Orleans. Now, the filmmaker and winemaker best known for his Godfather trilogy has finally opened a hotel in Italy. Palazzo Margherita, located in Coppola's ancestral home of Bernalda in the region of Basilicata, opened for business on March 1.

Set in a 19th century palazzo with interiors revamped with chandeliers, frescoes and tilework by Jacques Grange, Palazzo Margherita has just nine rooms, six in the building and three by the gardens in the palazzo's erstwhile stables. Amenities include a secluded pool, free Wi-Fi and a private theater with a library of 300 classic Italian films, Coppola's films excluded. The palazzo also has, according to the Financial Times, "the rights to open its own beach club on an as-yet undeveloped stretch, to which it will run a shuttle."

As one would expect with a Coppola-directed property in Italy, food plays a very important part of the Palazzo Margherita experience. Guests are encouraged to dine in the eat-in kitchen, which is outfitted with a table that seats 12, and to join the chefs in daily hands-on classes as they prepare the evening meal with locally grown ingredients. The hotel's wine list contains selections from Coppola's vineyards, Château Thuerry (Sofia Coppola's in-laws' estate in Provence) and other vintages from Basilicata and Puglia.

Rates at Palazzo Margherita range from pricy to pricier. We saw rates from €880 for two nights in a garden suite to €3,100 for the same time period in a palazzo suite. All rates include in-room beverages, breakfast and cooking lessons.

Exclusive tour lets you go inside the Russian Space Program

Exclusive tour lets you go inside the Russian Space Program

If you missed your chance to sign up for Space Camp or just want a closer look at the Russian approach to space exploration, an exclusive tour inside the Russian Space Program this fall may be for you. Operated by the Mir Corporation (no relation to the former Russian Space Station), Inside the Russian Space Program will give you a near-space experience with opportunities to see a manned Soyuz launch and tour a mock-up of the International Space Station (ISS), among other activities that are far beyond the reach of most travelers.

Special Saint Patrick's Day beers and where to get them

Special Saint Patrick's Day beers and where to get them

With St. Patrick's Day quickly approaching, many microbreweries around the United States are starting to release their special Irish-inspired beers. Red ales, cream ales, and chocolate- and coffee-flavored stouts are making their annual debut, going head-to-foamy-head with the traditional St. Paddy's Day libation Guinness. Here is a roundup of some of the nation's St. Patrick's Day beers and where to get them.

Vote for your favorite travel photo in Smithsonian Magazine's 9th annual photo contest

Vote for your favorite travel photo in Smithsonian Magazine's 9th annual photo contest

More than 14,000 photographers from 109 countries entered Smithsonian Magazine's photo contest this year and now the magazine is asking readers to cast their vote for the Readers' Choice favorite. From now until March 31, readers can log on to Smithsonian Magazine and choose the best photographs from five categories: Altered Images, Americana, The Natural World, People, and Travel.

We here at Gadling are loving the diversity of photos in the travel category. They range from pastoral images of fishing boats and young monks in Myanmar to colorful urban sprawl in India, weathered calm in Ethiopia to a moment of whimsy in South Africa. The striking photo pictured above shows Segways on tour in Valencia, Spain.

In all, there are 10 photos to vote on each of the five categories. Readers may vote once per day until the deadline on March 31, 2012. The winners will be published in a summer 2012 issue of Smithsonian Magazine.

Your travel photo didn't get selected as a finalist in the Smithsonian Magazine contest? Why not submit it to the Gadling Flickr pool? Your photo may just be our Photo of the Day.

Image by Marcel van Balken/Smithsonian Magazine

How to row across the ocean

How to row across the ocean

Over the weekend, the New York Times memorialized adventurer John Fairfax in the most awe-inspiring obituary ever written. In it, we learned that Mr. Fairfax had run away to the Amazon jungle at 13, then later worked as a pirate's apprentice out of Panama. But the main narrative of Mr. Fairfax's life was that he had rowed across not one, but two oceans: the Atlantic in 1969 and the Pacific in 1972. In fact, he was "the first lone oarsman in recorded history to traverse any ocean."

While ocean rowing sounds like a near impossible feat, there are still dozens of adventurers in pursuit of this challenge. Earlier this month, Gadling profiled the Pacific Rowing Race, which is set to take place in 2014 following a course from Monterey Bay, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. No doubt, the Ocean Rowing Society, the organization charged with the adjudication of all ocean rowing records and on whose steering committee John Fairfax was a member, will be on hand as rowers set out on their quest.

The Ocean Rowing Society devised a set of guidelines for ocean rowers in a meeting in 2000. The guidelines cover acceptable crossings for the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, definitions of assisted and unassisted rows, and minimum compulsory safety measures and equipment for undertaking an ocean row:
  • It is noted that Christopher Columbus' route from Spain to the Bahamas is the traditional Atlantic crossing route ("Departures from Cape Verde will be recognized as an Atlantic Ocean crossing with the words "shortened crossing" added to official listings.")
  • Auto-steering is optional.
  • Wind generators may be used.
  • Solar panels should be used for generating all electrical power on board the row boat.
  • Canopies are not allowed.
  • Ocean rowing is a drug-free sport.
Head over to the Ocean Rowing Society website to learn more.

Image Flickr/TrueFalseFilmFestival

Beyond the presidential suite: historic hotels with a presidential past

Beyond the presidential suite: historic hotels with a presidential past

Traveling has been an essential presidential duty since George Washington first took office in 1789. U.S. presidents travel for a number of reasons - to attend summits and meet other heads of state; to christen national parks, ships, and aircraft carriers; to tour factories; to make speeches; to "press the flesh; and, of course, to relax.

While we here at Gadling are keen to bring you details on the most blinged-out Presidential suites (see our other post today on pimped out presidential suites in DC), we thought our readers would also appreciate a look at a wider range of properties where U.S. presidents have visited, stayed, or left their historic mark. Learn which hotel commissioned a special chair to hold the portly President Taft, which suite's fireplace mantle retains a golf ball divot from an errant indoor presidential putt, and which resort kept an underground government-commissioned bunker secret until 1992.

  • Presidential Suite at the Mission Inn
  • Roosevelt Suite at the Brown Palace Hotel
  • Bedford Springs
  • Ford Cottage at the Langham Huntington
  • California Cottage Suite at the Langham Huntington
  • The Greenbrier

Video: Skating the canals of Amsterdam

The cold snap that has brought much of Europe to a stand-still this winter has invigorated the Dutch. For the first time in more than a decade, the canals in Amsterdam have frozen solid, creating a network of rinks between the city's iconic, gabled canal houses.

The above video captures the beauty of central Amsterdam as well as the warm, festive spirit of its residents. Watch as Amsterdammers play hockey, speed race along the icy ribbons, duck under stone bridges, balance on skates while walking on top of the cobblestones, and fill up on coffee, tea, and laughter. Leave it to the Dutch to make the best of whatever weather is dealt them.

Britain's Heritage Cities are ready for visitors

Britain's Heritage Cities are ready for visitors

Thanks to the London Olympics, which will open on July 27, and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, 2012 is expected to be a boom year for tourism in Great Britain. In the hopes of capitalizing on this trend, six historic cities have teamed up to get noticed by travelers intent on venturing beyond the English capital.

Bath, Carlisle, Chester, Oxford, Stratford-Upon-Avon, and York, Britain's so-called Heritage Cities, are trying to lure tourists with eight itineraries that explore their shared history. The Literary, Visual and Performing Arts tour, for example, takes in Oxford, Bath, and Stratford with stops at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Bodleian Library, the model for Hogwarts Library in the 'Harry Potter' series. Meanwhile, travelers interested in England's North Country may want to follow the Great Castles, Stately Homes, and Gardens tour, which visits three countries (England, Wales, and Scotland) and three Heritage Cities (Carlisle, Chester, and York), and includes stops at a 12th century castle, the homes of Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth, and sections of Hadrian's Wall.

Beyond exploring these cities in a package tour, Britain's Heritage Cities website offers a glimpse of the top 10 attractions in each town. Did you know that York is considered the most haunted city in Europe? Or, that the city of Chester still carries on the medieval tradition of town criers? The most oh-so-British traditions and folklore live on in these Heritage Cities, so it may be worth checking them out while the past is still present.

  • Roman Baths in Bath
  • Citadel in Carlisle
  • Original Medieval Defensive Walls of Chester
  • Oxford: Churches and Cathedrals
  • Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-Upon-Avon
  • York Minster

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