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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

Smallest Railway

Smallest Railway

The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway is a 1 ft 3 in (381 mm) gauge light railway in Kent, England. 
 
The 13+1⁄2 miles (22 km) line runs from the Cinque Port of Hythe via Dymchurch, St. Mary's Bay, New Romney and Romney Sands to Dungeness, close to Dungeness nuclear power station and Dungeness lighthouse. 
 
From 1926 to 1978, the RH&DR held the title of the "Smallest public railway in the world" (in terms of track gauge).
  
The title was lost to the 12 1⁄4 in (311 mm) gauge Réseau Guerlédan in France in 1978[2] and regained from 1979, when the Réseau Guerlédan closed, until 1982, when the 10 1⁄4 in (260 mm) gauge Wells and Walsingham Light Railway opened. 

 
 
 
The railway was featured in an episode of the BBC series The Inspector Lynley Mysteries. More images after the break...

 

 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Best Hotel Kids' Programs

1.The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Maui, HI

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Hotel Kids’ Program: Kapalua’s Ambassadors of the Environment kids’ curriculum, developed with preservationist Jean-Michel Cousteau, features snorkeling expeditions, underwater-photography classes, and workshops on turtles, whales, and ancient Hawaiian navigation techniques. The three-hour Ambassadors sessions are $59–$79 apiece, while a room for four starts at $299.
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Setting: The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua is situated on the 23,000-acre Kapalua Resort, a former pineapple plantation, with quick access to both rainforest preserves and the reefs of Kapalua Bay’s pristine waters.

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For the Whole Family: Whale Wonders, a whale-watching excursion the Ritz offers from December through April, gets you up close and personal with humpbacks. And North America’s longest zip-line system begins at the Kapalua Adventure Center.

2. Inn at Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, VT

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Hotel Kids’ Program: From mid-May to mid-October, the Farm Barn—populated by cows, goats, horses, chickens, and rabbits and staffed by farm educators—offers hands-on activities, such as milking cows and goats, brushing the horses and bunnies, collecting eggs, cleaning wool, and helping supervise the “chicken parade,” when the birds are let outside to roam or are brought back in. The programs are free; rooms for four start at $255.
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Setting: Shelburne Farms was founded in 1886 by doctor-turned-financier W. Seward Webb and his wife, Lila Vanderbilt Webb, by combining the land of 30 area farms on the shores of Lake Champlain. Today it’s a nonprofit environmental education center, working farm, and National Historic Landmark. The spectacular lakeside inn is the couple’s former home.

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For the Whole Family: Visit the farm’s dairy, then head to the Farm Barn to watch cheesemakers transform milk from the herd’s 125 registered Brown Swiss cows into award-winning artisanal cheddar cheeses, which are sold on the spot.

3. Hawks Cay Resort, Duck Key, FL

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Hotel Kids’ Program: Camp Hawk, for kids ages 5 through 12, offers activities like nature hikes, scavenger hunts, swimming in the resort’s two pools, snorkeling and kayaking in the resort’s saltwater lagoon, and feeding tarpon from the marina’s dock. Teens (ages 12 through 17) can sign up for AquaJam, a three-day camp that includes an intro to scuba diving, a dive at the reef, sailing lessons, and a snorkeling trip. A half-day program starts at $38, while a room for four starts at $149.
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Setting: Hawks Cay, dedicated to the life aquatic, sits on the northeast corner of the Atlantic-facing Duck Key, halfway between the Florida mainland and Key West.

For the Whole Family: Choose from activities that allow you to swim with bottlenose dolphins in the saltwater lagoon, do a meet-and-greet that doesn’t involve swimming, or immerse yourself in a three-hour, in-water session with the dolphins and their trainers.

4. Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, NY

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Hotel Kids’ Program: At Mohonk’s camp, kids get to choose their activities (indoor or outdoor), such as a guided hike, an early-morning bird walk, animal tracking, or a project that teaches about local wildlife, like building a sheltered habitat to imagine what it’s like for an animal to survive the winter. The camp is free; rooms for four start at $554 (meals included).
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Setting: In the midst of the Shawangunk Mountains of New York’s Hudson River Valley, Mohonk is a 140-year-old castle retreat that covers 2,200 acres, with 85 miles of hiking trails, nine holes of golf, a lake to swim in, tennis courts, stables, a campfire site, and a lawn for watching movies.
For the Whole Family: Two times a year (the next being December 13–23 and February 15–18, 2010), the resort waives room and meal charges (normally there’s an additional charge per child per room) for kids 12 and under.

5.The Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Whistler, British Columbia

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Hotel Kids’ Program: The Fairmont offers weeklong kids’ camps throughout the ski season at three mountain faces, but the only one you need to know about is the one at Blackcomb Base, since it’s just a two-minute walk from the resort. 
Kids are assigned to one of three age groups and have the same instructor all week. If for some reason your child has an aversion to skiing (or just needs a break), he or she can enroll in the Fairmont’s new 90-minute, three-days-a-week RU Ready program, designed to improve kids’ agility skills, hand-eye coordination, and balance. A weeklong camp starts at $529, while rooms for four start at $459.
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Setting: If it’s good enough for the International Olympic Committee, it’s probably good enough for you. Think breathtaking vistas, cable car rides, and miles and miles of Canada’s best skiing.

For the Whole Family: A dogsledding excursion through the backcountry of Soo Valley nature preserve, led by several huskies and a musher. Just make sure you’re wearing plenty of warm clothing.

6. The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, CO

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Hotel Kids’ Program: Bee Bunch is offered to kids ages 3 to 12 in full-day, half-day, and evening sessions from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Among the activities are scavenger hunts, a mile-long hike through North Cheyenne Canyon, culinary classes, a trip to the zoo, and a sports day featuring tennis or golf lessons. A half-day is $40; rooms for four start at $160.
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Setting: Built in 1917 to offer visitors a European-style resort experience, the sprawling Broadmoor sits at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs.


For the Whole Family: About 20 minutes from the hotel are the Broadmoor Stables, where adults and kids ages 8 and up can go on a one- or two-hour guided horseback ride through the Pikes Peak wilderness.

7. Ocean Sands Resort & Spa, Pompano Beach, FL

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Hotel Kids’ Program: Funky Fish Ocean Adventure Camp, a school designed to teach kids ages 4 to 12 about the ocean and its reefs, is reason enough to book a stay here. Instructors with a background in education or marine biology teach intros to snorkeling, skimboarding, and boogie boarding, and crafts like hemp-jewelry and tie-dye-shirt making. On Fridays, kids take a trip in a glass-bottom boat to a nearby reef for snorkeling. The program is$59 per day or $259 per week; rooms for four start at $95.
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Setting: The Ocean Sands, an all-suite boutique hotel originally built as a residential complex, is luxe but not over the top, and it’s right on a stretch of quiet, white-sand beach.

For the Whole Family: An early-morning walk or jog on the hotel’s rooftop track while you take in the sunrise over Lighthouse Point.

8.Wequassett Resort and Golf Club, Chatham, MA

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Hotel Kids’ Program: A brand-new, indoor-outdoor children’s center is home to the VIP Kids’ Club (morning, afternoon, and evening sessions mid-June–August, for kids 4–10). It features a splash-pad fountain park (think running through sprinklers), enclosed pirate-themed playground, rock-climbing wall, and amphitheater, where talent and puppet shows are staged. Kids also hit the resort’s beach to collect seashells and treasure hunt, and end up in the kids’ pool. Teen gaming nights are offered Tuesdays and Fridays. Sessions are $60; rooms for four start at $525.
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Setting: On the outskirts of Chatham, a vibrant, old-fashioned town on Cape Cod’s elbow, Wequassett sits on a ridge overlooking a secluded inlet of Pleasant Bay, itself buffered from the Atlantic’s fury by a barrier beach—the southernmost tip of the 40-mile-long National Seashore.

For the Whole Family: Hook up with the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a 22-mile paved bike route following an abandoned railway that runs from Dennis to Wellfleet.

9.Grand Summit Hotel at Mount Snow Resort, West Dover, VT

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Hotel Kids’ Program: Since the hotel is owned by the ski resort, all manner of ski school programs are conveniently intertwined with a winter vacation. A full day of ski school is offered to kids ages 3 (Cub Camp), 4–6 (Snow Camp), and 7–14 (Mountain Camp for skiing, Mountain Riders for snowboarders). Half-days are available for the older two groups and are often preferred by the tween set, as they allow kids to break loose on the slopes with friends in the afternoon. Ski school prices start at $59 for a half-day, with reduced rates for groups; rooms for four start at $216.
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Setting: Grand Summit, at the base of Mount Snow, is convenient (walk out the door and there’s the chairlift) and unintimidating (nearly three-quarters of Mount Snow’s trails are of moderate difficulty).

For the Whole Family: The resort has three Kids Ski and Learn Free weeks (January 17–22, February 28–March 5, March 7–12), in which fees for kids’ lift passes and lessons are waived. A family of four will pay a very competitive $900 for three nights, $1,174 for four nights, and $1,460 for five nights.

10.The Ritz-Carlton Naples, Naples, FL

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Hotel Kids’ Program: In November 2007, the hotel converted its Ritz Kids space into a nature center with 11 aquariums and touch tanks (home to eels, baby alligators, sharks, and jellyfish), a laboratory, and a computer room. Helmed by certified Florida master naturalists, the Nature’s Wonders program gives kids ages 5 to 12 an immersion in field biology, with a mix of indoor and outdoor fare like nature walks through the on-site butterfly garden and mangrove forest, a birding primer, a dolphin tour by boat, beachcombing trips—and, of course, plenty of chances to feed and sometimes hold the nature center’s many creatures. A half-day is $60, while a five-day summer camp is $400; rooms for four start at $209.
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Setting: The palm-strewn Ritz-Carlton Naples, on the Gulf of Mexico, has a spa and three swimming pools, but its main claims to fame are its three miles of white-sand beaches and loads of Florida sunshine.

For the Whole Family: The center hosts a daily open house from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., letting you and your kids get a complimentary sneak peek at the program upon arrival—and the children who are already involved get to show off a bit of what they’ve learned.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

World's Most Unusual Hotels

World's Most Unusual Hotels

1)Harlingen Harbour Crane, Netherlands

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What It Is: A former timber-hauling derrick repurposed into one bi-level room, 60 feet aloft, along the banks of the Wadden Sea off the Dutch coast.
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The Experience: A pair of specially designed elevators takes you to your sleeping quarter in the Harbour Crane, with luxe appointments like touch-screen lighting systems and Eames chairs.
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Take in the aquatic view from the panoramic windows or your balcony. Want a change of scene? Man the crane’s controls and swing the 143,000-pound crane in whichever direction tickles your fancy.

2.Giraffe Manor, Kenya

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What It Is: A genteel six-room country estate outside Nairobi where a herd of giraffes intimately interacts with guests.
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The Experience: Located on land owned by the Langata Giraffe Centre, a wildlife conservancy, sanctuary, and reserve, the estate of Giraffe Manor is done up in 19th-century period furnishings.
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Anything unusual about the rooms? Nope. The draw here is walking the grounds with the giant giraffes nearby, and sitting down to breakfast and dinner while giraffes poke their heads through the windows to eat right out of your hand.

3)Whitepod, Switzerland

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What It Is: A collection of 10 eco-geodesic domes on a glacier-topped ridge above the village of Les Cerniers, about 90 minutes from Geneva. It’s one of T+L’s favorite green hotels.
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The Experience: The ecochic pods of Whitepod, ranging in size from 270 to 538 square feet, are open only from December through April and come with plenty of luxe creature comforts like wood-burning stoves, sheepskin rugs, 14-tog duvets, Tilley lamps, iPod speakers, and round windows with views onto the snow-covered Alps peaks.
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Being über-eco tents means there’s no running water or electricity, though suites (the pavilion pods) have a bathroom. (Bathrooms for the other pods are in the main lodge.)

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The property can accommodate no more than 20 guests at a time.

4)Canopy Tower, Panama

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What It Is: A onetime U.S. radar installation inside Panama’s Soberania National Park with 12 double rooms.
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The Experience: Spread across five levels, the spacious, wood-paneled rooms in the Canopy Tower come with mosquito nets, windows, and most with en suite bathrooms.

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But the real reason to stay is what’s up above: a 30-foot-high geotangent dome that rises above the canopy, affording birders 360-degree views and potential sightings of such unique species as the slaty-backed forest falcon, the bicolored antbird, and the spot-crowned antvireo.

5) Dasparkhotel, Austria

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What It Is: A trio of 10-ton reinforced-concrete drainpipes measuring 6.5 feet in diameter.

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The Experience: Situated along the banks of the Danube, in Ottensheim, Austria, the electronically secured enclosures of Dasparkhotel are set in a leafy park. 
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But claustrophobes beware: while there’s a comfy mattress, a lamp, and an abstract silk-screen wall decoration, there’s only a tiny skylight.

6)Kokopelli’s Cave Bed & Breakfast, New Mexico

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What It Is: A onetime geological research outpost turned one-room B&B, 70 feet below the New Mexico mesa in the northwestern part of the state.
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The Experience: Accessible via a cliff-face trail cut into the side of the 65-million-year-old sandstone formation, this expansive refuge features a cascading waterfall-style shower and a flagstone hot tub in its 1,650 square feet,

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along with living areas done up with authentic southwestern-style furnishings, a kitchen, a washer and dryer, and, once the crepuscular light appears, stunning sunsets and stargazing from the balcony or cliff tops above.

7)The Kakslauttanen Hotel, Finland

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What It Is: A collection of 20 geodesic glass igloos set 155 miles north of the Arctic Circle in the heart of Finnish Lapland.

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igloos
The Experience: Indoor space isn’t the attraction at the Kakslauttanen—outdoor space is.
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After all, the spartan rooms are just 161 square feet and have a small toilet. But each also has a panoramic thermo-glass casing that enables guests, from the comfort of their adjustable double beds, to take in the night 
skies.

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Not surprisingly, they’re particularly in demand during the northern lights.

8)Marmara Antalya, Turkey

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What It Is: The world’s only revolving hotel, set on the southern coast of Turkey and overlooking the pristine Mediterranean.
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The Experience: The modern, circular Marmara Antalya, aided by six enormous electric motors, completes a full revolution every seven hours, ensuring a changing landscape of Mediterranean views for guests in its 24 minimalist and whitewashed rooms. 
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Just be sure to book a room in this part of the hotel—there’s also a nonrevolving building behind it.

9)Jules’ Undersea Lodge, Florida

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What It Is: A 70’s-era research lab turned two-bedroom capsule in Key Largo that can accommodate six guests on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico.
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The Experience: Guests scuba dive to this unique unit, located 21 feet below the surface. 

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Once inside the 600-square-foot capsule, there are all the accoutrements of a regular hotel, including a spacious living room with TV and stereo and a dining area. But that’s where the similarities end. 
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In the pair of bedrooms, the lodge makes full use of its location, with 42-inch circular windows that offer views of passing sea life, including barracuda and angelfish.

10)Hotel im Wasserturm, Germany

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What It Is: Rising high above Cologne, this 19th-century water tower is one of the tallest in Europe. It was transformed into a chic 78-room hotel in 1990 by French designer Andrée Putman.
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The Experience: While there’s still a sense of the water-tower architecture from inside Hotel im Wasserturm’s rooms, they were completely redone. 

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The real magic in the rooms is the 15-foot-tall windows that offer views of the Rhineland. The sight lines are even better from the aptly named Michelin-starred rooftop eatery, La Vision.