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Beijing to Shanghai Bullet Train

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, May 31 01:55 PM

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What's that, China? Is that gloating we detect? Okay, fine, we'll give you this one. While we could barely brush the sand off our shoes and get back to work today, the roaring tiger has gone and built itself a $34-billion Beijing to Shanghai high-speed rail link, opening this June--almost a year ahead of schedule.

Granted, there have been a few modifications of the original plan: A proposed lie-flat premium class has been canned and speeds curtailed for safety. Once intended to best the world record set by France's TGV (357.2 miles per hour, mon Dieu!), China's train has registered a top test speed of 302 mph, with actual operating caps at about 185 mph (to be sure, that's still very fast). What does this mean for travelers between the two megacities? An 818-mile journey will clock in at an easy, breezy five hours instead of ten. Meow, Amtrak, meow.

Bullet train tickets from $80 to $165

Photo: Courtesy of Qilai Shen / Bloomberg / Getty Images

New York Rooftop Gardens, teNeues

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, May 26 07:00 AM

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New York is one of those cities where, even if you're having the time of your life, you can't help but wonder if you're missing out on something even more fabulous (you probably are). But here's one way to see something that visitors hardly ever get to access: NYC's rooftop gardens.

New York Rooftop Gardens, a coffee-table book with 200 stunning color photographs by Charles de Vaivre gives you an eyeful of the oases nestled high above the concrete jungle. While most of these leafy, lofty spots are reserved for Manhattan's lucky few, don't despair--there's always the egalitarian elevated gardens of New York's High Line to stroll along (Section 2, from West 20th to West 30th Street, opens in June).

New York Rooftop Gardens, teNeues, available early summer. Click here to preorder.

Photo: © 2011 Charles de Vaivre. All rights reserved. www.charlesdevaivre.com

ArtPad SF, San Francisco

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, May 19 07:00 AM

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When you go on vacation to relax, running around a city trying to catch all the latest art exhibitions can be counterproductive. But what if all those events were brought to your hotel? Well, lazy traveler, you're in luck. Starting tomorrow, the new ArtPad SF art festival is checking in to San Francisco's Phoenix Hotel until May 22.

You can watch performance pieces as you sit by the pool, and see the work of emerging and established artists from some of the Bay Area's top galleries, including the White Walls Gallery, which is showing Shepard Fairey's work. And those suckers who decided to pursue a culture fix all over town will end up at your hotel for video art screenings, live bands, and DJs. 'Cause after the art party, there's the after-party.

Photo: Clockwise from left, Alexis Laurent, Les Chardons, Courtesy of LTMH Gallery; Aaron Parazette, Color Key 16, Courtesy of Gregory Lind Gallery; Shepard Fairey, Rise Above Fist, Courtesy of White Walls Gallery; EINE, The Bigger, Brighter, Louder, Faster, Courtesy of White Walls Gallery.

Get Two Trips for the Price of One

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, May 11 11:00 AM

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Train journey, or cruise? Canadian Rockies, or Alaska's Glacier Bay? If you're finding it tricky to decide on your next vacation, cruise company Holland America and Canada's luxe private train operator Rocky Mountaineer are offering 12 innovative Rail & Cruise packages that will appeal to the indecisive traveler.

All packages include seven days cruising along the west coast of Canada into Glacier Bay, Alaska, passing porpoises and whales on the way to hardscrabble frontier fishing villages like Sitka and Ketchikan. While rail options chug past rocky peaks and trees as far as the eye can see--which is pretty far, thanks to the panoramic glass-domed viewing carriages.

Train stops can include top Canadian Rockies highlights (Jasper, Yoho, and Banff) and overnights at posh hotels such as the Fairmont Banff Springs, depending on class of service. Keep an eye out for the Silverleaf option, a new mid-range level debuting on select routes. Think of it as the ultimate ode to enjoying the journey.

Rocky Mountaineer Rail & Cruise Packages, departures from Seattle or Vancouver May 8 through September 11, 2011, starting at $2,755

Photo: Courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer

See! Colour! Jarna, Sweden

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, May 05 12:31 PM

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Sweden is tripping the light fantastic this year with a contemporary art exhibit called See! Colour! (May 15 through October 2). Set near a fjord south of Stockholm in the town of Järna, the indoor/outdoor exhibition explores ideas of light, color, and space in bold installations and art works spread over the Kulturforum campus. Featured are the noted American artist James Turrell and, representing Europe, the late Hilma af Klint and Rudolf Steiner.

Viewers tap into Technicolor experiences via interactive exhibits such as Turrell's Skyspace, a room open to the air whose light sources morph colors in conversation with the sky. Or you can sit inside Turrell's one-person spherical chamber for a color-and-light show, your own personal rainbow connection.

Photo: Bridget's Bardo, (Ganzfeld Piece), James Turrell

Divino Tuscany, Florence, Italy

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, April 26 04:27 PM

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There are wine trips and there are wine trips. And Divino Tuscany's inaugural excursion makes all others look like a box of Franzia Chablis.

So what makes this the best of booze vacations? Your guide for the four-day tour, starting June 2 in Florence, is James Suckling, former European bureau chief of Wine Spectator. There's a gala dinner on the banks of the Arno River cooked up by the folks behind the three-Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri restaurant. And some of Tuscany's most famous wine families have invited you over to their palazzi for dinner. Tastings run through the region's best brunellos and merlots, and the whole thing ends with a boar roast at Sting's Florentine villa. How's that for a smooth finish?

Photo: Courtesy of Divino Tuscany

Ralph Lauren's Classic Sports Cars, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, April 22 01:27 PM

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The fashionable set rarely summers in Paris (that's what the Riviera is for). But Ralph Lauren is breaking with tradition by sending some of his favorite cars for a summer sojourn at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in the western wing of the Louvre.

Starting this weekend and running through August 28, the museum will exhibit 17 automotive gems from the designer's extensive collection, including a 1938 lipstick red Alfa Romeo 8C (pictured), and a 1955 Jaguar XKD that would look right at home in the Batcave. Still in perfect working order, the cars are more than worthy companions to the museum's more famous masterpieces. It's not like the Mona Lisa can take you for a spin along the Champs-Élysées.

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Furman

The American Safari, by Far and Away Adventures, Idaho

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, April 20 02:07 PM

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Fancy going on safari without flying halfway around the world? On Far and Away Adventures' new river-rafting safari in Idaho (the U.S.A.'s answer to Africa's big game parks), you'll see predators stalking their prey, majestic scenery, and of course, the American Big 5: elk, wolf, bighorn sheep, bear, and moose. And if the thrill of wildlife spotting isn't enough for you, you'll also face down 100 rapids churning over a 100-mile stretch of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. With a client roster that includes Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, Far and Away makes sure "roughing it" comes easy--campfire feasts feature organic dishes and tasty microbrews. But you still may hear a wolf howling at the moon from the comfort of your tent. It is the great outdoors, after all.

Photo: Courtesy of Far and Away Adventures

The National Museum of China, Beijing

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, April 14 03:20 PM

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China has always been a nation of superlatives, and it just added another to the list: world's largest museum. The National Museum of China, in Beijing, is the result of a decade-long, $380-million project that combined the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution.

The more than 1 million artifacts in the museum's collection provide an epic survey of Chinese history, from Yuanmou Man, who walked the land 1.7 million years ago, to current president Hu Jintao. With over 2 million square feet of galleries to cover--three times the size of the Louvre in Paris--we suggest you extend your trip and wear comfortable shoes.

Photo: ChinaFotoPress / Getty Images

Museo Soumaya, Mexico City

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, April 07 03:57 PM

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Greedy, greedy Mexico City. Not content to merely inspire architectural envy with your Aztec ruins, you had to go and conquer modern times with the new home of Museo Soumaya, too.

A passion project of Carlos Slim, the world's wealthiest man, and son-in-law architect Fernando Romero, the surreal, 150-foot-high structure is pure design fantasy. Windowless, except for the skylights on the top floor, the organic shape (reminiscent of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim in Bilbao) is wrapped in hexagonal aluminum plates.

Inside, you'll find Slim's eclectic 66,000-piece collection of religious relics, pre-Columbian gold coins, Diego Rivera murals, and plenty of European masters, including the world's largest private reserve of Rodins. Want to ponder The Thinker? Commune with Eve? They're here. And unlike at the Aztec empire's temples, there's no sacrifice necessary for this pilgrimage: Admission is free.

Photo: Courtesy of Museo Soumaya

Orient-Express Art of Travel, Europe

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, April 05 04:01 PM

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Seeing a masterpiece is one thing, but living it is another. That's the idea behind a partnership between the National Gallery in London and Orient-Express, which has launched 13 new train journeys this spring that expose travelers to famous paintings and the regions that inspired them.

You might view Monet's soft-focus landscapes before chugging through the French countryside to the artist's home in Giverny. Or perhaps you'll get lost in the vibrant Venetian cityscapes of Canaletto before riding the rails down to those self-same canals and waterways. National Gallery experts travel with you on Orient-Express's gilded Art Deco train--a masterpiece in itself.

Photo: Courtesy of Orient-Express

Railroad Revival Tour, Southwestern United States

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, March 09 06:56 PM

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This April, rock will roll into six southwestern towns courtesy of the Railroad Revival Tour. Indie darlings Mumford & Sons (pictured), Old Crow Medicine Show, and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros are taking over a 1,500-foot-long train comprised of 1950s and '60s railcars. They'll eat, sleep, and record on board as they chug across the American Southwest, playing outdoor concerts along the way.

Tickets go on sale today for music fans who want to catch the show when the train stops at an Airstream trailer campground in Marfa, Texas; a railway museum in Chandler, Ariz.; and additional spots in Oakland and San Pedro, Calif.; Austin, Texas; and New Orleans. Great tunes in the great outdoors? That's something we can always get onboard with.

Railroad Revival Tour, April 21-27, 2011; tickets, $55

Photo: Courtesy of Rebecca Miller

Gauguin: Maker of Myth, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, March 01 08:12 PM

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Most people think of D.C. as a buttoned-up kind of town. But this spring, the National Gallery of Art is stripping things down with a new Paul Gauguin exhibit--the artist's first major U.S. show in 20 years.

Gauguin is the traveler's painter, having hopped from Peru to Paris, Martinique to Tahiti. The 120 works in this exhibit evoke many of those places, with Polynesian nudes, rainbow-hued images of the South Seas, and mythological paradise paintings. Far-flung beaches and scantily clad subjects? It's the Post-Impressionist's answer to spring break.

Gauguin: Maker of Myth will be on view through June 5, 2011.

Photo: Paul Gauguin, Fatata te Miti (Near the Sea), 1892, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Chester Dale Collection

Epic Tomato Adventure Travel Company

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, February 28 11:17 AM

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The hip kids at Black Tomato, a bespoke British luxury travel company, have long been making U.S. travel agents look lamer than a pair of pleated khakis. Now they've kicked things up a notch with the launch of their new service, Epic Tomato.

The company will help the baddest of badasses plan seriously intrepid trips. Care to slice your own path through the uncharted jungles of Borneo? Pull a pulk across the unmapped tundra of Antarctica? Or perhaps you'd prefer to try your luck outpaddling alligators on the White Nile. If you're cool with pushing yourself to the limit, these guys have got you covered.

Photo: Courtesy of Epic Tomato

Orient-Express, Thailand

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, February 16 04:28 PM

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Now that air travel has officially lost its glamour, we've found ourselves romanticizing its predecessor, the train. Thankfully, the fine folks at Orient-Express have kept railway luxury alive, with burnished cherry interiors, crystal and china in the dining cars, and fawning butlers.

Starting this month, the company is bringing that vintage opulence to Thailand. On this week-long trip, you'll glide past rice paddies, hill villages, and Buddhist temples, and stop to track elephants in Khao Yai National Park, sample local wines, or shop for silks in Chiang Mai. End each day with martinis in the bar car, watching the sun set over the lush jungle landscape. That's what we call a moving view.

Orient-Express Epic Thailand departs on February 20 and October 30, 2011.

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Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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