Travel Destinations

Easter is almost upon us! But if you haven’t yet decided where to go for the long weekend, panic not. Our friends at Mr & Mrs Smith have five fabulous suggestions …

Douro Valley, Portugal

Style Sprawling spa retreat
Setting Dazzling Douro wine country
Perfectly positioned to take in views of the Douro Valley in all its sweeping vine-clad majesty, Aquapura hotel was once a rural, red-painted family farmhouse. Now, after a dramatic designer reinvention, it’s Portugal’s sexiest spa retreat, offering indulgent wining, dining and poolside reclining.

Easter package: Three nights bed and breakfast, welcome cocktail at the bar, 55 min easter spa treatment, wine tasting at a nearby wine estate, one lunch with aquapura wines (Easter Sunday lunch), Easter egg hunt on Sunday & late check-out. Prices from 430€ per person on a Valley Room.

Castiglion del Bosco
Tuscany, Italy

Style Grape estate
Setting Verdant Val d’Orcia
Castiglion del Bosco’s personal ad is enticing: 800-year old Tuscan estate with 4,000-plus acres, a Brunello winery, two restaurants and a pool seeks discerning guests for sun and friendship…
Easter Package: Three nights bed and breakfast (three night minimum stay), Sanctuary spa gift to be used on the Sunday. Aperitif at La Piazzetta, Easter lunch for two, Pasquetta brunch for two plus a guided tour of San Galgano. Rates start from €565. VALID over Easter weekend only.

Fawsley Hall
Northamptonshire, UK

Style Heart-warming historic home
Setting Great, green Northamptonshire gardens
As befits a dwelling that is over 500 years old, Fawsley Hall hotel is a mix of architectural styles, with Tudor, Georgian and Victorian aspects all present and correct. This should, by rights, look like a design nightmare but all the work has been sensitively done and this Northamptonshire boutique hotel looks comfortable in its skin, guarding, no doubt, dramatic tales from its varied history.
Easter Package: Easter Sunday: Easter egg hunt, three courses Easter lunch £35 per person – children 12 years old and under half price. Easter afternoon teas: 6, 7, 8 & 9 April. VALID over Easter weekend only.

Astra Suites
Santorini, Greece

Style Candlelit aphrodisiac
Setting Caldera panorama
A boutique hotel hugging the cliffs of Santorini, the biggest island in the Cyclades, Astra Apartments and Suites is the perfect Greek island hideaway. Rooms are all high ceilings, arty ornaments and candles perched on every available surface; add in the giant his ’n’ hers shower, a four-poster bed and an outrageously comfortable sofa in the lounge area and you have a ready-made excuse for permanent room service.
Easter Package: April 15 weekend (three night minimum stay), includes special Easter breakfast, traditional Easter gift, buffet lunch by the pool on Easter Sunday.

Dylan Hotel
Dublin, Ireland

Style Boudoir-chic Victorian townhouse
Setting Foliage-rich city fringe
This boutique hotel in Dublin is Victorian on the outside and victorious on the inside; a rather austere exterior conceals playfully cool and modern interiors and beds you’ll never want to get out of. The decadent Dylan Bar could have sprung from the combined imaginings of David Lynch and Lewis Carroll, and a night of cocktails here is a Dublin must-do. And from the Dylan’s leafy residential location, Dublin’s best bits are all within walking distance.
Easter Package: Bed & breakfast, a box of handmade Cocoa Atelier chocolates & mini Easter eggs, valet parking & WiFi. Rates from €179 per room, per night. VALID from 2-15 April 2012.

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Travel Rumblings

CD-Traveller tells you what’s hot and what’s not in the travel world. This month Croydon and coach tours of the M25 are proving (inexplicably?!) popular



We kid you not. Croydon – one of the areas worst hit during last year’s London riots – has become an unlikely tourism hotspot. Croydon Tours have launched a £8 per person day trip that takes travelers to famous spots from Peep Show (the Croydon-based sitcom) and ends, erm, a multi-story car park.

West is best

Research by reveals that west is best when it comes to flight prices. For instance in Spain, flights to Barcelona have risen by 18 percent while those in Murcia have increased by 30 percent. Meanwhile, flights to Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt are up 21 percent. Conversely, flights to destinations in the west – step forward Rio and Miami – are cheaper in 2012 than there was last year.

Holiday romances

A new survey by has revealed that half of the 2,000 18-25 years polled had enjoyed a holiday romance. But a word of caution: hooking up with randoms rarely ends happily. Case in point? Two-thirds of the travelers questioned, revealed they regretted their holiday flings.

InterContinental Hotels

The world’s biggest hotel operator, InterContinental Hotels, beat city forecasts for its 2011 profits and, unsurprisingly, chief executive Richard Solomans is excited about the year ahead. “In spite of the considerable uncertainty in the eurozone, IHG is well positioned to globally benefit from positive, long-term industry trends, and, in particular, growing demand in emerging markets,” said Solomans.

Carry on cruising

In the wake of the Costa Concordia tragedy, a confederation of the world’s leading cruise lines has decreed that muster drills must be carried out on each and every ship before it sets sail. Current rules require lifeboat and evacuation drills be carried out within 24 hours of sailing.

Coach tours of the M25

Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company has added extra dates to its £15 coach tour of the 117 mile M25 due to “huge demand.” Here at CD-Traveller towers, we can’t imagine anything worse than spending fours sitting on the M25 but clearly the opportunity to see sights such as Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Five, Epping Forest, Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex and the Dartford River Crossing bridge has some appeal after all.


Scotland’s third largest metropolis – aka the granite city – has been rated the fifth most ‘unsung’ destination in the world by travel experts, Lonely Planet. “ Aberdeen has long been an unsung hero in Scotland and has history to rival Edinburgh. For years it was favored by the Scottish kings and there is so much on offer in Aberdeen,” says author Abigail Blasi.

Swimming in the Seychelles

The Seychelles swimming ban has finally been lifted six months after a British honeymooner and a French tourist was killed in two separate shark attacks – the first in the Seychelles in nearly 50 years. Specially-trained lifeguards have now been introduced to the Anse Lazio beach (frequently voted one of the best in the world), following consultation with experts from South Africa.



Tour operators say that the Maldives are still safe but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all but essential travel to Male. The capital has witnessed a spate of violent clashes in recent weeks following the coup that toppled President Mohamed Nasheed.

Taking children on holiday during term time

The coalition is considering fining parents who take their children on holiday during term-time in an attempt to improve school attendance rates. It is estimated that 4.5million days of school are missed each year, because of pupils going on holidays.

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Why would you run a B&B? Long hours; continuous cleaning; getting up early to prepare breakfasts; pandering to the whims of guests. It’s not something that appeals to me. In the UK we are using to seeing B&B signs in seaside resorts and at farms. But it is becoming increasingly popular in America. Except that there it’s slightly different.

Matt and Susan Vogler (not forgetting the dog, Charlie) run a two bedroomed B&B in the heart of cowboy country- Pendleton, Oregon called The RiverWalk B&B. It took them four years to take one of the oldest houses in the Historic District of the town into something they liked. They did the work themselves and decided to let out the rooms just a few years ago. Why?

It wasn’t for the money because with just two rooms you’re never going to be millionaires. In America B&B’s have a different appeal to those in the UK. There, they can be slightly higher in price than the average hotel. They appeal to a slightly older person who likes home comforts rather than the bland anonymity that most chain hotels have. Families like them because they can seem like home.

So why does this couple do it?

They like the social side. Chatting to people for a little while when they come down in the evening where, in my case, a slice of chocolate banana cake and a mug of tea, awaited me. They can talk about their town and give you an insider’s slant as to what is worth seeing and where those hidden gems are. They know the stories and can explain why a seemingly uninteresting building hides a secret only a local would know.They also like to learn about their guests. I’m not sure who talked more; them or me. And sharing their home. They are proud of the effort that they have put into the period furniture they have found such as the bathroom sink and the wardrobes and will readily give you a guided tour throughout the whole house.

And pride in their achievement makes them want you to be proud to have stayed there. It’s customer service of a very quiet, subtle kind. Like the home-baked chocolate banana cake rather than a mass-produced one. It’s that little bit extra they offer to make you want to go back.

For more information about the RiverWalk B&B click here

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For those who have been lucky enough to get tickets the London 2012 Olympics, the next challenge for most is going to be finding a place to stay. Richard Hirson from onefinestay has some suggestions

With the London Olympics just around the corner the attention of the lucky few that have tickets, is now turning to where they are going to stay. With many of London’s top hotels holding their rooms for big group bookings visitors are being forced to look elsewhere for a place to stay. However, this is no bad thing as many of London hotel rooms are small, soulless and could be in any of the world’s major cities. In a city as diverse as London, there are many different and exciting alternatives places to stay which are more interesting a dull hotel.

Perhaps the most unique bedroom in London is Living Agriculture’s  A Room for London designed by David Kohn Architects, in collaboration with Fiona Banner. This temporary structure is part hotel room, part boat and is perched on top the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre. With just one bedroom on offer and as it is only available for a short time,all the spaces were sold out within ten minutes of being online. This is truly unique alternative to any hotel room and its 360 degree windows give you views that are only rivaled by the London Eye.

With just two rooms, 40 Winks is likely to one of the smallest boutique hotels in the world but what it lacks in beds it certainly makes up for in character. Designed by David Carter this quirky resting place is ideal of anyone who is looking for an eccentrically English hotel in the heart of London. The hotel is also great who people who are just looking for a day out as they offer old vintage afternoon tea parties and glamorous pyjama parties to passers by.  Its unique combination of high fashion and shabby chic have made this hotel a favourite for celebrity and fashionistas.

For travelers who are looking to experience the �?real’ London then the only option is to stay in a homeof a true Londoner. This has been made possible by the launching of a series of new companies who allow guests to stay in in upscale homes while the owners are out of town. Being in the home of real local means that tourists can avoid all of the queues which are typical of a tourist hotspot such as London. In recent years there has been a large increase in couchsurfing, but this is most effective for solo travelers. This new idea of home rentals allows whole families to stay in upscale family homes which have more space than only hotel room. All onefinestay holiday rentals also come with all the amenities that you would expect from a top hotel.

For  further information on Onefinestay – a London based company  which allows visitors to live like a local  – please visit

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Valentine’s Day breaks have a bad rep: a single wilted rose on the bedside table, overcrowded restaurants, and headache-inducing red and pink everywhere – and who needs a headache on Valentine’s night? Boutique hotel experts Mr & Mrs. Smith have sifted through the schmaltz to find Valentine’s packages that will really set hearts aflutter (and won’t involve soggy petals clogging the plughole). Here are 10 hot properties that offer something a little bit different…

The Connaught, London

Set in swanky Mayfair, the Connaught has old-fashioned values (top-notch butler service, antique furniture) as well as modern frills (the UK’s only Aman Spa). With their ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ package, you’ll enjoy a one-night stay, champagne on arrival, an edible Valentine in-room treat and English breakfast. And just this once, you’re encouraged to take home the (personalized monogrammed) towels.
Valentine’s package price: From £385
Dates: 1–29 February

Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, Wiltshire

This hotel has it all: an award-winning spa, croquet lawn, equestrian center  (horse riding for two can be arranged) and tennis courts are all feathers in this handsome hotel’s hat. Arrive to pink champagne in your room, then tuck into dinner at the Michelin-starred Park restaurant; next morning, enjoy a full English breakfast.
Valentine’s package price: From £470
Dates: 14 February

St Moritz Hotel, Cornwall

A multitalented modernist resort overlooking the Camel Estuary, the St Moritz Hotel has a Cowshed spa, activities galore and a buzzing restaurant and bar. February has been declared the ‘month of love’ and their romantic package includes one night’s stay and a top-secret ‘Luxe Love’ box of adult treats.
Valentine’s package price: From £195
Dates: 1–29 February

Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire

Fancy living it up at an imposing stately mansion? Indulge yourselves with a one-night stay, dinner and breakfast, a personalised cake for two, chilled champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries. They’ll also give you an SPC bath and body oil collection – ideal for trying out the sort of massages they don’t provide in their incredible spa.
Valentine’s package price: From £470
Dates: 10–14 February

Lime Wood, Hampshire

This stately pile has a serious air of luxury, with devotedly designed interiors, a super spa and two tantalizing restaurants. Lime Wood’s five-course Valentine’s feast (designed to be shared) includes truffle-baked clams, roast Hampshire mallard carved at the table and baked Tunworth cheese with homemade bread – perfect for dunking à deux.
Valentine’s dinner price: £170 per couple, excluding drinks. (Why not make a night of it, boutique bedrooms from £295 on Valentine’s night?)
Dates: 14 February

Aquapura, Douro Valley, Portugal

Portugal’s sexiest spa retreat offers views of the valley in all its sweeping vine-clad majesty as well as a tempting Valentine’s package: during your two-night stay you’ll be welcomed with a cocktail, pampered with a 55-minute spa treatment for two, and wined and dined with a delectable three-course meal.
Valentine’s package price: From €285
Dates: 9–15 February

A’jia Hotel, Istanbul, Turkey

Sleek design and a grand Ottoman exterior entwine on the banks of the Bosphorus: inside, your Romance Suite awaits. Sip cocktails at check-in, then luxuriate during a 30-minute massage for two, followed by dinner with wine. Next morning, discover the delights of a Turkish breakfast.
Valentine’s package price: From £540
Dates: 14 February

Canal House, Amsterdam, Netherlands

This Dutch masterpiece boasts both a romantic-hideaway garden and some seriously seductive bedrooms. Escape to Amsterdam for the night and enjoy homemade chocolate truffles, a Green & Spring candle in your room and a three-course dinner, with a full breakfast laid on the next day.
Valentine’s package price: From £228
Dates: 10–18 February

La Mamounia, Marrakech, Morocco

Ravishing and regal, this legendary den of decadence is set in royal gardens, styled with a medley of art deco and Moorish opulence, and as sensuous as a seraglio. Arrive for your two-night stay in a chauffeur-driven Daimler, then prepare to be spoilt: your Moroccan adventure involves a 30-minute massage, a 45-minute helicopter tour of the Atlas Mountains, dinner, breakfast and a 60-minute Shiseido spa ritual.
Valentine’s package price: From £2,140
Dates: 9–20 February

Grand Hotel Villa Cora, Florence, Italy

Built in the 1870s by Baron Oppenheim for his wife, Grand Hotel Villa Cora is a love letter in art and architecture: it’s opulent in the extreme, but by no means over-blinged. Book through Mr & Mrs Smith and receive an upgrade to a deluxe room, a special gift and breakfast in bed.
Valentine’s package price: From €250
Dates: Until 31 March

For more on Mr & Mrs Smith or to book one of the hotels above, please visit

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This time it is Rome. They have decided to impose an accommodation tax on all guests staying in hotels in the city from the first day of 2011.

How do you get around paying this tax? By either being under two years old or by staying at a youth hostel. And unlike lots of accommodation around the world, it’s not a room tax but a guest tax. Two of you in a room will pay twice as much as one person so there is no easy way to avoid it other than by staying outside Rome.

It will hit the more upmarket hotels the most as it is graded by the star rating of your hotel. If you stay in a 4 or 5 star hotel expect to pay €3 euros per night. Stay in a star rating below that and it will be €2 per night. But, there’s good news. If you stay more than 10 nights you will only have to pay for the 10. All of the other nights above ten will be free. Some good news that is! Ten days for a couple in a 4 star hotel will amount to an additional €60 on your bill, that’s over £50.

You will pay this tax directly to the hotel when you check out. But they will be able to improve their cash flow by hanging on to their money until July before they have to pass it to the authorities.
The great feature of this tax, according to ETOA, (European Tour Operators Association) is that no-one seems to know whether VAT should be levied on top of this tax. And it is a tax. It doesn’t seem to be a levy to help restore tourist sites or improve what the traveller will find in Rome. ETOA says that only 5% of the revenue will be spent on “generic tourist services.” Where does the other 95% go? Into the general taxation coffers so that politicians can use it for their pet projects could be one answer.

Its yet another case of governments – local, regional and national – realising that just as the car driver or the householder has been scalped in the past, the tourist is another seemingly endless source of revenue. Unless of course, we take umbrage and stay away from Rome!


Here I am staying in another hotel and yes, I have something to moan about again. Readers might think every hotel I stay at gets a knock but you’re wrong. Most are fine and provide the obligatory bed, shower and toilet that function properly. Get those three right and I’m as happy as Larry. But occasionally, hotel designers try to be clever and make a life for the traveler just a little bit awkward or uncomfortable. It’s not earth-shatteringly important and the world won’t come to a grinding halt because of it but comment needs to be made.

And this time its toilets.
Or, to be more precise, the location of the toilet roll holder in relation to the toilet.
I’ve never thought of myself before as having short arms but a reach of over four foot from my seating position to the toilet roll is more than a bit of a stretch. In fact, it’s impossible.
When you first inspect a room after you’ve found it you tend to make sure everything is there. You know bed, toilet, shower, bath, carpet on the floor, no cockroaches having frivolous sex in the tub and making sure that the door is locked into the adjacent room where the kids are practicing vocal gymnastics. You don’t to grab a tape measure and assess the distance from the toilet to where the toilet rolls are kept. No longer will I avoid this action when I check into a room.

A gap of four feet or more means having to stretch but you can’t stretch that far. So you lean over, but there is only so far you can lean before you topple. After all, where can you put your other arm to support yourself? Unless you’re a contortionist. So there you are, considering your fate. Which is what the bathroom designer should have been doing in the first place. Not my fate but that of everybody who is placed in the position (to coin a phrase) of being unable to reach the toilet roll because the designer didn’t think his wonderful design through properly.

After the first time, the problem is solved. You remove the roll and place it on top of the cistern so all you have to do is an ungainly swivel to reach it. But I shouldn’t have to do that. It makes you wonder sometimes whether hotel bathroom designers are human. Maybe they are octopuses and, with eight long arms, don’t have any problems. But that is for another time.

Travel Destinations

For that weekend a way, the choice of where to stay can be based on any number of factors. The first one has to be is it close to where you want to visit and the second is price. If it is too much then you will probably balance out price and location until you find something acceptable. But have you something in mind at the time you make the decision to have that weekend break?

The US company, Epsilon, the marketing services company that specialises in helping companies understand more about their customers, has conducted a small survey amongst Americans and has come up with some interesting thoughts. My first thought was whether the same applied here. See what you think.

They think that price is more important than any other factor and the location is the second. About a third of people knew when they decided to go away, where they would stay which leaves us with two thirds not knowing and therefore open to persuasion by travel agents, online websites and other influences like friends. That a third knew suggests that they were familiar with where they were going to stay. Is this returning to somewhere where things were appreciated? Was this due to a recommendation? If it shows us to be loyal then it suggests repeat business to be quite low. All those studies that show we return loyally back to the same hotel seem overrated.

The other feature of the Epsilon study is that it those review sites are significant sources of information in helping us to decide where to stay. Good – and bad – reviews play a part. A more important part than friends? My guess, and it is only that since the survey doesn’t seem to cover this, is that a word or two from someone I trust would carry more weight than a review site. I think a review site would help if I didn’t know the destination I was going to. But here is an interesting feature from the research. Even if a person has stayed in the hotel before there is a tendency to look at the reviews before making the decision. Why? Is this because it might have changed since they stayed there? Is it because they might have forgotten they stayed there and only realized after either the review or staying there? If anything this study makes you want to ask even more questions. And, as I said earlier, do the same conclusions apply to us in the UK as well?

Travel Destinations

Whether you’re staycationing or vacationing, CD-Traveller tells you what’s hot in the travel world

Free stopover

Passengers who fly to New York on Iceland Express’ new route this summer will receive a free night’s accommodation during a stopover in Reykjavik. The new service will launch on June 1 and will operate four times per week. Return flights to NY start from £267, including taxes.

Making for Morocco (and Egypt)

Travellers are flocking to Morocco and Egypt after seeing Simon Reeve’s epic documentary series Tropic of Cancer in which the adventurer follows the Tropic of Cancer travelling almost 38,000 km and visiting 18 countries.
Gap Adventures has seen a staggering 200 per cent rise in bookings to Egypt and Morocco following the popularity of the BBC adventure travel show. Bruce Poon Tip, founder of Gap Adventures, says: “Right now, Egypt and Morocco are extremely popular destinations and to reflect this, we have introduced new tours to satisfy the demand and we will be adding even more in 2011.”

Guiding Light

Just in time for the World Cup which kicks off next month, Hedonist Guides have launched Cape Town and Johannesburg editions. Dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure, each guide ensures that football fans are up to speed on the cities’ hottest bars, clubs and hotels. Translation? Fans will have as much fun off the pitch as on it. (£12,

Holing up in Hotel Missoni

Hotel Missoni has just been awarded Glamour Hotel of The Year at the Scottish Hotel Awards 2010. Fancy holing up in a hedonistic hotel for the week-end? Book a room online at

Seeking Sanctum in Berkshire

The countryside is about to get a whole lot more stylish. Tomorrow (May 19), hotelier and restaurateur Mark Fuller –the man behind Embassy, Sugar Reef and Red Cube – opens the door of Sanctum On The Green Hotel in Berkshire, 40 minutes from London.

Acting as the provincial outpost to Sanctum Soho – the £10m boutique hotel which we reviewed in April. On The Green promises the same rock ‘n’ roll glamour as its Soho sibling sister. “We’ve taken the ethos of Sanctum Soho and added a hint of country gent” says Fuller.

Cycling and the city

Boris Johnson set out his 10 point pledge to London cyclists last week in a bid to get thousands more Londoners on their bikes. The Mayor said: “I am determined to transform London into a city that cycles and where thousands enjoy the elixir of using two wheels to get around the capital.”

China on the cheap

A Chinese company is offering free board and lodging in homes across the country for English speakers willing to talk to their hosts for a couple of hours a day. “In the past 30 days, 5,000 Chinese families have signed up,” said Ken Chen, 38, of


Third runway at Heathrow

Residents whose homes would have been bulldozed to make way for a third Heathrow runway rejoiced when David Cameron finally got the keys to No 10.
The Tories and Lib Dems confirmed they will block expansion at the west London airport as part of their pact for a coalition government.

It was hailed as a victory by campaigners in the threatened “Heathrow villages” including Sipson, which would have been obliterated under airport operator BAA’s plan for the new runway, which was supported by Labour ministers.


BA passengers face more misery as staff back a new round of strikes. Eight out of 10 cabin crew voted to reject the peace deal offered by the airline. Union insiders say up to 20 days of strikes will be announced raising the threat of a “summer of strife” for millions of BA customers. Passenger numbers have already been hit badly by the Icelandic volcanic ash-cloud crisis and the airline has yet to recover from the first set of strikes by the crew, in March.


As the violence continues to escalate on the streets of Bangkok, the Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel to the Thai capital.

Travel Rumblings

It always surprises other travelers just what gets lost or left in places. I, myself, once left a bag with a brand new pair of shoes inside on a train luggage rack and only realized what I had done when I got home so I am a great one to talk. Nonetheless, it is still fascinating to see odd (odd in the sense of how would you ever forget anything quite so personal) things that have been left.

Airport Parking and Hotels (APH see have been looking through their lost property that they have collected and found the usual array of clothing and mobile phones. But amongst these, there was a wheelchair and a pair of false teeth, crutches and prams as well as cameras and MP3 players. Some of this isn’t cheap. Some of it is, well, fairly attached to you so how is it that you leave a pair of crutches round? Or the false teeth?
I have a theory.

If you don’t carry things regularly it is easy to forget them. So umbrellas, different bags, overcoats or macs can easily be forgotten if they are left in the luggage rack on trains, In the old days when trains had string vest type racks, you could see the items reflected in the compartment mirror facing you. Today there are no compartments, no string vest luggage racks and no mirrors so there are no memory aids. In hotels, there are so many places to lose things, wardrobes (under the spare pillows or behind the ironing board), under the bed (or even in it) and anywhere in the public areas. And on planes. There is under the seat in front of you, the overhead lockers that you can’t see into properly unless you are 7 feet tall or stand on the seat.

But how do you forget false teeth, crutches, and wheelchairs? I don’t think it is the case of them forgotten. I think people are using trains, airlines, and hotels as dumping grounds for unwanted items. How else do you leave false teeth?

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