For those Americans - and by this we mean most of us - who will never be invited to a royal dinner at Windsor Palace, here are some places where you can have a bit of a nosh amid royal splendor in the United Kingdom.
- The Royal Yacht Britannia: Drop by for afternoon tea in the Royal Deck Tea Room aboard the British royal family's former yacht, now moored in Edinburgh. Admission is about $16. 011-44-131-555-5566; royalyachtbritannia.co.uk.
- Hampton Court Palace: Traditional Tudor dishes are served the first weekend of every month in King Henry VIII's former digs in Surrey. Admission is about $23. 011-44-20-3166-6000; hrp.org.uk/hamptoncourtpalace.
- Hever Castle: The childhood home of Anne Boleyn, about 30 miles from London in West Kent, is hosting a banquet Oct. 29 in the Tudor Suite Dining Hall. Bonus: a "psychic investigation" and a chance to roam the castle afterward. Cost of about $485 per person double includes overnight lodging and breakfast. 011-44-1732-865224; hevercastle.co.uk.
For more information on Britain's royal trappings, contact Visit Britain toll-free at 1-800-462-2748 or go to visitbritain.us.
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Celebration of the written word
A slew of celebrity writers from John Irving to Jodi Picoult are scheduled to take part in this year's National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., scheduled for Sept. 26. Others expected to participate include James Patterson, Marilynne Robinson, Judy Blume, John Grisham, Junot Diaz, Colson Whitehead, Jeannette Walls and Julia Glass. The event, organized by the Library of Congress and held on the National Mall, is free. You also can listen to free podcasts featuring interviews with festival authors through the Library of Congress Web site or on iTunes. Learn more at loc.gov/bookfest. For bibliophiles who can't make the trip to Washington, the St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading boasts an impressive list of authors as well. The free festival is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 24, on the campus of theUniversity of South Florida St. Petersburg. For details, turn to Page 6L of this section.
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Try these tips on your trips
What do dental floss, shower caps and dryer sheets have in common? They're all products that can serve multiple purposes when you travel, according to "101 Tips for Women Travelers," a new free booklet from Overseas Adventure Travel and Grand Circle Travel. Among the tips: Dental floss can double as a makeshift laundry line; dryer sheets are said to repel mosquitoes; and free hotel shower caps can be used to wrap up a damp swimsuit, cover a camera in the rain or help insulate anything you think might leak or get wet. To receive the "101 Tips" booklet, call toll-free 1-800-873-5628.
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More than a shrine to baseball
Cooperstown, N.Y., has a lot more than baseball to offer visitors, especially in the fall, with autumn festivals and colorful foliage along Otsego Lake. Among our favorites is the series of scenic train rides offered by the Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley Railroad. Weekend foliage trips are available Sept. 26 to Oct. 25, plus an Oktoberfest ride on Sept. 26 and Halloween-themed trains Oct. 23-24 and Oct. 30-31. Visit cooperstownchamber.org to learn about other fall festivals.
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Let Earthcomber work for you
Say you are a German food-eating, battlefield-visiting movie buff in an unfamiliar town. How can you build a perfect itinerary? Try Earthcomber, a personal directory service with a dizzying amount of information. The search function on earthcomber.com can turn up just about anything and everything, from the aforementioned German restaurants and historic battlefields to barbershops, cafes, post offices, ATMs and even plumbers. There are many location-aware guides, but many focus on one target, whether it's free WiFi hot spots or restaurants. This one seeks just about anything you can imagine, which is one aspect that company president Jim Brady says makes Earthcomber unique. "Earthcomber lets you combine, so you don't have to keep app-hopping," he said. The service is free to users.
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Exploring Vietnamese artifacts
An exhibition of Vietnamese art, with more than 100 objects never before seen in the United States, will premiere at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston on Sept. 13. The show, "Arts of Ancient Viet Nam: From River Plain to Open Sea," looks at Vietnam's history as a crossroads for travel and trade in Southeast Asia and beyond. Artifacts include ritual bronzes, fine gold jewelry, terra-cotta burial wares, Hindu and Buddhist sculptures and more. It will remain on view through Jan. 3.