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France Is Enthralled By A Mysterious Billionaire From Qatar Who Has Been Giving Away His Vast Wealth


Abdel Wassim El Whani is a Qatari billionaire who appears to live in Paris, and he loves to show off his wealth by giving away extravagent gifts.

The world first heard from Whani last month, when a video appeared on YouTube that showed him giving away 1 million euros to a homeless Romanian woman. Later, a video of him buying as many iPhone 5s as he could before throwing them away appeared. Another recent video shows Whani giving away a Lamborghini to two young men he had just met.


These videos have been viewed in total almost 2 million times, and Whani has become something of a star. And people are desperate for his favor. When a blog hosted by Le Monde picked up the story this week, the site was flooded with comments — almost all desperately begging for financial help from Whani.

But who exactly is Whani? The videos, shot by production company JisaMedia, claim that Whani is "Qatari billionaire who has decided to distribute his immense fortune to strangers in need," but very little is actually known about the man — a Facebook page exists, for example, but was only created in September, and a number of personal Facebook profiles exist but do not look entirely genuine (they appear to use stills from the video for profile pictures, for example).

The Observers blog at FRANCE 24 has done some investigating, and spoken to a Qatari official who says he does not recognize the name or the face. One suspicion is that the videos — which have raised a lot of hope for desperate people — could be a publicity stunt.

The video's producers are keeping quiet.

“A lot of people have asked us who is behind the videos, and if it’s true or not… I’m not going to say, we want it to remain ambiguous,” Jisamedia creator Ange Jisa told FRANCE 24

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European Wine Prices Are About To Spike


Wine Bottles Row

BRUSSELS (AP) — Winemaker Cherie Spriggs had watched the bad weather over southern England's vineyards all season long. It just wasn't good enough for Nyetimber, her award-winning sparkling wine.

"I have never seen a situation like this before," Spriggs said as the grapes failed to deliver. She was left with only one option and the company decided to forego the 2012 harvest.

Few have gone as far as Nyetimber but drought, frost and hail have combined to ravage Europe's wine grape harvest, which in key regions this year will be the smallest in half a century, vintners say.

Thierry Coste, an expert with the European Union farmers' union, said Wednesday that France's grape harvest is expected to slump by almost 20 percent compared with last year. Italy's grape crop showed a 7 percent drop — on top of a decline in 2011.

"Two big producing nations, France and Italy, have not known a harvest so weak in 40 to 50 years," Coste said. "All the major producing nations have been hurt."

France's Champagne and Burgundy regions were hard hit by weather conditions that particularly affected the prevalent Chardonnay grape, used to make the world's most famous sparkling wine and the luxurious whites from those regions. Nyetimber also depends on Chardonnay.

In places where vintners were already facing a small margin of profit, many could be facing survival problems, said Coste of the Copa-Cogeca union.

"In certain regions, there will be many vintners in big difficulties because of the collapse of the harvest," he said.

The European wine harvest automatically has a global impact since it accounts for some 62 percent of the worldwide wine production.

It won't mean any immediate drought for consumers since retailers typically offer a wide range of vintages. And taste often wins when yields are small.

In Europe, about 2.5 million families live off the wine sector. It makes the dependency on the vagaries of weather a sometimes cruel business.

Drought hit the Mediterranean rim hard this year, Coste said. As a cooperative leader in southern France's Herault region, he should know.

"First and foremost, climate change or not, we see that we have ever more dry spells," he said. Making matters worse is that even winter was dry this time. "It was almost zero (degrees Celsius) in the south."

In the northern wine regions, it was the inverse, with cold and wet weather wreaking havoc. Hail in particular hurt the crops.

"Natural phenomena happened all at the same time to make sure the harvest is so small," Coste said.

French figures show that in Champagne the harvest could decline by up to 40 percent, with Bourgogne Beaujolais expected to decline 30 percent. Bordeaux would get away lightly with a drop of 10 percent.

Coste said there may be an upside to the bad harvest — it is not a bitter one when it comes to taste. The quality of the wine produced will be good as it is expected to be more concentrated.

"When it comes to quality, we are looking at a good year," Coste said.

While some price increases were on the cards, Coste hoped they could be contained along the long chain from hillside picking to supermarket shelves.

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Paul McCartney's Daughter Has Become Hugely Successful In Her Own Right


stella mccartney

Stella McCartney has made a name for herself outside of her famous dad. 

And the 41-year-old designing superstar has a pretty fantastic life. 

McCartney has a London townhouse and a gorgeous country home. She counts celebrities like Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow among her best friends. 

She also dresses some of the most famous women in the world. 

While her big name put her at an advantage, there's no doubt McCartney is very artistic and talented. You won't believe how much money she's made on her own. 

She replaced Karl Lagerfeld at Chloe when she was only 25.

The claws came out.

"I think they should have taken a big name,” Lagerfeld snipped at the time. “They did, but in music, not fashion.”

While McCartney's designs were criticized at first, she's come around. 

Her best friend is Gwyneth Paltrow.

Paltrow said she appreciates Stella's tough, "ghetto" side. The two have been friends for decades, but have bonded even more closely since their children are the same age.

Paltrow is also married to a Brit–Coldplay singer Chris Martin–and lives close to McCartney.

She's also good friends with Madonna.

The two are often photographed around London together. McCartney also designed Madonna's wedding gown when she married Guy Ritchie in Scotland. 

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HOUSE OF THE DAY: A Green Mansion On Kiawah Island Is On Sale For $10.85 Million


south Carolina $10.85 million LEED certified A home that looks as if it is hidden and stowed away in a forest on Kiawah Island, S.C. is on sale for $10.85 million. 

The house is LEED Certified, and the first on Kiawah Island to earn that honor.

It has eight bedrooms and 9.5 bathrooms, and sits on two acres with views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Welcome to Flyway Drive.

The home spans 7,363 square feet.

The listings touts the home's top-of-the-line Energy Star appliances.

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SPOTTED: Twin Lamborghini Murcielagos In Monterey


Spotting one Lamborghini Murcielago is a treat. Seeing two is awesome. And when those two are fraternal twins, things don't get much better.

These Murcielagos — an LP670 and an LP650 — were parked in Monterey, California. This photo was posted on ExoticSpotter.com, which shared it with us.

Have you spotted a rare or unusual way of getting around in your travels? Did you take a photo? Do you like sharing? Let me know via e-mail: adavies@businessinsider.com or on Twitter: @adavies47.

lamborghini murcielago lp 670 lp650

SEE MORE: Gorgeous Photographs Reveal The Eerie Side Of The Munich Subway System

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Starwood Hotels Rewards Its Regulars With An Exclusive Ben Folds Concert [Photos]


ben folds five starwood event

This past Friday, Starwood invited us to the opening of its newest hotel, the Westin at Grand Central in New York City.

Coupled with the opening of this brand new Westin, Starwood Preferred Guests (SPG) — the hotel chain's guest rewards program — hosted an event as part of it's "Hear the Music, See the World" series of exclusive concerts around the world.

Friday's artist was Ben Folds Five. The performance was the sixth out of nine that Starwood is hosting in the series, which also includes shows by Natasha Beddingfield in Dubai and Thievery Corporation at the W Santiago.

Friday's event was particularly special for Starwood because this was one of the first performances Ben Folds had put on from their newest studio album, the band's first in 13 years.

Click here to jump straight to photos of last week's exclusive Starwood event >

Before the show on Friday, we got a chance to speak with Starwood's Senior Vice President of SPG Chris Holdren about some of the hotel company's perks, like the "Hear the Music, See the World" series, which is part of its partnership with Live Nation.

"Events like these are part of Starwood's SPG moments effort. SPG moments is a way for our members who spend a lot of their life on the road to be able to redeem the points they earn on sort of 'money can't buy' experiences to share with their loved ones," Holdren said.

SPG's Moments campaign revolves around three key passion points for members: music, sports, and the arts.

"Hear the Music is our signature series, but we also offer different VIP experiences such as exclusive access at big concerts, where people can go backstage, and meet the artist," Holdren explained.

In the past, Starwood has offered members singing lessons with Natasha Beddingfield in exchange for points. And during the recent U.S. open, members could redeem points for a tennis lesson with Andre Agassi.

It seems as if the SPG perks are endless.

This event was to celebrate the Grand Opening of The Westin. Located just blocks away from the bustling Grand Central Terminal, the hotel is certainly convenient. A Westin spokesperson told us that $75 million was placed into renovations for the building.

Before the party started we got to view one of the guest rooms. Most guest rooms start at 300 square feet. Here is the Corner King Room.

Each room also includes a new Starbucks Verismo machine.

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How 3 Young Creative Professionals Chose Between Their Hometown And The Big City


Brandon Bales

Before the era of telecommuting turned coffee houses into modern day offices, it was practically essential for workers to migrate to cities with the most jobs in order to make it––especially in the creative world.

In no other generation is this zeitgeist more apparent than in Millennials. 

Social media has enabled them to collaborate with others without being anywhere near them.

But sometimes the pressure to "make it big" where no one knows your name is still there. 

The small town rising star 

Based in Oklahoma City, OK, Brandon Bales doesn't have much competition as a digital photographer and videographer in the area, but the idea of trying his skills out in bigger markets has always tempted him.

He started out as a kid with a camera filming horror movies and found his niche photographing the local club scene after college.

It wasn't long before party promoters and club owners began to take notice.

"I was freelancing and became really good friends with the people who started Robotic Wednesdays — a softer version of Webster Hall in NYC — and they just asked me to keep coming back," Bales, 28, told us. 

Brandon Bales

"It started out real small and exclusive and increased to 400 people a night," he said. "It got out of control, was quite entertaining but then, I got burned out."

When one of his videos got 200 hits a day because "some sort of Russian Facebook linked to it," Bales knew he was building a name for himself. 

Today, the videographer works as a lead editor at a local ABC affiliate in Oklahoma and said that although he does enjoy the benefits of having a stable job, he isn't able to make it out to the night scene — what helped him build a name for himself in the first place — and a move to New York City is never too far out of his mind. 

"I'm still undecided about it," he said. "I really enjoy Oklahoma. It's really chill and laid back, but it's rough on the creative outlet."

Bales told us that technology has allowed him to collaborate with people from bigger cities, but "it can be frustrating when everyone wants to be the director on the whole thing."

The big city crooner

Cleveland, Ohio native Carley Tanchon, 26, had a similar itch to move and made it a reality in Boston, Nashville, Sydney and New York City.

But she was only doing it "for the purpose of music," she said, and after two released albums, the singer moved back to her hometown.

Carley Tanchon"The competition in the city is like no other," she said. "You can be inspired a whole lot, but because creativity is a personal thing, it can also make you second guess yourself."

In fact, Tanchon said that most creative people living in New York City have day jobs to pay the rent and actually end up giving less time to their music.

On the other hand, when you're at a smaller place, "you have more possibilities to make a steady living, but not necessarily to gain notoriety."

Tanchon said the decision to live in one place or the other depends on your overall goal. If you want to get paid for your passion and actually make a decent living, then a smaller town is not a bad choice — you'll be able to develop traction quickly, can "maintain the integrity of your intentions" and pay your bills because the cost of living is much less expensive.

But at the end of your career road, "there's not as much opportunity," she said. 

At the beginning of 2012, Tanchon who was living in Brooklyn at the time, decided to get her yoga certification and discovered that she had passions outside of music. 

She decided to return to Cleveland to get in-state tuition and is currently attending Ohio State with plans for medical school in the near future. 

But once you've experienced New York, it's hard to forget that unique energy surrounded by other artists.

"I miss New York, because when I moved there, I felt like I could live there forever," Tanchon said. "But I realized that what I wanted to do mattered more to me than where I was."

There are those like Bales and Tanchon — who have been driven away by big city dreams — and then there are those who swell with pride for only their hometowns. 

The local enforcer

Oklahoman Adam "The Enforcer" Seely, 28, told us that he briefly thought about moving to the West Coast when he got out of the Navy, but that inkling of a dream didn't last long. 

Adam SeelySeely started managing small, local bands in 2008, but really knew it was what he wanted to do when he got involved with "The Electric Primadonnas," who are recording their fifth album. 

This past year, Seely started FTV Productions with his friend to cater to the music scene in Oklahoma, offering bands everything from lighting effects for their shows to booking to public relations services.

 "Oklahoma scene is different than bigger markets like L.A., N.Y. and Austin," he said. "It's more about quality than quantity."

"I like expanding the scene and making the city better," he added. "And it's a lot better than it used to be."

To make ends meet, Seely works at the Oklahoma Blood Institute and said he enjoys his "nine-to-five" since it allows him get to shows in the evenings. 

"Social media has definitely helped that," he says. "Bands don't have to be depend on big recording labels to get signed anymore."

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We Dined Like Sultans Inside An Ottoman Palace In Istanbul


Serving dish, Tugra restaurant, Istanbul, Turkey

The Ciragan Palace, on the Bosphorus in Istanbul, has undergone many transformations. It was first built as a waterfront villa by Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha in 1719 as a way to escape the stifling summer heat of the city. Throughout the 1800s, several sultans built and rebuilt the palace to their own tastes. In 1909, the palace became the Turkish parliament building, but just one year later it was destroyed by fire.

After that point, the Ciragan Palace sat neglected for years, mis-used as military barracks by the French and as a soccer field by the Besiktas Football team.

Click here to go straight to the meal >>

But some time in the mid-1900s, the Turkish government began to take back and restore its historic sites, including the Ciragan Palace. Restoration work on the once-glorious palace began in the 1980s, and in 1991, the palace re-opened its doors as a luxurious hotel, the Ciragan Palace Kempinski, managed by the high-end Kempinski hotel brand.

Today, the hotel consists of the historic palace (home to 11 opulent suites and a fine-dining restaurant, Tugra) and an adjoining modern hotel. You can actually sleep in the old palace—if you can afford the price tag of several thousand euros per night. If not, though, you can still enjoy the palace by visiting for a meal in the award-winning Tugra restaurant.

I recently visited Istanbul and dined in the Tugra restaurant, and it proved to be one of the most memorable meals of my life. Tugra, which is the name of the calligraphic seal of the Ottoman sultans, is an homage to the Ottoman era. Here the chefs dig up recipes and dishes that the sultans once enjoyed, and serve them to modern diners in a historic palace setting.

The restaurant takes advantage of fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, such as wild herbs from the Aegean mountains; black cabbage and corn flour from the Black Sea; lamb and dried beans from Middle Anatolia; free range cattle from East Anatolia; and fresh fish from the Bosphorus to recreate the delicious Ottoman-era dishes.

Who knew 600-year-old recipes could taste so good?

The Ciragan Palace dates back to the 18th century. After years of neglect and decay, the palace was restored in 1991 and re-opened as a hotel. Today the restaurant Tugra occupies the first floor of the palace.

At Tugra, you can eat on the grand outdoor terrace, which has glorious views of the Bosphorus and the Asian side of the city beyond.

Or you can dine in the elegant and romantic dining room. There are nice touches here like the floor-to-ceiling windows, large-scale historic paintings and tiny stools for women to place their purses.

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I Found A Great Way To Search For Furniture And It Isn't On Google


Bing shopping

Google has become synonymous with search, but when it comes to furniture shopping, the site may be selling users short. 

On a whim, I decided to give Bing a try to aid in my hunt for the perfect vanity table. For the unfamiliar, vanity or dressing tables epitomize the height of old Hollywood glamour—movies often show starlets perfecting their look in the well-lit mirror. 

I already knew what sort of table I wanted—art deco and built from wood—but the ones that Google kept pulling up in regular search left me wanting. Switching over to Google Images helped somewhat, but the process of clicking a picture, closing it out, and then having to navigate the new site was tiresome. 

That's when I got the idea to try Bing. MSN's search rival has caught its fair share of flak for having fewer "plugged-in" users, a clunkier system and a bad habit of turning up irrelevant information. And while that's all  true, the site's Image section is much more intuitive for shopping. Here's why:

An attractive results page. Shoppers want to see what they're buying, and the best way to get ideas is by looking at pictures. Not only is the quality more crisp to my eyes, users have the option to break down searches by various search terms listed atop the page. Some were throwaways (see "Vanity tables for sale"), but others like "DIY vanity table" turned up some helpful results. You can also search by Related Topics on the right-hand side. 

Clicking photos won't bump you off the site. Bing keeps it simple by showing the image on the left hand side, a series of search terms on the right, and the site where the image originally appeared underneath. That's right, you can scroll down to view the site without abandoning your search.

Bonus: Bing replaces its search terms from the previous page with a clickable banner of photos. No going back to view your search or start over again. 

Vanity table

More ways to shop. A lesser-known feature of Bing is its Shopping tab. Here you can search by site, price, brand and set type, or just click an image to view an item you like in more detail.

Bing will either boot you to the site where it's being sold or take you to a page with a product description, a list of alternatives sorted by price and stores nearby where you can pick it up.

Powell Black antique

Again, the site shows a banner of images up top, so you can easily click and view another item. 

Bing vanity search

Now see how a lawyer paid off her five-figure debt in five months > 

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Some Of America's Densest Cities Might Surprise You


Nine metro cities (all with populations of more than 5 million) are home to just about one quarter of the United States' population, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report based on 2010 data that was released this week.

While it's not a surprise the New York and Los Angeles metro areas lead the list of the most densely populated cities, the bottom half of the top five were a little surprising.

Take a look at the list:

  1. New York (includes the Northern New Jersey-Long Island areas)  18.897 million people over 6,686 square miles (or 2,826 per square mile)
  2. Los Angeles (Includes Long Beach and Santa Ana)  12.828 million people over 4,848 square miles (or 2,646 people per square mile)
  3. San Francisco (Includes Oakland and Fremont)  4.335 million over 2,470 square miles (or 1,754 per square mile)
  4. Trenton-Ewing, N.J.  366,513 people over 224 square miles (or 1,632 per square mile)
  5. Honolulu, HI  953,207 people over 600 square miles (or 1,586 per square mile)

Overall, the average population density in the United States is 87 people per square mile.

The Census Bureau laid out the population-weighted density visually for us:

census population density map of the united states


DON'T MISS: Take Tour Of The New Most Expensive Zip Code In America

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Eight-Gear Electric Vector Bike By Polaris


This is the Vector Electric Polaris Bike.

Why We Love It: For anyone who's ever wanted to bike to work without sweating through your shirt, the Polaris Vector is for you. When turned off, the Vector is a regular (though slightly heavier) eight-gear bicycle — but when the motor is turned on, this e-bike will give you an added power boost.

There's a dashboard on the handlebars that allows the rider to hit the power button and choose what level of assistance is required. It also has a smart ARC Regen system that saves energy when the bike is going downhill, and can even sense what terrain the bike is travel ling on and adjust accordingly.

The battery on the Polaris Vector bike can last up to 30 miles, and comes with a smart charger that turns off once the bike is fully recharged to avoid energy waste.

Polaris Vector Bike


Polaris Vector Bike

Where To Buy: Available through Polaris dealers. Find one near you by visiting the Polaris website.

Cost: $2,999.99.

Want to nominate a cool product for Stuff We Love? Send an email to Megan Willett at mwillett@businessinsider.com with "Stuff We Love" in the subject line.

See Also: White Mountaineering Leather-Trimmed Multi-Pocket Backpack

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Lexus' Latest Hybrid Concept Gets More Power For Sydney Debut


lexus lf-cc concept blue australia

The Paris Motor Show just wrapped up, and now automakers have moved south to Sydney, where the Australian International Motor Show starts tomorrow.

For the occasion, Lexus is continuing its tour of the LF-CC, its high-end hybrid concept. First revealed in Detroit in January, the LF-LC is back with an update.

The latest take on the concept is the LF-LC Blue, a sports version with a new color and a more powerful battery pack and engine to pump out 500 bhp.

Other than that, it's the same car, but it's still worth a closer look.

Here's the LF-LC in red at its Detroit debut.

Not much has changed since then, but it's still a good looking car.

For Australia, Lexus went with 'Opal Blue.'

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The Late Arthur O. Sulzberger's Southampton Estate Hits The Market For $13.9 Million


arthur Sulzberger southampton estate $13.9 millon

The Southampton estate of Arthur O. Sulzberger, the late publisher of The New York Times, has hit the market for $13.9 million, according to Curbed.

Sulzberger died last month at the age of 86.

The estate spans 6,500 square feet and sits on 2.2 acres. The home has eight bedrooms and 7.5 bathrooms.

It's a lovely home, but the listing touts it as a knockdown, saying the current building could be replaced with a 12,000-square-foot mansion. The listing also states the property is "priced for immediate sale."

DON'T MISS: A Townhouse On The East River Just Hit The Market For $48.75 Million

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Here's How Victoria's Secret Photoshops Its Models


From Photoshopping facelifts to digitally deleting a model's rib cage, advertisers are regularly guilty of excessively retouching photos.

But often the manipulations are more subtle.

Jezebel's Jenna Sauers got her hands on supermodel Doutzen Kroes Victoria's Secret bikini photoshoot — both pre and post-op — and marked the changes.

"Many of the differences between the retouched and raw photographs are not terribly shocking," Sauers writes, apart from the "magical, fake, golden light of Photoshop." But it's fascinating to note even model Doutzen Kroes isn't perfect enough for VS.

While one would expect a professional Photoshopper to wipe away bruises in a bikini shoot, the definition on Kroes' abs also disappeared. Victoria's Secret's feminine ideal is a skinny, but not too fit, body type.

victoria's secret photoshop

This tankini is having an identity crisis. But even though the photo's most obvious change is the suit's new color and length, Kroes' body was altered in editing as well. Gone are expression lines and a chunk of skin between her arm and back.

victoria's secret photoshop

The cleavage-creating straps aren't the only thing that's missing from this picture. Kroes also lost the wrinkles between her forehead and any natural fold of skin under her armpit or on her side. Kroes' legs were also lengthened and slimmed down between the shoot and the touch-up.victoria's secret photoshop

Go to Jezebel for more images.

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Europe's Princes And Princesses Are Jetting To Luxembourg For A Royal Wedding This Weekend


luxembourg prince guillaume stephanie de lannoy

LUXEMBOURG (AP) — The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg doesn't get a lot of turns in the spotlight.

It's an independent country tinier than Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. state, and it would fit inside Germany, its neighbor to the east, 138 times with room to spare. It won no medals at the 2012 London Olympics — in fact it hasn't won a medal at the summer Games since 1952.

But this week is Luxembourg's turn to shine. Prince Guillaume, the heir to the throne — the grand duke-to-be — will marry Belgian Countess Stephanie de Lannoy.

It will be a two-day affair, including fireworks, concerts, a gala dinner at the grand ducal palace, and two marriages between the betrothed — a civil wedding Friday afternoon and a religious ceremony Saturday morning.

A glittering array of European royalty has been invited. The guest list for the religious ceremony includes kings, queens, princes and princesses from European countries including, among others, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Lichtenstein, Denmark, the Netherlands, Romania and Britain, which is sending Prince Edward, Queen Elizabeth's youngest child, and his wife, Sophie.

Non-European royalty will be attending, as well, from Morocco, Japan and Jordan and elsewhere.

With all those royals coming to Luxembourg, can international attention be far behind?

"It's good for Luxembourg," said Nadine Chenet, a 46-year-old street cleaner who was picking up cigarette butts with pincers in front of the grand ducal palace. "Many people will come now."

Besides, she just plain likes the royal family, she said: They give a good impression of the country.

That's a sentiment common in Luxembourg. To all appearances, the bride and groom are a lovely couple. He is 30, with dark hair and an immaculate beard. She is 28, blonde and smiling. In public appearances, including at the London Olympics, they have appeared besotted with each other.

According to biographies distributed by the royal court, each has an array of interests befitting those who are to the manner born.

Guillaume speaks four languages, has studied international politics, is a lieutenant colonel in the Luxembourg army (a force of 900 soldiers), and has been engaged in humanitarian work in other countries, including Nepal. The duchess-to-be has studied the influence of German romanticism on Russian romanticism, plays piano and violin, swims, skis, and says she reads three books at a time.

In the language department, she already speaks French and German — two of Luxembourg's three official languages — and, perhaps more importantly, is studying the third, which is called Luxembourgish. She plans to renounce her Belgian citizenship in order to become, eventually, Luxembourg's grand duchess.

Luxembourg is a linguistically complicated country, a reflection of its complicated past. It began as a Roman fortress. It has, at one time or another, fallen under the control of Spain, France and Austria. In 1839, it gained its independence from the Netherlands, but lost more than half its territory to Belgium, which now has a province of the same name. In the 20th century, Germany swept through Luxembourg twice despite its protestations of neutrality.

Luxembourgish is related to German, but it is primarily a spoken language. In the country's schools, elementary students take all their classes in German. When students reach their teens, gradually all classes are converted to French. And English is studied the entire time.

But the language dearest to their hearts is Luxembourgish. As 71-year-old retired engineer Rene Ries — a typical Luxembourger, with a French first name and a German last name — said, Luxembourgish is generally spoken in the home. When there is a complaint, the police file their reports in German. Then the lawyers litigate the case in French.

Asked in which language he felt most comfortable, Ries replied without hesitation that it was Luxembourgish. But he admitted he had trouble writing it. Under duress, he could write his daughter a postcard, he said, but the language is most commonly spoken, not written.

Luxembourg, an important financial center and home to the world's largest steel manufacturer, continues to prosper despite Europe's economic trouble. The country has the second-highest gross domestic product per capita in the world, more than $80,000 — though its population of about 510,000 people is still smarting from having lost the No. 1 spot to Qatar. The capital city has 80,000 inhabitants and 120,000 jobs.

For that reason, more than 43 percent of the people in Luxembourg are foreign nationals, compared to a European Union average of 6.4 percent. When he greets people in the public square, Ries speaks not German, not French, not English, but Luxembourgish. It is not to shame the others. It is to show he is a genuine Luxembourger.

Natives of the Grand Duchy, heavily influenced by Catholicism, are very proper and can be dour.

"When we say, 'It's not too bad,'" Ries said, "we mean it's good."

But above all, they are proud. Proud of their multilingualism. Proud of their grand duchy. And proud of their royal family. The current grand duke, Henri, who is 57, is popular. People can greet him on the street without bowing down before him. His 31-year marriage to Grand Duchess Maria Teresa appears to be very happy. Showcasing the royal family, as the country will do this week, allows Luxembourg to put its best foot forward.

For, as Ries emphasized more than once, the Luxembourgish royals — in contrast to some others — do not sunbathe topless. And for him, that is a source of pride, one he is happy to share with the rest of the world.

"It is a good family," he said.


Don Melvin can be reached at —http://twitter.com/Don_Melvin.

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I'm Going On A Pilgrimage To The Best Hotel In The World—In A Tanzanian Game Reserve


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Next week, after picking up my visa and taking my final typhoid pill, I'll board a Qatar Airways flight at JFK Airport in Queens.

Two flights and 34 hours later, I will disembark at Kilimanjaro International Airport on the northern border of Tanzania to kick off a week-long trek across the country.

No, I didn't win the lottery and I'm not a lucky honeymooner. I've been invited by the Tanzania Tourist Board to go on safari and visit several of the country's best lodges, including the tented camp that Travel + Leisure has called "the best hotel in the world" for the past two years.

I'll also visit Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and two remote parks in the southern part of the country that American tourists don't often see.

julie tanzaniaAlong the way, I'll report on all aspects of my journey, from the packing essentials to the complexities of running a luxury hotel in a remote game reserve. I'll snap a ton of photos and interview the people who work in Tanzania's tourism industry.

Here are the highlights of my itinerary:

  • The Serengeti, home of the "great migration" (I'll spend two nights at Singita Grumeti's Sabora Tent Camp)

  • Ngorongoro Crater, home to a huge array of wildlife including flamingos (I'll stay at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge)

  • Ruaha National Park, known for great population of elephants (I'll spend the night at Mwagusi Tented Camp)

  • Selous Game Reserve, the second largest game reserve in Africa, with crocodile and hippo populations in the Rufiji River (I'll stay for two nights in a cottage at Beho Beho)

  • Overnight in Dar es Salaam, the commercial center of Tanzania

What do you want to know about going on safari in Tanzania? I'd love to hear from you before I head off. If you have any safari tips or questions, send them my way, to jzeveloff@businessinsider.com.

You'll be able to find all my stories about the trip here.

Disclosure: Our trip to Tanzania, including travel and lodging expenses, was paid for by the Tanzania Tourist Board, The Africa Adventure Company and Singita Grumeti Group, and Coastal Aviation.

A sneak peek inside the tented camp I'll stay at in the Serengeti:

singita wide

sabora tented camp

sabora tented camp

Now take a closer look around the awesome safari hotel I'll be visiting >

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A Proposed Trampoline Bridge Would Let Parisians Bounce Across The Seine


paris bridge trampoline concept ACZ

There are 30 bridges in Paris that cross over the River Seine; they carry cars, trains, cyclists, and pedestrians from the Left Bank to the Right.

Some are very pretty, but they are all somewhat boring. To make getting around the city more fun, French design firm Atelier Zündel Cristea came up with a rather original idea: an inflatable bridge, equipped with enormous trampolines.

The concept was submitted in response to a call for ideas to bring happiness and fun into more architecture. There are obvious reasons it could not be built: It could pop, people could fly off into the water, and it would be an insurance nightmare.

But while no one expects this ever to be built, it is a fun idea, and one that took third place in an Archtriumph competition.

The Pont Neuf, opened in 1607, is currently the nicest way to cross the Seine.

The inflatable bridge would be made of inflatable modules 30 meters in diameter, with trampolines.

It would be located near the Bir-Hakeim Bridge, by the Eiffel Tower.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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The 20 Most Expensive Hotel Rooms In America


Mii Amo Resort

When it comes to luxury accommodations, the most expensive hotel rooms in America can be found in the scenic west.

Hotel booking website Luxury-Hotels.com just released a list of the 20 most expensive American hotel rooms, which range in price from $767 per night to a mind-boggling $2,279 per night.

Some of the luxury amenities that were offered included complimentary wine and a free mountain bike to use upon arrival.

#20 Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California looks out on stunning views of the California coastline and costs an average of $767 a night.

Methodology: Rankings are based on the average rate for the most affordable double room calculated for the period spanning June to September 2012 from hotels’ websites or drawn from the leading hotel-booking sites. Only hotels offering a minimum of 10 rooms were considered.

Source: Luxury-Hotels

#19 The Lodge at Pebble Beach in California has a gorgeous golf course right on the ocean, and costs $811 per night.

Methodology: Rankings are based on the average rate for the most affordable double room calculated for the period spanning June to September 2012 from hotels’ websites or drawn from the leading hotel-booking sites. Only hotels offering a minimum of 10 rooms were considered.

Source: Luxury-Hotels

#18 Beach Village at the Del in San Diego, California has spectacular ocean views, and costs $813 a night.

Methodology: Rankings are based on the average rate for the most affordable double room calculated for the period spanning June to September 2012 from hotels’ websites or drawn from the leading hotel-booking sites. Only hotels offering a minimum of 10 rooms were considered.

Source: Luxury-Hotels

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Why The Most Prosperous Cities In The World Are STILL In Europe


Vienna, Austria

Despite being in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the formation of the European Union, Europe is still home to the world's most "prosperous" cities.

new report from the United Nations Human Settlements Program (U.N.-Habitat) ranked the world's cities on a unique prosperity metric, and 19 out of the top 25 were all in Europe, and nine of them use the Euro.

Vienna came in first, not only weathering the euro crisis, but also over recovering from the brutal post-war era, when it was "full of refugees and people desperate to earn a living."

So why does the report claim that Europe's cities are so prosperous, despite daily reports coming out highlighting protests over austerity, unemployment, and income inequality? 

Well, look at how the metric works.

The City Prosperity Index (CPI) takes into account five dimensions: productivity, quality of life, infrastructure development, equity and social inclusion, and environmental sustainability.

Europe is one of the most environmentally conscious places on the planet. Much of the continent invests a large proportion of its capital in infrastructure; its roads, trains, and public transportation are some of the best in the world. And many European societies offer much broader social welfare programs than the rest of the world, which would influence the 'equity and social inclusion' and 'quality of life' metrics, respectively.

When you look at the metrics in detail, it makes a bit more sense why Europe dominates the CPI rankings. But the report goes further than ranking — it posits that that cities will be integral in combating the economic meltdown:

With adequate backing from higher tiers of government, the city appears as a flexible, operational, creative platform for the development of collaborative agendas and strategies for local responses to the global crisis.

Here's the list:

  1. Vienna
  2. New York
  3. Toronto
  4. London
  5. Stockholm
  6. Helsinki
  7. Dublin
  8. Oslo
  9. Paris
  10. Tokyo
  11. Melbourne
  12. Auckland
  13. Amsterdam
  14. Zurich
  15. Copenhagen
  16. Brussels
  17. Barcelona
  18. Milan
  19. Warsaw
  20. Lisbon
  21. Budapest
  22. Athens
  23. Prague
  24. Seoul
  25. Moscow

Now take a tour of the new most expensive zip code in America >

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Martha Stewart May Be The Only Woman In The World Who Paints Her Red Louboutin Soles Black


louboutin shoes

Martha Stewart paints the signature red soles on her Christian Louboutin shoes black. 

The home decorating maven told In-Style magazine her secret. 

"See the soles? I paint them black," Stewart said. She said she finds the red soles to be too flashy. 

Stewart also told the magazine that she had asked Louboutin if she could paint the soles, and he agreed. 

Stewart is probably the only woman in the world to paint her red soles black. Women pay upward of $700 for the shoes. 

Why do they pay so much? Because the red soles are a status symbol in fashion. 

Louboutin also just ended an ugly legal battle with another luxury house, Yves Saint Laurent, over the red soles. 

DON'T MISS: Paul McCartney's Daughter Is A Huge Hit In Her Own Right >

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