London

A-Maze-Ing

The Villa Pisani maze is the world’s most difficult to solve. Napoleon himself is among those who have been flummoxed by it.

The world “mazerific” is thrown around a lot these days. But we’ve found eight mazes that really are superlative, either for their size, history or quirky features.

Check out our review below . . . and try not to get lost along the way.

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The London Restaurant with Interactive Tables

What’s on the menu at London’s Inamo restaurant? Literally, your plate, your drinks and your silverware. At Inamo, patrons order their food electronically at the high-tech, interactive table at which they sit!

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5 Cool Buildings Made of Shipping Containers

Shipping containers. You’ve seen them on trains, on the back of trucks, at ports and piled onto cargo ships. There more than 20 million of those steel 40 by 8 feet (12 by 2.4 meter) boxes scattered around the world. That’s more than were needed even before the current economic slowdown. Today, as many as one million shipping containers may be sitting around unused. The surplus is especially profound in the United States, northern Europe and China.

Given the planet’s excess of shipping containers and shortage of affordable housing it only makes sense that people would make the connection. “Container architecture” has become a specialty in itself. The benefits are obvious: Containers are relatively cheap (around US$1,200~1,500 each). They are, by definition, portable. And they are durable (made to survive rough treatment and resist salt corrosion). A container house can be built, on average, 40% faster than a comparably sized traditional house. And then there’s the environmental benefit of putting surplus containers to use instead of letting them slowly rust in a landfill.

Thousands buildings made of shipping containers are today being uses for offices, stores, restaurants and private residences. There are several excellent books documenting the most interesting among them. Here are five shipping container buildings we think are especially cool:

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The Glorious Clutter of London’s Hidden Hotel

Imagine you had eccentric British relatives who lived in an enormous 18th-century London townhouse, who were veracious collectors of antiques, and who stuffed their house full of every painting, sculpture, mirror, book, armoire, clock, chest, candelabra, and exotic curio they ever obtained. The hypothetical townhouse you are imagining probably looks something like the very real Miller’s Residence. But you needn’t be a relative of the Miller’s to stay there. The Miller’s Residence is a hotel.

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Eating In The Dark

Here’s a restaurant theme you didn’t see coming: darkness.

The concept of purposefully eating in complete pitch-black dark originated with Jorge Spielmann, a blind clergyman from Zurich. When guests ate dinner at the Spielmann house some would wear blindfolds during their meal to show solidarity with their host and to better understand his world. What Spielmann’s sighted guests found was that the blindfolds heightened their sense of taste and smell and made their dining experience more enjoyable. That gave Spielmann the idea to open a dark restaurant, which he did in 1999.

Today you can stumble into dozens restaurants around the world where that question made famous in an American commercial in the 80s — Where’s the beef? — takes on a whole new meaning. Most dark restaurants employ blind waiters, offer a single set menu, and ban anything that could give off light (like cigarettes, cell phones and cameras) from the dinning area. All of them also have normally lit bathrooms though you’ll need to ask your waiter for help in finding it.

Here’s our illuminating look at some of the world’s dark restaurants:

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London’s Fashion Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel

The Pavilion Hotel, near London’s Hyde Park, calls itself a Fashion Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel. That description fits some of the hotel’s clientele better than the property itself.

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London Hotel or Opulent Victorian Novel?

To experience the high society of Victorian-era England you could read a Jane Austen novel. Or you could stay in London’s Gore Hotel.

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Sex & Relationships: That’s Amora!

London’s Amora is like no museum you toured in grade school. This self-described “Academy of Sex & Relationships” is like an erotic theme park (without the rides).

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