st-lucia-view-from-the-island-v1681702-1024Following in Colombia’s footsteps, St. Lucia has officially barred entry to visitors from West African countries affected by Ebola, including Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Those traveling from Nigeria will only be granted entry after presenting a recent medical certificate. The tiny island nation’s prime minister cited the country’s inability “to manage any crisis that lands on our doorstep, any crisis of that kind” as the reasoning behind the ban.

Read more at AP >>

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Here at Oyster, we can never get enough of bright lights, big cities, and the continuous buzz and hum of modern metropolis life. There’s just something about the energy in the air that we find exhilarating. But that doesn’t mean we don’t take a moment every once in a while to step back in time. And at times like these, we don’t just want to soak up history – we want to live it. Sometimes, there’s nothing better than waking up in a 13th-century building and imagining how many people have woken up, celebrated, or walked the halls of the very same place — and it doesn’t hurt to get to imagine it while still enjoy modern conveniences like air-conditioning and Wi-Fi. And if you don’t want to stay in a crumbling piece of history, you don’t have to — and you can still get a taste of history. There are tons of preserved medieval towns and villages that have newer– even sleek and modern — hotels.  So if you want to get medieval on your vacation (in a historic kind of way, not an urban dictionary kind of way), we’ve got just the right spots to do it. Here are our top ten picks for hotels in ancient towns.

Hotel Athena: Siena, Italy

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Inside the historic walls of Siena, the 100-room Hotel Athena is a classic, upscale property within walking distance of several restaurants and historic sites, including the Siena Cathedral and Biblioteca Piccolomini. Piazza del Campo, Siena’s main square and the site of the famous haven’t-changed-much-since-the-middle-ages Palio horse races, can be reached within 10 minutes by foot. The hotel’s rooftop terrace overlooks the historic buildings of the area and has a bar serving cocktails and snacks. There is a free breakfast buffet with hot and cold items and an elegant restaurant serving regional cuisine. There’s no pool or fitness center at the hotel, but rooms are simple and clean and have free Wi-Fi.

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Perhaps because they serve as the venues for raucous parties, maybe because people are more likely to be up to no good while away from home, or possibly because checking in under an alias can make you feel invincible, but no matter the reason, hotels are often the scene of the crime for numerous scandals. Chief among them? The celebrity cheating scandals that fill the tabloids…and often ultimately end marriages. Just last week, Paula Patton filed for divorce from singer Robin Thicke, whom she had dated since she was 14, and Thicke admitted it was because he finally “told her the truth” about his drug use and infidelity — much of which took place while on the road. So while it’s sad to see, we did some research and found the hotels where celebrities have allegedly cheated on their significant others. Maybe this will serve as a precautionary tale (or maybe it’ll just give you the scoop on hot celebrity-sighting hotels), but either way, here are five hotels where famous celebs holed up to hook up.

Robin Thicke at The Greenwich Hotel

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Although “Blurred Lines” singer Robin Thicke and wife Paula Patton have been separated for months, Patton just filed for divorce last week, allegedly because she decided her longtime partner’s infidelity was unforgivable. The cheating scandal broke last summer, when socialite Lana Scolaro claimed that she and Thicke hooked up at a VMAs after-party at The Greenwich Hotel. Although the couple’s publicist downplayed the accusation, it didn’t help that pretty telling photos of Thicke with Scolaro were released online.

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For true foodies, a vacation that doesn’t involve mouth-watering cuisine is hardly worthy of the title. In fact, food can often be a major focus of a trip; it’s hardly uncommon for the taste connoisseurs among us to plan a foodcation. And in our opinion, it should all start with your hotel. If you stay somewhere with a truly phenomenal restaurant right on the premises, your foodcation will be off to a wonderful start. Whether you’re heading to New York City for its famous fine dining, California wine country for its earthy farm-to-table fare, or Mexico for an elaborate upscale meal on the beach, we’ve got a first-rate foodie hotel for you. Take a look at the top hotel restaurants we’d travel for in the U.S., Mexico, and Caribbean.

Dry Creek Kitchen at the Hotel Healdsburg, California

Dry Creek Kitchen at the Hotel HealdsburgCharlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen is one of the best – and best-known – restaurants in the Sonoma area, and for good reason. The farm-to-table, seasonal menu features items such as California Sea Bass with sweet corn fondue and Sonoma County Liberty Duck with crispy sunchokes. The restaurant’s outdoor terrace is situated under a shady arbor.

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Aruba, Jamaica, Ooohh we wanna take ya…to the Caribbean for $125/night. Okay, we know those aren’t the exact lyrics, but it’s true: We did some research so we could give you the deets on the best budget picks in the Caribbean this time of year. The price: $125/night. The dates: November 1st through 8th. And we’re off!

Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort, Aruba: $139/night

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Renovated in 2010, the Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort is bright and modern, if a bit plain. The lush garden setting sits alongside a nine-hole golf course and is across the street from the beach. There are three distinct dining options, free nightly entertainment at neighboring hotels, a kid’s club, and two large outdoor pools. We know it doesn’t quite make the $125/night budget, but it’s still a solid deal. And if you’re not sold, check out the Tropicana Aruba Resort & Casino for $116/night — and we’re positive you’ll be fine with the $23/night upgrade.

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3777798387_7c622448e0_b-001For cash-strapped tourists visiting New York, one of the most expensive cities on the planet, a hotel room in trendy Little Italy for $120/night might seem like a deal that’s too amazing to pass up. But consider what those low rates may mean you’re signing up for — particularly in the case of the Sun Bright Hotel. The New York Post did an expose on the property last year, calling out the hotel for renting abysmal single-unit occupancies to impoverished male tenants on the top floors. For $10 a night, these men live in filthy, animal-like conditions.  Shockingly, the remaining floors of the hotel are rented out to tourists – some of them unsuspecting, others willing to put up with chicken wire ceilings and dirty communal bathrooms to save money. Trip Advisor gives the hotel one-and-a-half stars, and reviewers have described it as “a cross between a jail cell and a chicken coop,” and “full of insects.” Absolutely no refunds are given.

This week we called the hotel to check rates and see for ourselves what conditions are like at the notorious hotel. After being hung up on (accidentally? we think not) once, a male employee explained that the hotel was booked for the weekend but had availability the following week for $120/night, with free Wi-Fi. After that, we headed to the property for some in-person investigating.

Read up on what we found after the jump >>

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It’s time to get your spook on. Halloween is just two short weeks away, and for many that means shaking out the costumes, buying some candy and cueing the Monster Mash marathon. But for the brave of heart, Oyster’s here to help you choose your spooky itinerary for Fright Night. No matter where you are across the globe, hauntings and mysteries abound that are sure to scare your socks off. From ghost towns to witches’ hideaways, we’ve found some of the best places to spook and be spooked — and where to rest your head (if you can) at the end of the day. But we’d suggest sleeping with one eye open…

Visit a Ghost Town

The American West is rife with these abandoned metropolises that once served as centers for mining and railroad operations. Walking among the now-desolate edifices that line the streets of these ghost towns is like taking a spooky step back in time, and as the nation’s largest unreconstructed ghost town, Bodie, California is the perfect spot to get your frightening fix. Founded in 1859 on the heels of the gold rush, the town’s 200 original structures once housed thousands of residents – families, robbers, miners, gunslingers, prostitutes – but now they stand eerily empty. Visitors come seeking ghostly encounters — or even just great photos, as the abandoned buildings look hauntingly beautiful at night.

The Hotel: Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite 

When the sun goes down, the monsters come out to play at Yosemite’s Evergreen Lodge.

Located east of Yosemite National Park, Bodie is a fun and spooky visit for campers looking to combine history with mystery this Halloween. And the Evergreen Lodge, a 22-acre cabin resort nestled into the Stanislaus National Forest, is a great spot to call home at the end of the day (if you’re not camping on-site).

Other Haunts: Other ghost towns of the American West worth checking out include Jerome, Arizona (which is well-known for its spectral lore — watch out for the beautiful Sammie Dean!) and South Pass City, Wyoming.

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It’s game time, leaf peepers! We are in the midst of peak leaf-peeping season, and you don’t even need to be a binocular-bearing botanist to enjoy fall magic taking shape in the form of beautiful changing leaves across the country. From the White Mountains of New England to the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest — we found plenty of foliage-friendly hotels that give guests a front row seat on the chlorophyll breakdown action. So, if you’re stumped on where to spy purple dogwoods, red sumacs, and orange maples  – look no further, leaf ogler. We branched out to find some of the best lookin’ treetops in the land!

Salish Lodge; Snoqualmie Valley, WA

Salish Lodge & Spa

The Salish Lodge & Spa offers breathtaking views of mother nature’s artwork. Thousands of leaf oglers swarm the Lodge every October to snap images of the bright orange Cascades and gushing waterfalls. The hotel is about 40-minute drive from Seattle  — so bring along that Starbucks pumpkin latte. Most of the property’s 84 rooms have wood-burning fireplaces and peek-a-boo bathrooms with two-person tubs.  Stone fireplaces, stacked firewood, and cashmere throws make this hotel super snuggle-worthy for couples looking for a romantic fall escape.

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Samsara

No one likes being nickel-and-dimed — especially not by hotels. After you’ve already shelled out major bucks for your vacation, charging for extras like Wi-Fi can feel like adding insult to injury. Some fees are especially egregious, and we’ve encountered charges for everything from air-conditioning to towels to electricity. (Yes, electricity.) These are the seven costs you probably never knew you had to watch out for.

1. Air-conditioning

This is just sneaky. Of course you’re going to pony up for air-conditioning on a hot day — no one wants to try to sleep in the sweltering heat. But once you’ve checked into your room and you’re drenched in sweat from lugging your bags in the hot sun, finding out it’s going to cost you to cool down is seriously cringe-inducing (and probably sweat-inducing, too). Watch our for this at the Samsara Cliff Resort & Spa in Negril, Jamaica.

2. Mini-fridges

At the GHT Oasis Park and Spa in Lloret de Mar, Spain, guests must pay extra to use their mini-fridges. Have some leftovers you want later and trying to avoid food poisoning? That’ll be about four euros a day, please. Or a tummy ache — your choice.

Get ready for some more temper-flaring fees that are just plain ridiculous after the jump >>

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Merlin’s beard! This hotel room gives a whole new meaning to “magical getaway.” If you’re hoping to channel Harry Potter on your next trip, the Wizard Chamber at London’s Georgian House is full of wizardly goodness: from a “cauldron” by the fireplace, to an owl figurine by the bed, from old-fashioned luggage under the bed, to “potions” in the bathroom. Just BYO-W(and).

Guests who book the Harry Potter Tour Package not only get to stay in the Wizard Chamber, but the package also includes breakfast, a Muggle Walking Tour, and a Warner Brothers Studio Tour on the making of Harry Potter.

Want a preview? We don’t have a magic mirror, but we DO have lots of great photos after the jump >>

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