Search This Blog

Sunday, October 31, 2010

AIRPORT DINING - Letting you know what's on your menu


If you ever wondered what kind of food you can get at an airport you are going to maybe for the first time, a new site has launched.  Ready to keep you informed and well fed with your favorite foods.  Many of us have dietary requirments either dictated by medical reasons or by lifestyle choices.  Also, airlines are reducing their offerings onboard and security is constantly changing what you can or can't bring through the check point.

Many choices - arm yourself
We’re spending more time than ever at airports. With long security lines, flight delays and lengthy check-in times most likely you're bound to be hungry at the airport.

The good news is that airport food has gotten better with plenty of fine dining options. In addition to the usual suspects, fast-food airport outlets, airports started to offer lots of quality restaurant choices as airport eateries are becoming branches of favorite local restaurants, bars and cafés.

Based on that Airport Dining is determined to collect airport restaurant information and share it with frequent flyers as well as concerned airport restaurants who desire useful feedback as to the quality of their airport food. Their goal is to find the truth from real flyers and bring you the most up-to-date information about airport dining. Your reviews not only aid others in their choice of airport restaurants and their menu selection, but also provide valuable feedback to any airport restaurant that cares for the quality of their customer airport dining experience.

They only have a few reviews so far, but it's a great idea that may catch on.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Going to LA but no time to hit Pink's for a Hot Dog? Check this out

Los Angeles has some of the best and trendiest restaurants in the country, but the city also has some of the finest in cheap and unhealthy eats as well. If you missed waiting in the long line during your trip to Southern California, there’s the option to load up on chili dogs before your long flight home. Pink’s Hot Dogs is set to open soon at Los Angeles International Airport.

Pink's Hot Dogs Los Angeles

See the other regional foods available around the country at Jaunted.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Southwest Airlines Announces Onboard WiFi Pricing


While there are offerings of WiFi, Southwest needs to do a better job at getting power ports on their planes.

Today, at Southwest Airlines' Media Day 2010, pricing for Southwest Airlines WiFi HOTSPOT was announced. Southwest will offer WiFi onboard its fleet at a special introductory flat rate of $5 per flight for any device or flight length. Southwest is able to offer this price point and tailor the Customer Experience with the satellite-based technology provided by Row 44.

Southwest partnered with Row 44 and began testing WiFi on four aircraft in 2009. Today, Southwest has 32 WiFi-enabled planes.

"Southwest tested a number of different pricing points throughout this process and is pleased that we will offer one low fee for this service, making it easy for Customers to know what to expect," said Dave Ridley, Southwest's Vice President Marketing and Revenue Management. "We are excited to have WiFi on our flights. This technology will make our Customers' experience even better."

Customers on a WiFi-enabled aircraft will be greeted with the newly designed WiFi HOTSPOT placard onboard the aircraft. When opening the Southwest Airlines WiFi HOTSPOT browser, Customers will be taken to a home page that houses content free of charge.

Free content includes a flight tracker, games, shopping on Skymall and Home Shopping Network, and access to To read a blog post about WiFi, visit:

Customers will receive an e-mail prior to their flight informing them they will be on a WiFi-enabled aircraft. Southwest plans to have 60 WiFi-enabled aircraft by year end and the entire fleet of 737-700s (346 aircraft) enabled by the end of 2012. To learn more about Southwest Airlines WiFi HOTSPOT, visit

After nearly 40 years of service, Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) continues to differentiate itself from other low fare carriers--offering a reliable product with exemplary Customer Service. Southwest Airlines is the nation's largest carrier in terms of originating domestic passengers boarded, now serving 69 cities in 35 states. Beginning March 13, 2011, Southwest will initiate service in Charleston and Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina. Southwest also is one of the most honored airlines in the world known for its commitment to the triple bottom line of Performance, People, and Planet. To read more about how Southwest is doing its part to be a good citizen, visit to read the Southwest Airlines One Report(TM). Based in Dallas, Southwest currently operates more than 3,200 flights a day and has nearly 35,000 Employees systemwide.



September 2010.  We took the Blue Line from O'Hare to our Hotel.  We stayed at the Embassy Suites Lakefront and we were in the middle of all things fun.

Double Decker Tour Bus

We checked in and enjoyed the manager's cocktail reception.  Pearl had some soft drinks and I had some beers.  We went over to eat at DAO a Thai restaurant, great food.  

In the morning we took the Signature Tour.  Double Decker & Trolley Tours was a great way to see the city.  We walked up a half block across from the NBC Tower and caught a double decker bus.  Next stop was Navy Pier where we bought tickets for $29 plus a discounted Skydeck admission.   

Navy Pier: 

This is the number one attraction in Chicago.  Here are restaurants, Harry Caray's bar, food court and ice cream.  Also from Navy Pier you can rent a boat or relax in a beer garden.  The ferris wheel is another great attraction.  For $7 you can get a view from up high.  On our first night, we stopped by the pier and the ferris wheel was closed.  There was a party of doofus hipsters that were so upset the wheel was closed, they jumped the gate and climbed on the closed yet still moving wheel.  The wheel operator stopped the wheel before the ride completed and called the police.  The police were not well humored and told the gathering crowd to leave. 
Pearl pointing out the late night riders

Also at Navy Pier is a Garrett Popcorn shop for which the Double Decker & Trolley Tours provides a free coupon, wow that is some great popcorn.  I had the Chicago Mix, it was awesome, sweet and cheesey.  The food court had something for every palate.  Pearl had sweet and sour chicken and I had a Starbucks Coffee, some pizza and the popcorn (part of this nutritious breakfast).

Pearl and a Pirate
Pearl on the Ferris Wheel
We walked to the end of the pier and had a great view of lake Michigan.  The pier has enough to do to spend all day. 

Swings from the Big Wheel
Navy Pier - Main Gate

The Double Decker & Trolley Tour continued on to the Magnificent Mile.  I really loved the hop on hop off feature.  It was interesting to hear the different take on the city from the tour guides.  All were funny and enjoyable.  Being in the open air was a great way to see the architecture like the Wrigley, the Intercontinental and the New Trump.

The New Trump behind Pearl
Other stops included the Water Tower, it did not burn down during the Great Chicago Fire, a vertical mall, Water Tower Place and the Museum of Contemporary Art.  We had limited time and were excited to see the Willis Tower, so we skipped the John Hancock Observatory. 

Charles Rolling by Hard Rock

We rolled past the Hard Rock Cafe, but it was too early to eat when we went by, but there are many great pizza and hot dog places at this stop.  I made a note to come back to this stop at night for some live music, but was way too tired to get up and go after a long day of touring.

Next Stop:  Skydeck - Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) - My review of that stop is here.

There was a nice lawn with comfortable chairs as we waited for the next bus.
Pearl relaxing on lawn across from Willis Tower

Chicago Theatre:  On the this next leg we went through the theatre district and saw some great city views.  The tour guide was great as he ducked under the "L" .  On a side note, Louis CK is funny as hell.  I wished I was able to see him perform at the Chicago Theatre.

Tour goes past Chicago Theatre

Millenium Park:

This was a cool stop with lots to see and do.  The park is very relaxing with strategic benches and greenery.  The Cloudgate was very cool to look at and we had lots of fun taking pictures in and around it.  The Cloudgate has an odd bean shape and is knicknamed, "the Bean".

Pearl's turn to hold up the Bean

Chicago from Millenium Park

Cloudgate "the Bean"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


 Grand Canary West Coast:
View of Agaete from the Mountain
A lovely surprise:  Agaete, a fushing village on Grand Canary's northwestern coast.  It has a harbor flanked by whitewashed houses, pebbled beaches, natural swimming pools amid volcanic rocks and delicious local produce.  Recently, an Italian hotel company opened a sleek new hotel; Hotel Roca Negra on a rocky cove where each room has a view of the Atlantic Ocean.

Hotel Roca Negra:
Agaete, Gran Canary
Doubles = $130 and up (includes breakfast)

Canary Islands

Canary Islands, Spain: Las Teresitas, Tenerife

Why go?  Turquoise water, palm trees, a curving bay of golden sand sheltered by mountains… sounds perfect, and indeed it is – even though the sand was transported from the Sahara.
Who goes?
The citizens of Santa Cruz, the capital of Tenerife, treat Las Teresitas as their local beach, as it is only five miles north of the city. It’s not near any of the resorts, so there’s much more of a local feel to it.
What is there to do?
An artificial reef not only helps keep the sea calm, but also attracts shoals of tropical fish, so there is a lot to see if you’re keen on diving or snorkelling. The shallow water makes it a safe choice for families with young children.
Bars and bites
There are some great bars and restaurants in the village of San Andrés, at the southern end of Las Teresitas. Try the fish fritters or the octopus at Los Churritos (Dique 1), or any of the fabulous fresh fish on offer at the Cofradía de Pescadores (00 34 922 540924), right by the beach.
Getting there
From Santa Cruz, take the TF-11 north to San Andrés. There is a large car park right by the beach. There are also regular buses from Santa Cruz.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Getting there:  Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) is the primary Detroit airport, and recently it has undergone a dramatic transformation with a new terminal, a sixth runway, and a south entrance road. It has also added a new parking garage; and the luxury class Westin Hotel. The Detroit airport is currently working on adding another new terminal in 2008. Detroit Metro Airport's concessions program is award winning, so eating here upon arrival, or prior to your departure, is a pleasure. Also, among its national chain of stores, you'll find locally inspired shops, such as the GM, Henry Ford, and Motown Music stores. Take the Inter-terminal Shuttle Van to get from one terminal to another. From the Detroit airport, you can access all the top car rental agencies, or hitch a ride through two different luxury sedan and taxi services. The Smart bus will take you to downtown Detroit for $1.50 (exact change), and the trip takes about 90 minutes. Enjoy your trip to the sparkling city of Detroit Michigan.
Things to do:

Henry Ford Museum
The collection of over 100 historic buildings, and the museum grounds overall, together house some of America's most notable relics, automobiles, machinery, locomotives, aircraft and, well...the list goes on. It is a testament to Ford's dedication, and his resulting legacy, to preserve the country's history. In his words, "I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used...." Included among the many rare exhibits are the John F. Kennedy limousine, Abraham Lincoln's rocking chair from the Ford's Theater, the Rosa Park's Bus, the Wright Brothers' Bicycle Shop, and Thomas Edison's New Jersey Menlo Park laboratory, where he developed the incandescent light bulb. Tickets for adults are $14, Seniors pay $13, Youth ages 5-12 are $10, and under 5 get in free. The Henry Ford Museum Michigan is open every day from 9:30-5:00. Parking is easy, and there seems to be no long lines to wait in.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Every time someone runs a marathon, they metaphorically retrace steps taken during one of the most momentous events in world history, the Battle of Marathon in 490BCE.
Marathon Logo for 2010

A few thousand Athenian and Parthian soldiers, led by the warrior Miltiades destroyed a huge force of invading Persians on the plain of Marathon, a victory widely acknowledged to have ensured the democratic legacy of Western culture.

2010 is the 2500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon. And the organizers of the Athens Classic Marathon, on October 31, 2010 are preparing for another invasion, but a friendly one this time.

That marathon was first run as an athletic race when the Olympics were revived as modern games in 1896 in Athens is a well-known fact, but only a few would know about its origin. The origin lies very close to the ancient Greek city, Marathon. The race derived its name from the city where Battle of Marathon was fought between Athens and Persia in 490 BC, an event that was a turning point in the history of Greece.

Ready for Battle at Marathon
Legends have it that a Greek runner ran non-stop from Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of Persians, who had invaded Greece, in the battle. The idea of marathon race in 1896 Olympics then proliferated, recalling the ancient glory of Greek’s victory.

This year happens to be the 2500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon and a record 12,500 athletes are set to run in the Athens Classic Marathon on October 31 to mark the occasion, Reuters reported.

Athens Classic Marathon has been a major tourism event as well for Greece and with the highest number of participants ever this year, travel and tourism industry officials foresee the event a boost for tourism. In addition, 90 per cent of the participants are foreigners, meaning the Marathon is an opportunity for them to tour Greece, said an official.

To make the big day more happening for tourists and spectators, organizers have planned live concerts in the center of Athens to commemorate the origin of marathon races. Also during the event, veteran marathon athletes and winners will be honored. These include Italian Stephano Baldini, who won the 2004 Olympic Games Marathon in Athens and Constantina Dita from Romania who won the 2008 Olympic Games Marathon in Beijing, just to name a few among many.

Getting there:  New York to Athens is approximately $740.  Shanghai to Athens is $1,170.  London to Athens is $210.

Staying There:  The St. George Lycabettus Hotel is an individual and chic property, designed for the discerning traveler and is rated 5 stars. Situated in Kolonaki, the most exclusive quarter of Athens.  for just $139 a night.

See:   the 2,500 Anniversary of the Battle of Marathon festivities.  The 2,500-year anniversary of the Battle of Marathon is a great opportunity to highlight the country's comparative strengths, the values that we represent across time, the great potential that we have. It is a great opportunity to help Athens become an international destination due to this athletic event of global impact that this year also acquires and cultural and tourism side. 

Another event is 'The Marathon Marathon Project' that will take place in Athens at the Acropolis Museum on October 31, 2010 under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Athens Marathon Course

The project takes as its point of departure the impressive international array of marathon-format events which are rooted in the concept of superhuman endeavor, in the seemingly impossible but historically real feat of the Battle of Marathon. A particular point of reference was the international event entitled "The Marathon Project," which has been held annually since 2005 as part of the Serpentine Gallery art program in London.

TRAVEL TO DUBAI - Getting a glimpse of the Arabic World

The Burj in Dubai.  The Tallest Building in the world
There is a lot to see, but it will take time and preparation.  The first step is finding the permission.  The second step will be the budget as Dubai prices are higher than most.


US Citizens:

Visa Requirements for US Citizens

Stays of Less than 1 Month

If you meet all three of the following conditions, you do not need a visa:
  1. Citizen of the United States, and
  2. Staying in the UAE for less than one month, and
  3. Have a round-trip airline ticket, and
  4. Passport is valid for more than 6 months
This includes US citizens with visas or entry stamps from other countries.
Please note: If you are not a US citizen, even if you are traveling with a US citizen or are the spouse/child of a US citizen, you may need to apply for a visa. Check our Non US Citizens information page to learn more.

Stays of More than 1 Month

If you are a US Citizen and wish to stay in the UAE for more than one month, you need to have a visa issued from the UAE Embasy before you depart.

Citizens of the Republic of the Philippines:

Applying Through Your Sponsor or Host (Fastest Option)

We recommend that you ask your sponsor (host) to process a visa from the UAE. This takes only four (4) working days. Ask the sponsor (host) to fax a copy of the visa to you before departure. The original visa will be waiting for you at the UAE airport. In this example, there is no need to apply at the Embassy.
Other Notes
  • If non-US citizens apply through the Embassy, the processing time is much longer and involves interviews and approvals from UAE authorities.
  • The Embassy issues only visit visas and does not issue tourist or transit visas.
    • Hotels in the UAE issue tourist visas.
    • UAE airlines issue transit visas.
    • Travelers must obtain copies of these visas prior to travel from the hotel or airline.
  • The decision on the length of the visa is subject to the Consul's judgment.

To Apply at the Embassy

If you are a non-US Citizen and still wish to apply, you must provide the following:

1Two (2) completed application forms, including the Particulars of your Sponsor / Host in the UAE and the Residence Address where you will stay in the UAE.
All applications must be typed.
Your Sponsor / Host must be based in the UAE.
  • If you will visit an individual, provide ALL information.
  • If you will visit an organization, use the following Sponsor / Host information:
    • Full name - list the Organization Name
    • Profession - list the industry
    • Address - list the Organization's address in the UAE
    • Telephone - list the Organization's phone number in the UAE
    • Passport Number & Nationality are not needed for organizations
Complete the Accompanied By section for applicants who will travel with children listed in the parent's passport. Each child must submit two (2) copies of the application form also.
2An original passport, valid for at least six (6) months from expected time of arrival in the UAE, signed by the bearer.
3A copy of your passport.
4Two (2) original passport-sized photos.
5A Cover letter that includes the following:
  1. Introduction - Name, who you are
  2. Reason for being in the US
  3. Reason for staying that long in the UAE
  4. Specific request for the visa
6Invitation letter from your sponsor/host in the UAE.
If you are visiting an individual, the invitation letter must include:
  1. Clear invitation to visit
  2. Full name of your host (the person who invited you)
  3. Relationship between you and the host
  4. Residence address and phone number for your host
  5. Acceptance of responsibility for you while you are in the UAE
  6. Estimated visit duration and reason for staying that long
If you are visiting an organization, this letter must be on official company letterhead (e-mails are not accepted) and include:
  1. Clear invitation to visit
  2. Organization name
  3. Acceptance of responsibility for you while you are in the UAE
  4. Name and phone number of your point of contact within the organization
7If you will visit an organization, copy of the organization's business license in the UAE.
8If you will visit an individual, copy of:
  1. Your host's passport and
  2. Your host's residency permit in the UAE
9An employment letter

If you are:
  • Employed - A letter from your employer, on company letterhead, stating your position
  • Self-employed - A copy of your business license
  • Retired, a home maker, a student - A letter from your bank testifying that your account is in good standing
10The appropriate fee for the visa you are seeking (money order only):

  • Short stay visa: $150 (Money order only).
    Valid for two (2) months. Maximum stay is 30 days non-renewable.
  • Long stay visa: $300 (Money order only).
    Valid for two (2) months. Maximum stay is 90 days non-renewable.
  • Multiple visa: $600 (Money order only).
    Valid for six (6) months from the date of issue. Maximum stay is fourteen (14) days for each entry.
11A copy of your immigration status in the USA (e.g., green card, J visa, F1 visa, etc.)
12A prepaid, self-addressed envelope with a tracking number (US Express mail, UPS, or FedEx).

Friday, October 22, 2010


Charles Bridge - Executing Royalty since 1432
Halloween in Prague is a great way to get into some scary stuff:  

With Gothic church towers, ancient castles and dungeons offer a great thrill for ghost hunters.

The famous Charles Bridge, pictured above, said to be haunted by ten lords executed in the middle ages, is within walking distance of this area.   The tower on the bridge served as a deterrent display of the severed heads of the victims to stop Czechs from further resistance against the Habsburgs.

The Church Of Our Lady Before Tyn is another spooky sightseer's dream. There is no way you can miss it - even if you don't visit the building. Its impressive towers can be seen for miles around.
Go at night when it is lit up in the shadow darkness for a dramatic sight that would give vampires the creeps.   

Prices are low, airfare and hotels are at all time lows, check out
Check out Jury's Inn and other bargain accomodations are there to be found.

The mysterious Stare Mesto - which literally means Old Town - is a great historical place to explore.
This maze of winding lanes is built on layers thanks to the Vltava River, which constantly flooded during the 13th century.
This forced citizens to raise the city an entire storey to the level at which it lies today, creating an underground labyrinth.

Once dark and damp, these basements have been transformed into an underworld of shops, bars, restaurants and clubs.

This amazing walkway is lined with the statues of saints and is the perfect place to take a snap of the city's castle, which stands high on a hilltop.


We were standing on air:

Open Air Double Decker Bus Tour
We rode the hop on hop off tour double decker bus around Chicago and got off at the Willis Tower stop. I highly recommend this tour, the double decker buses of the Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Bus Company really allow you to see the city.

I have a fear of heights, more like a heightened thrill, and it felt like I was stepping off the building when I stepped inside one of the glass boxes that protrude from the 103rd-floor Skydeck at Chicago’s Willis (formerly Sears) Tower.

The seamless, apparently unsupported glass floor is the only thing between your toes and the urban mosaic 1,300 feet below. The effect of the Ledge is unnerving.

Pearl had no fear and was laying on the glass floor.  I had to inch out and tried to keep one toe on the carpet inside as if that would help stop me from falling.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Japan is planning to recruit dozens of foreigners to visit the country and give advice on how to make things more  travel-friendly for non-Japanese speaking visitors even as it aims for higher tourist numbers.

The government will pay travel allowances to about 100 native English, Chinese and Korean speakers to visit key cities and come up with ideas on how to make it easier for travelers to use public transport, stay at local hotels and eat at local restaurants, said an official at the Japan Tourism Agency.

Although Japan has made an effort to provide information in other languages in recent years, especially in major cities, these remain hit-or-miss and English still dominates.

But Japan's National Tourism Organization projects that the number of visitors from China will reach a record 1.5 million this year, many of them high-spending tourists eager to shop for Japanese electronics and other goods.

"What we hear is that there really isn't enough information on things like how to buy train tickets, or how to use the baths in traditional Japanese inns," said the official.

"It's hard for us Japanese to judge how prepared different parts of the country are -- we need people to use as monitors who really don't know Japan at all."

The official said one way to recruit these travelers could be over the Internet but that they would look at other methods such as asking the relatives of foreign students studying in Japan.

All expenses within Japan will be paid by branch offices of the Transport Ministry, which oversees the Tourism Agency. Part of plane fares to Japan may also be covered.

The information will be compiled by the government as part of a survey of tourism preparedness by late March next year.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


American Airlines last month announced it would start serving Admirals Club lounge visitors free drinks, adding it decided to make the move because it's "committed to investing in enhancing the travel experience for its loyal customers."

Now offering free alcoholic beverages
American continues to reinvest in its products with new technology and lounge refurbishments. Since 2008, two, new Admirals Club facilities opened – one in Raleigh/Durham (opened October 2008); one in Washington Dulles (opened January 2009). In 2009,American announced the completion of extensive renovations to its Chicago O’Hare H/K Admirals Club lounge (February 2009) and its Sao Paulo Admirals Club lounge (June 2009). This year, American completed extensive renovations to its Boston Admirals Club lounge and to its London Heathrow Admirals Club and Flagship Lounge.

American also recently updated the technology offering in its Admirals Club and Flagship Lounge Business Centers with HP Compaq 8000 Elite Business PCs. The Cyber Cafes will also include HP TouchSmart PCs, boasting built-for-touch applications that allow customers to experience music, photos, games and video in a visually-engaging manner beyond what a mouse or keyboard can do.

Beginning October 1, 2010, American will offer guests alcoholic beverages, including wine, beer and spirits, free of charge to customers visiting any of its domestic clubs, in addition to complimentary coffee, tea, soft drinks and juices. Premium liquors and wines and a selection of Amora™ fresh food items will be available for purchase in all U.S. Admirals Club lounges. Customers visiting international clubs will continue to enjoy complimentary non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages as they do today.
Pricing for new Admirals Club memberships is based on the level of American AAdvantage membership, ranging from $350 or 50,000 AAdvantage miles annually for a new Executive Platinum membership, to $500 or 80,000 miles annually for a regular membership. One-day passes are available for $50 each.
Club Amenities**:

  • Complimentary well brand liquors, house wine and beer
  • Complimentary snacks, coffee, tea, soft drinks and juices
  • Amora™ fresh food for purchase
  • Premium liquors and wines for purchase
  • Conference rooms
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi Internet powered by T-Mobile for members and one-day pass guests visiting domestic lounge locations, including San Juan
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi in most Latin American clubs
  • Showers
  • Cyber café with HP TouchSmart PCs
  • HP Compaq 8000 Elite Business PCs with complimentary Internet access
  • Children's rooms
  • Music rooms at LAX and DFW A locations
** Amenities vary by club location
Airport Locations:
Atlanta, Austin, Bogotá, Boston, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Frankfurt, Honolulu, Kansas City, London Heathrow, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Miami, Nashville, Newark, New York Kennedy, New York LaGuardia, Orange County, Panama City, Paris, Philadelphia, Raleigh/Durham, Rio de Janeiro, San Diego, San Francisco, San Juan, Santiago, Santo Domingo, Sao Paulo, St. Louis, Tokyo, Toronto, Washington, D.C. Dulles, and Washington, D.C. Reagan.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo Celebrates 5th Anniversary With Additional Benefits

Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo

Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo presents the Five Benefits accommodation package to commemorate the hotel’s 5th anniversary. Since opening in December 2005, the multi-award winning hotel has garnered rave reviews for service, style and elegance, and is regularly voted one of the top hotels in Japan. Reservations at the hotel’s three Michelin-starred restaurants are much sought after, and the spa, which is a favorite in the city, has been described as a “city-center sanctuary for personal meditation and discovery.” 

Deluxe Room at the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo
Available from 1 November 2010 to 31 January 2011.
1. Complimentary room upgrade to the next category;
2. Choice of early check-in from 11am or a late check-out at 4pm; 
3. Complimentary Internet access;
4. A celebratory welcome amenity; and
5. A Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo original fan crafted by Ibasen, the renowned, centuries-old Japanese fan manufacturer, as a personal gift.

Rates are exclusive of tax and service charge.

Lobby of Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo
For reservations or further enquiries, please call: +81 (3) 3270 8950 (9am to 8pm).  Reservations can also be made online at

About Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is the award-winning owner and operator of some of the world's most prestigious hotels, resorts and residences. Mandarin Oriental now operates, or has under development, 41 hotels representing over 10,000 rooms in 27 countries, with 17 hotels in Asia, 13 in The Americas and 12 in Europe, Middle East and North Africa. In addition, the Group operates, or has under development, 14 Residences at Mandarin Oriental, connected to the Group’s properties.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


If you go to London, you must realize it is one of the most expensive cities in the world.  Yet it is still possible to experience the city without breaking your budget.
Here is a list of low cost things to do in London:
 Get a Free Map. The official tourist office charges for maps but if you grab the pamphlets for the walking or bus tours, they contain maps. Also, the Museum of London gives away a map for free if you ask. Some Travel Guide maps can sometimes be hard to read and these others maps give you a good idea as to where the location of all the sites and underground stops are without having squint at a book.
Visit Museums. Most of the museums in London are free- the Museum of London, the British History Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Science Museum are all free. Get your fill of British history without spending a pence!
Vist an Art Gallery. The National Gallery and the Tate Modern are also free.
Buy an Oyster Card. This may not be free but for 28 pounds, you get unlimited usage of the bus and trains. I’m not sure why they call it an Oyster card. It’s not shaped like one.
People Watch. Sunday is market day in London. There’s the Camden Market, the Portobello Market, the Flower Market, and a million more markets. People watch, get great photos, and enjoy local London life without spending a dime.
Watch Iconic Symbols. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace at 11:30 a.m. as well as the horse guards at Whitehall at 11:00 a.m. are both free and interesting to watch.
Free Internet. Looking for your online fix? The city libraries offer free internet. There are five library locations around the city. You get a free half hour but if it’s not busy you can stay on until you are finished.
Walk Around. London is a huge city and there are beautiful historic buildings all around. In fact, London beat me. I found this city to be totally un-walkable. I walked for four hours and barely made a dent on the route I was going to take (hence the need to get the Oyster Card.) I’ve walked countless other European cities and never had this problem but there is simply too much to see here. However, once you walk and get out of the tourist area around the Thames, you’ll get to see London the way the locals do.
Lounge in the Parks. Spending a day in the park is free wherever you go. London has some great parks and when the sun comes out (which hasn’t been too often), Londoners flock outside. Join them for some fun in the sun.
See Westminster Abbey. You can get into Westminster for free. You have to cheat slightly though. Westminster will not charge you entrance if you’re there for worship. (Maybe worshiping its beauty?) If you want to get in and not pay, say you are worshiping. I didn’t do it but I’m just putting it out there that you can do it.
Get Cheap Theater Tickets- The theater in London is one of the best in the world. However, it’s also bloody expensive. A night at the theater can blow any traveler’s budget. However, there are plenty of ways to find discount tickets.
Get a river taxi pass and hop on hop off sightsee from the riverside stops. Much more interesting than the godawful tube. Go for a drink in Chelsea then hit the west end.
Time: Extended-stay passes will bring down your daily rate.  And because you are not in a rush to see everything in a day, you now have time to shop for other deals on food and souvenirs.  Plus relax and skip the stress of rushing.
London maybe expensive but it is very possible to fill your days with free activities. If you do want to go in to see the sights you will have to pay, sometimes as much as £25!!! So try out the above activities and save some money.


(1) Beware of foreign transaction fees
You almost always are going to be charged a foreign transaction fee when using your cards in the UK (or any other country too, for that matter). This fee varies by issuer, but most banks charge a 3% fee. So if you spent the equivalent of $1,000 USD while in London, there would be an extra charge of $30 (3%) on your credit card statement. When you consider that credit cards are much safer than cash, for many the 3% fee is worth it. But there are ways to pay a lower fee… or none at all! How? Well, Discover cards charge a 2% fee so that’s a bit cheaper (but acceptance will be limited). Then there’s one credit card company that charges no foreign transaction fee at all – Capital One. To be honest, I hate them, but they are the only issuer that doesn’t charge this fee. So if you travel to the UK a lot, you may want to consider a Capital One card solely for that purpose.

(2) Credit card acceptance is different
In the US, the major credit card companies are Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. However if you whip out your Discover card in the UK, the cashier may not know what it is! But that should be changing soon; Discover acquired Diners Club a couple years ago and starting this year, you will be able to use your Discover card at UK merchants that accept Diners Club (but that’s not widely accepted). The acceptance of American Express in the UK has grown quite a bit over the past decade, but it’s far from being universally accepted. Therefore you should definitely plan on bringing a Visa/MasterCard. In fact, bring a couple in case something happens to one.

(3) Notify your credit card company before your trip
If you haven’t left Ohio for five years and the next day you’re in Glasgow making a purchase, don’t be surprised if your transaction is declined. Why? Because it’s not normal for your spending pattern, so your bank will flag it as possible fraud. This can be a real headache if you’re trying to check into a hotel, pay for a taxi, etc. and your card isn’t working. So what you will want to do is call up your credit card company a couple days before traveling to let them know where you’re going. That way they will be expecting these overseas charges and will be much less likely to flag them as fraud.

(4) No “smart chips” can sometimes be a problem
Pretty much everywhere in the world (other than the United States) uses what are known as “smart chips” on their credit cards. These add an extra security measure; a four digit pin is encoded and it must be entered when the card is used (similar to an ATM card here in the states).  The UK is a very tourist-friendly country so most places – like hotels and restaurants – should still be able to process your US credit card (which only has a magnetic strip). However there are some places where you may not be able to use them, particularly anywhere that has self-service payments (automated kiosks). For example, vending machines at regional rail stations, parking meters in parts of London, etc. For now there’s no easy solution for this problem. If an attendant is available they should be able to run your card manually. U.S. banks have tossed around the idea of issuing smart chip credit cards for cardholders that travel internationally, but so far that has not happened yet.

(5) Merchants may set minimum purchase amounts
In the United States, technically a merchant is not allowed to set a minimum purchase amount. For that reason, I use my travel rewards credit card even if I’m buying a candy bar, simply because I love earning my miles! However that won’t fly in the UK – merchants often set minimum transaction amounts if you’re going to pay with a card (like 20 euros, for example). So if you’re accustomed to using your card for tiny transactions, that might not always be possible.


Unions in France are on a strike today against the French Government over their plans to reform the pension system. This strike is widespread as transport and energy workers, civil servants and teachers all are participating in the national strike.

Unions have threatened to extend the strike in France if the Government does not decide to renew the action. Unions that are on strike in France are from different sectors including transport, ports and power.

Owing to the strike in France, intercity trains to Paris are running at only one third of normal frequency. Rural train services are more seriously disrupted due to the strike.

Airports are also expecting significant disruption to flights as air traffic controllers and Air France staff has walked out as part of the strike. 30 percent of the flights are expected to be canceled due to the strike in France.


TRAIN                                   AIRPORT

INDIGO GIRLS to Headline North Carolina Arts Festival - LEAF


Indigo Girls
WHAT: Lake Eden Arts Festival - North Carolina
WHEN: October 14th-17th 2010
WHERE: at Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain, NC.
TICKETS/Info: • 828/ 68-MUSIC (686-8742)
Advance tickets only. Under 10 FREE! Visit for variety of tickets|prices. Volunteering Available.

Discover the magic of the 31st LEAF with folk icons The Indigo Girls, the global music movement Playing For Change, and featured Caribean Traditions artists from Haiti- Boukman Eksperyman. and Bonga & Vodou Drums of Haiti.

*LEAF's recent expansion of its "LEAFlet Kids Village" allows families with children to share the experience from the eyes of a child with their own stages for "kids" music, workshops and interactive area such as the "LIPZ- LEAF Instrument Petting Zoo", unicycle craziness, kids talent stage and many more playful adventures.

These artists will play:

The Indigo Girls • Jamaica’s *The Original Wailers • Leon Redbone- Neo-Vaudevillian Legend •
Playing For Change Band - Powerful Global Music Movement started w/ “Stand by Me”! •
Red Clay Ramblers- Tony Award Winning String Band • Boukman Eksperyans – The Voice of Haiti  • April Verch –Canadian Fiddler featured at Vancouver Olympics Opening • The Wood Brothers- • La Excelencia- Salsa Dura • Pimps of Joytime- Funk  • Danny Ellis - #1 CD in Ireland • Jai Uttal – World Music Pioneer • Slavic Soul Party – Balkan Gypsy Soul • Hot Club of Cowtown - Swing • Umalali, The Garifuna Women’s Project of Belize • Bonga & Vodou Drums of Haiti • Unifire Theater • Contra Dancing • Poetry Slam • 1st LEAF Puppetry Slam • Music Jams • • Steel Drums & Puppets  • Parade • Fiddle Contest • Circus Arts • Yoga & over 50 Healing Arts Workshops & so much to explore & experience!

Monday, October 11, 2010

ORBITZ - 40% OFF - Gulf of Mexico Travel

Orbitz Launches 'I Love the Gulf' Promotion to Help Spur Travel to the Gulf of Mexico With Up to 40% Off Hotels and $50 Gift Card

 Show the Gulf Some Love and Get a Free Meal by Booking a Participating Hotel in the Region
CHICAGO, Oct. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Hotels along the Gulf of Mexico and within Florida are showing Orbitz travelers the love for the rest of the year.  Today, Orbitz ( launched its "I Love the Gulf" Promotion, offering up to 40% off* participating hotels for travel between October 11, 2010 and December 31, 2010.  And to sweeten the deal, Orbitz will throw in a $50 Gift Certificate* for travelers who book by November 8, 2010. 

"There is incredible value right now in Florida and the communities lining the Gulf of Mexico coast, and this promotion comes at the perfect time for travelers planning to book a trip to the region as we approach peak season," said Jeanenne Tornatore, Senior Travel Editor of  "With up to 40 percent off hotels at the hottest destinations, plus a free meal, it's hard not to love this promotion."

Travelers that show the Gulf some love will receive up to 40% off on participating hotels at the following destinations:

•The Florida Keys
•Fort Lauderdale
•West Palm Beach
•Fort Myers
•Panama City

To view the full list of participating hotels, visit:

For trips booked by November 8, 2010, travelers can redeem their $50 Gift Certification by clicking on the "Add Attractions and Services" page and selecting the $50 Gift Certificate before checkout.  After your reservation is complete, your confirmation will link you to a voucher that you can print out.

*Visit for promotion terms and conditions and blackout dates.

BLOG ROLL - FRUGAL TRAVEL GUY A Blog About Accumulating Airline Miles


Frugal Travel Guy is fun to read and very informative.  This blog is an excellent source of tips and tricks to propel your pursuit of gaining airline mileage.

TRAVEL ON A BUDGET - Seeing for Free

It is possible to see the great places of the world without breaking your bank.  Many times dealing with locals rather than handlers is more of the experience.  Get out of your comfort zone a little.  Some of the best adventures and restaurant finds have been when I asked someone local or navigated the train system.
Chicago Water Taxi
For example, a cruise around the island of Manhattan on a private or chartered voyage runs over $80 per person.  Solution: a ride on the Staten Island Ferry - a free roundtrip boat ride that provides excellent views of the Statue of Liberty and the city skyline.
Or a cruise and view the sky scrapers along Chicago's waterways, a cruise goes for $80 per person but a water taxi is only $2.00 for a single ride.  It's the same view.


CHICAGO – Getting There
Landing at O'Hare
We went to Chicago on September 12th, 13th and 14th.  We were able to steal the last few days of summer, so some of the attractions listed may not be available during the colder weather.   
We came in on American Airlines and we were happy it was a direct flight from Raleigh, NC.  Both of us are members of American Airlines mileage program, AAdvantage.   We hope to accumulate enough miles to upgrade to business class on a trip to Philippines.

We went to Shaumburg to work a trade show so we rented a car.  We dropped the car back off at O'Hare and then took the CTA from O'Hare to downtown.  The blue line is convenient and cheap.  Only $1.50 each to ride to the Clark/Lake stop and we then took a $5 taxi to our hotel, the Embassy Suites.

Pearl on Blue Line

Sunday, October 10, 2010



World Explorer
 You can take the trip of a lifetime, you just need to plan and do.  We often hear statements like “I wish I could do a trip like that” or “I could never do that now”.  You can do it if you’re willing to make the trip a priority in your life.  The hardest part is mental, convince yourself that the trip is realistic and achievable.  Once you’re convinced, good long-term planning accounts for everything else.  It may not happen next year of or in five years, but the key is to start planning now.  Watch things fall into place.

•Step 1: Set a realistic departure date (this enables you to plan ahead) and stick to it
•Step 2: Alter your lifestyle to start saving money responsibly
•Step 3: Tell your friends and family (a little peer pressure does wonders)
Stay tuned for tips and tricks to actualize your travel dreams.