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29th Street: New York’s New Hotel Corridor?

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Continuing the precedent  set by the new Eventi of building hotels in unexpected Manhattan neighborhoods, the new Gansevoort Park Avenue will open on August 16 at the interesting but decidedly unhip corner of Park Avenue South at East 29th Street. In a sort of no-mans-land between Gramercy Park, Murray Hill, and Kips Bay (call it Grammurray Bay? Kipsmercy Hill?), the swanky new hotel may do for its neighborhood what its sister hotel, the Gansevoort, did for the now-ubertrendy Meatpacking District.

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Spirit Air: Money Talks, and Talking Costs Money

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In its latest salvo against the traveling public, Spirit Airlines said it is considering a new surcharge—a fee to speak with Spirit airport employees. Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza told ABC News that it is considering such a fee in light of its airport kiosks that allow customers to buy tickets, check-in, and select or change seats without any human interaction. Baldanza told ABC News that flyers won’t see this new surcharge “any time soon.” What customers are seeing this week, however, is Spirit’s newest surcharge—a fee of up to $45 for carry-on bags placed in an overhead bin. That new fee began on Sunday, August 1.

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Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is also the international editor at Travel + Leisure.

Ryanair: A Stand-Up Airline—Run by A Bunch of Fruitcakes

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The British media are all atwitter about the supposed plans by Ryanair to install vertical seats—that is, standing-room-only seats—in the last 10 rows of its Boeing 737-800s. Price of airfare in one of those seats? Just 4 pounds sterling (about U.S.$6). And how, you ask, can they afford to do this? Why, by charging you to use the toilet.

Wait a minute… Didn’t they already float (and later flush) the idea of a loo fee only to be publicly remonstrated, humiliated, and pilloried? Yeah, kinda—except that Ryanair doesn’t know the meaning of the word humiliation. On the other hand, it seems not to know the meaning of a lot of words, like “safety,” “concern for our passengers,” and “common sense.”

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Time To Reapply Your Sunscreen?

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Growing up in Southern California in the 1960s, my friends and I would start off each summer’s quest for a tan by heading to the beach to lay down a good “base coat”—or what doctors like to call a second-degree burn. I had so many sunburns by the time I graduated high school I can’t even count them. We didn’t use high-factor SPF sun protectants; we used cocoa butter and tanning oil to really soak up those UV rays. Then someone went and discovered that, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, having even one severe sunburn as a child doubles your risk of developing melanoma as an adult.

Now you tell me.

I travel frequently and like to explore the outdoors wherever I go—swimming in Phuket, scuba in the Great Barrier Reef, early morning walks beside the Huangpu River on the Bund in Shanghai. At home in the States I dig biking and body surfing. I love doing the morning crossword puzzle sitting by my backyard pond. I even enjoy weeding my lawn. The point is, I’m outside a lot, and I can’t afford to get sunburned again. That’s why I was especially glad about a recent unplanned meeting with an acquaintance in the green room at CNN.

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Shame on Virgin Atlantic, Shame on Bradley International

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File this under "What the Hell Were They Thinking?" Just weeks after the new DOT airline rule went into effect limiting tarmac delays to three hours comes word that passengers on a Virgin Atlantic flight diverted to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut yesterday were held on the ground as virtual hostages in intense heat and darkness for four hours. Apparently there were insufficient immigration officers to handle the unexpected arrival. The fact that Virgin and Bradley officials could not figure out a way to treat the passengers humanely does not speak well for either of them.

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Philly to Debut 360-Degree History in 3-D

Forget your Imax 3-D and your 3-D TV. I have seen the future, and it’s called Liberty 360. Philadelphia’s soon-to-be newest attraction, scheduled to open in July, will be a mind-blower: the first 360-degree 3-D experience ever devised. Audiences will stand on a cantilevered platform in the center of a cinematic cylinder, 50-feet in diameter and 8 feet high, and find themselves entirely surrounded by a three-dimensional movie that begins with Benjamin Franklin and a mysterious box in his workshop then takes viewers on a “journey of discovery” of America’s most beloved symbols.

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New York Celebrates Latin Cuisine, June 4–12

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Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1960’s, I thought I knew all about Latino cooking—which to my then-uninformed taste buds was pretty much limited to tacos, burritos, tamales, and other staples of Cal-Mex cuisine. I know different now, thanks to memorable plates of Brazilian feijoada, Puerto Rican mofongo, Cuban ropa vieja, and cosmopolitan Mexican dishes spiced with pico de gallo, mole poblano, ranchera, adobo, and dozens of other piquant sauces from south of the border. My eyes—and mouth—have been opened to the breadth of the region’s culinary treasures. (I confess, though, that I put my foot down when it comes to Andean guinea pig.) And then there are the cocktails: mojitos, daiquiris, caipirinhas, margaritas, pisco sours, pina coladas, Cuba libres…well, I get carried away.

It helps that I work in New York, where one can find restaurants from nearly every Central and South American nation, plus scores of Mexican eateries. So it’s fitting that New York is home to the new Gourmet Latino Festival, “the first world-class, socially conscious celebration of Latin culture and culinary traditions,” according to the organizers. Dozens of mixologists, chefs, authors, and wine experts will be on hand to share their knowledge and love of coffees, spirits, wines, beers, cultural traditions, and, of course, regional cooking.

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Just in Time for Father’s Day: A Private Jet With Viewing Platform

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The latest mod con in luxury private jets? An open-air viewing platform, perfect for watching wildlife, engaging in full-contact Parcheesi, or simply lounging with a postprandial sherry while the aircraft is parked overnight. (You didn’t really think you could stand on it while the plane was in flight, did you?!)

Here’s how it works: While the aircraft is on the ground, a massive side door opens up and serves as an awning. The platform, hidden in the fuselage, extends out to create a balcony for the deluxe living space within the plane.

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Canadian Club Whisky Revives Its Classic "Hide A Case" Campaign

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Think Mad Men meets Survivor. That’s the scenario that will play out this summer when eight whisky-loving contestants traipse through the back of beyond in search of a long-ago secreted case of Canadian Club. It’s the rebirth of the distiller’s "Hide A Case" promotion that began in 1967, when the company cached 12 bottles of hooch somewhere among the ice fields of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro. (The case was discovered by accident 10 years later.) In subsequent years the company stashed the spirits in such exotic locales as the Great Barrier Reef of Australia; Death Valley, California; and Angel Falls, Venezuela. With each new newly sequestered case, the company published magazine advertisements filled with clues to the location, stirring the imagination of treasure hunters everywhere.

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Finnish Company Offers Teddy Bear Vacations, Blogger Considers Shooting Himself

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A travel agency in Finland is offering guided tours of the remote Lapland region—but for teddy bears only. No people allowed. But that’s okay. After all, it’s the bears that are coming out of hibernation, not you. Does your stuffed bruin seem a bit moody lately? Maybe what that sleepy Smokey needs is a change of pace, to be off on his own, in a land of ice and snow and pine trees and pickled herring. And Teddy Tours Lapland is standing by to help your plush Grizzly get that new perspective on life.

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