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Tourists Flock to Florida "Chicken Church"

chicken church

Supposedly spiritual images found in a mundane places—the face of the Virgin Mary in a pancake or in the salt runoff below Chicago's Kennedy Expressway—make for great "news of the weird" fodder and, eventually, curious tourists.

But a church in Tampa Bay, Florida, is having the opposite problem: People are suddenly seeing a mundane apparition in a spiritual place. After a photo of the Church of the Sea recently went viral, people have started referring to the Madeira Beach chapel as the Chicken Church, thanks to the steeple's seemingly bird-like face. Built in 1944, the cross that tops the church lights up at night, acting as a lighthouse of sorts for local fisherman needing a guide back to shore. Church officials told reporters the church was never meant to remind people of a chicken.

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Trip Doctor: About Those New TSA Rules...

airplane packing

Dear TSA,

We are so happy to hear that you'll be easing packing restrictions for travelers. Really, we are. But golf clubs, baseball bats, and pocket knives? What an odd place to start. Did you think these were less risky to travel with than, say, the three ounces of blueberry jam you stole—I mean, confiscated—from me on my way home from Maine last summer? Or the life-threatening snow globe souvenir my colleague bought for her daughter in Colorado? How about that full-sized tube of toothpaste—or better yet, the water bottle I brought from home for my six-hour flight? Couldn't you see your way to un-banning those before knives, bats, and clubs?

And as tons of news outlets are making clear, flight attendants are with us—they're not terribly thrilled at the prospect of knives on board, and we certainly can't fault them.

We'd love to know what you were thinking, even if our golfer friends are excited by the prospect of carrying their gear aboard. We'd also like that blueberry jam back.

Signed,

The Trip Doctor Team

See also: Snakes (Almost) on a Plane and Pack This: TSA-Friendly Toiletries.

Photo by iStockphoto

Trip Doctor: Rome's Best Walking Tours

Rome Walking Tours

Context Travel: The company has walking tours in 21 European cities, plus a robust collection of 50 itineraries in Rome. Outings are led by master’s- and Ph.D.-level scholars in such disciplines as archaeology and urban planning. From $75.

Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome: Food writer Minchilli leads market tours in Campo de’ Fiori and Testaccio; sample local delicacies along the way. From $195.

Amy Send your dilemmas to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @afarles on Twitter.

 

Photo by David Leventi

No Assembly Required: Marriott and Ikea Bring You Moxy

Marriott International and a subsidiary of the Swedish home furnishings giant Ikea announced yesterday that they're teaming up to launch a new budget hotel brand, called Moxy, with outposts across Europe. The plans, which have been in the works for at least a year, call for the first Moxy to open in Milan in 2014, with 150 to follow in the next decade.

Though the new hotels will surely channel Ikea's cheap and chic contemporary design sensibility and Marriott's legendary hotel management savvy, details about the brand are scarce. (We are somewhat disappointed to learn that they will not be kitted out in Ikea furniture, though happy to hear that free in-room wifi and floor-to-ceiling wall art are on the menu.) The announcement got us thinking, though, about our vision for the ultimate Ikea-style hotel:

° In-room dining menu features meatballs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Your mid-afternoon snack: Swedish fish.

° Guests who assemble their own Birkeland nightstands upon arrival receive a 15 percent discount on their room.

° Taking the pillow menu to new heights, Moxy allows guests to select their own bedding from a vast basement warehouse.

° No need to surreptitiously smuggle bathrobes, slippers, and bathroom amenities away in your suitcases. For your convenience, the hotel provides guests with a bright blue plastic bag.

° Finding your room involves wending your way through vast, crazy-making hallways until finally, with great relief, you arrive at your door.

Check out The World's Most Unusual Hotels.

This Meal Will Go On: What They'll Eat on 'Titanic II'

titanic_menujpg

The reincarnation of the Titanic by Australian tycoon Clive Palmer will include a dramatic grand staircase, marble-lined Turkish baths, and one hopes, more lifeboats. But until the Titanic II is built, a series of culinary events around the world will give the public a preview of the experience to come.

New York was the latest stop last week. With the help of New York-based caterers Pinch Food Design, an 11-course menu was created for Palmer's invite-only party to promote his project. Around 600 guests attended the black-tie dinner on the U.S.S. Intrepid docked on the Hudson River west of Times Square. Future food-themed parties will be held in London and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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BBC Worldwide Reportedly Selling Lonely Planet

201303-hd-lonely-plant-singaporejpg

Yesterday, Skift's Rafat Ali reported that BBC Worldwide is in negotiations to sell off a majority of its stake in Lonely Planet, the longtime must-pack for wide-eyed international backpackers since its founding in 1973. The buyer, according to Ali, is Brad Kelley, a former tobacco company owner and semi-reclusive billionaire described as being the third biggest private landowner in the United States. BBC Worldwide, which acquired Lonely Planet from its founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler in 2007, would still have some role in the day-to-day operations of the book and web company. Rumors of a possible sale were reported in the U.K. press back in December 2012, when names of possible buyers included Barry Diller, head of IAC/InterActiveCorp.

So, what might this mean for fans of the books? As Jason Clampet notes in another Skift story from the same day, sales of guidebooks are down as more travelers are turning to the web and mobile devices for user-generated content. According to Clampet, sales of the top guides dropped by 47% since 2007.

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Trip Doctor: Madrid's Best Walking Tours

Madrid Walking Tours

Wellington Society of Madrid: Join one of the dozen walks offered by Stephen Drake-Jones, a history professor and longtime resident. You’ll get his lively perspective on topics including Hemingway’s Madrid (past clients include the writer’s niece, Hilary), the Hapsburgs, the Prado and Modern Arts museums, and the curiosities and anecdotes of old Madrid, with stops at historic taverns. From $76.

Amy Send your dilemmas to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @afarles on Twitter.


Photo by David Nicholas

New Website Saves on Airfare By Choosing Your Destination For You

Getgoing.com

Getgoing.com, a new website that officially launches on March 6, promises to save leisure travelers up to 40 percent on airfare. How do they know you're really a leisure traveler? Simple. You choose two different destinations in the same region of the world (for example, Vienna and Geneva, or Costa Rica and Panama) and enter your travel dates. Then provide your billing information to complete your reservation. The Get Going team randomly chooses one of your two options. The "surprise" is supposed to be part of the website's charm. The savings is the other part.

The website covers hundreds of cities in more than 50 countries. Here are some airfares from New York I found on getgoing.com and the lowest comparable fares on Kayak: Milan, $568 ($635 on Kayak); Istanbul, $577 ($705 on Kayak); Las Vegas, $247 ($338 on Kayak); Beijing, $815 ($1,020 on Kayak). I didn't find any 40% discounts, and the flights on getgoing.com may be different from those on Kayak, but in every example I tried, getgoing.com had the lowest fare.

And now for the drawbacks: Getgoing.com is the wrong choice if you are a business traveler who needs to be in Los Angeles on Monday morning or you're traveling to a family reunion in Glasgow, because you may not get your preferred destination. You won't know which airline you'll be flying or the location of your stop-over airports (if any) until you complete your purchase. Even more important: your tickets are completely nonrefundable and changes are not allowed, even if you're willing to pay a penalty fee. You can, however, buy cancel-for-any-reason trip insurance at a cost roughly equal to 10% of the airfare.

For free-and-easy travelers who choose their destinations using a blindfold, a dart, and a map taped to the wall, getgoing.com could be a useful booking tool. But for the rest of us, maybe not.

2012-hs-mark-orwolljpgMark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter.


Image courtesy of Getgoing.com

Baby, Please Don’t Go: Man Calls in Fake Bomb Threat to Ground Girlfriend’s Plane

airplane

Admit it, if this were part of a movie, it might be kinda awesome: Lovers have a fight just as the girl is about to leave town, perhaps for good. The guy must stop her from leaving—he sprints through the airport, of course—and then tries one last desperate move: Calling in a bomb threat so that her plane has to be evacuated. Girl de-planes, boyfriend apologizes. "You’re crazy!" she tells him. "Crazy about you," he replies. They kiss, music swells, credits roll.

We cannot vouch for any reconciliation, but a 31-year-old Chinese man reportedly did indeed call in a fake bomb threat to his girlfriend's flight to Shenzhen, because they had had an argument before she left. Her plane had actually already gotten some distance from Hefei Luogang International Airport and had to make an emergency landing at Nanchang Changbei. We're guessing that ruined their cinematic reunion. Perhaps even more disturbing, though, is that China has apparently endured a number of fake bomb threats lately: two within one week during fall 2012, and one last spring involving an 18-year-old man imitating the rules of a game; in fall 2011, a 28-year-old woman apparently even called one in on her own China United Airlines flight, to "make her husband worry."

If this trend continues, nervous fliers everywhere will have their own reasons to worry.

Photo by iStockphoto

CNN Video: Spring Break Getaways

Watch T+L's Nilou Motamed discussing spring break getaways to Puerto Rico, Jackson Hole, and Washington, D.C. on CNN.

Also, check out our Most Crowded Spring Break Destinations.

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