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In-Flight Food Tries to Be Tasty

201004-b-bostonmarket2jpgNew York Times |  Those bland sandwiches sold by airlines to economy-class passengers? They’re on the way out.

Even as the last major airline—Continental Airlines—is ending free economy-class meals on domestic flights this fall, carriers are changing their whole approach to food.

Air Canada
has introduced healthy food options, like vegetarian sandwiches and yogurt parfaits, and Alaska Airlines has a new healthy snack pack. American Airlines is working with Boston Market. JetBlue is about to start selling food on select long-haul flights. Some carriers are expected to offer combination meals and other promotions similar to those available at fast-food restaurants.

And United Airlines is testing the sale of some food items sold on domestic flights, and a variety of sandwiches, in its Red Carpet lounges at Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. It will also let passengers preorder in-flight food by the end of the year.  Photo Courtesy of American Airlines.

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Mexico: To Visit or Not to Visit?

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On Wednesday, April 14, the same day that First Lady Michelle Obama arrived for a two-day visit to Mexico City, drug violence erupted in Acapulco, one of Mexico’s most famous resort cities, 190 miles southwest of the Mexican capital on the Pacific coast.  The shootings and murders (six people were killed; five wounded) were startling because they occurred during the day, on the main boulevard of the tourist zone, and three bystanders were victims. However, no tourists were among the casualties and the violence seems to have resulted from a power struggle within a drug cartel operating in Guerrero, the state in which Acapulco is located.

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Virginia is for (Flower) Lovers

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As a Maine girl through and through, I’ve been a bit confounded lately by my new blossoming obsession with the South—plotting long weekends in Charleston, pouring over my new subscription to Garden & Gun magazine (for the record, it’s more lifestyle than weed-whacking and ammo), and daydreaming about the rolling green hills, gracious historic pockets of Virginia—and the serious bloomage happening there right now. But, I'm rolling with it.

While the Northeast (and probably other parts of the country) has just a few new-season daffodils, cherry blossoms, and electric-yellow forsythia bushes right now, the Commonwealth is ablaze with heart-stopping flora—everything from Osage orange trees and wisteria-laden trellises to rare rose breeds and Elizabethan herb gardens. And this coming week marks its apex: Virginia’s Historic Garden Week (Apr. 17-25), now in its 77th year.

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Bangkok Protests: Notes from the Ground

200904-a-songkranjpgTuesday was the start of Songkran, the Thai new year, usually an occasion for mass water fights throughout Bangkok. This year's celebrations, of course, have been subdued, after violence last weekend left 23 people dead and more than 800 injured. Still, in the Bangkok neighborhood where I live, a handful of children and teens armed with water guns, hoses, and buckets have gathered every day since Tuesday, merrily drenching passers-by and each other. Some Bangkokians, it seems, are trying to find their way back to normalcy.

How long the calm will last, I'm not sure. As an American who's called Bangkok home for nearly eight years, I found the violence shocking but not unexpected. Thailand is stuck in an incredibly complex conflict that resists easy explanation, and there is little political will—or bravery—to find a way out of it peacefully. Thailand has witnessed similar eruptions in the past, during the 1970's and in 1992,when the military killed dozens of pro-democracy protesters. Yes, Thais are generally peaceful, but there are few release valves for settling differences. When conflicts arise, they can escalate quickly. (For an insightful take on the current crisis, read this Wall Street Journal op-ed.) 

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Travel Chaos as Ash Closes Air Space



CNN London |  European countries shut their airspace one after the other Thursday as a cloud of volcanic ash wafted over from Iceland and posed a danger to flights.

Airspace over the United Kingdom was due to be closed for six hours from midday but air authorities later extended the closure until at least 7 a.m. BST (2 a.m. EST) Friday.

Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands also announced the closure of their airspace, authorities in each country said.

Norway also closed its ocean territory and canceled helicopter flights to off-shore oil installations, according to Avinor, the Norwegian agency responsible for the Norwegian airport network.

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Pay Toilet Foes Feel The Flush of Relief

The stupidest idea to come along in ages looks to have gone down the drain, literally. Last week Michael O’Leary, ceo of the Irish budget carrier Ryanair, said he would install pay toilets for use on short-haul European flights, but the cockamamie scheme turned out to have been more than a piddling matter. A stream of invective followed the announcement in the press.

The latest news: Boeing, which built Ryanair’s fleet of 737-800s, has put the kibosh on the plan for safety reasons, leaving O’Leary up a yellow river without a paddle. In addition to charging one euro to use the facilities, O’Leary had planned to remove some of the existing toilets and replace them with additional seats. But the airline’s planes already are configured for 189 passengers, the most that can be carried safely. Because the planes were made in America, any reconfiguration by Boeing to increase the number of passengers would be subject to FAA approval, which would be unlikely.

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San Francisco Detours Into Reality Tourism

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New York Times | Visitors know all too well this pretty city’s sights, what with the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and the clang-clang-clangy cable cars.

But now San Francisco’s civic boosters have decided they want to add a highly unlikely stop to the tourist itinerary: the Uptown Tenderloin, the ragged, druggy and determinedly dingy domain of the city’s most down and out.

And what is the appeal?

“We offer a kind of grittiness you can’t find much anymore,” said Randy Shaw, a longtime San Francisco housing advocate and a driving force behind the idea of Tenderloin tourism. “And what is grittier than the Tenderloin?"  READ MORE

Photo credit: Philip Matthews

Viva Cartagena! Openings Bring New Life to the Old City

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Tough times for tourism? Not in Cartagena de Indias. I recently returned from a long weekend in Colombia (currently a "recession-proof country," according to several economic analysts), and while global markets may be floundering and travel numbers down, this sultry Caribbean city is booming with a wave of new boutique hotels, innovative eateries, and ample old-school watering holes. Here's the scoop:

At least a half a dozen gorgeous properties have recently opened downtown (plug: don’t miss T+L’s It List of Best New Hotels in June!). I settled into the 24-suite Anandá Hotel Boutique (pictured below), a quiet retreat in a restored Spanish-colonial building with carved-wood balconies and three breezy roof terraces. The cool, Zen-like calm is a world apart from the bustling street scene just outside its massive wooden doors.

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Donald Trump Jr. on the New Trump SoHo

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I confess: I’m a fan of The Donald. The swagger, the money, the hair, the catch phrase. My interest in The Apprentice, however, has waned, and I missed the TV show’s introduction of Donald Trump Jr. So, when the opportunity arose to chat up Donald 2.0 about the new hotel he’s overseeing (with his sister and brother)—the Trump SoHo, which opened Friday in New York—I couldn’t resist.

We met in the hotel’s library, a masculinely decked out space with deep chairs, thick tables, and books no one will ever read. Besides being well-coiffed and well-clad, DT Jr. is:
•    Confident. (“People said, ‘Isn’t it horrible they changed zoning code because of what you did?’ That’s the dumbest question I’ve ever heard.”)
•    Affable. (“What drives me? My father calling at 5 a.m. asking why I’m not in the office!”)
•    Self-deprecating. (“I’m probably the only graduate of the Wharton School of Finance to move to Colorado to work in a bar.”) Ok, kind of self-deprecating.

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LVMH Extends Posh Label to New Luxury Resorts

Wall Street Journal | LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is checking into the hotel business. The world's largest luxury-goods company, home to brands such as the Louis Vuitton fashion house and champagne maker Veuve Clicquot, said Thursday it will develop resorts using the name of its Bordeaux winery, Cheval Blanc. The company tested the concept with a first location that opened in the French ski resort Courchevel in 2006. Two more hotels are scheduled to join the new chain by 2012 in Oman and Egypt, the company said.

The project is "a natural extension of activities in luxury hospitality with Cheval Blanc," LVMH said in a statement.

Like many top hotel operators, LVMH is limiting its exposure to the volatile hotel industry. It won't own the real estate or finance construction, but will instead run the resorts under management contract, a similar model to other high-end chains such as The Ritz-Carlton. The new LVMH Hotel Management business has six employees.

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