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Cute Overload: Hello Kitty Airport Gate

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On my way home from a recent trip to Taiwan, I found myself with a little bit of time to kill before boarding my plane at Taipei’s Taoyuan Airport. Knowing I had more than 14 hours to sit in a cramped airplane seat ahead of me, I did some exploring.

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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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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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Message from the Titanic: Send More Polar Bears!

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Last December we told you about the new Titanic Museum, a half-scale, three-deck replica of the doomed ocean liner, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Well, the museum has finally opened and in its first three weeks it ran out of souvenir polar bears in the gift shop!

I suppose if that’s the worst fate to befall the nascent attraction, it’s doing pretty well. In fact, the museum clocked 50,000 “passengers” in the first 21 days. And what is it everyone wants to see? “Guests are interested in the only Titanic lifejacket tied to an actual passenger (below)—it's the only one in the world,” says Mary Kellogg-Joslyn, owner of the Titanic Museum. “The passenger's name was Madeleine Astor, married to the richest man aboard the ship.  The value of this artifact is really priceless. It has been insured for a million dollars.”

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Titanic Awards: Celebrating the Worst in Travel

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I’ve long thought the best travel stories are the ones, well, where things don’t go according to plan. The most memorable tales from the road, it seems, often involve weird characters, bungled reservations, and near misses of all kinds. For this reason, I’ve become a big fan of the TitanicAwards.com, a survey site that celebrates “the dubious achievements in travel” (from Worst Toilet to Most Annoying Tourist Attraction) and can always be counted on for a good laugh. (If you like the LOLcats of Icanhascheezeburger, you’ll love the absurd-but-true findings of TitanicAwards.com.)

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In Las Vegas, the Price is Right

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I recently went to Las Vegas for the first time, for my best friend’s bachelorette weekend. Now before you get carried away with visions of sheer hedonism that you think must have ensued, keep in mind that none of us drinks or gambles, and some of us are easily scandalized. So what do a band of tame, teetotalling girls do in Sin City, you ask? We managed to find plenty to keep us occupied, from the bountiful buffet at our hotel, the fabulous Bellagio, to Cirque du Soleil’s dazzling water spectacle O, to an over-the-top feast at Alain Ducasse’s Michelin-starred Mix, at the top of Mandalay Bay (our closest encounter with debauchery came when our waiter confessed he was a former Chippendales dancer). We wound up having a fabulous—if somewhat low-key—time, but the highlight of the weekend was, shockingly, testing our luck at the Price Is Right Live!. Yes, as in that Price Is Right.

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Hollywood Sign to Become Hotel?

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Tinseltown rumor has it that the Hollywood sign, that iconic beacon of glamour, could be cast in a new leading role: that of a luxury hotel. 

The fate of the sign, first erected in 1923, has recently been in question as real estate investors who own the adjacent land indicated that they were willing to sell it to developers for building luxury homes. In February, the Trust for Public Land and the Hollywood Sign Trust began an emergency fund-raising campaign to buy the 138 acres and save the sign. 

The Los Angeles Daily News recently reported that a Danish architect, Christian Bay-Jorgensen, met with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to propose that a luxury hotel, incorporating the 9-letter sign, be built on the site.  His plan calls for each letter to be rebuilt 90 feet tall (twice their current height) and enclose lavish guest rooms with enviable views of the city.  The rest of the hotel would be built behind the letters and would, in Bay-Jorgensen’s plan, include public spaces that could serve as locations for awards ceremonies.

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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

Ryanair Confirms: ‘We are serious about charging a toilet fee’

201004-b-bathroomjpgRyanair, the ultra-budget Irish airline known for its low fares and numerous surcharges, confirmed yesterday what had long been rumored: It is serious about charging passengers to use the toilet. If it goes forward, it would be just the latest in a long line of airline industry fees that have dogged travelers over the past several years. The news comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement from Spirit Airlines that it would begin charging passengers a carry-on luggage fee of up to $45. When I wrote the Spirit blog item yesterday, I said the only fee that could be worse would be a toilet charge.

Well, that didn’t take long, did it?

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Air Comet Cabin Crew Bares All

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Euro Weekly News |  A dozen stewardesses from bankrupt air line Air Comet have posed in the nude for a special calendar. The 1,200 copies of the saucy calendar is being sold over the internet for 15 euros. The calendar is the last resort of the 672 Air Comet stag which have been left unemployed after the air line went bust last December and many without pay for the past six months.

Air Comet had tried and failed to create a niche in the market by offering cheap flights to South America, but dropping demand due to the recession caused the airline to collapse leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at various airports. It is calculated that Air Comet’s owes it creditors an estimated 160 million euros, five of which are thought to be unpaid staff wages.

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Photo credit: Augusto Robert/Handout

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