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Family Friday: The Hotel That Lego Built

Legoland

My three-year-old architect uses Legos to build "crazy towers," so I'm used to them reaching three-, four-, even five-feet in height. But now Legoland has built a true to scale version in Carlsbad, Calfornia that functions as an actual hotel. It opens April 15, and it might be incredibly cool—or incredibly weird.

The LEGOLAND Hotel has a dragon-guarded entrance; pirate-themed rooms with Lego skeletons and swords on the walls; several interactive play areas; and for parents, a somewhat Lego-free Skyline Bar.

My kids would love it. Me? I’m not so sure.

Clara Sedlak is a mom of two and a senior editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of LEGOLAND California Resort

World's Tiniest City Park Dodges Decimation

Mill's Ends Park

When you're the smallest city park in the world, it doesn’t take much to suffer an epic natural disaster—perhaps a skateboarder who veers wildly off track, or a even a German Shepherd who couldn't make it to the next hydrant.

But Portland, Oregon’s Mill’s Ends Park—just two feet across in diameter—seems to have endured some sort of foul play: Oregon Public Broadcasting recently reported that the sole tree of the petite park, on a median on Naito Parkway, had been removed. "Someone yanked it out," said Mark Ross, of Portland’s Department of Parks and Recreation, to OPB.

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Paris: New Hotel Gets Space-Age Design

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Hotel designs are constantly shifting, so why not think a few millennia ahead? Paris’s Hotel O, designed by Ito Morabito, recently debuted as a colorful, futuristic boutique property near Place des Victoires.

While the 29 compact guestrooms feel like a space cabin, the loud blue, violet, and Kelly green accents make it feel as if you’ve already landed on another planet. In larger rooms, beds recede into walls to maximize small quarters. Dark, pressed wood acts as a unifying element across the bold color scheme. Quirky details extend to the bar with honeycomb-motif shelves, giving Hotel O’s imbibing guests something to talk about. Doubles from $329.

Maria Pedone is a digital editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Studio Ora-ito

International Destinations for Cat Lovers

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Where should a traveler completely obsessed with cats go for a feline-themed getaway? (Asking for a friend, of course.) Check out T+L's latest must-click article, Craziest Places for Cat Lovers and find out.

Marvel at the descendants of Ernest Hemingway's six-toed cats in Key West, Florida. See a thousand-year-old mummified cat at the Kuchuing Cat Museum in Malaysia. Enjoy the rides at the Hello Kitty Theme Park in Tokyo. All of that and more, in the only cat-related slideshow ever on the internet*.

*Update: Apparently there are one or two other cat-related slideshows on the internet. But do they include a houseboat for cats in Amsterdam?

Photo by Lyndsey Matthews

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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When Life Imitates Soap Opera Plots: Do You Know This Amnesiac Tourist?

lost tourist

He's reportedly been in Austria since the beginning of the year, but a middle-aged tourist has no memory of who he is, or where he belongs. At least, that's what Austrian police have disclosed to the local newspaper, in hopes that someone will recognize this bereft traveler. Or—if this were a soap opera or decent date-night movie—perhaps someone could fall in love with the poor guy and take him back to their hometown where wacky antics could ensue.

Indeed, for anyone who thought amnesia was just a convenient plot device, it seems to be truly perplexing the authorities who are holding a traveler in Austria. According to police, the man was wearing hiking gear when he got off the train on November 19 in the German town of Lindau, on Lake Constance; after visiting the tourist office (a great resource, whether you have amnesia or not) and walked over the border to nearby Bregenz. A police spokesperson say that they have nearly adozen leads, but so far can only assume that the man is German (thanks his "High German" accent). "He has good days and bad days," the police spokesman told a reporter.

We wish the traveler a speedy recovery—and also hope that a Meg Ryan comeback film would emerge from all this.

Photo by iStockphoto

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

Confessions of a Masseuse

masseuse

Freda, a therapist at a well-known U.S. destination spa, reveals a few of her own pressure points.

“People today just can’t disengage—they even put their cell phone under the face cradle. The world is not going to fall apart in one hour!”

“If your therapist says she needs to leave the room to get a product, she’s probably going to the bathroom. I once told a client I spilled oil on myself and went outside to throw up.”

“I’ve seen famous actresses come out of the steam room with long, black rivers of mascara running down their faces. I wish I could take a picture and get rich!”

“Yes, some men expose themselves to us, but I’ve never had anyone come right out and ask for a ‘happy ending.’ They might just ask us to ‘massage a little higher’ up their leg.”

Photo by iStockphoto

Take That, Cabbie: Seoul Offers Rewards for Ripped-Off Riders

taxi

Usually, your only chance at "revenge" against a shady cab driver is just denying him a tip—or, perhaps less satisfying, yelling a few choice words over your shoulder as the cab peels away.

Not anymore. The city of Seoul is now offering cash money—to the tune of about $450—to anyone who blows the whistle on cabbies who are bilking foreign tourists.

Government officials say that despite past efforts to rein them in, corrupt cabs are "still rampant" in the city; the most common offenses by drivers include tacking on extra charges, or getting creative with the cab fare calculator.

To report a bad apple, just call the city's English-speaking tourism hotline (02-1330), and they'll investigate. To avoid the worst situations, however, you can look for the city-run cabs marked as International Taxis, and whose drivers speak both English and Japanese. Meanwhile, in a contentious situation, we imagine that cheerfully asking the cabbie for his ID number might not butter him up—but it could pay off.

Photo © Park Jin Hee/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Empty Russian Cruise Ship (Sorta) Lost at Sea

Lyubov Orlova

Is it a bit like The Shining at sea?

The Russian cruise ship Lyubov Orlova is currently adrift in the North Atlantic—with no passengers, or even a crew, aboard. The 237-passenger ship—named after a Russian movie star from the 1930s and '40s—had languished in the harbor for two years at St. John's, NL, after a cancelled cruise and a lawsuit led to its falling into disrepair, and gradually becoming a Love Boat for rats. Perhaps as a result, the ship's new owners had decided to sell the ship for scrap in the Dominican Republic, but the trip to the D.R. was doomed by a series of tow boat snafus—the last being on Jan. 24 when the tow line broke in rough seas.

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