Archive for February, 2011

Time-warp mansion opens its doors after century in the dark

February 28th, 2011 by Mariah

Moulins, France (CNN) — One of the most eccentric dying requests has finally been fulfilled as a mansion closed for most of the 20th century reopens to the public.

 

Maison Mantin was left to the town of Moulins in central France by Louis Mantin, in a will written months before his death in 1905. The landowner, who had inherited several properties, died unmarried and childless aged 54, only eight years after his house was completed.

 

Despite rumors that Mantin had demanded the house be closed for 100 years, there was only one condition for the gift: that was that it should be opened as a museum a century after his death. If it was closed any longer, ownership could revert to any surviving relatives.

 

“Mantin was obsessed with the passing of time, and death,” said Maud Leyoudec, assistant curator of Maison Mantin. “He wanted the house to remain unchanged, like a time-capsule for future generations, so they would know how a bourgeois gentleman lived at the turn of the 20th century.”

 

The mansion was briefly a museum following Mantin’s death, but there was little interest and it soon closed. For most of the rest of the century, even as two destructive wars raged nearby, it remained shuttered, an unchanging, mysterious presence in the shadow of Moulins’ cathedral.

Rumors circulated that a collection of skeletons was stored inside, but most locals simply gave a Gallic shrug to the imposing property. Even the German occupiers of France during the 1940s left it unscathed.

 

As the deadline for the house to reopen approached — and with Mantin’s great-niece, who could theoretically reclaim it, alive — attention turned to the restoration.

 

Houses left unoccupied tend to fall apart and Maison Mantin was no exception. When Leyoudec visited in 2004, shortly before the restoration got under way, she was shocked by its dilapidated condition.

 

“There was woodworm and damp caused by the house not being heated, and many of the elaborate wall coverings were torn,” Leyoudec told CNN. “There were insects everywhere in the house — it was really awful.”

 

A team of about 30 specialists were involved in the project to restore the mansion, and after four painstaking years it has now opened as a museum.

 

Maison Mantin is unique, Leyoudec believes, because it is exactly how it was in 1905. The house had many advanced creature comforts, including electric lighting, flushing toilets, under-floor heating and even secondary glazing, but also features period art nouveau touches such as stained glass and much carved wood.

 

Mantin’s great-niece was supportive of the restoration, Leyoudec said, and just as well because the museum opened more than five years after the centenary of his death. The relative did not interpret her ancestor’s will too literally, and so luckily for the townspeople of Moulins the unique house remains theirs.

 

While Louis Mantin’s unusual gift may have been philanthropic it was also egocentric, as Leyoudec pointed out. “Now everyone in Moulins knows his name.”

Who got high speed rail money

February 17th, 2011 by Mariah

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The federal government already has more than $10 billion in stimulus and other money set aside for high speed rail projects. To date, it has made commitments to spend $4.5 billion of that.

President Obama has made infrastructure a centerpiece of his presidency, calling for $53 billion in additional funds for high speed rail in his budget proposal this week.

 

 

Republicans seem unlikely to fund that request, and a political fight is brewing. But if the money is rejected, the $4.5 billion the government has spent so far won’t likely be wasted.

 

Here are some of the major projects to date:

California: The state has captured the lion’s share of these funds, winning $3 billion to construct a 220-mph train from San Diego to San Francisco.

The money is to be combined with $9 billion California voters have already approved, plus private funds and additional government cash, to build what is ultimately expected to be a $40-$50 billion dollar project.

Union Pacific railroad builds U.S. economy

Work on the actual line has yet to begin and most of this money has not been spent — the state is still designing the train, working out the route and getting the necessary permits. The first section of track is expected to run from Bakersfield to Fresno.

If all goes well — and that’s a big if, because plenty of people oppose the project — construction will start in 2012 and end in 2020.

California seems intent on building this train with or without help from the federal government, although federal money is a big part of their plan.

Chicago-St. Louis: This route, which passes through Springfield and Bloomington, Ill., received $1.1 billion to make the existing Amtrak service faster.

To do this, improvements are being made that include laying new track, updating signals, building new stations, and buying new railcars and locomotives.

The improvements are expected to boost average speeds from 53 to 63 miles per hour, shaving nearly an hour off what is now a 5-hour and 20-minute trip, according to Ken Orski, publisher of the infrastructure industry publication Innovation NewsBriefs and a former transportation official in the Nixon and Ford administrations.

Those improvements will benefit both the passenger and freight trains that use the line, regardless of whether more high speed rail money is approved by Congress.

Orlando-Tampa: This controversial, 84-mile proposal has received $66 million for preliminary engineering projects on a high-speed train running from the Orlando airport to downtown Tampa. This money does appear to have been wasted.

On Wednesday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declined the other $2.4 billion being offered by the feds.

5 fantasy islands that really exist. Sort of.

February 17th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — An advanced city submerged under sea; an ancient garden paradise bearing a tree of knowledge; an island of bird-women seductresses — the stuff of pure fiction. Or perhaps not?

 

Far-off, mysterious islands provide the setting for some of our favorite myths and folklore. But more often than not, they have their roots in real-life locations.

 

From the Caribbean cove of Treasure Island to the sunken city of Atlantis, here’s a travel guide for those who fancy a sailing holiday with an allegorical twist.

 

Treasure Island

 

The definitive swash-buckling tale of one-legged pirates, treasure maps and talking parrots centers around a tiny island somewhere in the Caribbean.

 

Starring the rum-swigging buccaneer Long John Silver, the story was penned by 19th century Scottish author Robert Stevenson — who never set foot in the Caribbean.

 

However, it’s said that the young Stevenson was enthralled by a mariner uncle’s tale of his voyage to Norman Island — a small reefy spot that forms part of the British Virgin Islands, located just by a rocky formation known fittingly as Dead Man’s Chest.

 

Now a prime snorkeling spot, the island is a popular destination for cruisers and tourists, who can be found knocking back rum cocktails at the aptly-named Pirates Bight Bar and Restaurant.

 

 

Atlantis

 

The legendary island in the middle of the Atlantic, first mentioned by Plato, has become synonymous with the idea of a lost civilization.

The Greek philosopher’s account of a prosperous and cultured city disappearing into the ocean has captured the popular imagination and prompted many theories about its real-life location.

 

While many Atlantis-hunters have directed their attentions beneath the sea, one of the strongest contenders is only partially submerged.

 

According to some archaeologists, the volcanic Greek island of Santorini, in the Aegean sea, was half sunk following a tsunami thousands of years ago.

 

The island is also thought to have been home to the Minoans, a super-advanced race who predate the ancient Greeks and are argued to have provided the basis for Plato’s description.

 

Today, the arid but wonderfully scenic island retains the ancient Greek penchant for wine making and is a popular stop-off destination for sailors seeking a tipple on their way back to the mainland.

 

 

The Garden of Eden

 

There are more theories about the real-life location of the biblical garden paradise than you could shake at with a stick from the tree of knowledge.

 

From Tabriz in Iran to Jackson County, Missouri, Eden is alleged to have existed on almost every continent.

 

In most cases, however, the sites look more like a neglected allotment than God’s botanical masterpiece. Except, that is, for the Vallee de Mai on the island of Praslin in the Seychelles.

 

A primeval rainforest whose efflorescent blooms have earned it a place on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites, the Vallee de Mai is home to the legendary Coco de Mer tree.

 

Known for its erotic fruits, the female Coco de Mer produces a huge seed shaped like a lady’s belly and thighs, while the taller male specimen has a blush-inducing phallic-shaped catkin. They may as well have written “Adam and Eve woz ‘ere.”

 

 

 

Sirenum scopuli

 

Their seductive songs were rumored to lure passing sailors into an abrupt, rocky demise. Part woman, part bird — and some say part fish — the Sirens are the femme fatales of ancient Greek mythology.

 

The deadly seductresses were rumored to inhabit a small craggy island known as the “Sirenum scopuli.”

 

According to 18th century English essayist and playwright Joseph Addison, the rocks form part of Capri, a picture-perfect island off the coast of southern Italy.

 

“The Sirenum scopuli are sharp rocks that stand about a stone’s throw from the south side of the island” he wrote.

 

To lend further support to this theory, situated on the island’s Piccola Marina is the Scoglio delle Sirene, or “Siren’s Rock.”

 

One of Capri’s most alluring suntraps, it has become home to a series of striking sea-edge restaurants and a range of bathing establishments that we can only assume would satisfy the most demanding of modern-day mermaids.

 

 

Isle of Sodor

 

It sounds like a secluded backwater from Lord of the Rings, but the Isle of Sodor is in fact the setting for popular children’s TV series “Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.”

 

Originally created by English reverend and railway enthusiast Wilbert Awdry as a bed-time story for his then-ill son, the tales of a cheeky blue steam locomotive today enjoy global popularity.

 

The long-running TV series has been narrated by the likes of former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan — not bad for an unassuming kid’s show whose setting is based on the windy and remote Isle of Man, which floats between Scotland and Northern Ireland in the middle of the Irish Sea.

 

Admittedly, if you’re in search of a sunny garden paradise or picturesque beach cove, then this ancient Gaelic island is probably not for you.

 

However, those with a penchant for folktales and fairies should look no further. Having been inhabited for over 8,000 years, the Isle of Man has a rich culture of legends.

 

Beware the Buggane — a mischievous spirit who blows the roofs off buildings, or the ghostly Moddey Dhoo — a nocturnal black dog associated with electrical storms.

 

Or forget all that and just head to the Isle of Man railway station for a special Thomas the Tank Engine tour.

B&B or Big-Box? Social media stirs the sleeping micro-giant of the lodging industry

February 17th, 2011 by Mariah

“I have no doubt we will be stealing some market share.” – Jay Karen, President & CEO, Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII).

Social media, the great equalizer, has allowed bed-and-breakfasts and independent boutiques to compete for the attention of travelers online with big-box, chain hotels. And when it comes to creative content and compelling stories, small, independents properties have emerged with some of the strongest voices.

Recently, the Professional Association of Innkeepers launched a campaign called “A Better Way to Stay” to convince travelers—especially Gen X and Y—to choose inns and B&Bs over hotels. PAII’s President & CEO Jay Karen calls it “a true grassroots campaign” that will feature “fresh and edgy content—perfect for social media—never seen from our industry.”

To find out more, I caught up with Jay. Here’s a condensed version of our Q + A session.

Some wear boxers, others brief; some prefer B&Bs, others hotels. Convince us: Why choose a B&B over a hotel?

That’s easy! Do you prefer your breakfast made from food off a Sysco truck or hand-picked by an innkeeper (most likely sourced locally)? Do you like never having to pay for wi-fi? How do you feel about free parking? Historical settings? Beautiful properties? Afternoon or 24-hour free snacks? Sometimes wine and cheese hours or afternoon tea? Local knowledge of the best places for recreation and dining? Also, B&Bs are considered by many women business travelers as safer than hotels.

Guests at B&Bs aren’t just a room number and a stat that adds to the RevPAR and occupancy charts – they’re people looking for more than just a room, and innkeepers enjoy delivering more than an electronic key card.

Do B&Bs compete more against hotels or other B&Bs? Should hotels be worried?

When someone chooses a B&B, it’s safe to say they likely chose that B&B over another B&B, not a Hilton or Marriott. We compete with hotels every day of the week. I firmly believe that the loyalty index among B&B guests is much higher than hotel guests. And in the new world of social media, more and more loyal guests will be telling their friends and families about their fantastic experiences.

I’m not saying hotels should be shivering with fear, because our total room volume is incredibly modest by comparison, but the playing field has certainly been leveled in this new age of connectivity. I have no doubt we will be stealing some market share.

Lately there’s been a lot of controversy over the authenticity of online reviews. What’s your position on this?

My belief is that the vast majority of online reviews on travel sites are legitimate – at least in our neck of the woods. Travel websites that do not authenticate reviews by verifying that reviewers actually stayed at the properties in question have an inherent weakness. But the concept they rely on is that the law of large numbers will overcome that weakness … the wisdom of the crowds. There’s going to be the occasional fool or fake in the crowd, but the thought is they will be drowned out.

There is a problem with that in the B&B world – we don’t have the large numbers that hotels do. A good B&B that is actively soliciting reviews from guests will still only have a few dozen reviews over the course of a year – not a few hundred. A few bad apples can spoil things a hell of a lot faster for a B&B with 5 rooms than a hotel with 500 rooms.

To me, the bigger problem is review sites claim little or no responsibility when it comes to the details within the review and won’t get involved in the veracity of the reviews. When it comes to negative reviews that have been embellished or falsified, the property owners have everything to lose. Joe Schmoe Reviewer has nothing to lose, and that’s still very troublesome at times.

TripAdvisor: friend or foe of innkeepers?

On balance? Definitely a friend. While we still suffer from second-class-citizenship on the site (we’re mostly found behind the “hotels” moniker instead of beside them, like vacation rentals, in the most visible areas of the site), the site allows the smallest of inns to compete with the largest of hotels in the same city. TripAdvisor is a great site for those who love doing their homework when deciding where to stay.

TripAdvisor reviews can work really well for local, independent players. The rest of the commerce on the site, i.e. banner ads, booking, etc., is no friend to the innkeeper. Nine out of ten B&Bs do not participate in the GDS system, so when someone is searching for availability, we are left out almost completely. It would be good to build a bridge with the off-GDS platforms that most B&Bs use and the TripAdvisor availability search tool.

Over the past few years, we have gained a good bit of attention through our high-profile discussions with TripAdvisor. I believe we have been the only lodging organization that is persistently meeting with their senior staff about parity, fairness and responsiveness with their very powerful system. I’ve been blogging about it since 2008.

Do B&B’s play the OTA game?

B&Bs generally do not play the OTA game for a few reasons. Those who do play the game, though, are generally pleased. The reasons for opting out include not being able to afford the commission structure (25-30%), the lack of good information on the guests that gets passed between the OTAs and the innkeepers, and the lack of supply with which to play in the yield management game. It’s a bit of a hassle to contribute only one or two rooms to the system and have to manage that.

Companies have done a good job building that bridge between an innkeeper’s PMS system, booking engine and the OTAs, but it takes a lot of hands-on management on the innkeeper’s part to make it all work. Oh, and then they have to go turn three rooms, shop for tomorrow’s breakfast and respond to the latest online review.

The major search engines are still the biggest players for B&Bs. Google Places (and various iterations of Google Maps and Google Local) have always been an influential player, and even more so if they keep stepping up their game in the travel space.

Given such limited resources, which social media tools and resources if any do you recommend B&B owners engage in?

Facebook – no doubt. There is no better tool that allows a happy B&B guest to tell their hundreds of friends and family what a wonderful time they had. We haven’t even seen the beginning of the fruits Facebook will produce for innkeepers. I’m encouraged greatly by the social buying sites out there – especially LivingSocial. Twitter is great, but only if you’re posting content that is relevant to Twitter users, and if you look at it as a search engine.

How is 2011 looking for the innkeeping industry?

The only weak point in our industry as a result of this recession has been the transaction market. Our RevPAR, occupancy and revenue numbers have remained steady. Changes in travel preferences have benefited our industry – the desire to stay closer to home, long weekend trips, smaller, boutique properties (duh), etc. Therefore, we are generally poised for strong performance in the coming months and years, as long as the economy doesn’t tank again.

Our biggest challenge seems to be that more and more gets added to the plate of innkeepers each year, but nothing gets taken off. Innkeepers pine for the days when SEO was the only internet-related marketing game they had to keep up with. Keeping all the plates spinning in an ever-more-complex world is a big challenge. But that’s where PAII comes in, right Daniel?

 

By Daniel Edward Craig

Lodge at Blue Lakes Staycations

February 16th, 2011 by Mariah

Lodge at Blue Lakes Staycation Packages are here!

We have designed special Staycation Packages just for you. Get away and relax at The Lodge At Blue Lakes. Our packages offer incredible savings that add up to great value for anyone looking to enjoy a fun staycation away from home. Huge savings!

With deals like this, there’s absolutely no reason to let tourists have all the fun. Pack a bag, leave your cell phone and take a Staycation “away” without leaving far at great prices.

AQUA PACKAGE

Stay at least 4 nights in Lakeside or Kitchenette Rooms. Pay full weekend rate for the first night and the next 3 nights only $109.00 per night.

Stay at least 4 nights or more in a Deluxe Jacuzzi or Queen Jacuzzi Room. Pay full weekend rate for the first night and the next
3 nights only $139.00 per night
DENIM PACKAGE

Stay at least 5 nights in Lakeside or
Kitchenette Rooms. Pay full weekend rate for the first night and the next 4 nights only $99.00 per night.

Stay at least 5 nights or more in a Deluxe Jacuzzi or Queen Jacuzzi Room. Pay full weekend rate for the first night and the next
4 nights only $119.00 per night

INDIGO PACKAGE

Stay at least 6 nights in Lakeside or Kitchenette Rooms. Pay full weekend rate for the first night and the next 5 nights only $89.00 per night.

Stay at least 6 nights or more in a Deluxe Jacuzzi or Queen Jacuzzi Room. Pay full
weekend rate for the first night and the next
5 nights only $109.00 per night

Rates effective if booked by April 30, 2011

May not be combined with any other offer.

Room Rates are for two people.

Additional persons at $25.00/night.
Maximum 4 persons in each room.

Rates and Offers are subject to change.

Click Here for Reservations!

Sincerely,

Laura Falteisek, Marketing Director
The Lodge at Blue Lakes
5135 West Highway 20
Upper Lake, CA 95485
707-275-2181
www.thelodgeatbluelakes.com

SkyMall fascinates, entertains travelers

February 14th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — There are two certainties in airline seat pockets: pretzel crumbs and SkyMall.

And while most travelers try to avoid the mysterious debris left by passengers past, SkyMall has been a welcome addition to the seatback catchalls since the 1990s.

“I found that it was one of those things that anyone who had traveled in the United States kind of knew about,” said Mike Barish, a freelance travel writer who reviews SkyMall products for the travel site Gadling. “Some people are in business class; some people are in economy … some people like to travel, and some people hate it. But everybody knows SkyMall.”

The catalog’s merchandising team receives hundreds of inquiries every week from vendors, manufacturers and retailers who want their items to be featured, said Joey O’Donnell, customer experience manager for SkyMall.

“We’re looking for really special items,” O’Donnell said. “We have to look at it and say, ‘this solves a problem, and this is so unique. I know our customers will love it.’ “

And where else could you purchase a Harry Potter wand, an indoor dog restroom and a fire escape ladder, all from the same place?

The merchandising team has been doing its job so well for so long that it can just look at an item and know it’s going to be a winner with SkyMall’s audience, O’Donnell said.

“We have this garden zombie — the size of a person — crawling out of the ground,” he said. “When I saw it, I was like, ‘no way.’ But sure enough, it became one of our top sellers.”

Other “unique” items aren’t so lucky. If you thought the catalog’s products were humorous, the list of rejects is downright silly.

There’s Chuck the Yuck, a “hip line of barf bags”; GoGirl, which helps women urinate while standing; and The FrankFormer, which “turns ordinary hot dogs into a smiling ‘hot dog man.’ “

“You almost expect them to be fake products from ‘Saturday Night Live,’ ” Barish said. “I think the fact that these things actually exist just makes people happy.”

Barish’s first experience with a SkyMall product was the SkyRest, a giant, wedge-shaped travel pillow that he reviewed for Gadling in 2008.

“If you brought up SkyMall in conversation, it was the one product that someone would make a joke about,” he said. “A) because it was so large and B) because the person in the photograph sleeping on it looked so uncomfortable.”

Since his first experience, Barish has bought two photo blankets and Fernando, a Chihuahua statue, for his friends.

“Seeing these fun, silly things takes your mind off what is normally a very tedious or uncomfortable situation,” Barish said of flying.

The same goes for comedian Dan Nainan, who took 84 flights in 2010 and purchases from SkyMall regularly.

“There’s that time between when you can’t use your laptop when you’re taking off and landing, so that’s prime SkyMall time,” Nainan said. “Their selection is so varied that pretty much anybody from any walk of life could pick it up and find something.”

From a GPS keychain to video recording sunglasses, Nainan has seen it all — including a submarine.

“That was a little bit beyond my budget,” he said, laughing. “Once in a while, they’ll throw in something ridiculously expensive and frivolous like that.”

For Barish, that item was the Cruzin Cooler, which combines “the ability to have cold food or a beverage handy along with the means to get somewhere, without walking,” according to its website. For $500, the motorized cooler just wasn’t worth it to him. “I don’t even know where I’d drive it,” Barish said.

The fun nature of the items featured in the catalog reflects the company’s attitude, said Christine Aguilera, CEO of SkyMall.

“We’re a company that has high expectations for ourselves, but fun is in our corporate motto,” Aguilera said. “That’s what makes SkyMall what it is. We scour the Earth to find unique and innovative products.”

As proved by the popularity of the corpse zombie, it’s hard to know what will work until it’s put in front of 1.6 million people per day, she said.

But SkyMall wasn’t always so quirky.

When it began in 1990, founder Bob Worsley pictured SkyMall carrying mainstream products but quickly found that people were wary of buying everyday items at an airport.

“I think people feel that anything at the airport is going to be overpriced,” Worsley said. “So what works are unique items that people can’t find anywhere else. If they can buy it at the store, then they will probably buy it there.”

Since Worsley’s original plans for the catalog evolved, SkyMall is more successful than ever. The catalog is available on 88 percent of domestic flights and reaches more than 650 million air travelers each year, according to its website.

“At the end of the day, while everyone laughs at the silly products, I have to imagine that the thing that keeps them going are the practical items,” Barish said. “Not everyone wants to spend money on a conversation piece.”

For example, the best-selling items in SkyMall’s history were a nose hair trimmer and a mosquito magnet (a net that attracts and traps insects), quantity-wise and dollar-wise, respectively.

“Products that solve problems are the ones that work best in SkyMall,” O’Donnell said. “But strange sells. The items have to solve a purpose, even if that purpose is just making someone smile.”

And with the spreading availability of Wi-Fi on flights, Sky Mall has more smiles to look forward to on the horizon. Its deal with GoGo Inflight Internet allows passengers to browse SkyMall for free, escalating what is already a niche market.

“SkyMall is perfect for things you don’t necessarily need but would make great conversation pieces if you were willing to be silly and whimsical enough to actually buy them,” Barish said. “It solves the problems we didn’t know we had until it told us about them.”

The long and short of premium economy

February 14th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) –Premium is a pretty hazy concept in the airline industry. A flat bed is obviously a premium experience, but some airlines are putting just a couple of extra inches of legroom into that category as well.

That seemingly un-premium experience refers to the increasing number of “premium economy” seats that airlines have introduced over the last several years.Delta’s recent announcement of its own stepped-up economy class raises the question: What’s premium economy, and is there a real benefit?

The idea behind it makes a lot of sense. As airlines have raced to add flat beds, swankier amenities and more personal space in business class, economy has pretty much stayed the same, at best. So the gap between business and economy has grown to cavernous proportions. And that space opened the door for a new option for people who want more than they get in economy but are unwilling to take out a second mortgage to sit in business.

But “premium” economy can mean a lot of things, depending on the airline you’re flying. Generally, for U.S.-based airlines, premium economy really means a little more legroom with a few amenities thrown in for kicks.The most well-known is United’s Economy Plus, which gives up to 5 extra inches of legroom as its sole perk. JetBlue’s Even More Legroom is similar, and its name should win a prize for truth in advertising. Delta’s new Economy Comfort now joins that category on international routes this summer, throwing in more seat recline, early boarding and complimentary alcoholic beverages as well. Delta’s new service runs an additional $80 to $160 one way.Snyder: Why airline fees are good for travelersInternationally, premium economy tends to be more like “business minus” than “economy plus.” You’ll find it on airlines like Japan’s ANA, British Airways, Taiwan’s EVA Air, Qantas, Turkish, Virgin Atlantic and more. All of those airlines offer wider seats with leg rests. You’ll also generally receive upgraded service, in some cases with the same meals as business class.

Of course, the difference in product offerings means that prices vary widely. Economy Plus on United can start at an additional $18 roundtrip for a short hop and go beyond $200 for a long international trip.On foreign airlines, the better product costs way more than that. Picking random dates in June, New York-to-London looks like it’s running about $750 more for a roundtrip in premium economy on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. I’ve seen much larger premiums, depending on the time of year, availability and, presumably, the position of Jupiter in the evening sky.

The biggest problem with adding this new class of service is that it makes fliers do a lot more work to figure out which option is best. For example, if you’re flying from Los Angeles to London, you have five different airlines on the route and four with premium economy offerings. You could just go by price, but then you would probably end up in United’s Economy Plus, a far inferior offering compared with what’s offered by British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Air New Zealand.

Air New Zealand is an interesting case in that it recently poured a ton of money into premium economy service to create a new seat that is unlike anything you’ll find on other airlines. The seats on the side are angled toward the window but are offset so you don’t have to share your space with the person next to you. On the other hand, the seats in the middle are designed so that people traveling together can share their space to create a larger area in which to relax. So you’re comparing apples and oranges when you throw Air New Zealand’s unique seats into the mix.

You also can’t trust that a single airline will offer the same type of premium economy on its entire fleet. Finding a premium economy seat on a short flight is rare except for on United and JetBlue. On long hauls, airlines like British Airways and Air New Zealand are in the process of refurbishing their offerings, so it’s a matter of doing some research and sometimes just rolling the dice to hope you get the improved experience.

Possibly the most confusing of all premium economy offerings comes from Air France/KLM. Even though the two airlines are owned by the same parent company, Air France offers Premium Voyageur, which has a wider seat with leg rests and more. KLM, however, offers Economy Comfort, with just the couple of extra inches of legroom that Delta is adding. Be careful if you book a codeshare between these partners, because you might end up with an unpleasant surprise.

In the end, premium economy can make life far better on a long flight, even for a short guy like me. You just need to make sure to do your homework before you buy to ensure that you’re not disappointed when you get on board.

An Amuse Bouche at Craignair Inn

February 14th, 2011 by Mariah

An Amuse Bouche is a Taste of what’s to come…

A tease to the palate.

It’s a bite-size creation by the chef, showcasing his or her culinary talent served before any other courses appear on the table.

Our thought? Let’s make a meal out of it!

We’ll be serving 20-ish “bites” (each one is generally 2-3 bites!) of all kinds of dishes beautifully presented as appetizers, main courses and desserts.

Come enjoy the plenitude of flavor from the Craignair Kitchen.

$35 per person

Craignair Inn

“A Country Inn”

5 Third St

Spruce Head, ME. 04859

USA

Rates: $74-$162 USD

Rooms: 20

Phone: (207) 594-7644


Toll Free: 1-800-320-9997

Letter from Bay View Bed and Breakfast

February 9th, 2011 by Mariah

Greetings!

On Mackinac Island, one can find plenty of love in the air. One of our favorite movies depicts Mackinac Island in all of it’s charm and glory: “Somewhere In Time.” If you haven’t seen it, you definitely should. Starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymore, it’s a film for the romantics at heart.

In the film, a young man, travels back in time to Mackinac Island to be with his true love. Not only is the beautiful architecture and lifestyle of Mackinac Island showcased in the film, but believe it or not, Lydia and I share a similar story! We both met on Mackinac Island when we were younger. Several years later, through a chance meeting, we were reunited. We have now returned to the island where it all started, Mackinac, and we are enjoying every moment of our time at Bay View.

We hope that you and yours have a wonderful Valentine’s season. Spring is approaching! Enjoy this season and all it has to offer.

All the best,

Doug and Lydia Yoder
Your Innkeepers
www.mackinacbayview.com

Balsam Mountain Inn

February 9th, 2011 by Mariah

Balsam Mountain Inn & Restaurant What will you do this Valentines Weekend (Feb 11th thru 13th) ?

 

a. Experience a night at THAD WOODSAuction and stay at the Inn ?b. Enjoy a WCU student production by the School of Stage & Screen’s Theater Program at WCU.

See “reasons to be pretty” and stay at the Inn.

c. Go to a Dinner and Show at the Balsam Mountain Inn’s Songwriters in the round series. and stay at the Inn.d. Order a box of Dillsboro’ The Chocolate Factory truffles with your first night stay at the Inn this weekend.

 

Finally, Free things and Specials are released on our FACE BOOK page. Follow us on face book to be informed or just see what others are saying.

Thank You very much

Kim