Sunday, May 31, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I love Skype! I've been a user for years now but a new company with a funky name is giving them some competition. Oovoo has incredible technology. Think: Skype on steroids. With Oovoo, you can have a live teleconference with up to six people! It's perfect for people who are trying to save on business travel because they can have that all-important meeting now from each person's office. You can also record video messages like this one that the company's PR maven Pamela Johnston did while I was visiting her office last week in New York City. (Yes, I know I look very ADHD.) Small print: The two-way service plan is free and so are one-minute video messages. However, if you want the good stuff, such as a three-way teleconferencing, at least one person has to be a member, which is $7.95 a month. That price also includes five-minute video messages, 500mb video storage and 10mb file transfer. The six-way plan comes with everything listed above, 1000mb video storage and 25mb file transfer and that goes for $17.95 a month. It may seem steep but it sure beats the price of airline tickets, taxis, hotel, meals and, of course, schlepping through security.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
MEMORIAL DAY DEALS – LOS ANGELES
You don’t have to go out of town or spend a fortune to take a vacation this Memorial Day weekend. Take part in some local activities!
Runner or not, any Angeleno can appreciate the annual Los Angeles Marathon, despite the traffic it causes. Those on foot around the downtown route can take in the sunshine and also enjoy small Entertainment Festivals along the way that offer food and goods flavored by the immediate neighborhoods.
Also on the route will be a rocking array of bands. From country, classical to a gang of mariachis, the eclectic musicians will provide a soundtrack that just may be as diverse as the city surroundings.
Freebies from local radio station will also be passed out.
More information can be found here: http://lamarathon.com/page.php?id=18.
Cinespia, a new summer Hollywood tradition, is a morbid movie event: hundreds of hip twentysomethings, coming out of their American Apparel swathed hibernation, gather on blankets and tattered striped beach chairs to view films on an expansive lawn that just so happens to be smack in the middle of a cemetery.
These choices aren’t random, either; they somehow involve a famous or not so famous star that has come to rest at Hollywood Forever cemetery.
For the cost of a regular movie, plus $5 for onsite parking, every Saturday viewers can picnic, people watch and sip their alcohol of choice. A DJ warms up the crowd as glasses-clad, skinny-jeans types precariously tiptoe through rows of gaping Trader Joe’s reusable bags, lit soy candles, brightly colored coolers and mysteriously shaped padded backpacks to claim a just-right spot to lay on.
Doors open an hour and a half before the screening time for a reason — this cinema spree can get crowded and the lengthy line of cars waiting to park on the lot can be best avoided by early birds.
This season’s screenings, which mark Cinespia’s seventh year, include “To Catch a Thief,” “Dazed and Confused” and “Sleeper,” with future films to be decided. Taking place on May 23, 24 and 30 respectively, “Dazed and Confused” is a special Sunday screening for Memorial Day.
Visit http://www.cinespia.org/ for more information.
GARDEN GROVE STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL
From Friday to Monday, celebrate sweetness at the Garden Grove Strawberry Festival, which features celebrities, a parade, carnival rides and lots of the oh-so-juicy berry.
Admission to the Festival is free all weekend, but food and rides fees will vary, depending on the day. Wristbands for day-long rides can cost $25 to $40.
Contests, game booths and a collection of local bands mark a spirit-filled strawberry weekend that marks the 51st anniversary of the popular festival.
More information can be found here: http://www.strawberryfestival.org/index.html
JAZZ REGGAE FESTIVAL
Celebrate syncopation at the 23td Annual Jazz Reggae Festival on the UCLA Intramural Field. Featuring soul food and sultry performances from De La Soul, Mavado and Erykah Badhu among others, the festival promotes a feel-good vibe and picnic seating.
Gates open at 11:00 a.m on Sunday. Tickets range from $25 to $115, depending on the kind of access reggae-lovers crave. Expect to spend more on parking on the UCLA campus.
Buy tickets at http://www.jazzreggaefest.com/tickets.html.
Friday, May 22, 2009
You have to give the folks over at Air New Zealand credit for their creativity, outgoing personalities and boldness. To see what I mean, here's a behind-the-scenes video of their staff (pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers, gate agents ...) getting their naked bodies painted to look like uniforms for a nothing-to-hide TV commercial. BTW: Air New Zealand is one of my favorite airlines and I did a feature of their incredible business class a couple years ago.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
NEW YORK CITY SUMMER SCHEDULE
NEW ROOFTOP/OUTDOOR HAPPY HOUR BARS
Water Taxi Beach South Street Seaport
South Street Seaport – north end of Pier 17
Mini-golf course, skee-ball
Opens May 30
The Sky Terrace
356 W. 58th Street
15th Floor of the Hudson Hotel
Cooper Square Hotel
25 Cooper Square
Sangria 2nd Floor of the Cooper Square Hotel
190 Allen Street
Retractable roof at the Thompson LES Hotel
Every Monday, June 15 – August 17
Lawn opens at 5pm – movie starts between 8 – 9 pm,
for movie schedule go to bryantpark.org
Central Park Film Festival
August 18 -22
Gates open at 6 pm – films start at 8 pm
for movie schedule go to centralparknyc.org
Now - ??
Films are screened among several NYC rooftops
for a list of films, locations and dates go to rooftopfilms.com
Every Thursday, July 9 – August 27
Opens at 6pm – with DJ, Food and Bike Valet
for movie schedule go to brooklynbridgepark.org
Water Taxi Beach in LIC – Pier 17
NYC Food Film Festival
June 13 – 19
Watch a movie and then sample the food portrayed
Big Apple Barbecue
June 13 -14 (11am – 7pm)
Madison Square Park – Admission is FREE
a must for BBQ fans
The Coney Island Mermaid Parade
June 20 (2:00 pm)
Annual free-for-all parade to mark the start of summer
All Points West
July 31 – August 2
Music and Arts festival at Liberty Sate Park
Expected artists: Beastie Boys, Coldplay, Echo & The Bunnymen
3-day passes: $199 / Single-day pass: $89
PHILHARMONIC IN THE PARK
Central Park - Great LawnTuesday, July 14, 2009 at 8 PMProgram Details TBA
Prospect Park, BrooklynWednesday, July 15, 2009 at 8 PMProgram Details TBA Directions: Enter at Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Park West at 9th Street or Bartel-Pritchard Circle at the intersection of Prospect Park West, Prospect Park Southwest and 15th Street.
Central Park - Great LawnFriday, July 17, 2009 at 8 PMProgram Details TBA
SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK
June 10 – July 12: Twelfth Night starring Anne Hathaway as Viola
August 11 – 30: The Bacchae, the classic Greek tragedy by Euripides, will be presented with a score by Philip Glass
Tickets are free, but can be hard to come by. Tickets are handed out on the day of the performance starting at 1pm at The Delacorte Theater in Central Park.
4th of July Fireworks
The 2009 Macy's fireworks show will feature more than 40,000 shells exploding at a rate of more than 1,500 per minute. The 26-minute display will be set off from six barges positioned between 24th and 50th Streets on the Hudson River.
Mid Summer Night Swing
July 7 – 25 (every Tuesday through Saturday)
Each evening begins with a dance lesson at 6:30 PM for dancers of all levels of experience. The live music begins at 7:30 PM. Midsummer Night Swing events take place in Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park, W. 62nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues . Tickets are on sale now for individual events (price includes dance lessons) and admission for Kids' Day events.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I always mention my favorite newsletters that I receive in my inbox and one that's been around for a while is Bottom Line Secrets. It's free and they email it three times a week but I only read their Sunday issue since I don't care for stock tips. Sunday's newsletter is always packed with useful information from the country's leading experts. The two articles are not always about travel but more often than not they are (it was last week). I actually get more out of the non-travel-related ones, which can range in subject from lawn work to the latest health breakthroughs or tax secrets. Let me know if you find it as helpful as I do.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Fellow travel writer Doug Lansky sent an email asking if I’d be willing do an interview for his new website: TitanicAwards.com. Of course I would and what an honor to be placed in a section called Famous Writers. I don’t think I’m worthy but I will take it as it’s a privilege to be counted among legends and gurus like Peter Greenberg, Tim Cahill, Tony Wheeler, Robert Young Pelton and Keith Bellows, among others.
TitanicAwards.com is not your typical travel website. They seek to take a different approach to the often-spectacular under-achievements in the travel industry… by celebrating them. There are tons of critical reviews of books, movies and plays in the media, but not many in the travel industry. TitanicAwards.com is not attempting to fulfill the accountability gap in the travel industry; it’s more like a shot across the bow. Besides, some of the strange and unflattering aspects of travel are the most interesting and entertaining. One of my favorite aspects of the website, besides reading about the legends’ top five worst experiences, are the travel videos. They have some posted on the most crowded train, a cruise pool just getting walloped by rough water and a desert driving tour gone bad. There are sections where you can submit videos or nominate your worst experiences.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
ISRAEL DAY 4: Bethlehem (The West Bank)
Yesterday, Amir (our guide) dropped Natalie and me off at the West Bank Border (
Our driver was very friendly and he took us from where he picked us up at Bet Jalla to
The first basilica built here was completed in 333. That burned down in the Samaritan Revolt of 529 and was rebuilt in its present form in 565 by the Emperor Justinian I. To enter through the main door requires going through the Door of Humility built by the Turks. The door was built so low (it only goes up to about my chest) to prevent locals from rushing in on their horses, thereby forcing them to dismount and, perhaps unintentionally, paying their respects as they bow to enter.
The highlight of course is touring around the grotto beneath the basilica which enshrines the site where Jesus is believed to have been born. The exact spot is marked by a 14-point silver star set in the marble floor under an Armenian Apostolic altar. The other altar in the crypt, about 15 feet away, is the site which marks where Mary laid the newborn baby in the manger and that’s maintained by the Roman Catholics. There was an Eastern European tour group down there and they were singing “O Come, All Ye Faithful” in their native tongue which added even more reverence to the atmosphere.
It’s difficult to convey what I felt when I went down the stairs and see the exact spot where Jesus was born. Words can’t describe it but for sure I will never forget it. It’s still difficult for me to fathom that I just saw the actual place which I’ve been told about countless times. It never really seemed real and from now on hearing the stories and attending midnight mass at Christmas will have a newer and more profound meaning to me.
I was nervous about going to the West Bank – the only thing I knew about it was from the violent images on T.V. and someone told me it’s like
There’s really not much to do in the
Friday, May 15, 2009
Israel Day 3
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Israel Day 2
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Israel Day 1
As an aviation enthusiast, this is one of the coolest videos I've seen on YouTube. It's from a camera mounted in the cockpit of a KLM Boeing 747 as it's making its final approach on the island of St Maarten. The Caribbean scenery is beautiful and it's so exciting to see this enormous bird in the sky get closer and closer until it reaches the runway for a smooth landing. Man, this gets me all jazzed up to get on a plane and go somewhere exotic! How about you?
Monday, May 11, 2009
Friday, May 08, 2009
Earth Day has come and gone but we can't forget its meaning. So in honor of last month's celebration, here's an environmentally friendly search engine. It's called Blackle and it's really Google but without the white background and all the bells and whistles; there's no searching images or how many searches come up in your results. I had no idea that Google's usual bright white background sucks up so much energy. As of yesterday, Blackle has saved 1,220,786.324 watt hours. So, are you going to Google or Blackle?