Johnny Jet's Travel Blog

Travel blog featuring best travel sites, travel deals, travel guides, effective travel tips, daily stories with up-to-date travel information, travel pictures, travel webcams. For more, visit my travel portal, www.johnnyjet.com.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

IS THIS TRUE?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

WEBSITE OF THE DAY: Oovoo.com

Oovoo.com

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.


THIS WEEK'S NEWSLETTER

Greetings from Connecticut! This week, we finish up our trip to South America in style as we travel from Argentina to Rio and check in to one of the world’s most famous hotels: The Copacabana Palace. You won’t want to miss this or one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. We then spend Memorial Day in my favorite place in the world – with friends and family in the Nutmeg State. Shhh … can you hear the music? That’s 50 Cent singing, “It’s my birthday, it’s my birthday!” Dance, everyone! It’s my birthday ... on Sunday! Read on...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

MEMORIAL DAY DEALS – LOS ANGELES

By Clare Sayas

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!
__________
LA MARATHON
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
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

TRAVEL VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Air New Zealand Commerical

Air New Zealand Commerical

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

I'm in New York City this week and it feels like summer! With that in mind my friend Melissa just sent me over some events you may want to place on your calendar if you are spending time here. Enjoy.

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

Above Allen
190 Allen Street
Retractable roof at the Thompson LES Hotel


OUTDOOR MOVIES

Bryant Park
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

Rooftop Films
Now - ??
Films are screened among several NYC rooftops
for a list of films, locations and dates go to rooftopfilms.com

Brooklyn
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
nycfoodfilmfestival.com

FESTIVALS

Big Apple Barbecue
June 13 -14 (11am – 7pm)
Madison Square Park – Admission is FREE
a must for BBQ fans
bigapplebbq.org

The Coney Island Mermaid Parade
June 20 (2:00 pm)
Annual free-for-all parade to mark the start of summer
coneyisland.com

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
apwfestival.com

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

WEBSITE OF THE DAY: Bottom Line Secrets

Bottom Line Secrets
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

WEBSITE OF THE DAY: TitanicAwards.com

TitanicAwards.com
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 (Palestinian Authority Territory). Israelis aren’t allowed by Israeli law to go in there so he arranged for us to be picked up by a Palestinian driver from the Bethlehem Souvenir Center Co. The shop provided us with transportation and a guide for free. The only catch was that we had to go into their store at the end of the tour. There was no pressure to buy anything (at all) but everyone does (including us) because the experience at the church is so amazing you want keepsakes to remember it. Palestine isn’t a country yet so there’s no real border crossing or stamps to add to your passport. Actually, no one looked at our passports nor were we stopped. Just an Israeli guard peaked into our vehicle on the way in and out.

Our driver was very friendly and he took us from where he picked us up at Bet Jalla to Bethlehem which takes 5 minutes. We met up with our guide a block from the Church of the Nativity. You’ve probably heard of it since it’s one of the most famous in the world as they broadcast Christmas Eve mass from here all over and it’s also one of the oldest continuously operating churches. The structure was built over the cave that tradition marks as the birthplace of Jesus. The structure is a combination of two churches: one is the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the other is the Church of St. Catherine. There’s also another denomination presiding there—the Armenian Apostolic.

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 Tijuana and I almost didn’t even go. But that’s not the case at all. I felt safe. Only one kid tried to sell me gum and one teenager hassled me to buy postcards but that’s it. Everyone I saw seemed happy and it was just every day life taking place – kids going to school, women shopping and men selling beans on the side of the road. I also saw many nice houses – nothing like what’s portrayed on the major networks.

There’s really not much to do in the West Bank so basically it’s a two-hour trip. Besides seeing the church and getting olive wood souvenirs, the last place of real interest is the wall that Israel put up that the Palestinians are upset about. I have no opinion but many Israelis I spoke to said it really has helped with the suicide bombings so if that’s what it takes – so be it.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Israel Day 3


My guide Amir picked me up at 8:30am right after another incredible Israeli breakfast – these guys know how to eat! The hotel is just outside the walled Old City of Jerusalem but everything was blocked off for the Pope’s visit. We walked and walked and my calves were killing me from the crazy hike down of Masada the day before. It turned out to be an action-packed day, visiting some of the holiest Christian sites in the world. First stop was the site of the Last Supper which is not in its original building (obviously) but rather the place said to be the exact spot. Below is King David's Tomb and nearby is Dormition Abbey - the place where Virgin Mary fell asleep. But the highlight was going back to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of Christ’s crucifixion and burial. The Pope was giving mass inside there and security wouldn’t let people within a few hundred yard (or more) radius. However, Amir had us slip in with a bunch of monks and photographers and we walked with them in places we weren’t supposed to be. Then Amir took a sudden right turn down a deserted alley and while reluctantly following, I whispered “Amir, they are all going the other way” – he whispered back without moving his lips – “trust me and just pretend you own the place”. We just walked right by a ton of police and military and ended up on top of the Church! He opened one of the doors and there it was – The Rotunda of the Anastasis of which is the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre itself. Mass just ended and we quickly made our way down there to have the place basically to ourselves (maybe 7 other tourists). The day before it was an hour wait to get into the rooms holding The Angel's Stone, a fragment of the stone believed to have sealed the tomb after Jesus' burial and the tomb itself. I lit some candles for my mom and loved ones and left with a huge smile on my face. It wasn’t only the highlight of the trip but possibly of a lifetime.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Israel Day 2

Yesterday, I had an incredible day. It began at 8:30 with a 75 minute drive to Masada, an ancient palace and fortification on top of an isolated rock plateau built by Herod The Great. I took the 3-minute cable car up and walked down – it took 25 minutes and it was steep at parts and my fear of heights kicked in so bad that my knees were shaking. I was all by my lonesome for the descend but I did pass 7 people walking up (3 of them Americans). TIP: Bring sunscreen, a hat and water and go early in the morning.

From there it was a 15-minute drive along the Dead Sea to a place called to Mineral. The “beach” is rough gravel and hot (bring water shoes) but the lowest place on earth (400 meters below sea level is amazing). I saw a guy floating and I thought for sure he had “floaties” between his legs – he didn’t. I went in and the salt water is so thick (though it feels like regular water) it stung a tiny bit on my warm where I had a scratch. I waded in and probably had the same sensation as astronauts in space. It was remarkable! I felt like a kid putting my hands up in the air proving you can not sink. Other bathers in deeper water appeared to be standing but they weren’t. Afterwards I went over to the mud spring which was like quick sand when I jumped in as fast as I could as my feet were burning (I didn’t have water shoes). My whole leg was in submerged in mud and I could barely pull it out. Since nothing lives in the Dead Sea I wasn’t worried about any predators - I coated the dark mud on and then went back into the water. I then ran over to the shower to wash off any places I missed and to get the salt off. My skin was so smooth afterwards. WARNING: Don’t put your head in the water, don’t drink it and don’t get it in your eyes. According to our guide a ½ cup would kill you, swallowing just a little would make you sick.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Israel Day 1

This week I'm in Israel! It's my first trip to the Holy Land and it's nothing like what I imagined. It's much nicer and the people are so friendly. Yesterday, I toured around the old city of Jerusalem (pic is at the Western Wall). Today, I'm off to Masada and the Dead Sea. Way more to come...

TRAVEL VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Landing St. Maarten from Cockpit 747

Landing St. Maarten from Cockpit 747
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

TRAVEL PRODUCT OF THE WEEK: Crispy Green's Fruit Snacks

Crispy Green's Fruit Snacks
Are you like me, always trying to find a good snack to take on the plane that's not going to kill your diet or land you in jail for breaking customs laws? Personally, I fancy Target's Archer Farms S'mores trail mix but there's so much fat in there, I can feel my belly growing between takeoff and landing. Well, Crispy Green's fruit snacks might just help me (and you) navigate around the S'mores craving when traveling. These snacks are available in four flavors: Crispy Apples, Crispy Bananas, Crispy Pears and Crispy Pineapples in a moisture-free, convenient single serving size packet. After tasting one, I now understand why they annoyingly call it Crispy - because these snacks are seriously the crispiest things I've ever had. So crispy, in fact, they might make the Kellogg's Snap, Crackle and Pop boys switch brands. The good news is that one single serving of Crispy Green's is 40 calories or less with no added sugar preservatives, colors, fat or cholesterol. They are also certified Kosher by Shatz Kosher services and are gluten-free, peanut/tree-free and dairy-free for vegans. They also have a long shelf life and cost just $1.49 for the single serving size and $7.99 for the six-pack.

Friday, May 08, 2009

WEBSITE OF THE DAY: Blackle.com

Blackle.com
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?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

WEBSITE OF THE DAY: Loopt.com

Loopt.com
My cousin Arty recently turned me on to this website: loopt.com. It's really an application for your phone. It's free to download and works with pretty much every phone (over 100 different models) except, of course, mine - the Blackberry Flip. What's useful to travelers about Loopt is that it turns your phone into a social compass. You can see where your friends are and what they're doing without having to call or text. If you guys 'n' gals are in the same city (or neighborhood), you can connect on the fly, share photos and tips on cool places. You can even share your information with Facebook. Don't worry: Big Brother isn't always watching. You can change your privacy settings at any time if you don't want to be found.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

TRAVEL VIDEO CONTEST OF THE DAY: Invest In Your Love contest

Invest In Your Love contest
Here's another tourism board looking to cash in on the success of Queensland Australia's brilliant free advertising campaign, The Best Job in the World. BTW: The winner; Britain's Ben Southall was announced yesterday. For those couples or families who feel like they lost out, here's your second chance. Tahiti Tourism just launched their own online video contest for either six couples or families to win a trip to the ultimate paradise: Tahiti! (I've been there a few times including this past fall and it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It's also one of the most expensive so it's great if you can go for free!
Here’s the deal: Couples and families can submit creative, entertaining and interesting videos to the Invest In Your Love contest via investinyourlove.com, showcasing why they need (and deserve) an escape to the famed islands of Tahiti. Videos that receive the highest number of public votes move on as finalists and an expert panel will select winners. There are six contest periods for a chance to win. See InvestInYourLove.com for full rules, regulations and a “how-to submit” video explanation.