One of pleasures of living in a city is the profusion of food trucks. Los Angeles, DC, Minneapolis and most other medium to good-sized cities feature food trucks selling food that is way beyond pizza slices and burgers.
Then there are the hotel food trucks.
I didn’t know any hotels had food trucks until I read an article on a hotel management web site. For two years, until 2014, the very fancy hotel chain, the Four Seasons, did a Four Seasons Food Truck Tour (pictured), making stops in Four Seasons cities and serving up street food cooked by accomplished chefs. It’s a way to extend the brand, said a Four Seasons executive.
Aloft hotels, the hip hotel division of the Starwood hotels group, brings its own food truck to Aloft Hotel music events. In all cases the trucks are branded with the hotels’ logos. The Aloft truck serves Korean and Indian dishes that enhance the offering of bars at Aloft hotels that don’t not have restaurants.
Just recently, the JW Marriott in San Antonio launched a food truck, too. The Flyin’ Lion, as it’s called, offers regional fare such as pulled pork, brisket, smoked sausage, and baked potatoes. Meeting planners are invited to use it for group events.
Yup, there’s an app for that. It’s the coolest flight tracking app ever.
It’s called FlightRadar24, and you can literally launch the app, point your smartphone’s camera at an aircraft overhead, and learn the airline, flight number, originating city and destination. But that’s just the beginning. You can ask the app to display all the planes overhead in your region. Or you can ask to see what planes—all in real time, by the way—are over London or Hong Kong.
The secret is 7,500 antennas the two Swedish founders of this app have positioned all over the world—from Greenland to the Maldives to Stockholm–that read signals planes constantly transmit revealing each flight’s details.
FlightRadar24 has application far beyond amusing those of us who want to identify planes. Their computers retain data for five hours, and right after that pilot flew the Germanwings plane into a French mountainside last March, FlightRadar24’s data showed he’d set the autopilot to do just that. The aircraft’s black box later confirmed the data.
Check out FlightRadar24.com and download the app for about four bucks.
There’s a myth among some infrequent travelers that collecting frequent flyer miles is a useless exercise. It’s not, and the price of those miles is built into your airline ticket so why not take advantage of that?
First of all, everyone by now should know that you can collect miles and points even if you don’t fly much if you use a credit card linked to an airline’s frequent flyer program.
The trick is to use that card for as many things as you can. Think out of the box—maybe you can pay your monthly rent with the card? I do, and I collect enough miles that way each year for a free domestic airline ticket and then some.
The second trick is to use your miles most effectively. You get the biggest bang for your miles if you use them to upgrade from coach to business class, though not all classes of coach tickets allow this. Make sure you learn the rules of the airline with whom you wish to upgrade a ticket.
Airlines are making more and more award seats available these days. With some advance planning, you should be able to score domestic, round-trip tickets for 25,000 miles.
There seems to be a certain inevitability to Airbnb, the home-sharing service that’s disrupting the traditional lodging business worldwide. Even as hotels protest and lobby against the company, Airbnb keeps coming back, working with local and even national governments to achieve success.
Effective October first, Airbnb will begin remitting tourist taxes to Paris, making that the ninth city to convince Airbnb to collect revenue on behalf of the local government. There are still complaints against the whole concept of the company, though. In New York, critics claim that apartments that would otherwise be available for normal rental are being used by owners acquiring multiple units to offer as nightly rentals. Neighbors in some cities, such as Barcelona, complain of transients.
But these disruptive companies like Airbnb and Uber march forward. Uber, for example, finally negotiated the right to pick up passengers at Los Angeles’ airport with the LA City Council; one taxi driver told a reporter he’ll no longer be able to make a living.
Taxi companies around the world are trying to catch up with Uber, offering bookings by phone, for example—and hotels’ rates have generally slipped a bit in cities where Airbnb has a big footprint.
As Bob Dylan sings, “I feel a change comin’ on.”
Keith Bellows was an icon in the world of travel and journalism. He took a little-known magazine, National Geographic Traveler, and turned it into what in the publishing industry is called a “hot book.” He led the turn toward authentic travel long before other journalists caught on. He understood digital before most of us. And he was selfless in encouraging writers and photographer to do their best work.
We lost Keith a few weeks ago after a long illness, and the outpouring of sorrow from friends and admirers was considerable. He was the Will Rogers of travel: Keith Bellows never met a place he didn’t like. And he was both a brilliant editor as well as a writer who seemed to control the tap of an unlimited reservoir of just-right words that could evoke a sense of place in a reader.
Here’s how he described a trip through Albania:
“We drive through the Ceraunian Mountains,” he wrote, “on a switchback-happy coastal road, past walls of black pines and by rickety tables laden with local honey and tea. Slopes spilling down to beaches yield, in season, lemons, oranges, and olives. “These are my mountains,” said my guide, “they are in my blood.”
Travel and writing were in Keith Bellows’ blood. He was my editor and my close friend, and I join an army of fans who will miss him so.
Accompanying photo: Keith Bellows with friend Lesley Trevillian at dinner in Paris, by Rudy Maxa