If you’ve seen “The Amazing Race” on television, perhaps you’ve thought about participating in something like that. Perhaps you’d like to be one of the 48 people this spring who will participate in a global scavenger hunt.
The Global Scavenger Hunt is exactly what it sounds like. From April 12th through May 4th, 24 teams of two people each will be have what organizers call a “blind date with the world.” You won’t know where you’re going, and you won’t know what you’ll be asked to do until you get there.
The cost of $10,500, or $450 a day, includes all your airfare, first-class accommodations, and nearly half of your meals. The winning team gets a $22,000 prize and a trophy.
Past challenges have included taking an elephant safari in search of Bengal tigers in Rajasthan, working a morning at a Cambodian orphanage, and learning how to make baklava in a Turkish bakery. Along the way you’ll make new friends—marriages have resulted from past hunts, by the way.
You’ll visit at least ten countries, and all the paperwork such as visas will have been taken care of beforehand. Your job is to show up and follow the clues. Details here.
If you’re headed near Georgia, I suggest you spend a little quality time in the beautiful town of Savannah. And hop aboard an open-topped hearse while you’re there.
An easy way to learn a bit of the history of Savannah is to join a 75-minute tour run by Hearse Ghost Tours. My producer recently did just that, and her guide was Mike Bolechala, known locally as “Mad Mike” Bolechala.
Mike told his clients that one reason there are so many reports of ghosts in town is that so many Civil War soldiers died there in battle. It’s not uncommon for someone to begin digging a pool in their backyard and encounter the remains of the dead.
This city, of course, was made famous in the best-selling novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil, but with its mansions and oaks dripping with moss, it’s also the story of a city’s re-birth. Savannah fell into disrepair early in the 20th century, but concerned citizens and historic preservationists revived in in the ‘70s.
Oh, and it’s sort of a liberal place. Mad Mike says feel free to bring along a cocktail during your tour around town. You might need a cocktail after you hear some of his stories.
In Europe, a new court ruling spanked airlines trying to wriggle out of reimbursing passengers for delayed or cancelled flights. If you have European travel plans in the future, you should know about this
The European Union’s court of justice ruled that passengers whose flights arrive more than three hours late are entitled to compensation of up to nearly $800. Unless, that is, the delay is due to extraordinary circumstances outside the airline’s control such as bad weather.
The ruling doesn’t let airlines off the hook for mechanical difficulties, some strike actions, and weather reasons that can’t be backed up. Airlines had fought against liberalizing the terms of payment for years, claiming a mechanical problem, for example, ought to relieve them of the obligation of reimbursing passengers.
But the court ruling is definitive, and here’s who must abide by it: All airlines whose flights start or end in any of the European Union’s 27 countries.
Here’s what to do if you’re delayed longer than three hours: Download the iPhone or Android app called YourPassengerRights. Fill out a form, and you’ll learn if you have a valid case.
Then go to the web site Flight-Delayed.co.uk. For $33, Flight Delayed will do all the work for you.
If a New York-based company called OTG has its way, you’ll hardly be able to sit down at an airport without finding an iPad in front of you.
OTG is a company that specializes in bringing higher-end restaurants and stores to airports. The company sometimes hires local chefs and name restaurants to build out innovative and more daring eateries than the usual chain outlets that populate most US airports.
You can witness what they’re doing at Delta’s terminal at LaGuadia and Concourse G at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. But along with restaurants with ambitious menus, OTG installs iPads at every table that allows passengers to order meals and pay their checks. And the iPad can be removed from its holder so passengers may browse the web or check email. And in some cases, OTG is putting individual iPads at seats near departure gates.
I applaud both the upgraded food outlets as well as the availability of iPads. With passengers having to spend more and more time at airports, it’s only natural that many of us desire better options for dining. And having access to complimentary iPads is icing on the cake.
The country’s airports are watching these new developments closely, and I expect they’ll follow.
Americans often return from visits overseas asking the question, “Why can’t we have cool, high-speed trains like they do in Europe, Japan, and China?”
AMTRAK is America’s whipping boy. Passengers sometimes suffer mediocre service, meals, and uncertain departure and arrival times. Some in Congress want to shut it down, others grant AMTRAK just enough money to keep operating but not enough to improve it.
The only AMTRAK line that works and makes money runs along the East Coast corridor, linking Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and DC. Not only does that work, it’s beating the competition, the famous hourly shuttles operated by Delta and US Airways.
In 2001, a third of passengers between NY and DC went by train; today, 75% of them do.
And the airlines’ cheapest fare between NY and DC is $90 more than the average $145 fare on the high-speed Acela train (pictured). I use the term “high-speed” lightly because the ancient tracks keep the train from going anywhere near as fast as it is able to go.
Unless and until Congress commits to spending billions of dollars, America will always have a rail system way behind the times. And not much of it will turn a profit.