My American friends call it Orlando, Florida, which means there are probably tens of other Orlandos across the US? But this one is the holy grail of consumer tourism. Theme parks have popped up like mushrooms with a symbiotic generation of hordes of hotels and restaurants to welcome fun hungry tourists.Beyond Disneyworld, EPCOT, Animal Land, Universal Studios, and Sea World, there must be other 20 parks: the pirate’s park, the water park, the fear park, the parrot’s park…And rolling across Orlando by car is an endless sequence: hotel, restaurant, hotel, restaurant, park, hotel, restaurant, t-shirt shop, restaurant, park, hotel..At the airport, I ask for a map to find out how to get to the hotel. I get offered a free, 150-page guide. The requested map is one on one thin page, and the other 149 pages are dedicated to ads for parks, restaurants and hotels. The last page is the pearl – a tipping guide, teaching Europeans how to tip! 15% for cabs and restaurants, 1 buck for suitcase handling, 1 buck for asking the concierge for directions, and 2-3 bucks if the directions are complex.Orlando, Florida: Land of the Tip.Restaurants are competing in a permanent race to put more stuff on your plate. We spent the first evening at a conference buffet. Great idea: you can pick, choose and pace your meal. But the second evening, we had a team dinner at a famous steak house, where obviously, they do steaks. The waiter carries a large tray full of fresh meat cuts – it’s the menu. She goes on to tell us every detail about every cut: age, weight, texture, taste, most appropriate cooking method. She’s fighting for her 15% tip. (I should have recorded the speech).I go for a respectable, 23 ounce filet mignon (there are only 2 in each cow, I learn). It’s called “The Fabulous.” When I order, she nods in confidence: “The Fabulous – good choice.” I feel important. The slab of meat, which lands on my dish 5 minutes later, also looks important. Perfectly cooked, melts in your mouth.But my ears start buzzing half way through. My body can’t take a full Fab.
Posts in ‘Food, Pubs & Nightlife’
I have barely recovered from the overwhelming sea of red Hallmark that was Valentines Day. I haven’t even thought about which Irish pub I will be visiting on March 17th, but nonetheless, this morning, I was jolted into the future by the ultimate Americanization of Easter Cheer: an advertisement for a McDonald’s Cadbury Creme Egg McFlurry. ‘The hunt is over’, it read.
If the hunt is really over, then I’d better forget my planned spring beach trip and go get fat on some ice cream blended with chocolate, sugary Easter goodness.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am just as fond of chocolate eggs as the next girl with a sweet tooth. In fact, I kind of love them. But not for a third of the year, and especially not the third that falls before prime swimsuit weather. The consuming public does not need to be chased with bunnies and creative milkshakes just days after stowing away their Christmas wreaths.
And what is all of this sneaky rhetoric? Is the ‘hunt’ really over? The hunt for what? Fast food chains? Cadbury Eggs? Happiness?
As joyful as I feel after the occasional Happy Meal, I would rather make my personal quest for Easter Cheer a bit more mysterious and exciting. How fun is a holiday hunt if you can spot the glowing yellow prize from 3 blocks away…every 3 blocks? Not so much.
So today I have decided to embark on a global Hunt for Easter Cheer. Do join in! There are over 31,000 McDonald’s franchises worldwide. The least we can do is find a dozen or so interesting places to spend our Easter and/or summer holidays. Here’s what I’ve found so far: continue reading
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I know, I know—you want your Mexican rendezvous to involve the least amount of planning possible. It’s Spring Break, for crying out loud, and as long as there’s booze, sun, sand and some like minded crazy kids, you’re fine. The only thing you need to “plan” is what kind of plastic container you are going to hide your coconut rum in when packing your suitcase. Trust me, I’ve been there.
But before you hop on the plane in a few weeks (or, if you’re kicking it old school, jump in a van), I want you to do two things:
- Remember your passport or photo ID (the real one!), whichever you need for your chosen route of debauchery. And don’t lose it.
Put it in one of those dorky Samsonite pouches or something. Trust me, the overworked people at the airport/border do not care how much you’ve spent on your ticket/hotel, or who your dad is. They don’t. Forget/lose your ID, and you are screwed.
- Take 30 minutes to actually think about what is going on in and around the place you are visiting, and book a few things to do.
By this I mean: there are going to be plenty of opportunities to get drunk and sunburned. There are going to be thousands of people running around you all day long doing just this. At first it will all seem fantastic (and it is). But by the third or fourth day of non-stop drinking up with the Joneses, you will crash. There are plenty of cool and exciting day excursions that you can do to switch things up a bit. Many are cheap and take only a few minutes to sign up for.
You may be thinking, “oh, I’ll just figure it out when I get there…they will be selling tours to see the Mayan ruins left and right.” Yes, they will, and no, you won’t. After 72 hours of spending all of your saved up dough on daiquiris, forgotten toiletries, and expensive burgers, the last thing you will want to do is fork over a wad of cash for an overpriced tour to a perky sales agent. It will be even harder to talk a friend into doing it with you. So take a few minutes, and plan. continue reading
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Feeling lucky this St. Patrick’s day?
Hungry for a bit of Irish culture?
Why not plan an adventurous getaway to the land of g’ luck and greenery?!
1. ‘Tis the season of abundance
Lucky you: we’re now approaching peak salmon fishing season! Embark on this 7 day, 6 night journey to the rivers of the gorgeous Shannon region to try your hand at salmon and trout fishing. You will stay at the charming, historic Millbank House, along the banks of the Mulcair River—one of the best places to reel ‘em in while immersing yourself in the lush, natural landscapes of the region. Your trip will include various salmon and trout fishing excursions, as well as a unique visit to the Castleconnell Salmon Fishery, where you can hone your current skills and experiment with new fishing techniques.
Minutes away from the shops, amenities, and outbound tours of Limerick, your lodgings in Shannon will be the perfect, peaceful travel base for a family with diverse interests. Be sure to double your luck at one of many nearby golf courses!
2. A lucky kiss!
For a bit of magic and mystery, you may want to embark on a trail to the famous Blarney stone near Cork. Bend over backwards and pucker up to the famed “Stone of Eloquence,” and you will, according to Blarney legend, never be at a loss for words. Explore the mystical, 600-year-old castle and lovely surrounding grounds—the perfect place to spend the afternoon with your family.
And if you make it on Sunday, March 22nd, you will get to partake in the Annual Easter Egg Hunt!
3. Sláinte (Cheers!)
Perhaps your heart lies in the most happy and humble place of all—the Irish pub. Why not experience Dublin’s most famous landmarks, on a three day sightseeing trip through beer and whiskey tasting paradise?
Explore the birthplace and brewing process of your favorite pint at the Guinness Storehouse; discover the step-by-step procedure of whiskey malting, milling, mashing, fermenting, distilling and maturing at the Old Jameson Distillery. Sip your way through the evening, and embark on a lively, downtown pub crawl!
Right now is the perfect (and lucky!) time to experience the nature, magic and welcoming vibrancy of the Emerald Isle.
G’Luck and Happy Planning!
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For food lovers, no better place to start than Paris, of course. The city is so rich with culinary delights, that any list of “top picks” would be far from complete. But a few unique and unknown experiences do exist for those who want to experience something truly authentic and special.
Cuisine, a key aspect of French culture, is deeply interlinked with French society. The Ecole Polytechnique is France’s most selective and top-ranked educational institution, offering an equally prestigious dining experience to the public. It is possible to take a tour of the Orsay Museum, combined with a gourmet meal at the university’s Maison des Polytechniciens.
Or, if you are looking for something even more intimate and educational, you can take a private cooking class , led by a Countess in her private mansion in the charming Montmarte area.
Perhaps you are a wine lover? I recommend taking this small group wine tasting tour through central Paris. An expert guide will take you to a few specialised wine bars, or bistrots, allowing you to taste some of the finest wines produced on country.
Here is another small group wine tasting itinerary in the Latin district (rue Mouffetard).
Paris is also well-connected to the unique, delectable experiences of neighbouring cities and regions. Try any of these:
- The Chablis village and cellars in Burgundy
- The Moët & Chandon champagne cellars in Epernay
- A candlelit dinner at the Chateau of Vaux-Le-Vicomte (the chateau is lit with 2000 candles at night!)
- The castles and wine tasting tour in the Loire Valley