Learn Salsa Dancing, Cooking and Cocktail Making Virtually With Discover Puerto Rico

 

Domes Beach, Rincón- Credit Discover Puerto Rico

We wish we could be here in Domes Beach in Rincón, Puerto Rico.  Credit: Discover Puerto Rico

In March 2020, probably our day-to-day travels involve going to and from the kitchen, the living room, the bedroom or heck even to the bathroom. Getting out for a walk or run or to the grocery store seems like an excursion in itself.

This weekend, March 27 through March 29, 2020, Discover Puerto Rico is going to take you further than that albeit virtually.  On each night, the island’s tourism board will be broadcasting presentations involving culture and cuisine to at least give a break from Netflix for a while.

Here’s the lineup:

Tito Ortos and Tamara Livolsi - Credit Tito Ortos and Tamara Livolsi (2)

Practice salsa dancing with Tito Ortos and Tamara Livolsi. Credit: Tito Ortos and Tamara Livolsi

Salsa Lesson on Friday, March 27, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST

The salsa lesson will kick-off with a brief overview of basic salsa steps from notable salsa dancers, Tito Ortos and Tamara Livolsi, and turn into a salsa dance party from the comfort of your home

To participate, log into Zoom, a virtual meeting space, for free. Use the link https://zoom.us/j/293759126 (type in the Meeting ID, #293-759-126) at 8 p.m. EST.

All you need is an internet connection and a webcam to show off your best moves to other participants. No experience is necessary.

Tito Ortos, director of the San Juan City Salsa Dance Program, participates with Tamara Livolsi every year in congresses around the world. They both work as judges for the World Salsa Summit, Euroson Latino and the World Salsa Championships.

Piña Colada Cocktail - Credit Jungle Bird Bar

Puerto Rico is the birthplace of the Piña Colada. Credit: Jungle Bird Bar

Cocktail Making on Saturday, March 28, from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST

Participants will not want to miss top bartender on the Island, Roberto Berdecia, co-owner of acclaimed La Factoría and Jungle Bird, serve up one of his favorites.

To participate, join via Instagram Live at @discoverpuertorico, the tourism board’s Instagram account.

La Factoría in Old San Juan is celebrating its fifth year as one of the “World’s 50 Best Bars” and is featured in the music video of the hit song, Despacito. The bar offers incredible cocktails harnessing local flavors, some of the best hospitality on the island.

Wilo Benet Dish - Credit Kroma Brand We Build

Learn Puerto Rican recipes from Chef Wilo Benet. Credit: Kroma Brand We Build

Cooking Class on Sunday, March 29, from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST

Chef Wilo Benet, who has been credited with redefining Puerto Rican cuisine, and in that process, has put the island’s flavors on the global map, will walk viewers through one of his favorite dishes can be easily whipped up from your home kitchen.

To participate, join via Instagram Live at @discoverpuertorico.

Chef Benet defines his culinary style as contemporary global cuisine, a concept that combines traditional Puerto Rican ingredients with Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Spanish, Italian, French and Arab influences.

Google Maps Celebrates Its 15th Birthday

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Google Maps is marking its 15th birthday this year with updates, within iOS and Android, that further enhance how users get around plus explore a destination based on their interests.

I attended a media preview held by Google that featured a step-by-step demonstrations of five new Google Maps’ easy-to-access tabs. They are: “Explore,” “Commute,” “Saved,” “Contribute” and “Updates.”

These tabs all relate to common tasks that users carry out in the app and are located directly at the bottom of your phone’s screen.

2. Five Tabs

With “Commute,” the tab is designed to make sure you’re on the most efficient route, where you’re traveling by car or public transit. Users can set up their daily commute to get real-time traffic updates, travel times and suggestions for alternative routes.

Developed through informative from Google Maps users, “Contribute” makes it easier to share local knowledge, such as details about roads and addresses, missing places, business reviews and photos.

The new “Updates” tab provides a feed of trending, must-see spots from local experts and publishers, like the dining publication, The Infatuation. Along with saving and sharing recommendations with your network, you can also directly chat with businesses to get questions answered.

With “Explore,” you’ll find information, ratings, reviews and more for about 200 million places around the world, including local restaurants, nearby attractions and city landmarks.

“Saved” enables viewing these spots in one place, as well as finding and organizing plans for an upcoming trip and sharing recommendations based on places you’ve been. For example, at the media preview, a Google employee showed a mock planing of a trip to New Orleans had him researching and storing suggested places to visit in this tab.

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Google Maps icon will also switch to a multi-colored pin, moving away from the previous map-liked illustration. For a limited time, a celebratory party-themed car icon will appear when you use Google Maps for navigation.

Over the coming months, Google will expand Live View and test new capabilities that will enable users to see the direction they need to walk in instead of turn-by-turn directions. It will also enable users to directly see how far away and in which direction a place is.

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To celebrate its 15th birthday, Google will host a NYC Google Maps Experience from Friday, Feb. 7 through Sunday, Feb. 9, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., in the Flatiron Plaza beside Madison Square Park.

The general public can interact with a physical representation of the new Google Maps icon, which in structure releases a sealed envelope with the press of a button.

The envelope contains a voucher for a complimentary NYC-related experience at a local business. Possible experiences can involve a free Breads Bakery chocolate babka; a free latte from Devocion; a tour of a chocolate factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn; or an Italian dinner in Staten Island that’s cooked by grandmothers.

Do you use Google Maps? Tell me in the comments section how the app has helped you while traveling.

Alsace Christmas Market Comes to NYC

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If you’ve ever wanted to visit a Christmas market in Germany, France or other parts of Europe, but can’t get there just yet, you can make a trek to NYC’s Lower Manhattan instead. During much of December 2019, a Christmas market that is based upon a famous market in eastern France has set foot in Bowling Green Park.

I attended the preview party. Here are some photos from that night.

The NYC holiday market is a replica of Marché de Noel de Strasbourg-Alsace, a Christmas market in the Alsace region of France that’s considered to be the oldest market of its kind in Europe. It dates back to 1570 and is held every year in the city of Strasbourg.

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Moving forward to 2019, the market’s American arrival is a result of a cultural exchange involving the tourism boards representing the Alsace region and Strasbourg, along with the French cities of Colmar and Mulhouse.

The market has wooden chalets made in and shipped from Alsace, with an assortment of French goods for sale. Find artisanal crafts ranging from pottery from Soufflenheim and Betschdorf, to hand-painted Christmas ornaments from Strasbourg, to fine table linens from Colmar.

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French gastronomic specialties including handmade candies, jams, foie gras pâté, bredele Christmas cookies and gingerbread plus Bretzels O’choc (chocolate covered pretzels) will be available for purchase. Fulfill your appetite with Alsatian culinary specialties, including tarte flambée and plates of choucroute piled with hearty sausages and potatoes, and pair them with Alsatian craft beers and wines. Warm up with a hot mulled glühwein made with spices and cinnamon.

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The Strasbourg Christmas Market will run through December 22; Bowling Green Park is across from Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. Vendors take debit or credit cards only.

 

 

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Travel Deals

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Photo by Nubia Navarro (nubikini) on Pexels.com

 

Here’s a round of various 2019 Black Friday and Cyber Monday travel deals.

Now through November 29, EF Ultimate Break is reducing prices up to $1,500 or 20 percent on destinations for its biggest Black Friday sale.  They include much of Europe, Bali and India. Select EF Ultimate Break tours will be up to $1,000 OFF Cyber Monday and Travel Tuesday; sale ends Friday, Dec. 6.

On Black Friday only, Perillo Tours  is offering a $250 off per person when travelers use the code “BLACKFRIDAY19″ on the following trips: North Classic, Continental, Marco Polo, South & Sicily, Rome & Puglia, Vesuvius, Rome & Tuscany, Wonders of the North, Rome and Amalfi Getaway 6-night, Hawaii, and Spain. The offer is valid on new bookings only for travel January 1 to December 31, 2020, except for the Rome and Amalfi 7-Night Experience or the Joe Piscopo Tour.

Also, booking through custom Italy trips with Perillo Tours through ItalyVacations.com receive $250 OFF per booking on any minimum purchase of $2,000 per booking while using the code”ITALY19”; discount applies to land only.

Turkish Airlines is having a Black Friday “Friday Flyday”sale with discounts to various cities around the world.

By using the promo code, “FLYDAY,” Qatar AirwaysBlack Friday is offering its passengers flying from the United States savings of $150 off Economy Class to Adelaide, Da Nang, Bali, Nairobi, Perth, and Tbilisi. Plus, the airline will be giving up to $300 off on its Business Class’ Qsuite to destinations such as Bangkok, Johannesburg and Melbourne. All offers are valid for travel starting January 10 onwards.

Air France will be launching an early Black Friday/Cyber Monday deal for their Flying Blue loyalty members, which they will earn triple miles on U.S. to Paris flights.  If you’re not a member, sign up is free and simple and can be done here. The deal goes through December 2.

G Adventures is launching a seven-day Cyber Sale with savings of up to 35 percent on thousands of trips departing between December 3 and April 30, 2020. The sale begins on November 26 and runs until 11.59pm EST on December 2.

In anticipation of its July 4, 2020 opening, LEGOLAND New York Resort is offering a 50 percent off its highest tier annual pass, the Gold PassFrom Black Friday through Cyber Monday, families can purchase the Gold Pass (valued at $209.99) for $99.99.

For Black Friday, Trafalgar is offering up to 20 percent off on 40-plus trips worldwide on bookings made between Nov. 29 through Dec 2, for select 2020 departure.

Contiki is offering up to 30 percent off select trips purchased over Cyber Weekend. Valid on select trips on bookings paid by Dec 18.

From Black Friday through 11:59 p.m. on Cyber Monday, Wild Bum will offer discounts on their travel guides. For example, their “Food, Wine & Hiking in New Zealand” is regularly priced at $75 but is listed at $37.50 on Black Friday.

On Black Friday, shop with Hotwire’s mobile app between November 27 and November 29 to save up to $70 off on hotel bookings for any date. This promotion includes Hotwire’s everyday Hot Rates. Use the following codes:

  • $10 off $100 hotel bookings using promo code: HWBF10
  • $40 off $300 hotel bookings using promo code: HWBF40
  • $70 off $500 hotel bookings using promo code: HWBF70

For Cyber Monday, book a hotel for any date with Hotwire on December 2 and take an extra 11 percent off $100 Hot Rate Hotels. Use the promo code “HWHOTDEALS.”

For Black Friday, download or open Orbitz’s app for a promo code that will unlock 18 percent off of various hotels; on Cyber Monday, visit the Deals section of the booking site’s webpage for a promo code to receive 17 percent off hotels in-app and on the website. And then there are extended deals via Orbitz from November 25 through December 1, use the promo code “ALLWEEK15” for 15 percent off.

Travelocity has a similar promo for Black Friday, by downloading or opening its app the day-of for promo code that will unlock 18 percent of off hotels in-app or on its website. From November 25 through December 1, use the promo code “GRATEFUL15” for 15 percent of hotels sitewide. Also, shoppers can save up to 50 percent off select hotels through December 3; no promo code required.

Tell me in the comments below of any other Black Friday/Cyber Monday travel deals.

Amtrak Companion Fare Sale Chugs along Northeast Corridor

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Photo courtesy of Amtrak

If you and a plus one want to spend this summer traveling by train, Amtrak has announced its Buy One Get One companion fare sale that gives you two a price break. With savings on Saturday travel on Amtrak’s Acela and Northeast Regional trains, Amtrak’s Buy One Get One companion fare sale began on June 24, 2019 and will run through August 30, 2019.

With the Saturday-touting sale, passenger can book day trips, weekend getaways or vacations for two anywhere along the rail company’s Northeast Corridor (between Virginia Beach and Boston), for travel beginning June 29, 2019. Learn more here.

The Northeast corridor includes stops in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston.

Some of the special prices available for two customers, in either direction, during the sale are featured in the chart below.

Pairing Cities Price for Two Pairing Cities   Price for Two
Boston – New York NER-$83

Acela – $125

Charlottesville – Washington, D.C. NER – $37
Philadelphia -New York NER – $60

Acela – $113

New York – Providence NER – $71

Acela – $119

New York – Washington, D.C. NER – $96

Acela – $173

New York – Baltimore NER – $86

Acela – $168

Richmond – New York NER – $103 Washington, D.C. – Philadelphia NER – $59

Acela – $128

Richmond – Washington, D.C. NER – $38 Boston – Philadelphia NER – $104

Acela – $174

Now, here is the fine print. The sale is valid on all Acela and Northeast Regional train service operating between Roanoke or Norfolk, Virginia and Boston. This offer is not valid on unreserved service on the Pennsylvanian and Keystone Service locally between Philadelphia and Harrisburg and Thruway Service.

Use Discount code C222 on Amtrak.com to activate discount. Three-day advanced booking is required. The companion and full fare paying passenger must travel together on the same itinerary and have tickets issued together. Valid for coach seats only; no upgrades allowed.

Tell me, what route would you take?

 

TWA Hotel at JFK Is Now Open

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Credit: TWA Hotel at JFK/ Berlin Rosen

I went to the opening day for the TWA Hotel at JFK, the first hotel on this airport’s grounds and a restoration of the TWA Flight Center that serves as the hotel’s entrance and main lobby.

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The interior of the TWA Hotel at JFK / photo by Michele Herrmann

Built in 1962 and designed by a visionary architect named Eero Saarinen, the TWA Flight Center was the terminal for Trans World Airlines or known as TWA. Coming into use during the Jet Age of aviation, the TWA Flight Center was both a thing of beauty and innovation. It was noted for features such as its long, red carpeted tunnels that passengers and flight crew walked to and from. After TWA ceased operations in 2001, so did its terminal. Landmark status saved it from demolition and overtime it was restored and fitted with two new adjacent buildings housing 512 hotel rooms.

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TWA Flight Center’s famous Sunken Lounge / photo by Michele Herrmann

A stay at the TWA Hotel at JFK is bringing both old and new  TWA Flight Center as many aspects of the former terminal are still present. There’s the Sunken Lounge, a chili pepper red-carpeted lounge area whose name fits its design. The terminal’s iconic flight tubes connecting to what’s now JetBlue’s Terminal 5 also are there.

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Shinola, a Detroit accessories company, is at the TWA Hotel at JFK. Photo by Michele Herrmann

 

Modern-day hotel amenities blend in as well. Additions include:

  • a 10,000-square-foot fitness center;
  • A Warby Parker Pencil Room, where visitors can use pencils engraved with funnyone-liners (available by donation with proceeds benefiting the nonprofit VisionSpring) to fill out custom postcards;
  • A Phaidon + Herman Miller Reading Room, where guests are invited to relax on midcentury modern furniture by Herman Miller while browsing Phaidon books;
  • The TWA Shop, selling apparel and gear honoring Trans World Airlines’ legacy;
  • The Paris Café by Jean-Georges, a 200-seat restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner from an open kitchen;
  • a grab-and-go dining Departures, including restaurants such as Antico Noè, Empanada Republic, Fresh&Co, The Halal Guys and Playa Bowls;
  • An Intelligentsia coffeebar and coffee carts throughout the hotel grounds; there are no coffee pots in the rooms, so guests can order from these options;
  • A rooftop infinity pool and observation deck with views of JFK’s runway 4 Left/22 Right plus a Pool Bar  serving cocktails and meals;
  • Museum exhibitions on TWA, the Jet Age and midcentury modern design curated by the New-York Historical Society.
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On the upper level, find a chronology of TWA uniforms by various designers including Giorgio Armani / photo by Michele Herrmann

Another neat feature is Connie, a 1958 Lockheed Constellation airplane whose exterior has restored to its original splendor while its interior gets a slight twist – as a cocktail bar. Walk up a stairway to get inside the Connie’s cabin, where you can sit in vintage TWA passenger chairs while sipping on drinks. Connie is located in the back of the Flight Center; you can reach her by walking through a side door corridor.

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Connie, a 1958 Lockheed Constellation airplane, has a second life as a cocktail bar.

Reached through Saarinen’s flight tubes, the 512 guestrooms are designed to suit overnight stays for those catching a next day flight or perhaps a long layout. While their window offer great views of the runway, they are also sound proof in being seven panes and four-and-a-half inches thick to cancel out noise. Each guestroom features a glamorous martini bar custom built from walnut, glass, mirrors, brushed brass and crystallized glass plus a plush bed, midcentury modern furniture and TWA insignia toiletries.

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Guestrooms are simple but suitable for a brief stay. Photo by Michele Herrmann

Various room rates start at $149. Learn more here. Would you book a stay at the TWA Hotel at JFK? Let me know in the comments section.

Norwegian Cruise Line Campaign to Reward Teachers with Free Cruise

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Credit: Norwegian Cruise Line

Hey teachers: this Norwegian Cruise Line campaign is all about you!

In advance of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-10, 2019), Norwegian Cruise Line recently unveiled the “Norwegian Cruise Line Giving Joy”campaign, developed to recognize and reward educators in the United States and Canada.

According to a media release from the cruise line, Norwegian Joy was created to acknowledge and celebrate the intersection of travel and education by honoring deserving teachers “that are doing the most to bring joy to their students.”

Running now through April 12, 2019, the campaign will award 15 teachers who inspire joy in the classroom with an all-expenses-paid seven-day cruise for two on Norwegian Joy and the chance to win $15,000 for their school.

The company is asking for nominations of certified or accredited teachers in the U.S. and Canada who are inspiring joy in the classroom.

The 15 teachers with the most votes will win a seven-day cruise for two.  They will also be provided airfare and accommodations for an award ceremony taking place in Seattle on May 3, 2019, where they will have the chance to win $15,000 for their school.

To nominate a favorite teacher, to vote and for terms and conditions, visit nclgivingjoy.com.  Tell me who you would nominate.