Author Archives: She Is Going Places

About She Is Going Places

Encouraging travelers of all ages, budgets, and backgrounds to get out and go exploring.

Returning Home from Helsinki – 26 Hours After Arriving There

Helsinki’s Uunisaari Island was one of the places I saw before having to rush back to the States in March 2020.

March 11, 2020 is listed as the date when the impact of Covid-19 pandemic was recognized in the United States and lockdowns and closures took effect. On the next day, March 12, I had to leave the happiest country in the world — 26 hours after getting there. 

Here’s what happened. Originally this entry was to be published as an article in a digital outlet, but the story was nixed. I decided to share it here.

In early March of last year, I was set to go to Finland on a five-day work trip to see why it was chosen as the happiness country in the world by The World Happiness Report in 2018, 2019, and 2020. As a travel writer, sent on assignment, I was to find out what seemingly made Finland’s people feel great while going about their daily lives. And maybe I could apply a tip or two to myself.  

In the midst of this happiness, at this time, the global threat of COVID-19 grew as Europe had become the epicenter of the epidemic with more reported cases, and the World Health Organization characterized this coronavirus disease as a pandemic. In the U.S., the CDC reported cases of related illnesses climbing; in the second week of March, the number was over 2,000 and would still be rising. 

Hotel St. George’s Wintergarden lounge bar and restaurant, where I stayed briefly in Helsinki.

Day One

The growing impact would come back to hit our trip starting with our arrival on March 11 after taking an overnight flight there the day before. Initially, we were set to take part in a new but now cancelled campaign: attending a Happiness School, where its planned focus was to show visitors like myself how to reconnect with nature and embrace Finnish habits, language and ways.

During four previously planned school days, I was to be taught about this Finnish sense of happiness through cuisine, physical outdoor activity, craftmaking and other objectives. 

To be mindful of the health concerns caused by the outbreak, the Happiness School concept was postponed. Our trip was still on, but instead we’d be focusing on exploring why Finland is such a happy place.

Another writer from the States and I arrived in Helsinki on the morning of March 11, a day before the announcement of Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell testing positive for coronavirus. 

We checked into Hotel St. George, a stylish luxury and wellness-focused property within a 19th-century building in the city center, next to Helsinki’s Old Church Park. At the time, other guests were staying there as well, as I saw them within its Wintergarten lounge bar and restaurant or dining in Restaurant Andrea or grabbing a pastry to go from its St. George Bakery & Bar.

Our media group ate dinner at Finnjävel, a Finnish restaurant.

We had an entire afternoon to explore Helsinki on our own before our scheduled dinner at Finnjävel, a restaurant exploring Finland’s northern food culture. The experimental menu consisted of traditional Finnish foods — from dairy to root vegetables, rye and wild berries, to meats and fish — across its regions that are commonly eaten but this night revisioned with a chef’s twist. We tasted Finnish spinach pancakes, rye bread, a crispy pork belly paired with boiled potatoes, and Pannukakku, an oven-baked pancake presented to us as a dessert. 

The next day’s schedule was packed with activity. Our guided walking tour was to take us to the Amos Rex Art Museum, Kamppi Chapel, also known as “the Chapel of Silence,” and Oodi Central Library, among other attractions.

We’d also experience Finnish sauna culture — a bathing ritual noted for its cleansing and calming properties — at Uusi Sauna. Then we’d head to the southwest coast to the city of Turku the following day.

At Uunisaari, I learned I had to head back to my hotel and get to the airport fast.

I explored the hotel and the neighborhood, stopping at a Burger King that unbeknownst to me had a sauna inside of it. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I don’t think I was wearing a mask; I can’t remember. I purchased my food order directly from workers with cash. No one seemed concerned about standing in close proximity. Since we were to see a lot in Helsinki the following day, I figured it would be best to take it easy on my first day. I assumed wrong. 

Something Is Up

In the early Thursday morning hours, my jetlag had me catching a text from my sister sent late on Wednesday night. President Trump had just declared all transatlantic air travel to the United States from Europe suspended for 30 days, effective Friday, March 13. 

“Figure out how to get home if you’re not leaving sooner,” she wrote.

I was set to fly home on Sunday, March 15. I googled the specifics to learn more.

The 30-day travel ban had involved 26 countries belonging to the Schengen border-free travel area such as Finland. However, it still permitted U.S. citizens back into the U.S. As much as I wanted to take that gamble and wait out my Sunday departure to experience the full trip, I envisioned a competitive race before the Friday close to midnight deadline.

I waited to hear from Halla Joonas, our Visit Finland contact. Halla would change our flights to Friday, March 13, which would have us missing the second leg of the trip but would at least give us another day in Helsinki.  

On rainy and cold day two, being Thursday, March 12, we headed to the island of Uunisaari in southern Helsinki, to the restaurant and sauna of the same name. Warming up inside this building, I spotted urgent texts from Halla. 

One of the buildings in Helsinki I saw on our way back to the hotel.

“PLEASE CALL BACK ASAP”

“Just got news and you would need to be on [the] 12:40 flight today”

“They might not be able to fly on Friday is what they are saying now from Finnair, please call back”

We called back, and it was clear. The other American journalist on the trip and I had to leave. It was about 10:30 in the morning at that point, and my 26-hour visit finished up with a hurried tram ride back to our hotel. I kept my eye on the tram windows to take in my last images of Helsinki on this route. At our stop, we said goodbye to two journalists from Spain who could continue on the trip.

With a stealth-like check of my hotel room, I returned to the lobby. Taru Itälinna, who coordinates publicity for My Helsinki and was taking us around on this day, checked us in for our Finnair flights by navigating through a Finnish language process on our phones.

Back To The Airport

Taru joined us on the cab ride to the airport and helped me check in my bag at the counter right as the cutoff point took effect. With her being there, and explaining to the counter employee what happened in Finnish, my bag made it through to JFK okay.

Taru was my voice of calm. I think if I was there on my own, I’d be a nervous wreck.

At the airport, our endless walk to our gate went from security, a DUTY free shop, passport control and a long winding route to our terminal. Our flight to JFK was fairly full; gate agents asked us if we had been to China before boarding. Hand sanitizer was present. 

Nothing out of the ordinary occurred on the flight home, except for passengers wiping down tray tables and seat belt buckles. Once we landed at JFK, I expected questioning or something at U.S. customs. When I was at my passport control, an officer asked me how I was feeling and if I had visited China. His questioning was standard, but he had me get my bags searched after I told him I had brought back some Finnish berry smoothie powders with me. 

My gate at Helsinki airport

When I got home, I went into lockdown and only stepped out being masked up for big shopping outings and needs such as an outdoor walk.

Following Up

Two weeks later, on March 24, 2020, I emailed Halla to thank him again and see how things were going in Helsinki. Three days after I sent my message, Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced restrictions imposed on domestic travel in and out of the Uusimaa region, an area in Southern Finland where Helsinki is located, to further prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Halla’s reply sounded hopeful. “The situation is still relatively good,” he wrote back then. People seemed calm, he said. Restaurants were selling only take-out food and drink; even alcohol, which was forbidden normally. They, bars and cafes were reported to be closed until May 31, 2020. Cultural venues, sports centers and municipalities such as day care services for the elderly were shut down as well.

Yet, Halla told me that keeping a social distance can be done easily, since Helsinki has many public outdoor spaces. As of this recap writing, the Finnish Government is extending the restrictions on entry into Finland until March 18, 2021. Restaurants are open but their stance may change.

Back home, I lost my day job but thankfully had some other means to make it through last year. Like everyone else, I Zoomed with others. And like others, I lost someone partly to Covid-19 and knew others who also lost their relatives and loved ones to the pandemic or had become ill and recovered. Now, I support travel locally as I am able to do so, from giving financially when I could to organizations helping with restaurant relief, to food banks and then later some to social change.

And soon, I hopefully will get vaccinated. Stay safe and be well.

A Recap of 2020

Me, on my last trip assignment in 2020.

2020 shook up not only our ability to travel but also our daily living; in many cases, our economic means. While this year had some personal and professional setbacks for me, I am overall grateful that for the most part I had good experiences and made lasting memories. 

Here’s my recap of 2020.

My first trip of 2020 was to the Don CeSar Hotel.

Starting 2020 on the road

January had me already going on my first trip to St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Florida. I stayed at the Don CeSar, a grand hotel that is noted for its bright pink paint color. Its place along the beach was also nice and I spent some time wandering along the sand.

Abu Dhabi is the second Emirati that I’ve visited.

Visiting Abu Dhabi

I’ve been to the United Arab Emirates before — first to Dubai in 2019 — but I returned to this destination in February to see Abu Dhabi, which is its capital. Traveling with Visit Abu Dhabi and Etihad Airways, I stayed at St. Regis Abu Dhabi along Corniche, a beach area, and at the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, a lux oasis near the Rub’ Al Khali. 

Other highlights ranged from visiting the Louvre Abu Dhabi, an outpost of the famous Parisian museum; to sipping on a 24K gold cappuccino at Emirates Palace; to visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which was built and named for Abu Dhabi’s founder. See more here.

Celebrating Mardi Gras in Lake Charles

It was fun to head to this city in Southwest Louisiana that also puts on Mardi Gras parades and events in February. Compared to NOLA’s, I think Lake Charles’ version still offers a good time but is more chill. I got to throw beads to crowds in a family-friend parade, see a Mardi Gras pageant featuring local Krewes chapters and try locally-made boudin and rum.   

The beautiful Cox Bay at Pacific Sands Beach Resort

Visiting Tofino and Vancouver

I’ve been to Canada a few times and got to see Vancouver and Tofino, also in February. Tofino is a small district on Vancouver Island that is known for its beaches and forest areas and has a community living here year-round. I tried my hand at surfing and dined at places such as Tofino Brewing Company, Chocolate Tofino, and SHELTER Restaurant. Our group stayed at Pacific Beach Sands Resort, a lovely property along Cox Bay.

I quickly explored Helsinki before having to head back home.

Rushing Home from Finland

March 2020 was when the coronavirus pandemic really began to change everything in travel. At that time, I was on a work trip to Finland, where I arrived in Helsinki two days before President Trump implemented travel restrictions to the U.S. from certain Schengen Area countries (Finland, being among them.) I got there on a Wednesday with the ban to kick in on Friday. On Thursday, we were told by Visit Finland officials that they were concerned about myself and another American on the trip being able to make it home okay. Also on that day, they rebooked our return flights to JFK for that afternoon, so we had to rush back to the hotel to get our bags and go to the airport ASAP. 

But I also learned a lot this year. Here’s some of it.

The holiday tree at the New York Stock Exchange

More Of An Appreciation For New York City

New York City got hit hard with the pandemic, with hospitals being inundated with cases, tourism locations having to shut down and restaurants still trying to stay afloat. I stayed at home much from March through June, only venturing out for fresh air walks or essential grocery shopping. I started going beyond that by heading to local parks and often very empty museums and getting takeout from nearby eateries.

The subway and buses are getting busy again, so I’m staying as careful as I can while using them. I have to admit that I’m nervous riding them as cars and seats are filling up. Most riders wear masks, but there a few that don’t.

However, I did venture out in December around Manhattan to see holiday trees and decorations and headed to restaurants that I’ve always wanted to dine at and to get to-go orders.

Pico Do Carvão in The Azores

Branching Out In My Writing

I got scared a lot with keeping work steady this year, as I was laid off from my tourism side job and most outlets had to change their formats. I tried a lot of new fields of writing and thankfully was able to score assignments in new publications, including Reader’s Digest, Smithsonian Magazine and Zagat. Due to my layoff and being able to self-quarantine alone, I accepted a special press trip to Portugal in October to see how its tourism and hospitality sector was adjusting to the pandemic and implementing Covid-19 health and safety precautions. You can read more about my experience here.

These days, and going into 2021, I’m going to be staying local. But that’s fine for me. We’ll see what happens.

So how was 2020 for you? Tell me.

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.

1. Intro Image copy

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

Norwegian Joy aerials

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.

WOW air Seeks Inspiring Women via Social Media Campaign

WOW air WOWwoman

Hey, ladies, is there an amazing woman in your life that you look up to? Show her some love on social media and maybe she might be rewarded with a trip.

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, Wow air is encouraging Americans to nominate an inspiring woman they known for a chance to win a free trip.

For their contest, this Icelandic low-cost airline is encouraging females across the United Sates to share stories about important women in their lives on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #wowwoman and tagging @wowair between now and March 7, 2019.

On March 8, WOW air will repost the most inspirational stories and give the winner two tickets to a destination of her choice within the airline’s global WOW air network.

To distinguish relevant entries apart from other posts that may use #wowwoman, Facebook and Instagram entries must also include the airline’s handle, @wowair.

For more information about this WOWwoman contest, visit this link. See here for its terms and conditions. Now tell me below, who would you nominate?