Saturday, September 16, 2006

New Device to Make Flying Easier For Parents

If you’ve ever rushed to make a flight connection with bags, child seat, stroller and kid in tow you’d welcome some way to lighten your load, right? A new product called CARES (Child Aviation REStraint) may be just the thing. It’s a lightweight safety harness designed to replace rigid child safety seats on all aircraft types. The FAA approved the device, the first of its kind, last week.

CARES is designed to be used by children under 40 inches tall who weigh between 22 and 44 pounds. It weighs about one pound and can be packed into a six inch stuff sack. You can purchase CARES for $74.95 at the maker’s website.

Interestingly, kids aren’t required to use any safety devices. According to a recent FAA press release, “The agency encourages but does not mandate the use of child safety devices on airplanes because of the increased safety risk to families who, if forced to purchase an extra airline ticket, might choose to drive.”

Because my daughter weighs almost 44 pounds now, I won’t be able to benefit directly from CARES. I remember some trips where I would have paid a considerable amount of money to ensure my child’s safety if only I could have abandoned the car seat in an airport terminal somewhere. Parents with CARES will be able to check their car seats or arrange to reserve one with their rental car. I expect to see CARES in use onboard a flight very soon.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Memorable Meals: New York City's Best Hot Dog

Few food topics in New York generate as much furious debate as hot dogs. Pizza maybe, but that’s another post. On our most recent visit to the New York, my wife and I arrived with a comprehensive list of restaurants. We were still a little sketchy on the sightseeing, but every conceivable meal and snack was preplanned. Priorities, priorities.

As evening approached, we hopped the M1 bus uptown, I wanted to check out how the renovation of the Guggenheim was coming along. Instead we walked straight to the corner of 86th Street and Third Avenue for hot dogs from Papaya King. It’s a garishly-colored, neon-lit stand up joint famous for serving hot dogs and tropical juice drinks. There’s another one downtown and a few franchises too, but this one is the 74 year old original.

The dogs themselves, made to Papaya King specs by Sabrett, are cooked on a griddle and served in toasted buns. We both ordered the two dog special with Papaya Drink.

The tiny restaurant itself is not a great place to eat your meal, so we walked the two blocks over to Fifth Avenue and settled on a bench on the Central Park side. The weather was balmy and we enjoyed watching the city go by. It’s a pretty classy neighborhood with some of the most expensive real estate in America.

Right across the avenue at 86th is the Neue Galerie, the museum of Austrian and German Art that’s housed in a Gilded Age mansion. We didn’t go inside to check out Gustav Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which captured the auction sales record in June when it was purchased for $135 million.

Frothy papaya drinks are an excellent accompaniment to the savory meaty dogs, just the right mellow counterpoint. I can’t quite place the special spices in the franks themselves, but garlic is pretty apparent. The perfect, not overdone griddle-top cooking enhances the snap of the natural casing. Topped with a little brown mustard, kraut, onions or Papaya King’s own tropical relish they are, like the slogan says, “tastier than filet mignon.”

I think that they’re the best hot dogs in New York. I can’t wait to hear from those of you who disagree. Remember that disparate foodies like Julia Child and Anthony Bourdain agree with me. Bourdain wrote about perfect meals in the closing chapter of A Cook’s Tour: “Your last Papaya King hot dog takes on golden, even mythic, proportions when remembered from a distance.” How right he is.

Photo Credit: Christopher Gould (click the picture for near life size)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Top Tip Hawaii: Get On the Bus

The City and County of Honolulu, better known as the island of Oahu, is blessed with outstanding public transportation. Oahu Transit Services, or TheBus, carries over 71 Million passengers each year to every area of the island.

Bus routes are concentrated in Honolulu and Waikiki, with a major transfer hub at the Ala Moana Center. Fares are only $2.00 per ride, regardless of distance. If you’re staying in any of these areas, you don’t need a rental car and you can skip the hassle and expense of parking.

For those looking for a little more adventure, head out beyond the city to connect with real Oahu. Try the Circle Isle Route that cuts through the interior of Oahu past pineapple fields and mountains to follow the North Shore around the eastern side of Oahu and back to Honolulu in under four hours. Make a full day trip out of this route and check out some of the attractions along the way:

Dole Pineapple Plantation
See the world’s largest maze and see how pineapples are cultivated.

Stroll the streets and check out the art galleries in this laid-back surf town.

Waimea Bay and Valley
Check out this perfect crescent of sand immortalized by the Beach Boys and walk in natural splendor at the Waimea Valley Audubon Center.

Turtle Bay Resort
The only major resort hotel on Oahu’s North Shore is a great dining destination with six fantastic restaurants and bars.

Polynesian Cultural Center
Hawaii’s top paid attraction features cultural exhibits from Hawaiian and other Polynesian cultures like Tongan, Samoan, Tahitian, and Maori.

Be sure to pack a windbreaker or light jacket as weather can change unexpectedly in the islands. Once, because I was unprepared, I felt as though I would freeze to death on the Circle Isle bus after a downpour in Haleiwa – as the powerful air conditioning onboard chilled my wet clothes.

Another caveat, this trip is for adventurous travelers who want to see the island like the locals. TheBus isn’t fast, so try to remember that the journey itself is enough of an attraction. You’ll meet great people from the island, visits places that most tourists don’t see and hear the Hawaiian language spoken. Get a current timetable and get on TheBus.

Photo Credit: Kazuhiko Teramoto,

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Luxe Limousines of Asian Hotels

The prestige of staying at one of the world’s best hotels is measured in the details of the experience. Exotic linens, exclusive toiletries, private butlers and five-star dining are de rigueur; many guests also require a car and driver. In Asia, where face is everything, landmark hotels have a long tradition of private limousine service. Tycoons and Tai-Pans have long recognized the value of arriving for a negotiation in the liveried limousine of the best place in town.

The Peninsula Hotel casts a long shadow over its competitors in Hong Kong, not the least because of their legendary fleet of green Rolls-Royce automobiles. The Peninsula’s Rolls fleet, reputedly the largest in the world, recollects the British heritage of the oldest hotel in the former Crown Colony.

I’m amazed by how many times the Peninsula’s limousines find their way into films and novels. James Bond (Roger Moore) shows that he knows the best way to get around Kowloon in the 1974 film The Man With the Golden Gun. James Clavell’s best-selling novel, Noble House, fictionalized Hong Kong’s most famous traders and its most famous hotel with, of course, green Rolls-Royces. One of his characters even muses, “Soon I'm going to have one of these, he thought. A Rolls of my own.”

Anyone who’s visited Tokyo knows that the streets are jammed with little Toyotas and Nissans from Shibuya to Harajuku. Imagine cruising those same streets in a mirror-black Cadillac Stretch Limousine bearing the discreet badge of the Imperial Hotel.

The Imperial is the address for captains of industry. With a dramatic history stretching back 125 years, the Imperial is an institution that has been central to the rise of modern Tokyo. So, wave to the Emperor (across the street) as you pull out of the driveway seated behind your white-gloved driver, confident that you’ve already arrived.

Finally, the ne plus ultra of colonial era hotels in Asia is Singapore’s Raffles Hotel. This bastion of tradition, host to the likes of Kipling, Somerset Maugham and the Queen herself, has just updated their limousine offering. Robert Logan, Raffles Hotel General Manager, announced that they have commissioned a Bentley Continental Flying Spur to act as their limousine and “to create memorable experiences for all our guests.” The vehicle’s body is laser welded in Germany and then hand assembled over three months in Crewe, England.

I think that this particular car is an inspired choice, a 21st Century motorcar from a most traditional marque. Excited by the photos, I phoned Mike McElroy of Bentley Atlanta to find out what it takes to own your own Flying Spur. It’s the fastest sedan in the world, with a 552HP engine that starts at $169,990 base price with plenty of room to go higher for extras, he informed me. Extras like the hotel’s monogram on the interior leather. Nice.

If you’re inspired to try a ride in any of these rides, give me a call. If you want one for yourself later, call Mike.

Photo Credit (Top): The Peninsula Hong Kong

Photo Credit (Bottom): Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years on

Words fail,
so just remember.
Never forget,
and resolve
that fear will not change
how you live.

Photo Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Collection

Sunday, September 10, 2006

United Airlines Introduces New Fast Boarding Technology

A new design jet bridge allows United Airlines to board and deplane passengers simultaneously at their Denver hub. The new product, the Dewbridge DoubleDocker™ is designed to use the forward aircraft door as well as the aft door. United Airlines reports that the new jet bridge allows them to cut the loading and unloading time in half.

Presumably passengers already aboard the aircraft are instructed to exit through the forward door while new passengers board through the rear (or vice versa). United hasn’t said who uses which door. I don’t think that they’d alter the existing paradigm that places their high revenue passengers and those that need assistance up front. I hope that I won’t be telling some of my clients, “you really want to be in the last row next to the bathroom so you’ll be first off the plane.”

United started using the DoubleDocker™ this week at gate B15 at Denver International Airport. If it meets their expectations, they’ll probably buy more, but only if it makes financial sense. According to Alex Marren, Vice President of Operational Services for United Express and Ted, “…because we can board customers faster, we are able to eventually add more flights without adding new aircraft.”

The DoubleDocker™ is designed to be used with narrow body aircraft, like the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 currently used by United. I wonder how many DoubleDockers™ you could buy for the price of one A320?

I think that this is an exciting development. I can’t wait to hear what passengers think and to try it for myself.

Last week there was other aviation news with the first passenger flight of the double deck Airbus A380. I know that new design double deck jet bridges that allow boarding the upper and lower decks simultaneously have been developed specifically for that aircraft.

I wonder if Dewbridge is looking at combining the DoubleDocker™ with the double decker? What would they call it? Double-double? The Quad? Whatever they design, I’m sure that air passengers will be coming and going at the same time.

Photo Credit: Dew Engineering and Development Limited

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