Friday, March 31, 2017

And Once Again, the World’s Best Airport Is . . .

Singapore’s Changi Airport named best in the world—for the fifth time

Excerpted from by Matt Vallano  

Perhaps it’s time to consider Singapore's Changi Airport the “New York Yankees of air travel.” How else could one spin the news that Lion City’s largest airport has been named best in the world for the fifth consecutive year?

The designation came down earlier this month from Skytrax World Airport Awards, an independent annual evaluation that bases the final rankings on the results of millions of international passenger surveys. This year was the sixth annual Skytrax awards; Changi has five first-place victories and one second-place win (back in 2012).

It’s not hard to see why fliers could consider the three-terminal airport to be the air travel equivalent of the winningest sports franchise of all time. In addition to being one of the busiest hubs in Asia, Changi boasts two 24-hour movie theaters that show current releases for free, a rooftop swimming pool (complete with locker rooms for changing), and a butterfly garden teeming with butterflies.
The airport is also putting the finishing touches on a fourth terminal, which, according to the Straits Times, a Singaporean newspaper, is slated to open later this year.

There were other highly lauded airports in the running, too: Tokyo Haneda International Airport, Incheon International Airport in Seoul, Munich International Airport and Hong Kong International Airport rounded out the Top Five. (Haneda also won an award for the world’s cleanest airport, and Hong Kong was hailed has having the best and most varied dining options.)

Sadly—embarrassingly, really—not a single North American airport cracked the Top 10. In fact, the highest-ranked airport on our continent is Vancouver International Airport in Canada, at No. 13.
The United States isn’t represented on the Skytrax list until No. 26, an honor that goes to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. (The dark horse win seems like a great piece of trivia to whip out at your next soirée.) Denver International Airport was tabbed as No. 28.

It’s hard not to read the Skytrax list of winners and dream about what U.S. airports could be. The takeaways: We need more free movie theaters. Or at least a few butterfly gardens.

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #worldsbestairports

BEAR FACTS: About Quebec's Saguenay -- Lac-Saint-Jean

by Cynthia Dial for TraveLife Magazine

From its rolling green hills to flower-box accessorized homes to a landscape dotted with water everywhere, Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean had me at ‘bonjour.’

A region – not a town – the vibe of this area almost four times the size of Belgium is so surprisingly cozy that locals call it “a small village at the end of the road.” Comprised of Lac-Saint-Jean and the Fjord-du-Saguenay, the destination is large, diverse and comfortably isolated (a one-and-a-half-hour flight from Montreal; a two-hour drive from Quebec City); but its overflow of down-to-earth experiences and out-of-the-norm adventures makes whatever effort necessary to reach it – worth it.

Adventure is in this region’s DNA. Winter season entertains ice skaters, ice fishermen, downhill and cross-country skiers and dogsledders, while warmer weather appeals to hikers, fishermen, beluga whale watchers, boaters, kite surfers and with 700 km of road biking lanes and 200 km of mountain bike trails, it’s a cyclist’s dream.

The 257-km Véloroute des Bleuets (Blueberry Trail) – which wends around Lac-Saint-Jean, crisscrosses 15 municipalities and enters countless villages, with interspersed treks through farmland and forests – attracts more than 200,000 annual cycling enthusiasts. With five microbreweries on La Route des Bières (The Beer Route), be forewarned that the only thing missing from this fun-filled trail may be a designated driver.

Beyond these active temptations, some of the area’s most popular ventures include the word “bear.” Okwari Aventures is where black bears can be observed from a watchtower in their natural habitat (of the region’s 3,500 black bears, 30 are here). With assistance from a guide, visitors can hike the area, learn about the world of beavers and salmon and ride along the water in a Rabaska canoe. To maximize a bear watching visit, it’s good to know that between the end of June and mid-July cubs are prevalent and September’s blueberry season is a delicious attraction for the mammals.

Then there’s the 26-hour, bear-filled VIP tour and overnight stay called “Adventure in the Land of the Caribou.” Located within Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien (named one of the world’s most beautiful zoos and home to more than 1,000 animals from 75 native or exotic species), the experience is unique in an opposite sort of way – the animals roam free while its VIP guests are “enclosed.” During the venture, a ride in an elevated, open-air, protected trolley train through its 324-hectre Nature Trail Park section can be stop and go. As it’s in an area where bears (alongside such large North American mammals as elk, bison and deer) roam freely and continually wander along the road, cross it and sometimes block it, the most valuable visitor advice is cue the cameras.
The wrap-up of this VIP adventure includes an old-fashioned meal cooked over an open fire, a finale of s’mores and an overnight within a prospector tent tucked into a sleeping bag atop a bed of balsam needles. There are no showers and no flush toilets, simply an exceptionally clean outhouse (no, that is not a typo), the opportunity to bottle fed a baby moose and the possibility of an unannounced up-close-and-personal caribou greeting anytime, anywhere within the campsite. The rules are simple: Always walk in a group, never wander off and rely on good old-fashioned common sense.

“Creative adventure” best describes the assortment of accommodations found in Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean. In addition to the within-the-zoo stay is Parc Aventures Cap Jaseux’s variety of high-energy adventures and assortment of overnight possibilities – from accommodation in a tree house eight meters above ground to a stay in a huge fiberglass bubble dome (windows cover a third of its surface) to sleeping in a suspended sphere – all perched in pine trees and all featuring panoramic views of the Saguenay Fjord. Awaking within the woods (actually overlooking it) is like no other ‘good morning.’ There are no hotel-like amenities; but the outhouse is again impressive.  

Activities can be negotiating the tree-to-tree ropes course, propelling along the park’s nine zip lines, tackling the via ferrata (imagine climbing a sheer cliff above the fjord) or, my selection, early-morning sea kayaking in the fjord. Jerome, our kayak guide, describes this on-the-water choice “always different, never the same,” citing the ever-changing variables of tide, wind and group number. “But it is always special,” he concludes.

A more subdued but no less distinctive immersion into the region’s past is an overnight in a ghost town, the historic village of Val-Jalbert. A booming, thriving pulp mill company town from the 1920s (at its 1926 peak there were 950 residents), one couldn’t even visit during its decades-long closure. However, these days its recreation of the back-in-the-day town and the natural site on which it sits lure thousands of annual visitors.

Among Val-Jalbert’s irresistible enticements are 40 original buildings seemingly frozen in time, 24 rooms situated in its turn-of-the-century houses now converted to 21st -century luxury accommodations, the general store, convent school, post office and walk-about “residents” in character – perhaps Mother Superior in route to school or the mayor’s daughter riding her bicycle along its main street. Additionally appealing is Val-Jalbert’s unparalleled natural beauty. The draw of its paper pulp past, 55-meter high Ouiatchouan Falls, surpasses Niagara Falls.

My departure arrives all too soon. As I bid farewell to this area of which I knew little but to which I instantly bonded, I reflect upon my Quebecois adventure. Aboard the small airplane, I turn to my seatmate, a local named Andre – until now a stranger. “In few words, can you describe this area – your home?” I quiz. He replies in three: “I love it.”  

Just The Facts
~ French is widely spoken and English is spoken sporadically; but should there be a language barrier, no problem. In typical Saguenay-fashion, it’s in a local’s nature to find someone to help. 
~ It is important to note that many of Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean’s attractions and accommodations are seasonal and fill quickly, so book well in advance to avoid disappointment.

~ For tourist information on Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean, go to

#travel #traveltips #travelpics #travelingcynthia #canadaadventure #saguenaylacsaintjean  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Even More Ways Airline Food Is Getting Better

Many airlines are reintroducing free inflight meals for all fare classes.

By Ramsey Qubein for

Since the dawn of modern air travel, wisecracks about airplane food have been the fodder of comedians worldwide. But those jokes are losing some of their punch as airlines begin to reinvest in the onboard dining experience for everyone. Sure, there are buy-onboard inflight menus with top-notch restaurant and celebrity chef partnerships. But when it comes to meals included in the cost of your ticket (either in front or behind the curtain), fliers will find that some airlines are stepping up their game to bring a more delicious element to air travel.

Premium transcontinental routes lead the way
In the past few months, we have seen many airlines make notable investments in the inflight product. Delta made a big splash when it announced free economy- class meals coming to select transcontinental flights earlier this year. The free meals are being offered not only on premium routes between JFK and Los Angeles or San Francisco, but also on several other long domestic flights. Passengers in economy class will have three options to choose from, including a vegetarian selection or deli sandwiches with chips.

Routes with this new amenity include those between Boston and Los Angeles, Seattle/Tacoma, and San Francisco; between JFK and Portland, Oregon, San Diego, and Seattle/Tacoma; and between Seattle/Tacoma and Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Raleigh/Durham among others. This signals a return of inflight meals for everyone as in the 1990s—which, while only a small step, is certainly an appreciated one.

American quickly followed suit announcing it would bring back free meals on its premium flights between JFK and Los Angeles and San Francisco, but the carrier stops short from expanding it to other flights. Still, a free meal for a busy traveler is always a nice perk.
It’s not just long flights getting a free dining boost. JetBlue has introduced free coffee and Turkish simit (similar to a bagel) with spread plus free beer and wine on its short shuttle runs between Boston and New York LaGuardia.

It’s all about the presentation
While the free economy meals are likely to come in a bag or box on these domestic runs, premium cabin meals get more attention. Effective April 1, Delta will be updating the service ware used on its domestic and international flights, featuring new plates, glasses, and silverware from designer Alessi. The Italian company is known for its fashionable designs using bone china, crystal glassware, and stainless steel. The Alessi pieces will look great with the airline’s artsy new Delta One meal offerings designed by chef Dan Jackson, who also oversees the menu at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Not to be outdone, United is launching its first official international Polaris flight next week from San Francisco to Hong Kong, which is part of the airline’s refreshed push for premium cabin business. The airline has partnered with Saks Fifth Avenue for new inflight bedding, including mattress pads and cooling gel pillows.

But before guests hit the sack, they can partake in a new dine-on-demand menu (the most robust offering of its kind for a North American airline) with dishes like lobster macaroni and cheese and tomato soup with grilled cheese. The Asian fusion chicken noodle soup with coconut milk is already getting rave reviews on its domestic trial runs. On the beverage front, morning flights feature a bespoke Bloody Mary cart, the option to enjoy wine flights on multi-tiered stands to taste as many varietals as are on the menu, and a new coffee menu from famed Italian espresso brand Illy.

In fact, Illy coffee is also available on United’s domestic flights for all passengers, and it comes with a sweet Dutch stroopwafel perfect for dunking. Delta serves Starbucks brews on both domestic and international flights to all passengers.

Hotels and airlines learn from each other
While airlines and hotels have used brands such as Illy and Starbucks products before, it is nice to see your favorite brands both in the sky and on the ground when you reach your destination. Starwood’s Le Meridien doesn’t want its travelers to wake up on the other side of the world without the right coffee. Le Meridien hired both a “global latte artist” and a “global master barista” who travel the globe training its hotel baristas and staff on how to make the perfect cup of coffee. Many Le Meridien baristas are even sent to Illy’s “coffee university” at its Trieste, Italy, headquarters.
According to global master barista Franz Xaver Zauner, there more than 100 ways that a cup of coffee can be spoiled in its preparation, and his role is to prevent each of those mistakes from happening. If you are wondering how United plans to combat those mistakes in the air, its flight attendants underwent similar training procedures to deliver the perfect Illy cup. The same type of training is important at Cathay Pacific, which serves Illy espresso and cappuccino in the air; it is also launching the first airport lounge Chinese teahouse concept at its Hong Kong hub.
Lufthansa is taking a page out of many hotel playbooks and has set up Nespresso stations at its gates in Frankfurt and Munich so that passengers can purchase premium coffee while they wait.
And if you think you’ve seen it all . . .
Sure, toque-wearing chefs roam the aisles of Austrian and Turkish Airlines among others, but airlines are still discovering ways to impress their customers. KLM serves draft beer from a specially designed cart with the proper pressure pumps to get the carbonation just right. The Dutch Heineken recipe uses the same ingredients as what you might find in a bar or grocery store and is said to taste just as refreshing above the clouds. It is available in business class on select intercontinental flights.
South of the equator, Brazilian carrier Azul is partnering with a Sao Paulo–based food truck provider for its new onboard menu. The airline serves meals from the popular Buzina Food Truck to all passengers on its flights to the United States and Portugal, with dishes including artisan cheeseburgers and grilled macaroni and cheese.
On American Airlines, passengers in first and business class need not stress that their preferred choice won’t be available—its website allows travelers to preorder meals similar to what Finnair, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, and others have long offered. Delta Air Lines is finalizing plans to launch a similar system so that a customer’s first choice is ready and waiting once he or she is inflight.

And forget leaving the lounge to head into the terminal for your favorite specialty coffee drink. Emirates is launching small Costa Coffee outlets in some of its lounges to bring the coffee chain’s barista service and full menu directly to its premium customers.
#travel #traveltips #airlinetravel #airlinefood #travelingcynthia

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Cheers from around the world!

"If you're lucky enough to be Irish, 
you're lucky enough."
Irish saying
Mobile, Alabama
Alps, Germany
Sayulita, Mexico

#happystpatricksday #travel #travelingcynthia #irishquote