New Airline Will Fly You to Hogwarts, Narnia, and Other Out-of-This-World Destinations
We’re cheering the announcement this morning that a brand-new airline will be offering flights to some out-of-this-world destinations that we never thought we’d actually see.
Charybdis Air, the new flagship airline of Freedonia (one of Europe’s lesser-known gems), plans to fly from several major U.S. and Western European airports, including JFK, LAX, and Heathrow, to an array of magical lands that you can finally start crossing off your bucket list. Here, a look at some of the top destinations Charybdis will be accessing.
With limited access and baffling railroad platform nomenclature, the legendary school for wizards has been historically secretive and less than welcoming to travelers. But all of that is changing thanks to Charybdis Air’s initiative to fly fans of Harry, Hermione, and Ron to the new HGW airport, a short drive from the imposing castle-like building and literally enchanting grounds, where you may come face-to-face with a Hippogriff. Visitors should be aware that the more famous students of Hogwarts are, of course, now grown up and no longer attending the school, but ogling the great hall, staircases, and classrooms will be a thrill nonetheless.
Travelers wishing to visit Narnia have always had to resort to the reliable but clumsy “proceed to the rear of the wardrobe” approach. But starting soon, the land made famous by C.S. Lewis’s meticulously researched books and their film adaptations will be accessible to anyone who wants to jump on Charybdis Air’s new value fares to NRN airport.
First of all, the implication that Oz exists only in Dorothy Gale’s dreams, as strongly implied by the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland, is false. But getting to Oz to explore must-sees such as the Emerald City, Yellow Brick Road, and poppy fields that rival California’s has always been a challenge, with the land surrounding by what is clearly marked on maps as a “Deadly Desert.” Get ready to fly into the Emerald City (EMC) for an unforgettable three-day weekend!
4. Never Never Land
There are two advantages to flying to Never Never Land (NNL), home to Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, and the Lost Boys: First is the gorgeous forest scenery and panoramas of the sea (where you may spy a pirate ship moored offshore). Second is that, while visiting Never Never Land, travelers will not age. True fact: Spend a week, a month, or a year in Never Never Land, and you’ll arrive home the same age as when you left! Also, Charybdis Air’s subsidiary, Scylla Cruise Line, plans to offer fabulous floating holiday trips to Never Never Land as soon as some pesky cruise-port negotiations are resolved.
While the people chronicled in J.R.R. Tolkien’s accounts of Middle-Earth in The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy are long gone (the books recount events that took place centuries ago), the stunning geography remains the same. Fly to JRR airport, in the iconic northwest and be greeted by the surprisingly welcoming modern-day Eldar and spend some time relaxing on the beaches of the Great Sea Belegaer. But do bear in mind that the subcontinent Beleriand is now off-limits, having been some time ago engulfed by the ocean.
Book Your Flight
Charybdis Air is offering a one-day-only rock-bottom value fare to any of the above destinations as long as you book by midnight tonight, April 1.
Join Our #BTChat: U.S. Road Trips
We're hosting a #BTChat on Twitter this Thursday, March 28, at 2 p.m. Eastern all about U.S. Road Trips. We'll be joined by a multitude of participants who have an insider's perspective on affordable, scenic drives from coast to coast, plus Alaska, Hawaii, and even the Caribbean. Here are three easy steps to follow along and chime in with our #BTChat. 1. GET ON TWITTER Log in to your Twitter account (or create one at Twitter.com) on Thursday, March 28, shortly before the #BTChat starts at 2 p.m. Eastern 2. JOIN THE #BTCHAT First, follow @BudgetTravel on Twitter. Then, in a separate tab or window, search for the hashtag #BTChat and click on "Latest" at the top of the page so you can see the questions (which will be numbered Q1, Q2, etc.) and other people's answers (numbered A1, A2, etc.) as they come in. Depending on how chatty you are and how many people are responding to your answers, you may want to open a third tab or window to help keep track of notifications. 3. READ, RE-TWEET, AND POST YOUR OWN RESPONSES Feel free to re-tweet our questions out to your own followers so they can participate, too! The most important thing is to add #BTChat to your answers so the rest of us can see them. Take this as a fun, informal opportunity to chat with other people who care about travel as much as you do. Use the questions we ask as a jumping off point for conversation and to make new friends over the Twittersphere, and above all, have fun!
7 More Great Places to Eat in Portland, Oregon
With a high concentration of serious chefs creating playful, accessible cuisine, not to mention a happy-hour scene offering gourmet action at food-court prices, Portland’s an essential destination for any itinerant epicure. From outstanding Italian baked goods and phenomenal fried chicken to fancy drinking snacks and casual tasting menus at five-star restaurants, here are seven places to hit on your next visit. 1. Maurice (Maya Stanton) Since opening its doors in late 2013, this tiny luncheonette has earned lavish praise for its refined French-Nordic fare from critics and customers alike. In addition to a pastry case full of temptations, it has a tightly edited menu that changes daily, but expect small bites like oysters on the half-shell and radishes with butter as well as heartier dishes like quiche, Norwegian meatballs, and the open-faced sandwiches known as smørrebrød (above, with shaved radishes, rock shrimp, and a smattering of salmon roe; $12). If you’re staying downtown, it’s a great option for a mid-morning meal. 921 SW Oak Street, 503.224.9921; mauricepdx.com. 2. Bella's Italian Bakery (Maya Stanton) For serious Italian baked goods and the coffee to match, venture over to Southeast Portland, where chef and Culinary Institute of America alum Michelle Vernier is turning out impeccable pastries, breads, and more from a corner lot in the neighborhood of Lents. Everything we sampled was stellar, from sweets like amaretti cookies (50¢) and flaky blueberry tartines ($3.50) to savory treats like mushroom-tomato flatbreads ($3.50) and breakfast sandwiches ($5) stacked with salami cotto, provolone, and an herb-laced slab of frittata on a house-made sesame roll. Try the sfincione ($3), a thick, chewy Sicilian pan bread with tomato sauce, anchovy-spiked breadcrumbs, and a dusting of parm, alongside a cappuccino for a carberiffic afternoon snack. 9119 SE Woodstock Boulevard, 971.255.1212; bellasitalianbakery.com. 3. Beast (Courtesy @Beast.pdx/Instagram) With a lush, six-course tasting menu and a highly acclaimed chef, James Beard Award winner Naomi Pomeroy’s Beast has been a fine-dining destination for almost 12 years now. At $125 per person, the regular prix fixe is a splurge-worthy indulgence, but cash-strapped gourmands can finally get a taste of the action too—one day of the week, at least. Introduced in December 2018, the casual Tuesdays at Beast menu offers four creative courses with varying themes (think: French Bistro or Spring Dreams) at a more moderate price (normally $65 to $90, service included). A block over from the restaurant is Pomeroy's spinoff bar, Expatriate, a hip cocktail den that served a well-received brunch up until last year, when the midday meal was sadly discontinued. But I lucked out, and when I was in town, Beast's Tuesday-night offerings were a highlight reel from that much-missed menu: light and crisp rice-flour waffles with chili-honey butter, congee garnished with fried shallots, candied peanuts, and a poached duck egg, Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce, and a near-genius plate of pho hash browns, all crispy squiggles of potato topped with rare beef, hoisin cream, mint, and chiles, not to mention a gorgeous lychee-glazed donut paired with a dollop of barely sweet black-sesame ice cream for dessert. The whole shebang cost $55 a head, which, considering the quality, felt like quite the bargain.5425 NE 30th Avenue, 503.841.6968; beastpdx.com. 4. Portland Mercado (Maya Stanton) A small-business incubator in Southeast Portland, launched in 2015 to promote Latino culture, history, and cuisine, the Mercado is equal parts community hub and dining destination, with nine outdoor food carts and a slate of indoor businesses, from a coffee shop to a butcher to a juice bar to a wine and beer bar. The Oaxacan items from the Tierra del Sol cart are generously portioned and reasonably priced, from the empanada de amarillo (above left, $7), a blue-corn tortilla stuffed with shredded chicken and yellow mole, to the veggie stew–filled mole enchiladas (above right, $9.50). And at La Arepa, the Venezuelan truck, the pabellón arepa ($8) is a standout, a griddled cornmeal cake overflowing with shredded beef, ripe plantains, sliced avocado, black beans, and cotija cheese. When the weather is less than optimal, grab your haul and head inside to eat; on sunnier days, set up camp at one of the picnic tables for an al fresco feast.7238 SE Foster Road, 971.200.0581; portlandmercado.org. 5. Canard (Maya Stanton) Portland’s happy hour scene is a local obsession, and for good reason—there aren’t many cities where you can get such delicious food and drink at such heavily discounted rates. Case in point: East Burnside bistro-wine bar Canard, a high-ceilinged space with pale yellow walls and tall street-facing windows. The latest project from chef Gabriel Rucker, it's a worthy addition to an increasingly diverse brood that includes fan-favorites Le Pigeon and Little Bird. It's also a 2019 James Beard Award semifinalist for best new restaurant, with a decidedly unpretentious vibe: From 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. to midnight daily, you’ll find elevated classics like perfect little steamed cheeseburgers ($3 each) and garlic fries with shaved gouda and green goddess dipping sauce ($4) sharing the menu with more unusual offerings, such as oeufs en mayonnaise ($5), a gloriously messy pile of jammy-yolked eggs doused with garlic mayo, bacon bits, and trout roe, and an artistically plated pork and eel terrine (above, $7). Wash it all down with a cheap lager or a $6 aperitif—Cocchi Americano with soda, perhaps? 734 East Burnside, 971.279.2356; canardpdx.com. 6. Oui Wine Bar + Restaurant (Maya Stanton) A small-scale urban winery with a cozy dining room and repurposed wine-barrel decor, Division/Clinton’s Southeast Wine Collective has been around since 2012, but during the past year or two, it's really upped its food game, thanks to a recently revamped menu from chef Althea Grey Potter. We popped by toward the end of service for snacks and wine, and even at that late hour, everything we tried was impeccably presented and utterly delicious, from the flight of deviled eggs (above, $8) to the “surprise” flight of wine ($14) selected by our bartender. We eschewed the menu's leafy-green salad section in favor of comfort food, adding an order of chicken-liver mousse and a simple, unexpectedly satisfying baguette, served warm with a dish of salty, smoky, peppery butter pooled with maple syrup. Whatever you do, don't forgo dessert—the half-baked chocolate-chip cookie is delivered to the table in a cast-iron pan still hot from the oven, topped with brown-sugar ice cream, a drizzle of caramel, shards of honeycomb, and a sprinkling of sea salt, and it’s ridiculously good. There’s also a family-style tasting menu offering five courses for $39 per person, a great way to sample the wares.2425 SE 35th Place, 503.208.2061; sewinecollective.com. 7. Revelry (Maya Stanton) This much-hyped Korean spot from Seattle-based husband-and-wife restaurateurs opened to great fanfare in 2016, and nearly three years later, the kitchen is still going strong. The fried chicken ($14) has achieved cult status around town, and when the stack of meaty flats and drumsticks arrived, smothered in a sticky, spicy-sweet sauce and liberally garnished with peanut brittle, it wasn’t tough to see why. The kimchi pancake ($13) and the sautéed greens ($8) were perfectly respectable too, but the spiced beef dumplings ($15), swimming in a tangy sesame-yogurt sauce and bedecked with leek relish, were the evening’s sleeper hit. Happy hour offers decent discounts from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. daily and 10:00 p.m. to close on Friday and Saturday nights, but Tuesday evenings are the real steal, when you can get that famous fried chicken and a beer for just a fiver.210 SE Martin Luther King Boulevard, 971-339-3693; relayrestaurantgroup.com.
4 Authentic Small Towns of Lazio, Italy
Italy’s Lazio region includes Rome; but most travelers aren't aware that there's lots to do and see outside of the big city. We spent a week in the north of Lazio, to immerse ourselves in the culture and history of a little hill town, Soriano nel Cimino, and to explore some even smaller villages nearby. 1. Soriano nel Cimino Soriano nel Cimino sits atop a large hill on the foot of Monte Cimino (hence the town’s surname). The town’s hilltop castle was built in the 13th century; it boasts views of the valley and nearby Mount Cimino. One room houses a display of dozens of antique phonograph devices spanning the history of music reproduction - from Victrolas to jukeboxes. And they’re still working! A museum docent offers demonstrations of many of the devices. The display room is a former chapel; a statue of the Virgin Mary presides over a 1960s jukebox (while we were there, she watched as we listened to The Beatles). From the 1800s until just a few decades ago the castle was used as a prison, and one wing still retains the stark solitary-confinement cells. Mount Cimino is part of a vast UNESCO World Heritage site, an old-growth beech tree forest. The area is also covered by chestnut trees, and chestnuts are an important part of Soriano’s culture and cuisine - among the town’s frequent festivals is an annual chestnut festival, celebrating this staple food of the region. We happened to be in town for Carnevale (like Mardi Gras, the week before Lent), an afternoon of revelry including large amounts of confetti, silly string, and throngs of people of all ages in costumes of all types. One of the locals we met described the steep slopes and winding stairways in town: “In Soriano, you’re always either going up or going down.” The only flat spot in the entire town is its central piazza, a bustling center for socializing and daily business (and, as mentioned, confetti-fueled festivals). On one side of the square, the twin bell towers of the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas ring out each hour; at 8 AM, noon, and 5 PM its bells compete with a wailing siren, a holdover from the town’s agrarian past. The cathedral holds relics of Pope John Paul II - a certificate shows that his blood was enshrined there in 2014, a point of religious pride to the locals ever since. Soriano has a population of around 10,000 people, which by our “Little Roads” standards is a big town. Some of its neighbors are even smaller villages, with many points of interest. 2. Vitorchiano The medieval walled town of Vitorchiano is flanked on two sides by sheer stone cliffs, which helped it resist superior military forces. The town prides itself on its historical devotion to Rome: In the face of opposition from hostile city states in the 13th century, Vitorchiano was singularly granted the right to bear the emblem “SPQR” - Senatus Populusque Romanus. The town’s gates and coats of arms still bear this emblem. The cliffs on which Vitorchiano are built are made of a volcanic stone called peperino. (Many towns in the region, including Soriano, are built on and from this stone.) This is the same type of stone from which the Moai statues of Easter Island are carved. In fact, thirty years ago a group of visitors from Easter Island visited Vitorchiano and carved a Moai statue, which today sits in a park overlooking the town’s western cliff. 3. Orte Orte, another medieval walled hill-town built in part with peperino, was an Etruscan city before being conquered by the Romans. Orte is famous for its ancient underground tunnels and caves, which were used through the ages for storage and irrigation, as a bath-house, and (in more recent history) as bomb shelters during WWII. 4. Bomarzo Perhaps the most evocative location in the area is the little hill town of Bomarzo. The historic town center is a silent maze of narrow stone streets, reminiscent of some medieval fantasy movie set. We were there on a perfect blue-sky day, and we saw only a single person. (We did, however, see a half-dozen cats, who followed us around for a few blocks, presumably to make sure we weren’t up to anything shady.) Just outside the town is the Bosco Sacro (“Sacred Woods”), more popularly known as the Parco dei Mostri - the Park of Monsters. This is an open-air museum of several acres of woods, in which are dozens of huge, Renaissance-era stone sculptures, carved from the ubiquitous peperino stone. Dragons, giants, lions, and other fantastic creatures sit among the trees, waiting for visitors to discover and delight in them. These are just a few of the locations near Soriano nel Cimino that we discovered on our trip; and this area is but one of many fascinating and beautiful parts of Lazio, accessible to anyone who’s willing to venture out of the bustle of Rome.
Just Back From: San Juan, Puerto Rico
I got the word in early fall: One of my best friends, the one I’ve known since kindergarten, would be getting married in December—in Puerto Rico. In winter. Faster than you can say “bikinis and beaches,” I checked that “yes, will attend” box and started planning what would turn out to be a near-heavenly couple of days in San Juan and its surrounds. Nuptials aside, here’s how I did it. Day 1: Acclimation and Exploration (Maya Stanton) My flight landed a little after noon, and as we made our way from the airport to Old San Juan, we pulled over at Ocean Park for a quick sun-and-sand fix. A local go-to, especially when compared to Condado, a posh beach to the west that sees its fair share of well-heeled traffic, Ocean Park’s sparkling waves and soft sandy shores warmed me to my cold Brooklyn core. (Maya Stanton) Dose of vitamin D acquired, it was on to the historic old town. We wandered the cobblestone streets, peeking into shop windows and admiring the colorful colonial-style buildings, eventually arriving at Castillo San Felipe del Morro (nps.gov/saju) on the northwestern tip of the city. One of several forts and a defense wall that make up the San Juan National Historic Site, El Morro was built by the Spanish between 1539 and 1790 to protect their colonial territory, and it later served as a U.S. military base during both World Wars. (Have an annual National Parks pass? Bring it along for free entry.) From its perch overlooking the ocean, the fortification is also a great place to catch the sunset. Take in the show from the ramparts, or find a spot on the grassy esplanade out front, let the kids run around and wear themselves out, and watch the kite-flyers in action as the sun dips into the sea. (Maya Stanton) By day, Old San Juan is swarming with people—cruise-ship passengers, tourists, and locals alike—but by the time we ventured out for dinner, it’d emptied out a bit. Heading south toward the docks, we stumbled upon Calle Fortaleza, a pedestrian street leading toward the governor's mansion, where rows of colorful umbrellas hang overhead; an hour or two earlier, the installation had been packed, and now we practically had it to ourselves. Of course, those crowds had to go somewhere, and if the hour wait time was any indication, they were all at Verde Mesa (facebook.com/verdemesa), a Mediterranean-Caribbean restaurant on Calle de Tetuan, on the quarter’s southern edge. With time to kill, we ducked around the corner to Barrachina (barrachina.com), a restaurant claiming to be the birthplace of the piña colada, and ordered a round of the cheap, frosty beverages—a filling yet satisfying aperitif. Then we splurged on dinner: richly spiced Moroccan lamb stew, charred octopus, and zingy chayote salad. We were here to celebrate, after all. For a nightcap, it was off to La Factoría (colectivoicaro.com), a boisterous, dimly lit warren recently named one of the World’s 50 Best Bars. With a DJ spinning in the back room and a young, enthusiastic crowd dancing away, the vibe belied the serious, complex cocktails; the Loma de Tamarindo, in particular, was such a compelling smoky-spicy-tart blend of mezcal, tamarind, chocolate, and habanero that it called for seconds. Day 2: Dining and Discovery (Maya Stanton) The next morning, we were up and out early, determined to cram as much as possible into the the day. Fueled by strong coffee and Mallorca sandwiches, sweet rolls loaded with breakfast fixings, pressed and dusted with powdered sugar, from La Bombonera (facebook.com/labombonerasanjuan), a historic bakery and café, we ambled northeast through the narrow streets and tree-lined plazas toward Castillo San Cristóbal, part of the city’s fortification system, built between 1634 and 1783 to guard El Morro and the rest of San Juan against land attacks from rival nations like England and Holland. We explored the underground tunnels on the fort’s lower level (be sure to check out the dungeon with a wall covered with roughly sketched ships, thought to be the work of a captain awaiting execution for mutiny), before climbing up to the third level’s observation area for unimpeded 360-degree views of the city. Back down on earth, we poked around in the shops, ogling the art at Galeria Botello (botello.com), sampling the hot sauces at Spicy Caribbee (spicycaribbee.com), admiring the larimar-laden jewelry in various windows, and finally succumbing to a necklace purchase at MUNS (munsjewelry.com). For lunch, we took an Uber to Santurce, an artsy neighborhood east of Old San Juan. We were bound for Jose Enrique, a modest place, though its screaming neon-green facade might suggest otherwise. The menu features traditional fare, the kind of dishes you’d find in grandma’s kitchen, kicked up a notch or two with pristine ingredients and professional plating. The place fills up at dinner time, with people queuing up outside, but on this particular afternoon, the wood-beamed, tile-floored dining room was mostly empty, so we were free to requisition the neighboring table for our overflow. It was all stellar, from the simple salad of local arugula to the crab tostones to the minutas (tiny fish, fins and all) to the fried lobster and plantains. Rolling out of the restaurant after such a feast, some walking was in order. We strolled past the contemporary-art museum (mac-pr.org), the Smithsonian-affiliated Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (mapr.org), and Centro de Bellas Artes Luis A. Ferré (cba.gobierno.pr), a performing-arts venue, all located within a few-block radius, and through the farmers market at La Placita, Santurce's historic plaza. A night-time hot spot for street party–style drinking and dancing, that afternoon the outdoor tables were sparsely populated, with a handful of locals sipping rum and cokes and exchanging small talk with tourists as salsa music played quietly in the background. (Maya Stanton) Before we knew it, evening had snuck up on us. From the next block over, the cocktail list at sceney Santaella (santaellapr.com) was calling our name; we opted for the two-bite empanadillas stuffed with chorizo and cheese, and refreshingly cold, tongue-tingling palomas to wash them down. (The restaurant has since instituted a weekday happy hour with discounted drinks and snacks at the bar—an event that would’ve been most welcome during our time in town.) And with that, we called it a night. Day 3: Rainforest and Relaxation (Maya Stanton) For my last morning on the island, I’d booked an hour-long horseback ride ($39) at Carabalí Rainforest Adventure Park (carabalirainforestpark.com), 45 minutes from San Juan, on the outskirts of El Yunque National Forest. Normally, the park can arrange transportation to and from some of the hotels in town, but since I was scheduled for an 8:30 a.m. weekday ride and their vans require a minimum of four people to operate, I was on my own. The Uber cost as much as the horseback ride itself, but the experience was worth it: My guide and I were the only ones out and about, and he pointed out local plants and animals as we rolled down the trail, chatting about the area’s history and stopping for a well-positioned photo op along the way. (Maya Stanton) There was one thing left on my to-do list: the beachside kioskos at Piñones, on the island’s northeastern shore, so half an hour after I dismounted, I was joining the line at Kiosko El Baricua (facebook.com/kioskoelboricua) for made-to-order treats and blessedly cold beers. The menu offers eight categories of local snacks, and in the name of science, I ordered something from almost every one, from skewered-meat pinchos to deep-fried turnover-style Puerto Rican tacos, though the crab pastelillos (turnovers), salt-cod and taro-root alcapurrias (fritters), and beef-stuffed plantains (piononos) were the best of the bunch. I crossed the street with my greasy paper bag and condensation-slicked Corona, spread out my towel, and sunk my toes into the sand. I'd be back in New York in a few hours, but at the moment, it felt light years away.