How much is an airplane bathroom worth to you?
We've all become more or less resigned to paying airlines for services that until recently were free. Coughing up $15 or so to check a bag—any bag? Fine. Paying for in-flight food or a mighty power-nap sack? Fine again, maybe. But what about having to pay to use the bathroom?
Everyone's favorite publicity-mad cheapskate carrier, Ryanair, has managed to do what it does best: Get people riled up. This time it's a proposal to start charging people £1 to get into the airplane bathroom—the plan would be to put coin slots on the doors. The chief executive, Michael O'Leary, billed this idea as a net gain for the world, saying that Ryanair's always looking for ways to "lower the cost of air travel to make it affordable and easier for all passengers to fly with us."
Ryanair's marketing team did make the necessary backtrack, admitting that "Michael makes a lot of this stuff up as he goes along." Another employee, however, also made it clear that there's "no legal requirement for an aircraft to have a toilet on board." In other words, Ryanair could start charging for potty access if they really wanted to.
And so that got us thinking. If airlines did start charging for bathroom access, what do you think a reasonable fee would be?
Top Chef finale: New Orleans highlights
In its two-part season finale, Top Chef traded New York for New Orleans, where Mardi Gras celebrations were heating up. Here's a recap.Houmas HouseSeason five finalists found out here that they'd have another competitor in their second-to-last elimination challenge: Leah, Jaime, or Jeff, contestants who had already been told to "pack their knives and go." These eliminated chefs created dishes judged by New Orleans native Emeril Lagasse, who favored Jeff's crawfish and grits. Houmas House itself offers a taste of the antebellum south. The 21-room Greek Revival mansion, completed in 1828, survived the Civil War and produced 20 million pounds of sugar annually in the late 1800s. Tours are $20 for the mansion and gardens or $10 for the gardens: 36 acres of lagoons, fountains, blooming camellias, crepe myrtles, and other exotic flowers. Hotel Monteleone When they weren't busy cooking, the chefs retreated to Hotel Monteleone's cushy digs. This grand hotel in the heart of the French Quarter has 655 guest rooms and suites with amenities like marble bathrooms and plush robes. Despite the luxe setting, accommodations come with a reasonable price tag. This week, for example, rooms start at $179/night. Emeril's Delmonico After wining and dining at Emeril's Delmonico—Lagasse's renowned Creole restaurant on Saint Charles Avenue in the Garden District—the finalists took over the kitchen to create their own Creole-inspired dishes. Tip: The restaurant has an "After Work on the Avenue" happy hour, weeknights, 5-7 p.m. Typical small plates include dirty rice boulettes with Creole mustard sauce ($4), house made charcuterie ($10), and mini muffulettas ($7), and cocktails are half price (from $4). New Orleans Museum of Art The Krewe of Orpheus, a group that puts on one of the most lavish Mardi Gras parades, hosted a masquerade ball at NOMA. For the second-to-last elimination challenge, chefs served gumbo, beignets, and seafood dishes, hoping to win raves from the Krewe and the judges. Carla's oyster stew and savory beignets were a hit, but Fabio's gumbo and grits, muffuletta, and Cajun/Italian pasta were deemed mediocre—the Italian Stallion's New Orleans journey ended there. Walk through the Freeport-McMoRan Great Hall, the stately space with towering white columns where the masquerade was held, and check out NOMA's French and American art collections and its five-acre sculpture garden. Adults $8, kids $4, garden free. Creole Queen The last episode began with a rare quiet moment for Carla, Hosea, and Stefan, who sipped coffee aboard the Creole Queen, an old-school paddlewheel riverboat. Climb on board yourself and see New Orleans via the Mississippi River on one of its Big Easy Harbor Cruises. During the 90-minute ride, you'll float past the French Quarter, St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, and other N'awlins landmarks. Adults $25, children 3-12 $13. Commander's Palace It all boiled down to a final challenge at this historic Garden District restaurant: creating a three-course meal that showed off the chefs' skills and personalities. Of course, there was a twist. Each chef had to whip up a last-minute fourth course featuring a local ingredient—such as alligator, which Hosea gleefully assigned to Stefan after drawing knives. Commander's Palace has been serving Creole and American specialties since 1880. Treat yourself to a lunch of caipirinha lacquered gulf fish ($20) or sugarcane grilled pork chop ($17), and accompany it with one of the 25 cent martinis. —Heather Eng RELATED A DIY Top Chef Tour of New York City 25 Reasons We Love New Orleans
Paris: Drinking down at the local zinc
The Parisian equivalent of the Cheers bar—a place where everybody knows your name—is the humble neighborhood zinc. Referring originally to the metal counter that supported elbows, drinks, and conversation, the zinc now refers more broadly to the place itself. That place can wear the guise of a café, a wine bar or even a modest bistro. It isn't the menu that defines a zinc, but rather its slightly nostalgic feeling. A true zinc embodies the French idea of mixité, or diversity. It should be modest (read: cheap) enough to support a motley mix of regulars. It requires a counter where those regulars can debate everything from Carla Bruni to la crise (the recession). Bad coffee, smoke-stained walls, a local drunk, and a sleeping dog are also good indicators of authenticity. A zinc will feel different depending on the hour of your visit. In the morning, regulars gather to down a café express (espresso) before dashing off to work. Many of them take their coffee at le comptoir (the counter), where the price is usually cheaper. Laptop warriors and journal-scribblers arrive later and often stay working until the late afternoon. (A good number of zincs offer free Wi-Fi; check here to see a list by neighborhood.) The early evening is when you'll find the most diverse mix at the local zinc. Parents and children come to share the goûter (after-school snack), friends meet up for the apéro (before-dinner drink), and lovers cuddle in dark corners before going home to their families. Some zincs start to feel like restaurants around dinner time, while others feel like a dive bar all day long. The Paris zincs are a little bit emptier these days, after the implementation of a smoking ban in January 2008. Café owners complain that business is down by 25%, with customers less inclined to hang out for hours without their nicotine crutch. Nevertheless, zincs remain a great perch from which to watch the local wildlife. You'll find a zinc in every neighborhood of Paris, but here are a few of my personal favorites: Le Temps des Cerises A friendly spot in the southern Marais with yellow walls, long burgundy banquettes, cheap drinks, and simple boards of charcuturie or cheese. 31 rue de la Cerisaie, 4th arrondissement Le Rubis A casual oasis off the posh rue Saint-Honoré, le Rubis is a destination for wine sippers in the afternoon and evening. They also have a great grandmotherly lunch in the bare-bones dining room upstairs. 10 rue du Marché Saint-Honoré, 1st arrondissement Aux Folies Grab a table on the sidewalk terrace to soak up the atmosphere of one of the city's most diverse neighborhoods. Aux Folies is a Belleville institution during the apéro hour. Start your night with a drink at this charming dive before moving on to an east-side restaurant. 8 rue de Belleville, 20th arrondissement
Hot Property: How do you like the view?
Arizona and Utah's remote Monument Valley, known for its rust-colored buttes, now has a touch of green thanks to the new 90-room, Navajo-owned View Hotel (monumentvalleyview.com, from $95). Located on the tribe's parkland, the building is low-impact, with a reflective roof for natural air-conditioning and low-flow plumbing. But make no mistake, guests come for the vistas of the Mittens buttes, which inspired the Navajos to settle here more than a millennium ago. —Adam H. Graham, from the March 2009 print edition of BT
Zoo babies: Where to get your daily fix
We can't resist devoting a major photo story each spring to baby giraffes, meerkat pups, gorilla twins, and other adorable newcomers at U.S. zoos—and each spring, it gets a bit more ridiculous. In 2008, we published New Kids on the Block and a look back at 2007's babies, Where Are They Now? Well, it turns out there's an even more shameless publication that devotes itself entirely to the zoo babies beat: Zooborns.com. The blog publishes frequent photo and video updates from around the globe. Consider the tale of Pingu, an African penguin born at the Living Coasts attraction in Torquay, a town in southeast England. Pingu, who was glum after being separated from its family because a sibling continually hogged all the food, "has found companionship"—with a penguin stuffed animal that staff bought at the gift shop. (Just try looking at these photos of the fast friends without cracking a smile…) The blog makes it easy to search by zoo or by animal. Pandas brings up news about Lun Lun, a giant panda we've profiled at Zoo Atlanta. When we left off, her daughter Mei Lan, 110 pounds, had just been weaned and was exploring the habitat on her own. Apparently, she matured just in time—Mei Lun has been looking after a baby brother for a few months now. Check back around May for our own Zoo Babies 2009 installment. [Via VSL:WEB]