Travel News: Teachers Can Apply for Free Caribbean Travel
Over the past few years, teachers have given us a serious lesson about the American education system. We’ve learned that their job is tougher than we know. Between teacher walkouts (400,000 were off the clock because of strikes or walkouts in 2018) and headlines about public school teachers taking second jobs to make ends meet, we’re seeing how tough it is to educate the nation’s children.
Teachers Need a Vacation Now More Than Ever
According to a report on NPR, 86 percent of teachers say they’ve spent their own money on classroom supplies, and 59 percent work a second job. And according to an Economic Policy Institute study, teachers earn less than workers with comparable experience and education. (In Arizona, teachers make 63 cents on the dollar compared to other college grads; in Oklahoma, it’s 67 cents.) To honor their all-too-often overlooked burdens, CheapCaribbean.com, an online travel agency for beach vacations to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, is celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week with a gift for 50 teachers: six nights for two at a Mexican beachside resort anytime between July 10 and December 31. (Blackout dates apply.)
All You Need Is Luck
There’s no essay to write or test to take for the chance to win the Mexican escape. Teacher Appreciation week is May 6 through 10, and the only thing an educator has to do is sign up for free to be a member of CheapCaribbean’s Beach4Teach Club (beach4teachclub.com). On May 9th, members will receive an email with instructions on how to register. The first 50 will be on their way, so teachers, make sure you’re at your desk the moment entry opens.
Hotel We Love: Point A London Shoreditch
The colorful mural in the lobby of the Point A Hotel London Shoreditch would be well suited for an urban skate park or a trendy coffee shop—the kind that sells matcha lattes. If that—plus the free digital jukebox—doesn’t tip you off to this hotel's cool factor, nothing will. The Story The Point A Hotel London Shoreditch is one of the newer members of the Point A family, which includes six hotels in London and one in Glasgow, with several more London properties in the works. The company's calling card is more bang for your buck, and it delivers with reasonable—if not astonishing—rates for centrally located accommodations. Safety comes at a premium here, with keycards required to access the hallways and elevator as well as the front entrance, a wide glass façade, after hours. The Quarters The hotel has 181 guest rooms, ranging from standard doubles to twins to handicap-accessible doubles and twins, each adorned with colorful Shoreditch-themed murals. (Accessible rooms are larger than the standards but do not have windows.) The rooms are small—86 to 129 square feet—but given the efficient use of space, it's almost easy to forget the compact size of the room. There is a drop-down desk with a foldable chair and a light that switches on right above; shelves are strategically placed out of the way. Hooks around the room hang as an alternative to closets. Amenities enhance the modern sensibility of the room: 40-inch smart flatscreen televisions, fast free Wi-Fi, and touchpad-controlled mood lighting that changes color and intensity. There are also all the standard conveniences: air conditioning, a safe, bedside USB ports, blackout curtains, and high-powered showers. The hotel has an ironing room on the first floor. The Neighborhood The hotel is smack in the middle of Shoreditch, easily one of London’s hippest neighborhoods, a mosaic of cafés, pubs, music venues, and convenient stores, plus Bunhill Fields, a very pretty, sprawling park encompassing old burial grounds. It’s a few minutes’ walk to the Old Street tube station (Northern Line) and about ten minutes more to several others--Liverpool Street (Central, Circle, Metropolitan, and Hammersmith & City lines) and Moorgate (Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City, and Northern line). Nearby eateries include Thai, Indian, and Italian. The Food Breakfast, or “brekkie,” is available from 9:00 a.m. in the lobby lounge or to-go. Options include fresh pastries, fresh fruit, cereal, and yogurt, plus a gluten-free selection. (There’s no kitchen for hot meals.) A case in the lobby is stocked with snacks, juices, and soft drinks that are available for purchase anytime. Espresso drinks can be made to order around the clock, too. All the Rest Point A pushes its loyalty program, and it’s advisable to sign up for the free program. In addition to 10% off all future bookings at Point A hotels, membership affords benefits like special deals and complimentary items at local restaurants, discounts at nail salons and on guided tours, and free access to the nearby DW Fitness First Spitalfields Tower gym. Rates & Deets Starting at $90 Point A Shoreditch8-10 Paul StreetShoreditch, London+44 20 7655 1720 / pointahotels.com
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. 1. Hogwarts 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. 2. Narnia 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. 3. Oz 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. 5. Middle-Earth 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.
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.
Confessions of a Lifetime Hotel Concierge
Cynthia Van Zandt has seen a lot from behind her desk—guests panicked because of lost luggage, couples euphoric from a recent engagement, families excited for a graduation ceremony, businessmen and women anxiously on their way to give career-making presentation. As concierge at Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square for 11 years (and other hotels for several years before that) she’s met—and helped out—people from all over the planet. How, you ask? Let us count the ways. She’s zoomed to the airport to deliver a left-behind iPad, and tracked down where to buy catheters and rare European game meat. She’s made such an impact throughout her career that she was awarded membership in the Les Clefs d’Or, a national professional society of hotel concierges that only accepts people based on recommendations. Ask Cynthia about her work, and she will tell you how lucky she feels, how there’s never been a doubt in her mind that she made the right career choice in her life. She’ll also tell you that it comes with intense challenges. “I’ve always worked in fancy hotels, but the job isn’t as glamorous as some might think. It’s the hardest profession there is," she says. "You have to love people and love taking care of people. You’re seeing them at all of their moments, high and low.” We checked in (no pun intended) with Cynthia to get the skinny on some of her more memorable moments and astonishing feats she pulled off. 1. A Wizard in Disguise One morning, two little boys and their parents were checking in. They had clearly never been to a hotel before, and they were trying to grasp what it meant to have access to the comforts of home while they were so far away from home. Cynthia greeted them, explained that she could help them if they got hungry or if they wanted an extra pillow. She could help them get anyplace and answer any questions about where to go in the city. “So, you’re like a wizard?” the boy asked matter-of-factly. Cynthia still laughs when she tells that story. 2. Baby’s Very First Hotel Stay Cynthia has met no shortage of couples on their honeymoon in the nation’s capital. Babymoons are a tad less common. A young pair was visiting from Europe, their final trip as a party of two. Soon after, they returned to D.C. as a party of three and checked in again. To welcome them back, she gave them a toddler-size Sofitel bathrobe. They thanked her and went on their way. Less than two years later, they emailed her a photo of the baby all dolled up in the robe. “It was so lovely to know that they remember us. I had to take a minute,” she said wistfully. 3. A Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Triumph Few days of the year are busier for the hotel industry than Valentine’s Day. One year, a high-rolling man wanted to surprise his girlfriend, but he made the unfortunate mistake of waiting to the last minute to figure out how to do that. Well, in a rookie’s hands it would have been unfortunate. But Cynthia did not balk when, at 4:30 p.m., he asked for his room to be filled with 1,000 red roses. By that point in the afternoon of Valentine’s Day, it’s slim pickings for flowers in any city. But Cynthia’s connections run deep and wide, and within 30 minutes, the roses were delivered and his room transformed into a romantic fantasy world. 4. Detective Work A good concierge never reveals her secrets. If you don’t believe us, just ask Cynthia about the time a family that was staying at the hotel for their son’s graduation from George Washington University. The parents asked her to get hold of the graduate's kindergarten picture for a celebration they were throwing for him. And get hold of it she did. “The world is much smaller than we think,” she said in response to us asking her how. “You just have to do a little detective work and be creative in your thinking.”