With the 2014 holiday travel season upon us, and many of us going nowhere without a mobile device of some sort, it’s useful to know where we can connect — especially if we are delayed and want to kill some time. Cheapflights.com has published “Get Connected: Your Guide to Wi-Fi at 25 US Airports.” It includes info on how and where to get connected simple in some terminals and more complicated in others), and whether there is a charge (typically through Boingo at $4.95 and up) or service is free. It also includes locations of workstations or charging stations.
Today is the North Atlantic island nation’s 4th of July equivalent.
Three months from now, I expect to be in Iceland for the Society of American Travel Writers 2014 Convention. I can hardly wait. I don’t think airports “count” when it comes to checking travel destinations off a life list, or else I could say that I’ve been there a number of times. A lifetime ago, I used to fly New York-Luxembourg on the old Icelandic Airlines. The carrier had a $135 roundtrip off-season youth fare and considered you a youth until you were 30. A mandatory stop at Reykjavik’s Keflavik Airport in the pitch black revealed nothing about the country.
Because I’m going and also because Icelandair now has non-stop Denver-Reykjavik service, I’m paying more attention. I just learned that today, June 17, is National Day marking the country’s independence from Denmark in June 1944. That makes the country 70 years old. The 17th became the official day to celebrate because it is the birthday of Jon Sigurdsson, a prominent leader in the Icelandic Independence Movement.
Each year on this date, Icelanders take to the streets of Reykjavik to celebrate with parades, dances, street theater and more from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. The festivities start off with the government’s ceremony at Austurvollur, followed by a parade, family entertainment at Arnaharholl and much more. The Icelandic Circus even makes appearances all over town with engaging characters, workshops and circus shows.
Of course the day wouldn’t be complete without the infamous Fjallkonan, the woman of the mountain, who wears the national costume and recites a poem to the crowd. She represents the spirit and nature of Iceland and is a symbol of Iceland’s push for independence. Following her are many other speeches, musical performances, and activities. After the formal celebrations are over, more informal parties are thrown in almost every town and village across the country.
Founder of suite hotel concept finally has his name on the sign.
Aurora does not enjoy the most favorable image as anyone who follows the Denver local news knows. But while shootings, fires and hit-and-run incidents make headlines, good news frequently does not. In truth, Aurora is a sprawling city with all sorts of residential and commercial areas, interlaced with public land — much in proximity to Denver International Airport.
That made it an attractive location for a “four star caliber hotel,” the flagship of Woolley’s Classic Suites, a new hotel brand from the family of Robert E. Woolley, who started it all. In 1969, Woolley converted an apartment complex into the original Granada Royale Hometel, which grew into a chain of 26 properties. It was bought in 1984 by the Holiday Inn Corporation under the new Embassy Suites name. According to the company website, “From 1965 through the present, Woolley-affiliated companies and partnerships have developed and operated more than 11,000 hotel rooms in nearly 50 hotels and resorts with an aggregate completed value exceeding $1.1 billion. Before being profitably sold to other operators, Woolley’s extensive portfolio of hotel, restaurant, office and residential developments were found throughout Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, Texas and Mexico.”
That’s quite a track record leading to the new hotel in Aurora whose market is clearly the business traveler. Woolley’s Classic Suites, in their words, aims to be “a true hospitality destination, and to transport guests to a welcoming environment where they will be treated to pampering service and luxuriously affordable accommodations. Upon entering, guests are whisked into the property’s inner sanctuary, highlighted by a lush central atrium, complete with year-round ‘outdoor’ patio dining and water feature allowing guests to wander and relax in a setting reminiscent of the European classic hotels where the standards where first established, then refined.”
Again, using their words because the property is not yet open, “Woolley’s Classic Suites features 187 luxuriously appointed, oversized master guestroom suites that range from 525 to 580 square feet in addition to four 1,150-square-foot executive VIP suites. Bathrooms in every guest room feature marble raised bathtubs, floor-to-ceiling glass enclosed showers and double vanities in granite and marble.” There’s also 9,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, a 24-hour complimentary business center, complimentary high-speed internet (wired and wireless), free airport transportation with dedicated shuttles and Colorado’s only Hertz Rent-a-Car self-service kiosk with 24/7 vehicle availability.
Its full-service lunch and dinner restaurant, the Jardin, offers a rotating continental menu developed by chef Daniel Rios, featuring house-made organic homemade cuisine. Additional hotel amenities include “complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast, an indoor saline pool, refrigerators and microwaves in all guest rooms, free parking, complimentary daily manager’s reception, guest laundry facilities and a state-of-the-art fitness center.”
It is located just off I-70 in the Gateway Office Park, 10 miles from DIA and 13 miles from downtown Denver. The address is 16450 East 40th Circle. Aurora, CO 80011; 720-599-3750.
Anchorage-Fairbanks service offered for the first time
Are you as fascinated as I am by the north-country experiences captured by the camera in “Ice Road Truckers” and especially “Railroad Alaska” on cable television? For me, and maybe you, the news that for the first time ever, the Alaska Railroad is offering midweek Aurora Winter Train specials between Fairbanks and Anchorage, is cheering. While travelers don’t have an unlimited choice of travel dates this winter, this inaugural season is a good start.
With northbound trains departing from Anchorage on Tuesday, March 11 and 18, and southbound trains departing from Fairbanks on Wednesday, March 12 and 19, these trains come at a time when Alaska’s two largest communities celebrate the winter season — and celebrate they do. Both residents and visitors the opportunity to ride the budget-friendly rails and experience “the real Alaska” without sharing it with hordes of cruise ship passengers. The days are getting longer (approaching 12 hours of daily sunlight), and with the trip taking roughly 24 hours, there’s plenty of time to sightsee and mingle. I’ve been to Alaska four times during the winter, and take from me: It’s fabulous.
Visitors to Fairbanks can book adventures such as aurora borealis viewing tours (those Northern Lights have reportedly been spectacular t this year), visiting Chena Hot Springs Resort, gazing at the intricate ice carvings at the BP World Ice Art Championships, experiencing the 2014 Arctic Winter Games and much more. Although the Iditarod is scheduled to start in Anchorage on March 1, that month is also a great time to visit Alyeska Resort for skiing and snowboarding, and the Great Land’s biggest city is also its cultural, entertainment and shopping hub.
This new train schedule coincides with University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks and Anchorage School District spring breaks, making travel even more accessible for students and enabling visitors to meet some locals. For $215 roundtrip (students,$178; children,$108), trips taken with March departures and returns by May 10 are ideal for those who wish to linger longer. Tickets may be booked online or by calling 907-265-2494 or 800-544-0552.
The Perrin Post’s game changers for travelers this year
Wendy Perrin, one of the country’s keenest observer of travel trends, has come up with her “Year in Review: The 10 Travel Changes That Will Matter Most to You.” I’m sharing the headlines with you, but you’ll have to go to The Perrin Post for an explanation and some prognoses as to what comes next. In fact, you might want to subscribe. I do.
The birth of the world’s largest airline.
The death of loyalty.
The ability to stay glued to a screen throughout a flight.
Hotel nickel-and-diming hit an all-time high.
Travelers substituted vacation rentals for hotel rooms.
The peer-to-peer sharing economy saved travelers money and connected them with more locals.
U.S. airports got first-class lounges that don’t require a first-class ticket.
Rail tunnel links two continents to celebrate a notable anniversary
Turkey marked the 90th anniversary as a Republic by connecting the east and west by rail with the new the Marmaray Commuter Rail System, which opened a few weeks ago. The new high-speed train connects Asia and Europe via a railway tunnel under the Istanbul Strait. Intended to ease commuting and commerce, the tunnel might not initially be of touristic interest. Still, it is one of several infrastructure improvements designed to ease congestion on land, air and water.
The 47-mile Marmaray project includes underwater tube tunnels, bored tunnels and cut-and-cover tunnels, plus grade-level structures, three new underground stations, 37 renovated and upgraded stations, operations control center, yards, workshops, maintenance facilities, upgrading of existing tracks including a new third track on ground, completely new electrical and mechanical systems and procurement of modern railway cars.
But there’s more to come in magical Istanbul, including a 30-mil ship canal and a new airport. The 30-mile ship canal will connect the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara to relieve the Bosphorus, which has about 50,000 ships pass through each year. When complete, the canal will transform the European side of Istanbul into a large island. The new canal will handle 85,000 ships a year, up from the 51,000 currently using the Bosphorus each year. The new airport will be one of the world’s largest with six runways. Slated for a first-stage opening in 2017, the airport will be an investment of more than $9 billion dollars and is expected to service 150 million passengers every year.
Tijuana International set to become more of a reliever to jammed San Diego
I’ve never flown into or out of San Diego, but the airport has a reputation for scary take-offs and landings since pilots often must thread between skyscrapers. It’s also crowded. I’ve never flown into or out of Tijuana either. In fact, I’ve never even been to Tijuana. But this one-runway airport on the US-Mexican border last year saw an estimated 3.7 million passengers. It is the hub for Volaris Airlines, is served by Mexican domestic airlines as well as Aeromexico service to the Far East (Shanghai-Pudong, China, and Tokyo-Narita, Japan) Not surprisingly, some travelers from Southern California find it expedient.
Construction is underway for Project Smart Border 2010, a new bi-national terminal tight across from the U-S-Mexican border fence, on US land with a 500-foot bridge to Tujuana International Airport making it a more practical relief airport for congested San Diego Airport. There will be a fee to use the bridge, but it certainly eliminates the long waits often found at the border, The project includes parking, check-in counters and customs offices. This project has been discussed since the 1990s and is supposed to be completed in 2014. But since Mexico is involved, who knows?
When Frontier Airlines inaugurates non-stop service between its Denver hub and the Jamaica’s resort region of Montego Bay just before Christmas, it will increase the carrier’s service to the tropics and become Denver International Airport’s ninth country with nonstop access. Frontier’s other tropical destinations include five destinations in Mexico; San Jose and Liberia, Costa Rica; and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, which Frontier flies to seasonally in the summer months. That’s five for Mexico, two for Costa Rica in Central America and now two Caribbean islands.
Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, another major resort area, are on the island’s north coast, while the capital of Kingston is diagonally across the island from Montego Bay on the southeast area. All -inclusives have become increasingly popular in Jamaica. I like to start my morning with “Classical Stretch,” an exercise program on Public Broadcasting. Several seasons were filmed at Jamaican resorts, so a few square feet at a time appear on my television screen almost every day.
21st century technology takes some of the uncertainty out of missing bags
If yours is one of nearly 26 million bags that go missing each year from airports around the world, the Trakdot Luggage tracker might just have your name on it. While it might not help you get your missing bag back sooner, it might well let you know where on earth your missing bag is. The device fits into a checked bag and reports city location in real time to anyplace where anywhere mobile phones work.
Register the lightweight, palm-size Trakdot Luggage device and place it into any size bag that is to be checked. The locator system will text city-specific information on its whereabouts in real time. If passenger and luggage do not reach their destination at the same time, said passenger at least can find out in which city his or her luggage is — or at least where the device is. In this era of TSA-mandated unlocked baggage policies, there is, of course, no guarantee that the device is not removed. If Trakdot is still in the bag and en route to the claim area, an additional app alerts passengers as their baggage approaches on the carousel.
The Trakdot Luggage device, including luggage tag, and batteries, retails for $49.95 plus an activation fee of $8.99 and an annual service fee of $12.99, It works globally with any cell phone or SMS enabled device, which can be linked to multiple phones, and each phone can track
United’s Dreamliner and Elway’s at the Airport land on the same day
Following a Houston-Denver test flight last month after its lithium battery problem was fixed, United Airlines’ troubled Boeing 787 Dreamliner is back in service, with its VIP-laden inaugural nonstop flight from Denver International Airport to Tokyo scheduled for Monday, June 10. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Colorado Tourism Director Al White and Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation’s CEO Tom Clark are among the Denver brass taking off.
Along with the brass, there will be drums. Literally. Nine students in the Montbello High School Drum Corps will be on the flight too. The city leaders will be staying in posh hotels and are hoping to expand travel connections and trade between Denver and Asia, while the kids will be housed with host families and performing alongside traditional Japanese Taiko drummers.
Also on Monday, Elway’s Restaurant in the center core of DIA’s Concourse B will welcomes its first guests at any airport location. No word as to whether John Elway, former Broncos quarterback and now Executive Vice President of Football Operations, will be on hand at the opening of the new upscale restaurant that bear his name. It will be the fourth Elway’s, joining the flagship location in Cherry Creek and restaurants in Downtown Denver in the Ritz-Carlton Denver and in The Lodge at Vail in Vail.
Prime hand-cut steak, fresh fish and creative entrées and side dishes by Elway’s Culinary Director Tyler Wiard. DIA concessionaires David Mosteller and Dennis Deslongchamp as licensees for the DIA restaurant are charged with carrying out Wiard’s dishes Signatures include as hand-cut, aged USDA prime steaks, fresh seafood, Colorado rack of lamb and Elway’s Smash Burger, which is not the same as those found at the fast-casual Colorado-based Smashburger chain. Signature side dishes include such steakhouse classics as au gratin potatoes and creamed corn. Breakfast options include USDA Prime beef hash, chicken fried steak burrito, omelets and house-made granola. Elway’s will also have a full bar and creative wine list with 33 wines by the glass, 59 by the bottle and 4 on tap. Just the sort of pre-flight nourishment that can make even the long flight to Tokyo more tolerable.
Award-winning travel blog. Colorado-based Claire Walter shares travel news and first-hand destination information from around the corner, around the country and around the world.