Category: Vacations

Two lines of London’s Underground will serve the after-midnight crowd on weekends

Posted on August, 20 2016

If you’ve had a wee bit much to drink and want to take the Tube to your London home, you were out of luck after midnight.

Until Friday.

The London Underground started running all-night rides on two lines, the Victoria and Central, coming into line with mass-transit practices in New York and Paris and other party-down towns.

Those out for a late night on Fridays and Saturdays won’t have to face the frantic rush for the last train nor the chance of a colorful or cramped journey home. That means whether you’re in Brixton or Knightsbridge, Covent Garden or Piccadilly Circus, a trip home is only a short walk away.

The special service is to spread to the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines this fall. The British Transport Police has said around 100 officers will be on patrol.

London’s underground, founded in 1863, is perhaps the most famous subway system in the world.  It has been in such movies as “An American Werewolf in London” and the James Bond movies “Skyfall” and “Die Another Day.”

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Category: Vacations

Theme parks develop ‘blockbuster worlds’ based on movie franchises

Posted on August, 17 2016

My, how the worlds have changed.

Worlds. Plural. As in “blockbuster worlds.” As in immersive theme park experiences that plop you into a snowy, shivery kingdom (“Frozen”), a mysterious alien planet (“Avatar”) or a futuristic flight of fantasy (“Star Wars”).

Used to be that theme park goers would find themselves in the Wild West or Bavaria. But now the goal is to create walk-through versions of the universes fans see in popular franchise movies, TV shows and video games.

For this we can thank the Boy Wizard, whose Wizarding World of Harry Potter changed the theme park landscape when it opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Florida in 2010.

As theme park goers look to the future, that may be the model they experience.

Skeptics scoffed when Universal announced plans for the Wizarding World. No longer.

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Category: Vacations

Scott Folsom, an official and unofficial watchdog over L.A. schools, dies at 69

Posted on August, 08 2016

Scott Folsom, a freelance Hollywood producer who never made a big splash in show business, found his true calling in another role, that of official and unofficial watchdog over the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Folsom, 69, died Thursday after a two-year battle with cancer that almost never kept him from school board meetings or disabled his mildly acerbic, perceptive and long-running blog: 4LAKids.

For many in L.A., Folsom was the face of the Parent Teacher Student Assn., better known as the PTSA or PTA. His involvement began more than two decades ago, not long after his daughter Alana enrolled in Mt. Washington Elementary. He served in just about every capacity possible in the state and local PTSA.

As a parent representative, he also held many district positions. Starting in 2001, the Board of Education appointed him to the Bond Oversight Committee, which oversaw the nation’s largest school-construction program. He served on that committee longer than any other individual, asking probing questions that made projects better or more efficient.

“He could be a burr in your saddle,” former L.A. Unified Supt. Roy Romer said in a recent Steve Lopez column about Folsom. “But generally he was there when I needed him to help get the job done.”

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Category: Vacations

Soberanes fire: Point Lobos nature reserve reopens; other parks remain temporarily closed

Posted on August, 06 2016

The popular Point Lobos nature reserve south of Carmel has reopened, though other Big Sur area state parks remain shut because of the Soberanes fire. Visitors to the nature reserve should arrive early because parking is limited to the 150 spaces inside the park with no spillover onto nearby Highway 1, a California State Park spokesman said Thursday.

“The [California Highway Patrol] has temporarily banned parking on the shoulder of Highway 1 near the park for safety reasons as lots of fire equipment and trucks are moving up and down [Pacific Coast Highway],” Dennis Weber wrote in an email.

Point Lobos State Nature Reserve, which is on a peninsula south of Carmel and Monterey, reopened Tuesday. Other state parks remain closed indefinitely. 

For example, Andrew Molera State Park is being used as a helicopter base for firefighters, and campgrounds at Pfeiffer Big Sur and Julia Pfeiffer Burns state parks have been “converted to fire camps for crews and equipment,” Weber writes.

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Category: Vacations

Best Pokemon hunting places in California (60 stops in Disney parks!)

Posted on August, 03 2016

California has an edge over the 2016 Summer Olympic city of Rio de Janeiro in one big pop-culture way: Pokemon Go opportunities. Olympic athlete and U.S. diver Abby Johnston of Upper Arlington, Ohio, last month tweeted:

Too bad, because the app’s Poke Stops (where you get Poke balls, potions, etc.) and Gyms (where captive Pokemon fight) are a good way to introduce travelers to local parks, historic sights, museums and public art. 

And Pokemon Go’s Augmented Reality feature lets you include characters in your vacation photos.

Although many cities in California are teeming with Pokemon stops and creatures, these five spots are red hot. Here’s where to start hunting.

Anaheim: Places to go include Disneyland and California Adventure (which have more than 60 Poke Stops collectively, by one count), Downtown Disney District, Knott’s Berry Farm, Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim Packing District and Center Street in downtown Anaheim.   

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Category: Vacations

Web Buzz: Room-matehotels.com offers centrally located boutique hotels with a personal approach

Posted on July, 25 2016

Get to the heart of the action with a city-centric hotel group that offers a mix of stylish design and connectivity.

Name: Room-matehotels.com

What it does: A hotel group launched by three friends who were looking for hotels that they actually wanted to stay in. It began in Madrid and has expanded to 23 hotels in 12 cities in Europe, the United States, Mexico and Turkey. New hotels are planned in 2017 for Rotterdam, Netherlands, and Barcelona, Spain, among other destinations.

What’s hot: Each boutique property in the hotel group has its own name and distinctive décor. That personal approach extends to hotel guests, whom the staff is encouraged to treat as a friend, buddy or “room mate.”  All hotels have a convenient central city location, offer breakfast until noon and free WiMate Total Wi-Fi good throughout the city. I checked room rates for Hotel Grace in New York and found prices for its properties to be in the same range as those for hotel chains Hampton Inn, DoubleTree and Sheraton. Discounts were available for longer stays.

What’s not: I struggled to find more information about Total Wi-Fi, but when I clicked on the hotel description for Hotel Grace, I found out that some of the property amenities included a pool bar and sauna, as well as directions on how to get to the hotel. Excellent distractions, Room Mate Hotels.

— Jen Leo

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Category: Vacations

Got an awesome national park memory? Share it with us

Posted on January, 20 2016

Ever waited out a snowstorm under a sequoia? Or fallen asleep to the howls of wolves in Yellowstone?

As the National Park Service turns 100 this year, we are seeking your favorite park-related memories.

Your recollections will be included in our coverage of this important celebration of some of the world’s most amazing destinations. National parks, preserves, recreation areas and other units are all in play.

Maybe these photos of Yosemite in snow and other national parks will jog your memory.

Please keep submissions to 100 words or less, and include your full name and the city where you reside. The approximate date of the experience should be included too.

Send to Travel@latimes.com, with PARK MEMORIES in the subject line.

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Category: Vacations

Web Buzz: Take a small private tour of Paris through walkmysteps.com

Posted on December, 28 2015

Let a local help you uncover the richness of the City of Light.

Name: www.walkmysteps.com

What it does: The website offers private small tours of Paris with licensed local guides that want to help you to discover the city. Available in eight languages.

What’s hot: The tour size is capped at a number that varies — sometimes only six persons, other times four. Some tours allow as many as 10 people. With that kind of attention, you can be sure that all your questions will be answered. One tour might take you to explore the famous sites of Montmartre as well as its hidden stairs and alleys. Another might take you on a half-day private tour of the Louvre. Walk My Steps has seven tour categories: Architecture, Family Tours, Food & Wine, Monuments, Museums, Street Art and Walking Tours.

What’s not: The pricing is a little confusing. It seems as if each tour has a flat-rate price of 200 euro. But underneath that price it says, “From 20 euros per person.” It appears to coincide with the number of people in the group.

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Category: Vacations

Listen to this ‘Jingle Bells’ made with seat belt clicks and other aircraft noises

Posted on December, 26 2015

Forget the dogs barking out “Jingle Bells.”

Portuguese airline TAP, which turned 70 years old in 2015, has come up with a clever version of the classic Christmas song. It uses the click of seat belts, the snap of tray tables and other aircraft sounds.

OK, maybe not every single note comes from the plane, but it’s still kind of cute.

Crew members in the video are real TAP employees, and the song relies on everyday noises heard on an A330 airplane.

Since TAP’s “Jingle Bells” launched Dec. 1, it has received more than 240,000 views on Facebook and 25,000 views on YouTube.

So give a listen — even the “occupied” lock on the bathroom door plays a role.

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Category: Vacations

Here, from Mexico, is what to ask when entering any new room

Posted on December, 23 2015

Tepoztlan is a mystical Mexican mountain town that doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves. It’s only about 30 miles south of Mexico City, yet it’s got a lazy vibe, hippie inclinations, gorgeous buildings from centuries past — including the church ceiling shown here — and a pre-Columbian ruin at the end of a hiking trail. More than one person has called it the Sedona of Mexico.

I visited in 2007 (and wrote this). Staring at the ceiling above was one of my favorite moments there. Ever since, I pay special attention to the ceiling whenever I walk into a grand old building, especially a church, temple or mosque.

It doesn’t have to be the Sistine Chapel. If it’s the sort of place where people might like to cast their eyes heavenward, there’s a good chance that some Old World artisans climbed up on scaffolding and did some amazing things. If it’s not feasible to lie down and give their work a good, long look, then lay your camera down on the floor, get yourself out of the way and shoot straight up.

You can always count on travel to teach you something — but what? Travel is the substitute teacher who didn’t get the lesson plan, the adjunct lecturer who goes off on Bukowski, the grad assistant who trashes your poetry, then hands out red velvet cupcakes. If only you’d had a clue what was coming, right?

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Category: Vacations
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