No DNA Required: Hotel Genealogy Butler Helps Visitors Discover Irish Roots

Tom Flemming  / Flickr

The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin employs a genealogy butler. Tom Flemming / Flickr

Skift Take: Hotel companies love to brag about providing local experiences for their guests, but few actually live up to their billing. One of Ireland’s top hotels created a job to literally help visitors find their place in the destination’s history: a genealogy butler.

— Laura Powell

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Staying at Mandarin Oriental Paris

Staying at Mandarin Oriental Paris

Ahh Paris, the city of love. And shopping and incredible food. Paris has it all.

There are so many hotels to choose from in the city which can be extremely overwhelming. I had the chance to stay at Mandarin Oriental Paris and with its luxurious rooms, amenities, and unforgettable food, it was the experience of a lifetime.

Here’s my experience staying at Mandarin Oriental Paris hotel in France!

Sunset in Paris

Getting There

There is a bit of distance between Paris CDG Airport and Mandarin Oriental Paris. If you’re looking to drive or take a taxi, your ride is going to take you about 25 minutes.

If you’re looking for a cheaper (yet longer) option, there is the Roissybus or train. Both depart every 20-30 minutes and are going to take you about 45-50 minutes total. But you’ll only be paying about $13-$17 USD.

Mandarin Oriental Paris

Mandarin Oriental Paris

Mandarin Oriental Paris

The Hotel

This contemporary yet whimsical hotel tucked away in camellia tree gardens, sits right on Rue Saint-Honoré– one of Paris’ most upmarket shopping streets.

While the shopping is nothing short of chic, the area itself is a bit quieter than other spots in Paris. Yet you will still be able to find many things extremely close like the River Seine, Musée d’Orsay, and even the Louvre, one of Paris’ most well-known attractions.

If you’re looking for a family-friendly option, look no further. There is a dedicated children’s concierge, mini bathrobes, and video games to keep the little ones entertained.

If you’re looking for a more romantic adult-geared experience, there’s also an indoor swimming pool and a spa with private spa suites for two and steam showers. Upon arrival, expect a glass of champagne waiting for you, as a warm welcome to the city.

Mandarin Oriental Paris

Mandarin Oriental Paris

The Rooms

With a total of 138 spacious rooms, Mandarin Oriental Paris offers 13 different types of rooms and suites, varying from Mandarin Room to the 2700 square foot Royale Mandarin Suite. For a true Parisian experience, try to book a room on a higher floor for the chance of a view of the Eiffel Tower.

During my stay, I was in the Deluxe Room that offered a gorgeous view of the hotel garden. With its art deco decor, I felt like a true Parisian. The room itself included a walk-in shower, a stand-alone bath, a flatscreen television, and a Nespresso coffee machine.

If you’ve ever been to Paris, you know that the rooms tend to run a bit on the small side but I can assure you, these rooms will seem large in comparison.

Mandarin Oriental Paris

Mandarin Oriental Paris

Mandarin Oriental Paris

Food & Drink

While there are many hotels throughout Paris, it’s not often that you find one with a two-star Michelin restaurant. Sur Mesure par Tarry Marx offers not only incredible service but also an almost out of this world experience.

The walls and ceiling are draped in white fabric, giving the impression of weightless clouds creating an unbelievably sensory experience.

And let’s not forget about the food. Serving lunch and dinner, they offer a 4-6 course meal prepared by one of the most celebrated chefs in France.

If you’re looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, Camélia, located on the ground floor, offers a variety of options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The best part of this modern hot spot is it’s large glass windows that offer a view of the peaceful courtyard garden.

More Information

Accommodation: Luxury

Location: 1st Arrondissement

Price: $$$

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The International Towing and Recovery Museum. I Loved It.

International Towing and Recovery Museum - Andy's Wrecking Service

I saw the sign on the side of the highway as I rolled into the small city of Chattanooga. Two days later, I drove past the sign again. I saw it a third time when I tried to find a gas station the next day.

And each time I saw the sign, I shook my head, admittedly, with some internal laughter at what I thought was a silly, silly idea for a museum.

Today, I stand, or sit, here before you and with a straight face and a renewed appreciation for life’s surprises, I declare that I was wrong.

What seemed like a museum worth ignoring proved to be a museum well worth visiting.

Of none other do I speak than the International Towing and Recovery Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Actually, let’s be official. The full name is the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum.

While I still feel strongly that the full name could use some tweaking, or at the very least, some shortening, I implore you not to let that lengthy and rough title prevent you, as it almost prevented me, from stepping inside the halls of this intriguing shrine.

Pay the $10 entrance fee and feel the texture of your ticket in hand. Chat with the kind fellow at the front desk and watch the 5-minute intro film. At that point, I (almost) guarantee that you’ll be ready and eager to dive deeper into the world of towing and recovery.

You’ll simply walk through the back door of the film room and suddenly you’ll stop in your tracks as you behold the wonders of this industry. You’ll probably say something like, “Holy crap” or “Are you kidding me?” as you look around.

International Towing and Recovery Museum - Lanser Garage

International Towing and Recovery Museum - Dad's

International Towing and Recovery Museum - Ernest Holmes tow truck

While the towing and recovery industry might not be your preferred topic to explore, or in your top 1000 topics of interest, I understand. I think it was #2429 on my own list.

But I will tell you this. I thought it was a very cool museum and well worth the $10. I loved the unique experience. It might not be an industry that many of us spend too much time thinking about but like anything, it does have a history. And that history is full of ideas and impressive innovations, mistakes and experiments, and the occasional absurdities. It’s also full of good people trying to change the world for the better or make our lives easier and safer.

After spending an hour learning the history, examining the various towing and recovery vehicles, admiring the equipment and techniques used over the past 100 years and reminiscing alongside the infinite number of towing-related toys that have shaped the youths of so many…I actually wanted to know more.

By the time I reached the Hall of Fame section at the end, which consists of two hallways filled with photos of ‘outstanding individuals in the towing and recovery industry worldwide’, I wished there was additional information about why each person was recognized. I really did.

So, I’m a changed man. I went from laughing at the sign to welcoming any chance to sit down over a cup of coffee and talk some towing and recovery with anyone who will listen.

International Towing and Recovery Museum - riding a tow truck

If you’re ever passing through Chattanooga, Tennessee and you have an hour to spare, you’ll most likely be pleasantly surprised as well if you spend that hour at the International Towing and Recovery Museum.

Also, you won’t be alone. There were about 8 other visitors inside when I was there. After talking with the man at the front desk, it seems that the museum is far more popular than I ever would have imagined.

Why Chattanooga?

It turns out this city is considered the birthplace of the tow truck. The tow truck was invented in 1916 by Ernest Holmes. He then started the Ernest Holmes Company right there in Chattanooga, and it was the first major tow truck manufacturing operation.

International Towing and Recovery Museum

Website: Towing and Recovery Museum

Interested in some other unique museums? Here’s my posts about The Museum of Broken Relationships and the Best Worst Museum in the World.

The post The International Towing and Recovery Museum. I Loved It. appeared first on Wandering Earl.

Awesome Things To Do In Las Vegas (My Favorites)

Things to do in Las Vegas - My Personal Favorites
I just returned from an 8 day trip to Las Vegas. It was my fourth time there.

As always, I spent half my time in this city shaking my head. There is no other place quite like it and regardless of any pre-conceptions, it’s worth seeing at least once in my opinion.

The main reason I was in Las Vegas was to attend the Star Trek Convention. And while I’m not a big Star Trek fan, a friend of mine had invited me to attend and I figured, why not? I’ll be writing a separate post soon about that bizarre experience.

As for the city itself, I get a kick out of being here. And while I don’t really gamble and I’m not much of a party person, I always manage to have a good time. If you look hard enough, there really are some awesome things to do in Las Vegas, the kind of experiences that have little to do with the ‘Vegas’ that we think about.

During my 8 day trip, I went to the ‘Strip’ only once and I gambled for about an hour total.

So why was this such a great trip?

Let me tell you all about it…

My Favorite Things To Do In Las Vegas


Sky Combat Ace

Upside down, right side up, flip over again. Nose dives, barrel rolls, hammerhead stalls, loops and a backwards free fall. Those are some of the stunts you can experience when you step into the front seat of an advanced Extra 330LC stunt plane at Sky Combat Ace.

It’s absolutely wild.

Things to do in Las Vegas - stunt plane

Here’s how it works:

After a thorough orientation, you board the plane, get strapped in and off you go. Over the next 12-15 minutes, your ex-Air Force fighter pilot (in command of the plane) will take you up in the air and start doing insane stunts. He’ll make sure you get up to speeds of almost 250 mph (400 km/hr) and if the barrel roll doesn’t cause you to vomit into a bag, your pilot will then take it up a notch.

What does that mean? You’ll get to experience a Gravitational-force of around 6 or higher. As a reference, at a G-force of 7-9, most people apparently pass out.

While I didn’t vomit and I didn’t pass out, when we hit close to 6, I felt as if my body and brain were sucked into a black hole and were melting away into infinity from the pressure. It was a most bizarre and intense few seconds, and I loved it!

Things to do in Las Vegas - SCA stunt plane

With the Explorer package, you’ll do about 3-5 stunts depending on how you feel up there. You can also choose other packages that include more stunts or allow you to fly the plane or where you can learn what it’s like to be in the midst of an aerial dogfight.

Of course, they offer a video package as well, with cameras on the wings and in the cockpit recording all of your crazy reactions to every twist and flip and roll.

My favorite moment was when my plane climbed straight up, completely perpendicular to the ground. Once it hit an altitude of about 5000 feet, the engine was cut and we entered into a free-fall straight back down…backwards. It’s as big of an adrenaline rush as you could ever imagine.

Good luck and enjoy one of the best things to do in Las Vegas!

Once you’re finished being a stunt person, you’ll probably want to take it easy for a couple of hours until your body adjusts from all the intensity.

But as soon as you’re feeling better…


Star Wars Virtual Reality

Head over to the Venetian Hotel and walk through the Grand Canal Shoppes until you almost reach the far end. That’s where you’ll find a most excellent Virtual Reality experience awaiting your arrival.

The Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire VR experience takes you straight into a surreal world where your commander gives you a mission to complete. You’ll go undercover, interact with Star Wars characters and do your best to achieve your objective.

Things to do in Las Vegas - Star Wars Secrets of the Empire VR

Wearing a computerized backpack, helmet, microphone and headset, the adventure is detailed and incredibly realistic as you wander through several different scenes and situations. Within a few seconds of putting the VR gear on, you’ll absolutely forget about the outside world.

We came out of this with big smiles on our faces. To put it simply, it’s super fun.

*You should make a reservation as only 5 people can go at a time and there are time slots every 15 minutes until about 11pm. The VR experience itself lasts approximately 15 minutes.

Now that you’ve been upside down in the sky and you’ve fought off some Stormtroopers, you’re probably a little hungry…


Viva Las Arepas

This is my favorite place to eat in Las Vegas. It’s not on the Strip. It’s not a sit down restaurant. It’s nothing fancy or overly impressive from the outside.

Viva Las Arepas is a simple, local Venezuelan eatery near downtown Las Vegas.

Their famous arepas are served up nonstop, day and night, to a growing crowd of both locals and travelers who have heard about the place. It’s reputation is spreading, and for good reason.

They have about 12 different kinds of arepas (the arepa cachapa and arepa reina pepiada are my favorites) and they also serve up empanadas. Each arepa only costs around $6 and it’s best to go there hungry because you’ll absolutely want at least two!

Things to do in Las Vegas - Viva Las Arepas

You order at the counter and if you have any questions about the food, the staff are more than happy to assist.

I took my friends here on our second night in Vegas and I was not surprised when they wanted to go back a few nights later. It’s worth the short trip from the Strip (less than 10 minutes away), especially if you’re tired of buffets and expensive meals. This stuff is as good as it gets!

*Address: 1616 South Las Vegas Blvd, #120, Las Vegas, NV 89104

With stomach full, surely you’re thirsty…


Frankie’s Tiki Room

It’s time to make your way over to the unique Frankie’s Tiki Room. This Tiki bar is an institution. The bar itself has been around for 60 years and it’s been a Tiki bar since 2008.

It’s also not on the Strip. It’s also close to downtown Vegas, right next to a gas station. However, don’t let that fool you and don’t let the fact that this local bar doesn’t have any windows stop you from going either.

This is the real deal, designed by a famous Tiki bar designer, and unlike anything you can imagine.

Things to do in Las Vegas - Frankie's Tiki Room

When I took my friends there last week, here’s how it went:

– We entered.
– My friend said, “What on earth is this place? Looks like a crappy bar.
– We hung out for an hour and a half, drinking a couple of their unique cocktails.
– We left.
– My friend said, “That was awesome! I love that bar.

Sure, it might have been the cocktails talking but this is what happens every time I go there. What starts off as a weird experience, turns into a favorite bar. EVERY TIME.

The atmosphere is laid-back, the lighting dark and there’s only room for about 40 people in the place. There are totem poles, carved wooden furniture, original artwork, torches and of course, their strange, yummy cocktails that everyone comes for.

Things to do in Las Vegas - Frankie's Tiki Room interior

It’s a very welcoming place, even if you completely look like you’re not from the area. Nobody minds, just come on in!

And that’s what makes it one of my favorite things to do in Las Vegas.

Oh, it’s also open 24 hours.

(The Wai’anae Wipeout is my favorite drink – a mix of rum, mango and ginger.)

*Address: 1712 West Charleston Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89102

After a couple of drinks, you’ll probably have a good night’s sleep. Hopefully, the next day you’ll also have enough energy for an unforgettable day trip to…


Death Valley National Park

I was always curious about Death Valley and on this trip, I finally made it. Unfortunately, we went in the middle of summer. The day we were there, the temperature hit a ridiculous 123F (50.5C). It was brutal.

However, it was also beautiful and well worth the trip.

Things to do in Las Vegas - Death Valley view

Only 2 hours away from Vegas along the scenic NV-160, Death Valley National Park offers a chance to see canyons, mountains, salt flats, hot springs, waterfalls, a Timbisha Shoshone Native American community, the lowest point in North America and one of the hottest spots in the world.

We stopped at Zabriskie Point, the village of Furnace Creek, Artist’s Drive and then we went for a short hike out to the Salt Flats at Badwater Basin. That last one is where the temperature reached 123F and we all almost passed out during the 30 minute hike.

Things to do in Las Vegas - Zabriskie Point in Death Valley

Things to do in Las Vegas - Badwater Basin in Death Valley

However, despite the burning nostrils and my shorts being soaked in sweat all day just from standing outside, it was all mesmerizing and stunning.

Awesome day, highly recommended!

Just please bring a ton of water, a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and anything else that will help you handle the heat, especially if you go during the summer.

*The entrance fee per vehicle is $30 that you pay at a little kiosk as you enter the park.

With Death Valley out of the way, how about something a little more chill?


Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area

Located only 30 minutes outside of Las Vegas, you won’t believe that you’re so close to a city once you enter this conservation area. It’s all incredible nature, in every direction.

Set at the edge of the Mojave Desert, once you’re inside the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, there is a 13 mile scenic drive that loops all around.

Things to do in Las Vegas - Red Rocks Canyon Conservation Area

You’ll be able to stop at the Calico Basin and Bridge Mountain, check out the Joshua trees, sandstone formations and short trails that wind along the hills. There are plenty of longer hiking trails as well, ranging from 1 to 11 miles in length, and there are also opportunities for climbing.

The red rocks are brilliantly red, the rocky mountains are imposing, the desert spreads out as far as you can see…you get the idea.

Things to do in Las Vegas - Red Rocks Canyon

Again, being only 30 minutes from the city, this peaceful location is the most ideal mini-escape from the madness and one of the best things to do in Las Vegas as a result.

The photo at the top of this post is also from Red Rocks.

*The cost to enter is $15 per vehicle. There are also picnic areas in case you want to bring some food. We spent about 2 hours going around the loop but you could easily spend half a day out there without even doing any major hikes.


Are you ready for this kind of Vegas? Any other recommendations for cool things to do in Las Vegas?


The post Awesome Things To Do In Las Vegas (My Favorites) appeared first on Wandering Earl.

U.S. Hotel Industry Commits to Giving Panic Buttons to Workers

Marriott International

Marriott housekeepers with employee safety devices, or panic buttons. Marriott, along with Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, and Wyndham, is committing to giving panic buttons to its U.S.-based hotel workers by 2020. Marriott International

Skift Take: Implementation of panic buttons, or employee safety devices, for hotel employees is a good start, but it should just be the beginning of the much broader measures the entire global hospitality industry should take to ensure the safety of every single person who walks through its doors.

— Deanna Ting

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LaSalle Spurns Blackstone By Picking Its Hotel Real Estate Rival for $5.2 Billion

Marriott

The Westin Copley Place Boston is one of a number of hotels owned by LaSalle Hotel Properties. Today, the company rejected a takeover from Blackstone and agreed to be purchased by a hotel real estate rival, Pebblebrook Hotel Trust. Marriott

Skift Take: Looks like slow and steady won the race for Pebblebrook, even in going up against private equity behemoth Blackstone.

— Deanna Ting

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