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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Enlightened Traveler: Beware of Changes to Your Airline's Frequent Flier Program

Hate the way airlines treat you? Here's another complaint to add to the list: recent and forthcoming changes to frequent flyer programs will make it even harder to earn and collect awards tickets.

Hoping to upgrade to this? Dream on!

Jet Blue and Virgin America are now basing the amount of points you can earn not on miles flown but on the amount of money you spend on a ticket. Delta and United have announced that they will do the same starting next year.

With the U.S. Airways management team firmly in charge, there is little doubt that the lone holdout, American Airlines, eventually will adopt similar regressive reforms.

Also read: Some Tourists Avoiding Manhattan in Favor of Brooklyn

The reason for all of this is simple. Airlines want to retain the loyalty of their most lucrative customers, the ones who buy full-fare business and first class tickets with regularity. Consider yourself lucky if you are in this group.

The rest of us should prepare for further indignities from the airlines. Consider using your miles sooner rather than later. Their value likely will only decrease in future years.

Look here for more on this subject.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Enlightened Traveler: Bargains Abound As Russia's Economy Falters

Your dream vacation to Moscow awaits. Or at least it's a lot more affordable now.

The U.S. dollar, Euro, and British pound buy as much as 50% more in Russia than they did a year ago. The New York Post reports that rooms at the Four Season St. Petersburg are as low as a bargain $185 per night.

www.theobservationsofaluxurist.com
St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow


Similarly cheaper rates can also be found on flights from the U.S. and Europe on Aeroflot, the national airline. Note that it may be harder to book desirable dates and times because Delta, Lufthansa, Etihad and other major carriers are reducing or eliminating flights to Russia due to declining demand.

www.theobservationsofaluxurist.com
Catherine Palace, St. Petersburg


Foreign tourists and business people are staying away, and locals don't have the money to travel abroad. The reason for Russia's economic woes? Plunging oil prices and international sanctions are taking a heavy toll.

Also read St. Peterburg's New Faberge Museum

Now is the time to see Red Square, the Pushkin Museum, Moscow Zoo, attend a performance at the Bolshoi,  or stroll through the city's pristine historic quarters. And there's the Hermitage Museum, Mariinsky Theatre, and the multiple cultural delights of Russia's second city, St. Petersburg.

Red ink means golden opportunities for savvy travelers.

Click here for tips on other top destinations that recently have become affordable.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Paris Comes to L.A. Via Koreatown

In Southern California, until a few years ago, it was impossible to get a true pain aux raisins or any of the other wonderful breakfast pastries the French call viennoiserie. If you looked hard enough, you could find a half-way decent croissant, but a genuine Parisian brioche or raisin Danish – never!

www.theobservationsofaluxurist.com
Paris Baguette danish a la mode Francaise

The Luxurist  does not understand why his fellow Angelenos had to put up with this mauvaise situation for such a long time. But I digress. Suffice it to say that things improved mightily with the arrival of Paris Baguette.

Also read Dinner Is Served: Pasta Explained

This small chain of French bakeries is not exactly what you might suppose. To begin with, it's not French at all. Nor is it run by Indochinese, North Africans or anybody who comes from one of the many former French colonies.

www.theobservationsofaluxurist.com
PB serves coffee in these cute blue-striped cups

It's owned by a South Korean conglomerate –a rather large one at that – and staffed with Korean bakers and friendly young Korean-American waiters and baristas, decked out in striped boat neck jerseys and berets – the kind of thing that represents French style to everyone but the French. But, again, I digress.

In other words, don't even think of speaking French at Paris Baguette. You won't be understood.

You will find a few other eccentricities at PB: they don't serve skim or non-fat milk with coffee, even though nowadays the French will. But, of course, PB is not a French company.


Most of their stores are located in outlying communities such as Buena Park, Rowland Heights, Arcadia, and West Covina, where many Asians live. The firm's only Los Angeles stores both are in Koreatown. The one on Western Ave. is just down the block from the K Town Boxing Club, in case you feel the need to work off calories after gorging on PB's fresh strawberry cream buns, fruit tarts, pains au chocolat and peanut crumb breads.

There are a few other U.S. stores in New Jersey and a new, large, popular eatery in New York City, just off Times Square.

Also read The Enlightened Traveler: A Paris Institution Returns

By baking in a nearly authentic French way, Paris Baguette is not catering to the taste of Americans, but to the half million Koreans and Korean-Americans who live in Southern California. Thank goodness for that. Koreans not only produce fabulous flat-screen TVs, they also are more advanced when it comes to viennoiserie.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Things Not Available In The U.S.: A Camper For Your Bike

The Luxurist does not ride a bike, but appreciates that many otherwise levelheaded folks do.


Who is The Luxurist to argue with the tens of millions of  Dutch, Swedes, and other Europeans who ride their bicycles every day to commute to work, shop, and do other errands around their compact cities?

(The Luxurist admits that in theory this does appear to make some sense. But I digress.)

Here in the U.S., bikes comprise only about 2% of the traffic on the road, which is why the new Wide Path Camper for bicycles isn't yet available in the U.S. Well, you cannot exactly buy one in Europe either until July, when the company that makes it says they will begin shipping the first units.

www.theobservationsofaluxurist.com

The camper weighs a calf-enhancing 100 lbs. and measures 3 ft. 3 in. x 4 ft 3 in. on the road. The makers claim it sets up in three minutes, expanding to about 8 1/2 ft. long with headroom of a little more than four ft.

While you cannot stand up in it, two people can at least sleep in a bed that converts from a small table and banquettes.

www.theobservationsofaluxurist.com

The cost? About $2,200 in Europe. Order yours here.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Annals of Luxury: Some Tourists Avoiding Manhattan in Favor of Brooklyn

Which statement is true?

(1) Derek Jeter has changed his mind; he's not retiring after all.
(2) Compassionate conservatism really does exist.
(3) Hotels in Brooklyn are doing better business than their Manhattan counterparts.

Ready in 2015: Renovations are underway at Brooklyn's Italian Renaissance Bossert
Hotel, where the Dodgers celebrated their 1955 World Series win over the Yankees

It's (3), of course, according to Hotel Management magazine. The publication cites a study, originally reported in Real Estate Weekly, showing that Brooklyn hotel occupancy levels are well above the national (and New York City) average.

Also read: Beyond Manhattan and Into the Void

The article goes on to say that, surprisingly,  some visitors are avoiding Manhattan hotels altogether. They prefer to stay in Brooklyn, where they get more bang for their buck, along with the right to brag about being cooler than their hipster friends back home.

Some 27 new hotels are planned for Brooklyn. These include a top-to-bottom restoration of the 1909 Hotel Bossert in Brooklyn Heights and the Pod Hotel in Williamsburg.

Can SLS, Ace, and Morgans be far behind?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Great Gifts: Your BBQ Grill Cleans Itself While You Watch "Seinfeld" Re-runs

Even though summer is almost gone, The Luxurist likes to use his outdoor grill nearly year 'round (as many do, other than those who live in Ulan Bator where it can get down to -25º in January; but I digress).

The Grillbot comes to the rescue!

The worst thing about outdoor cooking? Cleaning the steel grill. It's too hot to manage after dinner, and by the time you get to it the next day, you're faced with a hardened, carbonized mess. Yuch! (And does anyone really look good in rubber gloves? But, again, I digress.)

We now have the good folks who invented the Grillbot automated grill cleaning robot to thank for relieving us of these unpleasantries. Simply place the Grillbot on the grate, press the button, and you're done. The gizmo's strong rotating wire brushes will scrub your grill to shiny perfection.


You must have this. You must! Get one for yourself right here.

If you need a lot of them, for a fabulous cast and crew or holiday gift, for example, then best to call Jasper & James at (310) 581-6710.