Tag: Celebrity Travel Watch

Christopher Lee: ‘I Can’t Recall Visiting any Countries I Hated’

So where does one of the most omnipresent movie villains of the past half-century (who also popped up in our list of the best travel horror movies) like to go on vacation? The veteran actor recently dished to the Independent about his ideal travel experiences—and it turns out, solitude is high on his priority list.

Lee’s favorite country is Finland, “because once you get to a certain point, you can drive for hours without seeing a single person.” His worst-ever journey was a rough ride from Washington, D.C., to Charlotte, N.C.: “It was only a 45-minute flight,” he told Sophie Lam, “but I have never known anything like it—including during the war when I was shot at in planes.” And as for New Zealand, where he spent a few months during the filming of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy? It’s “the most beautiful country I have ever been to in my life.”

This is Not a Miami Vice Pun

The view from the Viceroy’s spa. Photo courtesy Viceroy Miami

The Viceroy Miami, down in the Icon Brickell project, is set to open tomorrow. Predictably, hotelistas are excited. It’s very Miami-ish, and not in an old guys sipping from tiny coffee cups and playing dominoes way: 162 rooms with interiors designed by Kelly Wearstler, Sferra linens and a ginormo 28,00-square-foot spa. A spot-check on rates reveals that you could stay there next weekend for about $200 a night, less than half of what they intended to charge until very recently. It makes for a much more intriguing proposition than at the previous price point, which was justified with a “they’ll come because they’ve always come” attitude.

Much like the Standard in New York, look for this project to be the canary in the coal mine for new Miami hotel openings. All the recently opened properties in less-than-prime locations will start getting antsy should things not pan out here. Much depends on enticing visitors to stay in a part of Miami that doesn’t have quite the same name recognition as South Beach—the EPIC, just on the other side of the Miami river, is in the same boat. Still, if they are out in front with these rates, it’s a sign of flexibility that up to this point many Miami hotels lacked. I’ll be sure to head down to check it out just as soon as I get a base tan that upgrades my skin color from “Casper” to “eggshell.” 

Malcolm Gladwell on Aviation Safety and Security

Photo by Brooke Williams, via gladwell.com

Perhaps the most fascinating section of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, Outliers: The Story of Success, is the chapter called “The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes.” Gladwell explores two plane crashes—one Colombian (Avianca Flight 52) and another, South Korean (Korean Air Flight 801)—and how the culture of the pilots perhaps contributed to each disaster. He focuses on how well the pilots communicated with each other and with air traffic control. Poor communication in these examples, he argues, has to do with something called a culture’s Power Distance Index (P.D.I.)—the term and concept come from psychologist Geert Hofstede—which is a measurement of “how much a particular culture values and respects authority,” as Gladwell defines it. Countries with a high P.D.I. generally value being more deferential towards authority, and thus not contradicting a superior (the U.S. and New Zealand both have a low P.D.I.). Gladwell argues that since both Colombia and South Korea rank towards the top of the P.D.I. list, the subordinate members of their cockpit crews were unable or unwilling to speak up as assertively as they should have about safety concerns.

I interviewed Gladwell in early November for an article for The Boston Globe and asked him if he would suggest changing anything in general regarding airline security. “Not really,” he answered, but added that he was more concerned “about the mistakes that pilots make and air traffic controllers make in the course of doing their jobs than I am about the threat posed by terrorists. It’s the classic thing where we demonize and terrify ourselves about the threat from outside and forget about the threat that we pose to ourselves.”

But it’s the connections that Gladwell draws in “Outliers” between culture and plane crashes that have become, not surprisingly, controversial.

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Margaret Atwood: Author, Birder, Cruiser

Turns out that Margaret Atwood—the acclaimed author of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Alias Grace” and “The Blind Assassin,” among others—is also a serious nature-lover. Atwood will be cruising the Scottish isles this spring as a guest lecturer on board the M/V Andrea; this press release notes that she is a “keen birder” and the current co-president of the Rare Bird Club. Who knew?

Flying Coach as ‘Punishment’?

Tennis phenomenon Serena Williams has promised she’ll fly back from Australia to Florida in economy class if she loses the Australian Open, the AFP reports. It’s a punishment to herself, she says, and a way to conserve money. The article quotes her as saying, “I wouldn’t allow myself to have the emergency row either. I would be so mad, I would have to sit like the last row, the tightest row. That way I wouldn’t do it again.”

Do you think she could also arrange to be put next to a crying baby?

Standard Deviation

Standard Deviation Photo of the Standard Hotel by gargola87 via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo of the Standard Hotel by gargola87 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

André Balazs is the subject of a lengthy profile in the New York Observer today. The man’s swanky hotels and dapper look would have made him a celebrity in the hospitality industry even if he had not dated Uma Thurman for a time.

Smack dab in the Meatpacking District in New York, Balazs’ first completely new build hotel, the Standard, is slowly coming online. Technically it’s open, but without the food and beverage situation resolved or any floors above the tenth available to guests, it’s not complete by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, Balazs is still sorting out details like embedding pennies in the floor of the restaurant and—shudder—video art in the elevators. Let it be said once and for all: video art and sound installations in hotel elevators are scourges that should be stopped at all costs. An elevator ride can be awkward as it is; subjecting guests to whale songs or crazy images isn’t a conversation starter, it’s just irritating.

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Morning Links: Sex and Romance in Rio, Chaos in Bangkok and More

sydney opera house Photo of Sydney Opera House by Corey Leopold, via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo of Sydney Opera House by Corey Leopold, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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Morning Links: Road Tripping ‘Amexica,’ Titty Ho and More

Morning Links: Road Tripping ‘Amexica,’ Titty Ho and More Photo by Ian Muttoo via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo of Toronto by Ian Muttoo via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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Lisa Ling: Globetrotting Journalist, ‘Thinking Man’s Sex Symbol’

One small step for Lisa Ling, and one giant leap for female journalists everywhere? Well, maybe not. But giant leap or not, Ling, who travels the world as an “Oprah” correspondent and as the host of the National Geographic Channel’s Explorer, has landed at No. 5 on the Daily Beast’s list of Thinking Man’s Sex Symbols.

Writes list author Touré: “Lisa Ling is sexy without even trying. Whether she’s striding up a mountain in front of National Geographic cameras searching for wild California cannabis or uncovering bride-burning in India, she’s that super-smart polymath who’s such a courageously crusading journalist that she doesn’t have to do anything to elicit admiration.”

(Via The Book Bench)

Steve Martin’s St. Barts Villa Open for Rent

It’s only $28,000 a week. For that, he should really throw in some professional show business:

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Is Winnipeg Canada’s Answer to Scranton?

That depends on who you ask. Michael Scott and Co. will be taking a business trip to the Manitoban capital in an upcoming episode of the hit TV show “The Office.” But why Winnipeg? Apparently, the show’s producers figured it was a good fit because it’s “similar to Scranton, but with a Canadian flair.” Destination Winnipeg begs to differ: “No offence to Scranton,” said a city tourism representative, “but we like to think of ourselves as a cosmopolitan centre.”

Travel Headline of the Day: ‘Iron Maiden Star Flies in to Help Stranded XL Passengers’

Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson is also a pilot, and he was among those called upon to pick up travelers stranded after the collapse of British travel outfitter XL. Said Dickinson: “I was just doing my job.”

Harrison Ford: When Good Celebrity Travel Stories Go Bad

You can almost hear the swearing emanating from Outside magazine’s New Mexico offices when, after scoring an interview with action hero Harrison Ford about his travels, editors finally read the transcript. Ford makes almost no sense.

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Paul McCartney Does Route 66

The legendary Beatle and his girlfriend Nancy Shevell are apparently motoring west, driving a green ‘89 Ford Bronco with New York plates, and they’re leaving a wake of amazed fellow travelers as they head from Joplin, Missouri to Oklahoma City to Amarillo and so forth. What have we learned about Paul’s road tripping skills?

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Guns and Planes: Et Tu, Jerry Lewis?

The 82-year-old actor, comedian and telethon host is the latest celebrity to have a firearm confiscated at the airport.

Related on World Hum:
* Has Your Favorite Celebrity Tried to Smuggle a Gun Onto a Plane?
* Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Still ‘Gun-Free Zone.’ For Now.

Colin Firth on the Rewards of International Travel

Look out, Ewan McGregor. There could be a new travel-writing British actor on the scene. In this item for the Times Online, Colin Firth reflects eloquently on his past travels—from Ethiopia and Italy to a childhood road trip in the Southern U.S.—and notes that while he’s concerned about the environmental impact of flying, he can’t see giving up plane travel entirely: “It’s all too richly rewarding, isn’t it?”

Rufus Wainwright’s Least Favorite City?

Photo by Ian Muttoo via Flickr (Creative Commons)

“Toronto. I can’t stand it—the place drives me mad. I’m allowed to say this because I’m Canadian. ... It’s trying to be the New York of the Midwest.” The singer-songwriter also reveals some of his more positive travel experiences and more in this Q&A with The Observer.

‘Peter Fonda is an Upgrade Junkie’

Can you believe it? Shocking! Sunday’s Los Angeles Times published a run-of-the-mill overview of various issues surrounding frequent-flier miles—yes, some airlines make using miles a major pain. But at the end of the piece, a consultant offered inside info on the frequent-flier-redeeming habits of the stars. Hey, inquiring minds gotta know. Quincy Jones apparently applies his miles toward tickets for friends. Meanwhile, the consultant says, “Peter Fonda is an upgrade junkie. He uses all his miles for upgrades because he never wants to fly coach.” Yes, a true Easy Flier.

Machu Picchu: ‘A Must-See for the Jet Set’?

Close followers of Celebrity Travel Watch will recall Cameron Diaz’s visit to Machu Picchu earlier this year, when her backpacker-commie-chic look—the shoulder bag pictured here says “Serve the People” in Chinese—was seen by some in Peru as too commie and not enough chic. (Turns out Maoist propaganda doesn’t always go over so well in a country that’s been terrorized by Maoist insurgents.) Well, now the Los Angeles Times is declaring Machu Picchu a “must-see for the jet set”—and not just celebs with Mao-inspired totes from China. Bill Gates made the trek this year, and in the last week or so Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson landed in Cuzco with plans to visit Machu Picchu, although they apparently scrapped the trip to the Incan ruins after “a run-in with several local journalists.” Officials have taken steps to limit Inca Trail traffic. What’s next? Limits on celebrity visitors?

Related on World Hum:
* Celebrity Travel Watch
* Peru: It’s no Nepal

Photo: AP.

From Mao to Morrison: Why Are Travelers Drawn to Controversial Tombs and Celebrity Graves?

Photo of Mao’s tomb by gruntzooki via Flickr, (Creative Commons).

Call it an odd sub-category of dark travel or the grief tourism twist on celebrity obsession. Either way mausoleum tourism is a force to be reckoned with. From Ho Chi Minh’s final resting place in Hanoi to Lenin’s tomb in Moscow, and of course Chairman Mao’s “mao-soleum” in Beijing, travelers line up every day to see the graves of powerful, controversial people. A monument to another much-loved and much-hated figure was just unveiled: a mausoleum for Yasser Arafat, on the grounds of his Ramallah compound.

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