in the (hyper) loop


Entrepreneur Elon Musk is about to publish an “alpha design” for Hyperloop, an entirely new form of public transportation that is faster than the bullet train and potentially self-powering. Details are slim, but it’s clear that Musk (as always) has lofty ambitions. In the past he has described it as a “cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table,” although that says little of the underlying technology. In an interview last year, Musk described Hyperloop as the fifth major tent pole for modern transportation, placing it on a pedestal beside planes, trains, boats and automobiles. “This system I have in mind, how would you like something that can never crash, is immune to weather, it goes three or four times faster than the bullet train… it goes an average speed of twice what an aircraft would do,” he said. “You would go from downtown LA to downtown San Francisco in under 30 minutes.” He later added that it was possible for Hyperloop to be self-powered using solar energy; it would therefore generate more power than it consumed in day-to-day use. Hyperloop sounds like a too-good-to-be-true scenario. But Musk’s track record with Tesla and SpaceX shows him perfectly capable of delivering on ideas which many people think are unfeasible. Musk added on Twitter that he would be looking for “critical feedback” and “improvements” for the initial design once it’s released to the world next month. Hyperloop might still shrouded in mystery, but it won’t be much longer before we know a lot more about Musk’s intentions. Planes, trains, automobiles: take notice.


faster than a speeding tuk tuk

sook jai

Couples traveling together to Thailand this month can speed their way through the traffic at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport faster than you can say, “no tuk tuk, no massage.” Register at one of the “Amazing Thailand, Amazing Romance” counters – located on both the East and West concourses – by providing some basic information and receive a heart-shaped sticker and a key chain with the Thailand tourism mascot, Sook Jai, which entitles couples to use the “premium lane” for a fast track through the notoriously congested immigration process. Befitting a country known for its embrace of a third gender, the program applies to same-sex couples, too. I think I feel an emoticon coming on.





I need briefly interrupt my leisurely travels in Playa del Carmen to let you all know that, yes, I’ve finally gone and joined the Twitterati. A bit late to the table, I know, but then again good things come to those who wait, no? This website will still function like it always has: as the blog “of record,” so to speak – and on a very slight time delay. For up to the minute news, tips, and uncensored opinions, however, follow me @michael_nassar. Tweet-tweet.


the cull: beloved no more

Nothing quite destroys the essential truthiness of a word like it’s nonsensical repetition. So in order to save these poor words for future generations, I’m starting a new occasional post here called The Cull, which calls for their temporary suspension due to excessive overuse, exaggeration, and/or just plain egregious misuse. (Travel and lifestyle reps take note: I actually do read what you write from time to time.)

2012’s word-most-in-need-of-saving: beloved. As in “This new family musical is based on the beloved New York Times best selling book.” Or “The hotel’s beloved holiday tradition of tea in front of the fire returns for yet another season of smiles.” Or “You’ll be inspired by the wit and wisdom of beloved author and TV spokesperson.” It’s a Wonderful Life is beloved; your elderly Aunt Meemaw is beloved; Toni Morrison’s Beloved is beloved. A hotel is not. Nor is a celebrity stylist. (Or any book written in this century for that matter.)

Beloved, no more. Until we meet again.


le metro mouche

Thinking ahead to next year’s soldes, visitors by then might be able to navigate their way around the City of Light by cruising along the Seine. With the introduction of the cool, new Voguéo water shuttle, transportation publique is expanding to a more fluvial level. Expected to fully operational in the French capital by the summer of 2013, the catamarans, a part of the Paris metro system, will run every 15 to 20 minutes between the city center and the suburbs of Paris. Thirty different stops are planned along the banks of the Seine, from Suresnes, west of the Bois du Boulogne to Vitry-sur-Seine in the south. Each stop will be equipped with a schedule and route maps, including metro transfers. Better still, there’s the added benefit of multiple stops coinciding with key cultural (and shopping) attractions. Fares can be built into the price of a multi-day transit pass or expect to shell out about 7 euro for a one-way ticket.  If that sounds pricey consider the cost of a taxi stuck in traffic as you sail past all the tourists, waving from the prow of your very own bateau.


the joy of juillet

The weeks surrounding the Fête de la Federation are a perfect time to revisit Paris – that’s July 14 in case you didn’t catch today’s tenuous travel connection. Perfect not only because of the summer weather that makes strolling the Seine so sublime – especially with an ice cream from Berthillon – but also ideal thanks to the summer sales, or soldes. Lest you think these are any old sales, I’m going to set you straight: the national soldes are a government controlled period of five weeks each summer and winter when shops are allowed to offer exceptional discounts. And by exceptional I mean deals up to 70% off on all the good stuff. Think Barney’s Warehouse but with better food – and the Bastille.


cocktails in the cock pit

Thanks to website Jaunted for today’s post, which – despite some truly rotten grammar – is far too fun to not lift verbatim: Five Airport-area Bars Made From Actual Airplanes! “Spending your free time hanging out on an airplane before hopping on an airplane to actually go somewhere isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Five airports around the world are betting otherwise, however, as they’ve actually taken airplanes—ones which can no longer buzz up into the air—and installed them as bars, all in the name of getting you buzzed instead.” Read the full story HERE.


it takes a tough man to make a tender chicken



As if I’m not already drooling over the Ipad – or my lack of an Ipad, I should say – The Guardian’s new photography app, Eyewitness, is yet another astounding reason to shell out the bucks already and just commit to it.  The Guardian is one of the few print newspapers in the world with a serious commitment to photography as a journalistic as well as artistic enterprise.  Every day the paper publishes a single two-page photo to be viewed as both a striking work of art and a complex story to be deciphered by the viewer.  But it’s print after all: the resolution varies, the colors are sometime spotty, the newsprint is occasionally sheer.  On the Ipad, the viewing conditions are ideal:  crisp, clean, sharp, vivid, these photos are alive.  By way of example look at this photo here: the sea breaking on Orange Beach, Alabama, more than 90 miles from the BP oil spill.


i’d like to thank the academy

Sometimes life surprises you, if you let it.

Like last Friday, as I was making my windy way across Boston Harbor I got a phone call telling me that a travel story I had written for the New York Daily News just won the prize as Best Feature Article in a Newspaper and could I come to the awards luncheon.

How fun.  How random.

Not that it means anything substantial ultimately. But it was nice to go to a sit-down lunch at the Helmsley yesterday afternoon and meet the Premier of Bermuda.  And the bonus was discovering that my itinerant ramblings get read by a lot more people than just the handful in my immediate circle.


snapshot: irony


america’s best beach

Among the best beaches in America, as chosen by coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach, the Director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research, the white quartz sands of Long Island’s Coopers Beach nabs top marks for its history and wide grass-covered dunes.  Competing against the likes of Florida, California, the Carolinas and Hawaii, it’s the first time a New York beach has claimed the number one spot in the annual list.  Here is the complete Top Ten, which are rated across fifty criteria, including views, pests, safety, natural environment, water color, currents, and sand softness.  Why, it’s almost enough to make me brave a Friday afternoon traffic meltdown on the LIE.


1. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York

2. Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Florida

3. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

4. Cape Hatteras. Outer Banks of North Carolina

5. Main Beach, East Hampton, New York

6. Kahanamoku Beach, Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii

7. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

8. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

9. Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii

10. Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Florida


iPad wars

Is the iPad really going to save the publishing world?  According to Wooden Horse, as of this week it hadn’t:

“While USA Today and New York Times claimed downloads in the three hundred thousands, and Wall Street Journal a hundred thousand less, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when readers have to pony up real money (WSJ is free to current subscribers and the other two totally free.)

Lucia Moses at reports that magazine publishers Time Inc. and Rodale aren’t talking – but let’s hear it for the geeks: Bonnier’s Popular Science announced they had 22,000 downloads of its April issue.  At $4.99 a click, total sales would be nearly $110,000.

But the iPad wars are heating up.  There are a long string of tablet gadgets either already here or coming, including Hewlett-Packard’s Palm-based “Hurricane,” the Dell “Looking Glass” and a likely “companion” device from BlackBerry.

And Google seems to be out to break Apple’s stranglehold on download sales — Time Inc. and Sports Illustrated are already onboard.  According to Media Memo, SI Editor Terry McDonell showed off a digital version of the magazine at Google’s I/O developer conference this week.  Readers would purchase this one from a Google app store, not the Apple iTunes.  “It’s potentially a big deal,” writes Peter Kafka at Media Memo.  “It opens up a much wider audience for the company’s publications, since they should work on any device that supports Google’s Chrome browser.  Just as important, it gives Time Inc another vendor to work with, one that might be willing to grant it concessions Apple won’t – like control over subscriber information, perhaps.”


ready, set, jet

Online travel has become so boring and impersonal.  Not to mention exhausting.  I mean does anybody really believe all those half-cocked reviews on TripAdvisor? And if you’ve ever stayed in one of those crummy hotels Orbitz touts, well, the less said the better.  Which is why I’m excited about Jetsetter, a flash-sale website that hawks upscale vacations and travel experiences to the general public at up to 60% off the best available rates.

Jetsetter changes the game, acting like the well-traveled, highly opinionated friend we’d all like to have.  Their team of curators, includes seasoned travel writers and industry experts, who conduct a first-hand evaluation and perform on-site visits.  This primary research pretty much guarantees that each experience is worthy of the “Jetsetter-Verified” stamp of approval. Plus, the site also includes a range of first-person reviews, photography, travel tips, and destination-specific advice that brings each experience to life – combined with offers not available anywhere else.

A couple of recent properties featured on the site range from the exotic Banyan Tree resorts to iconic properties like The Bauer Hotel in Venice, Negresco in Nice, and boutique outposts such as The Cotton House on ultra-chic Mustique.  Weekly email alerts announce sales as they’re beginning, and each sale is available for a three to five day window.

The hitch:  Membership to Jetsetter is exclusive and only available via invitation from other members.

The cinch:  I’ve got your invitation right HERE.


three little ounces

Is there anything more annoying than having to leave your trusted face wash/moisturizer/body lotion at home because the bottle’s too big to get past the bloodhounds at airport security? (and you promised yourself you’d never ever ever check another bag only to see it get lost again.)

Well, actually I can think of one:  emptying out pilfered hotel toiletries and trying to refill them with hair gel or my new favorite shampoo.

That’s why I’m glad to learn of a pair of entrepreneurial road warriors named Alexi and Kate who were equally as frustrated as myself.  Only they chose to do something about it and created, a new website for those who travel, those who are curious, and those who just can’t seem commit. (I, on the other hand, did nothing.)

As you might have guessed, 3 ounces is the limit for bringing liquids onboard a flight.  But what you might not have guessed is just how good the pint-sized goods are on this website:  Ole Henriksen, Molton Brown, Nickel, Malin + Goetz,  Dr. Hauschka and Art of Shaving are just a few of the lines to choose from – so you can finally lay to rest the nightmare of suffering through that trial-size DEP hair gel from the Duane Reade.  Shop a la carte to mix & match out of different product lines.  Or go for one of the kits, which target everything from face to teeth to sun, as well as giving you the full immersion in one particular brand.


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