But no one ever challenged my basic conceit that I would be much happier on land actually staying in a destination instead of just visiting it for a day from sea. They’d just shrug and say, “Well, cruising is not for everyone.”


And then something happened that changed all that. I went on a cruise. Four days from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam. And I loved it.

Here are six things that I always thought about cruises before my first experience that I wish someone had told me differently 40 years ago.

6 MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT CRUISING


​1. I’ll be bored.

This was my greatest fear. As an independent traveler who likes to walk, I felt that the confines of a ship would strangle me and I’d be bored stiff sitting on a deck chair with nothing to do. In the end, I left this short four-day cruise completely exhausted (and actually in need of some relaxation!). There is just an incredible amount to do.

Dining Deals

In a Venn diagram of phenomenal Las Vegas eats and cheap Las Vegas eats, there's little overlap. But enterprising travellers can find great bargains. If you're a true night owl or a very enthusiastic early bird, several casual diners and casino cafes have excellent deals between midnight and 5:00 am - perfect for when you're up late hitting a show or waking up early to travel for a desert hike. One example: The Sundance Grill at the Silverton offers biscuits and country style gravy for $2.95 and steak and eggs for $4.99.

Casino restaurants also offer great deals for members of their player's clubs or loyalty programs. For instance, at the Sourdough Cafe at Arizona Charlie's, your player's card means $3.99 unlimited pancakes and a $8.99-weekday special. If you google "players club dining perks" and the name of the hotel or casino, you'll find a host of online resources and tips.

And, depending on your point of view, there's no dining bargain quite like the all-you-can-eat buffet. Getting the best value from a Vegas buffet is a work of art and everyone has an opinion on which one is the best. Locals flock to the Garden Court Buffet in the Main Street Station Hotel, where the breakfast buffet is $9, lunch is $10, and dinner is $13. One of my fondest Vegas memories is when I was stocking up on pasta there and a local directed my attention to a basket of garlic bread at the end of the station, saying it was fantastic. To be truthful, it was average at best, but I always respect people who have strong opinions about bread! If you're REALLY into the buffet scene, pick up a copy of Frommer's Las Vegas guidebook. They go into great detail about things like which buffet has the best homemade desserts (a Vegas rarity).

If you're keen to explore off the beaten path - essentially anything you'll find beyond The Strip - you'll find a nice list of low-cost dining options. At a 24 hour diner called Badger Cafe, everything on the menu is under $10 and robust meals like a roast beef dinner are less than $8.

The haunted tomb of the Voodoo Queen

EasyJet Passenger Arrested for Attempting to Open Emergency Exit in Middle of Flight

Whenever you're traveling, avoiding politics is a pretty smart rule of thumb. Especially when you're visiting countries with less than stellar notions of free speech, it's a good idea to steer clear of protests, demonstrations, or even heated personal debates about issues. It can get you in trouble with your hosts or with the government of the country.

We all know you can't go to North Korea and talk politics, but some of the countries where you can be punished or even jailed for criticizing heads of state will truly surprise you. The archaic concept of lèse-majesté (offending majesty) is alive and well all over the world.

Here are 10 countries where you could face serious repercussions for attacking those in power. Loose lips sink ships...


​1. Saudi Arabia

If you know anything about the venal and capricious House of Saud, you won't be surprised that trash-talking them in their own country can land you in a world of hurt.

As part of a new tranche of anti-terrorism laws in 2014, the Saudi government stepped up punishments for anyone daring to speak ill of the King or Crown Prince in public. That offence can net you 5 to 10 years in prison -- and Saudi prison is probably not the kind of place you want to spend an extended sabbatical. In some cases, due to the ahem somewhat arbitrary nature of Saudi justice, the sentences can be even more draconian, going as far as public lashing or even the death sentence.

It's unclear how seriously the government would attempt to enforce this law on foreigners, but they've been fairly stringent in applying it to their own people. Back in 2015, a prominent Saudi writer was arrested for insulting a dead former King. Talk about grave consequences.


​2. Thailand

Thailand has an 'anything goes' reputation, one that it's trying to shed. But as a matter of fact, the country has the strictest lèse-majesté laws in the world. Insulting the King, Queen, regent, or heir to the throne can land you in prison for 3 to 15 years. Per charge.

Worse, the law does not define what constitutes and insult, so that word can be interpreted as broadly as the King pleases. In recent years, enforcement has surpassed the farcical. One man was fined USD $14,000 and spent 86 days in jail for making fun of the King's dog on Facebook.

In 2014, the Thai government further embarrassed itself by declaring comedian John Oliver a threat to the monarchy. Oliver came to the attention of the governing junta after poking fun at the Crown Prince, who made his poodle Foo-Foo an Air Chief Marshal in the air force.


3. Spain

This one might surprise you a bit, but Spain does indeed still have a King (Felipe VI). Even more surprisingly, it still has lèse-majesté laws on the books, which it has attempted to enforce fairly recently.

The King of Spain is largely a figurehead, much like Queen Elizabeth in the UK. However, the King is still commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the highest representation of the state itself, symbolic of Spain's sovereignty and dignity. As such, the law forbids anyone from denigrating or damaging the reputation of the King or other members of the royal family. Violation can carry a penalty of up to two years imprisonment.

Catalan separatists and anti-monarchists have been tried and convicted on lèse-majesté rules, and the Spanish government has been cracking down on free speech since 2015.

However, in March of 2018, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that burning images of the King and Queen is free speech, putting the future of Spain's lèse-majesté regime in doubt.


4. Switzerland

Yes, Switzerland!

You may be asking: "Does Switzerland even have a King or Queen?"

Nope. They're more famous for their direct democracy, yodeling, and passionate neutrality. But they do have pretty damn strict laws protecting foreign heads of state and officials from public rebuke.

According to Article 296 of the Swiss Criminal Code, "Any person who publicly insults a foreign state in the person of its head of state ... is liable to a custodial sentence not exceeding three years or to a monetary penalty."

To be honest, jail in Switzerland is probably preferable to freedom in many other countries.


5. The Netherlands

Come on, Europe! You seem progressive and permissive on so many issues. Why can't you just leave this monarchy stuff in the past?

The Netherlands retains its (admittedly fairly benevolent) royal family, along with laws dating back to the 19th century which specially prohibit any defamation hurled at the crowned heads of Holland. Slandering a Dutch monarch can technically land you up to 5 years in prison and/or a USD $20,000 fine.

In practice, public distaste for such anti-free speech measures has prevented harsh sentences from being handed down, though 18 individuals were prosecuted under the law between 2000 and 2012.

Granted, some of the things these folks said about the royals were so distasteful and lewd (and totally unsupported by evidence) that I won't repeat them here. But why should these dudes and dudesses have their own special defamation laws?

The good news is that the left-wing D66 Party has pledged to roll back the Netherlands' lèse-majesté legislation.


​6. Kuwait

You may be operating under the assumption that all these laws apply only to residents of the countries in question -- when they even apply at all. But that isn't true.

In 2009, an Australian woman found herself in a dispute with Kuwaiti immigration officials in that country over the status of members of her family. She was subsequently investigated for insulting the Emir of Kuwait, and sentenced to two years imprisonment on that charge.

The Australian government refused to intervene, reminding its citizens that they must adhere to foreign laws when they travel. It's a lesson worth repeating -- however absurd those laws may be.


7. Morocco

King Mohammed VI of Morocco takes very seriously any utterances which may offend his royal person, and that means the government does as well. However, in 2017, Morocco passed landmark reforms to its speech laws that have at least ended the practice of sending people to prison for saying things that might hurt the King's feelings.

In 2012, 24-year-old Abdessamad Haydour was sentenced to three years in prison under the old law for criticizing the King in a conversation he didn't realize was being recorded.

Back in 2008, a court actually handed down the same punishment to a 95-year-old man in a wheelchair for allegedly insulting the King under his breath. The man died 5 months into his sentence.

Nothing ruins a day of sightseeing like not being able to see properly. Finding a new pair of glasses or contacts while away from home is no easy task, and if you’re in a foreign country, you might have to find a new eye doctor to write you a prescription.
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How to Remember: If you primarily wear contacts, always leave extras in your luggage when you’re not traveling. If you’re out for the day, try to keep a spare set in your purse or wallet in case you find yourself in need of a fresh pair. If you’re worried about leaving your glasses at home, keep them out in the open while you pack, preferably near your wallet or phone. This way, they’ll be less likely to slip your mind when it’s time to go.


Itinerary Confirmations

The U.S. Travel Association urged Customs and Border Protection (CBP) not to understaff U.S. airports as the agency reassigns agents to the Mexican border, amid reports of soaring wait times at international arrival halls.

"In pursuing its objectives on the southern border, we urge the administration to keep other entry points appropriately staffed and effectively secured," said U.S. Travel executive vice president for public affairs and policy Tori Barnes. "Aside from concerns about migration and border security, it is an immutable fact: travel is trade, and the U.S. economy and jobs base enjoy many billions of dollars in beneficial impact from legitimate international business and leisure visitors to the United States."

At least one major U.S. airport has spoken out about customs agent redeployment. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson general manager John Selden told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he has reached out to Congress for assistance.


​"There's a deployment to the southern border and that has reduced our staffing levels here at Hartsfield-Jackson," Selden told the newspaper. "And we are advocating through our Congressional delegation to hopefully get more staff here to balance it out throughout the country."

In an email Thursday, the CBP said that currently no agents from Atlanta Field Office are assigned to the southwest border.

On April 1, former Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen ordered CBP to "undertake emergency surge operations and immediately increase its temporary reassignment of personnel and resources from across the agency to address the influx of migrants."

"The crisis at our border is worsening, and DHS will do everything in its power to end it," Nielsen stated. "We will not stand idly by while Congress fails to act yet again, so all options are on the table. We will immediately redeploy hundreds of CBP personnel to the border to respond to this emergency. We will urgently pursue additional reinforcements from within DHS and the interagency. And we will require those seeking to enter the United States to wait in Mexico until an immigration court as reviewed their claims."


​In a statement on Friday, a CBP spokesperson confirmed that it "will send CBP officers from airports and northern border locations on temporary assignments throughout the Southwest border to support the U.S. Border Patrol during the current border security and humanitarian crisis. The selected CBP officers will be replacing the CBP officers currently assigned to support the Border Patrol along the Southwest border. The exact number and locations of the CBP officers is not available at this point."

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One of the most famous haunted houses in New Orleans — so famous that many just call it "the Haunted House" — is the LaLaurie Mansion at 1140 Royal Street in the French Quarter. It might be famous because it featured heavily in Season 3 of American Horror Story, or maybe because Nicolas Cage owned it for a little while for some reason. But really, it's famous because, as Ghost City Tours points out, legend says some really messed up stuff happened in there.

Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife, Delphine, moved into the mansion in 1832, and Delphine, a proud socialite, soon gained a reputation for being cruel to her slaves, especially after she was seen chasing a young slave girl off a balcony to her death with a bullwhip after accidentally pulling Delphine's hair. But it was an 1834 fire that revealed the true horror of the LaLaurie Mansion.

A slave chained to the stove had set the fire because she would rather die than be taken to the room upstairs. Firefighters who entered this room discovered it was full of more than a dozen slaves who had been chained, caged, tortured, and experimented on. Later (spurious) legends say one victim had been caged with her bones broken and reset so she could only walk like a crab, and others had holes drilled in their heads. Delphine LaLaurie, now uncovered, fled to France and little is known about what happened to her afterward. Anyway, the house is haunted now, obviously.

The pirate ghost of Jean Lafitte

Messed-Up Things That May Have Happened in New Orleans History

You might know that the cemeteries in New Orleans use above-ground vaults rather than burying their dead. This is partly because of the fact that the low altitude of the city means its water tables are high and flooding could cause bodies to float up out of the ground, and partly because the French and Spanish also used above-ground vaults. What you may not know is that in order to fit entire families into these tombs, old coffins are removed after a year or two to make room for new ones, with the remains placed back into the tomb sans box. Hold on to that fact; you'll need it in a minute.

According to legend, John and Wayne Carter were brothers who popped up in New Orleans during the Great Depression and worked at the docks. In 1932, an 11-year-old girl escaped their apartment in the French Quarter and fled to the police. Her wrists had been slashed, and she said the brothers had been feeding on her. When the police entered the apartment, they found 4 other people bound up and bleeding, and many others already dead. It took eight men to restrain the Carter brothers when they returned home. They were put to the death, and when their tomb was opened to retrieve their coffins a year later, their bodies were gone.

Their surviving victims didn't turn out great, either: One man went on to allegedly murder 442 people and dissolve their bodies in acid. Yikes.

Retirement offers the perfect opportunity to travel; you have the time to set out and indulge in your curiosity about the world and its people. But for many, not having a partner to travel with is enough to keep them at home. Setting off on a trip on your own can seem intimidating. Happily, the opportunities for solo travel have never been better. Hotels, travel companies, and cruise lines have kept pace with increasing demand and added options to ensure that a trip for one is just as fulfilling and affordable as a reservation for two.

Still, for many of us, the thought of venturing alone to points unknown can be daunting. Worries range from getting ill or lost, to being stuck next to a boor on an endless bus trip. There are some types of holidays that are better than others for offering solo travelers opportunities to meet new people (and to ditch them if they're not a good match), develop new skills, or to have an adventure. With a little research, and the following tips, you can plan a trip that suits you — whether you're looking for culture, education, or wellness, or ticking something special off your bucket list:

1. Seek out the deals

Wanting to head to a resort, or to take a cruise? Keep an eye out for companies that cater to solo travelers (not "singles" — that's a whole different market). You'll find that not only do they make all-inclusive life more enjoyable by offering meet-and-greets or group dinners, but they make it more affordable by waiving, or reducing, the single supplement fee. Additionally, several cruise lines now offer single occupancy cabins. They cost a bit more than the per-person cost of a double occupancy cabin, but they are more affordable than the single supplement.

2. Pack light

It might seem obvious, but when it's just you there's no one else to leave your bags with if you need to slip to the washroom or grab a bite to eat. You don't want to be schlepping a cumbersome suitcase through the airport, so if it's been a while since you last traveled, spring for a modern lightweight suitcase with great wheels. Then get some packing tips for a flexible travel wardrobe that's stain resistant and easy to mix and match. Don't neglect your footwear. Opt for a stylish pair of comfortable walking shoes that can do double duty as dress shoes when needed.

3. Think central

When you can, choose comfortable lodgings in the thick of the action. This way if you're visiting a city you can explore more of it with less energy. You'll want to spend your time walking through the galleries and gardens you've been dreaming about, not stuck in traffic getting to and from the must-dos.

4. Use your skills

There are numerous NGOs around the world looking for help on everything from building houses to protecting the environment to working with community activists. And thanks to your years on the job, you'll probably find that the skills and patience you've developed will prove extremely useful. Many programs require that you cover your costs for travel, accommodation, and meals but in return they offer you a chance to immerse in a local community and do something useful.

5. Pursue your interests

Special interest travel is on the rise, and it gives you the perfect opportunity to pick up that long-dreamed about post-retirement hobby. Want to work on your painting skills with a master artist in Venice, or take a culinary course in Thailand? Maybe you're interested in a yoga retreat or an advanced scuba diving course. Educational travel is as diverse as your own interests. It's also a great way to meet people with similar hobbies and goals.

6. Make new friends

If you're worried solo travel will leave you more lonesome than fulfilled, consider seeking out a suitable travel partner. You can check out prospective travel companions by using one of the websites that cater to senior or women travelers, or you can opt for local homestays or hostel lodging. Keep in mind while some hostels cater primarily to youth, especially during school holidays, many also serve seniors. The communal spaces are great for low-key interactions and for making travel plans.


​7. Stay healthy

Jet lag can get worse as you age, so don't over schedule yourself — especially for the first few days. Even after you've arrived, plan a few rest days into your schedule so you don't feel like your missing out if you need a quiet day. While you're taking it easy, keep the same attitude about food — less is sometimes best when it comes to unfamiliar food and drink. Don't forget copies of any prescriptions and a basic first aid kit. It can be hard to find familiar OTC cold or stomach medicines in a new country.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to have your city destroyed by one fire may be regarded as misfortune; to have it destroyed by fire twice looks like carelessness. It turns out that the reason most of the buildings in New Orleans' French Quarter are actually Spanish and not French is that the city was destroyed by fire in 1788 and again in 1794. A notable survivor of both blazes is Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop; the story goes that the people formed a bucket brigade to save their favorite bar, but in reality it was probably saved by its slate roofing.

One building that wasn't so lucky was the site that now houses the Andrew Jackson Hotel. According to the hotel's website, the hotel was originally built as a home for boys who lost their parents to a yellow fever epidemic in the late 18th century. If it weren't bad enough that these boys were orphaned, they also died in a fire. Wilde might call that carelessness, too, to be honest. Now the hotel that was built in that location is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the five boys who died in the fire.

The boys' giggling can be heard in the courtyard, and they're known to push people out of bed or snatch their pillows out from under them. Other stories report that they like to change the channel on the TVs or pour cereal on the ground. Boys, it seems, will be boys, even when long dead.

The haunted hotel that rose from the ashes of an orphanage

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Popular places that are now ghost towns

If you look closely at the architecture when you wander around the French Quarter, you might notice an interesting detail: Most of the columns under the numerous balconies in the Quarter feature curly, spiky, or otherwise pointy ornamentation sticking out from the poles most of the way up. These pointy bits are called Romeo spikes, or Romeo catchers, and their name hints at their function: They're meant to keep you from climbing up the column and getting frisky with the homeowner's daughter (or wife, or son, or whoever).

One famous New Orleans ghost story relates the tale of a young man who ended up on the wrong end of a Romeo catcher. The story goes that a young woman was left alone by her parents as they went out for a night on the town, saying she was too ill to join them. As soon as her parents were gone, however, her boyfriend showed up, glad for the time alone. The bad news is that the girl's father had forgotten something at the house and unexpectedly returned. The boy tried to make a quick escape over the balcony, only to get his hip caught on the Romeo catcher.

The father fired a gun into the air to scare the boy, which caused him to let go, and the Romeo catcher ripped him from stem to stern, stringing out his intestines like streamers at Vlad the Impaler's birthday party. This gutsy ghost can still be found hanging around the French Quarter, so to speak.

You’ve made it. You managed to navigate your way through the world’s largest airport without robot assistance; you breezed through security because you didn’t pack any items that get you flagged by the TSA; and you successfully boarded the plane. Now you’re comfortable in your seat in the (kind of incredibly germ-ridden) cabin, and there’s even a little bit of elbow room, as the flight isn’t fully booked for once. With the hassle behind you, you settle in with your neck pillow, pop some Kenny G on your iPod, and get ready to spend quality time sleeping on a plane. And you’re about to make a huge mistake that will put your health at risk, as reported by Travel + Leisure.

It’s not because of the Kenny G. It’s the shuteye part. According to MedlinePlus, falling asleep during landing or takeoff could cause serious damage to your ears. It all has to do with the rapid changes in air pressure in the cabin.


​If you’re awake, a natural response to alleviate pressure on your eardrums during takeoff and landing is to “pop” them, to maintain a pressure equilibrium. If you’re sleeping on a plane, you can’t actively work to relax those muscles and release the tension, so you can become susceptible to dizziness, ear infections, eardrum damage, hearing loss and nose bleeds.

“A quick change in altitude affects the air pressure in the ear,” says Angel Chalmers, a British pharmacist, via Express. “This leads to a vacuum in the Eustachian tubes which makes the ears feel blocked and sound dull.”

Keep those Eustachian tubes clear and keep those eyes open for at least another few minutes. Crack open that book you just bought in the terminal. After all, there are some major perks to buying your reading material at the airport.

Massive Elephant Seals Took Over a California Beach During the Government Shutdown and Nobody Can Get Them to Move

For the second time in more than a year, Diego de la Hoya will prepare for a homecoming appearance.

This time around, it’s needed more than ever.

The 25-year old featherweight will land atop a Golden Boy Fight Night card slated for Dec. 14 in his hometown of Mexicali, Mexico. de la Hoya will face Venezuela’s Renson Robles in the evening’s main event, Golden Boy Promotions executive matchmaker Roberto Diaz confirmed to BoxingScene.com.


​In the evening’s chief support, resurgent Venezuelan super featherweight Roger Gutierrez (23-3-1, 20KOs) will seek his fourth win in less than 12 months as he faces locally based Andres Tapia (16-7-3, 9KOs). Gutierrez has enjoyed a Comeback of the Year-level campaign, highlighted by a stunning 1st round knockout of previously unbeaten 130-pound contender Eduardo ‘Rocky’ Hernandez in July.

A comeback is precisely what’s required for de la Hoya (21-1, 10KOs) to reclaim his stride. The once rising junior featherweight contender has seen a far fall from grace ever since positioning himself for a title shot in 2018. Efforts to squeeze in one more fight prior to such opportunity prompted his handlers—including his promoter and 1st cousin, Hall of Fame former six-division titlist Oscar de la Hoya—to put together a fight in Mexicali for the first time in his career.

The occasion was to take place last November, only for de la Hoya to land in the hospital after suffering from dehydration, thus cancelling a scheduled bout versus Venezuela’s Edixon Perez. The show went on without him, though interestingly with Perez who dropped a 10-round decision to unbeaten Jose Durantes.

de la Hoya sought to rebound in 2019, but remains winless on the year. He finally landed a fight in Mexico, only for an April appearance in Monterrey resulting in a two-round No-Contest with Enrique Beranche in their featherweight bout. Three months later came the first loss of his career, suffering a 6th round stoppage at the hands of current Top 10 junior featherweight contender Ronny Rios.

In heading home, de la Hoya seeks his first win since a 7th round knockout of Jose. Salgado last June.

Robles (16-6, 9KOs) enters on the heels of a three-fight win streak, though is currently winless outside of his native Venezuela. All three occasions came against world-level opposition, dropping a pair of 10-round decisions to junior bantamweight contender Norbelto Jimenez and—in his lone other career bout in Mexico—suffering a 7th round stoppage at the hands of unbeaten former lineal bantamweight king Luis Nery last December.

Everyone loves a great travel bargain and Vegas is full of them. But you have to know where to look and how to play the game. It's not your run-of-the-mill destination and, as such, you need some insider tips about the best things to see and do on your tight budget.

Las Vegas Hotels On A Budget

Accommodations in Vegas can be cheap. I don't mean frugal or budget-friendly or value added. I mean downright cheap! It's not unusual to find a room for under $40 a night and under $20 isn't impossible. But you have to do some legwork. Your first step is to review this list of what hotels in Las Vegas charge a resort fee. A resort fee is a non-negotiable daily charge that gives you.... Nothing. But they can cost up to $45 a day, plus tax, and are never included in online quotes. They're the enemy of any budget traveller so narrow down your short list of hotel choices accordingly.

With your short list selected, sign up for the promotional newsletter of each property you're interested in. Great deals are often advertised only to insiders or fans and this is the best way to find the best prices.

Timing matters in Vegas. The cost of accommodations on weekends or holidays can be astronomical compared to the frugal offerings of weekdays. If you're vacationing in the area, consider spending the weekend at one of the many nearby national parks. Pricing at national park lodges is usually set seasonally, not day to day.

Unless the price is truly too good to be true, book directly with the hotel, not a third party website, and choose the option that allows you to cancel a booking without penalty. On several occasions, I've booked what I thought was a killer deal - only to see a better price or a bonus offer for food credits a few weeks later. I simply cancelled the first reservation and booked a new one!

Finally, remember that in Vegas it pays to gamble. In my experience, it might not hurt to fold a fresh $20 bill in thirds, put it under your hand, and smoothly slide it across the counter and ask the clerk if they would mind checking if there are any nicer rooms available for complimentary upgrades. I'm serious! If the hotel has availability and you've been sincerely kind and friendly to the clerk, chances are you will be upgraded at no extra cost beyond your $20. If they can't do it, they'll likely slide the $20 bill back. No, it's not a bribe. It's a tip - and Vegas runs on tips. Anywhere else in the world this would be slimy. Not in Vegas. It's how I moved from a standard room to a one bedroom apartment at the MGM Signature!

The government shutdown may be over (for now), but the work to restore some of America’s sacred outdoor spaces has just begun. For places such as Joshua Tree, facing that process is daunting due to litter and other damage caused by humans, but one beach in California is experiencing a different kind of side effect.

During the shutdown, government workers were put on furlough and were no longer required to attend to Drake Beach, a stretch of sand in Northern California that is part of the National Park System's Point Reyes National Seashore. Because it was left abandoned, nobody was there to monitor the local wildlife, which includes a few gigantic elephant seals. So, the seals decided to reclaim their land and snuggle up on the shore. And now, nobody can get them to leave.


​"I've not seen anything like this here with these numbers," John Dell'Osso of the National Park Service told KPIX, a local CNN affiliate. "An occasional rogue elephant seal yes, but nothing like this."


​According to Dell’Osso, the seals not only came ashore during the shutdown, but they actually had enough time to birth a few babies. And those babies will need to stay put for quite some time.

"Now we have some 35 to 40 pups that have been born on the beach and will be nursing from their mothers for the next couple of months," he said. "I just want to caution the public to be patient with us, as we're trying to work our way through this."


​Had the shutdown not occurred, Dell’Osso explained to Motherboard that his team would have likely attempted to move the seals away from the parking area.

“This would be done by a standard practice of using tarps and waving them at the seals to the point where they turn around and go further down the beach,” Dell’Osso said.

Because of the influx of animals, the National Park Service closed the visitor’s center parking area, along with the road leading to it. This, Dell’Osso said, was out of an abundance of caution to ensure no problems between humans and wildlife would ensue.

For now, parks officials have called in experts to learn more about dealing with the large population influx, KPIX reported. More details about reopening the area are expected this weekend.

Cabin crew on board an easyJet flight from London to Pisa had to subdue a passenger on Wednesday after he tried to force open an emergency exit while the plane was at cruising altitude.

The passenger walked down the aisle of the plane in the middle of the three-hour flight and attempted to open the emergency exit door. Passengers and cabin crew subdued the man, strapping him into a seat until the landing in Italy, where he was taken into police custody.

“He was in the toilet for about a minute. When he came out he went towards the emergency exit and grabbed the handle and tried to open the door,” passenger Richard Conyard told The Sun. “One of the crew screamed at him to stop and other passengers started shouting and crying. Everyone was understandably very scared.”


​In a statement, the airline confirmed that the pilot “requested police to meet the aircraft on arrival as a passenger made an attempt to open one of the cabin doors during the descent. While it would not have been possible to open the door due to the cabin pressurization, the crew responded quickly to ensure the passenger remained seated until landing.”

It is impossible to open the emergency exit while a plane is in flight. Cabin pressure makes it physically impossible for human force alone. It would take (at least) the force of a hydraulic jack to pry an exit door open while in flight. If a captain knows there is an emergency situation, they will start to descend altitude and depressurize the plane so cabin crew can open the emergency exits when a landing is safe.

And speaking of freedom, how about freedom from cash, wallets and watches? All you ever need to take with you is your room key, with which you can sign everything. I had always heard of the private islands owned by cruise ships (Holland America has a beauty in the Bahamas – Half Moon Cay), but had suspected they were just a scheme to wrest more money from the passengers. Again, mistaken.

The private island gives you a paradise of clean beaches, the sparkling aquamarine blue of the Caribbean, unlimited recreational opportunities, great food (included free in the cruise) and a dozen other options, and instead of the usual beach worries of what to do with valuables while you’re in the water – there are no worries!


​Don’t take any valuables. All you need to take off the ship is a plastic card the size of a credit card. Leave everything else in your floating home. Tender rides from ship to shore or shore to ship are ten minutes, and leave constantly. You could (if you were insane) even leave the island and go back to the ship for lunch and then come back to the island in the afternoon. The simple truth is, no one cares what you do. Or when.

If you do find a runny nose or throbbing headache ruining your trip, you’ll want to make sure you have the right remedy on hand. Keeping a small bottle of ibuprofen, capsules of cold medicine, or other over-the-counter remedies at the ready means you won’t have to interrupt your trip with a visit to the pharmacy.

How to Remember: Always travel with a first-aid kit and keep the medicine you need well stocked. Look for a small bag like this 100-Piece Kit and keep it ready to go in your preferred day bag. If you need to travel with your prescription medication and don’t already use a pill organizer, bring one along. Travel sometimes means crossing timezones, so a weekly organizer can help you keep track of your pill schedule when the days start to blur together.


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Cleveland had a little aquarium that was a very popular place from the mid '50s to the '70s. But with all that disco music and platform shoes with fish in them, people weren't going to the aquarium anymore. Ticket sales weren't covering costs, and when they found the aquarium would need major structural updates, they just shut it down. In 1985, they shipped all the sea life away and closed the doors. But they forgot to lock up.

The building was left abandoned, and people assumed that it was boarded up and impossible for passersby to enter. Instead, a news crew found the door was wide open, and they waltzed in with ease. Sure, there was a sign that said "Keep Out," but oh well. Inside, the floor is covered in broken glass, and it's apparent that squatters are living there. The residents even put up a provisional basketball hoop, so you know they feel at home. One room is full of student desks and a rotting sofa, which looks just as creepy as you're imagining.

The Isle of Wight, just off the coast of England, once housed the bustling Wight City, an arcade by the sea. Now, arcades have faltered all over the world since most gamers would prefer to use their systems in the comfort of their own homes rather than waste quarters on the low-fi games of the '80s and '90s. But few arcades were left perfectly intact while they rotted behind closed doors.

Wight City Arcade, Bogey's Night Club, and The Jolly Roger Restaurant all shared a building, and all shut down in 2012. The city planned to raze the building, but it stayed just as it was. Though the lights are off, none of the games were moved and look as though they're just waiting for a new group of gamers that will never come. The arcade also had a small bowling alley, where the floors are rotting away. But one of the weirdest things is the pool table. It's not particularly decrepit but looks like someone walked away in the middle of a game for a smoke and never came back. As of 2017, the site has just been sold with the intent to knock it down and probably build condos. Hopefully, someone will finish that pool game before the wrecking ball comes in.

Things you should never order at Cracker Barrel

It's happened before, and it'll happen again


Just a few days after the fire, CBS News was reporting that a computer glitch had probably been responsible for the fire. Details were scarce, but early information linked the fire to the work that was being done to restore the cathedral — and worse than Notre Dame burning alone is the fact that it's not the only landmark to be ravaged by fires started during restoration.

Several other French landmarks have had the same thing happen, and that's just in the last decade.

In 2013, Le Monde reported fire had destroyed a huge part of La Rochelle's town hall, a building that dated from the 15th and 16th centuries and housed treasures like the death mask of Henry IV. The fire was believed to be accidental from the beginning, and while most of the artwork was saved, huge sections of the building collapsed. Also ravaged by fire in 2013 was the 17th-century Hotel Lambert, causing damage the French minister of culture called "irreversible." The one-time home of Voltaire was largely unoccupied at the time, according to the Irish Times, because of the extensive renovations going on.

And here's the thing: Renovation-related fires are likely to happen again. In the wake of the Notre Dame fire, a fire safety review was ordered ahead of the massive renovations scheduled for St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. According to the Irish Times, the conservationist overseeing the construction deemed fire risks to be "inevitable." So that's just lovely.

7 Countries That Will Jail You For Insulting Their Leaders

They had no fire suppression equipment, and that was intentional


Yes, Notre Dame is an important symbol of France and their cultural landscape and yes, hearing about so many people pledging so much money to help with the rebuilding of that landmark is pretty incredible. The Associated Press was reporting that millions had been raised in just a matter of hours, and it wasn't long before Sky News was reporting that donations had passed the billion mark.

But here's the thing. The day Notre Dame burned, there had been a protest scheduled. According to DW, it was the 23rd week of protests that have often turned violent and have led to conflicts between thousands of the so-called yellow vest protesters and thousands of police officers. At the heart of it all? Income inequality.

And it's a huge deal. During the first weekend of protests alone, around 290,000 people donned high-visibility vests and marched to condemn a wide range of policies implemented by President Emmanuel Macron's government, policies said to give huge advantages to the already-wealthy elite. The speed at which Macron addressed the tragedy at Notre Dame only added fuel to the fire, so to speak, as protesters pointed out that he hadn't even acknowledged them until after weeks of protests. The movement's spokesperson, Ingrid Levasseur, summed it up this way: "They can mobilize a truckload of cash in one night for Notre Dame, but they can't help the poor."

And that is terrible to see.When the blaze started, well, blazing, it took firefighters 12 hours to control the flames. According to the New York Times, part of the problem in fighting the fire was that the cathedral had none of the fire-prevention safeguards that are pretty fundamental in most places here in the 21st century.

Not only were there were no sprinkler systems and no firewalls, but officials had made a conscious decision to omit those very, very important elements. Pierre Housieaux of the Paris Historical Association has said that in spite of the fact everyone was well aware of just how fragile — and flammable — the wood structure of the cathedral was, they had never installed electrical components for two reasons: They were deemed a high-risk addition, and no one wanted to alter the cathedral's design.

And when it comes to that, Notre Dame is an anomaly. Historic structures across Europe are required by law to be altered enough to include fire safety measures of the type that would have saved a huge part of the cathedral's structure. Most people don't need an expert to tell them that if there had been fire-fighting equipment installed, the outcome of the fire would have been very different.

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A vampire in the French Quarter

Thanks to her prominent appearances in pop culture such as a 1974 hit song, Marvel Comics, and, yeah, American Horror Story, there is probably no name more associated with voodoo than Marie Laveau. Laveau was a real person, who, together with her daughter (who was also named Marie Laveau and who may have assumed her mother's identity after her death, making their histories hard to disentangle) amassed thousands of followers to their uniquely New Orleans brand of spiritualism in the 19th century.

In life, according to Ghost City Tours, Laveau became the Voodoo Queen of Congo Square, leading people in chants and selling charms with a boa constrictor named Zombi draped over her shoulders. It's only natural, then, that people would continue to seek her aid more than a century after her death.

While of course her house is haunted, the most famous haunted location associated with Laveau is her tomb at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Many people will leave offerings at her tomb and seek her blessing by drawing an X on the tomb, or some other series of rituals, which will lead her to grant your wish. Don't actually write on the tomb, though, because that is actually super-illegal.

You know what else is super-illegal? Breaking into a cemetery to see her body. That's what history's spookiest punk band the Misfits did on Halloween 1982, for which they were totally arrested. The best part? They weren't even at the right cemetery: They went to St. Louis Cemetery No. 2.

It's bringing out the scam artists


When tragedy happens on this scale, many people — good people — just want to help in some way, and that's great. In this situation, most people are doing that by donating to the costs of rebuilding and restoring the cathedral, but according to CBS News, that's also bringing out the worst in other people. Bad people.

Particularly, it's bringing out the scam artists.

Security experts have started warning the public about being extraordinarily careful how they donate money, partly because of how incredibly easy it is for anyone to set up a fake site or fundraiser claiming to be collecting donations to be routed to the cathedral. Scams include not just outright stealing donations, but also operating links that take people to legitimate charity sites and then pouring personal details and credit card information directly into scammers' hands.

And there are a huge number of them out there. Fortunately, some can be easy to spot, as questionable websites are usually anonymous, badly spelled, or slow to load because of bad coding. Of course, the fact that they're out there at all says volumes about just how horrible people can be.

Have you ever wondered why, during air travel, you barely manage to look human yet every flight attendant looks annoyingly bright and fresh-faced? It all comes down to proper planning and packing. Here the Emirates Cabin Crew share their best tips for looking refreshed on a long-haul flight, even if you’re stuck in a middle seat.


​1. Pack a few beauty essentials. The Crew’s top three beauty products are pure coconut oil, pure aloe vera gel, and rose water. “Splashing water on your face and using rose water spray throughout the flight will help to wash off grease and oils and rehydrate the skin, making for a fresher look upon landing,” they say.

2. Skip the waterproof mascara. The Cabin Crew advises against waterproof mascara as it will dry out eyelashes onboard. Additionally, if you’re flying medium- to long-haul flights (anything over five hours), the Crew says to remove makeup before sleeping and moisturize afterward. Packing a facial spray can help boost hydration post snooze session.


​3. Choose the right foods and drinks. If you’re planning on sleeping on your flight, steer clear of any foods that might trigger indigestion or bloat and make you too uncomfortable to rest. And stick to fruit juices over caffeinated drinks or alcohol because, as the Crew warns, “no one wants a plane hangover!”

4. Avoid bed head with a few simple tricks. The Emirates Cabin Crew says to pack a small brush or comb in your purse or carry-on for a little touchup in the airport. To prevent flat hair while sleeping onboard, they recommend using an inflatable pillow or a rolled-up blanket around the neck. In addition, “pulling your hair into a ponytail or bun will also help tame your locks while you sleep. A travel-sized bottle of dry shampoo will work miracles on post-flying dirty hair and helps to add volume.”

5. Add a little color to your cheeks. Flying can be rough, but you don’t have to look like it is. The Crew shares this trick: “Never underestimate the power of a good blush — it can transform your ‘just out of bed’ look in seconds and make you look healthy and well-rested on your arrival.”


Southwest expects to encounter wary customers when the airline is eventually able to put grounded Boeing 737 Max aircraft back in the air. 

"There are certainly going to be some people who will probably book away for a time," Southwest president Tom Nealon said during the airline's Q1 earnings call Thursday. 

Nealon added that the carrier has been engaging with customers about the issue and has also been using contractors to research the matter. 

"I think we've got a really good handle on what our customers are thinking and feeling and what it is we should be doing," he said. 

All but one of Southwest's 34 Max planes are parked in Victorville, Calif. (the other is parked in Orlando), where they are awaiting clearance from the FAA to re-enter service. Max aircraft worldwide have been grounded since March 13 due to a pair of crashes that investigations indicated were caused by erroneous information transmitted from an aircraft sensor to the automated flight control system. A total of 346 people died in last October's Lion Air crash and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March.


​Southwest has pulled the Max from its flight schedule through Aug. 5. Once the FAA lifts the grounding, it will take approximately a month to get all of them updated and back in service, COO Mike Van de Ven said during Thursday's call. If any Max aircraft are able to return to the skies prior to Aug. 6, Southwest will use them as spares, he added.

Nealon emphasized that although he expects some flyers to steer clear of the Max, it doesn't mean those Southwest aircraft will be operating with extra empty seats. 

"I can tell you we will have a very comprehensive plan that communicates with our customers and our employees every step of the way," he said. 

The Max grounding, coupled with a dispute between Southwest and its mechanics, were major factors in the carrier cancelling more than 10,000 flights during the first quarter, the most the carrier has canceled in any quarter since the 9/11 attacks grounded the fleet in the third quarter of 2001, Van de Ven said. 

Those cancellations, combined with the government shutdown, harsh winter weather and soft leisure revenue factored into Southwest recording net income of $387 million for the quarter, a 16% drop. 


​Nevertheless, Southwest's operating revenue jumped 4.1% to $5.1 billion, beating analyst expectations by $10 million, according to the website Seeking Alpha. The airline's earnings per share beat expectations by 8 cents.

Belle Island Children's Zoo, Detroit

The Sochi Olympic Village was never the most pristine of homes for the worldwide games, but they managed to hold the entirety of the Olympics without too many attacks by stray dogs. Six months after the Closing Ceremonies, the town was empty. Huge hotels sat unused, and the grand buildings that had been packed with excitable sports fans were now eerily quiet. A five-story parking garage was created to fulfill the tourist demand. Now, there's nary a car in sight, though there are a few broken toilets, so it's not completely empty. The Olympic Village itself looks like Disney's Main Street if Mickey and his friends had to move out due to rising crime.

In April 2017, the city hosted the Grand Prix and at least got some use out of their Autodrom. Hopefully those tourists enjoyed the double toilet bathrooms more than Olympic visitors. The Fisht Stadium that housed the Opening and Closing Ceremonies sat completely empty for a year but was remodeled to host games for the 2018 World Cup. So, there's some hope that the home of one of the most expensive and controversial Olympics in recent memory might be revived from its ghost town status.

New Orleans! Home of pirates, drunks, and whores! New Orleans! Tacky overpriced souvenir stores! So sang The Simpsons in an episode that they later apologized for via chalkboard gag. In reality, New Orleans, which celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2018, is a cultural center of the United States, famous for its music, cuisine, and wild and ornate parades and festivals. It has a long and storied history full of colorful figures who helped contribute to its character. Many of them, to be fair, were pirates, drunks, and whores.

If you go to New Orleans, there are a number of things you're likely to see: palm trees, pelicans, potholes, street musicians, voodoo shops, and lots and lots of other tourists. And if the many available haunted history tours available throughout the French Quarter and various cemeteries are to be believed, you might also see a ghost or vampire lurching down Bourbon Street. While every city of a certain size has its share of spooky legends, the Big Easy seems almost to have an overabundance.

Airlines and airports are seeing decreases in mishandled baggage as they increase the use of tracking technology across the journey.

SITA 2019 Baggage IT Insights reveals that where tracking is carried out at check-in and loading on to the aircraft, the improvement can be as high as 66%.

According to the report more airlines and airports are introducing tracking across check-in, loading on to the aircraft, transfers and arrival.

It says the baggage mishandling rate globally has plateaued at around 5.7 bags per 1,000 passengers in the past 10 years.

The rate is against increasing passenger numbers with about 4.4 billion passengers boarded in 2018 compared to 3.8 billion in 2016.

In addition, the annual bill to the aviation industry has decreased by 43% from $4.22 billion in 2007 to $2.4 billion in 2018.

Transferring baggage between aircraft was cited as the main reason for mishandled bags last year accounting for 46% of the total.


​SITA's director of baggage, Peter Drummond, says: "Everyone across the industry needs to look beyond the process and technology improvements made in the past decade and adopt the latest technology such as tracking to make the next big cut in the rate of mishandled bags."

Further insight reveals that more than 60% of passengers want to use their mobile devices to track bags, receive bag notifications on arrival and report mishandled bags.

The report also highlights a number of airlines, including Etihad, on their improvements in the rate of baggage mishandling. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier reported a 33% improvement between 2017 and 2018 and reveals that 79% of mishandled bags were delivered with the file closed within 72 hours.

As Drones Proliferate, U.S. Aviation in Holding Pattern

Cracker Barrel knows that when you've got driving to do, it's not just your car that needs fuel. Which is why its restaurants are nearly always located just a stone's throw from the highway. But while a gallon of lunch for your car is pretty much the same from one gas station to the next, the same can't be said for the human equivalent. And although the convenience of Cracker Barrel can help you keep your road trip on track, making the wrong decision when you order your meal might do the exact opposite for your diet — or your digestive tract. 

Cracker Barrel might draw you in with the promise of meals that are as close to home-cooked as you'll get on the road, but some of the ingredients are far from anything you'll find in your mother's kitchen. So should you find yourself filling up at the Cracker Barrel pump, here are some things to steer clear of.


The cruel irony of the Fresh Fruit N' Yogurt Parfait Breakfast is that it's part of the "Lighter Twist" menu, meaning if you're ordering this for breakfast, you're probably making an effort to make healthy choices. And what a valiant effort it was — ordering yogurt in a room filled with pancakes and bacon is no easy feat. Unfortunately, it was probably not as great of a choice as you were hoping. 

This breakfast is a parfait, constructed from low-fat yogurt, seasonal fruit, honey oats, and granola, and it's served with scrambled egg whites and turkey sausage. Sounds healthy, right? Wrong. Sure, it's fewer calories than a stack of pancakes, coming in at 510. But the 65 grams of carbs that come loaded on this plate are not what you'd expect with a "light" breakfast, and neither are the 41 grams of sugar. All that sugar means that depending on your nutrition goals, you're either meeting or surpassing your daily sugar intake before you've even finished breakfast. For all those carbs and sugars, you might as well at least order something that tastes good, because this breakfast is not as healthy as the'd like you to think.


You shouldn't be surprised to see the Fried Chicken Salad on this list. Topping a salad with fried chicken, cheese, croutons, and deviled eggs is definitely one way to make your greens taste good, but it's not so helpful if you're working your waistline or your heart health.

With this salad, you're looking at 870 calories, 1860 milligrams of sodium, and 53 grams of carbs — and that's without the dressing. Of course, it's not a salad without the dressing. Since you're on a roll already you might as well choose the worst offender there, too, which is the Honey French Dressing. That's going to add another 350 calories, 580 milligrams of sodium, and 26 grams of carbs. At this point, you may as well give up on ordering a salad and go for a burger and fries. It's just about as healthy, and you don't have all that pesky lettuce to eat around.


​Cracker Barrel offers a different dinner special for every day of the week, and Sunday is not the day you want to go for it. 

The
Sunday Homestyle Chicken is two boneless chicken breasts, dipped in buttermilk batter, breaded, and deep-fried. That definitely sounds delicious, but probably not worth the calories — it clocks in at 1350, and that's just for the chicken! It also provides 3200 milligrams of sodium, which is more than double what the American Heart Association says you should aim to take in over the course of an entire day. 

Hold on to your menus, because you still have to pick two sides, and make a choice between biscuits or corn muffins — both served with real butter, of course. Depending on what you choose there, you could easily add another 1,000 calories and a 1000-2000 more milligrams of sodium. That's an awful lot for just one meal. If you absolutely have to have this Sunday special, we recommend choosing at least one of lighter sides, such as steamed broccoli, and saving one piece of the chicken for a later meal. 


If you're a fan of pecans (is there anyone who isn't?), these pecan pancakes are delicious breakfast option. Unfortunately, they're also incredible unhealthy. These three giant, pecan-filled pancakes, topped with butter, come in at a whopping 1130 calories, 2720 milligrams of sodium, and 119 grams of carbs. What a way to start your day! Lucky for you, they're relatively low in sugar — just 12 grams — but hold on just a minute, because that part's coming. 

It's almost impossible to eat pancakes without syrup, and once you add a serving of the 100 percent natural, pure maple syrup Cracker Barrel has on offer, you're tacking on 150 more calories and 37 more grams of sugar. That's your daily recommended intake of sugar, just in maple syrup. And lets' face it, no one's going to eat just one serving of syrup when they're faced with three pancakes, each the size of a plate. 


If you're ordering a burger, chances are you're not trying to be healthy — and that's fine! There's nothing wrong with a good splurge every now and then, and a burger is certainly a tasty way to do it. But the Maple Jam N' Bacon Burger from Cracker Barrel is taking things a little bit too far. 

With a burger, especially one of this size, you know you're getting calories, and this one doesn't disappoint with 950. You probably also won't be shocked to see that it comes loaded with 51 grams of fat, 220 milligrams of cholesterol, 1300 milligrams of sodium, and 52 grams of carbs. None of that is good news, but its not shocking, either. You know what is shocking? The 21 grams of sugar (nearly a days's serving) you'll get with this burger. No one expects a burger to be loaded with sugar, which is why this one will get you. And all of this is before you add in the fries and coleslaw it's served with, which adds another 490 calories, 840 milligrams of sodium, and 10 grams of sugar. 

Of course, you could always ask for it without the maple onion jam to keep the sugar under control, but if you're going to do that, you might as well order something else anyway.


Everyone knows that our moms just want what's best for us. One of the ways our moms look after us is to make sure we start the day with a good solid breakfast, the better to help us flourish and have all our dreams come true. But if your mom was Cracker Barrel, and "she" fed you her pancake breakfast every day, the only dream you could realistically expect to come true would be obesity, heart disease, and an early death … so not really a dream then. 

According to Cracker Barrel's nutritional guide,
Momma's Pancake Breakfast (that's three pancakes, two eggs, butter, and your choice of meat — let's use bacon) would contain 1,1250 calories, 20 grams of saturated fat, and a heart-stopping 2,710 milligrams of sodium. According to the FDA, your standard 2,000-calorie daily diet should include no more than 20 grams of saturated fat and 2,400 milligrams of sodium if you want to stay remotely healthy. You could save yourself 350 calories by skipping the butter and syrup, and switching from bacon to turkey sausage, but now you're eating a plate of dry pancakes and you're still over budget on sodium for the whole day. This one seems like a lose-lose, no matter how you look at it.


Cooking styles often run in families, and the Cracker Barrel family is certainly no different. Because if you take one look at the breakfast Grandpa Barrel is offering, it's clear where Momma learned everything she knows. Grandpa's country-fried breakfast comes with two eggs, grits, gravy, biscuits, butter, fried apples or hash brown casserole, and either country-fried chicken or chicken-fried steak. Whew — so much food!

Even going with the slightly less bad options of fried apples and country-fried chicken, assuming two biscuits and ignoring the optional preserves, you're still consuming 1,340 calories, 19 grams of saturated fat, 465 milligrams of cholesterol, and 2,805 milligrams of sodium. Congratulations! Even this monstrous meal hasn't put you over your daily recommended intake of … calories. 

The saturated fat is over the limit, and the sodium crosses the line, as well. If you're prepared to ignore "All the Fixin's," (i.e., the biscuits, butter, and gravy), you can bring the sodium and saturated fat content of your breakfast down to semi-reasonable levels, but that leaves you with a pretty boring breakfast.

This article originally appeared on Departures.com.

In the aftermath of the horrific fire that claimed a large part of Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15, the French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is looking ahead to how the iconic landmark can be rebuilt. BBC reports that the search is for “a new spire that is adapted to the techniques and the challenges of our era.”

There are doubts about the new strategy, as the Chicago Tribune lists out in a recent article. Some are calling it a political publicity stunt while others wonder why the architectural masterpiece needs to see any change. But keep in mind the spire that tumbled to the ground during the fire wasn’t original to the cathedral’s foundation—it was added onto the design during the 19th century by French architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.

The economy may be roaring, but millions of Americans are struggling to afford a vacation this summer.

According to a new Bankrate.com report, 39 million Americans will forego time off this summer due to financial reasons. Forty-four percent of those passing up a vacation said that day-to-day bills were a primary obstacle.


​Overall, Bankrate’s research found that about half (52 percent) of Americans are planning on taking a summer vacation this year, 26 percent are definitely not planning one and 22 percent have not decided. Among those who are planning vacations, the average cost is expected to be approximately $1,979.

For those who want to take a vacation but think that they can’t afford one, Bankrate’s credit card analyst Ted Rossman suggests maximizing cash back cards and rewards.

“If you want to take a summer vacation and think you can’t afford it, consider signing up for a travel or cash back credit card,” Rossman advised. “There’s still time to turn a sign-up bonus and ongoing spending rewards into a free or discounted trip."


​Rossman recommends the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Capital One Savor and the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card. These cards offer sign-up bonuses ranging from $300 to $750 with lucrative ongoing rewards.

“With the median summer vacation costing $1,000, these perks can go a long way toward getting you somewhere fun for less,” he noted.

It is never wise to overspend or to take a vacation when you can’t afford to pay bills. Twenty-two percent of those who said that they can’t afford a summer vacation said that paying down debt is the biggest factor standing between them and being able to afford to take a trip, according to Bankrate.


​“Paying down debt is important, but make sure you do it right so this isn’t the reason you miss out on a summer vacation next year,” said Rossman. “A balance transfer credit card with zero percent interest for up to 21 months will help you pay down your debt faster so you can get back to spending your money on more rewarding things.”

It is good news that more than half of all Americans plan to take a vacation this year, however, only 38 percent of those who get paid time off believe they will use all their vacation days. Thirty-five percent think they’ll use no more than half of their allotted time off.

It is important for workers to give themselves a break and, while vacations can be expensive, travelers can look to destinations close to home, search for inexpensive hotel deals or contact a travel agent to find a getaway that is more affordable.

Other historical landmarks are rotting while Notre Dame gets attention


All the donations Notre Dame has received are definitely heartwarming to some, but there's one big problem with them. There are thousands of other churches in France that need the money just as badly.

According to the Guardian, there are an estimated 5,500 French churches that are in desperate need of repairs. Take the church of Saint Louis in La-Roche-sur-Yon. They desperately need money to install a fire alarm and restore their bells and belfries, but will they get it? Probably not. It's a story that plays out over and over across the country.

And while restoring a national landmark like Notre Dame is certainly important for the country, all those churches are just as important for the people who live in their shadows. A restored historical landmark could go a long way in revitalizing a small town. Think of it this way. A shocking number of billionaires have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to Notre Dame. La-Roche-sur-Yon's church has a repair bill of just around $7 million. It's pocket change to those billionaires, but to the everyman, it's a fortune.

And even when the government does try to raise money for restoration projects, it's still on the shoulders of the country's poorest. In 2018, the Guardian reported a national lottery would be established to raise money to help save some of the country's most historic properties. Even then, only a fraction of those in need would benefit.

Pirates have been so romanticized by movies and books that it's almost hard to remember that they were real people who committed real crimes, often under the auspices of real governments. One of the most famous pirates in U.S. history — and certainly the most famous in New Orleans — is Jean Lafitte, who traded in infamy for legitimate fame when he helped Andrew Jackson fight the bloody British in the Battle of New Orleans.

Lafitte owned a business in the French Quarter in the early 19th century that is one of the oldest surviving structures in New Orleans, and, at least according to its website, the oldest continuously operating bar in the United States. It probably wasn't a bar when Lafitte owned it, though. It was, uh, maybe a blacksmith shop, so it's known today as Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop. They serve a grape-flavored voodoo daiquiri that tastes like purple cold medicine. Oh! Also it's haunted.

According to legend, a full-body apparition of Lafitte is a common guest at the bar who bears his name and he, a notorious womanizer, has been reported to unhook a bra strap or two in the women's restroom. On the second floor there's alleged to be the ghost of a woman who will whisper your name into your ear, and piercing red demonic eyes appear regularly in the bar that fade into darkness after you make eye contact with them. It might be worth risking a demon for those daiquiris, though.

On April 15, 2019, the world watched in horror as one of Europe's most famous landmarks was engulfed in flames. Notre Dame was the home of dozens and dozens of centuries-old artifacts and priceless works of art, but it is also arguably the beating heart of French culture and spirituality. It took 12 hours for firefighters to bring the blaze to an end, as the world watched and lamented what many believed to be the worst part: that it had happened at all. But when you dig into the details, it gets even worse.

Once the ash and soot settled, the media began reporting on what was lost and what was saved — and the Independent was also reporting that there had been only a single injury: One firefighter was pretty badly hurt. Given how many people visit Notre Dame each and every year, that's incredible.

As everyone looked to France, the Guardian looked at the outpouring of sympathy and grief, and they noticed something incredible, best exemplified by one woman in tears. "On our watch, we let it burn," she said. The feeling was one of collective shame, and it suggests that people bore the brunt of the responsibility together — and that's important. It means that even in today's world, centered on the individual, there's still a sense of community and collective responsibility out there, and that's inspiring. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of really, really bad things that came out of the fire, too.

When you imagine a grand casino built in 1910 and commissioned by King Carol, you probably think "was King Carol in the Land of Make-Believe or something?" No, King Carol was the first king of (real) Romania. He reigned at the turn of the century and had the Casino Constanta built in a beautiful style. From the outside, the building still looks immaculate, a lot better than any casino in Las Vegas, and there's not a bit of neon to be seen. Sadly, the inside didn't fare so well.

The city couldn't keep up the legendary building and shut it down in 1990. Now, the floors have a lot more cat and pigeon poop than your typical casino. Whether that's better or worse than the average smell of smoke and cheap cocktails is up to you. In 2012, the city said it would try to restore and reopen the property, but nothing's been done thus far, and it definitely needs a lot of work. Plus, Hangover and Golden Girls slot machines are really going to clash with their marble work.

The end of the Forest


One of the reasons the fire was so bad is that it had a ton of fuel. According to CNN, the flames ate through the entire wooden interior of the cathedral, and the wood frames were completely lost.

That sounds like it's just a shame, but knowing the details of exactly what that wood structure was … well, that makes it even worse. The latticework was known as the Forest, and each one of the beams was made from a different oak tree. When workers were cutting and clearing the forests for it, they were clearing acres of oak trees that were already old, and they were working in the 12th and 13th centuries. In order to be as big as the plans called for, each tree was between 300 and 400 years old when it was cut — meaning they had started growing back in the eighth and ninth centuries.

Oh — and there were around 13,000 of them in the rafters.

These were the very same rafters that Victor Hugo wrote about in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and it gets still worse. According to Bertrand de Feydeau of the Fondation de Patrimoine (via National Post), it's impossible to recreate the structure as it once was for a heartbreaking reason: France no longer has oak trees of the size and scale of the thousands that were lost. That wooden structure was as priceless and as irreplaceable as the cathedral's artwork.

If you forget your passport, you’ll need to turn right back home and go get it. And if you don’t make it back to your flight on time, you’ll probably have to pay a fee to get booked on another flight and risk losing a day of travel.

How to Remember: Your passport should be the very first thing you grab when you start packing for an international trip. If you often have trouble remembering where you put it, get yourself a nice passport holder and the Tile Mate. Just slip the Tile into the holder and link it to the app on your phone, and you’ll be able to find your passport at the touch of a button.


​A Rain Jacket

Royal Caribbean International celebrated the steel cutting of a fifth Oasis Class ship Wednesday with the new vessel scheduled to be delivered in 2021.

The steel cutting ceremony took place at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France. The new ship will combine the seven-neighborhood concept her sister ships feature with a lineup of dining, entertainment and technology experiences.


​The Oasis Class took the cruise industry by storm with the introduction of Oasis of the Seas a decade ago and again with the introduction of Symphony of the Seas in 2018.

Earlier in April, Royal Caribbean officially took delivery of the 26th ship in its fleet, Spectrum of the Seas, in a ceremony held in Bremerhaven, Germany. The first in the Quantum Ultra class of ships, Spectrum will homeport from Shanghai starting June 2019.

The cruise line also made headlines earlier this month when Royal Caribbean received approval on a deal that would allow the construction of a new office and parking garage near the site of the cruise line’s older facilities in Miami.

A hairbrush is one of the most common things people forget to pack, but you’ll feel this one the hardest when you face your bedhead in the mirror every morning. Hotels often offer complimentary combs, but if you’re particular about your hair, as many travelers are, you’ll want to make sure you’ve packed the right tools to tame it.

How to Remember: Invest in a good fold-up brush to keep in your toiletry kit. You’ve probably tangoed with the cheaper end of the fold-up brush spectrum, but the TOUCHBeauty Detangling Brush is a quality option that promises silky hair and gives a good scalp massage.


Passport

While confirming on April 9 that it will begin flying to London from Boston and New York sometime in 2021, JetBlue made it clear that it will place an emphasis on serving business travelers in those key markets.

"The fares being charged today by airlines on these routes, specifically on the premium end, are enough to make you blush," JetBlue president and COO Joanna Geraghty said in a statement. 

She added that the airline's Mint business class cabin will be larger on its transatlantic fleet of Airbus A321LRs than the 16-seat Mint cabin JetBlue currently flies on transcontinental routes. 


​But analysts said that if the New York-based carrier is to successfully find a niche among business travelers in the highly competitive New York-London and Boston-London markets, it will likely have to do so without serving Heathrow, London's preferred airport among business travelers.

Rob Walker, a London-based analyst for the consulting firm ICF and a former strategist at Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, said, "Clearly, the situation is that Heathrow is massively capacity constrained. "You can only get a slot by spending tens of millions of dollars, so I don't think JetBlue will do that."

United appears headed for Expedia divorce

On the evening of Jan. 22, reports by airline pilots of a drone in their approach path led the FAA to briefly stop arrivals into Newark Liberty Airport.

The halt was the first such action due to drone operations at a major U.S. airport. But experts say more are likely in the months and years to come, especially since not enough preventive mechanisms are in place.

"It's a common problem we run into with any technology," said Ryan Wallace, an Embry-Riddle assistant professor of aeronautical science who specializes in unmanned aircraft systems. "Response, legislation, procedures, they all lag innovation. So we're behind the eight ball."


​The FAA reauthorization act, signed into law by President Trump last fall, gave the Department of Homeland Security and FBI the joint authority to monitor and track drones without getting consent from the drone operator. The DHS and the bureau were also granted the authority to disable, take control of or disrupt a drone's operations without prior consent. Still, airports are mostly in a holding pattern when it comes to managing drone intrusions. Last July, the FAA sent a letter to airports suggesting that it could withhold grant funding if they move forward independently with efforts to implement drone detection and countermeasure systems.

"The use of such systems could place the safety and efficiency of the [National Aviation System] at risk, which would not be consistent with the airport sponsor's federal grant obligations," the FAA letter stated. 

In the letter, FAA director of airport safety and standards John Dermody asserted that the deployment by airports of drone detection and countermeasure systems could interfere with the performance-based navigation equipment used by pilots and air traffic controllers. 

But while airports have their hands tied, their concerns about drone incursions into airspace are real. 


​Last May, a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office revealed that the FAA collected 6,117 reports of sightings of potentially unsafe drone use between February 2014 and April 2018. More specific to aviation safety, during a 13-day study around Daytona Beach Airport last May, Wallace and his co-researchers detected 192 drone incursions into the airport's airspace.

Wallace said the number would likely be higher at large-market airports, which often have more people living near them. 


​As recent events demonstrate, such incursions can quickly cause chaos. The Newark stoppage was short enough that it only caused arrival delays of approximately one hour. But between Dec. 19 and Dec. 21, drone incursions into the airspace over London Gatwick led to repeated closures of the airport and the disruption of travel for an estimated 140,000 people. 

Chris Oswald, the senior vice president of safety and regulatory affairs for the trade group Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), said, "Taking away from the Gatwick story, the big thing in my mind is the level of economic disruption that can be caused by what seems to be a combination of actual hazard and uncertainty of the nature of the threat." 

Of course, concerns about drones go beyond the economic. From a safety perspective, the most prevalent worry is the possibility of collisions, especially in cases when drone operators get reckless or engage in thrill-seeking. 


​For example, in a widely reported incident last February, a drone operator filmed a Frontier aircraft from just above the plane's flight path as it made its way into Las Vegas McCarran. 

Commercial aircraft are more than likely to make it through a drone collision unharmed. But that won't always be the case, Wallace said, especially if the metal parts of a drone are ingested by one or more of an aircraft's engines.

And airports must also be on the lookout for nefarious drone incursions. 

In in a 2015 Embry-Riddle study, Wallace and co-author Jon Loffi of Oklahoma State University listed the kinds of mayhem drone operators could cause at airports and other locations. Among the possibilities: Drones could be used by criminals or terrorist groups for reconnaissance missions; they could be intentionally steered into aircraft; and they could be deployed to deliver explosives, or even biological weapons. 


​A primary solution to defend against such attacks could include the deployment of drone detection and countermeasure technology at airports. 

To that end, from February 2016 through December 2017, the FAA and other federal agencies worked with airports in New York, Atlantic City, Dallas and Denver to observe such technologies. But the study showed that airports had more sources of radio interference than the agency had anticipated, leading to the FAA's determination the such technologies could pose air traffic communication dangers.


​For now, the agency is instead endorsing a regulatory regime under which drones manufactured in the U.S. would be required to be equipped with an identification and tracking system. The DOT began a formal rule-making process last May to develop those regulations. 

JetBlue Means Business with Proposed London Flights

Ghost towns aren't just reserved for former gold bust villages and other places that look like low-rent sets for Westworld. Cities all over the globe love letting buildings go to rot, including ones that were once bustling hubs of activity. From former sites of grand Olympic games to arcades covered in dust, there's a lot of abandoned stuff out there that's made all the creepier by how fun the places used to be.

Boeing Reporting Losses From 737 MAX Grounding at $1 Billion

If any place definitely has a graffiti-covered, totally empty Children's Zoo, it's Detroit. And the Motor City doesn't disappoint. The Belle Island Children's Zoo was a popular destination by 1909, with 150 animals all in cages that now look completely inhumane. The bigger Detroit Zoo took a little of the glory from Belle Island, so it became a Children's Zoo and kept on trucking. But by 2002, the mayor wanted to save $700,000, and though people overwhelmingly voted to save Belle Island, the mayor opened up another zoo in the same area instead. With no need for three full zoos in one decaying city, the Children's Zoo was abandoned.

Now, its only visitors are YouTubers who break in and people who fly drones over the top. Oh, and graffiti artists. There's tons of graffiti all over the children's zoo. Nearly every indoor bit of flooring is covered in garbage as weeds and grass slowly take over the outdoor structures. There don't seem to be any plans to restore the zoo, so if you really wanted to tag an animal jail, hurry to Detroit before all the good wall space is taken.

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The TWA Hotel Has Officially Opened at New York City's JFK Airport

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The ghost of the hanging Romeo

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It showed just how quickly misinformation and conspiracy theories blossom


Even from the beginning, the mainstream media was reporting that experts were saying it was likely an accident.

That's it. An accident. But it didn't take long for the conspiracy theories to start, and from there, it got even worse. It turned into outright hate-mongering led by sites like InfoWars, who claimed that not only was it deliberately set, but that they had proof of people celebrating the fire. Misinformation spread faster than the fire itself had, along with claims that it was an act of terrorism. Numerous minority groups were blamed — in spite of the fact those who were actually at the site said it was an accident.

The Daily Beast tracked a huge part of the problem back to one tweet. It came from an aspiring U.S. politician named Christopher J. Hale, and it suggested that he had heard from a friend that the fire had been set intentionally. Literally — that was it. That was all the proof some people needed to go into overdrive, and even though Hale followed that up with a disclaimer that he had zero evidence it was true and deleted the tweet, the damage had been done. The tweet was used as "proof" by others, and the machine was in motion. And that's heartbreaking. The internet can be used for powers of good, but the fire showed how quickly it can be used for powers of evil, too.


First the truth: The so-called "Casket Girls" were young women sent from France to the French colony of Louisiana in 1728 to provide wives for the disproportionately male colony. The "caskets" they carried were just luggage trunks that had their clothes in them. The truth is fine, but, ahhhh, the legend.

The legend starts the same: Pale young girls arrived in New Orleans by boat, shyly clutching the caskets they carried with them. Their skin was so pale that they instantly blistered in the hot Louisiana sun. They carried their caskets to the Ursuline convent that was to be their home until they were married. However, things did not turn out well for the Casket Girls. The men of New Orleans rejected the pale girls, and many of them were forced to turn to prostitution. The French king, enraged by the failure of his policy, demanded the return of the girls.

The nuns went up to the third floor only to find that the caskets that allegedly held all the girls' belongings were actually completely empty. (The implication, you see, is that the girls were sleeping in the coffins instead of keeping clothes in there. The girls were vampires. That's the punchline.) The third floor of the convent was then sealed up and nailed shut with nails blessed by the Pope himself. This has not, however, completely kept the girls from feasting on blood from time to time. A very attractive, if completely bogus, legend.

People were always surprised to learn that after 40 years of doing travel writing, I had never been on a cruise. Oh, some 25 years ago, I had done a crossing from New York to Southampton, England, on the QEII. That was six days, all at sea, and due to a Force 8 storm, pretty much hell.

But I had missed the whole multi-billion dollar, 21st century cruise ship phenomenon. And, I thought, with good reason.


The idea of cruise ships had no appeal to me. Nothing I ever heard about them changed that. I knew the food was good, and it was convenient not having to pack and unpack. And everyone said it was great for multi-generational travel (which I had also successfully avoided).

United Airlines appears to be ready to move on without Expedia Group as a distribution partner. Their deal expires on Oct. 1, and the airline doesn't seem to be inclined to sign a new contract.

"Times have changed. Companies need to evolve and innovate," United chief commercial officer Andrew Nocella said during the airline's first-quarter earnings call Wednesday. 

Nocella went on to say that United will instead focus on working with distribution partners better suited to selling its product. Hesaid Expedia "has been historically very good at selling our lowest fares, but quite honestly, we think we can sell our lowest fares just as well."

Among the Expedia Group websites that would stop selling United are Expedia.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotwire and CheapTickets. The travel management company Egencia would not be impacted. 

On Wednesday's earnings call, United president Scott Kirby said that in preparing financial guidance for the remainder of this year, United has worked on the assumption that United won't be on Expedia Group websites after October.


​A judge has already ruled that under their current deal, United can withhold inventory from Expedia Group for flights departing after Sept. 30. 

Expedia Group didn't immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Wednesday. 

Though it appears United and Expedia are headed for divorce, this isn't the first time United and Expedia have appeared on the verge of ending their U.S. distribution relationship. In 2016, the companies extended their contract just two days before it was set to expire.

When you forget to pack the essentials, you risk ruining your own trip. Whether you’re missing details of the Sistine Chapel’s colorful ceilings because you forgot your glasses or stuck inside your hotel room battling a cold while the rest of your travel companions hit the beach, you’ll definitely regret not giving your luggage a thorough check for the most commonly forgotten things to pack.

Essential Things People Forget to Pack

Even if you’re naturally forgetful, there are many ways to plan your packing ahead of time so you won’t forget to pack these essential travel items.

 Hand Sanitizer 

Royal Caribbean Cuts Steel on Fifth Oasis Class Ship

The LaLaurie torture mansion

But the main thing with cruising, I discovered, is that you hardly spend any daylight time on the ship. A quick breakfast (smoked salmon, a croissant and scrambled eggs, please) and then it’s off on the first tender or gangplank to land and back to the ship on the last. I ended up wishing I had more time at sea, but there’s just too much else to do.

2. I’ll have to give up my freedom.

When thinking of cruising, I always had a superior group tour type of sneer: “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium.” I thought I’d be led along and forced to follow a strict itinerary. Again, I was completely wrong. Don’t confuse a cruise with a bus tour. There simply is no schedule. Except, of course, what islands or land you’ll be docking at. And even there, you get to select the landfalls when you choose your cruise. But once on board, no one gives a damn what you do.


​There’s a mandatory lifeboat lesson, but after that, your only obligation is to be back on the ship when it sails. You can sleep in, be up at dawn, party all night and sleep all day, go on shore or not go on shore, eat when you want, drink when you want, and sleep when you want. It’s as much freedom as you’ll ever have, anywhere.

MSC Cruises introduced its voice-activated personal digital assistant, which has a female name and voice, like Alexa and Siri.

MSC calls its assistant Zoe, named for chairman Gianluigi Aponte's granddaughter.

In addition to having "a nice lady voice", said MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato, Zoe will turn on with a simple voice command "Okay, Zoe."  The name is uncommon enough that the device won't often be activated accidentally, Onorato said.

MSC has conducted 2 million tests of Zoe before deploying it live, to be sure it is ready. A list of the 800 most frequently asked questions has been programmed into its system.

Onorato said Zoe differs from other digital devices in that it is customized to each ship. It won't just say the casino is open, it will say the casino on Deck 5 is open, he said.


​Guests will be briefed on how to use Zoe in pre-sailing e-mails, and there will be an e-guide on MSC's app. MSC said Zoe will use artificial intelligence to gradually improve its responsiveness to guest questions.

Onorato said the initial focus will be in equipping new MSC ships with Zoe (the MSC Bellissima enters service in March), but there are also plans to install Zoe across the existing fleet. 

Zoe was developed in partnership with Harman and Samsung Electronics.

If you’re going somewhere notorious for rain, an umbrella won’t always cut it. Add a rain jacket to your wardrobe and save yourself some trip-ruining discomfort.

How to Remember: You might think an extra jacket will take up too much space, but there are many rain jackets that compress down to small packages like the super lightweight running jacket for men and women.

Think that damage was bad? Here, hold my beer


It took a century to build Notre Dame the first time, says the BBC, a process that started in the 1160s. While this 21st-century fire did a lot of damage, there's been a ton of damage already done to it in the previous centuries — and it wasn't all accidental.

Let's take just a few snapshots of the cathedral's history, starting with the Enlightenment in the 18th century. For Notre Dame, it began with a literal enlightenment, when in the 1750s the clergy decided that the stained glass windows were simply too dark and knocked them out to replace them with clear glass. While they were at it, they knocked down a bunch of the cathedral's statues, too. Three decades later, the 13th-century spire was looking a little ragged, so they simply got rid of it.

Fast-forward to the French Revolution. The church bells were melted, statues were decapitated, and the cathedral was turned into a warehouse. It didn't even become a church again until 1802. We have Napoleon to thank for that, but for a while, Notre Dame was on the brink of being torn down completely — changing trends meant it was viewed more as an eyesore than a valuable part of history and culture. It was only when the world rediscovered the beauty of Gothic architecture — and Victor Hugo wrote his masterpiece — that France actually sat up and took notice of Notre Dame again.

Cleveland Aquarium

The many ghosts of the Myrtles Plantation

The Yellow Vests, protests, and a different sort of grief


Yes, Notre Dame is an important symbol of France and their cultural landscape and yes, hearing about so many people pledging so much money to help with the rebuilding of that landmark is pretty incredible. The Associated Press was reporting that millions had been raised in just a matter of hours, and it wasn't long before Sky News was reporting that donations had passed the billion mark.

But here's the thing. The day Notre Dame burned, there had been a protest scheduled. According to DW, it was the 23rd week of protests that have often turned violent and have led to conflicts between thousands of the so-called yellow vest protesters and thousands of police officers. At the heart of it all? Income inequality.

And it's a huge deal. During the first weekend of protests alone, around 290,000 people donned high-visibility vests and marched to condemn a wide range of policies implemented by President Emmanuel Macron's government, policies said to give huge advantages to the already-wealthy elite. The speed at which Macron addressed the tragedy at Notre Dame only added fuel to the fire, so to speak, as protesters pointed out that he hadn't even acknowledged them until after weeks of protests. The movement's spokesperson, Ingrid Levasseur, summed it up this way: "They can mobilize a truckload of cash in one night for Notre Dame, but they can't help the poor."

And that is terrible to see.

France Is Putting Out an International Call for the Redesign of Notre Dame's Spire

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The cooper cockerel statue that sat atop the spire was recovered and handed over to architect Philippe Villeneuve, who is in charge of the restoration project. Nearly $1 billion has been raised to fund the project, which Philippe has optimistically stated will take five years—experts argue that it could take decades before the building is repaired, according to BBC.

While there is no word yet on the competition guidelines or instructions on how to enter, it’s safe to say you can pull out your drafting kit and start getting those ideas on paper.

Casino Constanta, Romania

One of the most famous landmarks in New Orleans' French Quarter is the St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the United States, which faces Jackson Square and features a strikingly Dracula-esque statue of Jesus. The alley that runs next to it, known as Pirates Alley, is also home to one of the most famous ghostly phenomena in all of New Orleans.

First a little history: Louisiana was a French colony from 1718 until 1763 when the French ceded the territory to Spain as part of the Treaty of Paris following the Seven Years' War. The French colonists of New Orleans were not stoked at this state of affairs and — long story short — a rebellion led by French colonists was put down by an Irish expatriate loyal to Spain known as Bloody O'Reilly, who had the rebel leaders publicly executed on a street still known today as Frenchmen Street, now a popular spot for music.

That's all very true history. Where legend picks up is in the story that says that the bodies of these Frenchmen were hung out to rot by the cathedral, and the priest, Pere Dagobert, was forbidden to bury them until the Spanish guards, unused to New Orleans weather, took shelter during a hurricane and the priest was able to transport the bodies of the dead to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. And legend says that even today when it rains, you can hear Pere Dagobert singing the Kyrie (presumably the hymn and not the pop hit by Mr. Mister) down Pirates Alley.

When you go to check into a flight or hotel and something’s not right with the reservation, you’ll want to have your itinerary and confirmation emails handy.

How to Remember: Since you might not always have Wi-Fi, screenshot everything and keep it in an organized folder on your phone. Or go old-school and print out a hard copy. You can even keep it all organized in one of these nifty travel binders.


​Travel Hairbrush

The French people are on the hook


According to ABC News, Notre Dame and all of France's pre-1905 treasures belong to the French government. It's the government that's responsible for upkeep, maintenance, and — when something like this happens — restoration.

What about insurance money? There's not going to be much because Notre Dame isn't exactly insured. Why? There are a few factors. The landmark and its treasures are priceless, so it's next to impossible to even put a value on these things to insure them. Even if they did, the premiums would be so astronomical (if they could even find a private insurance company willing to take the risk) that the cost of repairing is — usually — lower than what they would pay in insurance. So huge entities — like governments — choose to "self-insure."

What does that mean? According to the insurers who spoke with Reuters just days after the blaze, it means France is going to be paying for the rebuild out of pocket, and it isn't going to be cheap. They were already comparing it to the costs of renovating the British Parliament building, which was estimated at $8 billion. For perspective, any liability insurance held by the contractor who had been renovating the cathedral would probably only pay out a sum in the tens of millions. As for the rest, anything not covered by donations is going to fall on the shoulders of the French people, and that's a terribly expensive burden to bear.

Sochi Olympic Village, Russia

Bonus Tips For Super-Cheapskates

Don't be afraid to ask for discounts. If you're a teacher, first responder, a military veteran, student, senior, a member of an automobile association or service club, you could very well get a 10% discount at many hotels, restaurants, and attractions.

If any big-ticket items are on your bucket list, search a guidebook or the web to get advice on how to save. There's no need to pay full price for tickets to see magicians, gourmet meals, and guided tours. Often all it takes is a willingness to do some advanced research and have a bit of flexibility.

Flex your coupon muscle. Sure, you're keen to leave the airport and hit the city but don't leave the terminal without grabbing a handful of tourist brochures and magazines. Using 2-for-1 coupons is a Vegas right of passage.

Speak up if service isn't great. Sure, all hotels and restaurants should be receptive to customer concerns but Vegas is particularly service oriented, especially in the large casino businesses. Lead with courtesy and don't settle for just 'good enough'.

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Southwest confident it will assuage fears about Boeing 737 Max jets

Things I Wish I’d Known About Cruising

Okay, technically, St. Francisville, Louisiana, is about 100 miles outside New Orleans, but its most famous haunted house, the Myrtles Plantation, is so haunted that its ghostly aura stretches across the mere hour and a half drive like it's nothing.

According to the stories you might hear at Myrtles, the site is home to as many as 12 ghosts and the location of 10 different murders. Basically none of that is true and there's only one confirmed murder at Myrtles, but, hey, this ghost stuff is all in fun, so enjoy!

The most famous ghost at Myrtles is known as Chloe, and according to incredibly spurious legend, Chloe was a slave girl forced into a relationship with her owner, Clark Woodruff. When Woodruff caught her listening at keyholes to his business dealings, he had one of Chloe's ears cut off as punishment, and she covered the subsequent scar with a green turban. As revenge, Chloe then poisoned Woodruff's wife and children with a birthday cake containing oleander leaves (this was the poison part). She was hanged and now people see a green, turban-wearing ghost all over the place. It turns out the Woodruffs actually owned zero slaves, but cool story.

Additionally, the ghost of the one person actually murdered there is said to stagger up the stairs he died on, and a particular mirror is said to contain the spirits of Mrs. Woodruff and her children, trapped there after their bad cake experience, among many other tales.

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The Crescent City isn't just famous for ghosts, even though it's got them by the swamp-boat-load. It's also got hella vampires, and not just Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Perhaps the most famous New Orleans vampire is Jacques St. Germain, who may or may not have also been an immortal alchemist and philosopher.

Okay, so according to legend, in the early 1900s a guy named Jacques St. Germain shows up in the French Quarter and starts throwing money around in lavish dinner parties, though he is never seen eating at them. He regales his guests with incredibly detailed stories from all over the world that had taken place hundreds of years before as if he had witnessed them firsthand. People soon noticed his resemblance to the Count de St. Germain, a European adventurer and philosopher of the 1700s.

It must be absolutely stressed that the Count de St. Germain was a 100 percent real person who knew King Louis XV, Voltaire, Casanova, and other famous historical people. His life was also so mysterious that even in his lifetime people thought he was an immortal alchemist.

So what makes Jacques St. Germain a vampire and not just an immortal? His more, shall we say, sanguine proclivities were revealed when one day a prostitute leaped from his balcony to escape him after he began biting her neck. When police went to question St. Germain, he had disappeared, but they say Vampire Jack still lurks the French Quarter to this day.

The Singing Rain of Pirates Alley

7 Things That Will Ruin Your Trip If You Forget to Pack Them

This Is the Secret to Looking Fresh on a Long-Haul Flight

For one thing, there is the ship itself. At 933 feet in length with more than 2,000 passengers and 850 crew, it’s a floating small city with shops, more than a dozen bars and restaurants, and unlimited amounts of viewpoints. And stairs. Forego the elevator (a good suggestion to start with) and that means 11 flights of stairs from top to bottom just to get around the ship.

The Promenade Deck was also a revelation. The deck circles the ship with a beautiful hardwood floor offering an unobstructed wind-in-your-face walk with sea airs, views and sun. It’s as pleasant a walk as I’ve ever taken, with nine laps equaling a 5K run.

In all the conversations and ads I’ve seen of cruising, hardly anyone mentions the simple joy of stretching your legs as fast as you want to walk for as long as you want to walk in the middle of the sea, with an occasional dolphin jumping high above the water beside you.

And then there are the balconies. Again, no one ever told me how magnificent it is to wake up at night, go out on the balcony and watch the black sea passing by, the waves illuminated by the glow from the ship’s lights. The sounds, the smell of the sea and the fresh air at night is simply spectacular. And if it gets cool, your cozy bed in the cabin is five feet away.

This is Why You Should Never, EVER Sleep While a Plane is Taking off or Landing

When it comes to warding off the dreaded airplane cold, your first line of defense is to sanitize everything, especially the tray table. Having sanitizer handy can make all the difference between enjoying your trip and spending your precious travel time recovering from a cold.

How to Remember: Small travel-friendly bottles of hand sanitizer are the best option to keep your seat station clean, but they’re also very easy to forget. Do yourself a favor and buy your hand sanitizer in bulk. On Amazon, you can snag an six-pack of travel-sized Purell bottles for under $10. Then stow one in each of your suitcases so you always have hand sanitizer ready, no matter which bag you bring with you.


Medicine

Wight City Arcade, Isle of Wight

American Airlines expects the grounding of its fleet of 24 Boeing 737 Max aircraft to cost $350 million, CEO Doug Parker said during the company's Q1 earnings call Friday morning. 

The costs will be higher, Parker said, if the carrier isn't able to put its Max fleet back in service on Aug. 20. American has already taken the preemptive step of removing all Max flights from its schedule until that date. 

Parker wasn't ready to say what steps American might take to get remuneration from Boeing for the costs associated with the grounding.

"It's not something we've had any conversations about yet," he said. "At some point perhaps we will, but right now we are working to get the aircraft back flying."

Max aircraft worldwide have been grounded since March 13 due to a pair of crashes that investigations indicated were caused by erroneous information transmitted from an aircraft sensor to the automated flight control system. A total of 346 people died in last October's Lion Air crash and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March. 

Parker said American set Aug. 20 as the date to begin scheduled Max flying because the company has 95% confidence the aircraft will be recertified by then. Airline president Robert Isom added that should certification come faster, American will use the aircraft as spares in the meantime.


​American reported Friday that the Max grounding caused 1,200 flight cancellations during the 18 days of the first quarter for which the grounding was in effect, resulting in a bottom-line impact of $50 million. For the period from March 13 through Aug. 19, American has cancelled 15,000 Max flights and has had to re-accommodate 700,000 customers, Isom said. 

Along with the 24 Max aircraft in its fleet, American has 74 more on order.

The grounding of the Max played a role in American seeing a 5.4% year-over-year decline in operating income during the first quarter. However, the company's net income still increased 16%, to $185 million. 

American reported revenue of $10.58 billion, up 1.8% year over year, but $30 million below analyst expectations, according to the website Seeking Alpha. 

Earnings per share were 52 cents, beating expectations by 2 cents.

Cruise ship medical expert Ben Macfarlane has shared that people on cruises often pretend to be seasick when they’re more likely hungover.

In his book Cruise Ship SOS, Macfarlane shares what his medical colleague told him, “Seasickness is a very convenient illness.”


​“You’ll notice that the people who suffer the most are the ones who were in the bar knocking back mojitos at 2 a.m. the previous night.”

His colleague also said, “You’ll also see that these people never have hangovers. They come to us with sore heads in the morning because they’re prone to ‘migraines.’”

“They feel sick when they wake up because of the air-conditioning in the staterooms, not because of all the vintage port they consumed at midnight.”

Apparently, the doctor would provide unusual cures like fried garlic and pork to those claiming to be seasick, when he knew otherwise.


​“The stuff of maritime legend. A time-honoured cure for sea-sickness,” said the doctor.

The next time you’re on a cruise ship and a cruise ship doctor suggests fried garlic and pork to someone who is ‘seasick,’ you’ll know what that means.

After a long wearying flight, you've finally arrived at your destination. You're ready to let loose and go exploring, or start planning out your itinerary of all the places you'd like to check out. But instead of doing either of these things, you fall asleep in the middle of the afternoon, and wake up in the wee hours feeling groggy, disoriented, and disgruntled for having lost so much time to sleep.


​Sound familiar? This is a description of desynchronosis, more commonly known as jet lag or flight fatigue. According to the American Sleep Association, 93 percent of all travelers experience it at some point in their lives. It is a sleep disorder that most commonly occurs because of travel across time zones. This kind of transportation, particularly by air, throws off the internal clock and circadian rhythms that synchronize our body with the time of day to control feelings of sleepiness and alertness. Mayo Clinic states that symptoms usually occur when you cross at least two time zones, with the effects worsening or lasting longer the more time zones you cross. It causes fatigue, insomnia, and other issues, and it's usually the very last thing you want to be dealing with while traveling. Keep reading for tips on how to shake off jet lag more effectively and get the most out of the time you spend away from home.

Prepare in advance


According to MedicineNet.com, our bodies typically adjust to a new time zone at the rate of one or two time zones per day. For example, if you traveled from the East Coast of the U.S. to a location in western Europe like France or Italy, you traveled across six time zones and displaced your body's internal clock by about six hours. It should take your body between three and five days to adjust, but by preparing in advance you can cut down or even eliminate this adjustment period.

The week before your trip, try going to bed an hour earlier (if you're flying east and losing hours) or an hour later (if you're flying west and gaining hours). If you can, alter the time that you wake up in the morning and your mealtimes as well, and gradually move towards a sleeping pattern that matches up with the time zone of your destination.


Stay hydrated


The dry air inside an airplane cabin and reduced fluid intake during a long flight makes it easy to become dehydrated on planes, which can exacerbate jet lag symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and irritability. The American Sleep Association recommends drinking plenty of water before, during and after your flight to maintain proper hydration. And while you may think caffeinated beverages will help keep you awake, or that alcoholic beverages will help you fall asleep, it's best to avoid these as both negatively impact quality of sleep.

Go outside


Circadian rhythm refers to the body's internal clock. All living things operate on a 24-hour cycle, influenced by cues in our environment that tell us what time it is such as the position of the sun and rising or falling outdoor temperatures. The disruption of this circadian rhythm is what causes jet lag disorder - when we fall out of sync with the sun's movement our bodies become confused by the conflicting internal and external cues, causing disturbances in sleeping and eating patterns. By spending plenty of time outdoors once you've arrived in your new environment, you can reinforce the environmental cues that you want your body to be following.

Consider medication


For extreme displacements or greater than normal difficulty in adjusting to a new time zone, research suggests that medication can be helpful in getting your body's sleep patterns back on track. A 2016 study published in Laryngoscope, for example, affirms that melatonin, an over-the-counter sleep supplement, has a meaningful effect on human sleep in the treatment of jet lag. Another study in the Journal of Lung, Pulmonary & Respiratory Research found that properly administered drug therapy was associated with reduced sleep disturbance in patients with jet lag.

Displacement to the west, when you gain hours, is typically easier to adjust to than coping with hours lost in eastward travel, since you're adding time onto your day in which to implement these adjustments. If you're worried about dealing with jet lag symptoms on an upcoming trip, try out these methods and see if they help you have the best travel experience possible.

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It was inevitable


The fire that tore through Notre Dame was a tragedy; there's no denying that. But, here's the thing. Those responsible for maintaining the landmark knew that tragedy of some catastrophic, structural kind was inevitable, and they had known it was inevitable for years.

In 2013, Didier Dupuy was hired to install lightning rods. When he scaled the building, he found an inner structure that had been neglected to the point where a repair job that was supposed to take right around two weeks stretched into three months, at which point he got so frustrated that he quit.

The Wall Street Journal chronicled the decay, and it's heartbreaking. There were holes and cracks in the roof, the buttresses were weakening, and the spire was rotten. Two years after Dupuy's assessment, American art historian Andrew Tallon documented the extent of the disrepair by using lasers to create a replica of the structure. Air pollution was eating away at the limestone, and one buttress was so far gone there was an imminent risk of wall collapse. Gargoyles had been propped up with pipes. So many pieces of stone had fallen off that those working on the eventual restoration dubbed it "a graveyard for architecture." And that rooster-shaped weathervane? It was already broken.

Years went by and restoration was eventually begun, but one could argue that it never should have been neglected so badly or gotten to that point in the first place.

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Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways is being forced to deal with a rash of thefts from its planes – by its own people.

The airline is cracking down on amenities being stolen and searching flight crew members leaving the aircraft after what it says is the loss of “hundreds of millions of dollars” worth of products over a number of years.

Those products include everything from company pens to utensils, wine glasses, food and even bottles of alcohol.


​“In view of an increasing number of reported losses of company property, we have informed our cabin crew that random inspections will be carried out,” a company spokeswoman said.

“We are dealing with cases in a fair and reasonable manner in accordance with standard internal procedure.”

Several Cathay Pacific employees were caught with merchandise over the weekend and are being investigated.

Apparently, the airline had warned its workers about the thefts as far back as January, when it sent an internal email.


​Ed Higgs, general manager of in-flight services for Cathay-Pacific, said employees would be inspected by a security team on leaving an aircraft “for any items that you may have in your possession when you have been or are on company property. Zero tolerance means you are not permitted to take off the aircraft any item other than what the company has authorized as per the policy. If anyone removes company property, irrespective of the value or if you believe it will be thrown away, you will be subject to discipline which may include termination.”

Cathay Pacific Flight Attendants Union chairwoman Vera Wu Yee-mei, said she understands theft was a breach of company policy.

“All staff understand there is a policy posted very clearly on the company intranet,” she said. “You would be putting your career in a very risky position, just for water, bread or a pen.”


However, she did say she was concerned about how the post-flight searches will be conducted for the more than 7,000 flight attendants her union represents.

What To See And Do

If your travel motto is "If it's free, we go and see", Vegas has plenty to keep you occupied for days at nary a cost. The Strip is an attraction in and of itself if people watching is your thing. You never can tell what you'll see! But there are more organized events and activities too!

Nearly every major hotel along The Strip has an attraction that everyone can enjoy, not just guests. The Bellagio Hotel, for instance, puts on a delightful light and water show every night at its fountains. The volcano at the Mirage has nightly 'eruptions" and the Venetian offers - you guessed it - a little taste of Venice right in the heart of Vegas.

If you have a sweet tooth, M&M World and Hershey's Chocolate World are tons of fun to check out. But take note: They usually don't offer samples and there's plenty of temptation to shop. However, if your travels take you to nearby Henderson, the Ethel M's Chocolate Factory has free self-guided tours and a higher chance of nabbing a sample.

There are a lot of strategies for getting free beer in Vegas - and most of them involve excessive gambling to 'earn' complimentary drinks at casino bars or buying an expensive souvenir glass in exchange for free refills. But at the Banger Brewing Company, a rare craft brewery in the city center, visitors enjoy great tours that end with sampling up to four beers! Times book up quickly - you can reserve a slot here. If wine is more your thing, check out the schedule for Wine Lounge Thursdays - part free wine tasting, part music series, 100% fun.


​And if museums, art galleries, or outdoor excursions are your thing - Vegas has a host of options for each. You can see a long list of Vegas freebies here. One that's especially easy for nearly all travellers to enjoy is the Aviation Museum at McCarran Airport.