Photo Of The Day: Thanks For Flying

Happy Thanksgiving, and hola from the Dominican Republic, where I’m spending the holiday with family and friends. Rather than searching the Gadling Flickr pool for a turkey (or Turkey, where I spent the last two Thanksgiving holidays) photo this year, I wanted to see what came up for the term “thanks,” and found this pic from our own Kent Wien, boarding an American Airlines airplane in Antigua. You don’t see the first words “Thanks for…” in the shot, but if you’ve been on enough planes, you know how to complete the sentence that ends “… flying American Airlines.” Climbing air stairs from the runway always feels a bit retro, and seeing the old slogan brings back memories of some of my first flights. I’m thankful for my passport and the ability to share my wanderlust with my baby, in her thirteenth country today. Count your blessings and enjoy the day wherever you are.

What are you thankful for? Add your picture to the Gadling Flickr pool for another Photo of the Day.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Fly For Fun]

Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee: 2012’s other major British event

In London, signs of the coming Olympics are everywhere. Barclays Cycle Hire docking stations have begun to expand into East London toward key Olympics sites, billboards urge drivers to begin to think about how they’ll deal with increased traffic, and the Prime Minister is busy warning unions that the prospect of a strike during the Olympics would be “unacceptable and unpatriotic.”

Meanwhile, outside of London, a number of cities have banded together as Heritage Cities in part to lure those tourists brought to London by the Olympics away from the capital.

But the Olympics are not the only event drawing visitors to the UK this year. 2012 is also the year of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, the 60th anniversary of her coronation as Queen. The Diamond Jubilee will reach its peak during what is being called the Diamond Jubilee central weekend, from June 2 through 5. The weekend will be characterized by some serious pomp and circumstance. Events will include a 1000-boat pageant on the Thames on June 3, a BBC Concert at Buckingham Palace on June 4, and a special Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral followed by a carriage procession on June 5.

In addition to this peak period, there are a number of other events planned in the lead-up to the weekend and beyond.

For example, members of the Royal Family are traveling around the UK, the UK’s Crown Dependencies, the UK’s Overseas Territories, and Commonwealth to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Currently, Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex and his wife the Countess of Wessex are on a two-week commemorative Caribbean visit, taking in St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, and Antigua and Barbuda. Locals and tourists alike in the region might just run across Edward and Sophie through March 7.

The Queen and Prince Philip’s travel schedule begins March 8 in Leicester and finishes off on what looks like a very busy July 25, taking in Cowes, the Isle of Wight, New Forest, and Hampshire.

There is an official website for taking stock of Diamond Jubilee events. There’s also a handy Google map allowing visitors to see where various members of the Royal Family will be celebrating the Queen’s reign throughout the year. (Spoiler alert: Harry got Jamaica.) Visitors can play with an interactive timeline of the last 60 years and also send a message to the Queen. And there’s the crucial bit of information that Andrew Lloyd Webber is co-authoring a Diamond Jubilee song.

[Image: Flickr | quinn.anya]

Things I learned in Antigua: Luffas grow on trees

Antigua is a lush, green land of 365 beaches (one for every day of the year!), warm sunshine, and laid-back island culture. It is also the land of the luffa.

Beauty junkies the world over are familiar with these excellent exfoliating tools, perfect for sudsing up and washing down in the shower or tub. We may even know them by other names – shower sponges, poofs, etcetera. Today, many are made of plastic and come in a variety of colors and textures.

What we might not know: the luffa, also known as a loofah, is a fruit.

That’s right. Just like that old fooler the tomato, the loofah is part of the fruit family. That’s right – we thought it came from the ocean too. Doesn’t the little sponge-like apparatus look like it came from the sea?

Well, it doesn’t. This edible “climbing vine” with beautiful yellow flowers – if one wasn’t aware of what they were seeking, the luffa might be mistaken for a beautiful tree. Resembling a cucumber when ripe, luffa is often cooked eaten as a fuit in some Middle Eastern and Indian cultures and sometimes prepared with crushed dried peanuts and bans. Some even use its juices as a natural treatment for jaundice. In Canada, the luffa is known as a Chinese Okra and in India the fruit is called a Sebot. In Paraguay, the fruit is combined with other vegetable matters and recycled plastic to create furniture or construct houses.

When dried out, as shown in the gallery below, the luffa can be peeled or chipped away to showcase the mature and dry fibers underneath. Shake out the seeds, which resemble oversized watermelon or sunflower seeds, and viola! The world’s only natural bath or kitchen sponge. The coarse network of fibers makes the luffa a perfect exfoliator for both dry and wet skin.

These fruits grow in dry, warm climates throughout China, Korea, Japan and Central America as well as my own personal land of discovery, Antigua.

I’m proud to say that the phrase “you learn something new every day” stands true – it just turns out that this day was more memorable than most!

*A big thanks to Vorn Johnson, an Antiguan nature enthusiast, who accurately pointed out that one of the island’s many plants is indeed the luffa fruit. While we can’t find data verifying if the plant is native to the island, research shows that the fruit also grows on nearby Barbuda.


Deal watch: Royal wedding vacation packages

With the Royal Wedding just days away, its not too late to get into the frenzied madness with a royal getaway fit for you, the non-royal regular person. Here are some special offers from a variety of different resorts scattered around the globe with prices between $149 for a one-night getaway (just so you can say you did something special) to $2,250 for a four-night package (so you can say you did something really special).

Enjoy a royal getaway to the Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater Beach, Florida, when you book the Royal Romance Berries & Bubbly Package on April 29, 2011. The package includes accommodations in a luxury room or resort suite category of your choice, champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries on the night of arrival and complimentary breakfast for two each morning. A package savings of over 20 percent.
Rates start at: $299 per night
Valid for travel: April 29 through December 30, 2011
Reservations: Visit and use promo code ROYAL in the Corporate / Promotion box, or call 1-877-726-3111 and ask for promotional code ROYAL.
Maybe the Caribbean sounds more like the royal place to be. The St. Kitts Marriott Resort is offering a free room upgrade and bottle of sparkling wine when their Escape For Two package is booked on April 29th, 2011, only.
Package includes:
– Accommodations (automatic room upgrade)
– 1 massage per person (per room, per stay)
– 1 facial per person (per room, per stay)
– Breakfast buffet for two, daily
– 1 Bottle of sparkling wine
– Spa amenity basket and welcome gift
Rates: From $238 per room/night, inclusive of tax and gratuity. Based on double occupancy. Subject to availability / blackout dates.
Reservations: / Promo code ES8

The CuisinArt Resort & Spa in Anguilla is offering the “Royalty in Paradise” package on April 29th, 2011, only also.
Package includes:
– 4 Nights in a beachfront junior suite
– 1 Romantic beachfront dinner for two
– 1 Bottle Veuve Cliquot champagne
– 1 Couples Rendezvous spa package:
– Couples massage
– Floral bath soak
– Anguillian coconut pineapple scrub
– Swiss duet rain shower
Rates: From $2,250 (A $925 savings)
Valid for Travel: April 30 – November 22, 2011. Based on availability, blackout dates apply.

At Mexico’s CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort is offering the Royal Romance Package, available for one day only on April 29th, 2011.
Package includes:
– Transportation from and to the Cancun Airport
– Daily breakfast buffet for 2 adults
– One bottle of sparkling wine per stay
– Free upgrade to Ocean view (room already upgraded at the time of booking)
– 40% discount on Spa treatments
– 20% discount on food and beverage, and gift shop purchases
Rates: From $149 USD per night
Valid for Travel: May 1 – November 20. Based on availability, blackout dates apply.
Reservations: Visit and input promo code L9Z

Also in Cancun, the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa is offering the Royal Romance Package, available for one day only on April 29th, 2011.
Package includes:
– Transportation from and to the Cancun Airport
– Daily breakfast buffet for 2 adults
– One bottle of sparkling wine per stay
– Free upgrade to Ocean view (room already upgraded at the time of booking)
– 40% discount on Spa treatments
– 20% discount on food and beverage and gift shop purchases
Rates: From $189 USD per night
Valid for Travel: May 1 – November 20. Based on availability, blackout dates apply.
Reservations: Visit and input promo code L9Z

Over in Curacao, the Hotel Kura Hulanda Spa and Casino is has their Royal Treatment Package which includes three night accommodations in a Deluxe Room and a half-day of pampering at the spa for two guests. Spa treatments include a 50 minute relaxing massage, 60 minute food reflexology and your choice of a Mini Facial or Gentleman’s Total Care Facial
Rates: Three night package: $1,180
Valid for Travel: Now until Dec 23, 2011
Reservations: Call 877-264-3106 or email

Not interested in a fabulous resort at discounted prices? How about a cruise then?

Priced at $2904, the Royal Caribbean Royal Wedding Package offers a wide range of royal wedding stuff like a tiara for the bride, a 12-rose hand-tied bouquet, strawberries and champagne, toasting flutes and a keepsake server each engraved with a crown and dinner at the captains table. Included are the services of a wedding planner and photographer along with a boutonniere for the groom, announcements and a wedding cake.

Oh, and if you happen to see the royal couple along the way, let us know would you?

25 Haunting Shipwrecks Around the World

Twisted Sifter is a web site with three simple goals. Provide content that is interesting, funny or creative, use BIG pictures whenever possible and to keep their readers up-to-date with what’s popular online. Gadling found this gallery of 25 haunting shipwrecks at Twisted Sifter who tells us

“Fellow blogger Tom Moran from Urban Ghosts inspired this post. His excellent article on ‘Ship Graveyards: Abandoned Ships, Boats and Shipyards’ sent me on a quest to find some incredible photographs of shipwrecks around the world.

The United Nations estimates that there are more than 3 million shipwrecks on the ocean floor [Source: Wikipedia]. These once mighty vessels, both sunken and beached, are a haunting reminder that nothing lasts forever. These beautiful ships used to rule the seas they traveled. Now they serve as a window into our past.”

In the gallery below, 25 Haunting Shipwrecks From Around The World, there are shipwrecks everywhere from the Canary Islands to Grand Cayman to Portugal in all shapes and sizes.