Photo Of The Day: Austin Graffiti

This photo of Austin’s East Side captures several things I love about Austin all at once. This photo captures the train rushing by, reflecting the graffiti in its windows. The vibrant graffiti to the left is the kind of graffiti dispersed all over East Austin, but this East 5th building is a graffiti staple. The glow of sunset is saturating everything within the photograph, the same way it does every early evening. Moonlight Towers are historical Austin landmarks and there’s one standing on the horizon of this photo. And finally, just one of the many motivated artists on the East Side is standing in the middle of it all, Laquinton Wagner. This photo was taken by Ben Britz. If you have a photo you’d like to submit as Photo of the Day, submit it to the Gadling Flickr Pool.

Final Season of Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’ Debuts Labor Day On Travel Channel

You know the old saying; it’s always best to leave the party when you’re having a great time. So it is with Anthony Bourdain, chef/author/keen observationist of the absurd/master of the pithy sentiment, and dark lord of the filthy, matted belly of the culinary underworld. On Labor Day, the Travel Channel will premiere the ninth and final season of its Emmy Award®-winning series, “No Reservations – The Final Tour.”

On September 3 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, Bourdain will take viewers on a tour of Austin. Later episodes will span the globe, culminating in a Brooklyn-based finale. If you want to get your Tony on, check out the nine-hour “No Reservations” marathon beginning at 12 p.m. ET/PT. Tune in, turn on, pig out.

Below, a compilation of the Travel Channel’s favorite “Bourdainisms.”

Look Up: The Perseid From Texas

I’m moving out of Austin and back to New York just before what would have marked two years in Texas. I only have four weeks left until I pack the POD and I have an expanding bucket list to make good with before I go. One of my incentives for leaving NYC in the first place was the sky. I wanted to see it. I wanted to observe its expansive breadth and color during sunrise and sunset. I wanted to see that glimpse of the world beyond Earth provided with each shining star and planet in the night sky. In the event of a meteor shower, like The Perseid, I wanted to see those soaring trails of light, too. And so we drove; we drove west. At the suggestion of a friend who was in a back seat of our van, we followed the highway west and into the ink black of the early morning. Steep hills and sudden, sharp turns paved the path into the Westlake area, where we followed our friend’s directions through a twisting, gravel road that brought us to the windy top of a ridge, wherein his family owns ten acres of land.Pine in the air outside, cedar in the ranch’s interior, and a blank canvas of a sky, ready for the brush strokes of passing meteors. We took lawn chairs out to the center of the wooded yard and looked up.

“Six years ago, we heard an awful noise coming from out here. It was a mountain lion eating a baby deer,” my friend told us.

I curled my legs into my chest and wondered where my dogs had wandered off to. Every twinkling star I saw through the trees beside me looked like a glowing, peering eye of a calculating cat. My shuddering was paused at the sight of what I’d come to see, a shooting star, a member of the Perseids participating in its annual, orbital dance. Vega was straight above and persistent as an LED flashlight shining from across the room, but Vega isn’t across the room. Vega is 25 light-years away. It’s 2.1 times as massive as the Sun and a planet about the size of Jupiter may be in orbit around Vega.

We know nothing, I thought as I stared at Vega. We see nothing, I thought as I concentrated on the sky, hoping that the layers between me and the rest of space would shed like onion peels. This is all we have, this small ball of a planet, barely plotted on the map of it all. Zoom out on the universe and we fade away alongside the meteors we see, which are similarly relatively tiny. But then again, maybe that’s everything. Perhaps the best we can do is take those harrowing right turns into our countryside and look around and then look up. The scents of the wild, the instinctive fear of a predatory animal looming, the mysteries within the keyhole view of the universe we see from here – we’re hardwired to explore and take note. Bucket lists exist because of this facet of our being, the pursuit of knowledge and even better, knowledge by way of experience. I wanted to see a meteor shower in the Texas sky and I did. And while my bucket list for Earth is a bottomless well, one day our travel planning will be based off of a list that isn’t anchored to this one little planet. We’ll one day vacation on the Moon or Mars, but then what? The universe is expanding and travel will follow suit. And no matter where we are, no matter which far-off planet we get to, we’ll always be compelled to look around and then look up.

Breakfast And Botox: Hotel Offers Cosmetic Procedures After Your Meal

Want to come back from your vacation more beautiful than when you left? Guests of the Four Seasons in downtown Austin, Texas, can now take advantage of a unique hotel package that allows them to get cosmetically enhanced after breakfast.

This week, Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery opened on the main floor of the Four Seasons Residences Austin, which is located on the same property as the Four Seasons Hotel Austin.

“It’s a major convenience,” Lorley Musiol, director of the Four Seasons Residences Austin, told NBC News. “It’s rare to find a plastic surgeon in a downtown market. So this should appeal to hotel guests such as women whose husbands are here for a meeting and to people who work and live in the city.”

The menu of procedures includes Botox, chemical peels and, starting next year, breast augmentation, liposuction and other services. According to Katie Davin, director of hospitality education at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, marketing cosmetic services to luxury hotel guests is a great idea because this type of guest usually makes use of extra add-ons and amenities. Additionally, it allows guests privacy and comfort during the initial recovery period.

While you won’t see the “Botox & Brunch” packages on the Four Seasons website, Musiol assures the hotel is working with Westlake to offer discounts and promotions to guests.

What do you think of the “Botox & Brunch” hotel package?

[Image via avlxyz]

Airline Fees: You Get What You Pay For Or Weapons In Travel Class Warfare?

Last month, the media was abuzz over increased airline fees for pre-assigned seating, with many concerned that it would especially affect families who want to sit together for no additional cost. Even New York Senator Chuck Schumer got involved, asking airlines to waive fees for families traveling with children. Rather than look for victims or call airlines “anti-family,” however, look at the bigger picture. Airline seat fees are nothing new, but they are increasingly being used as another weapon in the arsenal against the airlines’ least desirable customer: the infrequent flier. If travelers will choose airfares based on a difference of nickels and dimes, does this force the airlines to nickel and dime the traveler?

The real divide in travel now isn’t between business and leisure travelers, families and singles, or even first class and coach; it’s between frequent fliers with airline loyalty, and price-conscious consumers who won’t hesitate to switch carriers for a cheaper fare. Savvy travelers who fly more than a few times per year understand that it pays to be loyal to one airline. In addition to earning miles for future trips, frequent fliers can jump to the top of upgrade lists, skip long check-in and security lines, and even waive many of the fees not included in the base fare. Travelers who fly only a year or less are more likely to book the cheapest ticket they find, even if the difference between carriers is just a few dollars, assuming the service will be similar (or worse, the same as they remember the last time they flew). What’s the incentive for airlines to give such passengers anything for free if they might never fly them again? “The customers that are more loyal, who fly more often, we want to make sure they have the best travel experience,” said American Airlines to Associated Press.

People are quick to call airlines greedy, and while they are looking to make money, running an airline is hardly a lucrative business these days. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a nifty graphic breaking down the cost of an average flight, showing that on a 100-person flight, the airline is making a profit off only a single seat. Between the rising costs of fuel, staff, security, insurance, and maintenance, most airlines are struggling to avoid bankruptcy or just stay in business. While you shouldn’t feel sorry for the airlines, understand that the alternative to fees is increased base fares, where you may be stuck paying for amenities you don’t need or want.As I’ve lived abroad for two years, I’ve become loyal to Turkish Airlines. They not only have the most flights from my current home airport in Istanbul, but I know I’ll always get a meal even on short flights, never have to pay fees outside of excess baggage, and even be able to use a dedicated check-in desk for travelers with children at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. I’ve often paid more to fly on Turkish Airlines than other carriers on the same route to guarantee the same standards of service. This makes me a valuable customer, and the more money I spend with them, the more perks I receive.

Earlier this year, I was looking for tickets from New York to Austin for a friend’s wedding. It was slightly cheaper to fly on American Airlines (my preferred carrier when I lived in New York) than Jet Blue, but as a solo traveler with a baby, I knew I’d be checking a bag and wanting to take my stroller up to the gate. Jet Blue would offer these services for free (American wouldn’t let me gate-check the stroller, but I could check it at the counter for free), and the overall cost would be about the same, plus I’d get free snacks and entertainment. In the end, I chose Jet Blue and was even given a priority seat without charge because the flight was relatively empty. If I were still based in New York and flying frequently, it would be more worthwhile to me to fly American to build my frequent flier status and miles for places I’d like to go.

As a parent who travels frequently with my child, I understand the potential nightmare separate seating could cause, but I also understand that airlines can’t make exceptions without making some passengers unhappy. If airlines were to waive a seating charge for families, travelers would complain about special treatment. Fliers with elderly parents would ask for exemptions to sit together, people with a fear of flying would want their travel partner close with no fee, and single travelers would feel they were being forced to subsidize everyone else.

Over at Huffington Post, my colleague (and fellow baby travel expert) Corinne McDermott contacted all of the major airlines regarding pre-assigned seating fees. Only Spirit Airlines explicitly said families should pay fees to be guaranteed adjacent seats. In fact, much of the hype about families being separated might really just be that: hype. Most airlines will try to accommodate people traveling together, just reserving preferred aisle and window seats to reward frequent fliers, or sell for an additional fee. It makes sense for an airline to offer a premium like preferred seating for free to a loyal customer, and instead try to make as much money as possible for a customer they may never have again.

Instead of spending time writing angry comments online, spend that time educating yourself about the full cost of an airline ticket and decide where your priorities lie: do you want to pay the absolute lowest fare and expect nothing more than a seat, or do you want to pay for service instead surprise fees? The old axiom “you get what you pay for” is the new reality in airline travel.