Man In Legal Wrangle With Airline Over Beverage Service And Unflushed Toilet

An Italian man has launched a lawsuit against Virgin America after a mid-air clash over a drink order and a lavatory visit led to the passenger being detained by police.

Salvatore Francesco Bevivino was travelling from Philadelphia to San Francisco when he pressed the call button so he could order a soda. However, after the flight attendant arrived, she told Bevivino to use his touch screen to place a drink order through the plane’s automated system. The 52-year-old apparently refused to do so and asked again for a drink to be brought to him.

The flight staff obliged, but upon landing in San Francisco Bevivino found himself being carted away by police. The airline said it alerted authorities because the passenger was cursing and refusing to follow instructions from the crew. They also claimed Bevivino left a bathroom stall without flushing the toilet.

The passenger denies using profanities or doing anything wrong (his lawyer referred to the unflushed toilet as a “non-event”) and says he feels humiliated by the incident. He’s suing Virgin America for $500,000 in damages.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Daquella manera]

Drinking Bull’s Blood in Hungary’s Valley of the Beautiful Women

There are no beautiful women in the Valley of the Beautiful Women, located on the outskirts of Eger in northeastern Hungary. A true misnomer. At least from what I could see. Instead, the only humans in sight were old crones pouring potent deep-red vino from long stem-like glass wine pourers and ancient portly men passed out in the corner of subterranean wine cellars. Is this one of those bad marketing ploys? I wondered. It didn’t really matter because I hadn’t actually been lured here to gawk at the aesthetics of the female figure. I’d come to imbibe wine. And, from the looks of it. I was in the right the place.
Eger is, after all, one of the best towns in Central Europe for wine-centric debauchery. Bull’s Blood, a wine that hasn’t exactly taken the international wine market by storm, is the wine blend of choice here, where (in the Valley of the Beautiful Women) nearly 200 wine cellars are carved into the cliffs and thirsty visitors can pop in for a cheap glass before moving on to the next and the next until the evening is just a giant red wine-stained blur.
No one’s really sure where the name came from, but the wine pourer in cellar 16, a wrinkly-faced man with a permanent smile on his face, said it’s probably a reference to a pagan fertility goddess. Then he raised his glass in a toast and slammed his wine (Hungarians never clink glasses–it was the practice of Austrians who occupied the country for hundreds of years).

We do know, though, where Bull’s Blood came from.

It all started, ironically enough, in 1552 when 60,000 non-booze-imbibing Turks–who had managed to besiege their way all the way up to Hungary–decided they wanted to take Eger before conquering the rest of Europe.

In preparation for what seemed like an inevitable defeat, Dobo Istvan and his 2,000 Hungarian warriors did what any smart army in this situation should do: they mixed together all the wine they had, even if it was from a different grape, and commenced drinking. It worked. Thirty-eight days and dozens of barrels of red wine later, the Bacchus-inspired Hungarians stumbled out of their well-protected and now ruined castle and forced the Turks to retreat. Humiliated, shocked and completely sober, the Turks’ only excuse for the defeat was that the Hungarians’ red wine-stained beards were proof they’d been imbibing the blood of bulls for strength.

Though the Turks came back four decades later, and this time stayed for almost a century, the original battle figures prominently in Hungarian national lore. And the wine, Bikaver, or Bull’s Blood, as it was called after the battle, is forever linked with the strength and courage of Hungary’s resistance to foreign powers.

Getting to the valley, the epicenter of Bull’s Blood consumption, is easy. It’s just a pleasant 15-minute trudge out of town, following the signs for Szépasszonyvölgy, which all the wine in Eger will never help you pronounce. Fortunately signs are also translated into English, pointing Bacchanalian visitors to the “Nice Ladies Valley.” When I first arrived, I scanned the cellars, felt the wad of Hungarian forints in my pocket, and gravitated to the nearest open cellar. I was pretty sure a hangover was awaiting me in the morning.

In cellar number 17, a quintet of gypsy musicians played old Hungarian tunes as a large group of German tourists–partying the only way they knew how–swayed their glasses back and forth in front of them. Meanwhile, in cellar 22, pop music blared from the stereo as a dozen or so Hungarian teenaged girls tried to drink as much as possible before their curfew. In addition to the varying atmospheres of the individual cellars, each one offers its own distinct version of Bull’s Blood. While one cellar’s offerings might have subtle hints of fruit, another may scream a smoky oak taste.

Cellar number 2 had a cozy, upbeat atmosphere and a quirky wine pourer, an erratic sexagenarian with wild, disheveled hair. The wine here had hints of spice. As she re-filled my glass, over the raucous clamor of other drinkers (the metaphorical sons and daughter of Dobo Istvan), she said to me, “Polish?”

“No, Turkish,” I said jokingly. She didn’t laugh. Instead, she pointed to the hundreds of coins dotting the rocky cellar walls, saying if the coin sticks, I would return to Eger. If not, “well…,” she said, letting her words trail off. I pulled out a 20-forint coin and pressed it into the gummy dark wall. When I pulled away, it stayed for two long seconds and dropped on the floor.

I picked up the coin, plopped it in the woman’s hand, and she re-filled my glass again. She continued until everyone I saw appeared beautiful.

Make a game of sampling the specialty – Dining out tip

When we travel someplace, we like to try the area’s specialty in multiple places and then decide which establishment did it the best.

For example, on a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we tried a regional specialty, the pasty (potatoes, veggies, onion and beef in a pastry), at three restaurants during our stay. On a vacation to Maui, Hawaii, we sampled mai tais each night at a different place. We made sure to visit the site of our self-proclaimed “winner” one more time for a farewell mai tai before our enjoyable vacation came to an end.

Making a game of sampling the specialty is a great way to make sure you see lots of a particular destination and enjoy the various “twists” that destination offers.

Booze and air travel – a bad idea or a travelers necessity?

If there is one thing we never seem to have a shortage of here on Gadling, it’s stories that involve drunk passengers misbehaving.

We’ve written about a planeload of 40 drunk Irish, a drunk Russian with an empty bottle of Chivas, a passenger so drunk he beat up his wife and blamed the airline and of course a passenger who drank so much, he killed 5 others (and himself).

Of course, this brings me to the bigger issue; are airlines creating these problems for themselves by refusing to serve some passengers, or should they simply stop service booze on all their flights?

Booze on aircraft is a big thing – it’s often the one time a year when some people get to drink fairly decent liquor and cocktails (assuming they are flying a decent airline and are not in coach), and when booze is free, why hold back?

I actually know several people who fly to drink – that’s right – they cash in their miles, use their elite status to liquor up in the airline lounge, and continue the binge on board. With mileage tickets costing as little as $25, it’s a cheap and efficient way to get hammered.

Some frequent flier boards are regularly filled with outrage when an airline changes its brand of champagne to something less expensive and some folks seem to obsess over the size of the glasses the booze is served in.

Some of the comments in recent booze related articles mentioned that alcohol is a major cash cow for the airlines, but I have to disagree – the expensive stuff is mainly served in first and business class, and is free. And alcohol sales in the back of the plane never really seem to be that high, certainly not on the flights I’ve taken.

So, would you survive a flight without booze? Airlines already banned smoking, so would removing the one final vice be that much of a blow to your comfort level?


Cocktails from around the world, and where to try them

Scene 1: It’s 6 a.m. on a weekday a few years ago, and I am waiting for a flight at Iceland’s main airport outside Reykjavik. I’m sitting at a bar, wiping sleep from my eyes, while those around me are drinking beer to chase shots of something clear from small glasses. I fall into conversation with a man who tells me it’s Brennivan, Iceland’s national spirit. Basically, it’s fermented potato pulp. I down a shot. It’s not unlike vodka, but not like vodka either. Maybe it’s the caraway seeds. It’s bracing, like a bath in ice water. The man pats me on the back, and orders us two more.

Scene 2: I’m in Berlin, at a cocktail bar with a few friends from out of town who I know from my days living in Prague. One orders a Pisco Sour, explaining that it’s made of a grape liqueur, brandy, lemon and egg white, and I think some milk. It looks like lemonade with a cappuccino head (pictured). As someone who avoids milk-like drinks, with or without alcohol, I reluctantly tried it. It was seriously good, almost like desert in a glass, which the most dangerous cocktails always evoke.

Both scenes are related.In a sense, in both cases I considered a country’s national beverage, or at least a beverage that originated in a particular country. But in only one was I actually drinking it at the place of origin. The Pisco Sour is the national drink of Peru, my friend having just returned from there where she had fallen in love with the drink.

Does it matter if you drink Brennivan in Iceland or Iowa? Not really, though there is the Guinness case to be made with many drinks: They taste different there versus here (though one cannot really say this about Brennivan, since you’ll only drink it in Des Moines if you bring a bottle back from Reykjavik).

It was perhaps in the spirit of linking famous cocktails and spirits with their place of origin that lead recently to list where to go to get certain tipples at their best. So, go to Reykjavik for potato pulp, or Lima for the best Pisco Sour.

The list does have some surprises. Of course you know that a Cosmopolitan is best found in New York, and surely a good Irish Coffee is at home in Dublin. But what about the Bloody Mary and a Sex on the Beach? Try Paris, France, for the former — where it was invented — and Ibiza, Spain, for latter, where it competes only with Sangria for supremacy.

According to MSNBC, the best Mojito is in Miami, the best Caipirinha in Rio and — duh — the best Gin & Tonic is in London. Berlin is known for the Watermelon Man (news to me), Singapore, not surprisingly, for the Singapore Sling and Cape Town is home to the Elephant’s Ear. Head to Stockholm for pretty much any flavored Absolute you fancy.

Curious to learn what some of these drinks are? Head over to MSNBC, where you can find photos, directions for making them and specific spots to try them in your future travels.