How Not To Become The Victim Of A $50M Hotel Heist

spencer77, Flickr

In a plot that plays out like a Hollywood movie, an armed thief who raided an exclusive hotel along the French Riviera got away with an estimated bounty of $50 million. Amusingly, the stolen jewels were lifted out of the very hotel where Alfred Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly was filmed in the 1950s. The haul didn’t come from hotel guests, but instead from a diamond exhibition on site — and it happened just days after a member of the notorious “Pink Panther” gang of jewel thieves escaped from a Swiss prison just 10 miles from the French border.

Hotels in France seem to be a hotbed for jewelry theft lately. This past May, a $2.5 million diamond necklace was stolen from a gala at a hotel during the Cannes Film Festival, just a week after $1 million of jewels was stolen from the hotel room of a Chopard employee when he was out to dinner.

Although Gadling readers might not be traveling with millions in jewels, it’s likely that there is something of value in each of our bags. Here are some tips for keeping your valuables safe:

  • Do Travel Inconspicuously: avoid being targeted by criminals by wearing little or no jewelry while traveling. If you must wear a ring, turn it around so the gemstones aren’t showing.
  • Don’t Check It: in the event of a lost bag (or airport employees with sticky fingers) keep anything of value in your carry-on.
  • Don’t Let Your Guard Down: criminals patiently wait for the moment when travelers aren’t paying attention to grab their bags. Be especially careful in ticket lines, near restrooms and at restaurants.
  • Don’t Keep Jewelry Out in the Hotel Room: while easily breached by professional thieves, a hotel safe is your best bet. Leaving anything out in the open not only makes things tempting for hotel personnel, but also for professional criminals walking by (how many times have you seen a room wide open while the cleaning crew is inside?).
  • Don’t Leave Home With It: this is the best advice of all. If there’s something you can’t afford to lose while traveling, your best bet is to just leave it at home.

Video Of The Day: French Street Performer Spreads Love Of Cats

Street performers, or buskers, are found in every corner of the world, and practice of performing in public places for gratuities dates back to antiquity. Performers are constantly coming up with wild and wacky ways to impress passersby and entice them into donating their spare change. This short documentary by Paul Trillo follows one of those unique characters: a cat-loving street performer who travels for hours by train throughout the south of France to perform with his affectionate house cats. Although it was shot during the Cannes Film Festival in 2011, it was brought to my attention today when Vimeo.com cat-ified their homepage for April Fools Day.

Who is the strangest street performer you’ve ever seen, and where did you find them?

Events Worth Planning A Trip Around In 2013

Have you ever landed in a place to find out you arrived just after the town’s can’t-miss event of the year? Well, hopefully that won’t happen again this year. Gadling bloggers racked their brains to make sure our readers don’t overlook the best parties to be had throughout the world in 2013. Below are more than 60 music festivals, cultural events, pilgrimages and celebrations you should consider adding to your travel calendar this year – trust us, we’ve been there.

Above image: Throughout Asia, Lunar New Year is celebrated with lantern festivals, the most spectacular of which is possibly Pingxi. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]

Kumbh Mela, a 55-day festival in India, is expected to draw more than 100 million people in 2013. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]

January
January 7–27: Sundance Film Festival (Park City, Utah)
January 10–February 26: Kumbh Mela (Allahabad, India)
January 21: Presidential Inauguration (Washington, DC)
January 26–February 12: Carnival of Venice (Venice, Italy)
January 26–February 13: Battle of the Oranges (Ivrea, Italy)
During Busójárás in Hungary, visitors can expect folk music, masquerading, parades and dancing. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]
February
February 3: Super Bowl XLVII (New Orleans, Louisiana)
February 5–11: Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo, Japan)
February 7–12: Busójárás (Mohács, Hungary)
February 10: Chinese New Year/Tet (Worldwide)
February 9–12: Rio Carnival (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
February 12: Mardi Gras (Worldwide)
February 14: Pingxi Lantern Festival (Taipei, Taiwan)
February 24: Lunar New Year (Worldwide)


Several cities in India and Nepal increase tourist volume during Holi, when people enjoy spring’s vibrant colors. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]
March
March 1-14: Omizutori (Nara, Japan)
March 8–17: South by Southwest (Austin, Texas)
March 20–April 14: Cherry Blossom Festival (Washington, DC)
March 27: Holi (Worldwide, especially India & Nepal)


Many Dutch people wear orange – the national color – and sell their secondhand items in a “free market” during Koninginnendag, a national holiday in the Netherlands. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]
April
April 12–14 & April 19–21: Coachella (Indio, California)
April 11-14: Masters Golf Tournament (Augusta, Georgia)
April 13–15: Songkran Water Festival (Thailand)
April 17–28: TriBeCa Film Festival (New York, New York)
April 25–28: 5Point Film Festival (Carbondale, Colorado)
April 30: Koninginnendag or Queen’s Day (Netherlands)


Up to 50 men work together to carry their church’s patron saint around the main square in Cusco, Peru during Corpus Christi. [Photo credit: Blogger Libby Zay]
May
May 4: Kentucky Derby (Louisville, Kentucky)
May 15–16: Festival de Cannes (Cannes, France)
May 20: Corpus Christi (Worldwide)
May 23–26: Art Basel (Hong Kong)
May 24–27: Mountainfilm Film Festival (Telluride, Colorado)
May 25-28: Sasquatch Festival (Quincy, Washington)
May 26: Indianapolis 500 (Speedway, Indiana)

2013 marks the 100th anniversary for the Tour de France. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]

June
June 13–16: Bonnaroo (Manchester, Tennessee)
June 13–16: Art Basel (Basel, Switzerland)
June 14–16: Food & Wine Classic (Aspen, Colorado)
June 21: St. John’s Night (Poznan, Poland)
June 24: Inti Raymi (Cusco, Peru)
June 28–30: Comfest (Columbus, Ohio)
June 29–July 21: Tour de France (France)

The annual observance of Ramadan is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Visit Istanbul, Turkey, at this time and see a festival-like atmosphere when pious Muslims break their fasts with lively iftar feasts at night. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]
July
July 6–14: San Fermin Festival (Pamplona, Spain)
July 9–August 2: Ramadan (Worldwide)
July 12–14: Pitchfork (Chicago, Illinois)
July 17: Gion Festival Parade (Kyoto, Japan)
July 18–21: International Comic Con (San Diego, California)
July 19–22: Artscape (Baltimore, Maryland)
July 24–28: Fete de Bayonne (Bayonne, France)

Festival-goers get their picture taken at a photo booth during Foo Fest, an arts and culture festival held annually in Providence, Rhode Island. [Photo credit: Flickr user AS220]
August
August 2–4: Lollapalooza (Chicago, Illinois)
August 10: Foo Fest (Providence, Rhode Island)
August 26–September 2: Burning Man (Black Rock Desert, Nevada)
August 31–September 2: Bumbershoot (Seattle, Washington)


More than six million people head to Munich, Germany, for beer-related festivities during the 16-day Oktoberfest. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]
September
September 5–15: Toronto International Film Festival (Toronto, Canada)
September 13–15: Telluride Blues & Brews Festival (Telluride, Colorado)
September 21–October 6: Oktoberfest (Munich, Germany)

Around 750 hot air balloons are launched during the nine-day Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. [Photo credit: Flickr user Randy Pertiet]

October
October 4–6 & 11–13: Austin City Limits (Austin, Texas)
October 5–13: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
October 10–14: United States Sailboat Show (Annapolis, Maryland)


During Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), family and friends get together to remember loved ones they have lost. Although practiced throughout Mexico, many festivals take place in the United States, such as this festival at La Villita in San Antonio, Texas. [Photo credit: Blogger Libby Zay]
November
November 1–2: Dia de los Muertos (Worldwide, especially Mexico)
November 3: Diwali (Worldwide)
November 8–10: Fun Fun Fun Fest (Austin, Texas)
November 11: Cologne Carnival (Cologne, Germany)
November 28: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (New York, New York)
TBA: Punkin Chunkin (Long Neck, Delaware)

The colorful holiday of Junkanoo is the most elaborate festivals of the Bahamian islands. [Photo credit: Flickr user MissChatter]
December
December 2–3: Chichibu Yomatsuri (Chichibu City, Japan)
December 5–8: Art Basel (Miami, Florida)
December 26–January 1: Junkanoo (Bahamas)

So, what did we miss? Let us know what travel-worthy events you’re thinking about journeying to in the coming year in the comments below.

Hotel prices hit bottom, survey finds


The average hotel room rate has begun to increase for the first time since 2007, shows the latest issue of Hotels.com’s biannual Hotel Price Index (HPI™). But the news isn’t all bad. Despite the 2% increase, hotel room rates are still markedly lower than rates at the peak of the market. As the 2009 HPI predicted, 2010 continues to be another great year for great travel values.

Las Vegas topped the list of top five most popular domestic destinations for the second time this year, with New York, Orlando, Chicago and San Francisco following close behind. Popular cities for international travelers include New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Orlando and Los Angeles.

“We’re seeing travel bookings pick up around the world,” said Victor Owens, Hotels.com’s vice president of marketing, North America. “There are, of course, still deals to be had, especially in international destinations like Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Reykjavik which each saw a major drop in hotel prices during the first half of 2010.”

In some cities, however, luxury hotels became a more attractive proposition, with average prices for top-end rooms dropping by over a tenth. Domestically, a 5-star hotel dropped 13 percent in Orlando ($259-$225) and San Francisco ($323-$280). Chicago’s rates have stayed steady with an average room rate of $137, making it ideal for business travelers and one of the best locations for meeting planners to book their next event.

The Big Apple was the most expensive domestic city of those tracked in the global list; but, U.S. and overseas travelers continued to flock to NYC. Prices averaged $224 per room per night during Q2 2010 – an increase of 14 percent compared to 2009. A Gradual return of business travel and an increase in domestic travel fuelled this rise.

The biggest loser is Abu Dhabi, which fell by 46 percent between Q2 2009 and Q2 2010. This means a hotel room that would have cost a U.S. traveler $304 during the first six months of 2009 cost a traveler just $163 this year – a drop of $141. This was fuelled by various factors, including a growth in the number of rooms, as new hotels opened, and a drop in the number of corporate travelers visiting the Emirate, due to the economic situation. This influential city of commerce was affected by the fall of international business travel, as was its larger neighbor, Dubai, which saw a 10% decrease in hotel room prices.

Cost rose most sharply in the second quarter of 2010 for locations that hosted major events or were the scene of major motion pictures. rices rose 60% in Cannes, France, 57% in Eat, Pray, Love location Bali and 53% in World Cup home base Cape Town, South Africa.

For detailed information on your home city or next travel destination, view the report online.

[Image courtesy of Hotels.com]

How to Crash Cannes – a 101 guide

Cannes Film Festival
The Cannes Film Festival is an invitation-only, very glitzy affair which attracts hundreds of celebrities and elite guests from around the world. It’s no wonder that many of us fantasize about going. For most people, that dream may seem an impossible one. Well, guess what? It’s not.

This year, I was invited by Stella Artois, one of the main sponsors of the Cannes Film Festival 2010, to attend. Now, I’m not going to tell you “just make friends with someone at Anheuser-Busch.” No. And yes, I was afforded some privileges that crashers won’t be able to come by — but I did manage to figure out how a regular person could get there, attend the private screenings, and have a great time. So here we are:

How to Crash Cannes – a 101 guide

Get yourself to Cannes (obviously).

If you’re thinking about crashing Cannes 2011, book your flight now. The flights to Nice before and during the festival are booked solid and get very expensive if not reserved in advance. Cannes 2011 will be May 11 – 22. This is one thing you can’t get around unless you know someone with a private plane.

*Don’t* book a hotel.

Here’s where we get down to the business of skirting the system. It won’t work if everyone does it, but there are still some sorry folks out there who don’t read Gadling. Chances are, this will work …There are no hostels in Cannes. Some people go as far as finding campsites outside of Cannes and camping to avoid paying through the nose for a hotel when they all seem to be booked. That is not the glamorous kind of experience I’d want to have at the ritzy festival. What’s more, partying till dawn becomes difficult if you’re not staying in Cannes. Here’s something few people know: The Tourist Information Center right at the Palais de Festivals on Croisette has hotel rooms, even when the whole city seems to be sold out (ask for “Last Minute Accommodations”). Not only are there still rooms available — only for those who come to the Information Center and request them in person — but in some cases, they may have worked out deals which mean you’ll get them at discounted rates. Expect to pay about 150 euros per night to stay in the Cannes city center. While one shouldn’t count on it, you may get an even cheaper rate.

If that makes you nervous or is too expensive …

Booking now may save you a little cash, but to save more, you’ll have to stay outside of Cannes. Antibes is a good place to start, as well as Mandelieu. Be careful about transportation, though. Taxis are very expensive in the French Riviera, and having to take one could completely trump your savings. When booking a hotel outside of Cannes, ask specifically about whether Cannes can be reached by train or bus, what time of night the service ends, how much it costs and, most importantly, whether the train or bus stop is walkable to the hotel. If it’s not walkable, you’re not getting a deal. Expect to pay 60 – 70 euros per night for a hotel in a nearby town and be aware that most trains stop at midnight and most buses stop at 1:00 AM.

Ticket Please?Getting into films and walking the red carpet — free.

All official Cannes Film Festival screenings are invitation-only. Invitations are given to celebs, friends of the filmmakers, locals, and other folks with connections. It is 100 percent illegal to buy or sell tickets to the festival, so if you see some on Craigslist, be extremely wary; either they’ve fallen into the wrong hands or they’re (probably) fakes. Here’s the good news; no one’s checking IDs or anything. It’s perfectly okay to be given a ticket or to give a ticket away. This results in people with signs like the one at right standing outside the Palais de Festivals during the day. Go ahead and give it a try; there are plenty of people with an extra ticket out there. A little patience could get you in to see a major film. Not only that, but according to the Tourist Information Center, a ticket alone entitles you to walk the red carpet right along with the celebrities. How awesome is that? Answer: I did it twice and it was totally, totally awesome. Be aware that the attire requirement is formal: mandatory tux and black tie or gown.

If that doesn’t pan out, you can still see films at Cannes — just not the official ones. For example, at the beach right next to the Palais de Festivals (below), they show classic films every night except the first and last nights of the festival. The screenings are free and folding chairs are provided. The only thing is, you have to line up to get in; space is limited.
Additionally, you can see films at Espace Miramar, just down the way, for free, or at La Malmaison, also on Croisette, where a parallel, fringe-type festival runs. You can attend for about 7 euros.

Lastly, if you don’t manage to score a ticket but want to tell all your friends that you did, fear not. There are red carpets everywhere, and even the ground along much of Croisette is painted red. A red carpet shot should be pretty easy to fake.
Red ... ground.
Well, that wraps it up! Cannes is definitely crashable if you’re in-the-know, and now, you are.

My trip to Cannes was sponsored by Stella Artois, but the ideas and opinions expressed in the article are 100 percent my own.