Video of the Day: From Nordhordland with Love

Quick, tell us everything that you know about Nordhordland. Of course, you know it’s a region of western Norway. Don’t know much else? Well, apparently it’s the perfect place for a super villian to establish is base of operations. Why? Well, proximity to the sea, ample power sources and a vast supply of educated labor make are just a few of the reasons that Nordhordland would be a great place to build a doomsday device. Of course, its low crime rate might throw a wrench in that evil machine. Regardless, this is one of the most creative promotional videos we’ve ever seen. Well played, Nordhordland.

Isthmus, Elbonia and 12 other places you can’t visit

Planning your summer vacation destination yet? Here are fourteen destinations you won’t be able to add to your list. Despite being home to 193 different countries, many movies and TV shows steer clear of insulting anyone by basing their stories in fictional locations. Here are some of the best places you can’t visit:

Republic of Isthmus – Home to a gorgeous casino and nasty drug dealer Franz Sanchez in the James Bond movie License to Kill.

Elbonia – Anyone that has read a Dilbert strip knows everything there is to know about Elbonia.

Far Eastern Republic – No – this is not the name of the band behind 2010 hit “Like a G6”, The Far Eastern Republic is from Mission Impossible episode “Commandante”. Mission Impossible is another of those 80’s series that never used real countries for their plot.

Genovia – Good luck finding this fictional nation on any maps of Europe. Genovia is where Mia Thermopolis learns she is the sole heir to the throne in The Princess Diaries.
Gnubia – The MacGuyver writers were clearly afraid to insult any real nations. Almost every single one of their episodes took the master of turning pencil sharpeners into helicopter blades to nothing but fictional nations.

Loompaland – Even though Loompaland is named after its most famous residents, the place is also home to dangerous Snozzwangers, Hornswogglers, Verminous Knids, and wicked Whangdoodles. Yes – this is of course from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Fantasy Island – No introduction needed. Can only be reached by “ze plane!!! ze plane!!!”

Ohtar – Goldie Hawn saves the day when she discovers a murder plot against the Emir of Ohtar in 1984 movie Protocol.

Petoria – When Peter Griffin hears that his home on Spooner Street is not actually part of Quohog, he declares his plot “Petoria”. Once he captures the pool in his neighbors house, he names that “Joehio”.

Qumrun – A fictional Middle-Eastern nation regularly used in the fantastic BBC comedy series Yes Minister.

Sahelise Republic – Thankfully, nobody in the real West Wing ever tried to attack this fictional nation.

San Marcos – Showing a real lack of creativity, this fictional country has been used in numerous movies and TV shows like the A-Team, MacGuyver and Bananas (by Woody Allen)

Val Verde – Another popular choice in action movies – it has been used in Commando, Predator and Die Hard 2

Voodoo Island – home to Mr. Big and his weird tarot card reader Solitaire from James Bond movie Live and Left Die

Gadling Q & A with Daniel Edward Craig, author and hotel consultant

Daniel Edward Craig shares a name with the current James Bond, and like 007, he’s a world traveler and a man of many hats. He’s taken a career in hotel management and a keen ear for storytelling and parlayed it into a murder mystery book series, an engaging industry blog, and a hotel and social media consultancy. Here he tells Gadling about his history in the travel world, who’s providing the best social media content for travelers, and what’s next in hotel trends.

Tell me about your history in the hotel and travel business.

I’ve worked in hotels off and on for about twenty years. I started on the front desk at the Delta Chelsea Inn in Toronto and went on to work for a range of hotels, from big-box to boutique, in positions ranging from duty manager to vice president. Most recently, I was vice president and general manager of Opus Hotels in Vancouver and Montreal.

What title do you think best captures your profession these days

These days I work as an author and hotel consultant. I left Opus at the end of 2007, shortly after my first novel was published, to complete the second and third novels in the Five-Star Mystery series. Now I am working on a fourth book as well as various consulting projects for the hotel industry, ranging from social media strategy to executive coaching. I also continue to write my blog and articles about the hotel industry. It’s been a rough few years for hotels, and I think we could all use some levity, so in my writing I try to take a lighthearted look at issues.

Do you think you’ll ever go back to managing a hotel?

I hope so. Hotels are my first love; writing is secondary. As a hotel manager, I feel fully engaged and at my best, whereas as a writer all my neurotic tendencies come out. Writing is a solitary profession, and I’m better as part of a team. Once I finish my current book at the end of this year, I’ll decide what’s next, and that could very well involve a return to hotels full-time. I’ll always write, but after a year of 4:00 AM mornings and late nights, I promised myself never to write books and manage a hotel at the same time.

What are you most critical of as a hotel guest?

I’m extremely service oriented. I’ll cut a property a lot of slack if it isn’t my style or if facilities are limited, but bad service can ruin my trip. In particular, I dislike overly scripted, apathetic service. I love a hotel with originality and a lot of life in the lobby. And I look for soul, a combination of design, culture, clientele and spirit, that intangible feeling that I’m in the right place. That’s why I prefer independent boutique hotels – it’s easier for them to do these things well.

What’s your favorite hotel?

Don’t make me choose! It depends on my mood and the nature of travel. I was just in Chicago and was blown away by the new Elysian Hotel. If I’m relaxing or working, I like the Four Seasons. I can’t always afford to stay in them, but I will splurge on a drink in the lounge and will hang around until I’m asked to leave. My favorite is the Four Seasons Georges V in Paris. But I also love contemporary boutique hotels. I’m a city boy, and when I feel like socializing I want to stay in a hotel with a scene, like the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York, the Mondrian in Los Angeles, and the Clift in San Francisco. XV Beacon in Boston is also one of my faves.

Given the many social media experts today, how do you stand apart?

I’d never call myself a social media expert. Who can keep up? I’m a hotelier first, who happens to know a lot about social media and reputation management. Social media allows me to combine my two professions as a hotelier and an author, because essentially it’s about storytelling. Social media touches every department in a hotel, and as a former general manager I understand the interplay and interdependence involved, and to rise above individual departmental interests to develop a strategy that benefits the hotel as a whole.

What hotels/travel companies do you think are doing social media “well”?

I think there are a number of hotel companies that do certain aspects of social media well, but nobody is doing anything particularly innovative. HKHotels in New York are doing a great job of reputation management. Best Western runs a good Facebook page. InterContinental Hotel Group makes great concierge videos. The Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee manages Twitter well. Red Carnation Hotels in London and Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver have good blogs. Joie de Vivre Hotels does great contests.

Hoteliers are great storytellers, and with all the comings and goings of guests we have a rich resource of content to draw from, and yet this isn’t translating to social media. A lot of hotel content is trite and uninspiring, and most of the voices sound the same: perky and vaguely annoying. Hotels can learn a lot from online reviewers, who spin the best stories, with strong points of view, hooks, humor, trivia and facts. I think there are huge opportunities for the hotel industry, and I’d love to help a hotel become the social media hotel in a given destination.

What made you start writing murder mysteries?

I always wanted to write, and naively thought that writing a mystery would be fun and easy. They say write what you know, and at the time I was working as a duty manager, so I set it in a hotel. Ten years later, Murder at the Universe was published. For me it was a one-off, but my publisher liked the idea of a hotel manager who writes mysteries set in hotels, so they contracted me to develop it into a series. Since then I’ve published Murder at Hotel Cinema and Murder at Graverly Manor.

After three novels, I started to get bored with my protagonist, the hapless hotelier Trevor Lambert, and all that whining. And there could only be so many murders in his hotels before people started suspecting him. The book I’m finishing up now is non-fiction, an irreverent insider’s look at hotels, written for travelers.

What do you see as the next big trends in hotels?

Mobile is huge. Increasingly, people are researching, booking and recommending travel via smart phones. Social media will grow as people continue to bypass travel journalists and hotels for travel information in favor of travelers, friends and social networks, all from the palm of the hand. When it comes down to it, however, above all hotel guests still want comfort, convenience and value. They just have much larger audiences to air their grievances to when they don’t get what they want.

What’s next for you?

After I finish the book, I’ll put book writing on hold for now and will continue to work on hotel projects, to blog, and to write articles. I’m starting to book quite a few speaking engagements in 2011. My platform as an author and hotelier is quite unique, and social media reputation management are hot topics. If I find a good job with a progressive hotel company, great, but until then I have no shortage of things to keep me occupied.

Read all about Daniel Edward Craig, his books, and his blog at his website,

Amazing Race 14: Recap 1, Swiss cheese is heavy

When the teams took off for Switzerland from the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, California after the Marine helicopter ride that took them there, you could feel the buoyancy and hear their glee. No matter the season, every team has a real can-do attitude at the beginning of the Amazing Race. Amazing Race 14 was no different. And just like every other season, some teams began to fall apart not long after they landed.

Jennifer and Preston missed their connecting train. She got crabby and he crabbed back. Later in the episode, Steve chastised Linda for being slow as they hoofed it to the Church of San Antonio in Locarno to meet up with a monk. Her slowness put them behind most of the other teams. Steve only made her weepier. As Linda pointed out, she would have gone faster if she could have. “I can’t run and I feel bad about it,” she sniffled. Good point. Who goes on the Amazing Race trying to be pokey?

When people are crabby and chastising when they travel, they miss the details. In Switzerland, one detail comes in snow-capped mountains, so gorgeous they can make you cry. Brad, choked up, for example, as he and Victoria sped through them on the train. It might of been the mountains, or maybe he was tired. Other details of Swiss travel had to do with bungee jumping and cheese.

First the bungee jumping. After a night of camping, fending off mosquitos, the teams headed a short distance from Locarno to Contra Verzasca Dam where James Bond made his bungee jumping leap in the movie Goldeneye. In nerves of steel daring, one team member from each team made the Bond jump, minus the music, in order to receive their next clue.

This is not just an Amazing Race opportunity. You can make the 220 meter, 70-story, jump yourself through the company Trekking Outdoor Team. It seriously looks like a blast for a person not afraid of heights. Interestingly, the person most afraid of heights was Jodi, one of the flight attendants. As we knew all along, even a person afraid of heights would be able to make the leap for the chance for a million dollars.

When the jumping was over, it was off via train to Interlaken and Kleine Rugen Wiese, a place with a slippery, grass covered hill and wheels of cheese at the top of it. Teams had to grab antique cheese racks, trudge to the top of the hill, one rack per member, to carry cheese–great big wheels of it that can bound and roll down a hill like nobody’s business when dropped–to the bottom using the racks in some way. What a hoot.

The antique racks looked rigged since almost everyone of them snapped like kindling wood. Making the task more difficult was avoiding getting bowled over by the escaped flying cheese, and the people chasing after it. To get a 50-pound cheese wheel down a hill, you can hold it in front of you in both arms, sit with it on your lap and scoot, put one wheel on each shoulder, or do a combination of all three. If you’re really smart, you’ll stack three cheese wheels on the rack and drag it down the hill like Steve did.

While the teams acted out this Abott and Costello-like scene, Swiss men stood at the bottom of the hill swigging some sort of beverage and laughing. Eventually, all cheese was stacked properly, and the teams were off once more to find yodelers at the pit stop in the town of Stechelberg. For a little while I thought that Steve and Linda, who call themselves endearments like “dumb asses” when frustrated, wouldn’t find the yoderlers, but eventually they came out of the woods where they had headed to land a 9th place finish.

The first place finishers were mother and son team, Margie and Luke. Both of them started to cry. So did 2nd place finishers, Tammy and Victor–even Phil looked teary. Tammy and Victor weren’t feeling emotional because they came in second by a hair–thus missed out on that swell trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I think it was because the finish was so awesome indeed. Luke is deaf.

As Luke said, “A lot of people think deaf people can’t do things, but the deaf can do it. I just want to show people that deaf people can do it.” I’d say Victor and Tammy will get their share of first place prizes.

In a neck and neck finish, Christie and Jodi reached the Pit Stop mat before Jennifer and Preston. Although they were thrilled to stay in the race, the flight attendants did give the loosing team hugs, proving that flight attendants are indeed friendly. Preston promised Jennifer she did not let him down. Hey, they get to hang out for a couple weeks at some swank villa somewhere at the Elimination Station if this season is like the others. That’s not a bad deal.

The moral of this episode is, before you go on the Amazing Race, go to a train station. Jennifer had never been to one before. I think traveling at a break neck speed in unfamiliar territory is not the best place for a first time.

Where everyone has ended up so far:

  • 1st -Margie and Luke
  • 2nd -Tammy and Victor
  • 3rd – Mark and Michael
  • 4th – Mel and Mike
  • 5th – Amanda and Kris
  • 6th – Brad and Victoria
  • 7th – Cara and Jaime
  • 8th – Kisha and Jen
  • 9th – Linda and Steve
  • 10th – Christie and Jodi
  • 11th – Preston and Jennifer (Eliminated)

For a more detailed recap, check out the Amazing Race 14 website.

The Gadling Top 10 Top 10 lineup of 2008

Can you believe that the year is almost over? When I saw the first Christmas items pop up at my local Costco back in September, the Holiday season seemed so far away.

But now, with less than 2 weeks left in the year, it is time to slowly start looking back at some of the best Gadling had to offer in 2008.

So, please let me present (in chronological order), the top 10 of top 10’s posted here in 2008:

In January, Neil posted about the 10 most common cities where Americans are arrested. Number 10 is Hong Kong, but you’ll need to visit the top 10 to see where in the world Americans seem to misbehave the most.


If you like travel and food, then this list by Iva mentions the top 10 foodie destinations. You’ll read where the best food is, and what is on the must eat list when you travel abroad.


New York City has some of the worlds most impressive architecture, and this list by Anna talks about the top 10 must see building in the Big Apple.


When you add the best roads in Europe, with motorcycles, then you end up with this list posted by Iva. The list mentions the best 10 roads to enjoy on your bike.


British band Scouting For Girls had a big hit this year with “I wish I was James Bond“. If you share their wish to be the British Spy for a day, then this list of the 10 best Bond locations is a must-read. It’ll even tell you where you can find the Goldeneye hotel, which is the Jamaican location where Ian Fleming wrote most of his novels.


Do you still book your trips using a travel agent? Chances are you might not be getting your moneys worth. Back in June, Aaron posted a list of the top 10 signs you have a bad travel agent. Don’t worry though, the list was written by David Letterman, and has some hilarious entries like “Your plane ticket is a post-it note”.


This top 10 list was one of my favorites of the year – Annie dug up 10 of the most stupid laws you’ll find around the world. Thanks to the list, I learned that I can no longer be drunk in Scotland while in possession of a cow. If her top 10 wasn’t enough to entertain you, she added another 10 to the list in her followup post.


In October I wrote down my top 10 ways to make cheaper phone calls when you are abroad. In the list, you’ll find tips like using a Blackberry to make free calls, or when to use prepaid mobile phone cards.


Karen assembled this awesome list of the top 10 things you must pack before you go abroad. It is a must-read if you are leaving the country, and has some great tips, including my favorite – “an open mind”.


And finally, in December I decided to vent, and list the top 10 things I hate about staying at a hotel. Check out my list, and decide for yourself whether hotels suck, or whether I am just a chronic complainer.

So there you have it. The top 10 top 10’s from 2008. If you have any suggestions for a new top 10 list, feel free to leave a comment below!